Pastor’s Thoughts

Saturday 28 March 2020

Perhaps you may have noticed that I have put a few items on our daily Get, Enjoy and Pass it on sessions. I just thought of that; and some are specifically musical, and I was thinking that our musicians and music group would particularly be interested in these, and of course the former hippies in the church. Well this is another but hopefully it will be of interest to everyone, and please follow them with the Biblical references at the bottom of the page.

Have a lovely day.
Pastor and Elaine

Amen
The Impressions
Wrapped in a manger
On Christmas morning…
Talking with the fishermen
And making them disciples

Backbeat

After World War II, many pop music acts arose out of church choirs and gospel groups. One such combo, formed in Chicago in the late 1950s, included Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield—who had sung gospel music together—Sam Gooden, and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks. Originally a doo-wop group called the Roosters, they changed their name to the Impressions and hit it big with “For Your Precious Love” in 1958. When Jerry Butler departed to pursue a solo career and the Brooks brothers left, Curtis Mayfield became the leader of the remaining trio.

From that point, the Impressions moved toward more distinctive high-pitched gospel harmonies with a definite soul lilt. Three-part vocalising, rare in R&B at the time, was their hallmark. Their tunes gradually included more spiritual and civil-rights themes, accounting for some of the early social consciousness in soul and R&B music. They began a string of hits in 1961 that lasted into the 1970s, when Curtis Mayfield went solo and had numerous pop and soul successes himself. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

In late 1964, they scored a Top 10 smash that was undeniably based on their gospel roots. “Amen” rose to number 7 on the pop charts and even higher on the R&B charts. With three singers effortlessly trading the lead, phrase by phrase the verses told the story of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Riff

AMEN is probably the most religious word there is, so what was it doing on the Top 10 charts? This was a song of joy, an upbeat remake of an old, old spiritual. For a season, the music culture clapped and danced in celebration of faith. Not that everybody who sang along with the radio actually shared this faith in Jesus, but maybe they thought it was cool that somebody still believed in something.

When you get right down to it, amen is simply a word of faith. It’s a Hebrew word that means, basically, “Yes!” We use it as sort of the signature at the end of a prayer, “Yes, Lord, I trust you to answer.” But Jesus often put it at the beginning of his statements: “Verily, verily, [Amen, Amen] I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, kjv). Jesus told the truth—he was the Truth—so it’s no surprise that he billboarded key statements with this declaration that what he was about to say was true.

When we hear a recording of the Impressions singing “Amen,” we can remember that Jesus himself is the ultimate Amen. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’… As God’s ultimate ‘Yes,’ he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).

Harmonies
Deuteronomy 27:15-26        John 3:3, kjv*   2 Corinthians 1:19-20*
Psalm 89:52       1 Corinthians 14:16, kjv     Revelation 1:7
Matthew 5:37

 

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Thanksgiving and Prayer – Philippians 1:1-11

A CWTCH FROM THE PASTOR

What’s your usual way of saying hello to your friends?
In your family, how important are greetings in affirming each other?

Explore It

Who was the author of the letter to the Philippians? (1:1)
How did Paul identify himself and his co-worker? (1:1)
To whom did Paul address this letter? (1:1)
How did Paul greet the Philippians? (1:2)
When Paul thought about the Philippians, what did he do? (1:3)
How were the Philippians in partnership with Paul? (1:4-5)
What was Paul confident about? (1:6)
How did Paul feel about the Philippian church? (1:7-8)
What did Paul report that he prayed for? (1:9)
What two results did Paul seek? (1:10-11)

Get It

How does your pastor greet church members?
Why is it a good practice to begin a letter with a Christian blessing?
What godly encouragement can you offer other Christians?
Paul complimented the church at Philippi; what positive things can you say about your congregation?
How is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians a good prayer for you to copy?

Apply It

What prayer of thanksgiving can you offer for your church today?
How can you encourage someone in his or her Christian journey this week?
Which Christian brother or sister would be heartened to receive a letter from you this week?

