Google+ Followers

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Acts part 2:Spiritual stargazing

Building a right foundation part 2

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

English Standard Version



In our first study in Acts we saw that Luke was the author and that he was a superb historian. The account was written for his friend Theophilus which simply means “lover of God.” As scripture it was inspired by God's holy Spirit therefore it is intended for all lovers of God. We also found that the purpose of writing was to inform Theophilus of the way in which Christ is now building His church through the agency of the the Holy Spirit.
It is amazing how easily we Christians can be distracted from our purpose. The passage that we have before us has some of the most amazing things happening. There is first of all the proof that Jesus is alive. Followed by the promise of Jesus that God will immerse or baptise His people by His Spirit. Jesus also promised that the new era of the church was about to come. This was not an unexpected event but it was to be the fulfilment of the Father's promise to His people. Finally there are mistakes made by the people of God who were intent on looking for things other than what had been promised and which would soon take the world by storm.


Luke in his opening paragraph reminds his readers of his gospel which speaks of the life, death and resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus and ends with His ascension into heaven. His gospel account concerning this event has a few details that are excluded but which Luke now opens up a little more. The work of the Holy Spirit was now about to come to the fore and the Apostles are about to take centre stage. During these 40 days Jesus went to great efforts to prove that He was actually humanly alive. The Kingdom of God is about to find it's fulfilment in a universal people who belong to God by faith in Christ alone.
Read once again Luke 24:50-53.
Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While he blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Acts 1:1-3

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.


Today we will consider that:
  • Jesus is alive but His parting instruction was that the disciples were to:
  • Wait for the Father's promised gift but the disciples needed to learn to:
  • Look in the right direction.


Jesus is alive:


To Luke this is without question, it is absolute therefore he simply states that Jesus proved Himself to be alive many over a period of 40 days. On the day of this account as fully human Jesus entered into heaven. The significance of this comes later when we consider the role of the Son of God who sits at the right hand of God the Father interceding on our behalf. But for now His ascension is the seal of His completed ministry amongst sinful mankind. The work of redemption had been completed and the New Covenant was about to be fulfilled. The age of the Son had brought about salvation for all believing people; past, present and future. From that time on the age of the Spirit was in place hence we now live in the day of the Spirit. The sacrifice of Jesus saves and gathers a people but now the Holy Spirit is about to unify that people into the church. God's people from this time on are to be the new Jews or a people of praise (Jew means praise!). The church is to be the new Jerusalem or the fulfilment of what Jerusalem pointed to which was the place where God dwells with His people. The church is now the temple of the Holy Spirit where God is pleased to be with His people. The Spirit is now gathering and equipping born again Christians to be the Church.
All that is to follow in Luke's account depends completely upon the fact that Jesus is alive, if that were not true then the whole of Christianity is the worst deception ever imagined. But


Jesus is alive!
That is equally true today, Jesus who never ever changes (Heb 13:8) is alive today and He is in heaven. It is He who is building His church and by the Holy Spirit whom He has sent and who is just like Him. The Holy Spirit is God in exactly the same way that Jesus is God. This is a vitally important point to remember as we continue our studies through Acts; it will certainly make many of the difficult passages more easy to understand.


God the Father has chosen a people for Himself, Jesus has been the sacrifice that is sufficient for them to be in fellowship with God. The is accomplished by the removal of our sin and replaced by righteousness from Christ. Christ is our substitute who died in our place as if he were a sinner and not us. The result being that when God now sees us as righteous and therefore we can enter freely into His presence. Salvation is directed from heaven and is sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. To some that might sound terribly complicated but it is really a very simple process.


It is a bit like a family who together buys a special present for a friend. Mum may choose the gift, Dad may pay and the son might write the message and deliver it. (Do not read too much into an illustration by the varying gender choices.) The point is that the present is from the family, each member has their own particular role but that does not prevent it being a gift from the family who are as one.


God who is perfectly One but of three persons (similar to that family) has ordained it that our Heavenly Father has chosen, our Saviour Jesus paid the price and the Holy Spirit continues to enable all whom the Father has chosen.


The big issue of the time was how God would exchange the Old Covenant ways and bring in the New Covenant church. There was clearly going to be a crossover from the old to the new in which things happened that were unique for that period but that is for the weeks to come.
The truth of the matter is that God has chosen a people from before the foundation of the world which is the church. Jesus has been the sacrifice which makes salvation possible for all who will repent and believe. Luke was recording Jesus being alive has ascended into heaven and that the gift of the Holy Spirit was about to come.
If want to try to really understand this then we will have to consider from how God always works to see what we might expect in this new age to come. God has always authenticated a new age with miraculous works. Creation is the first miracle of God where all that is was made out of nothing. Why did He create? For His purposes and for our benefit. His purposes are that he might have a people for Himself. The whole of creation authenticates His purpose for mankind.
Another new age was when God's people were rescued from slavery and moved into a land of their own. The exodus was brought about through miraculous means and the whole process of actually getting into Canaan was one miracle after another.


The age of the prophets was authenticated by Elijah and Elisha performing miracles and of course the coming of Jesus is proven by many miracles. The virgin birth, and all of the miracles that Jesus performed Himself.
The point that I am making is that we shouldn't be surprised that this new age begins with signs and wonders from heaven. Many things happened at that time which were proofs that this was a work of God. They not necessarily prescriptive of what ought to be an ongoing situation. Again we will consider that much more in the weeks to come.
But before we look at that we follow on to the next point:


Wait for the gift to come:


The family that we spoke of earlier had chosen to give a gift to somebody and all that the person had to do was wait for the delivery. I hate it when I get a message that tells me that something will arrive between the hours of whatever and whatever. All that I can do is wait and rely on the deliverer to bring my goods. Jesus told his disciples to wait patiently for the Promised One. The instruction comes with more information. John when he came had baptised with water which was a sign of belonging and being completely immersed in the faith. Now the Promised Gift will be the fulfilment of what that pointed to. There was about to be a baptism of God and from that time on there would be an outpouring of God's Spirit on all of His people.
God was about come upon His people in the person and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the first day of creation when the Holy Spirit of God hovered over the earth and then life came into being. In a similar way it was the Holy Spirit of God who came upon Mary and overshadowed her and the life of God the Son was implanted into a virgin. (Luke 1:35) God works in the same way here, the Holy Spirit is about to hover over the small group of believers and the church will be born.
A new life was coming into being.


