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Extract From Lynn's Preach
Psalm 23 continued: ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
f someone said to me, you must walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I would say ‘Walk? I don’t think so, I’ll be running terrified! Death could show up at any moment!’
Up to this point in this psalm, David has painted this story with very bright and lush colours with reassurance of the shepherd’s care and protection. Then, as if out of the blue David throws in the Valley of Death. It seems the valley has to be gone through.
But any Middle Easter shepherd reading these words would not find this transition strange at all. In Israel sheep need to be led to different places in different seasons to get adequate grazing. And in and around Bethlehem, where David kept his father's flocks, this meant you either had to go to higher ground or down to the wilderness on the west side of the Jordan valley. Either way you went you had to go through valleys.
Valleys were dangerous places. There were risks of rock and mud slides, flash floods, and poisonous plants, but there were predators (lions, bears, wolves) lying in wait among the rocks hungry for a tasty lamb dinner.
The valley covered by a shadow of death is a place where there seems to be no light; a place of uncertainty; a place where we feel closed in; a place of real danger; a place where we feel threatened; a place in which our first instinct is towards fear and despair. A place where every fibre in our being is screaming……..GET OUT!
Are you familiar with that kind of feeling? That feeling of oppression. No way out. Trapped.
BUT look, what does David say? Are we trapped? No, we are led.
We are led into the valley and through the valley. It doesn't say we are trapped in the valley, it doesn't say we live in the valley,no, it says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…"
We are walking through, there is a destination. There is a way out. Not only are these valleys temporary, not only do they come to an end, but when they come to an end, the sheep find themselves in new pastures, a place of fresh provision. The path through the valley is not a detour from the Shepherd's guidance. It’s part of getting to that new place.
The valleys are places of doubt, struggle, fear, and despair. But the destination of the journey is Gods amazing provision. Maybe one of the things God wants to do in us as we meditate on this psalm is release us from trying to live in this “avoiding difficulty” kind of mentality when it comes to pain and struggles. Maybe, He wants us to embrace a "through" mentality. "O God, you will bring me through this. God, you are leading me through this." Look at how the rest of this verse helps us understand this "through" perspective.
No Fear! David continues: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ There are plenty of evils in the valley but David walks through with confidence, not quaking with fear.
Jesus told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”. We need His peace for the valley.
You are with Me:. When it comes to banishing the darkness of fear, there is no greater light than the promise AND experience of God's presence. It was knowing God’s presence that banished fear.
Jesus said, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
The author of Hebrews tells us that God has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Your Rod and Staff: the rod was a short thick stick, like a club, to beat off predators. God the good shepherd fights for us. The staff was a shepherds crook, the straight end to tap the sheep into line and the crook to hook them out of thorn bushes and crevices. God’s protection and guidance was always there.
God will not allow lasting harm to come to His sheep. He allows trials, but they will not destroy us. He allows sorrow, but joy will always win out. He brings “beauty from ashes” There are difficulties in the valley, but God will always bring His sheep safely through to eternal life.
I remember sharing worship with Sandra at the hospital before she died. She knew she was dying; we knew she was dying BUT as I looked at her face as we worshiped in the hospital chapel, I knew she was being led through that valley by the shepherd. She was right in the thick of the valley, death was coming BUT I could see she was so ready to be absent from that body and present with the Lord.
Nothing can jeopardize our eternal safety in the Good Shepherd's care. Death was not in the valley; it was only its shadow. Death is NOT a permanent reality for us. Sandra is more alive today than she has EVER been! The world is a scary place, but we don't have to be afraid.
Our lives might seem like a scary place, our current circumstances might seem like a scary place, our future might seem like a scary place, but we do not need to be afraid. This is how we get ‘through’ the 'valleys' we turn away from fear and ask God to give us the faith we need, faith in the promise that God is with us, and that He will protect us.
Shepherds know where they are going. They've already scouted the ground. They know what dangers lie ahead. Like any good shepherd, Jesus goes ahead of us. He went ahead of us into the valley of the shadow of death. He knows the way through. He was tempted. He was attacked. He was betrayed. He suffered. He died. Jesus has been through that valley. And he says to us, ‘You’re OK, I’ve got you, I can take you through’.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Life-Light’
John 10:1-4 (Jesus said) Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s a thief and a robber.
The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
To me all sheep look the same but a shepherd can tell his/her sheep apart. Shepherds in the Middle East don’t use sheepdogs to herd sheep. The sheep willingly follow the shepherd trusting him/her for water and pasture.
The shepherd uses sheep pens built of stones for the sheep to shelter in at night, protected from wild animals and thieves. The sheep pen and one entrance and the shepherd or a gatekeeper would guard that entrance all night to stop the predators and sheep stealer's.
Jesus told this parable, a made up story to explain a spiritual truth, to a crowd made up predominantly of Pharisees. Jesus said they were blind (spiritually).
The Pharisees were in charge of interpreting the scriptures and developing the religious rules, practices and traditions from their understanding of the text. They insisted that to relate to God you had to follow all the hundreds of rules of behaviour they had developed.
The more they looked into the law the more blind they became.
At the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai the story tells us that the mountain was covered in ‘thick darkness’, meaning a darkness in which one could see nothing at all.
And when Jesus was on the cross and He said ‘it is finished’ everything became dark even though it was 3pm. At that moment Jesus ended the era of the law and religions rules.
So it was dark at the giving of the law and it was dark at the end of the law. This tells us that there was darkness in the Law – and that darkness was an absence light.
The Pharisees and their followers were spiritually blind as they were stuck in the darkness of the Law and the religion that it birthed. Jesus said He was the light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Like the Pharisees we can look into the darkness of law and the rules that come from it. Or, we can turn our backs on religion and traditions and the darkness and be bathed in the light of Jesus.
‘Walk in the light’, Jesus says, and we can’t stumble. Walk in the dark and we stumble over judgemental attitudes, disagreements and division.
Paul, on the road to Damascus, saw a great light, Jesus. A great light is the opposite to the thick darkness which made Paul the Pharisee of Pharisees
So back to the parable of the sheep and the sheep pen in John 10: Jesus said He Himself was the gate, the way in, to the sheep pen. The gatekeeper symbolises the Holy Spirit, we his people, are the sheep, all known individually by our names by Jesus.
Jesus said He came so we could have his extraordinary life that lets us know God just as we are. Jesus is our ‘way in’ to that life, not religions rules and traditions.
Who are the thieves and robbers in the parable? Those who come to steal what they haven’t got and what the sheep have. They come to steal the sheep’s freedom as the parable says the sheep are free to come and go as they please.
Jesus is saying the thieves and robbers come to destroy and kill the freedom of living in His glorious light and extraordinary life.
In John 1, 4-5 in a modern bible version it says: What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out, nor could the darkness understand the Life-Light.
A little over a year ago a supporter of ours, a retired vicar, came to a Liberty meeting and weeks later he told a Liberty member it was the most spiritual meeting he’d been in.
This was a man with a vast amount of experience of the broad church which he had served all his life. I put it to you that he came and saw a great light in the life of Liberty.
The Life-Light was present and he saw it and felt it. He experienced our freedom to just be ourselves in Jesus. The gatekeeper had opened the gate and let him in to the Liberty sheepfold.
I believe the inclusiveness and the freedom to be ourselves before God is to be cherished. Many in the darkness of living by religions rules and traditions will never understand it and they will often reject us. Yet Jesus knows our name.
We can be blinded by the darkness of religion or be blinded by His grace.
There is a warning in the parable, the thieves and robbers will come, and we must be aware of religion’s power to destroy freedom.
Jesus knows all about rejection by the religious majority and its power to destroy. But as we trustingly follow the Shepherd who knows our name, we can walk freely in His Life-Light.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Blinded by Your Grace’
Reading taken from Psalm 89:20-28
I have made my servant David king by anointing him with holy oil. My strength will always be with him, my power will make him strong. His enemies will never succeed against him; the wicked will not defeat him. I will crush his foes …..
I will love him and be loyal to him; I will make him always victorious.
He will say to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour.’ I will always keep my promise to him, and my covenant with him will last for ever.
There’s a saying ‘seeing is believing’, but spiritually ‘believing is seeing’ when we see with the eyes of faith.
In 1Sa 16:7 Scripture says ‘the Lord does not see as humanity sees’. When Paul writes in Eph 1:4 that Christians are ‘holy and blameless in the Lord’s sight’ the Lord is as Ro 4:15 says God is ‘declaring something that is not as though it were’
David, chosen by God to be King of Israel, loved the Lord and trusted Him in many ways. But David also committed adultery and murdered his lover’s husband. David was a scheming adulterer, dishonest, unfaithful and murderous as well as a man who knew God and loved Him.
David’s moral failings are all recorded in scripture. At times He was devoted to God and at other times he was morally offensive.
In the offences of David surely the scripture was fulfilled, Ro 5:20 .’..where sin increased, grace increased all the more’. God always called David his beloved, that never changed despite David’s changing levels of devotion to God.
David wrote in Ps 32:2 ‘Blessed is the person whom the Lord no longer considers a sinner’.
Why did the Lord not allow David’s many moral weaknesses to change His view of him? The Lord chose to allow His grace to blind Him to David’s failings.
In Hebrews 11 there is a list of people commended by God for their faith. Many had failings that
should have given them a permanent place in the ‘naughty corner’ (see last week’s preach). Yet in this notable chapter their crimes are not recorded, only their acts of faith born out of their trust in the Lord. This chapter tells us that God’s eyes were firmly shut to their shortcomings.
The Lord chose to allow His grace to blind Him to their faults. The Lord was blinded by His grace.
Have you ever been in a car when suddenly the bright sun shines straight in your eyes and blinds you? Or had a torch shone in your eyes and suddenly all you can see is that light and you can’t see another thing? You can’t see the detail in front of you. You are temporarily blinded to everything except the dazzling light. I think that’s how it is with God’s grace. Its so dazzling and amazing it blinds Him, and when we become aware of it can blind us, to anything else except how incredible it is.
Scripture tells us God ‘made humanity and crowned them with glory and splendour.’ Psalm 8:5.‘ ‘Crowned’ is a dodgy translation, the Hebrew word is ‘aw-tar’ meaning ‘surround’. So the Lord surrounded humanity with His glory and splendour’.
When God looked at the Adams’ in the Garden of Paradise he saw them surrounded, enveloped by his own glory and splendour. They were in God’s image. They could see that. But after ‘the Fall’ His glory and splendour was gone. Humanity was naked without the Lord’s glorious covering, their feeble humanity was laid bare.
After the fruit was eaten the text tells us Ge 3:7 ‘the eyes of them both were opened’. Does that mean that before that moment in time they were blind to their weak human fram and couldn’t see?
Did they just see the brightness of God’s glory and splendour? Were they blinded by His grace?
Paul was blinded by God’s grace on the road to Damascus. Suddenly nothing else was important only the One who dwelt in that incredible light.
Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, ‘I don’t condemn you,’ was Jesus blinded by God’s grace?
He then said to her ‘go and sin no more’. Everyone knows that that statement is impossible to do. I put it to you that what the woman experienced was that ‘grace increased all the more’. When you get to heaven, seek her out and ask her, ‘Well did you sin no more?’ I think her reply will be, ‘Don’t ask me. I was dazzled, blinded by His grace’.
For nearly 30 years I’ve preached ‘the gospel of grace’, ‘the good news of great joy for all people’. 17 years ago Nina met me, a man blinded by God’s grace. Nina could see that I belonged in the naughty corner, and thought I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be a proper Christian. That is, until Nina was blinded by His grace and rendered unable to judge me nor anyone else but most importantly unable to judge herself.
Jesus prayed Joh 17:22 ‘And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one’. Paul wrote, 2Co 3:18 ‘But we all, like looking in a mirror can see the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image of glory and splendour.’
Lord enable us to see your glory and splendour that surrounds us. Make us capable to see like You see, and see our sisters and brothers as ‘holy and blameless’.
Help us to more and more see your glory and splendour in each other and be blinded by your grace to their faults and failings.
It is only when we have been blinded by your grace that we may be one as God is one.
Liberty is about freedom in God, there’s nothing more freeing than being blinded by His grace.
Song ‘Blinded by your Grace’ by Stormzy
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Stand’
Sisters and brothers, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the false statements of our accusers.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world and against the spiritual forces that oppose us in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when opposition comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and withstand hostility.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can put an end to all the harsh words of your adversary.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is your testimony of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
In the book of Numbers 24 we find Balaam a prophet of the Midianites, an enemy of Israel and therefore an enemy of the Lord. Balaam was seen as a person with the power to bless, (bring good fortune to people) and to curse (bring disaster to people).
The King of Midian sent Balaam to curse his enemy Israel. But as he stood on a mountain overlooking the tents of the army of Israel the Spirit of God overcame him and Balaam saw Israel as God saw them as precious to Him and he spoke blessing over them.
The Midian King was livid.
Sometimes children are disciplined by having to stand in the naughty corner. That’s how I felt in my early years as a Christian. I felt I was always in the naughty corner until I said ‘Sorry I’ll try not to do it again’. It didn’t work to make me a better person. My misdemeanours were repetitive and I wasn’t successful in changing my ways.
So I put my mask of respectability and I sang songs saying ‘Standing on the promises of God’ and ‘I am a new creation no more in condemnation’ while feeling condemned for my failures. Instead of standing on the promises of God I was yet again standing in the naughty corner.
My sense of humour frequently got me into trouble. In a group after church I told a joke to an elderly lady called Florey who liked a laugh:
“A man went to the doctors and said ‘Doctor I’ve swallowed my glass eye’. ‘Right’ said the Doctor, ‘Drop your trousers and bend over desk and I’ll have a look’. From behind, the man heard the Doctor say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t see anything’ Whereupon the man said ‘That’s funny, I can see you.’”
Florey laughed and I laughed, but the rest of the Christians in the room didn’t, there was a deathly silence. If looks could kill I’d have died on the spot. Back to the naughty corner!
The story about Balaam tells us that when Balaam was riding his ass on his way to curse Israel, an angel of the Lord stood blocking the path. In the same way, that in the joke the man’s arse could see what the doctor couldn’t see, Balaam’s ass could see what Balaam himself couldn’t see.
Balaam’s ass could see that God’s angel was protecting the people of Israel. And because Balaam couldn’t see what his ass could see, Balaam gave his ass a good kicking.
Which brings me to tonight’s text which begins. ‘Put on the full armour of God so that we can take our stand against the false words of our accusers.’ Who are our false accusers? They are the ones that cannot see, what we can see. That’s why 3 times the text tells us to stand.
Having put on the full armour of God we’re advised to stand. Dressed in armour in which not to fight our adversaries, but to stand our ground and stand firm.
Ex 14:14 in the NIV “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." But he Hebrew word mis translated ‘be still’ is ‘charash’ and it means be mute. So to paraphrase Ex 14 ‘The LORD will fight for you; stand firm, be still, don’t speak to your adversary, hold your peace’.
Always remember our adversary cannot see the grace that we can see. It has taken a long time for Nina and I to see with our faith and grace glasses and just stand firm, and be still, hold our peace and not waste our breath on those who are unable to see.
What happens to those who are unable to see is that their bias and their prejudices get the better of them, they get angry and they resort to abuse and like Balaam did to his ass they kick what they see as beneath them.
The apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6 to put on our armour of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, our testimony of God, and the Spirit of God. And further encourages us in Ephesians 4, to put on the new creation, created in the image of God in righteousness and true holiness... Righteousness is the right standing with God.
We are in the righteousness of Jesus. isn’t that a great place to stand?
When we really grasp God’s immense grace we can stop putting ourselves in the naughty corner but instead stand on the promises of God. And see ourselves as God sees us, holy and blameless in His sight, covered in His righteousness wearing the garments of salvation.
No more to stand in the naughty corner, but stand in the peace that goes beyond the understanding of those who cannot see.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘He Knows My Name’
I’ve always thought my name, Lynn, is so boring. As a child I always wanted to be Katie after the girl who had lots of adventures in the ‘What Katie Did’ books.
I’ve been called a lot of different names in my life:
At school I was Stupid, Dyslexic. At home I was abused/victim.
In life I’ve been Addict, Alcoholic, Dyke, Homosexual, Enemy of God, Abomination.
Wife, lover, Mum, sister, aunt, friend. Bereaved parent.
The one that stands out most is one that was aimed at me last year when I met Christians who supported Franklin Graham and that was ‘Pervert Preacher ‘!!!
We have all been called the most hurtful names, names that have scarred us.
We will often carry those names with us, they affect every aspect of our lives!
We are wounded by them….
As LGBTQ people we have endured name calling for years.
We have ignored it or tried to be the better person, but more recently we have been encouraged to report “Hate crime” and yes, we fill a form in but ultimately, we are wounded.
Parents, teachers, colleagues, friends, family and strangers have all given us names that have damaged us. Many of us have been bullied by name calling. I wonder what names have you been called? …..
BUT I wonder, do those names sum up who we truly are?
Who does God say you are?
God says ‘You Are my Beloved’. God says ‘I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life. I created you in my own image. I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it . You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I have crowned you with glory and honour.
I have adopted you. You are my child, my heir. You are no longer an orphan.
You belong to me and I love you as a perfect Father.
In my eyes, you are a brand-new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.
Sin is no longer your master, for you died to sin and are now alive in me.
You are finally free from the slavery of sin and death.
There is now NO condemnation, NO condemnation, NO condemnation for you.
All your sins are forgiven. You are now righteous in my sight.
You’ve been saved by grace. You’ve been justified by faith.
You are utterly secure in me; NOTHING will be able to separate you from my love in Christ Jesus. No one is able to snatch you out of my hand.
I will NEVER EVER leave you nor forsake you.’
We are beloved.
I don’t know about you BUT I need this to kick in, I want Gods name for me to be in my heart and mind. God knows my name and it’s NOT ‘stupid’ ……. Its beloved!
The Holy spirit impressed this on my recently through the words of the song below. I pray he will impress it on your heart too.
‘You Know My Name’
sung by Tasha Cobbs
He knows my name(x4)
And oh, how He walks with me
Yes, oh, how He talks with me
And oh, how He tells me That I am
You know my name (x 4)
And oh, how You comfort me
And oh, how You counsel me
Yet it still amazes me That I am
So now, I pour out My heart to You
Here in Your presence I am made
You know my name (x 4)
And oh, how You walk with me
Oh, how You talk with me
Oh, how You tell me That I am Your own
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Five Giants Part 2’
An extract Paul’s letter to the Romans 8 in the Message version of the bible
If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?
And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?
Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us.
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Jesus’ love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angels or powers, today or tomorrow,
High or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Lord has embraced us.
This week we look at David’s need for 5 smooth stones which link to the 5 Philistine giants who were enemies of David. We can gain insights from them for our own spiritual battles.
1. Goliath. His name means ‘splendour’. Goliath symbolises the splendour of the world.
The ideals and values of this world are at odds with God. The world admires the intellect - the first stone struck Goliath’s forehead the seat of the mind and the wisdom of humanity.
The source of good ideas not God ideas. Our intellect can be an enemy of our spirits. Our intellect cannot achieve anything of spiritual value. Jesus said ‘I have overcome the world’.
As Paul wrote Ac 17:28 ‘It is in him we live and move and have our being’ not in worldly ideals and values…..Desiring Jesus and the things of heaven... diminishes the cravings of this world and what it has to offer.
2. The giant Ishbi-benob (2Sa 21:16) means, ‘my dwelling is on the heights’. He symbolises pride. Our pride can be an obstacle to us spiritually. David’s servant Abishai killed the giant of pride. Abishai means gift. Eph 2:8 tells us that faith is a gift from God.
Pride affects us all in different ways but can be defeated by the gift of faith that impresses on us that God alone is the source of our lives, and God is the origin of all our accomplishments.
In faith we can know that apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Joh 15:5) of lasting spiritual value.
3. The giant Saph (2Sa 21:18); ‘Saph’ means ‘door’ and points to hypocrisy. Like a door we all can have two sides to us, and we all want to just show others the side of us we believe they want to see in order to get approval and acceptance.
It’s how Jesus sees us that counts. Turning ourselves inside out to get approval from people is exhausting! It means never being able to relax and just be ourselves. But we can relax and be exactly ourselves with God and still be totally loved.
Sib-bechai another servant of David defeated Saph, Sib-bechai means ‘woven together’ pointing to the way our lives are inter woven with Jesus. Gal 2:4 says it is only in Christ Jesus that we have our freedom. We can be free from trying to be something we’re not.
4. The giant Lahmi, (2Sa 21:19) means ‘full of food’. The wrong kind of food can kill us. Our bodies craves unhealthy sugars and fats. Our lives can be scarred by the appetites and desires of our bodies.
It’s the same for our spiritual health. Our spiritual lives can be scarred by the appetites and desires of our humanity. Our spirituality is best nourished by the sustaining bread of life, Jesus, and the pure water of the Holy Spirit. We need nothing more.
We have to remove the spiritual CRAP from our diet. CRAP meaning Christian Religious Activities And Practices that we do in the misguided belief that our activities can improve our standing with God.
The beliefs and traditions of men to gain God’s favour are called ‘dog shit’ by Paul in Php 3:8. CRAP is spiritual junk food – feels good at first but slowly poisons us spiritually. Lahmi was conquered by El-hanan, which means ‘God is gracious’. God’s grace can really satisfy us and bring us to the end of striving for merit and to that place of rest in Him.
5. The nameless Giant with 6 fingers (2Sa 21:20) who points to our tendency to hold tightly onto things. We hold on to the power we have over our lives; we may say, and sometimes even sing “All for Jesus” or, sing “all my ambitions hopes and plans I surrender these into your hands”
Do we say it, sing it, and then hold on tight to our lives, our possessions, our money grasping on tight for all we’re worth? We try to hold onto the right to control our own lives instead of being able to freely give all over to Jesus to use as He sees fit. Jonathan meaning ‘God given’ destroyed this giant.
When we truly realise that that everything we have comes from God, that makes it easier to keep a loose hold on the things of this world and when God asks us, to let them go.
When we wear our ‘spiritual glasses’, from Grace and Faith the opticians, we are better able to see all that God has done for us, and all that He has given us.
On our spiritual journey, when giant obstacles get in the way of our progress, Jesus has the means to overcome every one of them.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Five Giants Part 1’
Taken from the story of David and Goliath in 1 Kings 17
Goliath, a Philistine giant, challenged Israel to settle the war between them by a duel between him and the best warrior in Israel. If he won then Israel would have to surrender to the Philistines. …
When Saul and all Israel heard the challenge of the Philistine giant, they were filled with dread and greatly afraid.
And when the Israelites saw the giant, staring at defeat they all ran from him terrified.
When David said he would fight the giant his eldest brother ridiculed him. Nevertheless David, arming himself with five smooth stones and his catapult, stood fearlessly facing the giant Goliath.
David’s confidence was in God and not in himself and as a result the insults and ridicule from the giant was like water off a ducks back. David’s trust in the Lord was as sure as the stone flying towards the giants head. The stone sank into Goliath’s forehead and killed him instantly, the giant fell on his face to the ground.
When David stood and faced the giant Goliath he had 5 stones in his pocket. Why five? There was only one giant in the story; where there four more giants in David’s life?
The answer is yes, but more of them later.
The text tells us that when Goliath first appeared the Israelites ran away in fear. They ran is because the seeds of self-doubt had been sown. Self-doubt is a giant that affects us all.
