5.8.18 – I Do Not Want To Sin (Or Do I?) – Peter Cheyne

Late last year, Pope Francis called for a new English translation of the last line of the Lord’s Prayer. Instead of “lead us not into temptation”, he suggested “Do not let us fall into temptation”. His point was that it is not God who leads us into temptation but the devil. Is he right?

Why do we ask God not to lead us into temptation? Would God do that?

James 1:13          13 When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

God does not tempt anyone. James goes on to say…

James 1:14-15     14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James’ point is that we cannot blame someone else (specifically, God) for our moral failures. God doesn’t tempt people. God does not try to make people fail. If we fail it is because of our own evil desires. Don’t try to shift the blame. We cannot say, “God made me do it” or even that God tempted me to do it.

And yet Matthew tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (4:1). So, does God lead people into temptation? What do you mean when you pray this prayer?

First, let us note that temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted. All of us are tempted. Being tempted is not a sin. It is giving into the temptation that is the problem.

We face temptations every day. Life is full of choices and we are constantly challenged to choose what is right over what looks appealing. We might often be troubled by temptations. We might have thoughts that disturb us – maybe disgusting thoughts or violent thoughts or selfish or unkind thoughts. We might feel disgusted that we could even think those things.

Having those thoughts is not the problem. Jesus had selfish thoughts. He was tempted to use His power for physical pleasure. He was tempted to do something spectacular so that people would be amazed and would follow Him (without His having to go to the Cross). Even Jesus was tempted to worship Satan. How could the Son of God have such a terrible thought?

But the point is that, to all of those temptations, Jesus said “No”.

Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are. Jesus experienced the complete range of temptations. That means that many terrible thoughts entered His head. Yet, He did not sin. That is the point, isn’t it? Tempted, yet He did not sin. And the same is possible for us. We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so as to receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. In that time when we are tempted – when those thoughts are in our heads – we can go to God for divine help – the grace of God – divine help so as not to sin. Tempted but not sinning – by the grace of God.

I read an article that suggested that there is a process of temptation.

  1. An evil thought
  2. Consideration of that thought – now we are dialoguing with the devil
  3. Enjoying that thought – and the possibility of sinning. We begin to persuade ourselves that sinning would not really hurt.
  4. The consent of the will. We decide to do it.

When Eve was tempted, first there was the thought: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Maybe I could eat it.

Then there was consideration of the thought. Maybe God is being selfish. He doesn’t want us to have our eyes opened and, like Him, to know good and evil.

Then there was the desire. Eve saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom.

Then there was the action. She took some and ate it.

The original thought was just a thought. It was not a sin. She could have dismissed it and, actually, that would have been a victory. Yes, it was a little test but she would have passed that test and had even greater confidence in her ability to resist temptation. “Each victory will help you, some other to win.” The thought was not a sin but the final act was. She fell into sin because thinking about it and delighting in it are a slippery slope. If we entertain the thought and start to persuade ourselves, there is a big chance we are going to do what we ought not to do.

And James, in the passage I quoted earlier talks about how temptation leads to desire which leads to sin (which leads to death.) It is not exactly the same but it is the same idea.

Most of us probably know what a slippery slope it can be once the thought generates interest and then desire. Jesus, when He was tempted, had the sinful thought but let it go no further. He reminded Himself (and Satan) of what was right. “But God says…”

So temptation is not sin. Does that help us understand this prayer?

Some people explain it by altering the words a little bit. Maybe it means, “Do not let allow me to be tempted.” In that way God is not actively leading us into temptation. The temptation is seen as coming from somewhere else but God is being asked to protect us from it. But that is not what the passage says.

The word translated “temptation” can also mean “testing” so maybe it means “Do not lead us into times of testing. Protect me from trials.” The problems is that life is full of tests and God often does test us. The other day, I was reading John’s account of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus asked Philip, “Where shall we buy food for these people to eat?” But then the passage says, “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Testing is good. It is only by being tested that we know if we are growing or not. We become stronger as we pass tests. 1 Peter 1:7 says that testing proves the reality of our faith. God is never going to protect us from all trials so why would Jesus tell us to pray that?

Satan tempts us, wanting us to fail. God tests us, wanting us to succeed.

Some people put the emphasis on the word “into”. We might be tempted but please do not let us fall into temptation. Please help us not to sin. But, again, that is not what it says. I am sure Jesus knows the difference between temptation and sin. Why would He teach us to pray that God not lead us into temptation if He meant we pray that God help us not to sin?

