Tuesday, 21 July 2015

United in mind and thought

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 19th July 2015                               
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Paul’s letter is an attempt to get the Corinthian church that was going off course back on track. 
In v 10 Paul appeals to this church that they will unite around their common goal.                                                                                                            
I appeal to you, brothers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 
Organizations and denominations develop doctrinal statements and mission statements so that what they believe and why they do what they do are clearly understood. It is not that everyone has to do the same thing but that there are core, common beliefs and values that everyone can unite around. 

1.         Side tracked by differing opinions
v 11  “My brothers from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you 
Paul would be wrong if he believes that people can agree all the time. Indeed he would be hypocritical to insist on it because he himself had disagreement with both Barnabas and Peter. It is unlikely that Paul believed we can all stand together on every issue. Rather he sees that there can be a unity of purpose and intention, which means we can differ in our opinions and avoid quarrelling.  His appeal was for harmony, not the elimination of diversity. 
In his appeal for unity Paul refers to the power of the cross.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God"  (v18)
“The cross of Jesus is the great leveller. In the light of the cross not one of us is worthy, but we have been made worthy because of that cross.
There is a power in the message of the cross and we don’t have to fully understand it, we don’t have to completely agree on exactly what that cross means. But still is has that power; the power to heal divisions, the power to bring different people of different gender, different race and social status to the same place. I have been in churches and conferences where people have disagreed and you point to the cross, you remind them again of the message of the cross, and all of the sudden the differences don’t seem so important anymore! Not as important as that cross!” 
(Stephen Woody)
The challenge, every time we dislike something that happens in the church or in the army is to bring that issue to the cross and ask the questions,
Does it really diminish Jesus Christ or the cross or is it a matter of personal preference? Does it really distract from the cross or is it just an inconvenience to us and our agenda?

2. Side-tracked by personalities
There is nothing wrong with identifying with the people whose ministry we understand and enjoy unless we start to concentrate on the messenger rather than the message or when we mistake style for the standard.
This is what happened in Corinth. There was one group who said, “We belong to Paul,” They were probably those who found Paul’s message of freedom and grace liberating after years of endless struggles to keep the ceremonial laws.
Another group said “We belong to Apollos”. Apollos was a clever Alexandrian Jew, who knew Greek philosophy. He would appeal to those who thought themselves a little better intellectually.
A third group said, “I belong to Cephas”. Cephas was a nickname Jesus gave to Peter. This group admired Peter’s appreciation of his Jewish roots. They thought that the Christian life required recognition of Jewish customs and laws.
A final group said, “We follow Christ alone”. Their claim sounded good but they were being superior with a “We don’t need anyone but ourselves” kind of attitude.
Paul does not seek to bring unity to this community by siding with one group, then pulling rank as an apostle and demanding that all the other groups conform to that group. Instead he calls them all brothers.  
Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the role assigned to him by God, Paul spoke with authority to the church but not in his own name but ‘by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’?  (v10)
Paul points out to them that when they were baptized they swore allegiance to Christ not people.  Neither, Paul, Peter nor Apollos had set out to create a cult around their own ministries.  Their so called supporters had done so without their consent.  Rather Paul talked about it in terms of one sowing, another watering and God giving the growth.
 If you have one hundred concert pianos and you tune the second piano to the first and the third piano to the second and the fourth to the third, until you have tuned all the piano’s accordingly, you will still have disharmony and discord but if you tune each piano to the same tuning fork you would have unity and harmony. So too, in the body of Christ; when we tune our lives to Christ we will keep true.”  (AW Tozer “The Pursuit of God”)

