Journey to Hope – Rising on Eagle’s Wings

Based on a sermon from Sunday 3rd April 2022

God stayed with the people leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and with a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13:21)

In this series we have been looking at the journey that the Israelites took through the desert to the Promised Land.  We have used their journey to help us look to revival.  If we want to see revival happen here, we need to learn from their journey.  In Numbers 16, Deuteronomy 1 and 2, we learn that the journey the Israelites took should have only taken 3 to 4 months, but it didn’t; it took them 40 years. Why?  Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy chapter 2.

Twelve spies went out, but only 2 came back filled with hope that they could and would be able to step into the Promised Land.  Ten spies had no hope and didn’t trust God.  They were fearful and did not enter it.  These ten spies represented a generation who said they wanted to go into the Promised Land, but when “push came to shove”, and were faced with the realities of freedom, they didn’t want to enter.  They were fearful. They rebelled against Moses.  They grieved over Egypt and wanted to go back.  They moaned and groaned.  They tried to do life without God and take control.  They didn’t listen to the rules and commandments that God gave them, to help them live good holy lives.  They disobeyed God and chose to worship other gods.  They created a golden calf for themselves to worship.  Having a golden calf (a physical, man-made religious altar) was more important to them than a good, living, faithful, loving God.  Even though God had saved them from Egypt, destroyed their enemies in the Red Sea and promised them hope, they still didn’t trust God.

In Deuteronomy, we read that because of their disobedience and lack of trust, a whole generation was not able to enter the Promised Land.

14 Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them.  15The Lord’s hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp. (Deuteronomy 2:14-15)

If we hold on to our fear, our grief, our religion, and ways that we have to do church, then we will never enter the promises that God has for us, just like the Israelites.  The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years.  God doesn’t want us to stay in our own desert.  If we don’t give our stuff to God, we, like the Israelites may miss out.  God didn’t allow the Israelites to enter the Promised Land until the Israelites were ready and the old generation had passed.  If we refuse to change and give ourselves to God, we may be like this old generation and we many never enter God’s Promised Land and see the revival that is promised.

When this doubting fearful generation passed, God gave them the land.  God fulfilled His promise and God gave them even more.  God fought for them.  God is utterly faithful and true.  God loves us so much and He will fulfil His promises to us.  we can have faith and confidence that God will fight for us too.

In Exodus 33 v7-23 we read of Moses’ hunger for God.  Moses met with God face to face, and he was still hungry for more, more of His presence, more of His love and favour, more of His glory.  He asked God to “Show me your glory” and God did.

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19 v4-6)

God is so good and God is so good to us.  We are a Holy people.  We are a kingdom of priests.  We are favoured and God’s treasured possession and therefore we will soar on wings like eagles.

Psalm 91 is awesome and it speaks of the promises of God over Moses, the Israelites and over us too.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.’

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.

We can rest under God’s wings.  Whatever we are carrying, we can bring it to God.  Under His wings of love, trust, peace, comfort and safety, God is our refuge and strength.  We can be vulnerable and exposed with God, because He is good and He will shield us.  God will cover us with His feathers and we will not need to feel shame and guilt.  God is our shield and He will stop the arrows that may come our way.  He loves us and as we drop our baggage, we can grasp and hold on to His wings.  As we grasp on to God, we will soar on wings like eagles.  We can have hope and we will rise.  We will rise above the storm.  We will rise into the hope and promises of God.

Isaiah 40 v28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

We can have hope for Revival here in this community.  We can have hope that salvation will come to our loved ones.  We can have hope that the Holy Spirit will come and renew, refresh and awaken his people.  We can have hope that the sheep who are lost, will be found again.  We can have hope that the prodigal son, will come back into the loving arms of God the Father.  We can have hope that cancer will go.  We can have hope that sick children will be made well and sickness will flee.  We can have hope that the barren women, will conceive and have children.  We can have hope that those who are slaves to addiction, will be set free by the blood of the lamb.  We can have hope that depression will be turned into deep wells of peace and joy.  We can have hope that the lonely will never be forgotten and isolated again.  We can have hope that families and friends who have been at war with one another and separated through disagreements and betrayal, will be united in love, forgiveness, and joy once again.  We can have hope that anger and unforgiveness in this community, will melt into repentance and compassion.  We can have hope that poverty in this community will be eradicated.  We can have hope that the schools will be filled with the sound of children and youth worshipping the Lord our God.  We can have hope that there will be such a hunger for God, that people will be weeping in the street.  We can have hope that this community will be completely transformed by the power of God’s love.

