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Perseverance

I was preaching in Church this morning and instead of doing a talk I decided to write a song!

The topic was ‘perseverance’ so I wrote the song from the perspective of someone who is struggling and it’s kind of a prayer.

Here is the recording from the service

. .

What happened? Why is this so hard?
It wasn’t like this at the start
It used to be so simple, Lord, it used to be such fun
But right now nothings happening
I keep on trying, keep on working
but it seem so dry oh Lord, I don’t know what’s gone wrong

.

I tell my friends about you but they never seem to care
I try to love them with your love but they don’t know I’m there

.

What’s happened? Have I got it wrong?
Was I mistaken all along?
Were you calling someone else? Did I misunderstand?
I knew I wasn’t good enough
I’m just not made of the right stuff
I never should have tried when I was always going to fail

.

This mission is too big for me to carry on my own
I took it on and felt so strong but now I’m all alone
The world has turned against me and I don’t know what to do
I haven’t got the strength inside to see this mission through

.

So give this task to someone else, you got it wrong before
I thought it was for me but I don’t want it anymore
Just give me something easier where I can see results
for all I’ve done here nothings changed
and God it’s all your fault!

.

But maybe, maybe I’m the one
who’s got this situation wrong
perhaps I need to change the way I think about this stuff
What if you’re not calling me
to change the world dramatically
What if loving you and loving others is enough?

.

You want me to sow seeds but you’re the one who makes them grow
And maybe some of them bear fruit in ways I’ll never know

.

Lord you’re the one who made all this
but I’ve been so caught up I’ve missed
the fact that you’ve allowed me to be part of your great plan
You love the world so dearly that
You sent Your son to bring it back
to be with you the way you wanted it when time began

.

So thankyou Lord for letting me join in with what you do
I’m sorry for the things I’ve done for me and not for you
I’ll tell my friends about you even when they do not care
I’ll love them with your love until they can’t deny you’re there

.

And even when it’s hard and all my labours seem in vain
I’ll come to you who was and is and always is the same
So help me to remember that whatever I go through
I’m never serving me, oh Lord,
I’m always serving you…

. .

28.08.10

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Called to Go: Mission

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Introduction to series

* Following on from “Getting our hands dirty” series earlier this year

* That was about how we engage in mission as a parish, this is thinking more about what mission actually means and how we can all get involved.

* Looking at:

* Mission

* Church

* Working with other Churches

* World Mission

* Getting involved

* Perseverance

Mission of God

* What is mission?

* To answer that question we have to look at the bible and see what it says.

* I don’t think we get the full picture by picking out one particular passage, we need to get a sense of the whole thing, the whole story.

* The bible is an amazing book, it is a story of love, of heartbreak, of passion, of redemption. A story of millions of people over thousands of years. It charts the rise and fall of kings and civilisations. It is magnificent in its scale and scope but ultimately it is the story of God’s mission to His creation, beginning in that first week of creation, continuing through the journey of the Israelite nation and climaxing on that weekend in Jerusalem, it is the story of God reaching out in love to bring the whole of creation into a relationship with Him.

* Theologians have a phrase for this: “Missio Dei”, literally “the mission of God”

* God’s mission is and always has been about restoring his relationship with everything and everyone

* “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus) and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things” (Colossians 1:19-20)

* God is a missionary God and we are His people.

* So we come to the Great Commission that we heard earlier.

Great Commission

* Jesus is talking to His disciples after the resurrection. He has completed his mission, he is about to return to Heaven, and he is giving his followers some final instructions.

* So what does He tell them?

* “build yourselves some nice buildings and wait in them until people come to you and if they do then you can tell them about me”?

* “Go back to your jobs, to your old lives and forget about all we’ve done, we had fun but it’s over now”?

* No, he says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”

* Jesus sends the disciples out to continue God’s mission.

* The Greek could literally read “as you go, disciple”

* In the Jewish culture the role of a disciple was to follow their Rabbi or teacher and to become like them. God wants us all to be disciples of Christ, to become more like Him in how we think, speak and act.

We are called to go out, to show God’s love and help others grow in their relationship with Him, to make disciples of all nations, all people.

* So Mission is not just a trip overseas for a few weeks (although that is important), it is certainly not something that we can just delegate to a subgroup of the Church leadership.

* Mission is at the very heart of our faith, of who we are as Christians and should influence absolutely everything that we do.

Application

* So how do we apply this in our lives?

* There’s a saying that “it is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, it is the God of mission that has a Church in the world”!

* Mission is at the heart of who God is, He is always working in the world, our job is to be on the lookout for opportunities to join in with what God is already doing.

