Archive for April, 2012

Here is my last talk of my advent series for you to finish off your journey. I pray that God will bless you as you read it. Please use a bible as you look up the references.

Matthew 24:1-35

Theme: Be Prepared to Meet.

Aim: Those who remain faithful from the birth pains because they are prepared will be taken in to glory with the Son of Man.

Main points.

1. When will the end of the age happen?

2. What are the signs of the end of the age?

Introduction.

Have you ever met someone who is famous? Have you ever met someone who has saved your life?

Well over 6 years ago, I went to Spring Harvest with my parents and my church. Now most of you have heard of Spring Harvest and know that it is a Christian “holiday” camp for you to escape and experience some really good bible teaching and live worship. I remember it as the year when I met one of the greatest worship song writers of the last century, Graham Kendrick. Now I was part of the child’s tract, and we were asked to tell the people in the main tent or Big Top what we were doing in the youth tracts. I was going to speak in front of thousands of people. So I practiced and practiced, and the pain and pressure of me worrying about the end result was evidence to see.

It was the big day. We were called up on the stage, and the bright stage lights blind my eyes as we entered the main stage. I was petrified. Even though I was nervous I knew God was there, so we went ahead, and we all gave an account of what we were doing in the groups. At the end we were met with applause and whistles, and we went off the stage. At that point, Graham came over and met each one of us. Wow. What an experience. I was so glad and relieved that I stuck at doing the drama, that at the end of the day it produced a reward.

That is what today’s passage is all about. We have all met someone who has meant so much to us that we are well prepared to meet them. That is what we need to be: ready to meet Jesus, but in order for that to happen, the end of the age must come: We need to ask though:

This passage occurs when Jesus had finished being quizzed by the Pharisees in the temple v1 he retreated to the Mount of Olives and was ask privately by his disciple’s two questions V3 which we are going to look at today. When will the end of the age happen? What are the signs of the end of the age?

1. When will the end of the age happen?

That is a question that we ask quite frequently today. When will the end come? From the passage, there is one thing that must happen before the end time comes.

  1. 1.      V14 and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel must be preached all over the whole world, before we see the end of the age. In this country, we sent thousands of missionaries around the world to proclaim the gospel in the most open wildernesses in the world. The first Sunday of November when we had Jason and Tracy, who are our Mission Partners from Nepal come over and visit us, they described how the gospel was having an impact in the context of their work. There are hundreds of mission organizations in the world like Operation mobilization, Latin Links, Samaritans Purse, Bible Society etc who are going all over the world with the gospel.

There are still places today, where the gospel hasn’t reached; like the tribes in the Amazon forests, and tribes across the plains of Africa. The core of the Middle East, where there is corruption, and persecution of Christians is an example that the gospel is being spread.

In our own country, there are people in society who haven’t heard the good news of Jesus. At university, I came across a Chinese student and he said to me “I came over here not just to study, but to proclaim the gospel in the UK”. That’s amazing, The UK sent missionaries to China in the 19th Century like C.T Studd, and D.E Hoste, but now in the 21st Century, we are getting Chinese missionaries. That’s amazing!! Being a missionary with the gospel doesn’t mean you can speak 5 languages have a qualification from university, and have millions of pounds. We are all God’s missionaries, and we are all commissioned by him to spread his gospel. The more we are passionate about spreading God’s word to our families, friends, children, neighbours, the more likely that the end of the age will happen. The use of media and technology is becoming widely available today, and you can get Christian radio stations and T.V channels, but in order for Christ to return, his word must reach the whole world.

You might think: Oh that’s too hard and really difficult, why is it so difficult to spread the gospel? It isn’t easy work.

  1. 1.      V8. All these things are the beginning of birth pains.

I have never experienced giving birth, and physically that isn’t possible, but I’m sure that all of you who have children know exactly what I mean. Apparently it is the most physically painful experience a woman can go through in her life. There is screaming, sweating, and pressure all happening at once. You can’t escape birth pains if you want a child. Jesus makes the same point about the end of the age. In order for the end of the age to come, and the gospel to reach the ends of the world we must go through suffering pain, death, agony, suffering, distress, worry! Just Like the worry I had on the main stage, I was worried and stressed about going on the stage.

At the end of all the pain and tiredness of giving birth, you will produce a beautiful baby. The most amazing part of God’s creation, the start of a new life.  At the end of all the pain and suffering in the world, something beautiful will happen. Just like me meeting Graham Kendrick.  Something even more beautiful than the gift of a child will occur at the end of the age.

2. What are the signs of the end of the age?

Jesus describes to us the signs of the end of the age. There are two signs of the end of the age: False Prophets and natural disasters, and the return of the Son of man.

False Prophets and natural disasters: Has anyone seen the new film 2012? Well for a blockbuster, I think it’s a really good film. It is based on this one man and his family who are trying to escape from the apocalypse. They run from the earth breaking up, earthquakes, floods, wars etc and he is trying to stay alive. There are some points in it where you feel he is going to give in, but at the end of the film, he and his family are saved by these emergency arks to protect them from the flooding. That film strongly pictures what will happen at the end of the age. There will be pain, death, famines, wars V6+7 + V29 etc. V21 For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now, and never equalled again It will be a onetime event. Nothing will compare the scale or impact that these events will unfold.

There are false prophets that are out and about in today’s society and they are either people with mental problems, or they are people trying to make money. This is the first thing that Jesus makes the disciple aware of. V4 Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming “I am the Christ” and deceive many, and v26 so if anyone tells you “There he is, out of the desert, do not go out; or Here he is, in the inner room do not believe it.  Be on your guard Jesus says. Don’t be fooled by those who claim to be the Christ. There are many people who have tried to claim to be the Christ.

In my home town there used to be a guy who would walk around, and he use to be called the Cowboy, because that is what he wore, and he use to creep people because he would follow them around the shops, and talk some of the most random things that I have ever heard. When I met one of my friends at school, he told me that he was now claiming to be Jesus. He has now been converted and now is a faithful brother in Christ, but he was a localized version but internationally there have been people who have claimed to be the Messiah.

