It’s all about the Messiah

A Christmas message, based on Luke 2:1-20

I read an old legend about a Christmas party that satan and his pack of demons were having in hell.  As the demonic guests were departing, one laughed and grinned and sarcastically said to Satan, “Merry Christmas your majesty!”  At that, Satan replied with a growl, “Yes, keep it merry. If they ever get serious about it, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The focus of Christmas is Jesus, the Messiah and we need to be serious about it.  It is the coming of God in the form of a person.  It is the intervention of God’s presence among humanity.  What we celebrate at Christmas is all part of God’s rescue plan for His created world.

But what a time for God to come to earth in the form of His Son Jesus.  There was great tension between Israel and its overlord, Rome, who ruled harshly by imposed their military might.  Many Israelites refused to toe the Roman line.  There was sedition and plots whispered throughout the land.  Revolution seemed to be close at hand!  It was into this apocalyptic environment that Jesus came into the world… the son of David born in the ancient, holy, royal city of Bethlehem.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, (Luke 2:1-7)

Sadly, too many people don’t know the true meaning of Christmas; they don’t know the events of the season.  Today we’ve just heard them through the readings we listened to, and the carols we’ve sung.

Luke told us that Joseph and Mary went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to the sleepy village of Bethlehem because Joseph’s heritage was from there.  The Old Testament prophet Micah wrote 700 years before the birth of Jesus that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-2).  The meaning of Bethlehem is “house of bread.”  What an appropriate place for Jesus to be born.  Later in His life He said of himself, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35a) and continued in that verse to say to people, “Whoever goes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35b).

The gospel writer sketched in another character in his story…the innkeeper.  This businessman has been painted as a villain by most of us.  Probably, with a full inn he was just hassled and busy!  He had no idea who he was refusing a room to at that moment.  Tell me, what paying customer would he kick out?  Wouldn’t you be upset if he tried to take your room?  He did the best that he could with the situation at hand.  He was being expedient like most of us today.  So don’t be too hard on him.  It’s too easy at this time of year to get so busy that we lose sight of what Christmas is all about.  We fail to make room for Jesus.  Like the innkeeper, we are not villains; we’re just preoccupied and harried.

Joseph and Mary took the stable offered by the innkeeper.  It was there that Mary gave birth to her son Jesus, the Messiah.  Messiah means “anointed one” who one day would spread the knowledge of the true God to the very ends of the world.  So this baby Jesus who would grow into manhood and become God’s Messiah for the world.  Today He is still our Messiah who came directly from heaven for our salvation!

So, Christmas is about the Incarnation of God (Luke 2:8-14)

Entering the scene were shepherds and angels… humans and celestial beings from the realm of glory.  Going about their nightly duties, these shepherds of the temple flocks encountered a sobering and life-changing event.  As they were watching over the sheep, no doubt sleepily — suddenly an angel stood by them, and the glory of God — that radiating, brilliant splendour or majesty of God, dazzled them.

Their unexpected guest told them not to fear for he had wonderful, glorious news for them.  He was there on God’s behalf to tell them a secret.  But the secret would soon be out for all the world to hear!  He was there to tell them about the Saviour…. the one who would take away their sins… help them in their most desperate moments… who would save them from eternal hell… that Saviour was being born that very night!  He was the divine Saviour the very incarnation of God himself.

We Christians firmly believe that the eternal second person of the triune Godhead joined himself with a complete human nature and was born as Jesus, the God-man.  The apostle John wrote,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!” (John 1:14).

Jesus, The Messiah, our Saviour has thrown himself from the heights of heaven so all have an opportunity to hear the heavenly music that the shepherds heard on the hillside two thousand years ago.

Because of this, Christmas is about sharing the story of God (Luke 2:15-20)

The shepherds journeyed to find the baby, which they did. The Bible says that after they had seen the child, they spread the word concerning what had been told them…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. They were truly the first evangelists of the gospel of Jesus!

That is our job once we have encountered this Jesus… Incarnate God… Saviour.  We are to share with others the good news that we are loved by God.  He has given his Son to us for our salvation!

Yes, they went back to the fields, back to being shepherds, back to the routine of life, but I’m sure that their lives were changed; they had a whole new perspective.  This is to be true of us.  Each year as we celebrate the joyous services, the festive parties, all of the excitement and thrill of the season, what have they done to change our lives?  What difference will this Christmas mean when we go back to the lives we lead in our jobs, homes, families and daily lives?  If we believe the message of the angels, we must go back to the ordinary with a new focus… a better focus… a spiritual focus on Jesus!

Do you know Jesus?  The more people who turn to Jesus, the bigger the trouble satan will be in and we will experience less woes in the world!

Is Jesus your Christ, your Lord, your Saviour?  He wants to be.  That is the reason He came into this world, and that is the reason you’re here, to know Jesus personally for yourself!

Amen


A Song of Servanthood

From 4th Sunday in Advent, 19th December 2021

Weddings are beautiful and exciting events with an abundance of anticipation.  Arranging them over the last two years or so has been challenging to say the least!  For any wedding there is always a lot to do.  The “who, what, where, how and why” questions all need to be answered.  The bride’s dress needs to be just perfect for her.  The bridesmaids’ dresses are to be considered and ordered.  Flowers need to be ordered, the guest list sorted and invitations sent.  The marriage venue and meetings with the Rector need to be organised.  Don’t forget the registration for gifts at online sites.  Oh, we mustn’t also forget the groom and his entourage have their lists too.  It’s a flurry of excitement all round!

I wonder how Mary felt about her wedding day?  (Luke 1:26-27).  Her pledge of marriage to Joseph was a commitment of love, faith, and loyalty to her future husband.  Was she looking for everything to be “just perfect” when her day came?

After her pledge of marriage, her world turned topsy-turvy.  Everything changed!  Luke tells us (Luke 1:26-38) that an angel appeared to Mary with an announcement from God.  She had been selected as the entrusted woman to give birth to the Messiah of Israel… and the whole world.  This news must have flashed violently through her mind… did she think that this would occur after she was married to Joseph?  As the angel kept speaking, her mind began to comprehend that Gabriel was not talking about after she was married, but that she was going to become pregnant before the wedding!  Luke states that Mary was greatly troubled at his words and unsure of what he meant.  Being a faithful and spiritual Jewish woman, she wasn’t sure how this would happen.  We sense her confusion as Luke recorded the conversation, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

Gabriel gave her the specifics:

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God…for no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:35-36).

