Notes of Meeting Sunday 13th February 2022

Lee Street Church

Notes of Meeting  13th February 2022

Worship led by Sue Clarke

Psalm 29 v1-2 “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons and daughters of God, ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness”.

To ascribe glory means to give Him what He alone deserves. We don't add a measure to His glory, but we reflect back to Him the glory that He inherently has.

We are taught to give to God what is God’s. This includes exclusive worship. The essence of Psalm 29 is that God is King- enthroned over the chaos. The first two verses of this psalm urge us to join the eternal praise from the heavenly choir, ascribing to the Lord the glory due His unblemished name and holiness.

SONG: 87 Exalt the Lord our God 

1 Chronicles 29 v11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honour come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, Our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious Name”.

SONG: Come people of the risen King

Psalm 29 is simply titled A Psalm of David. In poetic beauty it describes the strength of a storm and understands it as the voice and power of God. In so doing it repeats the name of the LORD many times, and uses the phrase “the voice of the LORD” seven times. 

Psalm 29: 3 – 9 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of Glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightening. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in His temple all cry ‘glory!’

This psalm is pure praise. It is praising God.

SONG: 1501 Praise Him you heavens   

Psalm 145 v3 “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no-one can fathom”.

Psalm 150 v1-2 “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness”.

SONG: 289 Jesus is King 

These verses, in psalm 29, focus on God’s voice echoing from His throne [seven times]. When God speaks His voice is thundering, powerful, majestic, destructive, joy-giving, full of fire, earth-shaking. Even where there is chaos, God reigns. The world is currently in chaos, not just from the pandemic, but His word continues to fulfil its purposes. It brings judgment and destruction, but also generates life and joy.

As also in Job 37 v5

“God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.

As sons and daughters of God, together respond ‘Glory’!”

SONG: 924 Mighty is our God   

Psalm 96 v7-8  [These verses reiterate the opening verses we heard from psalm 29]

“Ascribe to the Lord O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His Name”.

This is what we are called to do.

SONG : 26 Ascribe greatness

Whatever the chaos, God and His Son reign. Creation and history are shaped. He is with us by His spirit. We can trust in this loving and just God to give us strength and peace. We need to look away from ourselves and look to God.

SONG 102 Father we love You  

We know God is in control of whatever is happening in our lives and the world around us. We heard last week, from Euan, about God’s promises for our future.

Ephesians 1 v18-19 “I pray also that the eyes of Your heart may be enlightened in order to know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength”.

SONG: 1541 There is a higher throne  

Ken Cowell’s Message

An Unforgettable Journey                                  Acts 8: 26-39

One of the major setbacks of lockdown during the pandemic has been our not being allowed to travel to other countries.  That meant that so many people had to cancel their planned holidays.  As restrictions are being lifted it is hoped soon that many people will be able to go on their holidays again.                                                     

We just read of an unforgettable journey that an Ethiopian official made that completely changed his life sending him home “on his way rejoicing.”  Many years ago, I too had an unforgettable journey.  It wasn’t a trip abroad but just a 15 minute walk from my house to a Gospel Hall.  A friend invited me to a children’s meeting on a Thursday night.  The attraction was a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Now nearly 70 years ago that was a treat so off I went.  Not only did I get a cup of tea and a biscuit, but I asked Jesus into my life and received eternal life.   I too, like the Ethiopian went home rejoicing with my sins forgiven.  The friend who invited me never became a Christian as far as I know. 

When you came to Jesus that was the most important journey you ever made for you passed from death to life, from judgement to forgiveness and knowing you now were going to heaven.  Being born again, no matter whether the circumstances were dramatic are very ordinary was a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.                                                                                                                                                                         

What prompted this man to make the trip of over a thousand miles from Ethiopia to Jerusalem?  The mode of transport then was probably a camel so would have taken several weeks.  His purpose is made clear when it says, “This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship.”  Why would a man of such authority, success, wealth and respect being the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ethiopia make such a journey for the seeming uninteresting purpose of worshipping God?   He was obviously disillusioned and had rejected the idolatry and immorality of his cultural background in Ethiopia.  He had turned to the Jewish faith being attracted by its belief in One God as opposed to many gods and its higher moral standard than other religions.

