Saturday, 30 May 2015

Last Days

Exeter Temple Message Notes: Pentecost Sunday 24th May 2015
Bible Readings: Acts 2:1-21 (Joel 2:23-32)

Peter explains that the events of the Day of Pentecost are the fulfillment of Joel 2:23-32

1.       The beginning of the last days
God’s plan to rescue people from sin and to restore a fallen world is unfolded through history in stages.  Stage 1 was the establishment of a people of God, who were to be a light to the nation, stage 2 was to send a Saviour.  By the Day of Pentecost Stages 1 and 2 were in operation.  Now Peter declares it was time for the final stage, the “last days” to be ushered into history.
 Before this last stage the Holy Spirit had been given to particular people at particular times for particular tasks but in the last days the promise is as Peter declared in Acts 2:39 for you and your children, and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call.
 The Last Days outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not be confined to a small group of will cross all lines of sex and age! 
 We are still in the time of the Last Days.  This means that the promise of Acts 2:39 includes us, you and me.  We are the people who are the sons and daughters, the servants, the men and women to whom God wants to show the wonders of heaven.
 So we do not just commemorate Pentecost, we are invited to participate in and receive the promise of what God is doing in these last days.   

2.      The pouring out of the Spirit
 V 17 and v 18 “I will pour out my Spirit” These verses follow a picture Joel paints about harvest and rain.
Joel 2:24 “The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.”   It is a picture of harvest.  A good harvest requires rain. In Israel that meant spring (or former) and autumn (or latter )rains
 God will give a harvest, because the latter rain will come.
 Joel 2:23 “Be glad O people of Zion rejoice in the Lord your God because he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers.” 
 After referring to autumn rains producing a harvest Joel talks about the Holy Spirit being poured out and the harvest would be a people who once again would have a vision, a knowledge of God and who would turn to him for salvation.
It was easy for Peter to think about harvest because Pentecost was the first of three Jewish Harvest Festivals. As Peter looks around him, at people energized and declaring a vision of God sees that it is raining. The “latter rain” of the Spirit has come!
 Some people remained untouched by what was going on and sneered. For them God was in the law and the prophets, not in the wind and in the tongues of fire. God was in the Temple, not in the street outside. God was where they always thought God would be and nowhere else.
Do we think like that sometimes?
Do we keep God locked up or assigned to those places where we’ve always known Him to be, our church, our prayers, our hymns, our narrow thinking and so forth?

3.      Pentecost means a universal invitation to salvation (v. 21)
At Pentecost, the believers were given the ability to speak the gospel in foreign languages so that everyone could understand.
 The list of nations represented links to the continents in the then known world.
It would have been amazing if fellow human beings bothered enough to speak to them in their own language but the attention of the believers was upon God.  It began to dawn upon the crowd that it was God himself who was making a point of bothering to speak to them in their own language. 
 All of this is brought together when Peter quotes Joel 2.32:
"And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
It was as if Peter was saying, “God has opened up the communication channels to you today, now if you, in turn call upon him you will find salvation!”
 Here we have once again the graciousness and wideness of the mercy of God. Whoever, calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  That’s good news and it is the message we are called to proclaim in the power of the Spirit.

1.      What part of the story of Pentecost appeals to you the most?  
      What stands out for you in this passage?
      Imagine that as you sit together in a worship service  waiting to hear from God that all of a sudden you heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven and it filled the whole house where you were sitting. Then imagine that you all saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of you. All of you were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled you. What would go through your mind?After reading this account and imagining your reaction to it, how do you feel right now about asking God to pour out His Spirit on you? Why?
       Not everyone was positive about what was happening. What are some ways that we can limit the effects of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
       What would you say to someone who asked you how they could be filled with the Spirit?

 God bless
 Alan and Carol 

40 Days

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 10th May 2015
Bible Readings: Matthew 28:16-20 Acts 1:1-26

