Friday, 30 May 2014

Burning, cleansing flame

Exeter Temple Message notes
Sunday 25th May 2014

 1. Fire changes things.  Acts 2: 1-4
For many Christians today the Holy Spirit is a fact of doctrine far removed from every day experience. In Acts the Holy Spirit is not a silent influence but an experienced power

At the end of Luke’s gospel Jesus tells the disciples that they are already witnesses of many things. Yet their ability to proclaim what they had been witnesses of was weak. It was not that they didn’t want to do what Jesus asked, just as they hadn’t wanted to run away when Jesus was arrested.  As Jesus had said the “spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.”

There is for all of us a tension we feel at the gap between what we know we ought to be and do and our performance of it.
Our level of spiritual knowledge may be high while our level of performance may be much lower. There is a sense of frustration when we recognise that we are not living up to our understanding of what God expects of us. 
It’s the fire that brings the change.  “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of the. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  Acts 2:3
Fire changes whatever to touches.  And the changes will go on doing that in your life and mine.
Fire will go on burning whilst there is still fuel for it.  The Holy Spirit is like fire, He is not satisfied with touching your life, he wants everything of you.  “Our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrew 12:29  
There are many people who don’t mind being touched by the fire, as long as it’s containable and controllable. They are happy as long as they determine its heat and intensity. But God will never be satisfied just to touch you, He wants to consume you.

2. Fire brings energy and warmth    Isaiah 6:1-7
Alexander MacLaren says in his commentary on Isaiah’s experience of being touched by the hot coal from the altar,
There is no ice in God’s presence and the nearer we get to him in truth the more we shall glow and burn. Cold religion is a contradiction in terms, though, alas, it is a reality for many.”
Even after the disciples heard the amazing news that Jesus was alive, they were not ready to launch the church.
The disciples  were not in the winter of despair that they had been in on Good Friday, Jesus was alive and when He appeared to them you could see them thawing out.  Peter’s sense of failure, Thomas’ doubts and Mary’s grief started to melt away. 
When Jesus is there He is like a ray of sunshine but when He goes away the clouds seem to gather again and the cold fear starts to grip them again.
If they had been left to themselves the flame of enthusiasm for building the kingdom would soon have burnt out when weighed up against the huge challenges involved. 
This is why at one of His post resurrection appearances which we read about in Luke 24, Jesus instructed the disciples to stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”
On the day of Pentecost we see that promise fulfilled and the effect it has on the disciples is amazing.  Doubts, fears disappointments are gone and they are lit up with enthusiasm, passion and renewed love for Jesus. 
Have you ever got to a stage in your service for God when you feel like you are just going through the motions?  Passion has ebbed and enthusiasm has waned and you feel drained.  
It is not that God’s fire has gone out but that we have ceased to let it warm us.  We need to draw near again and allow the precious Holy Spirit to renew our energy.
This is true of individuals and of His people together.
Charles W Conn wrote these words back in 1966; “There is nothing more pathetic than a drowsy and lethargic church. When a church loses its ardour for Christ, it ceases to be an organism and becomes merely an organization. Lacking the spiritual strength to operate as a true church for God, it will rely more and more upon mechanics and machinery.”
For us as Salvationists, to let that happen is to deny our heritage.  Our motto is still “Blood and Fire.” To write those words on our flags but not actually avail ourselves of the cleansing of the blood of Jesus and the empowering of the Spirit in our daily lives makes us hypocrites.  

3. Fire makes things work.
Now when the New Testament Church first went out into the world, there was a great demonstration of power.
When Simon the Sorcerer saw the great signs and miracles that Philip did he was more than impressed. We know he offered them money in order to get in on the secret of their success.  But of course Philip and the other apostles were not in Samaria to impress an audience.  The reason for their activity and their presence in that area is found in Acts 8:5 “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.” 
The display of power that we read about in Acts has direction and purpose. It honours God and changes lives.  Power without purpose is rather futile.  CH Spurgeon once said, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is power for the accomplishment of divine purposes.”
Both in his memories of Corinth and of Thessalonica Paul recalls that it was the power of the Spirit that enabled him to do a work for God.   “My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5
 “Our gospel came to you no simply with words but also with power with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4
John Stott wrote, “Before Christ sent the church into the world he sent the Spirit into the Church. The same order needs to be observed today.”

