Word for the Day

23rd April 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair (Choices 3)

CHOICES (3)

The choice to honour God

In Genesis chapter 14 we encounter one of the most enigmatic figures in the Bible. In the Old Testament he appears in just these three verses (18–20) + Psalm 110:4. His significance is brought out when we come to the New Testament letter to the Hebrews. His name is Melchizedek.

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 is all about choosing to honour God with our trust. It is complemented by verses 9 and 10, which are all about choosing to honour God with our giving.

Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Abram chose to honour God with his material wealth. He gave a tenth of everything to the LORD.

God says, ‘Those who honour me I will honour’ (1 Samuel 2:30).

What is your standard of living? How does it compare with your standard of giving? It’s a choice. You can honour God with your generosity or despise him by choosing to be mean.

The choice to reject the world’s rewards

At the very same time Abram was giving a tenth to God he got the opportunity to make up his losses. The King of Sodom was very grateful for Abram’s rescue mission and he said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself’ (verse 21).

But Abram chose not to accept anything from the King of Sodom.

Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share’ (verses 22–24).

I once heard about a church that accepted a large grant from the European Union to run community events through the week. It sounded great. But the first thing they had to do was remove the word ‘church’ from their building.

I learned that subsequently things had gone wrong and the sharp edge of their witness had gone blunt.

The Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills and sometimes it seems it’s the devil who owns the cash in a thousand banks. Lottery funding has always been a big temptation.

It can be a hard choice to say no to the world’s wealth and simply rely on the Lord.

But it’s the right choice.

 

 

22nd April 2021

From Liz Martin

Hebrews 12:1-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Sometimes simple words hold great meaning: ‘but…’; ‘if…’ why…?’ Hebrews 12 starts with such a word: therefore… The author hasn’t just listed the great heroes of the faith for fun, or as a mere reminder of all who have gone before, but for a purpose. Therefore… Because these heroes of the faith are lining our path to the Kingdom, we are encouraged to take up the baton, to throw off all that hinders, to throw off sin, and to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. These verses are probably among my favourite verses in Scripture, and incredibly rich, but let’s draw a few simple thoughts from them.

Firstly, we have a cloud of witnesses, not just ordinary people who pay minimal attention, but giants of Biblical history, those who have served at great cost, and won the prize for which they strove. And these are those who are urging us on, I’m sure. Those who, through their words in Scripture, encourage us to follow their example, to conquer kingdoms, to administer justice, whose weakness is turned to strength…

Secondly, we are called to throw off anything which hinders us, not yet sin, but anything which gets in the way of our single-minded pursuit of Jesus. Jesus challenged His disciples to not love anything more than Him, family, friends, work, money, and the challenge remains the same. Throw off anything which hinders. Anything we sacrifice or forsake for the sake of the Kingdom will not be in vain, our God is able to do abundantly, exceedingly above all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20 – with added poetic licence!).

Thirdly, we are also called to throw off the sin which so easily entangles us. Now, I’m not a runner, but I would imagine that if a runner’s shoelace were to come undone, it would cause them great problems, unless they stopped to deal with it. I’ve also seen images of army training camps, where recruits are to scramble through netting, without getting entangled, to reach the other side. For some of us at times, the sin with which we wrestle is on the level of a shoelace untied, which has the capacity to trip us up, and to slow us down. For others at times, it’s more like the netting, we have to scramble and fight and push our way through. Whichever we feel we face at any given time, don’t give up, but throw it off, so that we may not stumble, but rather run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Fourthly, we run with perseverance towards a goal so magnificent, so beautiful, that it is worth the effort and the cost. We fix our eyes on Jesus, from whom our faith stems, and through whom we know the perfection of our faith. It can be easy to give up. It’s hard to keep running, to keep fighting, to keep strong in the battle, but as we consider Jesus, the One for whom we persevere, and the glory in which He now lives, we will not grow weary and lose heart. Jesus knows what it is to battle, He knows what it is to face weariness, weakness, temptation, fear. He alone knows what it is to conquer these things truly, but it is in Him we have strength to follow, to persevere, and to complete the race.