* This is not just a calling for ‘mission specialists’ but for all of us.

* Absolutely some people are called specifically to be evangelists, some to be teachers, some to be overseas missionaries but we are all called to be like Christ and to share God’s love with those around us.

* In our evening service last Sunday we were looking at the end of Colossians where Paul encourages the Colossians to be “watchful and thankful, making the most of every opportunity”

* Story: Friday, thinking about sermon while walking into town, saw one of Wrekin View kids mums carrying heavy shopping home but was thinking about sermon so didn’t offer to help and was halfway down the road before I realised that that was exactly the sort of opportunity that Paul was talking about!

* In that Colossians passage Paul also says “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through Him”

* Wherever we are, whatever we are doing we must live lives of faith that proclaim God’s love, not just with words but with actions as well. At home, at work, at school, at the shops, at the pub, at the football, even at Church we should be looking for opportunities to join in with whatever we see God doing. That could be offering to pray for someone, it could be offering to carry someone’s bag, it could be inviting them to Church, it could be inviting them for coffee, it could be anything but it can’t be nothing!

* God is a missionary God, He sent Jesus into our world to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. 2000 years have passed, generations and generations of Christians have passed and now it is our turn. We are called to go, and as we go we are called to disciple, to share the love of God with those around us so that they too can live in relationship with our great God

* Amen

Jeremiah: Covenant and Promise

Sermon on Hebrews 8

Introduction:

  • I’m supposed to start with an entertaining yet thought provoking introduction that catches your attention and makes you think about the subject of the sermon
  • however I spent about an hour trying to think of something and didn’t come up with anything so instead I’m going to tell you a joke!
  • Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel prize?”
    • Because he was outstanding in his field!”

Historical background:

  • Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem in the years leading up to the exile and, as we have heard in earlier talks in this series, was not the most popular person around at the time!
  • From 609 to 587 BC he preached judgement to the people of Judah and prophesied a time when God would carry them off into captivity
  • In 587 BC this came true and the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem, destroyed the city, the walls and the Temple and carried a large proportion of the inhabitants off into captivity (That side of the story is in Daniel)
  • Jeremiah remained behind in Jerusalem and was charged with the rewarding task of prophesying to a people who had seen their entire nation destroyed and who refused to turn to God in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the judgement they had witnessed
  • This is the context of the passage we are looking at here.
  • Jeremiah 30-31 is often called the ‘book of comfort’, it’s a collection of promises and prophesies that are full of hope for a community torn apart by war and exile
  • These promises were meant to remind people that the Exile was not a defeat or failure for God but the catalyst for a redefining of His relationship with His people, He still longs, as he has always done since the creation of the world, to draw people back to himself and restore his relationship with his people
  • 31:31-34 is one of the best known promises from this section of Jeremiah, partly due to it’s messianic undertones, but read in the light of it’s historical background it is a powerful statement of God’s intense desire to renew his relationship with his people
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted by the writer of Hebrews in 8:8-12 to show that God’s purpose was to replace the old covenant with the new, to encourage the believers not to return to their former ways, but to hold on to the reality that was Christ.

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34 (page 751)

3 points from the passage

  1. Promise is offered, given and established entirely by God, out of God’s own desire for the new relationship
  2. Promise signals a shift from a ‘taught’ covenant to a ‘known’ covenant
  3. Promise is an absolutely amazing promise of forgiveness!

1 – Promise is offered, given and established entirely by God, out of God’s own desire for the new relationship

  • read through passage: ‘I will make…’, ‘I will establish…’, ‘I will put…’, ‘I will be…’, ‘I will forgive…’
  • New covenant is entirely established and offered at God’s initiative
  • We so often fall back into the trap of thinking that we have earned God’s grace but this is a reminder that we are completely unable to save ourselves
  • Even under the old covenant when there was some kind of mechanism for ‘earning’ forgiveness, and even that was just a shadow of the real thing, the people were unable to live up to it and kept falling away and rebelling
  • We are completely at God’s mercy, fortunately God is very merciful!