Her response should be the response of every faithful follower of God…

“I am the Lord’s servant…May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

As time passed Mary visits her relative Elizabeth who lived in the hill country of Judea.  Did she go there because there would be no prying eyes?  Did she need someone to confide in, get wise counsel from someone she could trust?

As we heard, when Mary entered Elizabeth’s house, the baby inside of Elizabeth kicked and made her feel good about all that was happening; the Holy Spirit convicted her of the rightness of all that was going on and in the excitement the Holy Spirit gave her the words to say… 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear…Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:40-45).

This spontaneous blessing from Elizabeth was an enormous source of encouragement to Mary for she then bursts into a song of happiness and praise, a song we know as the Magnificat.

So what does this song, full of happiness mean?  It has been said that the essentials of happiness in life are something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.

Yet we know that Mary’s life will be like riding a rollercoaster!  As a young wife and mother she is exiled and homeless, she’ll see her son die, and then miraculously raised from the dead!  But her song shows that as God’s servant she has a deep abiding happiness in God. Do we..?

This happiness enables Mary to glorify God (Luke 1:46-51).  The song infers that God had first place in Mary’s life.  It came from deep within her soul and spirit and rose to her lips as she gave glory to the redeemer of life.

Giving God glory is far more than a sentimental expression of feeling.  It is the absolute knowledge and certainty that we glorify God for His redemptive act in our lives.  His redemptive act comes through the whole Christ event.

John in his first letter clearly states that God’s redemptive act was part of God’s original act of salvation. 

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us…And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).

This plan is continued through the birth of Jesus.

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). 

Through faith in Jesus we can see how this plan unfolds.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). 

It comes to culmination at Calvary and the cross of Jesus.  By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus took our punishment that we rightly deserved because of our sinfulness, and offered us His righteousness.  As we give Jesus our sin and its accompanying death penalty He gives us His righteousness and abiding presence.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…” (1 Peter 2:24). 

The ultimate victory of God’s plan comes through the resurrection of Jesus.  Without the resurrection, Jesus would only be a martyr, but because of the resurrection He is our Saviour!  In truth “the resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Christ’s statement, ‘It is finished’” (Lewis Johnson).

So, Mary’s song glorifies God — a song all of us should be singing during this season!

Finally, Mary’s song is one of faith (Luke 1:54-56).

It has been written that,

“Some generations are more aware of what they have achieved than of what they have inherited, forgetting that the heritage makes the achievement possible.”

How true these words are?  I am eternally grateful for the love, support and prayers of the many who have shaped my faith, my call to ordination and my ministry.  Their names mean everything to me for they taught me the rudiments of faith and helped bring me to maturity.  They have stood shoulder to shoulder with me throughout my life, during the good times and bad.

I’m sure many have helped formulate your faith.  Like Mary, think about those people and thank God for what they helped instil into your heart, life and work.

Mary’s song is an amazing love song.  She loved God and her son, despite the sword that would pierce her own soul!  The ultimate virtue of servanthood is being able to show unending love to those around you.  Life for Christians is all about us instilling that unending love in everyone around us, it is not for us to hold on to.  This love comes from our God-given happiness, it comes from us glorifying God in all we do and it comes from us having faith in Jesus, even if you think that your faith is as small as a mustard seed.

As Christmas approaches let us as servants of the Lord daily praise God.

Living thoughts

Read Luke 1:39-55.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  1. Mary’s song shows that as God’s servant she has a deep abiding happiness in God. Do you?
  2. What is this quote saying to you about today’s world?

“Some generations are more aware of what they have achieved than of what they have inherited, forgetting that the heritage makes the achievement possible.”

  • Call to mind those who have helped you formulate your faith.  Spend time thanking God for all that they helped instil into your heart, life and work.

Digging deeper into God’s Word

Mary, a servant of the Lord, spontaneously sang a song of praise to God for His faithfulness. 

Read Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-51) and/or some Psalms of praise, and invite God to lead you throughh His Holy Spirit to spontaneously sing a song of praise (you could just write something or speak something out) to God for all He has done for you.

Prayer Response

Oh Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, enable me to live a holy and righteous life so I represent your Son Jesus Christ here on earth in a way that brings glory to your name.

Help me to walk with you in holiness and righteousness so that I will fulfil my destiny and the purpose of my existence.

Lord of righteousness, in this world that is full of violence, selfishness, murder and other evil deeds, teach me the path of holiness, and engrave me to live like Christ in words, thoughts and deeds.

Lord, teach me your word and make it easy to apply it to my life so that I will see goodness all the days of my life.

Lord, give me the spirit of humility so that I will be able to walk with you in holiness.

Lord, engrace me to keep your commandments and take iniquity far away from me, in Jesus name.  Amen.

Father, I have decided to walk and live by faith.  I’ve made my choice. By faith I believe Your Word.  I am living in two realms at the same time. I am in the earth and I am seated at Your right hand, in heaven, with Christ Jesus, at the same time!  Through me the two realms converge on a daily basis. Like Jesus did when He was in the earth, I bring heaven down! Your Kingdom has come. Your will shall be done.  It’s going to happen on earth as it is in heaven, and it’s going to happen through me! I enter this day determined to make Kingdom impact in every meeting, conversation and activity I engage in today, because my life brings the heaven and earth together!  I am an agent of supernatural change! I declare this by faith.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Commitment to Righteousness

From 3rd Sunday in Advent 12th December 2021

Charles Swindoll, an American evangelist and pastor tells this story: The wife of a policeman had a special gift she wanted to get for her husband.  She had a fear that it might be too expensive, but nothing was too good for her husband.  She loved him with all of her heart and wanted this to be special.

She found exactly what she wanted, but it was too expensive for her to buy outright.  She talked with the salesman and told him that her husband was a police officer.  After a bit they negotiated a payment deal that she could afford.  She gave him the first payment and he suggested that the store wrap it up and she could take it home. She was elated! She was so excited that she got her husband to open it that night, way before Christmas!  When he opened it, he was thrilled at her thoughtfulness and covered her with hugs and kisses.