So, what are we to make of this? Well, it is tricky. It is not straight forward and people have puzzled over it. Here is a possibility.

The prayer reflects our awareness of our own weakness. We know about that slippery slope. When we are tempted, there is a chance that we will sin. We know that. I know that, when I am tempted, I am sometimes able to resist that temptation but other times I do actually sin. I don’t trust myself. I know how weak I am. Therefore, knowing the danger of tempting situations, I fear them and so we pray “Lord, please don’t put me in those situations. I know sinning is the problem but please keep me away from even the possibility of sin.” In other words, the pray reflects a desire for a buffer between me a sin. “Keep me a long way from sin. Don’t even put me at the top of that slippery slope.”

Whichever explanation is correct, one thing is clear. The basic thought is “I do not want to sin.” One of the top five prayer topics is for God’s help to not sin. The previous request was for forgiveness when we do sin but this one says, “I do not want to sin.”

I do not want to sin but I know I am weak. Father, I need your help – your grace, your strength.

If we were choosing one word to summarise this line of the prayer, I think it should be “holiness”.

Holiness is almost a lost concept and yet it is so biblical. It has an old world ring to it or reminds us of the phrase “holier-than-thou” and seems a bit goody-goody’ish. It reminds us of stained glass window saints. Can people in 21st century Mornington be holy?

1 Peter 1:14-16   14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’

Holiness sounds otherworldly but its basic meaning is to be set apart – set apart for God. A place or an item might be holy simply because it has been dedicated to God. It is not like every other normal place; it is dedicated to God. And holy people are set apart for God; dedicated to God.

Biblically, we are called to be holy; we are called to be 100% dedicated to God. Many so-called Christians are very casual, part-time Christians. They are Christians when it suits them but other times you wouldn’t know. Their lives are not terribly different from other people’s. They avoid murder and adultery but they gossip and are greedy and self-centred. But Jesus teaches us, as one of the top five concerns, to pray, “I do not want to sin, but I know I am weak. Father, I need your help.”

As Peter said, it is about being obedient children and not conforming to our natural evil desires. It is about dying to ourselves and being holy in all that we do. All that we do – every area of our lives dedicated 100% to God. Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

Is that a regular prayer of yours? Do you dedicate yourself to God and turn your back on the things of the world every day? If so, then pray for that divine grace to be holy. “Lord, lead me not into temptation.” The Lord’s Prayer is for those who want to be holy – who want to not sin and so pray for help to not sin – to not even get close to sin; not even be led into temptation. But, if we are in love with the things of the world, we are already leading ourselves into temptation.

The Lord’s Prayer is very, very simple but also very, very profound. When asked to teach the disciples to pray, Jesus identified just 5 prayer topics. We can use those five topics as a framework for our own prayers. I have given you the piece of paper with a pattern for prayer. You could use that as a framework for your own prayers and it will prompt you to pray about the things Jesus said to pray about. It doesn’t cover every possibility. God might prompt other thoughts. When praying “lead us not into temptation” we might focus on the “us” and pray for each other, that we will be dedicated followers of Jesus. We might pray for family or friends who are making bad decisions. We might pray for those who promote alcohol or pornography and tempt people to do what is wrong. There are many possibilities but those five lines of the Lord’s Prayer can be the framework that reminds us to pray for the things Jesus said are important: worship, lordship (or obedience), faith, compassion, relationships, and holiness.

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22.7.18 – Praying For Reconciliation – Peter Cheyne

I think the Bible is absolutely amazing! The more we study it, the more we see how perfectly God has inspired it. We can see that in the Lord’s Prayer. And I think Jesus is absolutely amazing! His wisdom blew people away – and still blows people away. When He was asked by one of the disciples, to teach them to pray, Jesus listed five prayer topics. I think He knew, without having to think about it, very clearly what our main prayer foci need to be – in fact, what is core to Christian living.

Let’s have a look at that and you can see if you agree with me or not.

We started with “Hallowed be your name”. That is about God’s honour or God’s glory and if we were to sum it up in one word, that word might be “worship”. May all creation worship You.

The next petition is: Your Kingdom come. Annie-Kate talked about God reigning and transforming society as He establishes His Kingdom. Where God is king, our lives get turned up the right way again. One word for that? There could be several but I wonder if that is primarily about “lordship” – God being allowed to rule in our lives and in society.