But before it was to happen the believers had to wait for God's gift to come, in God's way and time. Jesus was then taken up in a cloud and is ascended into heaven. There are so many references in this as to how God has worked previously but especially in the way that He guided the Israelites through the desert by His Spirit from within the cloud of smoke.


Notice that the promise made comes with instructions from Jesus. These are vital for our understanding of the rest of the book of Acts. Whenever the Spirit of God comes there are accompanying expectations. The church are about to be empowered to be witnesses of Jesus wherever they are, but they must patiently wait for it to happen according to God's perfect timing. The time is fixed by God the Father and is under His sovereign control.


This is always God's principle. We heard last week how there are no surprises to God because He is perfectly in control of all things. This is equally true for us here today, God is not surprised by what we experience either as individual believers or together as the church. God's tapestry is being woven constantly and we are a part of it. He has planned many thing that will involve us, all of them will come to fruition and all we have to do is wait for His perfect timing and it will happen. This does not mean that we become spiritual fatalists because we do have a role to play. The disciples were called to be still and wait but after that they were to be full on in the work of God. There is a time for us all to be still and to wait, I believe that this summer period is a time for prayer and seeking God's direction for our future. We need to hear His voice and His commissioning as we appoint elders and as the leadership team begins to work together for the building of our fellowship here. After that then we will need to be fully active in the work that God has commissioned for us from now on.


But until such a time we must be still and wait!
AND


Look in the right direction:
Notice that the disciples were guilty of what I call spiritual stargazing. It is perfectly understandable and I am sure that we would be equally as guilty. They were watching the amazing sight of their Lord and Saviour rising up into the heavens and disappearing into the cloud. Their gaze remained at the place that they last saw Jesus, they were hanging on to the experience. It was at this point that they were visited by two men dressed in white robes. These are messengers of God or angels as we know them best. God had a word for them which was significant for the future: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”


Just consider for a moment what they were saying.
  • What are you looking for?
  • Jesus is in heaven.
  • Jesus will return.


There are three lessons in this for us:
  1. Do not look longingly for what has gone before.
  2. Live in the here and now.
  3. Keep your eyes to the future.
Our purpose is not to continually live in past blessings but to live in the here and now. Jesus will return one day, He will come down in much the same way as He went up and that will be a spectacular event. But in between His ascension and His second coming is the age of the Spirit when we are to follow His leading and to live in His power and to work the works that He directs. His work is always to bring the glory of Jesus into this world and so He empowers the church to gloriously and effectively to declare the gospel.
That is basically what Acts is all about, how the Holy Spirit directs and helps and empowers the church to declare the glory of Jesus. It is not about how we might be thrilled by His gifting etc.
We should not be about the business of desiring the past or looking into into future things. We live for today, this is the day that the Lord has made for us. Let us be glad and rejoice in it as wall as seeking His glory in and through all that we do.





Saturday, 20 June 2015

The message and not the messenger: Deuteronomy 32:1-4


Deuteronomy 32:1-4
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew,like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Background:

Moses by now was 120 years old, he had, had an eventful life which was coming to a close. From the beginning his life was under threat due to the edict of Pharaoh that all baby boys be drowned in the Nile. Even this evil act was being used by God for a mighty work that Moses was from the beginning being prepared for. As a Hebrew baby he was adopted into the royal family of Egypt where his significant work for the Lord began. It prepared Moses to eventually be the person whom God used to bring the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into freedom and liberty. By the time of the account that we read earlier there were more than a million Israelites waiting to enter the promised land. All of this was because God used a man with humble beginnings for mighty acts of service.

Moses had not only rescued the people from Egypt but by God's directing he had taught them faithfulness and had by the leading of the Holy Spirit of God written down God's Law and directions for life in order that God's people understand all that is necessary to know God and His requirements of them. By now Moses had given final instructions to his people and had appointed Joshua to be his successor which is what brought about this song of praise. What a great example Moses is of how the man of God should end his days. Moses truly died well and is a wonderful example to us:

I wonder what our last words might be!

I deliberately chose this short passage for my inaugural sermon here in the Mustard Seed because Moses by example reminds us that our ministry is all about:

the message and not the messenger.

If the messenger were all important then what is to follow next in Israel would make no sense at all. Moses was going to die and a new man was to take over. BUT the message remains the same.

The message always remains the same.

Led Zeppelin long ago released a live album called “The song remains the same.” it was of all of their popular songs played live but the title tells the listeners that essentially they were never changing. As with rock groups the personnel might change but the message of God is always the same. Moses was about to fade away but the Word of God continued through Joshua and after that through the Judges and the prophets, priests and kings of the Old Testament. John the Baptist began the New Testament era with only the Word of God to proclaim. As time progressed so did the message. With every passing year and person the character of God was more fully revealed until the final appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ when all that was revealed of God over the centuries now found perfect fulfilment in a Person. The message is and always will be simple, it can be quickly summed up in that God is the perfect Creator, man is fallen from grace by our sin but God by grace chooses to rescue those whom He loves. Not as a free act of mercy but by the priceless sacrifice of His own Son Jesus who took all of the sins of His people as if they were His own and replaced them with His righteousness. That is what Moses looked forward to and that is what we know.

Preachers may come, preachers may go but the Word of God is unchanging.

How do we keep it pure, vibrant and relevant?

As with Moses the word must be declared and listened to; then as Moses tells us in his song God will speak to us. He also tells us that if we teach truth then He will refresh us and then when we are refreshed we will happily proclaim the name of God wherever we are.