A few days later her husband was working the night shift when he received a call on his police radio.  There was a robbery in progress at a local shop.  Rushing to the scene he arrived just as the suspect was speeding off.  He followed in hot pursuit, but suddenly the suspect stopped on the side of the road.  Seated behind the wheel the robber didn’t move.  The policeman cautiously approached the car.  Suddenly without any warning the driver’s door it flew open and the driver took out a hand gun and from about 3 feet fired at the policeman.

At seven o’clock the following morning, his wife, answered the door after a knock. A policeman stood in front of her and shared that during a robbery her husband had been shot.  Calmly the officer explained that her husband was badly bruised, but alive.

The wife was so happy that her Christmas present was given early.  If she had waited to December 25th her husband would have been dead.  Christmas had come early that year because the policeman had with him the gift of life his wife could not wait to give: his brand-new bulletproof vest.

Swindoll commented, “And that’s why Christ came, to give us a vest of righteousness, to pay the price with his blood, that He might protect us with the shield that sin could never penetrate.”

Charles Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998, pp. 496-497).

Jesus taught that every believer is to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  A righteous person isn’t someone who is perfect, because except from Jesus no one can be perfect this side of heaven.  No, a righteous person is someone who is in right standing with God, they are aligned to Him through His Son.  So, righteousness transforms someone into right living for God through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Repentance is a part of righteousness (Luke 3:8)

And Repentance is a part of righteousness.  The people of John’s day were in need of what he was preaching… repentance and right-living, or in other words living righteously.  Their need for God was obvious and the prophet was there to point them to the remedy.

John’s message didn’t die when he did.  His message is just as important today.  Our world is still in need of turning from sin and receiving God’s gift of salvation.  The answer to the question; why do horrible things go on in in the world? is Jesus!  If everyone turned to him and lived righteously, i.e. turned from their sin, then the problems and difficulties we experience will go.

John’s message was that Jesus was coming to cancel their spiritual debts and remove their sin.  This was going to be done by all sin being placed on Jesus, and whoever accepts Christ into their life will never have sin held against them.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ died for us and paid the cost for our salvation.

At Christmas we rejoice in the fact that the Messiah, Jesus, entered this world to pay the price for our sin.  The shadow of the cross always lies across the crib scene.

Conviction: A part of righteousness (Luke 3:10)

But there is more.  As the message John preached penetrated the hearts and minds of his listeners, conviction began to seep into their very soul and spirit as the light of righteousness began to dawn on them.

This conviction comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is part of His “job description.”  It produces within us a sense of guilt and condemnation of sin.  As the Holy Spirit convicts, our role is to act upon it and allow God to change sinful actions and attitudes to thoughts and acts of righteousness.

I believe that God convicts individuals of their sins to change their lives, and still God offers more… I also believe that God convicts Christians to be more compassionate, more honest, to be peace makers, justice seekers, integrity lovers, to be morally upright, and so, so much more.

When was the last time you felt God convict you? How did you respond?

Responding: a part of righteousness (Luke 3:15-18)

Listening to John’s message and feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit — the people had a choice. They could either walk away and do nothing about it or, they could respond and act on the message.  Many in the crowd left, but many responded to his call for change.

Acting on faith in Jesus is required before salvation becomes reality and change is initiated into our lifestyle.

Responding includes reconciliation.  Humanity has been alienated from God because of sin, and Jesus provides the remedy, which He does by removing the enmity that stands between God and humanity.  Paul wrote to the Colossian church:

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22, see also Romans 5:10).

Responding includes obedience.  The bottom line for all believers is that obedience to Jesus’ teaching and God’s commands is never an option.  We are to hear what the Word says and respond according to it.

Responding includes worship. From New Testament times to today, Christians state, “Jesus is Lord.”  Because He is Lord, and sovereign, He is to be worshipped (Luke 4:4-8).  As it was for the early church our focus must be on Jesus.

Jesus is to be the leader of the church.  As members of His church our actions are under the direct order of the Lord’s leadership: we are to fulfil His directives to be compassionate, caring, socially concerned.  But most of all we are to be spiritually oriented to lead people to a saving relationship.

So as God’s people, justified by God’s grace we have been given all we need to live in and under the righteousness of Christ.  This is only achieved through faith in Jesus.  The other world religions base justification on human effort.  Is it any wonder that we worship and praise the living God?

As we continue our journey through Advent may we allow our righteous standing before God to be transformed into righteous living for God through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Living Thoughts

Read Luke 3:7-18.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand, consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  • Repentance: a part of righteousness, see Luke 3:8.

What do we need to produce in order for repentance to be seen by others?

  • Conviction: A part of righteousness, see Luke 3:10. 

When was the last time you felt God convict you?

How did you respond?

  • Responding: a part of righteousness, see Luke 3:15-18.

Whom do the “wheat” and the “chaff” represent?

How has the good news of Jesus brought righteousness to you?

Prayer Response

Oh Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, enable me to live a holy and righteous life so I represent your Son Jesus Christ here on earth in a way that brings glory to your name.

Help me to walk with you in holiness and righteousness so that I will fulfil my destiny and the purpose of my existence.

Lord of righteousness, in this world that is full of violence, selfishness, murder and other evil deeds, teach me the path of holiness, and engrave me to live like Christ in words, thoughts and deeds.

Lord, teach me your word and make it easy to apply it to my life so that I will see goodness all the days of my life.

Lord, give me the spirit of humility so that I will be able to walk with you in holiness.

Lord, engrace me to keep your commandments and take iniquity far away from me, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

A Commitment to Hope

From 2nd Sunday in Advent, 5th December 2021

The story is told of young boy in a church Christmas nativity play who had one line to remember.  His role was that of the Angel of the Lord and his one line consisted of: “Behold, I bring you good tidings.” He wasn’t clear about the word “tidings” so he asked his mother what it meant. She defined it as “news.”

Sunday morning came, the play was going smoothly and all was well.  He was sent on to the stage as the Angel of the Lord announcing to the shepherds about God’s message.  When he got on stage and looked out at the crowd he froze!  Stage fright overcame him and his brain went to mush.  He couldn’t remember the line for anything.  Then all of a sudden his mum’s definition flashed back and he blurted out to the shepherds, “Hey! Boys, have I got news for you!”