Jesus spent about 40 days on earth after his resurrection just as he had spent 40 days enduring temptation before his public ministry.  Now in the Jesus displayed his supremacy. These 40 days were of immense value to the believers in establishing the reality of his victory.
1. Re-instatement
Jesus’ instructions to his disciples after the resurrection ca seem confusing.  Matthew says Jesus instructed the disciples to go Galilee. Luke says Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem.  There is not real conflict. Jesus initially told them to go back to Galilee and then when he had completed his ministry with them there, ushered them back to Jerusalem.  Jesus had a two-fold plan in this instruction.
Before the disciples were ready to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, they first of all had to be convinced that his resurrection victory was their victory too and that they were needed to continue his work.  He probably took them to Galilee do this to remind them of their original calling and was letting them know that all they learned in Galilee was still valid and essential to what they were to teach in Jerusalem and beyond.                   Jesus took them back to Jerusalem because they needed to remember that their mission could not be confined to Galilee and that they would be equipped for the task he was giving them.                                                          
The disciples could have rebelled against going to either place. To go back to Galilee, still unsure of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection was to face people who might feel the disciples had betrayed them and Jesus. If they told people Jesus was alive and that wasn’t really true, they faced further rejection. Equally staying in Jerusalem was dangerous as to the Jews they were friends of a blasphemer and to the Romans, friends of a revolutionary. 
Yet the disciples did what Jesus asked them to do and the joy and hope joy of a Resurrected Jesus was enough for them to take the risks and not run off the Egypt or Samaria.                                                                                         
For us Galilee stands for the restoration of calling and ministry.  When we feel that we have failed as disciples Jesus takes us back in our minds and in our hearts to the place of our calling and reassures us that his call still stands.  His victory over death, tells us that there is nothing that cannot be overcome by him. Jerusalem stands for the place where we need to trust in the promise that God gives all the power we need to fulfil the calling.  2. Reassurance                       Acts 1:1-11
 a) With evidence that he was alive  v 3
If there is no resurrection our faith is futile. Christianity is nothing but another religion among many others. The resurrection was God’s declaration that Jesus is everything He claims to be.
The word translated proof is from the Greek legal word “tekmeerion” and refers to proof that is irrefutable and indisputable.  
“Is the resurrection of Jesus “of first importance” to you? If we’re not careful we develop an ego-centric mentality that hinders our understanding of the Bible. The resurrection of Jesus is more important than whether you get that promotion at work or meet that special someone or pay all your bills this week. God cares about all those things in our lives but first things first. Are you rejoicing this morning that Jesus conquered death and hell and rose from the dead? All your future depends upon that. Your hope of glory depends upon that? Your power for victorious living depends upon that. It is the risen, ascended Christ Who has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live for God and fulfil His will in our lives.”  (Richard Tow)
 b) The promise of the Father          v4-5    
Luke 24 and Acts 1 show us that without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we are not fit to do the mission God has given us to do. It’s not a matter of more information, teamwork or effort but the necessity of a power beyond our own.
c) The possibility of fulfilling their calling   v8                                                       
Jesus is convinced that his disciples who have been so weak and unbelieving will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and become good witnesses. “you will be “ is a great phrase.                 
Witnesses of the risen Jesus can be sure of three things.  Their experience of the risen Jesus is real. They are testifying to a reality.  They will be given the courage and the ability to give witness and finally they will be called upon to testify.
3. Re-adjustment                                                                                                         After all the lofty statements found at the end of Matthew and the beginning of Acts electing a apostle could have seems a side issue.
But they need to face their anger, confusion, pain and grief over Judas. How could they offer themselves to the Great Commission and at the same time harbour bitter angry thoughts about Judas?  Much has been made of the fact that the Holy Spirit came when the believers were all together in one place, the inference being that when God’s people are united then the Spirit can be poured out more readily.  “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity and it goes on to say, “For there the Lord bestows his blessing even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133) 
Failing to face up to the issue of Judas and making the decision about who would replace him could have become a real source of division between the followers of Jesus. Instead they dealt with it by referring to the word of God and saturating their decision-making in prayer.  As a result the disciples were freed from the past and the leadership team was reinforced. 
We must beware of defining activities and issues into spiritual and non-spiritual.  Finding a successor for Judas was as crucial an element in the 40 days preparation for Pentecost as Peter’s conversation with Jesus with Jesus on the beach.
It is easy to be distracted by trivia and we often need to resist non-essential issues but if a seemingly less important matter keeps coming to mind whilst we are praying then the Lord is probably leading us to deal with it.  It is often true that practical, organisational issues have real heart and mission issues attached to them. 
Those 40 days were crucial days. The period of time is not always the same, but there are days when the Lord wants to take us back to our Galilee, to our beginning, to our first love, to reveal his Risen presence and re-call us to follow him, with renewed passion and faith.  There are days when we need to let him speak his promises to us again, 
“I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
“You will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses.”
There are days ahead that will be freer, fuller and more fruitful if when the Lord shows us what we should deal with, we act rather than delay.  May God give us courage to make the re-adjustments he calls us to make.

