From the Pastor

Going Deeper in Exodus: Egypt vs Babylon

During my study for Exodus 14, I encountered a connection between the account of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and Israel’s enslavement in Babylon. I thought this too technical and long-winded to talk about on Sunday so I’m posting some ideas here for you to read instead.

I’ll open the discussion with these verses from Isaiah 43:16–17 where Isaiah (writing to exiles) is writing about Israel’s deliverance from Babylon – yet wanting his readers to understand that this release as another Exodus:

This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.

The context of this passage is the same as our passage in Exodus 14 – Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s mercy. Notice that in this passage above God promises that He will bring Israel out of Babylon despite the fact that they have forgotten how God is (note the major theme of Exodus is about reminding Israel who God is). God is, in effect, reminding the Israelites that He has done this kind of thing before and He will certainly do it again. The departure from Babylon will be another Exodus.

Of course, to most readers of the Bible, the parallels that exist between Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and their exile in Babylon are pretty straightforward. Here’s the summary:

  • Israel is in a foreign land
  • Israel is held against their will
  • Israel needs to be delivered
  • Israel is in need of divine intervention in order to deliver them

Ok. Good so far, but let’s delve a little deeper.

There is a theological connection between Genesis 1 and the creation story, and these two events. Recall that in both the exodus and the return from exile God displays His power in a mighty way, resembling what he had previously done in creation. It’s too much to explore all of it here so I’ll give you an example from Isaiah 51:9–10:

Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

Notice a couple of things: Isaiah is calling us to remember the works of God “in days gone by,” and “in generations of old.” The way those acts are described is most certainly a reference to Exodus 14 when God parted the Red Sea. The interesting twist actually appears in his reference to “Rahab” who He cut into pieces. Huh! Now that’s not something we read about in Joshua where the story of Rahab appears. It’s also not remembered in Hebrews 11 where Rahab is illustrated as a woman of remarkable faith.

So who is this “Rahab”? Well, the Near East is filled with stories about who the world came into existence. One of those stories depicts a world in conflict and the creation as the subduing of the sea creature called “Rahab”. As the story goes, it was necessary to tame this monster so that the world could be inhabited. Whichever “god” won the struggle was elevated to the highest order of “god” over other “gods”. In other words, Isaiah is saying that God won this “struggle” against Rahab and by doing so has tamed the chaotic waters.

So, we now see a little more clearly the connection between the cutting into pieces of Rahab and the dividing of the waters of the Red Sea i.e. the power God displayed over the Red Sea in Exodus is another slaying of Rahab.

Isaiah 30:7 and Psalm 87:4 as two further examples of how the writers make a connection between Egypt and Babylon.

Now think about another angle. Think about Pharaoh as Rahab. Isn’t Pharaoh seen as a chaotic figure who is bent on lifting himself up and encroaching on God’s created order? Wasn’t it Pharoah who was preventing God’s creation mandate to humankind to be “fruitful and multiply”. Wasn’t it also Pharoah who was preventing God’s promise to Abraham from taking place? Wasn’t that the purpose of the plagues? To reverse creation back into chaos? These punishments are the reintroduction of the watery chaos found in Genesis 1:2 and the death of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea is the final climatic end to this struggle between the true God and the monster Rahab/Pharoah, where, once again, the waters are tamed.

What happens, in the end, to the Egyptian army (and more importantly) to Pharaoh? He is swallowed by the sea. What happens at the end of the story … I mean … the real end of the story? In Revelation 18:21 we’re told that Babylon “is thrown into the sea.

Curiously, in the new world, there is no sea. (Rev 21:1). There is never the opportunity again, for chaos to reign.

 

Away Day Highlights

Woah! What an amazing time we had last weekend at our Church Away Day. Here are my highlights:

  • The incredible service from our Life Groups – particular thanks to Geoff for the scavenger hunt, Felista for the rounders, paul for transporting our kit and Esther for the all-day tea and coffee service!
  • The BBQ was delicious – thanks Ollie!
  • The skittles competition was so much fun! I was just pleased Lorrie didn’t beat me!!! Thanks to Joe and Ali for organising this.
  • Watching Bill play zip zap boing – there is a video somewhere!
  • Our song for the day was “King Forevermore”. The lines that really resonated around the hall “Lifted high, the sinless man
    Crucified, the spotless Lamb, Buried by the sons of man, Rescued by the Father’s hand, To reign as King forever”. That’s to Chris, Joe and the team for leading so well!
  • There also seemed to be a genuine desire for us to do all things together – this really just made my day.

