Friday, 18 December 2015

Of David’s line

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 29th November 2015
Bible Reading:  Jeremiah 33:14-16

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true” D.L. Moody
“The days are coming when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.”  (Jeremiah 33:14)
Jeremiah delivered this his message when such a possibility seemed the most remote.  Israel had had a civil war, the nation was divided, they have been conquered, their land but destroyed and their leadership exiled. 
God has already fulfilled his promise to send a Saviour. Jesus said he would die and rise again, send his Holy Spirit upon all kinds of people and he did. He said that we would know the truth and the truth would set us free and millions testify to that experience. When we are uncertain about whether the promises of God that we haven’t yet seen fulfilled will ever be is the truth that there are so many promises that God has already fulfilled and kept. 
1. A fallen tree 
At that time I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line. v15
Trees make for good symbols, they stand for a long time, and many live for a long time. The name of David was synonymous with power, majesty, stability and prosperity. However sometimes something happens to a tree and for whatever reason it is cut down and all that remains is the stump.  In the heady days of David’s reign, no one could imagine anything standing in the way of continued success.
“By definition the church like any organisation, is just one generation away from extinction” (Anon)

We might feel we can disagree with this quote in the light of Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  But it needs to be remembered that that the Spirit said to the Ephesian church that if it did not repent he would remove it. “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5)
The worldwide church will win through but not necessarily individual congregations. However glorious their history, each generation must find its own relationship with God.
David was a man after God’s own heart but his son Solomon although he remained religious did not remain loyal to the worship of the one true God.  In each generation instead of the royal tree growing in its relationship with God, the branches were broken off, until all that was left was a stump.
Towards the end of his reign the otherwise good King Hezekiah got fooled into revealing state secrets to Israel’s enemies. When Isaiah found out what had happened he warned Hezekiah that his complacency about security would result in dire consequences for future generations.
Hezekiah’s response was not to plead with God to save them but to say “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” for he thought “will there not be peace and security in my lifetime.” 2 Kings 20:19
His thinking was “as long as it is not in my life-time I do not need to worry.” Surely this is not a godly attitude? It was not an attitude that Jesus had who on the eve of his own death, did not just pray for himself and for the disciples but for us.
 “My prayer is not for them alone I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”  John 17:20
2.         Signs of New Life
“I will make a righteous branch which will sprout from David’s line.Jeremiah 33:15
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1  
In mentioning Jesse and not David, Isaiah implies that the dignity of the house of David is so diminished that it has fallen to the level at which it stood when it was just the rustic Jesse who bore the honour of the family name
There are things in our lives that seemed to be almost beyond hope but somehow when we thought all was lost, there is a sign of life. In contrast to the dead wood it seems insignificant, almost incidental. However it has life and therefore it has the potential to grow.   It is almost unnoticeable at first and only those who are looking really see the possibilities that there are.
The tender shoot reminds us of the way that God often chooses to work.  He allows things to start small from seemingly weak an inauspicious beginnings. From these small beginnings great things are grown. The question for us is whether we focus on the dead tree stump or the living green shoot. 
The Branch is not about the good times coming again but is a proper name, for a Saviour, a Messiah. The coming of this Branch is not a natural out. It is because God makes it happen.
I will make a righteous branch.” Jeremiah 33:15b
For years this did not look like being fulfilled. By the time of the New Testament the king of Judah was not a descendent of David and was a puppet of Rome.  In Nazareth at a time when the line of David was in total obscurity a peasant family who are his descendants have a son and they call him Jesus. Something that at first seems so insignificant, hardly anyone notices is in fact the fulfilment of God’s promise to continue David’s line and save the world.
3.         A Glorious Branch
The baby Jesus, was as vulnerable as a new tender shoot but despite incredible danger the baby Jesus survives and grows to become the Branch.
“In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.” Isaiah 4:2
The Righteous Branch is someone who will rule with justice and integrity, Jeremiah 33:15 & Jeremiah 23:5
This is seen in Jesus.
He has authority  
Over nature by the changing of water into wine, and calming the sea.
Over evil by casting out demons.
Over sickness and disease by giving sight to the blind, by healing the sick
Over death when he raised people from the dead.
Over sin and death forever by his own resurrection.