God bless
Alan and Carol 


Exeter Temple Bible Message Notes:  Sunday 26th April 2015
Theme:  Understanding holiness - Purity
Bible Reading:  1 John 1:5-7

Purity is a word that has lost some of its edge in a society that is so impure. God desires a pure life, heart and mind within in.
 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
 “Jesus did not come into the world simply because we had some bad habits that needed to be broken. He came into the world because we have dirty hearts that need to be purified.”  John Piper

1. Design of God
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9)
The verse needs to be read in its entirety. The message we proclaim is not just about forgiveness of sins but is about restoration and transformation of God’s design for our lives. 
God loves us too much to rescue us from sin and leave us contaminated by it, so that it still has power over us. He also wants to purify us so that He can restore us to what He intended us to be. He loves us too much to leave us as we are.
We are told in Genesis that God made us in His image. And by that I mean He has made us to be holy and loving like Him and have relationships just like He has.  It is like our lives are supposed to be like a mirror. We were made to reflect our creator. However just like the mirror in the bathroom gets clouded with steam, covered in finger marks, and smudges so sin has put marks on the mirror of our lives. When a mirror is clouded or smeared with dirt it no longer reflects an image properly and man because of sin no longer is a true reflection of His creator.

 2. The Depth of Purity
The Bible continually reminds us that purity was more than skin deep. Jesus reserved some of His harshest words for those involved in religious “mask management.”
 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  (Matthew 23:25-28)
They mistakenly thought their religious acts made them pure but it was really just a show.  Purity has to reach the hearts of men and women. When the Bible speaks about the heart it means the centre of the human personality. 
“The heart is the point at which thought, will and feeling meet.” 
(Frederick Coutts)
A person with a passion for purity is one who has been cleansed in character so that the way he or she looks in public is the way he or she is in private.
 “Character is what you are when no one is looking.” (Anon)
After David had sinned with Bathsheba he asked God not only to remove the specific thing he had done wrong but also allowed God to deal with the crookedness that had led to them and he prayed, “Create in me a pure heart O God.” (Psalm 51:10)
“The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love- love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.” 
(1 Timothy 1:5 The Message)
The essence of sin is a life turned in upon self-interest. This is the fundamental barrier to purity.  Not only does our mirror need to cleansed, it needs to be repositioned.  We’ve turned it around so that we reflect our ego, our interests. We need to turn back to focus the whole of our life on God where Paul says we have a life open to God.
Now we have all met people whose diaries are so chock full that you have Our lives are taken up with so much else, other than God.
Another meaning of the word pure in the Bible is single-mindedness.  Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.”  James 4:8
 “Purity is to will one thing.”  (Soren Kierkgaard)  

3. The durability purity brings
Jesus was strong, not just physically but in that he never swayed from his purpose, even under immense temptation and suffering.   
In John 14:30 there is a link between His purity and His strength. Jesus is speaking to His disciples preparing them for His death.  “I will not speak with you much longer for the prince of this world is coming He has no hold on me but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me”
Jesus was incredibly strong because he was pure. Jesus said about the devil, “he has no hold on me”
There were no strongholds of sin in His life, no wrong attitudes, no faulty thinking processes in Christ’s mind. 
Purity always breeds strength, impurity always breeds weakness. When disloyalty steals into our souls the energy begins to leak from our determination. The way to make our character more steadfast is by making it more pure. It becomes stable as it becomes clean.
“We are washed into strength.” Anon
“People have no idea what one saint can do for sanctity is stronger than the whole of hell.”  Thomas MertonThe strongest people in the world are people who have nothing to keep quiet about and nothing to hide.
Many times the Church cannot get on with the business of winning the world because all their energies have been expended on maintaining the elaborate systems we have developed to prevent people seeing the real us.
If we want to begin to be strong we must be clean. If we want to be clean we must be honest.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His son cleanses us from all sin.”

The call to purity can appear very daunting and impossible.  We can feel  like the writer of Proverbs 20:9 "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?'"
It is important that we remember that every command of God is accompanied by the promise of God. Jesus also said this, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
Holy living in human strength is unattainable as Paul found out and cried out in despair that he found himself doing what he knew he shouldn’t and not doing what he knew he should.  Even though he strived harder than probably anyone else in his generation to live a life free from sin he found he just kept on blotting his copy book as it were. 
If we are going to be pure then we need power beyond ourselves to clean us up.  And that is what we have through Christ.

 “For he gave himself for us all, that he might rescue us from all our evil ways and make for himself a people of his own, clean and pure, with our hearts set upon living a life that is good.”
(Titus 2:11 JB Phillips translation)

God bless