15.7.18 – Daily Bread – Annie-Kate Williams

Give us each day our daily bread

I often get hungry during church and our topic is daily bread today. So pass the bread bags around and help yourself to a slice or 2 of bread if you like. There is a gluten and dairy free bag of bread as well. No pressure to eat the bread but also don’t hold back. It’s there to be eaten.

My little boy Cecil is 1 and a half. If little Cecil is hungry he will let us know but pointing to the fruit bowl and saying more more more-  this means he wants a mandarin. Or he will stand and point to the bread by the toaster and says to, to, to. Meaning he wants toast or bread- however it comes. If we aren’t fast enough for his liking or if we say not now, he will reach up with his little fingers and feel around until he feels the bread bag and ‘will pull it down. He will then help himself to a piece of bread which is called ‘to’. If he feels hungry he feels quite happy to help himself if its within reach. Waiting is not a virtue or something that is understood by one year old I’ve discovered.

When Jesus teaches us to pray in Luke 11 he says;

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Give us each day our daily bread. 7 words. What do we mean when we pray these 7 words? Are we asking for literal bread? Are we asking for metaphorical bread?

When the Israelite’s had been gone from Egypt (their place of slavery) for a month they were in the desert and they were complaining dramatically about having no food.

Exodus 16:3-4 “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. 

They called the bread like stuff manna. Bread from heaven.

They had to go and physically pick up the manna off the ground each day. There was action, not just passively receiving but to receive what God gave they had to go and pick it up off the ground in the morning, before it melted away. They had to actually pick it up. They had to pick up the bread from heaven.

The story right after the Lord’s Prayer here in Luke 11:5-9  says this:

Luke 11:5-9     Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you;

Shameless audacity- ask and it will be given to you. When Cecil asks for bread he has a shameless audacity about him. A boldness, it’s not a passive asking, it’s not a please may I have some, its a ‘I really want some and I want it now!’

When it comes to asking for our daily bread I think we are often complacent. I don’t think any of us will go without food today. We live in a well off part of the world. Give us today our daily bread doesn’t hold much urgency usually. I think we are to pray this with meaning, not complacency. We are to be bold and ask with shameless audacity. We are to ask for it and then go and pick it up. There is a physical picking up aspect to daily bread. Even when it fell from the sky they had to reach down and pick it up. They even boiled and baked it but they could also just eat it. And its no good just asking for it and picking it up if we don’t eat it. We have to actually eat it.

When we pray may it be more than words, like a little hand reaching onto the bench and searching for the bread bag. Reach up and ask, feel around for what is on God’s kitchen bench. It’s a bold prayer- give us.

Little Cecil isn’t being rude when he asks and takes if he can. It’s his house, he’s hungry it’s not disrespecting us taking food with out saying please first. Maybe that’s what its like with God- we are his children and part of his house, by our status we are allowed to have bread.

Although sometimes we say no to having bread. When its that hour or 2 before dinner or right before lunch we say no. Or else he wont eat his dinner. For his own good we say no because better is coming.

So what does this all look like in reality. If we are to pray with shameless audacity, if we are to pray and reach up to get what’s on offer, or reach down and pick up what God has given, and we need to actually do the physical act of picking it up and eating what has been provided as well ask asking. What does this look like what are we asking for?

They struggle to translate give us today our daily bread but the best consensus I could find about it was give us our ‘needs for the coming day’.

Maybe not physical bread but our needs. What do we need physically today? What do we need emotionally, mentally, what do we need spiritually today? What are your needs for the coming day?

In the first few months (or years) as a new parent getting sleep at night for long stints isn’t really a common occurrence for many. I know for me sleep became a need. It was no longer taken for granted. It became a need. And I realised I didn’t need as much as I thought. But I also wonder what would have happened if I had asked with shameless audacity rather than a passing passive prayer saying ‘please make him sleep’. I wonder what would have happened. Do we have the boldness to ask and reach up, as if to take bread off God’s kitchen bench top? Do we really ask and follow through with picking up what God provides or are we sitting at the table praying and waiting for God to put bread on our plate as we sit at the table? I’m not saying we should be greedy. But if we are hungry spiritually, if we are hungry emotionally, if we have needs that are not being met we can ask. We can ask not passively but boldly. Maybe spiritually you feel like you have only been living on crumbs for a long time. Or hoping to be fed enough on Sundays that you won’t have to eat during the week?

John 6:31-35  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

Jesus is the bread of life. Give us Jesus. Give us relationship with Jesus to really live. We need Jesus for the coming day. To really live we need Jesus.

During my youth group days people would live from one Christian event to another. One Christian high to another usually in the form of camps, or holy spirit filled encounters. And while these things were great they were like romantic moments or even romantic weekends but they were not enough to sustain the every day life of being a Christian. Many didn’t last in their following Jesus. They didn’t have the daily bread. In hind sight it was like they were trying to live off eating desert occasionally and it wasn’t enough to sustain them. Spiritual highs, mountain top experiences we all need them but we can’t live off them alone.

Like romantic moments. When Cecil proposed to me it was romantic and wonderful but it that’s all our relationship was 8 years later it wouldn’t be much. If you had a God encounter so many years ago that’s awesome. Like a proposal I’m sure it was a highly important time in your life if you remember it years later. When Cecil proposed it was a great evening but enjoying the day to day life with him out weighs the proposal. What about in our spiritual lives. Is your day to day life with God sustaining a good marriage with God? Is your day to day life with God sustaining a good relationship or are you looking back on the good old days?

I have heard people talk about the charismatic renewal or charismatic movement time from the 1960’s onwards. And its as if they are trying to live off bread they got sometime last century. Sadly it’s stale now. I’m not saying its wasn’t a great time. It’s like all romantic times in the past, we remember them fondly but if we haven’t seen any romance or love since then we would be a bit depleted. It’s the everyday, normal life things that make a marriage work well. It’s the normal everyday things that make our relationship with God work as well. It’s a two way relationship. One where we are to pray give us today our daily bread. With shameless audacity we are to ask God for what we need. But not just asking we also have a part to play. That might be actually picking up your bible or phone to read some of the living word that’s been given to us. Or it might be listening to that still small voice in your head. When a Netflix episode finishes and you have this little reminder that tells you, you really should go to bed now rather than watching another episode. We need to be willing to pick up and receive what God is giving. Maybe someone asking how you are or if you need prayer for anything. Instead of saying yea I’m good, I’m fine, but thanks- when really you are struggling with life and you have been praying for support. We need to pick up and eat the bread God provides. It might seem plain, or it might not be the bread you were hoping for, it might look a bit different. But if God is giving us what we need we also have to be willing to pick it up and eat it. Maybe it’s a word of encouragement from someone and instead of receiving it we brush it away because we know better, we don’t receive the compliment or encouragement when God may have been giving it to nourish your soul.