 

  • Our theme was Hebrews 13:20-21 and the two talks were focussed around how “God equips us in everything good to do His will”. We said:
    • Christians are generally blind to two things: Sin’s power and presence; God’s provision and process
      • We underestimate sin’s power over us and sin’s presence in us
      • We also undervalue God’s provision for sin and the process He takes to rid us of it
    • We are sheep in need of a Shepherd (v 20)
    • As long as Jesus is alive, I’m alive because He is alive in me (v 20)
    • God is working for my growth not my comfort (v21)
    • Some of the take-homes were:
      • Are we growing in our affection of Jesus?
      • Do we have a discernible spirit of repentance?
      • Do I have a personal responsibility for my spiritual growth?
      • Do I have a growing love for God and love for my neighbour?

We had such a good time that we’ve booked the same venue for next year. Date is to be confirmed!

My Current Playlist

Every now and then I get asked what I’m listening to. As a musician, I find it incredibly difficult to find music that I just like listening to. In my opinion, so much music, Christian and secular, is overly commercial and extraordinary “samey”. So if you’re looking for some new tunes here’s what my current playlist looks like:

Strings of Light – Yussef Kamaal.

If you like British Jazz with a twist of electronic Dance Music then you’re in for a treat. Listen here

Nicotine – Meg Lawrenson

Of course, she is never far from my playlist – not only is she a crazy wonderful daughter … she’s become a really awesome singer-songwriter. Listen here

Mausoleum – Seryn

This starts as a pretty chilled out vibe – perfect for a sunny Saturday morning! Some profound lyrics … “In the walls of the mausoleum, And we’re all just trying to reach the other side” Listen here

Endless – Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet are an instrumental band from London and are well known for their use of the Hang (a weird but cool modern percussion instrument – think Steel Pan meets Cajon). Listen here

Our Lady – Mark Guilians Jazz Quartet

Sorry … if you don’t like Jazz then you can skip this one too. Listen here

Tico Tico – The Black Market Trust

On Tuesday I spend the day playing this on my sax with the Royal Marines Band Service so it’s standard .. gotta be on my list. Listen here

Symphony No 7 Op 92: Allegretto – Beethoven

This is another work-related piece. One of my ensembles that I direct are playing this in concert this week so again, gotta be on my list Listen here

King Forevermore (God The Uncreated One) – The A Cappella Company

How’s this for a choral version of one of my favourite songs – King Forever! Listen here

Link Round Up

Every now and then I post a list of links to articles, blog posts and interesting things I’ve been reading this week. So, stand by, here’s this weeks list:

Bible Reading

This week .. the book of Romans four times. Once in the ESV and three times in the NLT. Favourite part Romans 16:25-27 – “25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Articles

I Hate “Hate Speech”

Pastor, author, and blogger, David Robertson regularly engages with difficult topics and I appreciate the way he writes, as well as his insight. Here is a great post on hate speech

Where do our thoughts come from?

In her book “Am I Just My Brain”, neuroscientist Sharon Dirckx lays out the current understanding of who we are from biologists, philosophers, theologians and psychologists, and points towards a bigger picture, that suggests answers to the fundamental questions of our existence. Not just “What am I?”, but “Who am I?”—and “Why am I?. The blog post introducing the book is here

Stop praying “be with” prayers

Alister Begg is a firm favourite of mine and as I was reading the above post I also discovered this gem of a post

Calvary Global statement on women in ministry

There is not much to say about this one but I’m grateful that the CGN leadership have clearly articulated what they believe. Here’s the link


Podcasts

Talking to Teens

Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline books reveals some positive strategies of rebellious and defiant teenagers. Even though Nelsen comes from a humanistic psychology perspective there were some great nuggets like “connect before correct” and the idea that teens need belonging and significance – which I am trying to relate to the hundreds of teens I interact with every day.

Expositors Collective

In this weeks episode my friend Mike Neglia presents a podcast on “Clear Communication Only comes through critical thinking” which is definitely one of the episodes I need to listen to again, with a pen in hand


Books I’m Reading

Christians in an Age of Outrage

Honestly … every Christian should read this book. If you can’t .. here’s the 1hr 45min video version ... here’s the book

The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace

I’ve just started reading this .. I’ll let you know how it goes! For those interested, here’s the book


Videos

Why I’m Not A Calvinist

Oooh, controversial (but true) and .. I’m just saying …. I watched it. That’s all 🙂 Here’s the video

Learn How To Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century with Ravi Zacharias

In this message Dr. Ravi Zacharias shares strategies for answering faith questions in the twenty-first century. Worth your time. Here’s the video


Favourite Tweets

It might be supernatural, it doesn’t mean it’s God. Don’t validate everything that’s miraculous as the Kingdom. @mrbeechy