3.         Side-tracked by the world
The Corinthian Christians were side tracked by clever arguments from the world around them. People in Corinth revered cleverness.
Some in Corinth were overawed by a group of people who had become well known by ridiculing Christian belief. Another set were mesmerized by a group who made Christianity extremely complicated. 
In reply Paul said, “I just preach the power of the cross of Christ”
There is little in the way of political power, intellectual argument or spectacular actions to commend the Christ who goes to the cross. By the worlds standards it was the essence of folly and weakness.
 It says that God became weak in order to save us, that when we surrender our lives we truly find them, that the way to be truly exalted is by true humility and that the way to new life is through death. The world looks on this as says it is foolishness. But Paul says that it is the very power of God.
The gospel will always appear foolish to those who only apply the world’s wisdom to it.  The gospel always needs a response of both mind and heart.   We just need to discern between those who are trying to give a real sincere response of their minds to the claims of Christ and those who simply like to engage in arguments.
We must never be intimidated by intellectualism. The gospel might appear to be foolishness but it still stands it is still changing lives.
The other thing is that we can proclaim Christ with our lips but continue to apply worldly logic to the way we actually live our lives or we can trust the word of God which calls us to live according to the principles of the cross.
The following statements sound good but they are based on the philosophy of the world not the word of God.
“I must be the best Christian I can in order to be acceptable to God”.
It sounds noble but it is not the gospel. Nothing you can do can make you acceptable to God.
 “I keep my religious life and my personal life separate and they don’t interfere with one another”.
A faith that doesn’t affect your personal life isn’t worth having.
“Humans at their very core are good and only need the right environment to improve the quality of their lives.” 
No - human beings need something as drastic and powerful as the cross to really give them life in all its fullness.
So let’s not get side-tracked by differing opinions, personality or worldly wisdom because when we it pulls us apart from one another.
How will we do this?  
It is by focusing on essentials, Christ himself, the cross and the word of God. 

God bless


Exeter Temple Message notes: 12th July 2015
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9   

Greece may be having some financial difficulties in 2015 but in the first century the Greek city of Corinth was a very prosperous centre for trade. It was a thriving centre for sports, the arts, for music, for culture and religion. Sadly it also provided opportunities to live an immoral and hedonistic lifestyle.    
Paul preached the message about a God who became poor in order to bring the riches of God’s grace to the world and a church had been established.  Now some years later this church needed reminding that they were only as spiritually rich as they were through the grace of God. They had forgotten that Christian community does not need to be competitive   because there is a place, a purpose and adequate provision for all.
 “For in him you have been enriched in every way- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. “ (v5)

How are we enriched?

1. We have Christ
v 4  “I always thank God for you because of the grace given you in Christ.”
In Christ is one of Paul’s favourite phrases.                                                     
Christian pastor John Piper points out that in the media advertisers want us to think about our lives in relation to certain things.
Automobile commercials want you to think of your life in relation to things you have. Beer commercials want you to think of your life in relation to the brotherhood at the pub. Life insurance commercials want you to think of your life in relation to your family with touching scenes of childhood and graduation and marriage and first home and first child. And a hundred soaps and deodorants and shampoos and foods want you to think of your life in relation to your body.
Paul wants us to think in about our lives in relation to Jesus Christ. He
will not let the Corinthians get away from Christ. He mentions him 9 times in these 9 verses! 
 We have Christ. He is our greatest treasure.  
 “He (that is Jesus) comes to us and says “My child I never promised you that if you would surrender, repent and get right with me you would have an eased situation, great power, success in your service, or even revival. What I do promise you is that if you walk with me and allow me to show you sin as soon as it comes in and cleanse you from it you may not have these things but you will have ME. Make me your end and you will be satisfied, lacking nothing that is in the will of God for you. The shameful thing is however that when this comes home to us we feel a little disappointed. We have to admit it was not himself we really wanted but rather his gifts.”  (Roy Hession “We would see Jesus”

We tend to think of a humble person as being someone who tries to point away from themselves and drawing attention to the qualities of others but in the New Testament we find that Jesus was always talking about himself. He related everything to himself. Some of his most famous sayings begin with “I am” He called his disciples with the invitation, “Follow me” 
Either he had a huge ego, or he was revealing a truth that God’s order of things is that we always line our life up with Jesus, always to view in the light of Jesus.  Jesus is not only the means through which our lives our enriched, he is the treasure itself.

