Saturday, 28 September 2013


Sunday 22nd September 2013
Bible Message notes: Psalm 127:1-2
In the first two verses of this Psalm we have three very common human activities; building a house, watching over a city, and producing food.
The writer uses those very human activities as a basis for the thesis that whatever you work at, and however you hard that work is UNLESS God is in it all it is not worth the effort. 
1. Building

Human beings have an amazing appetite for building things. We build not only houses but reputations, networks of relationships and systems of organisation.  Building is symbolic of purpose. Psalm 127 was written by King Solomon.  2 Chronicles 8 lists the buildings Solomon designed and had built.. 2 Chronicles 3:6Whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and through the territory he ruled, he built.”  It was under Solomon that the nation of Israel became of age as a nation. He consolidated the monarchy, fortified the army and sorted out the infrastructure. He was a nation builder.
Yet Solomon got busy building a nation and his reputation that he neglected his relationship with God.  Under the influence of his many foreign wives he began to worship idols and became increasingly disillusioned with life.  (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
Solomon’s problem was not that he wasn’t a skilled builder.  It wasn’t that he built badly it was that much of what he built didn’t matter.  The Salvation Army has built a world-wide network of churches and ministries, a reputation as people, who do good works. The SA has built an efficient structure of organisation.  As well as asking “Have we built well? “ we must as what we are building matter? 
The answer is that unless what we are building matters to God then however good what we build looks it is pointless. So this begs the question what is it that matters to God?
In Matthew 7:24 Jesus said “Whoever hear these words of mine and puts them into practice is like wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Jesus had only three years of earthly ministry so when he spent time teaching he spoke about what really mattered to him.  And Jesus says we are to use what he said as the basis for anything we seek to build. There was one thing that Jesus talked about in almost every block of teaching. It was the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God.   What is the priority of life? Jesus put it simply, “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
The rest of his teaching tells us what that kingdom looks like.  In his teaching there are some broad themes As a Corps we have a list of values based upon Jesus words.  The references are just samples from the teaching of Jesus but all of Jesus teaching could be placed somewhere in the list.
Experience God through our worship                         John 4:23-24
Embrace a discipleship lifestyle                                 Luke 14:26-27
Extend God’s kingdom through mission                      Matthew 28:19-20
Engage in authentic Christian fellowship                   John 13:34-35
Encourage everyone in their ministry                        Matthew 25:14-30
Express Christian love through service to others        Matthew 25:31-46
Worship and by that we mean loving God, discipleship, mission, fellowship, shared ministry, service, these are the things are the things of the kingdom, these are the things that matter.
2. Watching.
Security has always been apriority for society. Watching is about protection.  In 886 Alfred the Great, arrived at the small settlement of Ripon he liked and granted a Royal Charter and gave them a hunting horn to commemorate the occasion. But Alfred warned them, “You need to be more vigilant there are Vikings about.” So the people appointed a “wakeman” or watchman to guard the settlement through the hours of darkness and the horn was put to use to announce that all was well when he began his watch. People were reluctant to take the role because of the responsibility and the wakeman did not always succeed in preventing attackers from destroying the settlement.  The city motto became and still is Psalm 127:1
When people have done a good work for the Lord, there are two dangers.
a) Complacency: A watchman’s job is to be on the alert against anything that might put a city in danger.  Ephesians 6:12 says that our true enemies are not flesh and blood but the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
b) Watching without the Holy Spirit’s discernment. Human know-how is not enough to detect the enemy. Against an enemy as powerful as the spiritual forces of evil we need stronger weapons than the world offers.
2 Corinthians 10:4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”  Above all we need God to defend us. We need him to be the one on guard because he not only sees the enemy but is strong enough to defend us against him."
When we rely only on our own judgement we often operate from a basis of fear. We love what has been built in God’s name and become fearful of anything that we think might threaten it. Just as society can become obsessed with health and safety, often seeing dangers that are not there we can become suspicious of anything new, or different, or creative or unusual. The trouble is that sometimes it is not the enemy we are keeping out but the Holy Spirit as well.
However we should not just sit back and let God do all the watching. Although we can’t watch without him, we are invited to watch with him, just as Jesus invited his disciples to watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemene.  Prayer and the role of watchman are closely linked?
From the walls of cities watchmen looked for messengers and enemies. Their purpose was to inform the gatekeepers when to open the gates and when to keep them closed. Today among the people of God we need those who work with the Watchman, the Holy Spirit and help us discern not only the dangers we face but what God wants us to be open to and welcome into our fellowship. 
Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, be watchful and thankful.”
3. Farming
The third picture is about provision. The farmer spends long hours toiling for the things to satisfy our needs. This is also a picture of someone giving themselves no rest in their pursuit of this goal. 
When our work totally consumes us then we have life out of balance and the overwork will be counterproductive. It will be in vain. 
The text is not against labour or against people having the resources they need to be fulfilled, to be healthy and grow.  This is true physically but also spiritually. 
 “If we neglect to search the word and neglect private prayer and assembling at the house of God can we wonder if we do not grow? God will undoubtedly build our spiritual house but we must labour in it, there must be earnestness, prayerfulness, watchfulness, an intensity of desire, a using of all appointed means by which we may be built up in our most holy faith.  I am certain, he goes on that it is true in our Christian work, in our trying to bring souls to Christ. We cannot expect to see men converted, if we are not earnest is telling them the truth of God which will save the soul. It is the work of the Spirit to convert sinners yet the Lord uses us as his instruments.”  (Spurgeon)
However in obeying the command of the Bible to we so often become caught up in the work that we lose sight of the purpose of the work and we lose sight of relationships.
We can see hard work and busyness as valuable in themselves. But busyness as a mere distraction to fill up empty days is a form of denial and busyness to impress others is a form of deceit.  Eugene Peterson points out that sometimes we are busy because we are vain.  We want to appear important. The truth is without God we can do nothing.
Frantic work is often the sign of our inability to trust God to provide for our needs. Psalm 127:2 “for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
Another translation of that is “he provides for those he loves while they sleep. Our need for sleep is a reminder that we cannot be in control of everything 24/7. We just have to trust that God will keep our world going whilst we are at rest.  Even while we are at rest he is building, he is watching and he is providing for us. 
Unless the Lord builds, unless the Lord watches, unless the Lord provides, then nothing is accomplished, nothing is secure and nothing is satisfying.  But the Lord does build, watch and provide.
What does that mean for us?  Our plans need to be given to him, our fears need to be given to him and our needs need to be given to him. 
God Bless



