Within our blog posts you will find wit and wisdom from our church ministers, department leaders and members of our churches. The views expressed by individuals within this blog are their own!
It was shortly after Christmas. Fed up with being indoors and overeating, we decided to go for a walk along Old Leigh. It was about 3pm, and the light was beginning to fade when we saw the most amazing and unexpected sight. Thousands of Knots (known as a murmuration) were preparing to roost for the night. In a similar fashion to starlings the smaller groups began to amass into one large group, eventually numbering hundreds, if not thousands. That in itself was great to see, but it got better. These birds became a tighter unit, until you could hardly distinguish one from another, and they appeared to be one entity. This united group then travelled through the air just above sea level, looking like a mighty streamlined whale – I can’t imagine anything trying to attack it. To me, it was as good as any Christmas present!
As Christians we need to work, worship and walk in unity. We need to be in harmony like the knots, working as one with the same goals and with God’s purposes in mind, if we are to be a powerful people in the building of God’s kingdom.
We have been singing an old song recently, “For I’m building a people of power”. The prayer in the chorus goes: “Build your church … make us strong … join our hearts … make us one.” Do we really mean those words when we sing them? Any birds that don’t stay with the tight group are easy prey for other birds or animals at night. Their strength is in numbers together. To be powerful people for God we need to make sure we are in the right place going in the right direction and keeping close fellowship with our fellow Christians.
Enoch was a man who walked with God until the Lord took him to heaven. “When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24).
The world today is very sinful. Many people are lost and living in darkness, they walk a spiritually dark path and do not realise they are heading towards eternal death and suffering. Sadly, people claim they don’t need help to find the right path and that they want nothing to do with the only source of light, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour know we need God’s power to help us in our walk with Him. We are meant to live our lives in a way that pleases and honours God.
How can we walk with God in the way Enoch did?
We must listen to God.
We need to spend quality time reading His Word and talking to Him in prayer, this is how we receive guidance for our daily walk. Throughout the day we should ask God for wisdom and direction.
We must trust God.
We may not fully understand God’s plans or purposes, but we must always trust Him to always lead us on the right path. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” We might disagree with His direction and think we know a better way, but God’s Word tells us to follow God, not our own limited understanding.
We must obey God.
God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. We need to align ourselves with His commands and precepts. If we do not obey His Word then we are not obeying Him. if we are not obeying God then we are not walking with Him. God calls us to do what He says, when He says, and how He says, without obedience, we cannot fully be followers of Christ. We must surrender our will to Him, trust His guidance, and follow Him.
We must seek The Holy Spirit’s guidance.
We must be committed to doing whatever God desires us to do in the power of The Holy Spirit. He will always lead us to make wise and godly decisions.
We must love God.
If we truly love the Lord, we will do what He says because we will desire to please and obey Him.
We must forsake sin.
To walk with God we need a clean heart. Whenever we sin in thought or action, we must deal with it immediately and turn from it. We must ask God to reveal any sin in our lives that is causing us to stumble, so we can forsake it and continue walking with Him and enjoying the blessings of obedience.
To walk with God, we need to keep Him at the centre of our lives.
Is God at the centre of everything you do, say or think?
Is God at the centre of your relationships, your finances, your plans?
Do you allow God to be at the centre of every area of your life?
Rev. Dean Courtier
“It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command. It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.” (Hebrews 11:23-29)
Sometimes we find it difficult to perceive what the Lord is doing in our life. We are limited by the passage of time, the confusion of present circumstances, and a lack of understanding regarding God’s goals and His means of accomplishing them. That is why studying the lives of men and women in The Bible can help us understand how the Lord worked powerfully in previous generations.
Examining God’s relationships with His faithful followers gives us helpful insights and examples for us today. When we face uncertainty, we can look to Moses’ example. His life was unpredictable and full of hardship, yet “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27).
Moses successfully persevered by keeping his focus on God rather than on the events surrounding him. This is a good example of what our Lord calls us to do too. We may pray to be led away from a difficult situation as soon as possible, but God’s plan may require us to be led through it by The Holy Spirit. God’s purpose is not to make us comfortable, His plan is to transform us into the image of His Son. Endurance in our daily walk and a focus fixed on Jesus will help us become people of powerful faith and trust.
If God calls you to endure pain, hardship, or uncertainty, find encouragement in knowing you are never alone. God is with you and His grace and comfort will carry you through every situation. Trust Him, trust His plan, His purpose and His power.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24).
Among Jesus’ final words to His disciples were two of His greatest commands: “Love one another” (John 15:17) and “Preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Since then, it has been our duty and privilege, as His church, to live out His instructions with love, commitment and joy until He returns. Do you realise how intertwined those two commands are. The gospel is an invitation to salvation and eternal life in heaven, and also an invitation to join the church, Christ’s body, here on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27).
As Christians we are grafted into the worldwide family of His believers, we are part of a family bound together by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are meant to operate as a single spiritual unit that lives, works, hurts, and grows together just like a physical body (1 Corinthians 12:26). Ephesians 5:30 says, “we are members of His body.” We are interconnected and when Christians work selflessly together to love each other and live for the Lord, individuals grow in Christ, find their spiritual gifting, and become all God intended them to be.
The enemy will try to undermine our faith, but the inspiration of other believers can keep us strong (1 Corinthians 14:26, Colossians 3:16). We can motivate each other to share the gospel. Believers can remind one another of Jesus’ command to proclaim forgiveness in His name to all the nations (Luke 24:47). What greater act of love is there than to tell those who are unsaved and destined for eternal punishment of the free gift of salvation available to all who repent and place their hope and trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour? We have the joy of salvation, and we must share this good news with the lost.
We must discover and use our own individual spiritual gifts so we can contribute to the proclamation of the gospel in the role to which God has called us. The Apostle Paul wrote, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8).
If God has given you a specific ability then use the talent you have for His kingdom. Take the time to understand how your gifting can be used within the church and how you can serve God’s plan in the coming year.
Rev. Dean Courtier
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Christmas is far more than trees, lights, gifts, food, and parties. It’s one of the most important events in human history. God’s plan for mankind’s salvation began with the birth of Jesus Christ. Without that, there would have been no crucifixion, no resurrection, and no hope for humanity.
Once we understand the true significance of Christmas, our attitude about the holiday should change. Instead of focusing on all the externals and becoming exhausted from preparations and activities, we’ll understand that it’s all about Jesus, who came to offer us forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life.
We usually associate Christmas with happy celebrations, it’s also an appropriate time for serious reflection about eternal matters. When we’re busy with holiday activities and surrounded by friends, family, food, and fun, it’s easy to forget about the temporary nature of earthly life. Preoccupation with plans and dreams makes death seem distant. But there will come a day when our bodies are laid in the grave and we must stand before God.
Just eight days after Jesus’ birth. While Mary was experiencing the joy of being a new mother and the wonder of being chosen to care for God’s Son, she came face-to-face with the pain that awaited her in the future. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35)
Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, though she did not understand it at the time, this was a prediction of her precious son’s death. The cross hangs like a shadow over the manger because this tiny baby was destined to die for our sins. 33 years later, Jesus bore God’s wrath on the cross for our transgressions so we could be forgiven. His resurrection proved that the Father accepted His sacrifice as full payment for our sins. Now, because Jesus Christ lives, all who believe in Him will permanently live in His presence when their earthly life is done.
This year, during all your celebrations, don’t lose sight of preparing for eternity. Be intentional about keeping Jesus as the central focus of your celebrations. Reflecting on your life, death, and eternal future makes Christmas more meaningful because you understand why Jesus was born. He came to earth to die so all who believe in Him could go to heaven and be with Him forever. As you open presents, remember that everything you have is from God, and His greatest gift to you is His Son. Take a few moments to recall how Christ saved you and then thank and praise Him for the gift of your salvation.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Advent helps us to remember and celebrate the amazing truth of John 3:16-17, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”
In the birth of Jesus, God declares you and I are worth something significant to Him, Father God declares His love for us and His willingness to save us from our sin. God loves you and me so much that He was willing to be incarnated, to come to earth, so that He could save us from our sin, He came to rescue us, and when we place our trust in Jesus we are saved.
Woven throughout the pages of the Old Testament is the prophetic promise that the Messiah would come, the promise that His advent would take place. The promise of the messiah, the Saviour has been fulfilled. The messianic prophecies in the Old Testament were made hundreds, even thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born. From Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of this anointed one.
786 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 11:1 “Out of the stump of King David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” The fulfilment of that prophecy is found in Matthew 1:1 “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham”
Consider the words of Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” Around seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the Prophet Micah prophesised exactly where the Messiah would be born. Micah also makes reference to the eternal nature of Christ’s existance, “a ruler whose origins are in the distant past”, Jesus, part of the eternal Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existed before He was incarnated as a baby in Bethlehem.
Remember God also declared through His prophet in Isaiah 7:14, “the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)”. This prophecy was fulfiled in Matthew 1:22-23, “All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
Isn’t the Word of God amazing, when God says something will happen, it happens exactly the way He said it would.
Rev. Dean Courtier
What does the word ‘fulfilment’ mean? It simply means completion – the coming true of a promise or hope. The period of Advent represents the time of waiting for the Messiah to come and fulfil this promise. When Jesus came to the earth, He completed God’s plan for salvation. Jesus is the ‘Hope of the Nations’ because, He not only came to live amongst ordinary people – God with us, Immanuel – but He also came to be the final sacrifice for sin, fulfilling all of the Law of God. Jesus fulfilled the Old testament Law and Prophecy.
In Luke 24v44 Jesus says: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
FULFILMENT IN JESUS
Another meaning of the word ‘fulfilment’ is satisfaction. Jesus satisfied the Law which said that all sin must be paid for – He paid the ultimate price to do so. But in doing so, He brings us satisfaction – we are fulfilled in Christ. We are complete in Him when we trust in His work on the Cross of Calvary. We are saved by God’s grace alone – nothing we do can make God love us any more or any less. We can be absolutely satisfied and complete, and fulfilled, in Him.
Philippians 1v6 says: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
And there’s more to come. We are also promised a life of joy and fulfilment, with Christ, in heaven. We can know fulfilment, satisfaction and joy, not just for a space of time, but for eternity. What more could we want? Christ has done it all – Praise His Name. This is the best gift ever!!
Luke 10 verse 20 says: rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory.(2 Corinthians 1:20)
God’s Word is our source of comfort and hope because the Lord always does what He says. Every prophecy in the Bible either has come to pass or will be fulfiled in the future. In fact, Scripture is so trustworthy that Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.” (Luke 16:17).
We must not assume that every promise recorded in the Bible is for us. The Lord’s biblical pledges fall into several categories, and it’s important to understand the difference so we don’t mistakenly claim one that is not meant for us. When we misapply the Bible, we can develop an inaccurate view of God, and that usually leads to disappointment and distrust of Him.
Some biblical promises are limited – they apply to a specific person, nation, time, or purpose. For example, in Genesis 18:10, the Lord assured Abraham that Sarah would have a son, so we cannot presume that He will do the same for us. God can use this passage to teach us about His providential care and provision, but we should not grab verses and expect them to be fulfiled in our life regardless of their context.
Other promises in the Word are conditional and apply only if we meet the requirements: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6) or “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9)
But, there are some promises that apply to all believers—these are assurances that are certain because of our union with Christ, He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us His mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil His own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to his plan. God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him. (Ephesians 1:7-14)
Be encouraged, God is your loving heavenly Father and He will fulfil His promises to you.
Rev. Dean Courtier
‘I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible’. (1 Corinthians 7:35)
Commuting to London during the week one thing that is very noticeable is how connected people are to technology. On their mobiles on the platform, sitting on the train, and even walking about and at least a couple of times a day someone will walk into me while absorbed in something on their phones.
So why are so many people doing this? I admit that I do listen to music or watch the occasional programme when sitting on the train but I don’t understand why some watch films whilst walking. What is it about lives that they have to be constantly entertained and connected?
Many people in the world are blindly seeking something and so are endlessly looking for the next thing to occupy themselves, and if they are not sated then they start looking again. Is it that they are afraid of silence, and emptiness, or perhaps life bores them? Is that why they fill empty time and space with noise? Perhaps they are worried that if they are not occupied they might easily become preoccupied; that is filling in these quiet spaces with their worries, self-doubt, inadequacies, and their fears.
In these days where there are so many distractions vying for our attention there is a sanctuary where we can experience peace, the peace that can only come from God. For me I like to start my day by reading from The Word for Today, a piece of scripture (ironically I have a Daily Bible App on my phone for that), even a conversation with God Himself. This time alone with God helps set me up for the day ahead and gives me a much needed boost, something that all the best entertainment in the world cannot do; and makes me feel connected to the only truly important thing in our lives – God Himself.
So who or what are you connected to? Are you distracted by the noisy world around you? Are you seeking that inner peace that only He can offer? Do you make time to spend a few moments alone with God?
If so do yourself a favour and turn off the TV or your mobile phone, find a quiet place to sit and start a conversation and get connected with God.
Remember that God loves us unconditionally no matter our past, no matter what others think or say, no matter what we think of ourselves. Why? Because He made us in His image, and He made us perfect for what He has planned for us. Therefore we need to spend time with Him and seek what He created us to be. So let us all shed our chains and embrace the freedom that had been granted us.
‘Be still, and know that I am God’. (Psalm 41:10)
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
As disciples of Jesus, we know the truth that our journey through life is not always smooth sailing. Even though Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, some of us seem to encounter more struggles than before we knew Him– but the difference is, He is always with us, we do not face those struggles on our own.
Before accepting Jesus as our Saviour, we were drifting along our path and there was no inner conflict between God’s will and our desires. But after our salvation, we began a new journey of sanctification.
God does not give us whatever we want, He knows what is best for each of us, the challenge for us is to follow His plan and path for us and not give up and drift back to the ways of the world.
Those who have counted the cost and surrendered to Christ as Lord, are not left on their own to do the best they can (that would never work because human efforts cannot overcome sin). What is needed is divine empowerment, which is exactly what we have in the Holy Spirit, who came to live within us at the moment of salvation.
In Galatians, Paul warns us not to use our freedom in Christ as an excuse to drift back into sin and worldliness. Instead, we are to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Though it might be a struggle at times, as believers we should seek to move toward holiness and Christlikeness through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Every day we may grapple with sins like jealousy, strife, lust, selfishness or pride. Yet at the same time, we can learn to walk by the Spirit, who empowers us to set aside these sinful desires. By fully submitting to God, we can walk in victory over sin and self.
Rev. Dean Courtier
I have already begun my Christmas shopping (forgive me for mentioning the “C” word). I have to buy dozens of presents, so I start early each year. And we are fast approaching the season of giving, whether we like it or not! It’s the time of the year when out thoughts turn to preparing special services, concerts (classical and choir!), Café church, candlelit carols, and as many ways as we can think of to share a gift with the community. We want to give them the gift of Jesus, whilst at the same time remembering that Jesus gave his all for us.
Giving gifts does not have to be about money or material things. It can be about giving friendship – maybe visiting someone in their home. It can also be about giving a helping hand, sharing words of comfort, coming alongside someone with a word of encouragement. And of course, it can be financial help too, or sharing food, or books, or whatever is needed at any particular time.
God gave the world a baby – His own Son, Jesus. Jesus gave the world the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. What can we give? God has enriched us so that we can give to others. This is what He says: As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
In the build-up to this busy season, alongside the lists for presents and food, perhaps it would be good to consider what we are giving of ourselves and the gifts that God has already given us.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)
The context for freedom in today’s passage is the Old Testament Law. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are freed from the demands of the Law, because Jesus Christ fulfilled it by living a perfect life and paying the penalty for your sin with His death on the cross. Your salvation is by God’s grace through faith, not by your own good works.
Your freedom in Christ does not cancel out your responsibility. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you know that God has called you to be different in your attitudes and your actions.
The words of Romans 12:2 are very clear, “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Some Christians live as if this verse is an optional extra to their lives. Their behaviour, their actions or in-actions are no different to what the world says is permissible but God says is unacceptable.
Spirit-filled, born-again believers and disciples of Jesus are meant to be different - different in the way we live, the way we act, the way we think. Our focus is not meant to be on our wants, needs or desires - our focus is meant to be on God - His good and perfect plans and purposes for us.
We are not meant to be indistinguishable from an unbeliever. We are not meant to be bound by sinful desires. We are not meant to disobey God’s call and purpose for our lives.
Are you allowing God to change and transform you? Are you allowing God to change and transform the way you think? Will you allow God to bring difference to your life?
God has called us to live differently. The Holy Spirit is able to work in us and through us to bring change and transformation. God has called us to live lives that are holy and acceptable to Him.
When we come to Christ, we are freed from the consequences and burden of our sin. We are free from the punishment our sin deserves because Jesus has paid the price for our freedom, but that does not mean we are free to live as we want.
Let your life bring honour and glory to the one who has died to set you free.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Recently at church we have been hearing from God about how HE is a strong tower.
How comforting that is. We can run to Him and He keeps us safe from difficulties in life.
Last week my husband Brian and I took delivery of some new furniture. We had measured, checked colours, comfort, etc. etc. All looked good.
At last the day arrived when the delivery would take place. Our old suite had gone, so we were eager to see the lorry arrive which it did at 3pm. Our new sofa was carefully brought in to our hallway. Then the fun began!
“We don’t think it will go in” was what, to my horror, I heard “Could you take your pictures off the wall?” — then “Can you remove ornaments from the shelf?” Someone suggested removing the packaging Next it was “The architrave round the door frame needs to come off.” By this time 20 mins or so had gone by, I was a little restless.
Again “We can’t get it in. It’s no good we’ll have to take it all back“ OH NO!! I thought. I decided I would pray — Hard.
Would God answer my prayer? — After all it was only furniture — home comfort
While I was praying I noticed that Brian had a handful of tools. It had been decided that if the arm of the sofa was removed, then it WOULD go in. Quite drastic, but it worked.
Thank you, thank you Lord.
Was I taking God for granted- was I expecting too much? I believe that God wants the best for us, His children. What seemed impossible to the delivery men, who were very patient, and to Brian and me WAS possible with God. An hour after they had arrived the arm was fixed back on, the delivery men left, we cleared up and sank onto our new chairs with a cuppa!! What an afternoon!
Pastor Dean used this passage in his sermon last Sunday and it reminded me of how God IS a strong tower and of His goodness to Brian and me that day. The Message puts it like this: Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful when God displaces worry at the centre of your life”
So can we pray about everything? YES WE CAN! Praise His name.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Have you ever considered that spiritual rescue is even more important than physical deliverance? Although Jesus has freed us from the penalty and power of sin, there are times when we feel helpless in the face of sinful habits, emotions, rash words, and ungodly thoughts. That’s when we need to follow the example of the psalmist and cry out to God for spiritual rescue.
Admit your helplessness to God. In yourself, you have no power to overcome sin. But God’s Spirit within you is almighty.
Confess any sins, fears, unbelief, or self-reliance. Surrender all further attempts to change by self-effort, and make no provision for sinful desires.
Turn your gaze toward God. Think about who He is, what He desires, and what He has promised.
Fill your mind and heart with God’s Word. Meditate on it. Ask Him for wisdom and strength to follow Him with reliance on and submission to His Spirit.
Trust God, and wait upon Him to change you from the inside out. Although salvation occurs in a moment, sanctification is a lifelong process.
A time will eventually come when the helpless feeling departs and is replaced by the joy of obedience. When that happens, give God the glory.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23)
Some Christians say their lives bear little resemblance to the Christian life described in The Bible. Some struggle repeatedly with the same sins, some feel that God rarely answers prayers, and others wonder why God hasn’t given them the desires of their heart. How is this possible?
The problem may be a lack of submission to Jesus Christ. People often want the forgiveness of sins and the promise of heaven but are not willing to place themselves under the lordship of Christ. Therefore, they are disconnected from what He wants to do in their life. In refusing to submit, they forfeit the blessings that come to those who know Christ as Saviour and Lord.
“You become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” People strongly dislike the concept of slavery, that is the reality for every person who enters the world: We are all born as slaves of sin. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the final word. Anyone who turns to Christ in repentance and faith is set free. However, this is not freedom to simply do whatever we want. In fact, doing so would naturally lead us back to our old slave master of sin.
Avoiding submission to God results in wasted years of chasing after His blessings through our own cunning. True freedom and blessing are found only in being a slave to God, who is always good, wise, and loving. In obedience to His will, we find freedom from sin, answers to prayer, and new desires that come from a changed heart.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
When listening to a sermon in church a while back I started asking myself the question, am I daring to be different? Even as a Christian it’s so easy to get swept along with the busy-ness of life and succumb to the distractions of the world. In church too it’s also very easy to ride along with the majority doing the same things we’ve always done rather than stick or head above the metaphorical parapet, but there comes a time when we need to reflect on our spiritual journey and walk against the flow in order to follow Jesus’ commands.
When a salmon comes to maturity it returns to its river of origin to spawn. To do this it has to swim upstream against the current and overcome many obstacles and so must be fully fit and at its strongest. Despite the rigours of the journey they persist and endure driven by a need they cannot explain. Then once they have reached their destination and spawned they are so spent that they die. However the effort isn’t in vain as the cycle begins again when the eggs hatch. The salmon swims against the tide in order to ensure survival of its kind.
In our journey of “Daring to be Different” we too have go against the tide to overcome the current of “the world” and the obstacles life throws at us. Our relationship with Father through the power of the Spirit that dwells within us helps keep us strong and fit spiritually so that we too endure. The journey isn’t easy but we too are driven but unlike the salmon, we know what drives us. And at the end of our journey although the body may die, we know that our spirit lives on and we will dwell with Him for eternity.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Will you “Dare to be Different”?
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NLT)
We don’t always know exactly how to pray for others, or even for ourselves. In Colossians we read Paul’s prayer for the believers in that church. What is interesting is the absence of many of the requests we might normally make while talking with the Lord—for health, financial needs, or deliverance from difficult situations. Paul’s prayer is focused on the believers’ spiritual needs, and it’s a pattern we can all follow as we pray for others and ourselves.
Often we are impatient in prayer and want God to respond even before we say Amen. In contrast, Paul wasn’t burdened by a quest for immediate answers and never gave up speaking to the Lord about the Colossians. He was confident that God would hear, and he also knew that spiritual growth is a lifelong process, not a quick fix.
Paul didn’t settle for a simple appeal of “Lord, bless the Colossian church.” He really cared about the people there, and he focused on what God desired for them—that they would know the Father’s will, walk worthy of Him, and be strengthened with His power.
The Lord desires to answer petitions that line up with His will. Of course, we should also talk to our Father about our physical or emotional concerns, but we must not overlook our need for consistent spiritual growth. Through Paul, God has given us an example for an honest prayer that He longs to answer.
When you don’t know how to pray for others, let this prayer of Paul guide your requests. Then be patient, knowing God answers prayers in the best way and with the best timing.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Growth is exciting. Gardeners and farmers tend their plants with care and watch crops closely, hoping to see them flourish at just the right time. Parents constantly monitor the development and maturing process of their children, looking out for signs of trouble and celebrating accomplishments along the way.