  • John Nichols Thom (1799–1838), Cornish tax rebel who claimed to be the “saviour of the world” and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and his body temple of the Holy Ghost  in 1834. He was killed by British soldiers at the Battle of Bossenden Wood, on May 31, 1838 in Kent, England.
  • David Shayler (1965–), former MI5 agent and whistleblower who, in the summer of 2007, proclaimed himself to be the Messiah. He has released a series of videos on YouTube claiming to be Jesus, although has not built up any noticeable following since his claims.
  • Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez (1990- ) who, in November of 2011, fired nine shots from a knock-off AK-47 at the White House in Washington D.C., believing himself to be Jesus Christ sent to kill President Obama as Obama is the Anti-Christ.

(Source: Wikipedia)

These people exist. These are people who take it to the extreme. There are also those who are sane, and get certain things wrong and they take things out of scripture, and adapt it in order to fit themselves around the word. These people can be in our congregation today, and across the world. Jesus here is making sure that we are not deceived by people claiming the truth.

So what is the real sign of the coming Messiah? What would be the real sign of Jesus returning? Jesus mentions this in V30-31.

Jesus will return by appearing in the sky. Like the Hymn, Lo! He comes, with clouds descending, once for our salvation slain; thousand thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train:  Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ the Lord returns to reign. Then he will descend on a cloud from the sky with power and great glory. Jesus returns for a purpose, V31 He will send angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds. Jesus has come to gather his faithful people and take them with him in glory. The final victory for those who remain faithful will be the greatest reward.

The Son of Man, who is Jesus will be seen everywhere, by everyone, and it will be a wonderful event. V27 for as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man. Lightening is the most fantastic example to show the power of creation. I’m always dazzled by the flash and sheer energy that it contains. We are told that just like lightning the Son of Man would bring his glory and his judgement to the world. He has come for those who have: spent time to know him, receive him in their lives, and now have met him face to face.

Conclusion

So what do we have to do in order for us to meet Christ? V12+13 Because of the increase of wickedness, and love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. We have to remain firm in the faith of Christ. At the moment, some of us are suffering pains that are indescribable, unimaginable; and we could be on the urge of giving in. But we are in the time of the birth pains of life. Those who give in give in to the wickedness of our world, and they will surely die, but those who remain true to their faith will be saved. For in the end, like giving birth, the produce is beautiful, the baby is beautiful, the coming and return of Jesus is a beautiful event. We now come to an end to this series, and I hope that it has inspired you so that:

1. We may be prepared to know who Jesus is. He is the one who came as the suffering servant, to take the pain of sin on his shoulders, on the cross, and the glory of his resurrection shows us that he is brining glory back to God, and re-established our relationship with our heavenly father.

2. We are prepared to receive Jesus. We are called to repent by John the Baptist, to produce fruits in repentance; otherwise, the one who doesn’t repent will be cut away like useless chaff. In order to receive Jesus we must repent and be baptised with the water of repentance and anointed with the baptism of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are blessed because we remain faithful and obedient to Jesus in our lives.

3. We are prepared for his coming and to meet him. That Jesus will return and collect those who have been faithful for they will have the greatest reward, to be with him in glory. Now we don’t know when the hour of the Lord comes V36 but we are told v42 to keep watch for his return.

Let us celebrate this Christmas, as a time when we remember the innocent child in the manger who we will meet one day and bring us with him in to glory. Isn’t that something worth being prepared for? Let us remain faithful to end. Amen.

Here is the second talk in my “Be Prepared” Advent series. I pray that God will bless you as you read through it. It is best to use a bible while reading it through.

Matthew 3:1-17

Theme: Be prepared to receive

Aim: To a church congregation; that in order for us to receive Christ, we repent of our sins, and have our lives changed by Christ.

Main points:

  1. 1.      Call to repentance
  2. 2.      Produce the fruit in keeping with repentance
  3. 3.      Reason to repentance

Introduction

What is the point? Why do you do this? Their were two questions that I was asked this week. On Wednesday morning, I went out on the streets  did some leafleting, and talking to people about Jesus.  The main evangelist who preaches on the street was half way through a talk, when a couple of women were outside Pound land and we were set up by Timpson’s in the canopy between two shopping centres. They were talking amongst themselves and I heard them say, what’s the point? Why does he do it? Who will listen?

Evangelism is not easy! Proclaiming the gospel is not easy! It only gets easy when people are willing to accept what you are saying, and take it to heart. It only becomes easier when God has opened their hearts, in order for you to speak to them. Though in order to receive him they must first know about him.

Last week, we saw the nature of the suffering servant, what his suffering means, and why he came to suffer. We saw that in order to accept who Jesus is and believe in him faithfully, he needed to reveal himself. After knowing who he is, and why he came for us, what do we need to do to receive him? What will happen when we receive him? What is the reason to receive him into our lives?

We now come to our passage at the start of Matthew’s gospel.

Call to repentance

This passage follows a period of 400 years of silence from prophetic ministry. There was a period of waiting. They were waiting for the coming Messiah. No one knew when he will appear or what he would look like. Though one man was sent by God and his name was John.

John was a man who lived in the desert and he was a preacher, just like the evangelist on the street, he was preaching about repentance. Now we usually hear on Christian T.V channels, a guy in a nice 3 piece suit, shouting at the top of his voice “Repent, Repent of your sins! Wrath of the Lord is here, turn away from your evil way!”

What does Repent mean? Why does John call out in the middle of a desert and Shout “Repent”? V2

The meaning of “To Repent” “Metanoeo” (Greek) doesn’t just mean to be sorry, but to change one’s life completely. It is not simply saying sorry for hitting someone in the face or saying sorry because you have burned the turkey on Christmas day. Repenting is an act that will change your attitude towards the things in your life. John was calling people to come to him, and turn from their own ways. Why?

“For the Kingdom of heaven is near”. What is the kingdom of heaven? It is the coming of the proclaimed king. John was preparing the people because the Messiah is coming, he is here! After 400 years of silence the promised King is here and he is bringing his kingdom with him.

But who is this John? What is his real purpose? Luke 1:17. He came to prepare people for the return of the Lord.

John is the one that the Prophet Isaiah foretold in Chapter 40:3 V3. John was sent to prepare the way for the coming king. For us today, he would be a scout, who has come to deliver a message. That is who John is. He is the one to prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him. In Isaiah 40, the prophet was describing the highway that God was preparing on which the exiles would return home from Babylon. To make a road smooth one would expect royalty to pass over it. That is the call to repentance. John is preparing our hearts in order for God to have a straight path to travel into the hearts and lives of his people. The kingdom of heaven says Don Carson “was increasingly spiritualized or planted in men’s hearts”.