If God has done it in the past and God is everlasting, God will do it again.  We can have hope, because God is faithful and does not break his promises. We can have hope and we will all soar on wings like eagles.

Mel Ramos

Living thoughts

Consider the following questions as you Dig into God’s Word.…  As you ponder on them why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  1. Take another look at Deuteronomy chapter 2.  What kind of “spy” are you?  Are you 1 of the 10 who doubts the hope of the Lord and His promises, or are you one of the 2 spies who said “Yes”?
  2. Remember Moses in Exodus 33 v7-23. How hungry are you for revival and for more of God’s power, glory and love in your life?
  3. Do some research on eagles and watch clips/look at photos of eagles soaring.  Look at Isaiah 40 v28-31 and Psalm 91 again.  Ask God to reveal more of what it looks like to soar in hope on eagle’s wings in your own life.  Repent where needed and then pray for more hope and faith to rise within you, and let it influence the way you pray and seek God.

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer Response

Jesus, the hope of all who trust you; the power of all who serve you; the wisdom of all who follow you; the one who unites all who worship you.  Grant us your light as we enter into Easter.

Fill us with strength and boldness according to your promises, that we might reach our needy nation, with your love, as we prepare for Easter.  We humbly acknowledge our weakness and failure, but our eyes are fixed on you.  Fulfil your purposes and plans that your name may be honoured in our land.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Father, thank you that in a world of despair, you are our Hope.  In a world of darkness, you are our Light.  In a world of sorrow, you are our joy.

Help us to share the Hope of our hearts with one another.  Enable us to give Hope to others through Your work amongst us.  Use us to transform our nation and to spread Your Hope to everyone in this nation.

May our land flourish by the preaching of Your word and the praising of Your name. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Holy God, our only hope is in You.  We thank you for the past, trust you for today and believe in you for the future; that all Your promises will come to pass so we can rest forever in Your love.  Amen

Adapted from Jane Holloway, World Prayer Centre

Journey to Hope – Fear

Based on a sermon from Sunday 13th March 2022

Exodus 16:33-35

This is the second of our 5 part series in which we look at the journey that the Israelites took in the desert to the Promised Land.  We feel that this journey is similar to the journey we are on as a church, except our “Promised Land” is revival.  Some of the Israelites didn’t make it to the Promised Land because they were carrying baggage that they wanted to keep.  Last week we talked about Grief.  Many of the Israelites complained and wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt.  They grieved the “so called riches” they had in Egypt, such as meat to eat.  They wanted to go back to slavery, and they didn’t want or know how to enter freedom.  They complained to Moses and blamed God for their misfortunes, even though they were free.  They had just seen the 12 plagues, God had parted a huge sea and killed all their enemies in front of their eyes, but they still complained.

Yet, God was so good and he remained faithful to the Israelites.  We hear in the scriptures that out of God’s goodness, God gave the Israelites what they wanted, (see Exodus 16:13-18).  Moses asked them to take what they needed, not too much or too little, (see also 16:1-20).  Moses gave them an instruction not to keep any of the bread for the morning, but they ignored Him, and the Israelites kept the bread anyway.

Why did they keep the bread when Moses told them not to?  Because they didn’t trust Moses.  Moses had led them out of Egypt and through the parted sea, surely with his track record and the relationship that Moses would have built up with the Israelites, you would have thought that they would and should have listened and trusted Moses?… but no, they didn’t.  They didn’t trust Moses and so they therefore didn’t trust God.

Why this lack of trust?  Because they didn’t trust that Moses and God would look after and provide for them.  The Israelites took the bread and kept it so they could provide for themselves for the next day.  They were scared, worried and fearful that the bread wouldn’t come and that God wouldn’t provide.  They took control of the situation and they tried to provide for themselves.  By keeping the bread for themselves it revealed two strongholds and sin patterns; fear and control.  “I’ll do this myself, because I don’t think God will give me what I need” – that was control.  Blaming Moses and trying to sort things out for themselves – is was result of their own fear.

