Rain or Shine

Oh the weather in our beautiful Britain is of constant talk and constant change! We Brits are known for talking about the weather all the time and there is a very good reason for it, Its always changing so a subject of immense “talkability” and nosiness! One day we could see wind and rain, the next a hot, cloudless day where we get sunburn! We can have snow and sun in the same week as thunder and rain! Its never the same and can’t really be relied upon seasonal months besides.

So, imagine a beautiful sunny day, no clouds, just a hint of breeze to stop it becoming too humid or too hot to enjoy the picnic we have planned with the family. We wake up and the sun shines through the windows and the family are up and ready to enjoy the day. Its a great one. We are happy, and feel great. At home we scroll through the photos on our phone and feel a sense of joy and pride as we see the laughing faces of our kids splashing  in the water or burying their Dad in the sand when he fell asleep. The amazing ice creams we shared still around their mouths as they kiss you and thank you for a special day. They drift into sleep dreaming of the fun they have. We feel blessed and can almost tangibly feel Gods touch on us and the blessing He gave us of family and the day we had.

Another day, we wake and its dark, cloudy and we can hear the rain pounding on the windows and the wind seems to want to break the door down. The kids are bored as they can’t play outside and arguments soon erupt all over the house. You want to scream by lunchtime and hope the rain at least stops so they can go visit their friends down the road. The day drags so slowly and you don’t feel like you get anything done with separating the kids all day and cleaning around them as they move from room to room. The rain doesn’t stop, and by evening you have yelled more times than you can remember. You all go to bed that night cranky, and you feel guilty about yelling so much. Maybe something could have been different? Maybe we could have changed something? The last thing we feel is blessed and that we had a productive day. We don’t have good memories of the day and no pictures to remind us of spending the day with the children God gave us. Maybe it will be different tomorrow?

How many of us live our lives in these loops? How many of us live our spiritual lives like this also? We base blessing on good times, and lack of it on the bad. God shows favour In the good and not in the bad? Is that how God works? Yes, we see spiritually high times, and all seems to be going well, we don’t have problems praying or bible study. But, what about the times when we seem to pray to the ceiling and like walking in mud? Is God any further away at those times? If He is, is it because we have moved, not because He has? I think at times of struggle and darkness, God wants to be closer to us to get us through what could be a spiral of loneliness and separation. He never wants to be away from us. So, if God is still with us and by our side, even more through the bad times, who is it who moves? Every time we sin, we move a little away from God, and the sin starts to separate us from Him. Repentance closes the gap again, and brings us back close to Him.

In the rainy seasons, check yourself, talk to God, make sure there is nothing that can place a wedge between you and Him, especially in what could be a very dark windy part of your life. You need God more than ever then,

In the sunny times, keep in His presence and thank Him for the blessings we can see with open eyes. The blessings are there both rain or shine. We just need to see them for what they are. Gifts.

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PRAYING THE PSALMS

Praying the word – The Psalms

What a fabulous subject to talk about! We are going to have a look at praying The Psalms – God’s hymn book, and how to use their endlessly rich treasures to enliven, invigorate, stimulate and – dare I say – transform our prayer life.

In order to understand how fundamental this source material is to our whole Spiritual walk, our church life and our praise and worship we need to have a look at what the Psalms are. We will also touch on the type and structure of the book (books), the different type of Psalms and how we can use them to pray.

If we understand the role of the Psalms in our prayer life – truly understand it – we will stand tall as the beautiful bride of Christ, fully confident in the hope we profess. Just as a taster for what is to follow, here are what I think are some helpful quotes from past Godly saints, saints who came to an understanding by the Holy Spirit why the Psalms are so important and useful:

The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It has been said by church historians that in those periods of Christian history where renewal, revival, and awakening took place and the church was at its strongest, that coincidental with those periods in church history, there was a strong focus on the psalms in the life of God’s people–particularly in the worship of God’s people.”
― R.C. Sproul

The psalms, like no other literature, lift us to a position where we can commune with God, capturing a sense of the greatness of his kingdom and a sense of what living with him for eternity will be like.”
― Gordon Fee

In the psalms, we have a collection of 150 prayers that were inspired originally by the Holy Ghost. If you want to know how God is pleased and honoured in prayer, why not immerse yourself in the prayers that he himself has inspired?”
―R.C. Sproul

What are the Psalms?