Anyone who has been the target of prejudice or bullying is left with their self-confidence shaken and are left with a sense that they are not worth much. The effects of prejudice have left many of us with prejudice against ourselves, self hatred and a loss of confidence.
Prejudice and self-doubt has affected so many of us here. I believe that through Liberty Jesus has lifted low self-esteem for many by a message of grace that sees all as equal. David knew who he was in God. Facing Goliath David didn’t care what family, or society, or religion thought of him; it was only what God thought about him that mattered.
He was God focused with God on his side David’s confidence was galactic. Lets call on God to help us defeat that giant of self-doubt with the confidence that comes from really grasping who we are in Jesus, who we are in God’s eyes.
The next giant is the giant of unbelief.
Unbelief looks at the problem rather than the answer. Unbelief says that God will not help us, God cannot be trusted to care about our lives and work for our good. The giant of unbelief causes fear. Scripture tells us that there is no fear in love. Our Gospel of Grace contains power as it reveals the total, unconditional love of God.
As we come to really know that we know that we know that God unconditionally loves us, unbelief loses it power and it’s replaced by God’s peace, peace beyond all understanding.
The giant apathy had overwhelmed the Israelites and they had no expectation of change. We can be similar. We can come to church expecting nothing or come with expectancy. The Holy Spirit can work through any of us to change people’s lives, change the meeting, even change Liberty as a whole. Apathy is defeated when when we enter into worship with an expectancy that God can turn up and impact us.
The giant ridicule: Goliath ridiculed David as did his brother. Nina and I have been ridiculed, Liberty itself has been ridiculed. Criticism and ridicule and goes with the territory. But fear of ridicule can be the giant that subdues our worship, dampens the ardour of emotions, suppresses our enthusiasm and turns up the embarrassment dial.
Gossip and ‘talk’ will always attack what God is doing – often the most powerful gossip is the sort that goes on in our own heads imagining what people might think or say about us. That affects us all but lets not allow what people might say stop us, lets allow what God has said inspire us. Let us ‘worship in spirit and truth’ not in fear of criticism and ridicule.
The giant of complacency: All his life David wanted to keep moving on to greater things with God. Walking in faith is a journey and no matter how well we know God there is always more. We can sit be satisfied with where we are in our faith or seek God for more revelation of Himself and for His gifts in our life.
As David faced Goliath it was his trust in God that defeated the giant. Five giants of self-doubt, unbelief, apathy, ridicule and complacency can all be defeated when we keep our eyes on God. All need to be defeated for us to be truly free.
We may be free from the law, free from religion, but not free from ourselves. Our inward fears and perceived inadequacies are our greatest giants.
Trust in the Lord is our smoothest stone with which to defeat our greatest giant, ourselves.
Even with faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, God can do wonderful things in our lives.
The name on the can is Liberty, Lord I ask, that we its contents, be liberated and experience in truth ‘that it is for freedom that Jesus has set us free’.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Giants’
Philippians 4:6 – 9
‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything, but prayer with thanksgiving, bring your requests to God.
And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
And so, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And the God who gives us peace will be with you.’
Israel was in fear of the giants that lived in the land that the Lord had promised them.
We now know that there is hormonal disorder can cause a child to grow excessively – the tallest man in medical records is Robert Waldrow who was 8ft 11inches. Maybe there were a number of such people in the land.
Israel’s problem was their failure to believe God’s promise... the promise that the Lord would give them the land. They seemed to forget the land was an unconditional gift.
Israel’s unbelief was rooted in knowing about the Lord, they had seen what He had done, the miracles etc... but they didn’t really know Him. They had been gobsmacked by the miracles... but they had not got to know the one behind the miracles.
A bit like a child given a present by his parents and being totally taken up with the present and not realising the love and tremendous care of the one giving it.
Moses prayed in Ex 33:13 ‘Now, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me Your ways that I may know You’. I thought yes that’s what I want, I want to know Him. Yes, that’s my desire...yes.
I identified with Moses in that prayer ‘Show me Your ways Lord that I may know You’.
Ps 103:7 says ‘He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel...’
Moses met God ‘face to face.’ meaning that they had a close relationship and close communication.
And in that close relationship Moses came to know His ways.
It took the Lord nigh on forty years to answer Moses’ prayer as the Lord slowly but surely revealed more and more of Himself to Moses. Moses discovered, through experience that the Lord is loving and faithful, loyal and steadfast, genuine and sincere, pure and correct, righteous and holy, unchanging and eternal.
In human terms we can fall in love, but it takes time to come to know your partner. Relationships slowly grow slowly develop through spending time together, doing life together. Scripture tells us that the Lord spoke to Moses intimately and as Moses did life walking in companionship with the Lord their relationship developed and deepened.
I now know that wrongdoing or sin does not separate me from God. God sent Jesus to deal with the sin problem once and for all so it can no longer come between Him and His beloved children.
And I know that I don’t have to turn myself into something I am not to please God. Many think that we have to give up lots of things to become like Jesus when, and here’s a twist, actually Jesus gave everything up to become like us.
Each one of us are unique individuals with the diversity that God all along intended. When in our hearts we truly do want to know the Lord and dare to trust Him with the measure of faith He has given us, then He slowly transforms us spiritually into the person he uniquely designed us to be in the first place.
And we are each designed to be a person who knows the Lord and has a sense of belonging to Him, an unshakable awareness that He always loves us no matter what... and an absolute trust in Him.
A true transformation, as any trans person will tell you, is a long complicated business.
When we have that real desire to know the Lord, like a close friend or a lover, as we go on with our lives the Lord will gradually, over time and experiences, show us more and more of what He is like.
He will give us opportunities to trust and to grow in trusting Him. At first in the little things, then as we grow in Him in the bigger things in our lives.
We don’t have to strive to get to know Him, all we do is respond to him when we hear him and dare to trust him when he guides us in a particular way.
To trust someone we have to know them first.
Lord, Show us your ways that we may know you. And as we know you more, enable our trust in you to grow until we become giants of faith.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach
‘He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name sake’
Psalm 23 A psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
This amazing psalm is full of action words. It describes a journey. Even when the sheep lie down in green pastures, it is a temporary rest in preparation for the continued journey ahead.
From this point on in the psalm, the sheep are moving. We are on the move!
A path is formed as many feet walk along a specific route. When enough people walk through grass or woodland a path is formed by their feet.
Jesus leads us in the path. Wouldn’t we usually say “on the path”? I couldn’t find any explanation for using the word “in” but we are in this path. My imagination sees a gully, or groove (that comes up the sides). Maybe this path envelops us? Maybe it keeps us from stumbling?
Its ‘paths of righteousness’, plural. My path will be different to your path. There are different different paths for different times in our lives. What’s important is that Jesus is the one who leads.
What type of leader is Jesus? He’s not a dictator, a democrat (never took a vote) or an anarchist (its not a free for all).
He simply invites and says, ‘Follow me’. And the best thing is we don’t follow in our own strength. The ability to follow Jesus in the path is provided by Jesus! I don’t have to struggle or try my best, I simply follow. Doesn’t it sound too simple?
Why Does The Shepherd Lead Me? The shepherd wants to encounter any dangers first. We are not left alone to face danger or stress on our own. Jesus is upfront.
I am not in charge. I am NOT in the driving seat. My sole job is to follow.
What The Shepherd Does Not Do - call to us from the destination, shout instructions from a distance, we don’t have to strain to hear him. He never bullies us to the right paths. Or pushes us to walk faster. He’s travelling with us.
It’s not how fast or how far we travel. The main thing is to travel with Him. We walk with Him.
Sheep (like us) are notorious creatures of habit. If left to themselves they will follow the same trails until the land becomes worn away and barren. They then pollute their own ground. They poo everywhere and that poo pollutes the land with disease and parasites.
A commonly held, but serious misconception about sheep is that they can just "graze anywhere." The truth is quite the reverse. No other livestock require more careful handling, more detailed direction, than sheep. In a short time a whole flock can become infected with worms, maggots and scabs.
The greatest single safeguard which a shepherd has in keeping the flock healthy is to keep them on the move. A healthy flock is a moving flock. A healthy flock is on the path with the shepherd up front.
So, what is righteousness? A simple Webster’s definition of righteousness is “morally good: following religious or moral laws”. But that’s merely man made righteousness.
God’s righteousness is the perfect holiness of Christ.
I used to think righteous living had more to do with behavioural modification than heart transformation. I tried really, really hard to be “good”, to be righteous. Outward appearance of holiness was what mattered to me, rather than a Spirit-filled change. I thought that if I tried to stop swearing and stopped getting angry, then that meant I was living righteously. You may have noticed that I failed …….as we all do.
The more I understood about grace the more I realised that I had it backwards. Me trying to be good didn’t produce righteousness. I AM righteous as YOU are righteous. God’s righteousness dwells in us. It’s NOT something we muster up! God says we are holy. The Good Shepherd leads me in the paths of righteousness. I follow Him. Our righteousness is gifted to us from Jesus. We can’t produce or reproduce it, Jesus produces it in us.
For his name’s sake. Stradivarius the famous violin maker signed his name on every violin he made. The signature is where the value is. And his signature is worth millions. God puts His name, His signature on and in us. It’s His name that gives us value.
Like a stick of Blackpool rock Gods name is written in us. Cut me in half and you will see the words – Emmanuel – “God with us”
None of this journey gives us any glory. It’s all for His name sake. All the glory goes to Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Giants’
Extract from Hebrews 11:
There isn’t enough time to tell you of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah , also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, did works of righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Still others had the trial of being mocked and whipped, and of chains and imprisonment.
They were tested, they were stoned, even slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted and tormented, people of whom the world was not worthy.
Scripture tells us God’s people crossed the Red Sea in faith. Unfortunately there is no record of their faith after this event.
Two years later when they reached the border of the Promised Land they seemingly had not deepened their relationship with the Lord. They seemed to know about Him but did not actually KNOW Him enough to trust Him. They had forgotten his promise to give them this land.
I have some sympathy for them. There is a saying that ‘you can’t get owt for nowt’ but when you are in a relationship with the Lord that saying just doesn’t hold. The Lord gives unconditionally.
When Israel got to the border of the Promised Land they sent 12 spies to spy out the land.
All the spies reported the land was amazing, bunches of grapes as big as you head... pomegranates ripe for the picking and figs bursting with juice.
Then 10 said ‘There’s is no way we can go in because the cities are like fortresses. The locals are built like Swartznegger in ‘Terminator’ and there’s men even bigger than them - giants!’ But 2 spies thought the opposite and one called Caleb said ‘Hang on there’s nowt to fear, the Lord said He’d give it to us. All we have to do is walk in and see what he does!’
Scripture records that Caleb was of a different spirit. He knew the Lord enough to trust in Him and Caleb had confidence the Lord could overcome any giant.
We all have different giants in our lives that we struggle to defeat. But the Lord is always by our side and when we rely on Him He faces the giants with us. Sometimes He defeats the giant. Other times He teaches us by allowing us to face it and encouraging us along the way.
Scriptures lists giants of faith like the ones listed in Hebrews 11. But we can make our own lists.
My list would start with two people I knew in Blackburn, retired from life as missionaries in India. In the 1930’s Margaret and Lawrence Livesey were mill workers who felt the Lord called them to be missionaries in India. The call came with a promise. The promise that they would have more spiritual children than they could count.
They sold everything to finance themselves and set off. With very little money and no financial support from home, they moved to the region they felt the Lord wanted them in. There they lived in slum conditions with the lowest caste of society known as ‘the untouchables’. All they had to rely on was their faith in the one who had sent them to the depths of poverty.
But the Livesey’s told me that the Lord cared for them. Despite contaminated water and food, open sewers and no vaccines they never became ill. They survived on a near starvation diet. They responded to the needs of people around them with their limited first aid and prayer.
8½ years after receiving their promise of spiritual children the first local man came to know Jesus. At last they had their first spiritual child! His name was Gnana Prakasam. Gnana was gifted with the ability to communicate his faith in a way that enabled others to encounter Jesus for themselves. Many, many people came to know Jesus and in time they numbered them in tens, then hundreds then thousands, then tens of thousands.
I was fortunate enough to meet Margaret and Lawrence and get to know them. I soaked up their stories of the Lord’s faithfulness to them and how they always clung to the promises He had given them no matter what the circumstances were like.
His promise was fulfilled. Their spiritual children were beyond counting.
Lawrence loved Margaret deeply. He wrote in Margaret’s 80th birthday card ‘My love for you is deeper than the ocean and there’s a kiss on every wave’.
They were 2 ordinary people with a different spirit, called by the Lord to do extraordinary things.
Physically they both stood less than 5 foot tall but to me they were spiritual giants. Materially they were poor but spiritually they were incredibly rich. They knew Jesus enough to trust Him to go where he led them and they discovered He is always, always faithful.
We all face fears like giants in our lives in different ways at different times. And we all have choices.
We can either turn tail and fear or we can look to Jesus and dare to trust Him and his leading in our circumstances. It’s when we rely on Him and discover for ourselves how faithfully he leads us that our relationship deepens and we are built up spiritually.
No matter what is happening in our lives we all have the option of looking to the Lord and asking Him to lead us. We all have the potential to become spiritual giants. Spiritual giants who trust the Lord no matter what the difficulties and crises are in life. And there are no greater riches in life than the richness of a deeper relationship with Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘One Life’
Jesus said ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be
with me that you also may be where I am.
On holiday in Egypt I notices that a lot of the houses looked unfinished. Some of the rooms were completed and the family lived in those but there were foundations and posts in place to build more rooms as well.
Our guide, Omar helped me to understand why. He took us to his home to drink tea with his mum and dad. Afterwards he took us through a small yard with a clay oven in the corner to show us his living quarters. We went up the outside stairs across the reed and mud roof (very springy) to his room where his wife was.
In many ways going to Egypt was like going back two thousand years, middle eastern culture has not changed. One custom is that the firstborn son inherited double the inheritance of the younger sons because he looks after the parents when they are old.
In the engagement period that lasts one year, the eldest son would build an extension, a room on his mum and dads house for the married couple. That is exactly what I saw in the house Omar and his wife now lived in with his elderly parents.
This is why I saw so many unfinished houses in Egypt. They were awaiting a room to be added by the eldest son upon engagement. That’s exactly what happened in Jesus’ time.
Jesus, God’s firstborn Son said to us, who make up His Church, His bride to be ‘I’m go to prepare a place for you’. We are in an arranged marriage. Jesus, our husband to be, is preparing a place for us in the house of His Father and Mother (Holy spirit). Just as bridegrooms in his home town did in preparation for their wedding.
Understanding the culture gives us an extra depth of meaning to many stories in scripture.
In the ancient middle east they believed that life was in the blood. Engagements were sealed by sharing a cup of wine, which they called the blood of the vine. In the engagement ceremony the couple shared a cup of wine symbolising sharing their blood, their lives.
All the wine is drunk between the couple and at that point they become one. They become one flesh, they become one life.
On the night in which Jesus was betrayed the cup of wine Jesus shared with His disciples now takes on a whole new meaning. It means even more when we know Jesus said ‘I am the true vine’ and the blood of the vine is equally shared.
On our second visit to Egypt Mahmoud our tour guide invited us to his home for dinner which he had cooked. He placed the dinner in the centre of table sat down and took a flatbread from the pile.
He said, ‘This is in your bible’ as he tore the flatbread into equal shares, as he did so he explained that they still did the same sharing of bread as they had always done for centuries throughout the middle east.
What Mahmoud told me was that sharing the same piece of bread was akin to Red Indians cutting the palm of their hands and letting their blood mingle, which meant you became blood brothers.
To share bread in such a way in the middle east means the participants have a shared life and that they would lay down their lives for each other.
So if sharing the cup of wine means sharing your life and sharing the same piece of bread means sharing your life and laying down your life for each other, Jesus sharing bread and wine with the disciples means so much more.
The disciples who shared the bread and wine that night at the last supper all laid down their lives for Jesus and Jesus laid down his life for them, and, all his brothers and sisters, including you and me.
Jesus said he himself is the bread of life and it is in the bread of life we die with Jesus, but more gloriously we live.
In Christianity today much is said about us having a relationship with God. But in these symbolic acts there is a greater depth of meaning to the sharing the bread of life and the sharing of the blood of the vine.
Relationship is the connection between two people but we are more than connected to Jesus much more. We are one with Him.
We share in Jesus‘ life so we share HIS holiness.
We share in Jesus’ life so we share HIS perfection and HIS righteousness.
We are perfect, righteous and holy because we are one with Jesus.
I close with a verse from the Message Version. 1Co 10:17 Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us, to what he is.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘All I have is yours’
Taken From Luke 15 ‘The Parable of the Loving Father’
The prodigal son decided to go back home and say to his father ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me a servant like one of your hired men.’
And so he went home to his family. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with love and compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
"The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
"But the father said to his servant, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…… this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
…..."The older brother became angry and refused to go in ... So his father pleaded with him. But he said ‘All these years I’ve been serving you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with riotous living comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
"‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and all I have is yours.
This parable commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son is a story of a loving Father. Both sons are ignorant of the fathers love and the sons represent us and the ways we are often ignorant of His love.
I see myself in both of these sons, When I was a young man I walked away from my church, leaving my Christian family. I returned 25 years later.
And like the prodigal, when I returned it wasn’t out of love, or a guilty conscience. It was desperation. Like the prodigal life had collapsed in on me and I needed help.
Like the prodigal I experienced my Heavenly Father’s unconditional welcome, not a word of rebuke or criticism, I was not disgraced or shamed, I was just loved.
My church told me I was a servant of God so acted like a servant. I became like the older son working my socks off, obeying orders as my church told me. I didn’t realise I was a son and I behaved as a servant.
So both sons in the story had a servant mindset. The young son told his dad to make him a servant and the older son told his dad he was like a servant.
The servant mindset is a point in the story which Jesus is wanting to correct. The servant mindset is still a weakness of the children of God.
Like the young son I once thought my bad behaviour cut me off from my Fathers love and approval. Then when I returned I thought I had to work for love and approval.
I was wrong because I had my Fathers approval, simply because I was his child. My religion made me deaf, and I didn’t hear my Father saying ‘all I have is yours’.
The message Christianity gives is so often flawed as it tells us our bad behaviour makes us loose God’s blessing, and our good behaviour earns us God’s blessing. My experience of Christianity is that it fails to fully acknowledge that we are God’s children and have a position, a status, rights and benefits, just because of who we are.
The apostle John writes in Re 1:6 that Jesus and has made us kings and priests. And Peter confirms the gifts of these offices when he says of God’s children; 1Pe 2:9 ‘We are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, holy people and precious’…
Tell the person next to you… you’re precious. The next time you look in a mirror tell yourself you’re precious. God says so.
So many of us here at Liberty have had our self esteem shattered by years of prejudice and abuse, from either family, society or the mainstream church.
The message of Liberty is that as children of God each one of us is precious. We are chosen precious children of God, sexuality and gender is not foremost in who we are.
We are not as some say a ‘gay church’. We are an inclusive church, a family of believers with a Heavenly Father, a Caring Mother (the Holy Spirit) and a Brother called Jesus.
God said His name was ‘I AM’. Therefore our family name is ‘I am’. Say to yourself: I’m a child of God. I am chosen. I am holy. I am royalty. I am a royal priest. I am precious.
Jesus our King wore a crown of thorns so that, we His appointed kings are crowned with 1Co 9:25 the crown of immortality; 1Th 2:19 the crown of rejoicing; 2Ti 4:8, the crown of righteousness; Jas 1:12 the crown of life; 1Pe 5:4 And a crown of glory. (5 the number of grace)
Crowns not earned but gifted in grace. God has said to us ‘all I have is yours’.
Extracts from Karen’s Testimony
Karen’s mum was 17 years old and living with her parents when she had Karen. She desperately wanted to keep her baby but was beaten up by Karen’s grandfather who would not let her keep Karen.
Karen went into foster care and then was adopted. For the first five years life was good, she was doted on as an only child then, when she was six everything changed when her adoptive parents had their own baby. Her adoptive mum lost interest in her and her dad was away working long hours.
She was desperate for love and attention so began to spend long periods of time with the next door neighbours who had a little boy.
But when she was 9 years old the man next door raped her. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone. She was terrified of him and his abuse of her carried on for three years.
At 14 years old she was told that her birth mother had had three more children and two of them had a genetic condition that caused very severe learning difficulties. Karen was tested and it was found that she was a carrier for the condition which meant it would not be possible for her to have children. This was a huge blow to her.
Around this time she found a book her adoptive parents had hidden away with her birth mother’s name and address. Her birth mum had an unusual surname and Karen traced her. They had a long conversation. Later this caused a huge row with her adoptive parents.
After meetings with her social worker and counselling, Karen went to live with her birth mother but it was ‘from the frying pan into the fire.’
It was great at first but then became very hard and there were rows. While living with her birth mother she went into town on her own for the first time and was raped. She was 15. This was devastating.
Her behaviour got more and more disruptive due to everything she had been through and the rows with her birth mother lead to being kicked out. It was winter, she was 15, alone, and slept on a park bench for several nights. Eventually she went back to her adoptive parents. But her adoptive mother was hostile and after a year she left.
She got a council flat in Kirby but at 17 was too young to get benefits. She had no electric no furniture, no food. She was living in a bare shell. She started having seizures and ended up in hospital. She had malnutrition and the seizures were due to starvation.
She had relationships with men who were abusive and turned to self harm to try to ease the pain inside. She cut herself on a daily basis. At 21 she felt trapped living with an abusive man. She felt she couldn’t take any more and sat down, shaking, with a large knife ready to cut a main artery to end her life. But to her shock she heard God speak to her - the voice was audible and said ‘NO! No more!’. She dropped the knife and her daily self harming stopped from that day.
She left that relationship and returned to her birth mum and now they got on incredibly well. They became best friends as well as mother and daughter.
Some time later she attended her auntie’s wedding at a Pentecostal Church. There, at 24 years old she re committed her life to Jesus (she had done so before as a small child). She said it was a turning point and that God got hold of her and said ‘you need to follow me’ and she responded and did exactly that.
She had support from several people at church and loved being there. She secretly started going out with women but could not admit to herself that she was gay. She met Tracy at church and told her she wasn’t gay because at that time she believed that was true. But in time she and Tracy fell in love and married.
Sadly as a result she was excluded from her church. But there were some good friends, including Kay, who remained close to her afterwards.
She said that there have been people along the way have fed joy into her life and loved her exactly as she is... people like Kay who has been like another mum. With these people she has been able to be the person she really is and does not haveto pretend.
She said that she felt that God had come to her when she really needed Him and He put her on a solid rock and from that rock she has been able to grow and keep growing.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach
From Psalm 23 “He restores my soul”
To restore means to return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.
We live in a world where we so easily dispose of things we don’t want or need. We are a “throwaway society”. Clothes are made so cheaply its often easer to throw something away rather than mend and re use!
But I’ve seen programmes about restoration on TV. Somebody very patient and very skilled puts hours of work and loving care into a rusty, battered old car and slowly, painstakingly restore it to gleaming, pristine condition looking like brand new.
God is the ultimate restorer. God isn’t in the business of chucking things away! God is in the business of lovingly, patiently restoring us, bringing us back to our original condition.
Scripture is crammed full of men and women who have messed up and therefore could easily have been abandoned to the scrap heap. For instance a man who had everything, money, power, wives, who seduced another man’s wife, killed her husband who trusted him and was loyal to him and tried to cover up the mess.
