Howdy Partner – Worship @ Home Sunday, 12 July 2020

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Steven Turner
(with thanks to Prof. Tom Wright)

The road ahead

Last week, we reminded ourselves of the story of Saul’s conversion from poacher to gamekeeper. In the course of the next 30 years, Paul (as he became known) travelled the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel and planting churches.

God told Ananias, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Part of his suffering involved imprisonment, during which time Paul wrote several letters to different churches to encourage, advise or admonish the believers. Over the next few weeks, we shall look at the letter to the Philippians, using some material from Professor Tom Wright’s online course, “Paul and his letter to the Philippians”[1]. In this joyful letter, Paul talks amongst other subjects about being “Partners in the Gospel,” and calls his readers to live holy lives in unity with one another. In this series, we’ll explore how the early Christians sought to do this and ponder what it means in our world today.

The other great theme of the letter is the Joy of the Christian life. So, we begin with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

Song          Joyful, Joyful we adore thee.

You may also enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnBZ4DNkjSg

1. Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
Hail thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the clouds of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

2. All they works with joy surround thee,
Earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around thee,
Center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Bloss’ming meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in thee.

3. Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean-depth of happy rest.
Thou the Father, Christ our brother-
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

4. Mortals, join the mighty chorus
Which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o’er us,
Brother-love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Who were the Philippians, anyway?

Philippi was a city in the province of Eastern Macedonia, in northern Greece. In Paul’s day, it was a Roman colony, governed by two military officers appointed by Rome. Veteran soldiers were given land and settled in and around the city to keep the peace. The colony prospered due to the nearby gold mine and the Egnatian Way, a highway and trade route traversing Greece and ending up at Byzantium (modern Istanbul).

However, most people did not share this wealth. Many ordinary people lived on the edge of poverty, and between one-third and one-half of the population at any one time were slaves. It was this strange mix of people, many of whom would never mingle in normal life, that made up the church in Philippi. Given the diversity, it is perhaps surprising that Paul does not have to deal with major divisions in the Philippian church, though he does speak often of the need for unity alongside his call to holy living.

This is one of Paul’s prison letters (see 1:14) possibly written in Ephesus around AD 50. Yet it exudes joy and gratitude to God for his readers. As we shall see, Paul believed that God was using his situation to advance the gospel, because of the way he conducted himself whilst “in chains”. Therefore, he seeks to encourage the Philippian Christians to rejoice over the work of God in their lives through Jesus Christ, showing the impact of that work to the world around.

Chorus            Running Over

Running over!
Running over!
My cup’s full and running over!
Since the Lord saved me
I’m as happy as can be.
My cup’s full and running over!

Bible reading  Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Hello, Philippi!

Paul opens his letter to the Philippians with a greeting typical in the ancient world, but with his own twist:

  1. Naming the sender: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ” (v1a)
  2. Addressing the recipients: “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons” (v1b)
  3. Offering greetings: “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

We briefly note a few interesting details:

  • Mention of Timothy alongside Paul is essential to give Timothy authority (see 2:19ff)
  • Paul always refers to the believers as “saints” – Greek “hagios” or holy ones – in Christ Jesus
  • Mention of overseers and deacons suggests there was already some structure to the church in Philippi, though we don’t really know how that worked.
  • Paul extends the traditional greeting of “grace” to including peace, and stress that this comes through Jesus.

He then moves on to the most heart-warming passage in any of his letters.

Chorus            There’s joy in following Jesus all the way

There’s joy in following Jesus all the way.
There’s joy in following Jesus every day.
His love is like a rainbow
When earthly skies are grey.
There’s joy in following Jesus all the way.

Image from https://seanheritage.com/blog/howdy-partner/

Though far from an exhaustive list, the word Partner can be used to describe a relationship between spouses, significant others, parents, friends, teammates, businesses, governmental organizations, or nations. The word speaks to an alliance where two or more partners agree to cooperate in order to advance mutual interests. Those interests may not always be 100% aligned all of the time, but they must be aligned enough to make the partnership worthy of the investment made by all. Sometimes partnerships are documented in a contract that clearly defines the expectations of all involved, sometimes they happen so naturally that documenting the relationship on paper undermines the inferred strength of the partnership.

When I think of the many partnerships in which I am a participant, there is a set of three criteria that I use to measure the strength and importance of each:

– Shared Values
– Complementary Skills
– Shared Vision

Quote taken from https://seanheritage.com/blog/howdy-partner/

In reading verses 3-11, you can sense the enthusiasm and joy with which Paul is writing to his friends in Philippi. His experience there was quite mixed; you can read the whole story in Acts 16. Guided by a vision, Paul and his companions set sail for Macedonia, landing up in Philippi, where Lydia (a “dealer in purple cloth”, hence probably quite wealthy) gets converted and offers to host the missionaries for the duration. Although many people believe in Jesus, a run-in with a couple exploiting their slave-girl lands Paul and Silas in prison. They are released next day, having converted the jailer and his family, but have to leave town for safety.

Paul’s joy stems from two main themes, the first of which he calls “Partnership”. As noted above, this could be seen simply as a business relationship, an agreement to perform services for another. Although some sense of shared purpose is essential, there is not necessarily a close personal relationship.

When Paul says, “your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,” he is referring to practical and financial assistance which the Philippians offered when he was travelling through Macedonia (more of that when we come to chapter 4). They had seen his need and had (presumably) clubbed together to meet it.

We would describe this relationship today as sponsorship: providing money to support a person or group in achieving their aim. This may be an ongoing relationship, such as sponsoring a child in another country, an animal in a zoo, am individual sports person or a team, or indeed a charity through regular donations. Or you might make a one-off payment to an appeal or when someone takes on a challenge such as sky-diving or walking the Great Wall of China. These are good things to do, but don’t necessarily require a commitment of time, energy or emotion. There may be no personal engagement between sponsor and sponsored.

The Philippians must have gone further than mere sponsorship, since Paul longs for all of them “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (v8). Bearing in mind that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), this affection is something way beyond a simple business arrangement. The Greek word translated as partnership is κοινονια (koinonia) refers to all kinds of relationships, much as our introductory quote. It implies a high degree of mutuality, taking an interest in each other beyond the simple exchange of money and services. Paul’s word for “affection” is σπλάγχνοις (splánchnois), which refers to a “gut feeling” or visceral emotion. Imagine the combination of anticipation and anxiety that you feel when spouse or child is an hour late coming home, and you have some idea of what Paul is describing. He longs desperately to be with them as soon as possible (2:24)

But perhaps the greatest cause of Paul’s joy is the Philippians reputation for loving. As we read through this letter, we shall see that there is very little of the admonition, criticism and outright condemnation that we see in some of Paul’s other letters. This is not to say that everything is perfect in this church; there is still room for growth.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight… (v9)

However, it’s clear Paul considers they have a solid foundation. Paul’s word for love is the powerful ἀγάπη (agape), signifying a pouring out for the other person, a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others as Christ did for us. In a world that tells us we deserve the best, sacrifice does not come easily. Yet concern for others is actually essential to our survival. One factor contributing to the spread of the current corona virus is our desire to have the good things in life for as little payment as possible; this leads to sourcing our food and household goods from countries where labour is cheap and conditions are poor. On a practical level, we need to take more account of the world around us, both in human society and our relationship to nature. And the agape love of the Philippians shows us the way. And Paul suggests that, as our love grows, so will our knowledge and insight. We shall see later what he means by that.

There is one other key point to note in these verses: three times Paul mentions Jesus Christ as central to this koinonia, this blossoming fellowship. We’ve already noted the reference to the affection of Christ Jesus, but he brackets this with two references to the ongoing work of transformation:

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (v6).

 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (v10-11).

Paul is making clear that this love and this partnership are only possible because of the work of Jesus (more correctly, his Holy Spirit) in the Philippians, transforming them into the likeness of Jesus, bearing “the fruit of righteousness” (similar to the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23). This work began when they believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit and will continue “until the day of Christ.” The confidence Paul expresses in verse 6 stems in part from the faithfulness of God and in part from the evidence he already sees of their maturing in holy living.

The “day of Christ” appears to be Paul’s updated version of Old Testament phrase, “the day of the Lord”. Often this referred to a day of judgement, which was to be feared. But Paul sees it as a day of joy, when Jesus will return to put right all that is wrong in the world and receive to himself all who have believed in him. Perhaps Paul’s greatest joy is that he is convinced the Philippians will be among the that elect group of believers.

In our modern church, the individualism of society can creep in. Our faith becomes a personal matter, the leader is responsible for “feeding” us, and we expect that other churches should support us though we may decide not to support them. In contrast, Paul believes that we should all be partners in the gospel, creating a koinonia, a fellowship that is virtually unknown in the world at large. To achieve this, we must follow the example of the Philippians, set aside the obvious differences between us, love each other sacrificially and work together to advance God’s kingdom where he has placed us.

To think about

  • Do we have a diversity of people in our congregation as they did in Philippi?
  • Is our fellowship a partnership or a group of individuals?
  • How much would we be willing to sacrifice for each other?
  • Are there sign of developing maturity in our relationships?

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for showing us the way of true partnership in choosing an odd group of men to be your first disciples. It gives us hope that you can use us, with our strengths and weaknesses, our triumphs and our tragedies.

Thank you for providing real examples of people who wrestled with relationships as we wrestle with relationships; especially for  the Philippians, who set a good example and give us hope that we too can show true koinonia.

By your spirit, complete in us the work you began when we first believed in you, so that we may join Paul and many others among the blameless when you come again.

Amen

Song 833        We have caught the vision splendid

We have caught the vision splendid
Of a world which is to be,
When the pardoning love of Jesus
Freely flows from sea to sea,
When all men from strife and anger,
Greed and selfishness are free,
When the nations live together
In sweet peace and harmony.

We would help to build the city
Of our God, so wondrous fair;
Give our time, bring all our talents,
And each gift of beauty rare,
Powers of mind, and strength of purpose,
Days of labour, nights of strain,
That God’s will may be accomplished,
O’er the kingdoms he shall reign.

Founded on the rock of ages,
Built upon God’s promise sure,
Strengthened by the cords of service,
We shall stand firm and secure;
When the Father, Son and Spirit
Crown our labours with success,
Men and angels then uniting
Shall God’s mighty love confess.

Doris N. Rendell

Benediction    May God’s blessing surround you each day

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.


[1] https://www.udemy.com/course/paul-and-his-letter-to-the-philippians-small-group-edition/learn/lecture/11469990#overview

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On whose authority? – Worship@Home Sunday, 05 July 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song 141        At the name of Jesus

https://fivefoldministryireland.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/paul-becomes-a-christian/

1. At the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him
King of Glory now;
Tis the Father’s pleasure
We should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning
Was the mighty Word.

2. At his voice creation
Sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces,
All the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations,
Stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders
In their great array.

3. Humbled for a season,
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious
When from death he passed.

4. Bore it up triumphant
With its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures
To the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
To the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory
Of that perfect rest.