4. Fire both draws us and scares us.
Knowing that fire is a dangerous thing we could say we want nothing more to do with it.
But that would mean we would never experience the joy of sitting on the hearth rug in front of the fire with a mug of hot coffee on a cold winters evening. It would mean that we wouldn’t know the fun of the BBQ or the unforgettable experiences of singing around a campfire.
Most of us have a love hate sort of relationship with fire.  
Fire power can be used in two ways. It can be unleashed or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of petrol can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can or it can be channelled through the engine of a car in a controlled burn.
The Holy Spirit’s power can work in both ways too.  At Pentecost and on other occasion His presence has been explosive but at other times His flame has been the unseen but continual motivation behind the work of believers.
What we don’t like is that the fire of the Holy Spirit won’t be dictated to about which way He wants to play it.  And rather than take the risk of having our comfort level upset we choose to avoid Him altogether.  We will only get near the fire if we can tell it what to burn in our lives and how to do it.
God has not changed His plan of how His people are to live the Christian life.  There is no alternative.  It’s fire or freeze.

God bless

Friday, 23 May 2014

Living Holy Lives

Exeter Temple Message notes
Sunday 18th May 2014
Bible Reading:            1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
The Christians in Thessalonica were doing well. They had faith, love, endurance and hope. Nevertheless Paul was under no illusions that the Church was perfect. Their lives needed some renovation. Although God accepts us just as we are with all our mess and disorder, he doesn’t want us to stay that way.
In chapter 4:3 he says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”  The Message translation the verse says, “God wants you to live a pure life.” The CEV, God wants you to be holy.”
What does that mean?

1. Separation
When two people make their vows at a wedding, we say they enter into the “sanctity” of marriage, or holy matrimony.  We say this because we believe that because God ordained marriage and anything that has God’s stamp of approval upon sets it on a higher level than what mere mortals think is a good idea. 
When two people get married one of the things they promise to do is to “forsake all others” There is a separation from all other romantic relationships. In the same way, God calls us into a sanctified relationship with himself.  He calls upon us to forsake all other gods and to worship only him.  The other gods in our lives are not just traditional idols but anything to which we give love, above him.  This could be a person that we put on a pedestal, whose approval we seek.  It could be our career, material things, popularity or a host of other things.
God calls us into an exclusive relationship with God like that of marriage.
Many Christians only realise as they start to walk in their new relationship with God, how many idols there have been in their lives that they are attached to and which still compete with their devotion to him.
At the same time we know that a marriage is not much of a marriage if all the arrangement is that two people agree not to fall in love with anyone else.  Marriage is more than separating ourselves from other people. Marriage vows go on to state that each party will honour, love and commit to one another in sickness and health, till death us do part.
In the Bible sanctification has to do not with separation not just from idols but becoming attached to God. It is living to please, honour and serve him. Paul recognises that devotion in the believers at Thessalonica and urges them to live like that more and more. 
To onlookers dedication to God might look like sacrifice as in order to serve God, some other pursuits may need to be left behind. However for the Christian the desire to serve a God whom they love passionately makes it feel like a privilege.  And you know when we separate ourselves from worshipping anything other than God and devote our lives to God, God is pleased.  Paul says in v 3 “It is God’s will that you be sanctified.”  In other words that’s how he wants us to live.
Entire sanctification is a way of talking about a state of total devotion God. 
As much as we want, in our own strength to be totally separated from anything that displeases God and have our hearts completely filled with love for God we know that our humanity and our weakness makes this impossible. We find it very difficult to let go of our idols as they can have a grip on our lives.
The Salvation Army has always taught that a baptism with the Holy Spirit can cleanse the heart and fill it with the Holy Spirit who empowers the believer for a sanctified life. Just as we are powerless to save ourselves we are powerless to be as pure and devoted as we need to be.  The transformation of the heart is the work of the Spirit.  How do we obtain the power we need for this transformation.  The answer is that our purity is received in the same way as our pardon.  It is by grace, through faith.  We need to come to God and ask him to make all he wants us to be and trust him that he can do it.
2.  Standards
Living a pure life, a life devoted to God means that in our lifestyle will reflect standards of behaviour that God approves of.  
Paul has to be very direct with the Thessalonians they lived in a time and a place which knew nothing of the moral boundaries set out by God in his word.  
We are living in times, when equally many people are in the same position. Many create their own morality and it is pure chance as to whether that morality pleases God or not.
a) Sexual behaviour v 3
The Message translation says, “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.”
Put very plainly this means that God’s will for Christians is that they have no sexual relationships outside of the bounds of marriage.
It has been said, "Hollywood would like to have us believe that the best sex is the passionate, animal-instinct-driven, spur-of-the-moment sex between strangers, co-workers, neighbours, classmates or friends. But study after study shows that the people in life who are most satisfied with their sex life are husbands and wives-married people."
b) Control of physical appetites v 4
The Message translation says, “Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it as is so common among those who know nothing of God.”
This applies to more than sexual behaviour and is about an attitude we have towards any of our natural appetites. It is to do with the way we respond to hunger, thirst, rest and danger.  We have a physical response to those things but we humans have a tendency not to just meet them but to indulge and abuse them.
c) Neighbours   v11
This verse is to do with how we live in society. Christians should surely be contributors to our neighbourhoods. Paul makes it clear we should so live that our “daily life may win respect of outsiders.” People ought to see us, in such a way that they can’t deny the Lord has been working in our lives. When they see a loving marriage, disciplined children, honesty in our business, a great attitude at work, a joyful spirit and kindness to others, they ought to say. “It’s true. Jesus Christ is alive in those people.”
3. Focus
The culture that the Thessalonians Christians were living in, was not a godly one. And Paul knew that if they didn’t keep moving, they would be influenced by the world’s value system
To live in this world, and not have its values affect us takes deliberate effort.

