Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Leaving the past behind and looking forward

Exeter Temple Bible Message notes: 25th January 2015
Bible Reading: Psalm 103
At this time of year people make new year resolutions and plan ahead for the months ahead. 
Why do we do this?
It can be because there are areas in our lives that we are unhappy with, areas in our lives where we want to be better and to achieve things.
Everybody believers and non-believers experience the leaving of one year and entry into another. As we do this we need to learn to leave some things behind us leave some things where they belong.
We need to leave behind anything in our lives that keeps us from focussing on the Lord.
Being a Christian means always trying to go forward. We talk about our walk in life, our walk in faith and our walk with the Lord. By it's very nature walking means moving forward. As we move forward we leave one place and go to another.
We need to leave behind the following things that do us no good.
 1. Resentment
It might be something we have said or done, or something someone else has said or done. Along with resentment comes un-forgiveness.  Jesus said that if we forgive others God will forgive us but if we don't forgive he will not forgive us.
Forgive does not mean the same as forget. We cannot take things from our memory but we can forgive.  We often choose to like or dislike people on the basis of our preferences and on what we think. Remember we are not perfect and we are not always right.
There is a saying that goes, "Look lovingly upon your enemies for it is you that have made them." 

2. Worry
We all tend to worry over something at times. Someone said that "Worries are like rocking chairs; they give you something to do but do not take you anywhere while you are doing it."
Worrying takes over every thought of our lives and it causes stress, mental illness and many other things that destroy our lives. Worry is the cause of fear.
Why should we be afraid?  Did not Jesus say, "I will be with you day after day right up to the end of time." Matthew 28:20
And by worrying we do not make any difference to the thing we are worrying about.  So leave your worries behind you as you come into the New Year.

3. Failures
We try so hard to be the best that we can be but we do not always succeed. We get discouraged when we think that we have failed.  We might not have achieved what we originally set out to do but the real failure is when we do not try to do anything. God called us to have faith long before he ever called us to achieve. We are called to be in Christ and as long as we are in him we are successful.
When we as individual have strayed from our Lord and we find failure in our lives we are not completely happy or content but when we turn back to him again he will hear us and restore us. He is the God of restoration.

Bible Reading:  Jeremiah 18:1-12 (The Message)
If we could go back to last year and live it again what if anything would we change?  If we could change something would we actually do it?  It takes some hard thinking and searching to answer that question truthfully.
All people are searching for new beginnings, for changes but how many people understand that there is a process to change?
Change doesn't happen instantly. How many people lose heart and get tired of trying to begin again?
It can be like a person trying a new knitting pattern having to go back an unpick their knitting because may they got the stitches right but the wool was wrong or they got the wool right but as the knitting progresses the picture being formed is the wrong way around. The only answer each time is to start again
In our spiritual lives we can sometimes go our own way, making decisions and planning and we wonder why things go wrong. We mess up but like the knitting we can go back to God, time and time again and ask for his forgiveness and to show us his plan.
There are times in all our lives when we are actually called to a new beginning. It may be a new job, a house move, maybe retirement.
In the story of the potter the clay he was using did not turn our the way he wanted so he re-moulded it. God our heavenly father has created us and moulded us to what he wants us to be but how many times must he be disappointed that the vessel he created becomes out of shape?
Our lives are in the hands of the divine potter, not a fortune teller or start predictor. The divine potter cares about us, the choices we make, the things we do and the things that happen to us.
"Yet O Lord, your are our Father. We are the clay and you the potter. We are all the work of your hands." (Isaiah 64:8)
As the potter, God has the power over the clay; clay cannot mould itself, it needs the potter to turn the wheel.  God has the power to turn the wheel of our lives.
God, who is the potter moulds us through:
a) inner conviction. The sense that God is pointing our something in our lives that needs to be changed.
b) though many different circumstances. We sometimes question God when we go through difficulties but they often after these times we become close to God.  Do not forget that God does not give us problems or circumstances larger than we can carry. Birds sing after a storm, so why shouldn't we?

The kind of vessel we become is up to us. We can be a vessel of honour or dishonour. Is there anything in your life that is hindering the process of God?
God takes us just as we are and we do not have to pretend with him.
We can come with all our broken pieces and shameful scars.
God is not mad at you or disappointed.
His grace is greater that all our wrong choices and he is full of mercy and is ever kind.
He sees what we can become and knows what plans he has for each of our lives.
Let him be the potter so he can mould you into the person he wants you to become.
Let the start of the year become a new beginning by putting all the things of the past behind us and ,moving forward as new vessels.