5. In your hearts enthrone him;
There let him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true;
Crown him as your captain
In temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you
In its light and power.

Caroline Maria Noel (1817-77)

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading Acts 9:1-20

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

Song 347        Jesus came to save me

Jesus came to save me
By his precious blood,
Purchased my salvation,
Brought me home to God;
Cleansed my heart as white as snow:
This one thing I know!

This one thing I know!
This one thing I know!
God in great mercy pardoned me,
Snapped sin’s fetters and set me free;
Once I was blind but now I see:
This one thing I know!

Jesus lives to keep me:
O what wondrous love!
In the Father’s presence,
Advocate above;
Keeps me when sin’s tempests blow:
This one thing I know!

What a precious Saviour,
Of his grace I sing;
Once despised. rejected,
Soon our coming King.
On my path his light doth glow:
This one thing I know!

Sidney Edward Cox (1887-1975)

On whose authority?

Authority can be revered, feared, followed or flouted. And perhaps at different times we have been inclined in each of these ways toward various authority figures in our lives. I remember as a primary school child feeling the sharp slap of authority in a situation of my deliberately flouting that authority. Naturally I never did that again! 

Saul was a pedigree Pharisee! He was well schooled, trained and turned out. He could not be faulted on his knowledge and understanding of the law and was likely one of the most theological thinkers among Pharisees in his day. Saul was one who commanded authority and who sought authority, exacting precision at every level. Nevertheless, in one area of life he did not use his intellect or sound powers of reasoning; that was in matters concerning the followers of Jesus. Right at the beginning of Acts 9 we read the strong statement that Saul was “eager to destroy the Lord’s followers.” To Saul, the followers of Jesus were such an anathema, he would make it his business to rid the world of these ‘deluded’ people.

Despite Saul hearing the compelling witness of Stephen, a follower of Jesus (Acts 7), he would have been among those who clapped their hands over their ears and drowned Stephen’s voice out with their shouting (Acts 7:57). Whilst Saul neither seized nor mortally wounded Stephen, he assented to his murder, guarding the coats of those who participated, and watched as they stoned him to death. Saul would have also seen the way Stephen’s face turned heavenward during his stoning and was alight with that other worldly joy. But instead of weighing the words and actions of Stephen’s testimony with the wealth of his knowledge of the Scriptures to find the truth, he closed his eyes as well as his ears, resisting any other reasoning. In Saul’s own words he became as a “raging fury” (Acts 26:11) toward the followers of Jesus. John Stott writes in his commentary of the book of Acts “The very fanaticism of Saul’s persecution betrayed his growing inner uneasiness, ‘because fanaticism is only found’ wrote Jung ‘in individuals who are compensating secret doubts’.

Though Saul’s conversion to Christ is often spoken of as being one that happened suddenly in a definitive moment, the likelihood is that Saul and Jesus’ paths had crossed at some points, being contemporaries at that time. Even if it had not been in person, Saul would have had heard of Jesus’ popularity, his teaching and his miracles. If Saul had ever been tapped on the shoulder and told that he would himself become a follower of Jesus one day, the very notion of it would have caused him to utter a contemptuous “Never!”   Robert A. Heinlein stated, “One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.”[1] A person can be very sincere and devoted to a particular cherished thought, or meticulously uphold certain behaviours and so on, but it is possible to be sincerely wrong.

  • Have you ever been so locked into a particular viewpoint or at loggerheads with another about an issue that you would not meet them halfway to consider their standing on the matter?
  • Where are you now concerning that point of view or issue? What might Jesus want to say to you about that time? Is there anything you need to do now as a result of your conversation with Jesus?

As Saul sought authority to ‘wage war’ on the followers of Jesus, Jesus himself was ready to intervene with an authoritative word of his own. Closing in on the district where Saul would trap his prey, forcing them to return with him to Jerusalem as prisoners, Saul is himself arrested by a brilliant light and a clear voice.

As Saul tumbles to the ground in shock (v4) we read how he enquires who it was speaking to him and how it is revealed that it is Jesus. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!” (v5) In that wonderful, reassuring statement we learn how closely Jesus identifies with his followers. Persecution of them is actually persecution of him.

Saul might have gone to Damascus intent on fulfilling one particular mission, but now Jesus was sending him onward into Damascus on a quite different mission where he must wait to be told what he is to do. A letter of authority from the High Priest of Jerusalem is superseded by words of authority from the High Priest of Heaven! Having led the way muttering violence and threat, companions of the now blinded Saul lead him by the hand, silenced and thoughtful. Over the next three days, Saul fasts, intentionally going without food and drink so that he can devote the time to God; conversing, praying, praising and considering the next steps.  

The way ahead for Saul requires another intervention of Jesus through the hand of one of his followers in Damascus. If the believers there were trembling at the word that Saul was on his way to capture them, one man, Ananias, was resolute that he would wait upon Jesus to discern what he should do next.

The vision Ananias actually has could not have been more surprising! Help Saul?! But Lord, what “about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem!” (v13) Ananias responds. Did Ananias wonder if Jesus wanted to play him right into the hands of their tormentor Saul? Jesus calms Ananias’ fears by saying in effect “you leave him to me” when he tells Ananias “I will show him how much he must suffer for me” (16).

  • How do you react in times of fear and anxiety? Are you able to remain resolute, talking to Jesus about the situation and what he wants you to do in it?
  • Has Jesus ever told you to do something that was surprising or nerve-wracking? What was your response – did you do or not do as he asked? Take a few moments to talk with him now about that time.

Ananias chooses to obey, and in so doing discovers Jesus was not leading him into danger but into joy; the joy of working in partnership with Jesus and seeing the difference that partnership makes. By the power of Jesus flowing through him, Ananias saw healing and health poured into one who had been spiritually and physically blinded. With words of acceptance in his pronouncement of “Brother Saul” (v17), Ananias also saw a proud man remodelled in humility by the grace of Jesus.

Whilst Saul may never have conceived such a transformation from an ardent, committed Pharisee to an ardent, committed follower of Jesus, Jesus sees a greater picture for us than we could ever know or imagine outside of his authority.

Don’t think that living under Jesus’ authority crushes and curtails your personality or giftings or requires that you operate with robotic monotony at the whim of an unseen deity. No, the authority of Jesus is one of complete love for the one he directs to do his will, as well as complete love for all who would be impacted by the action of his servant responding to his authority.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that thebright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”[2]

When the ‘bright daybreak’ light of Jesus descends upon a life, the transformation is phenomenal as Saul and Ananias were to discover. I wonder what the ‘bright daybreak’ light of Jesus has meant in your life and mine; or what could it mean if we were to allow Jesus to have authority over all of our lives.

Chorus 71       I want to live right

I want to live right
That God may use me
At any time and any where
I want to live right
That God may use me
At any time and any where

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we are amazed at the people you appoint to spread your Good News: hot-headed Peter, sceptical Thomas, Matthew who collaborated with the Roman oppressors, and Saul, a sworn enemy of your Way.

This gives us hope that you have a purpose for us in your extending your kingdom.

Show me what qualities and talents you have placed in me, and how you want to use them to bless and save others.

Then make me as strong and resolute as Saul in following you and helping others to follow you.

I ask this in your strong and holy name. Amen

Song 734        I’ll go in the strength of the Lord

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord,
In paths he has marked for my feet;
I’ll follow the light of his word,
Nor shrink from the dangers I meet,
His presence my steps shall attend,
His fulness my wants shall supply;
On him, till my journey shall end,
My unwavering faith shall rely.

I’ll go, I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
I’ll go, I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To work he appoints me to do;
In joy which his smile doth afford
My soul shall her vigor renew.
His wisdom shall guard me from harm.
His power my sufficiency prove;
I’ll trust his omnipotent arm,
And prove his unchangeable love.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To conflicts which faith will require,
His grace as my shield and reward,
My courage and zeal shall inspire.
Since he gives the word of command.
To meet and encounter the foe,
With his sword of truth in my hand.
To suffer and triumph I’ll go.

Edward Turney (1816-72)

Benediction    May God’s blessing surround you each day

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.


[1] https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/authority-quotes_2

[2] https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/never-quotes

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“I need a hero!” – Worship@Home Sunday, 21 June 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps

(Major Steven Turner)

© Richard Deverell http://richarddeverelltheillustrator.blogspot.com/2011/06/townscape-illustration-for-mears.html

Song        Life is great, so sing about it

Life is great! So sing about it,
As we can and as we should:
Shops and buses, towns and people,
Village, farmland, field and wood.
Life is great and life is given;
Life is lovely, free and good.

Life is great! Whatever happens,
Snow or sunshine, joy or pain,
Hardship, grief, or disillusion,
Suff’ring that I can’t explain.
Life is great if someone loves me,
Holds my hands and calls my name.

Love is giving and receiving:
Boy and girl, and friend with friend.
Love is bearing and forgiving
All the hurts that hate can send.
Love’s the greatest way of living,
Hoping, trusting to the end.

God is great! In Christ he loved us,
As we should but never can.
Love that suffered, hoped and trusted,
When disciples turned and ran,
Love that broke through death for ever:
Praise that loving, living Man!

Brian Wren

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Watchtower Online Library
https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/202018252

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Song 576        God of comfort and compassion

(Tune: South Shields)

God of comfort and compassion,
God of wisdom, grace and power,
Hear our earnest intercession
In this quiet morning hour.
Strengthen all who fight thy battles
In this land and lands afar,
Be companion, friend and shepherd
Whereso’er thy children are.

Some we love bear heavy burdens
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Some we love bear heavy burdens,
Some have wandered from the way;
Be their guide, and their Deliverer,
Heavenly Father, now we pray.
O’er our world so filled with sorrow,
Fear and hunger, pain and strife,
Shed thy light of hope and mercy,
Gift of love, eternal life.

Sovereign Lord, we bow before thee,
Thou art merciful and kind;
Our petitions now presenting,
All we need in thee we find.
Lord, we seek thy strength, thy guidance,
And the Holy Spirit’s dower;
Grant thy fortitude and courage
In temptation’s threatening hour.

May thy grace and peace o’ershadow
Those for whom we pray today;
May thy mighty arm uphold them;
Precious in thy sight are they.
Lord, for answered prayer we thank thee,
Thou art good in all thy ways;
With thanksgiving we adore thee,
Fill our hearts with love and praise.

Doris N. Rendell
(alt. E Turner, for morning)

I need a hero!

We’ve recently been watching old episodes of DIY-SOS. A team of skilled builders gathers local tradesmen to perform a DIY miracle on a semi-derelict house to rescue a family from disaster and give them the perfect home.

About 10 years ago, the team took on the massive challenge of renovating a whole street in Manchester, to include homes and support facilities for military veterans. Among them was a man who had lost both legs and an arm due to an Improvised Explosive Device. One of the most moving moments in the film was when the eldest son, aged about 11, said to the presenter, “My Dad is my hero!”

