Notes of Meeting Sunday 13th March 2022

Lee Street Church

Notes of Meeting - 13th March 2022

Worship – led by Brian Legg

466         Praise my soul the King of heaven

Prayer

1203       Come, let us worship the King of kings

You are good – You are faithful in all of your ways.

I wonder  - are there are times we just don’t feel like worshiping God – we feel he doesn’t hear our prayers, we feel remote from him, even let down by Him? Times when we feel less sure about some of the things we’ve been singing about.  Times when our faith is being seriously tested.

I want to read a Psalm where the writer, Asaph, expresses some of these sorts of doubts to God. He cries out to God for courage in his time of deep distress.

READ: Psalm  77: 1 – 15

Well God, where are you? Have you forgotten to be merciful – is he just angry with me and decided to withdraw his compassion? Ever had those sorts of thoughts?

But then he comes to his senses, and says to himself “I will look back and think about all your mighty works in past days”

And his final response in v13 is “Your ways O god are holy” – no more doubts for him – by meditating on all the mighty works of God he comes to the conclusion  - yes, God is holy and mighty.

2004       Our God is a great big God

924         Mighty is our God

145         Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise

Lord, we trust in your unfailing love  -  so when times are hard, when doubts and fears seem to be getting the better of us, what should we do?

As Hebrew 12: 2 – 3 tells us, fix our eyes on Jesus – see what he endured  on the cross – see what opposition he faced from sinful men,  - consider Him so you won’t lose heart.

1612       When the road is rough and steep

Why look to Jesus? – So you won’t lose heart (as we read just now) . But when you think about it, who else would you turn to? Friends, yes, they can help certainly – but they can’t ever fully understand you situation. Family – well, they’ve all got their own problems and lives to live. So you maybe try the doctor – if you can find one doing anything more than filling in computer spreadsheets. And so the list gets longer.

I was reminded as I prepared this programme of an old chorus:

Jesus knows all about our struggles;
  He will guide ’til the day is done:
There’s not a Friend like the lowly Jesus:
    No, not one! no, not one!

1346       In Christ alone

Last verse – our lives are safe in the hands of our merciful God.

Yes, our God is truly a great God – but He does care, He is by our side day after day, in every circumstance of our lives

812         In every circumstance of life.

 

 

Brian’s Talk

Look and Live

I wonder if you can you remember in maybe your younger days, being taken on long country walks by your parents, or maybe by a youth group?  I have many happy memories of our church youth fellowship which always had a Bank Holiday ramble – usually to the Surrey Hills or to Marden Park; in later years we used to take our Crusaders here on hikes to places like Box Hill, and we still well remember some of the young people’s reactions to having to walk for 10 miles – something they were not at all used to doing.

Such expeditions all began with great enthusiasm, much excited talking – but as the day goes on, the novelty wears off a little, tiredness creeps in, you’ve got to the middle of seemingly nowhere, calls of “my feet hurt” as someone’s ill-fitting shoes begin to take their toll – how much further to go? – are we nearly there? – where are the cars? Lunch was eaten hours ago – where is the nearest McDonalds? Any shop will do – we want to spend our money. But all we can see ahead of us is fields and woods – can’t get much there. So the moaners and groaners had a field day.

The morning sunshine has somehow changed to a cloudy gloomy afternoon – and the cars do still seem to be a long way off. It didn’t look that far on the map.

Well, you get the picture – perhaps it brings back memories for you too. I hope they are mainly happy ones. Organising such events for young people is sadly much harder these days, as you have to complete a risk assessment for the whole venture and fill in umpteen forms before you dare take a group out to enjoy themselves.

I want you to join me this morning in imagining we are travelling with the people of Israel. It’s about 1300BC, and they as a nation have endured about 37 years of wandering around the wilderness areas east of Egypt en route from being captives in Egypt to the freedom of the land of Canaan which God had promised to them. Life has not been easy – just imagine the work involved every day in feeding themselves and their herds of animals, educating their children, finding enough clean water to drink and to wash themselves. They had to depend upon what God provided for them by way of manna and quails, and trusted him to lead them to places where they could find water. Sometimes water was provided miraculously from a rock. It was a tough life, which seemed never ending, and was getting too much for even the hardiest of souls.