This was David, an adulterer, a liar and a murder …….and the man who wrote Psalm 23.
And David knew that God restored him even after all that horrible mess. God restored David’s relationship with him, indeed restored his soul his very life.
We are never too far gone, never too damaged or broken that God can’t restore us to how we are meant to be – walking with God in close relationship. Jesus, the Good Shepherd can and does restore even the most damaged of us to a brand new life in him. Restoration is life in all its fullness.
Some of us here know what it means to be “rock bottom” Some of us, including me, have lived lives where we have known utter despair and YET in Jesus we have been restored. Good News indeed!
In Hebrew the word restored speaks about “being brought home” Not being re purposed but returned to the original, I guess it’s just like a ‘return to factory setting’ button!!!
Some theologians suggest that restoration depends on being truly sorry for the mess we created. I don’t believe that. David here in this psalm is talking about God the Good Shepherd. He has just mentioned gods loving provision, “he leads me to still waters” there don’t appear to be any conditions attached to this restoration. God intervenes because of His goodness, not because of our right conduct.
There is no shame or guilt connected to this restoration Isaiah 54:4 "Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
This restoring of my soul is literally me being put back to how I am supposed to be. am perfect in Gods eyes (not yours ….I know!) Jim will often remind us that when he sees us, he sees us as Gods sees us, restored to His image. You are being restored. “I have been restored, I am being restored and I will be restored”!
The Hebrew word translated "soul" means a breathing creature, one in which life is present. The Greek word in the New Testament is similar. In its most basic sense, the word "soul" means "life”. Our soul is our life. All that makes us human is being restored. Or as one translation says – “He causes my life to return” Isn’t that amazing?
Rob Bell will often explain it in this way:
Right at the very beginning God sets us of on the path, we walk with God, and we are fundamentally good.
We are forgiven (past, present, future – The goat has left the building)
Then we stuff up, we wander of the path and go off in our own direction. Restoration is when God says – “Hey, Lynn, do you want to get back onto the road we were travelling?” It’s not a different route, it’s a re-connecting with God, it’s being put back to “factory settings”
If we feel like our lives are off track, if we feel at rock bottom God offers us restoration. We don’t have to “do” anything, you don’t have to “try”. We can rely on God to do the restoration. God leads us. Like a shepherd he picks us up from wherever we have wandered off to and He restores our relationship with Him.
David lived it, he then wrote it down: “The Lord is MY shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me bedside still waters, He restores my soul”.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach on ‘No Condemnation’
From Romans 7:14 – 8:2 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my human nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I can’t carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, but the wrong I do not want to do—this I keep on doing….So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, badness is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; But there is another law working in me at war with the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the religion at work within my humanity. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the state I find myself in?
Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my humanity a slave to the law of sin.
Now therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after their humanity, but are lead by the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin & death.
This reading is Paul’s admission of his failings. I’ll tell you about mine.
My church told me it was a sin to smoke cigarettes. They tried to pressure me through fear, but the addiction was too strong. I tried hard to give up, I prayed about it asking God for strength to do it. I got the pastor to pray for me and I still could not do it.
I felt so guilty and felt condemned. I was ashamed of my inadequate will power.
I got up one Sunday morning absolutely determined to stop smoking. I’d smoked my last ciggy the night before. I set off to church gasping for a smoke, again asked for prayer but no change. 10 minutes after leaving church I pulled in to the petrol station and bought my next packet.
I pulled into a lay-by just past the garage, I couldn’t wait to get the cellophane off. Cigarette in mouth I struck a match. At that very moment a loud voice within the car said ‘OBEY ME!’ I jumped in fright and quick as a flash I ditched the ciggies and matches. I was shocked.
But after lunch it was agony going without a cigarette and by 2 o’clock, against everything I really wanted to do I was back in the shop buying more cigarettes. I tried my utmost to block everything out as I stood outside the shop and drew on my first of many more cigarettes. Oh the relief!
Years later I gave up smoking. I couldn’t stop through prayers or even because God told me audibly to obey. It was repeated chest infections, nicotine gum and patches.
Years later I had peace with God by simply being myself before him. I was relying on his grace to keep me right with Him and I was no longer living my Christian life by trying to follow bible rules.
I then asked Him a question. ‘Why did you tell me in such a clear audible voice to obey when I now know you never wanted my obedience?’
I felt He answered me: ‘I wanted to prove to you that you could not obey Me through your will power even when I aroused fear in you through speaking to you in the manner I did. It’s not obedience that puts you in the right place with Me. It’s your faith in Me that does that. I haven’t given any Christian the ability to obey me but I have given the gift of faith in me.’
At one time I was under the delusion that most of the time I did obey God. I was deluded with my own achievements and my self righteousness. An example is my temper. I don’t easily loose my temper and I reckoned my patience pleased God. I then secretly looked down on Christians who often lost their temper and I felt I was better than they were. I burdened others with the expectation that to please God they too should be able to do something that I could do.
I didn’t realise that personality and life experiences may make something that’s possible for me extremely hard, if not impossible, for others. At the time my self righteousness made me look down on as not ‘good Christians’ people who could not do what I could do.
The apostle Paul and I had this in common: we had both lived according to religious rules. We had both looked down on people who didn’t keep the rules as well as we did. But in reality neither Paul nor I kept the rules perfectly. Paul admitted that he had failed and I too failed miserably. Like Paul I often couldn’t do what I wanted to do and did what I didn’t want to.
But Paul and I found the answer and the way off that swinging between feeling a success and a failure before God. And the way off the swing is in Romans 8 ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’.
There is no condemnation because there are no rules to condemn us. According to Rom 3:20 ‘no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law’. Rom 3:23/4 tells us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ but we are ALL ‘justified freely by his grace’.
Jesus said in John 3:17 that He had not come to condemn anyone. Paul wrote in Romans 8 there is no condemnation. If you fail to do something you think the bible tells you to then refuse any thought of self condemnation. Jesus never condemns His child, don’t do it to yourself.
Jesus said plainly ‘By myself I can do nothing’. He could do nothing of spiritual value outside the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You and I can do nothing of spiritual value outside the power and leading of God. By trusting in Jesus you are doing everything that God requires of you.
And when the Lord asks you to do anything He will give you His power to do it. You will realise then that you can’t boast about your goodness or your achievements and tell others they should do the same as you.
But you can boast about Jesus about His love for you and his commitment to you and to all who love him. And you will recognise more that He is working in your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus in ways that are individual to them. In ways that flow from His unconditional love and limitless grace.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Freedom to Choose’
Galatians 4:22 - 31 (Phillips version) It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The child of the slave was born in the ordinary course of nature, but the child of the free woman was born in accordance with God’s promise.
This can be regarded as an allegory (a story which contains another a story). …. two agreements represented by the two women: the one from Mount Sinai bearing children into slavery, ,,,,... corresponding to present-day Jerusalem — for the Jews are still, spiritually speaking, "slaves" to their religion. But the free woman typifies the heavenly Jerusalem, who is the mother of us all, and is spiritually "free".
Now you, my brothers and sisters, are like Isaac, children born "by promise".
But just as in those far-off days the natural son persecuted the "spiritual" son, so it is today. Yet what is the scriptural instruction? Throw out the slave and her son: For the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.
So then, my brothers and sisters, we are not to look upon ourselves as the children of the slave woman but of the free woman, not children of slavery to religion but children of freedom under grace.
Tonight’s reading offers a choice, to be slaves to religion or to be free, according to the promises of God.
A choice to live trying to make our lives fit the rules of religion or simply live in the freedom to be ourselves before God. Galatians 5:1 (Phillips) says:
‘It is for freedom that Christ Jesus has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be bound by the shackles of slavery to the law and its religious adherence.’
In Galatians 4, the writer encourages us to choose freedom that depends on God and not the restraints of law and religion that depends on our flawed self effort to follow…….
Paul the preacher of the gospel of grace says that the children of God are born into freedom and have a choice.
…. choose the grace life, free from the restrictions of religion. Religion only works if we do what is expected of us. The grace life works because God does what is expected of Him.
Jesus said, in Joh 8:32 the truth will set you free. And then added 34 I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
When Christians are focusing on sin and repeatedly repenting of it, by definition their religion has made them slaves to sin.
When we are sin focused and engage in religious practices like confessing, being remorseful and so on, these customary repetitions are an example of practice not making us perfect. Unwittingly they make powerless Jesus’ work in already obtaining forgiveness for sin and setting us free from the need for such repeated practices.
We cannot add to what is finished. These practices render the cross ineffective, invalidate the promises and incapacitate the supernatural.
In Hebrews it tells us 9:28 Christ Jesus was once offered to bear the sins of many; 10:10 We are made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all, 9:12 by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place.
Jesus continued in Joh 8:36 If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Calvary was a one off solution to sin once and for all.
It is for freedom that Christ Jesus set us free. 1Jo 3:9 Whosoever is born of God does not sin; they cannot sin, because they are born of God. (We never see that verse on a fridge magnet).
In our humanity we still do wrong things that effect us and the people around us. But Eph 1:4 tells us in the eyes of God we are blameless, that is the power of the cross…….
John writes, "God is love" 1Jo 4:8,16.
The apostle Paul writes, "Walk in love" Eph 5:2
John writes, "God is spirit" Joh 4:24
Paul writes, "Walk in the spirit" Ga 5:16
John writes,"God is light" 1Jo 1:5
Paul writes, "Walk in the light." 1Jo 1:7 Eph 5:8
Our walk is in and through the union we have in Jesus. Lets live walking in Him, responding to Him, just as we are.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
When we think of pastures we tend to think of a meadow with lush long grass and sheep eating their fill. We then think this verse is saying that God supplies all we need in amazing abundance. But, this isn’t what David was saying in this psalm.
Let me explain. In the areas around Jerusalem, the hillsides are mainly dried out rocks and sand. There’s no lush, green grass. Its a desert with the odd sprig of grass popping up here and there between the rocks.
So, what could David have been referring to when he says God makes him lie down in green pastures? Let’s see what David saw.
In Israel there are rainy seasons but most of the time it’s very, very dry. In our day to day life don’t we all experience times when we feel spiritually dry? Times when we feel we have nothing left in the tank?
In Israel, the wind blows its humidity against the hillsides where it condenses on the cool rocks at night. It then forms condensation that covers the rock in the darkness. This moisture is only available in the darkness. Isn’t that interesting if we look at it with our “spiritual” eyes? To me is says that God offers us refreshment in the darkest of times!
That tiny bit of fleeting moisture is just enough to grow little sprigs of grass between the crags of the rock. These tiny sprigs of grass are the green pastures the David talks about.
David is saying that God leads us along the right paths through the crags and rocks of life to the tiny sprigs of nourishment giving us just enough for the day.
In the many dry times in life David is encouraging us to trust God to provide for our physical and spiritual need day by day.
A good shepherd would make enclosures where the sheep could rest safely at night protected from the wolves and wild dogs. The sheep would follow him into the enclosure (remember in Israel sheep are not driven they freely follow) trusting him to protect them. He would make the enclosure near the places where these sprigs of grass could be found.
Now, let’s take a look at what David meant by “still waters.”
Here in the western part of the world, we tend to go through life at 100 miles an hour. Stress is a huge killer. Sometimes the pressures and worries of life mean that we have a hard time catching a breath. God offers us a chance to slow all that down.
The still waters we read about in Psalm 23:2 aren’t swift-moving rivers. A fast flowing river would be too dangerous as the sheep could fall in and drown. The still waters are shallow, safe slowly flowing stream and pools.
God longs to give us peace, rest, and the stillness we often lack.
He leads us to where the water is pure, clear, and almost motionless so we can refresh ourselves in Him. It’s a place where we can slow down, be quiet and be still with Him.
A place of sanctuary to experience His deep, pure love for us.
We can step into His calm Living Water, fully immerse ourselves in His grace and quench our thirst. In Isaiah 55:1 it says, “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” God invites us to rest, and be refreshed in the still waters.
As we lay down by the sprigs of grass we are reminded that God provides just enough. As we wander along the still waters we see a picture of Gods steady flow of grace and peace. These are words of Gods deep comfort to us.
And it all ‘restores our soul” But, more about that next time.....
Psalm 23 Part 2
Last time I preached we began to take a look at Psalm 23 which was written by David. We didn’t get past the first line so tonight we will take a look at the next line.
“I shall not want.”
This is David saying, “All my needs are supplied by the LORD, my Shepherd, and I decide here and now not to desire more than He gives.”
In the NLT (New Living Translation) the phrase says, “I have all that I need.”
I’m not sure just now that I could wholeheartedly make that statement. Our society is completely geared to the purchasing of THINGS and not only purchasing things but imprinting the desire for more in us so deeply that we can NEVER be satisfied!
It’s almost impossible for us to say, like David, “I won’t desire more than God gives me”
The word “want” in this context speaks of lack, emptiness or running dry.
David is saying ‘I shall not lack, I shall not run dry, I won’t have to run on empty!’
When David says “I shall not want” he’s saying two things –
1. There are areas in my life that only God can fulfil.
2. I’ve made a decision to only desire what God wants for me.
David’s statement is unconditional. He’s saying in times of abundance and in times of less - God will see that I am not lacking, that I don’t have to run on empty.
This is not about stuff, about having things you want. In fact it’s the very opposite ….
In times of joy, in times of disaster - God will see that I am not lacking that I will have everything I need spiritually to live in Him. In times of danger, sickness, poverty, depression and bereavement, I shall not be lacking, He will supply what I need spiritually.
When the shit hits the fan – I SHALL NOT BE LACKING …
We live in a “if only” world…..
If only I had more money, a bigger house, better health, a partner, a better partner, a car. a faster car, a new computer….on and on, and on … THEN I might feel fulfilled!
I wonder how much my life might change if I viewed life from that different angle?
If I didn’t focus on what I haven’t got BUT focused on “The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall NOT be lacking, I won’t run on empty because He gives me Himself’.
I don’t have everything I desire, but God wants to fill every void in my life with Himself. All those empty places within , God wants to fill.
God wants me to be so full of Him that my wants and needs are secondary.
God wants me to have everything I need to live fully and completely for Him.
Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Every! Every! Every!
All a sheep needs is a good shepherd since He will always supply all the sheep’s needs. The shepherd will make sure there is safety, food, warmth, comfort, protection etc.
God our Shepherd promised that He will supply all our spiritual needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus Philippians 4:19.
We will struggle in this life. We may not have the money to pay our bills, we will suffer, we will feel pain, depression and loss. BUT, our shepherd will see that we are not lacking in what we need spiritually to cope with those challenges.
David completely relied on God the Good Shepherd. I tend to be a perfectionist and to be a bit controlling. It very hard for me to surrender my need to be my best to God.
When I look at David’s life I realise he was far from perfect, the bible gives us a long and comprehensive list of his failings and crimes. Davis knew that he was rubbish at trying to be his best self. BUT David knew God was with him and for him no matter what.
When I try and live in my own strength I am definitely lacking. BUT I don’t have to do that. God provides all that I need. I long to surrender the ”me” in this relationship. I’m asking Him to help me do that.
I long to fully trust that “The Lord is my shepherd, today I am not lacking’.
Taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3 - 10
Let us give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.
Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ Jesus, so that we would be holy and without fault before him.
Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons and daughters - this was his pleasure and purpose.
Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son!
In all his wisdom and insight ………………………...
God made known to us the
mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in
Christ Jesus, to be put into effect when the times reach their
fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in Christ Jesus.
The theme of the first 3 chapters of Ephesians tell us who we are as Christians, the theme of the last 3 chapters tell us what we do as Christians.
To Jewish scholars numbers in scripture have meaning and a spiritual significance.
Their meanings give a greater insight as to what the text means.
The number 10 symbolises ‘completion’. In the book of Ephesians ‘all things’ is mentioned 10 times.
‘In Christ Jesus’ occurs 10 times in the first 3 chapters. This signifies that who we are in Jesus is complete in Him. When something is complete we can’t add to it.
12 symbolises government. Grace is mentioned 12 times in Ephesians. This conveys that grace governs everything stated in the book. God’s grace governs all things.
If God’s grace governs who we are in Jesus and we are in unity with Christ Jesus (who is supreme over ‘all things’) then surely God’s grace, governs what we do as Christians.
2Co 5:17 .’if anybody is in Christ, they are a new creature: old things have passed away; all things are become new.’
The new for me is trusting Jesus, not trusting myself for my standing with God or my course through life. I can trust/have faith in Jesus for both. He makes me right with God and; I can simply be me, faults and all and as I trust in Him He will bring about in my life the things He has purposed me to do.
This squarely, in faith, hands the responsibility for my life and His work in me, over to Him If by self effort I could do the things He wants to work in me then they would not be His work in me to his glory. They would be my efforts which I could claim the glory for.
At the end of today’s reading Paul writes about the mystery of His will. In Col 1:27 Paul tells us the mystery is Christ Jesus in us. We are one with Jesus and this gives God pleasure. This is something we don’t readily have images for, God taking pleasure.
We see God in the court room and God in the cemetery, not God on the Pleasure Beach!
Gods children give Him pleasure, He is pleased with each one of his children.
What pleases God was that His plan and purpose is carried out in Christ Jesus. He takes pleasure that we, His children, have a direct effortless connection with Him once more.
Who we are in Christ Jesus gives God pleasure, everything about us pleases Him.
We can view the second 3 chapters of Ephesians as a list of ‘things we must do’ or as an insight to the plans and purposes of God for us in Christ Jesus, that He can, as He; chooses, bring about in us at His own pace and at the right time.
If we look at the second 3 chapters as a list of ‘things we must do’ immediately divides us into those who can and those who can’t.
Some of us can do these things because life has given them stability and ability to control reactions and behaviour. And some of us can’t because life has robbed them of stability and put up multiple obstacles making them unable to control their reactions and behaviour.
But when we view the second 3 chapters as a list of things God can, when He chooses, to bring about in us in His ways and in His time, we can appreciate his working in all of us and refuse to judge ourselves and others for our failings.
After all, who can separate us from the love of God? Who can separate us from the unity of Christ Jesus in us?
What we do as Christians and what He brings about in us has to be what God brings about in us in union with Jesus and not things we can achieve by self effort.
Letting Jesus lead us is the secret, letting Jesus be sovereign in all of our life gives God the glory. Knowing our union with him is secure, no matter what we struggle with in life, delights God. Recognising His work in us, no matter how we appear to others, respects the way He works in each individually, at the right pace and in the right way.
Extracts from Jim's Preach 'United in Christ'
If God is for us, who can be against us?
For God who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Genesis story of Adam and Eve tells us that humanity was created to live in close harmony with God. Humanity trusted God and enjoyed a close friendship with Him. The story of Adams’ eating the fruit that God had warned them was dangerous and would kill them is a story of the trusting relationship being broken between humanity and God. The human race chose its own way instead of trusting God’s way.
Once the trusting relationship was gone humanity was estranged and separated from God. Life became a hard struggle, full of pain and hard labour and ending in death.
But deep down many people still longed for that closeness with God that we were originally created to have.
Through the ages individuals have searched for God and called out to Him. Through the ages He has responded. Different people have experienced that bond of fellowship and companionship with God. Different people have trusted God again.
God wanted more. He hated the pain of divorce from humanity. He set into motion events that would permanently keep the bond between Himself and Humanity. God would become human Himself in His Son who would free humanity from the power of death.
God as the Son, Jesus, would die in humanities place. He would take our unrighteousness, our unbelief, all the horrific consequences that came from separation from God. He would even take the whole weight of our separation on Himself.
Jesus would take full responsibility for it all. God Himself, as the blameless Son would take the blame, so giving humanity the opportunity to start again. Jesus triumphed over death, over sin, over disbelief. God’s perfect plan of a divine exchange was fulfilled in Jesus.
Jesus gave His life in exchange for humanity’s death.
Jesus gave His righteousness in exchange for humanities unrighteousness.
Jesus gave His trust and faith in exchange for humanities unbelief….
His harmony & closeness with God in exchange for humanities separation and estrangement.
All that humanity had to do was receive and trust in what God had done. The ultimate price had been paid in Jesus’ unblemished life.
Working hard to make things right with God was over. Jesus had made things right with God forever. Humanity could rest in that. We can all rest in that.
When Jesus cried out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” He experienced the horror of separation from the Father for the first time. You cannot be more separated than by death. But death was overcome. Jesus rose from the grave to destroy its power.
Jesus ascended back to heaven to be at God’s side. He had paid the price in full for the rift between God and humanity. The relationship was restored. Blessings were exchanged for curses and the fear of death removed.
Jesus had brought about righteousness for all who respond to God with trust; Jesus brought about the freedom to walk with God, simply trusting in God’s faithfulness.
Our behaviour, our wrongdoing, our sins can no longer separate us from God. If they could then Jesus died for nothing.
If our obedience is the key to our relationship with God, then Jesus died for nothing.
If any Christian is unworthy to know God, then Jesus died for nothing.
If any lifestyle can put a gulf between you and God, then Jesus died for nothing.
Because of that Divine Exchange, Jesus has given us His holiness and righteousness, we are blameless in God’s sight.
Jesus Himself promised “I will never leave you.” Never, ever! Separation is now impossible.
Jesus is our guarantee, our inheritance, our great reward. Jesus is the pathway, the highway, the gateway and doorway to heaven; and all that heaven has to offer.
Jesus is our righteousness and our holiness our purity and our innocence.
Jesus is our rest and our peace, He is our shelter and our stronghold
Jesus is our friend and our freedom, our brother and our Saviour. Jesus is our King and our Lord for ever. Separation from Him is now impossible. He made sure that is so.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let’s go over to the other side."
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were other boats with him.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" Mk 4:35 – 41
12 terrified disciples in a boat thinking they’re going to drown. Jesus had told them clearly they were going to the other side but his words melted away when the storm blew up. But Jesus told the storm to shut up and it did. Unnerving!
Then Jesus said "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" If I’d been in the boat I’d be like the rest of them. Under my breath I’d be saying ‘no I haven’t’.
There have been times in my Christian life when I’ve been bricking it and my life hasn’t been at stake. Jesus could easily have said then "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
Time’s gone on a bit and the disciples had got to know Jesus a little better. He was teaching his them about trusting God and depending on God to meet their needs. Jesus ended saying ‘ O you of little faith’.
Spending all this time with Jesus had increased their faith from no faith... to little faith!
Later on Jesus encountered the Gentile woman who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. At the end because she didn’t give up, Jesus said to her ‘you have great faith’. The woman knew the power that was in Jesus was greater than the need her daughter had.
From no faith, to a little faith, to great faith leads into the next story. Jesus was met by Roman Centurion whose servant was ill. The Roman says to Jesus ‘you’re so powerful you can heal my servant even though he’s miles away’. Jesus said ‘I’ve never come across so great a faith’
‘No faith’ to ‘little faith’ to ‘great faith’ to ‘so great a faith’. From ‘No’ to ‘So’.
That pretty well that sums up our faith life because we all start off with no faith. But will we finish up with ‘so great a faith’? Will we go from ‘No’ to ‘So’?
We start with no faith but Ro 12:3 says that God has given each one of us a measure of faith. 2Co 10:15 says that our faith is increased and 2Th 1:3 says our faith grows.