If Paul showed up in one of our “churches,” I think we would get a letter. @lensweet

We made an astonishing find in the Galilee this week, 3000 year old standing stone @chris_sinkinson

Moralism divides the world into bad people and good people. The gospel divides the world into bad people and Jesus. @MattSmethurst

Pastors are never instructed by God to preach “what is on their heart.” We are solemnly charged to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Text-driven preaching produces thoroughly equipped men and women. The tools I can equip my congregation with come directly from the Biblical text. @jakegwright

The greatest stumbling block for a child in worship is a parent who doesn’t @johnpiper

What a fantastic start to the Calvary Chapel UK Pastors and Leaders conference! Worship, prayer and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit! @Darnold317

 

Play up Pompey .. and other things about worship

I love to sing! There is something gloriously primitive and powerful in the human voice. For most, it’s a raw, unpolished, stomach wielding expression of emotion. The trouble is, those that are outside of the church, often, sing better than we do. Think about it … The football Europa Cup Final last week saw two teams being cheered on by thousands of fans who were all … singing.

Singing well.

Singing loudly.

Singing like their team depended on their raw, unpolished, stomach wielding voices to lift them and motivate them to score a goal.

Singing as if no one else is listening (apart from their team)

Of course, the stark contrast is that for Chelsea and Arsenal fans the 22 players on the football pitch need help. Out God does not need help.

“You only sing when you’re winning”

Such is the chant from the seats in the stadium when the opposing team are losing.

Such is the fickle nature of our church worship. We sing when we “feel” like it. When we sense God working. When we are on the mountain it’s easy to sing. Not so much in the valley. Not so much when we don’t like the song because it doesn’t fit our tradition.

At yet God is wining .. all the time … so much so that God’s victory, this side of the cross, is always explained in the past tense. That means that we don’t cheer God on so as to motivate Him to try harder and score a goal.

We sing because the battle is over.

We sing because in Christ we’ve won.

We sing wherever we find ourselves, on the mountain or in the valley

“….. top of the league ….. top of the League”

“Chelsea top of the League”

“United top of the League”

“Southampton top of the League” …… (as if, but we can hope)

It is possible … probably pretty likely … that we don’t always get that into our hearts and minds. Sometimes I can believe something with my mind but not really embrace it with my heart.

So when Paul addresses the messiness of the Corinthian church he throws out this gem about the relationship between our spirit and our mind:

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV)

Singing powerfully cements truths into our conscious life. Think about your school days … learning the alphabet song, the periodic table song etc etc. Attempts by the teacher to cement truths into you.

This means that we do have to be mindful about the sort of songs that we sing. At Calvary we take each song on its own merit – is it true and is it helpful? But it also means that a powerful way to disciple each other is to sing.

“Oh when the Saints go marching in”

If you head down to St Mary’s Stadium on any given home game you will most definitely hear this song. Like many around the country, it’s a song about community and belonging. (This particular one is borrowed from the tradition of African-American Spirituals that were around in the late 19th century. Given the historical connection that Southampton Football Club has to the church this song has worked, it’s way onto the terraces of St Mary’s Stadium). Songs like this are not unique. Each club up and down the country have their own version of songs encouraging community and belonging that are based around a common truth.

“You’ll never walk Alone” – Liverpool

“Marching on Together” – Leeds United

“United Road take me Home” – Manchester United

“We’ll keep the blue flag flying high” – Chelsea

When we think about singing in church we actually see a very similar scene. The church is a community that has been formed in response to the gospel. Singing together is a way that we rehearse the great truths of God’s grace that have been extended to us. Singing like this forges devotion and moves us from understanding gospel truth to living a gospel response.

The gospel should make us want to sing but not perform

Worship in wonder but not put on a show.

Singing together brings us closer together.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Romans 15:5-10 ESV)

“We are the Champions”

Originally a 1977 song by the rock band Queen it’s found its way onto the football terraces and is sung by fans around the country when they win a game or trophy. It’s sung to remind each other (and the opposition) just in fact who has won.

I find this fascinating because if we just face the facts it’s clear about who the victors are – we have the score sheet to prove it. And yet, there seems to be a need to sing about it. To make a proclamation that it is indeed true. To perhaps … even … dare I say … mock the opposition. To declare again and again, over and over – so that you NEVER forget – “we are the champions”.

And that’s the problem isn’t it? I’m forgetful. Your problem is, you are too. I need you to sing loudly beside me this Sunday because I’m prone to forget the glorious realities of grace and salvation. I need to know that it works for people like me. I need to see losers and strugglers, who can’t sing in tune or hit those high notes, reminding me that Christ is sufficient for my messy life.