He has wisdom.
            In the temple (Luke 2:47)
            In discussions with scribes who tried to trap him (Matthew 22)

He acts justly
            the woman caught in adultery – (John 8:3-1)
            the money changers in the temple (Mark 11:1217)

He has personal integrity     (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus referred to himself as a tree. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1) 
He referred to his kingdom as a mustard seen that grew into an enormous tree. (Mark4:30-32)
He is the Lord our Righteousness. He finds a way of imparting his righteousness to us. 

“Here is the most radical aspect of God. This Branch growing out of the stump of Jesse’s shredded family tree would be put on another dead tree, a cross and from that dead tree blossomed salvation full and free. God can take a sinner like me, dead in my trespasses and sins, dead in spirit, dead to the divine and put a new nature in me, making new what was shrivelled, making alive what was dead, and making time enter all eternity with rejoicing and weeping for joy.” Anon 

God bless 
Alan and Carol 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 15th November 2015
Theme: Unsung hero - Hezekiah
Bible Reading:  2 Chronicles 29:1-2; 32:1-8, 20-2

By the time Hezekiah took over from his father, the nation of Judah had had a run of extremely bad leadership. However in the midst of them there is Hezekiah whom the writer of Kings gives a glowing report.
 "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done... He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him" (2 Kings 18:3, 5).
Hezekiah was a reformer whose aim was to restore the people to right worship of the Lord. His name literally means "God is my strength,"
That was something that Hezekiah particularly needed to know because at the time many other kingdoms around Judah had fallen to Assyria the super power of the day. Israel, the northern kingdom had already been conquered and Judah was extremely vulnerable.

1.      He had a clear goals
 “Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger may turn away from us”.  (2 Chronicles 29:1)
He achieved this aim.
“So the service of the temple of the Lord was re-established.”     (2 Chronicles 29:35)
This did not just happen “Without a vision the people perish.”     (Proverbs 29:18)
Hezekiah could have easily embarked on a strategy to rebuild the economy and the military and to strengthen the political base of a nation that was devastated. Instead he started at the temple and focussed on spiritual reformation.

Hezekiah’s father had nailed the doors to the temple shut but Hezekiah had opened them and commanded that the temple be cleaned and then used again for the worship of Yahweh.  This would have been an external gesture if all that happened was the re-establishment of a program.
In addition he called the priests and the Levites to sanctify themselves. He called for the personal repentance and cleansing of each leader. There had to be a return to the personal holy living, honesty and integrity among them. We don’t like to face the fact that we might need to change but we can’t pray for change in the fortunes of the Corps unless we also pray for God to change us.
The temple was cleaned up, and re-consecrated for worship.  The Bible, the imagery of sowing seeds, watering, feeding and waiting patiently for growth is an important aspect of Christian life but we should not confuse patience with lack of faith that God can work in a moment.
 The imagery of a spark from a fire having an immediate transforming effect is just as biblical.  Moses was a shepherd in the wilderness for years but when he encountered the burning bush he almost immediately returns to Egypt to fulfil his calling.  Isaiah is instantly cleansed and empowered when an angel touches his lips with a burning coal. The disciples are changed when the fire of the Holy Spirit is poured out on them at Pentecost.
 It is perfectly possible, in a moment of trust and surrender that our hearts can be changed.  There needs to be process and progress but sometimes God is waiting for a yes from us so that He can immediately bring peace instead of despair, forgiveness where there was guilt, life where there was death, passion rather than indifference, boldness where there was fear, unity where there was strife.

2.  He had an evangelists heart
Hezekiah did not just want the already religious to do their duty properly, he longed for all of his people to re-establish their relationship to God.  He knew that the best way to do that was to remind people of what God had already done for them.  A great way of doing that was to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.  If they remembered the story of how God had loved them, and shown His mercy and grace toward them then that would awaken their desire to return to Him.
That is not a bad strategy for evangelism.  People often assume we have to explain complicated theology but there is great value in simply telling the story of what God has done through Jesus and sharing our testimony.

 “Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel”.            (2 Chronicles 30:1)
He mobilised couriers to carry the message widely, to every border.  At this time the people of God were divided into two nations, Israel and Judah and relationships had not been good. Prejudice had grown up between north and south. Hezekiah could have assumed that the people of the northern kingdom were just not interested, were just too bad or just too proud to respond to his invitation. But he made no assumptions.   

He did get a lukewarm response and ridicule from some. There will always be opposition to the good news. But some did respond and after a slow start, the first Passover Celebration, was a great success and triggered a turning back to God. It was the combination of passion and action that was instrumental in the reform going to go beyond the doors of the temple and out into the world. 