Historical context

We clearly see from the structure of the book of Psalms that it is a collection of poetry and/or songs which have been compiled from various writers and sources (the actual compilation was likely to have been post exile (1st temple period), but the writings would have certainly existed both orally and in written form prior to this). It is important to note that the Psalms cover at least 900 years of the history of the Jewish people as evidenced by the historical references and recollections of actual events. Pretty much all of these can be cross-referenced elsewhere in scripture; and that is without mentioning the fulfilled Prophetic events which have been documented in the New Testament.

It is thought that this collection of ‘writings’ was put into the form we know now in the third Century BC. As such it served as the prayer book for the Second Temple and for use in the synagogues, and they have been used in Jewish worship ever since. The Psalms are the cornerstone of Judeo-Christian worship.

Structure

Let’s have a look at the meaning of the word ‘Psalms’ as it gives us a clue as to their purpose and their importance:

HEBREW: Tehillim, “praises”

GREEK WORD: psalmoi, meaning “instrumental music” and, by extension, “the words accompanying the music.”

Nearly half of the 150 Psalms are attributed to King David. We know from scripture David was a musician, (1 Samuel 16 has him soothing the troubled King Saul with the melody of his harp) and a prolific songwriter. In addition to the many Psalms, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls attributes 3600 tehilim (songs of praise) plus other compositions to him.

Other Psalms are attributed to Asaph (12), Sons of Korah (11), Solomon (2), Moses (1). Many more have no author attributed to them.

The book is subdivided into five ‘books’ and each book finished with a doxology

(a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God).

  • Book 1 (Psalms 1–41)
  • Book 2 (Psalms 42–72)
  • Book 3 (Psalms 73–89)
  • Book 4 (Psalms 90–106)
  • Book 5 (Psalms 107–150

Many psalms are clearly written as songs with music as over a third have superscriptions (secondary titles) that provide musical direction. For example:

Psalm 80: To the chief Musician upon Shoshann-im-Eduth, A Psalm of Asaph

Psalm 49: To the chief Musician. A Psalm for the Sons of Korah

Psalm 19: To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David

Types of Psalms

We can categorise the Psalms to some extent, and some clearly have a distinct purpose for their existence. So we are going to have a look at some of the major categories with some examples. This will give us some insight on how to use the Psalms in our praying. However, what has stuck me as I have prepared this talk tonight that is there are elements of multiple categories in most of the Psalms.

Now these categories are not exhaustive, and I would need a series of talks to cover this subject properly, but I have somewhat crudely divided the Psalms into these categories:

Praise & declaration

Worship

Petition

Prophetic / Messianic

Special occasions

And then two very interesting categories as far as prayer is concerned:

Repentance

Lament

Now, as I said – many Psalms could fall into more than one category, but we’ll go ahead and have a look at some examples…….

Praise & declaration

This is the fundamental purpose of the Psalms of course and with the exception of a very few examples (which we will come on to look at), praise and the declaration of who God is impregnates the entirety of the wirtings – even those that have a note of despair and petition. Here are SO many praise & declaration Psalms, but some of the purest are Psalms 47, 98 and 150.

Lets look at Psalm 47:

Psalm 47

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

1 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
3 He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
4 He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

5 God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
9 The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.

Psalm 47: (NKJV)

Worship

The Psalms have set the pattern for worship in the Christian church over the centuries, and as we have already learned are a central part of Synagogue life for the Jewish people. Some traditional Puritan / Protestant congregations (to this day) ONLY sing the metrical Psalms. I saw a service on BBC ALBA a few months ago in a Gaelic speaking Scottish Islands church. The worship to our ears would be a dirge like drone through the Psalms! – BUT – this was a Spirit filled Church as evidenced by their heartfelt worship and an amazing sermon. I mention this because…..

Many of our modern worship songs (the best ones in my opinion) are grounded in the Psalms. For the older among us – remember ‘Scripture in song’? Just the words of Psalms and scripture set to music just like the ultra-traditional Scottish church I mentioned. The Psalms unify very different worship streams into one unified body!!

