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Sunday message 30 July 2017 – Romans series Part 1 – From sufferings to glory

READINGS:

2 Timothy 3:10-17;  Romans 8:26-39

MESSAGE

It’s great to have Shine TV on free to view these days. I hope you watch it. Do yourselves a favour and record the worship sessions – so you can play them back while you rest or work or whatever the case is. It will save me teaching you new songs. And it will strengthen your relationship with God as you worship at home. And soak in His presence and pray. Of course, you also have to read your bible chapters from Tuesday if you are taking up the challenge.

I was listening to some recommendations – slots with people’s thanks to Shine – for being so positive a channel – compared to all the others that only have bad news –the man said. Shine offers hope while the other channels are depressing.

Fair comment – I also fast-forward the news – but how do we connect the hope to the people who have only bad news – I thought. What is the bridge across which the gospel travels – into the world that needs good news. Is the news always good?

It’s a pain having a questioning mind. It was racing after that. I thought about people sending their kids to Christian schools to save them from the rot they get elsewhere in terms of bad behaviour and language. My mind was asking itself – who will be a witness to the kids who don’t know Jesus?

The real question that came out of the man’s comment on Shine TV – is about suffering. It’s suffering that makes the news depressing. And the evil that causes it. Way back – ten verses back – in Romans 8 before today’s reading is this verse:

Rom 8:18  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

In fact before that Paul writes these marvellous words in verse 15:

Rom 8:15  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Rom 8:16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Rom 8:17  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The truth is – no matter what we see on TV – we as Christians are not exempt from suffering.

In fact Simon Ponsonby in his commentary on Romans writes:

Many may be surprised to see this emphasis on suffering in the context of being the adopted sons and heirs of God. But divinity is no stranger to suffering. Sonship and suffering go hand in hand. Being a Christian, far from exempting you from suffering, actually qualifies you for it. In fact, one can almost say that if you are not suffering your sonship is called into question. (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 244). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)

Ponsonby talks about:

  • General suffering – natural events like earthquakes and droughts – for example 36 people will die every 10 seconds from starvation around the world during this service – as an example.
  • Human evil that causes suffering – like the 30 million plus people enslaved in this generation. Or that 2.4 trillion dollars are spent on the defense and war industry annually when $175 billion could wipe out poverty.
  • And then there is suffering particular to Christians. Being a disciple of Christ invites hardships, from discrimination to persecution. In all except thirty of the world’s 200 nation states Christians face oppressive measures, ranging from deprived economic or human rights to actual threat to life. And we must add to this the bitter war waged by the enemy of our souls, who aims well his targeted temptations, torments, and trials because we follow Christ. (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 245). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)

So that puts to bed the objection that being a Christian is a crutch for weak people doesn’t it.

And it means we can make sense of verse 18: Rom 8:18  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Our suffering will end with death – and we will be translated into glory. And the world’s suffering will end when Jesus returns, Simon Ponsonby reminds us.

In verses 19 to 25 Paul talks about the whole world groaning and waiting for its redemption. It’s a wonderful passage. Read it at home.

Point 1.

In today’s reading from verse 26 here’s the first point to encourage us in our personal suffering:

Rom 8:26  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Rom 8:27  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

I remember listening to a Scottish lady called Andrea Wigglesworth speaking at New Wine one year about prayer. I don’t remember all the words she referred to, but one of the words – one word prayer words – was simply this – HELP!

Paul tells us here that deeper than that cry for help  – is a groan.

  • We know that Jesus intercedes for us.
  • Here the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

Verse 26 is amazing. We don’t know what we ought to pray for. Ring any bells? It’s such a mess – what on earth do we pray? The Spirit intercedes for us with GROANS THAT WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS.

Sounds like my prayers to be honest. We groan too – as in verses 22 and 23

Rom 8:22  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Rom 8:23  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Many of us have experienced the most horrendous things – that could shatter hope and wound our hearts to the point of desperation. My response when this happens – is a deep sighing or groaning. A moaning in my spirit because the pain is beyond words.

And that’s exactly what the Spirit does.

The groan of God’s people in Egypt in slavery was the same – and God heard their cry and rescued them. If you are crying to God for someone or something – don’t despair. He hears you.

Did you know that John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, spent a total of twelve years in jail for preaching the gospel – something prohibited to all but licensed and ordained Anglican vicars! He wrote, “The best prayers have often more groans than words.” (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 248). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)

That’s the first point in the face of suffering. God hears your groaning, your cries, your sighing. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray for you too – and the Holy Spirit shares your cry.

It’s taken me a while to finish point 1. Don’t give up. The Father hears your cry. The Son and the Spirit are praying.