Finally, the encouragement is that for most of us, as for the recipients of the letter, in our struggle, we have not resisted to the point of shedding blood. Our struggle is largely, if we’re honest, a struggle against our own flesh, rather than any kind of active persecution. And we are prone to forgetting the ‘word of encouragement’ that God disciplines those He loves, that hardship is often discipline, but that we are beloved children of the Most High God. We are chosen by Him, for His pleasure, and His discipline confirms to us that we belong, we are His, and as we persevere, we will see a ‘harvest of righteousness and peace’.

‘Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.’

21st April 2021

In our spoken Word for the Day, Graham Carpmail  focuses on James 1: 19-27 . You can hear it here

 

20th April 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

1 Timothy 4:11-16

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Verse 12 is, I believe, one of the most common verse given to young people. Certainly, if I base it on anecdotal evidence from friends and young people that I’ve known, it’s one of those verses given to YP when they speak in Churches or show signs of promise for ministry. In my experience, it was given in one of two ways.

The first is an encouragement looking at the first half of the verse: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Keep going, you’re doing well, don’t let someone dismiss you because you’re younger. You don’t need to be in your 50s to do something meaningful in God’s kingdom. The second was really a: ‘don’t get too big for your britches speech’, set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Are you an example to be followed, young person? Do you think you’re up to the standard? Which is a bit of a trick question, because if they say ‘yes’, then they clearly lack humility, and are disqualified; if they say ‘no’, well, remember your place.

Yet nearly always, we ignore the context in which Paul was speaking to Timothy. He was in charge of this congregation. Read verse 11: command and teach these things. Not only was he in charge, he was to do the preaching and teaching for the community of faith in Ephesus. We can see that in verse 13: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. I find it challenging that Paul seems comfortable in both ways. He is comfortable in giving Timothy power and authority to deal with the Church, but also in saying, ‘I expect much of you in behaviour and in outworking’.

How do we view young people? Do we view them as having immense capacity and capability? Equally, do we challenge them to not neglect the formation of character and maturity? Yet if we take it wider, what about ourselves, if we’re older perhaps? Maybe now, at times, we see older people as having nothing to offer, or we see people with families as too busy to offer anything? Do we see ourselves as having capacity to do all things in Christ, and are we an example to others? For God does not just call the young. Consider Abram, Moses, and Caleb who, at 80, said, ‘give me this mountain’ (Joshua 14:12 KJV). The challenge of Paul to be an example is a challenge to us all.

 

 

19th April 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Wasn’t that a great picture that Chris used in the sermon spot yesterday – a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon?  One minute it seems to be nothing much, just attached to a plant stem or something, but when it breaks out! Wow how beautiful it can be.  Chris pointed out that whilst in its chrysalis the butterfly is trapped and nothing seems to be happening, but when it comes out of its box all sorts of things are possible.

It was interesting, wasn’t it, to hear so often when people were recalling the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that people said that he wanted to give everybody the chance to realise their potential with opportunities that they would not have had otherwise – hence the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

That prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 that Iain and Chris led us through shows this is God’s purpose for us as individuals as well as a church.

‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask’  (Ephesians 3:20) – Paul reminds us who we are dealing with.  It is God, whose abilities to do things are not limited by our abilities to ask.  He is not limited by our ideas.  In fact, Paul says he can do ‘immeasurably more than we can imagine’, because of his power (not ours) at work within us.  This goes even further than Prince Philip’s aim in the D of E scheme.  God can go further than we can imagine, further than even our natural skills and abilities.

Have you ever used your imagination with respect to Queens Road Baptist church?  In your wildest dreams what would you like to see happening in QRBC?  What would you really like to see happen?

No. Don’t go to the drawing board and see how you can then set out to do this.  Go back to the early part of this prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21.  That’s what needs to happen in order for God to even exceed your imagination –

  • God may strengthen you with his powerful Spirit – so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith
  • You may be rooted and established in love – so that you can grasp every dimension of the love of Christ
  • That you may know (not just know about) this love that surpasses knowledge
  • That you may be filled with the fullness of God

If we concentrate on developing this relationship with God, than we can expect to see God working in ways which go far beyond our imagination.  The glory will then be given to God (where it belongs) and not to us.

Let us all dream and imagine what we feel God wants to do in QRBC and then concentrate on allowing him fuller reign in our lives, working his love out in and through us so that he can work and do it.