God bless you
Margaret Pope

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Run After

 Exeter Temple Message notes
Vision and Commitment Sunday   11th January 2015
Bible Reading: Hebrews 12:1-3

We are introduced here to a powerful athletic metaphor in which the Christian life is compared to a race.  There is also a connection to vision because to run this race well, the runners need to have their eyes open and fixed on the goal which is Jesus Christ himself. 
We do not just run around in circles, but we run with direction, following after Jesus, who has run the race ahead of us, always keeping him in sight.
Races usually begin with a starting pistol, or a signal from a flag.  The starting of participation in the race for this Corps began almost 135 years ago and we are still in it but we still need to start running. 
Some races, such as the Tour de France is one huge race, but there are stages within it. Participants ride and rest, then move to a new place and start riding again, using tactics and skills that match the climate and terrain that they are passing through.  They may have responded to a starting pistol at the very beginning but along the way they listen for it again and respond to it in the new place they find themselves. 
Today, we are still running the race that our forefathers began and yes we are still in Exeter but in many ways we are in a new place as we meet the challenge to follow Jesus in our day and in our times. 
We have, sought the Lord. We have asked “Lord we want to see” and he has guided us we believe to adapt the way we run according to the vision he has given us.  Part of that vision was to set up Purpose teams, alongside our Music Ministry, AFM and CYM teams supported by the resource teams of Finance, Administration, Communications and Building teams.
On this Vision and Commitment Sunday, we remind ourselves of the vision but it is a day to also start the race and commission our teams to action.
1. Run as disciples
 We are called to do is run as disciples.  Discipleship is about living the life of Christ.  The clue is in the word, it is a disciplined life. 
The writer of the Hebrews says, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run………”
The image that this translation evokes is of something which must be thrown off like a garment.  In the London marathon people deliberately dress in unsuitable outfits for running, just for fun but the serious runners wear as little as they can without being indecent. In fact these days athletic clothing is a matter of science and technology so special fabric wear can be worn that fits so tightly that the body is completely streamlined.
What is it that we need to throw off in order to not only keep going but also to run effectively and keep up with Jesus?  
It is quite obvious that we need to remove anything from our lives that is immoral, that is contrary to the standard of living that the word of God reveals to us. We know it is wrong to steal, to lie, to gossip, to hold on to resentment, to refuse to forgive etc; all things that can so easily trip us up.
We need to take a radical attitude towards sin.  However it must also be said that a winning runner does not just choose between the good and the bad but between the better and the best. 
 “The rule of my life is this: Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life or makes Christian word difficult, it is wrong for me, and as a Christian I must turn from it!”
Wilbur Chapman
For example, our success can be our failure. Our strength can be our weakness. We can be tempted to sit back and relax.
Whilst an athlete might remove unnecessary clothing and lifestyle habits it is not enough; the runner must know how to run a race. 
The runner has to grow in understanding of how to train and how to run.  And that applies to our Christian life.  If we are going to run, then we need to keep on learning.   
 2. Run out into the world
“……the race set before us.” 
Competitors in a race don't usually pick their own course.  If they want their run to count they have to follow the route   laid out for them but the organizers.  If we want to win the race that really matters it is important we run the race that God lays out for us.
Training, for all disciples of Jesus is meant to take us out into the world.  The Christian life is not a race in a stadium but a marathon through local neighbourhoods. 
If we made the connection with discipleship earlier now I see a link to our purpose of mission and of serving our community.
 “You will be my witnesses in all Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and o the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8  
The London Marathon is a great illustration of people who are running with the purpose of serving others and often proclaiming their mission, telling their story as they are stopped by the BBC along the way to tell their story.
3. Run with focus
 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”  
This connects totally with our purpose of worship.
Robert Street writing about the Spiritual Life Commission that the Salvation Army produced a number of years ago said this,
“The Commission acknowledges that in our meetings we celebrate and experience the promised presence of Christ with his people. Christ crucified, risen, and glorified is the focal point, the epicentre of our worship. We worship Christ. He is the reason for our meeting. He has reconciled us to God. Because of this we offer worship to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.” 
4. Run in partnership with others
"……….surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”
Who are these witnesses? Firstly they are the people who have gone before us, who have run the race, and have completed it! They are examples to us as to how to successfully and victoriously run this race!
We find many of them listed in Hebrews 11.
We all need inspiration and encouragement. One of the greatest inspirations and comforts should be all the believers from the past who have gone before us.  The same God who was their God is our God. The God of yesterday is the God of today and tomorrow.
Let’s remember that not all of these witnesses are in heaven, as we run the race, we run it side by side, helping one another along. 
One of the nominees for Sports personality of the Year 2014 was not a single person by the partnership of Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans. Their sport is not running but Alpine skiing. They participated in the Winter Paralympics and won a gold medal as they won the visually impaired Super-G in Sochi.  The pair communicate on their way down the slopes via blue-tooth headsets, as they travel at speeds of up to 100km/h.                               
Dame Mary Peters said of them, “They are amazing - an absolute team."
We run in partnership with one another. 
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4 
This connects with our purpose of pastoral care and community service but also shows us how our resource teams play their part in helping us all run the race.  
What marathon or fun run can take place without the resources of administration, practical provisions like water, toilet facilities, stewards and communication?  Who can forget the volunteers at the Olympics, whose encouragement and care made the London games such a success. In fact they were called Games makers.   “Clear the path for the long distance so no one will trip up and fall so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure on one gets left out of God’s generosity.”  (Hebrews 12:12-14 The Message)
This is a word I believe God has for us for 2015
It is a year of decision making, a time to stop putting off facing difficult questions.  It is time to run.
It is a year for taking some risks in terms of trying new things. It’s time to get off any fences we are sitting on.  It is time to run. 
It should be a year when we go into battle for God and when we get to grips with what we mean by spiritual warfare if our title Salvation Army is going to mean something in 2015.
It is a year to go into battle for God but a year when we each need to make sure that in our hearts we are not in a battle against him.
We can’t afford to mess about with sin and compromise. We need to line our lives up with his word not with the opinions of the world. It has to be a year when we re-affirm our holiness heritage. It is time to run after the holy life of a radical disciple of Jesus.
God Bless You
Carol Young