The prayer says give us. Not give me but give us our daily bread. We are in this together. We are to be praying for what each other needs. We are to collect enough manna for our household so that each person gets their fill. Each person was allocated 2 litres or so. We are not just looking out for my needs the me, myself and I. We are reaching up to God’s kitchen benchtop and feeling around for bread for not just us but our family and friends as well. We are to pick up bread from heaven for others as well. Being generous with our time and money can be the bread from heaven for others.

God provides, are we timidly asking or are we boldly asking, reaching for, praying give us today our daily bread? Because we know we are children of the King who gives bread from heaven to fulfil our needs.

What needs do you have? What are your needs for the coming day?

What are the needs of those around you?

Will you pray with shameless audacity?

Will you receive what God gives?

Will you be active in picking up the bread from heaven that God offers? Whatever form that takes.

What might your prayer look like today?

What might your needs for the coming day sounds like?

How might you be picking up and giving out bread from heaven to others?

Pray give us today our daily bread. Ask with shameless audacity, pick up the bread God offers, eat the bread of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8.7.18 – Praying ‘Your Kingdom Come’ – Annie-Kate Williams

We don’t have to look very far to find brokenness in this world. Wars, poverty, broken relationships, broken homes, bullying, injustice, abuse. We don’t have far to look to find brokenness. And within us all we have something that says there is better.  We all want a happy ever after ending, we love an under dog story. There must be more than this.

Do we imagine a better world?

In Luke 11 Jesus teaches us to pray saying …

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Last week Peter talked about the first part of this prayer, Father, Hallowed be your name.

And this week I am preaching on the second part  ‘Your kingdom come.’ I have 3 words to work with. 3 words so it should be a short sermon right!? Noo! Seriously it’s a huge topic!

Jesus tells us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Like I just said – He gave us three words to do that. But those three words open up a world of questions for us. Your kingdom come- what does it mean? How do we pray it? What does it mean to pray it? Is it just some concept that we don’t really grasp and we just pray the 3 words. Do we mean the words when we say them to God? What is your definition of the kingdom of God? Is it some place in the clouds? When someone is healed or given a second chance in life, Or is it when someone finds true never failing love here on earth?

If you’re not sure how to describe the kingdom of God, you are in the normal people category I believe.

The Kingdom of God is not easy to describe, it’s not easy to tie down. Is it too big for us to comprehend? Is God in his majesty so big we cannot narrow down or tame the kingdom of God into a nice neat definition? Maybe we can’t reduce it to a concept that we can easily describe but we are called to pray Your Kingdom come.

Jeff Aurther who I found online made a good list of some of the examples Jesus used in the Bible to describe the kingdom of God. So here is a wee list.

“Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a banquet and a great wedding feast; the door will be closed on some. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field; you would be wise to sell everything you own to buy that field to get the treasure. The kingdom of heaven is like a net cast wide; it pulls in all sorts of fish, and the good fish must be separated from the bad. The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired laborers to work in the fields. He hired them at different times of day, but at the end of the day, he paid them all equally. (The kingdom has a funny economy, doesn’t it?) The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed; from a small beginning comes a great tree. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast; it permeates all, silently and pervasively.”

Jeff continues- “Besides using parables, Jesus also dropped comments here and there about the kingdom. He said that the kingdom of heaven is hard for the rich to enter (Mark 10:23-25). He said the kingdom must be received as a child (Mark 10:15). Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). We should seek the kingdom first, and then worldly needs such as food and clothing will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). Before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples he would not drink or eat again with them until he does so in kingdom (Mark 14:25). He said that if your eye or hand prevents you from entering the kingdom, pluck it out or cut it off (Mark 9:47). Jesus said that a great reversal is coming: harlots and tax collectors will enter the kingdom before the Pharisees (who were religious leaders) (Matthew 21:31). He said that the Pharisees shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces (Matthew 23:13).”

So Jesus uses

  • A wedding,
  • hidden treasure,
  • catching fish
  • paying workers
  • a child
  • a mustard seed
  • yeast

Each story when we look into them gives us some understanding of the Kingdom of God.

Grant Ridout another intern like I am, who lives in Auckland said this about the Kingdom of God-

“And like the yeast in dough subtly working its way through, this Kingdom works from the inside-out quietly expanding and influencing. Transforming a person here, challenging the religious leaders there, reconciling someone in that direction, feeding the hungry over yonder, upholding the oppressed over that way, restoring a bit of creation there. Like pockets of new life, slowly sprouting up across the world. Patches of colour and life flourishing under the sun. Like a series of lights slowly lighting up across the world, one over there, then one off in the distance, then one switches on over there until one decisive day, Jesus returns and the whole world is lit and made new.”

Can you imagine that world

In the musical Les Misérables Cosette is a little girl who lives with sort-of foster parents who are horrible to her. Treat her terribly, its like she is a slave in their pub, or hotel. Her real mother loves her but couldn’t look after because of a series of events and is driven to prostitution to get money to give to these foster parents so they will look after her daughter Cosette. It’s a terrible situation. The little girl Cosette sings this song called castle on a cloud and its like she is imagining a place where everything is perfect. She is imaging a better world. Maybe it’s her version of the kingdom of God?

Slide- Here are the lyrics- music 0.12-1.11

There is a castle on a cloud
I like to go there in my sleep
Aren’t any floors for
me to sweep
Not in my castle on a cloud
There is a lady all in white
Holds me and sings a lullaby
She’s nice to see and she’s soft to touch
She says Cosette
I love you very much
I know a place where
no one’s lost
I know a place where
no one cries
Crying at all is not allowed
Not in my castle on a cloud

In Cosette’s castle on a cloud there is

  • No hardship,
  • There is relationship with someone who actually loves her
  • She will be loved
  • She will belong
  • And there will be no tears which I think she cant even imagine joy but she can imagine no tears.

What are we asking for when we pray ‘your kingdom come’?

  • Are we praying perfection on earth?
  • Are we praying God to rule his kingdom and smite down all the baddies in the world and make it good?
  • Are we asking for wholeness in people’s lives, wholeness for communities?

What we think it is will influence how we pray for it surely?

What would God want His kingdom to look like? What would God like his kingdom to be like?

We know it’s not your standard Disney fairy tale kingdom as there is a perfect king for starters. And then there are things said like prostitutes will enter before religious leaders. And workers who have only worked a half day will get the same pay as they guys who worked a full day. The normal rules that we may expect may not apply. So what do we know about God? Do we believe God is good? Can we start there? What we know about God will help us know what his kingdom will be like.

