Nine Lessons and Carols: Second Lesson – Genesis 22 vv 15-18

17 12 2014

“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”

Nine Lessons and Carols: First Lesson – Genesis 3 vv 8-19

16 12 2014

I’ve always heard of this “Nine Lessons and Carols” service, and had always assumed they just picked nine suitable readings and carols each year. I didn’t realise that while the carols may change, the readings are very much set in stone. So I thought, in the 9 days leading up to Christmas, to just post each one on my blog as a reflection as it’s a couple of years since I did my advent posts.

Here’s the first:

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’

And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’

The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’

Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’

The woman said, ‘The snake deceived me, and I ate.’

So the Lord God said to the snake, ‘Because you have done this,

‘Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
To the woman he said,

‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.’
To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,”

‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.’”

A Lineage of Grace – Francine Rivers

30 12 2013

This book took a little longer than my last few books, five months to be precise, but I’ll put that down to it actually being 5 books in one!

Each book is a historical fictional telling of the life of a woman in the bible, so the book works through the lives of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.

I found the Tamar and Rahab books fascinating, I’d never heard their stories before – you don’t tend to cover the stories of prostitutes in Sunday School! I thought this would also be the case for Bathsheba as it’s another one I’d never heard, and it was for the first part of the story, but then it just seemed to drag and drag and go on and on!

I really struggled with the Ruth story. I know this story inside out – I’m sure we did it at least once a year at Girls’ Brigade for a while – and so some of the things she added in I found particularly noticeable. For example, she paints Elimelech to be an awful man who is to blame for everything that ever went wrong in Naomi’s life…

Mary’s story was another good one – again, a woman whose story is oh so familiar, but just to read it from her side (or at least an interpretation of) was quite refreshing.

I look forward to trying the male equivalent, Sons of Encouragement, at some point!

Lineage of Grace

Love one another – part 2

26 09 2013

As well as following the Love One Another series in our Sunday sermons (yes I know I’m a week behind, apologies!), we’re also looking at these commands in our housegroups. I doubt I’ll blog from them every time, but just wanted to share something that struck me this evening.

So we’re looking at loving one another, and what that looks like, and we read a very well known passage, 1 Corinthians 13 vv 1-7:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I love this, it’s so over used in weddings, but that’s not even the sort of love it’s talking about! This is about God’s love for us, but also how we ought to be loving one another. This is what love looks like.

We were encouraged to put “Jesus” in the place of love, which makes for a beautiful reading. Then we were encouraged to put “I am” in the place of “love is” – now that’s hard to read!

So yea, how do we do that? Then we looked at Galatians 5 vv 22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Check that out! There is SO much overlap there with what love is in the first passage! Patience, Kindness, just compare the two sets of verses! All we need is the Holy Spirit, and we will have those things that allow us to love those that are not so easy to love. How fab is that?

Putting your name in

18 08 2013

I don’t know if you’ve ever put your name in John 3v16, it’s something we did once or twice on youth weekends away.

It starts like this

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believed in Him would not die, but have eternal life.

So then you insert your name instead

For God so loved Ineke that he gave His one and only Son, so that if Ineke believed in Him would not die, but have eternal life.

Try it out!

For God so loved ______________ that he gave His one and only Son, so if ______________ believed in Him would not die, but have eternal life.

This morning during communion a similar thought struck me that the same thing works in.

Even if you were the only person on the planet, God would have still given up His only Son to die for you!

I tried putting in my name

Even if Ineke was the only person on the planet, God would have still given up His only Son to die for Ineke!

Try it for yourself!

Even if ______________ was the only person on the planet, God would have still given up His only Son to die for ______________!

I reckon this’d work with a whole host of verses! Any suggestions?

James: Faith in Action

4 08 2013

In church I’m one of those people that sits there scribbling all through the sermon. No I’m not doodling, and I’m not trying to look uber holy, I’m just trying to listen properly and stop myself from daydreaming, and I find note taking is the best way to do this for me. Thing is, once the notes are written, I never seem to look at them again. I wondered about blogging them week by week, so that as I type them up on a Sunday afternoon it gives me a chance to digest what I heard a little further, and also means I get to share the great stuff I hear with whoever’s listening out there!