Saturday, 21 September 2013

Among us

Exeter Temple Corps
Sunday 15th September 2013
Bible notes:  Exodus 25:8

More space is devoted to the account of the Tabernacle or “The Tent of Meeting” A tabernacle was a special tent placed in the centre of the Israelite camp placed because on the instruction in Exodus 25:8 "Let them construct a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them. Sinful people could not go to live with God because if their sin so he came to them.  The tabernacle was a place of grace for a sinful people where under certain conditions it was possible for them to have access to God through ceremonial cleansing and ritual. 
In that age there was an acute awareness of: the totality of God’s power and the complete gulf between man and God their sin had created. The tabernacle and sacrificial system of worship within it was not there as a sign of God being difficult but of his mercy in not destroying removing humanity and of his grace in he still wanting a relationship with them.
This system was the outworking of the first part of God’s plan to live permanently with humanity.  Such is God’s desire to be among humanity that he came in the person of Jesus Christ to live among us as a human being. "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus superseded the old way. Hebrews 10:20 calls this a new and living way, which all those who trust in Jesus can access to God.
And we are part of something even greater in God's plan to be among us.
Ephesians 2:19-22

1 It is his move 
When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land and they were no longer nomadic the question arose about where they were going to set up the Tent of Meeting.  God told them in Deuteronomy 12:5 “But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling.” The land of Canaan, where the Israelites settled was a place where high-places and green places were sacred as they believed they brought a worshipper nearer to the gods and greenness symbolized fertility.  
The Israelites faced the temptation to believe they must build their worship around already recognised holy places or the most convenient places or in the area of the tribe which was best at bidding for the privilege. We can’t cajole or persuade or influence God into blessing a place with His presence. He does not follow us, we follow him.
When we approach God on our own terms, when we dictate what must be acceptable to Him, we reverse the order of true worship.
The issue was not so much the location as establishing in the minds of the people that it was He who set the agenda, not their desires, and certainly not the culture that they were moving into.

 2. It is his home 
God seeks a dwelling place among his people. He does not want to be an absentee landlord but to make his home among them. 
Canaan pagan worship was like a corporate business affair where ruthless deals get done.  By contrast the worship of Israel was based upon God’s people their understanding of God’s mercy and grace.  Their offerings are received not because they have any real merit but because God has graciously entered into covenant with them.
From grace flows gratitude and celebration.  In the pagan worship, family members were often molested and murdered to appease the gods but in Deuteronomy 12: 7 there is a sense of family atmosphere.
God’s presence will be with us as we rejoice as a family in all He has done and underlying everything there is the deep joy of a covenant relationship based upon the grace of God. 