I believe as individuals and together as a church we together can indeed go from no to so. To grow in faith we have to have a personal experience of a developing ongoing relationship with the Lord. Put simply doing life with Jesus
When I first became a Christian my no faith began to increase and grow but unfortunately the rules and regulations got the better of me and I turned my back on the church and left, for 20 odd years. During that time my faith never increased or grew.
But my faith certainly took an upward turn when I returned to the church. Being in the company of fellow believers helped me grow in faith. Especially being in the company of people whose faith was clearly greater than mine. People who had trusted Jesus’ leading for years and had done some amazing things as they walked with Him and faced the toughest situations of life with Him. Many of them had gone to India and Africa as missionaries. Hearing them speak of their faith experiences helped to build my faith.
They also spoke about their church life before they went to foreign lands. It was a church where people had room to grow in faith and in their relationship with the Lord.
There was a freedom of expression within their church culture where mistakes were allowed as people learned to grow in using the various gifts of the Spirit.
It became natural for church members to pray for one another both in church and away from church
because they were used to seeing God touch people and help then when they prayed.
And as the Holy Spirit became more and more evident in their meetings worship became a time when people danced and laughed with the tremendous joy that came from Spirit led worship. Some people thought that they must be getting drunk. They were drunk, drunk in the Spirit... not with spirits!
These things didn’t all happen at the beginning. They had a ‘No faith ’ to ‘So great a faith’ experience as the Lord grew them and increased their faith.
We can go from no to so in many different ways as we rely on the Lord to lead us. Only Jesus can give us the increase, only Jesus can cause us to grow
We all can ask Jesus to help us and completely trust Him when we hear His voice. And with His presence and his strength we can be at peace when the storms of life come.
As the Spirit enables us to grow in Jesus we can have the faith to do the hard things, the faith to do the difficult, and the faith to do the impossible... from no to so.
All for the exaltation of Jesus and for the Glory of God.
Acts 9:1 – 9 1 Saul kept threatening to murder the Lord’s disciples. …….. As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say , "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting ME?"
5 Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The person replied, "I’m Jesus, the one you’re persecuting. 6 Get up! Go into the city, and you’ll be told what you should do."
7 Meanwhile, the men travelling with him were speechless.,,,,they didn’t see anyone.
8 Saul was helped up from the ground. When he opened his eyes, he was blind. So his companions led him into Damascus. 9 For three days he couldn’t see.
Isa 45:3 says ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD’.
The purpose of the treasure and riches, of darkness are so that we know the Lord.
Many of us as children were frightened of the dark, Religion often tells us darkness is where evil lurks ready to pounce on us if we deviate from the right path.
Man made religion seeks to control us and feeds on fear, totally oblivious that God does His best work in the dark...
Creation began in the darkness, Ge 1:2 tells us that is where the Spirit of God moved.
How many of us can recognise the experience of feeling an emptiness and being in a dark place and in that experience, there in the darkness, the Spirit of God moved? Times when we are at the end of our resources and can only turn to God can be times we come to know God more.
We may be in a dark place right now but remember it is where God does His best work. It is in the darkness of our circumstances where treasures await to be discovered and riches are revealed. When the Spirit pierces the darkness we know the Lord.
Like photographic film, God develops us in the darkness, turn on the light to soon and the picture doesn’t develop right; it takes time to develop. God put Abraham in darkness to give him the promise. Moses drew near God in ’thick darkness’.
Out of darkness comes creation, life. The Spirit moves and God does his best work. He can develop us in darkness, speak to us in the darkness, and help us draw near in the darkness.
God tells us: I am the LORD, and I will give you the treasures of darkness. Because while there was an emptiness I was still God, and when all was in darkness I was still God.
At midnight I am still God, at midday I am still God, in your tears I am still God, in your rejoicing I am still God, in your kneeling I am still God, in your celebration I am still God, in your hurt I am still God, in your joy I am still God.
And so to Saul, a man of menaces and of murder. A man who knew his bible inside out and back to front but was full of hate. But Jesus blinded him by light ‘brighter than the sun’ in order to work in this man who was chosen to change the world.
Blinded, Saul found treasures in the darkness, he came to know the Lord. He had been great and powerful, now he chose to be called Paul which means ‘little’.
He had been on a mission to bury Christians, but was now on a mission to plant Christians.
When seed are planted they go into darkness for the life to begin to unfold. In darkness Paul’s new life in the Spirit began unfold.
Saul lost his sight, so that Paul could have insight. Paul later wrote, ‘We live by faith not by sight’
Eyesight sees the outward, the circumstances, insight can sense God at work, insight can see the treasures of darkness, insight can see hidden riches in the secret place.
Saul was a murderer, people were frightened of him. He shows that even at our worst any of us can be changed. Even our enemies can be changed.
Who do we regard as enemies? Whose flaws do we find fault with? And when we find fault with Christians does Jesus take it personally as he did when Saul persecuted Christians and Jesus said ‘Why do you persecute ME?’
Paul wrote ‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.’ Love blesses and prays that eyesight is changed to insight.
John wrote, 1Jo 4:19 ‘We love him, because he first loved us.’ We have received such love. He now calls us to love our adversaries before they can love us.
In our own strength we can’t. But, when the Spirit of God inspires us , gives us the oomph, we can.
Lord help us, work in us, give us treasures of darkness that we may know you more deeply and know you empowering us to love and to bless against all odds.
Psalm 23 is probably the world’s most famous psalm.
Lets take a closer look at it.
It starts ‘The Lord is MY shepherd’. Who is “The Lord”? Obviously it is God, the creator of the universe, the God who knows us by name, the God that knows the number of hairs on our head. God as shepherd is one of Jehovah names, Jehovah Rohi.
To David, who wrote the psalm, seeing God as his shepherd tells us about the relationship between them.
Ancient Jews always thought of God in a collective sense, “Our God”, the God of Israel. But David makes his relationship with God completely individual and personal. My own personal Shepherd who I relate to one to one.
‘The Lord IS my shepherd’ its NOW, David is constantly being shepherded by God.
When I think of shepherds I imagine a scene from ‘one man and his dog’ on TV where a bunch of stupid sheep are in a field, and the sheepdog chases them and herds them into a pen. The dog harasses and bullies the sheep to go where they don’t want to go.
David was a shepherd but he worked in a totally different way. Shepherds in Israel didn’t use dogs to bully or frighten sheep, they don’t drive them from behind.
Shepherds in Israel lead their sheep from the FRONT. The sheep trust the shepherd and know he/she will lead them to the right pasture and water. They want to follow. They know the shepherd’s voice and when they hear him/her call they come. They trust the shepherd.
Each shepherd could have hundreds of sheep yet each one is known by name AND each sheep knows who its particular shepherd was!
Shepherds spent day after day protecting the sheep from predators, finding the best grazing, looking after the lambs, tending injuries, looking for water, finding lost sheep. And at night kept a fire going in the darkness and fought off danger.
We all know that sheep aren’t particularly bright, left to their own devices they will wander off, not recognise danger and get themselves into a whole heap of trouble. And if one does something they ALL do it. They are really good at following each other into danger. Sounds a bit like us.
I guess we can’t recognise God as our shepherd if we can’t acknowledge that we are SHEEP and need God’s guidance and protection and companionship on life’s journey.
David follows his own personal shepherd, not the crowd, He trusts the shepherd to care for him, to find the best spot to rest, to feed, to drink. His shepherd keeps him safe, binds up his wounds, cares for him when he’s afraid and always sees him as precious and valuable.
A field of sheep ALL look the same to me, but here David speaks of a one to one relationship – “I know you and you know me”. What a beautifully intimate picture of our relationship with God.
God the good shepherd will never bully us. never drive us from behind, never use fear to get us to do what He wants. He sees each of us individually, He invites us to follow him. We know we can trust him.
Some Churches will tell you that YOU need to change the way you are to please God and you need to be afraid of a judgmental God. NO, that’s not right.
God invites us to trust and to follow and to receive his love and care.
God lets us wander from one field to the next.
He doesn’t keep us in pens.
We have FREEDOM because we know our shepherd,.
We recognise his voice and we know by our EXPERIENCE that He wants only the very best for us.
The good shepherd is all about relationship...
I too can say ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. I hang around in this flock of sheep. Sometimes I wander off. Sometimes I follow the rest of the sheep heading for the cliff face.
But Jesus (who said He was the good shepherd) invites me to follow him. He doesn’t bully or threaten me, he walks ahead of me, calling my name and I come bounding up because I KNOW he wants only the best for me. My shepherd will leave 99 behind just to rescue me!
I am part of a huge flock and we all look to the same shepherd.
If you don’t know or recognise the good shepherd then He invites you to follow Him.
He invites you into a relationship.
Extract from Jim’s Preaching
The story of John: Several years ago a young man named John came to Liberty. HE KNEW THAT Jesus loved him but had received the message since childhood that God hated him being gay. He loved being at Liberty and feeling free to worship God as he was.
One day he said to Nina ‘ When I’m worshipping I keep getting this picture in my mind’s eye of me dressed in this amazing, dazzling white robe that’s shining like diamonds, its absolutely stunning! What does it mean?’
Nina said ‘John that’s your Robe of Righteousness, your Garment of Salvation, Jesus is showing you how you look to Him and you look amazing!’
Reading Ezekiel 16:8 - 14
Now when I passed by you, and looked upon you, your time was the time of love; and I …. I covered your nakedness: I swore an oath to you, and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.
Then I bathed you with water and clothed you with an embroidered robe and put shoes on your feet. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments………..
...because of the splendour I had given you, I made your beauty perfect.
I presume we all know the story of Cinderella, a story that’s been told with different variations for centuries. I think its fair to say we all love a rags to riches story.
We don’t even have to have rags to want riches. And we have riches as the children of God.
In Joh 4 Jesus said to the woman at the well, You have natural water, I have spiritual water.
He told the disciples You have natural food, I have spiritual food.
Eph 1:7 says right NOW we have ‘riches of His Grace’ and verse 18 ‘riches of His glory’.
In Genesis 1 it says that humanity was made in God’s image but after eating the forbidden fruit ‘they could see their nakedness’. Perhaps beforehand they were clothed in spiritual clothes, Garments of Salvation. When God came strolling in the Garden He asks, Where are you? He was looking for the image of Himself in them. It was gone. That perfect beauty was gone.
God had to wait 4000 years until His image was restored in humanity in His Son Jesus. Paul writes in Col 1:15; Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
In Genesis were the text says that God made humanity in His image. Taking that statement literally there was a spiritual and invisible dimension to humanity. When their ‘eyes were opened’ they could see their humanity without their spirituality. Naked!
To me this means that they lost their ability to see spiritually. God sent Jesus to restore humanities sight. Jesus had to open the spiritual eyes of the spiritually blind.
In the synagogue Jesus read this from the book of Isaiah, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel... and restore sight to the blind...’ Lu 4:18
Paul wrote 1Co 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, (past tense) so we have the image of the man from heaven (present tense). That’s confirmed in 2Co 3:18 We all reflect the Lord’s glory, we are transformed into his image.
In Ga 3:16 it says, ‘God made a promise to Abraham and to his seed’. His spiritual seed was Jesus. In addition Ro 4:16 says this, that the promise was to ‘all the seed’. Meaning all the spiritual descendants that came from that one seed.
The verse ends by saying Abraham is our spiritual father. So to make this point clear, Paul says that Abraham is Jesus’ spiritual father and our spiritual father. In the natural, if out of one seed comes more than one child, twins would be produced and they would look alike.
That is also true spiritually. There is one seed out of which more than one child is produced, twins who are alike. The offspring would be in the likeness and the image of each other. No wonder the preacher said, ‘When God looks at us He sees Jesus.’ Its obvious that God sees only Jesus, we’re the spitting image of Him, God can’t tell us apart.
So going back to 1Co 15:49 that said ‘Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so we have the image of the man from heaven’. Spiritually our nakedness is covered.
Because of the splendour He has given us, He has made our beauty perfect.
Isa says that in our natural state ‘we are all as an unclean thing, and all our human efforts are as worthless filthy rags;’ Isa 64:6, but Isaiah also says this about our spiritual state; Isa 61:10 .’he has clothed me with Garments of Salvation and arrayed me in a Robe of Righteousness…
With our natural eyes we can see the worthlessness of our man made filthy rags, with our spiritual eyes we can see the splendour and perfect beauty of our God made robes.
We see our Garments of Salvation. We can see the riches of His Grace and the riches of His glory.
A Cinderella story if ever there was one. The Gospel of Jesus, truly a rags to riches story.
Extract from Jim’s Preaching 'Hear, Know, Trust'
Psalm 143:8 – 12
Cause me to hear Your kindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; In You I take shelter.
Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me by Your Spirit.
Over 20 years ago I began to discover the immensity of the grace of God.
I found grace freeing. I felt so free that it was a little bit scary after living a Christian life of always doing and striving to be in God’s good books.
I asked the Lordwhat I should do. I said ‘Lord my whole life, not just my Christian life, is governed by laws and rules, how can I be a Christian without rules.’ I felt the answer was ‘Just get on with your life.’
Having no alternative I did. Because I also knew that God had made many promises to me, including the promise to guide me. I simply had to live how I knew how and trust Him. The simple gospel was turning out unexpectedly simple.
Grace, I have found out over the years, is absolute. By that I mean it is without any conditions and without limits. In my experience the Lord urges us to know Him in a unique way that He has set out for each one of us to discover.
That means in spiritual things we cannot learn what God is like through reasoning, but only discover what the Lord is like through experience. That puts us all on a level playing field where there is neither Jew or Gentile, male or female, able or disabled; genius or dunce matters not a jot.
A preacher said, ‘Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.’
To me that means being a nobody is an advantage. Dying to oneself is the beginning of life in the Spirit. Ego has to go, self has to be shelved. The answer to the command ‘Do this’ I discovered, was ‘I can’t’. Like Paul discovered at the end of Romans 7 whatever ‘this’ was, it could not be done. Freedom was in the failure.
When we can accept that we fail to achieve any spiritual merit and can give God nothing then we’re in the very place the Lord wants us to be. When we are nothing then God is everything.
Php 2:7 says that Christ Jesus ‘ made himself nothing’. He came into this world ‘nothing and finished up dead. Therefore, being nothing and dead is being Christlike. Then life in the Spirit can really be discovered.
The power of the resurrected Jesus is within us to be lived. When, in the power of the Spirit, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, whatever bound Lazarus had to be removed for Lazarus to experience his new life. Whatever binds us has to be removed, for us to live our new life, life in the Spirit.
When Jesus fed the five thousand Jesus blessed the bread and then broke it, the blessing was in the breaking. However, in the breaking was the abundance, in the breaking was the filling.
The next time He blessed the bread and broke it, it was in the upper room at Passover. He said ‘Remember Me’. We remember that He is the bread that was broken in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was in pieces, but out of brokenness came abundant life.
The next time He blessed the bread and broke it was after the resurrection, on the road to Emmaus.
The blessing was in the breaking, but out of the brokenness the text tells us their eyes were opened and they knew Him.
It is in brokenness that our spiritual eyes are opened. It is in brokenness that we can see Him clearly. It is in brokenness that we come to know Him.
The simple gospel is simply about life: Jesus the life, eternal life, resurrected life, and the fulness of life that leads to expressing Jesus the life, through life in the Spirit. A life of discovery; discovering our true selves in the new creation we become, as Christians.
Paul writes, 2Co 5:17 if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. Spiritually a true statement, but in our humanity we need to discover the reality of the statement and experience it. And the discovery for some maybe in becoming nothing by letting go, or being broken to become whole, or dying to self to live in fullness.
In tonight’s reading the psalmist wrote ‘Cause me to hear’ ‘Cause me to know’ ‘For in You do I trust’. This is life in the Spirit; hearing the voice of God and knowing and trusting the Lord all the way.
The writer continues ‘Deliver me from my enemies’. Our enemies are so often our psychological and emotional needs, our intellect and ego, our strengths and endeavours.
Jesus said; ‘I have come to do the will of the Father.’ The psalmist writes, ‘Teach me to do your will’. God’s will and not our will has to be to the fore.
I pray, let the Spirit of God be our guide and cause us to hear His voice and cause us to know his leading, teaching us to do the will of God as the life of Jesus within us embraces us, emboldens us and empowers us, to the Glory of His name.
Extract from Jim’s Preaching ‘Union’
Galatians 2:16 - 20 A person is not justified by observing the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.
17 "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a law-breaker.
19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I’ll tell you a story based on the apostle Paul’s parable at the beginning of Romans 7:
There was once a man who always, even on the sunniest days, walked around with his wife, under an old, tatty umbrella. But one day he was seen walking around with a different woman under the umbrella.
People said that his first wife had died and he had married again. So there was shock when his first wife was seen walking around, looking fit and well and lot happier. She told everyone her name had changed from Mrs Law and she was now Mrs Grace.’’
She said she was always miserable under Mr Law’s umbrella. She could never do anything right and was always criticised. It seemed to her that just by existing she was doing something wrong. She wanted to wanted to see the sun and enjoy being in the light, not living in the dark shadow of Mr Law and his umbrella. Then she met Mr Grace.
Mr Law said she could never divorce so she died. Because she had died she was no longer bound by the marriage to Mr Law. It was completely finished. She got together with Mr Grace and got reborn. All obligations to Mr Law’s rules were gone. She was free to be herself with Mr Grace.
Mr Grace gave her his life and everything he had, She had nothing to give but herself and that was enough. Their lives were entwined and exchanged.
Paul’s parable at the beginning of Romans 7 ends with an explanation saying; ‘by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we yield to the new way of the Spirit.’
If we are dead to what once held us captive: law, rules, religion, traditions, the pressure of pretending we’re something we’re not, its all finished. It’s dead. So let it be dead and bury it.
We have a choice, live bound under its shadow or live freely in the light. Scripture says in Acts 17:28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ In Jesus we are one with Him.
No longer need it be, God is up there and I am down here doing my best to reach Him. We no longer need to do anything but rest in our union with the Lord.
1Co 6:17 Those who unite themselves with the Lord is one with him in spirit. That is a mystery, one plus one equals one. How can that be? The divine and the human are one.
A mystery that God is our life. We are saved by His life. The Lord is our life, the old is finished.
Reckon it dead.
We have all kinds of different shapes, forms, and fashions, all kinds of interests, all kinds of diversity, all kinds of orientation, all kinds of gender, we have all kinds of uniqueness.
We don't have to look like, act like, talk like, or be like anybody else again. We are free to be ourselves. People see our outward appearance, but we know that Jesus is living in us. And in yielding to the Spirit and the empowering of the Spirit, the Lord lives in us and through us.
Human life demands that we don’t fail and failure is looked down upon. But it is recognising our failure to please God, to be good enough for Him, where grace wins.
At the end of Romans 7 the apostle Paul admits he has failed to please God by his behaviour.
And he’s glad; because that made him rely on Jesus to make him pleasing to God. Where Paul has completely failed Jesus has completely succeeded.
When Paul’s efforts finished, Jesus’ life began. When Paul died to what held him captive, (religious law that insisted he always try harder) Jesus’ life was given the freedom to live through him.
So Paul wrote; ‘I no longer live’. He reckoned himself dead; adding ‘but Christ lives in me’, in unity, in union, lives entwined. He wrote ’I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by the faith of the Son of God.’’
Whose faith? Not Paul’s faith, but the faith of Jesus living within him, in union. Remember; it is ‘’in Him we live and move and have our being.’’
This is union, being one in Jesus. It is His life expressed through us that is the light and our testimony. It is His faith expressed though us where the power lies.
We can rely on the faith of Jesus the Son of God, who l gave Himself for us; so that we might live, in freedom, in unity... in Him, as one.
'There's No Distinction'
Extracts from Jim’s Preaching
Lk 18:10 – 14 Jesus told this parable… Two men went into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus’ parable about two men illustrates a spiritual truth about grace and judgment. Jesus’ parables made some people glad and some people mad.
The Pharisees were the religious elite and the ordinary folks we see as the disadvantaged and so deserving of our sympathies.
It was normal for a Pharisee to stand praying in the Temple but the tax collector would not have been allowed to, he must have dodged Temple security to get in. He was seen as unworthy and a traitor as he worked for the Romans and fiddled the books at his neighbour’s expense to make himself rich. He was hated and despised by everyone.
Jesus’ audience and the Pharisee all believed that they must keep the religions rules and practices to the best of their ability and that then God’s grace would cover the areas where they fell short.
The Pharisee separated himself on purpose he knew he was worthy of God’s grace more than others. The Pharisee would not have seen his pride, nor considered his prayer as boastful. He believed that by showing that he kept all the rules and traditions he was helping other people by setting a good example for them to follow.
As grace people we can readily identify with the tax collector and go home tonight feeling justified because we are not full of pride thinking we are better than others before God.
Or could we be? Is there any way we could we be like the Pharisee in the story?
Because, if we’re really honest, sometimes can’t we all fall into thinking that we’re closer to God than the Christian who is prejudiced against us?
Can our sense of superiority/pride then make us like the Pharisee?
Do we look down on homophobic Christians?
Do we regard them as lesser than ourselves because of their prejudice and sometimes hateful language towards us as LGBT Christians?
Does part of us think therefore that God must look at us more favourably than the way he looks at them?
In the parable the ‘sinner’ stands apart as well. Not because he thinks he’s better but because he thinks he’s worse than everyone else. He knows he is not worthy to be there. He simply says ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’. He compares himself to no one.
He knows he is not worthy and he knows that God will welcome him with mercy because God’s love and kindness is so great. Jesus tells us that the tax collector received mercy as he went home justified.
The Apostle Paul wrote this in Ro 3:22-24:
...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ is for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption in Christ Jesus.
This is the gospel of grace, a statement of absolute grace. Grace cannot look on the distinctions we see. In God’s eyes there is no Pharisee; there is no tax collector; there is no distinction. A parable about two men begins with a verse which introduces the story, a verse which says; Jesus told this parable to some who were confident of their own standing before God and looked down on others despising them.
Its good to be confident that because of his loving kindness, God loves us through no merit of our own. But we have no right to look down on others no matter what.
Unwittingly we can become Pharisees. All fall short of the glory of God, there is no distinction.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preaching ‘All you need is love ’
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.
The commandments say, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” and ALL other commandments are summed up in this, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbour. Romans 13:8-10
The Beatles sang “All you need is love”. What a nerve to suggest that it could all be so simple.
Paul in this passage suggests that the entire ethics of the Scriptures can be reduced down to a simple suggestion to love, and not only that – but that the one who has loved has in that one act fulfilled all the law. Surely it can't be that simple?
If it is then we don’t need ministers, bishops or academics to explain the Scriptures to us! Perhaps it is all this simple ‘love one another’.
Paul says - “The one who loves has fulfilled the law”,
Maybe we could write this off as one of Paul's more manic moments, except that I think Paul got this teaching from Jesus, didn't he?
Wasn't it Jesus who said that, loving God and your neighbour were the most important commandments. And he even said “On these two commandments hang ALL the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 20:40). The phrase “the law and the prophets” means “everything”.
It would seem that none of these other laws or commandments can be understood except as an application of an act of love! So if were in a situation where you are not sure what you should be doing, something we can ask is ‘what does love say?'
Now I want to take a moment to reflect on just how radical a formula this is, not to just go by what is written in scripture but to go on what is loving. And if you look around the church today you'll find all sorts of people telling us what we can and can't do on the basis of ‘it is written'.
But using ‘it is written' as the sole basis for making decisions about what is the will of God was something that the New Testament Christians very deliberately abandoned!
