The continual refrain of Christ in His letters to the churches, is “I know”. He knew each church and its members intimately. Not as one who had simply left them behind as He returned to the Father. The letters of Revelation are personal and passionate correspondence from Jesus to those whom He loved dearly. As we consider what He knows of each church, much of what Jesus says will resonate with each of us in different ways. This is because He knows us intimately as well – our passions, desires, plans, struggles and weaknesses. He came not only to understand us, but to fill us with His very own fulness and empower us. He knows the beautiful design God has for each of us, and has sent His Spirit to repair and restore, shape and to set us back on track.
As we start a new teaching series called Red Letter Days, from Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, we begin with a whistle-stop tour of each church to see the defining characteristic Jesus requires of them and how this matches an aspect of His own nature.
In Numbers 20 and Exodus 17 we find two similar, yet distinct incidents, at the beginning and toward the end of Israel’s wanderings in the desert. Both mark periods of testing, for God and for Israel, and become future reference points in the Scriptures, which demonstrate the dangers of testing God to prove Himself to us, and the reason why God allows us to go through periods of testing. As His workmanship, God is not shaping our circumstances to suit us, but shaping us to suit His purposes. He will sometimes allow us to be tested beyond our limits, so that we rely solely upon the fresh living water, from Jesus, our Spiritual Rock. Water that tastes as sweet at honey! (Ps 81.16)
The book of Numbers is a story of wanderings. A people on a pilgrimage through the wilderness, called to a promised land flowing with milk and honey. However, not yet ready to take hold of it, they became nomads instead of pilgrims. God has a plan and purpose for each of us as well. A journey which should have taken weeks for the Israelites, instead took them years, with a whole generation dying out. Numbers provides us with a helpful picture about making progress in own journey, to avoid wandering and being taken off course. Like the Israelites, most of the time the biggest obstacle to our progress is US; sometimes it’s our CIRCUMSTANCES, and occasionally GOD Himself steps in, to protect us from our mistakes! Numbers has been given as an instruction to us (1 Co 10:11), so let’s embrace it so we can be pilgrims rather than nomads!
Luke 23:32-43 – As we close our ‘Gospel Encounters’ series, we consider the last encounter, thankfully recorded for us by Luke. This one takes place between the innocent Son of God and the convicted criminal, during the final moments of both their lives. The intensity of this last encounter is obvious, and shows us that at its heart, the gospel message is about injustice, brutality, divisiveness, and is intensely personal!
Toward the end of Matthew’s gospel, hours are unfolding before us. Jesus, the great Shepherd was to be struck and the sheep scattered, as Zechariah had foretold (Zc 13:7). Even though Jesus had promised never to leave nor forsake His disciples, they were separated. It was during this traumatic time that Peter and the others had to face their FEARS, FLAWS, and FRUSTRATIONS. All of this was necessary – for Jesus had promised to go on ahead of them to Galilee (Mt 26:32), where they would be reunited and restored (Mt 28:16), so they were ready to receive His great commission (Mt 28:18-20). During times when the Shepherd seems far away from us, He has not abandoned us, but He has gone on ahead of us, whilst doing great things within us; beyond which is always reunion and restoration.
Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth, teaching us a new way to enter, live, and grow in it. Looking at three encounters with Jesus, we can see from the pictures He used, the path each child of God must take to fulfil their God-given destiny in the Kingdom of God. A new creation life starts with rebirth and reaches it fulfilment in complete trusting reliance upon God the Father, just like Jesus Himself. This is our God-designed path to maturity, which unlocks all the seed potential He has placed within each of us.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd. Matthew reveals what He was thinking one day when He looked across the crowds of people gathered around Him. He had come for them – those who found themselves feeling harassed and helpless – because He knew they lacked a shepherd to show them the true purpose of their lives and their true value to the Author of life.
Jesus ministered to multitudes but connected with people ONE AT A TIME. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to individual people and asked them a powerful question, which cut to the heart and opened up their lives, so that He could give them what they really needed.
In this first message from our Gospel Encounters series, we start by looking at three such encounters: a woman who felt tainted by her past (Lk 8:40-48), a man who was dissatisfied with the present (Mt 19:16-22), and a man who was despondent about his future (Jn 5:1-9). They’re like people we meet every day, to whom Jesus is now sending us. Are we willing to go into the ‘Mission Field’ to ask the questions He gives us, to meet needs and change lives?
In the second of two messages from John’s letters looking at ‘The World’ (how we relate to it and how we should live in it), we turn to John’s amazing statement that we are, AS HE IS, in this world (1 John 4:17). John instructs us not to love the world (1 John 2:15), but he also shows us that ‘AS HE IS’ means that by our very nature we are, SENT into it, and LOVED. Once again, starting in Genesis and exploring the meaning of the Tree of Life, we can see how this has always been God’s plan, to have a people who are maturing into the full stature of His beloved Son, Jesus.
In the first of two messages from John’s letters, looking at the world – how we relate to it and how we should live in it – we start with John’s instruction not to love the world. Firstly looking at what John and the other NT writers meant by ‘the world’, and then considering the 3 fundamental elements John describes as being ‘in the world’. We trace them back to their roots in Genesis, so that we can see how they came between God and humanity, and how as God’s children we can now live differently, showing others the way back to Him.
The Apostle John was the ultimate witness for Jesus. At the outset of a new teaching series, based in his affectionate and timely letters to the church, we start with the historical and cultural backdrop in which he wrote them. Writing toward the end of the first century AD, John was most likely the last of Jesus’ original Apostolic company. After a life witnessing events of eternal significance, Jesus’ closest friend opens his heart to us, with a simple and profound message about three fundamental aspects of who Jesus is … LIFE, LIGHT and LOVE!