Far too often our minds are not focused on the things of God, but rather on the things of the world.  How many of us have a passion for trash in terms of the books & magazines we read, what we watch on TV, internet or at the cinema, what language we use and what jokes we tell.
We have to keep moving to overcome the world. We not only need to start well but finish well too.
We will of course only know what pleases God is we stay close to him and learn from him.  It was understandable that the lives of the Thessalonian Christians was a little chaotic at first, they had much to learn but through Paul and through their daily walk with God, they had opportunity to grow and God could use them to shine his goodness through.

God bless

Friday, 16 May 2014

Standing firm under pressure

Sunday 11th May 2014                                                                                             
Bible Reading:  1 Thessalonians 2-3
Without the luxury of modern communications the apostle Paul had the frustration of not knowing how the young church at Thessalonica was doing after he had had to leave then so abruptly.  He therefore sent Timothy to Thessalonica to see if they were standing firm in their faith. Paul admits “I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. “ (1 Thess 3:5)
Timothy arrived back with good news that they are full of faith and full of love both for God and for Paul and Silas.
Despite being left leaderless and suffering opposition and hardship they were staying faithful under pressure. How?    
1. They had more than memories 
One of the ways Satan sought to bring down the work of the Kingdom in Greece was to discredit Paul.  There were those at Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea who sought to plant seeds of doubt in the hearts of believers that they were being duped by Paul’s words and that he was a man who was using them for his own ends. Lies and time could have soured the memories of the believers at Thessalonica and they could have re-interpreted their past. If they began to doubt their own experience and judgement not only of Paul but the message that they had received through him, then when trouble came and times were tough, the easiest thing to think was, “There is no point going through all this for something that isn’t real and isn’t true.
But they didn’t let the enemy re-interpret their experience. Timothy found they had faith, love and pleasant memories of Paul and Silas who they longed to see again. (1 Thess. 3:6)
It took more than happy memories of Paul for the Thessalonians to stay faithful.  Yet is their story that helps us to see that what happened when Paul was among them was what helped them maintain their commitment. 
 And we thank God continually because when you received the word of God which you heard from us you accepted it not as the word of men but as it actually is, the word of God, which is in you who believe.” (1 Thess. 2:13)

Time, distance and the tricks memory play didn’t rob them of their faith because what they got hold of in the first place was not an event but an experience of Christ.  This opened them up to an on-going relationship not just with Paul but with an ever present Saviour.

