Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Is your hope growing?

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, *4*to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

1 Peter 1:3-4


As christians, we have been; ‘born again to a living hope’. We get to have a new life, not confined to this world, but one that continues to exist beyond what we currently experience. This hope that we are now a part of lives - it breathes, it is constant and it grows. 

Is  your hope in God growing? 

That thought has challenged me - do I have more hope now than I ever used to? Am I living in greater and growing assurance of my inheritance? Are you?


The next promise in these couple of verses is that we have an inheritance, that is, ‘imperishable, undefiled, and unfading’. 

We have much to look forward to, that is certain. There is no doubt about it - the death of Christ has led to us having an eternal joy to look forward to that will never diminish, never get tarnished and will never become devalued. 

Whatever life throws at you, no matter how bleak, or even how tremendous your life is - there is a greater gift to come. A promise, a treasure stored up for us where no-one and nothing can get at it - it cannot be stolen, it cannot become less and it cannot be ruined. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, if you sin or sink into bad habits - your eternal salvation and eternal reward is still waiting for you, not because of your actions or faith, but because you trust that Jesus has given you all that was his. He doesn’t even invite, or ask you - he gives you this inheritance with no clauses or restrictions, it’s been signed off and set aside just for you. 


So, are you living with anticipation of the reward of heaven? 

Is your hope alive and growing? 

If not - what can you do about it? 


Contemplate the truth of these verses and learn to accept them - they have certainly put a smile not just on my face, but in me heart today, I hope you are inspired and encouraged too. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Worship


So, this may not technically be a blog, but a vlog! But I wanted to challenge you in the way you worship. How do you worship? One of the major ways christians worship God in private and in public is through singing and playing instruments, but currently in the UK we are able to meet as a church, but there are restrictions such as not being able to raise our voices or sing in public. 

Therefore, it leads us to question; how do we worship? and even, what is worship? 

We most often connect worship with singing, as we are unable to do that, how can we worship God when we are together? Is there an alternative?

Worship is about lifting God up, extolling Him, acknowledging God in our lives and expressing something of our response to Him. Demonstrating love and reverence to God is what worship is about - how can you do that? 

If you think about ut, there are many ways we can show love and respect to God; prayer, testimony, art, considering Him. These are just a few examples of how we can show our love and appreciation for God in worship, you can probably think of many more. 

As a church we tried a new way of worshipping this week, can you try a new form of worship? 




 

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Sin entangles. Jesus releases

 Leading on from the chapter of faith in Hebrews 11, we then have these verses;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, *2*looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. *3*Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:1-3

What does the start of this chapter convey? To sum up, I think it says; As we can learn, read and hear about such amazing tales of faith from the Bible, and even from everyday, current people, since we have such a rich heritage of faith to draw from, and considering the sacrifice Jesus made, then do not sin. 

Do you ever consider sin in that light? When you’re about to do something you know you shouldn’t, or not do something you know you should, do you ever consider the rich heritage of faithful people that you are a part of? Do you pause to remember the sacrifice of Jesus before you act? 

I think if I really had those thoughts in my mind throughout the day, then I would be more aware of my wrongs and more aware of the responsibility I have, wouldn’t you? 

There are many people who have lived a life of faith before us, they have failed and they have triumphed. They didn’t allow their mistakes to define them, they kept trying their best, and that is what they are commended for, for being faith-filled people. Is that what you want to be remembered for? Are you intentionally putting aside sinful attitudes and focussing on faith? Are you encouraged by the ‘cloud of witnesses’ that surround you? And do you acknowledge that Jesus, the Son of God, ‘endured the cross, despising the shame’ so that you could live free from sin? 

Jesus did not deserve it, and he didn’t like it. He hated taking the punishment for you, but he still did it. So no matter how hard the battle is to escape the, ‘sin which clings so closely’, it’s nothing compared with what Jesus went through. 

So, do, ‘not grow weary or fainthearted.’ Look at the people of good repute, look at the everyday people whose stories have been told for thousands of years, and look at Jesus. He did not walk away from the most difficult, demoralising and deadly task he had to face. He walked to it, just so you could break free. So that you could escape the entangling sin. 

Consider him’ then; Don’t give up. Don’t turn away. Don’t sin. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Whose hero are you?

 I have always loved chapter 11 of Hebrews, these verses have always inspired me to consider the, ‘people of old’, to see the greatness of God, and the many feats of faith achieved. 

It lifts my vision of God, and of my own life. I love that here recorded are the steps of faith these people took, not their failings. It causes me to wonder, why then do I focus on my own failings rather than considering the steps forward I have made? Why do I focus on the times when I have messed up more than the times when I have stepped up? 

Are you the same?