Cecil and I have been married for 7 years now. And I have got to know him quite well I think. When people ask me what would Cecil think about such and such I can often say with confidence he would want this or that and he defiantly wouldn’t want that. If we are at a restaurant for dinner I could guess what he is ordering. I know what he would want because I know him well- although I am often surprised to!

And the longer we invest into our relationship with God the more we know God, the more we will know what he wants. The more we know God’s heart and desires the more we know Gods will even if we are often surprised.

What is God’s kingdom like?

The greatest commandment in the bible is- Love God and love people.

Love God and love people- can you imagine a place like that? Can you pray for a world where that is the case?

Cosette desired love- she wanted to be loved. We all do. How would this world look if there was a lot more love. Cosette wasn’t with her mother because her mother had believed a guy loved her only to be abandoned when she became pregnant, she also faced injustice, abuse, and more. What would the world look like with more love- and love is only one aspect of God’s kingdom.

I heard it said, that behind everything bad is something sad. We all know of bad things that have happened to people, we all know of sad things that have happened to people. There will be sad stories and bad things that have happened to people in this room. Pray for God’s kingdom to come and be here with us in these bad and sad areas of our lives. Like a new helper moving in to our lives for good. Let’s pray for God to come in and reign.

I believe we have all had glimpses and maybe even experienced of the kingdom of God. What are some of the glimpses you have seen?

  • a sunset that took your breath away as you stood in awe and went- wow God
  • Or maybe looking at a new born baby?
  • Falling in love?
  • Kindness from a stranger when you needed it,
  • A message that seemed undeniably like it came from God

What glimpses of heaven have you seen here on earth? If we are to pray for the kingdom to come- then it must be for the kingdom to come here on earth! Maybe we need more glimpses of the kingdom of God and we need more than glimpses. Pray the kingdom comes! And experience it coming close

  • Luke 10:9 says- heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’- pray for people to be healed
  • Luke 11:20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. – pray people are freed from evil and oppression.

Do you want the kingdom to come near to you? Do you want the King to come close to you? Do you want to be doing kingdom stuff for God but life feels mediocre?

Pray God’s kingdom comes, pray God reigns in your house, ask God to involve you in his kingdom business at work, God what are you doing and can I be part of it. Can I be part of your saving plan bringing life and wholeness to a world which can seem very broken. God can use us to bring the kingdom of God to others.

In Luke chapter 4 verses 18-19 Jesus was given a scroll to read in the temple and it said

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

This is more about what the kingdom of God is like. Good news for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, oppressed freed, And an abundance of God’s favour. Healing, wholeness, freedom, God’s favour- we can pray for this! We can even be part of this.

Cosette’s life didn’t stay horrible forever. Jean Valjean comes and rescues her and gives her a new life which is much closer to her castle on a cloud than what she had been living. We are to pray God’s kingdom come for those around us, for each other, for those we don’t know.

As we watch the news- pray- God your kingdom come. Your kingdom come as we hear about a marriage breaking down or kids feeling completely isolated at school. And while God is the King I think we or maybe it’s just me, I can often want to be the saviour and fix everything that is broken in people’s lives. God is the King, it is God’s agenda we need to listen to, God has the power to fix big problems, God saves, and yet God invites us to be part of his saving plan for the world.

Pray God’s kingdom come. And as we pray we listen to the voice of the King. May we have a listening heart. Valjean gives Cosette a new life with joy, love, belonging rather than a life of an abused orphan. May God reign in our lives, may God reign in our minds, our hearts, our thoughts, our bodies. May God’s kingdom come in our lives. May God reign rather than us.

I want it to be clear that I am not saying we need to go out and save the world. I’m not saying you need to do more, I’m not saying we all need to be Valjean and raise an orphan girl. Rather put God at the centre, God reigning in our life will lead to being part of Gods saving plan for the world and that’s exciting and daunting all at once. God’s kingdom come- may partly be found in Jesus sending us and reaching others. Bringing hope, bringing love, bringing justice, setting people free from all sorts of oppression, and so much more. We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come. With listening hearts may God teach us to pray for his kingdom to come here.

Grant Ridout again – “And like the yeast in dough subtly working its way through, this Kingdom works from the inside-out quietly expanding and influencing. Transforming a person here, challenging the religious leaders there, reconciling someone in that direction, feeding the hungry over yonder, upholding the oppressed over that way, restoring a bit of creation there. Like pockets of new life, slowly sprouting up across the world. Patches of colour and life flourishing under the sun. Like a series of lights slowly lighting up across the world, one over there, then one off in the distance, then one switches on over there until one decisive day, Jesus returns and the whole world is lit and made new.”

The world may have lost of broken bits but we are to pray God’s kingdom to come. May we have listening hearts as we live and pray asking God to reign more and more in our lives.

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1.7.18 – Jesus #1 Concern: God’s Honour – Peter Cheyne

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’

He said to them, ‘When you pray, say, “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Maybe we also feel that we could do with Jesus’ help in knowing how to pray.

Jesus’ model prayer is incredibly brief. In English, Luke’s version is only 34 words. Matthew’s version is slightly longer but doesn’t add anything very different. In that brief prayer there are 5 petitions – 5 requests. I suspect that when Jesus identified 5 things, for us to pray about, those 5 things are key. In other words, I think the Lord’s Prayer reveals the heart of God in terms of 5 priorities – 5 priorities for our prayers and 5 priorities for our lives.

Over the next 6 weeks (because one of them will be the AGM) we are going to look at these 5 thing. Each one of them is a huge topic but it is a priority for our prayers and a priority for our lives.

The first petition is “hallowed be your name”. No, not Harold; hallowed. It is important to realise that that is a request; it is not a statement. “Hallowed” means honoured, revered, respected. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are not saying “Lord, Your name is honoured”. We are asking, “Lord, may your name be honoured and revered”. It is precisely because God’s name is not honoured that we are to pray.

Also, “name” represents the whole person. The prayer is not that God’s name be honoured but that God be honoured.

In our society, God is not revered. It is not just that people use Jesus’ name, or God’s name, as a swear word. That is not the problem. That is just a symptom of the problem. People use Jesus’ name like that because Jesus is not honoured.

Think about the Ten Commandments. Commandments 1 to 3:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. Do not worship any idol.
  3. Do not misuse the name of God.

Or, go back further; even the first verse of the Bible presents a truly awesome, magnificent, powerful, big God: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Wow!

And we see the goodness of God in the goodness of His creation and in His creation of people and His provision for them and His love for them. Good, good Father.

Then, of course, we see the dishonouring of God in Adam and Eve’s disobedience. God said, “Do not eat of that one tree”. The snake dishonoured God, portraying Him as a selfish liar. “You won’t die. He just doesn’t want you being like Him.” Adam and Eve chose to believe the devil rather than God.