For we do things in our lives, like I described last week, that we do need to turn from. What do we need to do in order to receive Christ in our lives? We need to prepare our hearts by confessing to him, all the wrong that we have committed, in order for us to receive his kingdom.

What made John so attractive? What made him attract so many people to confess their sins? Well it was the physical appearance of John that gave the Jews at the time the thought. V4-5 He wore clothe out of camels hair. Now I don’t know if you have ever seen camels hair, well it isn’t like cotton or Nylon or silk. For camel’s hair is rough and sharp, very cheap and not very luxurious. He had a leather belt around his waist. Do they remind you of an Old Testament character?

Elijah. In 2 kings 1:8 Elijah is described as wearing camel-hair and having a belt. He was to return when the Lord comes and dwell with his people.  Malachi 4:5-6. What John ate also had importance. In Leviticus 11:22 Locusts were allowed to be eaten according to the Law, and the wild honey was the nectar of shrubbery. The reasons why John and Elijah were like this was in order to make themselves holy and not tempted in to softness in the ministries they were conducting. What impact did that have on the people?

Well v5+6 People came from everywhere to confess their sins; they came from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confession of Sins was nothing new to the people who came. It was commanded in the Law that one should confess their sins, and each person had individual responsibility. Have you understood what it means to confess all your sins? This morning we will have the opportunity in making that act of confession later, but I want you to think. How would you have taken John? Would you take him seriously, or do you think he is a poor man with a problem? For John calls for repentance, but he also calls us to

2. Produce the fruit in keeping with repentance

John was having such an impact, preaching about repentance that he attracted the attention of the Pharisees, and Sadducees. V7 and John said to them V8. Produce fruit of repentance, well what does that mean?

Well John’s sharp response picked up immediately the fact that they were there. They could have been keen to see what John was doing, or they wanted to come and condemn his preaching, or even to come and be baptized, but John called them a brood of vipers. They are like serpents; fleeing away from the wrath of God’s Judgement.

John is preaching genuine repentance, and genuine repentance means changed lives. The religious leaders must show their conduct that they have turned from their sins, and they are willing to turn away and confess their sins. Why? I thought that they were the chosen people of God?

V9 The coming of Christ’s reign demands repentance from us all, being a descendant of Abraham is not enough. They can’t think that Abraham will keep them from punishment. You are not saved by God because you are from a good background and you have a great job. It is down to your faithful obedience to God. What happens if you don’t?

V10 You will be chopped down and be burned, regardless of your roots. The fruit of genuine repentance that is produced cannot be added on to life, but grow out of the dispositions of the heart.  If there is no genuine repentance, then there is no fruit. If there is no fruit, it means there hasn’t been a fundamental change to your heart. I remember hearing at a pastoral lesson of Thursday that you can’t staple fruit to a tree, it has to be grown. It looks fake and temperamental. That is what we do in our lives. We only scratch the surface in repenting things, but the deep problems remain in our hearts. We chop the top of a weed, but allow the roots to remain.

John wasn’t sent to judge them, but to prepare the way for the one who will. V11+12. John is pointing forward to the glorious event that will take place. Christ will come and baptize his people with fire and the Holy Spirit. This would be the way, Jesus would discern between those who have genuinely repented of their sins, and those who remained against him. The baptism of water is to indicate repentance, and the Holy Spirit would confirm it. John recognized that he was unworthy compared to Jesus. For he is More powerful and his sandals I’m not fit to carry highlights John’s humility towards Jesus.

What will happen when we receive Jesus? Jesus had come to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who confess their sins will be saved, those who don’t will be condemned and burnt.

3.Reason to Repent

 Jesus’ baptism is the start of his ministry, and in v13 he came from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Now John recognized Jesus V14 and he tried to deter him. Being a humble man, he knew that it wasn’t right for Jesus to baptized by him, because he was conscious of his own sin, and he couldn’t detect any sin Jesus needed repenting of so he need to be baptized by him. John was expecting Jesus to fill him with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that is why he says I need to be baptized by you.

John then asks do you come to me. Jesus came to John. Jesus comes into our lives when we ask him too. When we faithfully proclaim God’s message, Jesus will come to you, and that is why Jesus came, but there is another reason for Jesus to be baptized. V15 to fulfill all righteousness. It was to fulfill the will of his father, which is to undergo the baptism of John, which confirms the ministry that he will conduct; the ministry that will lead to his death. It will be the death that will lead us today to all righteousness, because he bore all our sins by enduring suffering on the cross, as we saw last week. Jesus needs to obey all commands given to him by his father, and baptism was one of them. John agreed, and then the confirmation of Jesus’ ministry occurred.

V16-17. Immediately, the heavens opened and the spirit descended on Jesus. Along with the spirit, the father reveals himself, and confirms his loving relationship to his Son. This was the beginning of the salvation plan for God, to bring his faithful people back to him.

When we receive baptism, we pray for the Holy Spirit to awaken our hearts and to allow our eyes to see the wonders of faith in Jesus. Just as Jesus received the Spirit from his father, we can receive the Spirit in our lives. But like John, we need to know who Jesus is, and then when we know who he is, we are able to receive the gift of forgiveness and faith. God reveals a triplet about Jesus when he speaks.

  1. This is my son: It confirms that Jesus is the son of God, who was conceived by Mary, and was sent by God to suffer. He is the father who sent his son, to bring us back in a relationship to him.
  2. I love: The father loves his son. The bond of love between the Trinity is expressed in these verses, for the Son is baptised according to his father’s will, the father sends the spirit because he is the counsellor who will direct and guide the son in his ministry, and the son receives the spirit, because he will also sent the spirit to those he loves which are his disciples, and us today
  3. I am well pleased: God is pleased on how obedient his son is, and that he is fulfilling his purpose through obedience.

Conclusion

What do I need to do in order to receive Jesus? You need to repent! John calls us to repent, and as we await the return of Jesus, we need to be ready in our hearts to receive him as king. We will say a prayer of confession later and I encourage us to say that prayer from our hearts. We can say sorry from our mouths, but if it isn’t from our hearts, then we can’t produce fruit, and we will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

What will happen when I receive him? Your life will be changed. You will need to give up the worldly desires of your heart, and fully trust and obey Jesus. You will be given the gift of eternal life. I encourage you as you get to know Jesus by reading your bible, and through mediation in prayer, your lives will depend more on him, and not on worldly thoughts.

