Further to the recent change in legislation regarding face masks, face-coverings are now mandatory in places of worship. There is an exemption for individuals if they feel they need to remove their face-covering in order to sing, but only for singing. Children under 11 years old are exempt from wearing masks.
We must therefore ask that when attending church you please wear a mask. We will still be serving tea/coffee after the service, and you do not need to wear a face covering when eating or drinking, but we do ask that you only consume food and drink when seated and avoid moving around the building without wearing a mask.
Wearing face masks in places of worship is not currently mandatory, but we do encourage people to consider wearing a mask when moving around the building and particularly when in close proximity to others.
It is important, as a church family, that we continue to be thoughtful and mindful of the safety and care of each other and all who attend ECC: Rotherham, and we do therefore recommend people bring a face mask with them to use when deemed necessary in the church building.
Further easing of covid restrictions will take place on 5/9/21. There is no longer a need to pre-book you seats for a church service at ECC, just turn-up!
The wearing of face masks will now be optional, but if you decide not to wear a mask then we recommend you carry one with you just in case you may need it (such as in any crowded areas).
There are plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout the building and we encourage you to make use of these.
All the toilets are now in use and no longer operate a one-in-one-out system. However, we do ask users to be mindful of others, particularly in any bottle-neck areas, and keep a safe distance from each other where possible.
There is still a one-way system in the entrance to reduce any potential bottle-neck issues. Our friendly stewards will be on hand to welcome you and answer any questions you may have. We simply ask that you make your way swiftly through the foyer to avoid any over-crowding. There is plenty of space in the main hall for you to chat and catch-up with others.
Children will need to check-in at reception. They will then be given a sticker to show that they've been registered, and then they can sit with you in the main hall until it's time for them to go to Kids Church. The groups for Sunday School are as follows:
Bible Explorers (ages 1-4)
God Seekers (ages 4-7)
Truth Chasers (ages 7-11)
Faith Finders (ages 11-16)
We will be having communion during the service, and we provide pre-filled communion cups which you can collect from reception. (Alternatively, if you wish to bring your own communion, you are very welcome to).
We are still encouraging people to give online or through the GIVT app, but if you'd like to give by cash/cheque, there is a collection box on the wall in the main hall (as there won't be an offering taken up during the service yet).
Tea & coffee will be available after the service in the minor hall, on a self-service basis.
As all legal requirements on communal worship have now been removed, we are now in a position to begin easing some of our covid restrictions. We will do this with caution, and in stages:
It is hoped that from September we will be able to ease more covid restrictions, but this will be subject to review:
We understand that some may be nervous about any changes, and to ensure that people feel safe we ask that you adhere to these guidelines and bear with us as we move forward, as a church together. Live-streaming of church services will be continuing even after covid restrictions have eased.
If you’ve any questions or concerns, please do contact us.
From 19th July legal restrictions on communal worship will be removed, however, we are urged to move forward cautiously, and what this means for ECC:Rotherham is still unclear. We are currently awaiting further guidance from Elim Headquarters as to how we should progress with our easing of restrictions, but for now, all of our current restrictions (such as pre-booking seats, mask wearing, and social distancing) will remain in place.
During August, there will be a very limited kids church provision, but this will need to be pre-booked in addition to booking seats for the services. It is our plan for Sunday School to resume fully at church from the beginning of September.
JESUS' SUPREMACY OVER AARON (HEBREWS 4:14-5:6)
By Mick Smith
At the end of chapter 14 the readers are told that "We have a great high priest" That leads us to the next comparison between Jesus and all those and all that which the readers held in their hearts with great affection. The aim of the letter is to reveal the supremacy of Christ.
We have read of the supremacy of Jesus to the prophets (1:1-3); to the angels (1:4-2:18) and to Moses (3:1-4:16). Now the supremacy of Jesus to Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, is to be established. Let's look at that before we look at what that means for us (4:14-16)
So, Christ is revealed as the supreme High Priest. The high priests of old offered shadows of the reality to come. The sacrifices of old were offered regularly — Christ offers the true sacrifice, once for all. The old priests offered amoral sacrifices (animal sacrifices were totally unaware of the righteousness of that for which their lives were being sacrificed) The Supreme High Priest was totally aware and offered Himself as a perfect moral (totally aware of right and wrong and the need for righteous intervention) sacrifice. He offered the supreme atoning sacrifice and He was the sacrifice.
WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO US?
It's because times are constantly changing. Nothing seems to remain the same for long whether that be international, national, local or personal. As someone once said, "Constant change is here to stay." And, if we are to remain true to the faith once for all delivered, we need to endure as well as enjoy our faith in Christ knowing that our needs are satisfied through the perfect offering of the perfect high priest.
The anchor that we, as Christians, have in the midst of the uncertainties that accompany constant change is the unchanging Christ Jesus. People, situations, customs and values change but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So our choice, like those who first read the letter; is to either move with the changes or stay with the unchanging Christ who redeemed us and will, one glorious day, deliver us into the eternal and glorious presence of God.
Jesus willingly offered Himself as an acceptable sacrifice to God in our place. That's why we may have faith for today and have a certain hope for eternity. That's what makes Him our great high priest.
THE HIGH PRIEST'S FUNCTION
The prime concept is of 'mediation' (v1) He's a 'go-between' a bridge builder. He represents man towards God and God towards man.
Jesus is superior in mediation in that He is God incarnate. He is perfectly God and perfectly man. He understands what God wants and he understands what man is like....so He knows what God wants and what man needs.
The second concept is of 'sacrifice' (v1-3) Sin is a barrier between God and man. Sacrifice is the only means by which that barrier can be removed so that reconciliation between God and man is made possible.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in sacrificial offering in that all the offerings made by Aaron were symbolic of what was truly needed. Jesus was the substance. The animal sacrifices had no choice; no understanding of what was happening to them. Jesus chose to be our sacrifice. He understood fully what was happening. Aaron entered the presence of God once each year. Jesus entered once for all.