The Bible ends with Revelation which tells of God’s victory and contains pictures of the magnificence of heaven and God receiving the worship of all. One day every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).

God is honoured at the beginning and at the end, but in the middle? We can possibly say that everything in between asks the question “Will you honour God?”

As we have said before, the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end (the main objective) of people?” It is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. But that is not the Bible. Is it right? Is our main purpose to glorify God? Well, yes. The Bible is all about the glory of God. And so Jesus makes it the first item of prayer.

There are so many passages about this it is hard to know where to start. Add up all of the references to glory, honour, praise, worship and there would be thousands.

Psalm 34:3          Glorify the Lord with me: let us exalt his name together.

1 Cor 10:31         So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

John 17:4            I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do.

Jesus’ life of obedience and service, brought God glory. The fact that Jesus made God’s honour the first item in His model prayer is no coincidence. It is a huge theme in the Bible.

If we want to learn from Jesus how to pray, can I suggest you consciously include this first petition? “May Your name be honoured. May you be acknowledged and loved and respected. May many, many more people in our society bow before you and honour you in everything they do. May I honour you in everything I do.” The first petition is not about our needs. It is about our desire that God be honoured.

READ Romans 15:5-9.

This passage is about relationships. The first four verse (which we didn’t read) are about patience and forgiveness, selflessness and serving. Then it talks about our attitude towards each other and accepting one another. But notice why Paul calls us to relate in Christ-like ways. Three times he gives the reason. V.6 “so that”; v.7 “in order to”; v.8 “so that”. And the purpose, every time, is the same.

  • 6 – “so that… you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
  • 7 – “In order to bring praise to God”
  • 8 – “So that God’s promises to the Patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.

The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to God. Consider how divided the world is. When people see a community that models Christ-likeness (compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy, friendship, generosity, etc.) it is so different God gets the glory. What an amazing God who can change diverse, self-centred people into people who love one another. What an amazing God! Look at their unity! Look at their compassion. See how these Christians love one another. What an amazing God.

It is very reminiscent of Jesus’ words: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples.” Loving community is miraculous. What an amazing God!

Having the same attitude as Christ is a high standard and that is what we are called to. We are called to relationships that are so godly that they are radically different from anything the world can offer. And God gets the glory. Do you think that our community is blown away by our relationships?

Another way to bring God glory is by living openly Christian lives – letting our lights shine rather than hiding our faith.

Matthew 5:16      In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I have been part of several conversations this week about how Christians are now viewed with great suspicion or even seen as the enemies of society. There has been New Zealand research published recently that shows that Christians are often viewed negatively. In each conversation this week, someone has said that the problem is that Christians are known for what we are against rather than what we are for. We are seen as being negative and judgemental. We are against people; against society.

In an increasingly antagonistic context, one response would be to pull our heads down and become invisible. But Jesus says that our response should be the opposite: we should let our lights shine before others. But our light should consist of good works. Again, when we are Christ-like – when we are seen to be compassionate and accepting and we are involved in caring for the poor and the social misfits, just like Jesus did; when we offer people the good news of reconciliation with God, just like Jesus did; when we live lives of integrity, in contrast to what often is reported about Christians in the media; when we love even our enemies and treat them with respect, God looks good.

One pastor this week imagined a non-Christian saying, “Christians are nasty! Oh, I see you care for the poor. Oh!” As 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

If we think about Jesus receiving glory, we might think first of the Transfiguration when His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light, and He talked with Moses and Elijah. On that occasion some of the disciples got a wee glimpse of Jesus’ heavenly glory. But every time He taught, people were amazed at His authority and honoured Him. Every time He healed or befriended or forgave, He was glorified by those who saw His majesty and mercy.

But the greatest display of the glory of Jesus was the Cross. Really, the Cross doesn’t look like glory. It looks like shame and degradation. But when we look at the Cross, what do we see? We see both the righteousness of God and the mercy of God. Romans 3:25 says that God sacrificed His Son to reveal His justice. He had overlooked sin, but no longer. God will deal with sin. He did deal with sin on the Cross. But we also see the salvation plan of a merciful God. We see love beyond anything else we have experienced – love, sacrifice, selflessness. What an amazing God! This is how we know what love is: while we were still rebellious, Christ died for us.

I am not sure if you, as you have read your Bible, have noticed the priority given to God’s honour. I feel that there is this huge biblical emphasis that somehow I haven’t noticed. Jesus identified God’s honour as the first thing we should be praying for. Can I encourage you to do that? That prayer might take you into all sorts of areas. You might find yourself praying about the antagonism towards Christians in our society, praying that our church will do things that cause people to honour God, praying about the damage done by scandals in the media or our own poor witness, praying that thousands upon thousands more New Zealanders will come to know God and choose to worship and obey Him. Our desire is that God receives honour.

But not only our prayers. Also, our discipleship. May we live in such Christ-like ways that God does receive the glory. Our relationships, our light shining, our willingness to serve, our willingness to talk about the goodness of God and to invite people to experience His mercy, are all ways of glorifying God.

Concern #1: “Father, may Your name be revered.” Can we say:

  1. The main purpose of my life is to bring God honour
  2. I will pray for that and I will work for that.
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24.6.18 – Responding To Mercy – Peter Cheyne

I got myself into a bit of trouble a couple of weeks ago. Our daughter, Kirsten, posted, on Facebook, a link to an article that she said was very, VERY good. I read the article and I didn’t think it was very good at all and I said so, with my reasons. Have you spotted my first mistake? She then posted saying “Wow! Dislike very much. I think you’re missing the whole point really” and went on to tell me off in no uncertain terms. And her friends ‘liked’ her rebuke of me.I got myself into a bit of trouble a couple of weeks ago. Our daughter, Kirsten, posted, on Facebook, a link to an article that she said was very, VERY good. I read the article and I didn’t think it was very good at all and I said so, with my reasons. Have you spotted my first mistake? She then posted saying “Wow! Dislike very much. I think you’re missing the whole point really” and went on to tell me off in no uncertain terms. And her friends ‘liked’ her rebuke of me.

She then messaged me privately and said how embarrassed she was. We messaged each other backwards and forwards a little. I was a bit resistant. She suggested I might like to write a retraction to show that I am not the arrogant, judgemental, elitist jerk that I appeared to be from my comments. She even wrote down what she thought I should say because she was pretty embarrassed about me as things stood.

Well, I wrote back and said “I agree and I regret writing what I did”. I think she was a little surprised. She probably expected a much longer debate because I can be pretty stubborn. I wrote another post clarifying what I had meant to say and she was very grateful and effusive in her thanks. All’s well that ends well.