Lets looks at Psalm 95 as a pattern for worship:

1 O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.

5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,

8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Psalm 95: (KJV)

v1 Praise

v2 Come into His presence with thanksgiving

v3 Declaration of who God is

v4-5 Declaration of what God has done

v6 Worship

v7 We are His people

v8-9 Be reconciled

v8-10 Be obedient

The NKJV version of the Bible entitles this Psalm ‘a call to worship and obedience’. Sums it up pretty well. Isn’t that what we are called to as the body of Christ? I would be going off topic if I unpacked this any more but there is a lot in there we can learn!

Singing and praying the Psalms therefore ensures our patterns for praise, worship and prayer are grounded in the principles of scripture. Without this resource to keep us in line we could go off in all crazy directions….. unfortunately some churches and ministries have, but not here!!

Lets briefly look at another couple of important categories before we start looking at how to use the Psalm as a rich prayer resource:

History and Prophecy

The Psalms are constantly looking back to historical events, both good AND bad and use them as a teaching lesson and a reminder of the moving of God’s hand in the course of history. Let read Psalm 114:

1 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;

2 Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.

5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?

6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;

8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.

Psalm 114: (KJV)

This is of course looking back at the monumental events of the Exodus from Egypt. It’s purpose? To remind us of the Awesome intervention of God. What a powerful device in prayer! To be reminded that the same God of yesterday is the God of today and of tomorrow!!

Talking of tomorrow, the Psalms contain Prophetic signs and signals. They clearly signal the coming of the messiah, the so- called Messianic Psalms; not just foretelling His existence, but also His death and His Kingdom reign:

Psalm 22 – I won’t read it now, but that is the clearest prophetic / Messianic Psalm and describes his crucifixion.

Psalm 110 – Describes the Kingdom reign of the Risen and Exalted Lord Jesus

and so it goes on…..

The final categories are very relevant as we think about how to pray the Psalms as these are Psalms that include at their core PRAYER.

Petition, repentance and Lament

The Psalm are full of prayers, personal heartfelt prayers, sometimes downright uncomfortable prayers and pleadings before Almighty God. There are agonising cries for help, for deliverance, for the Hand of our Lord to be moved. There are yearnings and longings for His presence His intervention….. and it goes on.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means but Psalms 4,10,13,17,25,42,70, 130, 143 are all prayers of petition for example. Look at the language used here in Psalm 4:

For the choir director; with stringed instruments; a psalm by David.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness. You have freed me from my troubles.
Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!

2You important people, how long are you going to insult my honour?
How long are you going to love what is empty and seek what is a lie? Selah
3 Know that the Lord singles out godly people for himself. The Lord hears me when I call to him.
4 Tremble and do not sin. Think about this on your bed and remain quiet. Selah
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness by trusting the Lord.

6 Many are saying, “Who can show us anything good?” Let the light of your presence shine on us, O Lord.
7 You put more joy in my heart than when their grain and new wine increase.
8 I fall asleep in peace the moment I lie down because you alone, O Lord, enable me to live securely.

Psalm 4: (God’s Word Translation)

Pretty passionate and heartfelt! The Psalmists are not timid before God – and this should give us confidence to pray in a similar way.

 

 

 

Repentance too is common thread in the Psalms. What is interesting is that personal repentance is expressed, but IT IS ALSO CORPORATE. There are pleas before Almighty God for sins of the nation of Israel. We too must be prepared (as Sue Sinclair so powerfully testified the weekend) to offer prayers of corporate repentance. By far the most obvious example of a penitential Psalm (in this instance personal repentance) is Psalm 51. Just a snippit:

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2 (NKJV)

Finally, and we’ll get into applying this knowledge in just a moment I need to cover the category of Lament, because it is misunderstood and rarely is given a place in the Christian church. To lament is to “to express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something”

Is that ‘having a whine’ at God? No, not a whine, but it is BEING REAL BEFORE GOD ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT SOMETHING. We don’t have time to read in detail but in your own time read Psalm 79 – entitled in the NKJV of the Bible as ‘A dirge and prayer for Israel, destroyed by enemies’.