Then we talked about “Give us each day our daily bread”. Jesus invites us to bring our daily needs to our generous heavenly Father. Maybe the key word there is “trust”. We can trust God for our ordinary, daily needs whatever they are. But, as Annie-Kate reminded us, Jesus taught us to pray not just for ourselves but for us: Give us each day our daily bread. We pray, and we act, for other people’s needs to be met as well. We care about other people. Maybe the key word there is “compassion”.

Look at those words: worship, lordship, trust and compassion. Are they not core concepts for Christians? Are they not big biblical themes? And Jesus says, “Pray about these things. Focus on these priorities.”

So, what about the remainder of the prayer? The remaining two petitions are both about sin. Two out of five, 40%, of the prayer is about sin. “Forgive us our sins” is about past sins that need to be forgiven. “Lead us not into temptation” is about future sins that we don’t want to commit. Is sin so important that it should occupy 40% of our prayer?

I’m going to try to not use the word “sin” because people say it is not helpful. They are not suggesting that we abandon the concept of sin but just express it differently. So I will talk about “not obeying God”. Is that OK?

Forgive us for not obeying you, for we also forgive everyone who has treated us in ways that are not Your will. One line in this prayer is about having not obeyed God and the next is about wanting to obey Him.

Why would Jesus suggest that 40% of our prayer should be about obeying, or disobeying, God? Isn’t that negative?

Jesus knows what the priorities should be and He says that 40% should be about our obeying, or not obeying, God. Today let’s focus on the just first of those two petitions: forgive us for not obeying You.

This is in Jesus’ top five because sin damages relationships and relationships are important to God. In the Lord’ Prayer, Jesus, quite specifically, identifies two dimensions of relationship: our relationship with God Himself – and so we seek God’s forgiveness – and our relationships with one another – in which we are to extend forgiveness. Sin damages relationships; forgiveness allows reconciliation. And the prayer is for reconciliation.

Do you remember the story of Jacob and Esau? They were brothers; twins in fact. But their relationship was not good and it is not surprising really because sin had divided them. Even in the womb they “jostled” (Gen 25:22). Their mother, Rebekah, asked God what was going on. God replied that two nations – two peoples – were in her womb and they would be separated, with the older serving the younger. That was the beginning of the whole Jewish/Arab split which continues 4000 years later.

Esau was born first but Jacob was born holding onto Esau’s heel. The name “Jacob” means “he grasps the heel” but it became a phrase in Hebrew for a deceiver or a liar or a cheat. My middle name is James which is an Anglicised version of Jacob. I have a grandson whose name is Jacob. So, our names mean “liar” – which I am not all that happy about!

You will remember that Jacob, the younger brother, asked Esau to swear an oath selling him his birthright. Esau didn’t have to do that. He was foolish. But Jacob was obviously self-centred and conniving.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jacob later pretended to be Esau so that his blind father would give him the blessing that rightly belonged to Esau. He repeatedly lied, saying that he was Esau and he took what was not his.

When Esau found out, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry. He clearly felt deeply aggrieved. Understandably.

Genesis 27:41     Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Consequently, Jacob fled to another land to live with his mother’s brother, Laban. There he fell in love with Rachel and he worked for seven years for Laban in order to marry Rachel. But Laban deceitfully gave him Rachel’s sister, Leah, to be his wife instead. Then Jacob had to work for another seven years in order to marry Rachel as well. It is all complicated and again people did not obey God. Laban cheated Jacob financially. When Leah had children but Rachel could not conceive, she became jealous. Then she gave Jacob her servant, Bilhah, to be yet another wife. Bilhah had children so then Rachel gloated that she had defeated her sister. So then Leah gave Jacob her servant, Zilpah, as yet another wife and she started having children as well. Then Leah gloated about how happy she was. Then she expressed her jealousy that Rachel had taken her husband. There was ungodliness all over the place and broken relationships all over the place. It was a proper mess.

Then Jacob wanted to return to his homeland. But Laban didn’t want him to because Laban had been blessed because of Jacob’s presence. They came to an agreement that Jacob would take all the sheep or goats that were speckled but Laban then took all of those ones so that there were none for Jacob. But then Jacob came up with a plan whereby he would become rich and Laban wouldn’t. Then Laban’s sons got angry because Jacob had effectively inherited all of their father’s wealth. And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him had changed. Not obeying God destroys relationships. Then we find out that Laban had cheated Jacob out of his wages by changing them ten times. And that Laban had disowned his daughters. Then Jacob gathered up all his family and possessions and ran away without telling Laban. And Rachel stole her father’s household gods. What a mess of dishonesty and selfishness and broken relationships. Laban chased after Jacob but God warned him not to harm him and so they came to an agreement that they would no longer harm each other. There was some semblance of reconciliation and they parted on good terms.