Friday, 9 January 2015

Draw near

Sunday 4th January 2015
Bible Reading:  Hebrews 10:10-22
Wherever we are, God is there. There is no place; there can be no place, where he is not.
 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  Psalm 139:7-8
 “No point is nearer to God than any other point. It is exactly as near to God from any place as it is from any other place. No one is in mere distance any further or any nearer to God than any other person. These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow within us”   AW Tozer
However the presence of God and the manifest presence of God are not the same.
 “When the Bible speaks of the coming of divine persons it does not refer to a moving from absence into presence since divine persons are always present but a moving from one mode of presence into another mode of presence.”  Thomas Aquinas
The reality of God’s nearness can be revealed to us, either as individuals or as a company of people. In the Old Testament a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night reassured the Israelites that God’s presence was with them in the desert.
Yet this didn’t give them a way of communicating with that presence.  God was real but he was so utterly different to them and so pure and holy their humanity and their sinfulness created such a barrier. They needed a way of getting closer to him.  The answer came through the tabernacle which was designed by God and built according to his instruction to Moses.
It consisted of three main areas.
-          The outer court
This contained an altar and a basin.  On this altar, they sacrificed animals to show their devotion of God.
-          The inner sanctuary (or Holy Place),
This contained bread, a lamp stand and the altar of incense, which all represented their dependence upon God and their desire to know him.  
-          The Holy of Holies
This was behind a thick veil, and contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. It was here that God’s presence dwelt and here where the High Priest would enter once each year to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the mercy seat in atonement of sin for himself and for the people. The priest got in and out quickly because he was so in awe of being in the presence of God.
But now God has given us the through the provision of his son Jesus Christ to enter in to this inner sanctuary ourselves, without guilt, embarrassment or fear.
1. Invited to draw near
The great aim of the writer of Hebrews is that each of us get near God, that we have fellowship with him that we not settle for a life at a distance from him so that God is distant thought, but is a near and present.
The words “draw near” mean to approach or to visit.  When we worship him in spirit and in truth, when we go to him in prayer and when we give our lives in his service we are drawing near to him. When we should do so with:
a) Hunger
The French have a proverb that provides insight for worship.
"A good meal ought to begin with hunger."
When we come to God filled up with our own self-sufficiency or full of preoccupied thoughts, we definitely won’t experience meaningful worship.
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?"  Psalm 42:2
b) Prepared hearts
We must submit ourselves in humble worship and obedience before the Father. And we must resist the distractions and discouragements that the devil tries to bring to keep us from God. We must do both in order to draw near to God and for Him to then draw near to us.
c) Reverence 
God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near and you are entering a holy place when you draw near to God. We cannot come carelessly or flippantly. 