 

Here the Psalmist laments Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. He prays for the nations spiritual needs, curses their enemies (that sits uncomfortably with us today doesn’t it?) and prises God’s anticipated actions. This psalm helps the believer express his anguish in a situation where God does not seem present.” (MacArthur Student Bible – notes)

How to we use the Psalms to pray?

Use the exact words

Just reading our the words of the Psalms has power – after all it is God’s word!!

This is especially applicable when it comes to praise and worship. These Holy Spirit inspired writings have been brought before our dear Lord countless times over the generations and I can guarantee you he does not tire hearing them!

As we discovered when I spoke about the power of praise a few weeks ago, praise, worship and prayer are all about the heart attitude and using pre-written words are a good way to express ourselves; especially when we do it with God’s unadorned and unadulterated powerful word.

Use the exact words but contextualise and personalise them

Here’s another idea; use the framework of a Psalm for your own personal prayer by adapting it to your own circumstances: Here’s a great example using a famous Psalm, 23:

Lord you are my shepherd, I do not want for anything.

You make me lie down in green pastures, you lead me besides still waters.

You restore my soul, you lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake……. Etc.

Use the themes

As we have seen Psalms fall into categories, and many Psalms cover multiple themes in one Psalm. So for example Ps:116,

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”

5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Psalm 116:1-7 (NIV)

Sooo.. we go from thanksgiving, to faithfulness, to deliverance, to petition, to praise and then to petition all in seven verses!!! This is quite an extreme example, but what I mean about praying thematically is using the way a Psalm is constructed as a prayer guide (Praise to petition to praise for example).

Pick out key phrases and themes and expand them

What I mean here is we can use the LANGUAGE of the Psalms to energise our prayers. Actually this is what a lots of modern Christian songwriters do. So for example Psalm 95:1 says Oh come let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our Salvation (NKJV). So your prayer might start:

Lord, I shout joyfully to you for you are the rock of my salvation, you are worthy to hear the joyful cries of my heart and you, my rock I stand…… etc.

This I think is where the terminology and language of the Psalms can be most helpful in our prayer life. If we immerse ourselves in the language of the Psalmists then we are unlocking the power of scripture in our praying

Charles Spurgeon, in his preface to The Treasury of David writes “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure; common gratitude constrains me to communicate to others a portion of the benefit, with the prayer that it may induce them to search further for themselves.

Sing them as praise, petition and lament

Finally we are not so much talking about sung worship as prayer tonight, but given the Psalms are a book of songs, it would be remiss to mention the power that is found in singing the Psalms. We have already touched on in my earlier talk this and I do not feel the need to further expand on this here – but there is real power is singing the Psalms in all it’s forms.

And finally…….. I want to give you a guarantee; if you employ some of the teaching we have heard tonight and apply it to our prayer life it WILL be enriched, it WILL be empowered, it WILL be invigorated and it WILL transform our lives, the life of our church and the life of others.

Stages of revelation, stages of transformation

Today I am looking at some of the greatest and most powerful themes in scripture; the themes which enable us to stand here today and worship the glorious Triune God, whom we KNOW and LOVE because He first loved us!

These are the themes of restoration and transformation – and we are going to discover that although restoration and transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an immediate process (we ARE saved), it is completed in stages (we are BEING saved).

So….the title of my talk is STAGES OF REVELATION, STAGES OF TRANSFORMATION

We are going to have a look at how Jesus deals with His bewildered, defeated disciples; how He restores them; how He transforms them into an expectant, worshipping group of prayer warriors ready to receive the fullness of the promises made to them……..and as a result of that turnaround Jesus gives them the ability to fulfil the commission He entrusted to them. Then we are going to finish off by looking at how Jesus longs to do this today – with all of us.

I don’t wish to be insensitive here, but in order to put the following events in context I need to ask this question: How would you react if someone you have known, and know has departed from us appeared to you today in bodily form? What would you say? How would you feel? I only ask this as it might help you understand the scriptures we are about to read…….