 He also found no lasting satisfaction in his status, material prosperity and successful career.  His life was apparently empty of meaning and true happiness and he was hoping to find the answer on this journey to Jerusalem.   There are many like him today who pursue happiness in wealth and various pleasures and yet haven’t found the answer to true and lasting satisfaction. It is as Jesus said in the Bible, “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12.15)  In other words, man will not find life’s true purpose purely with material wealth. Jesus went to say elsewhere “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4.4) 

Jesus points out that only when our spiritual hunger is satisfied through a personal relationship with God, can our lives truly be filled with satisfaction, purpose and joy.  Yet in our modern day we still pursue happiness without God, believing He is the last person that could satisfy our deepest longings.

Did the eunuch find what he was searching for in the religion of the Jewish faith?   It doesn’t appear so, as he seems to be returning home confused and dissatisfied.  However, it is clear that he hadn’t given up his search, as he had purchased a scroll of Isaiah 53 which was part of a book of the Old Testament.  That must have been very expensive for all scrolls at that time were hand written and rare to possess.  This short passage would eventually lead him to discover the meaning of life for which he was searching.  His reading of the scriptures on his way home shows his earnestness in seeking for the truth.  Here we see the starting point of our discovery of God.  It is a hunger and an earnest desire for the truth.   Becoming a Christian and  coming to know God isn’t just having a different way of understanding about God. It is coming to the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Bible.   The Christian is described in the Bible as one who has “come to a knowledge of the truth.”(1.Tim.2.4)   Jesus himself declares “I am the way, the truth and the life.  Jesus is saying he is the only way to God, the only one who speaks the truth about God and the only one who can give us the life of God to us. As we seek God earnestly like the Ethiopian, God has promised to reward us. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”(Jer.29.13)

 How did God answer this eunuch’s search for the truth?  God by an angel and the Holy Spirit sent his servant Philip to travel from Samaria to meet the Ethiopian on a road in the desert.  In Samaria Philip had performed many miracles and preached the gospel resulting in many people becoming Christians who no doubt needed further help in growing in their new found faith.  However, God called Philip to leave the city and travel 60 miles to meet one individual in the desert.

This man’s journey was no chance occurrence but completely orchestrated by God.  It shows also how God is interested in the individual.  God calls us to Himself not as numbers but as individual people whom he loves.  Paul says “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.”  We also can say that Jesus came from heaven to earth and went to the cross to die for us individually because he loved us.  Jesus brings people to trust him and be saved one at a time.  Becoming a Christian is a personal encounter with the Jesus who rose from the dead.  That is the true Christian experience.

 How was the Ethiopian to know and understand God’s truth?   God’s truth is found in God’s Word and the eunuch had purchased a small part of God’s Word in Jerusalem.  To have to God‘s word in your hands is a great start to discovering the truth of who God is and what He is like.  We need revelation from the Bible by the Holy Spirit to know who God is and what he is really like.  To have God’s word without God’s Spirit to teach us is like having a CD without a CD player.  We have no way of understanding what God is saying to us without the help of the Holy Spirit.  If we only rely on our own ability we will never be able to grasp the true meaning of what God wants to communicate to us. 

It is at this point comes an important challenge to the Ethiopian.  As he is reading the scripture he is asked by Philip if he understands what he is reading.  He replies “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”  Though he had a higher position than Philip he shows his humility in allowing Philip to teach him.

Such an attitude of humility brought a prompt response from Philip to teach him the truth.  Of course whilst the Holy Spirit is the only true and genuine teacher He uses God’s servants such as Philip as his mouthpiece. 

We are beginning to see the process how God communicates the truth of the gospel to us. Firstly, we must recognise of our inability to understand the truths of God’s Word by our own intelligence and wisdom.  Secondly, we must have a teachable attitude to be taught by those who are able to guide us in the truth.   Now that God saw the Ethiopian was willing to learn and receive what God wants to teach him, he now teaches him what he really needs to know the most.                                                       

The Bible is a thick book that takes a long time to read from beginning to end.   Do I need to read the whole Bible and study it all in order to understand and experience its main message?  The eunuch had just a very small part of the Old Testament and yet it was just this passage that changed his life.  Was it chance that he had obtained and was reading from the scroll of Isaiah 53?  Isaiah 53 is the most important chapter of the whole book of Isaiah.  Why is that?  It deals with the most vital subject of the whole Bible which is God’s plan of salvation for mankind.  The message of salvation is what the sinner needs to hear and believe in order to experience forgiveness of sin and have a right relationship with a holy God.  Isaiah 53 is the prophecy concerning the Jesus the Messiah and the suffering he must receive in his death on the cross so he could save the sinner.  The eunuch asked the identity of this one who would suffer and bring salvation to the guilty and condemned sinner.  “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”   35 Then Philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news of Jesus.  Philip identifies the one who suffers on the cross for the sinner as Jesus. Only Jesus is the one who can save.  