Point 2

is simpler: It’s verse 28:

Rom 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

If you don’t like that translation, then go for the other common option as the original is quite difficult:

(NRSV)  We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

I prefer the first – that God works all things for good for his people. It puts Him in control.

It means that it’s not just a question of things panning out on their own.

It doesn’t mean that it will all come out in the wash.

His purpose is often different. His glory is not the same as human glory like that on “America’s Got talent” – fame and fortune.

Isaiah 55 comes to mind:

Isa 55:8  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isa 55:9  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Don’t despair. Keep crying out to God. Two out of the three of the Trinity are praying with you!

AND God learn verse 28 off by heart!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Amen.

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Sunday sermon 4 December 2016 – Prince of Peace

Readings: Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12;

MESSAGE

I wonder if you’ve figured out the difference between Lent and Advent?

Lent is a time of preparation in which we give up something to focus on our relationship with God (or more recently do something new that does the same thing). It involves cleansing I suppose – and purification. And doing things differently.

Lent ends at the cross.

Advent is about getting prepared for the arrival of someone very special and important. It also requires organisation of sorts – tidying up but in a more celebratory way. The outcome of Advent is not a death – but a birth.

Advent ends at a crib.

This explains the great choirs singing in Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” It’s certainly worth singing about!

We were in Wellington this past week – staying with friends. And the debate between them was interesting, with the one saying that none of this is in the Bible – Lent or Advent – while the other persisted in the view that God has given us these things through the Church. You can imagine a person raised in the Church of the Nazarene married to an Anglo-Catholic. The conversations are interesting to say the least.

On Friday night, they invited friends around for a kind of a party and carol singing event. With me on the piano. We did this years ago, and the carol sheets were still in the piano stool from the last time.

And afterwards I played German carols reading the music off another guest’s Ipad as we tried to translate them into English. Her husband was raised in oppressive Romania – although an ethnic German. There was one Samoan. Two South Africans. A Scot and his kiwi wife. The nations were represented there, that’s for sure.

Whatever you believe about these traditions like Lent or Advent, or whether you want to get rid of Christmas completely like some Christians do today, because they believe it is an infected economic swindle where Jesus gets buried under profits and presents, when you sing those carols – there is something that comes alive in people.

People across the world of every nation and tongue. From all the nations. We were able to sing from the same page about the birth of Jesus.

The same thing happened at a visit to a rest home in Tauranga. A lady was sitting alone in the lounge waiting for tea. I asked her if she played the piano that was there. She replied that she used to – but not much these days. She asked if I played – of course I said a bit. She asked me to play – I asked her for her favourite carol – and off we went.

My back was towards her has I played, and slowly the singing got louder and better as residents wandered in. It sounded pretty good. And most of those folk who probably forget a lot of things at their stage in life, could remember all the verses of the carols we sang.

The story and the songs – they ignite something. We ended up with an impromptu carol service. It brings people alive – and research tells us that all kinds of positive chemicals kick into action in our bodies when we sing together anyway – even if we don’t sing well.

The simple hope of Christmas – the peace that Christ brings – to Jews and Gentiles alike, is something to celebrate. For Americans, Romanian born Germans, kiwis, South Africans, Scots, Samoans, English and any others you may think of – this is a time for revisiting what God has done through Jesus.

So it’s good to really reflect through Advent about what God has done. We have to ask – if you want to get organised –

  • as you prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming,
  • and the certainty of his second coming,  (either because the end will come for us in death, or he will come back first)
  • what is really important?

For John the baptiser as we heard – preparing the way for Jesus – there was an expectation that people should clean up their lives. Sounds a bit like Lent.

Repentance here is not the change of direction that the Hebrew Old Testament word indicates – but a transformed mind. A changed mind.

A refocusing of our thoughts on God. So let’s do that. Reflect on:

  • Who He is.
  • His promises that he will send someone to save the world.
  • His coming in Christ.
  • His work in us.

THE PROMISE OF A SAVIOUR

There are many prophecies that speak of Jesus. The one in Isaiah chapter 9 is probably the most beautiful: Isa 9:6  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

And then this one from Isa 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Immanuel – meaning God with us. This happens in the incarnation.

A child is born – a son is given. In the words of the Creed: Jesus was –

“… conceived by the Holy Spirit – born of the virgin Mary”

This really messes things up for us – especially if we are people who like to separate the spiritual from the physical and carnal world. Which the Bible does do – but not like we do. We are prone to thinking like Greeks of old who categorised this world as bad, and painted a picture of another spiritual perfect world as a standard or ideal.

God messes up that thinking by becoming a flesh person. In – car-nate. Carnivores? Carnivorous? Ring any bells?