D.L.Moody said:

Make the message known and not the messenger!”

The messenger is dispensable but the message is not!

From this passage we will consider:

  • Listen and God will speak.
  • Doctrine is refreshing.
  • I will proclaim.

Listen and God will speak

We live in an age when being still and quiet has somewhat gone out of fashion. We go into clothes shops and are bombarded with music at ridiculous levels. Whenever a moment is meant for us to reflect it is always accompanied by some background mood music. Our society is never still enough to listen to the voice of the creator. In the same way the church gathering can be guilty of refusing silence, we often have musicians plonking away on guitars as somebody is praying etc. In scripture the Lord often instructs us to be quiet and to listen to His voice. Psalm 46:10 is an obvious example: it is all about God caring for His people in the face of danger and fear. When we as God's people are struggling He tells us to be still for a while and know that He is God.

One day after the disciples had been busy evangelising and had returned to hear the horrific news of the murder of John the Baptist, Jesus said to His disciples;

come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Mark 6:31

Rest peace and quiet are God's provision for His people to hear his voice and to be comforted. There is no wonder that our whole society is happier with the hustle and bustle of modern life, crammed full of activity and noise in order to drown out the voice of God.

God loves to reveal Himself to His people, He speaks through His Word. Formerly He spoke through the prophets but now normally He speaks by His Spirit through the Word of God which is our bible. Of course He can speak through the earthquake, wind and fire and of course He often does. But normally He speaks into the heart that is quietened toward Him. That is what Moses is saying here in this song of praise. In effect he tells us to:

Stop and listen and God's voice will become discernible. He may speak in the quiet of our hearts but nevertheless He speaks and He wants us to hear it.

Do you set a time every day to be quiet before God in order to hear His voice? Bible notes can be a fantastic aid but it has all done for us and any blessing is second hand. There is nothing wrong with using them but they are only meant to be an aid to direct you into God's presence. Just reading a few verses of the bible and reflecting on one aspect of who God is and what He wants to do in and through us is fine but it is a little bit like getting up after eating the first course of a feast believing that is all there is to eat. God has a feast of blessing for His people if only we will stop and listen to His voice.

Be still and know that He is God.

Doctrine is refreshing

I have deliberately used the word doctrine here because for some it has become a dirty word and that ought to be corrected. I was told off a few weeks ago by a Christian because in his opinion doctrine divides and theology is dull. The poor deluded man had been sold a lie of Satan but sadly it is is not uncommon amongst Christians today. If there is anybody here today believes this then you should stop immediately and repent of it immediately. Listen to Moses from our passage as He quotes God:

May my doctrine drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.

You will see that I have substituted the word teaching from the original with the word doctrine. I am quite at liberty to do this because both words are perfectly inter-changeable.

Now re-consider the teaching or doctrine of God is as drops of rain to a thirsty plant. It is as pure as dew which is simply distilled (perfectly pure) water condensed upon every cold surface. Just imagine walking in the field on a beautiful autumn morning when the sun twinkles on every drop of dew sparkles. I once watched a programme about some elephants who lived in a dry desert where it never rained. Previously it had been a mystery as to how such big animals could sustain life in such arid conditions; until they went out early one morning and discovered the elephants out and about lapping up every drop of dew that they could muster.

Do you get up early to lap up the teaching of our God from His Word? It will keep you all day in the desert that we call life.

God also speaks gently to us. When I water my plants I am in danger of killing the poor things by the my eagerness to get the job done quickly, the poor plants often get bombarded by a torrent from the hose. God is not like that He is as gentle as the rain is upon tender shoots. He does not bombard us with heaviness and pain, He is a loving heavenly Father who wants to care for His children. It is true that sometimes the Word is to rebuke us but that only comes with a heavy hand when we rebel against it. He is gentle, loving and kind and he wants to speak to us often.

Will you regularly give him the quiet of your heart and the the courteousy to listen to His voice?

We sing words such as:

When I look into Your holiness
When I gaze into Your loveliness
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You
When I've found the joy of reaching Your heart
When my will becomes enthralled in Your love
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You

I worship You, I worship You
The reason I live is to worship You
I worship You, I worship You
The reason I live is to worship You

Wayne & Cathy Perrin.
But do we really mean them?

When we submit to God we will naturally worship Him and when worship Him as we ought then we can do no other than to:

Proclaim His name

Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

When we recognise Him and hear His voice this naturally causes us to worship Him. To some the content of this message might be a bit confusing to you. You may be wondering why or how anybody can hear the voice of God. You may not understand what true worship of God is. You may be asking why it is that some of us seem to have a relationship with Jesus that is beyond your comprehension. The reason for this is that our faith is not a blind hope but is a relationship with God.

Moses 80 years before this had an amazing experience when he was out in the desert keeping sheep. It was not unusual for the dry undergrowth to spontaneously combust and to flare up. On this occasion Moses saw a bush on fire; but what caught his eye was that it was not being consumed. It was a continuous fire which was enough to catch his attention. His inquisitive mind caused him to want to see this phenomena.

As he drew near God spoke to him.

He found himself in the presence of God Almighty. His problem was that God is holy and pure whereas man is sinful and impure. That means that the two are mutually exclusive and so they should never be able to be in each others presence. God's holiness is so great that sinful Moses should have been consumed faster than any desert bush by fire. But he was not.

Why?

Because God in His mercy and grace had called him. When God calls He also deals with our sin. The result of which is that we then become His people. That in a nutshell is the relationship that each Christian has with God. Our sin has been dealt with through the sacrifice that Jesus paid on the cross it has been taken from us and given to Jesus. In the place of our sin Jesus gives us His righteousness and now we no longer are ashamed to be in God's presence and so it is our pleasure to praise Him.

How can we then keep such a great salvation a secret just from others?

The result of listening to His voice and worshipping Him is telling of Him!

Who is he?