John, the cousin of Jesus, is the man God had chosen to be the instrument that would lay the foundation for the ministry of Jesus.  God called John to preach and his message sounded like the prophets of Old Testament times.  John preached that the people had to repent of their sins and change their lifestyle from complacency and carnality to hope and holiness in the God of Israel.  He was laying the foundation for the one who would come after him who could actually forgive their sins and bring purity to their lives.

Making preparation for hope (Luke 3:4a).

The preparation that John made was an announcement of good news! The one that the people of Israel had long been waiting for was in their very presence.  The long awaited Messiah stirred among them.

The message of hope is that “all people will see God’s salvation” (Luke 3:6).  John’s message comes approximately 30 years after the shepherds on the hillsides around Nazareth heard basically the same message.  The angel said, “…behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour.” (Luke 2:10-11a). What does a Saviour do for his people?  He saves them from their predicament.

John’s role at that Advent season was about preparation.  His message to us today is the same.  We need to prepare our hearts, soul and spirit, as well as our homes for the Christ who has come to save us.  This is a celebration of the birth of the Saviour.  He is saying to us, “Get ready.”  Make preparation for the night we celebrate the entrance of the Saviour into the world.  Think, pray, meditate, and put your actions where your heart is now! God has sent the Saviour to change your world.  We are making preparation for the hope of salvation that comes through Christ.  Someone once wrote that John’s bold and brazen call for repentance is not something we can do on our own — no matter what we do or say, or how much we try we fall short to produce our own salvation.  As many good deeds as we do, we still cannot succeed.

The hope of salvation is the work that God has provided in the way we humans are to be delivered from our sinful condition, by the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus on the cross and the authorisation through the resurrection.  Death on the cross would only be a martyr’s death if it were not for the power of the resurrection.  Jesus’ entrance into the world marks the beginning of our rescue…our salvation deliverance.  John is preparing the way for our grasp of that glorious truth.

Making Preparation for the good news (Luke 3:4b)

The world has trouble with the good news scenario because it started with a baby in a humble setting.  The Jewish people wanted a warrior king who would emancipate them from foreign rule and bring back the Davidic dynasty of power and authority.

The Good News is the incarnation of Jesus combining God and humanity as one.  That is difficult for us to wrap our minds and hearts around, but as a matter of fact and faith it is true.  The incarnation is the living embodiment of the invisible God seen through the human Jesus.  He is the Messiah and is the very expression of God come to earth to bring God’s love, salvation, and hope to a world lost in its own sinful ways.  The Good News is God is more than capable of identifying with us.

In Jesus, God has come to identify with our pain, hurts, struggles and failures.  He knows the joys of life as well as the temptations.  In the Bethlehem stable He came, not just looking like one of us, but truly as one of us.  He has come to be our Saviour and will leave no one out who will accept Him into their lives.

Making preparation for salvation (Luke 3:6)

Luke quoted the prophet Isaiah to remind us that everyone will see the salvation of God.  Who is the salvation of God? Jesus is His name!

His salvation is more than an intellectual pursuit; it is also a spiritual endeavour. Christians are on a spiritual quest when they follow God on His journey of salvation.  This journey is to last a lifetime.  For some this journey is many years, for others it may only be minutes.  Regardless of how long our journey of salvation is, with God all are welcomed equally; all are loved equally.

God’s salvation of an individual’s soul is of utmost importance to Him.  C.S. Lewis wrote that this individual soul is “…more important than the production of all the epics and tragedies in the world.”  This vital importance is summed up in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The reason for the season? God gave us all His Son. His salvation lights up my world.  His light dispels the sin of legalism, the insatiable vices of morality, hatred, racism, injustice, and the fear of satan, evil and hell!  No longer do you and I have to live in darkness. Every person in the world can come to Jesus for He is the shining light for all of us.

John the Baptist looked forward to the dawn of life.  The cry from John and the cry from heaven on that Christmas night was “Behold the SON!” and the son of righteousness has come.  Salvation has come to all who will receive Him.

Amen

Living thoughts

Read Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  1. Who is Jesus?
  2. Why did Jesus come?
  3. And what does Jesus demand of me?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is unseen is eternal” 2 Cor 4:18

What difference can this passage possibly make in our lives in the 21st century as we go out into the routine of a new morning?  Does it really need to make any difference?

Prayer Response

Father, I have decided to walk and live by faith.  I’ve made my choice.  By faith I believe Your Word.  I am living in two realms at the same time.  I am on the earth, and I am seated at Your right hand, in heaven, with Christ Jesus, at the same time!  Through me the two realms converge on a daily basis.  Like Jesus did when He was on the earth, I bring heaven down!  Your Kingdom has come.  Your will shall be done.  It’s going to happen on earth as it is in heaven, and it’s going to happen through me!  I enter this day determined to make Kingdom impact in every meeting, conversation and activity I engage in today, because my life brings heaven and earth together!  I am an agent of supernatural change!  I declare this by faith.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

RedBRick Identity: Together

Key scripture: 1 Corinthians 12; 12-26

It is clear from this passage that the church, the Body of Christ, is supposed to function in unity, as a body. But that clearly doesn’t mean we should be uniform.  We are not supposed to be the same.  In fact, just as the various parts of the body are different, we are different in age, character, life experience and in so many other ways. We have different functions. We have different roles to play.

I remember hearing a talk about this reading as a teenager which talked about Paul’s sense of humour in this passage. He’s saying imagine the whole body as an eye, bobbing along the street.  Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? And what about a foot saying “I don’t belong because I’m not a hand.  I’m not like the hand so I’m not important.”  How would that body walk?

If you have not read this passage recently, I would really encourage you to take some time to do so.  It is a great example of how God speaks to us through pictures.  The more we contemplate the picture the more we see.

This passage is preceded by teaching about the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 12:1-11.

Verses 4-6 say, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  

We should all expect to serve, work and receive gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we should not expect to be the same as others.  Each of us remains unique. So, if we are all unique and different how are we supposed to get along? This can certainly be difficult.  After all feet can be very smelly, and if I’m a nose I won’t want to hang out with feet!

Sometime people will say, “I know we are supposed to love others but that doesn’t mean we have to like them, or spend time with them, does it?”  But I want to challenge that.

1 John 4:20 & 21 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  21And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Also, 1 Corinthians 12, which we have read, is followed by Paul’s passage about love, 1 Corinthians 13. Verses 4-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always.”