  • Jesus who is our hope (for all nations as we see in Rom 15:12  And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”)
  • Jesus – who is also the prince of peace – He does this not by making war in his first coming – but by surrender on the cross.
  • This Jesus becomes a real human being. He brings both hope to the world and the promise of peace. He gets involved in a peace mission above all others.

Evangelicals are quick to point out that Jesus had to be a human being to pay the price for our sin – only a human could be a substitute for another human (in this case for all humans). We call that substitutionary atonement. The crib is made of wood – so is the cross. This prince of peace does makes peace through his blood on the cross. (Colossians 1:20).

The beauty of this first Advent is the way in which Jesus as a human being affirms our humanityWe see this God becoming human in a stable – in a feeding trough – with the feint or perhaps pungent smell of cattle dung.

The coming of Jesus as a real human being means God affirms the wonder of his creation. He pitches his tent with us (John 1:14). Through this incarnation he also affirms the wonder of creation and what it is to be human.

Have you noticed in the New Testament that Jesus was criticised for being a party enthusiast? Listen to this from Luke 7 to remind you: Luk 7:31  “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? Luk 7:32  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ Luk 7:33  For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ Luk 7:34  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”‘ Luk 7:35  But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

It’s okay to celebrate his coming with a real party. He certainly celebrated life fully.

My friends in Wellington were bemoaning the fact that their pastor won’t have a Christmas tree in church. I’m glad we do. It’s good to have some colour and sparkle.

Jesus was born to rescue us – and bring peace. We have a gospel to proclaim about this prince of peace. We have much to celebrate about this promised peace.

We also need to trust in Him that he will keep his promises to us – and that we will really have His peace. That it won’t just be a symbolic candle we light.

While we should party and rejoice, this is a serious matter too. Jesus doesn’t die for nothing. Our sins are not to be celebrated.

There is a warning in the words of John the baptiser who says that while he baptises with water, Jesus will baptise us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This symbolises purification and judgement.

When you meet this baby grown up to be the prince of peace – he pays the price for peace with his death.

And he gives us his purifying Holy Spirit – who is not only different in the extreme from our evil ways (we are always judged by holiness – see Isaiah 6:5 ) but also indwells us and will change us to be more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The last verse of the reading from Romans today sums up my desire for you to know this purifying Jesus more. The outcomes are brilliant:

Rom 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope”  – how? “…by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Advent blessings.

The pink candle of joy is thrown in by Paul as well.

For today: receive His peace.

Amen.

god-of-ope

Sunday sermon 9 October 2016: The Lord’s Prayer part 8 – Kingdom, Power and Glory, forever!

Readings: 1 Chronicles 29:6-13; Psalm 63:1-4; Matthew 6:6-13 (including footnote in NIV).

“For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

SERMON

So we’ve reached the end of this series on the Lord’s Prayer. We’re still saying it together. I wonder if these reflections have made any difference to you? As you pray?

Just a question – how many of you heard the whole series? All seven plus today? Well done!

Anyone read the ones you missed on the  bbpsermons  website? Well done too!

Some highlights as we look back. The line that I enjoyed the most quoted from Tim Keller was this one. It’s about who we pray to. You may remember this. It was part 2 – Hallowed by thy name.

  • His fatherliness makes his heavenliness non-intimidating.
  • His heavenliness makes his fatherliness not just comforting but absolutely liberating – he is all powerful to keep his promises. Amen!

In that same week I said this:

And so we are to “hallow” God’s name – to honour and revere it.  It’s really about adoration and praise. To honour his name is to give him the credit for who he is and what he has done. To focus on God rather than all other things.

Here’s the test question: What preoccupies you when you are in thought – wrestling with the things of life? 

Tim Keller suggests this: what is always on your mind – that’s usually what you adore – what you love the most.

Today we pick this up in a sense – as we look at the doxology at the end of the prayer:

For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.(v13) 

We’ve looked at the kingdom, and the power.

It’s the glory that jumps out from the page for me. Yours is the glory!

David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29 came to mind as soon as I looked at this again. David had just done what many people have done here, and can still do. He provided for the next generation through a bequest. Not only does he dedicate the nation’s wealth for his son Solomon to use in the building of the temple when he is gone – he also gives his personal wealth for the project. He gives it while still alive.

1Ch 29:3  Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God:

That’s the context of the other giving of the leaders – and his beautiful prayer.

It struck me that we might not be here were it not for bequests from previous generations. And we have the same choice to leave something for the work here at Browns Bay when we die. That’s by the way. It has to be said. Have you made some provision for the future of the work here when you have gone?

Look how David’s giving releases giving on behalf of all the people.

1Ch 29:6  Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. 1Ch 29:7  They gave for the service of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. 1Ch 29:8  Whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the LORD, into the care of Jehiel the Gershonite.  1Ch 29:9  Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the LORD; King David also rejoiced greatly.