3. It is his presence that counts
We are told that the first location of the tabernacle in Promised Land was in Shiloh. Joshua 18:1 “The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there”.  Jeremiah 7:12 confirms that this was where God first made a dwelling for His name. 
Shiloh literally means “resting place.” It carries a similar sense to the Hebrew word Shalom, meaning, “Peace.”
It became the main worship and political centre for Israel from the time of Joshua until the time of the priest Eli. Yet although hundreds of people visited Shiloh every year the time came when it became more of a museum that a meeting place with God himself.  The word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions.
Samuel brought new hope. He grew up at Shiloh and heard the voice of God. He didn’t only hear God once but went on to keep the communication lines open. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh to Samuel. God’s tabernacle was not at Shiloh so that he could be contained but so that people might connect with Him and that He might reveal His will to them. God does come to make His home among us so that we can shut him up, never allowing him to speak or move.
Jesus said, "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”  Now this implies to me that is we let Jesus remain in us we let his words remain in us.
It means that we welcome Jesus into our lives and make room for him to live, not as a silent guest with no opinions or commands, but as an authoritative guest whose opinions matter more to us than anyone else's and whose commands are the law of our life.  We return to the idea that we follow a divine agenda not our own.
By 1 Samuel 4 the Ark of the Covenant which was housed in the tabernacle at Shiloh, was taken and used like a good luck charm.  Superstition took the place of faith and obedience.  Complacency towards the things of God took over. The neglect of God that took place at Shiloh resulted in the ark of Covenant being captured by the Philistines.  Eventually the ark was recovered but it never returned to Shiloh. It ceased to be a dwelling place for his name.  When the daughter in law of Eli the priest heard this news, as she gave birth to her son she said her baby was to be called Icahbod, which means the glory has departed.
Psalm 78:60 says that God abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men.
If we think that can’t happen to Christian people we need to see Revelation 2:4.  The church of Ephesus, like Shiloh had been a place where God’s presence was known and where his word was spoken but the angel said to it, “Yet I have this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent I will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”
4. It his God’s plan to stay
Shiloh lost its place as a dwelling for God’s name but that was not the end of the story.  God never gives up the idea that he wants to dwell among his people.  He never intended to be a tourist or a visitor but a permanent resident.             Shiloh fails but there was a glorious day when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  Eventually a temple is built. And there it rested for a few more hundred years until once again through disobedience that dwelling place was also destroyed and the people of God are taken into exile.  Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai and others return to build the temple again. But God had wider plans regarding a dwelling place for his name.
In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writing to Gentiles hundreds of years removed from the group of Hebrews who wandered through the desert tells them, “We are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.”   Paul directly applies the promises of the OT to believers in Christ.
As people born again into the family of God through Christ we are called to be a dwelling place for his name.  If we are seeking the place that God will choose to manifest his presence and if we follow God’s agenda for worship and service then we won’t become a Shiloh, a place from which the glory departed and never returned.  Instead we will be a people that will go on being a dwelling for his name. 
2 Corinthians 6:16 “I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.”  
These are days when claiming that promise needs to be a priority among us.  There is no room for a grain of complacency when we look at what it means to be a mission in the UK in 2013.  We face huge challenges, None of us has what it takes without know God is among us.
God bless

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

I am the Vine

John 15 1-17

Jesus claims to be the true vine whose life whose life has demonstrated perfect oneness with God. He calls His disciples to share the life He has in the Father and become as fruitful as he is.
      1.    A dependent life         v1
A vine unlike other trees needs outside support and its branches need to be guided by a gardener. Jesus exercised in His life upon earth a complete dependency upon God the Father.
The vine grower often chooses to grow his crop in places where it is impossible to grow others. e.g on steep slopes. Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified was a desolate place that Jesus the true vine turned death into the source of life. If this was true for Jesus, it is true for those who joined Him. The Christian can    flourish in circumstances that would appear to be useless and difficult.

2.    A fruitful life              v5
The vine is cultivated, not for its wood but only for its fruit. God does not want us to simply be faithful, but fruitful as well.
An explanation of what Jesus means by fruit is found in Galatians 5:22. A fruitful life is one that is displays the qualities listed. They are all qualities which are seen in Jesus Christ as he lived, not in a greenhouse but out in the world where ordinary people could taste the fruit of his character.  As people had a “taste” of his life their lives were transformed.  In turn they become the fruit of His life. The same pattern is seen in us. God wants to see us bearing a godly character through which others are grafted on to the vine.

     3.  A unified life       v 4
As a branch will wither and die without the sustaining life of the vine, so all our attempts to produce Christian character will be fruitless and frustrating apart from a continuing fusion of our life to His.
Until we believe this we will never experience the Christian life God intended. Real fruit must grow out of life.