Luke 10:38-42– In a few short verses, Luke has recorded an important encounter in the lives of two sister, Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus. At first glance Jesus seemed to be scolding Martha for her activity and praising Mary for her lack of it. But a closer look shows us that much more was taking place than at first glance. Mary had stopped to listen to Jesus and found that only one thing was necessary for her that day. Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Are we prepared to sit at His feet each day, and wait on Him for the one thing that is necessary for us?
Over the last couple of months we have considered Israel’s conquest of Canaan, recorded in the book of Joshua. The boundaries of the land God had given then, He clearly laid out for them, so their success was measured by their progress of driving out their enemies, to possess their inheritance in full.
The Apostle Paul tells us (1 Co 10) that these things were recorded to instruct us, His church. In this message we consider principles that can be seen in the record of Joshua of how to reach the boundaries of potential God has for us, and to remain faithfully within the boundaries of God’s protection.
Joshua 1:11– In the first chapter of Joshua we enter a new phase in Israel’s history and find a new leader, with a threefold command for God’s people (v.11) to get them ‘fit for the fight’ of their lives! In this message we consider the relevance of this threefold instruction for us today, as we enter a new phase in our history, and how it can help us also to get battle-ready.
Romans 4:13-21– The righteous have always lived by faith (Rom 1:17). God revealed to Abraham who He had MADE HIM TO BE, and in so doing, showed Himself to be the God who GIVES LIFE TO THE DEAD and CALLS INTO EXISTENCE THE THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIST
Abraham’s resulting faith enabled him to see, beyond all human hope, what God was going to do in his life. It enabled him to see his own future promised son, Isaac whom God was calling into being, and even beyond to God’s Promised Son, Jesus through whom many nations would come into the same faith. Abraham’s example can show us how to see what God has MADE YOU to be, what the Spirit is doing IN YOU to bring you into the full stature of Christ, and all that God is seeking to do THROUGH YOU to call many nations into His Kingdom. Let us align ourselves with what God has said He will do, and call into existence those things which He has promised, but do not yet exist!
Romans 8:28 – In our present uncertain age, this Biblical truth is a steel peg which can be punched into the Rock. It is an anchor point in the storms of life. During this message we examine the different parts of this wonderful declaration, to consider some important aspects which we often overlook, and discover some revelatory truths we may not have known were there! The Apostle Paul acknowledges that there are things in life which we don’t know (v.26), but tells us emphatically that this is an eternal truth we MUST know, with a confidence that nothing is equal to shaking.
As we launch our teaching series, based in the letter to the Romans, we start by considering the background and circumstances of this great work of the Apostle Paul. We also consider what it has to say about 3 great existential questions of our time, (1) Who am I? (2) What am I here for? and (3) What does the future hold for me? The unfolding divine revelation in these pages speaks of our IDENTITY in Christ, our PURPOSE in His Kingdom, and our DESTINY as faithful children laying hold of God’s promises for a glorious future!
Acts 11:19ff & 13:1-3 – The church in Antioch, was expansive and outward looking from its beginnings. Aptly described as a ‘church bursting its banks’, Luke’s account gives us a clear picture of the prevailing culture and values that made this the epicentre of a gospel explosion across the Roman world. In this message we explore these features of such a vibrant, multi-gifted church to see what made them instinctively outward looking, Christ-centred and fruitfully nurtured – a place where ‘living stones’ had room to grow!
Hebrews 12:18-29: The writer to the Hebrews points back to the time of the prophet Haggai, who spoke of God’s intention to shake everything in this world, in order that ‘treasures of the nations’ would come into His kingdom and His house would be filled with glory. In Hebrews we see that this remains God’s plan, and we consider (i) The Context in which we live, (ii) The Company in which stand and (iii) The Core of who we are … a ‘Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken’, ready to reach out to a world in need of hope!
Over recent months the Lord has been drawing us further into His presence, around the throne, where there is everything we need. One of those essential things is God’s Promised Rest. In fact, we find in the letter to the Hebrews (3:7-4:11), that there is an ever-present invitation to join Him in ‘His’ rest. From here we take a journey through the Scriptures to see want this means, and how finding this rest will impact our past, present and future.
Hebrews 4:14-16 – Approaching the Throne of God is an awesome thing! Thankfully we can do so because we have One who has gone before us, securing our inheritance and our acceptance forever. As we approach we need to hold fast to a confession based on the Word of Truth about who He is, and who we now are (in Him). By embracing Jesus’ humanity, as well as knowing we are accepted we can also know we are fully ‘understood’. By a revelation of such things we can learn how to lay hold of the Grace of God, in its various forms, not only for ourselves, but also for the world He loves and came to save!
In these days the Lord is impressing upon us the importance of spending time around His throne together. The writer to the Hebrews (8:1-7) shows us the reality of what this means, whether we gather in twos or two-hundreds. It is a place of REVELATION – where the Lord wants to show us who He is and who we are in Him, of TRANSFORMATION – where our line of sight and our thinking comes into line with Spiritual realities, and COMMISSION – where the Lord wants to equip and instruct us, so that we can build according to the pattern He has shown us around His throne. From this place Mission becomes for us, simply an overflow of the Holy Spirit’s life within us.
The story of the Israelites is the story of ‘our forefathers’ says the Apostle Paul (1 Co 10), laden with warnings and promise. From God’s first promise to Abraham, the Apostle traces the history of his own people, including the ups and the downs, to show us God’s intended fulfilment through Abraham’s Seed, Christ Jesus. It is the story of a loving and faithful God whose GRACE to Jew and Gentile alike is displayed, and of RESTORATION, as Paul shows us God’s great plan to bring a future remnant from Israel back to Him, through Jesus.