3.      He was a man of prayer
  “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.”  (2 Chronicles 32:1)

Faithfulness does not mean an end to trouble. In fact it will often lead to suffering. Jesus told His disciples that they would suffer because of Him.

The Assyrians threatened to destroy everything that Hezekiah had achieved.  Hezekiah was able to hold the threat back by paying tributes and taxes to Assyria but before long the cities of little Judah were under attack. Hezekiah did what he could do to protect his people. He built up the cities walls, he made sure that there was a safe water supply for  Jerusalem that meant the people could withstand a siege, he used all his powers of argument to keep the people holding on but there came a point where he had done all that he could do. Sennacherib also engaged in psychological warfare through a threatening letter which insulted both God and Hezekiah. 

So many of Hezekiah’s forefathers had opposed the prophets of God but in response to desperate need Hezekiah partnered with the prophet Isaiah and together, they cried out in prayer to heaven.
King Hezekiah and the prophet, Isaiah, son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this.” (2 Chronicles 32: 20)

We do believe that prayer works when we are desperate but often our problem is more that we don’t realize how desperate our need is. 
 The Holy Spirit challenged the church at Laodicea was challenged with these words. You say “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing, but your do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”  (Revelation 3:17)

The desperate, unified prayers of Hezekiah and Isaiah accomplished what seemed impossible from a human perspective. It is when we recognised that we are empty, that God is able to act and fill us.  
After interceding and crying to heaven, God spoke and Isaiah received this word from the Lord that Sennacherib of Assyria would defeated. (Isaiah 37:28-29)
What Isaiah prophesied happened. An epidemic swept through the Assyrian camp, and overnight they left Judah and returned back to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.

Hezekiah was good news for his people and for his generation. The words associated with him are revival, vision, passion, trust and prayer.  Those are words that we hope are synonymous with each of us.
Hezekiah’s secret was that “He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him.” 
(2 Kings 18:6)

God bless
Exeter Temple Message notes: 8th November 2015
Theme: Don’t forget
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-15
The name Deuteronomy means “spoken twice”. Some have called it the “second law” or more appropriately, the second rendering of the law. The entire book is a reminder of the truths of God. Deuteronomy does not offer to Israel “new law,” but it gave a reminder of the established law of God that are given in the previous four books.
Despite their dramatic rescue from Egypt and God protecting and providing for them, whenever a new crisis arose, the faithfulness of God was forgotten and either turned to idols or grumbled in despair at their situation. Thus when about to enter the land that God had promised them, they refused to go in and spent the next 38 years wandering in the desert.  All that generation died in the desert. The book of Deuteronomy opens with Moses near the end of his life speaking to the new generation who were being called to make the move from the desert and go into the Promised Land.  Moses overall advice is that they should not forget but remember.
The word remember or remembrance appears 16 times in the book of Deuteronomy. The people are called to remember 7 distinct things: 
-          To remember the giving of the Covenant      (4:10)
-          That God delivered them from slavery          (5:5 7:18 16:3)
-          That God led them through the wilderness    (8:2 25:17)
-          That they are dependent upon God               (8:18)
-          How angry God was over rebellion                (9:7  9:27  24:9)
-          To teach next generation                             (11:2 32:7)
-           As former slaves to treat all peoples with mercy.
                                                                                (15:15 16:12 24:18 24:22)

 The first invitation in Deuteronomy to remember is Chapter 4:1-15
Taking care of a relationship is connected with remembrance. 
 “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen…. V 9
In advertising if a poster is left in one place too long, it becomes part of the environment and no one looks at it. It doesn’t mean the message wasn’t good, or what it revealed on it is unimportant, it’s just that people cease to give attention to it and then forget what is said.  In life we have received revelation from God and seen him at work but we have a tendency to stop paying attention to it and then we forget the truth we learned.
…….. or let them slip from your heart” as long as you live”     V9b                          
Very few of us, deliberately turn our back on God, we just let the relationship slip.  We so easily do that with our relationship with our Father God. Without guarding I, paying attention to it, we forget it in the midst of a clamouring world.