I can imagine that these two sin patterns of fear and control were so normal and natural to the Israelites.  Remember that these Israelites would have been born slaves.  They would have been beaten, abused and at the mercy of the Egyptians.  They were living in fear of what would happen next.   Because of this, I can imagine that they did everything they could to survive.  In Exodus 1 we read that the new Pharaoh betrayed the Israelites and made them all slaves.  He put slave masters over them with forced labour.  He oppressed them and worked them ruthlessly.  He tried to kill all the boy babies so they wouldn’t multiply.  The Egyptians were not kind.  For years the Israelites were oppressed and under a heavy blanket of fear without any hope of freedom.

When the Israelites left Egypt, they had to re-learn how to follow a leader who was kind, loving, tolerant, forgiving and good.  When Moses came, he spoke of God and God’s faithfulness to the Israelites.  Moses had compassion on the people.  During the 12 plagues of Egypt, God used this time to teach the Israelites about His faithfulness, love and goodness.  God had not forgotten His people and God delivered them.  God parted the Red Sea and now God was giving them the food and water that they needed in the desert daily.  God was constantly miraculously providing for them.

Still they were unable to let go of the past and the pain of their deep betrayal and mistreatment by the Egyptians, and because they hadn’t dealt with their pain, they complained to Moses.  They didn’t trust him.  They grumbled.  They talked about him behind his back.  They were angry towards him.  All the unresolved pain, unforgiveness and anger they had for the Egyptians, resulted in the Israelites putting this baggage on Moses.  They couldn’t move forward away from the pain of their past and into the freedom of their future.  We can be just like these Israelites.

God only wants good things for us.  God is good.  God can’t help himself.  God cannot do anything but be good. Gods’ divine goodness is at the centre of God’s character.  If God is not good, then God is not God.

In A.W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy, he says “If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty.  Therefore, heaven can be hell and hell, heaven.  The goodness of God is the drive behind all blessing He daily bestows upon us.”

Goodness is the reason why God does everything He does.  When God made the earth, His creation and Mankind, God said it was good. Genesis 1v31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then God still thinks Mankind is good today and He only has good things for us.  God is unchanging and so therefore his goodness is unchanging also.  If God is good, then everything He has for us is also good.  Therefore, if everything He has for us is good, why do we doubt God?  Why are we fearful?  We cannot make anything more good than God, because God is the creator of good.  He only has good things for us. That is God’s nature. He can’t help it.

God’s goodness is the ground of our expectation. If we do not know the goodness of God and His love for us, then we will have low expectations of God and therefore low expectations of God’s goodness.  We will then have low expectations for our lives and the future that God has for us.  We will have low levels of hope.  God’s goodness and love is the foundation for our lives.

Again Tozer writes, “Sin has made us timid and self-conscious.  Years of rebellion against God have bred in us a fear that cannot be overcome in a day”.  This fear was the reason why the Israelites were unable to enter the Promised Land.  They had lived in fear their whole lives.  They didn’t know how to not be fearful.  Their fear was not going to be overcome in a day, but even after all they went through, they continued to doubt Moses and therefore they doubted God.

If we want to know more of God and His goodness, we only need to look at Jesus. Jesus came to walk with men, so we would see for ourselves what God the Father was like.  Jesus was consistently loving, kind, gentle, gracious and good.  Jesus teaches us, how good God has been and forever will be.

“The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but God’s goodness encourages us not to be afraid of him.” (Tozer).

If like me, you struggle with God’s goodness, all we need to do is look at Jesus.  We just need to look at how good Jesus was and how he died on the cross for you and me.  If like me, you struggle with the goodness of God, just look at your past and how faithful God has been.  Just look at the reason why you are here. It is because of God’s goodness that you are here in this room, saved and redeemed.  It is because of God’s goodness that He blesses you daily.

Today, we are looking at fear.  Just like the Israelites we have fear which can cause us to take control and not trust God.  We can have; fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of the journey, fear of the Holy Spirit, fear of leaving your baggage behind, fear of leaving betrayal behind, fear of forgiveness.  None of us fully understands the goodness of God, because God’s goodness is so big, full of mercy, grace and blessing.  We will never deserve the goodness and blessing God wants to shower us with, but God is good.  God’s goodness is faithful.  His goodness is everlasting.  His goodness is new every morning.  His goodness gives us hope.  God’s goodness and faithfulness gives us a future.  God’s goodness gives us a hope for revival.