Plants, animals, and humans are designed to grow and mature in an orderly fashion, but a lot depends on the conditions around them. Sometimes those conditions are beyond our control. Common sense tells us that we can expect to reap what we sow. If we plant strawberries, we get strawberries—not watermelons. If we plant a rose bush, we don’t expect tulips. What’s odd is how so many of us forget this basic principle when it comes to our spiritual life. “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9)
Just as gardens eventually take the shape of a landscaper’s vision, our lives reflect where we invest time, energy, and resources. If we’re self-focused and intent on experiencing as much pleasure as possible, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if we’re left empty and dissatisfied—or if God’s discipline feels harsh. But if we seek opportunities daily for spiritual growth and for serving God and others, we’ll reap eternal benefits.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of maturing spiritually and often makes comparisons to agriculture and infants. (2 Corinthians 9:10; Eph. 4:14-15; Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:1-3.) It’s not enough for a seed to sprout or for a baby to be born. If they remained in their original weak and helpless state, they’d quickly die. Growth has to happen, and that means not only increasing in size but also being strengthened on the inside.
We can expect to reap what we sow, yet many of us forget this basic principle when it comes to our spiritual life, “you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) and “let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.” (Hebrews 6:1).
God wants you to grow, allow the Holy Spirit to bring fruitful growth to your life. May you be a blessing to others and bring glory to God.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:10, NLT)
I recently came across a song by Josh Wilson, “Dream Small”. The lyrics reminded me that it’s often the simple day-to-day things that can have the biggest impact. Our words and deeds can make a difference. What can we do to make someone’s life better? What can we say to encourage someone rather than discourage? These small gestures, often never seen by anyone but the people involved, can mean so much.
By focusing only on the big stuff, we can miss the opportunities happening around us all the time. We may feel overwhelmed by all the problems we see in the world; maybe the answer is to grasp these opportunities when we see them. Our God is big, but He works through small things.
The song starts with the line, “It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord”
Timothy was a faithful member of Paul’s missionary team and became one of his most trusted partners. But without Lois and Eunice we may never have heard of Timothy.
‘I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.’ (2 Timothy 1:5, NIV)
Lois taught the scriptures and her love of God to her daughter, Eunice. Eunice in turn taught these things to her son, Timothy. It’s a domino effect, but what is important is that they took the time to share their faith with the children in their lives. This is something that we can all do today.
Wherever you are in life, God wants to use you. Let Him.
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Lyric Dream Small, Josh Wilson
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:-9)
“Jesus is Lord” is the confession of every Christian because it is foundational to our faith. In order to be saved, the apostle Paul says we must confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9). Such doctrine is central to Christianity, and those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ believe that He is Lord of all creation and all time.
However, when we say “all,” it means us as well. If Jesus truly is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, then He is also the Master of our individual lives. Christ’s sovereign rule is not limited to governing the vast universe; it’s also a personal issue. He is Lord of our normal, daily lives—our choices, priorities, activities, attitudes, words, everything.
Paul captured this truth in Romans 14:8 when he wrote, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.” The apostle considered it impossible to compartmentalize Christ’s lordship. He knew his life belonged wholly to Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t want to be part of our life; He made that clear with His disciples. When we give the Lord just a portion, then we are telling Him there are other things we consider at least as important as He is. Do you know what the Bible calls this? Idolatry.
Jesus never called people to give Him a try. He demanded full surrender: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). We can’t squeeze Jesus into one segment of our life and continue living as we please. If we are truly His, then Jesus is our life.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Today I am going out to lunch with my friend. We don’t get together very often so it is a treat and we will have a good old natter, and catch up on all our family news. When we get together, I think about what has happened since we last met; I sometimes take photos to show her; I might make some coconut ice for her; and occasionally I might buy her flowers. Often, we share problems and difficulties and bring encouragement to each other. Although we’ve known each other for nearly 60 years and are comfortable in each other’s presence, I still make the effort to be prepared with things to say and ideas to share. I certainly do not think at the last moment, “Oh, I’ve got to dash out and see my friend – tick that box.”!
Jesus is also my friend and I have known Him for over 60 years. And even though I speak to Him every day I still take time to be prepared. The relationship is like that of friend with friend – but not like that of demanding child with parent – “Can I have this; can I have that; why haven’t I got it yet; where are you; I’m fed up; nobody loves me; life sucks.” Friendship is a 50:50 thing, talking and listening, giving and taking on an equal basis.
How do we prepare?
- Listen to what God is saying to YOU in the songs we sing
- Respond with worship and praise
- Listen to what God is saying to YOU in the sermons we hear
- Respond with appropriate action
- Listen to what God is saying to YOU in your daily reading
- Consider if God wants YOU to share something with the whole church as He speaks to you, particularly on a Sunday morning.
Be prepared for the special weekly meeting with friend Jesus. Don’t come to church with the attitude, “I’ve got to go to church - tick that box”. Are we looking forward to meeting Jesus as much as we look forward to seeing our friends? He is certainly looking forward to meeting us – so be prepared!
He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Here is a controversial statement “Everyone has faith.” Every person in this world has faith in something or someone. Atheists have faith that there is no God. They believe all of the complexities of life and the universe are all accidental. Atheists are blind to the realities of a personal relationship with the wonderful, creator God. Instead of a functional faith in God, they place their faith and trust in random chance and evolution.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us “it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. “
Because of a lack of faith, Jesus left the town of Nazareth, “He did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58). The problem for the people of Nazareth was not a lack of faith, the problem was their faith was misplaced in other things instead of placed in Jesus.
The world may distract and confuse with ideas, theories and empty promises, but Jesus provides the right way, He is the truth and the life. The promises of God assure our future; the fact we are forgiven when we repent and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour is true. Our salvation is a past fact, not a future promise.
You can look forward to spending eternity with God, and functionally walk in the truth that you can “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7).
Rev. Dean Courtier
The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” describes God’s purpose for our trials: “For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.” The pain and hardship we endure is meant not to crush us but to refine and shape us into Christ’s image. God alone knows how to replace ashes with a crown, and mourning with the oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3).
This is what Mary Magdalene discovered on the morning of the Christ’s resurrection. She went to the garden tomb, overwhelmed by sorrow and loss. The darkness of despair was swallowing her when she turned around and saw Jesus. After He spoke her name, she immediately recognized the Lord and clung to Him, fearing that even now He might be taken away from her.
Jesus assured her that He had not yet ascended to His Father. Although there would come a day when He would physically depart from her and all His followers, in reality nothing could separate them from Him. Because He had paid the penalty of their sins with His death, His Spirit would soon indwell them. And one day Jesus would come to take them back to His Father’s house to be with Him forever: “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:3).
We can all relate to feelings of despair. Dashed hopes—even small ones—can lead to suffering. But when expectations are high or personal loss hangs in the balance, our hope can be crushed if disaster strikes. Then it is important to remember that when we have Christ, weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Rev. Dean Courtier
A friend will often book me on a craft class and I will have no idea what I will be doing till I arrive.
One such class was Mandala stone painting. This involves painting a series of dots on a stone to form a growing pattern. It’s simple, calming and surprisingly therapeutic. You start with a large central dot, then build a range of smaller graduating dots that radiate out from the central main dot.
The central dot is like God in our lives. It’s the basis for the whole pattern, and the very centre of everything that comes after it. The problem is, too many peoples central dot isn’t God. It might be money, job, technology, hobby or anything else that becomes the centre of their life. The pattern of their lives then reflects what’s at the very centre.
Ever wondered if your life’s pattern could be better? Change the dot, see what happens.
Some examples of poor translation on notices abroad:
Fire extinguisher in a shop: called ‘hand grenade’
Sign on the rocks: says ‘slip and fall down carefully’
Sign in the park: Do not disturb, tiny grass is dreaming
Another: Loveable but pitiful grass is under your foot
Sign in restaurant: Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy
Airport Sign: Take luggage of foreigner – no charge
Another: Eating carpet strictly prohibited
Restaurant: Sale of chicken murder
These examples highlight the difficulty in translating text from one language to another – even a few words can present great problems! How amazing is it then that our Bible – The Word of God – has withstood translation from Hebrew to Aramaic and from Hebrew to Koine Greek; from Greek to Latin (known as the Vulgate), and from Latin into modern day languages. John Wycliffe was credited with translating the whole Bible into English. And since then there have been many updates using, as far as possible, the earliest manuscripts to ensure authenticity.
Our Bibles were originally written as 66 books by 40 different authors over a period of about two and a half thousand years. In the fourth century AD Christian leaders gathered together, and after several decades of debate and prayer, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, agreed which writings were to be included in the first ever complete Bible, published by Jerome.
So, it’s amazing that the Word of God has endured and is as true and correct today as it was when it was written. How precious it is. How much we should value it and read it and pass it on. It’s a Living Word, always applicable to our lives, and it can never be destroyed – Praise God.
Isaiah 40:8 - The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.
My husband, Trevor, recently needed to visit the Apple store at Lakeside shopping centre. I decided to go with him as there was something I needed and I knew I would have more chance of getting it there. When we arrived, he went to the store as arranged and I knew I had about 30 minutes to race to find what I was after.
However, after 25 minutes he called me to say the repair would take about 2 hours, so I could slow down and take my time. At this point I was in the Lakeland Kitchen store. Now anyone who knows me will understand that if there is one place I should not be left unsupervised its Lakeland. I now had time to browse instead of just grabbing what I needed.
Half an hour later I left with a lot more things that I never knew I needed 30 minutes earlier!
Do we rush around taking from God just what we need? I know I often do; most busy people would say the same. But if we stop and wait for His call, and maybe spend more time in His company than we think we can spare, we will find we leave with more gifts and blessings from Him than we thought needed before.
I recently had to drive to Wales. Nothing new, I have been making this exact same journey for 40 years, ever since my Uncle moved there. However, this time I was going alone to help my Aunt as my 80 year old uncle was recovering from Pneumonia and Sepsis.
I have done this journey so many times I could do it blindfolded (don’t worry, I didn’t!) but it is a boring 5 hour trip. Sometimes I use the Sat Nav, not for directions, but I find it helpful to know things like how many miles till the next turn off, how long till I arrive, and so on. That said, it’s an easy journey, M25, M4 and I am there, not many ways to get lost, so I decided not to bother connecting it up.
Obviously if it was that simple I would not be writing this little story. As I mentioned, it is a very boring journey, especially alone, so I decided to take an audio book to listen to. This really helped fill the time. Problem was I got so involved in the story that I suddenly realised that the signs on the M25 for Heathrow had been replaced by signs for Gatwick. Anyone who knows this route will understand how my heart sank as I realised I had been so engrossed I had completely missed the M4 turn off. I was so angry with myself as I had been driving since 5am to miss the traffic and I would now be slowed down by the fact I would have to reroute along the M3 and through towns like Ascot in rush hour.
It’s so easy to think “I know where my life is going, I’ve got this covered” and not really pay attention to what God is telling you. The signs are there, but we are so busy in what we are doing, or listening to, we can miss the correct path to take.
I had to stop, get out my maps app, and put in my destination to get back on the right path.
Don’t stop listening or watching God, and if you do, don’t get angry, just reroute to his way as soon as you can!
Some people are good at witnessing, but they struggle with prayer. Others are good at hospitality, but they struggle with Bible reading. Some people are cut out for youth work, whilst others are happy visiting the elderly. Some are morning people and others are night owls. Some are academics and others are gardeners or tea makers. I’m sure even our Pastors would agree that they find some of these things harder than others. So, here’s the good news:
God doesn’t expect us to want to do, or to be especially good at, everything.
The human body has many parts making up one body. So it is with the Body of Christ… If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am a hand” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye” would that make it any the less a part of the body? … God made our body with many parts and has put each part just where it is needed… In fact some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary … This make for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. Can we all do everything? (paraphrase) – no, of course not. But try your best to use the most helpful gifts. (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31)
God doesn’t expect us to be good at everything. So, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not like someone else. But, make sure you do something, else the Body of Christ will not function as it should. We are all vital to God’s work. And just like the parts of our bodies, we all have a function – big or small, seen or unseen.
Christ is the head of the church, which is His body. (Colossians 1:18). Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts to grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:16)
God needs all of you!
Recently I read a book my Grandson recommended to me. It was called ”Mud, Sweat and Tears” and written by Bear Grylls. This man intrigues me. I have watched several of his TV programmes where he undertakes some very crazy adventures. Why would anyone want to put his, and often other peoples, lives in such danger?
However I decided I would give it a go. The very first page grabbed my attention “Every day I thank God I am alive. I thank Him for my Family, and I thank God that I have been able to follow so many incredible adventures” Bear confesses to being just a regular guy with all the usual struggles, self doubts and flaws that tend to go with life.
He tells a story about the time a dear family friend died very suddenly and how devastated he felt on the loss of this second father figure in his life. He sat up in a tree and prayed “Please God comfort me“, then being totally surprised when He did. He vowed then that he would not let go of the Simple Faith he had found.
As his life went on the more Christian faith he discovered. He realised how simple it is to come to know God. He also found that his Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened and loved—and our part in it all is to stay open and gentle so we can hear God’s voice. Everyone needs to be loved, held and forgiven, yet, a lot of folk hate religion, Well here’s the surprise, so did Jesus, in fact He didn’t just sympathise, He went much further. Christ came to set us free, to bring life in all its fullness. He is there to forgive us when we mess up and be the backbone in our being.
Bear ends by saying “Faith in Christ has been the great empowering presence in my life, helping me to walk strong when so often I feel weak. It is no wonder I felt I had stumbled on something remarkable that night up in that tree”.
This book is filled with Bear’s experiences in life and of the gratefulness he has in finding Jesus. He is a man of extremes, but through the book the thread of Jesus winds its way through all the adventures. There is a lot to learn from this man and his adventures but how much more we can learn from the Master of all adventure and lessons in life. Our Lord Jesus!!
The Lord’s first call on each of us is to reach out to the lost.
The Lord’s Heart is that none should perish. Have you a passion for the lost?
Do you share the Lord’s anguish/grief for the lost?
Are you fully yielded to the Holy Spirit or could there be the possibility of regretful tears at the moment you step into eternity?
Are you radical as one of God’s disciples or do you water down your service so that it may be comfortable or convenient to you? Wanting a status quo, or not wanting to rock the boat?
Do you regularly read the Bible and allow it to challenge or change you in every area or do you generally think of someone else it applies to or are you more interested in its interpretation or meaning?
Are you prepared to do whatever the Lord tells you to in obedience to His word so that His word becomes a treasure to you?
Am I wholeheartedly for the Lord?
REMINDER - Disobedience brings spiritual famine and unless we respond in obedience revelation stops and our spiritual life becomes clouded.
Have I settled back and become complaisant or apathetic?
Do I use the gifts the Lord has given me; do you know what they are or sought them?
Do I have a conscience that is sensitive to the Holy Spirit or a conscience that is drugged by self-deception or blind spots?
Am I willing to be a prophetic voice against the tide of the world and also where I know I will be unpopular?
REMINDER - Not to get into condemnation – but open to the Holy Spirit where changes need to be made.
Over the years I’ve noticed there are Christians who go to church and listen to sermons every Sunday but have no motivation to serve God in any way. Does this describe you? Do you feel more like a passenger than an integral participant of the church you attend? Are you ignoring what Jesus has called you to do?
The church is often described as His body, and the church is composed of many members who are gifted and called to serve God in a variety of ways. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you have already been equipped to serve the Lord in your local church. His process of equipping you for service began at the moment of your salvation when the Holy Spirit regenerated your spirit and brought it to life. Then He came to live within you to empower your obedience and transform you into the image of God’s Son. The Spirit also gave you a spiritual gift to enable you to serve in the way God planned. He gives a gift to every believer, and you are not an exception. If you’ve been born again, you have a spiritual gift, whether you realize it or not.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
What is a spiritual gift? The Greek term is charisma, which means a gift of divine grace freely given through no merit of our own but simply as an act of God’s favour toward us. It’s a special ability or empowerment so we can carry out the work God has called us to do. We don’t have to pray for it, and we don’t get to choose which one we want because the Spirit distributes them as He desires (1 Corinthians 12:11).
The lists of gifts are found in Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; and Ephesians 4:11. Our responsibility is to discover our gift and use it in serving God and each other. These gifts are not given to us for our own growth, enjoyment, and sense of satisfaction in the Lord. They are for the benefit of others in the church. Paul clearly teaches this in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Having a spiritual gift is of little value if it’s never used in the church.
Rev. Dean Courtier
The Old Testament provides us with many names and titles for God, the New Testament reveals Him most fully. Jesus shocked the religious leaders of His day by claiming that He had a Father/Son relationship with the God whose name they feared even to pronounce.
Jesus invited His followers to call God “Father,” He made this name the primary name by which God is to be known to His followers. That’s why we can boldly pray the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “Our Father who art in Heaven”.
The Old Testament usually depicts God not as the Father of individuals but as Father to His people, Israel. Pious Jews, aware of the gap between a holy God and sinful human beings, would never have dared address God as Ab (Hebrew) or Abba, the Aramaic word for “Daddy,” which gradually came to mean “dear father.” Rather than depicting God as a typical Middle Eastern patriarch who wielded considerable power within the family, Jesus depicted Him as a tender and compassionate father, who extends grace to both the sinner and the self-righteous.
The most frequent term for “father” in the New Testament was the Greek word pater. The first recorded words of Jesus, spoken to His earthly parents, are these: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In John’s gospel, Jesus calls God His Father 156 times. The expression “Abba, Pater” is found three times in the New Testament, all in prayer. It is the form Jesus used in His anguished cry in Gethsemane, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)
Today: Praise God for His generous, fatherly love; Give thanks that God is your King and Lord and Father; and ask God to reveal Himself as Father.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Always be joyful… keep on praying… always be thankful… (1 Thessalonians 16-18)
ALWAYS BE JOYFUL
Some people naturally have a “teapot” face, that is, it is round and smiley. Others of us aren’t so lucky! But in this verse Paul isn’t talking about outward happiness so much as an indwelling joy. You might say, “How can I be joyful when I have this problem in my life?” But the joy Paul talks about is not based on the good and bad things that cross our paths. It is “the joy of our salvation” – the joy that comes from knowing the most important thing of all, that it is well with our soul, God is forever with us, and he has prepared us a place in heaven. That fact never changes. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can experience his joy, even in the difficult times. Be encouraged.
KEEP ON PRAYING
Your first thought might be, “That’s impossible, there are other things to do”. But the thought here is that praying should be like breathing. We must keep on breathing, and it’s not until we are out of breath that we realise we are doing it all the time anyway! We cannot stop. We live our life breathing because it is vital to our being alive. Prayer is our spiritual breath. Prayer is being in communion with God, being aware of his presence, so that our thoughts and worries naturally become prayers to God, even without us realising it. And sometimes prayer gets a lot harder when the road is steeper. But it is all prayer. Be encouraged.
ALWAYS BE THANKFUL
In other words, count your blessings. Write down verses of encouragement that God has given you. Write down words of prophecy and note what God is doing. Claim His promises and thank Him for them. Praise God for who he is and what he does, and thank him that, whatever the circumstances and however you are feeling, He still loves and cares for you. Be encouraged.
…for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.(1 Thessalonians. 16-18 contd.)
I have a terrible memory. My theory is that the older you get, the more your brain fills up, and the less room you have to store things you really should remember. The problem with me is that this process seems to have kicked off early! To have a chance of remembering anything I find that I have to write it down, to jog my memory. The only problem is, I often forget where I left my notebook!
I remember watching on TV a programme where a man who had somehow lost all short-term memory function. It was so profound that if his wife left the room to make cup of tea, when she returned with the drink, her husband greeted her as it she’d been away for years. Can you imagine how distressing this was to this woman who’d loved her husband for years.
To lose your memory profoundly must be very distressing, yet how often do we get so wrapped up in our daily activities that we forget what God has done in our lives. Take a moment this week to sit down, to remember the good things God has done in your life. Jog your memory by reading King David’s notebook:
“Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).
Rev. Simon Law
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:13-14)
We have to take care of our children. In a day and age when there are all sorts of assaults on our kids, it is not enough to stand with our children and dedicate them to God when they’re infants. Yes, it’s a blessing to have them begin their lives with people praying over them and joined by others who will stand with them at a baby dedication and commit to intercede for these children throughout their lives. But that’s not enough, for there are so many negative influences in our world today vying for the attention of our children and young people. Even in the apparent safety of their own homes, young people are being lured into all kinds of dangerous things through the Internet and ever-increasing forms of social media that enable kids to keep one step ahead of vigilant parents and guardians.
Children are a gift from God, and Jesus loves them even more than we, as parents, could ever love them. He demonstrated this when he was on this earth and didn’t allow others to just brush them aside as if they were of little importance. The Bible says that we have the mind of Christ, so we too – as parents and guardians and aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and Sunday school teachers and, even, as neighbours – have to have the same concern for the children that Jesus had. We have a responsibility to know Jesus better every day, for their sake; we have to talk like Jesus and act like Jesus, so we can be an example for our children every day. And if don’t have direct responsibility for a child, we can always pray for the children we know and ask the Lord to bless their mums and dads and others who may have an impact on their lives.
Then, as we intercede – not as a one-time dedication prayer, but throughout the lives of our children – we will be able to rest and trust God for them.
We’ll be able to believe for great things for our children and for the children around us, trusting that they will have a wonderful testimony of the power of intercessory prayer over their young lives.
Rev. Dean Courtier
From birth and throughout life, we are defined in little boxes on forms by our origin, address, education, experience, bank account, credit score, employer, friends, race, ethnicity and religion. We are labelled one thing or another: educated or uneducated, responsible or reckless, qualified or inexperienced, young or old, shy or outgoing, too much or not enough.
Do you allow the names you, or others call you to define you? We can allow the labels that others place on us to define us. We can allow words and labels to limit us. A teacher, parent, colleague or ex can call us stupid, loser, fat, ugly or hopeless, and those labels can stick to us, hurt us and damage us because we begin to believe them.
Do you dwell on the labels other people have given you? Do you keep hurtful names in your heart and mind? Words and labels can hurt as much as sticks and stones can bruise and damage our bodies. If we believe them, and use them on ourselves, we can be brought to our knees and stopped in our tracks so that we don’t pursue the purpose God has had in mind for us from the beginning of time.
Are you ignoring the promises of God about you? Are you missing God’s truth about who you are and what you were created to do? Is there is a fight between your heart and your head? The best advice I can give you is pick up your Bible and remind yourself of what the Word of God says. The truth of God’s Word will last forever, do not dwell on circumstances that will change and fade. Say with the Psalmist, “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” (Psalm 25:5).
It is God’s Word and God’s promises that empowers us to ‘Dare to be Different’ and to move forward and become the people God has called us to be. Listen to His voice and trust Him.
Rev. Dean Courtier
If you had the choice, would you choose a pizza, maybe a burger; or would you choose grilled fish, or perhaps coq au vin? And would you prefer a side of chips or a plate of freshly cooked vegetables? I took a friend of mine to the smallest gastro pub in England for a meal. And what did he choose? Burger and chips! He enjoyed his meal, while I enjoyed my liver and bacon with vegetables.
I have to admit fast food is quite nice, and at times it can be very convenient, but it has its drawbacks. Generally speaking, it is high in fat and calories, and if eaten frequently it is bad for your health. The best plan is to have little treats or days off cooking, but then spend most days eating healthy, freshly cooked food which will provide the protein, fat and roughage that we need to grow and repair our bodies and to keep healthy.