Jesus gives us a key to understanding Scripture. That key is love…but all too often the world sees a Church that says ‘it is written’.
What divides Christians today? The distinction between Christians who aim at keeping religious rules perfectly (it is written) and Christians who aim to love!
At Oxford Pride a young woman came out from the crowd POINTED at Big Jesus and said “They told me he hated me” (because ‘it is written….’). Christianity been so degraded that Christians are only known for what we DON’T do, not for radical love.
I can’t love in my own strength. I can love the people who are like me BUT I can’t love those who feel so very different. So, how do I love?
God IS love, love comes from him, love is the essence, the core of God.
Loving in my own strength is useless. I can’t love Franklin Graham in my own strength…. I can’t love those who shout homophobic stuff at me in the street.
I can’t love those who exclude me. My “Loving” can be rubbish, it falls well short. My loving is damaged, my loving is often self-serving. My loving can be selfish and deeply flawed.
I’ve come to realise that love comes from the Holy Spirit. I need to keep asking for God’s love to live and work and flow through me relying on Him to do it in His time and in His way. And not feel pressured to fake it meanwhile – people always see through that anyway.
Scripture can be used to determine what love means.
Far better to use love to determine what scripture means.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'The Thieves'
Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling’ there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves…………. And he taught them saying, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people, but you have made it a den of thieves. Mark 11:15 - 17
The Sadducees, who were in charge of the Temple, had a money making racket out of the Temple sacrifices and offerings.
Only these sacrifices were deemed pure and acceptable by the Sadducees. Their purity guaranteed, these sacrifices were sold in the Temple courtyard at inflated prices making a tidy profit for the Sadducees.
Offerings of money for the temple and temple taxes could only be paid with Jewish money which was no one used any more, only Roman money was in circulation. So the Sadducees exchanged Roman money for Jewish at the Temple and charged a price to do so.
The Sadducees made shed loads of money and here was Jesus challenging them. The Romans kept the religious hierarchy in power to control the people through their religious rules and keep the peace. The Jewish leadership wanted to get rid of Him and they did through false charges, false witnesses, an illegal trial, and a ruler who was more intent on keeping the peace than administering justice.
After the mayhem of overturning tables and chucking people out Jesus taught them saying, ‘It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all people but you made it a den of thieves.’
‘All people’ are words, that for me leap, to my attention. None discriminatory words, inclusive words. No one excluded on any grounds. All people.
A house of prayer. And what is prayer? A two way intimate communication with God. Its a heart thing, a connection in whatever way is right for us, whether spoken, written or read.
Whether in pictures, visions, sounds, art, music, dance, whether walking the dog or looking after kids or in stillness and silence; in shouting, in laughter, in crying; in praise or celebration and in unknown languages. Prayer in all ways is for ‘all people’.
The house of prayer Jesus was referring at the time was the Temple, the house of God. But now we, individually and collectively as a church, are called the Temple of God.
Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem foreshadowing Him cleansing us, to make us pure and holy for connecting with God. Jesus and He alone has made us fully acceptable to have an intimate relationship with God.
But just as the temple in Jerusalem began pure and was corrupted by religious powers; have the religious powers of today once again corrupted you and I, God’s temple?
Are those same powers still dictating what is pure and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not and how much it costs to get acceptance?
Are the powers frightened of losing their position, their income? Religious powers who are more intent on keeping the peace, rather than administering justice. False charges, false witnesses are all too familiar to LGBT Christians. But here’s the rub, here’s the difficulty, here’s the potential problem when turning to Jesus our teacher.
Despite the betrayal, wrongly accused, false charges, false witnesses, the injustice, the rejection, Jesus, the lamb, remained silent: No counter argument, no protest, no vindication, no tweet nor Facebook post; silence.
Silence outwardly, but inwardly intimate communication, Jesus was connected.
Jesus in His humanity, as a living temple of God, did not allow anyone, even His own reactions to rob Him of connection and intimacy. Jesus held His peace.
As the saints of God we are pure and holy temples but we can be overwhelmed by the thieves. Our our accusers, these thieves can rob us of our peace… but only if we let them.
When the wrong accusations and rejection comes can we hold our peace, stay connected, in intimate communication with God? Or are we robbed of our peace with God?
I preach unconditional love and absolute grace, my critics call it cheap grace because I say you have to do nothing to earn the grace of God. Grace is not cheap its free.
But grace is not grace and certainly not absolute grace if grace cannot be shown to all people. We have a gift from God, a gift we don’t deserve, but can we give that gift to those who reject us who also don’t deserve it?
Lets ask Jesus to help us to hold on to our peace and to let no one, including ourselves, rob us of it as we declare the gospel of peace to all people.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘It Is Finished’
‘After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed:
"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”.’ John 17:1 – 5
The first words recorded in scripture as spoken by Jesus are “I must be about My Father’s business".
The last words recorded in scripture as spoken by Jesus prior to dying on the cross were ‘It is finished’.
His Father’s work, His Father’s business was at and end, concluded, completed, fulfilled, finished. Nothing could be taken away, nothing could be added. A perfect life from beginning to end, meeting all the requirements of the Father’s business, bringing it to a close.
God sent His Son to restore the spiritual and emotional connection He had had with humanity at the beginning. God wanted to restore a relationship that had died.
Restoring the relationship between mankind and God was ‘the Father’s business’ that he entrusted to His Son, Jesus. Jesus came to reconnect humanity with God.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word written for finished was ‘teleo’ which also means paid in full. The price for this re-connection of relationship was paid in full by Jesus.
No one would think of taking a paint brush and a pot of paint and try to add to the Mona Lisa. Because we know it is a finished work of art. Finished by the artist who started it. You cannot complete a completed work. You cannot finish a finished work. Adding to it just spoils it.
In the same way, that is how we are to look at Jesus’ life’s work. He finished it. Our salvation is won. Our sins are all forgiven. We are forever cleansed and made pure by His death on the cross. Christ paid completely and perfectly for our total forgiveness.
There are those who say that sin separates the Christian from God. This is just not true. In the Fall humanity was cursed. Cursed means cut off from God. Mankind lost that life giving connection that had with God. But scripture says about Christians in Ga 3:13 ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse …by becoming a curse for us’.
Jesus cried out from the cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He cried that out in despair because for the first time throughout all eternity the Son was separated from the Father.
Jesus died alone entering the darkness of death separated from His Father, but by doing that he brought to an end that which separated mankind from God the Father.
Many believe that breaking any Biblical law or laws caused separation from God. But in practice Christians adhere to different biblical laws in different eras have always been selective about which laws are considered important.
And that is the very nature of laws. Interpreting them always causes difference of opinion and division. But the message of the Gospel is unity. Oneness in Jesus and God.
God has made it so simple. It is not our sins, or breaking biblical laws that separate us from Him. it is ‘sin’, singular. One sin separates mankind from God. And that one sin is unrighteousness – the state of not having God’s qualities and excellence.
The Father’s business was to restore God’s qualities and excellence to humanity. That restored position is righteousness. Righteousness is having God’s qualities and excellence, being in right standing with God. Only Jesus who lived a perfect life has the qualities and excellence of God.
The apostle Paul wrote Ro 3:23 ‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. And in Ro 10:3 ‘For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about trying to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.
Striving to attain high ethical and moral standards falls miles short of the criteria acceptable by God. For no matter what you say or do, you will come short of the Glory of God. And that is the only criteria that is acceptable to God.
The gospel means Good News. News doesn’t tell you what to do, it reports what’s already been done. And Jesus did it perfectly. The restoration is complete, it is finished!
Jesus’ prayer in Joh 17:22 stated ‘Your glory that you have given me I have given to them.’
As Christians we possess the glory of Jesus, His qualities, His excellence. According to Joh 17:22 it is a gift not an attainment. We no longer have to work and strive to make ourselves acceptable to Him. We can rest in Jesus’ finished work. I glory not in my achievements but by faith rest in His achievements and His glory.
In Mal’s words ‘My effort is no longer necessary’
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘Children of God’
‘Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ Galatians 3:23-29
We all have a deep need to belong, the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow placed the need to belong in his hierarchy of five basic human needs.
Belonging keeps us healthy emotionally and physically; it’s a basic human need that needs to be met in order for us to reach our full potential. It is essential not optional. Its in our DNA.
God lives in a community of three, the trinity, each belonging to the other. We are made in His image and we are meant to belong to God and to each other.
The good news of the gospel is that we belong. Paul writes in today’s passage “you belong to Christ.” Jesus came to look for and find those of us who feel like we don’t belong. Those of us so often rejected by society.
Jesus went out of his way to find the leper who had to live outside the town, the tax collector who everyone hated because he made money for the occupying Roman army, the woman caught in adultery who the religious leaders wanted to stone to death, the woman at the well who had a scandalous reputation (and eveyone knew it!), the blind man, the demon possessed man who screamed at passers by….... Jesus sought out those rejected by society.
The good news is that Jesus seeks us out - ALL of us! We belong to Him.
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, all of us can be assured that we belong to Christ, regardless of ethnic background, social status, sexuality or gender.
Paul wrote “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
There are no distinctions and no “undesirables” in God’s eyes!
I know that I would not be allowed to preach in an Anglican Church.Because I am in a same sex marriage they would say say I don’t belong. But according to the gospel differences in ethnic background or social status, sexuality or gender are eliminated for all believers.
I recently had to come to terms with the fact that I am prejudice towards evangelical Christians. I who had been the victim so many times was now prejudiced. I have to ask Jesus to help me get rid of this because those who are outspoken against us also belong...and I have to accept them as my brothers and sisters.
Does the world outside know that Jesus wants us all to belong?
Does the Transgender person know this?
Does the gay couple know this?
Do they know that here they are loved and accepted?
Does the homeless person know this?
Does the person struggling with their mental health know this?
The church has often said ‘Behave, believe, and then and only then belong to God!’
Look it’s impossible for me to behave, I don’t stand a chance if that’s so.
But God treated us like we belonged to him before we even knew it. Christ died for us while were still sinners. We didn’t have to “behave” first!
And we don’t have to follow a code of behaviour to belong after. No, all our sins are taken care of, past, present and future. So we can be confident that He made us belong and we always will.
We can’t mess that up. We will always belong to the God who loves us so completely.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'I Don't Know’
‘Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in unrighteousness. It is by grace you have been saved!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ from Ephesians 2:4 - 8
I was taught a long theological word; Omniscience… meaning that God is all knowing.
When I met Nina I wondered about a few things. Was she a bit posh for me?... too brainy for me?. I knew it didn’t matter because I knew the Lord had put us together. ‘What sort of Christian was this woman?’ Did she have amazing faith? Was she a goody two shoes? Or were there dark secrets hidden away?
I sat in my office chair one day and said ‘Lord, what’s in her past? Tell me her sins’. But all I got was silence.
I wondered if God was just sat there thinking about the question and that’s why there was silence. In the Book of Revelation it tells us about there being silence in heaven for half an hour in the whole span of eternity. I imagined silence in heaven while God was thinking about my question ‘Tell me her sins.’
I imagined the four living creatures, the angels, all the hosts of heaven, for the first time stopping their worship and cries of 'Holy, holy, holy'.
I imagined after 30 minutes the silence being broken as God turned to Jesus and says ‘Did I hear right? Just repeat the question. What did Parker say?’ Jesus said ‘He wants to know about Nina’s sins’. God started shaking his head and said ‘I DON’T KNOW!’
At that point all heaven erupted as the four living creatures cried out ‘He doesn’t know, He doesn’t know!’ And the angels cry out in unison ‘He doesn’t know, He doesn’t know!’ And all the hosts of heaven, ten thousand times ten thousand voices, cried out ‘He doesn’t know! He doesn’t know! He doesn’t know!
Meanwhile there’s me sat in my office awaiting an answer to my question: ‘Tell me Nina’s sins’.
It was in that quite inner voice that speaks into your heart that the answer came ‘I don’t know’
‘Excuse me’ I said ‘but you are telling me the all knowing God doesn’t know?’ ‘Nope’ God said, ‘I DON’T KNOW’.
Dumfounded I chewed over His answer when the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart bringing peace. ‘The Father doesn’t know, because 2000 years ago Jesus took all Nina’s unrighteousness and nailed it to the cross. In one miraculous moment, as foretold in the scriptures, Jesus gave Nina His righteousness in exchange for her unrighteousness. Nina’s life is hidden in Jesus’.
I realised that God did not know the answer to my question because of a promise to all His children which was “I will forgive their unrighteousness and will remember their sin no more."
Perfect forgiveness is forgetfulness.
The Father can’t remember our sin, because He promised not to.
Of course I didn’t really sit down one day and ask God about Nina’s sins. This story was a parable, a made up story to explain a truth.
30 years ago the Lord asked me a question ‘Did Abraham sin?’ I answered straight from scripture, ‘Yes he did because it says in Ro 3:23 ‘all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. With my attitude at the time it was easy. I’d been taught well to use verses from the Bible to judge people.
But later I learned that God gave Abraham His righteousness because of Abraham’s faith.
I could see that Abraham had lied and done wrong things but he didn’t not lose his right standing with God, or suffer any separation from God. Just the opposite He blessed him. Abraham was unconditional loved by God. Abraham’s faith in God made Abraham right with God.
God did not judge Nina. God judged His Son 2000 years ago instead. Jesus exchanged his righteousness for Nina’s unrighteousness and made Nina pure and holy in God’s sight. Nina’s fate, along with every one who turns to Jesus, is sealed no matter what they have done or will do. Jesus freely gives His righteousness to each one who turns to Him.
Jesus said John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
In other words judge according to righteousness and not by persons faults or failings and that includes yourself.
Ask Him to help you see, with spiritual eyes, and see the righteousness and the beauty of Jesus in yourself. Ask Him to help you see, with spiritual eyes, the beauty of Jesus in all those whose lives are hidden in Him.
What about Nina’s sin? …What about your sin?
God doesn’t know ...He chose to forget
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Saints’
Reading from Colossians 1:12- 22
‘….giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the complete forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation……. all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were separated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your erroneous deeds and thoughts. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.’
My mother used to say on the numerous occasions that I annoyed her… ‘You’d make a saint swear you would’…She would be referring to the men and women declared sacred or holy by the pope. But in scripture all Christians are called Saints. ‘Saint’ means ‘holy one’.
The Lord is Holy because He is separate from His creation. ‘Holy’ means ‘separated out’ and ‘belonging to’. The Lord has separated you out to be His beloved. You belong to God. That makes you holy.
It’s belonging in the sense of life partners like Karen and Tracy, and Lynda and Petra they belong to one another. They are bonded in love and special to each other. They hold a unique place in each other’s lives as we hold a unique place in the Lord and in His life.
The Lord has chosen each one of us and separates us from those who don’t yet know him and calls us beloved and sacred. We hold the position of being dearly loved by Him.
Being holy is not living a puritanical life. Holy is what you are now –no matter what issues you struggle with in this life. You are holy now because He makes you so.
In our humanity we do not all have equal abilities but in Christ we are all equal before God. He wants you to enjoy the freedom that sainthood brings. Freedom to be who you are without having to strive to be something better to please Him. Because He is already pleased with you. He Himself has already done everything needed to make you holy.
The Apostle Paul began his letters to believers in a similar way. I reckon if Paul were writing a letter to the believers in Liberty he would begin with the same words…
‘To all who are at Liberty, beloved of God, chosen to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ God’s Grace overflows to us and that’s what enables us to know His peace and His joy.
Jesus was despised and rejected
of men (Is 53:3). Despite the contempt He was treated with Jesus never
lost sight of who He was. He knew he was God’s son. He knew He
was the Messiah. He knew He was the Saint, the Holy One as
foretold to His mother by the angel Gabriel.
He knew right to the end. Even when God was silent and Jesus felt forsaken and felt deserted by God He still knew. His last words were ‘into Your hands I commend My spirit’. He trusted right to the end even when trusting went against what He felt. He knew who he belonged to.
Now you may have been despised,
treated with contempt, singled out for abuse or ridicule and rejected
even by Christians. But we must all remember who we are in the eyes of
God. We are His saints. We are because He said we are.
We belong to the Lord God Almighty. We are His holy ones. In His eyes we are without blemish. He Himself has made us free from accusation.
Because Jesus our friend, our brother, our lamb, our sacrifice who died in our place, has made us so. He who has a name which is above all other names, He has made us worthy in the sight of God.
I don’t know about you but I
don’t care what anyone thinks about me or Liberty. I know what the Lord
thinks and feels about us. He adores of each of us, brothers and sisters
who make up this, His church. The Lord has given us the right standing
It is the Lord who has given us our rightful share in the glorious inheritance of the saints. The inheritance is equally shared. No one is greater than the other. No one has a larger portion than the other.
He considers you very precious and He wants the inner you, the real you, to Himself. That’s why He has made you a saint, a holy one, separated out and belonging to Him.
He formed and fashioned each of us in our mother’s womb to be who we are. Without us even knowing it, when we first came to know and trust Him, He formed and fashioned us into His children, His holy ones, His saints.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Royal Law’
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in injustice but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. Corinthians 13:4 - 8
Love is a human emotion and because it is part of our humanity, human love is flawed.
God is love and to have His love flow through us is spiritual love not human love. Spiritual love is quite different because of its source.
My inability to love people I don’t like caused me to pray, ‘Lord give me more love’. I now reckon it was the Lord who put the desire in me for more love. I prayed that for 5 years.
I used to hear people pray out at church about their love for the Lord. I didn’t. I didn’t love Him and it bothered me. I asked my pastor about it and he just said ‘Don’t worry Jim you will’. I was miffed!
Then two weeks later I was driving home on the motorway singing a worship song when an overwhelming feeling of love flowed through me, beginning at the top of my head and sweeping through my whole body. It was His love for me and I couldn’t help but respond.
I shouted out ‘I love you Lord’. I couldn’t remember driving the rest of the journey! The Lord had caused me to love Him in a miraculous way so I prayed, ‘Please cause me to love my neighbour.’
In time, I sensed the Lord wanted me to go and help in a soup kitchen. For me it was the last place I wanted to be but I felt compelled to go. I couldn’t stand the people there. I had huge prejudice against anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the Lord wanted me there.
So when I was there I hid in the kitchen washing up. Then a woman , homeless and addicted to drugs came into the kitchen and spoke to me. I was about to tell her to get out when this overwhelming feeling of love for her flowed through me towards her, beginning at the top of my head, love like a wave swept through my whole body.
I couldn’t help but love her. And that love affected the way I saw everyone else there. I couldn’t help it, I loved them. I could now talk to and relate to my fellow human beings. Until I knew them I hadn’t realised that they had all used drugs and alcohol to block unbearable pain.
Reflecting on the experience of my years at the soup kitchen I asked the Lord what was it all about. I felt Him say ‘I caused you to love people that you thought you could never love’
The Lord didn’t need to say any more, I knew then that He could cause me to love anyone.
I was prejudiced against Asians. That is until I had to play host for a week to an Indian pastor. But after getting to know him we I became firm friends and I loved him.
My prejudices had come from my parents and the society in which I grew up. My mum had a gay friend and so there was no homophobia in my home. I only experienced homophobia in the church, which I spoke out about whenever it raised its ugly head.
One day, though several months had passed, I was remembering the love the Lord gave me for homeless people when out of blue I said to the Lord ‘I want to love gay people like that.’
I don’t know to this day why I said it, it must have been prompted by the Lord.
And so years later walking into my first ‘LGBT church’ in Manchester I felt the Lord’s love for everyone there and I said audibly to myself ‘I love you lot’.
The last group of people But the Lord has worked on that one and given me compassion for people stuck in their prejudices.
And He has reminded that he loves prejudiced people too.
We are all conditioned in the way we think and behave, so to obey the Royal Law of loving ‘our neighbour as ourselves’ in our own strength is an impossibility.
As an inclusive church we must extend love and compassion to our critics however misguided they are. None of us can see their past out of which they speak.
The poet Longfellow wrote: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
I preach about God’s grace for all of us no matter what we are like. It would be hypocritical of me not show grace to those who oppose us, grace that I have so freely received.
We must oppose the damaging message against LGBT that our critics spread but we must not be hostile to them as people. We must always be Spirit led with the God of grace as our guide.
In John 3:17 Jesus said, ‘I have not come into the world to condemn it but to set the world free’. An Judging, condemning, criticising others imprisons us but loving others sets us free.
Jesus also said this, Joh 8:15 You judge according to your humanity; I judge nobody.
We all bring our past into the present. Our past impacts on our thinking and our behaviour. My soup kitchen experience, those people who I judged, condemned and criticised, melted my heart when I hear their stories.
All people have a past, a past that I cannot see. Therefore the only way to judge righteously, is to judge nobody. I haven’t perfected it yet. My flawed humanity gets in the way.
Therefore I still pray, Lord give me more love.
Matthew 11:25-30 (The Message)
Jesus said "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."
Jesus was telling us ‘Don’t be worn out’
As Christians we were indoctrinated to be ‘doers’. We were told the ‘shoulds’ of Christianity that we should do a list of things that would please God…….. and that list was endless.
There are thousands of books and thousands of programs that tell us how to do all these things and how to get others to know Jesus. It’s as if the survival of Christianity is completely depends on our efforts.
There are times when I absolutely despise religion .When I hear of fundamentalism inciting hatred, paedophile priests, hurtful things said in church about the gay community, or the thoughtless actions committed by one church member on another. Religion clearly fails to make people more loving.
The only thing that gets me through is knowing that religion comes right out of the heart of humankind. Its man’s efforts to please God, to impress God. It’s not God inspired or God blessed and it always fails to change people deep inside.
Religion is “doing”, in fact religion is doing and doing and doing some more and the doing is NEVER be enough. Religion needs constant effort. It’s not what Jesus called us to. He simply called us to relationship with Him.
Jesus says “Come to me (the invitation), get away with me and recover your life” Religion will suck life out of us BUT relationship with Jesus gives us our lives BACK!
Jesus said - I have come to give you LIFE, and not just life BUT life in all its fullness....Life that is beyond our imagination!
Is it religion or relationship for us? The Jews he was speaking to knew all about religion – doing the right thing, saying the right thing, wearing the right thing! They knew how to “do” religion. Religion can do stuff without relating to Jesus. But here we have Jesus saying religion will burn you out, frazzle you, dry you out, and burn you to a crisp!
Instead Jesus says “Come to me”. ‘Come’ not do its about relationship. Walk alongside me and I’ll let you in on how I do it, let me mentor you, watch how I do the Fathers business find out how to do it like that.
This wonderful passage from the Message says –“Learn the unforced rhythm of grace” Gosh that’s very poetic but what does it mean? It’s simply living by grace.
It’s believing that God has covered all our actions with Christ’s blood so there’s nothing we can do or not do that will ruin His plan because He treats us with favour way beyond anything we could deserve. Jesus has ripped up the rule book!
It’s about not trusting what we do to make us pleasing to God. Its simply just being us.
And when we live by grace, nothing is obligatory but as we deepen our relationship with Him we are delighted to do what he leads us in to. And loving God becomes natural, just like breathing in and out - in and out - an unforced rhythm.
We are not supposed to run ourselves into the ground, we weren’t designed for that.
The word rhythm is usually linked to music. The rhythm section of the band lays the foundation for the song. It kind of sets the floor for the rest of the song to build upon.
When the rhythm in a song is mistimed or simply doesn't fit in with the flow of the music, it throws everything off. No matter how beautiful the song is it is ruined.