2. Why do we neglect the presence of God?
Yet despite the enormous privilege we have of experiencing the presence of God and drawing near to him we so often neglect it?
Many of us live very imbalanced lives. Many work too little or too much. Many have friendships that make them too dependent on others and some have become self-reliant and unaccountable.  Many of us are too intense and others of us are lazy. Some of us are too impulsive and others too measured. And in the midst of it all time for drawing near to God is squeezed out. Many believers pledge they’ll give attention to the relationship with God if and when they can find the time.
The truth is that we will never find time to draw near to God unless we make it our first priority.

3. What happens in His presence?
There was something special and spiritually significant about the Most Holy Place. Behind the veil was the glorious presence of God. When Moses encountered the glory of God something grand occurred.  Moses face shone so much the people were afraid to look upon him. There is a lesson for us in this. We cannot enter the glorious of presence of God and not be changed!
We need to go behind the veil. That’s where change takes place. Within the sanctuary is where preparation and restoration occur. When we encounter the eternal presence of God we become reflectors of His glory.
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18 
The biblical idea of transformation is not simply change, nor is it just improvement.  God is at work, re-creating who you are, re-programming how I think, re-defining what we value, why we do what we do. He is doing this so that we will be conformed to the image of His Son, the model and pattern.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among us.”    Rom 8:29

We take air into our lungs and transform the blood from impure to pure and send it on its life sustaining way We take food and transform it into blood and tissue and cell we transform mere sense impressions on the retina into sight we take wild sounds and tame then to time an tune and make them into music we take two people and tie them together with love and make them into a family. We take the self-centred soul get him to surrender to Christ and he is transformed.”  Selwyn Hughes
As we stand before the Person of Christ and focus our lives on him we are gradually changed into His likeness because whatever gets our attention gets you.
It is said; “People who are taken up with nothing become to look like the object of their focus - Blank faces, blank expression, blank lives but if Christ is the object of our attention then the glorious truth is we are gradually changed to be like Him.
If you want to go on the internet just having a computer, i.e. hardware is not enough, you need software. 
Every human being has the hardware to experience the presence of God, but not every human has the software. The Holy Spirit is the software that logs us into the presence of God. The Holy Spirit is the person that gives us eyes to see - remember what Jesus said when He was talking about human beings? He said you have to have eyes to see but you don’t see. In other words you have the hardware but not the software. You have to have ears to hear but you haven’t downloaded the software to hear.
You cannot earn the Holy Spirit. Microsoft does not have a program you can buy that will download the Holy Spirit into your hard drive, your life. Some people think they have to work hard praying to bring the presence of God in their lives, but you don’t achieve the presence of God, we need to surrender to it by surrendering to the Holy Spirit.

God bless


Back to normal

Exeter Temple message notes
Sunday 28th December 2014
We spend weeks before Christmas preaching about the events leading up to … and including … the birth of Jesus. We seldom hear a sermon about what happened to him and his family after Bethlehem.  Did they ever get to live a “normal” life?
Although Mary seems to have had a “normal” delivery of her baby, we have just spend a month reminding ourselves of the unusual things that happened around the birth of her child.  Today we have already read that following the visit of the wise men from the east, life did not settle down but because of Herod’s mania, the family narrowly escaped with their lives and became refugees in Egypt. 
I’d like to say that that is a unique kind of thing to happen to a couple and a new baby but we all know it is not.  In fact there are 42 million forcibly displaced people around the world. This includes 27.1 million internally displaced people and 15.6 million refugees.
But eventually after Herod died, Joseph decided it was time to return to Israel.  It seems that Joseph really wanted to go back to southern Israel, perhaps return to Bethlehem. It may have been of course that he didn’t want to take Mary back to Nazareth, where she may have been the subject of gossip. 
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. “
And it seems that is where they settled down to “normal” life.  Joseph carried on as a carpenter (a more accurate description of which is builder) Jesus went to the synagogue, they joined in the pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Passover and went to local weddings.  Mary and Joseph had more children.
The excitement of the Son of God being born that night, the visit of the shepherds; the visit of the Magi from the east, bringing gifts. But now what? Those things are done - in the past, distant memories for Mary and Joseph. Now they set about the task of raising a family, making a living – the excitement is gone but perhaps they had both had had enough for excitement for now.
Nazareth was a small town. It was famous for not being famous. No one had ever heard of Nazareth. It isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament at all. Not far from Nazareth, the major highways running North/South and East/West crossed there.
That’s where God wanted His Son raised.