What we eat to satisfy the needs of our body is like a metaphor for the way we feed our spiritual bodies. There may be days when all we can do is read the passage from Bible notes or look at a thought for the day on our iPhone. But good “food” takes time to eat and digest, it is never rushed if it is to be appreciated. It has to be eaten regularly and it has to be assimilated – absorbed into our very being if it is to make a difference. Let me suggest we consider four questions:
How long do I spend eating each day?
How long do I spend reading and meditating on God’s Word each day?
Have I got the balance right?
What can I do to improve my physical and spiritual health?
Acts 2:42 says that the early Christians devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching. And Colossians 3:16 says: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
When we know the Word, we not only help ourselves to be spiritually healthy, but we can encourage one another also.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
When the Prophet Samuel saw Eliab the eldest son of Jesse he assumed that He was the one chosen to be the next king of Israel based on his external appearance. The only problem was that although he looked to be the best choice he was not Gods first choice. So often we can make the same mistake. We think if someone is talented or gifted or smart or eloquent they must be the one whom God has chosen. More often than not we think everyone is a better choice than we would be.
God has always chosen those that no one else would choose so that His glory can shine through him or her. God sees possibility when no one else does. God sees potential where no one else does. God sees faithfulness when no one else does. God sees loyalty when no one else does.
God always sees more in us than we see in ourselves. He sees a king when everyone else sees a shepherd boy. If you feel overlooked or forgotten by man, know that God sees you. God has chosen and called you. Will you respond to that call today?
Have you ever felt that God could not use you because of your own limitations? Make a list of all of the strengths that God has given you and tell him you are ready to be used by Him!
Rev. Dean Courtier
The central theme in the books of Galatians and Romans is justification by faith. When Paul wrote these books, many early believers were emerging from a religious practice where righteousness was earned through adherence to the law. Paul stated justification by faith and justification by keeping the law are mutually exclusive. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection covered the law so that only the believer’s faith is required. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14).
Believers are free from the law as a means of salvation, from its external ceremonial regulations as a way of living, and from its curse for disobedience to the law—a curse that Christ bore for all believers. This freedom is not, however, a license to sin. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)
When a person is convicted of a capital crime and executed, the law has no further claim on that person. It is the same with the believer who has died in Christ (who paid the penalty for the believer’s sins in full) and rises to new life in Him—justice has been satisfied and the believer is forever free from any further penalty. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, that person spiritually participates with the Lord in His crucifixion and His victory over sin and death. The believer’s old self is dead, having been crucified with Christ. The believer’s new self has the privilege of the indwelling Christ empowering and living through them. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9).
The crucifixion of Christ was a one-time historical fact with continuing results into eternity. Christ’s sacrificial death provides eternal payment for all believers’ sins, and does not need to be supplemented by any human works. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25).
Rev. Dean Courtier
He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. (Matthew 28:6)
In three days Jesus’ followers went from heartbroken sadness to triumphant jubilation. The cross had screamed, “The End,” making them feel hopeless and helpless. But the resurrection shouted, “The Beginning,” bringing confidence and courage. The cloud of doubt and despair that had shrouded them melted away and was replaced with unshakeable faith.
Can you imagine how they felt when they realised Jesus had risen from the dead? Suddenly hope came alive; everything He had said was validated as truth. They had not believed a lie. His victory over death was a reality that proved Jesus was the Messiah.
We remember Jesus’ death on the cross with solemnity, but the resurrection calls for thunderous applause, praise, and song:
“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing ye heavens, and earth reply.” Charles Wesley
All the blessings that come our way through the Saviour’s cross are confirmed by the resurrection. It proved that the Father was satisfied with the Son’s payment for our sins. Now we can know that our transgressions are forgiven and we’re eternally secure.
What’s more, Jesus promises that we, too, will be resurrected and given new bodies. Physical death could not hold Him, nor will it overpower us. Because Jesus overcame the grave, His followers have the same kind of life He has — eternal and indestructible.As Christians, we have the right to celebrate Easter with great rejoicing. Because of this event, our lives have been forever changed. We’ve been transformed and given new life. With faith,we trust the Bible because Christ’s power over the grave proves He can and will fulfil every word.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Modern technology is a wonderful thing but, as we know, it can be fraught with dangers. You don’t necessarily know who is contacting you by mobile phone or email, and you don’t know where they live. Apparently 1 in 5 people have at some time lost money to scams. One of the top scams is ‘advance fee fraud’, where you see something you really want and for an advance fee it will be sent to you – buy now, pay later – and such a bargain! The offer seems too good to be true. Only you never get the item or hear from them again once they have your money.
Scammers have many ways of making things look good. My mum used to say (and probably yours too!), “If something looks too good to be true, it usually is – there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Therefore, we now have a society where many of us are on our guard, worried about sounding too friendly on the phone in case we are sold something! We have become mistrustful of people, especially those promising us free gifts etc.
But we need to be careful we don’t carry these thoughts of doubt and cynicism into our relationship with God. Because God is the one constant we can put our trust in. He did give us “something for nothing”. He gave his Son to pay the price of the punishment for our sin, so that we could go free. We only have to repent and accept this gift. And every day he gives us “a free lunch” by pouring out his grace on our lives, by providing for our every need. Like a loving Father, he does it because he loves us – not because he wants anything from us.
This is Romans 12:1-2 written as a prayer:
Therefore Lord, in view of your mercy and grace, we offer to you ourselves, as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving. We desire to be pleasing to you and worship you in all truth. Help us not to have the same kind of thinking as those who are in the world, rather, help us to allow you to transform our thinking,so that we will be able to experience your perfect good and pleasing will in our lives. Amen
Few people enjoy conflict. We want to get along with others, it is much easier to stick to topics where we can agree, or at least pretend to agree. Does the fear of offending someone keep you from saying anything about your faith? The truth is, you might offend people. Some might take offense at their need for a Saviour or to accept Jesus as Lord. Jesus said people will be angry at His message (Luke 21:12-19). If concern for keeping things pleasant stops you from talking about Jesus, you need to examine your priorities:
Choosing comfort over JESUS. Jesus commanded us to tell people about Him (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). Jesus traded the comfort of Heaven for the brutal death of a criminal all for your sake, to exchange the eternal punishment you deserved for forgiveness and eternal life. Will you ignore His command and His sacrifice for your comfort? “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33.
Choosing comfort over LOVE. It’s funny we are afraid to tell people about Jesus, because it is the most important and awesome information anyone could ever hear. Penn Jillette, a famous atheist, once said, “How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” We should be sensitive to another person’s thoughts and feelings, but it comes back to being motivated by love and filled with the Holy Spirit. Listen well and meet them where they are rather than deliver a faceless, one-size-fits-all gospel message.
Choosing comfort over YOURSELF. You’re not going to experience God moving through you if you aren’t willing to step into the current of what He is doing. Look where God is at work and join Him! God is about rescuing the lost, and if we want to be a part of this story (what we were made for), we need to participate.
If you have looked at those things and put comfort aside for the greater cause, is it still possible to get it wrong? (Matthew 7:22-23). We can serve God relentlessly but never know Him. Living “for” God involves hard work and sacrifice, but God cares more about a loving relationship with Him than simply what He can get out of us. Don’t forget, He doesn’t need us at all (Matthew 3:9).
May I encourage you to dare to ask a friend or family member, “could we sit down and chat about your thoughts and experiences about spiritual stuff? I’d like to share mine with you as well.” When you have that conversation, be ready to ask good questions and listen well. Then, tell them your story and in love include how the Bible says they can know God personally.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And He said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
Motherhood was not easy for Mary. Mary was young and inexperienced. Her baby was born far from home in difficult and dangerous surroundings. When Jesus was only a few days old, Mary took Him to the temple and Simeon’s prophecy for His future was both ominous and exciting. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, then Mary had to live as a refugee in a foreign land because the King wanted to kill her child.
Jesus was different as a child, at the age of 12 He discussed theology. When Jesus was older and His peers were getting married and having children, Jesus did not. Thirty-something, single and still living at home. His public ministry alienated Him from His family and the religious leaders.
Mary had to learn to put her own feelings to one side to support Jesus in His mission. Mary suffered as she watched her son die a painful death on the Cross. For a Jew there was no more shameful way to die than on a cross. Men were crucified naked, something the Jews found shameful, yet Mary was there, supporting her son, no doubt with many emotions and thoughts racing around.
Jesus endured the suffering of the cross and was watched by those who loved Him. When we suffer, we concentrate on ourselves, Jesus didn’t. Even in pain on the cross He thought of others. All those who He would die for and also two people in front of Him.
Jesus asked Mary to adopt John as her son, and John to adopt Mary as his mother. They obeyed and John took Mary into his home. Through the death of Jesus new relationships are created. God has adopted us to be His children and to be part of His new, world wide family. The death of Christ is the moment of the birth of the church. Christ enters in to the reality of human suffering and makes life and love possible. Jesus conquered sin, injustice, violence, hatred and death on the cross through love. This is the foundation upon which His family, the Church is built upon. The church is a family in which we are all to care for one another.
On this Mothering Sunday, as we thank our mothers for all that they have meant to us, let’s also remember there is a wider family to which we belong. To the members of this family Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13.34)
Rev. Dean Courtier
I was walking down the road the other day when I saw a car approach traffic lights, turn sharp left at 60 mph, crash into the front of another car, mount the central reservation crashing through the metal fence; and then he continued his journey driving the wrong way along the dual carriageway! When I returned home, I reported the incident to the police, but they were not interested. Sadly, there are many people around who do not follow the rules, whether they be the rules of the road or moral codes. They base their moral reasoning on the thought that, “everything is ok as long as I don’t get caught”. There are others, perhaps kinder and more well-meaning, whose moral code says, “everything is ok as long as I don’t hurt anyone”.
These opinions make the individual happy, but neither of them provides a framework for a healthy, law-abiding society. In fact, if we are not careful, we could reach the point – like the Jewish nation in the time of the Judges – where “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (what a sad final verse - Judges 21v25). In fact, if you want to know what this attitude led to, read the last few chapters of Joshua – you’ll probably be shocked! When the world gets so bad that surely even God weeps, He sometimes punishes, but more often than not, He shows his grace and mercy by raising up someone who can bring about change for the better. With God, the situation is never hopeless.
In Israel’s case (above), God appointed Samuel – dedicated to God from birth – to speak words of truth to the nation. Samuel then anointed David to be King of Israel, so that Israel once again followed God’s ways. Our nation is probably further from God than it has been for hundreds of years but, with God, the situation is never hopeless. Prayer changes things. God changes things. So, instead of complaining about our country, we can do our part by obeying Paul’s words to Timothy:
I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all Godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:14-18)
On an average day, do you tend to think of yourself as a child of God? How often do you think of yourself as an heir of God? It’s not usually the first thing that comes to mind as we consider the blessings that are ours when we accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. Perhaps this is because we don’t really know what it means to be God’s heir. Nor can we begin to comprehend what awaits us in eternity or when that will be.
Being an heir is usually associated with family ties, and the same is true of our relationship to God. When we were born again by His Spirit, we became His adopted children, and as such, we are heirs along with Christ. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the firstborn of all creation.” In the ancient world, the firstborn son had a place of prominence in the family and was the chief heir of all that his father owned. In the same way, Jesus Christ holds the position of firstborn and is the heir of all creation.
What’s truly amazing is that He has promised to share His inheritance with us. When He returns in glory to take up His rightful place as King of Kings on earth, we will rule with Him, under His authority (Revelation 2:26-27). The Christian life is filled with undeserved favour. What we experience now of God’s grace is only the tip of the iceberg.
Realizing all that Christ has done and will do for His followers should prompt us to live for Him today. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, empowering us to put to death our fleshly desires and to follow God in obedience, even when it’s costly. Anything we suffer here for Christ’s sake is insignificant compared to the glory that awaits us.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Where we look is where we’re going. Before the advent of new technology and computerised driver-free tractors, the farmer would plough his field in long, neat furrows. How did he do it? Apparently, he would fix his eye on a point at the other end of the field, and as long as he kept his focus there, he knew he would chart a straight line. If he looked down, he would go off course.
When I had a Saturday job as a teenager, I worked in a draper’s shop (there’s a word we haven’t heard for a long time) which sold haberdashery (there’s another one!) and materials for curtains and dressmaking. The first time I had to cut through the material from end to end I was petrified, but I needn’t have been because I followed advice I was given. “Don’t look at the scissors, just fix your eyes on a point on the other side of the material – and cut.” Sounds a bit risky, not looking at your hand and the scissors, but it works.
In a similar way, the Christian life can be a bit daunting. Things happen which can throw us off course. Things can seem difficult and against us. It can be easy for us to feel defeated and as if we are not making progress in the right direction. It even seems risky to us to take our eyes off the problems – often because we want to remain in control. But, the advice given to us in the Bible (Hebrews 12v2) is to take that risk and – in faith - fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. When we focus on him he will make the way ahead straight for us (Isaiah 45v2).
When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus
He alone has power to keep, fix your eyes upon Him.
Jesus is a precious friend, one on whom you can depend.
He is faithful to the end – fix your eyes upon Him.
As for GOD, His way is perfect, the word of the LORD is ﬂawless. (Psalm 18:30)
Whilst ﬁtting some shelving in my workshop, I needed a spirit level to make sure that the end result would be perfect, level and true.
To make sure the shelf is installed correctly, a spirit level is essential. A spirit level has a ‘bubble’ which, when shown in the centre, ensures that the shelf is level and true.
It occurred to me that if our levels are off balance, we are neither ‘here nor there’ (we may be to the right or to the left).
Do not swerve to the right or the left, keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)
But when our spirit level is perfect and true, a ‘bubble’ right in the centre of the spirit level — shows us where we need to be.
GOD — is not on the unsteady right or left of level, He is always ‘spot–on’ in the centre.
GOD — should always be in the centre of our lives, to keep us ‘on the level’.
GOD — wants to be in the centre of our lives because GOD’s word is always level and true.
When GOD is at the centre of all we are and all we do, we need for nothing!
For the word of the LORD is right and true, He is faithful in all He does. (Psalm 33:4)
"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
At some point in our lives, we all face difficult situations: poor health, financial problems, the loss of a loved one, or uncertainty about the future. We may be afraid of failure or feel inadequate for a particular task or challenge but, whatever our fears may be God is always with us.
Courage is the quality of mind or spirit which enables us to meet the challenges of life with fearlessness, calmness, and firmness. God’s promises empower us to walk courageously through every challenge. Our courage as believers comes from our relationship to Father God through His Son. God is living within us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Whatever fearful situations we face, we are not alone. Instead of looking at the circumstances, we must look up to our Lord who is always faithful. We need to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and do what He commands in His Word, not in our own strength but with the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit.
God’s Word is the key to different courage, we need to know, believe and apply what God has said in His Word: Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8).
By meditating on His Word, we acknowledge we need His help because we’re not smart enough or strong enough to direct our own lives. When we do what our Lord and Saviour says, He will enable us to live in accordance with His will and plan for us. Dare to make time for the Lord and His Word in your daily schedule.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Each of us has been uniquely created, God’s plans for each of us are individually crafted as well. One thing that is common in His plan for you and for me is that God intends for our lives to make a difference.
If I asked you to write in one sentence how your life is making a difference in the lives of others, what would you say? The truth is we all affect family, friends or colleagues in some way. What do your lifestyle, words, and attitudes communicate to those around you?
Does your life reflect the difference God expects from a disciple of Jesus? You have an opportunity to impact the lives of others, are you shining in a way that brings glory and honour to God? God is holy and we should be reflecting His righteousness in the way we live.
Jesus said: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
You are the light of the world, this is a fact based on your relationship with Christ. All who belong to Christ, believe God’s Word, and are indwelt by His Spirit are part of the light.
You are the light because Jesus, the true Light, lives within you through His Spirit. His life is manifest in your words and actions, let His light shine forth by living in a way that glorifies Him.
Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you, to bring others to Jesus. Those who watch you should see you are dare to be different because God is working in and through you.
Rev. Dean Courtier
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT)
Some people are convinced they have problems that are too big for God to handle. They seem to have either more faith in their own inability than they do in God’s ability or more faith in the problem than they do in God. If we focus on the problem and let it consume our attention, we will have faith in the problem to defeat us instead of looking to God who is the solution. But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory... because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. (1 John 4:4 NLT).
We have a choice in what we focus our attention on, we must look to Jesus and His finished work on the cross, instead of looking at our problems. Jesus took our sins on Himself when He hung on the cross. For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).
No matter how urgent the problem may seem, God’s answer for you is to look up and focus on God’s provision, Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7). Have faith in God! God is bigger than any problem we face and can deliver us from any situation, no matter how bad it is, Jesus has promised: “my Father is more powerful than anyone else.” (John 10:29).
Dare to fix your focus on God. Focus on how good God is, His goodness is more than enough. Instead of looking at what you lack, look at all God has already done and remember He is your Father and loves you. Focus on Jesus and His ability and He will carry you through to victory.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“What sort of question is that?”, you may well ask.
1 Peter 2:9 (King James Bible) says: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
But what does ‘peculiar’ actually mean? Most people today would say that it means odd, freakish, unusual or weird – it wouldn’t usually be used in a complimentary sense. In fact, we often associate peculiarity with abnormality. So, clearly this is not what Peter meant in his first epistle. And the word ‘peculiar’ didn’t mean that when it was translated into English four hundred years ago.
If you were peculiar in the 1600s you were distinct, special, different.
Praise God for new translations which try to keep up with these changes of meaning in our language. So that now, when we read our Bibles, we see that we are not called to be peculiar/odd but peculiar/special: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. (1 Peter 2:9, N.I.V.)
What an amazing reality! We are God’s special possession, chosen and called by him. This defines us and makes us different from the world – we are special to God. But we are not in an exclusive club. As we ‘dare to be different’ this year, our prayer is that others will be drawn in to experience God’s love and salvation for themselves.
Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, He said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over.
“A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:7-10)
It’s a simple fact that actions can speak louder than words. We can say we care, but that’s hard to believe if we never dare to help, to listen or to serve.
At this early point in Jesus’ ministry, now His actions would start to reinforce the truth that He is the Son of God. Yet what an interesting first miracle Jesus chose to perform!
Consider the setting: a wedding reception as opposed to a life-or-death situation. Consider the need — or was it more of a want? The wine was running low. And Jesus — fully God, fully man — acted. It was not a crisis or an emergency or a necessity, yet Jesus showed His concern. He was concerned enough to act, yet He kept His involvement low profile. The servants and His mother knew the source of the wine. The master of the banquet and the bridegroom might not even have known the wine was running low.
Do you know that Jesus is paying attention to the details of your life? His actions speak louder than words. Jesus constantly shows He cares about the details of our lives.
May we never miss seeing His acts of love. Watch and see what He will do!
Rev. Dean Courtier
We are living in times of tremendous change – it’s like living on shifting sands, sand dunes in fact, that are constantly on the move. Working practices change, job contents change, mobility of labour, flexibility of staff and working hours, most of the changeable are changing simultaneously – and that’s part of life I suppose in this computer age at the beginning of the 21st-century, where more has changed in the last 25 years than in the previous 200 years.
So how can we cope in an ever-changing world and workplace? I recall an old ‘Sankeys’ hymn “In times like these you need a saviour. In times like these, you need an anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds within the solid rock.”
Jesus spoke of two men one who built his house on the sand and another who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27). When the storm came the house on the sand collapsed because it had no firm foundation. How sure is your foundation? There is only one solid rock and that’s Jesus Christ – are you fastened to Jesus the rock?
The Rev. Toplady whilst sheltering from a storm in Cheddar Gorge wrote these words which became a well-known hymn, “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, in times of change how does one cope? By trusting in an unchanging God. As another hymn writer said, “Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not abide with me.”
Pastor Keith Maynard
Unless we are particularly contrary most of us just want to fit in, because we all want to feel accepted. It takes courage to be different. When the world says one thing and the Bible says another, we find ourselves in a place of conflict – another uncomfortable feeling. And yet we know that God has called us to share the Good News about the love and forgiveness that is found in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 10:13-14,
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How can they call on one they haven’t believed in? How can they believe if they have not heard about Jesus? How can they hear unless someone tells them?
We are all called – not to do extraordinary things – but simply to tell someone about Jesus. And in most parts of the world that will mean daring to be different. Yes, it might be uncomfortable, but imagine the joy of seeing a friend or family member coming to faith in God!
Sixty years ago, we used to sing a song in Sunday School which was always a challenge to my young heart:
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone;
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known!
Daniel was a very inspirational Old Testament prophet who put his life on the line for what he believed in. Read his story in Daniel chapter 6.
Would we … could we … dare to be Daniels in 2019?
What a difference it would make if we all say “yes”!
Ever heard the saying “It’s not about the destination, but enjoying the journey”?
When my children were younger I travelled to London with them on my own. I planned train times, getting to the station car park, paying for the car park, buying the correct tickets for the journey, checked the London Underground connections etc so that we would arrive at our destination on time. In fact, being a planner in my work, I factored in delays, contingency arrangements and the like and we arrived early!
What I didn’t know was what lay ahead but that was out of my control, so rather than dwell on that we enjoyed the trip and laughed and played together looking out of the window and taking in the sights. In other words we enjoyed the journey.
But when you go on a holiday it’s often very different. The travel agent plans the detail for you and all you have to do is turn up on time, and be there for the connections with the right documentation. In this instance you know what the destination is and look forward to it but generally the journey is a bit of a chore.
There is of course another journey, one which everybody is on – the journey of life. What about your journey? Are you enjoying the trip? Life throws many obstacles at us and the road is rocky, but we keep going. Why? Because we know our destination. Because we know that He has already planned the journey for us – all we have to do is stick to His travel plan. And to stick to His travel plan we have to be still and listen out for his guiding voice amongst all the noisy distractions.
Yes sometimes the enemy will throw a detour, sending us off on a long winding road the wrong way; but God is still there, a glorious beacon drawing us ever nearer to His presence.
So next time you are on a journey and the road is bumpy, put your trust in Him and His hands will guide you. Put your faith in Him and not only will you reach your ultimate destination with Him, you will enjoy the journey as well.
The Christmas season is full of activity. Sometimes we can be so busy with the shopping and celebrating that we miss the real reason for the season. Christmas is a time to celebrate both the past and the future, we remember when Jesus came into this world 2000 years ago, born as a baby, fully human and also fully God.
Christmas helps us to remember and celebrate the amazing truth of John 3:16-17, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”
In the birth of Jesus, God declares you and I are worth something significant to Him, Father God declares His love for us and His willingness to save us from our sin. God loves you and me so much that He was willing to be incarnated, to come to earth, so that He could save us from our sin, He came to rescue us, and when we place our trust in Jesus we are saved.
There is Hope Found Here, this is the Gospel, this is the good news, this is the reason for Christmas, Christ Jesus came into this world, Immanuel, God with us, to save us from our sin. Jesus came, lived a perfect life, suffered a cruel death on a cross, carried the punishment of your sins and mine, rose triumphant from the grave, ascended into Heaven, and one day He will return.
Christmas reminds us Jesus has come, and He is coming again. His return is good news for those who have trusted in Him as Lord and Saviour. Good news for those who have already repented and turned from their sins. Good news for those who are living as disciples of Jesus. Good news for those whose destiny is to spend eternity with God.