   2. We have a genuine testimony
Paul says that his testimony to the Corinthians was confirmed in them. They knew what Paul was saying about Jesus grace was true because they experienced themselves.
Corinth was one of the unlikeliest place for the gospel to take hold but it did. The love of God swept over them and did this amazing work among them. Christ had brought them from empty intellectualism, from paganism, from confusion, from the emptiness of materialism, from brokenness, from the bondage of sin. 
 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.”    (1 Corinthians 1:5The Message (MSG)
They had become a thriving community, they had survived despite opposition and ministries had developed among them.  There was no doubt that here were a people among whom a genuine work of grace had taken place and that God was still at work there.

But this was a church, which was losing sight of the source of their wealth. They had become proud.  They now felt superior to Paul the very person who had brought them the gospel, they took great pride in their ability to preach eloquent sermons and win religious arguments, they were easily impressed by people who looked and sounded good but lacked discernment. Some of them got drunk at communion, sexual sin was rife and worship was a show where people competed to perform. 

This could have led Paul to regret starting this church or to think that maybe their experience of God had not been real. Instead he says,
“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
He writes to remind them that everything they are, everything they have, every good thing they have done, has come through the grace of the Lord Jesus.  He does not write to humiliate them but he does want to chip away at their arrogance and self-delusion. 
“It’s hard to be proud when you can’t take credit for anything.” (Joshua Harris)
If Corinth was an unlikely place for a church to begin so the Salvation Army an unlikely group of people to take the message of the gospel around the world for the last 150 years. The Boundless Congress celebrated the amazing work that the SA is doing around the world today. There is a temptation to be proud but “it’s hard to be proud when you can’t take the credit for anything.”  The Salvation Army is just as dependent upon the grace of Christ as the Corinthians and perhaps in just as much in need of being reminded of that as they were.
It is also true that if there were things wrong in the Corinthian church, there are also things that are seriously wrong in the Salvation Army which disappoint us and cause us to become disillusioned.
Paul’s approach was to keep on looking for evidence of where the grace of God shines through the brokenness. Despite personal hurts and disappointment he stayed connected with them, kept on loving them, praying for them and working to bring change.
3. We are spiritually equipped (vs 7)
God enriched the lives of this community by equipping and resourcing them. The problem at Corinth was not lack of resources, or inferior provision by God but that people forgot that that their abilities were gifts and that they were provided for the kingdom building not for their own indulgence. 
Paul had to remind the Corinthians that they should be thankful to see that these enriching gifts at work amongst them but had to warn them against seeing them as a reason for spiritual pride.
But perhaps the reminder we need is that each of us has received different gifts. God has equipped us and we should have more confidence. Rather than boasting about our wealth, sometimes I think we have more of an attitude that we don’t have what we need to fulfil the demands he makes upon us and we have an attitude that our mission is impossible.
Philip Brooks, the preacher and hymn writer who gave us O Little Town of Bethlehem said; “It is almost as presumptuous to think you can do nothing as to think you can do everything. “
God has equipped us; we need to use what he has given.

4. We have sustaining grace
Paul mentions this sustaining grace because these Corinthians had become obsessed with the present experiences. We can so often be caught up in the transient that our eyes are locked on earth, either on the high moments such as the Boundless Congress or the difficulties we are currently undergoing.    
“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (v 9)

This is not an assurance that God will save us, even if we stop believing or following the Lord but a promise that God will keep on giving you’re the resources, the strength and the power to keep on believing, to keep us firm to the end. 

God bless

Forgotten Hero: Jehoshaphat

Exeter Temple Message notesSunday 28th June 2015
Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 17

After the reign of King Solomon the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Jehoshaphat was one of the few good kings. 