Do you see yourself in a negative light? Do you think about the things you’ve done wrong more than what you’ve done right? If so, then you are not alone. Yet you can also gain inspiration and encouragement from this chapter. You too can see that God focuses on the positive attributes of His people not their mistakes. So, why don’t you give yourself a break and do the same? See what God has done in and through you, ask God to show you how He sees you - it may surprise you. 

Those commended in this chapter are esteemed for their faith in different ways, some of them are:

Acceptable sacrifices

Pleasing God

Walking faithfully

Reverent fear

Believing God’s word even when it seems impossible

Obedience

Looking forward to God’s fulfilment

Living in discomfort now knowing God’s reward is coming

Considering God faithful


Do you do any or some of these? 

Do you give generously and at a sacrifice to God and His people?

Do you please God by pursuing your faith?

Are you persevering in walking faithfully - being an upright citizen and living above reproach?

Do you fear Holy God?

Are you holding tight to His promises even when they seem far off? 

Are you doing the last thing God told you to do? 

Do you focus more on what is to come than your current experience? Is heaven a lived reality for you? 

Are you prepared to suffer now knowing there’s a greater reward that you’re not likely to experience on this Earth? 

Are you confident in God’s faithfulness?


If you can confidently say ‘Yes’ to any of the above questions, then you are in good company. This chapter shows us, ‘so great a cloud of witnesses’, people like us who have struggled, failed, let themselves down, yet also clung to faith. As a believer in God, and a truster of Jesus, you too can be considered as a person of faith alongside these heroes. You too have a story worth telling. You have a story of how you have overcome and held onto the faith. You are a witness to who God is, and you too can share your story and be an example of a faith hero to those around you. 


Who can you be a hero to? 

Who can you share the greatness of God in your life with? 


Friday, 31 July 2020

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

As Christians, we know that we are forgiven A LOT. We have been given relief from shame and guilt because Jesus was punished for all we have done wrong. We know that, and we live that. Yet, do you live that out in your daily life? Or do you take for granted the freedom Christ bought for us? These following verses are a stark warning for those of us who are not living out the fullness of the freedom from sin that has been purchased. Are you one who is falling ‘into the hands of the living God’?;

if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, *27*but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. *28*Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. *29*How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? *30*For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” *31*It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-31

 These are pretty harsh words right? If you go on intentionally sinning, then you will encounter the wrath of God - Are you putting yourself in that scary position?

If you consider yourself a follower of God, yet continue to knowingly do things wrong, go against what He asks you to do - then you are sinning. You are trampling the Son Of God, and you will encounter the Father’s anger about that. You have been enlightened as to a better way, so why would you keep ignoring it?

Today is a chance for you to change. If you know there are thing in your life that you wouldn’t want anyone else to find out about, that you convince yourself aren’t that bad, or if it doesn’t hurt anyone it doesn’t matter, then know tat God sees. God cares. God has given you a way out - so why aren’t you taking it?
If you continue to sin then you are intentionally offending God, that brings consequences as you are effectively demonstrating that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough. It may of been enough for some things in your life to change, but is it enough even for the hidden things? How much do you trust that Jesus has covered it all? How much faith do you actually have that God is bigger than it all?

These verses serve as a harsh warning, but some of us need waking up! God, through these verses is showing that new life is possible. You do not have permission to keep on going the wrong way, to continue to offend Him. Jesus covered it all, but you need to start living differently. The writer of Hebrews clearly points out that if you are sinning and you know it, then you will ‘fall into the hands of the living God’, and you have, ‘trampled underfoot the Son of God’. God is a God of love, but how do you think He will react when he sees you making a mockery of His son’s death?

Be warned.

You will face God one day.

How will He respond when He sees you?

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Let us...

Through Hebrews we have discovered the necessity of Jesus’ death. It was required in order for true freedom and restoration to be inherited by his followers. So, what is your response to that? How can you respond to so great a gift?

Hebrews 10 encourages and exhorts us as follows:

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. *23*Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. *24*And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, *25*not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 
Hebrews 10:22-25

Did you notice the phrase, ‘Let us’ is repeated three times? Whenever anything is repeated in any text it draws attention and indicates significance. So, what is the relevance of the words, ‘let us’? These words suggests that we have permission to do what follows, and we are invited or encouraged to partake in what follows. As Jesus has left to us his great inheritance, our response should be to;

‘Draw near with a true heart’
‘Hold fast’
‘Stir up one another’

This is the expectation. As a follower of Jesus, it is your responsibility to do these things, so what do they involve? Let us have a closer look….