The article was entitled “Laziness Does Not Exist”. The author, a psychology professor at Loyola University, Chicago, said that she had never met a lazy student. Where a student was not performing there was always a reason. The student was either a victim of circumstances or sick. If we are judgemental we assume laziness but we should take the time to discover the real reasons and to understand the person. She then said that her judgemental colleagues assume laziness and she called then “morally reprehensible” and a whole lot of other strong words.

I looked at the title and my “truth button” was pushed. In my opinion, it is just not true that laziness doesn’t exist and I have some reason for saying that. The Bible has some things to say about laziness. Apparently, God believes in it.

And then I read the stuff about people either being victims or sick and my “responsibility button” was pushed. I believe we need to take responsibility for our own actions, not blame everyone else. I recognise that life is a lot tougher on some people than on others and that some people face circumstances that make good choices very hard and they need genuine understanding and consideration. But even then we cannot just blame others. We are still responsible for our decisions.

And then I read her comments about her colleagues and my “hypocrisy button” was pushed. This person, advocating compassion, was pretty dismissive of her colleagues.
But here were the problems. Firstly, I hadn’t needed to comment on her post at all. I could have kept my big mouth shut. Why did I say anything? Why not just let it go?

Secondly, when you object to an article advocating compassion it looks like you are opposed to compassion. In other words, I appeared to be judgemental and nasty – exactly what the article was criticising. In my initial reply, I had said that I agreed with the need for compassion and understanding but that got lost because I was focusing on secondary aspects of the article. Because I wasn’t clear enough about that, it looked like I was disagreeing with the main point. Other people agreed with the main point and didn’t worry too much about the secondary points. I focused on the secondary points and it looked like I objected to all of it.

And I felt bad about it. I didn’t like being seen as an arrogant, judgemental jerk. I didn’t like feeling I have let people down. I didn’t like being offside with Kirsten. She and I have clashed before and I didn’t like thinking I had made it worse. I didn’t like the thought that I had given the impression that Christians are judgemental. People already think that and, if I had reinforced that, it was a very poor witness.

I tell you this because I think it is relevant to a baptism, in a number of ways.
Firstly, it felt good to be reconciled. It felt good to be forgiven. It required that I eat humble pie which I don’t always want to do but it was worth it. It felt good to know that my apology was received and appreciated.

That is just a small example of what it is like to be forgiven by God. We all do things that are anti-God. We deliberately defy God. We want to do things our way, not His way and we shut Him out of our lives because we don’t want Him interfering. But when we realise that and we acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness, it feels very good. We can fight God but we will never win. When we confess our rebelliousness, it feels good. It feels good to be forgiven. We no longer have to carry that burden of guilt. We are reconciled to Him. He adopts us as His children and we are no longer estranged from our Father. It does require humility; it does require acknowledging that we have been foolish but it feels good. It is worth celebrating. And, of course, it has eternal implications. It is about being reconciled to our Father for ever. It is about heaven (as opposed to hell.) The Bible tells us that even the angels have a party when one sinner is saved.

That is exactly what a baptism is all about. The good news of Jesus Christ is that we can be forgiven; we can be reconciled to God; we are accepted. The good news is that God is merciful and is willing to forgive even though we do not deserve it. We mess up and we rebel against God; we do not want to acknowledge Him or live His way. We turn our backs on God so that we can ignore Him and do our own thing. And God remains merciful and willing to forgive and to adopt us as His children. We treat Him badly and He continues to love us. When we put our faith in Jesus, believing that He died, paying the price for our sins, God forgives. God washes us clean – as is symbolised by the water of baptism. We are at peace with Him, reconciled. And that feels good.

Amy has experienced that forgiveness of God and her baptism symbolises her cleansing. A large part of the baptism is simply saying, “I am trusting Jesus who died for me.”
The second point relates to taking responsibility, not blaming others. God’s forgiveness depends on our acknowledging our sinfulness and our need of forgiveness. God is wonderfully merciful and very ready to forgive. We have only to ask and He promises to forgive. Jesus said He would never turn away anyone who came to Him. But it still depends on our being honest and humbling ourselves before Him. The person who blames others will not receive God’s forgiveness. Even when others have made it difficult for us, we need to be honest out our actions. It is not very PC to talk about sin but I asked Amy if she acknowledged that she had sinned against God and she said “Yes”.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

For me to receive Kirsten’s, and everyone else’s, forgiveness, I had to apologise.
Next time I read an article I disagree with, will I do the same again? I would have to be an idiot, wouldn’t I? It doesn’t make any sense at all to damage my relationships and be seen as judgemental and feed people’s prejudices about Christians. I am not saying I won’t speak up against things I think are wrong. I am absolutely sure I will do that again. But there are dumb ways to do that and there are better ways to do it. I want to learn from this experience and not just repeat my mistakes.

A baptism is not just a celebration of forgiveness for the past; it is the beginning of a new future. If we are confessing our natural rebellion against God, it makes no sense at all to continue rebelling against Him. That can only be seen as cynical and hypocritical. Repentance means a change of direction. If we have been walking away from God, baptism expresses our commitment to walk towards God. If we have been living our way, baptism expressed our commitment to live God’s way.

But, will I do it again? The problem is that I might – even though it makes no sense at all; despite my best intentions. I might because I am weak and I fail and I am stupid. Those buttons might get pushed again. And I am equally likely to sin against God again as well, except…

Linked to baptism is receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to say “No” to sin and the Holy Spirit, over time, transforms our hearts. We become different people; better people.

And – something more – the Bible says that when we are baptised, we die to our old life and we rise to new life. In the old life, we were powerless over sin. In fact, the Bible says that we are slaves to sin. But, in the new life, sin has no power over us. We have the power to say “No” to sin. Praise God!

God is merciful – always ready to forgive. What is our response to mercy?1. Celebration – the joy of forgiveness2. Humility – acknowledging our need of forgiveness3. Repentance – choosing to live God’s way4. Seek help. Be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I want to read Ps 32. As I do, look for those four things. Some are more obvious than others.

READ Ps 32:1-11.
Are they words that you can personally echo? Has there been that time when you have acknowledged your sin and, as a result, known the blessing of forgiveness? Have you known what it is for God’s hand to be heavy on you? Have you known that things are not right but come to that point of acknowledging your sin and discovering the blessing of forgiveness? Has your response been to pray and have you heard God say, “I will guide you and teach you. Do not resist me. Do not be stubborn. My unfailing love surrounds those who trust in me”?

Or, do you need to, or need to again, confess your sins to the Lord? If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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10.6.18 – The Holy Spirit: God’s Power Through Us – Peter Cheyne

Francis Chan video.