The third concept is of 'access to God' The high priesthood of Aaron offered relief from God's punishment of sin. The problem was that the relief was temporary. His priesthood did not cleanse the conscience and, unless perfectly clean, no one can enter God's presence.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in gaining access to God's presence in that He entered in to the very presence of God that was represented by the holy place in which Aaron entered once each year. Once there He was able (because of His acceptable sacrifice) to offer an everlasting relief from sin. Jesus' self-sacrifice ensured that our conscience could be cleansed.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE OFFICE (v1-4)
He must be taken from among men (v1) The issue was that it had to be someone not something that had to be offered. We read earlier that no angel could mediate between God and man; now, we are told, neither could any animal sacrifice suffice.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that, in order to fulfil this requirement, He had to take on our form. Aaron offered animal sacrifices. Jesus emptied Himself and became as we are. He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He became perfectly man while remaining perfectly God. He was obedient unto death as our replacement. His perfect, sinless life enabled Him to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice.
He must have human compassion (v2-3) Aaron's human nature granted him compassion because he knew that he, as well as those he represented, needed God's grace and mercy. So, he was faced with the
fact that he was offering sacrifices for his own sins as well as for those of the people.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that, during his ministry on earth He looked at the people with compassion and saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He had no need of a sacrifice to represent Him as He was without sin. He had to become sin and endure Divine condemnation for sin for our sake; not His own.
He must be divinely appointed (v4) The position of high priest was not one that was open to volunteers. There was no interview panel to face. It was a position to which Aaron was called and appointed by God.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that He who was with God and was God became man who learned, through His sufferings, what God wanted of a high priest. He did not take the dignity of the position upon himself. He did not glorify himself. He was appointed by God the Father and sent to fulfil the office.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that Aaron was high priest but Jesus is the great high priest (4:14) This is the only reference to Him as such. What it means is that even though He was the Son of God (v8) He had to suffer in order to be come perfect. He had to learn what it is to become like us. His learning caused Him to become strong in Spirit. He increased in wisdom and stature
WHAT THAT MEANS FOR US
We have a man in glory right now. He lived the perfect sinless life. He became an acceptable sacrifice. When He ascended into heaven He presented His blood as the atonement for all our sins. He is perfectly qualified as our great high priest. He has entered in to the presence of God once for all. That is why He is our great high priest.
His great high priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. A high priest served as such as long as he lived. Jesus is like Melchizedek in that His priesthood will never end because He is eternal and He is the author of eternal life. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
May we see Jesus more clearly than ever before and may we know Him more intimately so that we might walk this life as Jesus walked. He is greater than the prophets. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than Aaron. He is the unchanging Christ. The way in to the presence of God is open.
SINCE THEN WE HAVE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST
We are exhorted to “hold fast our confession.”
( i) Essentially he's urging them not to go back
( ii) To what? To our confession of faith in Jesus as our Saviour
(iii) And to our acceptability to God in Christ alone
(iv) We have the perfect high priest who knows what we are like
( v) He has faced every temptation without having sinned
(vi) He has taken our sin, shame and sorrow upon himself so
We are encouraged to draw near to the throne of grace
( i) With confidence in the person and work of our great high priest
( ii) That we may receive mercy and find grace for all our needs
(iii) His blood is the hope of our salvation
(iv) Our hope is not in anything of self but it's a hope in Christ
( v) He really is our all-sufficient one
The whole point is that we hold fast, not in the sense of a white knuckle ride, but by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the object of our confession. It's He who holds us fast. We cannot hold fast by looking at anything of ourselves. That could never be enough. He is seated on the throne. He is our righteousness
We are invited, with a free pass, into the presence of the living God and at the heart of the presence is an everlasting fountain of grace that's sufficient for all. Jesus' supremacy extends over the first, the original high priest of Israel.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ set your minds on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honour and power. Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-4)
The aim of the letter is to affirm the superiority of Jesus above all. He was shown to be greater than the prophets who were a very respected group of people; considered to have God's ear. God spoke to His people, through the prophets, throughout the ages. The point was that Jesus was greater than them in as much as God has spoken through His Son. They all had bits of the jigsaw. Jesus was the full picture. So we saw that Jesus is greater than the prophets.
The next step was to show that He is greater than the angels. At that time there was a strong belief in angels. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that they were being asked to believe that the angels could open the way in to the presence of God. They couldn't. There is only one way in to the presence of God and that one way was Jesus. "I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except by me" So we saw that Jesus is greater than the angels.
Now the assertion is taken one step further. These people were on the point of returning to that which they had received from their forefathers from the teaching of Moses. When we face uncertainty the tendency is to pull back to what is familiar rather than press on in to the unknown.
They were making comparisons. Moses had delivered their forefathers from their Egyptian bondage. Jesus had not delivered them from their Roman bondage. They could not yet see that He had come to deliver them from a greater bondage. Moses had instigated the tabernacle service. Jesus hadn't added any such inspiring ritual to them. They could not see that God's purpose was to build a temple made out of living stones. Neither could they see that the way in to the presence of God was not through their own efforts to keep Moses' law but through the law of Moses having been totally fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
Moses had a unique place in their hearts. God had spoken to him as a man speaks with a friend. He had been in the presence of God and received the commandments which were the essence of their way of life. He was ranked higher than the angels. God said of him that he was the most faithful in His entire household. He was a leader of great renown. So now, having shown that Moses was greater than the Angels the writer sets out to establish that Jesus is greater than the greatest man of Israel. He was faithful to speak all that God told him to speak. He was faithful to accomplish all that God gave him to accomplish. He argued with God. But he obeyed Him. He was a remarkable man. His faithfulness was unique even when the people he led were unfaithful. No one could conceivably closer to God. That's why the point is made; the Son is more faithful. He is counted as more worthy of glory than Moses. So he writes; consider Jesus as the apostle of faith & as the high priest.