Sunday 22 March 2020

Reading: I Timothy 6:1-10

Text: I Timothy 6:9-10

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Lottery

Today little is said by the intelligentsia of Albert Einstein being a man of faith, no more that people speak Sir Isaac Newton being a man of faith. Faith is an embarrassment to the pride of so many of them, but both Einstein, Newton and his great friend William Whiston a fellow scientist believed that the Bible was literally true and yet at least two of them are numbered amongst the greatest scientists in history.

In reply to colleagues who argued that some tiny bits of matter move in a random fashion Einstein replied: “God does not play dice”.

With God there are no contingencies, events, which are possible but are not certain to happen.

What determines that a coin will come up head or tails? I am told that the variables are staggering. But in the permissible will of God he allows the pressure and the placing of my thumb upon the weight and the angle of the coin in my hand, and if we do not believe that then we cannot believe that God is able to raise up and bring down nations at his will.

In other words, if God is not able to control the little points of detail, then he is unable to control the great events of history.

The American philosopher Benjamin Franklyn gave a version of an ancient proverb in the Richards Poor mans almanac when he wrote:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For the want of a horse the rider was lost,

For the want of a rider the battle was lost,

For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

Imagine the consequence of this statement; one nation was conquered because of the absence of the molecular structure of one nail and in the progression of that train of thought, let us remember that there is no molecular structure outside the permissible will of God.

So what has this to do with the lottery? Quite simply, God is not a God of chance.  He allows the balls to fall in the order they fall. Contrary to the manufacturers of lottery machinery: It is not fool proof, as anyone who plays the lottery like the ones who run it and make the machinery are all fools to think that God is not in control. So if you haven’t won the lottery it is down to the will of God.

We sometimes forget that this country has had numerous lotteries through the centuries and they all coincided with a spiritual time of poverty in this land. That is how it was in this country leading up to the Great Awakening.

From that great period of Puritanism and the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and his fellow Puritans, this country lapsed into a time of spiritual poverty when the monarchy was restored.

That spiritual dearth continued up to the Great Awakening when Howell Harries who was one of the great preachers of that great revival whereby he graced many a wayside pulpit in this land believed in the sovereignty of God, and he used the same sort of argument that many churches use today in their drive to access lottery funding for building projects in their church.

In the sovereignty of God, he believed that God would allow his ticket to come up, but in the permissible will of God his numbers never came up, and this brings me to my second point today!

His number did not come up because God’s love would not let him win!

You see, winning the lottery would have been worse for him and for us than losing everything, job, home and health. Yet most people only focus on what they see as the benefits of winning. They think that winning the lottery will bring.

  • Financial security.
  • Helping family and friends.
  • The ability to fulfil life long ambitions.

Yet many on winning regret not winning sooner than they did, and not winning more than they did. They are like the man who asked his boss for a rise of 5% and when his boss immediately gave it to him, the man went away disappointed. He told his wife, if I knew that he would give it as easy as that I would have asked for more!

Again, contrary to what you may think; many people who have won have regretted winning because their once stable lives have been so altered that it has led to divorce, jealousy within the family, the loss of life time friendship.

One man who won 1.4 million pounds said: that although he had been on unbelievable holidays and given money to friends, he wished that he had never won in the first place, because life had becoming boring, whereas once he knew that he was alive because of it being challenging.  Life for him had lost its buzz and became no more than a drag, and on top of that, he had seen his family descend into family feuds, and his preoccupation with thinking of the debts people owed him.

Abraham Lincoln always seems to have a word in season on most subject and this is what he said about mere financial success. “Financial success,” he said, “is purely metallic. The man who gains it has four metallic attributes: gold in his palm, silver on his tongue, brass in his face, and iron in his heart!”

John D. Rockefeller, a Christian millionaire, said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness. I would barter them all for the days I sat on an office stool in Cleveland and counted myself rich on three dollars a week.” Broken in health, he employed an armed guard.

  1. H. Vanderbilt who amassed a fortune which is equivalent to $6,601,688,889 today said, “The care of 200 million dollars is too great a load for any brain or back to bear. It is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”

Perhaps that is why Andrew Carnegie was in his day one of the richest men in the world said: “Millionaires seldom smile.”