4.    A disciplined life
The Gardener, God continually works on the branches so that they can best receive life from the vine and bear fruit. 
There are three kinds of branches in John 15
a) A branch that is in Christ but bears no fruit. V 2a
A healthy grapevine puts out new shoots which grow into branches. These new branches often grow along the ground in the dirt and in the dark.  Although they are alive, they can’t produce fruit. The gardener lifts these branches up onto the trellis out of the dirt to get the needed light from the sun.
Greek word “airei” translated “cuts off” or “takes away” also means “LIFT UP.”   

b) The branch that is in Christ and bears fruit v 2b
God prunes this branch.  Left unrestrained a healthy branch of a vine will  grow rapidly but directs energy into producing leaves and not fruit.  Humans also pour energy and effort into the wrong things.  The Father has to remove the good in order for us to be able to bear the best.  Pruning is often immediately painful but is productive in the long term.

c) The branch that does not remain in the vine v 6“
If we don’t remain fused to Christ or let God lift us up then we are in danger of becoming a fruitless branch which the gardener has no choice but to get rid of.
The condition for fruitfulness lies in the phrase, “Remain in me.”
It literally means to stay closely connected and to settle in for the long term”
God invites us to get more deeply attached to Him.  His purpose is not that you will do more for Him but that you will choose to be more with
Reflection                                                                                                                                                    1.Which of the 7 I am sayings of Christ in John speaks most to you?            
2. What is there in John 15 that challenges and encourages you?              
3. What other “vines” compete for influence in your life?                              
4. What experience have you had of your life flourishing in difficult circumstances? 
5. Identify ways that we can remain in Jesus more closely (v 6-7)              
6. What is the fruit that Jesus talks about?                                                        
7.Why do so many Christians become frustrated in their efforts to be like Christ  
8. Vines need to be pruned regularly to train them to grow correctly. What pruning work has God done in your life?  Are there ways in which you are being pruned at the moment?    

God bless

Saturday, 7 September 2013

I am the way, the truth and the life

Exeter Temple Corps
Sunday 1st September 2013
"I am the way the truth and the life." John 14:6

The context of these words is a conversation between Jesus and his disciples who are worried and upset. (John 14:1) In Greek the way, truth and life are not co-equal terms. Instead, truth and life describe what the way is. I am the way which is true and I am the way which life giving. 
1. He is the way of life
In nature there are laws of chemistry, physics and biology. There is a way that works and a way that doesn’t. There is also a way that works best for mankind emotionally, e.g. too much stress is bad for you and so is too little. There is a law which says people need to be loved and to love. The reason that man runs out of resources on his own is that he was designed to live life connected with his creator.
There is a right way and a wrong way to live. Jesus Christ came to reveal Himself as the way that is true. His truth is more than a creed to assent to; it is about trusting that Jesus is the real and reliable way to live.  
When some think of Jesus as the way, they think of a doorway or a turnstile but the picture here is much more of Jesus being a way upon whom and with whom life is walked. This was the conception of early Christians. In Acts they referred to what they had found in Jesus as “the way” and they were referred to as the people of the “Way”
Life is connected to the way and so is truth. Truth brings us back to the idea of light. As we walk the Way, truth guides our path. It keeps us from straying from the Way. If you see Jesus as that kind of way then you cannot compartmentalize your life into what is secular and what is religious.
2. He is the way out
Jesus is the right road and without him we are on the wrong road which ultimately leads to our being a casualty. A life without Jesus is an accident black spot. Jesus is the only way out of the traps sin got us into. 
Although Jesus as the way is clearly signposted, many by pass Him.  We are promised that those who are truly seeking a right way will find Him. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will open.” 
People can exit the road of sin and self-sufficiency at any time, but they have to trust Jesus and be prepared to go through the cross to pass from our way to his way.  
3 He’s the Way home
The literal definition of “way” is a path, a road. It is a means of getting from one place to another or a progression from something, to something else. Human beings need to know that their lives are heading somewhere.
Jesus adds on to His “I am” statement, “No-one comes to the Father except by me”.  We lose the significance of what Jesus is saying here when we just see this verse as an argument about which religion is right. Jesus is saying that there is a goal to reach and that goal is to come home to as Father. Home is where we belong, where we are wanted, where we are known and where we are loved. Contrary to popular belief the goal of Christianity is not to get to the Father just when we die but to live each day in a personal relationship with God.
Jesus’ statement that He is the exclusive way of truth and life is also one of the most inclusive sayings we have. He is an open road. We have no toll to pay and there is no immigration check.
Christians have a credibility problem. We tell everyone that Jesus is the way, truth and life and often disregard Him in much of our living!
Recap upon the three main ideas from the session
a)    Jesus is the way life works
b)    Jesus is the only way out of the traffic jam of sin
c)    Jesus leads us home to the Father

Which one speaks most to you?
What other interpretations are there?

 If I am to hallow my every day are there any changes I need to make in:

the way I use my time 
how I pursue my entertainment
the way I  spend my money 
how I treat others
how I look after my body

God Bless