Unity (28 September 2014)

Click image for Sunday's service sheetPablo Mandresa (from Hope Fellowship North Belfast) preached to us on the topic of ‘unity’ from John 17.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” (John 17:21–26, NLT)

Developing a servant heart (21 September 2014)

Developing a servant heart

Bob Dylan once wrote these lines in one of his lesser known songs:

You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetWe all serve someone or something. We often serve ourselves. Or we may serve some idol such as ambition, relationships, money, peer opinion, etc.

“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7–10, NLT)

Overall, the Bible teaches that being a servant includes:

  • Action, doing – it is not a philosophical concept, but a role to be lived out
  • Obedience to the master, not disobedience
  • Trust and dependence on the master, not self-reliance
  • Submission to the will of the master, not doing our own thing or rebellion/disobedience

Those who have trusted in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation are not just free from God’s judgment – free to do as they like. They are freed from sin in order to do good, to live righteous lives, to be holy.

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:5, NIV-84)

“Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” (Romans 6:15–18, NLT)

Followers of Jesus can find fulfillment and joy in serving God, willingly and from the heart. We should not seek so much for God to serve us, but for us to serve him, which is an inestimable privilege.

A life of service to God, in whatever role, job, or situation we find ourselves in, is a great blessing now and will be even better in eternity to come.

The wonderful love of God (14 September 2014)

The love of God 14 Sept 2014

The only ground of God’s love is his love. The ground of God’s love is only and wholly in himself. There is neither portion nor proportion in us to draw his love. There is no love nor loveliness in us that should cause a beam of his love to shine upon us.

Thomas Brooks (Puritan)[1]

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NLT)

“For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10, NLT)

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:9–11, NLT)

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.” (1 John 3:1, NLT)

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)



[1] The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 376–77.

 

Joy in heaven over those who do a U-turn (7 September 2014)

Joy over one who repents - Luke_15-7

God cares not just for those who already follow him, but also those who don’t yet have a restored relationship with him:

““For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)

God rejoices when just one person turns to him. God and the angels are overjoyed when people turn to God through faith in Jesus. They are overjoyed not just when many people turn, but when each individual turns to God.

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:1–7, NLT)

God doesn’t just call you to turn from sin to do good. That’s what the morally superior group of people had done in Romans 2:1-16. And judgment was still on them because they were not perfect. Turning away from sin is not enough. We need to turn away from self-reliance too, and rely on God’s grace and mercy, not our own self-righteousness. We need to trust in Jesus Christ, and be accepted by the Father through faith in him.

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:21–24, NLT)

Dealing with depression (31 August 2014)

Dealing with depression

Depression is a terrible thing. Just like a physical illness can cripple a person, so too depression can affect people’s live greatly, even to the point of not wanting to keep on living.

Yet, the Bible teaches a lot that is relevant to depression and mental illness, even if it is not packaged with a chapter titled ‘Depression’!

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThere are many Bible verses which encourage us.  Here are some:

Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 3:3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

Psalm 40:1–3 1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.

Isaiah 40:28–31 28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Jeremiah 29:11–12 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.

Matthew 28:20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.

2 Corinthians 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by believing and not by seeing.

Philippians 4:6–7 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Isaiah 1:18–20 18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. 19 If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. 20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

1 Peter 4:12–13 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

1 Peter 5:6–7 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Romans 8:5–6 5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Nehemiah 8:10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

 

Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, says that if he could convince the patients in his psychiatric hospitals that their sins are forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day. So often we do not take God at his word![1]



[1] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

Forgive (24 August 2014)

Forgive - Luke 17_1-10

Forgiveness is not primarily a self-centred activity for our own psychological well-being.  It is so that we can be reconciled with others, and so that we can be obedient to God.  The fact that being obedient to God, and loving to others has a beneficial impact on how we think and on our outlook on life, is really a secondary matter.  The fact that we are blessed when we forgive should not be the primary reason to forgive.  It is not meant to be a self-centred activity, but one that is focused on the other person.

We should be forgiving people

Click image for Sunday's service sheet“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37–38, NIV-84)

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9–13, NLT)

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”” (Mark 11:25, NLT)

The NT Greek word most often translated ‘forgive’ means more literally ‘to let go’ or ‘to leave behind’. Forgiveness is ‘letting go’ of something.