Nazareth is the scene of his participation in the everyday world of ordinary people.
There are 3 things pertaining to Jesus “normal” life in Nazareth.

1. Living for God despite your environment
Galilee was said to be on the way to everywhere and it was an area that people passed through. Consequently there were some who got held up and stayed there. It became an area of mixed population, Jews and Gentiles. It was this that caused the more pure blooded Judeans in the south to despise the northern Galileans with their rough uncouth dialect.
However out of all the towns to come from in Galilee there were better ones to choose than Nazareth. To say you were Galilean was bad enough but to say you came from Nazareth was even worse. Isolated in a valley Nazareth was not seen as an important part of national and religious life. This coupled with a bad reputation in morals and lack of religious zeal Nazareth was bad news. But Jesus came from Nazareth and was known as a Nazarene.  When hearing this about Him it caused Nathaniel to say with cynicism, "Nazareth?  Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
(John 1 v 46)
When we meet people one of the things we like to know is "Where do you come from?" Mostly it is because we are interested. We might have been there we might know people they know. 
It is said that the child is the father of the man and it is frequently assumed that a child brought up in circumstances that have some kind of deprivation, whether material or emotional will become an unfulfilled adult. When a person rises above that we express surprise and offer congratulations.
It is true that our past affects us very greatly. Our minds are programmed through prevailing experiences that we had in early childhood such as the family we were raised in,  the churches that we went to or didn't go to,  the neighbourhoods  we grew up in,  the friends that we had or didn't have and so on,. These external factors all had an effect upon our development.
Our environment isn't all that shapes up because every one of us has a different way of interpreting the world in which we live and God has created us uniquely. In addition there are experiences that we have had, they may have been so traumatic that they are burned into our minds because of their intensity. All of these experiences have been stored in our memory like a file on our computer.
In the light of all that it can be tempting to say, “I can't be where I want to be in terms of my character, my achievements and my relationship with God because of my past”.
The boy Jesus grew up with gossip about the strange circumstances of His birth, in a large family, in a despised town, nurtured by parents who were probably poor, when the Jewish religion was at an all time low, when the nation was under foreign occupation and in a state of fear and change.
Jesus’ fellow Nazarenes found it hard to take Joseph's Son seriously. When He started to preach and teach they said in shocked tones "But isn't this Joseph the Carpenter's son?" Rejection hurts and many a promising young person has had their vision snuffed out by the mocking taunts of others. Even Jesus’ own family were embarrassed by Him and didn't support the launch of His mission. (Mark 3 v 21)  If Jesus had given up it could easily had been said "It couldn't be helped He was hindered by Nazareth”.
But this wasn’t’ the case.  And I think I know why. Jesus did not get his sense of identity, self-worth and confidence from the opinion of the crowd but from his relationship with the Father.  At his baptism Jesus emerged from the water to hear God say, "You are my beloved Son in you I am well pleased.”
He must have held on to that when even his own brothers and sisters thought him mad and tried to make him give up his mission. 
Joyce Huggett, who wrote the book on prayer, called Listening to God, received this word from the Lord for someone but I think we can apply it to many people and possibly ourselves
God says, “I your Creator see the ways circumstances crippled you. I haven't forgotten one joy or one sorrow that you experienced. I know how these joys and sorrows have reached down through all their years of your life, freeing you, binding you, making your heart sing or making your heart cry. I know the healing that your life-tossed soul needs. I can loose the tethers and free you from all that began to bind you from the moment you were conceived.