AS THE APOSTLE OF FAITH
This is the only reference to Him as apostle. He was sent as an apostle of the Good News to a fallen world. He was god's ambassador. He was sent with the authority and power of God. He was the undiluted voice of God.
AS THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE FAITH
A priest is a pontifex (bridge builder) over the chasm of sin that separates man from God. To do that he must know God and he must know man. Jesus is the high priest because He is perfectly God and perfectly man. He is the only one who ever has, can and will ever be able to fulfil that function. That's what makes Him the apostle of faith. That's what makes Him the high priest of the faith.
Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses because His relationship was more exalted than that between Moses and God. Moses was God's servant. Jesus was God's Son. Moses was faithful as a servant in God's house. Jesus was faithful as a Son over His house.
This passage concludes with these words: we are god's household if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. The way to do that is to set your minds on the realities of heaven Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. The reality is that Jesus is greater than the prophets; greater than the angels and He's greater than Moses.
Article by Mick Smith
We are approaching the time of year when we will, as Christians, be most appreciative of God's plan of salvation that has been made possible through His grace in sending Jesus to the earth. He came to take away our sins so that whoever would believe in Him may have eternal life. Jesus' death is a recorded fact of secular history. It's not just the Bible that informs us about the event. There has never been any doubt that Jesus died on a cross. It's not a story made up by His followers. It was witnessed by many who did not believe in him. It was well documented at the time by the Roman soldiers and leaders. Even the Roman authorities recorded that a man called Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, was crucified. Any controversy concerning it has not been about the event; it has concerned the meaning of it.
We have to go to the Bible, God's written communication to everyone, to realise the meaning. The Bible tells us that Jesus died, in our place, to take the punishment for our sins and that He rose again on the third day. His death was an atoning sacrifice. His resurrection was an affirmation that He was the Son of God. His death is essential to the Christian's belief in the provision of God for the sake of our reconciliation but it's only half of the plan of God.
At the heart of our belief is the fact that God can now treat sinners as sons because He treated His only Begotten Son as a sinner. Jesus became sin for us. God could have folded His arms in righteous indignation at the state of fallen man of His creation through the effect of sin; He could have been angry at the thought that His Son, who lived a totally sinless life, had to die to take away the punishment we deserved. But, crucially, He didn't. Instead He opened His heart and reached out with arms of love to all of mankind to enfold us with His love, grace and mercy. All of that was while we were still at enmity with Him. God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.
That set me thinking. For many people Easter has become simply a holiday; a break from work; an opportunity to get away from it all. But, for those who believe, on Good Friday we humbly thank God that He sent His Son to die in our place. We can, with grateful hearts say, "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."
His resurrection is the other essential fact of our faith. John Stott said that "Christianity is, in essence, a resurrection faith.The concept of the resurrection is at the very heart of our faith." There were many who witnessed His death on the cross but no one witnessed His resurrection because He rose from within the sealed tomb where His body had been laid. However there were many who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was rolled away to let the disciples in; not to let Jesus out
How can we know? By looking at the substantial evidence. There were eye witness accounts. Though it's true to say that no one witnessed the resurrection (it happened in a sealed tomb) the resurrected Jesus appeared to many of His followers. He appeared to the followers who gathered around the empty tomb. He appeared to the twelve disciples. He appeared to a crowd of five hundred. He appeared to the apostle Paul.
The resurrection is a verified, witnessed, historical fact; one which remains at the heart of the Christian faith. The facts are indisputable. There was an empty tomb.. The large stone that sealed the door of the tomb was rolled away and the Roman seal which no one would have dared to break was broken. There was no body in the tomb and the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb. These are what the Bible calls the infallible truths.
In addition there was plenty of circumstantial evidence. The lives of the disciples were transformed. The day of rest was changed. Jesus' dead body was never found simply because He had risen. The believers consequently would greet one another with the words, "He is risen" to which the response would be "He is risen indeed"
Jesus answered the questions concerning His death and resurrection with the words, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but, if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24) He took an example from the natural realm to explain a truth from the Spiritual realm. A grain of wheat sown in the ground appears above ground in a different form. The old has gone and the new has come. That is the essence of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus died and He rose from death. He has a new body that is no longer subjected to the restrictions of the body that died. It's the same principle at work in the spiritual realm as in the realm of nature when the farmer sows his seed in the ground, in one form, and it is raised in another form.
Jesus died to atone for our sins. He rose from the dead for our justification and He ascended into Heaven to present His blood as atonement for our sin.. This Easter let us give thanks with ever increasingly grateful hearts. Now there's a thought.
Article written by Mick Smith
I can still remember my first portable radio. It was one I had seen at a friend's house; one I had seen in the shops and I really wanted one. I mean really wanted one. So much so that I had been dropping hints about it for quite a while (when I say dropping hints it was more like begging and pleading). After all my birthday was only three months away and that gave whoever was going to buy it for me plenty of time to save up enough money (you see how thoughtful I was?) Anyway my birthday duly arrived, I came down for breakfast before school and there it was, on the table, my very own brand new Roberts (other brands etc) portable radio. I couldn't wait to get home from school that day to go upstairs tune in and listen.
There were many subsequent nights, the nights I stayed in, when I spent a lot of time listening to various programmes. It was brilliant. I can't ever remember changing the batteries in it but I suppose I must have done at some stage of its life. I spent hours listening to programmes like, Dick Barton special agent (could he have been the precursor of James Bond?), Dan Dare, Journey in to space, Round the Horn and many others. Luxembourg became my favourite station!!