1. A man of good character   2 Chronicles 17:3-

a) He was a man like David   v 3
Why wasn’t Jehoshaphat compared to his father King Asa?                                
Asa had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord at the beginning of his reign but later he relied on political alliances rather than upon God.  He became narrow-minded, legalistic, wouldn’t listen to advice and imposed his will on everyone around him. 
It wouldn’t have been surprising if Jehoshaphat had rebelled against his father’s religion. Despite this Jehoshaphat did seek the God of his Father.  It was sad however that he had to go back 6 generations, for a good example of a “man after God’s own heart”
This story brings a challenge about the legacy we leave for the next generation.  How far do they have to look for an example of living and passionate faith? 

Question:  What kind of example does the next generation need from us?
                   What is the difference between having firm views and being narrow-minded?

2   b) He was committed  v 6
g   The greatest testament to Jehoshaphat’s reign was the seven times the Bible records that he “sought” God and not Baal.  2 Chronicles 19:3 in the NIV says that the Lord said that he showed him mercy “because you have set your heart on seeking God.” 
       c) He was authentic v 3
Jehoshaphat walked in the ways that his father David had followed. Whenever the Bible refers to the word walked, it is talking about lifestyle. A genuine seeking after God shows itself in changed behaviour. 

2.  A man of determined action 2 Chronicles 17:6b -9
2 Chronicles 17:3 “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat.”  With God working with him, he embarked on a wide-ranging programme of reform.  He moved the altars dedicated to the gods. These centres of pagan worship, connected to money, sex and power as well as a betrayal of God opened up the way for exploitation, corruption and degradation. 
We might not have that many Asherah poles on our streets but the worship of money, sex and power is not hard to find and it needs to be dismantled. 
However it is important not to create a vacuum in spiritual matters as Jesus reminds us in the parable of the empty house.  Jehoshaphat did not only remove false worship he set up a programme to teach the word of God.  
It was when the people heard the word of the Lord, “that the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat.”(2 Chronicles 17:10)
We cannot engineer it so that the “fear of the Lord falls upon people and nations,”   
What was happening was a revival. Longing for the fear of the Lord to fall upon people is not about being vindictive but we should care that God’s name is given the respect and honour it deserves. When God’s people seek God, take down their idols and feed upon the word of God that then the conditions are right for revival.
Questions:      What is the fear of the Lord?  Why is it a good thing for it to fall upon the people?
                        How would you describe revival?

3. A man who made some foolish decision 2 Chronicles 18:1-3, v 28-34
Jehoshaphat entered into an alliance with the evil King Ahab of Israel. He gave his son in marriage to the daughter of King Ahab and Jezebel and he went to war with Ahab against Syria.  
How did Jehoshaphat who had led a revival, and seen his kingdom become more and more powerful end up getting mixed up with the likes of Ahab?  
Jehoshaphat probably thought he was able to handle Ahab but he ended up nearly getting killed. He probably genuinely thought it was time for there to be peace between God’s covenant people in the north and the south was sorted out. 
This was a high ideal but the desire was one sided and his decision lacked wisdom. One commentator says of him, “He was too ready to please, too quick to reply and too related to refuse. Ahab convinced the trusting, naive and compliant Jehoshaphat to wear his robes while he himself battled in disguise (18:29), in effect making Jehoshaphat the target instead of Ahab.” 

In the Bible, it is after a victory or a period of success that God’s people are often at their most vulnerable. Paul says “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
-          Elijah went from Mount Carmel to the desert.
-          David went from being crowned king into an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba.
-          Peter from a declaration that Jesus was the Messiah to completely misunderstanding him.                   
-          Jesus was led from his baptism into the wilderness.
As much as it has been good to pray before the Boundless Congress it is just as necessary to pray afterwards, when many people after experiencing a spiritual high will be vulnerable to the work of the enemy.
Jehoshaphat, who ran such a faithful race, was tripped up near the end of his life by a foolish entanglement.
Question:  What does Paul mean by the phrase “My strength is made perfect in weakness?

4.  A man who learned his lesson
Shaken out of his complacency Jehoshaphat came back home having been chastened by the Lord. He went on to give his all to a further reformation work for God. He exhorted the people to serve faithfully in the fear of the LORD.   This story is a wake-up call to take care. 
“Christians need soft hearts and hard feet but they often have hard hearts and soft feet.” (Jackie Pullinger)
Jehoshaphat was a good sort.  His heart was in the right place but he let his feet stray where they shouldn’t.  
Take care of your heart and take care of your walk. It matters for you, it matters for those who look to you as an example and it matters to God.