This is why the Psalmist writes: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psalms 22:22 ESV)

“We’re going up”

Singing is a brief taste of heaven.

Praise is faith lived out through voices.

Our ragged choir of losers is a grad display of the power of the gospel.

But the story hasn’t ended. It’s really only just begun. Our singing together is an affirmation that soon this life will be done and even though the road can sometimes be incredibly hard, we’re on our way to the top of the league.

We’re going up

Singing helps me to lift my gaze to my home.

To thrones above.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

So … join me in singingly loudly this Sunday.

I can’t wait to hear your voice.

Why Church Attendance is important

I’m passionate about God’s church. I honestly think it’s one of the best things ever to have been created. To be placed into a family of strangers who love and care for each other solely on the basis of God’s unconditional love is truly a remarkable thing. Having someone to turn to in our hour of need is vital in this day when families and individuals are becoming more and more insular.

I believe that the Christian should make Sunday Morning church attendance a priority. Why? Because the Bible stresses the importance of going to church. Now before we go on we should mention that a person becomes a member of the universal church the moment they believe in Jesus. This is the “mystical” or “spiritual” church and is made up of every true believer in Jesus. Having said that, the Bible emphasises the importance for believers to assemble with other believers on a Sunday. I don’t believe it is good enough for the Christian to claim they are going to church when really all they are doing is hanging out with their friends. That is not the biblical or historical understanding of church. There are several reasons why this is the case:

Commanded by God – “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”

Hebrews 10:25

I find it strange when Christians do not desire to meet together. I understand that on occasion this isn’t always possible – sickness, work commitments and such like often keep us away from the Sunday Morning church gathering and I want you to understand that I’m not talking about those issues. I’m speaking about dance classes, gardening and other hobbies. As Christians, these are not our priorities.

I find it even more strange when Christians are posting all kinds of Bible-related links on their social media feeds but fail to commit to this one basic principle of Christian discipleship.

Fellowship – “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God”

2 Corinthians 1:4

The truth is we are not designed to live alone. We are not designed to live the Christian life from the relative comfort of our homes. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

What that means is that we desperately need one another and let me be the first to say “I need you”! And look ……. solitary Christians are in danger. The way that spiritual wolves pick off their prey is to separate them from the pack. It’s easier that way. We must stick together. We must chase those who have stopped attending. We must model church as priority.

Receive Teaching – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth

2 Timothy 2:15

The emphasis here is on “do your best”. Do you best, give your best. Here’s a question we need to ask ourselves from time to time: “Am I doing by best to ensure that whatever is preached on Sunday morning is received?” Practically that might look like:

  • choosing what we do on Saturday night so that we are ready for Sunday morning
  • Rising up early on Sunday to pray and meditate on God’s Word so that our hearts are ready
  • Attending on time – showing up late is disrespectful to God and those serving you – get your heart in the right place
  • Reading ahead so that we are already familiar with the passage being preached on (see our reading guide here)

Worship – “Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for He is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting”

Psalm 147:1

In our worship we are not only singing to Jesus and about Him – we are preaching to ourselves. We are reminding ourselves about the truth of what we are singing. Additionally, we are listening to others sing. This part, for me at least, is always super encouraging. To hear that another Christian is struggling in one way or another, and yet is singing at the top of their voice about the God who saves and delivers them is one of the most encouraging things. It reminds me that our faith is real.

Church Day Away

Join us for a day of fellowship, sharing the Word and Worship. Messing about, kids stuff and fellowship for the whole family. including a skittles competition and treasure hunt.

Click here to sign up so we know how many are coming. Lift shares are available – please let us know if you need a ride.

Venue: Minstead Village Hall

Schedule:

10:00 – Arrive for tea and cake, all age wide games
10:30 – Worship & Word (children’s activities provided)
12:00 – Lunch – bring your own
1:30 – a range of activities
4:00 – Worship & Word (children’s activities provided)
5:30 – BBQ (bring and share)
7:00 – Close

Dr Warren Wiersbe

Dr. Warren Wiersbe died yesterday in Lincoln, Nebraska at the age of 89. For those not aware, Dr Wiersbe, known as “the pastor’s pastor”, is the author of some 150 books on the Bible. He is also known as a broadcaster, airing his Bible radio program “Back to the Bible” throughout the world. He has also been a lecturer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary.

During my own sermon preparations, I don’t remember a week going by when I haven’t wondered “what would Wiersbe say?” and then proceeded to look up what indeed he would say. His writing is straightforward and rich.