Many times, in scripture, we are told that someone full of the Holy Spirit, acted. In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and Peter stood up and preached. In Acts 4 when Peter and John were interrogated by the religious leaders, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke, challenging and amazing them.

What do you think it means to be full of the Holy Spirit? Do you experience it?

Today we will talk about God’s power working through us to impact other people.

Acts 1:8               You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. You will receive power enabling you to bear witness to me in all the world.

Let us imagine a conversation between you and God.

God     I want you to do something impossible.

Let’s have some suggestions of what that might be. It doesn’t have to be actually impossible but just impossible for you, in your view.

You     That’s impossible.

God     I am the God of the impossible.

You     But I am only a human being.

God     I will be with you – or, in you. I will fill you.

What are you going to say next?

Some possibilities

  1. Oh OK, then. All is well.
  2. Can I trust You? How can I know that you will be with me?
  3. Even if I believe that You are with me, how can I know You will do anything?
  4. I appreciated that but I simply cannot do it.

This is not an unusual conversation.

When Moses was commanded to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt he had a string of excuses. God’s first response was, “I will be with you.”

READ Exodus 33:12-16

“Presence” is given an upper case P. God’s presence is person. I think we can say that God’s Presence is the Holy Spirit. So Moses was saying, “If You don’t go with us; if your Holy Spirit does not go with us, we do not want to go. It is only the Holy Spirit who distinguishes us from all the other peoples of the earth.”

Think about that as Christians. The only thing that distinguishes us from other people is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

When Joshua was commanded by God to take over from Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, God said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)

There are many examples in the Bible of God promising “I will be with you”. In fact, it would be an interesting Bible study to see how many of the main characters in the Bible were told, one way or another, that God would be with them. Does anyone want to do some study?

There are at least five instances of the Great Commission in the New Testament, where we are given our mission. Everyone one of them includes the promise of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit come son you and you will be my witnesses.

Matthew: And, surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark: And these signs will accompany those who believe: driving our demons, speaking in tongues, protection from snakes and poison, healing the sick.

Luke: stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. “Do not try to go out on this mission without the Holy Spirit.”

John: He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

There are many examples of people doing “impossible” things because they were filled with the Spirit. The other side of that is that Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5).

Moses imagined God being reluctant. “If you don’t go with us…” but God is not reluctant. He said, “I will be with you.” He constantly says, “I will be with you.” The Holy Spirit is God with us.

God is not reluctant but sometimes we are.

Let’s come back to that conversation with God. It is not an unusual conversation. I suspect it happens thousands of times every day. I suspect every day, God asks us to do something that is beyond our ability and we have a version of that conversation. How does it finish?

How would you like it to finish? Christians should never say “I am only human”. We are humans in whom God lives and that is a very different thing. How can this be true of us?

READ John 15:1-11

Remain in Jesus and He will remain in us and the result will be much fruit. Live in Jesus. Walk with Him; talk with Him. It is not an occasional thought about Jesus but constantly living in Him. When we do that, we will know His presence and we will see the fruit. Are you living your whole life in Jesus and experiencing the supernatural power of Jesus?

On your sheet of paper, do you want to continue that conversation? Why not have a conversation with God about that? Write a prayer or a conversation and listen for what God might say.

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3.6.18 – God’s Power In You – Peter Cheyne

John Ortberg tells of a man in a church he once pastored who, for the purposes of the story, he calls Denny.

Denny was not a happy man. He had attended church his whole life but he had never been happy; not just about church but about life in general. Even the expression on his face was perpetually negative, so much so that one day a deacon asked him, “Denny, are you happy?”

Denny answered, “Yeah.”

The deacon deadpanned, “Then tell your face!”

John attempted to introduce some contemporary music into the church’s services. Nothing radical or outlandish, just a small step towards the twentieth century. Denny did not like contemporary music. He began to voice his concerns by saying that the music was too loud. John tried to explain to him that they were surrounded by people who did not know God and who had never met Christ. Yet, year after year these people drove past the church. John went on to say that, even worse, many of the people in the church weren’t surprised that people kept driving by. They were not even bothered by it. John explained that as Christians they were called to enter into the world of these people, both their cultural world and their intellectual world, and to remove every barrier between them and God except the scandal of the cross. “And that,” John finished, “is why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Denny looked at him and said, “The music is too loud.”

Denny then began talking to other staff members, the ushers, even strangers in the foyer, saying “Don’t you think the music is too loud?” The leaders of the church addressed the issue. They thought it was settled until a few weeks later when a man came to the church’s office, flashed his badge, and announced that he was an agent from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Someone had filed a complaint about the decibel levels at the church’s services, and he was under orders to investigate. Who filed the complaint? You guessed it. It was Denny. John and the rest of his staff could only laugh. The agent joined them, saying “Can you imagine the abuse I’ve been getting, coming out to bust a church!”

John’s observation on the entire affair is telling. “Denny is not changing. He is a cranky guy. He has been cranky his whole life. Not just about the church—he does not effectively know how to love his wife, his children cannot relate to him, and he has no joy. He’s been going to church his whole life –sixty years. And nobody is surprised. Nobody in the church is surprised that he stays cranky year after year. No one is particularly bothered by it. It is as if we expect it – that’s just Denny. Nobody is expecting him to be more like Jesus year after year.” (from Re-thinking the Church by James Emery White.)

Now I want to read a Bible passage and then I want you to tell me what you think. READ Galatians 5:13-26.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

What do you think?

Does Denny’s demeanour demonstrate that he is walking in the Spirit? Absolutely not! The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace etc. “Fruit” means “results”. The result of walking with the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If he had been in the church for 60 years and had been walking with the Spirit for even part of that time, the Holy Spirit would have made changes.

Let’s take it a step further: Does his demeanour demonstrate that he is a Christian? I know that only God can see the heart. I understand that. But if you had to come to a conclusion on the basis of his character, would you conclude that he was a Christian? Jesus did say, “By their fruit you will know them.”

I would say “No” – running the risk of that not being politically correct and some people being offended. Why would I say that? Look at v.24. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Had Denny crucified his passions and desires. No, for Denny it was all about Denny. He wanted the music to suit him. He wasn’t concerned about the effectiveness of the church’s mission. He wasn’t concerned about the eternal destiny of the people in the community. He was concerned about himself. But followers of Jesus are required to die to themselves. Jesus said we cannot be followers without dying to ourselves.

John Ortberg reflected that people in the church excused Denny, saying “That’s just Denny” instead of expecting him to be more like Jesus year after year.

I do not know Denny. I cannot see his heart. But, should the people in his church, when they see his behaviour, be concerned about his salvation? Should they have been making an assessment and have been concerned about his eternal destiny. Should some people have talked to him? We shy away from questions like this. And, as a result, people in our church can die not knowing Jesus.