2 – Promise signals a shift from a ‘taught’ covenant to a ‘known’ covenant

  • Verse 33-34 (page 751), New covenant will not be written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of God’s people
  • This has profound implications for the way the covenant works
  • Old covenant was a set of external rules to be adhered to and which, as we can see all the way through the OT, were frequently rebelled against and seen as constraints or even as an excuse for arrogance and pride for those who claimed to follow the letter of the law
  • New Covenant is an internal identity which can no more be ignored than eating or breathing
    • example: doctor in hospital vs. doctor on casualty!
    • Someone who has qualified as a doctor is a doctor regardless of where they are – at home, at work, at the pub, on an aeroplane, it is part of who they are, their identity
    • An actor can play a doctor and say all the right words and do all the right things but they are just appearing as a doctor for that small amount of time
    • in a similar way the old covenant system of sacrifices was just a shadow of what was to come and ‘acted out’ the sacrifice that Jesus would eventually make, the people had to keep learning the lines and ‘playing the part’ to stay forgiven
    • under the new covenant fulfilled through Christ’s sacrifice we are already qualified and forgiven and no longer have to keep learning the lines to maintain our status as forgiven people but this state of grace is part of our identity and affects who we are wherever we go.

3 – New promise is amazing!

  • God has broken the cycle of sin and punishment and sacrifice to allow a new relationship built on forgiveness and grace to emerge
  • Verse 34b is key here, the new covenant is built entirely on forgiveness on God’s part and not on performance on our part, grace not works
  • This is an incredible promise which we can sometimes take for granted
  • it’s made even more incredible when we realise that, in order for this promise to be fulfilled there had to be one final sacrifice, God’s own son Jesus
  • This is how much God desires a right relationship with us, all through the story of the Exile in Jeremiah you can see God’s pain at the way this relationship is abused and rejected but all the way through there are glimpses of God’s love and mercy and grace
    • 3:12 – Return faithless Israel, I will frown on you no longer for I am merciful
    • 9:24 – I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth for in these I delight declares the Lord
    • 12:15 – After I uproot them I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back into his own inheritance and his own country
    • 23:3 – I myself will gather the remnant of my flock…they will no longer be afraid or terrified nor will any be missing declares the Lord
    • 29:11 – I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
  • Jeremiah’s prophesy has already come true in Jesus, and yet is still to come in it’s fullness – we’ve got even more to look forward to
  • In the same way that both Jeremiah and Hebrews point us forward and tell us not to look back or go back to things in our past that seem easier or more appealing, we too are called onwards into the excitement of the fullness of the new covenant
  • We are not called to be complacent, or turn away from God, to think that we’ve got our relationship with God sorted or even worse to think that we know all about God
  • We are constantly called to swim deeper into the mystery of God’s grace, there’s always more to discover.

So what does this mean for us?

  • Our first response to God’s grace should always be to fall to our knees in awe and wonder at this amazing God who made the universe and yet actually desires a relationship with us and has gone to such incredible lengths to enable that relationship
  • Our second response to this new covenant is to try and live out God’s commandments, not because we have to to please God, that is why the old covenant fell apart, but because we want to serve the God who has forgiven our wickedness and who remembers our sin no more
  • This is the beauty of the new covenant, it releases us from our need to serve God to avoid punishment and enables us to serve God as our response to His grace and mercy
  • Micah 6:6-8 (page 884):

    what does the LORD require of you?

    To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.”

  • In our schools and colleges, workplaces and homes, at the pub and at the park and even at Church we are called live merciful, humble and just lives that glorify the God of Grace because, as Jeremiah promises:
  • He is our God and we are his people
  • Amen