God has come to be with you! Jesus has come to rescue you and save you from your sin. His love, His grace, His mercy, His saving power, is available to you today if you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“Jesus” is the right answer, of course, but is it the true answer? Have you learned to say the right things without allowing the real reason for Advent to reach your heart? Does the way you spend your time, money, and energy testify that you worship God incarnate?
The coming of Jesus into this world is the reason for Advent. Yet, for much of the world today, Advent has become just another opportunity for conspicuous consumption. Around the world, millions of pounds will be spent in pre-Christmas sales, and then the Boxing Day and New Year sales swiftly follow (in fact many online retailers have sales that start on Christmas morning!).
Shopping for the latest and best gift will only ever give us temporary fulfilment. Yet, the greatest gift of all, Jesus, is freely available to all. Perhaps we all need to look at Advent again and strive to return Jesus to the centre of the season, the heart of what we are all truly searching for, hope, peace, love and rest are found in Him alone.
Advent is here! It’s time to turn our thoughts and our hearts to The Coming King and the miracle of His birth. There are nine days till Christmas day, I encourage you to take the time to focus on Christ. Regardless of what else you have planned for the next few days, no matter what shopping or cooking or anything else you ‘need’ to do, focus on Jesus and worship Him the source of joy, peace, and hope.
Rev. Dean Courtier
I was sure by now, God, you would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say amen, that it’s still raining. (Lyric: Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns)
Recently I’ve had to tackle the question, ‘Does Prayer make a difference?’
I know, as a Christian, what my answer should be, and I know what I want it to be. But in truth, right now, my answer must be, ‘I don’t know.’ And yet I continue to pray, so why do I do it?
C.S. Lewis wrote, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
That is true, but what truly gives me hope is a prayer mentioned in the first chapter of Luke. Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children and Elizabeth was by then well past child bearing age. Luke tells us they were both righteous in the sight of God, so the fact this long-term prayer appeared to be unanswered was not due to some sin on their part – something we should all remember.
While Zacharias was working in the temple the angel Gabriel gave him this message: “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” His reply, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years,” shows that not only had he given up on his prayer, but he also had a certain amount of scepticism, almost as if he felt God had left it too late. I think he had secretly, after so many years without an answer, been disappointed with God.
This prayer, even though we don’t know the actual wording, really gives me encouragement. They prayed for a child and were given John the Baptist. Despite the fact they had by then given up all hope, God remembered and was ready to answer their prayer, but only when the time was right.
The following is a true story which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in “From our own Correspondent”:
In Nigeria, you are not allowed to leave your hospital bed until you have paid your bill and, because there is much poverty it results in many people spending weeks in hospital unnecessarily. However, there is a wealthy Christian businessman who visits one hospital every week and speaks to the patients. They do not know who he is, but they tell him their story. And when he realises that they do not have the ability to pay he later settles their bill without their knowledge. When asked why, he said he calls it his “Angel” Project because his motto is: Be the angel you hope to meet.
It’s just another way of saying what Jesus said in Matt 7v12: Do to others what you would have them do to you. And in Mark 12v31: Love your neighbour as yourself. But Jesus asks us to go even further than that because He also said: Love one another as I have loved you (John 13v34).
In other words show sacrificial love; put yourself out; go the extra mile.
The Nigerian Christian was doing just that. And we don’t need to be wealthy, but we can follow his example and actively look for ways to bless others so that we can bring the love of Jesus into their lives.
With Christmas coming be the angel you hope to meet would perhaps be a good motto to bear in mind.
This is of vital importance for us today as we see the gloomy news day after day and for us to be the people the Lord has called us to be for such times. We are seeing division in our nation so it is of vital importance to be united in the Spirit, to stand firm in His strength.
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning. He will come to us like the rain. Like the latter and former rain to the earth (Hosea 6:3).
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).
Let us not be a people in Hosea where the Lord said “my people are perishing through lack of knowledge". To get to know God’s ways takes time and effort in study and being wholehearted for God.
God gradually reveals His ways/character through the Old Testament to the New Testament, perfect justice and perfect grace in total balance.
How God dealt with His people in the past are lessons for us. God’s word came from the Jews to whom we owe a great debt. He has not finished with them. We can also ask the Lord to show us His ways and teach us by the Holy Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is walking in the knowledge of His Way. Walking in the flesh is doing it our way or the way of the world.
God has a passion and desire to see people in a right relationship with Himself and if God has a burden for people, we should share it.
Today churches up and down the country mark Remembrance Sunday. Many will gather at war memorials as they have done for nearly 100 years.
At 11am millions of people will stop and gather together for two minutes of silence to remember those who have died in the line of duty. This year’s commemorations have an added poignancy as we mark the centenary of World War One. Around nine million men were killed and a further 21 million were injured.
The Bible lies at the heart of remembrance, many war memorials bear the words of Jesus: ‘Greater love hath no man than this’ (John 15:13). Jesus was speaking about Himself, and also about those who would lay down their lives for their faith. The words of Jesus point to a parallel between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of men and John 15:13 has reassured many people over the years that their loved ones died for the highest possible purpose.
The British Legion say that 'remembrance transcends all boundaries' – that it can be a 'small yet important individual and collective act, a rare moment when the nation can stand together and reflect on the price of freedom'.
Remembrance is important and we will remember.
Rev. Dean Courtier
My grandsons do all sorts of interesting things, some of which often result in grandad giving them a hand in the garage; things such as casting new objects out of recycled aluminium cans, or making (very small!) explosives out of used batteries. They have also taught themselves how to do numerous magic tricks, play the ukulele, produce cartoon videos and play card games etc. etc.
How? By watching Youtube clips, taking note of how it’s done, and copying the actions. I have also found this resource can be very useful for learning. For example, when I bought a new sewing machine I learnt how to use it by watching several clips. It has to be said, of course, that there is also a danger of people imitating what is bad as well as what is good.
Modelling yourself on another person isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do though – provided they are a good role model. In fact the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4v16, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me”. Basically, Paul was saying, “If you want to know about how to live in Christ Jesus, look at me”. Many of us look at successful Christians and think, “I could never be like that”, but maybe if we thought about how they got like that we could learn the secret of Christian living from them.
Our ultimate aim is to become, not like each other or like Paul, but like Jesus – selfless, loving, compassionate, righteous, faithful and true. The question, “What would Jesus do?” is a great way of learning to walk as Jesus walked, to love the poor and vulnerable as Jesus loved them, to be compassionate and considerate of each other, to be faithful to our calling in Christ Jesus and to be true to the Word of God. But praise God, it’s not like Youtube – we aren’t expected just to copy. We have the very Spirit of Christ in us, living through us, guiding and helping us every moment of every day. That’s amazing, isn’t it? However, let’s be careful to live our Christian lives well – someone may be copying us!!
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Whether you realize it or not, you’re an example. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too weak or inadequate to be one — there are people who look at you and are watching to see how you live, and God wants you to be His representative to them.
Jesus came into this world as a Servant, humbly giving His life so that we would be reconciled to the Father. And God’s will is that we imitate what He did for us by serving others. We perform loving acts of service that meet the spiritual and practical needs of those around us so that they’ll grow closer to Him.
There are so many people around you in need today — not just physically or financially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Everyone you meet needs someone to encourage him or her. Will you make time to reach out and show them the awesome, unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ? Remember, God sees everything you do in His name and will bless you for all you do in obedience to Him (Hebrews 6:10).
Our hope is in Jesus and He is worthy of our service. Take some time to pray and ask God to show you where you can serve others with His love and compassion. May God work through you to draw others to Him.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)
Our faith will never exceed our level of hope, the very substance of our faith. Faith is our ability to realize in our experience the things we hope for. You might say that faith gives us real eyes to realize and lay hold of what we are hoping for.
We will never develop our faith beyond our ability to have the true biblical kind of hope, the confident expectation of good that God wants us to have. Hope is essential for experiencing revival in our nation, for changing our culture, and for the transformation of our society.
True hope does not disappoint because the love of God poured out in our hearts enables us to sustain our faith until His promise is fulfilled. The Apostle Paul said, "this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love" (Romans 5:5).
We must remember the father of our faith, Abraham. Like father like son, we must maintain our hope until the fulfilment of the promise, no matter how impossible it may look, feel, seem, or be.
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. (Romans 4:16).
Faith is the substance of our hope. Believe in the goodness of God He will fulfil His promises.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Where are you looking? I don’t mean now at this blog, I mean in your everyday walk? When you look at yourself what do you see? Is it a positive image or a negative one? Do you see yourself as a failure... Not got much to offer... Can't get anything right... Not a very good Christian really… Do you put yourself down? Who are you listening to? Do you take on board the negative thoughts or do you put them to one side and do the best you can regardless?
A magnifying glass is used for making things look bigger than they actually are and Satan likes to convince us that our problems are much bigger than they really are. While we are in this world, in these bodies, we are going to have problems - all of us fall short of God’s standards. No matter how hard we try not to sin, we do! When we do Satan loves to point out our failures, “look at the size of that one... you have done it now... do you think God is happy with that... no wonder that you have so many problems... God is punishing you..." Satan wants you to feel worthless and useless he wants you to look down and feel sorry for yourself.
Where are you looking? Are you looking down? The trouble with looking down is that you can’t see where you are going and you walk into things that you could have avoided. If we took a magnifying glass to the beach, there is sea and there is sand. We have a choice, we can look down through the magnifying glass at the sand where each grain represents our problems and our failings (and they all look much bigger than they actually are), or we can look up and see the sea.
We can’t magnify all the sea but we can Focus on a small piece of it and see it a little clearer, a little sharper, and that is the way we can beat Satan. When he shoves his magnifying glass in front of your face, don’t look down at the problems he is showing you, instead, look up and see Gods love. Again you cannot magnify God’s love it is too immense but you can focus on a little patch of it. Look at it in a bit more detail, your sins have been forgiven, see how much God loves you, instead of looking at your failings look up and see God's grace. Where are you looking? Proverbs 4:25 says, "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." Psalm 105:4 says, "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."
Where are you looking? Two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud and the other saw stars. Do you take on board the negative thoughts or do you lay them aside and do the best you can? Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "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". Yes we are going to sin, yes we are going to fail God, get over it! God knew that would happen when He called you, you are not a surprise to God. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 7, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul found it just as hard we do but he didn’t hang his head and look down he looked up and went on to write in Romans 8:1-2, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death."
So look to God, listen to His Word, trust Him and see yourself as God sees you, 1 Peter 2:9, "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
When I was young I can remember sometimes having sugar sandwiches, which at the time I considered a real treat! What I didn’t know, was the real reason for this unexpected sugary delight. My mum had nothing else left in the larder until payday. Only as I grew older did I realise the problems that this would have posed to my mum. Naturally she wanted to provide. Of course, she would have given us protein if it was possible. But, given the choice, as children we would have opted for the sugar anyway – so much more fun. We were ignorant of the fact that we needed much more than sugar in order for our bodies to grow to their full potential.
As Christians we sometimes enjoy our ‘sugar sandwiches’ which come in different forms. Maybe we prefer a light-hearted humorous sermon as opposed to one which is more of a Bible Study. Maybe we like singing the rousing choruses as opposed to the more thoughtful hymns. Maybe we prefer to read a bit from ‘Word for Today’ than actually read the Bible itself. But ‘sugar sandwiches’ only give you a short-term hit, they don’t build you up; they give you flab but not muscle; and they cause problems to your health that aren’t immediately obvious.
We need the ‘meat’ of the Word of God even more than we need meat in our sandwiches. We need meat from the pulpit every Sunday and meat for our spiritual growth every other day of the week too. I think if my mum had given me sugar sandwiches every day I would soon have longed for something more. Let’s be a church that wants to be healthy. Let’s give up sugar (in more ways that one perhaps!) and really get to grips with the Word of God so that we are strong in the Lord individually, and as a group.
P.S. Sorry to any vegetarians – it is only a metaphor!
When we were on holiday in Australia, we stopped for our packed lunch in a fairly mundane place (by an industrial centre), under a tree and facing a river- not expecting to see anything special in such an area. Within a few minutes a tiny wren, with a beautifully bright blue breast, was hopping around in the undergrowth. And shortly afterwards we saw a group of 12 dolphins swimming and leaping up the river. It was extraordinary. Naturally we captured both on camera to keep as a lovely memory.
Another day, on the southern coast of Victoria, we stopped by a beach. And within minutes a spiny echidna (like a large hedgehog) came waddling past us and sauntered off down the pier. These creatures are rarely seen, so again, it was a lovely surprise! There is not room to tell you about the snakes, lizards and other wildlife that just “crossed our paths”, but we have a lovely record in all the photos, and wonderful memories.
The thing is, God is full of surprises. An old hymn used to begin with the words, “Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings”. Often, we don’t see the things God is doing because we are too busy and maybe we need to set aside a ‘spiritual’ holiday for our soul to be refreshed and renewed. A time when God can show us what he is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.
One thing is sure – we only see things when our eyes are open and when we are looking. Even if we are in a boring or difficult place, we can see the glory of the Lord in His Word and in the way that he answers prayer. And, just as we took photos on holiday, it is worth writing down those things which God has done which surprise us, so that we can be reminded of them and strengthened by them; and recognise what he is doing in our lives.
Why not ask God to surprise you this week?
What a wonderful Summer we have all enjoyed. Perhaps not enough rain, but then what would we have as a talking point if the weather wasn’t interesting!!
I have heard that our Farmers have had mixed blessings with their crops, but now all their Harvesting is done , all the crops are gathered in and this weekend we are celebrating another Harvest here in Church and giving thanks for all God’s provision.
We bring our offerings to Church; a mixture of goods and food which we will donate to the homeless and pray that they will be blessed. We also give opportunity to folk to give a financial gift which for some years now we have donated to Tear Fund to help them with their ongoing work among the needy.
It maybe that not all of us are familiar with who Tear Fund are and so here is a brief history of who they seek to help and their promise never to stop until poverty stops!!
It is 1960. The cold war is in full swing and John F Kennedy is elected to The White House.
It is also a year when 40 million people worldwide are made refugees by war or disaster. Coverage of the worldwide suffering sparks a spontaneous outpouring of compassion among IK Christians. Many people send money to the Evangelical Alliance who were not involved in overseas aid or development work. They establish a fund to distribute the cash they are receiving. The money is sent to existing evangelical agencies around the world who are already caring for the needs of refugees around the world. In 1967, former curate George Hoffman is hired to develop the fund’s work further.
TEARFUND IS BORN
Then on 29 May 1968, George and members of the EA Relief Fund Committee meet for the first time. They determined to marry Christian compassion with practical action in the work of this fund.
Together they quickly establish a vision for the new organisation which is to be called Tearfund. Publicity materials for the Tearfund include hard-hitting images and provocative messaging. Tearfund is propelled onto the Christian stage, urging a new, radical understanding of the Gospel as good news to the poor, with an emphasis caring for their physical and spiritual needs.
Today the people running Tear Fund are Christians passionate about ending poverty They are following Jesus where the need is greatest, working through local Churches to unlock people’s potential and helping them discover that the answer to poverty is within themselves. When disaster strikes they respond quickly. Their promise, as I said at the beginning, is THEY WON’T STOP UNTIL POVERTY STOPS.
To know more about Tear Fund visit www.tearfund.org.
“But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).
Today we are celebrating the various ministries that exist across our group of churches. Jesus desired unity in His church: one group of people pursuing a shared mission with individual contributions. We are all passionate about different things & gifted in different ways for a reason.
Imagine if every volunteer was away for some reason today and the deacons and ministers decided not to turn up because there was something else they wanted to do today: Who would set up the room? Who would welcome people at the door? Who would lead the singing? Who would operate the computer? Who would preach? Who would control the sound? Who would teach the children? Who would serve refreshments? Who would tidy up the room at the end? Who would check the building is empty, shut the windows and lock the door?
The church would not operate in an effective way with so many parts of the body missing. God has called us to work together to benefit the whole church and to enable us to share the good news about Jesus. No matter what role we fill, we are serving God first and foremost.
Everything we do should be done as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17). We are all called to various tasks according to our God-given abilities, passions, and desires. If we try to do too much, we will be unable to do our best at anything. Are you doing your best? Should you be doing more? Prayerfully consider your part in the body of Christ. No matter if you are a pastor, teacher, door steward, refreshment maker or chair mover, we all work together for the glory of God.
Think about where you can serve, what are you passionate about? What are you good at? Determining your part in the body requires acknowledging God in all things, and He will lead you as you follow Him.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Last time we had a holiday on our narrowboat was unusual for two reasons. Firstly, we had non-stop sunshine and not a drop of rain! And secondly, we were on the boat for two weeks instead of our usual one week.
We arrived with our two friends at the marina, and there was our boat, cleaned and ready for us, with a tankful of diesel, a full water tank, and empty toilet tanks. We brought on board what appeared to be enough provisions for 6 weeks; the fridge and cupboards were crammed with food of all kinds. And so we set off to navigate our way around the Leicester Ring – about 150 miles and over 100 locks!
All was going well and we were well on target to complete the ring in good time. However, after a few days several things happened. We used up the water in the tank, the diesel started to run low, we ran short of milk and bread and other foodstuffs, the toilet waste tanks were filling up – and we were even running out of chocolate!! What we needed was the equivalent of Motorway Services on the canal.
A brief study of the canal map showed us where we were likely to find them, but some are quite difficult to access, being located in marinas, while others didn’t provide all the services we needed. Then we spotted it – a boatyard with canalside diesel and pumpout facilities– just what we needed, and with access to shops as well. So, the water and diesel tanks were refilled, the toilet tanks emptied, and we replenished our stocks of food. Now we were ready to continue our journey without any concerns about running out of anything.
Isn’t it interesting that we call our weekly meetings at church ‘services’. I like to think that means that people come to church and go away having been refreshed by the Living Water, nourished by the preaching of God’s Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and cleansed of all the rubbish that accumulates as we live our lives in this sinful world. However, just as the boat needed regular ‘topping up’ as we continued cruising, it is something that needs doing regularly. Otherwise, we become unable to continue functioning as Christians.
Make sure you visit the ‘Services’ regularly.
My cello teacher’s name is Janet. After returning from an overnight stay with her for some lessons, I emailed to thank her. Shortly afterwards I received a reply expressing pleasure that I had enjoyed my trip, but that I had sent the message to the wrong Janet! (this Janet is part of our church at Ashingdon). I know, everyone has done it at some time – sent a text or an email without checking that the clever old computer has selected the correct recipient. There are also those amusing occasions when the auto-correct facility comes up with wild suggestions as to what it thinks you meant to say (eg mine changed ‘ukelele’ to ‘useless’!) However, the consequences of clicking without checking beforehand are not always amusing. I’d like to make a few suggestions about how we should think before pressing that ‘send’ or ‘post’ button.
Emails and texts (and tweets if you are into that)
1. Is it the right recipient?
2. Could what you have said be misinterpreted without the tone of voice or facial expression to confirm what you meant? This is particularly important if you are responding to criticism or are making a complaint. If in doubt, sleep on it before sending.
3. Could any part of this be taken out of context and used against you later – politicians often regret unwise statements, sometimes years later.
Facebook and other social media posts
1. Are you happy for the whole world to see what you are posting? That includes your children, parents, friends, work colleagues, total strangers – even your pastor!! Just because you have only sent it to your ‘friends’ does not mean that no-one else will see it.
2. Are you happy that this will still be accessible in 20 years time? Once posted and shared, it cannot be deleted – it’s there forever. This is particularly important for young people, who may not want a future potential employer to know what they were doing in their teens!
1. Do you trust the source of the link you are about to click on? Many scam emails contain links to spurious, and sometimes dangerous websites. If in doubt, don’t click.
2. Should you be visiting this particular site? Many people have been drawn into pornography and then become addicted to it after first clicking out of curiosity. The same applies to online gambling.
This list is not exhaustive. I’m sure you can think of other potential traps for the unwitting online surfer, some of you from bitter experience. So, whatever you are doing in this amazing connected world in which we now live, take care and ‘Think before you click’.
I’ve said before that I love words. I don’t very often use big words, but I find them fascinating. Words like floccinaucinihilipilification, which means ‘The action or habit of estimating something as worthless’.
So as Christians we should not be floccinaucinihilipilificationists about ourselves or about others – I’m sure you agree!
I also love anagrams – and the fact that an anagram can turn out to mean something quite different from, or even opposite to, the word you started with. So that, if we ask Jesus to RESCUE us, we can trust that we are SECURE in Him. And what does He rescue us from?
EVIL – EVIL is an anagram of VILE – everything that’s bad. But, Jesus tore the VEIL of the Temple when he died, making it possible for us to be free to LIVE in Christ.
So, what do we live for? We are told to be SALT in this world until the LAST of our days. SALTINESS helps things to be STAINLESS and pure. So that eventually we will spend ETERNITY in its ENTIRETY, praising the Lord – a TESTAMENT of God’s love and mercy. What a STATEMENT!! Yes, my musings are a bit light-hearted. But to ignore them might mean we become AUSTERER instead of finding great TREASURE.
Two or more ways of arranging one set of letters – what a clever language we have. But even better – what a great God we have!
He can take our mixed-up lives, rearrange them, and change them, from A REGRET to GREATER than we could ever hope for.
Did you know a PRESBYTERIAN is BEST IN PRAYER, while a PENTECOSTAL has the CLEANEST TOP?
The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7,10)
God has handed to each of us a torch to carry for Him. That torch is the light of the Gospel, the knowledge of God and His ways, and the Word of God. It is put into our hands and our hearts by the Holy Ghost and the fire is ignited so that we may burn as lights in a sin darkened world. Each of us are to let our light shine that all men can see Jesus in us and then we are told to run with it and to pass it on to the next generation so that we will not forget God.
How could a nation that had experienced all of the miracles that God had done for Israel, and had seen the presence of God in the pillar of fire and cloud, and had known the power of God in such greatness, not pass along the torch of the knowledge and love of God to their children?
It seems so impossible that the very next generation after Joshua’s generation, would completely forget God and not know about anything that God had done in the past. Could it be that Israel failed to talk about God in the home? Were they so worldly minded that they failed to even teach their children that God existed?
I believe that Joshua’s generation tried to turn around. God honoured them, but the damage to their children was already done. Though the words of their parents praised and honoured God, the children saw their actions. Actions speak louder than words.
We can talk about Jesus, claim to know and love God, and say that we are serving Him, but are our actions proving it to be true. The next generation will learn from what we do more than from what we say. Are we passing the torch?
We can’t allow the light of the gospel to be extinguished. We must do everything we can to be a torch-bearer and then to try to pass that light on to the next generation as well.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35); “Love your neighbour as yourself." (Luke 28: 27); "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27)
The Bible characterises love as a verb. Love is something we do – not just something we feel. Biblical love is hard – it is not passive or lazy. Jesus modelled a love that defies explanation by being “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” to demonstrate His overwhelming love for us. Christ’s love, which the Great Commandment calls us to emulate, requires:
Sacrifice – What if a friend died to save you? Would you live differently from that point on? How would you show your appreciation? The fact that Christ died for us should cause us to show our love for Him.
Mercy – Jesus healed, fed and forgave at every opportunity. Jesus continually emphasized the importance of compassion toward the poor, sick and lost – not just in words, but in actions.
Obedience – Jesus states in John 14 that “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching... Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching”. We obey out of love for Christ and never in a futile, conditional attempt to “earn” or “deserve” salvation.