 

16th April 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

CHOICES (2)

Genesis gives us some clear examples of the way Abram’s choices worked out in his life.

The wrong choice

In chapter 12 he faithfully followed the LORD’s leading to the land of Canaan but then a severe famine arose. What should he do?

Verse 10 says he ‘went down’ to Egypt. He went down in more ways than one. He panicked. He conjured up in his mind an imaginary scenario in which he would be killed so that his beautiful widow would be available. As we say today, ‘What was he like?’

He made the wrong choice. He didn’t trust in the LORD with all his heart. He didn’t acknowledge him in all his ways. He leaned on his own understanding, and what a mess it got him into.

But the LORD got him out of it and chapter 13 begins with the words, ‘So Abram went up from Egypt’.

Perhaps in your life you’ve gone down – your actions, your standards, your integrity, your confidence. God can bring you up again.

Abram was chastened. He was humbled. And we begin to see a difference in the choices which he made.

The choice not to choose

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. …

So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left’ (Genesis 13:5–9).

Abram was the older man. It was his right to choose but he chose not to choose. He was totally unselfish. He just wanted there to be peace.

Lot had the chance to repay the compliment. He should have done but he didn’t.

‘Look after number one. Do others before they get a chance to do you.’ That’s human wisdom, human understanding, and Abram rejected it.

What about us? How selfish are we?

The choice to rescue Lot

Chapter 13 describes how Lot ‘chose for himself’ and chose to live in Sodom. The King of Sodom became embroiled in a battle involving nine armies, and he lost. All the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot, were carried off by the enemy.

When Abram found out he chose to go after them with a force of just 318 trained men. They defeated the enemy and rescued Lot, recovering all the goods which had been taken. It was a courageous act. He was putting his own life on the line. But God honoured his faith.

The call of God is not a call to be cowardly but a call to be courageous, to speak out for truth and justice, to take action against evil and corruption, to fight the good fight.

 

15th April 2021

From Iain Colville

Hebrews 11 – Word for the day

Hebrews 11: 1-3 and 32-40 (J.B. Phillips)

11 1-3 Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old. And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God’s command—that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible.

32-38 And what other examples shall I give? There is simply not time to continue by telling the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jeptha; of David, Samuel and the prophets. Through their faith these men conquered kingdoms, ruled in justice and proved the truth of God’s promises. They shut the mouths of lions, they quenched the furious blaze of fire, they escaped from death itself. From being weaklings they became strong men and mighty warriors; they routed whole armies of foreigners. Some returned to their womenfolk from certain death, while others were tortured and refused to be ransomed, because they wanted to deserve a more honourable resurrection in the world to come. Others were exposed to the test of public mockery and flogging, and to the torture of being left bound in prison. They were killed by stoning, by being sawn in two; they were tempted by specious promises of release and then were killed with the sword. Many became refugees with nothing but sheepskins or goatskins to cover them. They lost everything and yet were spurned and ill-treated by a world that was too evil to see their worth. They lived as vagrants in the desert, on the mountains, or in caves or holes in the ground.

39-40 All these won a glowing testimony to their faith, but they did not then and there receive the fulfilment of the promise. God had something better planned for our day, and it was not his plan that they should reach perfection without us.

The writer begins Chapter 11 with his definition of ‘faith’: “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen” (v1, NASB). He then introduces the idea that the “saints of old” were commended for having this kind of faith (v2) which he then demonstrates throughout the rest of the chapter, as he sets before us a series of brief biographies of various Old Testament characters.

Some of the characters included in the writer’s review are named and are, of course, some of the great heroes of the Old Testament narrative. Others are not named individually, and their exploits receive only the briefest mention in v33-38.  Whether the writer devotes a handful of words or several verses, the point is the same: each of these characters put their faith in the promises of God and the promise of a reality which must have seemed very distant and even far-fetched at the time. But each of them persevered and held onto what they could not see with their human eyes.

It may appear that the challenges before us today are insurmountable and we may be struggling to hold onto the promises of God in our lives. But let’s be encouraged by the example of the heroes of faith in this chapter. My prayer is that, just like the Old Testament saints, each of us might be sustained by a faith which can be described as the reality of things hoped for and the proof of things not (yet) seen.