Moses urges Israel to be accurate or to be clear in their memory or what God has said and what he has done.
 “Do not add to what I commanded and do not subtract from it but keep the commands of the Lord your God.”  V2
How quickly we forget the way God has worked in our lives and how easily we manipulate our memory to make ourselves look better or the instructions God gave less demanding.
The Book of Deuteronomy is rich in its call to remember the words and deeds of God, not with nostalgia, not with sentimentality and not re-interpreted to ease our conscience or fit in with our prejudice.
In v 10-13 the people are to remember clearly what happened when God gave them the law and the covenant.
        Revelation Assemble the people before me to hear my words.” V10                               Israel’s faith was not to be based on a feeling about God but on faithful obedience to what God had said. Their faith starts in his revelation of himself, not their idea of what he is like, what he offers and what he requires.  The temptation for mankind has always been to make God in our image. Moses advised them to remember Horeb, a place to which God called them, where he spoke and they listened. Adjust your thinking to God, not the other way around.
      Invisible but real  “You heard the sound of words but saw not form” V12
Why only a voice?
The constant temptation in the relationship of God with Israel? It was the longing to have a God they could see and touch. It would be easy to feel that it would be so much better if Israel could have a more tangible God. As the people are standing on the edge of the Promised Land they are entering a land full of a religious cults which had gods you could touch and looked exciting because they promised material prosperity, an emotional experience and physical gratification.
 When they remembered Horeb they were to remember that God is real and he speaks. They are to remember that when he spoke he offered a precious Covenant relationship with life-giving words to live by.  “He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments.” V 13
“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near whenever we pray to him? What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”  V7
Will we trade in the invisible God who speaks for the visible gods of this world who have nothing lasting to offer the empty human heart?The visible gods of this world are not just the crystals and Buddah statues that can be bought in New Age stores in Totnes High Street but can be comfort blanket habits and compromising so called romantic relationships.
The Bible shows us that there is something even greater than Horeb that we need to remember and choose.  It is a place called Calvary where a crucified man speaks life to everyone who trusts in him.  The world tempts us to choose something other than the foolishness of a cross, an empty tomb and the unseen Spirit of God in our hearts to give satisfaction and hope.   But when we remember, when we draw near to him, we say with Peter, “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

O love revealed on earth in Christ
In blindness once I sacrificed
They gifts for dross, I could not see
But Jesus gives me sight of thee. (Catherine Baird)

a)      BE CHANGED
The question arises, when believers remember the deeds of God and when God remembers his relation to Israel what kind of remembering is in view? Is it merely recollection of information about the past? Or is it remembering the past in such a way that the facts remembered have some impact on the present. Moses speaks to the people of Israel to help them live right in the present moment and so that they will be ready to go and
“Our memories of the past can often be destructive but Scripture outlines a pattern of remembrance that acknowledges the past in a way that is inspirational and life-giving for both the present and the future.”            (John Drane)
God doesn’t intend us to live in the past. Looking back at His goodness is intended to root us firmly in the rich soil of faith, which provides the environment in which we can grow with Him into new things.
God bless 
Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 1st November 2015
Theme: ‘Instruments in the hands of the Master"
Bible Reading: Various
1.      Weapons
“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”   Romans 6:13
 The picture Paul paints in the lead up to this verse is of a battle with Jesus winning the battle to free people who are held captive by sin and under the sentence of eternal death. Those who choose to trust Christ can be set free from a shameful past, they no longer face eternal separation from God, have hope of a future and no longer have to live chained to sinful patterns of behaviour.
  “All your life you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new Master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!”   (Romans 6:13 The Message)
 In the light of Christ’s victory sin no longer has any right to rule over our lives, so Paul says don’t let it.  Instead we need to give everything we are to God and then instead of being used for the wrong purposes we can be used for God’s glory as “instruments of righteousness”
The Greek word that Paul uses for instruments is HOPLON which in the context implies a tool or weapon used for military purposes. We are often urged to take up the weapons God has provided to fight against evil but here the idea is that God actually wants to use us as the weapon.
As weapons in his hands we are to be:
 A deterrent
It is not so much that the devil will be put off doing his work but that the people whom he seeks to control will see our example 
We must be in use and readily available.
The devil is going to laugh in our faces if we attempt to frighten him without the live ammunition of the Holy Spirit.    