I’ve never considered my Dad as a hero. But when I notice how much of my officership has been modelled on his, I realise that I unconsciously hold him up as a positive example. This is how it should be, particularly in Christian homes. Many children do look up to their Dads. But, sadly, there are examples of Dads who are too busy to care, Dads who have left the family for a host of reasons, and even some who harm their children. These Dads are not heroes.

None of this should really surprise us. Whilst the Bible contains some excellent examples of Godly fathers, most fall short, often leading to seriously dysfunctional relationships.

Noah built an ark to God’s design and saved his family to create a new world (Genesis 6-8). Then he got drunk, exposed himself, and cursed one of his sons for laughing at him (Genesis 9:20-25).

David was “a man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), but he was attracted to another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11), and it eventually destroyed his family (Much of 1 Kings).

The Bible is clear that, on our own, we human beings cannot live an upright life as God intended. Recent Black Lives Matters demonstrations have brought to light the failings, and sometimes outright wickedness, of some of our most famous heroes, most notably those whose philanthropy derived from wealth earned either in trading slaves or building plantations worked by slave labour.

When things get really bad, we look for a superhero, one with powers or abilities beyond the normal, whose life is dedicated to fighting evil and doing good. Yet even these heroes have physical or character flaws that render them vulnerable. Peter Parker becomes Spiderman after being bitten by a radioactive specimen. But he is tormented that he was not able to save his uncle Ben from a burglar. During the course of his life, he is fired, finds and loses several girlfriends and has to battle a “symbiote” which tries to make him evil. Alongside this, he is trying to save the world.

Those of us who are disappointed with human heroes need look no further than the God of the Bible for someone who can genuinely rescue us from the evils of the world. Here we find:

A loving Father

In the parable of the Lost Son, the younger son demands his inheritance while his father is still alive, wastes it on wild living (hence the usual title, the “prodigal son”), humiliates himself by feeding pigs, and finally comes home seeking a job. The Father immediately throws a party because his son’s return is more important than his mistakes.

In contrast, the older son gets the hump because this “wastrel” has now got some of his inheritance for a knees up. The Father points out that he could have had all of this at any time, if only he had asked.

One son had recognised the generosity of his father, whilst the other only saw the duty. But the Father loved both equally and wished the best for each.

David had reason to be glad of God’s mercy:

He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbour his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;  (Psalm 103)

And so we, too, can come to him, with whatever we have done, knowing that when we honestly confess our sin, in his love “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

A Faithful Friend

It’s often been said that the twelve apostles would all have failed an official selection process, with the possible exception of Judas. Several of them present rather badly in the gospels, their tactlessness, lack of understanding and intolerance of others should surely disqualify them from being disciples of any rabbi, let alone the Son of God. Yet once called, none of them turns back (at least, not until Jesus is arrested). And Jesus persists with them, despite occasional expressions of frustration at their slow progress.

And if Jesus was faithful to his (sometimes faithless) disciples, we can be sure that he will remain faithful to us also. As the writer to the Hebrews says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

A Constant guide

Once we accept Jesus as friend and Saviour, his Holy Spirit enters us, to guide us into the truth (John 16:13), to purify us (Titus 3:5), and to empower us to witness (Acts 1:8). He gives us words to say when we are tongue-tied (Luke 12:12) and leads us in God’s plan for us (see the description of Paul’s journeys in Acts 16).

Conclusion

Our earthly heroes may fail us, and superheroes do not exist. But a Loving, Faithful, Constant God is waiting to envelope us in his arms, if only we will come to him in humility and desperation.

Have you made that choice for yourself? Are you assured of the love and forgiveness of the Father, the friendship of the Son and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit? If not, now would be a good time to turn your life over to God.

Song          God’s love to me is wonderful

1. God’s love to me is wonderful,
That he should deign to hear
The faintest whisper of my heart,
Wipe from mine eyes the tear;
And though I cannot comprehend
Such love, so great, so deep,
In his strong hands my soul I trust,
He will not fail to keep.

God’s love is wonderful,
God’s love is wonderful,
Wonderful that he should give his Son to die for me;
God’s love is wonderful!

2. God’s love to me is wonderful!
My very steps are planned;
When mists of doubt encompass me,
I hold my Father’s hand.
His love has banished every fear,
In freedom I rejoice,
And with my quickened ears I hear
The music of his voice.

3. God’s love to me is wonderful!
He lights the darkest way;
I now enjoy his fellowship,
‘Twill last through endless day.
My Father doth not ask that I
Great gifts on him bestow,
But only that I love him too,
And serve him here below.

Sidney Edward Cox (1887-1975)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

In a manner of speaking – Worship @ Home Sunday, 14 June 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps

(Major Elizabeth Turner)

Angela Douglas gives her testimony on her enrolment as a Soldier. (Steven Turner)

Song          Have you ever heard the story

(Tune Gospel bells; play from beginning for devotional reflection on the song)

1. Have you ever heard the story
Of the Babe of Bethlehem,
Who was worshiped by the angels
And the wise and holy men
How he taught the learned doctors
In the temple far away?
O I’m glad, so glad to tell you,
He is just the same today!

Just the same, just the same,
He is just the same today.
Just the same, just the same,
He is just the same today.

2. Have you ever heard the story
How he walked upon the sea,
To his dear disciples tossing
On the waves of Galilee?
How the waves in angry motion
Quickly did his will obey?
O I’m glad, so glad to tell you,
He is just the same today!

3. Have you ever heard of Jesus
Praying in Gethsemane,
And the ever-thrilling story,
How he died upon the tree,
Cruel thorns his forehead piercing,
As his spirit passed away?
This he did for you, my brother,
And he’s just the same today!

4. Have you ever heard of Jesus
Who was buried in the tomb,
And was mourned by his disciples
In despair, defeat and gloom?
By the power of God eternal,
He arose on Easter day,
And he lives for our salvation:
He is just the same today!

S. Z. Kaufman (verses 1-3),
Gordon Taylor (verse 4)

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Bible Reading Acts 4:1-14


This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

4 1–2 The teaching and preaching of Peter and John angered the priests, the captain of the temple police, and representatives of the Jewish sect of the Sadducees. They were furious that the people were being taught that in Jesus there is a resurrection from the dead. So while Peter and John were still speaking, the Jewish authorities came to the temple courts to oppose them. 3 They had them arrested, and since it was already evening they kept them in custody until the next day. 4 Yet there were many in the crowd who believed the message, bringing the total number of men who believed to nearly five thousand!

5 The next day many Jewish leaders, religious scholars, and elders of the people convened a meeting in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others who were members of the high priest’s family. 7 They made Peter and John stand in front of the council as they questioned them, saying, “Tell us, by what power and authority have you done these things?”

8 Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered, “Respected elders and leaders of the people, listen. 9 Are we being put on trial today for doing an act of kindness by healing a frail, crippled man? Well then, 10 you and everyone else in Israel should know that it is by the power of the name of Jesus that the crippled man stands here today completely healed! You crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but God raised him from the dead. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that you, the builders, have rejected, and now he has become the cornerstone!’ 12 There is no one else who has the power to save us, for there is only one name to whom God has given authority by which we must experience salvation: the name of Jesus.”

13 The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him. 14 Standing there with them was the healed man, and there was nothing further they could say.

Chorus            Take Jesus to all the world

Take Jesus to all the world, He’ll put things right.
Take Jesus to all the world, He’ll put things right.
Jesus died for all mankind,
So I know that you will find
If you take Jesus to all the world, He’ll put things right

In a manner of speaking

Image copyright BBC TV

Comedians have long used the art of mimicry to reflect the voice and mannerisms of a public face. If, with a little judicious make-up and similar clothing, they could be made to look more like the person of their satire, so much the better. As a child, I too would engage in various efforts of mimicry, mimicking the voice of the character of Frank Spencer in the comedy show ‘Some Mothers do ‘ave ‘em’. I would also try to portray the voices of other popular people of the day, as well as family members, friends or people known to the family. I hasten to add that this was never in a cruel or unkind way, neither is it something that I still do! I remember my mum cautioning me about overdoing this in any way: citing that she knew a girl who had mimicked another’s voice so much, she actually couldn’t stop it and that mimicked voice became her own. But it was not to good effect. How sad that her own voice never had the opportunity of making its mark for good in the lives of those who knew her.

Last week we reflected on the amazing story of Peter and John on their way to worship, and the healing of the crippled man who had long sat beside that beautiful gate. Seeing those who were making their way in and out to worship at the temple, the man himself was never, ever able to go through those gates to lift up his voice in prayer or praise in community with others. That is, until Peter and John introduced him to the beautiful, powerful name of Jesus, and in that moment his life was transformed.

Peter and John, as disciples of Jesus, had walked beside, leaned on and learned closely from Jesus over a period of three years. Now, filled with his Holy Spirit, the men were able to continue his ministry of grace, love, forgiveness, hope, healing and new life to the broken in their community. Not in a manner of mimicry or of meticulously following a formula, but out of a deep rooted, personal love for and relationship with Jesus themselves. 

Their presence with and learning from Jesus had brought them to an understanding of the value and worth of kingdom living principles. It guided their actions and found credible voice through their own particular lived experiences. They admired, loved and wanted to be like Jesus, but not in the manner as a person only mimicking the ways of another might do.

Yes, the coming of the Holy Spirit was meant to place the image of Jesus in the life of a believer, making that man, woman, girl or boy the finest version of themselves that they could ever be. The image of Jesus in each person was meant as much to be like a seal of authenticity; however the personality, character and voice of the individual is essentially, their own.

On no account does the Holy Spirit quash the unique qualities of the believer; after all, they were originally conceived in the mind of God and loved by him into being. In Psalm 139 verses 15 & 16a we read, “You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skilfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me!” (TPT). The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is not meant to make them carbon copy saints, but rather to show how God delights in diversity and has a specific purpose for each person. In being filled with the Holy Spirit, each individual is to be caught up in the frame of the Church worldwide, and launched by the Spirit of God to live and work powerfully for him, having something very specific and positive to contribute to the Kingdom of God as a whole.

When Peter and John were detained and questioned by the ‘Jewish leaders, religious scholars, and elders of the people’ (Acts 4:5) about their actions and asked how it had come about, the Bible tells us ‘Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered, “Respected elders and leaders of the people, listen. Are we being put on trial today for doing an act of kindness by healing a frail, crippled man? Well then, you and everyone else in Israel should know that it is by the power of the name of Jesus that the crippled man stands here today completely healed!”’ (Acts 4:8-10) Peter wanted no misunderstanding about this man’s healing. It was solely the power and name of Jesus that had accomplished this, and he alone deserved the attention and praise.

The compelling authority and assuredness with which Peter spoke was not lost on them. The Bible narrative states, “The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him” (Acts 4:13). What an awesome statement that last sentence is! Let’s read it again “then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him” (Acts 4:13b). Oh, that people would come to such an understanding when they encounter me!