He is the name that is high over all, the name above all names! He is our foundation, the Rock of our salvation. He is the author and the creator of our faith. His work is perfect for all His ways are just. There are no mistakes made with our God, He is perfectly just, He is perfectly faithful, He is perfectly holy and with absolutely no taint of sin. Just and upright is He!!!

Moses says that he will ascribe greatness to his God, will we do likewise?



Charles Wesley said it much better than I ever could:


Jesus, the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky:Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.


Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
The name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It brings them peace of heav’n.


Jesus the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Pow’r into strengthless souls He speaks,
And life into the dead.


Oh, that the world might taste and see,
The riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me,
Would all mankind embrace.


Him as my righteousness I show,
His saving truth proclaim:
’Tis all my business here below,
To cry, Behold the Lamb!


Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His name:
Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”

Moses only saw Christ yet to come but yet he glorified Him and proclaimed His work so clearly here. This was his parting words in song, full of truth for all to read. We read the words and are comforted and encouraged and helped for works of righteousness. For Moses it was all about the message and not the messenger, that must be our mindset here.

If we want God's blessing on the church we must:



  • Listen and God expecting God to speak.
  • Be refreshed by the truth proclaimed.
  • Be inspired to proclaim the gospel not as duty but because it is our privilege.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Acts part 1: Laying the foundation



Building a right foundation part 2
Acts 1:1-8

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

With any building project it is important to build a solid foundation upon solid ground. In this we are reminded of the Lord Jesus' parable about the man who built his house upon the sand, as soon as the storm came his house collapsed like a pack of cards. The very moment that he needed the shelter and security of his lovely home it fell apart. The exact opposite is true of course for the house built upon a solid rock. The point that Jesus is making in this parable is that He is the Rock of our salvation and if our life is built upon Him then the foundations will never fail. We know this to be true in our own personal lives but Jesus came primarily for the church to which we all as believers belong. The church here in Callington is not this building which has stood the test of time and has seen many storms throughout the years. It is still standing here somewhat weather worn and carrying the scars of battle of standing up to all that our British weather can throw at it. The true church however is the gathering of God's people who also are somewhat battle scarred and weary
BUT
we have so far stood up to the storms of life that the enemy has hurled at us. The reason for this is our Foundation who is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His building and He is our Foundation therefore if we remain faithful to Him we will stand firm.

The key point in all of this is that we must remain faithful.

There is no better place for us to begin this new phase in the ministry of the Mustard Seed than a study in the book of Acts. As we study it's pages we will discover how the early church was built upon the Foundation of Jesus and was therefore the prototype of the church that we now belong to. Our Foundation is also the Lord Jesus Christ His Apostles teaching. The Apostles were the men that Jesus chose to teach, equip and enable the church to articulate, instruct and preach the truth of gospel. As we study Acts together we will learn many things; one important theme is that wherever believers are gathered together they became an organised local church. The local church is simply an expression or a sample of the church universal which is the complete company of believers who will finally and gloriously be gathered together in the end times to be presented to God the Father as the Bride of Christ. Until that day when we are presented to God the Father as complete and perfect we are to:
act as signposts to heaven

by our gathering together for worship, prayer, teaching, encouragement of each other and fellowship. Our gatherings are simply practice runs for heaven, they are food for our souls and for equipping to be God's people in every aspect of our lives.

Some people like to tell me today that whatever the church does in the name of the Lord is fine and God is pleased with it because God is simply pleased that we are together making the effort.

But is that true?

It cannot be true because God is organised and structured in all that He does. His instructions for the order of worship for the Old Testament church is clear to the finest of detail. The New Testament church is a fulfilment of what the Old pointed to and therefore ought to be structured according to God's pattern and not ours. Read 1 Corinthians if you want to see how the Apostle Paul dealt with that church due to their “doing church” in their own way!

When we meet together it must be for the glory of God alone and not for our own whims and fancies!

Over the next few weeks we will address what the purpose of the church is and what our responsibilities are as the church local in Callington. We will ensure that this is not from our particular tradition but from God's own word. We all have our own ideas as to how “we do church” but that is not good enough. We do not “do church”

we are the church

and we belong to God Almighty, He has laid down in scripture His plan for the church and Acts is where it has been worked out experientially by God's people. The results are recorded and the lessons that they learned are for our benefit. Therefore let us put aside our church wants and discover once again what God wants of His church here in Callington.

The prologue to Acts which we read earlier ends with the command of Jesus to His friends that they would be His witnesses throughout the whole world and that this was to be passed on through church generations until God eventually restores His kingdom.

We will today consider:
  • The writer and his purpose.
  • The reader and it's effect.

The writer and his purpose:

Luke who also wrote the gospel named after him is the undisputed author of this history of the early church. His purpose is the same as for his gospel writings which was that his friend Theophilus know from the gospel account how the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the events that surrounded His life really happened and for what purpose. Luke was not an eye witness but he was a very accomplished and accurate historian. He wanted Theophilus not only to know about Jesus but to fully understand Him and to trust fully in Him. By writing Acts Luke's intention was that Theophilus might fully understand how the church works.
In Acts 1 through to chapter 16:9 Luke recorded the results of his research of the beginning of the church. From Acts 16:10 he changed to the personal pronoun which tells his readers that from then on he had joined Paul's team and is himself a part of the history as recorded. The latter part of his book is largely first hand experience.

Luke by profession was a doctor (Colossians 4:14); he was a fellow worker of Paul (Philemon 24) and a faithful friend to Paul until Paul's death in Rome. Shortly before his death Paul wrote to Timothy that only Luke was still with him (2 Timothy 4:11) Luke was an accurate historian who records clearly and without spin or commentary on the events that happened during that time. Clearly from the prologue to Acts his purpose for writing was to show Theophilus that the events that happened were the continuing work of God by the power of His Holy Spirit.

The wonderful thing for us today is that we can rely on what is written firstly because Luke was absolutely committed to accuracy and secondly his writings were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). Luke was the human messenger or historian of the events therefore it was his responsibility to be clear, concise and accurate. He achieved that goal impeccably!