What is the reason to receive him in our lives? The reason to receive Jesus is to be saved. When Jesus returns, he will come and separate those who are wheat and who are chaff. If we agree with allowing Jesus to dwell in our lives we will be like wheat and not chaff. If we are like chaff, we are useless, and we will be burnt in unquenchable fire, but if we are wheat, we are taken with him into glory.

So what are you going to be, faithful wheat, or useless chaff? Let us be prepared to know Jesus and receive him in our lives. Amen.

I was given the opportunity over Advent to do my own Sermon Series. It took a while for me to choose the passages, but I went for the following themes and passages:

1. Be Prepared to Know  Isa 52:12-53:13

2. Be Prepared to receive Matt 3:1-19

3. Be Prepared to Meet  Matt 24:1-35

Here is the first talk of the 3. I hope that this will be a blessing to you as you read it.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Theme: Be prepared to know.

Aim: To a church congregation that in order for us to fully receive Jesus, we need to know what he has done for us?

Main points:

  1. How well do you know… the nature of the servant?
  2. How well do you know… the meaning of his suffering?
  3. How well do you know… the result of the suffering?

Introduction

How well do you know…? I use to get asked that question when I was at school. How well do you know your times tables? How well do you know your periodic table? How well do you know your vocabulary?

May be at work, the phrase could relate to someone who you work with. How well do you know… the boss, colleagues, colleague’s friends, wife, and children?

You hear it at police stations. You are sitting in a room ready to be interviewed, and the first question is, how well do you know, the victim/ robber?

You could hear it in the supermarket, while buying your groceries, and you hear, how well do you know her boyfriend, or how well do you know her husband. They are firelighters to start gossip.

The answers that respond to that type of question are either I know a lot or I know a little. I have two questions that I would like you to consider as we look at today’s passage and they are:

How well do you know the really important thing in your life?

How well do you know the person who came to save us?

As we start today on a three-week series called “Be Prepared”, we are going to look at how prepared we are in, knowing who Christ is, being prepared to receive him in our lives, and then to finally meet him, when he returns in glory. We are going to look how well we know the suffering servant, what happened to him, what his suffering means, and the result of his suffering.

Let us now look at our passage from Isaiah, and ask ourselves

1. How well do you know… the nature of the servant? 53:1-3+ 7-9

How do we know about God? What happened in order for us to know God?  God revealed himself to us! When he reveals himself, then we know more about him. God revealed himself first to Adam in the Garden in Genesis, he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. We can’t look for God, and expect him just to be found. He has to reveal himself. How will God reveal himself to us now? No one would believe in Jesus, unless he revealed himself, and that is what V1 highlights. Who has believed our message? There are two things going on, first we need to know who the servant is, and then believe faithfully in him. Unless we see a revelation of God, then we don’ believe it, and we continue to seek knowledge to answer our question. As V2 highlights, he grew up like a tender shoot, a root out of dry ground. Jesus was born in a stable. He was a baby. His physical appearance had nothing to draw us to him. His physical appearance is not important, but something else is, and I will explain that later. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel was sent by God to choose a king from the family of Jesse, and he came across Eliab, who was the oldest brother, and the Lord said in verse 7 “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at his heart.” This is the same view of the servant. We are blind to what the servant looks like, because what really matters is the heart. The Lord will only judge the heart of a person, so are your hearts prepared to know the truth about Jesus?

Isaiah really uses some big adjectives to describe a picture in our minds of what will happen to the servant. He will be rejected, despised. The people turned their faces from him; they held him in low esteem. V7-9 , oppressed, afflicted, led like a lamb to the slaughter, sheep before his shearers, judgement, cut off, punished, assigned a grave with the wicked, death, violence. All these words describe exactly what Jesus went through. Isaiah made this prophecy, about 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion, and describes exactly how the suffering servant, Jesus; was going to suffer. Is that the Jesus we see at Christmas? If you were Mary, and you were expecting a child, would you wish this on the one you would give birth too? This Friday I saw my new 1 week old Nephew, and as I held him, I couldn’t wish anything on earth to harm him, for he looked so weak and helpless. In V7-9 we see the process of what Jesus went through for us. He was oppressed, and afflicted as he walks to the cross. He didn’t open his mouth. Have you ever tried not to scream in pain? Well Jesus offered no physical resistance or verbal resistance. Isaiah brings in the image of the Lamb. He was led to the slaughter. Lambs usually make a lot of noise before they are slaughtered, but Jesus was silent. He knew exactly what had to be done.

Jesus’ execution on the cross, v8 who protested? No-one! They didn’t understand what was going on; he was cut off from the living, his death. Why? For the transgression of my people he was punished. This is an act of Substitution. God sent the servant to take the place of us. He was battered, despised, bruised, oppressed, rejected, for us. These words bring out how much Jesus was brought low. He was brought down as low as possible. For all of us, every aspect of human nature is inadequate. We commit things that we shouldn’t have done, and we run away from the Lord, we turn our faces away from the one who took all our sorrows, and weaknesses, and made them his own.

He was buried as someone who had committed a crime. He was assigned with the wicked, and the rich, V9 but nothing came from his mouth. He was guiltless. He had done nothing wrong. He led a life of perfection, loyalty, obedience to his father, and he was buried as a criminal.

Well what happened to the servant? He suffered the pain of our sins, and he bore them on the cross. Are we prepared to take that to our hearts, that an innocent servant took everything for us? That is what happened to the servant.

2. How well do you know…The meaning of his suffering V4-6?

What does all this mean? Why did the servant suffer?

V4-6 He took up our pain and our suffering. He stood in place of me. He took all our sins to the cross. For we see him stricken by God. We think that it is God the father who sent his Son and that is true, but why? He did it  for us because he loves us. V5 Pierced and crushed for us.

I remember in the film The Matrix. The Main Character called Neo, he had been chosen as the “One”. The machines were about to destroy the city of Zion, and only Neo could save them. He went into the Matrix, and faced Agent Smith, in a battle. In the end, he was successful, but it cost him his life. This is the same in this passage.