‘let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’

You have permission, freedom and an invitation to get close to God. We can get into His presence because Jesus has paid the sacrifice to make you pure, isn’t that exciting?! You are clean, cleansed, free from ALL sin! Therefore you are encouraged into the presence of God, not to stay at a distance, but invited in as close as you can get! WOW!
So, how close are you?
What do you do in your everyday life to get closer to God? How’s your prayer life? How often do you read the Bible? Discuss Scripture with others? Do you take part in fellowship with other believers? Are you active in your faith? Are you taking opportunities to grow? Are you desiring to get to know the King of heaven better?

‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’

‘Hold fast’. Be steadfast. Persevere. Keep going. Don’t quit.
Life gets hard, you may get doubtful (even Jesus closest friends did), attacked for your faith, but HOLD FAST - Remember the hope God has given you because, ‘he who promised is faithful’. Other things will let you down, but God won’t. When the tough gets going, keep going.

‘let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works’

The final exhortation of this passage is to; encourage, challenge and inspire others. You have the opportunity to build people’s faith. To support them to grow, and inspire them to trust God in new ways. Do you do that?
This kind of goes against the culture that we live in where everyone is out for the best for themselves, self-promotion and self-elevation. This verse encourages us to bring out the best in others not ourselves.
Are you actively inspiring and supporting other believers? Do you ‘stir up’ people to act out their faith in new and brave ways?

So, today as you ponder these things, is there a personal challenge that is brought to mind where you can get closer to God? Is there an encouragement to keep on going even when times are tough? Or are you inspired to support others in faith?

‘Let us’ as a result of the love and sacrifice of Jesus make a difference to this world through the outworking of our faith and the demonstrated love we have for God and one another.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

why did Jesus have to die?


The main crux of the christian faith is that we sinful humans are released from all our wrongs because of the death and resurrection of the son of God, Jesus. Jesus repaired the rift between us and God, caused by sin, by being beaten and crucified.

Have you ever wondered though - why did Jesus have to die? 

Why did human blood have to be shed in order for the relationship between God and man to be fixed?

I have been a christian for many years and just simply accepted that God knows what He is doing even if I don’t understand it. So, I confess, I never really understood why it had to be that Jesus was required to die. I understand the symmetry between his death and the death of sin, yet even then It seems extreme and cruel. Also, the whole Earthly life of Jesus was about his death. That was the purpose of his time on this world, to  be the perfect heavenly man, and then be killed. Doesn’t that sound like a tragedy rather than the event we celebrate it to be?

So, why did Jesus have to die? I know, as you may do too, that the Jews offered animals as sacrifices throughout the Old Testament to atone for sin, they had to give regularly. When Jesus came, he was the ultimate sacrifice - once for all - he has covered all sin once through his death. As he died no more animal sacrifices are required, his one offering was enough for all eternity, which is pretty incredible!

Yet, still, why did Jesus have to die? What was it that made it necessary? Surely the measures outlined above are not it? They don’t seem a big enough issue to change the whole of the faith system let alone justify the torture and murder of an innocent, perfect, holy man.

Well, you see, God does see and know more than us, and we are right to trust Him, because He is not cruel nor unjust, He always had a plan and a purpose, this is it;

‘he (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. *16*For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. *17*For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.’
Hebrews 9:15-17

Now, that makes sense - God had made a will. His  promise was for a new way, a gift of freedom from sin forever, and just lie a will - this promise can only come into effect when the one who has made the assurances within it dies. Therefore Jesus had to die.

Jesus, the son of God, was involved in the creation of all things; the universe, people, animals, the Old Covenant. So, in order for that way of doing things to be changed, ‘the death of the one who made it must be established.’ That is Jesus. He was around at the formation of the world as well as at the formation of the covenant, ‘without him (Jesus) nothing was made that has been made’ (John 1).

Jesus saw that the Old Covenant did not give a finality or full restoration to God, so there was a greater plan, a will that was formed. A promise for the future generations to benefit by, everlasting restoration. Yet it cannot come into being until, ‘the death of the one who made it’.

Therefore, Jesus had to die. He couldn’t of just died naturally either, where would the sacrifice of been in that? Jesus had to die in order for the will to be fulfilled and come into effect, yet the atonement for sin requires sacrifice. Jesus had to endure the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders and suffer separation from God for a time in order to be able to restore our broken relationship with God.

Jesus had to die. He had made a will, a promise, a covenant and assurance to all humanity. Jesus passed onto us a rich inheritance, and he was tortured, beaten, murdered to give it to us. Jesus died so that his promises could be realised.
Without Jesus horrific death nothing would have changed. The will, the promises made throughout the Scriptures would not yet be realised because the ‘will’ would not be in effect.

You have the privilege of freedom, you have the gift of eternal life, you have a relationship waiting for you - do you accept it?