There is a great lesson for us in this, especially for those who preach and teach: Luke only recorded the events as they happened! We live in a society where the actual event seems to be drowned out by media comment, spin and public opinion. If we consider our news bulletins, they begin with fact (we hear the whole of the news in 1 minute) and they continue with commentary, spin and opinion for the next 29 minutes.

There is no room for that speculation or spin in the presentation of gospel truth.

Somebody a long time ago taught me to discount what the preacher or teacher had to say when he began teaching with “I like to think that the passage says this that, or the other!”

It is not “what we think” that is important but what is really true!

Luke's purpose was to make the truth known accurately. Likewise gospel preaching and teaching is all about making the truth to be known accurately; that is

the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”


The reader and it's effect:

For Luke his intended reader was a man of excellence called Theophilus.

Who was Theophilus?

Both Luke's gospel and also Acts are written to Theophilus. In his gospel Luke refers to him as the “most excellent Theophilus.” Here in Acts it is simply addressed to Theophilus. Some people with more time on their hands than they probably know what to do with have suggested all sorts of things concerning Theophilus due to this change of address by Luke. They fantasize issues such as their ongoing deepening friendship causing Luke to be more familiar with him in Acts. Personally I cannot see what purpose such thinking has. It certainly does not help us in our understanding of the passage. Others have suggested that Theophilus might not even be a real person but that the Gospel and Acts are written to all “lovers of God” which is what his name means. Again it might be good for clever guys to consider such things but how much does it help our purposes? If you are interested in such things you can easily follow the discussions through the commentaries.

There is a bible principle however that names are often important, on occasions a name describes perfectly the character of the person in question.

Theophilus means lover of God, therefore Luke is writing to a “lover of God.”

This sets the scene for the rest of the book! It is fair to say that this was written primarily to one man who loved God but due to it being inspired by God's Holy Spirit it is intended for all who are lovers of God!

Therefore this account is for Christians.

When this is taken into account, that which follows is so much easier to understand. Dr Luke does not attempt to justify the person of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit or the credentials and the authority of the church. He does however make many assumptions that his readership are believers in Jesus as Lord and all that this entails. This is not meant to exclude unbelievers from reading Acts (or any other part of scripture) but help for them to understand the true meaning might be necessary. This was the case with the Ethiopian Eunuch as he read Isaiah on his journey. God sent Philip along to him to interpret the truth of the word this is recorded in Acts 8:26ff. We must be ready and willing to help both believers and unbelievers to understand the bible and so we ought to have Christianity Explored type courses running regularly alongside other outreach programmes.

We must also consider the content of Luke's writing. In his gospel he had already told Theophilus about the life of Jesus Christ up until His ascension and of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. (1: 1-2) In Acts his purpose is to tell Theophilus about the work of the Holy Spirit of God for the building of the church as was promised by the Lord Jesus. Luke records the way in which God used ordinary men to build His church through their gospel preaching, teaching and witness. In verse 8 he records that the disciples had to learn that it was not for them to know the times and dates of the completion of God’s work in this world but they were to be witnesses of His saving grace until the time when He returns.

This is a history of real events that actually took place.

Acts is written to a man who loved God and who belonged to God's people. It is all about how Christ continues to build His church through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit and how this fulfils the purposes of God the Father.

The effect that this is intended to have is that the church be equipped to continue until the day of the Lord. Understanding Acts is essential for the purity and continuing of the church. Therefore it is vital for us here in the Mustard Seed as we begin our new phase in the life of the church. We must get things right and glorify God in our worship, witness and daily routine in this vitally important part of Cornwall.

Our community needs the church to be at it's best!

We are going back to basics in order that we be a truly biblical church as is demonstrated through the pages of this book. We are embarking on an exciting journey therefore let us together seek to glorify God in all that we do. Our mandate is to make God known to all that we are in touch with, the church meet together to be equipped for acts of righteousness in our society. The early church are our example as to how we might achieve that goal. They learned from scripture, the Apostles, and from their experience, mistakes and achievements. That also will be our journey.

Are we ready?


The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth;
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace for-evermore;
till, with the vision glorious,
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.


Samuel John Stone 1839-1900

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Thanksgiving service for the life of Duncan Kent:



29th May 2015


Welcome:

It is with great sadness that we gather here today. We have just witnessed the burial of Duncan which to all of us has come as a great shock. It was not expected and was certainly not something that any of us wanted. The purpose of this gathering after the interment is to celebrate Duncan's life and to praise the Lord Jesus Christ for all that He has done for and through Duncan. Therefore we will be singing some of Duncan's favourite songs of praise, we will read a Psalm that meant a lot to him and will speak of his life and the Saviour that he loved.

We begin by praying:

Prayer:

Sing:

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place the Most High, who is my refuge; no evil shall be allowed to befall you and no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”


English Standard Version Anglicised



Sing:
Faithful One
(Remain seated. We will sing this song which is all about Jesus twice through but with a musical interlude. Janet and Alfie will play the tune without us singing but we can take a few moments to reflect upon the Lord Jesus whom Duncan loved and served for many years.)


Tribute:


Words of comfort in difficult days:

Undoubtedly this has been the most difficult funeral I have had to lead. My reason being the same as I am sure for all who are gathered here.

Duncan was only born in 1947 which means that he did not live long enough in our estimation. He has been described to me as a wonderful father, a fun loving husband, faithful and true in his dealings with all people. He was blunt and honest but yet remarkably patient and caring beyond compare. He was hospitable, generous in every way and he made incredible meals. He was clever but not showy, he was multi talented and we believed that there was nothing that was not fixable to him. He was hubby, dad, father-in-law, brother, grand-dad, Dunc, odd job man friend, pal and buddy all rolled into one great big character. He was a BIG man in every way!