V5 He was pierced for our sins; he deals with our sinful state. He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought peace was on him. The pain of death created for us the peace, and reconciliation to God the father. We were alienated from God, because of our sin. As we remembered the many thousands, who lost their lives in conflicts, and wars, two weeks ago; the sacrifice of their lives, was in order for us to be a nation free from evil dictators. They faced the punishment of death for in order to create peace. Jesus’ body was whipped, flogged, and by his wounds we are healed. The broken bond between us and God is restored. The wounds of Jesus have brought healing to our relationship with God, for the object of achievement, was restored with completeness. But do we always maintain that relationship?

V6 Do we turn our back from God? Why? Because we are in a broken and fallen world, cursed by sin. Our hearts are full of imperfect thoughts, and passions. We are all like sheep.

Last year, me and the vicar did the I AM saying’s of Jesus in John at the assemblies at the school, and we used this illustration to show “I AM the Good shepherd”. We need a shepherd in our lives, and Jesus is our good shepherd. He guides us, and rescues us when we get lost. Sheep have an instinct to eat grass, and when they see good grass that leads away from the flock they go a bit more there, bit more there, until they get lost. We do that today. We are influenced by things in our world today, that take our hearts away from God, and we trust the sinful passions of our hearts, and not the loving grace of God. So we wonder away.

Isaiah makes it personal each one of us has turned to our own way. We all turn away, individually! We have a bit of TV here, going to the pub, playing on games machines, watching football, doing the cleaning, doing the knitting, reading novels, and we move away from the shepherd. But the shepherd comes and rescues us, for; the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all. Did you know that Jesus took all our rejections, blaspheming guilt, and made it his own? Isn’t that amazing? We should be so glad that Jesus has come. So when you are going out to buy presents for people, or when you are going out to Christmas dinners, remember that the point of preparing is not to indulge ourselves, but to get to know the one who took our guilt. To get to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was pierced and crushed for us. That is the meaning of his suffering.

The final question I want us to consider is this:

3. How well do you know… the result of the suffering? 52:13-15+53:10-12

Well this is all great, I know the nature of the suffering, what Jesus went through, but what is the result? What is the main point?

Well from the start of the passage, Isaiah gives us the answer: V13 Jesus will be raised, lifted up, highly exalted. Let’s look at this triplet:

Raised: Jesus, after he was crucified, pierced, wrapped up, he was laid in a tomb, he was there for three days. Have you ever left sour milk for two days out of a fridge, it’s not pleasant, so could you imagine in the smell of a dead corpse in a tomb. Well, when Mary went to the tomb, she came upon an empty tomb. She heard from the angel that Jesus had been raised to life. He was alive! Jesus is alive and he has conquered death. Then he was:

Lifted up: Jesus gave to his disciples; the commission in Acts 1:8. “You will be my witnesses in all of Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After that, He then ascended to heaven on a cloud before their sight. The last talk, we will see reverse of this event.

He was highly exalted: This is the point; to bring glory back to God. Though the pain and the suffering, rejection, and death of Christ to us seems to be the worst thing that could happen to any human being, it was to bring glory back to God. For out of Jesus’ suffering, his glory would be revealed, and now he is exalted as King of Kings, and as Isaiah explained earlier in 9:4.  V14 Even though he was disfigured beyond human likeness. To the Jews he wasn’t the saviour they were hoping for, V15 but kings will be silenced, and his word will spread across nations, all the way to where we are today. It would have a world-wide effect, bringing leaders to submission. V15 The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf will be healed and they will understand. They will see the glory of Jesus, and as we prepare for his return, we should begin to spend time to get to know him.

The last 3 verses bring all these lines to a point: v10-12. Even if God the father brought suffering on his son, and made his life an offering for sin; look at the positives that come out of it. He will prolong his days, have the light of life, he will have a portion among the great. His reward is to be the King of heaven, and to bring us to our heavenly father. Through his knowledge, the knowledge that he had to die, nothing would be achieved, and now he has opened up the way for us to be with him in eternal life. Isn’t that something worth believing in? Isn’t that something to admire and be thankful for?   They are the results for the servant’s suffering.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by answering the questions I have asked:

How much do you know…the nature of the servant? We know through reading our scripture, that God revealed himself to us, through Jesus. His purpose was not to be attractive physically, but what he was going to offer for us. He is the substitute for our lives. He stepped in and bore all our sins on his shoulders. He had to suffer and die for us in the most appalling way.

How much do you know…the meaning of the suffering? He suffered for us. We are all curse by sin, we continually turn our faces away from him. The meaning of the suffering is for us. We still go around and do what we want, and we still make Idols in our lives, and turn away from God. But all the suffering was in order for us to be united back to our father. Jesus though did it to get the highest result.

How much do you know…the result of the suffering?

Even though Jesus went through the most horrific death. He was raised to life from the dead, has ascended to heaven with his father, and now is highly exalted on his throne. The one, who was brought to the lowest of the low, was made the highest of the high. He is the king of kings, and Lord of Lords. Even though he was crushed for us, and suffered for us; he did it to bring himself glory. We should worship, and give thanks to our God for what he has done for us. I want to ask you again:

How much do you know the most important thing in your life? Is it Jesus? Do we know all the facts? No!! We only know what is written, but let us uses this time of Advent to explore who Jesus really is? Who is this child who was born in a stable? Who is this man who hung on a cross for me?

How much do we know about the suffering servant? Let us go away today, and prepare to know Jesus, before we look at next week, how prepared are we to receive him Amen.

This is one of my single talks that I delivered before Easter to the church congregation, and it touched many people. I have put it on so that for those who have never read Philemon or want to read a talk, then here it is for you. Pray that God blesses you as you read it.

Philemon 1

Theme: The death of Christ makes us want to reconcile even in the most unlikely situation.

Aim: If you have a faith in Jesus Christ, then you should easily reconcile to your brother or Sister.

1.  To have faith in Jesus

2. To have love for your brother or sister.

3. To start on a clean slate.

Introduction

Have you ever fallen out with someone you love? Has there been a break up in your home over an issue that you think will never be resolved? In your place of work can you imagine working with a colleague, or someone who you are responsible for, running away and stealing from you?

