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So far Richard Hill has created 16 blog entries.

Psalm 125 – The Security of God’s People

2021-07-26T15:50:50+01:00

Yesterday, Philip led us through Psalm 125, which is a wonderful Psalm affirming that God keeps his people safe, that he surrounds us and protects us and holds us.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures for ever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and for evermore.

God loved us and protected us even before we knew him. And he will go on protecting us forever; there is eternal security for those who trust in him. Mount Zion, where the temple was built, doesn’t have spectacular views like some hills. Rather, it’s surrounded by higher hills (like the Mount of Olives) – it’s got the sense of being hemmed in and protected. And that’s the sense that the Psalmist wants us to have. God is keeping us safe and protecting us.

The danger in this Psalm comes from wicked rulers over God’s people (v3). I suppose the modern equivalent would be both wicked political national rulers, but also wicked leaders in God’s people – the church. Clergy who use their positions for selfish gain and to enjoy power rather than to serve God and others, or who preach a merely human message rather than encouraging faithfulness to God.

There’s a strong hint here that not all of those who are visible part of God’s people actually trust in God – there are also those who are wicked, and those who seem good but will turn to crooked ways (v5). I suppose we have seen that all too clearly over recent months and years with the various clergy abuse scandals.

But if that’s the danger, the great encouragement here is that God will not allow them to remain. The Psalmist prays for God’s blessing on those who are upright in heart and do good – not at all meaning that we have to be perfect, but that God brings transformation to those who trust in him; that he sees us as righteous and then enables us to change so that we become more and more the people he has already made us to be.

And ultimately those who seem to be part of the visible church, but who don’t really trust in God, and who ultimately show that by turning to crooked ways rather than away from them, ultimately God will recognise them and “banish them with the evildoers”. That is how God brings peace.

Psalm 125 – The Security of God’s People2021-07-26T15:50:50+01:00

Psalm 124 – Thanksgiving for Israel’s deliverence

2021-07-19T14:07:03+01:00

There’s often a sense of hard plodding in these Psalms of Ascent. And that’s really encouraging, because it’s so much the same sense that we often get in life at the moment.

And as he plods, David finds encouragement and shares it with those plodding along with him. Here are three encouragements he shares in this Psalm.

A great danger (v1-5)

The Psalmist finds encouragement by looking back at past perils. It’s not clear what the past situation is, but that means it’s easy to generalise to our difficulties too! But it felt like a giant monster who threatened to swallow them alive, like an angry mob, a flash flood, like being an animal caught by a poacher.

And his praise is this. “If the Lord had not been on our side” it would have been so much worse. He takes time to dwell on the bad things that might have happened, and to praise God that they didn’t.

Maybe for some, the grief of the last 16 months is still too present to be able to turn to praise like this. But for others of us who haven’t been directly affected, we can praise God that things have not been much worse. Praise God for the things that still work, for the disasters that haven’t happened, whether in our national life or in our own personal histories. And looking at all the disasters that haven’t happened gives us confidence as we face an uncertain future, because we know that just as God has kept us this far, so he will bring us safely home.

A great escape (v6-7)

Here the threat is more intense – it is a trap that has been set for us, that we have been caught in. And yet we have escaped, not because of our skill but because the trap has been broken. There may well be specific examples, but it clearly applies to our sin. See Eph 2:1-5, for example.
We were caught and ensnared by our own sin, and yet the snare has been broken by Jesus dying in our place and rising again, and we have been set free. Sometimes we struggle to take hold of that freedom – pray for one another!

A great declaration (v8)

Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

Our confidence is in God, who made everything and therefore is Lord of everything. It is in his name – his revealed reputation because of his actions (and not in the church or whatever ministry we have benefited from over the years).

But it is also a shout together – it is our confidence; our help. We stand together with other Christians and encourage other Christians.

Psalm 124 – Thanksgiving for Israel’s deliverence2021-07-19T14:07:03+01:00

Psalm 123 – Supplication for mercy

2021-07-18T08:44:23+01:00

Yesterday, Amy and Geoff continued our series in the Psalms of Ascent with Psalm 123.

When times are hard, do we look down, do we look in, or do we look up? The Psalmist here makes the decision to look up, at God. They knew that was the only way to real satisfaction and hope.

Encountering the eternal nature of God helps put our problems in perspective.  Our problems are immediate and feel eternal but through God’s perspective they are a mere drop in the ocean. I love how Colossians 3 in The Message puts it: “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is.  See things from his perspective.