‘A Church that proclaims Jesus’ sermon

A Church that proclaims Jesus

All Saints Celebration, 25th October 2009 AM

  • Recap sermon series – What kind of Church is God calling us to be?
    • A Church with a vision
    • A Church involved in community
    • A Church which is an accepting community
    • A Church with a heart for the world’s poor
    • A Church which speaks out for the persecuted
    • A Church blessed through giving
    • A Church which blesses others
    • A Church which proclaims Jesus
    • A Church whose members live forever.
  • Why a Church that proclaims Jesus?
    • For the reasons let’s look at gospel reading – Matthew 3:13-17 (p.915)
    • Imagine the scene…
      • Like something out of Doctor Who!
    • Unusual in the New Testament for God to speak like this, must have had a good reason!
    • What does He say?
    • This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” (13 words)
    • This is my Son – God ‘proclaims Jesus’, He tells everyone who Jesus is
    • Whom I Love – He tells them because He loves Jesus
    • With Him I am well pleased – He tells them because of what Jesus has done
    • So there are 2 reasons why we should be a Church that proclaims Jesus
      • Because we love Him!
      • Because He is amazing!
  • Because we love Him (and He loves us!)
    • Activity – think of something/someone you love, tell the person next to you something about them
      • could be partner/children/football team/band/artist/view/film/TV show
      • e.g. West Wing!
    • When we love something/someone it is easy to talk about them
      • I could find a way to mention the west wing in most conversations!
    • How much more should this be the case with our love for God?!
    • So let’s encourage each other to talk about this love for Jesus that we’ve found, the love that Rhian has found and wants to declare today, the love that we pray Jonah, Matthias and Rebecca will come to know as they grow up.
  • Because He’s amazing
    • God says he is “well pleased with Jesus”, this is the beginning of His ‘ministry’ before He has done any miracles/teaching etc.
    • Seems strange? Let’s look at 2nd reading – Colossians 1:15-23
    • More to Jesus than meets the eye!
    • The more we get to know Jesus the more we discover we don’t know about Him
      • John meets Jesus in Revelation 1
    • one of the best attempts to describe Jesus was made by American preacher S.M.Lockridge, see if you think he does it justice!
  • Video – That’s my king
  • God is calling us to be a Church that proclaims Jesus
    • This is what sets the Church apart.
    • Can be in/part of/member of:
      • a company and have a vision
      • Local government and be involved in community
      • Alcoholics Anonymous and be an accepting community
      • Tearfund and have a heart for the world’s poor
      • Amnesty International and speak out for the persecuted
      • Rotary club and bless through giving
    • All these are important and the Church should absolutely do all these but if we don’t proclaim Christ with our words and with our actions as we do these things are we really a Church?
    • Our actions can do good now, they can change lives and even save lives now but we believe that there is something greater to come.
    • We believe God wants us to spend all eternity in Heaven with Him
    • For this simply being good isn’t enough
    • being part of a Church isn’t enough!
    • Only knowing and loving Jesus is enough
    • If you want to find out more:
      • have a word with me or Graham after the service,
      • Prayer at the front – green lanyards
      • Next week, explore this further
    • But for now let’s remember that we must be a Church that proclaims Jesus for the benefit of those who don’t yet know Him and, ultimately, for His glory.

Proverbs 3:11-12 sermon

Proverbs 3:11-12 sermon

Words to the wise: Remain

All Saints Wellington, November 15th 2009

 

Readings

  • Proverbs 3:11-12 (p.607)
  • Hebrews 12:7-11 (p.1145)

 

Overview of series

  • 1-2: Remember – the wise never lose touch with God
  • 3-4: Respond – the wise are characterised by love and faithfulness
  • 5-6: Rely – the wise fully rely on God for direction
  • 7-8: Revere – the wise are humbly obedient
  • 9-10: Receive – the wise give generously to God in all aspects of their lives
  • 11-12: Remain – the wise remain faithful and submit to God in testing times

 

Introduction

  • Word association game – discipline

 

Why does God discipline us?

  • Why do parents discipline their Children?
    • To teach them that something is dangerous/wrong
      • e.g. slap wrist when they try to run into the road
      • e.g. Cutting child’s allowance for lying about where they were last night
  • Discipline is not the same as judgement
    • point of judgement is to punish the ‘crime’
    • Point of discipline is to build up the individual, strengthen them for the future
      • Judgement comes at the end when there is nothing you can do
      • discipline comes each step of the way
  • To accept discipline requires trust
    • Must believe that God/the parent is acting in your best interest
    • Discipline is often painful/hard, doesn’t always seem beneficial at the time
    • Proverbs 3:11-12 (p. 607)
  • We are being transformed into Christ’s likeness
    • God loves us too much to let us stay as we are

 

 

 

How do we know when God is disciplining us?

  • He speaks to us through scripture
    • bible passage might stand out to us and make us realise what we’ve done
  • He speaks to us through other people
      e.g. David + Nathan – 2 Samuel 12 (p.301)
  • He speaks to us through the consequences of our actions
    • e.g. As a result of our selfishness someone else gets hurt and that makes us realise we were selfish

 

  • Any examples?
  • Any other ways?

 

How do we/should we respond?

  • Good example: David and Nathan – 2 Samuel 12 (p.301)
    • David sins (Bathsheba)
    • Nathan comes with message from God
    • David admits his guilt (v.13)
    • He repents (Psalm 51)
    • He turns back to God
  • Bad example: Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4 (p.843)
    • Nebuchadnezzar has a big kingdom
    • he get proud
    • God rebukes him and tells him to renounce his sins and be kind to the oppressed
    • He refuses and becomes more proud
    • God turns him into an ox!!
    • extreme example but it is a good story – watch out!