Selflessness – Philippians 2 associates love with putting the interests of others above our own, a concept so counter to our natures that it may require a lifetime of sanctification to learn to “love our neighbours as ourselves”.
Unity – Philippians 2 also joins the call in John 17 for absolute, complete unity of all believers in mind and spirit. “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)
Forgiveness – Jesus linked love and forgiveness in His encounter with the woman who washed His feet with perfume at the dinner. “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47) If we realised how many sins Jesus has forgiven us, we would not be so quick to judge others.
Unconditional – Agape love is love for God and others with no expectations or strings attached. Given our sinful natures, the purity of Agape isn’t possible apart from Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Sometimes a word or phrase will leap off the page when you are reading and capture your imagination, conjuring up mental pictures and transporting you to a different place, the image is very evocative. A dry and dusty path, crowds of people, animals, noise, heat. A Rabbi, striding out, his disciples hurrying to keep up, to catch his every word. Sandals stirring up the dust of the dry season.
According to early Jewish writings, in the first century, a young man who wanted to be the disciple of a particular rabbi, would spend all his time with him, following from place to place, drinking in his every word, and literally being so close to him, that he would be covered in the dust of his feet, and in so doing become like him.
Jesus’ disciples knew that this was their calling, so they left their work and followed Him, For three years, they stayed close to Him, listening to His teaching, watching His miracles, learning from Him, and walking in His dust.
“Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” (Matthew 4:22.) Can we, as twenty first century disciples, replicate this closeness? We can follow Mary’s example, sitting at the Master’s feet, soaking in His words, being in His presence, serving like Him, loving like Him.
As followers of Jesus, we too can walk in His dust. By spending time studying and meditating on His word and applying its principles to life. We should have a deep yearning, desire and passion to learn everything He has to teach us. Faith in Jesus, is not just a simple step, it’s a lifelong walk with Him.
So, metaphorically, can we strap on our sandals and follow in the dust of our rabbi?
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
In our churches we don’t talk about giving very often, but giving is a concept that runs through the Bible. I’m not talking about giving of time or giving to charity, I’m talking about giving consistently, faithfully and cheerfully to your local church. I’m talking about your tithe. Yes, I know we are not under the law and we don’t have to tithe. But for a Christian, redeemed, rescued, sanctified, and called - tithing is important.
Giving was required under the Old Testament law, and long before Moses recorded God’s laws, Abraham tithed (Gen 14:16). Returning 10% to God was essentially the “minimum” that was required in Old Testament times.
In the New Testament, we are told to give our lives as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). We no longer have to offer physical sacrifice for our sins because Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice that satisfies God’s wrath against sin. Instead, we are told to offer ourselves, our time, our resources, our talents, our lives as the sacrifices. Giving back to God a portion of what He has given to us one way we do this. We’ve been saved by God’s generous grace, and we should be people of generosity toward God. Giving and tithing reflects a consistent commitment to God’s work.
There are many opportunities to give gifts to charities or Christian organisations but are you faithfully and consistently giving to your local church? For a local church to fully function there must be regular, consistent giving. You will never look back at a life of consistent giving and tithing and say, “I should have given less to my local church.”
By giving to your local church, you are demonstrating that you are committed to supporting the ongoing work, in effect you are saying, “I support God’s work in MY church.” If you only give, when you feel good or if there is a special fund raising event, you’re not demonstrating commitment, you’re showing that you are not interested in being as committed to the Lord’s work locally as Christ is to you.
Real sacrifice, real obedience, real commitment involves long-term, consistent, faithful giving. Don’t miss out on the joy of regular, consistent giving to your local church. It’s an act of worship you won’t regret.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Go and make disciples, this is a command from Jesus to you and I. Jesus did not say go sit in a building and wait for the unsaved to wander in. We, as the embodiment of church, are commanded to go out after the lost.
Jesus demonstrated His love before telling people who He is, we as His church, should also be seeking to serve the local community in love. God has called us to serve Him. We have a God given responsibility to lead other people to Christ. Serving Christ as His church requires us to give our lives fully to Him.
Love is at the core of our faith. Father God loves us so much that He was willing to send His Son to die for us. God loves us and we are to love Him. We express our love for God by serving Him and by serving others. Galatians 6:10 says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Pastor and author Craig Groeschel expressed it this way “We don’t go to church, we are the church and we exist for the world”.
Are we as the Church, as a group of God’s people, showing love to the local community? Are we making an impact in this community? Are we demonstrating to our neighbours, our friends, our family, what it really means to be the church? Be honest with yourself, when people look at your life during the rest of the week, would anyone know you are part of the church of Jesus?
Being The Church is more than meeting in a building once a week singing and listening to a sermon on Sunday. We will never change the world by going to church, we will only change the world by being The Church.
May each of us choose to show the world the true meaning of being a disciple of Jesus and part of His church.
Rev. Dean Courtier
In the 19th century Walter Chalmers Smith penned the words of this aspirational, well-known hymn:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
As a child I used to love singing this hymn in Assembly at school. I loved all the long words (fortunately I had a mum who could explain the meanings to me!) and each one seemed to be full of meaning and promise. Words like:
Immortal – eternal, everlasting, undefeatable, imperishable, abiding, constant, enduring, incorruptible, indestructible, perpetual, timeless. Just that one word gives us so much reason to praise God!
Invisible – indiscernible, unseen, present and perceivable but hidden from sight, recognisable but not seen.
God only wise – Supreme and worshipped creator of the universe; knowing all things past, present and future; having perfect judgment and understanding, knowing my past and my future.
In light inaccessible – surrounded in such brilliant light and glory that he cannot be seen, although he can be heard and felt. The Shekinah glory is God’s dwelling place.
The Ancient of Days – All-being, “I Am”, He who was there before anything else – for a description read Daniel chapter 7.
Almighty – All powerful, all-sufficient one - El Shaddai (a name of God that also describes his attributes), God of gods and King of Kings.
Victorious – the battle is the Lord’s, the Lord fights for us, the Lord conquers; the victory is also over death and Hell; Yahweh Nissi.
THY GREAT NAME WE PRAISE!
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
The Church is God’s plan A for changing the world – and He does not have a plan B. There are those who would say that we do not build the Church, Jesus does and that is what Jesus intends to do. But, often we try to argue with the Divine Architect over His design and specifications - we concentrate on our own needs and comforts instead of the needs of the wider community.
“There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right – it’s the hope of the world” (Bill Hybels).
When church is going well it is amazing: people come to faith in Christ; hurting people find healing; young and old are filled with excitement and expectation of what God can do; there is love and fellowship and people seek to serve God and each other; and, prayer is central to the lives of those in a living relationship with God.
The Elim General Superintendent, Chris Cartwright recently said at one of the Vision2020 conferences, “Our mission is to bring the love of God and the gospel of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to every person in every place, relentlessly for the rest of our days.” Within this short statement is the core values of what Elim has always been. A people relentlessly committed to the great commission of Christ – our founders laid those foundations for us and we are charged with carrying that forward – to grow churches with the aim of winning men and women for Christ and believing for the radical transformation of countless lives across our nation and the world.
The English Bible translator William Tyndale said: “The Church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.” The local church can only have a meaningful impact if we are ‘relentless’ in our commitment to evangelism, mission and discipleship. We cannot fulfil the commission of Jesus to go and make disciples, without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and obedience to God's leading and purpose. Our churches should be beacons of hope in our local communities - places where people can discover that God loves them and the forgiveness of sin that comes from trusting in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There are many Elim churches who have amazing examples of how people have been transformed because of encountering a local church that cared and showed them the love and power of Christ.
May God use our local churches to touch our communities with His love, to reach the lost, the hurting, the needy and the broken – the people Jesus came into our world for. May many people discover the 'Hope Found Here' in our local churches.
Based on an article by Rev. Stuart Blount, Elim Director of Ministry.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Some days, life is hard. The day ahead may look dark, uncertain or stressful, or you may hear an unexpected diagnosis, or have to deal with a devastating loss. Some days can feel too difficult to face. We might long for carefree days, yet sometimes, God takes our hand to lead us through the darkest of times. The truth is our faith is most often strengthened, not in the easy times of life, but in the most difficult. In the darkest of days God can work through a situation to bring us greater strength, character, trust, and perseverance. The desire of God for us in this life is to make you more like Him. He wants to be in relationship with you. He has promised He will never leave you. He is always with you. You are not alone, you are never forgotten, God is with you.
There is hope found here in these words of encouragement and comfort:
Psalm 147:3 God heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds.
Psalm 27:13-14 I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
1 Peter 2:24 Jesus personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.
Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 God said to me, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
Know that God loves you, He cares about what you're going through, He has not left you. God has a perfect plan for you. May you experience a fresh glimpse of His presence and His power in your life today.
Rev. Dean Courtier
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”
Acts 2:1-21 The Message
The words of Jesus recorded in Acts 1:8 are : “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Are you experiencing the full power of the Holy Spirit in your life or are you limiting the flow of power to your life? Are you being the witness that God has empowered you to be?
Perhaps, if we were to paraphrase this verse for our group of churches, we would have a better understanding of what the power is meant to be for - “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Ashingdon, throughout Rayleigh, in Southend, and to the ends of Essex.”
Does this paraphrase help you to desire that God given Holy Spirit power to be fully operational in your life? If you know Jesus as Saviour, then that power is already present in your life. We can all wrap ourselves up in excuses about why we don’t witness, we can always find reasons to try and justify what we don’t do to share our faith with others. We can blame our weakness, we can blame our eloquence, we are British so we can even blame the weather...
Actually, we don’t have the right to blame anything - Jesus says that the power to do it is already ours - so why don’t the majority of us do it? Are we too busy trying to protect ourselves? Are we afraid of what will happen if we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives? Are we worried about what our so called friends will think of us if we tell them the truth about who Jesus is? Are we scared that if they knew the “real us”, they may not want to be friends with?
Do you love your family and friends enough to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to empower you to witness to them? Do you care enough to tell them that Jesus loves them? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in His power to be salt and light?
Rev. Dean Courtier
When you woke up this morning, what gave you hope? When you woke up this morning, where did you look for comfort and security?
Many well-intentioned followers of Jesus have mistakenly built their hope on sinking sand. Without even knowing it, they load all their hope for life onto their spouse, children, career, house, pension, social status, calling or ministry.
Many people attempt to build themselves a paradise in this broken sin-sick world. But, their house is never quite right. Their kids never seem to measure up. Their spouse is never quite able to please them. Their friends are never quite loyal enough. Their finances are never quite secure enough. They simply can't even meet their own expectations of themselves! People, possessions, and positions are all temporal things and they can only provide us with a limited source of hope - they all rely on things we cannot control and offer no real guarantee or assurance.
We can be thankful for the temporal pleasures we experienced here on earth, but we should never lose sight of what is really important, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:10)
There is an eternal hope that is certain, Jesus is Lord and Saviour - this is an unshakeable hope. When we repent and place our trust in Him we are forgiven and assured of a place in Heaven. There is a life-changing difference between understanding this conceptually and embracing it practically.
Eternal hope is more than something that sounds nice, it is something that should make a big difference in our everyday lives.
When we live with our eternal tomorrow in view, it changes the way we live our lives today. Don't be frustrated, discouraged, or exhausted by trying to find hope in temporal things! Find hope for today because of our eternal tomorrow! Let your faith in Jesus give you hope for today and tomorrow.
Rev. Dean Courtier
On 15th January 2009 Captain Chesley Sullenberger was piloting his passenger plane near New York when he hit trouble. He struck a flock of Canada geese which disabled his plane carrying 155 passengers. But somehow, he managed to land the plane safely on the Hudson river.
All 155 passengers and crew on board the flight survived and Sullenberger was the last off the plane. The incident was immediately dubbed Miracle on the Hudson, and since then a book and film have been produced.
When asked how he had managed to effect such a difficult task so perfectly he replied: “For forty two years I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on that day the balance was sufficient, so that I could make a very large withdrawal”
How big is your spiritual bank balance? God allows us all to have tough times in our lives in order to refine us and make us more like him. And each time, we can bank the experience and what we’ve learnt from it. We may have been given words of encouragement, or maybe God has spoken through his written or prophetic Word - all the while we can be banking our ‘deposits’. Or maybe we have spent time with the Lord in prayer and learned his closeness and his will and his ways – with each step of faith our ‘balance’ grows.
When we learn from God, hear from him and pray to him every day, we are building up our credit so that, like Chesley Sullenberger, if we ever need to make a big withdrawal we will find that we have the spiritual wherewithal and strength to cope.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith. (Colossians 2:6)
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
If we could live in a world where there is no trouble, no difficulties, no conflicts, no difficult circumstances, no worrying situations, no illness, no pain, then maybe we would never experience trials and sorrows. But we live in a fallen, broken and sin sick world and often it seems like as soon as we get through something, something else comes along.
Problems happen, bad stuff seems to invade our lives, and at times we struggle to find peace don’t we? Consider the words of Jesus in John 16:33, "Have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus also said in John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
“Have peace. Take heart. Don’t be troubled or afraid”, are those words of Jesus, words you need to hear today? Do you need peace of heart and peace of mind? Do you need to experience the peace that only Jesus can bring into your life? Do you need to experience His healing touch on your life today? Whatever circumstance you are facing right now, I would suggest you need to experience His peace so that your heart is not troubled or afraid.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church he told them that God’s peace “exceeds anything we can understand” – it is a peace that doesn’t make sense to the world; but there is a condition to this peace, Philippians 4:6-7 says: "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
We can experience real peace in our hearts and minds when we trust God. When we pray, when we commit our circumstances and situations to God, when we thank Him for what He has done, is doing, will do, then we will experience perfect peace. Is your heart and mind troubled by your problem, by your situation, or are your thoughts fixed on the Lord? Our trust is not in be in our own abilities, or in other people, or in the opinions or philosophies of the world, our trust must be in God alone.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Pastor David Redbond often jokes about “growing bigger Christians” – and yes – we do seem to have quite a lot of food available at most events that take place in our churches! But, actually my dictionary tells me that the word “bigger” originally meant ‘powerful, strong’. And I’m sure that this is David’s real desire – to see individuals growing in their faith and being strengthened daily for their Christian walk; so that as we meet together we also become a bigger and stronger church.
Another term that is sometimes used is that we should be “well-rounded” Christians (which also has the connotation of eating too much food!!). The first definition in the dictionary alludes to our shape. But the second says that a well-rounded person has a ‘full, varied and satisfying life’; the kind of life we accomplish by interacting with other people and experiencing new challenges.
I would like to submit that, as a church we are endeavouring to grow well-rounded, bigger Christians by providing a programme which encourages evangelism, teaching, preaching, praying, pastoral work, caring, fitness, hobbies and games. If you look at the church calendar you will see there are things that you can attend which cater for everyone – and they are spread between mornings, afternoons and evenings as well as on different days and open to all. Not only do they help us to grow but they provide the opportunity for new Christians or ‘not-yet-Christians’ to grow too.
Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you. (1 Corintians 14:1&3 The Message paraphrase)
While scanning through YouTube recently, I came across a video posted by Penn Jillette about the gift of a Bible he received from a man at one of his shows. Penn Jillette is the talkative one in the comedy illusionist act, ‘Penn and Teller’, and is also a very outspoken atheist. In his video he makes the following comments:
"I don't respect people who don't proselytise. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward.... How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"
There really is nothing I can add to that; it’s something that as Christians we need to take to heart and act upon. As Charles Spurgeon said in one of his sermons, “If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go un-warned and un-prayed for.”
There are many ways to share your faith but I believe they all boil down to just two things – living a life that reflects what you believe and conversation.
Having sat on both sides of the fence I would like to share some observations about the conversation, which I personally think are important.
It is OK to say, “I don’t know.” If you’re asked something about your faith and you don’t have an answer, be honest and say so. Don’t be tempted to quote some half remembered verse or some clever sounding Christian sound bite which can easily cause confusion; this leads me nicely to my second point.
Use Christian-speak as sparingly as possible. Other Christians will grasp the meaning of what you are saying but most of those asking questions will only hear the words. This can easily lead to misunderstandings and may even have the opposite effect to what you expect. In reality it’s not about what you think you’ve said, it’s about what they hear.
Sometimes God needs to take a back seat. In some situations offers of prayer or words about God’s love are not immediately appropriate. Sometimes what is needed is an offer of practical help, a hug or just sitting and listening while they have a rant. God will still be present in the situation and speaking through our actions.
Listen. Don’t assume you know what they want, need or believe. We need to hear what they say and respond to that; it should be a conversation, not a lecture. And if we show we are willing to listen to them they might be more willing to listen to us.
Don’t expect instant gratification. We may never know if we’ve had any effect on someone’s life, and that’s OK. But we may have planted a seed that we or someone else will cultivate in the future. Paul certainly felt no guilt if he didn’t lead people to faith.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6) NIV
If you want to see the video for yourself it can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6md638smQd8 or you can search for “a gift of a bible penn jillette”
On Easter Sunday we celebrate that Jesus is Alive. We celebrate because His death on the Cross means our sins can be forgiven. We celebrate because He rose from the grave and defeated death so that we might live.
Our faith depends on us believing the true historic facts that Jesus was crucified and that He rose from the grave. Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not. The Bible says He rose, the history of Christianity proves He arose. The personal experience of every born-again believer agrees with the biblical record, Jesus is alive today. The power and the presence of God is with us because Jesus is alive today. In Him, by faith, we have victory over Sin, we have the assurance of eternal life.
Jesus recognised that Thomas believed because he saw, but Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). We are in that great group. We have seen and believed not with the eyes of flesh but with the eyes of faith.
Faith brings dynamic power. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (3:10) concerning the great desire of his life, he said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection.” It was in the power of the risen Christ that the early Christians went forth to change the world and we are called to do the same.
Do you feel you have a weak faith? Have you surrendered yourself completely to the risen Jesus? Do you need God to help you to change your life? Jesus Christ is living. He’s alive. He has risen from the dead. Through Jesus death and resurrection God made possible the forgiveness of sinners and their sin.
This Resurrection Sunday, put your faith, put your trust in Jesus, the risen Lord and Saviour. Trust the One who loved you so much He was willing to die for you. Trust the One who has conquered death and the grave.
Jesus alone deserves to be the Lord of our lives. May the risen Christ be real in your heart today and everyday.
Rev. Dean Courtier
A soldier stood upon a rocky hill fulfilling his duty as he had many times before. His job was to supervise the death of thieves and rebels on a hill called “The Place of the Skull.” He had been there before, but today was different.
The centurion had been uneasy since noon. It was not the deaths that troubled him, over the years he had grown callous to screams. He had mastered the art of numbing his heart. The soldiers complained. Half the crowd taunted, half cried.
It was a thankless job in a strange land. He was ready for the day to be over before it began. But he was curious at the attention given to one of the crucified. He looked worse than the others. His face was lumpy and bruised. His back arched slightly and his eyes faced downward. The centurion smiled at the sign above him on the cross: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37). The condemned looked like anything but a king.
As the hours went by, the centurion found himself looking more and more at the centre cross. He didn’t understand the man’s silence. He didn’t understand his kindness. But most of all, he was perplexed by the darkness. He didn’t know what to do with the black sky in mid-afternoon. No one could explain it, one minute the sun, the next darkness. Suddenly the man on the centre cross shouted, “It is finished.” (John 19:30). Then the centurion watched as the eyes of Jesus lifted and looked toward the sky and listened as he spoke for the final time, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). The centurion said “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
What does Good Friday mean to you? For a life darkened with failure, it means forgiveness. For a heart scarred with futility, it means purpose. For the weary soul, it means deliverance. Because God loves you, He gave His Son, to die on the cross so that we can have eternal life with Him in Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, 6). Accept God’s free gift of eternal life to you, believe Jesus received the punishment for your sin by His death on the cross and “that He was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:4). Ask God to forgive you and invite Jesus into your life.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Whilst in my garden last summer – I realised that GOD, in His grace and goodness, has given us so much wildlife, plants, trees and all sorts of shrubs, etc. The selection and abundance He provides for us is endless – as is His love for us.
I also realised that if I do not spend time in my garden and neglect it on a regular basis, I can ultimately lose my love for it.
Less time in my garden means less fruit. More time in my garden shows a hearty response to my tending.
The same thing applies if we do not regularly spend time in GOD’s word – we can ‘fall away’.
Whilst in my garden recently – the big freeze described in the media as “The Beast from the East” covered most of the country in snow that appeared to put plants to sleep but GOD soon intervened and counteracted the cold weather with His “Love from Above”, GOD’s Radiance soon warmed everything that appeared dead, back to life.
We too can become cold and appear to sleep, but if we constantly read GOD’s word, we find that the Radiance of Christ brings new life into our hearts and minds.
John 15:5, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing”
Just come as you are. Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
All you need to do is come to Him. If you’re thinking, I have nothing to give or nothing to offer Jesus right now, that’s exactly where He wants you. You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus. You come to Jesus, and He cleans you up.
I don’t know what you are going through right now – trials, suffering, heartache, pain. But I do know, whatever it is, it’s not too big for God. His grace is sufficient, your heart can be made new. You might feel far from God right now but He is with you.
I read a story about some friends who went swimming in a river. It was spring, and the glacier runoff had made the river pretty dangerous. Nonetheless one of the guys jumped in, got caught in the current, and was taken to the dangerous part of the rapids. One of his friends on the shore was a lifeguard, and all the other friends looked at him to do something. He just stood there, though, not moving, just staring at his friend. The others began to panic and yell at him and tell him to go save his friend! Still nothing. They looked out into the river and saw their friend struggling desperately.
In an instant, the struggle stopped. He could no longer fight and began to drown. When that happened, the lifeguard jumped in and with a few swift strokes rescued the friend and brought him to shore. With the adrenaline wearing off, the group yelled at the lifeguard, “Why didn’t you jump in earlier? He could have died!”
The lifeguard calmly looked at them and said, “I had to wait until he fully gave up. Unless he stopped fighting, he would have dragged me under and drowned me with him. But the minute he gave up, I could save him.”
That’s what it’s like with Jesus. He wants us to surrender, and when we do, He comes and saves us. The waves might be crashing overhead, but in that moment, when it looks like there is no hope, His grace scoops us up and brings us life. When we stop struggling and surrender to God, we know it was Him who did all the saving.
Will you surrender? Jesus has a better plan for your life than you do. He is your Lord and your Saviour. There is hope found here: Jesus knows you, loves you and He is willing and able to rescue you.
Rev. Dean Courtier
What do I mean by the words redeemed and redemption? Why are they so important and what do they have to do with our HOPE in Christ?
Redeemed: Sam makes an Airfix model plane. Sadly, Sam’s loved model toy is stolen. A year later, he sees his toy for sale in a Charity shop. So, Sam saves up all his pocket money (sacrificing his sweets) to buy back his beloved toy. That is redemption – buying back what belongs to you.
God is our Creator and our Redeemer. Just like Sam, God made us and loved us. Sadly, we were stolen away from God by the world and sin. This broke God’s heart, so He found a way to buy us back to himself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, His only Son – in other words, sacrificing all that was precious to Him, He redeemed us. And now we belong to Him twice over – as His child, and as His slave.