Mel Ramos

Living thoughts

Digging into God’s Word

Please consider the following questions.  As you ponder on them why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Get your Bible down and read these verses…

  • James 1v17
  • Psalm 34v8
  • Romans 8v28
  • Psalm 107v1
  • Psalm 145v9

Try and summarise the message from each verse in your notebook.  Can you respond with thanksgiving to God for what they say to you?

Re-read these verses from our first reading above, Exodus 16:33-35.

Manna was placed (the daily miracle bread God showered them with), in a jar to remind them of God’s goodness and faithfulness, and to tell future generations of all that God has done.  I am sure many of us have testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness.  Ask God to remind you of them, write them down and put them in your own Omer Jar.

The Bible reveals God’s character, faithfulness and goodness. Below are some Bible passages that reflect these.  As you read them list the good qualities of God.

  • Colossians 1:17
  • Malachi 3:6
  • Romans 8:35-39
  • John 5:26
  • Psalm 33:6
  • 2 Timothy 2:13
  • Psalm 34:8
  • Psalm 145:8

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

Dwell in these words from scripture, and ask God to show you His plans for you, and then ask Him to show you His peace and thus experience His peace of heart.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29v11

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14v27

Read The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer, which is all about the character of God.

If this subject has brought things up for you, please do get in touch if you would appreciate a listening ear, or someone to pray with.

Prayer Response

Jesus, the hope of all who trust you; the power of all who serve you; the wisdom of all who follow you; the one who unites all who worship you, grant us your light as we enter into Lent.

Fill us with strength and boldness according to your promises, that we might reach our needy nation, with your love, as we prepare for Easter.  We humbly acknowledge our weakness and failure, but our eyes are fixed on you.  Fulfil your purposes and plans that your name may be honoured in our land.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Father, thank you that in a world of despair, you are our Hope.  In a world of darkness, you are our Light.  In a world of sorrow, you are our joy.

Help us to share the Hope of our hearts with one another.  Enable us to give Hope to others through Your work amongst us.  Use us to transform our nation and to spread Your Hope to everyone in this nation.

May our land flourish by the preaching of Your word and the praising of Your name. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Holy God, our only hope is in You.  We thank you for the past, trust you for today and believe in you for the future; that all Your promises will come to pass so we can rest forever in Your love. Amen

Adapted from Jane Holloway, World Prayer Centre

Overcoming fear

Luke 22:39-46

Have you ever been caught up in moment when you’ve agreed to buy something and you suddenly panic and think “have I got enough money to pay for this?”.  This may be something you’ve felt when you’ve gone to the supermarket.  The trolley is full to over-flowing, but have you enough to pay for it?  Perhaps you like to go to auction houses and bid on items that you collect and the bidding spirals upwards and you cannot keep you hand down!

That feeling of panic can incite fear into the depths of your very being.  You may well think, “What am I doing?” At times our human nature doesn’t always know when to stop.  It can be like trying to stop a large ship, it can take miles.  So, can I pay the bill?

The Lord Jesus is just like us.  He is fearful as to his human nature; “Take this cup away from me but let not my will but your will be done” (Luke 22:42).  These words are a source of encouragement, a source of hope, for when we are in fear we can recall that the Lord himself in his humanity faced fear too; fear far worse than any we will ever face.

But He is not like us for He has a choice.  Even when He says, “I am He” as he is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:5) this invocation of the divine name causes the soldiers to fall on the ground in terror.  They thought that they had come to arrest a meek peasant, but instead in the dim light they were confronted by a truly majestic person.  Often we have no choice in our suffering, but the Lord has both the means to escape suffering – one angel is terrifying while a legion would be overwhelming – and the grounds for escape, for He, unlike us, is totally innocent of any wrong-doing.  Death has no jurisdiction over Him, yet death is lingering in the shadows.

But Jesus is treated as a criminal. He willingly takes the cup of suffering that we deserve, the cup of God’s judgement on our sin, and He freely drinks it for the love He has for us.