Francois de La Rochefoucauld stated, “The accent of one’s birthplace remains in the mind and in the heart as in one’s speech.”[1] For the individual filled with the Holy Spirit, this should be a truth that clearly marks us out as his. The manner in which we think, we behave and we speak should truly be the manner of Jesus. The ‘rebirth’ place of the individual who has been filled with the Spirit of Jesus should be etched in their soul, never to be forgotten, always firing the imagination to live unmistakeably in the manner of Jesus, yet being the individual he purposed us to be, for his honour and glory. When we do that, then, just as the Bible states of the council that convened on Peter and John, “there was nothing further they could say” (Acts 4:14). The evidence was staring them in the face – literally in the healed man and heard plainly in the disciples’ bold words.

Can you think back to that moment and place where you claimed the forgiveness, love, grace and power of Jesus in your life? Do you recall the joy, thrill and excitement of that moment? In that moment you were being filled with the very atmosphere of heaven, the accents of which would renew your mind fill your heart and be heard in your speech. Compare that time to where you are now. Has anything changed? Does the air and attitude of heaven pervade your thinking still, fill your heart and flow out in your speech?  Yes, life is tough and challenging, but the name and power of Jesus is more than a match for any challenges that come our way. That is a truth that we need to boldly declare to ourselves when things are not all as they should be.

We need the courage to trust Jesus and not doubt his everlasting love for us. We need to hold on to him even though it may seem as if all hell is let loose upon us or our loved ones. As we do hold fast to Jesus, we and our loved ones will have the joy of walking through and into places we may perhaps never have imagined being. This will be a reality that no one will ever be able to contradict, for the evidence will be there for all to see. With bold trust, bold living and bold declaration to the power of Jesus to save to heal, to bring transformation, then those within sight and earshot of us will be stirred to decide if they are going to take Jesus into their hearts and lives too. If they do, it will need to be for real with no mimicking if they are ever going to know the thrill of being citizens of life beyond the beautiful gates.

Song                What a beautiful name it is

(Sung by Hillsong Worship)

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ, my King

What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now

CHORUS

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC

Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave

The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign

Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ, my King

What a powerful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Words and Music by BEN FIELDING & BROOKE LIGERTWOOD
© 2016 Hillsong Music Publishing. All rights reserved.
International copyright secured. Used by permission.

“A Prayer for A Transformed Life”[2]

Father, You have commissioned us, as believers, to reach the lost, inviting them to surrender their lives to Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins.  It is at their point of surrender that we witness the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit; cleansing, restoring, purging, and maturing the young believer toward good works in Christ. We thank You for the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit at work in each of us who come to faith, equipping us with the endurance and perseverance needed to walk our journey of faith in the midst of an increasingly hostile and unaccepting society. It is through Jesus that we come to You in prayer. Amen.

“A Prayer for Power to Witness”[3]

Father, as Your Holy Spirit empowers us, we can effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through Scriptural teaching and through our godly example.  Help us to faithfully witness in the mission field You’ve appointed us to.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Song         O for a thousand tongues to sing

( Live from The Royal Albert Hall with The Salvation Army)

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise;
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears;
‘Tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood avails for me.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.


[1] Francois de La Rochefoucauld quote found: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/speech-quotes_4

[2] https://adailyprayer.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/a-prayer-for-a-transformed-life/

[3] https://adailyprayer.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/a-prayer-for-power-to-witness/

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , , ,

In the name of the King! – Worship@Home Sunday, 07 June 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps

(Major Steven Turner)

 Image courtesy of Sweet Publishing and Distant Shores Media
from https://ministry-to-children.com/lesson-peter-heals-in-jesus-name-acts-3/

Last week we celebrated Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit that transformed the timid followers of Jesus into an unstoppable movement that reaches forward to 2020 and beyond. We begin this week with a song acknowledging the work of that same Spirit in us today.

Song        For the mighty moving of thy Spirit

(Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icKByOZI_vs)

1. For the mighty moving of thy Spirit
In our hearts and minds from day to day,
For the gentle soothing of thy Spirit,
When our fears had filled us with dismay:

We adore thee, heavenly Father,
And we thank thee, heavenly Father,
And we praise thee, heavenly Father,
As we pray.

2. For the kindly chiding of thy Spirit
When we thought to find an easier way,
For the gracious guiding of thy Spirit,
And the strength we needed to obey:

3. For the tender stirring of thy Spirit
Who recalled us when we went astray,
The persistent spurring of thy Spirit,
When we hesitated on the way:

John Gowans
© Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, admin. by Copycare

A key part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to refine our nature to make us more like Jesus, so that we may do “even greater works” than Jesus did.

Chorus       Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

(Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6rmbAcyy9s&ab_channel=ShashankJacob)

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All his wonderful passion and purity,
O thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Albert Orsborn
© Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, admin. by Copycare

Take some time to talk to God about your life and allow him to show you where his Spirit still needs to work. Ask him to complete his work of refinement.

Pray the Lord’s prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.
Amen.

Bible Reading: Acts 3:1-16

3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

In the name of the King!

Were you ever sent as a child to the shops “to get a few bits” for your mum or dad? You will have tightly clutched a handful of coins in your hand and recited the shopping list as you hurried down the road. Perhaps in the shop you said, “My ma wants some sausages, a block of butter and a pound of sugar.” Chances are the shop keeper knew you so well that if you asked for something out of the ordinary you might receive the response, “Did your mother really send you for a quarter of Jelly Babies?” And if you turned up at an unusual time, you may even be asked, “Does your mother know that you’re here?”

As a child, you had had little or no money of your own to spend. To go shopping with your parents’ authority and money was a privilege not to be abused. Later, maybe you may be given permission to buy some sweets with the change, but only once you had proved you could be trusted.

The concept of delegated authority is central to understanding our story today. Peter twice uses the phrase, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” first, when he heals the lame man, and second, when he explains to the crowd what has happened. The phrase “in the name of…” has an important political significance and would be well understood by the people of Jerusalem. In fact, we live under a similar kind of rule in this country.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary Sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth II) and an elected Parliament. The major party within Parliament forms a government which sets policy for the country, whilst Parliament enacts legislation to permit or forbid actions by the government and the people.

The government is referred to as Her Majesty’s Government, in acknowledgement of the supreme authority of the Sovereign, in whose name it acts. In theory, the Queen could override the government by dismissing “her” ministers or refusing to sign an Act of Parliament into law, but in practice she follows many other constitutional monarchs in “reigning but not ruling.”

In first century Judea, Augustus Caesar was the Emperor of Rome and supreme ruler of the Empire. He delegated governors to oversee regions (such as Quirinius in Syria, Luke 2:2 and later Pontius Pilate in Judea, Luke 23). He even allowed a measure of local rule through King Herod and the Sanhedrin. But all operated in his name, and their authority could be confirmed or revoked by a stroke of his pen.

When Peter and John saw them man at the temple gate, Peter instructed him, “look at us” (v4). Peter and John were fishermen from the north country, rough and ready like farmers, mill hands, miners and steel workers in the industrial areas of Britain.  They wouldn’t look like bankers, stockbrokers, lawyers and business leaders of the city, or the religious leaders and merchants of their day. I wonder what the man expected to get from them.

To avoid any confusion, Peter declared, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v6). When Peter spoke in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, his hearers would recognise that he was acting under authority of a higher power.

When we want someone to be made well, we generally pray that God will heal them. But Peter spoke directly to the man in the name of Jesus. What is happening here?

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard teaches his readers how to develop a conversational relationship with God, such that they regularly hear his voice. In the chapter on “The Word of God and the Rule of God”, Willard considers the case of the Centurion who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. He did not invite Jesus to his house, but simply said, “just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). He understood the power of words for one who had authority, and he recognised in Jesus the authority and power of God. In response to the centurion’s faith, Jesus replied, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. (Matthew 8:13).

Willard argues that, if we have the Spirit of God in us, we also have his authority, as when God ordered Moses to speak to the rock to bring out water (Numbers 20:8). And though we will at times need to pray for wisdom or authority or God’s direct intervention in a particular situation (for example, when disciples failed to heal the demon-possessed boy, Mark 9:29), there will be times when we can speak directly with the authority of God.

Although at times we may speak with the authority of God, we must be careful not to usurp that authority. Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock in anger at the people’s lack of faith; He seemed more concerned about what they thought of him than of God (Numbers 20:10-11). For this, God punished Moses by banning him from the promised land (v12).

Whether he had this in mind or not, as the people crowded around the disciples, Peter was very careful to steer the attention away from himself. “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (v12). Instead, he recounted the story of Jesus, and in particular his death and resurrection, which they had witnessed. Then he stressed again, “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (v16)

In our day, we perhaps have a lesser view than the early disciples of our authority in Christ and the power of speaking in his name. We would do well to rediscover some of the experience of our early Salvationist pioneers. Nevertheless, we are still in danger of usurping the position of God when we think that our own efforts, whether through attendance, fundraising, music or witnessing are sufficient to bring people in and resurrect the church.

We have an inspiring Territorial Vision Statement:

We will be a Spirit-filled, radical, growing movement, with a burning desire

to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ,
actively serve the local community and
fight for social justice.

But the clue to success in in the opening phrase: only as we are filled with the Spirit of Christ and open to the voice of the Father will we be able to draw people in the Saviour. In this season of Pentecost, let us commit anew to allowing God free reign in our lives, and to lay aside our fears and speak with the authority of the one who has saved us in order to save others.

Song         Lord, I pray that I may know thee

(Music: https://youtu.be/q8tPonMTqFo?t=52)

Lord, I pray that I may know thee,
Risen One, enthroned on high;
Empty hands I’m stretching to thee,
Show thyself to me, I cry.

Show thyself to me, show thyself to me,
That I may reveal thy beauty;
Show thyself to me.

All that once I thought most worthy,
All of which I once did boast,
In thy light seems poor and passing,
‘Tis thyself I covet most.

Give thyself to me, give thyself to me,
That I may show forth thy power;
Give thyself to me.

Only as I truly know thee
Can I make thee truly known;
Only bring the power to others
Which in my own life is shown.

Show thy power in me, show thy power in me,
That I may be used for others;
Show thy power in me.

Ruth Tracy (1870-1960)
© Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, admin. by Copycare

Prayer

God our Father, we thank you for your great love for us, which calls us to yourself despite all that we know about ourselves. May we open our hearts daily to receive that love.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your demonstration of the power of God at work on earth. May we open our eyes to see where you want to work through us in the world.

Holy Spirit, we thank you for the examples of men speaking at your instigation in the power God the Father, and in the name of Jesus.  May we open our ears to hear your guidance and our hands to act.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, may we become powerful witnesses for the Gospel to the people of our neighbourhoods, in your name we pray. Amen

Song          There’s no other name

(Music: https://youtu.be/Fa-zudAbec8?t=86 ;
watch from the beginning for further reflections)

There’s no other name but this name,
And no other name will do.
There’s no other name but Jesus
For folk like me and you.

