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We need a better… (Hosea 13:1-16)

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God has been Israel’s God since the exodus when He delivered them from Egypt (vs4). Israel knew no other God’s but Him. God looked after Israel in the Wilderness (vs5) but when they entered into the prosperity of the Promised Land they did the very thing God warned them not to do (Deuteronomy 7-8) – ‘they forgot me’ says God (vs6).

Israel’s sin, compromise & idolatry has lead them to this place they are in now and have been in for hundreds of years – Baal worship (idols) and even child sacrifice (vs1-3).

And this is why God speaking of being is like a lion, leopard or a bear towards Israel (vs7-8), this is why God promises to ‘destroy you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper’ (vs9).

God traces the problem back to the days when He warned Israel of not forgetting him when He brought them into the Promised Land, and God also traces it back to the time when they rejected God as their king and clamoured for an earthly king like the nations around. At that time, God warned them that those kings would make their lives a misery and lead them astray – and this is precisely what happened when you read the history of Israel (vs9-10).

Israel refuses to let go of its sin & repent like a baby who refuses to be born (vs12-13). And so ‘Samaria shall bear her guilt because she has rebelled against her God” (vs16).

Here as elsewhere in Hosea’s prophecies, we have what Mark Dever calls the riddle of the old testament; “God is Holy, and we are not!”

We cannot be faithful to God; our kings will fail us, our prophets & priests will let us down. We need a better Saviour; we need a better prophet, priest and king – we need Jesus!

Gospel Fruit (1 Thessalonians 1:1-6)

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As believers, we have an ancient faith with a modern face! Even though this letter is nearly 2000yrs old, the contents of it still apply today, and the practices and problems of these early Christ Followers are still essentially the same for us today in 2019.

So, what can we learn about our ancient faith from these 6verses? And what is God speaking to you about from them today for your life?

In vs2 we read that Paul and his team were constantly in prayer for these believers. He had shared the Gospel with them but then after only 2-3 weeks had to leave Thessalonica.

So now, separated from them, he continued with what he could do – Paul kept on praying for them. An incredible amount of impact can be made simply through being on our knees in prayer!

Paul knew that he could not assist these believers physically, but he knew that prayer was not just some blessed thoughts but essential for their growth in God and their protection in what was a hostile situation.

Paul was, therefore, constant in prayer for them. How about your life? Is prayer a constant in your life? Prayer is ‘weakness leaning on omnipotence’ – WS Boyd. Are you leaning on God through prayer for others who’s life situations vitally need you praying for them?

“Prayer is an ordinary means to accomplish supernatural ends.” – Mark Dever

Paul goes on to recount how these believers in Thessalonica responded to the Gospel (vs3-5)

The Gospel didn’t leave them unchanged; rather it resulted in three things;

  1. Work/effort that resulted from their faith in Jesus
  2. Labour motivated by love for God & people
  3. And steadfastness inspired by their hope in Jesus

When we are genuinely saved, we are not left unchanged. Thorough changes begin from deep within us but in time become evident to ourselves and to others.

Our energy is diverted & directed towards the things of God. Our efforts become motivated by the new central love in our hearts – love for God. And our lives become secure and stable because our eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Think about the Gospel’s impact on your life. How has the Gospel redirected your life’s energy? How has your life-motivation changed? And how has your vision of the future been impacted because of what you know about Jesus?

Lastly, (vs5) Paul knew that these believers were truly saved because of the way that the power of God broke out amongst them when they believed. As Christ followers they were filled with the Holy Spirit and also filled with conviction.

Pray for greater demonstrations of the power of God in your life and in the life of your church. And pray for a real sense of conviction regarding the truth of the Gospel.

Praying like Moses did… (Numbers 14)

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Numbers 13-14 are a sombre moment in the story of the Bible. A moment that the book of Hebrews reflects on over and over again, warning believers in Jesus to not be like these Israelites.

Israel’s unbelief and grumbling against God, so provoked God that eventually, God said; “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?  I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Numbers 14:11-12)

In His righteous anger, God declared that He would blot out His people and start again.

However, fortunately, God’s people had a leader who knew how to pray! And because He prayed, God relented. God didn’t wipe out the whole nation in an instant. Instead, God punished the 10 spies who brought a false report and then also punished the generation that didn’t believe – so that they never entered into their inheritance.

But in the midst of all of this, God also made a promise that wicked generation’s children – they would inherit the Promised Land.

