Monday, 27 June 2011


Yesterday Alan preached on Acts 12 (see yesterday's blog for the notes) and spoke about the church in Jerusalem intensifying prayer during a time of crisis. One leader had been executed and another was about to be. Persecution was on the rise and at the same time there were hundreds of new converts to disciple so they had plenty on their plate.

Well we have to admit at Pill that we do not have a similar crisis. For the most part, apart from an arson attack last year by one individual, we are accepted and supported by our community. From time to time, like all corps we have pastoral issues to deal with and organisational difficulties to overcome but at the moment (and perhaps I shouldn't speak too soon) there aren't too many bombs exploding in our midst. We are pleased at the spiritual progress we see among our people and the spirit of prayer that continues to grow. So what crisis do we have?

It was this quote from Pastor Ivan Casteel that hit home to me
"Anytime a church is not experiencing souls being saved on a regular basis should be considered a crisis time.”

On that basis we are in crisis. Despite our evangelistic efforts and all the praying that is going on we still await a breakthrough in the making of new disciples. The easy response to this is to "count our chickens" and be grateful that we do not have in fighting and no support but if we are truly the Salvation Army then can we ever be satisfied when people are not saved?
It is not about number crunching but it is about caring about the fact that the majority of our community do not know Jesus and are heading to eternity without him. It should bother us intensly.

Let every heart on the object be set
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls
Help us to pray till the answer we get
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls
Give us the faith that will not let thee go
Faith that says yes, though the devil says no
Lord thy salvation in this meeting show
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls.

God bless


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Night and Day (Sermon and Cell Notes)

From his admission that he didn’t have silver and gold to give a beggar we know that Peter did not have a lot in terms of material possessions but there were some things that he possessed that he could count on night and day, week in week out, whether life was tough or a little easier.
Peter wrote that what he possessed in Christ was an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:4)
Acts 12:1-19 reveals some of the things Peter possessed that we see in this story.

1. The Peace of God
Peter seems to have been able to sleep peacefully in a very uncomfortable place. When Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7 that we should, “Cast all your anxiety on him (that is Jesus) because he cares for you.” I have no doubt that he was speaking from his own experience. Otherwise how is it that faced with a trial the next day, which could end up with his execution could sleep?
Those three words, “Peter was sleeping” in v 6 are a great encouragement to me because they show how it is possible for a man to become more and more like Jesus. There was a time when under threat from soldiers, Peter had attacked them with a sword, there was a time when he tried to protect himself with words of denial, there was a time when fear of drowning made him question the quality of Jesus’s care for him and his friends. But now faced with death, just like Jesus slept in the boat Peter can sleep in peace in the midst of a storm of persecution.
When someone dies, they often leave a legacy. The legacy Jesus left his followers is found in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Peace is our legacy too. It is Paul who shows us what we should do to receive the peace we have been promised. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

2. Praying friends
Whilst Peter slept peacefully his friends were up all night praying.

a) They prayed together
They could no doubt have prayed as individuals about the situation in the privacy of their own homes but there is something powerful that happens when Christians get together to pray. That is why for our next Pray for a Day by praying we will be scheduling more corporate sessions of prayer as well as giving people space to pray individually.

b) They prayed earnestly
The word used for earnestly (v5) is the same word used for the way Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemene. It contains the idea of something stretched out to the limits, like a muscle would be during intensive training in the gym. They weren’t repeating platitudes they were out to win a battle for the continuance and existence of their church. They were praying until they got answers.

They were urgent because they recognised the seriousness of their situation. They were in a crisis situation. I read a pastor’s comment on this story on the internet which challenged me.
“We have an example in this text of the local N.T. Church in Jerusalem in prayer during a time of crisis in their church. And we can see also in this text that their prayer was miraculously answered. Anytime a church is not experiencing souls being saved on a regular basis should be considered a crisis time.”