He was a big man with wonderful attributes. Despite all of that he was not perfect and so he made blunders at times and got some things wrong. Duncan was fully human and we loved him for it, but being human means that he was in God's estimation a sinner because that is what all of humanity is. It is this that brought about what I would say was Duncan's most important attribute:

He was in relationship with God

Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross was for people just like Duncan, you and I. Through this there is the offer of forgiveness from God and relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Duncan a number of years ago believed that to be true and so He became a follower of Jesus and became a son of the living God. That as you will see later on was his hope, his passion, his security and is now his experience.

So what of the life lived?

Duncan was born 16th May 1947 in Kingston-upon-Thames. He was educated in Basingstoke. After leaving school he was apprenticed to Lancing Bagnell for 5 years and qualified as a research and development engineer. He continued to work for the same company until he moved to Cornwall in 1984. In that period of life he got married and became a father.

You will not be too surprised to know that it was his practical ability that introduced him to Margaret who would become his wife. Duncan's father who was a nuclear scientist at Aldermaston offered a neighbours daughter help with fixing her car by one of his sons. Duncan duly went to fulfil his father's offer and discovered that his soul mate was living in the same road.

Duncan married Margaret in August 1967 and some time time later Shelley was born. Shelley was their only child due to an extremely difficult birth.

In 1984 the family moved to Cornwall where they eventually set up home in Upton Cross. Duncan worked in a couple of firms in Liskeard and eventually became one of the owners and managing directors of Bibby.

It was whilst in Cornwall that both Duncan and Margaret became involved in the local parish church and both of them became Christians. They found a oneness together now in life and faith also. The church benefitted greatly from their input as you can imagine.

Shelley tells me that family life for a girl growing up with Duncan as dad was rather eventful and she loved it. She learned to work on cars which has become a lasting passion for her. To be seen with a spanner in her hand rather than a skipping rope seems to have been common practise. But life was not all work and even though finances were at times stretched Margaret was a stay at home mum which made for Shelley a “Brilliant” life. Family time was important therefore many family outings and holidays were a priority. When asked what it was like to be a young Kent, Shelley's response was 110%, lots of laughter, fun, great music, good food and most importantly family together!

Duncan was heart broken when Margaret died of lung cancer in 2008 and struggled in his grief. The big man was broken.

When asked to sum up her dad Shelley was quick to quote his favourite Latin???? motto:

Nil illigitimae carborundum”

Which apparently meant: “Do not let life get you down.”

But he was just dad, he always cared for and was interested in people.

And now people are distraught at their great loss.

Shelley and her husband Mark are heartbroken at their sad loss of Dad. If you are a praying person please pray much for them as they come to terms with their grief and their sorrow.

It was some time later that Janet and Duncan met here in Grace community church, the story best continues from Janet's own words which she has asked me to read:


Tribute from Janet

On first meeting, I thought you were a lovely man and that Margaret was very lucky. Now I know that you are so much more than I ever dreamed and it has been a wonderful privilege to be your wife for five and a half years, to fall in love again and be like teenagers, to bring you joy, to share your life and ways, to experience your ‘big’ love and care – and BIG it always was.
You won my admiration as a man who loved God and knew how to commune with Him and trust Him. The words written by you on a scrap of paper above your desk read:
“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared, BUT only men of character are trusted.” And what a large character you were Honey; always content, thankful, peace loving and “bigly” generous with all that you had, but especially to those whom God gave you as family.
Your big heart and capable, skilled engineering hands enfolded all my family and extended family. In my sister Maggie’s own words:
Duncan, I only knew you a short while and you were full of fun, and were so easy to get on with and I see why Janet had a twinkle in her eye. You were kindness itself and so giving. I saw how you helped everyone fix everything that needed fixing no matter the distance and you moved the cupboard in my room making such a difference to my daily life, thank you again Duncan. We chatted on Skype often as you and Janet were down South and I am so glad I got to wish you Happy Birthday on the 16th May.
I will always remember how you said you would look after me as I got older and it is with great sadness I never got this opportunity, as I know you meant every word. Your sudden passing has left a huge void in all our lives, you were such a wonderful Christian and opened your home and hearts to us all.“

Rexie the dog was the first to take up residence at Crista Court and you taught him new tricks, which you called obedience, and grieved with me when our faithful pooch departed last July. You taught me how to turn off taps not too tightly to preserve the washer and a million other useful logical skills that did not come naturally! Probably the most useful one was how to put a toilet roll on the right way round and reverse using mirrors.
You were a man of prayer, not least when sending the angels out in legions when I was on the road. Your love of ‘thinking’ was noticed even by Jonah our grandson, who asked you to teach him how to think. Before we were married I shared with you that I was not sure what God was saying to me and you asked me if I was listening. One thing you certainly knew how to do, was to listen.
You have romanced my heart, spoiled me rotten with your cooking, brought our garden, jasmine, orchid and geraniums to life and forgiven me when I did not always understand your Kent'ish humour passed down from your dad. You enjoyed cars, hot rods, photography, nature and were master chef of your own bread, yoghurt, salad dressing and various lasagne’s and meats. Your love of music enriched our everyday life and I could now not be without Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Brian Adams, Show of Hands, Alcaponi, Vivaldi and all the rest to which we have danced and listened nearly every evening by the fireplace. In Rod’s words, honey, this is now your ‘Beautiful Morning’ safe in the everlasting arms and not just a sunny day in Cornwall.
God gave us such a rich time at Boslowen in Plushabridge, ‘The house of joy’, filled with companionship and healing from the grief of our past losses, new love and adventures together in the Cornwall you loved and with friends and family far and wide. Your strong hands have felled trees, chopped wood incessantly to warm me up and your handiwork is evident all over the house as well as in our lives and hearts.
Just last week I was thinking how much I just love being with you, as that is enough with my gentle, quiet, kind, clever and funny Duncan. We miss you horribly, Honey, but we know where you are and we rest in the shadow of the Almighty as we make our way without you.
A Few words from “The Kids” (Andrew, Ruth, Jonah & Ben, Stephen & Naomi and Pete, Vicki & Susanna, Kerry and Gray)
When Duncan married our Mum I don’t think he realised that three children, their spouses, grandchildren, cousins and the family dog were part of the deal too! However, he coped with this new role incredibly well and his love, care, patience and wisdom has enriched all of our lives. His unwavering faith in God, his prayerfulness and his calm ways have been a rock for our family guiding us through some difficult times and past hurts. He was a man of contentment, generosity, quiet strength and solid character, always ready to put others first. These rare and precious qualities seemed so natural to Duncan because they were built upon his close walk with Jesus and his love for those in his life.
Duncan was a wonderful grandfather to Jonah, Ben and Susanna, always willing to read stories, take a stroll to the park, or sit quietly for "thinking time". They loved, trusted and respected him and their growing up years will be much poorer without him.