Well here is a situation that I read off an internet blog a few days ago. There was a couple who belonged to a church, the husband wasn’t a Christian, but his wife was. They went to church every Sunday, and they were part of a weekly home group. Then they were separated for 3 years because they argued a lot, there was a lack of love in the marriage; the husband left the wife, and had a relationship with someone else for a while. It seemed that they were not going to get back together. It looks a hopeless case.  After a while the husband wanted reconciliation with his wife, but his wife was on the brink of getting the divorce. Do you think that they can reconcile together? Is it possible to bring back two people who are not likely to come back together?  In today’s passage will are going to look at a man called Philemon who was himself a victim of separation with one of his slaves called Onesimus, and Paul is writing to him to address the problem. Reconciliation in any form is very difficult, and time-consuming. It can affect those around you and cause disruptions.  Paul gives Philemon 3 steps in order to create reconciliation.

1. To have faith in Jesus

The first step to reconciliation for Paul is to have faith in Jesus Christ. When the letter was written it suggests that Paul was in prison (v1+9) and he considered Philemon a “dear friend and fellow worker”. It is a warm greeting for Paul to use to address Philemon because he saw him as a faithful friend and worker of the gospel. Philemon is not a stranger to the work of Paul because he was probably associated with the church that meets in his home v2.

So Paul sees Philemon as a man of faith and he thanks God for him in his prayers v4+5.This is a typical Pauline prologue to his letter because in Phil 1:3, 1 Corth 1:4; Rom 1:8; Colo 1:3; 1 Thess 1:2, 2 Thess 1:3 1Tim 1:12 2Tim 1:3, Phil 4. Paul thanks God for all of them because of their faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Philemon is no exception. Philemon is someone who has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully confessed his sins, and now he is living out his Christian life. At the same time Paul realizes that it isn’t easy to live out your faith, and you will come across situations that are difficult.

Paul makes it his prayer in v6. He prays that they may understand everything good that is in Christ. Now there are many ways to act out ones faith, e.g. you can go on the streets like I do on a Wednesday morning, and give out gospel leaflets and talk to people about your faith, or as part of being a small group is being active in your faith. Even talking to your friends and neighbours about Jesus is acting out your faith.  To understand the good things in Christ is to accept all that Christ has done for us and for what he will give to us when he returns. Those who don’t have a faith, only have the understanding of themselves and the comfort of themselves. Those who have Christ as their foundation in their lives can cast all their problems on to him.

When you go through a break up in any form, one of the first things you do is feel that you are alone, and no one understands. I have experienced this myself. I had a really good bunch of friends when I was at school and when I told them that I was going to university in Wales and to study theology, some of them just thought I was wearied. I kept being asked “Why are you going to study about God?” They started to break away from me, and sometimes I thought I was alone. They didn’t understand me at all.

The problem in that situation was they didn’t have a faith in Christ, and that meant they didn’t understand what I was going through at the time. In our lives we have things that unite us together like, hobbies, interests, music, jobs etc. Having faith in Christ means we are united together to him. Eph 2:13 We are part of the family of Christ, that is why Paul keeps saying brother v1,v7,v16, v20.

When you become part of a family of faith, you have to change. That is what happened to Onesimus V11. He was useless. For the cause of the gospel, if we have no faith, than we are useless for God because we are blind men and women trying to lead blind people. We need to receive Christ in to our lives; he opens our eyes to see the truth and when that happens; everything changes. How did Onesimus change? What did Paul say to him when he was in prison? He told him the gospel of what Jesus had done for him. When he receive Christ in his life he became useful. A small fact here:  look at your only footnote and see that Onesimus means useful. We become useful beings for God when we have faith. And when we become useful, we can start the processes of correcting all the wrongs we have done and to begin to reconcile not on our own strength, but with the strength of faith in Christ.

So having faith in Christ is the starting point to any permanent reconciliation.

2. To have love for your brothers and sisters.

Paul’s second step to reconcile is to love your brothers and sisters. When you love someone, it gives them encouragement and that is what Paul felt v7. In today’s society, the word love can mean so many things. There is the love of passion that is expressed between a man and a woman in marriage. There is a love of possession that you want to own something that really means something to you. The love that Paul is referring to is the love of God. This is a unique kind of love. This is a love that comforts us. This is the love that every person who has faith in Christ should posses, for we are commanded as in the two great commandments: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love your neighbour as yourself.

To know that someone loves you, to know that you are special to someone, gives you joy and refreshes your heart. This is the love that Paul is appealing to Philemon. Paul, who was an apostle, because he saw Jesus Christ, has an authority to order people in the churches that he planted v8, but v9. Paul knew that Philemon had the love of Christ as a believer because he heard about it v5. He had faith in Christ and Love for the saints. This is the same love that Paul appeals to him to have for Onesimus v10.

Paul has a love for Onesimus because he sees him as a son in his old age v10, and compared him to Paul’s very heart v12. Now Paul’s love for his new brother in Christ is so strong that he finds it hard to let Onesimus back to Philemon v13. That is the level of what God’s love can achieve. It is a love that never breaks, and never fails.

Philemon would probably want to know, “Why should I take back someone who has been apart from me, has had no care for me, and now wants to return to me?” Paul has seen the separation has a positive move v15. It has given Onesimus the time to sort out his uselessness as a slave, and to be a changed person; someone who will stay, and remain, not run away.  To expect someone to do something that is different to what they have done before takes time. I like the illustration that my vicar told me; it’s like turning around the Titanic, it would have taken time. Like the couple at the beginning, they were separated for 3 years it would take a long time.

Philemon would receive him, not as a slave like he was before, but a brother v16. This is powerful imagery that Paul is doing here. He is abolishing the slavery of Onesimus, and saying to Philemon that he would be better for you to love him as fellow brother for the gospel. Paul saw something in Onesimus that Philemon couldn’t see. He might use this to defend Onesimus from Philemon, but it is down to the love of the gospel. We as Christians today, try to dwell harmoniously with our fellow brother and sisters, because we want to live out the love of Christ, and that is what Paul wants Philemon to do. To act out his love and faith in Onesimus, by allowing him back. There are two ways that he wants to be received:

1. A man. This is a man who is flesh and blood, who has feelings, and emotions. This is a man who will work for him every day, either in business or work.