So how did it come to pass that God relented, changing His mind by not instantly wiping out this generation? Moses prayed, and in his prayer, we can learn some things that we can imitate in our prayers;

  1. Moses Prayed for God to the Glorified: Moses prayed that God would protect the glory of His name, His glory. Moses urged God not to destroy His people because if He did, that would be misunderstood or derided, by the onlooking nations (Numbers 14:13-16). Moses called on God to act for the sake of the fame of His name.
  2. Moses Prayed based on who God is: As Moses prays, he recalls the encounter he had with God. When God revealed Himself by passing before him speaking the words that Moses now quotes in his prayer (see Exodus 34:6-7). God is the one who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, who forgives sin yet remains just and righteous as the judge of the earth.
  3. Moses Prayed appealing to the Immutability of God: When Moses prayed; “As You have promised”(vs17) he was appealing to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. Moses knew that He could stand on the promises of God since God could not lie and would not change. And then in vs19 when Moses asks God to pardon His people, He asks God to merely continue being gracious to the people of Israel just as He had been consistently from their deliverance from Egypt to the present. Moses’ prayer is founded on the confidence of who God is, how God has acted in the past and in that God can not change (God is immutable).
  4. Moses Prayed that God would Forgive: On the back of these prayers for God’s name to be glorified, these prayers that appeal to the nature of who God is & how God has acted in the past Moses then makes his appeal and asks God to be gracious and merciful, Moses asks God to pardon His people (vs19).

And because Moses prayed, God changed His mind. Our Father God loves it when we pray when we come to Him, confident in the relationship that we have with Him through faith in Jesus. God loves it when we pray asking with confidence because of what we know about Him, WHO He is and HOW He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and through our very own encounters of Him.

Why not use this structure that Moses prayed with to help form some of your prayers?

  1. How can you pray for God to be glorified in this situation?
  2. How does WHO God is, connect with this need/prayer?
  3. How does God being immutable help you pray with confidence now?
  4. Bring your request to God on the basis of these three things.

September Bible Reading Plan: 20 Encounters with Jesus!

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Twenty encounters with Jesus in 20 days of Bible Reading!  That’s what we will be tracking with in September so join us.

As you read and meditate on God’s Word this month, our prayer is that you would learn about God from these encounters & that you yourself would encounter God as you spend time with Him in His Word.

Yes, yes, what! (Acts 1:9-26)

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Jesus ascends up into heaven before the disciples eyes, they stand amazed looking up into the heavens  and have two angels address them saying; “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

These are momentous days!  The early prototype church has watched Jesus ascend into heaven, they devoted themselves (men and women) to corporate prayer seeking God’s wisdom (vs14), they’ve had one of the original 12 exposed as the betrayer of Jesus and then everyone became aware of how he died in the field he obtained with the ‘reward of his wickedness’ (vs 18).  

The prototype church need leadership. You can almost hear the questions; ‘What should we do now?’, ‘Jesus has left…and told us to wait’, news of Judas’ death was probably raising questions within the prototype community of faith concerning who they should replace him with…?

Peter stands up and points them back to the OT Scriptures (Psalms 69 & 109) seeking to explain what’s just happened with Judas.  Seeking to help them to discern God’s will now and then Peter leads them off the back of those Scriptures and makes a suggestion that they should seek a man who has been a witness of Jesus’ to replace Judas (vs21-22).

The congregation of 120 disciples agree with Peter’s leadership proposal and they put forward two men who satisfied the requirements Peter had proposed (wonderful example of leadership, collaboration and followership).

Then wonderfully the church prays (vs24-25) that God would show them who He has chosen to replace Judas as one of the 12 apostles; 

“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Yes – to devotion to prayer

Yes – to dedication to Scripture for guidance for life

Yes – to leadership, collaboration & followership

Yes – to corporate faith-filled prayer and the desire for God to reveal His will

What!  

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles (vs26)

They prayed and then cast lots, rolled the dice as it were!  This was an accepted practice in the Old Testament (see Proverbs 16:33, Leviticus 16:8 & Numbers 26:55) and they had prayed and asked God to show them His will, and God can control the outcome of a cast lot – but seriously!

This is never repeated in the NT as a method for leadership appointment or decision making so what can we make from this?

After all they have done that is a great example for us to follow, throwing lots was actually the best they could do in the absence of Jesus and prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  The Helper who was still to come, who is clearly involved in leadership appointments and deployment later in Acts 13:2 & Acts 20:28?

Dr Luke’s account of the early church has only just began but we are off to a rollicking start!  What an example they are for us.  Prayer, preaching, leadership saturated with God’s word, followership, more prayer and a desire to be lead by God…  May we be like them individually and corporately! 

And may we who have the help of the Holy Spirit, ask Him, be lead by Him and obey His leading in our everyday lives and churches!

Do it again Lord… (Acts 1:1-8)

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Picture the scene, the disciples (who by now are a core group of 120 men women and children, no more than an average size small church) have had a wild, exhilarating & challenging last three years with Jesus leading them. So much has happened!

Jesus taught and performed countless miracles, engaged with countless people but then dies at the hands of the Romans on the cross but then rises again from the dead as He promised He would! Jesus then re-appears to them at many times and in many ways over a remarkable period of 40days after his death & resurrection and before His ascension into heaven (vs3). Who would have missed out on those meetings?