2.      Vessels in his household                  
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared for any good work.” 2 Timothy 2: 20 & 21
 We can be assured that God has created us to be a utensil or vessel that has a specific purpose in the household of the saints; that is the Church. 
 “Each of us in some ways carries this haunting feeling inside of us that we
are worthless. Each of us at some point in our lives looks around at the competence of people in this world and compare ourselves to those around us and say there is no way that I could do that.  We regularly wrestle not with whether or not God has work to be done but whether or not God is right in asking us to do it.”   Kyle Hite
 Paul likens all Christians to earthenware dishes or clay pots. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.  2 Corinthians 4:7
 We need to be dedicated and clean. Most of us have some special dishes that we use only for special occasions. On other days we use our everyday plates, cups, saucers and glasses. But there are some vessels in our house that we wouldn’t use to serve food to our guests at all, e.g.  the dog bowl
or a children’s potty. Neither should we attempt to serve God with lives that are not completely cleansed and dedicated to Him for His use. We need to consecrate our lives to Him entirely.  In practical terms, that means that we decide to live purposefully to glorify God in all aspects of our lives. It means we will do our job for His glory. We will relate to our family for His glory. We will worship for His glory. We will work in the Corps and in the community for His glory.
That’s our part but God has His part.
 When we consecrate ourselves to God entirely, the Holy Spirit will come to fill us entirely, setting us apart and empowering us to live the life we have committed to living. We cannot be a useful vessel for God on our own.
We need the Spirit to give us the motivation and the ability to live for Him. He cleanses us, making us vessels fit for noble purposes.

3.      A Letter from God                
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called your out of darkness and into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (1 Peter 2:9 The Message)

What kind of instrument is being referred to here is not clear except that it is one that carries a message.  In our modern times we have a thousand and one instruments through which messages are conveyed, from a postcard to the wonders of the internet.
 God reassured Ananias that Paul’s conversion to Christ was genuine. He told him; “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”  (Acts 9:15)
 Perhaps it was his own sense of calling to be the carrier of a message that led him to writes a source of inspiration to serve God.You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”  (2 Corinthians 3:6)
 There are many kinds of letters. Dead letters are communications which due to a faulty address, cannot be delivered. Christians are meant to be living letters of Jesus Christ, bearing a message of good tidings of great joy unto all the world. A letter is written to be read. Every Christian should let his Christianity be visible before the world.
Let your light so shine that men may see your good works ... and glorify your father which is in heaven’. Matthew 5:15
 Those who are Christians in name only are simply forged documents designed to deceive and mislead.
 “A living letter is a mind through which Christ thanks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, a hand through which Christ helps”. George Mueller
 As Christians our message becomes illegible when we live contradictory lives. The message is obscured if we live one way at church and another way at home; if we live one way around our church family and another way around our friends. When our lives are inconsistent we send mixed messages to an already confused world. The Bible calls us to be steadfast, unmovable always abounding in the word of God.
 The Bible teaches us that the only cure for an illegible and contradictory message is a life of holiness.

God bless

Exeter Temple Message notes: 25th October 2015
Theme: Dancing to a different tune
Bible ReadingDaniel 3:1-12