I’ll leave you with this … Erwin Lutzer (form Senior Pastor of The Moody Church where Wiersbe was also a Senior Pastor before him) wrote his autobiography and asked Wiersbe to write the forward. I was particularly struck by his words, given the fact that I’m preparing to teach the first chapter of Exodus shortly):

“It’s not an easy road, but if the Lord has called us and put us where we are, He will see to it that we will know His will and accomplish it no matter how impossible it might seem.”

Brooklyn Papyrus

In this mornings sermon we mentioned the Brooklyn Papyrus that provides evidence that the Hebrews were in Egypt during the 18th Century BC. This supports the biblical idea that the Exodus took place in the 15th Century BC.

Brooklyn Papyrus

The Brooklyn Papyrus contains a list of the names of 95 slaves. 70% of the names are Hebrew, including Asher and Issachar. 10 of the names have direct links to other passages in the bible:

Menahema, a feminine form of Menahem 2 Kings 15:14
Ashera, a feminine form of Asher, the name of one of the sons of Jacob Genesis 30:13
Shiphrah, the name of one of the Hebrew midwives prior to the Exodus Exodus 1:15
Aqoba, feminine form of Jacob Genesis 25:26
Ayyabum, the name of the patriarch Job Job 1:1
Sekera, which is a feminine name of Issakar Genesis 30:18
Dawidi-huat a compound name utilizing the name David 1 Samuel 16:13
Sebtw, a name derived from the Hebrew word eseb meaning “herb” Deuteronomy 32:2
Hayah-wr another compound name composed of Eve and meaning “bright life” Genesis 3:20
Hy’b’rw, which appears to be an Egyptian transcription of Hebrew Genesis 39:14

Exodus Reading Plan

We start our new sermon series tomorrow and as promised I’ve suggested that you read ahead through the book of Exodus so that you can prepare your own hearts.

Here is a reading plan and as you read through this tremendous book, pray for three things:

  • that the Holy Spirit would prepare your own heart to allow the Lord to do a work in your that your own imagination couldn’t conceive of. He really does want to transform us by the washing of our minds by the word of God!
  • that He would give you the courage to share what you are learning about God and about yourself with other Christians – after church, Life Groups or at informal times.
  • God would give you a heart like His – a missionary heart to make God known.
Week BeginningPassage to read
29 AprilExodus 1:-2:10
6 MayExodus 2:11-23
13 MayExodus 3-4:31
20 MayExodus 5-6
27 MayExodus 7-8
3 JuneExodus 9-10
10 JuneExodus 11-12
17 JuneExodus 13
24 JuneExodus 14
1 JulyExodus 15
8 JulyExodus 16
15 JulyExodus 17-18
22 JulyExodus 19-20:17

The Crucifixion

In preparation for Easter I’ve been reading a book that would normally be a little off-piste for me. It’s by American Anglican theologian Fleming Rutledge. (I did say this was off-piste!). This book took her 20 years to write and has been described as the second part to “The Cross” by John Stott. I have to say I’m not sure that it is “that good”. The book is called “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ”.

At times it’s quite an extraordinary read … it’s written both powerfully and creatively. By that, I mean that she uses words to paint images and then brings them to contemporary meaning and application. At times it’s made me just stop reading and take in the enormity of the task Jesus had, as well as the beauty of how Jesus did it.

What I particularly appreciated in this book was the sheer breadth undertaken. For example, where most theologians trace one biblical motif to the cross (and are pretty satisfied with that) – The Lamb motif for example, or the goat motif that we discussed on Good Friday. Rutledge proposes eight. She then proceeds to write about them in as they wind through the pages of Scripture.

And she does so using the English language as a symphony orchestra or paint palette – conjuring up images and pictures and, at times, breathtaking, insights into the cross of Jesus.

The eight motifs that she focuses our attention are broad but contain depth:

  • Passover and Exodus
  • Blood sacrifice
  • Ransom and redemption
  • The Judgement
  • Christus Victor
  • Descent into hell
  • Substitution
  • Recapitulation

Running through the eight motifs are three simple messages:

  1. There is sin and guilt for which atonement needs to be made.
  2. There is slavery, bondage, and oppression from which humankind needs to be delivered.
  3. Jesus alone is the answer to both

Before I close let me say that this book isn’t perfect – far from it. Some of her biblical exegesis is stretched and some of her interpretation is “left field”. Actually, there is a lot I’d disagree with Rutledge over but this book is deep, insightful and profound – definitely worth a read.

Why Outreach Matters

We should agree that every Christian should be concerned with reaching out to the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Indeed, throughout our recent studies in Acts we’ve seen that the early church placed a greater emphasis on outreach and evangelism.

