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Archive for June, 2011

Hatred, Anger and Criticism

June 28th, 2011

1 Samuel 10:25-11:13

  • Saul has just become king and faces his first test. With new jobs/roles come new challenges – applies to the Kingdom of God as well as all anything in life. We get tested when we’re called to do something.
  • All of us should be viewed in some way as having responsibility like kings. Adam and Eve were charged by God to rule – God has given this to us as humans. In the Garden of Eden, the test came along – the snake, who got Adam and Eve to trust in him instead of God.
  • Saul’s “snake” is Nahash – a cruel, savage, violent man. He also shows arrogance, so convinced he is invincible. “Nahash” even means snake/serpent.
  • Adam handled the test badly – he lost. But Saul has success – points to the Greater King, who took on the snake and crushed him completely.
  • There are lessons here for us to learn for how to handle tests.
  • Saul is last to get the news – he is looking after the oxen, showing he is still the same unassuming man, obedient to his father, even though he has just been named prophet and king. Something to learn here – he is wisely waiting for his time.
  • You will have to be ready to fight spiritually – you need to prepare. But you don’t turn every opportunity into a fight. You don’t need to look for fights – your enemy will come to you.
  • Some apparent “snakes” are just earthworms – they’re not a big deal and you don’t need to pick a fight with them. Saul was being criticised but he let it go.
  • Temptation is high to respond to criticism and negative talk about you – wanting everyone to like you and respect you. You can become obsessed with it and with winning every argument. Save your bullets and fight wisely. Ask what is on the line and whether it is worth fighting for.
  • The more you serve God, the more you will face criticism.
  • v.5-6 – the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul and the result was that his anger was kindled. Anger is a misunderstood emotion. Eph. 4:26 says be angry but do not sin. There are things you should be righteously angry about, because God is.
  • When God became a man He got angry on occasion. He is slow to anger but He does get angry at all that is wrong.
  • This is the first time Saul shows any passion – and it is when the Spirit of God comes on him.
  • Anger makes no sense without God – it is a problem for atheists. If we are meaningless, evolved collections of atoms then there is no right and wrong and therefore no reason to be furious about injustice.
  • Anger is a gift from God. Our problem is that we’ve distorted it and use it for our own selfish reasons and purposes.
  • Christ redeems our anger – we learnt to channel it and use it for fruitful, godly reasons.
  • How does Saul use his anger? For one thing, he doesn’t nag or whinge but he vividly communicates to Israel that they will participate in the battle. If the Spirit calls you to act, He will cause people to rise up and join you. If He didn’t, you’d have to resort to nagging.
  • If you’re called to do something and rally others, you need to pray first that God would do a work in people’s hearts. Principle for all of life – instead of nagging, pray – about your spouse, family, work colleagues, etc. Even if you gain something by nagging, you lose something far greater in the process. Pray then be wise with the timing of when you speak to the people involved.
  • Leadership sometimes goes out a limb – there is risk involved. Will people follow you?
  • Saul also doesn’t isolate himself – he joins with Samuel. He needs leaders, men of God alongside with him. It is very tempting to strike out on our own and make something for our own name. Humble yourself and draw in support.
  • Israel win and have total victory in the end.
  • After the battle, some soldiers carry on in anger, but wrongly – but Saul won’t allow. He doesn’t care about his reputation and he is in line with God. He has such the right perspective – he recognised it was God’s work.
  • The battle for our life is to kill our pride, in light of the gospel of grace which humbles us. Remember who you were and what you’ve been forgiven of.
  • Don’t just try to be like Saul – even Saul couldn’t be Saul without the Spirit of God. Look to Jesus who loves us and gives Himself for us.