Theirs was faith in Jesus, not in the person who had led them to faith. It was a faith they had chosen to embrace, rather than a form of religion they had inherited.  Above all Jesus was in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.  They had accepted Jesus Christ when he was unacceptable in society, in their family and in their culture.  Paul says, “You became imitators of us and the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcome the message with joy given by the Holy Spirit.”  (1Thessa 1:6)

This counts far more than how long they had been in the church. Some people are as vulnerable to temptation, to turning their backs on Jesus and to falling apart when bad times come as they were when they joined the church years ago because they only have sentimental memories happy times with great people. Somehow they missed the point and have never had a real experience of Jesus in their hearts.  They might physically be present in church but in their hearts they are crushed by the tempter, afraid to stick their necks out and angry at God because life is tough.
2) They were not surprised by suffering
Paul had warned them that following Jesus was hard. Not only would they not be immune from the troubles that every human being goes through because we live in a fallen world but there would be trials they faced because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.  
 “You know quite well we were destined for them. In fact when we were with you we kept telling you that we would be persecuted and it turned out that way as you well know.” (1 Thess.3:3-4)
Although there are plenty of scriptures warning us about these realities, when trouble comes we are nevertheless are often surprised.
We seem to adopt a number of misconceptions about why we are going through the mill at times.
-trouble is a sign of or punishment for your sin and disobedience “He sends his sun on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:45)  
It is true that our sin and disobedience can lead to difficult times as we face the consequences of our actions but trials aren’t always direct results. They may even be a result of your righteousness and obedience.
- they lack faith

Some wonder that if they just had more faith, the hard times would go away.  Did Jesus lack faith? Did Paul lack faith? 
-we think God’s goal is our happiness
There is no biblical basis for the concept that this is true. God’s primary goal is our salvation and our spiritual growth
Archibald Hart: “He is always more interested in our sanctification and growth than he is in making life simple and easy for us. We want to avoid growing pains; he sees the potential for our achieving maturity through pain.”

In the midst of the trial there is divine appointment. God allows some tough times for us, for our good and for His glory.
1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Suffering is a mark of discipleship, something that is guaranteed for the follower of Christ.
3)  They were ready for more                                                                                      
Paul released Timothy from his team in order to bless the Thessalonians only to find that he himself is blessed abundantly.
Therefore brothers in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of the Lord because of you.” (1Thess 3:7-9)
The two way nature of relationship means that Paul could write back and encourage them again.  Paul’s language changes in chapter 3:11 from what is in the past but now he looks forward. 
Paul wants more. He uses words like increase, overflow and in Chapter 4:1 the phrase “more and more”
Paul urges them to keeping moving on. 
a) Move on in faith  
Faith is mentioned often in this chapter. It was the state of the Thessalonians faith that Paul wanted to know about.  He was pleased with what he heard but that didn’t stop him wanted to be with them so that as he says in 3:10 he could “supply what is lacking in your faith.” The CEV translate that “help you to have an even stronger faith.”
It only takes a grain of mustard seed to move a mountain but God has more grains that one!
b) Move on in love
It’s easy when we go through trials to become focused just on ourselves.  “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” 1 Thess. 1:12)
Love is the mark of a successful church. Paul’s concern is that their love for each other would splash over to unbelievers as well.
c) Move on to meet God
Verse 13: “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” Paul links this with being ready when Jesus comes again.  The faith and love that we have in Christ must be allowed to change our character, to transform us into people who live sanctified lives. William Barclay wrote, “No man can ever meet God without God; the only way to prepare to meet God is to live daily with God.” 
The rallying cry often heard today in our economically challenged world is “Less and less.” Governments are called to balance their budgets. People are urged to use less energy and decrease consumption of limited resources. It is good advice that we should all heed. In the realm of faith, however, there are no shortages of love and grace and strength. Therefore, as followers of Christ, we are urged to demonstrate His love in our lives in ever-increasing measure.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

God coloured glasses

Exeter Temple Message notes
Sunday 27th April 2014
Bible Reading:  Colossians 1:9-14
There are many people who would say that having faith in a supreme being is an attempt to protect ourselves from a harsh glaring reality that there is no big story behind the universe, no purpose or plan, no life beyond this one. Or others might say that people who believe in God see life as altogether darker and gloomier than it really is; sin is not really that dark or bad, it just appears that way because you are looking at it through a lens manufactured by people who don’t want other people to have any fun However most Christians would say that seeing life through the lens of faith is what corrects our vision so that we can see was is truly real, whilst at the same time providing protection from the things in the world that might blind us and harm us.
When Paul was writing to the Christians at Colossae he prays this prayer.   “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (v9)
JB Phillips version of this is: “We are asking God that you may see things as it were from his point of view by being given spiritual insight and understanding.”
What does that mean in everyday life?