For no other name brings pardon
And sets everybody free,
There’s no other name but Jesus
For you and me.

Say, is there a name to live by?
Is there a name for joy?
Is there a name to change me,
Their hate and greed destroy?
Have we a name for healing?
Have we a name for peace?
Have we a name for freedom,
Deliverance and release?

Say, is there a name for meaning?
Is there a name for might?
Is there a name  for mercy,
A name for life and light?
Have we a name for laughter?
Have we a name for grace?
Have we a name for glory,
Transcending time and space?

Say, is there a name for pardon?
Is there a name for power?
Is there a name to guide us
Each day and every hour?
Have we a name for cleansing?
Have we a name for care?
Have we a name for all men
For always, everywhere?

John Gowans
© Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, admin. by Copycare

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , , ,

Do you hear what I hear? – Worship@ Home Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps

(Major Elizabeth Turner)

This photograph shows doves with prayers and messages of encouragement for the local community written by members of The Salvation Army, Prestonpans and displayed on the gates of our worship hall.

Song 220    Holy, holy, holy

(Tune: Nicaea)

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy; all the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be!

Holy, holy, holy; though the darkness hide thee,
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
Perfect in power, in love and purity!

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Reginald Herber (1783-1826)

Chorus Move Holy Spirit

Move Holy Spirit, move in my life
Move Holy Spirit, make me like Christ
Move, move, move in my life
Move, move to make me like Christ

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading:

Acts 2:1-13 (The Passion Translation)

2 On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. 2 Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! 3 Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them. 4 They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned!

5 Now, at that time there were Jewish worshipers who had emigrated from many different lands to live in Jerusalem. 6 When the people of the city heard the roaring sound, crowds came running to where it was coming from, stunned over what was happening, because each one could hear the disciples speaking in his or her own language. 7 Bewildered, they said to one another, “Aren’t these all Galileans? 8 So how is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages? 9 We are north-eastern Iranians, north-western Iranians, Elamites, and those from Mesopotamia, Judea, east central Turkey, the coastal areas of the Black Sea, Asia, 10 north central Turkey, southern Turkey, Egypt, Libyans who are neighbours of Cyrene, visitors from all over the Roman Empire, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs. 11 Yet we hear them speaking of God’s mighty wonders in our own dialects!” 12 They all stood there, dumbfounded and astonished, saying to one another, “What is this phenomenon?”

13 But others poked fun at them and said, “They’re just drunk on new wine.”

Song: Spirit of God, unseen as the wind

(Tune: The Skye Boat Song)

Refrain:
Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove:
teach us the truth and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love!

You spoke to us – long, long ago –
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.

Refrain

Without your help we fail our Lord,
we cannot live his way;
we need your power, we need your strength,
following Christ each day.

Refrain

© Margaret Old – Words and music arrangement Scripture Union 1971.

Do you hear what I hear?

If you have been able to take exercise outdoors since the ‘lockdown’ on account of covid-19 began, or have only been able to take in breaths of fresh air by standing in your garden, or at an open door or an open window, you will likely have noticed a change in the general noise levels around you. With less road traffic and footfall across the pavements, I wonder if you have been able to hear what I’ve heard in the chirruping of birds in the trees, or perhaps the sounds of other insects if you have very good hearing. To have been able to hear these beautiful, soothing sounds of nature, will surely have been a comforting thing to you in these times of high anxiety and perplexity.

Among the many carols I love to sing at Christmas is Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne’s ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ It’s a beautiful marriage of poetry and music with a haunting refrain, written during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Its authors wrote it essentially as a prayer and plea for peace. In the second verse from which the carol is titled, the little lamb asks the shepherd boy, ‘Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song high above the trees, with a voice as big as the sea, with a voice as big as the sea’. It is calling us to recognise God’s overall sovereignty and to work with him for the good of others as well as ourselves. But we can only do this in so far as we allow his Spirit in our lives.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out in abundance at Pentecost upon all the followers of Jesus, those who were present or who witnessed the phenomenon of that event could have looked at those around them and asked, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ In terms of the wind and the voices speaking in a host of foreign languages, so that both residents and visitors to Jerusalem could hear and understand the wondrous stories of Jesus, this unusual manifestation was evident to all. Clearly something supernatural had occurred.

Many heard and responded to the sound of God’s Holy Spirit coming among them. For not only were the established followers of Jesus to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but 3,000 others enlightened by the good news of Jesus in their own language, responded to Peter’s appeal. It was as if in exclaiming ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ and acting on what they heard, they experienced the truth of it in a life transformed by hope in place of despair.

smart

The song ‘Praise is rising’, written by Paul Baloche, could well have described what was happening on that particular Pentecost day; indeed, it describes what can still happen when a person, having heard the good news, responds to the love of Jesus. ‘Hear the sound of hearts returning to You, we turn to You. In Your Kingdom broken lives are made new, You make us new. ’Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away…’

What does the tone of a heart that is returning to God sound like? Following Peter’s sermon, we read: ‘When they heard this they were crushed and realized what they had done to Jesus. Deeply moved, they said to Peter and the other apostles, “What do we need to do?”’ (Acts 2:37) What they heard caused them to recognise their guilt and appeal for salvation. In answer to their question they were led to repent, to experience Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness, and in so doing be baptised by the Spirit of God himself coming upon them. Now that they were freed from their burden of guilt, the Holy Spirit was able to surge through them, and in partnership with them make a real difference in their neighbourhoods. With God’s great love flowing through them, effervescent thankfulness and praise would have made a positive difference to their outlook, significantly changing the atmosphere around them. For words that are spoken and heard make their mark for good or ill.  Jesus says in Luke 6:45, ‘For the overflow of what has been stored in your heart will be seen by your fruit and will be heard in your words.’

In addition to the wondrous words of the person and works of Jesus that were being heard, discordant, dismissive voices were being heard also. “They’re just drunk on new wine.” (Acts 2:13). Just as an untended garden sprouts weeds, these sounds will always be there. But let weeds feel the capabilities of a well-timed hoe, then beauty and good order can flourish. Give the voices of discord the heave-ho in the Holy Spirit’s choice words of life, then peace and confidence in the power of God can soar.   

smart

So what is it that is being heard by others in your words? Is it ready praise for what God has done for you, in you or through you? Are you speaking positive words of life, love, hope and blessing? Or is the devil using you to do his work of smearing negativity around, using words that blame, curse, criticise, moan or generate despair? Such expressions do no earthly good in the life of another and they certainly don’t leave you feeling any better for having voiced them; rather they pull you down. Certainly these are difficult days to say the least, but we know, love and serve the one whose power is infinite, who can and will make all things new, and who wants to be allowed to fulfil his most loving purposes in the heart, mind and life of everyone who would turn to him.

In the Spirit of God at Pentecost, something akin to being engulfed by the velocity and magnitude of a mighty ocean was being experienced and the people were ‘dumbfounded’, as the Passion Bible translation states. The Spirit of God had come to be present in the receptive hearts of his people on earth. On that occasion, the Spirit of God came in undeniable power to wow and woo people to Christ. But equally, the Spirit of God may descend with a feather-lightness of touch to heal and restore the most fractured of souls.

What are you and those around you hearing? Why not make sure that it is a song or word of praise to God which soars ‘high above the trees’ over any discordant voices of anger, bitterness, despair and fear, to help people realise that God – whose ‘voice [is]as big as the sea’, indeed, whose voice can fill the universe, and slide through the slightest of spaces – is able to conquer storms of any magnitude or terror to bring peace, love, hope and joy to all. 

Prayer for Life-Changing Power

Breath of Life, on this Pentecost Sunday, we ask that You breathe on us once again. Make our consciences tender to Your touch. We hunger for the life-changing power that Your Holy Spirit brings. May our lives exemplify the fruit of Your Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. May we use the gifts of the Spirit that You have distributed to bless the church and build Your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

Song           Praise is rising

(Video with lyrics)

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You
We turn to You
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You
We long for You

When we see You
We find strength to face the day
In Your presence all our fears
Are washed away, washed away

Hosanna, Hosanna
You are the God who saves us
Worthy of all our praises

Hosanna, Hosanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus

Hear the sound of hearts returning to You
We turn to You
In Your kingdom broken lives are made new
You make all things new

Brenton Brown, Paul Baloche
©Copyright 2005, 2006 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music
(Admin. by Integrity Music)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin,
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

He’ll be back! – Worship @ Home Sunday, 24 May 2020

Jesus ascends into Heaven

Song 141 At the name of Jesus

(Tune: Camberwell)

1. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of Glory now;
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

2. At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.

3. Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death he passed.

4. Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

5. In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.

Caroline Maria Noel (1817-77)

Chorus            Come, beautiful Christ

(tune: Home on the range)

Come, beautiful Christ,
Radiate thy beauty in me.
Tis thee I adore,
What can I ask more
Than to live for thee, beautiful Christ?

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

Introduction

My sister had a tricycle when she was very young, but my first cycle had two wheels and no stabilisers. I learned to ride it in about 30 seconds, but no one told me to put my foot out when coming to a halt; I fell off and grazed my knee – lesson learned. Many pieces of machinery from ride-on children’s toys to factory equipment come with safety features which are designed to reassure us. But eventually the stabilisers are taken off, and some machines cannot be made completely safe. In a society obsessed with safety, especially in the face of a global pandemic, it can be hard to accept risk. Many people are expressing reluctance to venture out, to send their children to school or to visit a restaurant once they reopen.

Jesus knew that his disciples would also face the same anxieties when he left them. Immediately following Peter’s bold acknowledgement of Jesus’ status as Son of God and Messiah (Matthew 16:16), Jesus began to talk about his death and ultimate departure. Through a series of events and much teaching, he sought to prove who he was and to give them confidence to follow him even when he was no longer present.

We refer to one of these events as The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28‑36). On a mountain with only three disciples, Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah to speak about “his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem” (v31).

The presence of Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of Judaism, were confirmation of Jesus’ status as Messiah, “the one who was to come” (Luke 7:20). In addition, a cloud envelopes the group and the voice of God declares, “This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (v35). There are echoes here of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Judean wilderness.


Sukkoth in Kfar Etzyon, Gush Etzyon, Israel
By Zachi Evenor – Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachievenor/21246640264, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43902432

Peter, overwhelmed by the occasion proposes putting up shelters, suggesting he wants to stay on the mountain, which has become a sacred, and possibly a safe, place. But life is inherently risky. Even for those of us with material wealth as security, unexpected sickness, disease, economic collapse, war, and terror can turn our lives upside. We cannot cocoon ourselves against every risk and trial of life. Rather, as the disciples, we must be prepared to come down from the mountain into the valley below.

When Jesus and his companions rejoin the main group, they discover the other disciples have failed in their attempts to heal a wee boy. Jesus comes to the rescue, explains the problem, and reminds them that he won’t always be around. There is a need for them to develop their faith and confidence in him. We need to be sure we know who Jesus is, and why we should trust him.