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Where does sorrow and suffering come from?  From sin.  From our sin.  Yet Jesus is sinless!  Is it from this moment in the Garden that Jesus starts to feel the weight of carrying our sorrow and our sin to the cross?  One thing we do know for certain is that as the man of sorrows Jesus is acquainted with any sorrow and suffering that we too go through.

So Gethsemane shows us that Jesus is a man of sorrow.  Gethsemane also shows that Jesus is a man of prayer.  What is prayer?  Well one thing I think that these verses tell us is that prayer is a confession of weakness!  Think about it.  Godly prayer is a recognition that we are totally dependent on our Heavenly Father.  When we know this,  we see our weaknesses, and led by the Holy Spirit we want to confess them so we can be rid of them.  But Jesus was also God so why did He need to pray?  Well, Philippians 2 gives us a clue: He humbled himself becoming a servant.  I still find praying on my own very hard.  Over the years I have improved, but there are times when I feel ashamed at how weak it is.  We can learn so much from Jesus and his constant prayer, but at times we feel daunted to pray.  Are any who are reading this in trouble, in fear and suffering?  Maybe you’re facing death?  Then like the Lord we must ask for help, for in our weakness we are made strong.

Your will be done” (v42), which is of course a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer; the will of the Father was that Jesus would be the sacrifice for our sins, a sacrifice for my weaknesses and frailties.  He alone can pay the bill.  We are bankrupt.  But how much must we be conformed to Him as He prayed that God’s will would be done.  He is a man of prayer.  His prayer is the prayer of faith and so must ours be.  He shows obedience to His Heavenly Father in suffering and so must we.  But this can be very, very, hard to do.  I don’t think it’s wrong at all to pray that God would relieve us of our suffering, but it may be that He will not, or at least not for a time.  And this is very hard to accept.  I know from my own experience, particularly when our 11-month old son laid in a coma in a hospital bed.  Having had corrective heart surgery which had been successful seven days later he got an infection which led to his death.  At times Barbara and I felt bewildered, and found praying at all, let alone praying “let not my will but yours be done” so difficult to do by ourselves, but the Spirit helped us and the knowledge that many people were praying for us also sustained us.

Hugh Martin a 19th century Scottish Minister said this, “Be in prayer beside the Saviour, mingling your crying and tears with his: when Jehovah looks on his anointed, he will lift on you the light of his face.”  (book “The Shadow of Calvary).  This urges us to join the Lord in Gethsemane, and so go the way of Christ, which is the way of the cross – the way to death.  For in death we find life!

We must go down into the Jordan to come up into the promised land and “Jordan’s river is chilly and wide”.  But the Saviour bids us follow in his footsteps.  He has paid the bill which was our bill and which we can’t possibly pay, and He has drained our cup of suffering and He will ferry us safely to the other side.

I’m going to close with words from a song by a Christian rock band called White Heart, which I believe encourages us to do as the Saviour bids and follow in His footsteps of suffering.

And the river will flow
the river will flow
through all the times of your life
the river will flow
and the river is love
the river is peace
and the river will flow
through the hearts of those who believe

So put your hand in mine
oh, put your hand in mine
and let us all go down
and kneel by the river’s side
we’ll cry our tears of joy
cry our tears of pain
we’ll let them fall down from our eyes
to be washed in the sacred stream
even the secret tears
buried in our memories
let them all be swept away
to the depths of the endless sea.

Based on a sermon first delivered on 16th August 2020

Getting to know Him

Mark 4:35-41

What’s our biggest problem as Christians? I suggest it is this: that we don’t know God enough, we don’t trust him enough, we don’t love him enough and that we don’t pray to him enough.  But this is not a new problem and in a strange way, we should find that encouraging.  For another group of Christians had the same problem – Jesus’s disciples.  Remember they were with the Lord himself for three years and their general slowness should encourage us that God is patient and loving and always seeking to draw us nearer to Himself. 

Jesus knew exactly what was coming.

Why do I say He knew what was coming, what was going to happen?  Well, first of all He only ever did what He saw His Heavenly Father do in Heaven.  Secondly He just knew what was going to happen next, he knew what people were thinking and going to say next.  Thirdly – A few weeks ago I spoke about “The Just in Time God” – He turned up at the appointed time for His birth, and at the appointed time He meet the widow of Nain.