These are some instances recorded in the Bible of Jesus appearing to His followers post-resurrection:

Jesus Himself stood in the midst of [the disciples] and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:36-43 NKJV

And now a rather more compact account, from the Gospel of Mark:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

Mark 16:9-14 ESV

So what can we conclude about their reaction to seeing Jesus was alive? Well, I think their reaction is perhaps a very human one – one we can all relate to I suspect. From these scriptures we can see they were frightened, terrified, troubled, unbelieving, hard of heart even. So was Jesus’ rebuke in the scripture from Mark justified? A little harsh even? They’d seen a dead man walking talking and eating!

I think if we saw someone rise from a grave and appear to us I seriously doubt our reaction would be any different!

However, the massive and significant difference here is Jesus had PREDICTED His death, PREDICTED His resurrection in the presence of some or all of the disciples on numerous occasions and if that wasn’t enough He proclaimed Himself to be no less than I AM – God incarnate.

The very same unbelieving, terrified, doubting disciples knew this. Consider this scripture from the book of Matthew:

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven……

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

Matthew 16:13-17, 21 NKJV

Jesus had revealed His identity to them and revealed to them that He must be killed, but to the disciples this was only a partial revelation – a prophetic first stage of revelation as it were.

The now resurrected Jesus however was about to impute (or give) to them a whole new level of revelation. How? By answering their doubts and fears by OPENING THEIR MINDS AND HEARTS TO THE SCRIPTURES; the scriptures being in this instance of course what we now call the Old Testament.

As we have already read in the Luke passage, this is the next stage of revelation for the disciples:

“…..He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:44-48 NKJV

So we can see a progressive revelation here:

  • The first revelation was PROPHETIC (i.e prior to the crucifixion) – He had to suffer, be killed and rise from the dead. He clearly had done that here He was standing in front of them, so prophecy was fulfilled.
  • The second revelation was REASSURANCE that he was not a spirit and he was not an imposter “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have”
  • The third revelation was SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING; He opened their minds to the scriptures and how the entirety of the Law, Prophets and Psalms pointed to Himself.
  • The fourth and ultimate revelation for the disciples was EMPOWERMENT, still to come at Pentecost by the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Along with REVELATION the disciples experienced – and indeed like we all do – needed to experience TRANSFORMATION in order that the disciples could fulfil the mission that Christ was going to commission them with. Then, as now, the amazing thing about this transformation is that it is PERSONAL to each and every disciple, each and every believer. We read in the Gospel of John Ch21:

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17 ESV

Peter, of course was the disciple who denied Jesus – three times. Here, three times Christ challenges Peter’s regarding his love for him (knowing his heart already) and by doing so he restores and transforms Peter into the Rock He prophesied he would be. (Note this is a PUBLIC restoration in front of a number of disciples in response to a public denial). As a result of this transformation Peter was equipped to fulfil his God given destiny – to the ultimate, a martyr’s death.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:18-19 ESV

Another example. Most of us will know the story of ‘doubting’ Thomas, the disciple who would not believe Jesus was alive until He saw Him in the flesh. Jesus graciously showed him and transformed him from a doubter into a worshipper:

“….said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!””

John 20:27-28 ESV

Jesus, through his loving restoration of the bewildered and defeated disciples, His rebuke for their unbelief, His reassurance and encouragement through his numerous appearances and post – resurrection teaching, TRANSFORMED his disciples, as the scriptures tell us.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and accordingly it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things

Finally they fully understood who Jesus was, their doubts and fears answered, their purpose in Him revealed. A commission was about to be given along with the promise of power to fulfil it; AS SUCH THE TRANSFORMATION WAS AS YET INCOMPLETE. However, we can refute the common fallacy that the disciples were cowering in a room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They were praying and waiting, but as they were waiting the last two verses of the Gospel of Luke tells us:

.they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Luke 24: 52-53 KJV

So that was then, what about now? Is our Lord Jesus in the business of restoration and transformation today. YES, YES, and YES!!!!!!

As I said right at the beginning today, for all those who are truly born again, it is one of those profound mysteries in Christ that our condition before God is that we ARE saved, whilst at the same time we are BEING saved. (That’s another sermon – I’m not going there today!).