During this time Jesus kept telling them about his kingdom. Telling them what His kingdom was like, what people who have Him as their king are like, what a community of people with Jesus as their king are like, how Jesus wants them to take His kingdom rule and reign and invade the known world setting people free from the kingdom of darkness and bringing them into His gloriously good kingdom characterised by grace & love, healing and wholeness, joy and peace with God.

At one time Jesus draws them all in and tells them all to;

‘wait for the Promise of the Father…John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’ (vs4-5).

And after some questioning from those gathered which just reveals how little they were getting at the time Jesus carries on with what He was saying;

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (vs8)

Something had been promised by Jesus (see John 14-16) and by the Father (Joel 2:28-32) that was about to happen, to be fulfilled! The disciples were instructed to wait for it. They were not to proceed until they had been totally filled to overflowing with the presence and the activating power of the Holy Spirit.

That in-filling of power from God would activate them as Jesus’ agents in the world, sent by Him to bring His kingdom to all those they met right there in Jerusalem, in the surrounding regions too and ultimately to the very ends of the earth! (vs8)

This book we’re reading in July/August is the eyewitness account of what those 120 did once they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and as they obeyed Jesus command to be His witnesses to the world.

So what relevance does this have for you and for me?

Ask: You have been walking with Jesus, you have put your faith in Jesus like they had. They were told to wait until they had received an out-pouring of Holy Spirit power on their lives that would activate and enable them to be Jesus’ agents in the world! Have you prayed and asked God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you too can be activated for God’s mission through you? Pray now, ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for power to be an agent of Jesus’ today.

Consider: This book is not some nice church history, some nice stories of the early church. This book is not meant to be exceptional but rather an example of what God wants our lives and our church to be like and to do for God in our day. There were just 120 in that room listening to Jesus, no more than most little local churches but consider what God did through them!

Pray: Oh, Lord do it again through us, through me! Fill us, fill me with your Holy Spirit, with Your power and glory and send us, send me out on Your mission to the world.

What a church! (Colossians 3:1-17)

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In Colossians 3:1-17 we find a vision for an incredibly amazing church.  A church where the people are living out holy lives in response to the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus.  They have and are putting to death old sinful life-patterns which affect their attitudes, actions, speech & behaviour (vs5&7-9).  They are living in a right reverent fear of their awesome God who is holy and yet their Father (vs6).  These people in this church have put on the new nature that is theirs as the children of the living God – they are beginning to look more and more like their Saviour – Jesus.

This church is a multi-cultural church, a community of faith that has formed because of the Gospel.   They have come from all walks of life but have all been united in their common need and their common faith in Jesus who answers all their sin-problems (vs11)!

These people know that God literally chose them to be His beloved children, His holy ones on the earth (vs12).  They live with this truth shaping their thinking and their lives.  They were chosen to be holy ones, chosen as sons and daughters of the most High God.  And because of this knowledge, these people live differently!

They are confident because of God’s love and yet humble and compassionate & kind because they know God loved them when they were unlovely.  They love others, are gentle, patient and forbearing with one another because that is how God has treated them (vs12).  They don’t hold on to wrongs done to them but forgive one another because they know that they have been forgiven (vs13)!

This church is characterised by love, pulsing through everything that’s done and said and this results in a deep community and a deep unity and peace in their community in spite of their diversity (vs14-15).  The people of this church are characterised not by anxiety and worry but by peace that comes from knowing that your Saviour holds the whole world in His hands (Colossians 1:15-20)!

These people are a gospel-centred people in that they are supremely grateful to God.  Thankfulness saturates everything because they keep looking back at who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them and that discipline fills them continually with thanks and praise and faith for the future, that thanks glorifies God and fuels their worship and the lives (see thanks 3x in vs15,16,17).

They are a Scripture-saturated people!  They love God’s word, read and honour God’s word by obeying it.  The Scriptures form the basis of their conversations, their relationships, their counsel and their worship.  They aren’t just taught by preachers but in fact they all teach each other continually from the Scriptures in TRIO’s and Community Groups(vs15-16).

Worship, songs of thanks, songs that tell of the greatness of God and express praise that makes Him the centre and their preoccupation are forever in their hearts and on their lips (vs16).  In fact they’ve turned anything and everything in their life into worship as they do everything from a place of wanting to represent Jesus, to bring Him honour – whether they are employing people, studying, working for someone, being a husband or a wife or a neighbour…  They do everything for Christ and in the power of Christ knowing that they are His ambassadors in the world (vs17).

What a church!  Where do I find such a church?  

You don’t find one, you and I all make one!  You and I and others all saved and rescued by Jesus together form a community, work out our salvation, keep Jesus the centre, saturate ourselves with Scripture, and keep being transformed by the incredible power of the Gospel and then this is the type of incredible church that will form!  Don’t look for a church like this – play your part in making one!