Fathering

June 22nd, 2011

Ephesians 6:1-4

  • Some people don’t have good fathers – we must look to God and see that He isn’t just better than most, He is the perfect Father

Fathering is a leadership role

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3 – God has given men authority over the home – they must not abuse this position
  • Fathers must place themselves completely under Jesus

A Father’s Vulnerable Area

  • vs 4: it would have been very counter-cultural when it was written
  • Father’s must take their children’s feelings into consideration
  • Some things that provoke children are: sarcasm, perfectionism and harsh discipline

Four Keys to Being a More Effective Father:

1) Looking forward and keeping the bigger picture in mind

  • Psalm 127:4 – children are like arrows in a warrior’s hand
  • The ultimate goal is changing a rough stick into a sharp arrow – raising Jesus-like figures ready to be sent out

2) Looking backward and remembering what you were like

  • Remembering how you were will give you grace towards your children
  • Remember the authority styles you had – you might not have liked them but may be coping them

3) Looking inward and looking at yourself

  • This is relevant to everyone – not just fathers
  • Be a credible leader – check how you are doing in:

- your understanding of grace
- your walk with God
- dealing with authority
- resolving conflict
- controlling your tongue
- attitude towards money and possessions
- fighting temptation
- commitment to the local church

4) Looking upward to God and living by faith and not by sight

  • 2 Corinthians 5:7
  • Areas where we can walk by faith include investing time when other influences seem strong in your child’s life and remembering past victories
  • Have faith when things are tough at home – we have the gift of prayer and the power to say “no” to Satan. Talk in tongues and remind God of prophecies not yet fulfilled
  • Even if you do all this there are no guarnantees
  • When children grow up they make their own decisions and this sometimes means walking away from God – God wants to remove the blanket of shame you have

Great fathers lead with:

  • Grace

Bring children up with tenderness, care and love. They have an emotional tank that you need to keep filling up

  • Discipline

This is not about punishment, it is about training. Deep down, children want boundaries.

God fathers us with grace and discipline – Hebrews 12:4-11

 

 

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God as a Father

June 20th, 2011

John 14:1-11

We see the Father in the Son

The God of the Bible is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted to make clear that, although he is not the Father, that we can see the character of the Father through him, that he shows the family likeness. (see Colossians 1:15)

Like Phillip, we can often fail to see the Father. It is not that God is hiding from us, but, that that we are so busy looking over Jesus’ shoulder looking for the Father that we fail to see the Father in Jesus, as though God becoming a man were too obvious for us. Are we trying to “crack the code” of who God is, or are we seeing the Father in the person of Jesus?

We know the Father through the Son

If we want to know what someone is like, we spend time listening to them. The wisdom of a father is a wonderful thing. We have a whole book of fatherly wisdom in the Bible.

Furthermore, Jesus reveals to us that the Father is personal. This can be quite difficult for us. In the Facebook age many people have more communication with others than before but fewer personal relationships. This struggle with personal relationships can be seen in the following common ideas about God/spirituality which we often encounter:

1. God is a force rather than a person

2. God is not an authority involved in people’s lives

3. We should maintain independence from God, tuning into him when needed.

Even some Christians can keep God at arm’s length, so as to make him convenient. True relationships are often inconvenient but they are more important than anything else in the world.

We can identify that a love is not genuine if it is (1) limited, (2) controlling or (3) detached.

(1) In Jesus we know a God who is not limited in his involvement with us, who became a man, kneeling down, as it were, to put himself on a level with us.

(2) In Jesus, we see that the Father’s love is not controlling. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, associating himself with the poor and broken.

(3) In Jesus, we see that the Father’s love is not detached. Jesus made himself vulnerable, looking at the crowds with compassion and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus.

Our relationships with our earthly fathers often influence our view of God as a father. No earthly father is perfect, even those who are good, and, sadly, many fathers are absent or abusive. We can look at the fatherhood of God through the lens of our own earthly fathers.

However, from Ephesians 3:14-15 we can see that the true picture is the other way round. Our earthly fathers, instead of providing us with an image of God’s fatherhood, are instead a broken reflection of his eternal fatherhood. God is the original father.