 Philip also speaks about the good news of Jesus. What is the good news of Jesus?  It is what Jesus did for the sinner when he died on the cross and took his punishment so he could be saved from sin’s guilt, power and penalty.  Christ’s death on the cross is the only means whereby the sinner who believes in Jesus can be forgiven. This is simple message of salvation that a person must believe and receive to know the forgiveness.  I must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that his death on the cross is the only way of my salvation.

The eunuch upon hearing this simple message of the good news of Jesus clearly believes in Jesus as his Saviour and is saved.   In the conversation, Philip must have mentioned baptism to the eunuch.  As they come to some water the official says: “Look here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”  Philip said, “if you believe with all your heart, you may,” The official answered, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

 Notice true faith comes from the heart and not the head.  The heart is the centre of our being involving our love, will and emotion.  It speaks of a whole hearted commitment to Jesus.  Believing with the head alone doesn’t involve our love, will and obedience, but just speaks of an intellectual acceptance of the facts of what Christ did in order to save us.  As someone has once said we can miss heaven by 18 inches being the distance from the head to the heart.

From what we read in the New Testament the confession of faith in Christ was immediately followed by the baptism of the person who believed.   Belief in Christ and obedience in baptism appears to be the natural and model response to the gospel message.  It seems to be that baptism is the launching pad into the life of faith of following Christ.   The eunuch wasn’t forced into being baptized, but seeing water doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to obey Jesus in this act of baptism.  In the early church it was a costly step to be baptized for as soon as you were baptized you were identified as a Christian and would receive persecution.  The joy of conversion was so great to the believer that it outweighed the persecution they would receive so they still were baptized.

 In our day there is usually a gap between conversion and baptism.  I saved when I was 11 but not baptized till I was 15.  It was for me another unforgettable journey from Bolton to Beachy Head, Eastbourne that was instrumental in me getting baptized.  I went to a Boys Bible Camp and was really challenged about putting Jesus first in my life.  Up till that point Jesus took second place in my after football.  At that camp I made the decision to put Jesus first and within a short time I was baptized.

 I think many feel that they need to be a really good Christian before they get baptized.  But that is not the case.  The eunuch had only been a Christian a few hours and then was baptized.  Baptism in the early church was one of the first steps of obedience in following Christ.  The only condition for being baptized is repentance of sin and faith in Christ and a desire to follow Jesus by obeying his command.  Baptism is like the entrance ceremony into university or college it is the beginning of learning a new life with Jesus.

The greatest miracle for the eunuch on that day wasn’t that he entered the water to be baptized but that Christ entered his life when he believed.  That was the reason for the transformation in his life.   Baptism symbolized what Jesus had already done in his life when he believed in him.  The act of baptism doesn’t save us but it is act of faith in Christ that brings salvation.  Baptism does signify that I have received new life in Christ.  My being baptized doesn’t mean I have become a mature or experienced Christian.  At baptism I put on my L plates for my new walk in Jesus. 

Though baptism is only a symbol of my new life in Christ it is still important and is a deep spiritual experience.  After the eunuch was baptised Philip was supernaturally transported to a place miles away.  That must have been an initial shock for the eunuch to witness Philip’s disappearance and be left on his own.  What was his response?  We read, that “the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing”

 The continual presence of Jesus with him was more real to him than the miraculous disappearance of Philip from him.  Irenaeus one of the early church Fathers says that this eunuch became a missionary and founded the first church in Africa.  He obviously continued rejoicing and shared the good news of Jesus with others.  He is a wonderful example to us of a rejoicing Christian.  To follow his example there are just two words that give us the key.  They are trust and obey.  As the old hymn puts it, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

 

Closing Song: 1120  Will you come and follow me?

 

Notices

  • Wednesday 10.30am      Coffee Morning
  • Wednesday 7.30pm        Zoom Bible Study
  • Saturday 10.00am            Church Cleaning