But when the music has got good beats and rhythm, we get immersed into it. We might start tapping our feet, or just all out dancing along with the rhythm. Its easy to flow with it.
God invites us to set our lives to a new beat, His beat. He invites us to listen for it and go with it, flow with it and live in His rhythms of grace.
The rhythm of this grace meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. as our own ways are overcome to now live for a greater purpose. It prompts us to respond to God in praise for what He is doing in our lives, not for what we are achieving by willpower.
Let’s allow Him to do what He wants in us, according to His rhythm and live freely and lightly with Him.
Philippians 2:5 - 11 Our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became submissive to even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth.
With every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When Jesus taught his students to pray he started ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’
He addressed God in intimate terms as a loving Father and at the same time as the awesome Holy Being beyond our comprehension.
So what did the Jewish students understand by this term ‘hallowed be your name’? One theologian suggests it meant ‘I desire to regard your name as holy as you are holy.’
Jewish understanding of God’s name goes back to Moses and burning bush when God revealed his name as ‘I AM THAT I AM’, Moses and the people must have been in awe of such a profound name as they didn’t ask ‘I AM what?’ Yet the name was revered.
No one plumbed the depths of the name I AM, because to do so would be plumbing the depths of God who is indefinable and unsearchable.
Later God told Moses He is also to be known as Jehovah. In English bibles it is translated LORD in capital letters. But to the Jew His name is too holy to speak so it’s shortened it to four Hebrew letters YHWH which we know as Yahweh.
Names were descriptive but this name was unique and didn’t describe anything and couldn’t describe anything.
For us the name of God is a spoken word Yahweh, but to the Jew you don’t say it, you breathe it. ‘Yah’ is in the in breathe. ‘Wey’ is in the out breathe.
In Hebrew the name is spelt HWHY (Hebrew reads right to left).
The letter H means life and H is the fifth letter of the Jewish alphabet (five is the number of grace).
When a new born baby takes it first breathe it breathes the name of God; Yah-weh. The last breath of life also speaks the name of God, Yah-weh.
The Lord’s prayer as we know it, is not a prayer to be recited. When Rabbi Jesus said to His students, pray ‘Hallowed be your name’ one thousand five hundred years of Jewish understanding of God’s name came to bear on the Rabbi’s teaching. This was a WOW prayer.
A prayer of awe, a prayer of reverence, a holy prayer to a holy God whose name was unsearchable and too holy to speak. A name full of life and grace.
God changed Abram’s name to AbraHam. He breathed the ‘H’ into Abram’s name, the ‘H’ that means life and signifies grace. In doing this God breathed His life and grace into AbraHam. God also changed the name of Sarai, Abraham’s wife in the same way to SaraH as He breathed the ‘H’, His life, into to her too.
As the breath of His name and the grace and the life of God was breathed into Abraham and Sarah they conceived their promised son and also descendants, that are as many as the stars in the sky. Such is the power of His breath and of His name.
Jesus’ Hebrew name was Joshua, the correct pronunciation is not Joshua with a J, it actually begins with a breath, YeH – sua.
Rabbi YeH – sua had taught his students well. Their education would be continued by another teacher, the Spirit of God who would teach them in freedom from the restrictions of the Law of Moses which Jesus brought to an end.
Before Rabbi YeH – sua returned to heaven he breathed His name and His life into His students. (John 20:22) just as God had done with AbraHam and SaraH. This brought about the conception of their many spiritual children.
In John 20:22 the student John testified ‘that believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that having an unshakable belief and trust in Him, you will have life through his name.
Jesus, Yeh – sua, a name that is above all other names who has BREATHED INTO US HIS LIFE AND HIS NAME.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'Two Trees'
From MV.1Corinthians 1:21 -31
Since the world in all its so called wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
While Jews clamour for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd….Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.
Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s "weakness."
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families.
Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?
That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own trumpet before God. …"If you’re going to blow a trumpet, blow a trumpet for God.’
In the Garden of Paradise there were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil which gave you the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong.
One tree gave you knowledge of right and wrong, but the tree of life, according to Pr 3:18 gave you wisdom. The tree of life symbolises Jesus 1Co 1:24.
The story says that the tempter told the woman that when she knows the difference between right and wrong she’ll be like God. And humanity has been doing lots of things ever since to be like God.
My bible was made out of paper and paper came from trees. It occurred to me that here in my hand was the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. For in this book I could find the knowledge of right and wrong or find the source of Life.
I have a choice: I can work to gain God’s favour or simply rest in Jesus knowing I have His favour.
One part of this book could make me judge myself and others or part of this book could reveal grace that’s there for me and for all others.
Abraham married Sarah his half sister so he sinned according to Leviticus 18, but God didn’t condemn him, on the contrary… he blessed him. He blessed Abraham with health, wealth, and an enviable relationship with the Lord. Abraham is called the friend of God.
One day I felt the Lord ask me, Did Abraham sin? Funny question I thought. The apostle Paul wrote ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. But I felt the Lord said ‘I’ve recorded Abraham’s faith not his sin’. 1Cor 13 ‘love keeps no record of wrongs’
The Lord was teaching me about grace. Lev 18 condemns. Grace cannot condemn, grace can only bless. The Lord was teaching me to look at people in the way He looks at people- through grace glasses.
When we use the bible as the source of teaching us the knowledge of good and evil we end up judging ourselves and our judgemental attitudes leak out and other people sense them. Unwittingly often churches feed us from the wrong tree telling us ‘do this and you’ll be like Jesus’ ‘Do this and you’ll be like God’. But we can never do things well enough to achieve that.
We need to be fed from the Tree of Life, Jesus. Jesus said that ‘He had come to earth so that we could have life’. He is our tree of life, God’s life.
Jesus is life and gives life. He sustains and nourishes life. All we’ve got to do is reach out.
Tonight’s reading tells us God chose the foolish, weak, lowly, despised and the things that don’t make sense. To so many the simplicity Jesus offers doesn’t make sense.
The word Gospel means good news and what’s good about it is that we don’t need to be good or even do good.
The news is that God is good and His goodness is ours if we can only trust. Trust that His goodness has got us covered. No striving or straining trying to be good but just living in His goodness.
A goodness so good it will bubble to the surface, leak out and be sensed by others.
It is in Jesus and in the fruit of the Spirit where we find life, real life, God life. And it’s much better than anything we could ever achieve, no matter how hard we try.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Life in the Spirit’
A parable of Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
“No one puts a new piece of cloth on an old garment; otherwise the new makes a tear, nor takes a piece from an old garment to stitch on to the new the old does not match the new.
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.
“But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
“And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Jesus was responding to questions about why he and his disciples didn’t keep all the religious traditions and practices of the oral law. (Mt 9:14; Mk 2:18).
Those of us who are old enough can remember in our youth when cloth was first washed it always shrank and the dye always ran. So if a torn old shirt was being repaired it would have to be patched with a piece of old cloth. If a piece of un-shrunk new cloth was used the new cloth would shrink in the first wash and would tear the shirt again.
This was the point of Jesus’ story the old and new don’t mix.
Through this parable Jesus was saying to His critics, I have come to tell folks new news and its good. You don’t need to try hard to live up to all the old religious rules that always left you guilty. I’ve brought something new and different to the old. He didn’t come to patch up the old religion. Jesus brought something completely different.
Likewise with the new wine; new wine is bubbly, effervescent, expanding, contracting, unpredictable even explosive. If its put into dry, rigid old wineskins it will fizz and burst the wineskin. It needs a new wineskin that will stretch and make room for the fizz.
The old wine though is dependable predictable and palatable. It can be hard to give up for the new.
Man made religion is anything that we do by our own efforts to try to make ourselves more pleasing to God. And our own endeavours maybe pleasing to us, but are never enough to please God.
Personally I see man made religion as a form of birth control. Religion is Christianity using a condom, it’s a preventative to life.
We can get a great sense of achievement performing our religious acts and we can think that through them we gain favour with God.
When we do well the achievement puffs us up thinking we are better than others, and when we fail the guilt makes us think we’re worse than others.
But the apostle Paul confirms in Philippians 4:19 That God will supply all our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
To me that’s a ‘no brainer,’ I willingly swap my old man made religion with its traditions, and practices, in exchange for God’s glorious riches in Jesus.
The many religious expectations placed on people was bad news and old news and crushed people. Jesus was bringing new news and it was good news and it set people free.
Free from trying to change themselves into something they were not. Free to be themselves. Jesus came to do away with the old and establish the new.
In the story of the woman at the well in John 4 Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will satisfy our thirst for God. Significantly Jesus tells the woman that religion is finished. Both her religion and Jesus’ own religion.
He told her that the worship of God is now going to be totally spiritual. No longer about externals, what you do or don’t do, what traditions or practices you follow or don’t follow but about what is going on internally, in the deepest part of you, your spirit.
When its simply about us having a trusting relationship with God’s Spirit and not about what is expected of us, we suddenly have a level playing field. All are equal.
The highly intelligent person and the person with learning difficulties, the person who is stable emotionally and the person who suffers mental illness.
The outgoing caring person and the person who has difficulty in relating to people. We are all equal because its not about how we perform in life.
Its about that relationship of our spirit knowing the Spirit of God, our spirit wanting more of the Spirit of God; our spirit in unison with the Spirit of God is true worship.
And the fruit of what God’s Spirit does in us in and through us in that relationship, is the fruit that tastes so good to God.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘The Precious Promise’
The old covenant (contract) that I made with Israel in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant which they broke, even though I was a faithful to them.
However, this is the new covenant (contract) that I will make with the house of Israel.
After those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
"No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. I will forgive their sins completely, and I will remember their sins no more." Jer 31:32–34
In this covenant God says ‘I will’ 5 times. In scripture 5 is the number of grace. This is a hint that this contract God promised was based on Grace.
Its based on Him giving Israel something for nothing, they didn’t have to pay anything. It was a one way contract, an unconditional contract.
It was new and shocking! The Jewish religion was based on having to do, and not do a lot of stuff to please God. This new contract was one way, it was about God doing it all and Israel doing nothing.
It was as shocking as a landlord getting out the contract for a flat or house and signing up to promise to let you live in that property, maintain the property, do the repairs, provide a cooker, carpets, everything needed and asking you to do nothing. No rent to pay, nothing. Just enjoy the owners generous gift. The contract totally relies on the generosity and trustworthiness of the landlord. It would seem too good to be true.
We might walk away saying; ‘ nah! too good to be true, I don’t believe it! So we would miss out. However, if we trusted the landlord we could then move in and enjoy the property.
This new unconditional contract from God was totally different from the old covenant where the people agreed to obey 613 rules to the letter to be blessed by him.
The upshot of it all was that the people just had not been able to do what was asked of them in old covenant. They couldn’t be totally obedient to God. The covenant gave them the rules, but not the power or the ability to keep them. Religious rules bring disagreement and disharmony. Everyone argues about what the rules mean, and who is keeping them and who isn’t, who’s in and who’s out. If you can’t keep the rules you have to look as though you are, that leads to hypocrisy.
In the book of Romans Paul told his fellow Jews, who had become Christians, that God’s new contract, the new covenant, brought through Jesus, was a one way promise from God.
It relied on God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness and didn’t rely on flawed people. So no one could fail and no one had to pretend to be something they were not. Hypocrisy now not needed.
All that Israel had to do to get the benefits of this contract was to believe and trust in what God said. And God said ‘I will’ repeatedly. He didn’t say I will as long as you do something.
No, He said ‘I will’ no matter what you do or don’t do, just trust that I will.
He said “I will forgive your sins and I will not remember your sins.” All sins would be wiped out, past, present and future.
The Paul had problems with the Roman Christians. They said ‘Nah! Too good to be true!’. And they insisted on carrying on some rules and saying they were still essential.
The do’s and don’ts of their Jewish religion had a powerful hold over them, they seemed like the right way. So they said keeping their rules said made you more pleasing to God.
Paul wrote to the Jewish believers in Rome, Ro 4:14-15 “If those who live by the Jewish religion its rules and traditions and are correct in what they practice, faith has no value and what God said in His promise is made worthless.’ In Romans 3:27 Paul called this new covenant promise,
“the law of faith.” or simply the law of trust in God.
Though the covenant itself had no rules it did have order. In the first creation the law of nature was governed and set in order by God, and it ensures things work together in harmony.
With the New Creation the law of faith is governed and set in order by God. The three persons of the Trinity are ordered, they relate together in trust and harmony in the new creation. To participate in God’s nature we need to trust using the trust in Him that He plants in our hearts.
So in ‘the law of faith’ God’s people could participate, but not by natural human effort, but by a supernatural intimate relationship with God, brought about by faith in what God said.
The Old Covenant was to the Jew, the New Covenant promise was to the Jewish Christian. Paul’s Roman letter was to the Jewish Christian. What has all this got to do with us Gentile Christians? It’s all there for us to learn by, because the character of God doesn’t change.
It shows us that religious systems that rely on flawed humanity doing it right, always go wrong.
Flawed humanity guarantees failure.
The Jewish Christians had a promise based on God’s faithfulness that was so contrary to what they said ‘Nah! Too good to be true! We’ll do it the old way’. We too have a promise based on God’s faithfulness. Let’s grab it, and trust in His promise to us and go through life trusting in Him.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Confounding the Wise’s
1Co 1:25-31 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Brothers and Sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
Naaman was the commander of the Syrian Army. He was revered as a great soldier and used to only speaking to other people who were important and powerful. But he had leprosy.
The lowliest of his servants, a little Jewish girl who was his wife’s maid told his wife that Israel’s prophet Elisha, telling her the prophet could cure her husband’s leprosy. Naaman’s wife passed the message on to him.
With nothing to lose Naaman went to Israel but went straight to the most important person, the king, and asked for healing. The king was angry, he wasn’t God. No one is Israel had ever been healed from leprosy.
But Elisha, the prophet heard about this and sent his servant to offer help. When Naaman visited Elisha’s house, Elisha didn’t bother to see him but sent his servant to give Naaman instructions to bathe in the River Jordan to get healed. Naaman was livid, he wanted to see the boss, not an underling and he didn’t want to follow instructions that seemed stupid to him.
But he did. And he was healed. Elisha said God used him to heal Naaman. God did it without involving anyone important or powerful.
In the gospels there is a ‘certain woman’ with a discharge of blood for twelve years. She broke the religious law that forbade her to go out n public or touch anyone when she was bleeding and she pushed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ prayer shawl. She was healed. Jesus praised her faith.
She believed Jesus was the Messiah and knew the scripture (Mal 4:2) that said the Messiah would have ‘healing in his wings’. (The wings were the ‘wings’ of his prayer shawl).
The healing of Naaman is a story full of ignorance, bias, prejudice and pride. The healing of the woman a story full of knowing, focus, and faith.
Naaman’s story begins with a little Jewish girl, a person of that time and place of no significance, yet God used this girl, a nobody, as a messenger. Naaman’s ignorance, bias, prejudice and pride comes to the fore, because he doesn’t go to Elisha as the Jewish girl says, but to the King. Naaman went to, the important one when he should have gone to the one who was gifted.
Even when he did get to the prophet, then pride and prejudice got in the way, as the great army commander considered the prophets guidance beneath him.
Fortunately, God’s unconditional, unwarranted, undeserved favour is on Naaman, and God does not let Naaman’s humanity with all its failings get in the way of His plan and purpose.
The eyes of Naaman and the certain woman were fixed in two different directions. The man of brains and power looked through intellectual eyes, but the weak despised woman looked through eyes of faith.
Grace covered the lack of faith in Naaman and grace covered the abundant faith of the woman.
God and His grace has no prejudice. Do we need to take notice of this at this time? We who are so rich in the grace of God? We who have experienced so much prejudice, can we ourselves fall into the trap of being prejudiced against others?
In our humanity all of us have faults and failings. We each have different spiritual gifts but no one has them all. That’s why we are a body, we need each other to function properly. As we all have received grace we all must give grace. We need to ask the Lord’s help us show grace to each other.
God uses people we don’t expect. Not the intellectual but the gifted. He uses servants, not bosses, chosen prophets and not kings to fulfil His plans and purposes.
When we look at tonight’s text it fits us “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.’ Maybe we need the wisdom to see, ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…’
Liberty Church has much to rejoice about because God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and there is no church more despised by many other churches than us.
The grace of God is our strength, show grace to others who, like us, don’t deserve it. Let us boast in the Lord Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God, our righteousness, and holiness.
Extracts from Lynn’s Preach ‘I am who God says I am’
Romans 8: 14- 17 ………those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
What do Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs and Eleanor Roosevelt have in common? They were all adopted.
Adoption is very important to our family. All three of our kids have been adopted and because of that experience we know exactly what this passage in Romans is hinting at.
Three times now I have stood before a judge and been scrutinised to see if I was suitable to be awarded the privilege of taking an abused and neglected child into our family.
Adoption means that I wasn’t the birth mother of this child but the judge has deemed me worthy to take them from an abusive and neglectful situation and raise them as my own.
But it’s not just about raising them as if I had given birth to them it’s about healing and restoring the damage done in the past! It’s a commitment to healing that is for life.
This is a legal agreement is for life, no matter what those kids throw at us, what damage or pain they bring with them. I’m their mummy for life! And when my daughter wants to argue that point I simply say “I’m mum because the judge said so”.
In the Roman world that Paul lived in, children were often adopted but adults could be adopted as well. Sometimes a good master would adopt a slave.
There were different parts to Roman adoption that still stand today.
First, the adopted person or child gained all the rights of being in their new family. They received a new name, a new history (they are added onto the genealogy) and a new identity.
When we are adopted into the family of God we received the name child of God and the family we became a part of is made up of all those who know Jesus.
God is a good Father, he’s nothing like the father I had, or the fathers my children had. Paul writes that we have ‘the spirit of sonship’ and can cry out to God as ABBA, Father
ABBA means Daddy. Its such an intimate word. Some of us remember the film ‘the Railway Children’. The children’s father has been away for years and there is a very moving scene where a little girl is waiting on the platform as his train comes in. When she sees him she races towards him, arms out, crying ‘Daddy, my Daddy’ and he picks her up and hugs her tight. I cried! It was so moving. That’s ABBA, Daddy. That’s our new relationship with God.
We come into an intimate, perfect relationship with God the Father. We can run to him with our arms flung wide and cry out “Daddy, my Daddy”!
Second in Roman adoption the adopted child became heir to the father’s estate.
We have become heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ. Because of adoption my children can inherit everything I own in the world. Because of our spiritual adoption by God we become joint heirs with Christ. One of the things we inherit is his holiness. We also share in his suffering. Like in an earthly families we share in good times and bad times. In God’s family we walk in companionship with Jesus that can involve some suffering!
In Roman adoption the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out, they were regarded as a new person entering a new life where the past had no claim on them. When we are adopted into god’s family through faith in Jesus our sins, past, present and future, are wiped out. Spiritually we are new.
In addition, the old family had no more claim on the adopted person. They were totally the child of the adoptive parent. As with God, no one can pluck us out of His hands.
When people look down on me….., when people will say “Who do you think you are”, when people say that I’m not good enough, that I don’t belong…. Well TOUGH! I am who the Father says I am and I belong to HIM!
Jesus also gave us feminine images of God’s love for us. In Matthew Jesus said – “I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” What a beautiful image of God as a mother wrapping her wings around us and holding us to her breast!
God the good Daddy, God the Mummy hen with her chicks clinging on to her breast. Who are we? We are totally His.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘Hyper Grace’
1Corinthians 3:10 - 13 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.
For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus the Messiah.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay or stubble, every man’s work will be clearly seen in the light of day. Because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall show up every man’s work for exactly what it is.
Ephesians 18 - 22 For through Jesus we all have the right to enter into the presence the Father by one Spirit. And for this reason alone, we are no longer outsiders but we belong, fellow-citizens with God’s saints and equal members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with the Messiah Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in him we too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul says that no one can build on any other foundation apart from the one already laid which is the Messiah Jesus.
Then in the letter to the Ephesians we are told of building on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Confusing, two foundations?
Both foundations are based on an understanding that a church is a temple of the Holy Spirit. A place where God’s Spirit dwells, where God lives.
The Temple in Jerusalem had two foundations; one below ground that couldn’t actually be seen and a foundation above ground that could be seen.
The foundation above ground was the first row of stones that were laid upon the absolutely solid foundation already laid below ground.
There is no way that Nina and I would have started Liberty Church if we hadn’t felt that Jesus was asking us to do so.
And so we believe whole heartedly that Jesus sent us to this community and He laid the foundation and has the constructional details of the spiritual Temple He wants to build us into. Jesus is the foundation of this church. Our job is to ensure Jesus remains in place as the cornerstone.
The corner stone is the big stone placed in the first visible row of stones above ground. It stands squarely in the corner. We need to ensure that we, the living stones of this Temple’s walls, are in line with Him.
What do we know about building temples? Very little. That’s a great advantage because it encourages us to rely on Jesus all the way. Jesus the master builder lays the foundation. He places the cornerstone and all other stones so long as we don’t interfere.
Liberty began as non-denominational. Liberty is also non-sacramental, devoid of religious ceremonies and will remain so. Liberty was simply founded in faith according to God’s grace.
Our humanity, with its intellect and emotional needs is the adversary that opposes our faith that depends upon the faithfulness of God found in His grace.
Tonight's scripture says there is a choice of building with gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble. What do these building materials represent?
Gold represents Jesus’ deity, silver the redemption in Jesus and the precious stones, the light of Jesus, like the ‘Bling’, the dazzle or sparkle in a diamond.
Wood is a dead tree and represents humanity that is spiritually lifeless. Hay is dead, lifeless and seedless, unable to reproduce. Stubble is the dead dried up stalks of the crop that has been harvested which the farmer burns up.
So the scripture is saying we can choose to build with humanity, our intellects and limited abilities. Or we can build on that foundation that is Jesus by looking for Him to put His life into this Temple.
How do we build with Jesus’ materials? By faith in Him. By listening for Him, trusting in Him and responding to Him. By following his directions rather than our own ideas and emotions.
Soon after Liberty started I felt God tell me that like Abraham He was taking us into the Promised Land.
God was speaking to Nina at the same time saying, like Joshua He was taking us into the Promised Land.
Abraham represents faith and Joshua represents freedom. To enter the Promised Land we need faith in Him, and we need to be free from anything that might constrain, restrain or burden us.
The Promised Land is the land of faith and freedom. It’s living in faith in Him and its where we is where we find joy (mega-happiness). It is also the land of grace: unlimited grace that excludes no one.
Romans 5 says ‘Religion with its rules were added in so that failure might abound. But where failures abound, grace abounds all the more’. In the verse the word ‘abound’ occurs three times; twice the Greek means ‘increase’ but the third time the text uses a different Greek word ‘hyper-perisyoo.
Its saying that there is a ‘hyper grace’, a grace that exceeds, overflows and is beyond measure. I can imagine Paul sitting there writing trying to get a word big enough to describe this exceeding grace and coming up with hyper-perisyoo ...hyper grace!
I want to be in the place of hyper grace, the place of faith and double measures. The place of freedom, a place filled with the sweet aroma of Gods presence, a place where our experience of God can overflow and exceed human possibilities.
A place that’s free from the expectations, obligations and restrictions of religion, a place where we can be ourselves. A place of the supernatural and a place where Jesus is free to be Himself.
Extract from: Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 7
‘There is NO condemnation now for those who live united in Christ.
For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.