God bless

Night and Day

Exeter Temple Message notes:  Sunday 14th June 2015
Bible Reading: Acts 12:1-19

Many people may have looked at Peter and assumed that what he possessed was not worth much. Peter of course would have disagreed.  “”For we have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable through the living and enduring word of God. All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  (1 Peter 1:23)
Possessing new life in Christ resulted in a wonderful inheritance which he claimed and used.    

1. The Peace of God                                                                                                      
In the story Peter was able to sleep peacefully in a very uncomfortable place.  The phrase “Peter was sleeping” in v 6 are encouraging because they show that Peter was becoming more and more like Jesus every day. There would have been a time when Peter would have tried to grab the guard’s sword in a rash escape attempt or he would have been tried to talk his way out, but now just like Jesus in the boat during a violent storm, Peter trusts God and sleeps, taking his own advice, “Cast all you anxiety on him (that is Jesus) because he cares for you.”  (1Peter 5:7)
Jesus said that his legacy would be peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)
It wasn’t a trouble free life that Peter had inherited from Jesus in fact Jesus was the reason for Peter’s predicament.  Yet here he was, at peace.     Peace is our legacy too but we do not always do the right things in order to release it into our lives. 
The key is a life of prayer. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
“Paul says we should ask God about every area of life. If it matters to you it matters to God. prayer like that will meant that God’s peace, not a Stoic lack of concern but a deep peace in the middle of life’s problems and storms will keep guard around your heart and mind like a squadron of soldiers looking after a treasure chest.”  (Tom Wright)

2. Praying friends                                                                                              
Whilst Peter slept peacefully his friends were up all night praying.   In their praying they did three things
      They prayed together  They could no doubt have prayed as individuals about the situation in the privacy of their own homes but there is something powerful that happens when Christians get together to pray. 
b      They prayed earnestly The word used for earnestly is the same word used for the way Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. It contains the idea of something stretched out to the limits, like a muscle would be during intensive training in the gym.  
c    They prayed with urgency because they were in a crisis situation.  “We have an example in this text of the Local N.T. Church in Jerusalem in prayer during a time of crisis in their church. And we can see also in this text that their prayer was miraculously answered. Anytime a church is not experiencing souls being saved on a regular basis should be considered a crisis time.”  (Anon)
      They prayed specifically The church was earnestly praying for Peter. The Church in Jerusalem didn’t pray; “Lord, be with all who are in prison tonight,” they prayed for Peter who was in prison.

3. The Promises of God
One of the things Peter had learned was that it didn’t matter how bleak things looked it wasn’t necessarily the end of the story. God could turn it around. Peter possessed was a trust in the plan and purpose of God
Peter had seen the crucifixion transformed into resurrection. He had seen the Church’s most ardent opponent, Saul turn to Christ and become a passionate believer. He had seen the Jerusalem Church struggling under persecution not only survive but spread into Samaria and far beyond.
Now he wasn’t too sure what the plan was but he was sure God had one. Perhaps he remembered the promise of Jesus that when he was old, he would have to be guided by others. Peter wasn’t that old so God had something other in mind for him than his head on a block. He believed the promise of Jesus.
For a plane to even take off the ground a tremendous amount has to gone on behind the scenes that way beyond our understanding – whilst we passengers sit comfortably on our seats, we trust the airline to get us to our destination. There are, right as we speak angels who are being directed to accomplish the will of God in our lives. The least we can do is trust Him.
And trust must always be accompanied by obedience.
Peter was given instructions by the angel which he had to obey and whilst the angel kept the soldiers asleep and opened iron doors, Peter had to get up and walk in order to get out. We must like Peter do the things He asks of us in order to be free. God so often opens doors for us which we fail to go through.
This was not the first time Peter had escaped from Prison. In Acts5:18–20 he had been with the other apostles and an angel had let them out with the instruction to go back to the Temple and continue preaching. This time just because God had done it again, Peter did not assume that he should immediately go back into the public eye. The angel gave no such instruction so Peter didn’t do it. He didn’t take his second escape to mean that he was indestructible.
It was the same God who arranged his escape but God didn’t want him to follow the same pattern of activity this time.
It is very important that we do not try to relive past experience. God very often wants to do a new thing in a new day. Peter may have relished the thought of embarrassing Herod by preaching in public, but this time the right thing to do in order that the spread the gospel could continue was to go quietly and inform the believers of his release and then go in hiding for a period.
Had Peter been impetuous, as in the old days, he could have triggered the wholesale slaughter of Christians. As it happened GOD dealt with Herod Himself, once and for all. Peter didn’t have to engineer anything, just be obedient, which he was.