The wonderful paradox is that, in becoming slaves, we gain our freedom! But, because we love God and are so thankful for His mercy, surely we want to serve Him? The Bible talks about us being servants and willing slaves of the Lord. God never demands our surrender, even after redeeming us and setting us free, but our Christian life and service can only be fulfilled when we fully give our life to the One who gave His all for us.
Therefore I can say, “I am redeemed, Praise the Lord!” Therefore my hope is found in Christ, my Redeemer. Hope for every day because I belong to the Lord and He cares for me. And hope for eternity, when one day, all who are redeemed will know eternal bliss and worship the “The Lamb who was Slain”. Although Jesus is ascended and glorified and worshipped, taking the highest place, He is still seen (in Revelation) as the “Lamb who was Slain” – the Redeemer of Mankind.
So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. (Hebrews 9v11-15)
“As a Christian, I have hope, not just for this life, but for Heaven and the life to come” Billy Graham.
Billy Graham has finished his earthly service and has passed into the presence of God. Billy dedicated his life to sharing the truth of the Gospel. It is estimated that God used him to impact the lives of over 200 million people. The following quote is from his book The Reason for My Hope: Salvation:
I have often emphasized that becoming a Christian is more than making a decision to live a better life or to attend church more regularly. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour, something happens supernaturally. Christ comes to dwell in our hearts and gives us His own supernatural life—eternal life. But it is a mistake to imagine that from then on we are automatically and almost magically victorious over sin and doubt. Not so! Each day we must have the same trust we experienced when we first came to know Christ. This is made possible by the fact that He becomes the predominant Person in our life and empowers us to think differently, to walk in truth, and to follow an upright path. The Bible says, “Now the just [the righteous] shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back... but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:38–39)
We cannot do this in our own power, nor does the power come before we receive Jesus as Saviour. It comes when we receive Him as the Lord and Master of our lives, and we cannot live this kind of life apart from Him. This is what it means to be a Christian. And this is the secret of living the Christian life—everyday faith, trusting Him every moment. Each day we renew our faith in God’s assurance that He will give us the faith to follow Him.
We should also remember these words from Billy Graham: “God wants to use you right where you are. Every day you probably come in contact with people who will never enter a church, or talk with a pastor, or open a Bible – and God wants to use you to point them to Christ.”
Rev. Dean Courtier
“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbours, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
God would write His law on the hearts of His people rather than on tablets of stone, as He did the Ten Commandments. In Jeremiah 17:1, the sins of Judah were engraved on their hearts so that they wanted above all to disobey. In Jeremiah 31, the change seems to be an experience very much like the new birth, with God taking the initiative.
The old covenant, broken by the people, would be replaced by a new covenant established by God. The foundation of this new covenant is Jesus (Hebrews 8:6). It is revolutionary, involving not only Israel and Judah, but even Gentiles. It offers a unique relationship with God, with His laws written on individuals’ hearts instead of on stone. Jeremiah looked forward to the day when the Messiah would come to establish this covenant. But for us today, this covenant is here, in the life of the Saviour Jesus.
When we turn our lives over to God, the Holy Spirit builds into us the desire to obey God. We have the wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start and establish a permanent, personal relationship with God (see Jeremiah 29:11; 32:38-40). Pray for those who haven’t yet made a commitment to Jesus.
If you are in need of a fresh start after being away from God for a while, now is your opportunity to make a new commitment.
Rev. Dean Courtier
There will always be people who test your ability to love. Some people are harder to love than others. Here’s an important point to remember: You don’t have to like them, but you do have to love them as Christ tells you to. Loving people is a decision you make.
When we read the Apostle Paul’s prayers for the churches he was involved with, he didn’t pray for greater attendance, bigger offerings, or even more people becoming Christians. When we examine his prayers, we discover something far more challenging.
To the Christians in Philippi, he wrote, “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.” (Philippians 1:9).
To the believers in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:16–19).
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul urges his readers to “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ”. We also should pray for greater love, whether we’re praying a prayer for others or for ourselves.
God’s desire for all of us is that we continue to grow in our ability to love one another. I promise you this is a prayer He will surely answer.
Rev. Dean Courtier
What can separate you from God’s Love? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-38).
Notice all of the things that do not have the ability to keep the love of God from your life:
The love of Christ is more powerful than life itself, death can not keep it from us.
The love of Christ is more powerful than spiritual beings, even the most diabolic plot from Hell cannot keep it from us.
The love of Christ is more powerful than time itself, even when time comes to an end the love of Christ will remain.
The love of Christ is more powerful than mortal strength, even the greatest power on earth cannot keep it from us.
The love of Christ is more powerful than any distance, even the deepest of depths or the highest of heights cannot keep it from us.
The love of Christ is more powerful than all of creation, absolutely nothing in all of the universe can keep it from us.
This list looks all inclusive but there is one thing that can keep you from the love of God that is found only in Christ Jesus - you. You are the only thing standing between the love that falls from Heaven and your need. You are the only person who can keep you from experiencing the love of Christ.
Are you living in God’s love? Do you want to demonstrate the love of God in your life? Are you willing to allow the fruit of love to develop in your life?
The choice is yours, so choose to live in His divine love and in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dean Courtier
1 Samuel 13:3, “Samuel was lying down in the House of the Lord, where the Ark of God was.”
– and he heard God’s call.
The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God, and it was:
A means of guidance: It went before Israel in the wilderness “to search out a resting place for them”. (Numbers 10:33)
A worker of miracles: It was instrumental in the Israelites crossing the River Jordon on dry ground (Joshua 3) and the capture of Jericho (Joshua 4:7-11).
A means of forgiveness When the High Priest sprinkled the blood of a perfect lamb over the lid of the Ark (positioned in the Holiest Place of the Temple built by Solomon) once a year on the Day of Atonement it brought forgiveness to the nation.
But the story of Samuel happened many years before, when the Ark still stood in the Tabernacle at Shiloh. And, although Samuel was still young and “in training” we see that he slept in the Tabernacle where the Ark was kept. So, I guess it’s hardly surprising that he heard God speaking to him. Note that this happened in those days when the Word of the Lord was rare and there were not many visions. (1 Samuel 3:1)
Samuel lived and slept in the presence of the Lord. Brother Lawrence encourages us in his book to “practice the presence of God”. For that is how we can know God’s guidance, how we can see his miraculous hand at work, and hear his voice. Even in these days when “the Word of the Lord is rare” outside of church walls, God can and still does reach out to people with his call.
The thing is – are we listening?
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth“. This was a metaphor for how they should impact the world around them. Salt has many different uses. First, salt preserves food. Before refrigeration, people salted foods, which made them last significantly longer than they did when left unsalted. Salt also adds flavour to foods. Many foods would be bland and — to some — inedible without salt. So, adding salt makes dishes more palatable.
What does it mean when Jesus calls you to be the salt of the earth? Jesus uses those who love and follow Him to help preserve this fallen world that has turned its back on Him. Jesus also uses you to spread the Word in a way that is easier for others to understand, easier for them to hear and digest, by adding flavour and depth to your words as you share the gospel. Salt brings out distinct flavours in food, just as believers can bring out the words of God to impact listeners in a positive way. Those who know Jesus, radiate His joy, and share His love add flavour to the world. Look for ways today to be the salt of the earth in your words and actions.
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). A little bit of light impacts a lot of darkness. Light also gives comfort throughout the night, the literal night as well as the metaphorical night; the sun bursting through rain clouds brings hope and joy.
This is why Jesus called for His followers to let their lights “shine before men.” Those who know Jesus as Saviour and Lord have the ability to shine this kind of comforting, joyful light to people in the world. Do you know that within you is a light burning with Heaven’s fire? Your faith should cause you to behave differently than the world. Your faith in God should show through in your actions and reflect your heavenly Father.
People should see God through you. God has given you the gift of light within you. May you use it for His glory.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Many times in my life, I’ve come back to the promise in Jeremiah 29:11, ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
It’s a verse many of us love, because it is a promise that God is good and wants to be good toward us. It’s easy to believe that God has a good plan for your life when things are working out well, but it’s a little tougher when the path is difficult.
I’ve gone through times when it seemed as if God’s plans were not prospering me; in fact, it felt like they were hurting me. I became confused because I couldn’t see any divine “plan” for my life, much less that it was good. In fact, there were times when I thought God was against me. What is He trying to do? I thought. Make me tough? Make me stronger? How were His plans bringing me hope? I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The God of the harvest is also the God of the desert. Could it be possible that God has a plan to increase my understanding of His love? Could God have allowed difficult circumstances so I could understand who He really is?
Again and again, I keep hearing Jeremiah 29:11 echo in my heart and head.The word translated as plans is the Hebrew word machashabah (מַחֲשָׁבָה); a more literal translation is “thoughts.” God knows the thoughts He has toward me and His thoughts toward me are good. His thoughts toward me are the real constant, despite whatever circumstances I am going through.
God knows everything about each one of us (Psalm 139:1), and we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We don’t have to fear what God thinks about us because He always, always looks at us with love. You are really, truly, deeply loved by God. Whatever you are going through, knowing that God’s thoughts toward you are always good will help you hope and endure.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe. (Psalm 4:6-8).
Without hope, our journey through this life can feel like an uphill struggle. Hope in God helps us hold our head high even when problems come, and circumstances or situations try to pull us down.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Hope lifts our perspective and reminds us the road we are traveling is ultimately our way to Heaven. The ultimate destination for those who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Saviour is an eternity with Him. Our hope and trust in Christ should lead us to, rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying (Romans 12:12).
Regardless of how rough or smooth our journey feels right now we have a wonderful promise to cling to, for God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).
God is always with us, we can grow strong in His strength, the light of His presence guides our journey. He is with us, we can speak with Him, we have a certain hope, we are secure in His love, grace and mercy.
Rev. Dean Courtier
As we move into another year, what are our hopes for the future? We live in a world where we see so much hopelessness all around but God has called us to be those who overflow with hope. As we look at the lives of men and women revealed in the Bible we see how God transformed what appeared to be a hopeless situation into an amazing outcome. Barren Sarai has a child, grieving Naomi holds a grandson, a broken Peter becomes a church leader, rebellious Paul a missionary and church planter. Jeremiah 29:11 speaks of destiny, which flows out of having hope. We have looked at what it means to discover our destiny; now we will journey together to discover that Hope is found Here.
As an encouragement, I received from one of our leaders the following message of Hope: I was praying yesterday for all the ‘returners’ when I clearly heard (not audibly) God say to me, “They are coming home”. I know it was from God because I was very emotionally moved by it, and it was as if God just showed me something of His heart for our prodigals. The thought was that we are to believe for our prodigals because they ARE COMING home. Lots of them. Not just those who have returned, but others are still coming, still on the journey. I remembered the parable of the Lost Son and the father said, your brother has come home. I don’t know why, but it appears that God sometimes does things in waves, and I feel God is saying that as we serve them, believe for them, pray for them and hope patiently for them - they will come home; and that this is a time for believing for the prodigals.
Rev. Dave Redbond
In some lives I have seen significant change in the last 12 months, there is real fire in some hearts, an eagerness to discover their destiny, and be all that God has called them to be. There are others where I have seen subtle differences in both speech and actions. Then there are those where there is no visible sign that they have drawn any closer to the Lord than they were before. Sad, but true.
So, as we enter into 2018, I wonder will God have a more significant impact in my life and your life this year. Are we, prayerfully seeking to move forward into all God has planned for us? The truth is there are many things that can hold us back and stop us from becoming the person God has called us to be. Instead of seeking to move on and press into everything God has planned for us we can be hesitant, the prospect of change can be daunting to some, the idea of change does not come naturally to others, some people spend years living in a comfort zone of their own creation.
Often, even though it is our fault that we are where we are, we will blame circumstances, situations, other people, bad choices, it is easier for us to attribute blame to anyone or anything other than ourselves for a lack of change in our lives.
If we want to be obedient disciples of Jesus then we must choose to allow God to work in our lives, to work in us and through us, to change and transform us - to take us from where we were, where we are, to where God wants us to be.
Instead of living in the past, we need to live in the now, with an eager expectation of what God will do in each of our lives now and in this coming year. The old has gone, 2018 will be a new year, a new opportunity for each and every one of us to experience a fresh move of God in our lives.
God wants us to move forward, to grow closer to Him, to grow in our faith and spiritual maturity, to stop dwelling on the things that have past and to embrace all He has planned for each and every one of us. Need an encouragement from scripture? Look at Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. In 2018 allow God to work in you and through you. May you and I experience God’s mercy, grace and love. May we fully discover our destiny.
Rev. Dean Courtier
For unto you is born... a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
Christmas is for most of us a time of frenetic activity. So much to do and so little time. The trouble is we can be so caught up in all the busy-ness that we don’t have time to think about the real meaning of Christmas. The word Christmas literally means ‘celebration of Christ’ which has been secularised into Xmas, a celebration of the unknown.
For many people it is just a season to celebrate. Few pausing amid the carols, the decorations, the giving and receiving of gifts, time with families, and the feasting and relaxing, to think of the wonderful gift God has given in the person of His son Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t come to give us just something to celebrate, He came to share His love, His life, and His power with us. He humbled Himself to become one of us for this was the only way He could become our Saviour. The cradle led to the cross where He suffered for your sin and mine and because of the cross we can know peace with god and hope for the future.
If we really think about it, we all have something to thank god for this Christmas. But that’s the big question, will we take time to think or time to worship or time to thank Him for all that His coming has made possible?
God bless you this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Rev Graham Knight
The following is a list of the ten most powerful things in the universe that are available to you today as a believer in Jesus Christ:
1. The Power of the Blood of Jesus - Nothing else can bring you forgiveness. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NKJV).
2. The Power of the Gospel - Nothing else can save your soul. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16, NIV).
3. The Power of the Cross - Nothing else can deliver you from the slavery of sin. “We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6, NIV).
4. The Power of the Word - Nothing else can bring you transforming truth. “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).
5. The Power of the Kingdom of God - Nothing else can keep you from evil. “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13, NKJV).
6. The Power of the Holy Spirit - Nothing else can conform you to Jesus’ image. “We can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, TLB).
7. The Power of the Resurrection - Nothing else can give you eternal hope. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3, NIV).
8. The Power of Prayer - Nothing else can move the hand of God. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22, NIV).
9. The Power of Grace - Nothing else can freely give you all you need. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NKJV).
10. The Power of Faith - Nothing else can keep you till the end. “In His great mercy He has given us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:1-5, NIV).
Finally, be assured that Jesus Christ is presently at the right hand of the Father; that He has a name that is above all names; that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords; that all enemies are under His feet, and that His government and peace will never end. He will soon rise from His throne and return to this earth to rule in righteousness. Until that day, continue to look up, for your redemption draws near.
Rev Graham Knight
“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.” (Phil 4:12, The Message)
Modern life is busy and complicated. It is faster, busier, distracting. The race is on to acquire bigger, better, more. We have become possession rich and time poor. We are available 24 hours a day, via email, texting, Facebook and other social media platforms. We allow the stresses and strains of life to come between us and God. It is easy to stop trusting God to provide and take things into our own hands.
Simplicity is about letting go of those distractions which distance us from God. Simplicity is the antidote to our complicated life, it allows us to live fully in God’s presence and enjoy deep fellowship with him. It allows us to find peace and rest.
There was a key passage in the bible where Jesus directed someone to Simplicity...Martha. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself. Tell her to help me.” “Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset over many things, but few are needed, or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:40-42)
Dallas Willard, quoting St Francis of Assisi, says, “If simple living is what you want, you must free yourself from trivial entanglements, wear the world like a loose garment, one which touches us in few places, and there lightly.”
Simplicity can remove the noise and clutter that distances us from God. Embracing simplicity makes room to focus on God’s kingdom. It places Christ at the centre. “So do not worry saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”(1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
This part of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is emphasising that many people with different gifts all working together as one church, one body. Serving God by using the gifting He has given, to speak, to heal, to teach, to build up, to glorify God together.
Our Spiritual gifts are meant to honour God and bring glory to Him. Our gifts are not meant to be used selfishly but for the benefit of others. We do not earn our gifts, they are given to us because of God’s Mercy and Grace and Love. The Spiritual Gifts given by God are special, beyond our own natural gifts or talents.
God is the one who is in control. We are His church, His people, His children, and He gifts each of us for His service. God does not give gifts as a reward for how well a Christian lives their life, God gives gifts as He chooses and A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. God has given you a Spiritual Gift, every born-again, Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus is gifted in some way.
Don’t neglect your gifting, use the Spiritual Gifts God has given you to minister to others, to encourage others, to serve others, and ultimately and most importantly bring Glory to God. Whatever gift or gifts God has already given you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you to bring Glory and Honour to God.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Have you ever asked God to reveal the plan He has for your life? God knows the plan He has for you, His planning has already taken place, His plan for you is complete and perfect.
God is accomplishing His plans in your life today - even if those plans are not what you were expecting. If you could look at the big picture, you would see that God is working behind the scenes in your heart and in your life.
God’s plan isn’t always what you thought it was going to be. But God’s plan is always best. Even if we don’t understand it at the time. Even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if we would never have chosen this path for ourselves. In all things, God works together for the good of those who love Him.
When God shuts a door, He opens another door. God is working through every event in your life to make you more and more dependent on Jesus for everything you need. God’s plan is not always the easiest plan, but it is the BEST plan.
If you knew everything that was going to happen to you ahead of time, perhaps you would do everything in your power to change things to make them go the way you would want them to go - that’s probably why God doesn’t tell you everything at once. Even though we don’t know all the plans for our lives, God knows the plan He has for you.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.“
Trust God and His perfect plan for you.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Remembrance Sunday is set aside to remember those who have given their lives for the freedom of others. We remember the reality of what actually happened.
We remember the dedication of those who fought and died. Remembering should stir within us a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Remembering the commitment and sacrifice of others should also strengthen our own resolve to do our part in serving God and others. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are instructed to stop and remember what He has done for us. How often do you take the time to remember what God has done in your life? How often do you just pause and thank Him for His presence and provision in your life? Do you find your self breaking into songs of worship and praise as you rejoice in His goodness to you? How often do you take the opportunity to tell others what God has done in your own life?
All of us have many things to be thankful for. All of us have experienced the love, mercy and grace of God at work in our own lives. All of us should be willing to tell others about His greatness. Maybe if we took more time to remember how God has had His hand upon our lives, then telling others about His love and goodness would come a little more naturally to us. Perhaps the key for us is not just being able to rejoice in what God has done in the past, we can also remember that in Jesus our future is also secure. Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jesus willingly left the glory of Heaven to come on a rescue mission to save us. Jesus came because of His love for us. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God the Father.
Jesus was incarnated into this world to do more than teach us and tell us how we should live - He came to die on the cross so that by the shedding of His own blood we could be forgiven. The perfect one died for the imperfect, for us. The shedding of His blood washed away our sins. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was suﬃcient to pay the price for the sins of everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This morning remember: His sacrificial love for you has saved you; you are set free from the burden of your sin; you are now a forgiven child of God; and by trusting in Him, and Him alone, you are assured of a place in Heaven.
Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic. For the Lord your God will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Remember God is with you.
Rev. Dean Courtier
When we go on holiday we take with us a jigsaw - something to do if the weather turns wet and cold. (Obviously, I’m talking about England!) Now, you don’t really do a jigsaw to see the picture, because usually that’s already on the box. It’s all about the challenge and the satisfaction of completing it. More often than not the easiest part of doing a jigsaw is getting the outer edges done, and then picking out one or two specifically outlined objects. After that, you’re left with the hard grind of filling in large areas of sky and foreground. But having got thus far you decide to persevere. (I can only once remember giving up!) Occasionally it can get very frustrating. You try every piece and none of them seem to fit! It seems like one or more pieces must be missing. It seems impossible. Drastic measures are necessary, and so you begin to disassemble the part you’re working on. And then slowly but surely it all comes together properly. The jigsaw – eventually - is complete.
Life can be rather like a jigsaw. There are those times of challenge and difficulty; times when things “all work together” well; times when it seems like something is missing or as if we are in the wrong place; times when we are taking two steps back instead of moving forwards; and times when we have the joy and satisfaction of seeing things working out.
When we trust in God, the One who creates the jigsaw of our life and the One who puts the pieces in place, we can know that he will never give up on us until we are complete. Just as I have a plan of how I will do my jigsaw, so too, God has a plan for our lives. And when we get discouraged, it may just be that God is taking apart something in our life because he wants to make that part of his jigsaw more perfect, more complete. So, even in difficult times, we can have the hope that comes from knowing that God will use those circumstances to grow us and bring us closer to himself.
Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
In 1517, the German monk Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, this act is recognised as the official starting point of the Protestant Reformation.
The impact of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation has been enormous on global Christianity. In contrast to the extra-biblical traditions and works-based practices of Roman Catholicism, Luther called the Church back to the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Luther believed the Word of God was the supreme authority for the Christian faith, not tradition or papal decrees. In the process of bringing the Word of God to the common person, Luther translated the Bible into German, published numerous books and sermons of biblical teachings, and composed numerous hymns based on biblical themes. Many of his hymns are still sung today.
Luther was brought to trial before the church, and the court attempted to force him to recant. Luther’s response is often quoted: “I cannot choose but adhere to the Word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.”
From Germany, the Protestant Reformation expanded through Europe, influencing the work of John Calvin in Geneva, Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, and John Knox in Scotland.
The Reformation Luther led also sparked the Anabaptist (free church) movement and the English Reformation. These movements, in turn, influenced the spread of Christianity to the Americas and throughout the world where European exploration took place. South Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand all felt the impact of Luther’s hammer in Wittenberg.
500 years later, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Christian denominations around the world. May each of us, who choose to follow Christ by faith according to His Word, be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth.
Luther was was willing to stand against the ideas of his day and to present God’s Word as the only guide for salvation and Christian living - may God help us to do the same, and as we share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus to the world may the Holy Spirit spark a new reformation of church and culture.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honour in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly. (Proverbs 3:13-18)
Wisdom sounds like a wonderful thing to have. Broadly speaking, there are two types of wisdom that we all experience in our daily lives, worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom. Worldly is following the popular opinion of the world. Godly is following the precepts and commands of God. Are some of your choices, opinions, actions, based on what the world thinks is wise rather than on what God says is wise?
As disciples of Jesus we need to understand that we cannot be both worldly and godly; they do not mix. James 4:4 warns us, “Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). Ouch! If we embrace the modern liberal thinking of the world, if we accept things that are against the will of God then we are turning our back on the truth of the wisdom of God.
1 John 2:15-17 also warns us, “do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
The Bible, The Word of God is the Holy Spirit inspired Wisdom of God, the best wisdom to help each of us in our daily lives. May the Lord help each of us to truly demonstrate Godly wisdom in our daily lives as we seek to follow God’s will and purpose for us, and may we live according to the commands and precepts of God as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us.
Rev. Dean Courtier
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)
The secret to contentment is very simple. And it does not require heroic acts of piety. No, in fact it requires a childlike response from us. The secret is beautifully summed up in this phrase: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). Is it really that simple? Just trust God? Yes. God designed us to trust Him in whatever knowledge, wisdom, and strength He provides us and to trust His knowledge, wisdom, and strength when ours reach their limits.
God knows that our living in simple trust in Him will be hard for us, Jesus promised that it would be (Matthew 7:14). It’s hard because we’re called to trust Jesus in a world under the power of the evil one that rejects and hates Jesus (1 John 5:19; John 14:15; 15:18), while living in a body that has faithless impulses (Romans 7:23–24).