2. A brother in the Lord. He is a believer who has heard the gospel, and now is ready to deal with spiritual affair.

Now Onesimus is a free man. Paul is trying to destroy the slavery, and give back a loving worker of the gospel. The Parallel to this is that today, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour, you are free from your sins. Jesus became the substitute because he loves us; he loves us so much that he took all our sins with him to the cross, and return as the victor over death and sin. Like in Rom 6:17+18.Those that have faith are now slaves of righteousness and that means we have to love our neighbours, our brothers and sisters. If you have faith and love, then you are on the way to reconciliation.

3. To start on a clean sheet

The third and final step to reconciliation is to start again. Paul tells Philemon v17-19. He wants Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as a changed man. He wants him to be welcomed like Paul. Philemon would see Paul as a famous man, so he would probably have a party and food etc. That is what he wants for Onesimus. This is like the prodigal Son. The son returns home, and there is a feast of joy. Paul will pay up any debts that are owing to Philemon. Why? Because he loves him in Christ. He wants no small barriers to prevent them to reconcile back together.

Paul here is showing us an example of grace. Onesimus doesn’t deserve the gift that Paul is offering, but Paul does this out of love. This is the example of what Jesus has taught each one of us. God sent his one and only son as a gift that we don’t deserve because we are people who have evil hearts and desires. He came to reconcile us back to God, by taking all God’s wrath on himself because of our sins, and took it to the cross. That is the act of ultimate grace. Maybe you have a neighbour in your street that owes you a new lawnmower, or a new plate or a debt. If he can repay it then that is fine, but if he can’t, then use it as a gift. Remember the gift of God, his son Jesus Christ, as an unpaid gift to each one of us. A gift we don’t deserve, but given freely out of the love of God. If we are like that today, then we should be people, who except that people can change for the better. That is what we need to do in order to repair our relationships says Paul, is to allow someone to start on a clean sheet.

Conclusion

So how does the story end? The husband completely changed and became a Christian. His wife had a big enough heart and an attitude of faith that God could work things out once he had become a Christian, and so was willing to try again. They have a new marriage that still needs work but it’s wonderful. That is the story of how reconciliation works. That is what probably happened between Philemon and Onesimus: so the steps are:

1. To have faith in Christ

2. To have love for your brothers and sisters around you.

3. To start on a new sheet.

As part of my training, I’m doing a 2nd sermon series based on the book of Habakkuk. Here is my sermon written out from my notes. It is a 3 week series so there are two more to follow from this one. I hope that it will challenge you as you read it and be encouraged and bless by reading it. I suggest you have you bible while reading through because I refer to it a lot.

Habakkuk 1:1-17

Theme: Be utterly amazed

Aim: To a church congregation: That God is in complete control even in the most unlikely situations

Main points:

1. The perseverance of evil v1-4

2. God is in control v5-11

3. We need to hang on and accept God’s decision v12-17

Introduction

On my day off over a few weeks ago, I went to the barbers to have a haircut. I walked down to the shop, had a quick read of the free material in the waiting area until a vacant seat. I was called over to the chair and told the barber what I wanted and then guy next to me began to quite vocal saying. “What’s the point of living?” As the hairdryer was being used, I couldn’t hear anything else, but the guy cutting his hair was trying to answer him. He then started to complain about his Job, his holidays, his pay. Now while this was going on playing in the background on the radio was “I can’t wait for the weekend to begin”. I sat there and thought that everything that happened in that small 20 minutes was a circle of complaints. The song complains about weekdays, and the guy was complaining about his life.

Do we complain about things in our lives? Do we get really annoyed about someone or something? How do you respond when life gets tough and you feel like everything is going against you? Before we begin our series in Habakkuk, can I see how many people have ever read Habakkuk? Well we are going to look at this book over the next two weeks and today we are going to be looking at the first chapter.

To set the scene Habakkuk was believed to be one of the official temple prophets in Jerusalem because of the music reference in 3:1+19. He was living around the time of King Jehoiakim. Those of you who know your bible history know that king Jehoiakim was the successor of Josiah who was the king who brought the nation back under the Law of God. Jehoiakim did the complete opposite of Josiah and the nation began to drift away from God. This is when Habakkuk steps up and begins a dialogue with the Lord.

1. The perseverance of evil v1-4

Habakkuk receives an oracle from the Lord v1 and the translation of oracle in the Hebrew means “a burden”. This is a burden that is to be carried and upheld. This is a burden to address the people of Judah of God’s coming judgement. This is a burden that Habakkuk is living out and experiencing with his own eyes as well as with his ears. As part of the burden, the prophet will be in dialogue with the living God. At the start of Habakkuk’s lament he cries out to God v2. Is this the cry that we say from our hearts when we look around at the world today? Habakkuk was praying, calling out to God because the times were terrible. This wasn’t the first time he called out for help. He is someone living in the midst of evil and he is completely over-whelmed by the society around him. It feels like God isn’t listening to him. He probably had doubts that God was there, or he could do anything about it. When we pray, we might feel that our prayers are not heard or even answered. We feel that God is not listening because we don’t see things happening around us.

Habakkuk feels that God has exposed him to all this evil and sin, and he is allowing it to happen v3. Do we feel like that when we see porn mags on the top shelves, Anti-social behaviour, drug dealing, fighting in the street, divorce etc? We see sin all around us today, and we see injustice on our streets, courts, and around the world. We don’t just hear about it, but we see it. It starts to become part of our normal part of life. Habakkuk can’t believe that God would tolerate all this evil. What is the cause? Violence and destruction v2b+3b! There has been an increase in violence and strife and violation of moral law. It was a lawless society growing out of control. The growth of sin was ever-present, theft, debauchery, adultery, anger, coveting etc. The greatest question he asks is “v3 why do you tolerate wrong?” If God is an almighty and powerful God, then why does evil persevere in our time? Why can’t you get rid of all this evil? Why do you allow it to happen?

Due to all this growth in he then concludes v4 it is hopeless. The law is paralyzed. It is redundant; people are not listening to it. They are not abiding to it, and Justice never prevails. There is no good says Habakkuk. He can’t see a way for them to come back.

What’s the reason for it getting out of control? The Law (Torah) was mediated by the priests and the king to the people, so it means that the king and priests have become slack in the law.  They are all corrupted, even those who are meant to be righteous. Those like Habakkuk who want to stand up for the Law can’t because they are surrounded by the wicked. This is like us today, we want to live out the good news of Christ but we are faced with injustice. What can be done?