But, remember Esau, Jacob’s brother who was determined to kill him? And now Jacob is returning home. READ Genesis 32:3-16.

You can feel the tension. Jacob was scared. He sent a message ahead wanting to find favour in Esau’s eyes. But when the messengers returned they simply reported that Esau was on his way with 400 men. Jacob was terrified. He divided up his family and his flocks into two groups so that, if one was attacked, at least the other might be saved. He prayed. He confessed his unworthiness of all the goodness God had shown. He prayed that God would save him and reminded God of His previous promise. He then prepared a huge gift for Esau and sent it to him. But he still did not know what Esau’s attitude would be.

READ Genesis 33:1-4

Reconciliation! Instead of threats and fear, there was weeping, hugging and kissing! It is a dramatic example but it illustrates how not obeying God destroys relationships. People can be divided and fearful, or angry, for many years – maybe until they die. Jacob and Esau had been estranged for 20 years. I am sure we can understand Jacob’s fear coming home. We experience people’s hostility. Relationships are broken and there is tension – or at best uncertainty – certainly not warmth and joy in each other’s company.

But disobedience also damages our relationship with God. Even as Christians, and this prayer was taught to Christians. This is not a salvation prayer. This is a daily prayer for Christians. When we do not obey God, we become estranged. There is not intimacy and joy. Instead that relationship becomes distant and formal and awkward. We know we cannot come freely into God’s presence and talk with Him as if to our Father. We know we are out-of-sorts. We know we have done wrong. We know the relationship is damaged and we cannot pretend that it is alright. Well, we might pretend to other people but we know, deep inside, that it is not right and that we are not close to God.

God says, “I don’t want that. I do not want this estrangement. I want to love you as my child. I want us to be close.” And we can be. God is ready to forgive, just as Esau was. But are we ready to humble ourselves and seek that reconciliation, like Jacob did? Jacob’s confession was in the appeal that he might find favour in Esau’s eyes.  He was humble, referring to Esau as “my lord” and to himself as Esau’s servant. He committed it to prayer and paid a personal price in giving gifts. Most importantly, he was willing to face Esau again, despite the fear and uncertainty. Do we know what that is like – approaching God when we have done wrong? Jesus says, “Do it! This is a top five thing. Pray that prayer. Ask for God’s forgiveness.” Keep a very short account with God. Do not allow a build-up of unforgiven disobediences. If there is something there, deal with it. God is full of mercy. The reconciliation is possible. Reconciliation with God is to be one of the top five items for prayer. Are you and God close?

But, again, the prayer is not just about my relationship with God. Jesus instructs us to be concerned about other people’s relationships with God as well. We are to pray that other people will be forgiven, just as Jesus did when He prayed that those executing Him would be forgiven. Are you praying about other people’s salvation and other people’s intimacy with God?

Our relationship with God. Keep it intimate. But also our relationships with one another. We who have received mercy are also to extend mercy. We are to be like God and that includes being merciful. Again, God says, “I don’t want you being estranged from other people. I am a God of reconciliation. I want relationships mended. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t carry unforgiveness. Maybe someone has hurt you. Maybe someone was thoughtless or tactless. Maybe they did take what wasn’t theirs. Maybe it was very serious. Maybe it did destroy the relationship. But I am a God of reconciliation. I want to see that relationship healed. That can happen only if you are willing to forgive.”

By praying the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying, “Lord, I want to be close to you. I confess all of those things that I have put between us. Please take them away so that our relationship might be unhindered. And Lord, I am serious about my relationships with other. I have hurt You but you have forgiven me. I chose to forgive those who have hurt me too.” There can be other Jacob and Esau reconciliation moments.

This line of the Lord’s Prayer is about our relationship and our relationships – our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Jesus here hits on another core theme of Christian discipleship. Think how much of the Bible is about relationships. The two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your being, and love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus wants us praying about those two relationships. Use His model prayer as a template for your prayers. Pray about the topics of worship and lordship and trust and compassion and your relationship with God and your relationships with other.

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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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