Evangelism = the message of the gospel

Outreach – the associated action

Evangelism is the message of the gospel – we don’t go “evangelising”. We go on “outreach”, and the accompanying message is the “evangel”, the good news message – the gospel.

It is our hope that we “outreach” to people to draw them into a place where we can evangelize (give them a good news message) them. For example, in the past, our family fun days have focussed on providing families with opportunities to have fun so that we can invite their parents to come to our church where we will take the opportunity to share the Good News with them. Likewise, the upcoming Andy Kind event is an “outreach” so that we can “evanglise“.

This is one of the primary functions of the church .

Don’t throw it away

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:35–36

Have you ever thrown away something that you later regret throwing away? I have … multiple times! I’ve even been found rummaging around in the bin looking for the thing I just threw away!

Here the writer of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement …. “do not throw away your confidence”. It’s remarkable because it seems that what is being suggested is that we can actively disregard confidence. Notice that the text doesn’t doesn’t say “be careful you don’t lose your confidence”, or “misplace your confidence” or even “have your confidence stolen”. The Greek word is apoballō which means to “throw off”. Be careful you don’t throw it away.

Throwing away our confidence is our confidence in God – our trust in God. This comes very subtly. Sometimes it’s a whisper in my hear that says “You can’t do that. You’re not good enough.” Many times I’ll go along with it and begin to lose confidence in God without even thinking about it!

Look at these other passages in Hebrews that talk about our role in having confidence in God:

But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. Hebrews 3:6 (NLT)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Look at this last one, in which the writer lists all of the true reasons why we should have confidence, then exhorts us to act on these truths …… “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence” – this is a different Greek word that we’ve seen before. This word is parrēsia and it literally means the “freedom of speech”. In this context it simply means that we have boldness to say what we like in the presence of God – it’s a boldness, an openness to walk straight into his study and chat. So … since we have this right given to us “to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and (second reason to have keep our confidence) since we have a great priest over the house of God,” .. so we have someone who goes before God with us. This is Jesus, walking into the house of God with us – and we are accepted by God completely on only because Jesus is with us …. therefore, here’s the exhortation … “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19–22

In many ways this sounds like the message to the seven churches of Revelation 2–3 where Jesus is exhorting his church to hold on, keep the faith and pursue godliness.

It’s easy to doubt. We’re called to live by faith and not by sight because the things that are a visible scream at us that God doesn’t care. So we have to practice faith. How do we do this?

Well, I think the first step to holding on to our confidence is to recognise that our confidence comes from God as we seek Him. We are not confident in our own abilities but in Gods. Not our power but Gods. That’s the first thing.

The second thing comes in our seeking God for it. I lost count of how many times in Hebrews the writer exhorts us by saying “Let us”. There is work to be done in apprehending what has already been apprehended for us. This is a looking to God for the answers – it’s looking to God for power and strength. It’s the humble submission to His sovereignty.

One of the most powerful songs that have really spoken to me in recent years is called “God I look to You.” Now I know that it’s not from a church that we’d agree on many points but the lyrics are God-glorifying and honouring … here are some of the words:

God, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do

And I will love You, Lord, my strength (sing that out)
I will love You, Lord, my shield
I will love You, Lord, my rock forever
All my days I will love You, God

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmhAIYk2uvk

I love the defiance of this song “I won’t be overwhelmed”. It reminds me of so many of the Psalms where the Psalmist recalls the trouble he is in and then is reminded of blessings of God, ending the Psalm with words like “I will be be shaken”. Micah wrote: … when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. Micah 7:8

Jesus Wins

End times discussions shouldn’t be fraught with wild speculation and discord.

Jesus Wins: The Good News of the End Times

As Christians, we believe that Jesus will one day return to earth. The Bible is super clear about this:

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (ESV) — 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV) — 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Matthew 24:44 (ESV) — 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

And I could continue to quote a dozen other direct references to the return of Jesus Christ. Additionally, the Christian church has always believed this as a central doctrine. The Apostles Creed from the first century demonstrates that Christians believed that Jesus would one day return so that we could enjoy “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’. The Nicene from the 4th century states that Jesus “ascended into heaven from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”

However, it’s not gone unnoticed over the years that many Christians fail to recognise the purpose of our belief. There is a reason for believing that Jesus is coming back and it’s not because the Bible says so. It’s because believing in this inspires hope and greater faithfulness right here in the 21 century. Contrary to some, the purpose of our end times belief is not so that we can find the most bizarre conspiracy theory or fantasy that involves lizard men, blood moons, illuminator and such like. For Christians, Jesus’ return to earth makes us live in the present as faithfully and joyfully and hope-filled as we can be. Jesus return is great news and it’s part of the gospel! Jesus is going to restore all things!