Denny’s actions fit with the description of the works of the sinful nature: discord, jealousy, selfish ambition, dissension, factions. The passage says, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not enter the Kingdom of God.” What does that say about Denny? What does it say about the responsibilities of the people in his church?

But even if he was a Christian, should the people in his church have expected him to be more like Jesus year after year? Do we expect to see transformation? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Transformation is what the Bible is about. God is able to change people in miraculous ways and there are dozens of examples. We have been talking about the Holy Spirit as God with us. And He is a God of power. Last week, we talked about all of the power God makes available for us. Today, we are talking about the power of God in us – the power of God working in us, transforming us.

Think of Joseph in the Old Testament. At 17 years of age, he was a spoilt brat. It is no wonder his 11 brothers got fed up and hated him (although that does not excuse their actions). Joseph was his father’s favourite, as demonstrated by the gift of the coat of many colours. He told tales on his brothers, to his doting father. He told them all that they were going to bow down to him one day. Joseph had had dreams about that – presumably dreams from God – but he did not have the sense to keep his mouth shut. He could have held onto what God had revealed without annoyingly rubbing their noses in it. Was he blind to the family dynamics? Was he totally self-absorbed? He was immature and arrogant.

But he became a man who walked closely with God, who resisted selfish temptations, who showed wisdom and compassion in delivering many nations from famine, and who was big enough to forgive his brothers for trying to kill him and for selling him into slavery, and who was reconciled to them and, in fact, saved their lives. They had tried to take is life; he responded by saving theirs. He overcame evil with good. God shaped him and moulded him and created a godly man.

Who else can you think of who was radically transformed by the power of God – who started with major flaws but who became a truly admirable man or woman of God?

Galatians 6 contrasts walking by the Spirit, or being led by the Spirit, or living by the Spirit or keeping in step with the Spirit, with gratifying the desires of the sinful nature. In fact, Paul says that the two are in conflict with one another. And we have to choose which will be true of us – being led by the Spirit or gratifying the desires of our sinful nature.

Walking in the Spirit can perhaps be summed up in two things:

  • Listening to Him
  • Saying “yes”.

As we listen and as we obey, we will be transformed. There are many ways that can happen. Can I suggest three?

  1. Reading, and reflecting on, the Bible

The Holy Spirit will speak primarily through the Bible – not only through the Bible; we need to be sensitive to His voice speaking directly to us as well, but primarily through the Bible. God has given us the Bible as the primary means of transformation.

When Jesus prayed for the disciples, at the Last Supper, in John 17:17, He prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Sanctify them mean “make them holy; transform them.” But note that it is “by the truth; by the word of God”. As we read God’s word, the Holy Spirit is our teacher. Our thinking changes as we increasingly have the mind of Christ. And so we become different people. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

  1. Obedience

Joseph could have remained self-centred. He had been treated badly. He could have resented that and turned inwards feeling sorry for himself and decided that, from now on, he would look after Number One and hurt other people. But, it seems he made a different choice. It seems he submitted himself to God. We are repeatedly told that God was with him. His submission to God meant he chose to do what was right, not what was selfish. And it seems he chose to serve. He served Potiphar very faithfully. It was about Potiphar; it wasn’t about Joseph. He served very faithfully in the prison despite again being let down by others. Which brings us to the third way transformation happens.

  1. Suffering and failure

Some of the greatest lessons are learned as we struggle with big life issues. The Holy Spirit can use those to change us at our very core. Where did Joseph do his growing? In servitude and in prison – probably struggling with all sorts of questions such as:

  • Why me?
  • What about that dream of my family bowing down to me? Was that a lie? Has God failed me?
  • Should I continue to trust Him? Why would I trust God?
  • What does it mean to trust Him?

And when he came face-to-face with his brothers again after they had wanted to kill him and had sold him into slavery:

  • They are in my hands. Do I take revenge or do I forgive?

Those are the times the Holy Spirit can change us.

Hebrews 12:10b-11    God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Do you see anything in yourself that you do not like but have been unable to change? The fruit of the Spirit describe Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That is what the Holy Spirit can do is us. We can be Christ-like. But we have to choose which way we will go. Instead of fulfilling the desires of our sinful nature (and we know the power of those desires) walk in the Spirit. Be led by the Spirit every day. Listen to what He is saying and say “yes”.

And you will find that the power of the Holy Spirit is changing you.

2 Cor 4:16           Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

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27.5.18 – God’s Power For You – Peter Cheyne

As I understand it, when a baby is born these days it comes with a free smartphone. What is more, it is born knowing how to use it! For those of us who are older, is it not incredible that we can carry a computer around in our pockets? Whenever I want to, I can pull my phone out of my pocket. If I want to know how to get somewhere, I ask my phone. If I need some information, I google it on my phone. If I want to communicate with someone, I can choose between making a phone call, sending a text, writing on Facebook, Snapchatting, whatever. If I want to listen to music, it is all on my phone. Actually, probably it is in a cloud somewhere. If I want to take a photo or watch a video or read a book, it is all on my phone. If I want to read the Japanese writing on our car dashboard, my phone will translate it. If I want to organise my week or make notes for a sermon, I use my phone. My Bible is on my phone.

In some ways, the Holy Spirit is like that. In the same way that I have all these resources in my pocket, I have the power of God immediately available. The Holy Spirit is God with us and God has power. If we think our phones are amazing, God is infinitely more powerful.

READ Ephesians 1:13-23.

In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul tells the Ephesian church what he always prays for them. Part of it is that they might know God’s incomparably great power for us who believe.

God’s power is incomparably great. There is nothing that can be compared to it. A smartphone does not even feature compared to the power of God. Think of the power of Mt Kalauea or the power of the sun. They are nothing compared with the power of God.

In fact, Paul tells us how great God’s power is. It is the same as the strength He exerted when He raised Jesus from the dead. This is death-defeating, Satan-defeating, history-changing, life-changing, eternity-changing, cosmic power.

And, mind-blowingly, Paul says the power raised Jesus from the dead is available for us. God is on your side and makes Himself available to you.

And we an experience it. Note that Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would know this power. Now, that suggests it is possible to be saved but not experience the power of God in our daily lives. Maybe we can identify. Do we know this power of God? Paul’s prayer is that we will.

There is a condition. This power is for those who believe – for those who have been born again.

Last week, we looked at some of the teaching Jesus gave the disciples about the Holy Spirit, during the Last Supper. Several times, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as an advocate. An advocate is someone who will argue your case, who will defend you, who will fight for you. If you were on trial, in a court of law, you would have an advocate arguing for you. In life, the Holy Spirit is your advocate. He is on your side. He will go into battle for you. He loves you and He will fight for you.