2. Living for God in your environment
Jesus stayed in Galilee and ministered to many people who were hindered by negative factors who thought they could never be any different, that they future was set in stone. But Jesus came to them in Galilee. And the gospels give us the amazing stories of what happened. Blind people saw, lame people walked, dead people lived, invalids became healthy, prostitutes gave up the game, cheats became honest, liars became truthful as Jesus set them free. Jesus was never bound by Galilee and we don't have to be either.
If we read the gospels we find a Jesus who brought glory to Galilee. In John we read of the miracle of the changing of water into wine. At the end of that story there is a lovely phrase. "There he showed his glory."
Jesus calls us to show the glory of God sometimes in the most ordinary of places.
The whole of Israel could be tucked into half of some of the states of America.  Israel was at that time a province of the Roman Empire in which Jesus’ position was that of a peasant carpenters son. Yet his task was to proclaim himself the founder of an everlasting kingdom to lead a world wide society to redeem humanity to God. Jerusalem, Rome or Athens might have seemed much more appropriate for such a task but Jesus simply accepted that Galilee was where God had chosen for him to be.
I wonder sometimes if some of us, His followers are always waiting for times to get better before we begin spreading the good news of the Kingdom. I can be a builder of God's kingdom but not here. It seems to be that if you don't begin where you are now you won't begin.
Do you know that you and I are Jesus' Galilee today. The ordinary Christian is in the place through which Jesus shows His glory today. Paul said, 'We have this treasure from God but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure’. This shows the great power is from God and not from us.”

3. Living Spirit filled lives is normal Christianity
And my final thought is about what is normal Christianity?  We are told in the Bible that Jesus could not do many miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of unbelief, whereas in Capernaum along the road they embraced him with humble joy.
It seems to me that because in these days in the west we seem to be surrounded by Nazareth type cynicism rather than Capernaum like enthusiasm we think that low level faith in the norm and that transformed, Spirit filled overcoming life is for only the especially pious or naïve. Sin is normal, saintliness; impossible.
Many years ago Chinese pastor Watchman Nee asked the question, “What is the normal Christian life? 
Well I for one will not accept that is a bland sterile life where I do my duty but never expect that I should feel any joy or sense of God touching my heart and mind. Neither will I accept that it should be an emotional roller coaster where I am either intensely of fire for God or I am in the depths of despair.  I for one will not accept that it is a defeated life where I will never overcome a besetting sin or conquer a recurring fear. Surely we must have a faith that means we are not bound by our past, paralyzed in the present or petrified by the future.   
I believe that there is a life in Christ that means we walking daily, through our normal life empowered to live in freedom, power and peace.
HA Ironside wrote,
"I am persuaded that the mistake that thousands of people make is to imagine that Christianity is a natural thing, a natural life lived on a higher plane than the ordinary life.  This is not so. It is a divine life manifested in the energy of the Spirit.”

Read:  2 Peter 1:3-9
What is normal Christianity?  It is an ordinary life, lived in the power of the Spirit.  It is not reserved for an elite group of super saints. It is not a dream or imagery or poetry but real. When men and women seek Christ in the right way he grants strength and power through his Spirit in your inner being.







What are you doing for Christmas?