 

Conclusion

  • The wise remain faithful and submit to God in testing times.
  • They welcome His parenting because they know that he can see the bigger picture
  • The God we know from the bible and from experience is a God who want the best for his children
  • It is a slow and often painful process but we must trust God and let him work in us

 

Response

Psalm 19 sermon

Psalm 19

St Catherine’s, Eyton – 23rd August 2009

Intro

  • Favourite Psalm (v.1-4 anyway!), amazing poetry – One of the most poetic psalms

  • I’m in good company – CS Lewis’ favourite

    • The greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the word”

  • 3 distinct sections / voices – creation, law (Scripture), psalmist (David)

  • Some questions about the unity of the 2 halves

    • The style changes dramatically after verse 7

    • The name for God changes from “El” (God, creator of all) to “YHWH” (the LORD, the eternal self existent God)

    • the likelihood is that the first part was a fragment from an old pagan hymn which was taken and extended by the Psalmist (David)

Voice 1 – Creation (v1-6)

  • First voice is the voice of creation – declaring God’s glory

  • The purpose of creation is to praise God, day after day, night after night

    • So many ‘speaking’ words in this passage

    • The whole of creation – seen and unseen – is continually worshipping God and testifying to his majesty

    • Their words aren’t audible human words but everyone can understand them (v.3-4)

    • Can seem a strange concept but is similar to, e.g, Flashing blue lights on a vehicle – means “Get out of my way!” without having to use the words “get out of my way!

  • v.4b–6 talks about the Sun – joy at praising God

  • Every second, 700 billion tons of Hydrogen are burned up at 15,000,000°C, this has been happening for 4.6 billion years and will go on for another 5 billion years!

    • Every day it rises and sets, burning up over 60 quintillion (billion billion) tonnes of hydrogen in the process!

    • Nothing is hidden from it’s heat (come back to that later)

    • That is what God has asked it to do so it does it with joy

    • images of joy – bridegroom (Joel), strong man running (Usain Bolt)

  • We can fall into the trap of thinking that the universe is there for us, it’s not! It is there for God

  • Another trap is to think that creation itself is to be praised (old pagan hymn)

    • Creation is a sign to God, not God itself

  • Creation only gives us general knowledge about the creator, for more specific details about Him and our response to Him we need to turn to his revelation, his word.

Voice 2 – Law (v7-11)

  • The Psalmist’s thoughts now turn to the voice of the law with six parallel phrases describing 6 aspects of the Torah.

    • Law, Testimony, Precepts, Commandment, Fear, Ordinances

  • Their virtues

    • Perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, righteous, enduring forever

  • And their benefits

    • Reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes

  • Conclusion is that the word of the Lord is ‘more to be desired’ than wealth or sustenance, in keeping them there is great reward!

  • Same trap as with creation – the Torah is a sign that points us to God, it is not God itself. It is to be desired but not worshipped.

    • The law “of the LORD” is perfect etc, it is only good because God has made it so.

Voice 3 – Psalmist (v12-14)

  • Once the psalmist has reflected on the wonder of God’s creation and the wonders of the law his thoughts turn to himself

  • After seeing God’s revelation through the creation and the law he realises his place as a “servant”, who belongs to and depends entirely upon the Lord, he has got his relationship with God very much in perspective!

    • he realises that the depth of his sin is even greater than he could ever know and that it is only by God’s grace that he could be called “blameless” and “innocent”.

    • The word for “hidden” faults is the same as the word in v6 – nothing is “hidden” from it’s heat, unique phrase to this psalm, a deliberate reminder of the fact that no sin is hidden from God.

  • He finishes with a prayer – v.14, which is all he can do!

Matthew 8:23-27

  • Why did I choose the Matthew reading?

  • This story contains all the elements of the psalm:

    • God’s power is clearly displayed in nature – the storm

    • God (Jesus) speaks specifically – “The commandment of the Lord is pure”

    • The disciples response is awe and wonder

Conclusion

  • how do we respond?

    • 3 challenges for you (and for me!)

  • 1 – How often do you let creation point you to God?

    • When you look up at the night sky do you think “wow the stars are amazing tonight” or “wow, God’s amazing tonight!

    • On top of a mountain – incredible view or incredible God?

    • See a flower – wonderful flower or wonderful God?

    • I know for certain that the stars, the mountains and the flowers are all “telling the glory of God!”

  • 2 – How often do you ask God to revive your soul, give you wisdom, fill your heart with joy or enlighten your eyes, without turning to the scriptures where God has promised to do all of the above?

  • 3 – When we’re amazed by the sheer number of stars in the sky and realise that the God who knows each one by name

    • Is the same God who chose to speak to us directly through the scriptures in order to draw us into a relationship with Him

    • And is the same God who sent his Son that we might be counted “blameless and innocent of great transgression (v.13)”,

    • what possible response could we ever have other than to bow down in awe and wonder and, with the psalmist, simply pray:

    • May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer”.

    • Amen!