I think (well I hope) we can all testify that we have experienced a degree of restoration and transformation, the biggest miracle being of course that we stand here knowing God at all! I think we would all in here be honest enough to admit that God is not finished with us yet! I would also like to think we can all agree that that PROCESS of restoration and transformation is not just unique to each and every believer, but PACE of restoration and transformation is different for every believer.

The truth is, we are all work in progress.

Remember how we learned that Jesus opened the scriptures (from the OLD covenant)? Well here are just two scriptures from the ‘Prophets’ that demonstrate and describe the JOURNEY we are on – and I will reiterate again the pace of restoration and transformation is unique to each and every individual believer.

Just as Jesus needed to do some individual ‘head and heart surgery’ on the disciples before they could fulfil their potential in Christ, we too need to see the trans-formative work of the Spirit at work in our lives for us to fulfil our potential – as individuals, as a Church, as THE Church.

The restoration and transformation are as yet incomplete – and never will be complete until we see the Lord in Glory. But it has started!

…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Phillipians 1:6b NIV

There is a pitfall here, and I hope it is not one we fall into. It is so easy to compare ourselves to another Christian and think we are ‘not as good’ as they are. Not all of us are called to be a Spurgeon, a Wesley or a Rees Howells.  Do not compare your walk with the Lord with another in Christ. Friends – He is dealing with YOU as an individual according to your individual needs, and you are doing great today. Aspire to greater things in Christ, YES! Compare yourself to another and judge yourself inadequate, NO, NO, NO!

Only you (and He) know what you have gone through to get to the point you are here and now, and what you have gone through is always going to be different than ________ (fill in the blank). EVEN if you are in need of the restoring touch of the Lord this morning, (and all of us are to some degree) you are DOING GREAT.

Whatever stage our walk with the Lord is at and whether you are on a high mountain or in a deep valley today we do have a point of commonality. It is our yearning; prompted by the revelation of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us – to BE transformed. As Charles Wesley wrote (some of the most incredible hymn words ever written):

Finish then Thy new creation
Pure and spotless let us be
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place
Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder love and praise

So to conclude, I would encourage you to hear the challenge of word of the Lord in this house today and ask yourself this hard question: Where are you at with Jesus?

(RESTORATION)

Are you in need of restoration?

Do you need your eyes opened to the truth – again for for the first time?

Are you bowed down, lost, bewildered?

Are you weary and tired in your faith – tired of life even?

Are you lost in your sin – knowing full well that your behaviour and attitudes are not right before God?

Are you unbelieving that God is who He says He is?

Are you unbelieving that God is capable of what He said He can do?

Come to Jesus afresh today and receive from Him all that He longs to give you. He loves you!

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”

Matt 11:28 NKJV

(TRANSFORMATION)

What about transformation? Are you being transformed into a Christ-like person. If not, why not? That is a serious question, and it demands a search of your heart for the answer.

Jesus is in the transformation business, so if you are not in the place you know you should be, are you willing to continue to be transformed into His image?

Is this your experience of God?

“….whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Cor 3:16-18 NIV

If not, is that what you want to experience today? Is that what WE as a church want to experience today? I hope and pray the answer is YES!

Church, I need to ask you – do we really WANT transformation? I ask this because I sincerely believe that God wants to take us onto the next level of transformation. Perhaps we are like the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem, full of joy and praise – in a good place, knowing God, waiting for more of Him – waiting for the fullness of the promises to be fulfilled………..BUT HERE’S THE THING:

UNLESS WE (LIKE THEM) ARE WILLING TO BE RESTORED AND TRANSFORMED, GOD WILL NOT TAKE US ONTO THE NEXT LEVEL OF TRANSFORMATION…… BECAUSE WE ARE NOT R E A D Y FOR THE NEXT LEVEL!!

GOD MAKE US READY!!

Lets pray:

OH GOD MAKE US READY FOR ALL YOU HAVE TO OFFER, ALL YOU LONG TO POUR UPON US, ALL YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE THROUGH US.