So Jesus knew exactly what was coming – He knew there was going to be a storm. He deliberately placed His followers in harm’s way.  Being close to the Lord is no guarantee of a trouble-free life – rather the reverse!

Perhaps we should look at this time of Covid-19 in terms of trusting that God knows what He is doing, despite the suffering and disruption we are seeing and experiencing personally.  My life experience has clearly shown me that God does lead us into suffering so that He may show us more of Himself.  Twice I was made redundant when I had a young family, our son died at 11 months old, our older daughter put us through the ringer due to her mental health issues, I had a prolonged illness that meant I was off work for a year.  And I could go on!  Such things are often seen as situations sent to cause harm, but I believe God has meant them for good.  The uncertainty, the difficulties for my family, the pain, the frustrations, and fear, were all there, but it was a joy to know that God was utterly with me.  It was wonderful to know the joy of being involved in the Lord’s work, of seeing Him at work in and through those situations. In fact, these circumstances have given me many opportunities to share my faith.

Where is the ultimate place we see evil turned to good?  When we stand at the foot of the cross. The devil and all the forces of hell meant it for evil, but God used it for our good.

I am sure the disciples did all the things that experienced sailors would do when the “furious squall came up” – turn the boat into the wind, trim the sails, head for shore, bail out the water. But they didn’t do the one blindingly obvious thing that we as readers with hindsight should have done – ask the incarnate God who was right at hand for help.  Even when they did ask,  they did it in desperation and used rough words: they said, “Don’t you care?” (v38).

How hard it was for them to pray!  How small was their faith!  How hard it is for us to pray and how small is our faith!

Corrie Ten Boom said, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.”

And Charles Stanley said, “If satan can get you off your knees, nothing else matters. He doesn’t care what happens then.”

Instead of thinking “It’s too hard to pray” let us be encouraged to pray.  Do you see how kind the Lord is towards the disciples, how patient; yes, He reproves them, but He is always doing so out of a love so deep that it has no end.  God is so kind and patient towards us despite all our serious shortcomings.  Psalm 103 v13 says “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those that fear him.”  God sees all the things that are wrong with us – our laziness, our weak faith, our lack of love, our secret sins, our cold hearts and our prayerlessness, and what does he do?  He is full of what the Bible calls in Hebrew Ches-ed (Chesed) which the Reformers of the sixteenth century translated as a “loving-kindness full of the attributes of grace, benevolence, and compassion”.

Out of this loving-kindness comes amazing divine power!  Billions and billions of molecules are rearranged and suddenly there is a dead calm.  Winds may drop but a storm-tossed body of water takes a long time to drop.  In a second all is quiet, all is still.  Such is the power of the divine word.  It utterly transforms their circumstances.

What is the disciples’ reaction?  They are even more afraid!  What’s the answer to fear? More fear!  Psalm 111:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“.  In Mark’s gospel this is early on in Jesus’ ministry.  The disciples have seen Jesus teach with an authority they have not experienced and heard before.  They have seen Jesus heal people, again things they have not seen before.  You would have thought that they would have fully realised that they were in the presence of an awesome person.  But through this incident in their life it begins to dawn on them who this ordinary-looking man asleep in the boat is.  When they left the boat they knew him more than when they got in.  Isn’t that what we need?  To know the Lord more, to love him more, and to pray to him more.  For as the Puritan preacher Thomas Goodwin says, “The person who knows Christ best is the person who will pray best.”

So how are you going to get to know God better?

Prayer:

Lord God, you know that we are in the midst of such dangers and that we cannot always stand upright because of the frailty of our nature: grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations so we get to know you better, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Based on a sermon first delivered on 9th August 2020

A matter of life or death

Genesis 3:1-19

Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

The Bible tells us that death, and his two sidekicks fear and suffering, act like intruders in our lives. We know all too well that the world is full of death, fear and suffering arising in various forms.  It might be in the form of disease and natural disaster, or in the form of the moral evil that resides within people, – within each of us.  The truth is this; one sin leads to another and the destination is clear, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  I’m sure when you look back over your life you can see that this is so true, one sin leads to another, “Oh what a tangled web we weave”!  There’s a TV series that became a smash hit called “Breaking Bad,” in which a respectable teacher becomes a drug dealer and unleashes a trail of death and suffering on everyone, and even destroys his own family.  What a tangled web he weaved!