The song below may be unfamiliar, but it reminds us of our need to get to know Jesus in the blessed times, so that so that we might live his life and do his work in the hard times until he returns.

Song 145        Tis good, Lord, to be here

(Tune: Carlisle)

1. ‘Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Thy glory fills the night;
Thy face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

2. Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Thy beauty to behold,
Where Moses and Elijah stood,
The messengers of old.

3. Fulfiller of the past,
Promise of things to be,
We hail thy body glorified,
And our redemption see.

4. Before we taste of death,
We see thy Kingdom come.
O might we hold the vision bright
And make this hill our home!

5. Tis good, Lord, to be here,
Yet we may not remain;
But, since thou bidst us leave the mount
Come with us to the plain.

Joseph Armitage Robinson (1858-1933)

Bible Reading Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-14

Reflections

Can you recall how you felt when you left school to start work? Or perhaps you did an apprenticeship, or learned to drive, and then found yourself on your own, expected to do everything solo for the first time. It can be quite daunting leaving the safe surroundings of the learning environment to take responsibility for your own work or to get into your first car.

© 2020 Theory Test Advice. All Rights Reserved.
https://www.theorytestadvice.co.uk/
© 2020 Theory Test Advice. All Rights Reserved.
https://www.theorytestadvice.co.uk/

In those circumstances, holding onto something familiar can be very helpful. For example, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre before pulling away in a car. Or perhaps you developed your own little rituals to make you feel comfortable: taking a particular route to work; placing your paper and pens on your office in a certain layout; pausing outside the factory gates to gather yourself.

Luke tells us that Jesus met with his disciples many times over 40 days “and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3). As we have noted before, he often used familiar words or actions to show that he really was Jesus.

We see another familiar action in the lifting up of his hands to bless the disciples. They would have observed this same action many times: feeding the 5000 and 4000; breaking the bread at the last supper; breaking the bread in Emmaus. This same blessing and the same power that had been at work in the miracles was now bestowed upon them.

Even the appearance of the cloud was a symbol of Jesus’ divine status. Throughout the wanderings in the wilderness, the cloud led the Israelites by day, and settled over the Tabernacle as a sign of God’s presence whilst they were encamped. At the Transfiguration, God spoke to the disciples from a cloud and Jesus ascended to Heaven in a cloud. Not only that, but the angels reassured the disciples that Jesus would come back from Heaven to them “in the same way you have seen him go up into heaven” (Acts 1:10)

What a difference we see in the disciples following Jesus’ Ascension! At the end of the Gospel, Luke describes them “continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:53). And in Acts, we find them in the upper room, “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). There is a new confidence to these previously frightened men and women, buoyed up by the resurrection appearances, and the confirmation by his ascension that Jesus remains alive. And, although no longer physically present, he had promised again his Spirit, who would remind them of his teaching, show them the truth, and give them power to witness. No more cowering behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” Instead, they were eagerly anticipating their commissioning by The Holy Spirit.

Incidentally, we note that Jesus’ brothers were now with them, their earlier cynicism (Mark 3:20-21 and John 7:2-4) having given way to bold faith. Indeed, James (apparently the eldest of Jesus’ siblings) become leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19). The flurry of post-resurrection appearances seems to have overcome their initial reluctant faith.

Conclusion

When a leader moves on from their position, whether in a church, a sports club, a business or a nation, there is often anxiety about what will follow. In more than one appointment, we have had to offer reassurance to anxious corps members about what the future holds. Thankfully, in most cases, our optimism has been justified.

From the moment that he “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), Jesus carefully explained all that would happen, so that his disciples would not be afraid when he left them. As we have noted, there were many words and signs, linked to previous experience as well as Old Testament prophecy, that demonstrated he was God’s anointed son. Finally, his bodily ascension proved that he was alive forevermore (like Moses and Elijah before him).

As we look forward to Pentecost, let us review the things God has given us to strengthen our faith in Jesus as our friend and Saviour: the words and actions of Jesus, the writings of the apostles, the witness of countless believers before us, our previous experiences of the grace and power of God in our lives. And may God give us the power to be his witnesses wherever we may go.

Stuart Townend’s song reminds us of the reasons why we can have confidence in Jesus: as long as we trust in the finished work of Jesus, demonstrated by his resurrection and ascension, we can be confident that no external power can take us from God’s hands.

Song                In Christ Alone

(A capella version on YouTube)

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

Benediction: May God’s blessing surround you each day

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin,
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , ,

Warm Affection or Burning Love? – Sunday 17 May 2020

 

Burning love

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Worship@Home Sunday, 17 May 2020

 

 (Major Elizabeth Turner)

Song 48          God’s love to me is wonderful

(Chelmsford Salvation Army Songsters)
Modern version: )

God’s love to me is wonderful,
That he should deign to hear
The faintest whisper of my heart,
Wipe from mine eyes the tear;
And though I cannot comprehend
Such love, so great, so deep,
In his strong hands my soul I trust,
He will not fail to keep.

God’s love is wonderful,
God’s love is wonderful,
Wonderful that he should give his Son to die for me;
God’s love is wonderful!

God’s love to me is wonderful!
My very steps are planned;
When mists of doubt encompass me,
I hold my Father’s hand.
His love has banished every fear,
In freedom I rejoice,
And with my quickened ears I hear
The music of his voice.

God’s love to me is wonderful!
He lights the darkest way;
I now enjoy his fellowship,
‘Twill last through endless day.
My Father doth not ask that I
Great gifts on him bestow,
But only that I love him too,
And serve him here below.

Sidney Edward Cox (1887-1975)

 

Chorus            Turn your eyes upon Jesus

(Jonathan Salas)

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

 

Prayer

Creator God, you who love us more than we can know,
Who chose us from the very beginning to be family
We praise your holy name.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Word become flesh,
Who dwelt among us and was sacrificed for us,
We praise your holy name.
Holy Spirit, present and power in our lives
From the moment that we first believed,
We praise your holy name.

Pray the Lord’s prayer

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,
forever.

Amen.

Bible Reading: John 21:15-25 (The Passion Translation)

Jesus Restores Peter

15 After they had breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?”

Peter answered, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!”

“Then take care of my lambs,” Jesus said.

16 Jesus repeated his question the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me?”

Peter answered, “Yes, my Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?”

Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!”

Jesus replied, “Then feed my lambs! 18 Peter, listen, when you were younger you made your own choices and you went where you pleased. But one day when you are old, others will tie you up and escort you where you would not choose to go—and you will spread out your arms.” 19 (Jesus said this to Peter as a prophecy of what kind of death he would die, for the glory of God.) And then he said, “Peter, follow me!”

20 Then Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the disciple who sat close to Jesus at the Last Supper and had asked him, “Lord, who is the one that will betray you?”) 21 So when Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, “What’s going to happen to him?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I decide to let him live until I return, what concern is that of yours? You must still keep on following me!”

23 So the rumour started to circulate among the believers that this disciple wasn’t going to die. But Jesus never said that, he only said, “If I let him live until I return, what concern is that of yours?”

Conclusion

24 I, John, am that disciple who has written these things to testify of the truth, and we know that what I’ve documented is accurate. 25 Jesus did countless things that I haven’t included here. And if every one of his works were written down and described one by one, I suppose that the world itself wouldn’t have enough room to contain the books that would have to be written!

Song                Jesus, be the centre

(Vineyard small group worship)

Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light,
Jesus.

Jesus, be the Centre,
Be my hope, be my song,
Jesus.

Be the fire in my heart,
Be the wind in these sails;
Be the reason that I live,
Jesus, Jesus.

Jesus, be my vision,
Be my path, be my guide,
Jesus.

Michael Frye © 1999 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)/ Adm. by CopyCare

 Message

Love is a topic that has been talked about, debated, sung and demonstrated in many, many ways since time began. In 1984 Tina Turner strutted through the pop charts with a number one hit ‘what’s love got to do, got to do with it?’ The song also became a title for a film about Turner’s troubled life where she suffered abuse.

Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle the song was originally offered to Cliff Richard who turned it down. Perhaps as a committed Christian he could not subscribe to the view that love was but ‘a second hand emotion’ or ‘sweet old fashioned notion’. Although a heart certainly could be broken, if it was filled with divine love: it could tell quite different story about which love had everything to do with it.

In the heyday of the musical film, opera singer actors Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald sang in the film Rose-Marie the lilting ‘Indian love call’ song. Interspersed with melodic oo-oo’s the lyrics of this song pose ‘When I’m calling you, will you answer too? That means I offer my life to you to be my own. If you refuse me I’ll be blue, waiting all alone. But when you hear my love call ringing clear, Then I will know our love will become true, You’ll belong to me and I’ll belong to you.’

The sentiments expressed in this song is a little nearer to what was being sought in Jesus’ interaction with Peter as they walked along the shoreline after sharing early morning breakfast. Seven restless disciples had gone out fishing spending a long weary night trying to net an elusive catch. Their sorry adventure had been wondrously transformed by the dawn catch directed by Jesus and followed by a welcome breakfast that he had prepared for them on the beach. And now they walked companionably side by side, Peter and Jesus. No doubt Peter’s heart was ‘fit to burst’ because Jesus his Lord and Master was there back with them and all was right with his world.

But Jesus had important business to attend to concerning Peter. Having completed his earthly mission, soon to be returning to Heaven, Jesus wanted to know where Peter’s allegiance lay. Peter, who had previously declared to Jesus: “Even if all the rest [of the disciples] lose their faith and fall away, I will still be beside you, Jesus!” (Mark 14:29) his claim had quickly foundered. Though Peter had already met with Jesus following his resurrection “It’s really true! The Lord has risen from the dead. He even appeared to Peter!”(Luke 24:34)  Jesus needed to know if Peter would still be ‘with him’.

So it was that Jesus asked Peter “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?” (John 21:15). Woah! That was a pretty big ask ‘burn with love’? Well now Peter wasn’t so sure. He had thought at one time he did, but his denial of Jesus had shown otherwise. Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!” (John 21:15b) Perhaps that more properly described his love for Jesus. Burning love wouldn’t deny knowledge in the heat of the moment, but affection might.

The reason I have chosen to print today’s Bible passage from The Passion Translation is because we more easily see the difference in Peter’s response to Jesus’ question. The English word ‘love’ does not present the real nuances that there could be in our usage of it. We talk of loving chocolate, a particular brand of coffee, a certain place, a pet or a family member. But our love for chocolate and our family member is certainly not the same at all, despite the word being the same.

The Greeks have a number of different words for love allowing them to make those distinctions clear. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him the word he used was ‘Agape’ which communicates a deep, burning, pure, divine love. But Peter’s word for love which he used was ‘Phileo’ which communicates great affection, a real liking for someone.