We do not need to understand the “why” to every command of God but we do need to trust God and therefore obey Him. Trusting God is the secret:
To forgiving those who have sinned against us (Ephesians 4:32).
To turning away from sexual temptation (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
To giving generously, even beyond your means (2 Corinthians 8:3).
To not allowing material abundance to choke the word in us (Matthew 13:22).
To rejoicing even when sorrowful (2 Corinthians 6:10).
To contentment even when experiencing deprivation (Philippians 4:12).
To boldness even in the face of fearful threats (Acts 4:29).
To peace even when facing pressured trials (Philippians 4:6–7).
To joy even when enduring affliction and illness (2 Corinthians 1:3–5).
To hope when all around our soul gives way (Psalm 42:11).
To blessing those who persecute us (Romans 12:14).
To overcoming discouragement due to adversity and weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
To not allowing indwelling sin to reign over or condemn us (Romans 6:12, 8:1).
God promises to give us peace and contentment if we trust Him (Philippians 4:6–7). He really wants us to experience them in increasing measure, even here in this troubled world (John 16:33). So He has given us the simple, hard secret: Trust God. It is the only way.
Rev. Dean Courtier
On eleven occasions Jesus told parables describing the Kingdom of Heaven. The first is found in Matthew 13v24: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping his enemy came and sowed weeds amongst the wheat, and went away.
God in three persons (the Holy Trinity) is the Sower, the Seed and the Harvester in this parable, and the field is the whole world. We read that the sower scattered good seed. Jesus is the source and the essence of goodness – therefore the seed he sows can only be good; and when it germinates in our hearts it can only bring forth a good harvest, both in quantity and quality. The seed is God’s Word, the truth of the good news of God’s love and grace and mercy. When we receive the good seed, we grow to maturity in God’s “field”, until we are ripe for harvest, at which point we are gathered into his eternal presence as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the parable, while everyone was sleeping, the enemy (Satan) came and sowed seeds to hamper the crop and thwart its growth. Jesus wants us to be aware that the enemy is there, sometimes when we least expect it, trying to hinder us in our spiritual growth, trying to make us stumble. We can’t put all the blame on the Devil, but neither can we put all the blame on ourselves. Jesus said opposition would happen. All the time, in the spiritual realm, there continues this battle for men and women’s souls. We’re surrounded by weeds – bad influences, and have to trust the Gardener to cultivate our growth.
So, why do we get only this warning? Why doesn’t God just zap the weeds with weed-killer and pull them up? Jesus gives us a further insight when he replies to this question in verse 29: Leave the weeds be, because you might disturb the wheat and destroy that as well. At the Harvest, they will be sorted out. Jesus is telling the servants (us) not to interfere! We are not to judge or intervene when the wheat and the weeds get mixed up, but we do have the recourse of prayer. Our heavenly Father is the Gardener and He is good, not willing that any should perish.
Praise God for His patience, love and grace in keeping us until that day when we fully receive our eternal inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven!
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French monk, practising the presence of God amongst the pots and pans of his monastery kitchen. A simple man, a humble man, he spent his days in menial tasks, but offering them up to God in service. He had the gift of bringing God into every aspect of his life.
He rejoiced in the ordinary, everyday humdrum tasks. He prayed constantly and had a reputation for kindness and a willingness to help others
What can we 21st century Christians learn from Brother Lawrence’s example?
Practising the presence of God is not some mystical experience, it is not working up an emotional state, it is not living in isolation and spending long hours on our knees.
Practising the presence of God is simply turning all of life’s experiences into prayer, every small triumph, every heartache, every irritation or annoyance.
We can turn the humdrum into a holy moment, every day can be routine and ordinary, invite God into your ordinary.
Everyday activities, from driving the car, to washing the kitchen floor can be suffused with prayer, surrendering ourselves to a real connection with the presence of God.
Begin each day with intentionality, our morning routine sets the tone for the day, rather than being stressed and rushed, begin your day with God,.
As Brother Lawrence advises, be diligent in cultivating a daily walk with God, find small things to be grateful for, turn suffering into surrender, suffering will always be part of life, draw close to God.
“Seek me and you will find me, when you seek me with all of your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)
When was the last time you used the word “JOY” in conversation? It’s more common now to talk about happiness, self-fulfilment, elation or pleasure. But none of those words convey the same meaning as the word “JOY”.Joy is all those things, but with the added ingredients of contentment and satisfaction.
I doubt Jesus was happy knowing that he was headed for the Cross at Calvary. But, the Bible says these words in Hebrews 12:2, For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the Cross.
Why did it make him joyful? Because he was submitting to His Father’s will. And because, by doing it, He was preparing the way for all mankind to be reconciled to God. This is what gave him joy. The joy of salvation is also shared by the angels (Luke 15:10), There is joy amongst the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
The Apostle Peter in his first epistle (1:8-9) explains why we also can share this joy: Even though you do not see Jesus now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Sadly, those who have no faith have no hope of a future after death. They do not have the source of true and everlasting joy. There may be many circumstances and difficulties and even afflictions that cause us to be unhappy or exhausted. But God’s Word says to us (in Nehemiah 8:10), Do not grieve, the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Jesus knew joy through his most difficult ordeal, and he gives us his joy when we are in his will and at one with his purposes. And he says to us in Luke 10:20, Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.
Noah lived in troublesome times. People had become corrupt and every inclination of the human heart was selfish and evil. God decided to start over. The storm and the flood came and only eight people survived.In many ways Noah was just like you and me, he was an ordinary man with an extraordinary God. He was a man who learned that God could be trusted. Noah was a man of faith, he believed God existed, he believed God and trusted His words. Noah did what God commanded even though some things were unknown by personal experience. God told Noah to build an ark. It took years to build, and throughout the construction I am sure that many, many people kept asking him the question “Why?” And, Noah told the people about the coming judgment, he spoke about the coming flood. In the 600th year of Noah’s life, (his children were born when he was 500) it began to rain. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The floodgates of the deep opened up and the waters lifted the ark and it floated on the surface of the water.
You may feel like rain is falling all around you, without rain we would never see the rainbow. God gave Noah various promises. One of those promises involved the rainbow. One of the most beautiful things in all of creation is the rainbow. The arch of brilliant colours that appears in the sky when the sun shines after a shower of rain. There are seven colors of the rainbow: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. They blend into each other so much that most people only see four or five colours.
Around the world, rainbows are known by many different names. Italians call it the “flashing arch”. The people of Vietnam call a rainbow “the little window in the sky”. North African tribes greet the rainbow as the “bride of the rain”. And in the various languages of central Europe, the rainbow is called “the arch of Saint Martin,” “the bridge of the Holy Spirit,” “the crown of Saint Bernard” and “the girdle of God.”
Whatever you call it, it is beautiful and wonderful. God said He would put a rainbow in the sky as an everlasting sign of His promise. The promise that God would no longer destroy the whole earth with a flood. Every time we see a rainbow fill the sky after the rain, we can be reminded of one of God’s awesome promises that have remained true throughout the ages of time.
Rev. Dean Courtier
The Christian life is not the easy option. If we are honest, we know that there are times when we struggle to live in the way that God has commanded us to live. Maybe in your life there have been times when you have encountered problems, when you have struggled or when you have felt like giving up.
Yet you persevered, in God’s strength you carried on, you let God’s love and mercy and grace carry you on. When there was no hope, God was your hope. When there seemed to be no way, God made a way. When your strength was gone, God was your strength. When you needed guidance and encouragement to persevere God was faithful. God guided you through those difficult times and you persevered, you endured, you overcame, you survived because God was with you.
We struggle because we try to do it in our own strength instead of in the power of God. Colossians 1:11, We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. Strengthened and empowered by God to endure, to persevere, to grow, to mature. Empowered by God to be strong. Empowered by God to have patience. Have you ever prayed “Lord, give me patience, give it to me now!” Spiritual maturity and patience are more connected than we realise.
Part of being spiritual mature is the ability to pray and then wait upon the Lord. To persevere, to endure, we turn to God for strength. In all of the challenges of life, in the bad days and in the good days, we are to live lives worthy of our Lord.
The path of sin is wide and easy, but as disciples of Jesus we are called to persevere in pursuing the narrow way, the path of obedience to our Lord and our God. Trusting His timing, trusting His will, trusting His plan, trusting His purpose, trusting Him!
Rev. Dean Courtier
The Bible says that sin is like a sting. So, imagine being stung by one of the deadlier scorpions and dying in the desert with no hope. Or, think of other things that can sting you like tsetse flies, mosquitos and bees. Stings are never nice, they always harm you. Sin is the same. In the natural sense if we get stung, we would know the seriousness of it and hurry to do something about it, to cancel out the consequences. There are well-known antidotes to apply to stings. For example, bee venom contains acid and so we are told to apply bicarbonate of soda. And wasp stings contain an alkali, so the remedy is to apply something acidic like vinegar (that’s the theory, but I don’t know if it works!).
What we need then is an antidote for sin. Because without an antidote we will die.
I came across this quaint old poem in an old book that we found when tidying out our loft. It has the answer to our problem.A bee flew in our kitchen door, a horrid angry bee,
Jesus is the only antidote to sin. When we ask Jesus into our life, trusting in Him for our salvation, the very first thing He does (providing we repent) is to cancel out all of our sin. He literally neutralises it so that it no longer exists. And better still, He forgets all about it. How amazing is that? It’s amazing for two reasons. Firstly, it gives us the assurance that we can be free from sin and the effects of sin if we continue to trust in Him. And secondly, it means that He sees us as righteous and good enough to belong to His kingdom. “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The sting of sin is gone – forever, so that one day we will join Jesus in the place He has prepared for us in heaven.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
THE BAT – The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air,cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and,no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
THE BUMBLEBEE – A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.
PEOPLE – In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up! That’s the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem... just look up!
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, but faith looks up!
Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly.
Share this with a friend... I just did.
Rev. Graham Knight
Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to do it again a few days later? There are seasons in our lives when we can feel stuck in a cycle of bad decisions or foolish mistakes. How do we get from where we are to the season where God wants us to be?
Maybe we don’t actually want to change or maybe something seems too pleasurable to give up. We know it is wrong, yet in our heart, we resist change and whatever it is can become more important than our being in a right relationship with God. There are also times when we really do want to change, and we struggle to be different. There are 4 words that can help us in our struggles to position our hearts closer to God.
CONSIDER: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23–24). The first step to change requires us to look intently into the mirror of God’s Word; ”For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.” (James 1:23-24).
CONFESS: When we consider what the Bible says about us, we can be tempted to ignore it, or soften it, by making excuses or shifting the blame. Change happens when we confess we are the primary problem like King David our prayer should be, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10).
COMMITMENT: There needs to be a plan to move from where we are to where God wants us to be.
CONTINUE: We can talk about change, we can create a plan of action, but if we never follow through, or we give up with discouragement, change will not take place.
Jesus provides us with the hope and help we need to change the season we are in! Our Lord has given us everything we need. Be encouraged, and ask the Lord to bless you and change you as you continue to change and discover your destiny.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Have you ever tried eating white self-raising flour out of the bag? Strangely enough, neither have I!! How about margarine or raw egg? Even the thought of it is not appealing, you might even say it’s revolting. So, are these things bad, should we stop having them in our cupboards? I guess sugar is quite nice, but a diet of sugar is likely to make us very ill. The thing is, these things separately are not good. But, when they are beaten and whipped and stirred together; when they are pressed down into a tin and placed into a very hot oven the result is... something amazingly good... cake!
In a similar way, God takes all the unpleasant things that happen to us; all the painful things, all the distasteful things, all the bad things, and even all the really nice things; and He uses them to make something good, something beautiful of our lives. Sometimes we do indeed feel beaten and whipped and thrown into the fire. But, just as a cook knows what a cake will ultimately look and taste like, God knows what we will turn out like. He is the perfect “baker” and His desire is to help us to become more like Him.
The Bible puts it this way (The Living Bible): And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans. (Rom 8v28)
So, whether you like ginger cake, chocolate cake or fruit cake, I’m sure you will agree that they are all 100% nicer than the raw ingredients. In the same way, all the things that happen in our lives, good and bad, work together to make us the person God wants us to be, for His glory.
Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, try to take back a small moment of peace in a busy day. Everyone wants more peace, more time. The three major thieves of our peace today are, calendars, telephones and clocks.
The tyranny of the accelerated life. Do you ever feel that no matter what you do, you just never seem to catch up? In the fast-paced life we live today it is so difficult to achieve a balance, we have so much to do, so much to accomplish, so much to acquire! The tyranny of the urgent. Dallas Willard suggests a solution, “We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives”, and he goes on to say. “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day”.
The bible tells us “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). BE and not DO. What does it mean to be still and know that I am God? Firstly, God is asking me to be and not do, we are a DO society, and God has called us to BE. Be still, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean running on autopilot, multitasking, juggling a myriad of tasks. Stillness, is not just something physical. It is spiritual and emotional. There are many levels of stillness we need to practice. Be still and know what? What does the word know mean? It means to believe to the utmost.
God says, know that I AM, whatever you need in your situation: I am Comfort; I am Peace; I am Provision. Ultimately, I am God, I have your circumstances in the palm of my hand.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
The natural seasons are winter, spring, summer and autumn; there are also spiritual seasons in our lives. What spiritual season are you experiencing now?
Ecclesiastes reminds us that every season of life is purposeful. We will face times of great difficulty and times of great joy. We will experience seasons of hard work and seasons of plenty. God wants to use each of these seasons to teach us something about who He is and how much He loves us.
We may never fully understand what God has planned for us, but our attitude toward life changes when we learn to see good times and bad times as opportunities to grow closer to our Heavenly Father.
As we learn to trust Him, we can enjoy the good times and the bad times knowing God is with us and He will make everything beautiful in its time. Are you trusting God to help you in the season you are in?
Rev. Dean Courtier
For everyone (Acts 10:34-35) – God will accept all who repent and turn to Him.)
From God (Acts 10:36) – God is the one who initiated this reconciliation between Himself and mankind. We could do nothing to change our fate.)
Through Jesus (Acts 10:36) – Jesus is the Lamb which God promised to take away the sins of the world. There is no other way.)
Evidenced by the Spirit (Acts 10:38) – The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus ministry in the flesh just as He empowers us to continue that ministry today.)
Witnessed by the apostles (Acts 10:39) – The apostles saw the things which Jesus did up to and including His death and resurrection. We are witnesses to great things as well by giving testimony to the way He has changed our lives and the lives of those around us because of His death and resurrection.)
Provided through crucifixion (Acts 10:39) – Our salvation comes through Christ’s death on the cross for our sin. God’s justice was satisfied completely.)
Proved in resurrection (Acts 10:40) – While the work for salvation was finished on the cross, the proof that it was really finished is given in the resurrection. Death, the grave, and hell have no power over those who are in Christ. We have assurance and hope as a result.)
Preached by believers (Acts 10:42) – We are commanded to proclaim the good news to all people just as the Apostles were.)
The only way to receive forgiveness (Acts 10:42-43) – We are to accept the message of the Gospel and trust in Jesus.)
In Jesus alone. Praise God “everyone who believes in Him will have their sins forgiven through His name.” (Acts 10:43)
Rev. Dean Courtier
“God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)
God the Father loves us more than we can imagine. Sin can lead us to places we should not go, or to do things we should not do, or encourage us to say things we should not say.
Yet Father God’s love is so great for you that no matter what the sin, He sent His son to die for you so that you can be forgiven and made whole. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The price had to be paid, a perfect sacrifice was required and God the Father sent Jesus, the sinless one, to give His life as a ransom for our sins.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” We are all in a race. If we have asked Jesus, God’s Son, into our hearts and to forgive us our sins, then we are pressing on to win the prize and our Heavenly Father is running the race with us.
God has showed His love for us, He has expressed His love for us. How do we express our love for God? I suggest the pursuit of excellence in our daily lives is an important expression of our love for God. 1 John 2:4-6, If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
Following God’s commands, God’s precepts, God’s will and purpose for your life is an expression of your love.
God’s love for you is amazing. He wants what is best for you. Your Father in heaven cares, He wants you to be healed and cleansed from your sins. God wants you to be in a right relationship with Him and others around you.
May you experience His heart of love for you today, the heart of a true loving and kind Heavenly Father.
Rev. Dean Courtier
In 1921 Myra Brooks Welch wrote the poem “The touch of the Master’s hand” subtitled The old Violin. It tells the story of an old violin, lying in a dusty corner of an auction room. It is battered, scarred, forgotten, worthless in worldly eyes.
Valued at only a few pounds, no more, the auctioneer works hard but the bidding is sparse and sporadic, there is little interest in the room. But then a master violinist picks up the humble instrument, lovingly caresses it, draws the bow across the strings and the room is filled with hauntingly sweet melody. In that moment the violin becomes an instrument of great beauty and value.
Life can be difficult, it can wear us out.
We grow older, more tired, perhaps we feel left out, cast aside, out of tune, perhaps even worthless. But the Master knows your true value, if you let Him He will call you out to be sweet music to others. God paid the ultimate price for you and for me, the highest price that can be paid, His Son.
You are not worthless, abandoned, cast aside, you are a pearl of great price.Human life has divine value placed on it.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus said: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The word translated power is the Greek word dunamis. Dunamis is used 120 times in the New Testament. It is a word that refers to ‘strength, power, or ability’. Dunamis is not just any power it is miraculous power or marvellous works. Dunamis can also refer to ‘power and excellence of soul’. Dunamis is the root word of the English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic.
In John 14:15-17 Jesus said: “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.”
Advocate in Greek: Paraclete or paráklētos - the one who consoles; comforts; encourages; uplifts; refreshes; or intercedes. On the day of Pentecost the Advocate arrived in power. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples gathered together in the Upper Room and they were changed, they were transformed. Peter preached the Gospel and 3,000 people were saved that day.
Power, boldness, to go out and speak truth and thousands were saved. Could that happen today? Yes it can! God has not changed, His power has not diminished. The Holy Spirit still operates in power in our lives. The truth of the Gospel still changes and transforms lives today and God uses ordinary people like you and me to share the truth of who Jesus is with others.
The disciples were filled with dunamis power and today we, as disciples of Jesus, are filled with the same dunamis power as those first disciples.
Remember, we do not live the Christian life in our own power, but in God’s. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Did you know that if you tie a working elephant to a stake it will stay there? Even though the elephant is big and strong; even though he has a mind of his own; and even though he could easily uproot a tree – he will stay put. Why? Because he has been conditioned to do so. From birth, the elephant has been tied to a stake and had very limited freedom. But as he grows bigger and the stake stays the same size, his mindset still tells him he must stay by the stake. He still believes he cannot break free. He has been convinced that he has limited freedom so he does not even try.
Likewise, we’ve all had experiences as we’ve developed which have caused us to be conditioned to certain ways of thinking; have caused us to be conditioned to limited expectations; and have made it difficult for us to know true freedom. These can be things that affect us mentally, physically and spiritually. They affect our expectations of what we can achieve so that we say, “O, I could never do that/be like that”. We can often be “tied to a stake” without realising it.
The stake to the elephant was not necessarily a bad thing. It probably kept him and others from danger, and it was only small. It’s almost ridiculous to think that a large elephant should be hindered by such a small thing. Of course, it isn’t the stake that holds him, but what’s in the elephant’s mindset. Even the tiniest of things can hinder us and prevent us from knowing true freedom in Christ. But Jesus said it doesn’t have to be like that. We can be free if we act on God’s Word and not the word that someone spoke into our lives when we were young.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and don’t be burdened by a yoke of slavery (to the past ways). (Galatians 5:1)
If there’s a stake in your life, pray about it, speak to someone about it, stand on God’s Word and check out his will for your life.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
The Bible tells us we are equal to each other in God’s family - He loves each of us the same. God does not have favourites. Together we are His house, His church, His body and God has called us together for a purpose. That purpose is to love and serve Him and to love and serve others. We are to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, to learn more about Him and to lead others to Him.
Jesus calls all of His disciples, all of His followers, all who say they have been saved, all who say they love Him to be actively involved in sharing the message of salvation with others. It’s time to follow His Great Commission to us. Jesus didn’t die so we could feel good on a Sunday morning, He died to set the captive free, He died to bring salvation, He died to bring healing and wholeness and restoration to a fallen and sin sick world.
When was the last time you told somebody about Jesus? When was the last time you told someone they needed to accept Jesus as their Saviour? When was the last time you invited someone to a church service? When was the last time you realised, that you have a God given responsibility to tell others about who is supposed to be the most important part of your life? The one you are meant to love with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind.
This life is short don’t waste it. Look for the opportunity to get involved, focus on sharing Jesus with others. Do everything you can for the Lord, take advantage of every opportunity that comes to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. God can use everyone of us to bring glory to share the truth of the Gospel. God can use you, yes you to make a difference in this world.
Rev. Dean Courtier
In The Old Testament, God promised a day would come when His people would be filled with His Spirit; when they were full of God, God Himself would give His people dreams and visions. This happened at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and Peter reminded the people of the promise of God: This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’ (Acts 2:16-17).
When God pours Himself on us by His Spirit, He stirs up in us dreams and visions of His power, mercy, truth, holiness and ,greatness. When God pours Himself into an individual, the inner life is changed; it is filled with God. Do not think that this is something beyond your reach. Do not think that an experience of God is for the spiritual elite. The point of Joel’s prophecy is the Spirit will be poured on all people – man or woman, old or young the promise is for you if you are a disciple of Jesus.
But, “all people” does not mean every human without exception. Joel said, “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32). There are those who do not call on the name of Jesus; they sense no need for Him and no joy in Him. All people means every sort of person in every nation.
What we learn new from the New Testament is that the only way to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit is to repent and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour so that we can receive forgiveness for our sins. Peter concludes his sermon in Acts 2:38 with these words: “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit helps us to follow the will and purposes of God the Father.
The Holy Spirit helps us to be the people that God has called us to be.
We have been filled with the Spirit of God, and we are living in the last days, because every day is one day closer to the return of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, God has plans that involves making Himself known to the people of this World through us. May each of us be enabled by the Holy Spirit to share the truth of the Gospel with others.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
Sunday is a day of rest, a day to worship God, and fellowship with other believers. A day to spend time with family and friends, to share food and friendship. It is a time to focus on the beauty of God’s creation, to thank God for all He has blessed us with in the past week, time to rest in thankfulness, free from multitasking, a day free from striving for perfection and productivity. A day to rest in God’s goodness. But busyness can creep up unawares, suddenly the Sabbath is gone, the sense of peace and rest dissipated.
Sabbath is from the Hebrew word Shabbat, meaning to stop, to pause to cease, desist.
Modern life is relentlessly busy and noisy, so just as important as physical rest, Sabbath is a time to take rest for the soul, heart rest and inner tranquillity.
Sometimes we may need to take time out in the middle of a busy week, to gift ourselves a mini-Sabbath, which can be life enhancing, and can bring a sense of natural rhythm to a hectic lifestyle. God created a world of natural rhythms—the cycle of the seasons, the rhythm of night and day.
The essence of Sabbath is rest and renewal for the soul.“My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him” (Psalm 65:1).
Sabbath is a love gift from God.