My friends! There is a reason then why you have not won the lottery. It is not fate but the love of God.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, he had everything in the world that many a person desires. His sin was in loving riches. The love of riches was his first love, and that is sinful, but first and foremost Lazarus loved God. His faith was placed in the God that he loved and he gained his reward in heaven.

The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It leads to trusting in your riches rather than in trusting in the LORD. Martin Luther prayed: “Do not give me my portion in this world”. He saw that having riches in this world would be Gods judgment and not Gods blessing.

Ask yourself, how many lottery people go to church? How many rich people go to heaven? I saw a documentary the other day about a very rich man here in Newport. He had come from a very good family, and he prospered in everything he did. Alas his marriage broke down and he became infatuated with an escort girl who he eventually murdered, and with her death her little girl who had only lost her father by his own hand only a short while before, now lost her mother as well.

I wonder how many times they had passed Duckpool Road in their travels? For sure they would have passed it many times, but as far as I am aware that is as far as it went. They had everything in the sight of the world and yet they were paupers in the sight of God. How sad is that?

How many such people are going to heaven? For certain Jesus gives us an answer. He said: It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. How graphic is that: Again, Scripture says: naked we came into the world and naked we shall go out.

Indeed the more we have in this world, the greater the distraction there is from developing our relationship with God. So thank God my friend that you have not won the lottery, because irrespective of how much you can do with the money, he would rather see you with a one pound in your pocket and a bank full of trust in him as your sovereign God.

In essence he wants you to turn to him not to your bank accounts. He wants you to dwell in him and not with your financial advisor, and the ups and down of your assets in these Financial times.

The reason I have never won on the lottery is that I have never bought a ticket, and the reason I have never bought a ticket is that it clearly states in the Bible that these things are against Gods revealed will.

  • God has said that we should not covet (Envy) and the lottery is built on the breaking of this commandment.
  • The teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-24 clearly states that we cannot serve two master, as we will love one and hate the other, but seek first the Kingdom of heaven.
  • Ephesians 4 tells us that we are to work with our hand for our living and for certain, idle hands make for the devils work.
  • Then Christian ethics comes into the argument. We are told that we are to love our neighbour. Yet we defraud our neighbour every time we buy a lottery ticket because contrary to what successive government have said; the lottery was devised to collect money from the poorest people in the land who do not earn enough money to pay direct taxation.
  • And it works, as most lottery tickets are bought by the poorest people, the very people who can least afford to buy them. Their odds of winning are 14,000,000 to 1. Little wonder that it is referred to as the sucker tax.

Indeed, if any other agency offered these odds against winning then they would be closed down. As someone once said: You have a better chance of seeing the long dead Elvis Presley driving an unidentified flying object than in winning the lottery.

Quite simply then, the lottery is against the will of God as it breaks the 10th commandment.  It steals from our poorest neighbours and it glorifies chance whereas we as Christians are called to glorify God.

_______________________________________________________________________

Tuesday 17th March 2020

Trials – Seasons of Suffering

I. Definitions

1
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

A. What Is the Purpose of Trials?
A trial is the process of proving the quality or worth of something or someone. 1
Trials are tests of your faith, patience or endurance through the process of suffering. 2
Three primary Greek words are translated as “trial” in the New Testament. Each has a slightly different emphasis in meaning, yet they all reveal God’s purpose for trials and suffering. 3
— Dokimion … proven faith
A testing trial in which your faith is proved genuine—
“These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)
— Purosis … refined character
A fiery trial through which your character is refined, as gold is refined (implies suffering)—
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
— Peirasmos … tested commitment
A trial or temptation through which the quality of your commitment is tested—
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Biblical Example

2
Genesis chapters 37-50
God Means It for Good
Wherever he went, young Joseph incited resentment and jealousy. This favoured child of Jacob needed refining, and it was no wonder that his brothers determined to do away with him after he bragged that one day they would bow down to him (see Genesis 37:5-11). Joseph’s story illustrates how God smooths the rough edges of our character by various trials and testings that build confidence in His purpose and provision for us.
The sands of abrasion were very real in Joseph’s life, for God used his trials of rejection and suffering and years of undeserved punishment to soften him. Joseph’s self-centred spirit was replaced with compassion even for those who had tried to harm him (see Genesis 45:8-11). More importantly, Joseph learned to trust God. His most powerful pronouncement was made when he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
“The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