One thing I remember vividly was those times when I had to point the extendable aerial in a certain direction and find some way of holding it there while I twiddled with the tuner in order to be able to listen without interference. It was frustrating at times trying to keep the aerial in the right position while being careful to position the tuner correctly in order not to lose the reception. I remember our physics teacher taking time out in one lesson to explain to one or two of us the importance of the transmitter of the signal and the receiver being on the same wave-length.
That set me thinking. Could that physics teacher have, unknowingly, stumbled on the answer to those times when we find it hard to hear from God no matter how hard we try to tune in to Him? I know that the interference I found as I tried to tune in to my radio may relate to the interference that we experience,at times, as we try to tune in to God. Come on be honest. You know the sort of thing I mean. How often do you settle down to read your daily reading (or better still your Bible) and the phone rings. Perhaps, as you are getting ready to seek God and something suddenly jumps in to your mind and you can't settle until you have sorted that out. The problem is that diversions such as these really do interfere with our tuning in to God. How often do you fully intend to talk with God but, for one reason or another, you don't manage to do it. Or could it be that, at times, we simply find it hard or tedious to tune in and stay in tune.
It seems to me that communication with God is on the same principle as that of radio communication. The receiver needs to be on the same wavelength as the transmitter if there is to be no interference.
What I mean is that the transmitter is God. The receiver is the human spirit and the wavelength is that of the Holy Spirit. He has come to live within us for that very purpose; that God may minister to us and we may minister to God. He is our 'go-between' The human spirit, once born again, is our communication centre and, given that we all suffer from the interference of the flesh against the spirit, that's one extremely good reason to stay tuned in to God by maintaining a right relationship with the Holy Spirit.
How can we tune in to the wavelength of the Holy Spirit? There are four steps. Step one: Be sure that He is with us for us and always ready to help. Step two: Be determined to persevere as intention, of itself, is not enough. Step three: Be confident that you will get there (sometimes quicker than others) Be patient: God's timing is different to ours. We can be frustrated and willing to so easily give in. God never gets tired (though sometimes He may wait to test our determination)
Once tuned in stay tuned in!! Don't let interference find a way to prevent you hearing what God has to say. "Be still and know that He is God." The one certainty in all of this is that it's God's desire and our privilege to hear from God and to speak with God. Now there's a thought.
Colossians 1:1-3 Set your minds on the things above and keep them set on what is above; the higher things not the things that are on the earth. As far as this world is concerned you have died and your new real life is hid, with Christ, in God.
I'm sure that, at some time, we have all had a longing deep within. It might have been to visit some far away exotic land or to do something that seems way beyond reach. It could be that you wanted to be famous (or even noticed). There are many who long to be able to do, or to say, or to be something that still remains unsatisfied. Perhaps it's a longing for better health. For some it will be for greater wealth for others even enough wealth with which to be comfortable. It could even be an unfulfilled longing to be for God or to achieve for God that which seemed to have been placed on our hearts by God.
All of these longings and more besides are common to many of us if we stop for a moment and think about it. I grant you it will be much more relevant for some than others. The point is that there is no harm in longing or dreaming for whatever it may be as long as it does not take our focus from the purpose for which we exist which is to live a Spirit filled life that shows the reality of Jesus and brings honour to His name.
Here's the question, " How do you deal with those unfulfilled longings?" It's fair to say that some may be all about self. They are the ones that will do us no good and will do nothing for the furtherance of God's will for your life. But not all longings are like that. There are, I believe, some longings that are placed in your heart by God. All of us, hopefully, will learn how to cope with the unfulfilled longings that are not from God. But, what about those that you truly believe have been placed deep within, by God, but as yet there are no signs that they will become a reality? How do we cope with them?
That set me thinking. King David was a man caught up in such a scenario. He had a longing. He wanted to build a house for the Lord his God in which He could dwell (2Samuel 7:1-17) It was something that gained approval from another, Nathan, so David was convinced that this was the next stage of his ministry to the God that he loved and served. But, in the narrative, we find that they had both got it wrong. Though King David, at this point in his life, was riding on the crest of a wave the lesson for him was that good ideas are not always God ideas.
Right now he was King of Israel. He had captured Jerusalem and brought the Ark of God back in to the city. That was fine. God was happy with that. But now David had this deep longing in his heart to build a house in which God could dwell. To all intents and purposes it was 'good to go' but it was not the right time and he was not the right man according to the will of God. It remained unfulfilled because it was good but not right. It was commendable but not admissible.
The truth is that any longing that God instigates in your thinking and in your heart will be fulfilled. I remember reading somewhere that Alexander the Great wept when there were no more worlds for him to conquer. Perhaps King David was a little bit like that. He obviously wanted to do the right thing for God because God acknowledged that he was a man after God's own heart. He really wanted to build that house. It was a deep longing within him but it was not going to happen through him.
It must have been hard for him but, because of his love for God and his trust in Him, he came to terms with it.we know that because, when Solomon was granted permission to do that which David longed to do, he gave him his whole-hearted support. His longing was to be fulfilled through someone else. That was a great opportunity for him to 'throw his dummy out of the pram' and take his bat home (I know these are not Biblical sayings but they seemed appropriate) but he didn't. The temple that he wanted to build, that was built by Solomon, was in time destroyed, built again and destroyed again. So what David longed for did not last long in terms of eternity. But what God was doing in his life was to begin to build an eternal kingdom (verse 16)
How are we to cope with unfulfilled longings? The first step is to learn how to discern between those which are from God and those that are of self and humbly and willingly accept the will of the Lord our God. After all He knows best!! David accepted the accompanying disappointment of his longing being unfulfilled. He knew that God knew better than he did. He humbled himself before God and allowed God to have His way in his life. It was after that, as he looked back over his life that from that point on God granted him success. The secret is: give in and give up to God. Let Him do the sifting. Now there's a thought.