Name above all Names – Begg & Ferguson

“Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. Let your soul be filled with a sense of the excellence of Christ.”

“Name above all Names” – Begg / Ferguson

A few of us get together once a month to discuss a book we are reading. It’s been a super valuable time for me personally – not least because it holds me to account for what I’m reading, but I’ve also had the privilege of sharing spiritual things with others in a small group.

The latest book we’re reading is called “Name above all Names” and it’s written by Alister Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. I’d highly recommend the book even though I’m not quite finished with it yet. They basically take the trifold office of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King and expound on it. Here are some of my own thoughts:

Mankind has a 3-fold problem of ignorance, guilt and corruption. We are all ignorance of God, we are all guilty of wanting to rule ourselves and we do not desire to be governed.

  1. Ignorant (Rom 1:21, Gen 6:5,  Eph 4:17-18,  Rom 1:25, 2 Cor 4:4)
  2. Guilt (Rom 5:12, 18-19, Psalms 51:4, Psalms 130:3,
  3. Corrupt (Romans 7:14-19, Eph 2:1, Psalms 14:1-3

As a shadow of things to come, God gave three major offices to Israel to address the threefold problem of man. The Prophet, The Priest and the King.

  1. Prophet ~Speaking God’s words – “Thus saith”, representing God to the people
  2. Priest – Offering sacrifices & praise because on behalf of the people, representing the people to God
  3. King – administering justice, represented God’s rule over the people

Jesus is the Prophet, Priest and King

  • PROPHET like Moses (Deut 18:15, Luke 13:33, Matt 16:13-14, Luke 7:16, John 4:19, John 6:4,
    • In John 6 we see some remarkable things when we contrast the feeding of the 5000 and the manna that came from heaven (in relation to how Jesus fulfils the role of a “prophet like unto Moses”. In John 6:5 there was a question raised by Jesus, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”. This echoes the question that Moses raised in Numbers 11:13, “Where can I get meat for all these people?”. In John 6:41 the people grumble. In Numbers 11:1 the people grumble. In John 6:31 manna is described. In Numbers 11:7-9 the manna is described. In John 6:9 – “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”, Moses raised this very question in Numbers 11:22, “We don’t have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them.”
    • However, in Acts 3:18-26, Luke 24:27 we see that Jesus isn’t a messenger from God but He is the very source of the revelation. The prophets would say “Thus saith the Lord”, but Jesus said, “The words that I speak” … “I say unto you”.
  • PRIEST – He is often called a priest
    • Hebrews 5:1 = the characteristic of a true priest, symbolically talking the people before God – Heb 4:14, Heb 9:24, Heb 6:19-20, Heb 3:1-2, Heb 10:19-22, Heb 4:16
    • He offers gifts and sacrifices for sins – Heb 10:4, Heb 9:26
    • He makes intercession for the people – Heb 7:25, Heb 7:25, Rom 8:34
    • He intercedes – 1 Timothy 2:5, Zech 6:13
  • KING – In the Old Testament the King had authority over the nation.
    • People wanted to force Jesus to be King – John 6:15, John 18:36, Matthew 4:17
    • Kings rule over people hearts – Matthew 21:5

Jesus is the solution to the threefold disease of ignorance, guilt, and tyranny. Our ignorance is healed by the PROPHETIC as its light scatters the darkness of error; The PROPHET shows God to us, as Jesus said “If you have seen me you have seen the Father also”. GUILT is pardoned by the PRIEST, based on the merit of the Priest. The Priest leads us to God. Tyranny and corruption by sin are conquered by the KING. The King removes the bondage of sin and death and subdues rebellion.

Make a difference with Proverbs

I’m excited to start our new teaching series in the book of proverbs next month. I also find it such an exciting time when we are beginning a new book. I’m particularly excited about what God wants to say to us in this book … it’s a book full of practical advice and wisdom covering issues like sexuality, marriage, parenting and money management. Whilst I think it’s going to be really helpful for us to spend some time in Proverbs I really think that we can maximise the impact by doing three things:

Make wisdom your prayer

In this digital age we live in, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips and yet, despite the daily bombardment of information bits and bytes, it seems like many of us are more confused, stressed and depressed than ever. What we need is not more information, but more wisdom. Wisdom that comes from God.

Proverbs 9:4 encourages us: Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”. Proverbs 4:7 says exhorts us to “Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”

Most of us, however, don’t seem to have “Get wisdom” on our daily to-do lists, let alone as the number one priority on our prayer request list. God wants us to prioritize His wisdom above everything else we set our hearts to pursue.