1. Perspective
Everyone has a world view. Whether or not we realise it we all have certain assumptions and biases that affect the way we view life and reality.
Israel Wayne writes this:  “A world view is a set of lenses which taint our vision or alter the way we perceive the world around us. Our world view is formed by our education, our upbringing the culture we live in, the books we read, the media we absorb. For many people their world view is simply something they have absorbed through osmosis form their surrounding cultural influences. They have never thought strategically about what they believe and wouldn’t be able to give a rational defence of their beliefs to others.”
How we see the world is our worldview. If you see life as a party then your focus will be on having fun. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. It is the philosophy that sees the present as what counts. It is a world view that doesn’t have much time for the idea of life beyond this world.
If you see life as a race you will probably always be trying to get out in front. No one else can overtake you and people like this spend most of their energy trying to be better than anyone else. Coming first is all that matters for them.
If you see your life as a roller coaster then you feel that you have little say in what happens to you because you keep getting thrown all over the place.                                                                                                                          
There are lots of other pictures that could describe the way people see life.  Marathon, minefield, merry go round. 
Our world view can be arrived at through our experiences, through our culture and through our personality but often so much of what informs our world view is based on the way things seem to appear, rather than they really are. We can feel like is a roller coaster, a race or a party but that maybe our perception rather than the truth.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his book Who Needs God? writes: "Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers, or a series of rituals. Religion is first and foremost a way of seeing. It can't change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can... make a real difference."
For centuries, people watched the sun rise in the east and set in the west. That was a fact.  The sun looked very small compared to our planet. Everyone could see it was so and consequently people believed that the sun revolved around the earth. So when Nicolaus Copernicus suggested the earth revolved around the sun people were outraged. It never occurred to them that they might be seeing with the wrong perspective.
We have just celebrated Easter. 
Fact:                                            Friday: Jesus of Nazareth crucified
Disciples Perspective:             It’s over
Jesus perspective:                   It is complete

 Fact:                                          Tomb is empty
Women’s perspective:           Somebody has stolen the body of Jesus
Angels perspective                  He is risen

Fact:                                           Peter denied Jesus
Peter’s perspective:                I’m a failure
Jesus perspective:                   Follow me

Seeing from God’s point of view is to realise that we can jump to conclusions about what is real and what is happening if we only judge from our human perspective. Time and time again the Bible warns against trusting only our human, earthly view of things. Almost every character we meet in the Bible needs to have their eyes opened to another reality.
Think about Abram and Sarai, Sarai actually laughed at an angel because she just couldn’t see from where she was standing that a woman her age could possibly have a child, let alone her husband founding a nation.
Think about Samuel choosing a king for Israel. God had to keep on saying to him, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.
Think about Jesus and his teaching that it is impossible to judge others about the speck in their eye when we can’t see straight because of the plank in our own.
In 2 Corinthians 5:16 Paul writes, “So from now on we regard no one form a worldly point of view, though we once regarded Christ in this way we do so no longer.”
Becoming a Christian had given Paul a wholly different view of life. He saw Jesus differently, he saw other people differently, he saw the future of the world differently, he saw he own mission differently.

2. Pervasion
The people to whom Paul was were living in times very much like ours in that it was a multi-cultural society where you could take your pick of beguiling philosophies. On the one hand there were groups who practiced severe regimes of religious practice that forbade any form of pleasure or physical comfort and others where “anything goes” was an understatement in terms of moral behaviour. 
Paul is confident that in the midst of all this they have heard and received the authentic message of Jesus Christ.  But he is concerned about how they see it and how much they are looking at it through the lens of their culture, rather than directly from the life of God within them   
Paul prays not just that his readers get to know stuff about how God sees the world but that they might be “filled with the knowledge of God's will. Paul uses two key words here: The word "FILL" (play-ra-o) means to be completely filled or totally controlled.
There are plenty of people in the world who know the facts of the Scripture, who know the facts about God, but it doesn't dominate their life.
Romans 12:2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed inwardly by the renewing of your mind.”
JB Phillips has a great translation of this too, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould but let God re-mould your minds from within.”