The writer concludes with the surprising comment that, although commended for their faith, none of these heroes of faith “received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (v39-40, NIV). The promises which they held onto were only a foretaste of the greater promise accomplished in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We might not face the same challenges and trials as the Old Testament heroes but, in one sense, we have the advantage of living in the knowledge that Jesus came as the long-promised Messiah and that, in dying on the Cross and rising on the third day, he has paid the price for us to be made perfect.  Let’s give thanks for those heros of the faith who have inspired us, perhaps some of the biblical characters mentioned in Chapter 11 or maybe others whose faithful lives have brought us encouragement and challenge.

  

14th April 2021

In our spoken Word for the Day, Graham Carpmail  focuses on Micah 7:1-7. You can hear it here.

13th April 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

1Timothy 4:6-10

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.

I sometimes think Paul really was not the best salesman the world has ever seen. When I watch some people on Christian TV, they seem to spend a lot of their time trying to sell to me the idea that God wants me to have ‘the good life’. To have a life of ease and comfort that requires very little from my end, save a bit of faith. As a sales pitch, it’s pretty good, but I think Paul would have been surprised at that idea, because he seems to connect true spirituality with effort.

I know this might seem odd, but the thought that we must labour and strive encourages me. The thought that I have to wrestle and expend energy in my battle with sin to be godly is far more encouraging to me than the idea that I shouldn’t struggle. Not least because for me, to live like Christ is a struggle. I have to persistently seek to train myself to be more like Jesus, and the longer I go at this, the more I see of Jesus, His glory and His grace, the more I see how far I have yet to climb. Yet this does not perturb me as I am able to look back and see how far I have come. The thought of training and effort for an eternal purpose is not exhausting, but encouraging. The idea that the growth that I achieve here will have purpose, not only in this present life but also the life to come, enthuses me to keep going.

If there are things that you still struggle with, as you seek to be more like Jesus today, take courage. We are called to strive and to labour in our desire for godliness, but it is not worthless or futile, rather it will have value for all things. And it is our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, which gives us grace to continue. Give thanks for the growth you have seen and ask God for more of His Spirit to help you to grow to be more like Jesus, because it’s worth it.

 

12th April 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

The Encourager

Neil pointed something out to us in church yesterday that I am not sure I had picked up on before.  That is that ‘Barnabas’ was the nickname of the Biblical character we read about and not his real name.  This name was given to him by the apostles presumably because of what they had seen in his character as Barnabas means Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36).  They had given him this name way before Barnabas appeared in Luke’s story of Acts, so he had clearly already proved himself as an encourager to the apostles. I wonder what he had done?

Certainly once he is noticed as part of the Biblical story he did many things which justified this nickname.

  • Selling a field and giving the proceeds to the apostles to distribute according to the needs of the early brethren would have been a great source of encouragement to everyone. (Acts 4:36-37)

  • Standing up for the new convert, Saul, when others, including the apostles, were nervous about trusting him was a great act of encouragement to Saul and eventually for the apostles. (Acts 9:26-28)

  • The apostles trusted Barnabas so much that they sent him to find out, on their behalf, about the spiritual revival which had broken out in Antioch. (Acts 11:2-24 – notice that Luke recorded that ‘he encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts vs 23).

  • Knowing what he did of Saul, his conversion and preaching about Jesus, Barnabas went to look for Saul and encourage him to join in what was going on in Antioch and give it depth through his teaching. (Acts 11:25-26)

  • The Christians in Antioch trusted Barnabas and Saul enough to get them to act as couriers to take their financial gift back to the Christians in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:29-30)

  • When they returned to Antioch, Barnabas brought back a young relative with them, encouraging his involvement with mission.  (Acts 12:25)

  • It was Saul and Barnabas who were picked out by the Holy Spirit to go on what we call the ‘first missionary journey’ and just about every reference to activity during this time (Acts 13 & 14) is to Saul or Paul and Barnabas.  In fact at Lystra people identified Barnabas as the senior of the two equating him with the Greek god Zeus, with Paul being his messenger, Hermes).  It was the fact that Paul was the spokesman that brought him to the fore.

  • Paul and Barnabas were treated equally by the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 and both were sent back to Antioch with the apostles’ messages. (Galatians 2:1, 9)

  • When it came to encouraging the young man Mark, who had turned back part way through that first missionary journey, but was clearly keen to get stuck in again with the next trip, Barnabas was prepared to stand up even to Paul on behalf of the young man and give then encouragement of the benefit of the doubt.  This was even at the expense of having rift with Paul.