That TV series shows us how easily it is for us to become a hired person for the devil.  So how did we end up being hired by this employer?  The Bible tells us that in the beginning the “house”, the world, was good.  How did moral evil enter the world?  Genesis 3 tells us that humanity suffered a catastrophic fall.  Evil in the form of a serpent tempted Adam and Eve.  They fell into sin and unleashed a wave of suffering, fear and death on themselves and their descendants: humanity.  The consequences of the fall are the unleashing of fear, death and suffering, who roam the world freely.  The very first emotion the newly fallen couple experience is fear (Adam says, I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I naked” v10).  As we heard, Adam and Eve (v 16-19) will suffer in specific ways and anyone who has been through childbirth, or work, knows that this is still true to this day.  And what is the end?  Death.  Back to the dust from where we came.

Genesis clearly teaches us that the devil, satan, is real and is the enemy of humanity.  He will do anything to get us to follow his evil deadly plan.  Adam and Eve chose a particular course of action – disobedience – and then God chose His.  As a holy God He could only respond in a way that was consistent with His perfect moral nature.  He could not let sin go unchecked; He had to punish it.  Adam and Eve’s chosen path set in motion the world’s tendency towards disobeying God.  That is why we sin today: every human being ever born, with the exception of Jesus, has inherited the sinful nature of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12-21).  The punishment metered out by God reflects how seriously He views sin of any kind.

So the damage is done.  If you like, Adam and Eve were “patient zero” in a Wuhan wet market, once the virus broke out it could not be stopped!

But wait!  There is amazing hope.  For as by one man came death so by another will come life.  And strangely enough that hope involves that same evil trio.  From a woman a deliverer will come who will kill that old serpent the devil.  He will obliterate the snake by stamping on his head despite the devil’s best efforts and repeated attempts to defeat this person.  This person will also have to suffer himself in order to defeat the devil.  v15, “He will crush your head”, foreshadows satan’s, defeat when that rescuer rose from the dead. 

That rescuer of course is Christ and the rest of the Bible is the story of how that happens.  The Bible is the amazing story of God’s rescue plan for His creation.  That story leads to a hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, to an old rugged cross and near its foot a new hewn tomb.  Isn’t it amazing that right at the beginning of the Bible God was revealing His plan to defeat satan and offer salvation to the whole world through His Son, Jesus Christ?  So the only answer to all the questions we have about life, moral evil, natural evil is Jesus!

But what comfort may we take from this when we are experiencing such suffering, discomfort and disruption?  I believe that there are many, and they include:

  • God doesn’t give us what we deserve.
  • Before the creation of the universe, God purposed a Saviour to save us from the three intruders; fear, suffering and death.

Yet still many, both Christians and non-Christians, ask the question “How can a loving God allow suffering?”

The Christian answer to this question and the unholy trio who afflict us so badly, fear, suffering and death, is not ultimately theological propositions, helpful though they can be.  Rather, the answer is the rescuer I have mentioned above… Jesus!  He has shared in our suffering, He experienced fear, He sweated droplets of blood on the eve of His crucifixion, and then He died for us, for you and me.  The Son of God was crushed; He is a man of sorrows and so is acquainted with grief. Yet, He has turned these three imposters, fear, suffering and death, on themselves. Even Death, who is their terrible king, has himself been utterly defeated and will one day be completely destroyed, “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).

Life in the Garden of Eden was like living in heaven.  Everything was perfect, but the moral sin of Adam and Eve destroyed that.  If God had not punished them, and they’d continued to live in the Garden and eat from the tree of life they would live for ever.  But eternal life in a state of sin would mean for ever trying to hide from God.

We are all like Adam and Eve, we have sinned and are separated from fellowship with God.  But the good news is this; because of Jesus we do not have to stay separated for ever!  God is preparing for His people a new heaven and a new earth in His eternal paradise (Revelation 22).

Let us pray…

Lord God, the unfailing helper and guide of those whom you bring up in your unmovable fear and love, keep us, we pray, under the protection of your good providence and give us a continual reverence and love for your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Based on a sermon first delivered on Sunday 2nd August 2020