Over the summer we’re doing parables and in the autumn are starting a new series on the “one another commands” which sounds really cool. But recently we’ve finished a great series in James, which you can listen to online here. Each week has been full of great stuff, so as I couldn’t get to church today due to the big cycle rides going on in London & Surrey, I thought maybe I’d go through the notes I can find (I missed a week or two when visiting my parents church, and not every bit of paper made it as far as the notebook!) and share what I learnt with you…

James 1 vv 1-12Walking wisely through trials
Joy = “Unnatural reaction of deep and steady thankful trust in God”
Joy is not about how we should feel, but how we should think.
Trials build spiritual muscle
Perseverance = “Successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time”
Maturity = “Perfection and wholeness of Christian character”
Trials provoke us to pray, we long for God’s wisdom
Our faith must be centred on God alone
The rich can be too independent of God, the poor can think they’re deserted.
We need to keep our eyes on eternity.
None of this is possible in our own strength
A “little while’s” suffering for an eternity in heaven
God knocks off our rough edges so we can glorify Jesus and become more like Him, ready for heaven.

James 1 vv 13-18Walking wisely when facing temptation
We’re not above temptation, how we handle it is key.
We’re all born not loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength
Sin = “Having ourselves at the centre”
We all have doubts, but it’s about how we handle them
We have to come back to who God is
When the wheels come off and in the good times, who is God? Try listing things!
Every time Jesus was tempted by the devil He responded with quotes from Scripture
We need to know the book, there is not shortcut.
Prayer partners can help with accountability for habitual sin.
Are we fighting sin and temptation?
Fight the good fight!

James 1 vv 19-27Walking wisely by listening to God’s Word and obeying God’s Word
James is an application of Jesus’ wisdom teaching
Don’t just listen, live it! Slow to anger, quick to listen, slow to speak.
We are for change and transformation, not to stay as we are
We should engage with people who anger us in case of misunderstanding
We can have righteous anger at injustice, but not self-righteous anger.
We read the word and then forget it, why take the time to look if we’re not going to do anything about it?
It’s not about knowledge. Without application it’s just empty
Maturity is hearing and doing the word, chew, meditate, pray.
What comes out of our mouths reflects the state of our hearts
Ephesians 4v29 means we’ve got some work to do!
True religion works for social justice
Why are we angry when Jesus took it on Himself on the cross?

James 2 vv 14-26Faith in action
Actions speak louder than words. Our God of action can move mountains!
We have a responsibility as people of compassion
Non believers judge Christians on their actions, and therefore judge God
Put your money where your mouth is, or more specifically, put your action where your faith is.
We need to feed our faith on the makers handbook
We can’t earn God’s favour, it’s Grace
“Saved to serve” is good, but it needs to go beyond the four walls
“Go and make disciples”, not “go and make church members”
Deeds aren’t to get attention for ourselves, but to give God glory
We want to be an Acts 2 church