Barnabas does seem to have lived up to his nickname.  In his encouragement to help both Saul and Mark in different ways to fulfil the potential God had given them, I can see many parallels with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who died last week.  It is also interesting how Barnabas had the role of encourager to Paul, always there with him but never taking the limelight, not unlike the way Prince Philip was always there encouraging the Queen, but never stole the limelight. Quite a legacy for both of them.

Barnabas lived up to his nickname.  I wonder what nickname you or I might be given according to how others see us?

 

9th April 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

CHOICES (1)

In 1999 the country singer George Jones released an autobiographical song called Choices. It contained these lines:

I’ve had choices since the day that I was born.

There were voices that told me right from wrong.

If I had listened, no I wouldn’t be here today

living and dying with the choices I’ve made.

 

I was tempted, by an early age I’ve found

I like drinking. Oh no I’ve never turned it down.

There were loved ones but I turned them all away.

Now I’m living and dying with the choices I’ve made.

 

There are some things in life where you have no choice. You didn’t choose your parents or where you were born. You didn’t actually choose to be born. For the things we can’t change, because we have no choice, acceptance is peace.

But there are areas where we do have choices and how we make them is very important.

Abram was confronted with a number of choices. This was the first.

The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ … So Abram left, as the LORD had told him’ (Genesis 12:1, 4).

That decision was to shape the rest of his life, the decision to obey God.

There comes a point in all our lives when we hear God’s voice. It may be through the beauty of a sunset, the power of a storm, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one. It may be through the pain of an illness, the guilt of a sin. It may even be through the words of a preacher.

Suddenly we’re aware of God’s presence. He’s there and he’s speaking.

Your response to the call of God is the most important choice in your life. It doesn’t just set your course for this life but determines your destiny in the next.

Proverbs chapter 3:5–6 is our guide for the choices we face in life.

There are two positive commands.

• Trust in the LORD with all your heart

• In all your ways acknowledge him

Notice the little word with the big meaning – ‘all’.

All your heart: every aspect of your inner life, thoughts and emotions.

All your ways: every aspect of your public life, your actions and lifestyle.

Side by side with these commands there is a promise.

• He will make your paths straight.

Not necessarily easy or popular but he’s got somewhere for you to go and he’ll make sure you get there.

There’s one more thing here.

• Do not lean on your own understanding

There’s a negative command along with the positives.

There will be times when God says, ‘Take the narrow road,’ and the broad road will seem much more attractive.

There will be times when God says, ‘Wait,’ when it will seem much more sensible to go ahead.

That’s when you need to make a deliberate choice to trust in the LORD with all your heart and not lean on your own understanding.

 

8th April 2021

From Liz Martin

Hebrews 10:19-39

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

‘In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.’

38 And,

‘But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.’

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

The remainder of Hebrews chapter 10 is another mix of deep encouragement, and stark warning.

Firstly, a reminder of the freedom that Christ won for us to approach the throne of God. We are able to draw near always, any time we want, with sincerity and confidence, because Christ has done the work of atonement needed to come before the living God. How often do we hold ourselves apart from God because we think we are not worthy, while denying the power of the blood of Jesus, the only means by which we are worthy? In this drawing near, we come close to the utter dependability of the Father, who loved us, and gave Himself for us in Christ. This goodness cannot possibly be overstated.

Secondly, the writer continues with a warning: those who deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the truth will receive judgment. This is not something we ever really acknowledge, and it’s complicated. We can get bogged down with what the writer means by ‘deliberate’, or what he means by ‘judgment’. But if we truly understand that our sin is an offence to God, and to the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for our atonement, and that by wilfully and consistently choosing to do that which we know is wrong, we ‘insult the Spirit of grace’. As has been said, grace does not give us freedom to sin, rather freedom from sin. It may be that we need to spend some time before God, asking His Spirit to search us (Psalm 4:4; Psalm 139:23), to spend some time in His word, learning what pleases Him, and what doesn’t, asking Him to show is the plank in our own eye, when we find it so easy to spot the specks in others’ (Matthew 7:3-5).