There is something about having a forgiving heart which resonates with the heart of God. He so loved the world that he did all that it took to forgive people – Jesus death on the cross…

““For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)

We ought to forgive others, at a personal level. We can do so without worrying that truth and justice will be compromised, because these are the proper responsibilities of the civil authorities, church leadership, and ultimately God on the judgment day. Those authorities have the responsibility to ensure that truth is uncovered and justice is applied, with church discipline being a special case where fellowship is based on Jesus having taken the sinner’s punishment – if they are repentant, they can be reconciled to the fellowship of God’s people. Individuals don’t have the proper responsibility to seek justice on their own, and are therefore free to forgive personally, to let matters go, and trust that civil or church authorities will deal with them appropriately, and that ultimately God will provide eternal justice – or forgiveness, if people accept that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, meeting the demands of justice there.

The cross: God’s love meets our sin (17 August 2014)

Gods glorious love for sinners - Romans 5_6-8

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6–8, NLT)

 

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThe cross is the greatest example of God’s love, of any love.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)

The gospel message is not simply a message of present and future blessing for anyone who trusts in Jesus. It is a message of present and future blessing for anyone who trusts in Jesus, because he suffered and died a terrible death on a Roman cross, because of our sin. The gospel is not just good news – it is good news because it solves the problem of the bad news of our sin.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”” (Romans 10:9–13, NLT)

We need to humble ourselves to be exalted (10 August 2014)

Humility

Pride keeps us from coming to Jesus.
Pride keeps us from following Jesus as we ought to.
But humility is essential to be forgiven.
And humility is essential in the Christian life

Jesus told this parable (Luke 18:9-14) to people who were self-righteous, and who scorned everyone else.

There is a real problem for some religious people, because they look down on others.

But, humility should be a way of life for the Christian.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetWe are called to be nice, loving people. But we don’t have it naturally within us. We can only be so by the strength of the Spirit. Let’s not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit, true love, true joy, true patience, etc.

Jesus came to serve:

“Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27, NLT)

Jesus humbled himself to come as a child, and to die on the cross.  Paul writes to the Philippian church:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:3–11, NLT)

Have you trusted in him?  If not, do so now.

Are you trusting in your own niceness, or instead in Jesus’ righteousness by faith?

Are you following his example?  If not, commit to do so now.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (3 August 2014)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday today forever Hebrews 13_8

“So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:6–8, NLT)

Click image for Sunday's service sheetWe should therefore not fear what people can do to us, because we have a helper – because we have a reliable helper in Jesus Christ. He is as reliable today and into the future as he has been in the past. Trust him, he will never let you down. Say it “with confidence”.  “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear.”

Come to me (27 July 2014)

Come to me all you who are labour and are heavy laden (Matt 11_28-30)

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, NLT)

Commands:

  1. Come to me
  2. Take my yoke upon you
  3. Learn from me

Results:

  1. Rest for your souls
  2. Gentle and lowly master
  3. As easy and light load

Listen when Jesus calls

Click image for Sunday's service sheetSome people hear Jesus call, but they respond by dismissing his voice as just another religious message of little significance, as they chase after other voices which are calling them to trust in them instead.

People trust in the philosophy of atheism, which says that there is no afterlife and there’s no rest to come, and there’s no God calling you to trust in him, even though you think you hear his voice call you again and again.

People trust in angels, chasing after encounters with angels and messages from angels, instead of turning their attention to God himself.  And angels don’t listen to us and obey our requests, since their role is to obey God and do his will.  If we want to be blessed by angels, we ought to pray to God and he will send them to help us.

People trust in other religions, which seem to offer a better load, one that is more manageable, one that seems more attractive.  But in the end they should see that all religions and philosophies are heavy loads to carry.  Some religions are very heavy loads indeed, nearly impossible.

And yet, we are called to take a light load, the load that Jesus offers us to take.

Jesus takes our load of sin and guilt

Jesus takes our burden of sin, our burden of living life in our sinful, broken, failing, humanity.

He gives us forgiveness, spiritual life, power, hope, joy, a future, eternal life…

The cross is where our sins are forgiven…

The Spirit is how we proceed in power of the risen life we have in Christ.

The Father is the one we come to with a new relationship as his adopted children, in Christ.

Take up your cross daily…  a new and light load

What is the load that Jesus gives us?  It is the burden of obedience to God.  It is living God’s way, following his rules, in the power of the Spirit who enables us to do what we cannot do for ourselves.

We are to TAKE UP OUR CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW JESUS.  The load we have to bear is to obey God.  But it is only a load, it is only difficult because we naturally don’t find it easy.  Sin remaining in us makes us want to do otherwise.  But Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily and follow him, to put to death the sin within us on a daily basis.  We should walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, the old sinful nature.  We are to crucify the flesh  daily – that is the load that we must take up.