Psalm 42:1 as a deer pants for the water so my soul longs for You O God. My soul thirsts for the living God
Psalm 84:2 my soul longs, yea faints for the courts of God; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
I've been thinking a lot, recently, about the choices with which we are faced each and every day. It seems to me that, as followers of the Lord Jesus, we are constantly faced with choices that are important as we live in a greatly changing world. Values have changed, morals have changed and society itself has changed. In the midst of all of that we have a leader who does not change. That fact does not make Him old fashioned but it does mean, for His followers, that His leadership, example and values are as relevant today as when He walked this Earth.
Some years ago we were on holiday and had gone to a local church where the pastor, whilst preaching on the subject of God's timing, mentioned that he and his wife were often 'last minute' people because his wife could never make her mind up what to wear and that often involved her trying on one outfit and then changing it at the last minute. It often took her a long time to choose what to wear. it had to be right for the right occasion.
He used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. He said, in his view, that she had 'two wardrobes full of nothing to wear.' I think he realised, having said that in public, he may have been skating on thin ice because he ended the story with the remark that she always looked nice whatever she wore and her choice, that morning, was particularly nice. On the other hand of course he could just have been a very wise man.
Perhaps, to some extent, we are all a little bit like that. We, generally, want to look good don't we? Come on, be honest, how many of us take something out of the wardrobe and then put it back because it's not quite right or another outfit would look that much better or appropriate. Of course that will be the ladies not the men (oops perhaps I should have left that out.....too late) We may not have two wardrobes full of clothes from which can choose the right outfit but many of us will take time to know what to wear for which occasion.
That set me thinking. The Bible is quite clear on what we should wear. Granted, it's not exactly what clothes we should wear or a dress code for church attendance. It's something much more important than the issue of wearing the right clothes for the right occasion. It's all to do with the issue, a gar more important issue, of what does and what does not please God.
The Bible is quite straightforward in what we should wear in terms of what we should take off and what we should put on. One of my favourite expressions in the
Bible (in the older versions) is that the Holy Spirit put on Gideon. That's powerful. Anyway, we are clearly told, for example, that we need to put off (take off) the old self and that we should put on the new self. It even describes for us the detail of the old and describes for us the new. That's to be found in Colossians chapter three and verses five to seventeen. There's another list in Ephesians chapter four and verses twenty two to thirty two.
If we really do want to dress in a way that pleases God we will do what we are told to do. We are to put off (take off) the old nature and to put on the new nature. The new nature, often referred to as the new self, represents the 'clothes' that God has provided and in which He loves to see us. Such outfits are pleasing to Him. The old nature or the old self represents the 'clothes' that God does not like to see us wear simply because they are not pleasing to His eyes
When we make our choice of what to wear (we are back in the everyday world of the clothes we wear to go out) we we take the clothes we are not going to wear and hang them back up in the wardrobe and then take another outfit from the wardrobe and put that on. Concerning the things (back to the spiritual realm) that the Bible tells us to put off (take off) it's time well spent if we take a look at the two scripture passages above to see if we can recognise anything that we keep putting on that's not pleasing to God. If there's anything that we do recognise it's a good idea (even a God idea) to make a conscious decision to throw them away rather than hang them back up again to be worn at some other time.
That way, in due time, we will be faced with less of a choice of what to wear and, hopefully, what's left will be the things that the Bible tells us we are to put on and are pleasing to God. Now these a thought.
Ephesians 4:22-24 Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
One of the early words spoken to me from God was in Psalm 32. 'Be not like a horse or a mule without understanding which must be curbed with bit and bridle' Well, on this particular occasion, it was not so much that I felt like a horse or a mule; it was more that I felt like a dinosaur!!! All I had gone to the supermarket for was some bread. I know it sounds so simple (that's why I am relating to the dinosaur) and I know it should have been simple but, as I stood and looked at all the many shelves full of different types of bread, it did not seem so simple at all.
There was sliced and unsliced bread. There was brown white or best of both; thin, medium, thick or even extra thick. I could have bread with crust or without crust. I saw seeded bread, unseeded, single seed or multi-seeded. Oh no, there was more still to come; granary, wholemeal, roughage and high roughage. I could have either wrapped or unwrapped plus the choice of about four different bakeries.
All I had come for was some bread. The question was, "which one had I come for?" I began to wonder why I had not paid more attention to what type of bread we usually bought. As hard as I tried I could not think of what our usual bread looked like in the bread basket. It would have been much more straightforward and far less overwhelming if I could have.
That set me thinking. Each day we are faced with choices that we have to make. From the rising of the sun to it's going down we are faced with situations, decisions and choices. The world in which we live offers such a wide variety of alternatives of products intended to satisfy our deepest needs, philosophies that intend to satisfy our deepest desires and programmes that are designed to ensure our wellbeing and health. On the surface such things are attractive and could well be helpful but which, if any, are the right choice?
The Bible makes it quite clear that, as the people of God, choices are important to us on a different level. In fact, in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 we are faced with choices that are categorised as either 'life and good or death and bad'
Such choices are, obviously, in a different league to which bread should I buy. They are choices that affect our journey of life as we live, as we were called, by faith. For example we live in a world that is constantly changing in many ways. In the realm of morality we have seen great change. The choice we face is whether to go with the changing world or to stay with the unchanging Christ who is the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith. You might say that the right choice is simple (and it is) but, for some, the attraction may be very strong.
Life would be much more simple if God made all the choices for us. But He doesn't. He gives the guidance but we are to make the choice. That makes the issue of making the right choices very important (read Isaiah 7:15). So, how do we make the right choices that will helpus to live our lives that please our Heavenly Father?
There are five steps revealed in scripture that are helpful. First, the word of God is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path (Psalm 119:105). Second, the Holy Spirit is our personal guide whose responsibility it is to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Third, we need to respond and obey (especially when the choice revealed to us in not the choice we would have made). Fourth, we are to ask, in prayer, for the promised spirit of wisdom and revelation to affirm the choice (Ephesians 1:16-19). Fifth, we have faith to know that the issue of making the right choices carries with it the promised reward of life, length of days, fulfilment and satisfaction.