This is radical love, and love in action.  To love like this, we have to learn to like those we have differences with too.

So, what does our identity picture of the bus have to do with being the body of Christ?  The bus image came out of one of the “going forward” prayer meetings that we had earlier in the year.  We believe that God still speaks to us today and therefore, although obviously this is not scripture, in a similar way to Paul’s picture of the body, let the picture speak to you.  However, remember that any analogy has its limits.

Everybody “is in the same boat”- well on the same bus anyway. We are not separate.

People are free to choose to get on, and off the bus, however the journey will be much more enjoyable if we can all get along.  We need to recognise our differences, our strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own preferences to accommodate others.  We should be like a family travelling together.  I don’t know about you, but as we went on long journeys when the girls were young it could be a real challenge!  And that was with only four of us.  We had some of our worst family rows in the car, but we also had some of the deepest conversations and had the most fun, playing games together.

We should not be static!  The bus is moving.

And the destination is clear- it’s on the front of the bus. Which is why we need to know our identity as a church.

We need to know what we believe.

We need to have vision for the future which is why we will be looking at our vision more in coming weeks.

Most importantly, Jesus is the driver.  We go where he takes us!  And we need to trust Him, especially when we travel over bumpy ground.

For you to think about

This season we have been looking at our identity as a church using the series of images shown below.  Using the picture of the bus to represent togetherness, think about how we can be “together” in each of the other components of our identity.

How can we be a safe haven together?

How can we be generous together?

How can we be “divine” together?

How can we be courageous together?

How can we be illuminating together?

Reasons Why God’s Word is so Important

We are continuing to look at our identity as God’s Church here.  Part of who we are comes out of our approach to the Bible.  Is it a story book?  A history book?  A book that guides us?  Is it about God and does it show us who He is?   Well, I believe that the Bible is an incredible book of history and facts that proves that there is a God that created all things.  Most important of all, the Bible is the Word of God.  It contains the mind of God and His will for each one of our lives.  That is why the Bible was given to us.  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  This is one reason we should study the Word of God.  But are there others?  The following are a few scriptural reasons that we should consider when answering this question.

First, the Word of God is infallible.  There is no error in God’s Word.  The law of the Lord is perfect concerning our soul.  The testimony of the Lord is not only infallible it is inerrant, that is, it is incapable of being wrong.  Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”  The purity of His words does not need anything added to it and clearly God warns us not to misrepresent His scripture.

Second, the Word of God is complete. The Bible does not need any new chapters or verses.  Many cults add their own books or commentaries to the Bible.  All you need is God’s Word because it is the holy Word of God.  It is complete.  In Revelation 22:18-19, God gives us a warning, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

Third, the Word of God is totally authoritative.  The book of Psalms 119:89 says Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”  The Word of God is the only source for absolute divine authority.  This divine authority is for you and me as servants of Jesus Christ to live under and by.  When someone says, “I have a word from the Lord for you,” write it down and then study God’s word to see if it really is a word from the Lord.  Only then will you know if the Lord is truly speaking to you through that word.

Fourth, God’s Word is totally sufficient for all of our needs.  We don’t need anything else.  Again 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  We can find total security in the Lord by studying the Bible because it is God’s plan for our life.

In the same way, there is no way we will feed on the Word of God and not grow spiritually.  The Bible helps us grow our faith, the outworking of which is that we build a deeper relationship with God.  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2).

Newborns don’t need their parents’ money, they don’t need a car, and the latest electronic gadget.  When a baby is born, they need milk.  In the same way, God calls us to desire His Word and depend on it to survive and thrive in the world He created by His word, just like a newborn baby desires and depends on milk 100%.  The Word of God is a pillar to spiritual growth.

Ephesians 6:10-18 details the armour of God which we can use to fight spiritual battles. We can’t use physical or man-made weapons to fight the power of darkness.  We need the spiritual armour of God, so Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Ephesians 6:17).  The Word of God is important in spiritual warfare.  It is the sword of the Spirit which helps us win spiritual battles.  When we read and study God’s Word diligently, we live a victorious and empowered Christian life.

One of the many benefits of the Word of God is it helps us understand what God wants from us as His children. We need to live a life that pleases Him and gives Him glory. God hates sin and wants us to hate it as well. The Bible is powerful in helping us fight and resist sin which so easily entangles us.  Scripture encourages us to hide God’s word in our heart so that we might not sin against Him, (“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11)

God’s word has health benefits, for when we listen to His Word and do what it says it brings blessings to our lives. Don’t we all want to live a blessed life?  God promises us that life when we listen and obey His Word.  He (Jesus) replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’ (Luke 11:28)

Finally, the Word of God will accomplish what it promises.  If God told you something will happen, and you wait, it will happen.  In Isaiah 55:11 it says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  God sent His word to accomplish His perfect will in our lives. If God makes a promise to you He will fulfil it in His own time.

There are so many promises given to us in the Bible.  These promises reassure us and bring comfort to our lives in our times of trial.  Take time to study the Word of God, don’t see it as a chore.  As you study, the Lord will show you wonderful things that will change your life for the better.

Living Thoughts

Read Isaiah 55:1-11 & John 5:36-47.  What do they say to you about God’s word for us?  Why not write down your thoughts as you ponder these questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

Read the following Scriptures and consider the questions….

2 Timothy 3:16-17

1. Where does all Scripture come from? 

2. What is Scripture good for?

2 Peter 1:20-21

1. Does Scripture come from the will of man? 
2. Who “inspired” or “carried” men to write the Bible? 

Psalm 12:6

1. Does the Bible contain any mistakes? 
2. What does “pure” gold or silver mean? 

Psalm 119:160

1. How can you respond to someone who says the Bible isn’t true? 
2. Does God ever need to come up with new rules or laws? 

1 Corinthians 2:14

1. Why is it difficult for some people to understand the Bible? 
2. How does God reveal the Bible to us? 

Prayer Response

Father, keep me from being distracted by busyness, the cares of this world, and a heart of unbelief.  Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Help me to “keep in step” with the Spirit as I keep watch.  Father give me a longing for the return of Christ and keep my eyes focussed on the prize that is set before me.