What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came as a man with a sinful human nature, to do away with sin.
God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to our human nature.
Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit inspires them to, have their minds directed by what the Spirit desires.
To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be inspired by the Spirit results in life and peace. ‘ Romans 8: 1 - 6
The last of the ‘in Christ’ statements found in the letter to the Ephesians is in Eph 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
The eternal purpose, or God’s plan, had always been to bring humanity into an eternal relationship with Himself. A relationship that is foolproof, that even we, in our worst moments, can’t mess up, can’t destroy.
It was always the will and intention of God to accomplish and fulfil His plan through and in Christ Jesus His Son.
Many of us failed at Christianity because of the never ending pressure to do more and more Christian Religious Activity and Performance. And the frustration, guilt and shame of never seeming to be able to do enough or to be good enough. I almost drowned in the C.R.A.P.
But then I met some very elderly men and women, retired missionaries who had lived for decades taking the gospel to the Untouchables in India, the poorest class despised by all. They had lived in severe poverty and had found, by experience that Jesus constantly led them, equipped them for the things they had to do and never, never let them down.
They never once spoke of striving to make themselves better, or more moral or kinder or more loving. No. They knew, they themselves had plenty of personal faults and failings. But they didn’t rely on their own goodness to keep them in relationship with God.
They relied on Jesus to keep them in that relationship and He was reliable, always.
I wanted the deep relationship with
God that they had and I saw that faith, trust in Him, was the way to
gain it. The C.R.A.P didn’t help in the slightest. So I ditched it and
gave up on all the activities and performances that I had put such
Mt 6:33 says ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness’. First what is the Kingdom of God? The apostle Paul tells us in Ro 14:17 ‘The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit….’
Paul tells us the Kingdom of God has spiritual power, it brings life and harmony with God.
Paul also tells us what the Kingdom of God isn’t; and that it is not being clever in words or speeches, or anything man-made, or external, for such things lack spiritual power.
The Kingdom of God, that Jesus, and later his disciples, preached was a compelling invitation to every woman and man to receive as a gift
Totally undeserved righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!
Now that is incredibly good news.
Jesus never asked people to repent or seek forgiveness; not the Samaritan woman, not the paralytic, nor the blind, deaf, lame or leprous, not the apostles including Paul, not even Peter after his denial.
All sin was cancelled out and righteousness (Jesus’ own righteousness) was given freely to people who didn’t deserve it.
Mr 1:4 tells us that John the Baptist preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And so many churches today preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The preaching of John not Jesus. A preacher said ‘God has no problem with sin because God had sent the answer, Jesus.’
It is a fallacy, a false teaching that our sins separate us from God, Nothing can separate us; only one thing spoils our relationship with God and that is unbelief.
Repentance and asking for forgiveness ended 2000 years ago. My prayer for today is ‘I believe, help me in my unbelief.’
The Christian life has to be lived in Christ, through and in union with the Spirit of Jesus. In total reliance upon the sufficiency that’s in the grace of God.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was like you scattering seeds. Just step back and watch them grow, watered from heaven they flower and bear fruit without any effort.
Jesus also said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, see how small it is but yet grows effortless into the largest tree in the garden
For 11 years I’ve preached that wonderful free gift given to us in Jesus: righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. In other words the gospel of grace. And I’ve seen this good, incredible, even fabulous news bring freedom to many.
Extract from: Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 6
Reading from Ephesians 3:14–19
‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’
In Ephesians 3:6 it says that as a body of believers we all share in God’s promise in Christ. On a ten pound note it says ‘I promise to pay the bearer £10’. Our monetary system, at its basic level, works on a promise. The promise on a banknote is an unconditional guarantee.
Christianity, at its basic level, works on a promise. The trouble is that often Christianity has gone away from that basic attitude of trusting in Gods promise. Christians often behave more as if God had given us a loan with conditions attached. But ‘In Christ’, God’s promises are unconditional lifetime guarantees and do not depend on our performance.
At the age of 15, when I first came to know and trust in Jesus, I was full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation. Well, my church soon knocked that out of me!
Over the following year I became, so I thought, more Christian. I became religious, meaning I did things with the aim of pleasing God. I involved myself in Christian Religious Activity. I thought that being a good Christian was based upon my Performance.
In Matthew 5 Jesus starts off the beatitudes about how those who are pure, meek, and merciful and thirsting after righteousness are blessed by God. My Christian Religious Activity and Performance gave me the illusion that it was possible to make myself like this. But really it wasn’t an illusion. It was a delusion that through my efforts I could achieve the compassion and moral excellence of Jesus. I tried and I failed.
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus’ command was to ‘Be perfect’. How perfect? ‘as perfect as God Himself.’ But try as I might with my Christian Religious Activity and Performance, I couldn’t be perfect.
I tried my best to be a goody two shoes. Failure left me feeling guilty and condemning myself I left the church.
I had failed in my Christian Religious Activity and Performance because it relied upon me. I was the problem. I was the weakness in the system. I was the weakest link.
When I came back to church, 20 years later, I was again full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation. But once I was back in the system that demanded performance I very quickly slipped back into my Christian Religious Activity and Performance.
This time, older and a bit wiser, I sussed out what everyone else in my church did about Jesus’ command to ‘be perfect’. They ignored it. They simply and concentrated on improving their Christian Religious Activity and Performance. They said that God is happy so long as you keep doing your best. The command to ‘be perfect’ was watered down to ‘do your best.’
My Promotion was very quick. I didn’t have to serve as clerk of the court, or as a solicitor or even a barrister No, I went straight in as a Judge and I was a judge who didn’t need a jury. In court Judges are seated higher than everyone else, it gives them the ability to look down on people. When I was doing well in my Christian Religious Activity and Performance I looked down on those who were not and this fed my pride. Judging others made me feel better about myself.
With my arrogance well topped up, my self righteousness blossomed. Interestingly the initials of Christian Religious Activity and Performance make up C.R.A.P. I was once full of excitement, enthusiasm, exuberance and expectation now I was full of C.R.A.P!
All my C.R.A.P. just made me tired, not perfect. So at last I stopped trying to make myself pleasing to God. There was no point as I could never do it. I gave up my C.R.A.P. Instead, just as I was, with no pretence or performance I turned to Jesus. My prayer was that I wanted to know him.
A few months later in answer to that prayer, I found myself face to face with a woman I looked down on with distaste. She was homeless and I saw her as a scrounger and too lazy to work. (I later realised how wrong I had been). But as this woman spoke to me, miraculously despite my prejudice, I felt tremendous love for her. A flood of emotion entered the top of my head and flowed through my entire body. It was incredible. I felt as though I was glowing. I knew it was Jesus’ love and compassion for her. For just a few minutes, I felt overwhelmed with the love of Jesus for this woman.
And for those few precious minutes, I believe, as far as is humanly possible, I was filled with the fullness of God. Jesus himself had fulfilled in me Mt 5:48 to be perfect. I no longer had to ignore the demand of this verse. In Jesus I had the supply… of His perfect love and compassion.
His perfect love was within me and at that moment He chose to show it. The promise in Christ could be manifested at any time of His choosing according to the perfect plan and purpose of God in Christ Jesus. And when it was not being manifested I didn’t have to force myself to try to make it happen.
Like Paul prayed for the early believers in Ephesus I pray now that, according to the riches of God’s glory, you are strengthened, with his power, by his Spirit, in your inner being.
I pray that Christ Himself dwells in your hearts by faith…I pray that you are rooted and grounded his love.
I pray that as you truly grasp how vast God’s love is and know this love as part of your daily life, that the promise of God in Christ Jesus will be manifested in you.
I pray that each of you at Liberty Church will know times when the perfect love found only in Christ Jesus will be demonstrated in you. And that you will rest in the knowledge of His wonderful love for you, just as you are, without labouring under the oppressive pressure of trying to change any aspect of yourself.
Lord fill us with excitement and enthusiasm for you! Fill us with exuberance and expectation for the things your love will do in our lives. Fill us with the promise of your Spirit. Now to you who can do far more in us than we could ever think or imagine, according to your power within us, to you be the glory by Christ and in Christ. Amen.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 5
Extracts from Matthew 27:37 -46
The guards placed a written accusation above his head. It read, "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews." At that time they crucified two criminals with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those who passed by insulted him………..
………At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
We continue the theme ‘in Christ’ as found in the book of Ephesians. Eph 2:13 ‘But now in Christ Jesus you who were separated and afar off, are made near in the blood of Christ.’
We sing a song to the Lord ‘You’re Beautiful’. Beautiful according to my dictionary means lovely… exceedingly good… of extreme excellence.
I’m going to tell a story of two women, both found in a garden. The first woman represents humanity in the first creation, the creation of the physical world.
The second woman represents all those in the new creation, the spiritual creation resulting from re-birth in the Holy Spirit. Scripture refers to those in Christ as ‘the bride of Christ’.
The story: It was a beautiful day in a beautiful garden. A beautiful God had made them both. A beautiful woman walked in this beautiful garden and saw a beautiful tree.
The beautiful woman wanted the fruit on the beautiful tree and mistakenly she thought that the beautiful fruit would add to her beauty. But the beautiful woman was already exceedingly beautiful because she was made in God’s own image.
Neither the tree nor the fruit had the exceedingly beautiful image of the beautiful God. When the beautiful woman swallowed the beautiful fruit she swallowed a lie, she was deceived by her won desire for more, and that ruined her true beauty.
The woman had stopped trusting God, God and the woman were separated. No longer did the woman possess God’s beauty. The woman was now so separated from God’s life that now she would experience ultimate separation from him and would die.
God wanted the woman back; the woman was part of His love, part of His life. God knew that only He could bridge the gulf of death between them and restore life. And so, thousands of years later God, through his Son reached out to restore that precious relationship.
It was the plan of the divine exchange. God’s Son Jesus would take into Himself all the flaws, the faults and failings of the woman and in exchange God’s Son would freely give His qualities to the woman.
od’s substitute Jesus was buried in a beautiful garden. A beautiful woman, Mary Magdalene, walked in that beautiful garden on a beautiful day. She saw that the tomb was empty and she saw a beautiful man, Jesus.
This beautiful woman hadn’t always been beautiful. There had been an ugliness about her until earlier in her life she had met Jesus. And Jesus had exchanged his beauty for her ugliness. The exchange was so profound that her only desire was now for more of Jesus.
No longer separated God and the woman once again walked together in a garden. And the beautiful woman saw herself as Jesus saw her, a new creation living in the image of her Saviour.
In the new creation, as in the first creation God made His children in His image. He made us spiritually lovely, exceedingly good and extremely beautiful. But through the centuries those who are created anew have over and over again tried to add to what God has done.
It’s as foolish as ‘gilding a lily’ trying to make a lily that is perfectly beautiful, even more beautiful by our efforts. The result always spoils the original.
A lily created by God is alive, it sways in the wind displaying its different colours, shades, textures. It produces a wonderful scent and feeds the insects. It can reproduce and give life in its seeds that grow into more lilies.
A lily gilded, meaning covered in gold, is lifeless. Its shape is beautiful but its stiff and rigid and compared to the living lily it’s dull. There is no variation in colours and textures, no scent, no seeds and no nectar and pollen. It’s stiff its dead. Adding man made beauty to it only spoiled it.
Why is it that we desire to make ourselves more like Jesus when over and over in scripture God says already have the image of Jesus? Why do we strain for man made beauty and goodness when we have God’s?
As Paul writes of the divine exchange: 1Co 15:49 ‘…we once bore the image of the earthy, we now bear the image of the heavenly.’
We don’t need to gild the lily and become lifeless. We can see ourselves as God sees us, in Christ, excelling in loveliness, extreme in goodness and exceedingly beautiful.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 4
Tonight’s readings are extracts from Ephesians 1 and
I pray that the
eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know
how immense is his power at work in us who believe.
working in us is the same divine energy which he exerted in Christ when
he raised him from the dead and
seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
Because of his
great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made
us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our
un-righteousness—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised
us up with Christ and seated us
with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in
the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us through Christ Jesus.
For it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith—and
this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God it’s not the result
of anything you’ve done, so that no-one can boast.
we are God’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus.
The Big Bang theory states that the cosmos originated
from nothing. This theory coincides with my belief in God who created
everything out of nothing. God spoke from infinity, from eternity and an
explosion of light and energy occurred and there it was, the creation of
the heavens and the earth .
We can’t imagine the power of such an event… it’s beyond us.
I regard the six days of creation in Genesis as each
symbolising an age of development. Light in the first age, second age
atmosphere and land light, third age plants and trees etc.
The progression is light, from light comes energy and from the light and energy comes life.
In 2Co 5:17 it says: ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a
The Genesis creation story and the New Creation story
have similarities. The physical creation of the earth started with
light. The New Creation, coming into relationship with Jesus starts with
light, Jesus shining His light into our spiritual darkness.
From His light comes an energising by the Holy Spirit
and that brings spiritual life In the physical creation life first
appears on the third day. Spiritually resurrection life first came on
the third day.
In creation the sun is the source of light and the moon reflects that light. In the New Creation
Jesus is the
source of our light. We reflect his light as we have once again the image of God.
According to Genesis God intended from the beginning
that humanity should bear his image. That image was lost but, through
the salvation Jesus brings, it is restored.
Genesis says on the 7th day
God rested when creation was completed.
Jesus rested when the work of salvation was completed. Jesus sat
down, rested, as tonight’s reading tells us
Ephesians also tells us that we are created in Christ
and, spiritually speaking, we are
seated in heaven. Being seated signifies being in at rest.
As the new creation
we can rest in what has been done for us. Jesus has done
all the work to make our
salvation and our standing with God complete. Sit down, feet up, chill!
Because of your communion in the gospel from the first day until
now, be confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.
These 2 verses tell us our new life created in Christ
is completed in Christ. It is
from infinity, eternity, the
power of God gives us new life and completes new life in us.
This immense power that created the cosmos is the
same infinite power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power
that gives is new life.
We have God’s potential. There is within us is the
capability to do the extraordinary, to bring others into this new life.
Because the infinite power that brought life to the
cosmos, the infinite power that resurrected Jesus from the dead, the
infinite power that gave us life in Christ… lives on within in us.
As in the beginning the Spirit hovered over creation…
the same Spirit now hovers over the new creation, over us,
to bring light and energy and
life to others
The same Spirit brings the infinite power to release
the infinite power of Jesus’ life within each new creation.
We are saved by the infinite power of grace. We are
saved by the infinite power of faith.
We tend to under estimate the power of grace and
faith but yet, that’s what brought us here tonight to be God’s church,
God’s people sharing his life together.
Liberty was born from eternity, by God’s divine power
bringing new life. By its very nature life reproduces and we will
continue to see Liberty bring new life to many.
It will be through the
infinite power of grace…
The infinite life of God in Christ…
to the praise of His glory.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ’ Part 3
Ephesians 1:11 - 14
We have obtained
an inheritance in Christ our Lord, being chosen according to the purpose
of God who works out all things according to His will, so that we… who
first trusted in Christ… should be to the
praise of His glory.
And you also
trusted In Him, after we heard the truth in the good news of our
salvation. In Jesus, you having believed, we were sealed with the Holy
Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance …to
the praise of His glory.
We are continuing to look at the phrase ‘In
Christ’ that we find 10 times in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the
Ephesians. In the four verses of the text Paul twice uses the phrase ‘to
the praise of His glory’.
He says ‘that we who
first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory’ and
then later says you also
trusted in Him are to the praise of his glory. According to the
context the ‘we’ meant Jewish Christians and the ‘you also’ meant Non
This was written in an incredibly racist world where
Jews looked down on non Jews, the Gentiles. Jews considered the Gentiles
unclean, unfit and undesirable.
They kept them at a
But here Paul puts them on a par,
giving them equality brought about purely through trust in Christ.
It was a shocking statement, a revolutionary
statement. An all inclusive statement if I’ve ever heard one. It
includes everyone, with no exceptions, ‘to the praise of His glory’. I
see the good news of Jesus as being
all inclusive and that
message to me rings loud and clear above all else.
According to Paul being ‘in Christ’ gives us equality
but also lifts us up as he says we all are ‘to the praise of His glory’.
And that is just by being ourselves, being in Him. This is not about
doing its simply about being.
I want to explain this by telling a story. A
schoolgirl choir called ‘Angelicus’ had an audition on
Britain’s Got Talent. You can Google it to see the audition.
The girls said that they were inspired by their teacher Mr Williams and
they had become a choir because of what he had done for them. The camera
panned to a very frail looking man in the audience.
They said that Mr Williams had had a bad car accident that year and was
The choir of 12 to 16 year olds then sang ‘Nessun
Dorma’. It was stunningly beautiful. The audience and the judges were
on their feet applauding,
including Simon Cowell. Then Simon Cowell asked Mr Williams to come up
to the front. He had difficulty walking and needed help to walk but
the applause for him was deafening!
The girls were so proud of what he had done for them
that evening. They gave him glory and you could see Mr Williams was so
incredibly proud of them.
For Mr Williams that wonderful choir was
to the praise of his glory.
It proved his great love of
music and his dedication to
teaching the girls. The audience had heard the choir and wanted to
applaud Mr Williams for what he had done.
We who know Jesus have come to know him because of
his great love for us and his
dedication to us. He gave his
very life for us.
The difference between Mr Williams and Jesus is that we don’t need to perform for Jesus.
We give Him glory just by being who we are in Him.
It is God who formed and fashioned us in the womb and
until this very moment in our lives in Christ. Jesus is incredibly proud
of us. We are ‘to the praise of
We are the evidence that Jesus succeeded on the
cross, we show His resurrection, we bear witness that He closed shut the
separation between God and humanity. We are the proof that what Jesus
did bore fruit. The fruit is each one of us who have come into a living
relationship with Him.
And just by knowing Him and loving him
we add to his glory. We are
the redeemed, the holy ones of God. We are ‘to
the praise of His glory’. We are the ones who live in the light of
his life and presence. We are the crowning achievement of all Jesus did
To those who think we are
unclean, unfit and undesirable and that we should be kept at a distance;
it’s not what they think that matters, it’s what Jesus thinks. It’s what
is being thought about us and said about us in Heaven,
we are ‘to the praise of His glory’
We must always remember it is not even what we think
of ourselves in human terms that matters.Our human condition or our
human frailties matter not a jot to Jesus, He is dedicated to us just as
Whether we sing in tune or sing out of tune down here
doesn’t matter, we are a choir in perfect harmony in Christ in heaven.
We’re all appearing at the royal command performance singing praises;
for our King and to our King.
God has pressed the golden buzzer, we’ve won the
final our names are in lights, we’re top of the bill, all of us
individually and collectively headliners. All of heaven along with Jesus
are on their feet and applauding,
because we are to the praise
of His glory.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ' Part 2
Taken from Colossians 1:15 – 22
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether powers or
rulers or authorities; all things were created by him & for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body,
the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was
pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and
through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on
earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on
Once you were separated from God and alienated because of your untrusting ways.
he has reconciled you by
Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight,
blameless and free from accusation
We are looking at the 10 times the Apostle Paul uses the term in Christ in the book of Ephesians. The third is in Eph 1:10 where it says:
to His will, His purpose and
plan, in the
fullness of the time, God will gather together in one,
in Christ, both
which are in heaven and which are on earth’
It simply means God is going to restore everything back to the way it was in the beginning.
Scripture records that in the beginning everything
was very good. The original Hebrew text of Genesis says
exceedingly good. (Like a Mr Kipling’s cake!)
In tonight’s reading says how in the beginning God
created everything in Christ…
in the end God restores everything
in Christ… once again making
everything exceedingly good.
So what happened in the beginning that’s in need of restoring at the end?
In the beginning God was in an intimate, life giving
relationship with humanity.
In the Genesis creation story humanity lived in the simplicity of trusting in God. The Lord advised Adam (representing humanity), not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. This tree would give them moral knowledge and the power to judge themselves and to judge God. It would feed their pride but would not give them the ability to be exceedingly good, or do good exceedingly
God hatched another plan,
Plan B. God chose a nation to relate to. They had the ability to
judge through the knowledge of good and bad and God spelt out the rules
to live by. He knew they would not be able to keep these rules so there
was a remedy.
When the people failed to be exceedingly good an
animal could die in their place as a sacrifice and so keep the
relationship with God intact. But humanity’s ego and pride came in. They
trusted their own judgement instead of God. Relationships are built on
trust. Separation was the only answer.
Plan C. THIS relationship would depend upon God alone. Now people
would not need to know what was good or how to do good because God
himself would live in them. His life and His goodness would be in them.
All they needed to do was trust in Him.
There would be no system, no rules to religiously
keep, because God would do it all. God had created everything through
the Word. He recreated everything through the Word.
So the Word became flesh.
Plan C was JC, God’s son as a human being who was exceedingly good.
It was a glorious plan. JC would keep absolute trust in God He would be
exceedingly good and do good exceedingly.
JC would not eat of the tree of knowledge.
JC wasn’t here to judge but to
save. JC only did, and JC only said what God empowered Him to say or do.
plan A … the simplicity of trusting God. And JC fulfilled Plan B the religious
system. JC kept every rule, every ceremony, every sacrifice exceedingly
well. He fulfilled plan B.
Plan C was trust on another level, because to fulfil
Plan C JC had to be the exceedingly good sacrifice that had to die and
JC had to trust God that He would rise again.So on resurrection day God
filled JC with His life. A union between JC and God took place. God had
at last what was intended from the beginning,
a union and relationship with JC
who was human.
The glory of plan C was that when people trusted in
JC, JC would become one with them. It would be a marriage made in
heaven, the two would become one flesh because JC is flesh. But also in
this marriage the two would become one spirit.
The lives of
those united with JC would be hidden in JC. They would become
exceedingly good simply because they were
united in JC’s exceeding goodness. And as long as they trusted in
JC, together they would do good exceedingly.
Plan C is a relationship built on trust and when
God’s people continue in trust the relationship develops, grows and
matures and becomes exceedingly good. If you are in Christ you are in
the ongoing plan C. You are part of something that is exceedingly good.
Scripture tells us that all those in Christ, those in
heaven and those on earth united in a relationship with God, will never
ever again be separated from Him.
Because of JC nothing ever again, absolutely nothing
can separate us from the love of God. We are in JC;
in Christ, from head to foot, from inside out and from outside in.
What a joy to know that we are exceedingly good in the exceedingly good
Jim’s Preach ‘In Christ Part 1’
Ephesians 1:1 –
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
saints in Ephesus, the
faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the
heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us
in him before the creation of the world to be
holy and blameless in his sight. Because of His love God had already
decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons and
daughters, this was his will and purpose.
To the praise of
his glorious grace, which he has
freely given us in his dear Son Jesus.
The theme in Ephesians is that the life of the saint
is not about doing... but about
In Ephesians Paul uses the phrase
‘In Jesus’ 7 times and the
phrase ‘In Christ’ 10 times.
7 is the number of perfection and 10 is the number of
Christ is not Jesus’ surname. Christ is a formal title (an identifying name signifying status).
Messiah and Christ both literally mean ‘Anointed One’
Paul is writing to Christians and he calls these believers saints and faithful. Saint is a formal title (an identifying name signifying status). Saint means ‘holy one’. Paul is saying that those who are in Christ are holy ones.
Jesus the ‘anointed one’ was the Messiah, the Christ,
not by what He did, His indentifying name was not by doing, it was by
being. Our identifying name saint is not by doing it is by being. Being
a saint is not of ourselves we cannot make ourselves holy.