The tea-set, a very elegant Poole Pottery set, was given to us as a wedding present years ago. It was so nice (and expensive) that we didn’t dare to use it in case bits were broken. And so it lived in a display cabinet and gradually other pieces were added so that we had a full dinner service, a coffee set and serving dishes too. It was very impressive! But still it was rarely used – maybe just at Christmas and special occasions. And, since we moved into the bungalow, it has lived in a box in the loft. So, you could well ask, “What was the point of it”? There is no point.
On the other hand, over the years, we have had a selection of mugs and plates and teapots etc. And I’ve always had my favourite mug. In this mug I am convinced the tea and coffee tastes much nicer. It’s nothing special, certainly not the ‘best looking’ mug. It’s not made from superior china. Occasionally my favourite mug has had a chip or a flaw in it. So, we could ask the same question “What’s the point of it”? The point is that this mug is loved and brings pleasure to me. The point is that this mug is functional and provides me with want I want.
Sometimes we feel that we must be high-quality, attractive, perfect Christians who always look good like a best tea-set. But unless we are being used by God, what’s the point? God’s looking for people who want to be used by him, and often the people he chooses are the old ones, the ‘chipped’ or flawed ones, the plain ones, the poor ones, in other words - ordinary people, warts and all. Why? Because when we make ourselves available to him we bring pleasure to him and we glorify him. Even in our weakness he favours us over showy perfection because we can be far more useful and functional in His Kingdom. Yes, God wants us to be set apart. But not as in being stored in the loft! He calls us to be set apart like my favourite coffee mug, dedicated for one specific purpose – serving him and no other, so that we bring him pleasure and glory. That’s the whole point!.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) and God said “Let there be light” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4).
Imagine a huge blank and dark artist’s canvas, totally void of any detail, colour, life or light.
Imagine the Master Artist laying down colour with careful, loving brush strokes, for the sky, the land and the sea.
Gradually He fills the dark void with light and life.
Finally, the Master Artist covers the 4 corners of His canvas.
He finishes His ‘creation’ by using the smallest and most insignificant brushes to create the best effect possible for the painting He has created.
With God as our Master Artist and Creator we can go forward with His work – as His brushes – whether we be huge, rough-bristled, or fine-sable.
God can use each and every one of us to complete His work that He has laid on our paint pallet.
As the Potter with his clay creates something from nothing, so does the Artist with his blank canvas.
Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.
The first Easter morning 2000 years ago must have began with sadness. I can imagine the followers of Jesus waking up and remembering what had happened, remembering the horror of Friday, remembering that their friend was dead and thinking their dreams were shattered. But then a shout, He’s alive, the tomb is empty. Then it happened, in the blink of an eye, they weren’t mourning Jesus death they were celebrating Jesus being alive. It wasn’t defeat it was victory. Because Jesus wasn’t dead He was alive and the tomb was empty.
For us to fully grasp the Events of that first Easter Sunday, we need to take a moment to consider the Event that took place on the first Good Friday - the crucifixion of Jesus. The Crucifixion of Jesus is at the centre of the Message of the Gospel.
The prophecies and predictions recorded in the Old Testament were fulfilled when Jesus hung on the cross. The events leading up to Christ’s death are filled with emotion, but it is when Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God, becomes our substitute, when He takes the punishment for Sin that w e deserve, when He bears the full penalty of our Sin, that is when we really marvel at the amazing infinite grace and love of God.
None of us will ever completely understand what Christ accomplished on the cross. It is beyond our human comprehension, but we can thank God this morning that the promise of redemption for all who trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour was made reality at the cross.
We look to the Cross in faith and say “I am a sinner, and the mercy of God is revealed to me in the death of Jesus,” then a miracle occurs in our lives. The Apostle Paul called it being “saved,” Jesus spoke of it as being “born again.” We are transformed when we know we are accepted by God, when we know we have been forgiven because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Christianity is a supernatural faith, but it has its basis firmly rooted in historical facts. Our faith depends on us believing the true historic facts that Jesus was crucified and that He rose from the grave. Either Jesus Christ rose from the dead or He did not. The Bible says He rose, the history of Christianity proves He arose. The personal experience of every born-again believer agrees with the biblical record.Jesus Christ is alive today.
Rev. Dean Courtier
Jesus had travelled 80 miles south from Galilee, nearly as far as Bethany, wanting to be in Jerusalem for the Passover. Many pilgrims joined Jesus on the way and experienced Him performing miracles; healing the sick; teaching, and telling parables. His fame went before Him so that, as He left the Mount of Olives to approach Jerusalem, the crowds lined the streets and welcomed Him as they would a king. Many were expecting Him, as Messiah, to set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem.
But their expectations were to fall flat. They had made the mistake of “putting Jesus in a box” of their own thinking. Instead of riding into Jerusalem on a white horse befitting a victorious king, He (in the eyes of many) humiliated Himself by arriving on an ass not yet broken in. Instead of fighting for the rights of the Jews, He slated them for their evil exploitation in the Temple. Instead of ruling as king … He died on a Cross … which was meant for Barabbas (we can put our name here too).
What do we do when God doesn’t show up in the way that we wanted Him to? Sometimes, instead of showering us with blessings, He teaches us life lessons. Do we still love Him, worship Him, follow Him? Do we understand there may be a bigger picture? Jesus Christ is not just Baptizer, Healer and King. First and foremost, He became our suffering Saviour. There are many thousands of Christians in our world today who are not deceived by the blessings of Palm Sunday. Instead, they walk daily in the sufferings of Jesus. They are the persecuted church – our Christian brothers and sisters who experience anything from physical violence to having no rights – no right to a job or schooling or safe housing; no right to join the food queues in times of famine. They don’t have great expectations. But neither are they downcast. (Read what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12).
We are very blessed in our country with freedom to worship and all that we need – and more (Easter eggs!). This Easter please remember 2 things:
This year we are raising money for both Barnabas and the Elim Relief Association to help people in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda who are suffering with famine in East Africa. If you can help, please put your money in an envelope marked East Africa appeal and place it in the offering bag, or hand it to Brian James or myself. Thank you.
In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6–8)
Paul emphasized that we are to actually use the gifts and abilities God has given us for the benefit of others. Some people say, “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t really have any special talent to give”.
In Exodus chapter 4, Moses said much the same thing when God spoke to him at the burning bush. “I can’t do what you want, Lord, because of this excuse and that excuse. People won’t accept me. I can’t speak well. Let somebody else do it I’m a nobody.”
How did God answer? “Moses, what is in your hand?” For Moses, it was a staff. It wasn’t a crown, sceptre, or sword. It was a simple stick. And it became one of the greatest supernatural weapons in human history. God showed Moses that He could use this ordinary staff to perform miracles as a sign for unbelieving people. As Moses’ trust in God grew, so did the magnitude of miracles God worked through His servant.
Consider God’s question: “What is in your hand?” What do you already have in your possession? Speaking ability? Artistic ability? Money? Friendships? All of us have something we can use to accomplish our part in God’s work here on earth as we serve one another.
God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10).
Rev. Dean Courtier
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And He said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
Parents, have you every wished that your child was better behaved? Have you even thought something like, “If my child was better behaved it would make my life easier”? Mary had a perfect son, Jesus, and yet this caused her problems. Motherhood was not easy for Mary. Mary was young, inexperienced and ostracised because of His conception. Her baby was born far from home in difficult and dangerous surroundings. When Jesus was only a few days old, Mary took Him to the temple and Simeon’s prophecy for His future was both ominous and exciting. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, then Mary had to live as a refugee in a foreign land because the King wanted to kill her child.
Jesus was different as a child, at the age of 12 He discussed theology. When Jesus was older and His peers were getting married and having children, Jesus did not. Thirty-something, single and still living at home. His public ministry alienated Him from His family and the religious leaders. Mary had to learn to put her own feelings to one side to support Jesus in His mission. Mary suffered as she watched her son die a painful death on the Cross.
For a Jew there was no more shameful way to die than on a cross. Men were crucified naked, something the Jews found shameful, yet Mary was there, supporting her son, no doubt with many emotions and thoughts racing around.
Jesus endured the suffering of the cross and was watched by those who loved Him. When we suffer, we concentrate on ourselves, Jesus didn’t. Even in pain on the cross He thought of others. All those who He would die for and also two people in front of Him.
Jesus asked Mary to adopt John as her son, and John to adopt Mary as his mother. They obeyed and John took Mary into his home. Through Jesus’ death new relationships are created. God has adopted us to be His children and to be part of His new, world wide family. The death of Christ is the moment of the birth of the church. Christ enters in to the reality of human suffering and makes life and love possible. Jesus conquered sin, injustice, violence, hatred and death on the cross through love. This is the foundation upon which His family, the Church is built upon. The church is a family in which we are all to care for one another.
On this Mothering Sunday, as we thank our mothers for all that they have meant to us, let’s also remember there is a wider family to which we belong. To the members of this family Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13.34)
Rev. Dean Courtier
The world is sleeping in the dark, that the church just can’t fight, because it’s asleep in the light! (Lyric: Asleep In The Light, Keith Green)
We recently finished a study based on a book by Philip Yancey called “Vanishing Grace, Whatever Happened to the Good News?” It looked at the reasons for the hostility to Christianity and suggested ways to communicate the Gospel and why it is Good News. This is a subject quite close to my heart and I would like to share with you my own personal take on it.
What does the world see when they look at the church today? Do they see a people full of love and sacrifice, considering others more important than themselves? No, the results of numerous surveys show that they see us as judgmental, hypocritical, insensitive and boring. They think of televangelists with perfect hair and makeup, full of smiles and promises as they ask for your money. You may feel this is grossly unfair; what about all the good things Christians do? The problem is, fair or not, this is the reality. Some of this is due to the way the media portrays all forms of religion, but the sad thing is these negative views can often be based on personal contact with Christians, which was how my own very negative opinion of Christians was formed.
So, if they don’t go to church, what opportunity is there for people to see the other side of the coin? The only way is by seeing Jesus reflected in the lives of those already connected to Him, Christians like you and me. By reflecting in our lifestyle His light and the relationship we have with Him. And by demonstrating the love and obedience to the God we claim to serve in our dealings with others. Of course, that doesn’t mean we will never sin, but by admitting we do, we demonstrate our need for a Saviour, and in that we are just like everyone else.
The thing is we can only reflect the light, not generate it. We have no natural light of our own so we must first truly receive the light of God before we can reflect it. We are like one of those solar powered garden lamps. If it doesn’t receive the light of the sun it has no power to shine that light into the darkness.
Jesus was a master of grace, He spent time with sinners and moral outcasts even though that offended the religious leaders. We don’t need to beat people with our theology and doctrine but we do need to spend our lives alongside them, reflecting God’s love. And then maybe we might just see God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1 NIV)
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Are you ok with silence? Does it worry you, or energise you? Do you feel the need to fill the space with noise, words, music.
Can you recall a time you spent with a friend, so comfortable, that you did not feel pressured to talk, to do, but just sit quietly together, enjoying the moment.
Are you comfortable enough with God to do the same?
Time passed in silence with God is time spent growing in relationship with Him, and time spent letting His love flow through you to others is an investment in eternity.
The busyness of getting things done does not bring us closer to God or fill us with His grace and peace and love.
Ask your Friend to slow you down and teach you the value of wasting time with Him.
Take some time and meditate on how much God loves you and simply wants to be with you today.
As we learn to become fully present with God, we learn to be fully present to the people God brings to us, friends, family, strangers.
We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.
God is the friend of silence.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3)
Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him saying, “Lord, save us. We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:23-26)
Just as in this episode, stormy events in our lives can be:
Sudden – they seem to come from nowhere, and not of our own making.
Severe – they can make us feel ‘out of control’ and very frightened.
Silenced – if Christ can control the weather He can bring calm into our situation too.
Four things are clear in this story which can encourage us, Jesus is master:
Jesus allows the storms in our lives, uncomfortable though they may be. But He never expects us to weather the storm alone. When we rest in Him He will bring us through, He will develop our faith and increase our love for him.
Brother Lawrence once wrote: Those who have the wind of the Holy Spirit in their souls glide ahead even while they sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still being tossed by winds or storms, we should wake the Lord who has been resting with us, and He will swiftly calm the sea.
Pastor Dave often begins a service with the words “HELLO CHURCH FAMILY” and I have now experienced this phrase in reality.
A few Saturdays ago I was due to attend the Men’s Breakfast but I was suddenly taken ill and had to cancel.
The group at breakfast were concerned that the condition I had developed may cause strangulation of a hernia which I am waiting to be operated on.
After making numerous phone calls I finally contacted 111 and was given a same-day appointment to see a doctor at Southend Hospital.
CHURCH FAMILY rallied round and I was collected from home and ferried to hospital where I saw a doctor who confirmed I was not in any immediate danger. He wrote me a prescription but by this time it was early evening which posed the problem of finding a pharmacy that was open. Again, I was driven around from chemist to chemist before getting the necessary tablets and finally being driven home again.
THE CHURCH is the body of Christ and in that body THE FAMILY is the congregation and members which are the PULSE and HEART that makes the church move and grow.
It was good to experience, first hand, the love and care shown to me, in accordance with the Word of God. I would like to thank all concerned.
Ephesians 4:16, From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I don’t know if you have seen like me, the battle for truth is so much in your face these days. But of late I believe it has much increased. We are seeing marches all over the world (spirit of rebellion?) against Donald Trump, love him or hate him, if you seek what lies under the surface you will see that many leaders have done what he has done without the fuss we see today, even on our own streets.
Brexit has had a similar affect but not quite so extreme or on the surface and we have a new word today of “populism” which I find quite offensive as they just don’t get it. The crux of the matter is in Jeremiah 6:19b “and as for My law, they have rejected it also”. The problem today is that the global liberal secularists have for some time redefined the values of society, it is called “gradualism”. We are seeing alternative facts or redefined truth and yet there are basic standards of facts. Jeremiah 9:5-6 states “Everyone deceives his neighbour and does not speak the truth. They have taught their tongues to speak lies. They weary themselves committing iniquity. Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me”, declares the Lord. or Jeremiah 7:28b “truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth”. Isaiah 59:13–15 speaks in the same vein and particularly verse 14 “Justice is turned back and righteousness stands far away. For truth has stumble in the street and uprightness cannot enter”.
The Christian life is all about making the right choices, life or death, Jesus is The Truth and in John 3:21 Jesus says “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God”. I find it quite amazing that if you seek to find what lies behind many of the lies today how God brings the truth into the light.
How do we stand for truth? I believe we can do no better than: Thus says the Lord “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths. Where the good way is and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls”.
As Christians today it is even more imperative that we boldly speak the Truth to those going to a lost eternity.
We all know the Parable of the Sower. Or do we?
Although I’ve heard it many times over the years, I’ve had another look at it recently.
The gospel writers mention the parable at length in three places (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15) so it must be important. On hearing it, the disciples were initially baffled. Perhaps they needed time to get used to Jesus’ habit of teaching in parables.
Helpfully, Jesus explains the parable and reveals to them, and us, the secret of a fruitful life. And the secret is to sow the Word, the Bible, in our lives.
I’m trying to do this in a number of ways.
1. Reading the Bible. I aim to make it a daily habit, and having this aim, even when I fail, I still end up reading it quite often.
2. Memorising the Bible. I started with Psalm 23. It’s familiar (and short!). And I’m trying to memorise other passages which I think it might be helpful to have readily available (Matthew 6: 25-34 about not worrying is on my list!)
3. Bring my Bible to church. When a sermon topic is mentioned, I try to find the relevant passage myself (before the Powerpoint comes up!) with the aim of becoming familiar with the whole layout of the Bible. I could use technology and carry a digital Bible, but I prefer the challenge of thumbing through a book!What’s the point of knowing the Bible for myself?
I’ve just finished reading a book by Andrew Womack on the subject of the Parable of the Sower. He claims that the Bible contains the answers to all of the problems we face. We just need to know where to look. This involves getting to know the Bible for ourselves and allowing God to speak to us through it. If we want to produce fruit, whether sixty-fold or a hundred-fold, we first need to sow the seed.
I’m looking forward to putting his theory to the test and seeing what happens…
I guess in this year of thinking about our purpose and destiny that is a good question: WHY ARE WE HERE? Are we here to make the best we can of our life, to strive to live in comfort and do the best for ourselves or our family? Or are we here so that we can improve the lives of those around us? Do we have an obligation to others? Or do we leave that up to the ‘do-gooders’ in the world? As Christians we are encouraged to fulfil our destiny, but with a sense of purpose, which is: to make a difference – Jesus called it being salt and light – that we might help others come to faith in Him.
How do we ‘be salt and light’ in the world? The spiritual answer is that when we become more like Jesus through spending time with him, then we naturally reflect his love and goodness to others. But there is a practical answer too. The world will know that we are Christians not just for who we are, but for what we do. So, what can we do to fulfil our destiny and reach our potential in Christ?
If we take a moment to think about it we all have abilities, interests and resources that we can build on and which will help us towards our destiny.
The list of abilities, interests and resources is as large as you want it to be. God has given all of us abilities and when we use them for his service we can be built up in Christ and work towards our potential – but at the same time we are helping others to do the same. Could I encourage you to prayerfully consider the above and discover what God would have you to do this year as you seek to grow in Him?
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4v10)
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
The fragrance of Christ is expressed uniquely by each of his children through their individual personalities and gifts. Our lifestyle as Christians speaks to the world a testimony of Christ. Our lives lived in obedience to Christ and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit is a pleasing aroma to God.
How did you greet this new morning? Joyfully or grumpily? As we walk through our day, we can either choose to be a breath of fresh air or we can dampen the spirits of those we come in contact with.
Living our lives to please and honour the Lord is important. A Christian without a pleasing aroma will not accomplish much for the Lord, we need to be more Christlike, we need to live our lives in a way where His love flows through us and causes us to be a sweet aroma.
Wherever Jesus went there was a crowd following Him. He stood out, people were drawn to Him. Why? It was the anointing of His life, the fragrance of the presence of God that caused people to be attracted to Him. Jesus’ anointing was the years of preparation, living a sinless life and developing a deep and intimate relationship with the Father.
So, what fragrance are you wearing today? The fragrance of self? The fragrance of irritation? The fragrance of impatience?
Or are we wearing the fragrance of Christ, are we full of grace, and have an attitude of love. Are we kind, forgiving, joyful, content.
Through us God diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2).
Pastor Dave called The Estuary Elim Church Group together at Ashingdon Church for prayer on 12th January 2017, which turned out to be the first day of Winter proper!! It snowed and was freezing cold.
God met us in that Prayer time and I was led to write this to encourage all of us to go forward into 2017 with a renewed sense of excitement.
Imagine if you are being faced with one or more of the following situations:A wedding, holiday, new baby in the family, a baptism, sports trophy, a scholarship or Graduation, you may catch the biggest fish ever, etc. etc.
Would you feel excited about something that is going to happen; have you ever felt a great sense of anticipation? Or would you just go through the motion of “well I might be happy” and not feel excitement about anything ever. Whatever, a great adrenaline rush is in order as we await a Special event. It is OK to get excited and jump for joy and shout. Honest!
Whenever we get excited about good things happening in our lives God rejoices with us. He delights in our happiness and joy.
Similarly He wants us to serve Him joyfully and with gladness. This means not just going through the motions but getting that adrenaline rush; being excited. We need to give God the same energy and focus that we give to other things. That means we need to give God 100% as we serve Him. Seek His face, He will show you where and how He wants you to serve Him. Imagine Him being excited for you as He answers your prayers, as He brings fruition to the desires of your heart, as the gifts of the Holy Spirit become evident in your walk with Him and so on. Just imagine! The list is endless of the good things God is excited about for you in His Kingdom. Just imagine!!
Why be half-hearted when you know you can give Him your whole self? If we believe that it is right to give God all the glory for what He does in our lives then we can approach every task with vigour, seeking to please God; giving Him 100%.
Remember He is the Light of the World. May our lights shine brightly as we get excited giving thanks and praise to our Father in Heaven.
Sarah saw that Hagar’s son Ishmael was mocking Isaac, and she wanted Abraham to get rid of them. The matter distressed Abraham because it concerned his son. But God told Abraham to send them away, and so he gave them food and water and, in obedience to God’s will, asked them to leave. And so, we see in Genesis chapter 12 how Hagar is wandering in the desert with her son. She has nowhere to go, nothing to eat or drink and no one to whom she can turn. The boy was weak so she placed him in some shade under a bush and sat down. Both mother and son were crying. They thought it was the end.
Although Hagar was the wrong wife (she was Egyptian) and Ishmael was the wrong son (born of Abraham’s will but not of God’s), and although they had acted badly and brought this situation upon themselves, God still had compassion on them. What can we learn from this incident?
- We notice is that God was there. He had not left them.
- No one saw them or heard them, but God heard their cries.
- God sent an angel to comfort them.
- God gave them a promise of hope and a future.
- There was a miraculous provision of water and refreshment.
- God stayed with them, they had never been abandoned.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the desert place for one reason or another. And it feels like we are so alone. But God never ever leaves us. He sees our plight and hears our cries. And he will open our eyes to see the angel and the place of refreshing if we call out to him; because God is a God of Grace and a God of love, full of mercy. We need never be like Hagar who was ready to give up. We are in a relationship with God our Father who has promised to see us through to the end, through good times and bad.
To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you (who trust in Jesus Christ) before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. (Jude verse 24)
Over Christmas I received a present which at first was a complete mystery to me. When I opened it up, it looked like a net for catching butterflies or for landing very small fish. However, on closer inspection I discovered it was something that was on my gift list. My new gift was a fruit picker. It enables me to pick apples from high up in my apple tree without the need of climbing the tree or hanging off a ladder (both of which Maureen tells me I shouldn’t be doing at my age). This item has been made in such a way that it is perfect for the job it has been created for.
In the film ‘I Robot’ the robot who is central to the story behind the film says at one point, ‘This is what my father made me for’. As we begin our journey together this year in ‘Discovering our Destiny’, it is important we each realise that our Heavenly Father has created us for a specific purpose. Our personality, strengths, weaknesses, talents and all that makes us unique as individuals, is so that we might fulfil the plan and purpose to which He has called us. Like Gideon it is so easy for us to discount ourselves from accomplishing anything for God who has called us, but we need to realise that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Gideon was told Go in the strength you have – Am I not sending you. (Judges 6:14). How Gideon saw himself was very different to how God saw him. God had created him for the task he was being given and as we, as individuals and as the Estuary Elim Church group, begin to grasp how God sees us and the destiny that He wants us to discover, may we know and trust that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us”. (Ephesians 3:20).
Rev. David Redbond
“A bushfire is the power of the sun, stored in the plants over a period of time, released in a great surge of power.” David Attenborough
I would like something like that said at my funeral! I’m not being morbid, but imagine if someone said “She had a fire for God, that was the power of the Son, stored over many years within her, and then released in a great surge of power when she talked, taught and lived his Name.” Wow!
David Attenborough was describing a bush fire, how when it takes hold it’s like looking at the sun, and you could see what he meant. There is a power in fire that is mighty and all consuming, powerful, strong and draws you to it in fascination. That’s what I want people to think about me, that when they look at me, it was like looking at the Son, that his love, radiance and energy where reflected in me.
What about you? What do you reflect? What do you take in from the World around you?
Our fire should come for the power of the Son, stored in us over a period of time, then released to do great things for him, giving back the energy that’s built up.