We come to the Father through the Son

In Luke 3:21-22 we see how God affirmed his Son through an audible voice at the start of his earthly ministry. It is as if God were saying, “That’s my boy!” and this affirmation echoes throughout Jesus life of service and sacrifice. Jesus shows his obedience to his Father’s will by bearing the weight of our sins on his shoulders. Even here the Father is saying, “That’s my boy!” at his Son’s sacrificial obedience.

At the end, the Son is abandoned by the Father. The worst suffering of the cross is that the Son suffers the loss of the Father and the Father the loss of the Son. The Father’s love is greater than we can understand, he did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us that we too can become sons and daughters of the Father.

Through Jesus, we can be rescued into God’s family. Our separation from God is dealt with at the cross and we can know the Father.

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Let God Exalt You

June 14th, 2011

1 Samuel 9:1-4, 10:2-16

  • Saul is an amazing man but a tragic figure – his story begins with a great deal of promise. He is an impressive man but his story is very sad and ends tragically. His heart is shown to be something other than what first appeared.
  • The other characters so far have included a lot of bad sons – Eli’s sons, Samuel’s sons, etc. They have not been good or true to their fathers. But here we have Saul who is shown to be a good son – one who works hard for his father and submits to him. Counter-cultural, certainly now in our day and age.
  • Saul worked hard to serve his dad.
  • The donkeys – essential for livelihood. God was involved in the missing donkeys because He wanted to get Saul, to next man he wanted to use.
  • God works even through the “smaller” or less disastrous problems of our life. It’s easier to turn to God in the midst of real pain and suffering, but you can still find God in the other troubles – big and small – in your life. He always has a plan in the midst of it all.
  • An interesting thing to note about Saul – his lack of assumption. His heart towards going to see Samuel seems to be genuinely humble – he didn’t have an agenda.
  • God loves it when He finds humble people. He resists the proud.
  • If you’re faithful with the small, you can be trusted with more.
  • It’s sheer mercy that we get to do anything for God.
  • There seem to be a lot of “coincidences” going on in this story. It is as if God is in control of everything!
  • We can be confident that if God wants to lift up someone, He will.
  • Phil. 2:5-11 – Jesus of all people had a sense of entitlement, but He humbled Himself and God exalted Him.
  • If you pursue your glory independent of God it will not go well for you.
  • 1 Pet. 5:5-7 – humble yourself so that God may exalt you.
  • God wants you to be great but for His purpose and glory.
  • In heaven, all believers will be kings and will reign. God’s preparing us for regal authority.
  • We should desire to do great things for God – that’s a good desire – and you start by humbling yourself. He will exalt you at the proper time.
  • Waiting can be tiring, so God tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:5-7). Otherwise your cares will end up killing you! Don’t forget God’s capacity to care for you.
  • Samuel prophesies in detail – Saul is getting confirmation that God is with Him.
  • God will equip and empower us for what He’s called us to do.
  • Saul kept quiet about the promises of being king – he was wisely quiet. We need to do the same – to be wise about what we do with promises we’re given, like Mary did as well. Prov. 18:16.
  • If you’re called to do something, you get on and begin doing it and humbly give yourself to God, like Jesus did.
Author: Categories: What Kind of King? Tags: , ,

Prepared for Jesus

June 7th, 2011

Sunday 5th June 2011

Stef Liston

A tenant waiting for a visit from the landlord would work hard to ensure that the landlord was pleased with how the property looked. Even if the landlord is a nice person there would still be an element of dread.

In the same way, God owns everything and has leased his possessions and responsibilities to us as his tenants. Jesus often warned us, in his parables, that he will be coming back, and, unlike human landlords in the UK, he doesn’t have to give us 24 hours notice. We should be prepared for his visit.

God often prepares his servants over a long period of time to work things into their hearts (e.g. Moses as a shepherd, Joseph in prison, David on the run, Hannah in her childlessness). Likewise, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.