Nebuchadnezzar built a huge statue and decreed that when certain music was played everyone must bow down and worship it. In other words they must dance to his tune or die.   In our modern world there is still the danger of our being conditioned to dance to the wrong tune.
1.      V 5       As soon as
As soon as” is a significant phrase.  King Nebuchadnezzar arranged a signal to alert people to conform to his wishes. Initially this was for the dedication ceremony. However once dedicated the statue remained.  It is unlikely that the musical signal was a one off. But “as soon as “people heard the signal, they stopped what they are doing and bowed.   We do not have Nebuchadnezzar orchestrating our corporate responses but we can all have our own triggers to which we’ve been conditioned.  
a)      The world
We can be happy to go along with the Biblical point of view whilst we are in the majority but “as soon as” we are swimming against the tide of opinion we feel that we have no choice but to conform to the majority.
 In the story all the people bowed except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Nobody else it appears is resisting this decree.   We can understand why. They were a conquered people, a long way from home. Some Jews were even heard to say, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”                                                                                         
As Christians we are like those Jewish exiles, living in a foreign land.  Society mainly runs counter to our faith. The world thinks one way and the Christian must decide whether to bow to its thinking or face the consequences. 
This applies to a whole range of attitudes that the world supports but which is not the way of Jesus Christ.  To be a follower of Jesus is to: 
“give and not to count the cost, fight and not to heed the wounds, toil and not to seek for rest, labour and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do God’s will.” (Prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola
This is opposite to the world’s philosophy that believes everyone has their price, desires constant attention and demands rewards.
Will we dance to that tune or will we listen to the music of His voice? 
b)     The flesh
When we feel strong, positive and comfortable we engage in spiritual pursuits but for many “as soon as” our bodies demand attention, we can easily abandon the spiritual and focus on the physical. 
Advertisers use Nebuchadnezzar’s technique all the time.  Those jingles get in our heads and help us tune into the desires of our physical appetites.
When we begin to work live the Christian life we are faced with the problem that this physical body, has been used by habit to obeying another rule, called sin. When Jesus delivers us from this rule, he does not give us a new body, he gives us the power to break and then re-mould every habit formed while we were under the dominion of sin.        
(See Romans 12:1-2)                         
Much of the defeat in our Christian life comes not because the devil tackles us but because we have never understood the simple laws of our make-up. We must treat the body as the servant of Jesus Christ.
c              c) the Devil
Nebuchanezzar was not out to influence people he was demanding complete compliance to his wishes and he enforced it through fear.  He not only wanted to be in charge he wanted to exploit and humiliate his subjects.  This is exactly what our enemy Satan wants to do to the human race.
 Nebuchadnezzar used music not just a signal to begin a ceremony he linked it with the threat of torture and death.  He put a fear trigger in place.  The people had better learn to recognise it or lose their lives.  Fear would be enough for them to react instantly to the sound of the music.
On the surface they act and behave like citizens in lots of cities all over the word but “as soon as” the horn, the flute and the zither start up, they are on their knees bowing down to a golden statue. 
The Devil loves to do that to us. He wants to bind us to conform to unbiblical behaviour patterns through fear.  On a day to day basis most of us look like any other Christian but then “as soon as” our enemy plays his tune and suddenly we bow, we dance. 
     v 18      We will not……..
If verse 5 begins “As soon as” and indicates failure and defeat v 18 has the glorious and victorious phrase “but we will not” 
In the whole nation there were 3 young men who would not bow.  They resisted the music.  They would not dance to anyone’s tune but God’s.
a        a)      They remembered who they were
We live in a world where two kingdoms are in conflict, the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Christ. Which one do you really belong to?
 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13
         b)    They kept looking at God
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not attempt to control the situation because it was literally out of their hands. They have a choice to make, either bow down to the wishes of the king and sacrifice their relationship with God or stand for God and trust Him to deliver. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego let go of the situation and placed their trust in God.
There comes a moment when we stop trying to work out an escape route and jump off the cliff, as it were straight into the arms of God.
c      c)      They recognised that they did have a choice
When the band began to play, the people fell down and worshipped the image. They thought there was no alternative.  But these three showed that there was.  We mistake what choices there are.  We say things like we have to go with what the world says and change our values. We say things like my flesh is weak and I cannot help but give into temptation. 
God has more choices than the devil tells you are available. It’s not compromise or lose.  It’s always trust God and it will surprise what the Lord can do.         
When we refuse to stand for God, we are saying that He is not worthy of our faith. That he is not able to find a way through.  If we are faithful to God and follow Him, we can’t lose.
In the end it was Nebuchadnezzer who stood in awe of God’s power. It was Nebuchadnezzar who had to change his policy.
 “Submit to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  (James 4:7-8)
This is just what the story literally illustrates.  The three heroes, would only bow to God, they resisted evil and it was conquered but also in the heat of the fire they were not alone.  Looking into the furnace where the three young men were thrown, the King saw a fourth person, who looked like a son of the gods.”    It is clear that the writer of Daniel means us to understand that in the midst of this trial the very person of God stood beside them.
After the crucifixion the disciples locked themselves away in fear but the resurrected Jesus came and stood among them.  (Luke 24 :36)
When Paul was alone in the prison, facing huge challenges and possible death, the Lord stood near Paul. (Acts  23:11)

Alan and Carol 

On Parade

 Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday18th October 2015
 Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 6:1-23

Whether to demonstrate military might, to advertise public events and holidays, or simply to entertain, parades traditionally have been part of community experience, probably as far back as 3000 B.C.
 People mostly welcome parades because they are a diversion from workday life and because often bring the famous and powerful literally within the reach of the ordinary man. As a Salvation Army taking our praise out into the street is still something that is good to do.  When we declare the presence of Jesus out in our community we are attempting to show the person in the street that they can be in touch with the King of kings in a much greater way than the public could ever be with royalty on a walk about. 
 We need to be aware on the one hand of losing the courage to openly express out faith and on the other of letting our public expression of faith and worship become empty show.  Sometimes we worry more about what other people think of it than God himself.
 There are times when God gives us a good review and it is satisfying to know that we have his seal of approval. However David found himself in a situation where God does not give his blessing. David found himself puzzled and disappointed until he eventually he learned how to put things right.