When Jesus asks Peter a second time about the love ‘Agape’ – burning love he has for him, the answer is the same. I have ‘Phileo’ –  great affection, a real  liking for you. Finally Jesus frames his question using the same word Peter has been using all along; “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?” (John 21:17) It seems that Jesus’ use of the word ‘Phileo’ that he Peter had been using really upsets him and suddenly all doubt as to the real nature of his love for Jesus becomes clear and he responds with an unreserved “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!” (John 21:17).

That’s it! That’s the response Jesus was looking for. For only a burning love like that would be able to give and not count the cost, would be able to carry Peter through the things that he would face. Jesus was upfront about the terrible way that Peter would die and in so doing, bring glory to God.

With this matter settled I imagine there would have been a few moments of silence each looking fully into the face of the other deeply content, radiating joy in their shared connection and understanding of the other. As they continue in their walk side by side, Peter is distracted. He either senses that they are not alone, or he hears a sound which causes him to look over his shoulder. It is John, the disciple whom it is said that Jesus loves, following them.

Peter cannot contain his curiosity (or is it jealousy?) of John and immediately asks Jesus “What’s going to happen to him?” (John 21:21) Jesus counters this with a ‘supposition, not a promise’ and tells Peter that what is planned for John is not for him or anybody else to be concerned with. All Peter should be focusing on is his calling and his love for Jesus, faithfully living that out, or he would be in danger of slipping back into mere affection for Jesus instead of the burning love that was called for, that needed to be expressed.

I wonder if you were walking side by side with Jesus along the shoreline today and he asked you “____ daughter/son of ____, do you burn with love for me?” What would your response to Jesus’ question be? Why not talk to Jesus about your answer. Know that whatever your response is, Jesus walks patiently alongside you working with you where you are and wanting to bring you to where you should be for real joy to be experienced because his call to you is clear and true. He wants each one of us to belong to him and him to belong to each one of us. Can you hear his call to you? How will you respond? It’s got everything to do with love.

Song 294        Knowing my failings

(Jesus Folk cast recording)

Knowing my failings, knowing my fears,
Seeing my sorrow, drying my tears.
Jesus recall me, me re-ordain;
You know I love you, use me again.

I have no secrets unknown to you,
No special graces, talents are few;
Yet your intention I would fulfill;
You know I love you, ask what you will.

For the far future I cannot see,
Promise your presence, travel with me;
Sunshine or shadows? I cannot tell;
You know I love you, all will be well.

John Gowans

Prayer of recommitment

Lord Jesus, I am staggered by the love you have for me, which brought you from Heaven to earth, through the cross and the grave, and back to Heaven, so that I might be reconciled to the Father.

In response, my love has wavered from a burning passion to a mild interest, and everything in between. Like Peter, there have been times when I would die for you and others when I acted like I didn’t know you.

Thank you that the example of Peter shows that you do not give up on anyone. Forgive me if there have been times when I was rebellious, disinterested, lukewarm or even hostile. Help me recapture the days when I was full of passion for you. Lead me back to my first love.

Help me lay aside everything that hinders my following you, including worrying about what others are doing. May I learn to love you again with all my heart, and to share that love with others so they may know you too.

In your precious name I pray.

Amen.

 Song 749        Oft have I heard thy tender voice

(Tune: Auld Lang Syne)

Oft have I heard thy tender voice
Which calls, dear Lord, to me,
And asks a quick yet lasting choice
‘Twixt worldly joys and thee;
It stirs my heart’s deep fountain springs,
And breaks the barriers down;
It bids me rise on faith’s strong wings,
And cries: No cross, no crown!

And yet, alas! a storm-tossed sea
Of care and doubt and fear
Still parts me, Saviour Lord, from thee,
Although thou art so near.
O speak again and bid me come,
From every fear set free,
In spite of self and sin and storm,
Upon the waves to thee.

O Lord, I dare to trust in thee,
Who maketh all things new,
My sins to slay, my tears to stay,
My sorrows to subdue;
And in the battle’s blazing heat,
When flesh and blood would quail,
I’ll fight and trust, and still repeat
That Jesus cannot fail.

Bramwell Booth (1856-1929)

APOLOGY

The observant among you will have noticed that last week’s Bible reference was incorrect. You probably worked out that it should have been John 21:1‑14. We can only beg forgiveness and promise to do better next time!

Benediction

May God’s Blessing surround you each day
As you trust him and walk in his way
May his presence within guard and keep you from sin
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

 

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , ,

Sunday 10th May – Breakfast on the Beach

pwmorningshoreaThe Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Worship@Home Sunday, 10 May 2020
Major Steven Turner

Sing: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

(Tune: Lobe den Herren on hymnary.org )

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation;
All ye who hear, Brothers and sisters draw near,
Praise him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
He who with love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth his light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with his mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the amen sound from his people again;
Gladly for aye we adore him.

Joachim Neander (1650-80),
trs Catherine Winkworth (1827-78) and others

Chorus: Meet my need Lord

Meet my need, Lord, meet my need, Lord,
Meet my need just now.
I am waiting and thou art coming
To meet my need just now.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Bible Reading                                   John 21:1-14

Key Verses

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

Prayer of approach

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples, ‘I am with you always’.
Be with me today, as I offer myself to you.
Hear my prayers for others and for myself, and keep me in your care.

Reflection

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

It may be that you have some unexpected free time, or an appointment you had was cancelled. Your day was planned, and suddenly you have to fill an empty space. In that situation, your mind may become temporarily blank until you call up some possibilities. If you were due to meet for coffee (pre-lockdown, of course), you might just decide to go ahead alone, or do some shopping for yourself. Normally, you’ll find something to do fairly easily.

Perhaps you have a complex situation to solve, or just have too many things clamouring for attention. Where do you even begin? Often, the best plan is to do something, anything that moves forward one of your projects.

Dramatic changes in our circumstances can also leave us clueless as to what to do next. People who retire or who are bereaved initially have lots of things to sort out. But a few days or weeks later, the emptiness hits and despair can set in. It’s much harder to deal with than a friend who doesn’t show; all sense of purpose and identity has disappeared. How do you start again?

It’s sometimes said, “when you don’t know what to do, do what you know.” This is how Peter reacted to the loss of Jesus; he went fishing with his mates. The last person they expected to meet was Jesus. We might ask a couple of questions about this story. Why did Jesus meet the disciples on the beach? Why did John record a story so similar to an earlier episode? The simple answer to both questions is, “to strengthen the faith of the disciples and those who would come after them.” Let’s look more closely at the story.

Reminding

In our house, we have many items that remind us of places we have been and people we have met. These souvenirs are often small and inexpensive, but they bring back memories of travels far and wide. (Souvenir means to come up from below, to bring something to the surface of our minds). Today’s Bible reading is in effect a souvenir, a reminder of an incident at the beginning of Jesus ministry.

When Jesus discovers that the men have caught nothing all night, he suggests that they throw the nets on the other side of the boat, resulting in a huge catch of fish, 153 in all. A disciple (we assume John) calls out, “it is the Lord,” and immediately Peter leaps out of the boat and heads for the shore. Unlike last time (see Matthew 14:30), Peter doesn’t sink as they are only 100 yards offshore (v8).

I wonder if Peter thought back to the previous miraculous catch (Luke 5:1-11), when Jesus first called them: “I will make you fishers of men” (Luke 5:10).

  • Where were you when you first met Jesus?
  • Who introduced you to him?
  • What did he say that encouraged you to follow him?

Reinforcing

Being a Salvation Army Officer, or any leader for that matter, is not easy. Whilst there have been many happy occasions in our 23 years, other times have been very difficult. We’ve laughed and sung and danced in children’s holiday clubs, after school clubs and toddler groups, and wept with people through crises or as relatives have died. At times, inspiration for preaching comes easily, at others it seems painfully difficult. In some places we have had good people working alongside us, but sometimes we’ve struggled alone.

When we have felt like giving up, God has often shown us something that recalls a time of blessing, or prompted someone to give us encouragement in some way, or provided us with someone to stand beside us in the difficulty. Thanks to all of these things, we are still here, because God has reinforced us in our calling.

Peter and his friends are in a similar situation. They know by now that Jesus is alive, but are unsure of what that means. The repetition of the catch of fish demonstrates that Jesus still has the power to perform miracles. And his continued reappearance also reinforces that he is genuinely alive and with them.

  • When has your call to follow Jesus needed reinforcing?
  • Who has God sent to strengthen your faith in hard times?
  • Have you been able to do the same for others?

Reassuring

When someone is unexpectedly bereaved, there are no words that put things right. Even the most well-meant use of Bible quotes does not help in the moment, even if they will be proved true in the long run. Paul calls us to “weep with those who weep,” so that in time we may “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). Perhaps this is what is behind the British habit of making tea in a crisis; very ordinary actions help us to cope with overwhelming situations.

When the disciples arrive on the beach, they discover that Jesus has already got some bread and fish on the fire. (The modern equivalent would be bacon butties with a mug of tea!) There will be a time for deep discussions later; for now, it is important to deal with the simple everyday needs of these hungry men.

Perhaps this event recalled many other times when they had shared meals around a campfire, or even the Last Supper. Jesus was their Lord and master, but he was also their friend. And friendship is built through intimate moments like this that create bonds to help each other survive the storms.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “give us today our daily bread.” Perhaps in future years, they would remember this moment as a demonstration that God’s comes to us in the most ordinary aspects of our lives; it would give them confidence that, when troubles came, God would provide for them as he did for the sparrow (See Matthew 6:26).

This act also acts as a reminder that in serving others in simple ways we serve Christ himself (Matthew 25).

  • What simple acts have people offered you in hard times?
  • What have you done for others that seemed insignificant at the time?
  • What does God want you to do for someone today?

Conclusion

Jesus’ resurrection appearances were intended to confirm to the disciples that he was still alive, to strengthen them for the days ahead, and to provide evidence for you and I that he is still alive today. Just as he did when he met the disciples on the beach, Jesus want to Remind us of our first encounter with him, to Reinforce our calling to follow him and do his will, and to Reassure us of his presence with us and his interest in our lives, large and small, so that we, like the first disciples, may be effective “fishers of men.”

 

 

Song      Thou didst leave thy throne

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown
When thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For thy holy nativity.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus;
There is room in my heart for thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth cam’st thou, Lord, on earth
And in great humility.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore thee to Calvary.

When Heaven’s arches ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At thy coming to victory,
Let thy voice call me home, saying: Yet there is room,
There is room at my side for thee!
And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When thou comest and callest for me.

Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliott (1836-97)

Prayer

Father God, we thank you that you have provided us proof in your word that Jesus is alive. Help us to hold to this truth in these difficult times.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you took the time to meet with you disciples where they were. Help us to look out for you in ordinary places throughout our day.

Holy Spirit, you came to give strength to the disciples for the task they were called to. May we also turn to you for wisdom and guidance as we seek to live the life of Christ on earth.

We pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Song        Christ is Alive

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
His cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
His love in death shall never die.
Christ is alive! No longer bound
To distant years in Palestine,
He comes to claim the here and now
And conquer ev’ry place and time.