Last week I spoke about the Charles Wesley hymn
‘And Can it Be’. I said
Charles had been bound by the chains of religion. He had been an
ordained minister but he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.
Then he received the revelation that this
relationship came solely thro faith as, for the first time he
encountered Jesus. He experienced a release from the demands his
religion put on him and the guilt of
failing to meet those demands. He found Christianity was
not about doing but about being.
Charles expressed his joy of coming into relationship
and being released from impossible demands in the line
‘My chains fell off my heart was
free I rose went forth and followed thee’.
I knew a man called Alan, who said he had been in his
church for 30 years before he became a Christian. For 30 years he’d
thought he was a Christian then Alan met Jesus and came into a
relationship. Alan discovered that Christian life was
not about doing but about being.
Religion tells us that sacraments are outward signs
of an inward grace. Charles Wesley and Alan practiced the outward signs
for years but never experienced the inward grace. The outward sign
cannot create the inward grace. Only knowing the Lord Jesus brings about
the inward grace.
You can take holy communion and not have communion
that is holy. You can have religion and not have a relationship. We
don’t have to rely on what we can do but can rely on what Jesus has
Jesus prayed in John 17 that all (without exception) who believed in Him would be one in Him.
We all want a relationship, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a partner. The desire is in our being. God wants relationship, that’s where we get that desire from. And He has made that a possibility ‘by blessing us with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Eph1:3). He has given us everything we need for a relationship with God. Because the Christian life is not about doing but about being.
There are 5 relationship gifts: 1. the gift of grace (Ro 5:15) 2. the gift of faith (Eph 2:8) 3. the gift of righteousness (Ro 5:17) 4. the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38) 5, gift of eternal life (Ro 6:23).
Five gifts that give you and keep you in a
relationship in Jesus, with
The gift of eternal life tells you how long the
relationship will last. For ever: no break ups, no separation. None of
these gifts can be gained by going to church or being good. They are
free gifts from God.
Galatians 3 tells us Christ redeemed us so that we
would inherit the blessing of Abram. That blessing was the promise made
to Abram Ge 12:2 ‘I will bless you …
and you will be a blessing’
God promised to bless Abram. Who was Abram going to
be a blessing to? God.
Any relationship should be based upon blessing one
another. Despite my jokes, Nina and I above all want bless one another;
we want to do each other good.
God wanted a relationship with Abram and so God had
to give Abram the ingredients for it.
Read Abram’s story. He wasn’t perfect by any means.
By our standards he was a lying, incestuous, adulterer. Not exactly the
model lifestyle of a saint and YET....
It didn’t matter. Because his relationship with God
was not about doing but about
Our relationship is not about doing but about being,
and being in Christ Jesus.
As it is written, Ac 17:28 ‘For
in the Lord we live, and move, and have our
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus’ Part 4
Extracts from Luke 8:43 - 48
In the crowd that day was a woman who had been subject to menstrual bleeding for twelve years, but no doctor could cure her.
She came up
behind Jesus and touched the hem of his garment, and immediately her
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said,
"Someone touched me; I felt power go out from me."
When the woman
realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she came trembling and fell at
his feet. In front of all the people, she told why she had touched him
and how she had been instantly healed.
Then Jesus said
to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
Continuing the theme
in Jesus found seven times in the book of Ephesians
‘In Jesus’ is how God sees those who trust in His Son
and become the children of God enjoying forgiveness of sin, an
inheritance of ancestral promises first made to Abraham, and a temple of
Saint means ‘holy one’. It’s His presence in us that makes us holy.
1Co 6:17 says ‘Those that are united to the Lord are
And so to the 7th and final ‘In Jesus’ in the book of Ephesians. In Jesus and through faith in Jesus we can boldly approach God with freedom and confidence.
In tonight’s reading a woman who was slowly bleeding
to death (menorrhagia) dared to push through the crowd to touch Jesus.
Her bleeding, according to religious law,
made her ceremonially unclean
and anyone she touched would automatically become unclean too. She had
been shunned by everyone for 12 years because no one wanted to be
contaminated by her.
But this woman had the faith to
challenge the law and its rules that condemned her. As this woman
reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment instead of Jesus
becoming unclean, according to the religious law, His righteousness
flowed out to the woman and made
her clean. Immediately this woman stopped bleeding.
The boldness of her faith in Jesus was greater than
the law but then her boldness deserted her! She knew the law that
discriminated against her. Joy turned to fear as Jesus suddenly said
‘Who touched me?’ And everyone else who discriminated against her looked
But instead of getting a rollicking she was shocked
to find that Jesus was delighted for her!
How many of us have
tried to get near to Jesus, only to let religious rules come and
convince us we’re not good enough and frighten us off? It happened to
me. Has it happened to you?
So the last ‘in Jesus’ of Ephesians says that ‘In
Jesus’ and through faith in him we may
boldly approach God with
freedom and confidence. Anytime, no matter what! Simply because we’re
in Jesus. Being
in Jesus makes us good
Charles Wesley was an Anglican minister who had a
knowledge of God but didn’t know Him. That is, until he read a book by
Martin Luther explaining the book of Galatians. A light came on and for
the very first time Charles discovered the peace of knowing total
acceptance from God that comes through faith alone.
His eyes were opened to the
massive extent of God’s love and he was amazed.
As a result he wrote his famous hymn called ‘And
can it be?’ These are some of his words:
How can it be,/ That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?/… ’Tis mercy
all, immense and free,/For, O my God, it found out me!/ Long my
imprisoned spirit lay,/Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;/ Thine eye
diffused a quick’ning ray—/I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,/I rose, went forth, and followed Thee./
No condemnation now I dread;/Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;/Alive
in Him, my living Head, /And
clothed in righteousness
divine,/Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,/And claim the crown, through
Christ my own.
Charles discovered that God freely pours His amazing love and limitless grace over him without Charles having to earn or deserve it. God’s amazing love made him free to follow Jesus without the chains of religion’s expectations binding him up.
Before this Charles had felt imprisoned, bound up in
a religious system whose demands he could never meet. It felt like being
locked in a dark dungeon. So many of us have felt trapped by that that
failure of being able to live up to what we are told we must do to be
But then Jesus revealed the
immensity of His love to Charles, love that doesn’t apply conditions
and rules but love that is totally unconditional. The chains of the do’s
and don’ts of religion had told him that no matter how hard he tried he
could never be good enough. Those chains had worn him down and stopped
him being himself.
The condemnation and guilt he used to carry were
gone! Charles now knew that he was
in Jesus, in whom he had
forgiveness and an inheritance
and the boldness not only to touch Jesus’ garment but the
boldness to approach God Himself
at any time, no matter what was happening in his life.
In Jesus Charles had the boldness of faith to claim the crown of righteousness that Jesus had bought for him. Jesus has bought a crown of righteousness for you and me. All we need like Charles is the boldness of faith to claim our crown in Jesus in whom we trust.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus 3’
Ephesians 2:14 –
Jesus Himself is our peace, He has made both Jew and Gentile as one and has destroyed all the
barriers, torn down all the walls that divided men and women,
He did this by
abolishing the law with its
commandments and regulations. When He died
the law died with Him. His
purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the Jew and the
Gentile and men and woman, so making peace,
us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace
one another, and accept our differences and diversity.
Christ came and
preached peace to all that listened, treating all as equals.
through him we all have access to the God by one Spirit.
you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s
people and more than that, you’re family. This is all built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as
the chief cornerstone.
In Jesus the whole building is joined together ……to become a holy temple in the Lord.
in Jesus you too are being
built together to become a house in which God lives by his Spirit.
In Ephesians Paul states 7 times that as Christians
we are ‘In Jesus’. We have
the benefits of being in Jesus,
the benefits known as the Divine Exchange (see last week).
God see us as redeemed people who have a tremendous inheritance, who possess the gift of faith from Him and are sealed with the Holy Spirit so we can never lose what He has promised us and given us.
But how do we see ourselves? Do we dare see ourselves
as God sees us?
Church and society have judged many of us negatively.
Criticism and bullying affect us and give us a tendency to have a low
opinion of ourselves.
But God treasures each one of us as precious to Him and loves and accepts us exactly as we are.
That’s why He chose us, I’ve never known yet for God
to make a wrong choice.
It’s hard for us to think spiritually and grasp that
because we are ‘In Jesus’ God
sees us as perfect (Col 3:3).
Paul writes, that we who trust in Jesus are God’s
Temple. Like the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. Solomon built
the temple precisely according to the plans God had given him.
Imagine having the money to build your own house,
furnish it just as you liked and position it exactly where you want with
the outlook you would like.
When Solomon finished the Temple he dedicated it to
God and scripture tells us in 1Kings 18 that the presence of the Lord
came and took up residence in His new house. The Jews called the visible
glory of God the Shekinah glory (Shekinah meaning presence or dwell).
God’s presence was so powerful it totally overwhelmed
the priests and stopped them performing their duties, instead they were
overcome with awe of God. The temple became Holy the moment God moved
in. It was His presence that made
In the story of Moses and the burning bush, God told
Moses he was on holy ground. It was
God’s presence that made it holy,
it wasn’t holy of itself.
Back to Solomon’s Temple. Scripture tells us that
Solomon’s Temple symbolised the Temple to come, which would be made of
people. It was to be flesh and blood not stone . God’s Temple today is
each one of us who knows Him.
Each one of us is unique and designed by God. And at
the moment when we come to trust in Jesus, God himself takes up
residence within us. We become God’s temple, God’s house, the place
where God dwells. And we are made
holy by his presence within us.
And each of us is unique with unique life experiences
and a unique outlook on life.
God’s homes throughout human history are all
different with different aspects and features in different locations and
different outlooks. Each Christian is different. Each Christian is home
to God and each one is holy
because of God’s abiding presence. God’s Shekinah glory, God’s
tangible presence is within.
And every time Christians gather together God’s
presence is among us. So, Liberty is God’s house. I’m not talking about
the bricks and mortar that surround us but the body of saints that
gather together make it God’s house.
And His presence among us makes Liberty a
holy residence. God is the
Architect of the House of Liberty and God is building it according to
His plan and furnishing it with those He has called to be here.
He has chosen each of us for our uniqueness and sees us as precious and holy to Him.
God wants His house to be filled with joy; a happy
and pleasant place for Him to live in. And a home where He can share His
peace, rest and to maybe recover from the stresses of life.
God also wants to share Liberty, His temple, His house. He wants to make it a home where people can come in and meet Him and know the joy of the new life He brings... In Jesus.
Jim’s Preach ‘In Jesus 2’
Extracts from Ephesians 1
To the praise of the glory of God’s grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved Son Jesus.
In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us
In Jesus we also have received an inheritance, being
you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy
Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance
When there is
surplus of fruit you can preserve them by bottling. First jars have to
be washed and sterilised. There can’t be any contamination or the fruit
will spoil, every jar has to be spotless. The fruit is then packed tight
into the jars and a lid is put on to seal it. Nothing can then get in to
contaminate or spoil the wonderful fruit inside.
become saints by believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus God sees us as
being in Jesus. The apostle
Paul records in Ephesians the wonderful gifts we have
God’s plan and purpose when he looks at us He chooses to see His Son
Jesus instead of us; human beings with all our faults and failings. From
the moment that we believe in Jesus, in God’s eyes our lives are hidden
in Jesus (Col 3:3).
reading it says… ‘In Jesus
we have redemption’ meaning He paid the price for the forgiveness of our
sins. And that’s ALL of them, past, present and future. What an
outrageous gospel, what an outrageous grace!
forgiven makes us spotlessly clean – a bit like the jars washed clean
and sterilised from every possible germ.
That level of cleanliness makes us immediately fit for heaven.
Scripture records that Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever and because we are in Jesus we are spotlessly clean, yesterday, today and forever.
received an infinite amount of undeserved favour from God, a massive
Grace Gift ticket. So much grace that we’d have no chance of using it up
even in 100 lifetimes.
than enough grace for each and every situation or circumstance… we can
never earn it, no one can.
We can never
fall out of grace or fall away from grace. We can only ever
fall into grace and it is
always more than enough for our needs.
So we are
spiritually cleansed in Jesus
– like the jars were cleansed. What was next in the kitchen? The
filling – all that precious fruit is put inside sterilised spotless
says we that in Jesus we
have an inheritance. The
inheritance is every promise made by God to the ancestors of Jesus e.g.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These promises, for example the one He made to
Abraham ‘I’ll will bless you and make you a blessing’ have been passed
down throughout the generations of Jesus’ family.
Paul said Ro
8:17 we are joint heirs in Christ. We don’t have to do anything to
inherit… it’s ours guaranteed simply because of who we are, God’s
daughters and sons.
goes on to say about our trust in Jesus, we trust Him because we heard
about Him one way or another. I say one way or another because folks
come to know Jesus in such a variety of ways. It’s always the right way
for each individual.
the verse in Ephesians 1 ends ‘What you personally heard
was your good news of your salvation’. To make that plain, it was
the good news of your freedom, free to be yourself and freedom from
everything that at one time came between you and God.
the very instant we believe, is what’s called the Divine Exchange…
Jesus made Himself nothing… to give us everything
He accepted the poverty of earth… to give us the riches of heaven
He took our punishment… to give us forgiveness
He was cursed… so that we would be blessed ,He took our sin… and gave us His righteousness
He took our guilt… to give us his glory, He endured rejection … to give us acceptance with God
He lived a temporal life… to give us eternal life
He died darkness…to give us life in His glorious light
victorious from death… to make us
conquerors in life
knowing it, at the very moment we trusted in Jesus, the divine exchange
took place. And Paul tells us that we were
immediately sealed by the Holy
Spirit. And that takes us back to the preserved fruit. Paul writes
2Co 4:7 that we have this treasure in jars.
spotless by Jesus then filled with His love, His righteousness, His
holiness, the inheritance, the promises, the blessings and the Spirit’s
fruit. Jars sealed with His love by the Spirit.
And because of that spiritual seal nothing we can do can ever contaminate it. Nothing can pollute it, nothing can spoil it. We are sealed in and preserved eternally, in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'In Jesus'
John 14:16 – 20:
Jesus makes a promise to His brothers and sisters
I will talk to
the Father, and He’ll provide you
another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.
This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!
"I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back.
In just a little
while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me
because I am alive and you’re about to come alive.
At that moment
you will know absolutely that I’m
in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian saints, he repeats the phrase ‘In Jesus’ seven times.
Seven is the number of perfection. It’s a bit of an
odd thing to be ‘in’ Jesus.
I often find myself
in trouble…, in Nina’s
bad books, in dickeys meadow.
I know exactly what all those things mean and the consequences of them.
Jesus??? What does that mean
and what are the consequences?
When Paul wrote that letter to the saints in Ephesus
(Eph 3:4) he told them about the revelation
the Holy Spirit had given him,
his ”insight into the Mystery of Jesus Christ”.
A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. We live in the natural world whereas Jesus lives in a supernatural realm. And we need inspiration from the Holy Spirit to grasp something spiritually that our minds cannot explain.
I have firsthand knowledge that knowing the nature of
Jesus only comes through experiencing Him, and increasingly over time,
He reveals Himself to us.
Jesus, born an ordinary man stepped into our world
with an invitation for us to step into His realm. Because of the sin of
unbelief, humanity had lost their relationship with God and were
separated from Him. But God gave the perfect substitute, His Son, to pay
the redemption price to bring humanity back into close connection with
That reminds me of my chocolate gateau voucher.
I have an Iceland voucher that I
can exchange for a free jumbo chocolate gateau for
I didn’t earn it. I trust that when I present the
voucher in Iceland, I’ll receive the cake because it’s already paid for.
That’s like our redemption. When every saint gets to
heaven they give their redemption voucher which reads: ‘This person
knows and loves Jesus.’ So each saint has full access to heaven because
the price of entry has already been paid in full.
And the wonderful thing is that spiritually we can
enter heaven, His realm, right now. There are times in life when the
sense of His presence is overwhelming and we get little tastes of
God’s viewpoint is that because we trust in Jesus our
lives are hidden in His life (Col 3:3). When God looks at us he sees
Jesus enfolding us. To God we are
Another consequence of spiritually
being in Jesus is that we are
the spiritual descendents of Abraham and inherit all the promises that
God gave to him (Galatians 3:29). Simply because we are
in Jesus we have an inheritance and we inherit all those wonderful
promises that Abraham was given ‘I will lead
you, I will guide you, I will bless you etc, etc and a thousand
We are also able to share in Jesus’ divine nature.
Peter confirms it in his 2nd
letter 2Pe 1:4 ‘…God has given us (note, a gift, not anything
earned) his very great and precious promises, so that through them you
may participate in the divine nature.’
We share in Jesus’ divine nature. It’s his nature in
us that enables us to know God and to love him and to know His love for
The promises are made to all God’s children. All are
involved. No human being or human organisation or human codes of conduct
have the power to block those promises that come from God Himself.
Which takes me back to the beginning and the apostle
Paul’s experience of… ”insight into the Mystery of Jesus Christ”. And to
Jesus’ promise to us in tonight’s reading ‘You will know absolutely that
I’m in my Father, and you’re in
me, and I’m in you’.
As we live in faith, we grow in our ability to trust
in Jesus more and more. We don’t get free from all our faults and
failings, our bad habits and selfish ways and become perfect human
But there are times,
despite us, when His qualities, His nature, come alive in us,
inspired by His Spirit. And it is the divine life and nature that can
reveal Jesus to others who don’t’ yet know Him.
Then we become bearers of His life as others meet Him
in us, and discover that life for themselves.
And come to know the mystery of Jesus being in them; and they in turn knowing absolutely that they are in Jesus.
Extracts from Jim’s Preach 'Walk in Him'
with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.
For before he
was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek
Ge 5: tells
us that Enoch walked with God
and Hebrews 11 tells us Enoch
What does it
mean to walk with God? It means to walk along side one another as
companions; coming together for a journey. It involves talking about the
experiences along the way, especially when the journey is hard. This
togetherness leads to appreciating each other’s company and support when
God means that Enoch had an
intimate relationship with God, a closeness and in step with God.
The prophet Amos wrote "How can two walk together unless they’re in
John writes “if we walk in the light, as Jesus is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another” So when we are walking with God we are able
to relate to others who are also walking with the God. It is always
manmade rules that separate us.
God on His journey not the other way round. I believe that here at
Liberty we are on a journey that God started more than 10 years ago in
response to the fervent prayers of a lesbian called Hayley.
began the journey
and each one of us has joined Him at various stages of
His Liberty journey. Some
may be with us for just part of this journey others may be here for the
Do we know
the way? No... Do we need to know the way? No... We rely on the Spirit
to guide us.
says that Abraham walked before
God.* Abraham was walking out in front but he didn’t know the way. He
took wrong turns and made mistakes but God was behind him supporting
Why did God
allow those mistakes and wrong turns? Because Grace allows God’s
children to be themselves, each with the freedom to make their own
Abraham knew God as ‘El Shaddia’ from the word ‘shad’ meaning ‘breast’,
Mother God not Father God. Mother knows best has the tendency to fall on
deaf ears and so all good mothers allow their children to make mistakes
as part of their learning, while keeping an ever watchful eye on their
In every step
of his journey Abraham had the faith to know that Mother God was with
him no matter what. So what about you and I as saints, and together as
Col 2:6 tells us. ‘As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him’
Plus, 2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God are in Jesus; and ….fulfilled in Him.
means that we are walking in the promises of God.
When I came
into the freedom of the gospel of grace, I realised all the laws and
rules had been swept away. I stood before God simply as me. I said,
“Lord what now?” the answer came “Get on with your life.” So I did,
later realising that in Jesus I had all the promises of God to rely on.
believed God’s promises in scripture:
“I will lead you, I will watch over you, I will bless you” etc, etc. and
a thousand etc’s. I trusted that Mother God knew best.
How do we
walk in God? Simply by trusting Her/Him and being open to Her/His
leading. Col 2:7 tells us to be “rooted and built up in Jesus… grounded
in faith in Jesus”. And faith is simply trusting Jesus.
desire is to grow in our faith in God, and to walk in Her/His way
instead of ours, then our relationship strengthens and becomes more
intimate. Faith that can start out as small and as fragile as a mustard
seed can grow to become strong and unshakable.
Jesus brings us into unity with the Holy Spirit and in union with God,
who is both Mother and Father to us.
can gradually empower us to fulfil the following; Eph 5:2,8 "Walk in
love" …"Walk in the light."
Ga 5 "Walk in the spirit". The
light is in Jesus… the fruit and the fullness of the Spirit in Jesus,
the power God’s unfailing love is in Jesus
Heb 11:5 says
simply that “Enoch pleased God”. And here’s how …with his faith. Heb 11
verse 6 says … “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It was
Enoch’s faith that pleased God.
each one of us as individuals and collectively, the ability
to walk with God, walk before
God, walk in God and most importantly, it pleases God.
Because nothing pleases God more than having the faith for life’s journey with God in Jesus.
* Ex 6:3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddia, but by my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.
Ge 17:1 ...the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God (El Shaddia); walk before Me.”
In light of the overall context given in Genesis 17, the name El Shaddai is directly connected with the promise given to Abraham regarding the future growth of his family, (“I will multiply you exceedingly") and ultimately of the coming of the promised Seed, the Messiah. Understood in this light, the name El Shaddai provides a picture of God's nurturing love for our lives... God nurtures and loves us, like a mother loves her newborn child.
Extract From 'Rejection' (On Liberty Church Podcast. See Top of Page)
Jesus knew from an early age that he was different from other boys. Under Old Testament Law Jesus, along with eunuchs, would have been disqualified from the congregation because Joseph was not his true father. His true father and mother were not married and that made him illegitimate. He had to keep this secret or face being ostracised by his community and bring shame on his family.
The law rejected and condemned what he was and he experienced self-condemnation from knowing his peers would view him as unworthy to stand in the congregation of the Lord. When he returned to Nazareth to preach he was rejected by members of his family and rejected by people he grew up with and worked with. His friends rejected him when he was arrested.
He was denounced by the religious leaders because he wouldn’t deny who he was and what he was. When he appeared before the King, the highest court in the land, an injustice was done with mockery and rejection. His rejection by his fellow Jews fulfilled the scripture that he would be rejected by men.
He experienced the desolation of an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and when a cry to God ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’ seemingly went unanswered. The final rejection. That rejection was too much, He died feeling desolate and alone.
Scriptures used De 23:2. Joh 7:5. Mt 13:54-57. Mr 15:13,14. Mt 26:56. Mt 26:65. Lk 23:11. Is 53:1-3. Mt 27:46.
His prayer was answered when he rose from the dead. God had not rejected his child. Jesus was the Son of God. He had died to his past and its rejection and now he had entered into a new life.
Jim explained how the Lord can identify with the rejection experienced by many people today from the law that brings self condemnation, family, friends, community, religious leaders, those who you should be able to trust and receive justice, even feeling rejected by God. Jesus himself went hrough it in a profound way.
The Lord touched the hearts of those listening who have been deeply wounded by such rejection. Some of the pain of this was expressed in the tears that were shed. Expressing the pain is part of the healing process. In His time and in His way He will bring each one to a place of healing the pain of rejection and into a new phase of life free of the burden of hurt. Jesus will never reject you.
1Pe 2:4 Come to Him...rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him.
Rejection. CD’s or tapes are available free of charge. Contact Us