Finally, if we suffer for doing what is right, says Peter, we are blessed (1 Peter 3:14), and sometimes doing what is right in God’s eyes leads us to conflict with the world, with the enemy, and within ourselves (v32). We often need to remind ourselves that we are in a battle, and that it can be easy to grow weary and take our eyes off the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 6:9; Philippians 3:14). But if we hold on to our trust, with patient endurance, we will be assured of a rich reward to come, because He who promises is faithful, and He will do what He says. Let’s, as the writer finishes, ‘not [be people] who cower back and are lost, but [people] who maintain their faith until the salvation of their souls is complete!’ (10:39 Phillips)

 

7th April 2021

Today Graham Carpmail speaks based on Matthew 9:35-38. You can hear what he has to say here.

6th April 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

1 Timothy 4:1-5

1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.


I used to go to a gym when I was younger, and the first time I went inside, I was a bit nervous. Would I enter to find a building filled with body-beautiful people, leaving myself to feel like the ugly lump in the corner? I plucked up my courage and went in and, to my surprise, I was not the ugly lump in the corner; in fact, I looked in better shape than many others. I was being taken round and shown how to use the equipment by the owner of the gym, and he could see I was looking round and he said this: “We build muscle for function and strength here, not to be pretty.” He wasn’t saying that he objected to improving appearance, rather that it was not the aim of his gym. If you’ve ever seen powerlifter, they are not pretty! The strongest guy in the gym had massive slabs for arms and a tremendous belly. These guys were practically strong, but lacked the sculpture of the bodybuilder.

 So what’s the connection with gyms and Timothy? There are things that can have the appearance of being powerful, which aren’t, there are things which have the appearance of goodness, which aren’t. In the case of 1 Timothy 4, Paul is telling Timothy that people who are seeking to forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods are not misguided. They are, in fact, evil. There are things that can seem good, even spiritual, that are not good at all, but rather bad. Ascetic practices that deny the body can sound good, after all, Paul does say to crucify the flesh (Galatians 5:24). Yet that text is saying that we should not follow sinful desires, not that we should punish all desires. Nearly all things are made for our good (v. 4), and are to be enjoyed, be that sex, food or drink. These are made to be received with thanksgiving. But they are not to be used inappropriately, or in the wrong context.

The people that Paul is encouraging Timothy to dispute rejected the body and embraced the spirit. Yet Jesus came in the flesh, Adam was made in the flesh, we know God in our humanity, and we will ultimately receive resurrected flesh bodies. This world is good, and we were made to enjoy it. As you go through this day try to give thanks for all the things that you enjoy that God has given you.  

 

5th April 2021

From Coral Lynes

Today we look at God's promises of life, light and hope.

You can hear Coral's thoughts here

2nd April 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

REALITY CHECK – THE RESURRECTION

Jesus really died.

Crucifixion was carried out by professionals Roman soldiers who knew the difference between life and death. One of the soldiers confirmed Jesus’ death by piercing his side with a spear, producing a flow of blood and water.

The tomb was empty.

The tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid was given elaborate security precautions: the stone, the seal and the guard. Yet three days later the seal was broken, the stone was rolled back and the guard was gone.

The graveclothes were undisturbed.

When Peter and John investigated the now empty tomb there was no evidence of a theft or an escape. The cloths in which the body had been wrapped were not strewn about but had collapsed exactly where they were. The body had simply vanished.

Jesus appeared to his followers.

The empty tomb alone could be interpreted in a number of ways, but the personal appearances of Jesus mean that only one explanation is possible.

Alternative theories do not stack up.

The swoon theory. Jesus didn’t really die. He only passed out, and in the cool of the tomb he revived.

Both the weight of the spices and the coldness of the tomb militate against this theory.

The theft theory. The body was stolen.

The evidence inside the tomb is against this, but even without that, who had the motive? The Jews? The Romans? The disciples? None of them – and someone would have produced the body.

The hallucination theory. Christ’s appearances were figments of wild imaginations.

Again, the facts are against it. Hallucinations do not happen to vast groups or very different individuals or those who are not expecting them.

The disciples were transformed.

The disciples who had run away and hidden became bold in their testimony to the resurrection. Their story could not be shaken.