B. What Are Some Truths about Trials?
Trials are experienced by everyone.
“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
Trials have a divine purpose.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Trials last only for a while.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6)
Trials are controlled by God.
“God… will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Trials strengthen you in your weaknesses.
“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Trials come with God’s grace for endurance.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
C. What Are Some Types of Trials (Storms)?

3
Trials (storms) to rebuke
“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:23-27)
Trials to rise above
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘Why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Matthew 14:22-32)
Trials to ride out
“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved…. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.” (Acts 27:20, 41-44)
Trials we dare not rebuke
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)
“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)
D. What Process Is Possible During Trials?
Little apple seeds that grow into large apple trees go through a process of change. A process is marked by a series of natural, gradual changes that lead toward an end result. This is exactly what God has in mind when He allows trials to enter your life. If, like the seed, you are willing to die to self, God will begin a process in you that can result in great spiritual growth.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

The Process… in the Psalms

4
Trials turn you to God.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:1-6)
Trials bring God to you.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” (Psalm 10:17)
Trials motivate you to cry out to God.
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.” (Psalm 142:1-3)
Trials lead to personal examination.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Trials draw you back to God’s will.
“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
Trials draw you to God’s Word.
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)
Trials produce a hatred of sin.
“Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
Trials produce a heart of humility.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)

___________________________________________

 

Sunday 15th March 2020

Know God’s plan for Israel (1)

Scripture Text: Revelation 12

I never cease to be amazed at the incredible days in which we live and I say that in looking at the world with a wider perspective than the current coronavirus epidemic.  You may agree or disagree in saying that the days in which we live are part of what Revelations calls the Great Tribulation.

Irrespective of than that, most of us cannot deny that we are living close enough to the comparatively recent history of the greatest migration of people on the face  of the earth with the aftermath to the 2nd Word War.

A significant part of that migration was the remaining Europeans that had escaped the Holocaust, and Jews who had endured pogroms after pogroms in Russia and now took the long track by land, by ship and air to Palestine, known to us as the people of faith, as Israel.

Indeed, that migration has been taking place ever since with a new tide of anti Semitism including the black tribe of Dan from Ethiopia, which until the 1980’s was considered a myth.

As for us who were fortunate enough to be raised in  Christian homes in this land, we at least we have been raised to respect, to love and to be  thankful  for the Jewish people, chosen by God to be a people set apart, to be hearers, doers and proclaimers of Gods Word to the world. Yet in coming up to date we have also seen increasingly in liberal church circles that more and more churches are joining in the chorus against Israel and its people.

Yet they alongside Bible believing-Christians like ourselves  cannot deny that Israel is in 100% of all Bible prophecy concerning the future, and I say, woe to those who attack and seek to destroy them because the Jews and Israel are the people and land of destiny.

In our ironmongers shop we used a brass yardstick for measuring out wire netting, Lino and so forth. It was an accurate measurement!  Israel is God’s yardstick for what He is doing in the world, and into this we find hope for dark days like today.

In our reading we are given a gleaning into Gods yardstick called Israel:

“A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth

We have seen many glamorous women in history but in the realms of virtue none surpassed the Virgin Mary, but this Woman clothed with the sun isn’t the Virgin Mary.

Perhaps it is the church? Well for certain the church is spoken of as the bride of Christ but alas these verses aren’t speaking of the church even though we know that Jesus Christ gave birth to the church.

So, who is this woman? This woman clothed in the sun is ISRAEL.

How can I say that?

I can say it because Genesis 37:9 tells us  when God gave Joseph a vision, he said to his 11 brothers:”Listen I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  11 plus 1 make 12. Joseph was the twelfth star. The sun, the moon, and twelve stars. 