Not throned above, remotely high,
Untouched, unmoved by human pains,
But daily, in the midst of life,
Our Saviour with the Father reigns.

In ev’ry insult, rift and war,
Where color, scorn or wealth divide,
He suffers still, yet loves the more,
And lives, though ever crucified.

 

Christ is alive! His Spirit burns
Through this and ev’ry future age,
Till all creation lives and learns
His joy, his justice, love and praise.

Benediction

(Tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyf-3Wwp6wA)

May God’s blessing surround you each day
May God’s blessing surround you each day,
as you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin,
go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Breakfast on the beach

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Be Alert! – Sunday 3 May 2020

Candidates' Sunday 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Worship@Home Sunday, 03 May 2020

(Sunday 3 May is Candidates Sunday in The Salvation Army United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland, a day when we consider the call of God on our lives, and in particular, those who may be called to full-time leadership within The Salvation Army. Some of the material here is from resources provided by the Candidates Unit)

Sing: Blessed Assurance

(YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDeiy9-t2GE)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my Saviour all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I, in my Saviour, am happy and blest.
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)

Sing:       I shall not fear

(YouTube: Stanley Ditmer's Retirement)

I shall not fear though darkened clouds may gather round me;
The God I serve is one who cares and understands.
Although the storms I face would threaten to confound me,
Of this I am assured: I’m in his hands.

I’m in his hands, I’m in his hands;
Whate’er the future holds
I’m in his hands,
The days I cannot see
Have all been planned for me;
His way is best, you see;
I’m in his hands.

What though I cannot know the way that lies before me?
I still can trust and freely follow his commands;
My faith is firm since it is he that watches o’er me;
Of this I’m confident: I’m in his hands.

In days gone by my Lord has always proved sufficient,
When I have yielded to the law of love’s demands;
Why should I doubt that he would evermore be present
To make his will my own? I’m in his hands!

Stanley E. Ditmer

Bible Reading                         Colossians 2:20-3:4

Key verses:

‘So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.’
Colossians 3:1-2 (The Message)

‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’     Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina (or ‘divine reading’) is the practice of reading Scripture slowly, meditating on it, praying and contemplating. Below is a common four-step process, which you may find helpful. but the most important aspect is taking time to hear God speak. Follow this method with our passage for today.

  1. READ a brief passage of Scripture – “take a bite”
  2. REFLECT & meditate on a word or phrase that caught your heart – “chew”
  3. RESPOND in prayer to what God called to your attention – “savour”
  4. REST in God, contemplating his word to you – “digest”

Pray what you see

Prestonpans SquareLook closely at this photograph Square in Prestonpans, or locate a photograph of your own area. Give thanks to God for the good things that you see. Ask him for blessings and pray for opportunities for God to work in our community.

Further Prayer Points

  • Give thanks for all officers and territorial envoys serving this territory today. Pray for encouragement, good health, times of personal spiritual renewal and courage to be bold in mission.
  • Ask God to place on your heart people you know who may be needing to respond to the call to officership and territorial envoyship. Pray for them to be alert to God’s voice and obedient to respond.
  • Remember all applicants for officership and territorial envoyship, with their hopes and dreams. Each year there are Assessment Conferences where those who have applied for officership / territorial envoyship spend time sharing their
    Pray God’s guidance and blessing on the applicants and the assessment team.
  • Pray that people may pay attention to what God is calling them to do and to be, beyond the everyday business of life. Pray for hearts that are committed to God’s ways and purposes, not the ways of the world.
  • Pray for yourself and the part you play in the building of the Kingdom of God, whatever age you are.

Song                God, grant to me a vision new

(To the tune of ‘God’s Soldier’. You may need to play the tune twice)

God grant to me a vision new
Of what you’re wanting me to do;
New understanding of the way
You plan for me from day to day.
Lord, by your Spirit help me see
The way of fruitful ministry,
Exciting possibilities,
God-given opportunities.

We’re going to fill, fill, fill the world with glory;
We’re going to smile, smile, smile and not frown;
We’re going to sing, sing, sing the gospel story;
We’re going to turn the world upside down.

Lord, I would know your life in mine,
Your resurrection power divine;
Your Spirit’s strong life-giving breath
Ending the grasping hold of death.
I claim your Spirit’s strength and grace
To meet the future face to face,
New lease of life when all seemed dead,
New strength to face the days ahead.

The future glows more brightly now,
I hear again God’s gracious vow –
‘I know the plans I have for you,
Plans that will prosper, not harm you’.
New purpose and direction planned,
Supported by God’s guiding hand,
His hopeful future spurs me on,
To greater victories to be won!

Denise Brine and Harry Read

 

Look up! Look in! Look out!

INTRODUCTION

‘Look up!’ When things or situations look up, we usually understand this to mean that they increase in quality or value; if there is a person we look up to, this is someone we have respect for. Looking up means a change in how we view things or people and usually involves an improvement of some kind or a positive response.

Photo of the Empire State Building, upper half, looking upward

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

There was once a young tourist who found herself fortunate enough to be exploring Manhattan in New York. After a long day of sightseeing, the traveller had the Empire State Building as the last place on her list to visit. Her eyes were glued to the screen of her phone, trying to make sense of the map and looking for the little blue dot which would tell her that she had reached her destination – but to no avail. She was hopelessly lost.

In true tourist fashion, the woman hailed a yellow New York cab and, with a slight hint of desperation in her voice, wearily pleaded with the taxi driver to take her to the Empire State Building.

The taxi driver looked somewhat confused at this, so the woman frustratedly repeated the request. ‘Please can you take me to the Empire State Building!’ Calmly and with a smile on his face, the taxi driver pointed upwards. ‘You were here all along!’ he laughed. ‘You just needed to look up.’

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul is reminding the people there not to lose their focus or be distracted by the things around them, but to keep their focus on Jesus Christ and the things around him.

CONTEXT

Most scholars believe that Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians (along with those to the Ephesians, Philippians and to Philemon) from prison around AD 55-60. In Colossians 1:24, Paul refers to his current suffering and mentions a fellow prisoner in Colossians 4:10.

Colossae was a small town on the banks of the River Lycus in south-east Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Because of a prosperous trade in dying cloth, there were people from many different cultures living and working there. This led to several different religious practices being observed and the lines between the different cults and religions often became blurred.

The church in Colossae had recently been established by Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) and its members were mainly Gentiles. Paul had become aware of difficulties in this fledgling church. There had been false teaching (Colossians 2:8) and questions about adherence to Jewish Law had been raised (Colossians 2:16-23).

In his letter, Paul attempts to develop the spiritual maturity of these new Christians as well as combat some of the false teaching and practices that have crept in. Paul reminds the Colossians that they have been transformed, made alive in Christ. Under his authority, they are no longer bound by their sinful past or human rules. Chapter 3 discusses spiritual maturity in the light of this freedom in Christ.

Look up!

Overhead shot of three children looking upThis idea of looking up and changing our perspective is a frequent message throughout the Bible.

In times of trouble or difficulty, the Psalmist reminds us, ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121).

When miraculously feeding the five thousand, Jesus keeps his focus on the Father. Mark 6:41 says, ‘Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, [Jesus] gave thanks and broke the loaves.’

In times of blessing and challenge, our gaze turns upwards, towards God. Paul reminds the Colossians to do the same. ‘Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.’  (v2, MSG)

When our focus is on God, our perspective is no longer restricted to the things that distract us and we recognise that we are part of a much bigger picture. Not only does our perspective change, but our purpose does too.

If only the lost tourist had looked up, she would have seen the landmarks that would have given her a sense of location and direction. When we look up, look up to God, we find our purpose and direction.

Music is transformed when musicians look up from their own parts to follow the direction of the conductor. Our corps, centres and communities can be transformed when, together, we look up to follow God’s direction.

Look in!

With the focus rightfully placed on God, we can see things from his perspective and allow ourselves to be continually transformed by him. Paul calls you to ‘Set your heart on things above’ (v1, NIV). The word for ‘set your heart’ literally translates as ‘seek’.

There is an active intentionality within the life of the believer when we try to see God’s perspective on things. We don’t simply look up as passive observers; we actively search for Christ and allow him to have lordship over our lives. Every aspect of who we are – every thought, aspiration and action – should be governed by Jesus Christ.

We sometime sing the words:

Skeleton with heart‘Over every thought, over every word,
May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord,
’Cause you mean more to me than any earthly thing,
So won’t you reign in me again.’
Brenton Brown 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)

When we look up to the things of God, this demands that we look in towards ourselves and see those areas of our lives which need to come under his reign. This is the life of holiness, the journey of Christlikeness. The Message describes this beautifully in verses 3-4 of Colossians chapter 3: ‘Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life.’

Looking up helps us to look in.

Look out!

Meerkat lookout

Paul’s desire was not for the Colossian people to stop there. Changing our viewpoint to God’s viewpoint does not mean that we take ourselves out of the world or cease to be a part of it. In fact, the very opposite is true. The amazing thing about lifting our gaze upwards is that it immediately widens the view. So when we look outwards, what do we see?

Colossians 3:12-25 tells us how we should work out family, relationships, community, work, all from God’s perspective.

Living under the reign of God helps us to look up to the things of God, and look in, to our new life with him.

‘Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way’  v17 (The Message).

William Barclay comments:

Christians will view everything against a backdrop of eternity and no longer live as if this world was all that mattered.’ (William Barclay)

CONCLUSION

So what are you looking at? On this Candidates Sunday, what is God’s perspective on your life?

Maybe you are distracted by the things of this world, the challenges of life or the ambitions and achievements that dazzle. It is so easy to lose our way when we have our heads down and focus on our immediate situation.

But Paul warns us, ‘If you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it’ (Colossians 3: 1 The Message).

We must learn to Look up! Look in! Look out!

Jesus calls us to look up! To look to him and find our purpose and direction, to see things from his perspective.

Seeing with God’s perspective, we can then look in at our own lives and see where God needs to rule. Which aspects of our lives, our thoughts, dreams and achievements, are seen through our human eyes and what might these look like through God’s lens?

Once we find our purpose and direction, once we see those areas of our lives which need to be in Christ, we can look out and see how to live this new life ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Then we can begin to ‘be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is’ (Colossians 3:2 The Message).

 

Song                Be thou my vision

(YouTube: Celtic version by 4-Him)

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart!
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word;
I ever with thee, and Thou with me Lord:
Thou my great Father and I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my armour, and be thou my might;
Thou my soul’s shelter, and thy my high tower;
Raise thou me Heavenward, O Power of my power!

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou my inheritance all of my days.
Thou and thou only, Thou first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, when battle is done,
Grant Heaven’s joy to me, Bright Heaven’s sun.
Christ of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, Thou Ruler of all!

Tr. Mary E. Byrne & Eleanor H. Hull.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Benediction: May God’s blessing surround you each day

Posted in Devotionals, Worship | Tagged , , ,