Duncan would never panic or rush. We always knew that if we rang the home phone Mum would answer as Duncan refused to rush to make it to the phone in time. Even when Mum chopped off her finger in the juicer he was cool as a cucumber!
We have enjoyed many times together at various weddings, baby dedications and holidays in Cornwall, France and the Lake District. His practical knowledge about so many things has helped us in endless ways, from cooking scrambled eggs, making soup and growing plants to taking photographs, fitting kitchens and generally fixing anything that was broken! He was always so willing to serve and any thanks we expressed was usually responded to with “no problem my dear”.
We will remember his wonderful and unique sense of humour, many funny sayings and interesting spelling of words! At our last family gathering in Cornwall at Easter when asked what “R/S” meant written on the calendar, his answer was ‘recycling’ and his reason being that it would confuse any burglars!
We are heartbroken that his time with us was so short. He set us a wonderful example of how to live that we will not forget.

*************

As a friend I only knew Duncan for a very short time but we quickly became buddies with many common interests and I confess a sense of humour that was almost identical. It was at times infuriating for our wives but we could not help ourselves. It has been good to experience his food and all out of that little oven. It has been a delight to hear Clapton, Cream, Floyd and so many other old timer bands. We experienced practical help when we moved house, benefitted from hospitality and solitude when circumstances got on top of us. Duncan was my mate, he was Pam's Poppa bear, you can add you own personal title to the list. The one thing that I am sure of is that he was an important part of our lives.

But this is not the end of the story:

Everybody was shocked to hear of Duncan being taken into hospital having suffered from a stroke but we all expected that the Big Man would recover. Things at first seemed hopeful but that was not God's plan.

We come to life from a different perspective to God, to Him the death of His people is precious because they are being gathered eternally into his presence in heaven. But to us quite understandably it is a great loss. But God is not uncaring in all of this. The Lord Jesus' last prayer on earth was for Christians that we might one day be perfected in His presence. Jesus also recognised the sadness of death when he visited two sisters who were grieving over the death of their brother and His friend. It was when Jesus saw their grief it caused the shortest verse in our bible but one of the most powerful verses: “Jesus wept.” He was in deep sorrow along with them even though He knew that in a few moments He would raise Lazarus from the dead. The comfort that we draw from this is that we have a God who truly cares for us NOW!

The truth about Jesus is that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, which means that as Jesus wept then with those grieving, then He also grieves with us today. We can all of us come to Him for help and comfort but as with all things we must accept His help. Why not in the quiet of your own heart reach out to Him for the comfort and peace that only He can give.

It was a privilege to have known Duncan and it was special to be with him in his death. We were helpless and distraught but he was comfortable and at peace. At peace with the world and with His God who promised that when Duncan walked that dark valley of death then He would walk it with him. We saw that on the 19th May 2015 at approximately 6:00 am when Duncan stepped out of life and into eternal glory.

Earth has been impoverished by Duncan's death but heaven is very much enriched!


Sing:
Be Thou my vision.

Prayer:






Should you wish to make a donation in recognition of Duncan we are supporting 2 charities that Duncan himself was a supporter of. They are the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Christian Institute.



I have posted a summary of my thoughts concerning Duncan and his sad passing on my blog; One of these days in Looe. If interested please follow the link:






Jonah chapter 4: God's great blessing.


But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind,and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labour, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Last time we considered God's goodness in choosing to save the the people of the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was a city so large that it took 3 days to travel throughout. We were reminded that all of the company of heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents which means that there would have been great rejoicing in heaven on that day when probably more people were saved than any other single day in history. As the angels rejoiced then we would think that all believers would join in the celebration but sadly for Jonah that was not the case. God had greatly blessed the people of Nineveh and given respite from their evil ways to the nations around including Israel but despite all of this Jonah was greatly displeased.

From chapter 4 we will consider:

  • Jonah's prayer part 1.
  • God's blessings.
  • Jonah's prayer part 2.

Jonah's prayer part 1:

Jonah was greatly displeased and he was also angry that God had saved Nineveh; in this he was not afraid to tell God. Notice that it was in prayer that Jonah approached God with his annoyance. This time he did not bother to run away, it was by then far too late for that, he could no longer hinder God's plan for Nineveh.

Jonah's prayer was simple and straightforward.

Before we move on to consider content of the prayer there is an important lesson in his simple and straightforward approach to God. We must also approach God honestly and in all sincerity. God delights in our simplicity; long, complex and flowery prayers do not impress Him at all.

Jonah came to God in his anger which again is a wonderful lesson for us. We can and must pray to our God even when we are all stewed up with anger or any other emotion, they should never be an excuse to distance ourselves from God.

We must pray to Him all of the time whatever our disposition or mood might be.

Jonah came to God and reminded Him of his earlier prayer when he had been commissioned to go to preach in Nineveh. At that time he had clearly told God that he did not want to go due to his understanding of the character of God. He knew that God is forgiving to all that repent and he fully believed that God's purpose for Nineveh was to would save them and not punish them for their wickedness.

Jonah knew full well the character of God was that He is merciful towards others but paradoxically Jonah himself was now experiencing those same attributes of God himself. Notice how long-suffering God is with him, how patient, how kind and how caring. I am so glad that God in heaven does not treat any of us as we deserve but He always treats us according to His character. He loves His prophet, He has proven that He never leaves or forsakes him even though his prophet greatly desires to escape from God's kind reaches.