2. God is in control v5-11

The Lord answered Habakkuk and said to him v5. The Lord is working and is in control. The Lord tells Habakkuk and us today to widen our gaze and look at what the Lord is doing in other nations, and we will be utterly amazed. For us today, we look around at our local community and we complain about the levels of unemployment, debt, rubbish etc; while in other countries around the world there are people being changed and coming to know Christ. The church in China has grown; the church in India has grown. The Lord is working on a bigger scale than we can imagine. We worry about our little community while God is preparing big plans. The problem wasn’t God, but us and our perspectives. We need to change our perspectives as we look at our circumstances around us, even if we can’t see God at work around us. God is a lot bigger than we imagine, and God answered Habakkuk’s prayer, but not in the way that Habakkuk was expecting, or will ever expect. The Lord was going to do something beyond all understanding.

What will that be? v6. He was going to send the Babylonians as a judgement to Judah for their betrayal of his Laws. What are they like? Well The Lord describes them for us v6-11. Would you like to meet the Babylonians? They are a people bent on violence v9. Violence was the cry of Habakkuk in v2-3, and he laments about the growth of wickedness. So God responds using the words of Habakkuk as an answer to his prayer. God is in complete control in what is going on in Judah; and as a response he is going to bring judgement on the people just as he said using a nation of people who are just as evil and corrupt as Judah was. Isn’t that utterly amazing?

The Lord is going to use a nation that others are afraid of v7, they are a law to themselves v8, fierce than wolves, they come bent on violence v9, they gather prisoners like sand, they deride and conquer kings, scoff and mock rulers v10. They destroy and laugh at fortified cities and they go by their own god of strength v11. This is a parallel to Judah’s wickedness. They are people full of idolatry and sin and only the gracious Lord could control a group of people like that. Imagine the Lord using the soldiers of North Korea to come and judge the west?  The Lord makes it clear and plain that the very pride and self-confidence of the Babylonians will be their own downfall v11 but to Habakkuk; unless he sees that the Lord is in control, then he will be even more confused. The Lord has control of what nations grow and fall, he restores and destroys. This is the God of the OT, NT at his very best. He is in control!

3. We need to hang on and accept God’s decision v12-17

Habakkuk may be very confused at this point. He was expecting the Lord to say that he will sort it all out but instead he was even more confused than before. Habakkuk acknowledges and believes that God is in control and he has confidence in the Lord because his life and identity are intertwined with the identity and life of the Lord v12.  Even in times of trouble, doubt and confusion, Habakkuk still has faith that the Lord has control and they will not perish.

God is still committed to his chosen people, the people of Judah. They are his holy nation; surely they are protected from death and destruction? The Babylonians could come in and destroy them, but Habakkuk sees that they are coming as the judgement of Judah. The Lord has ordained them before the earth began that they would come and fulfill his purpose. He cares for them and loves them, and Habakkuk needs to accept that inner truth. Like us today, Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” We are God’s chosen people today for God loves us, Christ loves us so much that he gave his life up for us as the church, so we will never perish by sin and death but have eternal life.  God is eternal and sovereign. He is everlasting. He engages in times during history because he is outside of time but he is also the Rock, the one who remains stable in an uncertain world, and we must hold on to him because he is changeless. He remains the same forever.

Habakkuk is still perplexed at the questions that he asked earlier. v13. How can you tolerate evil? The Babylonians are a people of evil and wickedness, and a pure and perfect God is using them. Why? Well to understand this question, you must understand that God has a purpose and plan and he is in complete control. God can use evil for his own purpose. He is sovereign over those who are righteous, and those who are wicked. That is the nature of the sovereign Lord. Habakkuk still can’t see the injustice being solved and he complains about how inconsistent God is.

Looking at Habakkuk after the resurrected Christ, we need to remember that everyone is a sinner under the curse of sin. We are all born into sin and we all deserve death and destruction. As Paul wrote to the Romans 3:10-12. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.” For all sin is the same before God. We might say that some people are more wicked and unrighteous than others, but we are all the same in God’s eyes. We should never think that we are immune to unrighteousness because we all are. Paul declares that “there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:22-23. But today we are justified by faith in Christ. Those who have faith in Christ are those who accept God’s decisions and realize that they are made righteous through him who died on the cross. As Paul says at the end of Rom 6 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”

At the end of his complaint Habakkuk describes the wicked in the light of the Babylonians v14-17. He feels like God has made humans like as helpless as fish. They are weak and unintelligent beings who are trapped by those who worship their tools and live in luxury and eat salmon and caviar. Are they going to continue to abuse and dictate and destroy nations? Habakkuk can’t understand how all of this violence and devastation will possibly fulfill God’s purposes of righteousness? How can an evil nation full of idolaters bring divine Judgement? How is God going to use this in order to fulfill his promise of blessings? Is he going to allow these people to mistreat us forever?

Conclusion

Well to finish on this cliff hanger, will God allow the Babylonians to continue forever? Will there always be injustice and the perseverance of evil? What we need to take away from the passage this morning is that 1. Evil to us seems to prosper in times, and we do feel like Habakkuk. We do complain about things in life; and we do feel that God is not there. But God is there and he is working. The problem is us. We need to open our eyes wider than we do to see the work of God. 2. God is in control, he uses evil for his purpose and he will use the most unlikely people to fulfill his purposes. 3. We need to accept God’s decision. He is in control but we need to remain faithful to God because we are all sinners saved by grace. We all fall short of the glory of God but he loves us. Isn’t that utterly amazing?

The task that I have given myself at the start of Holy week  is to build a cross for our Good Friday mediation service. I reused two really good pieces of timber that could have been burnt for heat but are going to be used to point worshipers back to the pinnacle part of the passion narrative. I was leaving it till late in the day to start work on the cross, and as I was creating the box joint, and focusing on the tools I was thinking about the building process of the carpenters who build the cross to crucify our Lord. They were making an object that Christ would use to take all the sins of humanity. It would be an object that would be stained by the blood of Christ as he was being nailed. It would be an object that would change the lives of so many people. The use of the cross before Christ was to kill murders, blasphemers. The Cross of Christ has saved those who deserve death and given them a new life in Christ.

When I had finished contemplating the image of the cross, the work was finally finished and ready for Friday. The striking thing that I can take away from this project is to realize that during the time of Christ, the cross was a tool of death, but because of Christ, it has become a tool for salvation and life.