Honesty, leads me to admit that on that basis we have a crisis.

c) They prayed specifically
The church was earnestly praying for Peter. They concentrated on the matter that was on their minds. In other words rather than praying; “Lord bless all the sick we need to pray for and all those people we know who are ill,” The Church in Jerusalem didn’t pray; “Lord be with all who are in prison tonight,” they prayed for Peter who was in prison.

3. The Plan and Purpose of God
Peter had seen the crucifixion transformed into resurrection. He had seen the Church’s most ardent opponent, Saul turn to Christ and become a passionate believer. He had seen the Jerusalem Church struggling under persecution not only survive but spread into Samaria and far beyond so he knew God had a plan.
Personally, perhaps he remembered the promise of Jesus that when he was old, he would have to be guided by others. Peter wasn’t yet that old. If he believed the promise of Jesus then he could be assured that God had something other in mind for him than his death the next day.
But trust must always be accompanied by obedience. Peter was given instructions by the angel which he had to obey and whilst the angel kept the soldiers asleep and opened iron doors, Peter had to get up and walk in order to get out. This is a picture of what needs to happen to us all when we find Satan wants to prevent us from fulfilling the ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called us. We must like Peter do the things He asks of us in order to be free. God so often opens doors for us which we fail to go through.

This was not the first time Peter had escaped from prison. In Acts 5:18 – 20 he had been with the other apostles and an angel had let them out with the instruction to go back to the Temple and continue preaching. However just because God had repeated a miracle Peter did not assume that he should immediately go back into the public eye as he had done before.
It is very important that we do not try to relive past experience. God very often wants to do a new thing in a new day.

Also we must leave our vindication to God as well as our survival. Peter may have relished the thought of showing up Herod but this time the right thing to do was to go in hiding for a period. Had Peter been impetuous, as in the old days, he could have triggered the wholesale slaughter of Christians. As it happened God dealt with Herod Himself, once and for all. Peter didn’t have to engineer anything.

Peter was Peter and there will never be another one like him.
We may find ourselves in vastly different circumstances to him, yet the wonderful truth is that we can possess what he possessed. The peace of God that passes all understanding is our inheritance too. It is found through powerful prayer, through trusting in God’s plans and not our own and it is being prepared to obey.

Cell Questions
1. What strikes you about the story?
2. What is your experience of the peace of God?
3. How much of a worrier are you? What do you worry about the most?
4. What is your reaction to the pastor’s statement that if we are not seeing people coming to faith regularly there is a crisis and we should be praying earnestly in response?
5. Who do we need to pray more intensely for at this time, in terms of them coming to faith in Christ?
6. Peter’s trust in God was accompanied by a willingness to obey him when God’s plans seemed to be following a different pattern. What assumptions do we make about how we should act when God has moved powerfully in our lives? What are the new things God is calling us to today?

God bless


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thursdays in Black

Thursdays in Black is an international compaign uniting people who believe in the fundamental importance of respecting all human life without discrimination. It was started by the World Council of Churches during the 1980's as a peaceful protest against rape and violence, the by products of war and conflict. It is supported by Christian Aid.

Women do two-thirds of the world's work and get paid less than 10 per cent of its income. More than half of women in the world over the age of 15 cannot read or write and violence causes more death and disability worldwide among women aged 15 to 44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents.

I will be wearing my black T Shirt today which says:

I will be wearing black today in silent protest and in solidarity with women facing rape, abuse, torture violence. SHOW YOU CARE! as women have a right to be safe and free.

God bless


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I have decided to post our Sunday morning messages on the blog so that Cell Members who are online can have the notes prior to their cell meetings.

Sunday 19th June
One Day Acts 3:1-4:4

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day for a miracle
The day started out as routine, Peter and John were on the way to prayers at the Temple and the lame man was on his way to his begging station. But when Peter and John and the lame man met, the disciples abandoned the prayer meeting and the lame man gave up begging forever!
What turned this routine day into a day of miracles? It was the fact that the disciples had begun living a life in the Spirit and life in the Spirit means any day can be a day of miracles.
The lame man had been coming to the Temple for years where God was believed to dwell but nothing changed year in year out. The best the people coming to the temple could do was to give a few coins to ease their consciences as they passed by.
Peter and John confidently offered the man much more.