3. Personal
Getting to know God, not rules or systems but getting to know a person, a living being. Often when we talk about knowing the will of God we come from a selfish perspective. We want God to tell us what to do so that things won’t go wrong.  We don’t want to make a foolish choice and end up looking like an idiot in front of others.
But God’s point of view doesn’t usually start with what we are doing but who he is and who we are.
All spiritual knowledge starts with God. Before you ask God what He wants you to do you should be asking God to show you who He is.   
When we know who he is, that tells us who we are.  God is a Father that means I am his child. God is the God who redeems, that means I am a freed slave, God is the God who forgives sin that means I am at peace with him, God is the God who provides that means I have everything I need for life and godliness.
That makes a whole load of difference to how you live your life.  You live your life in the light of your relationship with God.

3. Practical Outcome
Here is what he says will happen if God answers his prayer, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and with joy give thanks to the Father."
In the Old Testament, knowledge is never theoretical, nor in the New. Knowledge is never speculative, but it is always describes information that changes behaviour.
The Easter message has never been that we come to the cross and get a ticket to put in our pocket and keep until we need it to gain entrance into heaven.  Rather Easter is a revelation of the heart of God and how he operates. This is a God who lays down his own life for ours, whose love is unlimited and who conquers through sacrifice.  If we are to live life from the perspective of knowing him then the practical outcome will be that we will live out our lives from the basis of those same values.

And all of ‘love’ and ‘sorrow’ mingled down,
If you believe your soul cost him this loss
And hail as King the one with thorny crown –
Then how can you – still waste your time with toys
And not give him the very life you owe,
How can your heart be glad with joys
that do not - cannot - crucifixion know?

If you believe in Christ the King of Kings
And you believe in his commands and his decrees
if you accept discipleship and all it brings
then how can you rise from your knees
Without at first agreeing to donate
Your life, your love, your mind, your everything
To one you say is wonderful and great
and in your songs of praise you crown as king.

If you believe and sing at Easter ‘Wondrous cross’
And all of ‘love’ and ‘sorrow’ mingled down,
If you believe your soul cost him this loss
And hail as King the one with thorny crown –
Then how can you – still waste your time with toys
And not give him the very life you owe,
How can your heart be glad with joys
that do not - cannot - crucifixion know?
If you believe in Christ the King of Kings
And you believe in his commands and his decrees
if you accept discipleship and all it brings
then how can you rise from your knees
Without at first agreeing to donate
Your life, your love, your mind, your everything
To one you say is wonderful and great
and in your songs of praise you crown as king.

(verses by Andrew Bale 2014)

God bless you

Colours of Day

Exeter Temple Message notes
Easter Sunday  20th April 2014
Bible Reading: Mark 16:1-8
 “If your day was a colour, what colour would it be? 
Imagine what answer the women on the way to the tomb would have answered. It was less than two days since Jesus died. As far as they were concerned they were going to perform the ritual of anointing Jesus’ body. They were going to a cemetery, a place for good byes. In their minds it was an ending, not a beginning, not a gloriously bright new day.
But a rolled away stone, an empty tomb and an angel with a message changed all that. The early morning experience of the three women changed the colour of their lives. Sunday brought a new dawn for them and for the whole of humanity.

1.  Dawn brought a new perspective on what was relevant
On the way to the tomb access to the body was a major concern for the women.  How were they going to manage the stone?  How were they going to convince the guards they needed to get in the tomb?  How would they stand it, if they couldn’t do this final service for Jesus?  If they couldn’t get into the tomb, then it would make what modern day bereavement counsellors call “closure” so much harder. 
They were taken up with grief, with the task they were to perform and with the obstacles in their path. But the dawn made their grief unnecessary, their task redundant and the obstacles irrelevant.    
They didn’t need to negotiate with Roman guards because they had run off. They didn’t need to get into the tomb because he wasn’t there. They didn’t need their spices; they didn’t have a job to do because there was no body to embalm. They didn’t need to mourn Jesus, because He wasn’t dead!
What fears, tasks and obstacles are we battling with which are utterly unnecessary because Easter Sunday has dawned?