Read a chapter a day in January

In your own devotions, or as a couple, read one chapter of Proverbs every day in January. On the 1st read chapter 1, on the 2nd read chapter 2 ….. you get the idea. By the time February has come around, you’ll have read all over Proverbs and prepared your hearts for what God wants to do in you.

Involve the whole family

There is a great little series of family devotions by Marty Machowski called “Wise Up: Ten-Minute Family Devotions in Proverbs”. If you have children, would you prayerfully consider leading your family through this little book – just 10 minutes during dinner is all it takes.

4 ways to read your Bible in 2019

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail .. at least that’s what they say. I think there’s some truth to this, particularly when it comes to our daily devotions. It’s ways to easy to fall out of routine and lack consistency if we don’t have a plan to stick to – even then it can be really difficult. So, to help you out for your 2019 I’ve found 4 ways to read your Bible in 2019 (there are many more but these are the ones that I’ve found). Lets start with the Easier ones:

Easy

Five-Day Reading Plan

Funnily enough, I posted this one last year … the people over at http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com/ have made it really easy to read through the Bible. Easy? Ok, maybe that is the wrong word … easier would be a better word. They’ve come up with a 5 day reading plan that gets you reading through the Bible or New Testament chronologically. click here for the link 

Doable

One-book-per-month plan.

The idea is simple: choose a book and read it every day for a month. Then go on to a different book. I know what you’re thinking, what about when I want to read Psalms? Well, you may need to break longer books down and divide it into sections. This is great if you really want to become familiar with one book at a time.

Study a book of the Bible.

Our friends at Precept Ministries have a range of books that help you study the Bible in an inductive way. Here is their range

Hard Core

Professor Horner plan.

This one is so hardcore it comes with it’s own Facebook support group (no kidding). What’s so intense? You’ll be reading 10 chapters a day from different sections of the Bible for a year  Many people use this and think it’s great but you are really only skimming the surface and trusting that as you do stuff sticks. Here’s the link

 

Christmas at Calvary

You are warmly invited to join us this Christmas for our services.

Sunday 23 December, 10:30 am

Style of service: a traditional blend of Christmas carols and with modern worship songs
Sermon topic: Colossians 1:15-20 – “God and Sinners Reconciled”
Family Ministry: all ages join in worship and then go to separate children’s classes and stay and play creche.
What else? tea/coffee will be served at the close of service

Sunday 23 December, 6:00 pm

Style of service: traditional Christmas carols by candlelight
Sermon topic: Luke 2:4-20 – “The best news?”
Family Ministry: all ages join together with adults. Gifts for children as well as mini-movie to watch. Stay and play creche.
What else? Festive refreshments will be served at the close of service

Sunday 30 December, 10:30 am

Style of service: Modern worship, informal relaxed.
Sermon topic: Psalm 138 – “Hope at the end of the Year”
Family Ministry: all ages join in worship and then go to separate children’s classes and stay and play creche.
What else? tea/coffee will be served at the close of service

All that glitters is not …

William Shakespeare, in his play “The Merchant of Venice” wrote:

All that glisters is not gold

What do we think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Do you allow the idea of “heavenly treasure” to impact you on a daily basis? Does the command of Jesus motivate you to work for the good of others?

If you’re like me you’ve probably answered “no” to both of those questions but I think these are good questions to consider particularly given the fact that at this time in the year we are probably more aware of earthly treasures than heavenly ones. Certainly, our Western materialistic culture encourages us to get all that we can get now because after this life there isn’t anything else.

And for a moment … when we unwrap and peel aware the paper to reveal the treasure, we’re satisfied. If just for a moment, our hearts are filled. But … let’s think about it from a biblical perspective:

  • gifts are good
  • treasures are good
  • being satisfied in treasure is good

So what’s the problem? the problem, Jesus says, is not the fact that we are longing for treasures to satisfy us but the treasure itself leads us to be satisfied in something else. This is why Jesus says “don’t treasure what is on earth” because our hearts will become earthy! We will love and adore things on earth more than things in heaven. Our world and all that is in it will be a god to us. Without Christ this is our best hope – seek little gods to satisfy and fill you. Treasure – oh yeah, that’s a biggie. All that glitters isn’t gold – all that glitters is god. It’s a poor shadow of the real treasure that will fill us completely and forever.

This is why Paul exhorts us to “set our minds on things above”. Love cherish long for this treasure.

Love came down

Christmas is about love because Love came down at Christmas. The meaning of Christmas is found in the message of Christmas: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life – Ferguson

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