I tend to read from the New International Version of the Bible which, in John 14, 15 and 16, uses that word “advocate”. But other translations might use “helper” or “comforter” or “counsellor”. There is a variety of translations because they are trying to find a suitable term for the Greek word “parakletos”. Some translations just give up and say “Paraklete”. Parakletos means “someone called alongside”. So “Advocate” is a good attempt. An advocate is someone you call to stand at your side and support you or defend you. “Helper” is also a good translation. A helper is someone who comes alongside. “Comforter” also makes sense: the person whose presence gives you peace and strength. “Counsellor”, sure! The one alongside who advises and guides.

All of the different attempted translations shine light on a different facet of the Holy Spirit’s role. He will defend you, help you, comfort you, guide you, teach you, etc.

2 Tim 4:16-18     16 At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul had literally been on trial, in Rome. None of the Christians (God bless them) supported him. They disappeared when he needed them most – just like the disciples when Jesus was arrested. But the Lord stood at his side and strengthened him. This is exactly the role of the Holy Spirit. He will stand by our side whatever our need. Not only was Paul strengthened but we see the power of God at work in that the trial became an opportunity for the gospel. The gospel was fully proclaimed. Paul had the opportunity to speak and the Holy Spirit empowered him to speak with power so that all the Gentiles might hear it. Quite possibly many people in the city were talking about this trial and Paul’s proclamation of the gospel was spreading as people reported what he was saying. That is the power of God because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that courtroom.

Furthermore, by the power of God, Paul was delivered. And he had confidence that God would always rescue him. That didn’t mean that he would never suffer. If anyone knew about persecution and suffering, it was Paul. He was on trial for his faith. But he knew that God would ultimately rescue him even if that meant – as it ultimately would – that he would be brought safely into God’s Kingdom.

It is almost as if the Holy Spirit is our personal butler. He is called our helper. If we need something done or we need some help, we just have to ask. We snap our finger and he is there to help. He is as close as our phones and under our control. Obviously that is not true. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit will never do anything contrary to the character or will of God. He is not obligated to do what we want. On the contrary, we are to do what He wants. Nevertheless, He is a huge resource for our help. He is God and He loves us and is there to help us.

In Acts 8, Simon the Sorcerer, wanted to pay money to have the power to pray for people so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Peter utterly rejected that, condemning Simon and saying that his heart was not right before God, he needed to repent and pray hoping that God would forgive him. God was giving the gift of His Spirit to new believers. Clearly God wanted His people to have the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit is not something that can be bought and sold or just used by people. The Holy Spirit is God, with all the power of God, available to every Christian but He is God and we are not.

Acts 16 describes how Paul and his team wanted to go to certain places to preach but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. Then, one night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking them to come to his region. The Holy Spirit was Paul’s Helper, guiding and leading; opening and shutting doors but He remained the boss. He wasn’t being restrictive by stopping them go where they had thought. It was part of leading them into the much better plan.

But fancy having someone in your life who will lead and guide like that. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t God good? The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing.

Some of the titles given to the Holy Spirit in scripture reveal ways that He helps. We have already mentioned advocate, helper, comforter, counsellor.

  • The Teacher (). If you need to understand God’s ways better, the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
  • The Spirit of truth who will guide you into all truth (). If you need discernment to know what is true and what is not, the Holy Spirit is your guide.
  • A deposit. What? In Ephesians 1:14 (as well as 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5) the Holy Spirit is called “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”. We have a part-payment. We do not yet experience the Kingdom of God in its fullness but we do have a first payment. God has given us the Holy Spirit now, as a guarantee of what is still to come. If you ever doubt your salvation, if you know that you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you can say, “This is God’s gift that tells me the rest is guaranteed. God has put His seal on me. I belong to Him.”

Ephesians 1:13b-14    13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

  • In a similar vein, Romans 8 calls the Holy Spirit “the first fruits”. We do not have the whole harvest yet but we do have the first fruits.
  • In fact, Romans 8 says a whole lot of things about the Holy Spirit
    • The Holy Spirit gives us new life (vv.2, 11)
    • The Holy Spirit set us free (v.2)
    • The Holy Spirit enables us to not sin (v.13).
    • The Holy Spirit leads us (v.14)
    • It was the Holy Spirit who made us God’s children and He testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children. Am I really God’s child? Have I really been saved? The Holy Spirit whispers to my spirit that it is true. He gives me reassurance.
    • Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Specifically, it says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray. That is pretty cool, isn’t it? Our prayers dry up but the Holy Spirit is still praying for us. And when He prays, He prays in accordance with the will of God.
  • Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit giving us words to speak when we need them.

There is just a long list of ways the Holy Spirit is there for us. He brings the incomparably great power of God that is for us. The unlimited resources of God are available for us. Everything there is for us.

It might be tiny things. There have been times when I have forgotten someone’s name and I have prayed and the Holy Spirit has brought it to mind, and times when I have lost things and the Holy Spirit has led me to them. There have been times when I have had to speak and I have felt under-prepared or inadequate but the Holy Spirit has given me the right words – or has taken my inadequate words and used them nevertheless.

But, are they just occasional experiences or regular? What about for you? Paul prayed that the eyes of the hearts of the Ephesians would be opened and they would know God’s incomparably great power for us who believe. Do we need our eyes to be opened to the incomparably great power of God?

We need God to open our eyes until we fully understand this reality and we know that the Holy Spirit is there for us with incomparably great power available for us. We need to know that it is true but then we need to also walk in it – live this way. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us or guide us or reassure us or whatever it is we need. Every day; every situation we go into; every relationship; every task, Holy Spirit help me. Holy Spirit give me the right words. Holy Spirit give me the strength to resist temptation. Holy Spirit give me wisdom for this decision. What is the right way to go?

For example, how did Paul know that the Holy Spirit was not letting him enter certain regions? Was he physically stopped at the border as if there was a glass wall there? Did the guards at the border post refuse him entry? Maybe but might it have been that he just sensed this wasn’t right because he had become accustomed to listening to the Holy Spirit – because he walked in the Spirit.

Peter and John had possibly walked past the lame man at the Temple hundreds of times before. How did they know that on a particular day, God intended to heal that man? I suspect the Holy Spirit told them. Can I encourage you to deepen your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Paul talks about walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16); living in relationship with the Spirit, so that you are led by Him and you hear His voice and you naturally call him alongside because you need His help? May it be as natural to call on the Spirit for help as it is to pull out your phone for help. And may it be a thousand times more significant. Over the next two Sundays we are going to talk about God’s power in us and God’s power through us but today it is God’s power for you. God has immense resources available for you – to help you. Walk in it.

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