1.         Right Production – Wrong Direction
David’s decision to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem was a good idea and was what the nation needed. The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of God’s commitment to His people and theirs to Him. During Saul’s reign this had been forgotten. David felt that bringing the
 Ark to the new capital city of Jerusalem would be a great way of reminding everyone that God was the centre of Israel’s life. There was nothing wrong with the idea but the way he went about it was wrong.
David made the transportation of the Ark to Jerusalem a spectacle involving new equipment to carry the Ark, 30,000 men were hired to escort it along with numerous musicians and singers.
 But then as the cart carrying the Ark came to uneven ground and looked unsteady Uzzah touched the Ark. Uzzah immediately collapsed and died and the show was off.
 Nobody had stopped to ask God about how it was going to get there, who should take it, when it should go and what should happen. And half way along the road the whole project was over.  It is so easy to assume that what matters most is what we like best or what we can do best. We see something that we like doing and bend our goals to fit the activity rather than act in order to fulfil God’s purpose.     
 Sometimes it is difficult to know what is right but in David’s case he ignored the guidelines God had already laid down. Instructions had already been given that the Ark must be carried on poles, not a cart. Members of the tribe of Levi must carry the Ark and it must be accompanied by Levites.  (1 Chron 15: 14-16)
 If David had obeyed what he already knew he would have been half way there. And that is a lesson we need to learn. God will not reveal to us new direction if we don’t follow what He has already said. If we are not acting in line with what He requires, our expertise, the size of the impression we make, the publicity that we attract will be a waste of time.
 2.                  Right Script – Wrong Star.
David had to learn the lesson that all the razzmatazz was in danger of attempting to upstage God who was supposed to be the centre of attention. The sacred Ark of the Covenant was being turned into a tribal totem pole. Everything was expensive but it was also rather vulgar. With God we are not dealing with the village amateur dramatic society when we encounter God but the author of the play. We must not try to upstage Him by using our service to focus attention on ourselves.

3.                  Right Question – Wrong Conclusion
After the disastrous end of David’s project we are told David was afraid of God and asked; “How can I ever bring the ark of God to Jerusalem?” It was the right question and if he’d listened he might have got an answer but instead he answered his own question and leapt to a wrong conclusion and a wrong interpretation of events. David abandoned the idea of taking the Ark to Jerusalem and it was left at Obed-Edoms house to gather dust.
 We too easily abandon what we originally think to be God’s will for us because of one failure. Very often we simply have to correct something. David thought because he’d got it wrong once then that was it.
 Happily he realised his mistake when he said in 1 Chronicles 15:13 “We did not enquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” He then went on to bring the Ark back in accordance with the word of the Lord. This time all was well and David danced before the Lord with indescribable joy.
 There are times when our immediate reaction is to abandon rather than adjust, to justify ourselves rather than reform, to nurse injured pride, rather than learn.
 David was not the first person whose offering to God was found to be at first defective and in need of reform. Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. Abel’s was found to be acceptable, Cain’s, was not. We are not told why. What we are told is Cain’s reaction to the discipline of the Lord. He went out and killed his brother. He let resentment destroy his desire to worship. David on the other hand, had enough humility to try again.

At last David forgot about how good the show was, forgot protocol, threw off constraint and let what was in his heart express itself in enthusiastic dance. This was no longer about David, no longer about his plans, the focus had changed.
 This was a state occasion and there was the pressure for him to act like a king. He had a reputation to protect. Instead we are told that David removed his usual kingly attire and put on the linen robe of a priest. David wasn’t worried about looking like a King, he was busy being a worshiper. David’s dance was an expression of his unashamed devotion.
 When God works in your life as God worked in David’s experience some people will be inspired by what God is doing. Others will be convicted and they will mask their personal conviction by finding something to you and attempt to make you feel foolish about your passion, try to demean it as something na├»ve and childish.  Michal David’s wife despised his passion for God.

Let us not be ashamed that we love Jesus or allow the cynicism of others to crush our spirits. 

Alan and Carol