And then David prays:

1Ch 29:11  Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

1Ch 29:12  Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.

1Ch 29:13  And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

I reckon we could use this as an offering prayer. In fact, I remember Durban North Presbyterian singing this during the offering back in the 1970s.

In the reading from the Psalms today the same pattern comes up:

Psa 63:2  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Psa 63:3  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psa 63:4  So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

Three words. In David’s prayers. And the one we have in Matthew in the Lord’s Prayer.

Kingdom. – we know this. That’s what we are to seek first.

Power. –  this helps us in our praying. This father has the power to provide for his children.

Glory. – this is new. We don’t talk much about the glory of God.

  • Do we understand this concept?
  • Do we seek to give him glory?
  • The glory is his. Is this something we can give him? Or is this also something we should seek?
  • Let’s explore this word. It has different facets to it.

 

SO ABOUT GLORY – FIRSTLY.

The Old Testament word is Kabhod.

You may recognise the word in the name of an unfortunate character named Ichabod – in 1 Samuel. That’s a tale in itself. He was the grandson of Eli – when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines and Eli’s rebellious sons Hophni and Phineas are killed. Eli hears the bad news and falls of his chair in shock, breaking his neck. Phineas’ wife goes into labour and Ichabod is born. His mother names his this because “the glory has departed from Israel” (1 Sam 4:21-22.)

God’s glory – kabhod – was his presence. The word also means “heavy”.

You get the sense of the weight of his presence. We seek his glory when we seek his presence.

When Solomon’s temple is built later, he prays that God will make his presence real (2 Chronicles 6:41-42). In the next verse 2 Chronicles 7:1 we read:

2Ch 7:1  When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2Ch 7:2  The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 2Ch 7:3  When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

There are moments in worship for us too, when we are aware of his presence, there’s a weight on us, the presence of his glory.

 

SECONDLY

Glory – in the new Testament – is the word DOXA from which we get the word “doxology” – a short declaration of praise.

The word also means splendour or brightness. So we get for example in Hebrews 1 this powerful statement:

Heb 1:1  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

  • Heb 1:2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Heb 1:3  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

And of course that well known John 1:14 – the culminating verse of the prologue to John’s gospel:

  • Joh 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth

I was saying at tea last week that when we see Jesus we are unlikely to come up with the questions we say we’d like to ask him. Like “why did you let me get this disease?” I think we will be silent and prostrate on the ground like John in Revelation 1:

  • Rev 1:14  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  Rev 1:15  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. Rev 1:16  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brillianceRev 1:17  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 

There’s some glory there – splendour and brightness. His presence.

There’s something about worship that is often not understood. We’ve talked about it before – and in this series – about entering the presence of the King. A Holy God.

When his glory is revealed – that heaviness of his presence, and his splendour and brightness – we stop nattering and yapping to each other – the focus is on God. And often we are silent.

The prophet Habakkuk says this in the context of the people’s worship of idols: Hab 2:20  But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”

His glory involves his presence and his splendour. And it can silence us when we are in awe of who He is.

 

THIRDLY we give Him glory in worship – in the songs we sing, and the prayers we  pray. We also give Him glory when we we do all these things we have looked at in the last couple of months:

We give Him glory when we live by the tenets of this prayer template called the Lord’s Prayer.

  • We hallow his name – honour his name.
  • Pray for his kingdom as a priority (elsewhere Jesus says “Seek first the Kingdom of God”.)
  • Do his will – bringing heaven to earth.
  • Trust him for our daily needs – one day at a time.
  • Forgive like him – celebrating our forgiveness.
  • Ask for his protection from trials and freedom and deliverance from the evil one.
  • Because it’s His Kingdom that matters, his power that makes it possible for us to do this, and his name which receives the glory. Not us. It’s never about us.

Two weeks ago we listen to a song entitled “Hidden”. I gave you the words.

We’ll get to sing it at some point. The last part of the song captures some of this. Listen again:

Verse 3

The sun, moon and stars, Shout Your name, they give you reverence; And I, will do the same, With all my heart I give You glory  |2x|

 Chorus 3

I want to seek You first, I want to love You more; I want to give You the honour You deserve; So I’ll bow before You, I am overcome, By the beauty of this perfect love. |2x|

Are we seeking him first? Loving him more? Giving him the honour he deserves? I encourage you to explore a more intimate relationship with God. And entering into worship with all your heart is part of that.

  • Be open. The songs we sing – sing them with all your heart. Both here and on your own. Listen to them at home.
  • Focus on God – seek his presence and the fullness of his Spirit.
  • Seek his glory both here and in your wider life.

Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Let’s pray David’s prayer as we close:

1Ch 29:11  Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 1Ch 29:12  Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 1Ch 29:13  And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

Amen