The message of today’s sermon is “are you ready?”

Are you ready to meet with Jesus (perhaps for the first time)? Are you ready for him to speak into your life? Are you ready for his return?

There are many things which can distract our hearts from Christ, including worries, desires, longings and false-promises.

Luke 3:2-6

There are valleys, mountains, crooked paths and rough places which can obscure Christ to us, and obscure Christ in us.

When we are born again, we are given new hearts and can gaze on Christ with unveiled faces. The more clearly we see him, the more clearly others see him in us.

1. Valleys

Biblically, valleys are places of refuse, decay and death, places where the sunlight does not reach.

What are the hidden things which we tolerate in ourselves and are not bringing to the light of Christ? What are the things that need to be confessed to another trusted brother or sister (James 5:16)?

Christ has been punished in our place for the vile things that we have done, yet some believers still live in shame. We should remember that both David and Peter committed terrible sins as believers and yet were restored (see Pslam 51, John 21). We can be trapped by the hidden shadows of the heart, let us bring these things to the light (1 John 1:9), remembering that we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

2. Mountains

Mountains are insurmountable objects. Guilt, shame, the fear of other people, addictions, futile ways of thinking etc. can be like Goliaths in our lives, mocking our attempts to be Christlike.

The answer to this is remember that the LORD is lord. Too many believers are tragically unimpressed with God. If we consider who God is, and make him our dread, he will subdue the other dreads in our lives (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Colossians 2:13-15).

3. Crooked paths

Crooked people can put a spin on things to make themselves look better than they are. However, God is truth, it is impossible for him to lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). We should not be devious, manipulative or hypocritical.

A big element of British culture is that we don’t tell the truth to one another in love (e.g. being far too ready to say “I’m fine” when we are hurting). Let the Spirit deliver us from this cultural baggage (Ephesians 4:25, Matthew 18:15-17).

4. Rough places

These are things in our lives which may not seem like great sins but which still obscure Christ in our lives (e.g. holding to to a sense of humour full of bawdy jokes and put downs, critical talk, gossip, control, things which are part of the “old” us). We need to clear these boulders out of the way (Psalm 139:23-24).

In conclusion, we must engage and face issues in our lives for the glory of God. We are not to be sin-focussed and introspective but we must be responsive to the Spirit, and deal with what he reveals in our lives.

Jesus is coming back, we will see him face to face and all will be well. Let us live our lives now in the light of this truth.

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A King Like the Nations

June 1st, 2011

1 Samuel 8: 1-22

  • Samuel is being mocked by the Israelites
  • He has served them well all his life but he didn’t raise his sons very well
  • Samuel still has many years left to serve when this is asked
  • Samuel was hurt by this request. We often feel hurt  but instead of pretending all is well or letting everyone know how he felt, Samuel took this to God
  • How do we handle hurt? It is wise to assess our feelings and take them to God
  • vs 7: Samuel receives healing from God
  • When we feel hurt by rejection we might be experiencing a little of how God feels when we reject Him
  • If we get close enough to God people will react to us in a similar way they react to God
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 – we should live not holding grudges
  • It is ambigious whether God wanted to give the Israelites a king.
  • In this passage He seems against a king but in Deutronomy 17:14-15 God is pleased about a king
  • The sin in this passage is how and why they’ve asked for a king
  • The Israelites wanted a king because they are scared of their enemies
  • If they remembered their Ebenezer they wouldn’t have asked for a king as they would remember what God did for them – the Israelites were not trusting God
  • Psalm 46:1 – God helps us
  • Samuel warns the Israelites of the danger of their request but they refuse to listen to him – they have forgotten that God is on their side
  • God wants them to trust Him
  • If we stay faithful to God we have no idea how much He will do for us
  • Stay close to God and He will bless you
Author: Categories: What Kind of King? Tags: ,