Charles Spurgeon writes:
When we cannot look to any helper on a level with us, it is greatly wise to look above us; in fact if we have a thousand helpers, our eyes should still be toward the Lord.  The higher the Lord is the better for our faith, since that height represents power, glory and excellence, and these will be all engaged on our behalf.”

When we feel low; like the Psalmist does here because of the contempt and ridicule he is receiving, look up at God. Think about God; learn to see things from his perspective. Notice that the pictures the Psalmist uses of looking at God are all pictures of dependence on someone much greater than us.

But it’s not just choosing to look up; it’s choosing to keep on looking up. The Psalmist keeps on looking at God until the situation changes. And we keep on looking to him because we know that he is our best and only hope. The Psalmist longs for God to show mercy to him.

Mercy is God taking pity on our difficult situation. And we know that he is rich in mercy.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-5 Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

God has already shown us that he is rich in mercy. He has already rescued us from sin and death because of his great mercy. So when we are struggling, keep on looking to God and asking for his mercy until things change!

Here’s Paul again, from Titus 3: But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Let us finish with this passage from Alec Motyer’s book Journey:
Coming there [to a place of prayer] we set aside the troubles and toils of the world and enter a place of rest, where he ‘sits’; we turn from our poverty and want into his ‘home’, where there is everything in abundance, his ‘riches in glory’; and we bring our powerlessness in the face of stronger forces and overwhelming odds into the place of power where he is king.  The storms of earth are not storms in heaven, where all is at rest; the wants of earth are swamped by the ocean flood of heaven’s resources; and the forces and oppositions of earth do not count in heaven, where real sovereignty is enthroned.

Psalm 123 – Supplication for mercy2021-07-18T08:44:23+01:00

Psalm 122 – Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem

2021-07-05T13:38:11+01:00

What do you make of church at the moment? I know that some folk are really frustrated with it at the moment, largely because of the ongoing restrictions on singing. And I think this Psalm has something important to say about our attitude to church. We’re going to look at it under two headings, two things that the Psalm calls us to do.

1. Rejoice in the Church.
It’s easy to get cynical about churches that blow their own trumpets a lot, but when we do, we can miss the real value of rejoicing in the church like the Psalmist does here.

Here the Psalmist rejoices in the church because he rejoices in God. God isn’t obviously the main focus of this Psalm; it’s more about God’s people when they gather. But he is right at the start and end of the Psalm, and right in the middle too. God’s people are amazing because God is amazing, not because of what we have or haven’t done, or because of the quality of the music. We’re amazing because of the identity of our God, and because we are his people. And God’s identity and his greatness don’t change because we can’t sing together.

But also because of the unity they experience together in worship. I think that’s what’s going on it v3 – it’s talking about the crowds and the bustle at festival time. He rejoices in the diversity of God’s people, not naturally in harmony, sometimes even at war, but gathering together and mingling in the same crowd as they come together to worship God.

And I wonder about us. Do we need to recover some of that thrill and excitement about church, whether we’re attending onsite or online at the moment? To gather together with others of different cultures and backgrounds and ages to praise the awesome God who saves us, calls us his children and gives us unity?

Just as we see a sliver of the moon in the sky and still say that it’s the moon, so we can see a hint of God’s new creation in the church today. It is a tiny and imperfect foretaste of heaven. We may have zits, but we’re still the Bride of Christ.

2. Pray for the church.
And the key word in the second half of the Psalm is “peace”. It is peace that comes from submission to the rule of God’s righteous king (v5). It is peace between members of God’s kingdom (v7) but also security from those outside.  It’s also peace that seeks prosperity; the classic Old Testament picture of peace is everyone being able to sit down under their own vine and fig tree.

So it’s not the kind of fake peace that comes from papering over cracks or putting a nice face on things or failing to speak up when there’s something seriously wrong – that isn’t real peace. Real peace is handling conflict well, learning to speak the truth in love, and also receive the truth in love because we recognise that it’s not ultimately about us or our own convenience; it’s about acting for the sake of our family and friends v8, and for the sake of the house of the Lord v9 – doing conflict well for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Do we pray for the peace of God’s people?

Do we act for the peace of God’s people? Not stirring up unnecessary conflict, and when conflict is needed not shirking from it, but instead seeking to do it well and lovingly for our long-term good and prosperity?

And when we’ve messed up or hurt others in the church, are we willing to swallow our pride and admit our fault, recognising that our mission to the world and the wellbeing of our friends and family is far more important than our own feelings.
Brothers and sisters, let us love the church. Let us love one another despite what we are often like because of who God is and what he has done for us. Let us love one another by praying for one another, even and especially those we do not naturally get on with. And let us love one another not just in words, but also in actions, by seeking the good of the church.

Psalm 122 – Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem2021-07-05T13:38:11+01:00

Psalm 121 – Assurance of God’s Protection

2021-06-28T21:50:48+01:00

Yesterday, Joel and Guy continued leading us in our series through the Psalms of Ascent (Ps 120-134).  Psalm 121 is one of the most famous Psalms, and it begins with a question. The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills, and realises that he needs help – there are various possible explanations for why. But the Psalm’s emphasis is clearly on the security that God gives to his people – in just 8 verses, there are 6 uses of the verb “to keep” and 5 of the verb “to watch”! God watches over us, and keeps us safe.

Alec Motyer draws out four wonderful pictures of God’s care for his people in this Psalm:

  1. The Lord the Creator v1-2

God created, maintains, controls and directs all things. And when we remember how magnificent and powerful God is, and that he cares for us, our problems seem so much smaller!

  1. The Lord the Redeemer v3-4

God protects us from human frailty – the careless footstep; from divine negligence – God does not slumber or sleep; and also from forgetfulness. “Israel” comes as a surprise in v4, but it’s a reminder that the Psalmist is cared for because he/she is a member of God’s covenant people, who he has redeemed.

  1. The Lord the Companion v5-6

The picture of a “shade” is like a parasol, like eating outside on a hot day and finding the shade of an umbrella or a tree. God puts himself between the heat of the desert sun and his people, so that he takes the head, and his people enjoy his protection.

  1. The Lord the Guarantor v7-8

God keeps us from all harm. He acts like a comprehensive insurance policy – making sure that it’s all ok.  And he does it because he is fully committed to us. God – creator, redeemer and companion in Psalm 121 is God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who watches over us and keeps us safe.

Psalm 121 – Assurance of God’s Protection2021-06-28T21:50:48+01:00

Psalm 120 – Prayer for Deliverance from Slanderers

2021-06-28T21:49:19+01:00

Introduction

I wonder what your routine is when you are about to set off on long journey. Deciding what choice of music, audiobook or radio station to have on. Or maybe yours playlist is ‘are we there yet?’ on repeat by the backing singers. It was much simpler when all you had in the car was the cassette tape because we had limited options; looks like it’s Bruce Springsteen or The Archers!  Now it’s “Alexa, play…” and let the argument or the indecisiveness begin.  Getting started is sometimes the hardest part of any journey and not just the choice of music.

We are starting our series on the Psalms (or Songs) of Ascent; these Psalms were sung by pilgrims travelling over the nation of Israel for three of the major festivals throughout the year; Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of tabernacles.  You could say this was the Pilgrims’ mixtape.

The meaning of these Psalms has been interpreted in a few different ways.  Jerusalem was, topographically, the highest point in Israel so wherever you were travelling from you would be going up. But it could also be seen as a metaphor for moving towards God; as Eugene Peterson puts it the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upwards towards God from one level to another developing maturity.  As we move through these Psalms over the Summer, we will see in these Psalms a journey from distress to power and to security in God.

The Journey Begins

Track one in the playlist is one of distress; the Psalmist is asking to be rescued from lying lips and deceitful tongues.  The psalm starts with distress and ends with war; it is not a happy psalm. But it is the start of the journey. The psalmist is looking around and does not like what they see and where they dwell and basically saying “get me out of here, I do not belong in this place!”.

When I first became a Christian and my journey began, I recall greatly how painful the start of that journey was.  At 15 years of age, I had encountered God, felt his presence and for the first-time unconditional love with a desire to live, love and serve Him.  That was easier amongst those who also believed but not so with those who do not.

Turning away from old behaviours and attitudes at school which made me an alien and target; shunned even more in what was a particularly challenging and difficult homelife. The start of the journey was hard, but I remember praying most nights, blessed me your name and, like the Psalmist, Lord get me out of here.  And you know what, He did just that. A year later I was living with caring and nurturing foster parents that still to this day walk with me.

Our walk as disciples as followers of Christ can and will make us aliens in the land that we live but we walk these dangerous and challenging roads in the confidence of who God is and what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross and because of that we live differently and as John rightly pointed out last week that our lives should point to Jesus and that people will see Jesus in us; some will be attracted and some will be repelled.  Our journey is one that is counter-cultural in an ever-increasing hostile culture.  The great thing for us here and now is that we can turn to God on that journey and that by his Spirit we can be guided through the difficult parts of the journey and to also be excited about how God may use us on our journey for his Glory.

Turning to God on the Journey

The psalmist shows us at the very beginning and throughout the journey we too can turn to God, cry out and asked for deliverance.  Our walk with Jesus was never going to be carefree because we live in a world where there is danger, injustice, and temptation. A world that the psalmist in v5 likens to Meshech and Kedar.  It was unlikely the psalmist was in these places physically but rather they were metaphors for one being a remote place and another being hostile.

We may find ourselves working and living in places that sometimes seem so distant and detached from God; where we dwell among those who hate peace.  The journey can and will be messy, it can take different turns and people from all over will join on the upward climb. We become more like who God wants us to be as we continue this upward walking with Him.

When I find myself in conversations with people about God’s grace and that all who honestly believe and repent can be forgiven this can cause offence because it His grace is remarkable!  You only need to look at the media to see how well received forgiveness of people’s mistakes is; to forgive and move on is incredibly counter-cultural yet it is at the heart of God’s saving works.

Working in the prison education I am constantly in discussion with people about why we do what we do and battle with people (some that work in prisons) about whether people can change or not.  What grieves me, what distresses me is that I see and work with so many people that did not have a good start to their journey in life and as a result end up on the wrong side of the law.

This is then reinforced by remaining stigma; one learner of mine said to me “Danny, once a prisoner always a prisoner in the eyes of society”. It breaks my heart because I believe and trust in a God that can and does change hearts and minds; that turns people’s lives around.  Yet, I find that I dwell amongst people who reject this. The world does not dictate our journey and as we are reminded in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, those who are lost can be found. And I get so frustrated because I just don’t understand why people do not want to champion people’s recovery in order that they don’t reoffend and get stuck in a vicious circle; it pains me.

I know that many of us right now feel distressed, are tired and are restless as a result of the last 15 months of going through a journey in our society we are still yet to finish.  The journey has been a challenging and frustrating one whereby people have felt much pain, loneliness, and detachment from loved ones.

It has been a painful journey on top of all the other things in life that concerns us individually and corporately, our past, our struggles with others; our issues at work; financial concerns; health concerns; and the issues of injustice in the world and we think ah! how can we make this journey?  We do this one step at a time with God who is faithful and will walk with us; He is our living hope.  Day by day, step by step, let us continue to walk with Him and together; this journey is to be walked as a community.
What has been encouraging is how people have journeyed together online, onsite, homegroups and so on.  As well of those who have joined the journey during this time.

Conclusion

I wonder what your Meshech and Kedar is right now; whether be work, family difficulties strained relationships, I encourage you bring these places before God and be assured that God can make his presence known.

What we can take from this psalm is that it teaches us that is it okay to express our frustration, our weariness, our anger at the injustice we see in the world around us and look to God the who gives us hope and strength for the journey.  This journey both physically and spiritually is about journeying towards God.

Unlike the psalmist, we do not need to travel physically to be where God is but by his Spirit he can and will make his presence known.  And that we can take his light into the World and others will see Him and join his journey.

Psalm 120 – Prayer for Deliverance from Slanderers2021-06-28T21:49:19+01:00

Shining with God’s love in our community (1 Peter 2:4-12)

2021-06-14T13:21:54+01:00

1 Peter 2:4-12

1 Peter 2:4-12 is one of the key passages for me in understanding what the Church is and what we are here for. As we conclude our short series looking at St Jude’s vision statement by reflecting on “Shining with God’s love in our community”, it seems appropriate that we come here.

There are hundreds of things that we could draw out of the passage. Here are three of them.

1. God makes us to be a people for others. Throughout the passage, there are loads of statements about who the church is. And all of the metaphors have a few things in common – they are all about Jesus determining our identity; every picture is something that is true of Jesus that also becomes true of us because of him. All of them are singular – they are something we are together rather than apart. But all of them are also about being there for others. Temples are there so that others can come and worship. Priests (in the Bible sense) are go-betweens between people and God. God’s holy nation and chosen people are meant to be conduits of God’s blessing to the whole world (e.g. Gen 12).

2. The light we hold out is Jesus. We’re not about making ourselves or the church look good. We’re about holding out Jesus. And some people are going to be attracted to him, and others repelled by him. But Jesus is the cornerstone – he’s the one we base everything on, and who we shape everything around.

In the present culture wars, where it is so easy to offend others, that means we need to be careful that when we as a church offend people, it’s Jesus doing the offending. Jesus offended people by going to parties with people whose lifestyles he shouldn’t have approved of, who therefore presumably found him good company. He was known for being someone who was kind and generous to those who didn’t fit in with his moral standards. People were also offended by his claims to authority and exclusivity. After all, if we say that Jesus is the king of kings, ultimately that means that all over authority is relative to and less important than his. He claims to be the only way to know the Father and to have the right to say how his people should live. And so if people are offended because we refuse to bow the knee to Caesar or agree with whatever the latest fad is, or because we say that ultimately there is only one way to God, they’d be offended by Jesus too, so that’s ok.

Now there’s an important caveat here, which is about how Jesus’ lordship works out for those who don’t follow him. If Jesus is Lord of all, should the church insist that non-Christians follow Christian moral standards? The answer is “no”. Jesus will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, but it is not the church’s place to bring that judgement forwards.

For example, the world of the New Testament was horrible and frequently cruel. In Luke 13:1-4, Jesus doesn’t bother ranting about Pilate’s evil. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul writes “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? God will judge those outside.” The light we hold out is Jesus. And yes, some people will be offended by his grace and generosity, some will be offended by his power and authority. But let them not be offended by us being judgemental or jerks. Let us instead be corporately like Jesus, be a people for others. Third, let us shine with God’s light.

3. Let us shine with God’s light. V12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” We should be a church that people in our community see as good news. Because when we start to look like Jesus in this world, when we shine with God’s light, then people start to see Jesus in us, and some of them respond in faith and love.

God has made us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. So let’s shine with his love in our community.

Shining with God’s love in our community (1 Peter 2:4-12)2021-06-14T13:21:54+01:00

Growing together as the family of God (Colossians 3:12-17)

2021-06-13T10:15:40+01:00

There’s a stereotype that Christian ethics is just about “how great it would be to be nice to people for a change”. But as we consider our statement about what we are about as a church, focusing on the line “Growing together as the family of God”, I think it would be helpful to look at Colossians 3:12-17, one of the classic “be nice to people” passages, and see why it isn’t just about being nice to each other.

  1. It is rooted in what God has done for us. It begins with “therefore” – looking back to chapters 1 and 2. Specifically, that we are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved – therefore we don’t need to try to impress others or bolster our own sense of identity, and we can look at each other as chosen, holy and dearly loved too – hence all the qualities that follow are about our attitudes to other people.

We see the same in v14, 15, 16 and 17 – it’s all about responding to what God has done for us. Paul’s argument is “this is who God is; this is what he has done for us; this is who he has called us to be. Therefore this is how we should live.” So if we want to grow in those qualities, we do so by coming back to what God has done for us and for others.

  1. It recognises that it is hard. v12-13 shows it as a deliberate process, with lots of elements to pay attention to – like getting dressed up really smartly for church. In v13, we see that it is often difficult and we need to “bear with each other” and show grace to each other, just as God does to us.

That doesn’t mean for a second that we just ignore sin or fail to speak out to protect others; it means that even when we correct and discipline people, it is done in a genuine spirit of love and grace, just as God does with us.

  1. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about present relationship with him. So in v12-14, our character comes to reflect Jesus’ character more and more. In v15 we let peace rule – that’s not the peace of sweeping things under the carpet, it’s the peace of submitting it all to Christ who loves us. It’s the word of Christ too in v16, that we’re called to let dwell in us and transform us, leading us to be able to teach and admonish one another.

How do you feel about sharing God’s word with other Christians? Maybe it’s saying something that helped us in the last week, or something we were struck by as we read the Bible. Maybe it’s asking questions about something we don’t understand, or helping other people understand when they ask us. That’s partly why homegroups are really important – it’s hard to do the horizontal dimension of church well with current restrictions.

That’s especially true when it comes to singing. Our songs are meant to be so saturated with the Bible that singing them is sharing God’s word with people (v16). It’s meant to be a corporate activity of together offering our thanks and praise to God, so that the word of God dwells among us as well as with us, and we can’t do it together at the moment.

It’s also about doing everything in Jesus’ name – doing them as his representatives in this world. Everything we do, whether it is picking up litter on a Saturday morning or getting a vaccination to protect other members of society, or trying to shop more ethically, we do it as representatives of Jesus, as people who show the world what he is like.

Growing together as the family of God (Colossians 3:12-17)2021-06-13T10:15:40+01:00

Worshipping God and listening to His Word (Isaiah 6:1-8)

2021-06-13T10:15:01+01:00

We’re doing a short series of sermons where we let the Bible shed light on our church’s identity statement. Today we’re focusing on “Worshipping God and listening to his Word”, and I thought it would be good to go back to Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter 6, especially at three emotions that Isaiah experiences.

First, awe. The whole vision is awe-inspiring. A throne that is far above anything else – the train of his robe filling the temple; firey creatures flying and calling to one another in voices that makes the whole room shake and fill with smoke. This truly is an amazing vision, but the heart of it is Isaiah seeing the one who sits on the throne – the awesome Trinitarian God himself. But Isaiah never tells us what the Lord looked like; all we see are people’s responses to him.

Even the terrifying seraphs cover their faces and cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” “Holy Holy” means “the very holiest” And God is far holier than that. Do you ever get the feeling we’ve lost something of a vision for how amazing God is? Isaiah sees him, and is filled with awe.

But there’s more than that – it’s fear too. God’s holiness is “not a quiet, anemic thing to be received with stained-glass voices and simpers. The holiness of the sovereign Lord is tremendous, vivid, and dazzling.”
Isaiah knew that all too well. You see, King Uzziah in 2 Chron 26 had thought that because he was a strong king he could go into the (1x) holy place to burn incense to God. But God struck him with a skin disease which meant he had to live as a recluse for the rest of his life and couldn’t go near the temple again. So how is Isaiah going to cope with being in the very presence of God who is holy, holy, holy? And as the young prophet realises where he is, he realises what must happen. And that’s what we get in v5 – it’s a funeral lament for himself, because he expects to die.

In Rejoice and Tremble, theologian Mike Reeves, points out that fear, in the sense of feeling so overwhelmed that we shake, is the right human response to God. But there is a right fear of God and a wrong fear of God. The right fear of God finds him overwhelming but attractive, and falls down on our faces towards him, and leads to joy. The wrong fear of God flees from him in terror. But either is a better response than just apathy.

And what makes the difference between these two types of fear? It is the third emotion we see from Isaiah – the emotion of being welcomed! (v5-7)
He is welcomed through sacrifice – the coal from the altar touches his lips. And in the same way, we’re told that Jesus, the perfect and eternal Son of God, died and took our punishment so that we can be clean instead of unclean, so that our guilt can be taken away and so that we can stand in the presence of God. And that does not decrease the fear we should feel of God – it does not lessen the trembling; it does not make the unbearable brightness of the vision dimmer. If anything, it makes it brighter still, but it also makes it beautiful instead of terrifying.

So what does this mean for us?
Isn’t it obvious by now that we need to worship God and listen to his Word? After all, what is worship but enjoying how amazing God is, and telling him, ourselves, and others, how much we see and love and adore and tremble before him!

And surely, given who God is and how awesome he is, and at what cost he welcomes and accepts us, we should long to listen to his word and seek to obey it, just like Isaiah does at the end of the passage we heard?

Sunday services (whether onsite or online) are a major part of that. They are an opportunity to remember who God is and who we are, and to reset ourselves so that we see the rest of the week in the right perspective – we don’t need to spend the week searching for other people’s validation and approval, because we already have the acceptance of the one who makes the whole earth tremble.

But as well as driving us to fall on our faces in awe, this kind of holiness affects our whole lives. Christian leadership thinker John C Maxwell says this: You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.

And over this last 15 months, we’ve all changed our routines quite a bit and several times.  I’d like us to take this opportunity to evaluate the habits that we have, maybe ones that have changed over the past year or so, and to take control of them – to say “What is helpful for me in following this awesome God? What isn’t?” and then seek to modify them accordingly. There’s a helpful sheet to help us do that, with some suggestions of good and bad habits.

Worshipping God and listening to His Word (Isaiah 6:1-8)2021-06-13T10:15:01+01:00

Sermons After Easter

2021-05-31T12:01:55+01:00

The program card for our sermons after Easter has just been published.

Sermons After Easter2021-05-31T12:01:55+01:00
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