Remembrance Sunday

Today on Remembrance Sunday we pause to honour the memory of the countless millions who have lost their lives in times of war, and to pray for peace on earth.  The twentieth century was the bloodiest century in all of human history.  In the Second World War, which came as a bloody sequel to the First, over fifty million people lost their lives, and more than half of them were civilians – men, women, and children who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sadly, too often people have gone to war in the name of religion.  The church did it during the Crusades, which were themselves a response to the violence of the Muslim invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries.  People went in the name of Jesus in the Spanish conquests of Central and South America, and in the great Catholic and Protestant wars of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and more recently in Northern Ireland.  And we know that killing in the name of God hasn’t stopped in the twenty-first century.

Our Old Testament reading (Micah 4:1-5) became a very important passage to the early Christians; in the early Church this was one of the passages that new converts were encouraged to memorise, because it gives such a clear vision of God’s ultimate purposes for His creation.

In this passage, Micah, through a vision, teaches us that the time will come when the nations of the world will acknowledge that the one true God is real, and because He is real they will make a decision to come to Him and learn from Him.  The ‘mountain of the Lord’s Temple’ in v1 is the mountain where the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the place where God was worshipped, the place where the priests taught the people from the law of the Lord.

Encouraging people to acknowledge that there is one true God was a revolutionary thought in Micah’s time.  People were used to the idea of every nation having their own god or gods; those gods would go with them in battle and give them victory over their enemies.  This idea is still alive in the twenty-first century; we still like to think of God being on our side, of God having some special place in His heart for our nation or race.

This passage teaches that the time will come when God’s word goes out from Jerusalem and the whole world listens to it.  The early Christians saw themselves as being part of the fulfilment of this prophecy as they went into Asia Minor, Greece and on into Italy and France and all around the known world of the day.  The message they took was that there is one Creator God who wants us to worship Him and not idols, and that this God cares about how we live and has given us commandments to guide our daily life, not just rituals to guide our worship.  This would have sounded very strange.  They added to this message the good news that Jesus also announced – that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that the King himself has come among us and has lived and died and risen again to set us free.  One day, Micah says, everyone will endeavour to live by God’s commandments.  And what will be the result of this?  God’s kingdom will come in all its fullness, swords will be beaten into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, and people will turn their back on war, (v.4).

In other words, when God’s kingdom comes in all its fullness everyone will live together in peace.  This is the opposite of having stubborn and self-centred attitudes, an approach that says, “This is the way I want it and this is the way it’s going to be, come hell or high water!”  That’s what causes disagreements between nations to end up in conflict and bloodshed.

But the day will come, Micah says, when instead of everyone being determined to get what they want, everyone will instead be determined to listen to what God wants.  Living like this would usher in safety and security.  After the weapons are converted to farm implements and the schools of war are closed, ‘they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid’ (v.4).

This is what the kingdom of God will look like: a world in which each person and each nation truly and sincerely seeks the Lord and commits themselves to learning His ways; a world in which people and nations submit their disagreements to God’s guidance and abide by His ruling; a world in which weapons are converted into farm implements and no one studies war anymore; a world in which everyone is safe and secure and no one makes them afraid.

Micah acknowledges that this will not be easy.  He acknowledges that not everyone will choose to follow this way, yet still he challenges people to follow it anyway – not because God always promises that it will work in the short term, but because it’s God’s way, and God’s way is always right.  Jesus makes the same challenge to us today as Christians. In a world which continues to hate and kill, and divide the world into friend and enemy, He calls us to take the risk of looking at the enemy and calling them our friend.

On this Remembrance Sunday, let us pray that the world will heed that call – but let’s be determined to heed it ourselves first, whether others do or not.

As Micah says, may we live out this truth that; “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’.

In the name of the Lord our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen.

Living thoughts

Read again Micah 4:1-5.  What is it saying to you about God’s vision of peace?  Why not write down your thoughts as you ponder these questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others. 

Digging into God’s Word

  1. What does Remembrance Sunday mean for you?
  2. What does it mean to walk in God’s paths (Micah 4:2)?
  3. Through Christ’s death on the cross, we can have peace with God.  Why is this so important? (Look at Colossians 1:19-22)

Digging deeper into God’s Word

  1. Jesus breaks down the barriers that exist between ourselves and God.  He also breaks the barriers that separate people from one another.  At the heart of breaking down barriers, is forgiveness.  Why do you think many people find forgiveness so difficult?  How do we begin to forgive someone who has wronged us?  Is there anyone you need to forgive, or seek forgiveness from?
  2. In Hebrews we read ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14).  What does living in peace with everyone look like in reality, and what does it mean to be holy?

Prayer Response

Father, keep me from being distracted by busyness, the cares of this world, and a heart of unbelief. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to “keep in step” with the Spirit as I keep watch.  Father give me a longing for the return of Christ and keep my eyes focused on the prize that is set before me.

“A COMMON mistake today is to regard peace as the chief characteristic of Christianity, but it should be noted how the primacy of righteousness over peace is maintained throughout Scripture.

“The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).

“Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace” (II Timothy 2:22).

“The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

We must live righteously; for that very reason we may not be able to live peaceably with all men. And in these days, when so many are working for peace and stability, it is well to recall the words in Isaiah 32:17:

“The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.”

It is always wise to do what is right, rather than what is merely expedient.

The Christian attitude must be “Righteousness at any cost,” not “Peace at any price,” for the best way to preserve peace is to be strong in righteousness.”

From “A very present help” by Lt. Gen. Sir William Dobbie

All Souls

Based on Ephesians 1:15-23

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

There is a true story about a student who trialled for his college football team. He wasn’t really very good. But the coach noticed that there was something unique about him he had such an irrepressible spirit and contagious enthusiasm.  Because of this the coach had him as an encouragement to the team.  So he was there on the bench, week in, week out.  he never got a game, but his presence was so valuable.

Whenever his father would come to visit him, they would always be seen walking together, arm in arm. To those observing this was a visible indication of the exceptional bond of love that existed between them. They were also seen every Sunday going to and from the university chapel. It was clear that theirs was a deep and mutually shared Christian faith.