God bless 
Alan and Carol 

A New Day

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 7th June 2015
Bible Reading:  Acts 10

That people other than just the Jews would understand and receive the gospel of Christ was always on God’s heart but Peter found it hard to let go of his preconceived ideas, become open and to realise that it was a new day.                                                                                                                                      1.  Upsetting Convention                                                                                            
It may be hard for us to understand how earth-shaking the events of Acts 10 were. The changes God brought to pass reverberated in the early church for the next 50 or 60 years.
From their birth Jewish children were taught about what food was permissible and what was forbidden. The vision told Peter to eat what was forbidden. To do that was so against the grain that the command was given three times. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  As Peter went to meet the Gentiles who had turned up looking for him he began to realise that God’s words were not just about food but about non-Jews. 
All his life Peter had been taught that everybody that wasn’t a Jew was unclean. Now God was asking Peter to share the gospel with them and he was full of reservations as it went against all his conditioning and training.  When he arrived at Cornelius’ house he made sure they knew that he was obeying the Holy Spirit but he was acting against his natural inclination.
Today must be prepared to look for and follow the verdict of the Holy Spirit and be prepared for the Holy Spirit to overrule our conventions and attempts to confine Him to our restrictions.
Convictions and conventions may not be the same thing. The Holy Spirit may lead us out of our convention but he will not lead us out of true Bible based convictions.
The Holy Spirit in leading Peter to Cornelius was not contradicting Scripture but the prejudice that had grown up around it.
This is a good guide for us. 

There may be occasions when we sense an inner voice telling us to do something. If it is the Holy Spirit it may go against our preferences but it will not be contrary to the teaching of the Bible. 

2.  Embracing the unknown
Peter was not called to come to an intellectual conclusion that the message of Jesus can be passed on to Gentiles but he was given immediate opportunity to put theory into practice.
For Peter this was to embrace the unknown and to cross a barrier he had not been across before.  It would take as much faith to preach the gospel to Gentiles as it did to get out of a fishing boat and walk on water.
We may find it hard to admit even to ourselves that we might have prejudice in our hearts.
Is there anyone or are there a group of people that you have excluded from your life?
If God is prepared to welcome them, so should we.  He wants us to embrace that person or those people with His love because just as Peter found out, God equally loves us and everyone else on this earth.
Changing your belief system and view of the world as you have been taught is a dramatic challenge for most.
From time to time it’s good to ask our Lord Jesus to search our hearts to see if there is any sin of prejudice there. If it is, then we need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit dissolve the prejudice. 

3. Risking Criticism
Obedience to God in this matter would not be just a matter for himself but other people. We cannot pretend that our decisions won’t make a difference to other people or that other people won’t have their own opinion about what we are to doing.  Peter knew that if he went to Cornelius house he would be criticized and when he did he took 6 Jewish Christians with him. He knew that his action would be closely scrutinized by the Church leaders in Jerusalem. 
After Peter returned to Jerusalem from baptizing Cornelius & his household, we read: “…the circumcised believers criticized him, and said, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” Acts 11:2-3
In the past Peter had worried about the opinions of other people and that had led to his denial of Christ.
It hurts us when we lose favour, love and recognition of people, especially of those whose respect is important to us.  We often make every effort to please others but when we do that sometimes we are in danger of losing favour with God and Peter had come to the point in his life now, where he would make a  decision to do what God says even if people around him might be displeased.
When we risk obeying God’s prompting we receive God’s commendation and that is worth everything. It means we can fully receive the love of God. This is actually our deepest longing, even though we don’t always recognise it as such.  However hard they try people cannot give us as much love as God and we will never be satisfied by “people pleasing.” 
Whilst obedience to God always leads to his blessing but we can never be sure of getting love from people because we fulfil their demands. There are too many people to please and also people change their expectations of you. God is the one person we can rely on. 
God gives us people to support us but there are needs in us they cannot meet and we shouldn’t expect them to.  But no other human being can create happiness for us.   Paul said, “My God shall supply all your need according to this riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)
God wants you and I to discover a life of true fulfillment based on what you are as a person in Christ and not on the moods and whims of people around you.
It is not that we shouldn’t be concerned about how others see us or be so arrogant that we never listen to other people but it is telling us to care more about what God thinks than what man thinks.
The purpose for our lives is to please God. We were created to serve him.

4.  Leading people to Christ
God did not set all this up just so Peter would overcome racism, although that was a good outcome.  At the heart of this story is a man and his household who were searching for God and for salvation. The good news  of this story is that God cared enough about this man to send Peter to tell him about Jesus.
The good news is that God is still in the business of meeting with men and women who seek after him today. Many people today can testify to how God sought them out, sent people to them to help them find their way.

Of course God cannot enter a heart that refuses him entry. Jesus says, “Here I am I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in.”
Cornelius eagerly invited God to come to him through the ministry of Peter.  I pray that we would all be as eager to receive as he was.
And there was Peter, God’s servant who reminds us of the necessity of keeping open to God’s Spirit for the new things he wants to achieve through you and I. 
We are reassured that if we step out of a closed mind, a closed heart, a closed restricted service for God he does not simply kick us out into the open and say get on with it he takes us by the hand and leads us out and stays with 
Be challenged enough to let God deal with barriers in your heart and life. Be fired up to tell others, who need to hear the glorious news that Jesus Christ, died and rose again for them
Contrast the gradual opening up of Peter with the eagerness of Cornelius. He receives a vision and a command and immediately acts upon it.  He sends two servants and a soldier to find Peter and when Peter arrives he says “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us” (Acts 10:33)
He was eager to receive, eager to enlarge his understanding of God.
Some children playing on the beach got occupied with a pond one of them had made by blocking a tiny stream.   One little boy suddenly looked up to notice that the tide had come in and shouted to his mates   “Come on you lot this ain’t the ocean, that’s only a pond.”  
God wants all of us to experience God’s ocean of love and power.

Will we. like Cornelius run eagerly towards it?

Alan and Carol 

One Day

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 31st May 2015
Bible Reading: Acts 3:1-4:4
This story of Peter and John gives us snapshot of one day in the life of the early church.  It involved responding to need, a healing miracle, preaching the gospel and getting arrested.

1. Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day for a miracle                     
 The day started out as routine as Peter and John were on the way to prayers at the Temple and the lame man was begging as usual. But when Peter and John and the lame man met, the disciples abandoned the prayer meeting and the lame man gave up begging forever!                             
What turned this routine day into a day of miracles?                                          
It was the fact that the disciples had begun living a life in the Spirit and life in the Spirit means any day can be a day of miracles.  The lame man had camped at the Temple gates and nothing changed year in year out. There seemed to be no power in the religion of the temple but it was found in Peter and in John.  

One of the recognizable results of being filled with the Spirit is inward assurance.  The assurance of the presence of Christ and the assurance of our position in Christ mean we can act with authority. 