Yet is does not end there.  In Isaiah 54:5-6 Israel is introduced to us as the bride of God. They were told:

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One-of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. “

For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger, I hide my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Jesus came from the Nation Israel. Here’s the key verse: Romans 9:4-5. Paul is talking about his concern for Israel and he talks about the Jews, and here’s how he describes them – “the people of Israel”.  Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

What is Paul saying? Paul is saying that Israel gave us the Messiah.Therefore, let us never fall into sin by forgetting that we serve the Son of God born to the Jews, their Messiah, our LORD.  Israel gave Jesus to this world and thank God for it. Israel is a God-ordained, God-called, God-protected, and a God-blessed nation.

Why did God call and ordain Israel—to make them a blessing alone? No, that through Israel all the world would be blessed. Genesis 12:3. God said to Abraham, and He says, “Abraham, I’m going to make a great nation of you. I will bless them that bless you and curse him that curses you; and in you [Abraham] shall all the nations of the world be blessed.”

My friends, we come together today as a blessed people because God worked his redemptive plan for all the nations of the world through Christ  born a Jew and in fulfilment of prophesy because of God choose to work out that plan through Israel. Therefore, I say again, people are very foolish and on dangerous ground if they seek Israel’s destruction.  In contrast, when you bless what God has blessed, when you love what God has loved, then God is going to bless you.

Deuteronomy 7:6. And here the Word is talking about Israel’s special favour. God said to Israel, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people to himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth.”  If the nations are wise they will learn to bless Israel and evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, need to pray more for,  and to love the Nation Israel more.

In turn Our Jewish friends need to learn that the best friends they have on the face of this earth are Bible-believing Christians, and may the devil not muddy the water.

Secondly in our reading we find Israel’s enemy. Revelation 12:3 says: “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 

Years ago, some of our Southern Baptist visitors were a little dismayed when they first saw our national flag. I instinctively knew that they were thinking of the red dragon of Revelation so I reassured them that our red dragon only has one head not seven. The other 6 were on the shoulders of some Welsh wives!

So you have a woman clothed with the sun which we have identified as being Israel, and a dreadful dragon and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.”

Who is this dreadful dragon? Who is the ferocious one who is so strong and so cruel? It is Satan himself.  He is red because that speaks of his blood lust. He’s a murderer. He has seven heads. He has 10 horns. He has 7 crowns. Seven is the number of fullness or perfection but here it is an oxymoron as he is the opposite of perfection. He is vile and obnoxious angel and a diabolical power.  He has ten horns. Horns in the Bible are a prophecy of power, so when you put seven, the perfect number, and ten, the complete number, this speaks of the power of this great red dragon. It speaks of his earthly power. And we find out here that Satan is the ultimate rebel. He has a tail so long that that tail sweeps a third of the stars from the heaven. What are these stars? These are not literal stars. This is symbolism.

In the Book of the Revelation stars are spoken of as persons. These are the angels that rebelled with Satan and fell when Satan fell. Satan led a rebellion in heaven, and he said, “I’m too wise, I’m too strong, I’m too glorious, I’m too mighty to be anything less than God. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”  And no sooner had he unsheathed his sword of rebellion than the thunders of Jehovah’s wrath rolled through heaven.

Satan was judged and he fell from heaven, and when he fell, one third of the angels fell from him. Does that bother you? Well, let me tell you two-thirds didn’t fall, and we have two angels for every demon.  Satan is a rebel. Satan fell. And he took these fallen angels, who have now become demons, and is bringing them to hell. That is their destiny. That’s what Jesus taught. Matthew 25:41. Jesus speaks of those who are going to be judged in the final day. “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

God did not make hell for you. God made hell for the devil and the devil’s angels. One-third of the stars of heaven that fell are going to be brought down to the lowest hell. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. That tells me if you go to hell, friend, you will be an intruder. It was not made for you. But if you chose to follow Satan, that will be your destiny but be sure of this, God doesn’t want you to go there.

Now these fallen angels have fallen and have gone down to the very pit. I want you to notice, while Satan has a war with Israel, his ultimate war is with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Notice again in verse 4: “And his tail [the dragon’s tail] drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman [the woman is Israel] which was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born.” 