James 3 vv 1-12Speaking wisely
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln
Speech is powerful, for example Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” quote
In the times of no printing press, verbal was the main form of communication.
1: vv 1-2 Importance of words
If your life didn’t match your words you wouldn’t be a respected synagogue teacher
Words have no impact or authority if they don’t match your actions
Our speech will only honour God if we’re rooted in God
Perfect = “Mature or complete in Christ”
Our lips and words reflect the inside of our hearts
Words are so important, see Matthew 12 vv 36-37
2: vv 3-8 Power of words
Aggressive words are becoming popular entertainment these days, eg Jeremy Kyle or the Apprentice
vv 3-4 There are a lot of little things that control massive things, eg small rudder on a massive ship
vv 5-6 One careless remark can completely destroy a reputation or injure someone
vv 7-8 explained by Matthew 15 vv 18-19
3: vv 9-12 Need for consistency in our words
v 9 cursing another human being curses God as they are in His image
Our behaviour on a Monday must match our praises on a Sunday
vv 11-12 It’s absurd to expect fresh water from a salt spring, why do we put up with it? It’s hypocritical, there must be consistency and integrity
We’re called to this but can’t do it in our own strength
We need spiritual heart surgery, new hearts!
Jeremiah 31 v 33, The law had been on stone tablets, now it’s on our hearts. I.e. We’ll be given new hearts that want to obey God
Hebrews 9 v 15, all the pride, gossip, slander, bitterness and anger that comes out of our mouths was nailed to the cross with Jesus, He paid the price for it all
He died and rose again so that we could have spiritual heart surgery. Hearts of flesh instead of hearts of stone
Matthew 12 vv 33-35 and Ephesians 4 vv 29-32 both say we need to speak good words, to encourage one another, to show good hearts with good words. To be people of integrity.

James 5 vv 13-18Powerful and effective prayer
v 13 in trouble, the first responsibility is on us to pray, for strength, comfort, patience
Facing trials in joy doesn’t mean as in “whoopee!” but as in a deep security in Christ
v 14 commentators believe this refers to a bedbound person, someone who can’t get to church – the elders should wait to be called
Consecrating =”setting apart for God’s use”
The power is not in the oil, but in the prayer of faith, and in the Holy Spirit
v 15 This can sound like a promise that sufficient faith always brings healing, but nevertheless, faith is important to the healing process
Paul experienced someone not being healed, 2 Timothy 4 v 10
Someone can be given a gift of faith for healing, a feeling of such certainty that it’ll happen.
v 15b says “if he has sinned”, there may be a sin cause, but not necessarily… John 9 vv 1-3
There was a guitarist at a church who had hand pain and couldn’t play but was healed after confession. Often this is not the case, but it can be worth exploring.
A word of knowledge may be given to the person praying, but this needs dealing with with great sensitivity. But don’t go hunting for sin in sickness, that is not pastoral.
v 16 there are different levels of confessing sin, private (between you and God), and sin that needs confessing to one another when we hurt one another
Prayer is the means through which God’s power works
Not just the elders should pray, the whole community should prayer for one another – prayer chain, prayer in services, prayer meetings, communion, etc
We’re not perfect, we’re righteous through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we’re clothed in this righteousness
We probably only shower once in the day, but we need to wash our hands throughout the day. Similarly we need to confess our sins every day to God and to keep short accounts with people.
Forgive as Christ has forgiven you.

James 5 vv 19-20Jesus seeks the wanderers
The church is not just a common interest group, we’re united in the Holy Spirit. We’re bonded together in the family of God. We have responsibility to each other, mutual accountability.
In our society, saying that no one goes to the Father except through Christ is not a PC thing to do.
For us to go after someone who has drifted is to love them
We are all to exercise this ministry
Galatians 6 v 1 also talks about this
When you barbeque, you need to keep all the coals in the heat. As Christians we need to be with other Christians. Those who’ve left the church are coals getting cold, we need to bring them back.
It’s scary how many leave the church and aren’t even contacted
Sin is a tricky word. All it means is “loving created things before the creator”.
Not one of us loves God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength
It’s good to pray for prodigals, but it’s not sufficient, we must do something practical.
The message says “don’t write them off, go after them!”
The good shepherd left his 99 and went after the 1 stray.
We won’t succeed every time, but it’s not just the pastoral teams job, it’s all of our responsibility!
“Look out for one another” isn’t quite one of the one another commands in the bible, but it’s worth doing.
The Father’s heart is not “well we’ve got 99 others, hey ho!”, He wants them back
We need to put this into practice.

Hmm, that was longer than I intended, even with weeks missing! But some great content I didn’t want ot miss bits out! Maybe this would suit a week by week basis.
Anyway, if you made it as far as the end I hope you found this useful, encouraging and challenging!

Is this the sort of blog content you’d like on here in future?