Why are we worried about our future, what might happen to our life, about dying, if Jesus is risen?

Why do we think the obstacles in the way of our being the kind of people God wants us to be and do the things He has called us to do are too big to overcome, when the angel rolled the stone away?

Why are we engaged in some practices and activities that are about dead issues?

Why does the church sometimes spend it’s time fussing about duties and rituals that are more about dead things than proclaiming a living Jesus? 

 2. Dawn brought new emotions
Their first reaction to the open tomb and the young man in the white robe was fear. They were alarmed.
Mark says they trembled and that they were bewildered. 
The word in the Greek is ekstasis, from where we get our English word ecstasy.
Literally, it means to be bewildered by extreme joy. The women were so overjoyed that they could hardly contain themselves, and in their effort to do so, they were shaking.
Matthew 28:8 that they hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy.
What a great way to leave a cemetery? 
We don’t usually leave graveyards excited?
We usually leave there in pain over the death of a family member or friend! Even, if it’s not someone that we were closely acquainted with excitement is not an emotion we usually feel after leaving the graveyard.
Whether we view an historical event with intellectual assessment or with emotional passion often depends upon whether the events being considered have anything to do with us.
When we view the events of Easter, we can do so as an academic exercise if we want to, but to do so is to assume that they are nothing to do with you.
What happened in the garden is about the family of man everywhere.  It has everything to do with who we think we are.  We must let it touch more than our minds. We can get as excited about it as the three women who were there because what Jesus achieved is as much for us as it was for them. It should set our emotions ablaze!

3. Dawn brought a new hope for the world
It means that good is greater than evil.
The devil thought he had won and used his most powerful weapon death to assault and overcome the goodness of God. But the Son of God had the authority to lay down His life, and He had the authority to take it again!
It means that death is no longer a dead end. 
It is no longer something that one must face with dread, and despair. Death is no longer the enemy of those who believe because it has been challenged, and conquered by the Lord. Because He lives, we shall live also.
It means grace is greater than all our sin. 
Romans 5:20 says. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Christ’s perfect sacrifice of Himself, and His pure, holy blood, cleanses us from all sin, if we believe in Him.
It means that love is stronger than hate.
The hatred of unbelievers for Christ is clearly revealed at the cross, but God’s love is greater than human hate.
Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." There is a length, breath, depth, and height to the love of God that cannot be fathomed.

4. Dawn brought a new task
The young man or angel according to Matthew gave the women a message.  The tomb was empty because Jesus was risen from the dead.  They were told to go and tell. They were to go tell the disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him just as he told you.”
But did they do as they were told? Mark 16: 8 is a bit puzzling at first. Trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.”
It makes it look as if they had missed the point. Far from being excited it looks here like fear paralyzed them and as a result they said nothing to anyone.
It says that they were so afraid they said nothing to anyone.
The word afraid is the Greek word Phobeo. It has two possible meanings.
It could mean to be really frightened or to be overwhelmed with awe and reverence. In the context here it must surely mean extreme reverence. They didn’t say anything to anybody else, because the angel had instructed them to tell the disciples. So, they spoke to no one on the way back, and only spoke to the ones they were instructed to tell.
They respected, and demonstrated reverence to that very thing of which they were commanded to do.
The women approached the tomb, anticipating that they would perform a sacred task they left the tomb knowing they were to perform an equally sacred duty. They were completely focused on it they would not be side-tracked on the way by anything that might stop them getting their message to those who at that moment most needed to hear it. 
We too have a sacred message to pass on to those who most need to hear it.
This message of the dawn was not something to just keep within the circle of friends of Jesus. It was just the beginning of a new age of the gospel reaching out to the whole world.
When Jesus appeared to the 11 remaining disciples, after telling them off for their slowness to believe He gave them a new task. 

Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  (Mark 16:15)

God bless you