Who is her child? The Lord Jesus Christ. What does Satan want to do? He wants to engulf the Lord Jesus Christ, to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan’s ultimate war is with Jesus Christ Himself.  This is why he moved Herod to murder all the little baby boys who were 2 and under. Why? He’s trying to devour the child as soon as the child is born but he could not stop the plan of God. Verse 5: “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” 

Jesus Christ came. He was born, He lived a perfect life, a sinless life. He died upon the cross, was buried. He walked out of that grave a victorious Saviour, has ascended the high hills of glory. Praise be to God this morning that Jesus came to the land of Promise Israel in fulfilment of prophesy and now we can say:

Living He loved me, dying He saved me,

buried He carried my sins far away.

Rising He justified, freely forever,

One day He’s coming, o, glorious day! Amen

_____________________________________

 

Saturday 14th March 2020

We need to pray

Finding ourselves caught up in a global pandemic is challenging and is going to reveal the essential nature of our discipleship.

Like the early disciples our call is to follow Jesus in the midst of everything that life throws at us (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). As we do, we know that Christ is with us, God’s Holy Spirit is empowering us and that we have the precious gift of prayer.  Despite severe suffering Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers to be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:16) and we need to hear this as God’s word for us today.

Each church has a vital part to play in being a Beacon of Hope at the moment.  Our neighbours and communities need love, hope, peace and an eternal perspective and we can offer this in abundance, in the name of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:18).

    1. Reflecting on the world-wide situation

Let’s continue to pray for all our sisters and brothers across the world who have been, and are continuing to be, affected by COVID-19.  We pray that all will know God’s overwhelming, steadfast love.

Pray for the countries currently suffering from the greatest outbreaks:

  • China
  • Italy
  • Iran
  • South Korea
  • France
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • USA

Psalm 46

     2.  We pray for those who are particularly fearful at the moment.

Pray for those in our communities who may feel vulnerable and scared.

Pray that the love of God might be their peace. That they may know that even in the darkest times God’s love brings hope.

Psalm 23


    3. We pray for the most vulnerable and isolated in our neighbourhoods.

Pray for those who are currently self-isolating in our neighbourhoods.

Pray for older people who are concerned about shopping, regular hospital appointments and general day to day contact with other people.

Bring to God the regular activities for older and more vulnerable people provided by our churches. Pray for wisdom for church leaders to know how to keep people connected and safe.

John 14:27

    4. We pray for the medical staff on the frontline of care, we pray that they will be sustained physically, emotionally and spiritually in the coming weeks.

Pray for medics in our own congregations.

We pray that God will be their shield and their strength.

We pray for wisdom and insight as to how to support those in our congregations and communities involved in frontline care.

Isaiah 40:28-31

     5. Pray for our world leaders and for the leaders in our own country that they will seek the wisdom of God as they make decisions over the coming days.

Pray for physical strength for our leaders

    6. We pray for all those leading the scientific response to COVID-19 across the world.

Pray for the scientists from across the globe as they look for ways to alleviate symptoms and as they seek a vaccine for the future.

    7. Pray for all God’s people in this time of uncertainty and concern. That our eternal hope would make an earthly difference.

Pray for a sense of calm and clarity as well as strength to face what is ahead. That Christians will be ‘beacons of hope’ and ‘carriers of the message of peace’ at this time.

    8. Pray for the work of BMS overseas

Pray for BMS Personnel overseas, our partners and local communities, especially those who are living in countries where the health services and infrastructure might not be adequate to protect a global pandemic.

Pray that God will use His servants to accompany people pastorally and missionally through this valley of uncertainty, fear and even potential death. May we be a people of Hope in encouraging others in the face of crisis to lean on God’s sustaining presence and unfailing providence.

    9. We pray for others in all parts of our world who daily face the uncertainty of life.

We pray for those caught in war

We pray for those who face hunger today

We pray for those struggling with sickness and ill health because of other diseases, such as malaria.

We acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty in and through all things and pray using the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,  and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSV)