Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wake Up

Exeter Temple Message notes: 13th September 2015
Bible Readings:  Ephesians 5:8-20/Revelation 3:1-6

There are numerous calls in the Bible for God’s people to wake up

Ephesians 5:14 “Wake up O sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”  

Isaiah 60:1 “Arise shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”

Romans 13:11 & 12 “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost her. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.”

1 Thessalonians 5:6Therefore let us not be like others who are asleep but let us be alert and self- controlled.”

1.      God’s people need to admit that we have been asleep
Churches that are in need of new life, will often deny that they are sleeping.  The Church in Sardis would have been surprised to be accused of being asleep as they could point to the work they were doing for the kingdom of God. Today they would be the kind of church where there is a diverse programme of activity, enjoyable worship, interesting preaching and good organisation.  Yet Sardis had lost vitality, was content with mediocrity and were not making an impact in the community. It was a model of inoffensive, complacent, nominal Christianity. The church in Sardis was also showing signs of spiritual decay, and was not on its guard.

2.      God’s people need to wake up in time.
So often the church is playing catch up.  By the time we realise that there are spiritually hungry people waiting for us to give them the bread of life, they have gone elsewhere to find something to satisfy them.  The body of Christ is often so backward in understanding and discerning the moral and spiritual condition of the world around it. For example, changing attitudes to marriage, the sexual revolution. We fail to understand what is presently shaping history.  Paul says “wake up and rise from the dead and to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  (Ephesians 5:15)
 We also what time it is in the church.  The Sardis Church did not realise how close they were to judgment and to extinction.  The angel warns them, "If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you."  (Revelation 3:3b)
This is not a reference to the Second Coming, but a coming in judgment. Whilst nothing can ultimately prevail against the Church capital C, history is sadly littered with local churches that have become extinct and with Christians who lost their way.
Spiritually speaking, sleeping is as neglectful as a sentry closing his eyes on duty.  He fails to protect himself or others. It is as dangerous as allowing someone who has taken an overdose to doze off. They may go into a coma. It is as deadly as a lorry driver having forty winks at the wheel. There will be a crash.
This church was warned because it wasn’t quite too late. According to Revelation 3:4, there was a godly remnant at Sardis, who hadn’t been polluted by the world.

-          Has there been a wake-up call in my life recently that I’ve missed?
-          Is God trying to tell me something today?
-          Will I answer His wake-up?
-          Will you be part of the godly remnant that stays awake?
3.      How do we wake up and stay up?
 “Remember, therefore what you have received and heard; obey it and repent.”  (Revelation 3:3a)
This includes recalling that they were once lost sinners without hope, the salvation they had received and the joy of their first love for Jesus.
It is remembering that they do not need a reputation to make them powerful.  They had forgotten the fundamental of faith, prayer and reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
It is all too easy, to wake up but then to turn back over and go back to sleep.  The angel here is not criticizing a people who are taking Sabbath rest. It is right to rest, to sleep when we have laboured hard and we need to recuperate and regain our strength. 
It is understandable that at times we might get a bit tired with the simple physical, mental and emotional effort of living a Christian life in what the Bible calls a “wicked and perverse” generation.” But we don’t always sleep because we are tired. Sometimes we sleep because we are too warm, too full up from a heavy meal, or become drowsy by the rhythm of a car or a train or we are simply bored. If we were out in the fresh air, walking or engaged in something that interested our minds and our hearts sleep would be the furthest thing from our thoughts.
The Greek words that are translated “wake up” in both Ephesians and in Revelation it means not just a one off action but implies becoming wakeful or watchful.  It refers to a continual condition.
This passage shows us that waking up should be followed by obedience and repentance.
If we just make a mental or emotional assent to the idea that we ought to wake up, we will drift back into slumber.  The alarm clock is also a call to obey. It implies - Get up.

The Spirit’s call to wake up is a call to get up and actually do what God’s word says we must do. We must stop thinking that we have the option to pick and choose what we will and will not believe or obey. We cannot bend the word of God to fit our lifestyle. Instead we must conform and go His way.

God Bless

What is revival?

Exeter Temple Message notes: 6th September 2015
Bible Reading: Psalm 85

All of us, throughout our lives and throughout our Christian walk will need personal revival at various times. Every church that has survived more than a generation or two will require times of revival if it is to continue to represent and serve Christ in a powerful way.
Psalm 85 was written sometime after exiled Jews had returned to Jerusalem. They found that their land has been wasted, the temple had been destroyed; there was rubble piled up around the holy places of God and the people who had remained behind were spiritually weak and corrupt. They engaged in a sudden rush of activity to address the problems and the foundations of a new temple were laid. However years went by and they had not built God’s house again, there had been poor harvest and not much food about and some enemies attacked them.   In desperation one of them writes this psalm as a prayer.
 It was obvious to the psalmist that God’s people of God needed restoration and a revival not only in their fortunes but in their worship, in their devotion to God, in the strength to carry out their God given mission to the world.
 “Revival is God at work, restoring His church to health(Walter Boldt) 

1. Look back
Psalm 85:1-3 recall the way God worked in the past history of Israel: “You showed favour to your land, O LORD; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.”
It is because the writer remembered what God had done in the past and thought about previous acts of God's power that he was now crying out for God to do it all over again.
Restore us again O God our Saviour.  Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" (v4)
It is a remarkable fact that when people begin to take an interest in revival, they immediately start to pray for it all over again. We can look back on times in the history of the Church in the UK when God has brought renewal and restoration after a period of decline.  We can be inspired by our history.  We are not asking for something that has no precedent.
“Lord, you can revive us again. We are not so deep in the mire but that you can’t lift us out. We are not so dead but that you can make us alive. Will you not revive us again? It is impossible to us, but it is possible to you. Lord, one touch of your hand, a breath from your blessed lips, and it is done. Brothers, Sisters, we believe in God, do we not? And if we do, we believe that whatever state a Church is in, God can bring it out of it! Do not run away from it and say, “God can never bless it.” He can bless it! Pray it up into a blessing and make this the essence of your prayer, “Lord, You can revive us. We believe it, and we look for it.”  (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

2.  Look up 
The Psalmist looked back for inspiration and looks up for an answer to his present need.  He recognised that the turning around of Israel’s fortunes would take more than everyone making an effort, or for the great minds of the day to come up with a scheme. We need God to move among us. God is not obligated to give us revival just because it is needed.  While it is ultimately a supernatural act of God, revival begins with our earnest cry and desire to receive it.
QUOTE: “The single greatest need in our land today is heaven-sent revival! Revival comes at the sovereign, gracious decision of God to send a fresh movement of His Spirit among his people… (but) Revival will not come unless it is desired. It is an invasion from heaven at the request of the saints on earth.” (Raymond Perkins, Sermon Central).
The psalmist prayer consists of:

Praise                                                                                                                               v1-3 He remembers that God is good. He rehearses what God has done.  Even when things are bad it is good to remember that God is worthy of our praise.

Penitence                                                                                                                       v4-7 He recognises that God has cause to be angry with his people.  They have grieved him with their lack of love, their disobedience, their lethargy.  In Ephesians 4:30 Paul warns not the sinners but the saints not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.”
True revival always involves the acknowledgement of sin and the forgiveness of sins. As he asks God to be merciful towards a people who have grieved him and caused him displeasure, he does soon the basis of the character of God.  “Show us your unfailing love O Lord and grant us your salvation.”  
He sees that repentance is linked to joy.  We connect repentance with tears but not joy but the one leads to the other. To confess our sin and to turn around and set off again knowing that you are now on the right road is to know a tremendous release.  It is sin, not the process of repentance that is the burden.  Revival may begin in tears, but it proceeds to joy.

Pledge                                                                                                                             V 8-9I will listen to what God the Lord will say. Let them not return to folly, salvation is near to those who fear him that is glory may dwell in the land.”
Revival is not just about emotional moments. True revival is on-going; not a spur of the moment trip to the mercy seat.  When we pray for revival we need to count the cost and examine our motives. The motivation of the psalmist is that God’s “glory may dwell in our land.”
If we want revival because we want our church to survive and we think revival means we won’t need to do any more embarrassing evangelism then we had better forget it.  If we are looking for revival so that we don’t have to work so hard in the church because there will be more people about to do the jobs, forget it.  In Revival the voice of God is more clearly heard and will call us to greater challenges.  And we need to remember that alongside revival there is often also an outbreak of persecution. 
But to walk with God, in harmony with his will and with his approval has to be worth any cost. 

3. Looking Forward
Finally, in v 10-13 the psalm expresses confidence in God and paints a picture of what revival will look like. There is expectation.  There is belief in the promises of God.  Restoration and revival is not a wish that the writer has plucked out of the air. It is something that God has already said he will do when God’s people seek his face.
He may not do it in the way we think he will or in the timing we expect but he will do it.
 V10-13 “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good and out land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”


Unsung Hero: Titus

Exeter Temple Message notes: 30th August 2015
Bible Readings: Titus and 2 Corinthians 7:13-8:21

Titus spent some of his time as a travelling missionary as part of Paul’s team but also became the pastor of a local congregation. He may have eventually been a bishop with oversight of a region. Even if we are not like Titus in personality, role or circumstance we can learn from his own godly attributes and those he was encouraged to pursue.

1. Be ready                                                                                                              
Paul took Titus with him to the Council of Jerusalem where he used Titus as a test case in the matter of whether Gentiles needed to adopt Jewish customs in order to find acceptance in the church.  (Gal.2:1-3).
Titus was sent to the problem filled church at Corinth where he also was expected to challenge the congregation to fulfill a financial obligation. He is then dispatched to Crete, a place with bad reputation. Paul had visited the island of Crete briefly on his voyage to Rome as a prisoner and returned later with Titus after his release but then asked Titus to go back there on his own to build up the church.  From there Titus was asked to re-join Paul in Nicapolis and then moved again to Dalmatia.  Titus may have stayed with Paul during his second imprisonment in Rome and at some point returned to Crete where he probably ended his days.
Why say yes to such difficult tasks?
Titus would have learned from Paul that the true motivation for any ministry is service. Paul often used the word servant to describe himself and he opened his letter to Titus with the words, “Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
The thought of servitude does not rest easily with our modern ideas of freedom and independence. If service is an attempt to somehow measure up and earn the acceptance of God it will appear too demanding.
The Greek word often simply translated as servant, can also be translated as “bond-slave. In ancient culture if a person got into serious debt the outcome was often  enslavement to their creditor. In Jewish law this could not be for more than 7 years. However some slaves would voluntarily become permanent bond-slaves of a master they loved and respected. (See Exodus 21:5-6)
The servant of Christ confidently and voluntarily gives their life over to a master who is as wise as he is kind. Titus seemed to have grasped the whole concept of being a Servant of Christ which is not just a tick list of duties that have a beginning and end. It is a lifestyle.
Do you see yourself as a servant or just a volunteer? There’s a world of difference between the two. A volunteer picks and chooses when and even whether to serve. A servant serves no matter what. A volunteer serves when convenient; a servant serves out of commitment.
1 Peter 2:16 challenges us to “…live as servants of God.”

2. Be realistic                                                                                                              
Paul quotes a Greek poet who said the people of Crete were always liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)Paul agrees and adds that they are also people who “claim to know God but by their actions they deny him. They are they are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (Titus 1:13)
Titus was put into  in a difficult circumstance and there is no use pretending otherwise.  Sometimes we are put into such positions because God knows that is where we are most needed. Paul says to Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order.  In other words, Crete is a mess that is why you are there. (Titus 1:5)
It was not just Crete that needed help but the Church there had been affected by the culture around it. It seemed to be beset by a rise in false teaching and declining morality.
The Greek behind that phrase straighten out in v 5 is linked to the idea of a broken bone being reset.  Titus is there to help this church walk again. Another adjective that Paul uses 4 times in this letter is the word “sound”   He links the word with doctrine in chapter 1:9 and “2:1. And with faith in chapter 1:13 and chapter 2:2.  It is used to describe that which is whole or healthy, strong, not defective. 
The = English word "hygiene" from the Greek.  
There is a part of us that would prefer to avoid a health check-up but good sense tells us that having an evaluation of our condition means that poor health issues can be addressed.
So Paul calls Titus to not be afraid of facing up to what is wrong but gives him lots of advice about how to help this church get healthy.
If our spiritual health is going to be good it has to be based on truth. Titus 1:9 stresses the importance of holding firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught and encouraging others by sound doctrine. One of the reasons our lives are spiritually unhealthy at times is because we have listened to and followed the wisdom of the world above the wisdom of the Bible.  In our communication saturated society, it might be a good idea for each of us to evaluate what percentage of time we spent absorbing the word of God and Christian teaching in comparison with our time spend watching TV, surfing the internet, reading magazines, newspapers or listening to the opinions of our peers. 

3. Be reliable                                                                                                                 
 It is possible to know all the right things and not put them into practice.  The other word Paul uses a lot in his letter to Titus is the word good. There must be a correspondence between creed and deed.
Titus is encouraged to live out that maxim in his own life. Titus 2:7 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”             
Paul shows us that Titus did do that.
-          Integrity and faithfulness                         (2 Cor. 12:17-18)
-          Genuine love for God’s people                 (2 Cor. 7:13–15 & 8:16-17)
-          Enthusiastic and used his own initiative    (2 Cor. 7:6).
Possessing both strength and tact, Titus calmed a desperate situation on more than one occasion. He is a good model for Christians who are called to live out their witness in trying circumstances. 
Healthy, godly lives are rooted in the person of Jesus and what he has done.  Titus’ own healthy spiritual life was an outcome the operation of the Holy Spirit, given by God through Jesus Christ.
The inspiration to be ready, realistic and reliable in our service comes from a response to all Jesus has done for us.

Read Titus 2:4-8

God Bless