The secret of good street charity collecting is to achieve eye contact with passers-by but in this story it is not the man who is asking for charity that is seeking eye contact.  It is Peter, the passer by who says to the man, “Look at us!”  We know that Peter had no money so his invitation for the man to turn his attention towards himself and John is either mean or this voluntary contact with the man was an act of great confidence that despite his having nothing material to give Peter was confident that he and John could help him.  “Look at us”, invites the man to hope in them for something.

Jesus had told the disciples that “All power authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-19)

Likewise if we are filled with the Spirit and know the presence of Jesus and our position in him then we too need to recognize that we have the authority to advance God’s Kingdom.  Jesus’ authority is available to His church to complete the mission that He sent us on!   

2. Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we are called upon to share our faith                                                                                                           
Peter and John did not plan the evangelism they engaged in that day but when an opportunity arose to share their faith they took it. 
Once again Peter is put in the position of explaining something that was already happening to a crowd that had come to see what was going on.  The problem in the church today is that we ask a crowd to come so that something will happen, whilst if something powerful and life-changing was happening among us, we would have no trouble getting a crowd. 
What Peter needed to do was to explain a few things. 
-          Who had healed the man:  Jesus 
-          Who Jesus was
-          What the response to Jesus should be

Peter acknowledged that what happened to the man and their own actions can only be explained by referring to Jesus.
Does it take Jesus to explain the reason we are the kind of people we are? We often come across people who are insecure, or aggressive or ambitious and we try to explain their attitudes and behaviour.  We say that they are like that because of nature, because they belong to this or that family. Or we might say that they behave a certain way because of an event or a circumstance which the person is attempting to compensate for.   All this may be true but a life of holiness is explained by one thing. Jesus. 
These days however it is not enough just to mention the name of Jesus because people’s ideas of who Jesus is and what is like are all over the place.  They need to be educated, told the truth about him, just as the people in Jerusalem did.  Some of the hundreds of people there that day may not have heard of him at all, others will have only heard that Jesus was a revolutionary or a failed travelling preacher who taught blasphemy.   With many people understanding of Jesus only fleetingly grasped maybe from brief references on TV people need help to understand who he is.   They also need to know what to do with the knowledge.  They may have been attracted by the activity of Jesus, given attention to his person but that is not enough there comes a point where there needs to be an acknowledgement of his claims upon their lives.                                              
This all may happen in a day, more often it happens over time.  But we mustn’t give up too soon. 

3. Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we meet opposition

When God moves there is always opposition. The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came and confronted Peter and John about what they were doing and by the end of the day they two disciples were in jail.
It wasn’t the miracle that disturbed these religious leaders. They were "greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (4:2).  It was giving Jesus the credit that rankled with the religious authorities in Jerusalem.  You can work miracles all day long, but don’t associate the miracles with life that is in Jesus. Don’t  tell people that the miracle is proof that Jesus is alive and able to forgive sins and set people free.
In the Western world, Christians rarely face persecution to the levels we see in other parts of the world.  That does not mean we haven’t been opposed.  Satan instead has used other tactics. He has attacked the western church with worldliness, selfish pride, and compromise for status and acceptance.  It is a very successful tactic. A martyr can impress unbelievers with his courage and faith; the self-centred, compromising Christian thinks he will win the world by being like the world only to find that the world despises him for his spinelessness. 
If worldliness and compromise have made us weak, we need to repent and get back to Pentecost to be restored into the fired up and passionate people we are meant to be and then whatever the world says and whatever the enemy says we will speak of Christ.   Though the Sadducees could successfully arrest the apostles, they were unable to arrest the influence of the gospel. The number of Christians kept increasing; growing to 5,000 from 3,000 at last count (Acts 2:41). Opposition did not slow the church down at all.
What a day it was; miracles, crowds, evangelistic results, and preachers in jail.  We don’t have many days like that, these days but maybe we could if we lived more in tune with the Spirit of God. 
-          When we truly live in the Spirit, any day can be a day for a miracle.
-          When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day to speak for Jesus.
-          When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when we might have to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of the gospel.
-          When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when people accept Jesus as their Saviour.

God bless