Sadly, one day the student’s father died and a few days after his father’s funeral, the student returned to college. His return coincided with the biggest game of the season. The coach welcomed the student back and asked, “Is there anything I can do for you? And to the coach’s astonishment, the student said, “Let me start the game on Saturday.” The coach was completely taken by surprise. He thought to himself, “I can’t let him start. He’s not good enough.” But he remembered his promise to help and said, “All right, you can start the game.” But again, he thought, “I’ll leave him in the game for a while and then substitute him.” To everyone’s surprise; especially the coach’s the student played an inspired game, and his team won.

The coach approached the student and said, “What got into you?” The student replied, “You remember when my father would visit me here at college and we would spend a lot of time together walking arm in arm around college? My father and I shared a secret that nobody around here knew anything about. You see, my father was blind … and today was the first time he ever saw me play.”

When the eyes of our hearts are enlightened, we are able to play over our heads in the game of life and see the purposes, power and love of God. This student knew that his father had crossed over to a better place. A place where everyone is able to see with the eyes of their hearts, and no longer need to see with the eyes in their heads.

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us things we can know by seeing through the eyes of our hearts: first, “the hope to which he has called” (v18) us; second, “the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints” (v18).  Hope and inheritance – two important gifts that Jesus left with us when he “crossed over.”

You see by Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been spared and given hope. We don’t know the number of days we have left on this earth before we ourselves “cross over.” But whatever that number might be, God, the glorious Father, wants us to see that number as a gift.

Jesus calls us to live in the hope of the cross, and living like that, we have nothing to lose. Because living or dying, we have hope. Hope for today, and for tomorrow. Hope for here, and hope for there, with Jesus, on the other side. Faith in God helps us to this with the eyes of our heart. Then through the eyes of our heart we can see the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among the saints.

All followers of Jesus have already been named in a will that makes us all rich, and most of the time we don’t even think about it.  If we look at life through the eyes of our hearts, things look different. Including what makes a person successful, what makes a person wealthy, particularly what makes a person healthy. These all look different through the eyes of the heart.

The worst disability is when your heart becomes blinded, and you can no longer see the riches that God has heaped upon you.  The truth is this: we are all wealthy people because we have inherited the riches that Jesus has left to us. They are riches that can only be seen through the eyes of your heart.

This helps us to see that God has no limits. You see God’s power is immeasurable. Why? Because He cares about what happens to one little being on one little planet in one large solar system in one enormous galaxy!

That’s the core of Christianity… that this great and powerful God who created all that exists, further than the eye can see (unless it’s the eye of your heart, that is), still cares about you. You may feel like one unique snowflake in the midst of a snowstorm, but God, the powerful and glorious Father, cares about what happens to you and me.

Jesus, just as powerful and just as almighty, was sent here to teach us something about God’s wonder. Jesus was sent here to live and to die so that one day we might be able to join Him in another place. Jesus, just passing through, shows us that there is more than meets the eye, even the eye of your heart.

We are, in reality, all ‘just passing through’. So as you continue to pass through, remembering those who have gone ahead of us, I pray that you might see as God sees with the eyes of your heart.

As you do this you will know the hope of Jesus, to which God has called us all, a hope that enables us to enjoy the riches of His glorious inheritance so that as the student in the illustration did we live with the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the immeasurable greatness of God’s loving life-giving power.

All Saints

Based on the reading from St John 11:32-45, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Have you ever felt as if God had let you down, had withdrawn His protecting arm from you? Even the question seems foolish, because we know the answer before we ask it. I know many who have walked hospital corridors with loved ones and seen their prayers go seemingly unanswered. As a parent I prayed earnestly for my son John’s healing, but to no avail.

How many times have you said, or heard it said; “Look, if prayer is the answer, why don’t I get an answer to my prayers? Why doesn’t God speak?

Why doesn’t He at least offer an explanation? Why is He so silent?” This is a common experience for us.

Before we pronounce judgement against the silence of God, we must remember that God’s knowledge is greater than our own. He knows both the beginning and the end of the road. We know only the beginning, and the part we’re traveling on now. So who are we to assume that we know what is ultimately best for us?  You see God may seemingly deny what we ask in order to give us something better. This I believe is a point we can take from our Gospel reading.

Lazarus has fallen ill, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to Jesus that their brother was ill and that Jesus should come quickly and heal him. But Jesus dawdled and dallied around for three days. So Lazarus dies. When Jesus finally arrived on the scene Mary rebukes Jesus: “If you had been here, our brother would not have died. But you didn’t listen to our prayer.”

But wait, they didn’t realise that God, through Christ, had passed the miracle of healing to display the greater miracle of resurrection from the dead.  And this is so, even though the people who are sitting and mourning the death of Lazarus have seen God’s power on display through the miracles and signs Jesus performed. They have seen him perform astounding healing miracles and Mary, at least, firmly believes that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was ill, Jesus would have been able to heal him.

But even she has not yet grasped the fullness of what Jesus is capable of, while some of the others who are keeping her company are openly sceptical. They see Lazarus’ death as a sign that Jesus’ power is either waning, or perhaps was never as great as people made out. Perhaps, they guess, Lazarus was too seriously ill for Jesus to heal him. Perhaps Jesus really isn’t all that special.  Certainly, Jesus seems very vulnerable and shaken as He faces this death of a friend. In this He is not different from the rest of us in feeling the awful separation.

Although He speaks to Mary with absolute confidence, and acts decisively, still we are told that He is “greatly disturbed”.  But His sense of loss does not prevent Him from trusting in God and acting for God. Even Martha and Mary, two of Jesus’ most ardent supporters, do not believe that He can do anything for their brother now that he is actually dead.

Already, the processes of decay are starting, and Martha and Mary expect nothing from Jesus, except that He will share their grief.  And, indeed, He does share their grief, but not so strongly that He loses touch with God.  This is a key truth – no matter what was before Jesus He never lost touch with His heavenly Father.

Moved and saddened as He is, He steps up to Lazarus’ tomb and calls his friend back to life. And instantly, Lazarus responds. This is, after all, the voice that called all creation into being.

It is hard not to envy Jesus with His power to bring His friend back to life. How we have longed to be able to do the same for someone we love. But Jesus tells Mary that He is doing this so that she — and all the watching crowds — “would see the glory of God”.

That is why Jesus calls Lazarus back from death, not because He cannot bear to be without him. You see Jesus knows that soon enough He himself will face the dead, and that His ordinary human relationships will change for ever. But in the meantime Lazarus is alive again to show the power and glory of God.