Again another wonderful reminder in this is that once His saving love is set upon us we will always benefit from His lovely character.

Jonah also makes a request from God. He tells God that it would be the best thing if he were to die. He could not bring himself to enter into the blessing of Nineveh and so he requested that God kill him. There are two things here that I am pleased about:

  1. The first is that the True God is not like the gods of this world. There is none of those who has the qualities that Jonah expressed and none I am sure that would treat Jonah as God did. They I am sure would be pleased (if they were anything other than figments of man's imagination!) to wipe one such as Jonah out due to his blasphemous prayer. But God is not like that which brings me to the second thing that pleases me.
  2. God always answers prayer but He does not always give us what we want. Life is God's to give and god's to take and Jonah had absolutely no right to demand death at that time. God answers all of our prayers but he does not give us all of our wants. He always gives us what we need which is what Jonah learned through the vine experience. More about that later.

Jonah's prayer came to a conclusion at that point when God spoke back to him with a simple question: “Do you do well to be angry?”

Sometimes God's immediate answer is to question our motives and then to leave us to ponder. Very often in the psalms a great statement is followed by the word Selah which simply means, stop and ponder for a while and then continue. We could easily fit a Selah into the text at this point because that is just what God does with Jonah and importantly Jonah does as he records this incident for out benefit.

Stop and ponder what a wonderful God that we have.

God's blessings:

We often say that God gives good gifts or blessings to His people. For any gift to be effective it must be received. All of what we learn of God through Jonah's experience is that He wonderfully provides for him whatever the mindset that he is in. We have seen the great gift of salvation given to Nineveh and the many different ways that God provided for Jonah. We are reminded that the word was provided for Jonah, his mission was provided as were all of the events that took him to the people of Nineveh. It is also true to say that Nineveh was provided with a powerful and effective preacher. I am sure that they are eternally grateful for all that Jonah did for them but Jonah did not want to be a part of the blessing.

As Nineveh and heaven rejoiced Jonah sulked and complained but God did not stop providing for him.

Jonah had God's listening ear, he also had God's personal attention and conversation but still he did not want the blessing of being part of the great work that God had performed.

As we ponder Jonah's prayer we see that God did not stop providing for Jonah.

Jonah went off sulking to the east of the city where he erected a little shelter and watched. I suppose that he was hoping against all hope that a fireball from heaven would destroy the city and all of it's people. Even here God is with Jonah and so He teaches a lesson for the sulking, suicidal prophet. He provides a quick growing vine to provide shelter from the blazing sun; with this Jonah is more than happy.

Jonah is basking in God's temporary blessing but not entering into the eternal blessing with other believers.

A day of shade for Jonah was wonderful but when the next day brings about God's provision of a worm that destroys his shelter Jonah is once again angry. He once again wants to die and tells God so.

There are vitally important lessons here for us as the church in Callington. It is so easy to rejoice in small mercies and refuse to be a part of the big things that God is doing.

Jonah is displaying what I might term as “backsliders mentality!” During my years as a Christian I have noticed that when I or others backslide we only want to see the failure of the people of God and not their success or blessing. A backslider or person who has left the church under a cloud is always interested in what is happening in the church in the hope that they will fail. They love to speak to dissenters in the fellowship and get all of the negative gossip and as such delight in their hopes that the church will fall in some way or other. As with Jonah they bask in the small mercies that they are experiencing by God's mercy but lose out on the blessing that He is lavishing upon His people.

Jonah chose to sit and sulk and hope for death and failure for the people of Nineveh, we are equally capable of being like him.

Are you determined to enter fully into the blessing that God has for the church here and to rejoice with us in what He is doing now in us and through us? Or are you rejoicing quietly in the hope of our failure and sulking that things might not be exactly to your liking? There are those who sit on the outside of the church that are looking for our failure, are you feeding them with ammunition which they will fire in our direction. Jonah would have loved to have destroyed Nineveh but could not because God was graciously at work among them and so he would rather die than enter into the blessing. I plead with you to enjoy God's blessing with us.

Jonah's prayer part 2:

Prayer was another blessing that Jonah had and God answered him directly. They had the most amazing conversation. Jonah demanded to die at which God questioned him concerning the viability of his anger. Jonah could see no inconsistency in his anger for the death of a vine and his desire that possibly over a million people go to hell. Nineveh was a very large city that contained 120,000 people who did not know their right hand from their left which suggests infants. This would probably compute that the full population must have been one million or more people who lived in Nineveh. God referred to it as a great city and Jonah was more angry with the death of a vine than he was concerned for the eternal destination of such a large group of people.


Thankfully God has a different concern, and by leaving Jonah with a question displays to us His amazing grace towards undeserving sinners. This of course is fully evidenced in the greatest provision that He has made for man by sending His own Son Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice for all sinners who will come to Him in repentance as did the people of Nineveh.

The work of the church is to take the offer of salvation to all people however I believe that the church in the UK has become more like Jonah than it cares to believe.

We are often evangelistically inept and are more concerned with our own little shelters than we are for the eternal destiny of the lost. I am hearing of more and more great building projects that churches are undertaking in order to build a vine to shelter under. Millions of pounds are being spent to make fantastic citadels and the gospel is being squeezed out. I am not referring to our planned improvements here, they are vital and I believe are a gospel opportunity that we need to grasp right now. The neighbours need to see the effects of our new beginning, a clean tidy and accessible building will speak of our hearts and intentions. I would dearly love this building to be the smartest and cleanest that there is in Callington and for it to be a welcoming gospel haven to all who enter through it,s doors. We do not delight in the building as Jonah did his vine but we must look for every opportunity to bring the people of Callington )which is our Nineveh) into a living relationship with our God in the way that He is leading us now.

God is concerned for our neighbours!


Are we?