Exeter Temple Message notes

Sunday 21st December 2014
Bible Reading:   Philippians 2:5-11
What are you doing for Christmas? This is an often repeated question at this time of year and the season is full of sometimes frantic activity.
We probably all get a bit too caught up in doing but human beings are not the only ones who are “doers” Our reading today reminds us of what Jesus did to start this whole celebration off. 
1.  Entering our humanity                                              
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even to death on a cross.”
The first action we are asked to think about is Jesus entering into our humanity.
Paul without any apology asserts that Jesus Christ was God who became man. This verse is foundational to our understanding that Jesus was & is God. He has always been God. 
“Were Jesus a mere man, we would be left with a set of nice teachings (and a lot of antiquated stories) rather than a dynamic relationship with the personal God of the universe, made possible through the eternal sacrifice of an eternal Being if we do not believe this foundational truth, every aspect of our lives as Christians would change. Worshiping Jesus, obeying Him, praying to Him would be foolish. “If Jesus is not God, we have believed in vain.”(Arnold)
In the midst of all the other activity engaged in at Christmas meditating upon Jesus’ entry into our humanity will help us to appreciate the immensity of what he has done for us.
Paul says that Jesus became a servant, being found in appearance as a man. This doesn’t mean that Jesus just seemed to be a man.  When Jesus came he took on the full human nature with all the human characteristics.
When Jesus became a man he did not relinquish holiness, love, goodness, mercy, justice. He never ceased to be all those things but he chose to restrain His attributes of power in order to fully identify with us in our limitations.
He had always been everywhere present, all knowing and all powerful but now Jesus chose to be limited to one place and one time, to know only what the Father revealed to him and to be dependent upon the Father for the power to minister.
What was this all for?
The human race was given a perfect environment in which to live but messed it up. We were given the opportunity to live for God but messed that up too.
We were given law to live by but we did not have the ability to do it. Our rejection of God as Lord of our lives has disastrous consequences.  Spiritually we have cut ourselves off from our life source and the result is eternal separation from God, who is the source of all goodness.
Jesus took all that mess on Himself so that we could get out of it and have our connection with God, our spiritual life source restored forever, meaning that there is no need for us to ever be separated from the love of God.
2. Humbling himself in obedience to God
Let’s look at the next part of this wondrous doing that Jesus performed.
“Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing  by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
We don’t find Jesus fighting the Father about Him leaving Heaven. He didn’t try to cling on to heaven but willingly let it go.   Have you ever seen toddlers both wanting the same toy?  They both cling on, pulling at it, neither wanting to release their grip on it.  Jesus was not like that with his position in heaven but gave up his position and place in glory that we might have Christmas.
It began in a dirty manger and ended on a filthy cross. He was born in a borrowed manger and was buried in a borrowed tomb. God became a refugee in the midst of his own creation.”   (Anon)
Jesus death on cross is very important, but focus of the verse is why he humbled himself.  The reason he did this was because he was obedient to the will of the Father
What should we do in response? 
We should receive.
Paul says that we should seek to have the mind of Christ and his mind set was to humbly receive instruction from God the father and obey it.
What we so often called independence is self-sufficient pride or fear of being beholden to others.
Jesus is the greatest giver of all. Giving up heaven, giving His time for the crowds who wouldn't leave Him alone, giving His friendship to the lost, lonely and confused, giving His life in agony on the cross but we also see that Jesus was also a great receiver.
He came as a baby and a baby can do nothing for itself?  It must be fed, clothed, provided for by others. It knows nothing of self-sufficiency. A baby therefore is very vulnerable. It is on the receiving end of whatever is on offer.
Jesus willingly became a baby - a symbol of vulnerability. Jesus, Lord of the universe, not too proud to be breast-fed by a peasant girl.
Jesus was a guest far more often than He was a host. And at the end He even used someone else's tomb.
The greatest giver teaches us how to receive. To disregard gifts, carefully chosen, sacrificially gift wrapped and addressed to me is the height of insult to the giver.
Stealing is taking what does not belong to you, what was never offered to you. Snatching is taking from someone else in an ungracious and unappreciative way. But receiving - means taking what is offered, with appreciation and thankfulness.
Oswald Chambers was a great Christian teacher and he once said, "Salvation is the absolutely free unmerited gift of God. We would a hundred times rather that God told us to do something than we would accept His salvation as a gift.
3.  Ruling the world
Christmas in God’s eyes begins with Christ humbling himself in order to come in human form; it ends with him returning and reconciling the world and every knee bowing before him. The final thing we must do is bow before God in worship.
We need to recognize that Jesus, the Christ, is not made Lord by anything we say or do His Lordship as the Son was proclaimed by God Himself, when he raised Jesus from the dead!
If the entire world were to rebel against Jesus, Jesus would still be Lord of all! Confessing Jesus, as our personal Lord and Saviour, brings us into conformity with what Almighty God has already proclaimed Him to be!
As amazing as human beings are, we are not the masters.
God has given Jesus a name above every name that at his name every knee will bow.
The concept of bowing is one of both worship and submission. It is an act of giving personal praise and declaring submission of personal will.
 Every person, mind and body will bow
 Every belief, creed and religion will bow
 Every man, woman and child will bow
 Every tongue will confess
 Jesus will be proclaimed

Alan and Carol