Mary and Martha believed that death was the end, but Jesus showed them that there is no end to a life lived in love of God. This is the glory of God.  This is the very nature of God that God is life and that nothing, not even death itself, can separate us from the overwhelming life and love of God.

So the Christian belief in life after death is a belief in the never-ending vitality of God. It is not a sentimental and unrealistic desire to maintain unchanged our precious human relationships, but a realisation that our love for each other mirrors in a small and imperfect way God’s love for us and his creation.  Therefore, we can trust our God absolutely with those we love as well as with our own life.

Living thoughts

We’re now in a season of remembering, so we will do something different this week. Instead of Digging into God’s Word you’ll have an opportunity to remember those who have gone before us. Maybe you would like to have a candle to light. Why do we on such occasions light a candle in memory of a dear departed loved one?

Lighting a candle is a prayer:

When we have gone it stays alight, kindling in the hearts and minds of others the prayers we have already offered for them.

Lighting a candle is a parable:

Burning itself out it gives light to others.  Christ gave himself for others. He calls us to give ourselves.

Lighting a candle is a symbol:

Of love and hope, of light and warmth.  Our world needs them all.

A Service of Light

We remember before God those whom we love and light a candle to symbolise the light of Christ which eternally shines and brings hope. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

You O Lord are my lamp – You turn our darkness into light

With you O Lord is the well of life – In your light shall we see light

Jesus Christ is the light of the world – A light no darkness can quench

Light a candle in memory of a dearly departed loved one.

Prayer Response

Jesus, Son of the Living God, you summoned your friend Lazarus from death to life: raise us at the last to full and eternal life with you.

Hear us, risen Lord, our resurrection and our life.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You, Lord for loving me and reminding me of Your Truth. Help me keep my eyes on You, especially in times of fear. May I remember that You can use all things for my good and Your glory. Give me a heart that trusts, and take away the desire to lean on my own understanding. Thank You for Your protection, provision, and presence!

Hear us, risen Lord, our resurrection and our life.

Father, I want to live in the shadow of Your wing. When life is hard, and I don’t know what to do, help me remember that You are with me and that I am never alone. I cannot live without You. I cannot face tomorrow without the promise of Your presence. Today I choose to walk and live under the protection of You, The Most High and only true God.

Hear us, risen Lord, our resurrection and our life.

All Hallows

Today is All Hallows Eve, traditionally a time when people work on getting rid of evil, in preparation for All Saints’ and All Souls’ day, (1st and 2nd Nov).  This is a moment to celebrate and point to the light that shines in the darkness of the world (John 1:4), for in light we find life!  But today in the West there has been a shift from All Hallows to Halloween.  Halloween is now big business!

There is ambivalence over Halloween in the Christian church. Some Christians see it as a harmless bit of costume and sweet fun. Others believe it trivialises — or worse, celebrates a satanic holiday. So what does Halloween celebrate today. First of all is what is being celebrated today uplifting? Is Halloween pure? Is it lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report?  Remember these words from Philippians 4:8 where Paul says;

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

These words remind us that what we put into our minds determines what comes out in our words and actions!  Paul is saying we are to program our minds with good Godly attitudes only.  So is Halloween based on godly themes and attitudes such as the idea of peace, freedom           and salvation or does the occasion bring to mind feelings of fear, oppression, bondage and death?  Additionally, does the Bible sanction witchcraft, witches, and sorcery?  On the contrary, the Bible makes it clear that these practices are an abomination to the Lord.  Deuteronomy 18:9-13 says;

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you … one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.”

So is it wrong to celebrate Halloween? Ephesians 5:11 says this:

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

This text is calling us to not only to have no association with any type of dark activity but also to shed light on this topic to those around us by taking a stand for what is right and Godly.

As Christians are we responding in the same way today?  The way Halloween is celebrated today makes it a dark day, because it is celebrated by the occult. It is one of their main festivals and is a day when they celebrate and promote death. Historically they have sacrificed animals (and even humans) on this day. Those making the sacrifices summon and invite evil spirits to come and not only dwell with them but to guard them and protect them.

Many have chosen to discount Halloween as “serious” and ignore it.  Perhaps we ignore it because we don’t like it and don’t want anything to do with it.  Maybe we choose to let it be because it’s a bit of fun and it’s only for one day.  However, if we take seriously, the Bible verses I quoted above are wrong! 

If Halloween is wrong, we need to repent of this attitude and repent of our laziness and passivity wrapped around this day.  Without repentance we are giving the day to satan, the enemy.  Christians are called to stand up to and fight against all the schemes of the enemy.  Those who choose to celebrate the death and darkness of Halloween are inadvertently promoting witchcraft and aligning themselves to the schemes of the enemy.

Halloween is a dangerous game.  Research shows that on Halloween police see a higher number of incidents reported to them than on comparable days before and after!  Maybe this is not surprising, as people dress up as murderers, evil spirits, vampires, victims of death, mummies etc… This increases the danger of people aligning themselves to the enemy and letting the enemy into their lives and their home. They are inviting and promoting fear, death, destruction and hatred into their home and bedroom.

Why do we let children dress up as a scary/murderous/evil creature on Halloween, when we don’t encourage it on other days of the year?  As Christians we are children of light, life and hope. We shouldn’t sit back and let the enemy take control of the day because Halloween is not the enemy’s day. It is a day the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it. It is a day of God’s light and life and victory and it is our job to declare it, not just on Halloween, but every day of the year.  God calls us to stand up and fight against the darkness of the enemy’s schemes.

The Good news is this we have already won. Jesus died on the cross and rose in victory and power over death and darkness.  The victory we declare, the prayers we speak and the power we have in Christ’s name, disarm the enemy. The blood of Jesus is a symbol of protection which we can declare over our children, our homes, our community and our nation.

Remember how the Israelites used the blood of the lamb above their doors to protect them from the spirit of death invading their home? Today, Jesus is the Lamb. We can put the blood of Jesus over the doors of our community so that with His blood we have the authority to declare over our community that death will not enter.

But in all this, remember that the battle belongs to God and He has already won. Our role as Christians is to declare God’s victory, walk in it and to go against the enemy. We are the light of the world. Let’s be the bearers of life and light in our community today on All Hallows, but also in the weeks and months to come.