CONTINUE OUR TRANSFORMATION INTO YOUR LIKENESS

CONTINUE TO RESTORE US O LORD

CALL US AND USE US FOR YOUR GLORY

ACCORDING TO YOUR PURPOSES IN CHRIST JESUS

A REALISTIC call to live a life of victory

Easter Sunday. This is considered a special day in the church calender – a victorious day, a happy day. I think it is great that we have a designated day that focuses on the reality of Christ’s resurrection (especially for non-Christians) but I am also so thankful that we don’t NEED this day, because we as Christians are encouraged and called to walk in the victory and power of Christ’s resurrection every day!

This is the reality: In Christ we have the victory; we have the power to overcome; we have the faith to believe mountains can and will move; we have overwhelming joy; we know we are loved; we are redeemed; we are victorious………

Except……… lets have a reality check here!

The reality is it doesn’t always seemingly work out like that or feel like that. If we are being honest with ourselves and others we sometimes get weighed down, discouraged; we lose the joy that we told in ours in Christ Jesus. We perhaps allow doubts to creep in and steal our assurance that Christ is in control. We continue to move forward, but we shuffle with our heads down rather than stride forward in the power of Christ with our heads held high.

Is THAT living as a Christian?

Well, as we are going to discover tonight…..we are on a JOURNEY of faith that one ends up in one place – a eternal place of praise, adoration and victory. For us who truly believe, each of us are in a different place on that journey and VICTORY IS ASSURED, despite any wobbles we have along the way.

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith and it is in Him we have the assurance of eternal life and ultimate victory. As we remember over this Eastertide, it is a complete victory that came at such a great cost, as the only begotten Son of the Father was forsaken for us on the cross of shame.

However, as we know (and as we specifically remember today) that Christ’s death was not the end of the story! I would like to read two passages of scripture that detail the events immediately following Christ’s resurrection and then encourage us all that our own wobbles, doubts and fears are echoed even in the disciples response to Jesus’ resurrection. Then we’ll discover that Jesus has an answer for them and for us today!

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre [tomb] And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

Matthew 28:1-8, 16-17 KJV

And then the same events from another writers angle, this time, Luke:

Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be unto you.”

They were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Feel Me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

When He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet disbelieved for joy and wondered, He said to them, “Do you have any food here?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate it before them.

He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.”

 

 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and accordingly it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:36b-48 MEV

The disciples had walked and talked with Jesus right the way through His ministry years; they had seen thousands of people fed with a bit of fish and bread – twice; they had seen the blind see, the paralysed walk and even seen Lazarus raised from the dead. They had heard His parables and witnessed Jesus Himself proclaim that He was I AM (an absolute categorical proclamation that we was God Incarnate). His coming was the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy as Jesus Himself taught them.

This is Just one of those conversations from the book of Mark:

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 8:27-31 NKJV

So here, Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection (not for the first time). The disciples heard from His own mouth what was going to happen – yet they were dismayed, confused and bewildered when it did.

Therefore it is really interesting to examine for a moment the disciples reaction to the first appearance of the risen Lord Jesus:

…when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

They were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit….

And while they yet disbelieved for joy and wondered….

It is clear from these accounts that even though they had ‘walked with Him and that they talked with Him’ for three years they still didn’t understand or fully grasp what Jesus was teaching prior to His crucifixion……or they did but they still didn’t truly believe it.

The disciples just didn’t fully understand. They certainly believed He was sent from God – a Saviour, a messiah – but they were perhaps guilty of constructing a picture in their own mind of what their Savour looked like. We can perhaps speculate that they were expecting another King David, a warrior/King who would gloriously overthrow the oppression of the Romans.

What was Jesus response to their doubts, fears and unbelief?

Did he rebuke them or disown them for their wavering belief?

NO!! HE REASSURED THEM, HE SHOWED THEM HE WAS A PHYSICAL BEING, HE OPENED THEIR MINDS TO THE SCRIPTURES, HE ENCOURAGED THEM, AND COMMISSIONED THEM!

He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.”

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and accordingly it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things

It is at only at this point they fully understood who Jesus was, their doubts and fears answered, their purpose in Him revealed. The power to fulfil the commission was yet to come (at Pentecost), so we can refute the common fallacy that the disciples were cowering in a room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They were praying and waiting, but as they were waiting the last two verses of the Gospel of Luke tells us:

.they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Luke 24: 52-53 KJV

These 1st Century, world changing events speak to us today.