Professor JND Anderson (1908–1994), Professor of Oriental Laws and Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in the University of London, did extensive research into Jesus’ resurrection. He wrote:

‘The most drastic way of dismissing the evidence would be to say that these stories were mere fabrications, that they were pure lies. But, so far as I know, not a single critic today would take such an attitude. In fact, it would really be an impossible position.

 Think of the number of witnesses, over 500.

Think of the character of the witnesses, men and women who gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known, and who even on the testimony of their enemies lived it out in their lives.

Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence—and then attempting to attribute this dramatic change to nothing more convincing than a miserable fabrication they were trying to foist upon the world.

That simply wouldn’t make sense.’

And to the objective evidence we can add personal experience. ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

 

1st April 2021

From Liz Martin

Hebrews 10:1-18 J B Phillips

The Law possessed only a dim outline of the benefits Christ would bring and did not actually reproduce them. Consequently it was incapable of perfecting the souls of those who offered their regular annual sacrifices. For if it had, surely the sacrifices would have been discontinued—on the grounds that the worshippers, having been really cleansed, would have had no further consciousness of sin. In practice, however, the sacrifices amounted to an annual reminder of sins; for the blood of bulls and goats cannot really remove the guilt of sin.

Therefore, when Christ enters the world, he says: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come—in the volume of books it is written of me—to do your will, O God’.

After saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin you did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are made according to the Law), Christ then says, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.” That means he is dispensing with the old order of sacrifices, and establishing a new order of obedience to the will of God, and in that will we have been made holy by the single unique offering of the body of Christ.

Every human priest stands day by day performing his religious duties and offering time after time the same sacrifices—which can never actually remove sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins for ever, took his seat at God’s right hand, from that time offering no more sacrifice, but waiting until “his enemies be made his footstool”. For by virtue of that one offering he has perfected for all time every one whom he makes holy. The Holy Spirit himself endorses this truth for us, when he says, first: ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them’.

And then, he adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’.

Where God grants remission of sin there can be no question of making further atonement.

It was always God’s desire to free us from the bondage of sin. His covenant with Abram came before the giving of the law, a covenant of grace and of faith, and through it, He established the means of salvation. He then brought the people of God out of slavery in Egypt, again an act of grace and of faith, before giving them the law. The law was never intended to free us from sin, God alone can do that. What the law sought to do was to show us what God was like, and how we are to live, and to point to Him, that He was making a way for us to come near once more.

Although only the priests could enter the most holy place to offer sacrifices for sin, all of the Israelites lived under the covenant, all of them saw the way God led them, and knew His provision and His presence among them. This was always the aim – the law was, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, a ‘dim outline of the benefits Christ would bring’. The law serves as a reminder of God’s goodness and grace, and our need for it, our need for repentance, our need for something, or Someone, to take away the stain of our sin – our ‘sins and lawless deeds [He] will remember no more.’ (Verse 17)

Christ’s single act of obedience, ‘one sacrifice for sins for ever’ (verse 12) both fulfils the law, and opens the way for us to enter into relationship with God. The aim of the cross and resurrection, as we approach this Easter weekend, is not so much to remind us of our sin, rather it is to draw us to Jesus, the One who can make us perfect before God, the One who writes His law on our hearts, and gives us the desire to obey it. The law, and all that follows, reveals how we are to live in a relationship of freedom with both God and others.

Jesus paid the penalty of sin, and of the law, and in that ‘one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (verse 14 NIV). And in this one verse we have the mystery of faith: we have been made perfect by the sacrifice of Christ, and yet we are still in the process of being made holy. Even as we live on earth, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). It’s the now and not yet of the Kingdom, the ongoing wrestle we face in our daily lives as we move towards that holiness, all the while knowing that in Christ, we are already made perfect.

As we bring our fears and our failures, our hopes and our dreams, let’s rest secure in the One who holds it all, whose arms are not too short to save, whose grace is great enough to cover even our biggest failures, and whose love emptied itself on a cross that we may be made new in the image of our Father.


 

 

Archive of earlier contributions

here (14th March to 20th April 2020)

 here (21st April to 31st May 2020)

 here (1st June to 20th July 2020)

here (21st July to 31st August 2020)

here (1st September to 8th October 2020)

here  (9th October to 30th November)

here  (1st December 2020 to 29th January 2021)