What form do such choices take for the people of God? There is the choice between good and evil or life and death. There is the choice between God and idols (Joshua 24: 15-28). There is the choice between obedience and disobedience (1Samuel 15:1-35) and the choice between wisdom and folly (Proverbs 8:1-21). Don't be fooled or taken in by the seemingly attractiveness of what the world offers but listen to the voice within that says,"This is the way. Walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). The promises of God are Yea and Amen. They are eternal promises. Even today, if we are tempted to turn to the right or to the left we will hear that same voice. If we hear it and heed it then the issue of the right choice will become far less complicated and much more straightforward. Now there's a thought.
Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt for he looked to the reward
I absolutely love driving. It is something that I have enjoyed for many years. My work, as an area manager, in the steel industry involved a lot of travel over a large area. My average mileage was in excess of 40,000 miles each year and there was a great deal of freedom away from an office desk as well as a lot of responsibility in keeping appointments; all of which I enjoyed.
During that time on the roads I saw plenty of collisions between other vehicles. Some of those collisions were minor bumps and scrapes but others were major incidents. Some, I suppose, happened through complacency or carelessness and some must have happened through sheer recklessness of one driver or another; even both. But I cannot imagine that any one of them were caused deliberately through sheer intent. Why would anyone set out to do such a thing on purpose?
That set me thinking. When Jesus died on the cross at Calvary it was not just an accident that caused him to hang there and die. It was not something that happened as a consequence of carelessness in any form. It did not happen to him because of his preaching, his claims or his unpopularity. His death was not an accident from which God managed to salvage some good. When Jesus hung on the cross it was the fulfilment of all that He had come to earth to achieve. No one sent Jesus to the cross. He went to the cross. No one took the life of Jesus. He willingly gave his life. What took place at Calvary was destined to happen in full accord with the will of God. It was the aim of his sinless life. It was a deliberate collision between good and evil. It was with deliberate intent.
God set a deliberate collision course with sin even from before the foundation of the world. The result of this collision was profound. Jesus died as the lamb of God that was slain from before time began. What a collision that was, between good and evil, the day that Jesus willingly died for our sakes. It was so great that the whole earth was covered in darkness and shaken by an earthquake. Rocks were split asunder tombs were opened and those incredible curtains of the Temple were torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:45-54).
Any collision involves a cost. In the case of vehicle collision there is the cost of any repairs to the vehicles involved. There is the cost of an ambulance that might be called to the scene, or the fire service or the police service. There is the cost of hospitalisation and treatment to any or all of the injured persons in the accident. There certainly was a cost involved in the collision that God brought about that day at Calvary.
It cost God a lot to send his Son to die; in fact Isaiah prophesied that it pleased God to bruise him. It cost Jesus his life. That's why, with grateful hearts, we can say thank you to God for what it cost him and to Jesus that he took our place in redeeming sacrifice. We would never have survived such a collision on our own. The price of our redemption has been paid for us. The cost of it is beyond our imagination. The wonder of it is that it was no accident. It was deliberate.
There is always a consequence to any collision. In a vehicle accident someone may have points put on their driving license. They may be fined. They may even be banned from driving for a period of time. Such consequences are a penalty. It indicates guiltiness.
The consequences of the deliberate collision between God and sin are quite incredible. There is no penalty attached to us at all. In fact there is the benefit that God's enemy no longer has dominion over us because Jesus, our Saviour, has taken the penalty upon himself. Wow, what a Saviour!!!
When the centurion, and those that were with him around the cross, experienced the earthquake and saw what was taking place when Jesus died they were filled with awe and the centurion confessed, "Truly, this was the Son of God." (Matthew 27:54) The apostle Paul was, later, to realise that the son of God loved him and gave himself for him. (Galatians 2:20) In fact the truth is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in his love for them would have eternal life (John 3:16) but what a revelation that was for Paul when he saw that love for the whosoever became personal for him.
How blessed we are when we comprehend the truth. God intended this collision. It was his deliberate plan. The consequence? The destruction of the hold of sin and death. Surely that is enough to fill us with that same sense of awe that those around the cross experienced. May we, may I, never lose the wonder of the cross. Now there's a thought.
Galatians 2:26 I have been crucified with Christ. It's no longer I that live but Christ living in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
It happened quite a few years ago but it was so dramatic that I, along with many people, still recall it and remember it vividly when asked about it. It was a European cup final and, to all intents and purposes, the team I supported was going to lose. The other team was winning 2-1 and any hope of a recovery and victory was fading fast. Nothing was going right. My team was seemingly doing everything alright but there was no sign of the two goals we needed to score to win the trophy.
Time was running out fast and hope of a victory was fading even faster when a big cheer went up from the supporters. Another player was warming up on the touch line and on he came as a substitute for another player who had not been able to do what he was supposed to do to win the game.
The substitute took the place of the one who was taken off and, to the absolute amazement and appreciation of the supporters, went on to score the two goals that were needed for an unexpected and unlikely victory. Even better; the second goal came in the dying seconds of the game. The substitute had won the game. The trophy and the glory of such a victory was ours; it was shared with the manager, the rest of the team and those who had supported them through it all.
Although no one thought it at the time the manager knew exactly what he was doing as he had waited for just the right time to make the substitution. That's the strange thing about time isn't it? We had scored the first goal and, when we were winning, time seemed to go very slowly as the other team gradually became stronger and scored the two goals they thought would secure them the victory. When we were losing and the end of the game was approaching time seemed to go very quickly and hope was fading fast of a victory.