It surely encourages us to know that Jesus’ own disciples, both before and even on occasions after the resurrection event we have looked at here, didn’t always grasp what the Master was doing. Although they had a perfect Teacher, they often failed to understand him correctly. Nevertheless, Jesus used them mightily to take the message of Christ to the nations.

The thing is, we haven’t physically walked with Jesus as they did. Our faith is built on ……the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 KJV

So the reality is this….. If we are really honest with ourselves, there are times and seasons in our lives where we wonder where God is. Sometimes life events weigh us down or challenge our faith; sometimes we just drift away from the presence of God; sometimes we are disappointed that we have not seen answers to prayer; sometimes it is our own stubbornness and disobedience that puts distance between us and God.

As it was with the disciples in that day, He is in the revelation and restoration business today! So despite our doubts and fears, our disobedience and faithlessness He LOVES us, He CARES for us and He constantly reassures us of these things by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

We are far from perfect, we are However, children of the King. He is patient with us while we work through our struggles and fears; He is willing to teach us, open up our hearts to truth and revelation; he loves us with an everlasting love; He cares for us so much He was willing to sacrifice Himself for us.

What is also abundantly clear is this:

He longs to open our minds to understand the Scriptures

He longs to encourage us by means of His abiding presence

He longs to draw near to us

He has commissioned us

He has empowered us

He has SAVED US FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

He has given us purpose

He has empowered us

He has given us all things to walk victoriously in HIS power.

A modern worship song puts so much better than I could:

Mighty Saviour, lifted high

King forever, Jesus Christ,

Crowned in glory, raised to life

The same power lives in us.

Let us therefore, tonight resolve to walk victoriously in the power of the resurrected Christ, despite our tendency to wobble and wavier.

 

Idols in heart

At the end of Ezekiel chapter 13 we read ,
“When any of the Israelites or any foreigners residing in Israel separate themselves from me and set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet to inquire of me, I the Lord will answer them myself. I will set my face against them and make them an example and a byword. I will remove them from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’

This got me thinking in the wee small hours of the night about what we call idols of the heart now. Is it the same as what God meant when He spoke these words to Ezekiel? I doubt it. We can carry many “idols” within us and not even realise we have them there and love/ worship/ desire/idolise them. So what can this mean to us in a very different time and age?

I believe that we can idolise people, places, work, church, worship, ourselves, hobbies, media, social media and even church activities without the knowledge that they have taken such a place. Sometimes we put things too high up because our relationship with God isn’t as it should be and we conceal this within us with business and activity. Sometimes it’s accidental. Somehow life got so busy or stressful that it took over our thoughts all the time pushing out those close to us and the Lord with them. Maybe it’s slowly spending too much time on or doing an activity and we don’t see the worrying signs that it has become an idol.

It doesn’t really matter why that thing has taken hols of us, but it does matter to understand it has to go. We have such a forgiving and loving God, but He is jealous for us. He sent the Spirit to help us in these circumstances, and isn’t about to let you go from His hand now.

I talk to myself more than anyone today. It is all too easy to let times with Him slip when they should be the times we long for more than anything else in the world! Guard your hearts and minds. Keep them wholly for Him.

The Calvary Road

Roy Hessian says in his book The Calvary Road:

“The outward forms of revivals do, of course, differ considerably but the inward and permanent content of them all is always the same – a new experience of conviction of sin among the saints; a new vision of the cross of Jesus and of redemption; a new willingness on man’s part brokenness, repentance, confession and restitution; a joyful experience of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse fully from sin and restore and heal all that sin has lost and broken; a new entering into the fullness of the Holy Spirit and of His power to do his own work through His people; and a new gathering in of the lost ones to Jesus.”

Revival is taking place in pockets all over the world and each one is different in how it starts, how God’s touch fall, how many are saved and complete in Him, country, people group. There are so many variations of the same thing, but a true revival or renewal will see many or all of the content that Roy Hessian talks about. It is the same God and same Spirit that fell on Abraham, on John the Baptist, on Elijah, on Jesus at His baptism, through Jesus on the cross. He never changes, and salvation and reconcilliation will always come through Christ and His saving blood.