Their assurance of the presence of Christ and of their position in Christ meant they could act with authority that Christ had assured them he had given them. (see Matthew 28:18-19)
And if we are filled with the Spirit and know the presence of Jesus and our position in him then we too need to recognise that we have all the authority to build God’s Kingdom and to complete the mission that He sent us on!

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we are called upon to share our faith
Peter and John were not setting out to do a bit of evangelism, they were just going to pray but when an opportunity arose to share their faith they took it.
Once again Peter is put in the position of explaining something that was already happening to a crowd that had come to see what was going on. I wonder sometimes if this is the problem in the church today. We ask a crowd to come so that something will happen, whilst perhaps if something powerful and life-changing was happening among us, we might have less trouble getting a crowd.

Not many of us have been lame and then healed but if we have had our lives transformed by Jesus then it should show and we will need to explain what makes the difference. Peter acknowledged the healing was down to Jesus. What happened to the man can only be explained by referring to Jesus.
What about you and me? Does it take Jesus to explain the reason we are the kind of people we are? We often come across people who are insecure, or aggressive or ambitious and we try to explain their attitudes and behaviour. Some will say “They are like that because of nature. They belong to this or that family. It must be in their genes. “ Other’s will say that they behave a certain way because of an event or a circumstance which the person is attempting to compensate for. All this may be true but a life of holiness is explained by one thing. Jesus.

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we meet opposition
Alan and I had a conversation earlier this week. We do talk to each other sometimes!
“Look at the weather today, says Alan. “It’s horrible, yesterday it was lovely!” And I said, “I can’t believe you. You are nearly 52 years old and you have lived in this country all your life and you are still surprised that the weather can change from one day to the next!
We live in a changeable climate, we should get used to it. There are just some things in life that we should expect.
When God moves there is always opposition. And that is certainly what happened one day in Jerusalem when a lame man got healed.
In the Western world, Christians rarely face persecution to the levels we see in other parts of the world. That does not mean we haven’t been opposed. Satan instead has used other tactics. He has attacked the western church with worldliness, selfish pride leading to compromise in an attempt to gain status and acceptance in the world.
It is a very successful tactic. A martyr can impress unbelievers with his courage and faith; the self-centered, compromising Christian thinks he will win the world by being like the world only to find that the world despises him for his spinelessness.
I have a conviction that complaining about our lost Christian heritage to the world will not be remotely as effective as repenting of our sin and weakness before God.
And having done that whatever the cost, we will speak up for Jesus.
Having successfully arrested the two disciples the authorirites were unable to arrest the influence of the gospel. The number of Christians just kept increasing.

One day.
What a day it was; miracles, crowds, evangelistic results, and preachers in jail. We don’t have many days like that these days but you know I believe that we could if we lived more in tune with the Spirit of God.
When we truly live in the Spirit, any day can be a day for a miracle. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day to speak for Jesus. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when we might have to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of the gospel. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when people accept Jesus as their Saviour.

God bless


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Praying longer than the party

It's 2.30am. I'm in the middle of a night of prayer and it is very quiet now. Until 2.00am our neighbours at the hall were having a party.

My plan for the first part of the night was to soak in pray in the tranquility of our prayer room but the music just got louder and louder until in the end I lay down in the corridor with a pillow over my head to drown out the noise. I must admit to thinking this is pointless, I might be better going home to bed but something in my head said, "Surely you can pray longer than they can party?" So I kept going and in ten minutes their music stopped and mine continued and me and the Lord had a party of our own! And I am blessed and I hope he is too! Sometimes you just have to push on through the noise.

Now back to work. Time to pray for some souls!

God bless