That story set me thinking. It makes me appreciate how Jesus took my place as my substitute. At Calvary He took my place in redeeming sacrifice. It was me that deserved to die but it was Jesus that died in my place. It was my sin that deserved the due punishment but it was He who stepped in, at the right time, to take my sin, shame and punishment upon himself. The just died for the unjust. God sent Jesus to die in our place so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) What a substitution!! What an exchange!! What glory!!
Just one of the incredible things about God is His sense of time. It's totally different from our concept of time. The Bible clearly tells us that it was when the hour had fully come that He sent his only begotten Son to atone for our sins. In other words He came on and took our place, as our substitute, just at the right time. There are those who may ask the question, "Why not sooner?" The answer is that God knew the right time.
Just one of the incredible things about Jesus is that, in view of who He is, He was willing to die in our place. The aim of the footballer we spoke of earlier was simple. He had the prospect of some form of glory before him if he could achieve that purpose for which he was sent on to the field. But it was different for Jesus.
The Word who was with God, and who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth but, in fact, His immediate aim was not his own glory. It was suffering, of such an intensity that we will never fully fathom, purely for our sake and for the sake of the glory of his Father's name. The truth in which we can all share and in which we can equally rejoice is that He endured the suffering and accomplished the victory. That was the glory that was set before him.
This is the time of the year to appreciate fully God's plan to substitute you. You may be thinking that time is running out and you have yet to secure the victory in some area of your life? It might be sorrow or regret. It might be affliction or oppression. It might even be some habit that always rears its head when you thought you already had the victory. You feel as though nothing's changed, it will never change, the clock is ticking and time is running out.
If that is so remember this. God sent Jesus to be your substitute; to do what you cannot do. The wonder of that is that He has overcome the world, and that through his overcoming, you are more than a conqueror. Now we can share in the glory of that victory just as everyone shared in the glory of that football victory years ago. The substitute won the reward but we all share the trophy. Now there's a thought.
Isaiah 53:4-6 surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and, with his stripes, we are healed.
Over the last week, many areas of South Eastern Africa have been devastated by Cyclone Idai. Torrential rain and winds up to 170km/h have swept from Malawi, across Mozambique and into Zimbabwe.
We need donations to provide food and assistance, roofs for destroyed homes and money to rebuild Elim's destroyed churches.
Can you help us demonstrate through practical ways the compassion of Jesus to a nation broken by this natural disaster? You can donate online at "Elim Missions - ERA South Eastern Africa Appeal" web page.
There really ought to have been a no entry sign. The lane down which we were driving had given no indication at all of what we were now facing and, to be honest, I was already beginning to be concerned about any damage to my car. It was also starting to feel that the way forward could become a bit of a challenge.
The surface of the road suddenly appeared to be in a very bad condition. There were large cracks and big holes that were extremely obvious but, what was even worse was that, there were weeds and bramble bushes growing from them that were far too large for the car to pass over without incurring some substantial damage to the sides and the underside of the car. In addition to all of that the hedges down both sides of the lane were so neglected and overgrown that, in places, they were spreading right across the lane.
There was absolutely no way forward, at that point, and so I took the only option available to me. I needed to back off the situation that faced me and so I began to reverse my car all the way back, a hundred metres, to the point at which I had turned in to the lane with damage limitation being the order of the day.
What had started as a pleasant drive in the country had become more like a nightmare. The thing was that this lane was one I was familiar with as a child. I knew where it led and that it used to be wide enough for the local farmer to drive his tractor along. The assumption was that it would be passable for the car but I hadn't reckoned on the passing of time and the effect of neglect on this little lane.
That set me thinking. How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation in our journey of life where we are faced with obstacles, that seem impassable, preventing us moving on? How frequently do circumstances seem to hem us in on all sides? It's those times where, if we are honest, we do exactly what I had to do in my car. We back off. We compromise and become content with damage limitation.
Now here's the good news. We do not have to back away from these sort of situations. There is a way when there seems to be no way. God
knows the way, Jesus is the way and, with the Holy Spirit as our sat nav, we can move on through what looks impossible and feels so daunting. We are an overcoming people, in Christ, and every situation in which we find ourselves worried (for whatever reason), in reality, is an opportunity to prove that we are willing to trust God all the way through a problem and not just to a point where it feels impossible.
As a matter of fact I can tell you that the sat nav in my car has taken me on a few strange roads but I know that when the Holy Spirit is navigating us on our journey He never makes a mistake or an error of judgement. There is no obstacle in the way of the Christian that cannot be overcome with the Holy Spirit as guide.
When we look at some of the blockages we face they appear to us as giants. A situation may seem impossible and impassable. A hurt may often seem absolutely immovable. Circumstances may seem to close in on us from all sides and we feel as claustrophobic as it did in my car on that journey I was relating to you. Whatever the problem; there is a way forward.
Don't focus on the giant; if we do we don't move forward. Focus on Jesus and, in the light of His glory and grace, the things that trouble us will fade away. Look to the truth of the Word of God and see that the power of God, at work in us, is able to do far more than all that we ask or even think is possible. (Ephesians 3:20). The truth is that we need never become stuck so that we cannot move forward. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).
Why not have a go? Think of whatever situation God has brought to mind while you are reading this and ask Him to clear the way forward and remove all hindrances and blockages that have hemmed you in for such a long time. Tell Him that you are willing. He will do it if you will press on for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Take the first step and see what God can do. Don't hesitate. Press on. Forget the no entry sign. Now there's a thought.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who, by the power at work within us, is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or even think; to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. Amen.
ClDo you enjoy your food? If you do you won't have any difficulty in being able to identify your favourite dish. For me, steak, onions or even onion rings and chips would have to be one of the front runners in the popularity stakes (ha ha do you see what I've done there?). It could also be Yorkshire puddings with thick onion gravy, lamb and roast potatoes a close second with chicken and a jacket potato coming in third place. What about a salad? Sorry, for me it was a non starter.
I do like some healthy foods (I thought I ought to mention that in case anyone tried to tell me what I should eat) For example I've really changed the way I now eat my bacon butties. I no longer have thick butter on my extra large bread cake. I think you will agree that's much healthier. However, there is one food I am not too keen on. It's the sort of pie you get with a really thick pastry crust. It seems to me that if the crust was much thinner you could get more meat in it.
I have been told that the general rule to healthy eating is that if it tastes nice it's not good for you but the food that does not taste so nice is, very often, good for you. If we relate that concept to eating of pies there is one type of pie that is good and healthy for all of us. It's humble pie.
I looked up the origin of the old saying about 'eating humble pie'. What I discovered was that, in medieval times, the upper class would feed their servants with a pie that contained the edible offal of the deer from their estates. The offal was known as the 'umbles' of the deer and the pie became known as 'umble' pie. It doesn't sound too appealing does it?
That set me thinking. Humility is described, in the dictionary, as a modest or low view of ones own importance. That goes against the grain as, mostly, we naturally tend to hold ourselves in a reasonably high regard. That is why even the sound of humble pie doesn't grab us.
However, did you know that the apostle Paul had occasion to eat humble pie? When he received Jesus as his Saviour he had to do this. He had previously done all he could to prevent Christianity spreading as
he had believers taken away and imprisoned. He was so humbled by his Damascus road experience that we read of in Acts chapter nine. He had, before his conversion experience, not only held himself in high regard but was seen the same way by many others.The humble pie he ate was to see that "all things that were gain to me I have counted as loss for Christ and rubbish (meaningless)."
Far from regarding himself as 'having arrived' as a blameless Hebrew he now saw himself as being far from perfect but willing to press on for the upward call of Christ (Philippians chapter 3) He had previously been seen as someone who had progressed far beyond most of his contemporaries of his previous life but now what that meant was that it was a new beginning and he was more than willing to make a new start. He was willing to put behind him all the knowledge that he had accumulated at the feet of Gamaliel (one of the foremost teachers of the law at the time) that he might learn to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and even the fellowship of His sufferings that he might at last be acceptable to God.
That was quite a chunk of this 'hard to digest' humble pie but he did it. You see that's the beauty of our calling to serve Christ. Whatever our past; it is forgiven. For the future we have a hope that is steadfast and certain. But there will be times, in the here and now, when we may well have to eat humble pie by saying or showing, both to our Saviour and to someone near to us, that we are sorry.
It's not the best tasting pie in the world and there are times when it will take some digesting but, if it's true that 'if it tastes nice it's not good for you but if it doesn't taste nice then it is good for you' then let's eat some good food. If the apostle Paul could then let's be willing to follow his example.
Philippians 3:4-8 if anyone thinks he has confidence in the fleshI have more; circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin a Hebrew born of Hebrews . As to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church and as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had I counted as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ.
By Mick Smith
I really do like classical music. I appreciate the works of composers like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Corelli, Mozart, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Handel, Schubert and Chopin. They all have an obvious and outstanding ability to produce works that are immensely pleasurable (to anyone who has an ear for such).I am amazed that there are such gifted people who can write music for so many different instruments that, when performed together, result in something so sweet sounding, pleasurable and harmonious.
Harmony is a musical term that indicates a combination of musical tones and notes. It is different to the melody but harmony and melody always compliment each other. It's the harmony that adds to the melody so that the result is one to be appreciated, pleasing and savoured.
However, harmony does not just apply to musical presentations. It can be expressed in other ways. For example when people live their lives in harmony it is something, I am convinced, that God enjoys and appreciates.
George Washington once stated "My disposition leads me towards peace and harmony with others. Such harmony assists me to avoid any personal feud with those who have embarked on the same great national interest as me. But it also allows me to disagree with those same people at times." What strikes me about that quote is that if he could express that view with national interest at heart how much more is it an aim for harmony in the kingdom of God.
Are you doubting the possibility of us all living together in harmony? Does it sound impossible? Well there is a place where over one thousand people live together in harmony every day of their lives. It's a town called Harmony in Fillmore County, Minnesota in the United Staes of America. The people there must, from time to time, disagree with one another but they still live in Harmony.
That set me thinking. We have heard much about togetherness at different times this year. The Bible is very clear about togetherness and living together in harmony. For example husbands and wives are to live together in harmony ( Ephesians5:22-23 & Colossians3:18-22). All who are followers of Jesus are very much encouraged to live together in harmony (Romans15:5-7 &16-18) as we follow the example of Jesus.
How about living in harmony with those of other faiths? Can that be possible? What about living in harmony with anyone outside our faith? The answer is "Yes". We can disagree with them about the essentials of faith whilst agreeing with them, and with God, about the value of mankind. We are to value all life whilst holding on to our core beliefs.
Even amongst our own Christian community we are not always going to agree on everything. In fact we don't have to always agree in our opinions as long as we ensure, to the best of our ability, to be agreeable in our dispositions and attitudes to one another. While ever we agree on the major truths of our Christian faith it's ok to disagree on the minor issues of the faith (obviously as long as we do so without disturbing the harmony between us).
What's the secret? How can we live in such harmony? Remember the example that Jesus set as the pioneer of our faith. He lived His life on Earth in such harmony with His Father that He could truly say that He and His Father were one.
Can we do it? Yes we can!!! (Sorry about that I must have been watching too many Bob the builder stories). We don't have to live in Minnesota in the United States of America. We can do it right here where we are as we realise that it is love that binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians3:14).
So, as we move from 2018 in to a new year, let us do all we can to ensure that our own lives are hitting the right notes that will gel with other lives in our church and the melody will produce a harmony that is pleasing to God who is well pleased when brothers live together in unity and harmony. I'm not one for making new year resolutions but I am all for exercising determination in a resolute manner. How about you? Have a happy and harmonious 2019. Now there's a thought.
Psalm 133:1 behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity
1 Peter3:8 finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.