And as on the walks I talked about earlier, there were plenty of moaners and groaners, only too ready to complain about their lot in life. Their leader Moses bore the brunt of their attacks, although in reality they were complaining against their God who was leading them on their journeys.

We find a commentary on their journeyings in the wilderness in Psalm 78, where the Psalmist looks back at least 400 years on many of the events in the history of the Jewish nation; in thinking about the events in the wilderness journey the writer gives us an insight into the day by day life of the people.. It was written as a warning to Israel not to repeat their sins of the past, but to remember God’s saving acts of grace and mercy to his people.

I’ll read the first 8 verses READ V 1 – 8 of Psalm 78

As an aside, there is some good advice there in vs 4 & 5 – telling their children, the next generation, about the good things God has done, and also about the commands which God had given to be obeyed. In this way, generation after generation would have the opportunity to follow God’s ordinances, and to know how wonderfully God has had his hand on the nation. How important it is for us too to do our part in handing on the message to our children and grandchildren – we’ve got good news for them – so let’s pass it on.

God’s aim for the Jews on their wilderness journey was for them to put their trust in Him, and to keep his commands. But sadly it seems, much fell on deaf ears, because the people remained a “stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal or faithful to God.”

In v10  we read “They refused to obey God’s law”, and they forgot all the miracles God had performed for their benefit. – dividing the waters of the Red Sea to allow them to escape from Egypt, guiding them with a cloud by day, and a fire by night, and miraculously providing water and food.

Vs 23 – 25 tell us about God’s provision of manna (Read)

Vs 27 – 29 – quails – and plenty of them! (READ)

How well God had provided for them – they had all they needed – and yet we then read (v32) “In spite of this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe”.

God had done his part, and still they would not trust him. This made God very angry with them, and many were punished with losing their lives.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, because, as so often, we read in v 28 “Yet He was merciful; he forgave their iniquities, and did not destroy them”. How gracious God was, in spite of their apathy towards him.

Going back now to the nation on their journey through the wilderness, the people made their feelings known in no uncertain terms to their leader Moses. Many wished they were back in Egypt, enjoying good food, despite the fact that in reality they had been slaves of the Egyptians. Their complaints were in effect a complaint against God – he was the one leading them and providing for them.

Remember, God was still leading his people to the promised land, but the journey to get there was hard indeed.

I’d like to look a little more closely at one particular incident, which it appears took place fairly late on in their journey. One day, some of the people suddenly found themselves being overcome by swarms of venomous snakes – everywhere they went, the snakes followed, and they seemed to like the taste of human blood too, stick out their tongues at every opportunity. As a result, many people sadly died before they had the opportunity to get treatment. They may have trundled along to the local pharmacy to see what remedies were available, but many of them died as a result of their bites. Was this really what God intended for his people? Hundreds dying in the desert before they ever reached the promised land?  Was this a sign that God was angry with them?

After a while, some of the people realised they had -perhaps been wrong to blame God and Moses for their predicaments, so they asked Moses to pray on their behalf that the Lord would take away the snakes and save them from dying.

So Moses prayed on their behalf. And God provided a wonderful answer to their problem. You might have expected God to simply tell the snakes to go away, or to at least make sure the people were able to treat the bites in some way. But no, God had another plan. One which would really test out the people’s faith.

So he told Moses what he was to do. Make a bronze model of a snake, put it on the top of a long pole, where it could be seen over much of the encampment. The promise was that anyone who had been bitten by a snake, if they looked up at the bronze snake, they would live – the bite would not be terminal.

So this is what Moses did. He made a bronze model of a serpent, and mounted it on the top of the longest pole he could find, (probably a bamboo cane of some kind), and stuck the pole in a bit of high ground. Having done this, he then had to get the message around to all the people – there is a way out, if you get bitten, don’t fear, God has provided a way of escape, you don’t have to die, you can be healed. All you need to do is to look up at the bronze serpent I have erected over there. If you do this, God promises you will be safe, and you will not die from a snake bite.

This was amazing news – maybe God was still interested in his people after all; he really didn’t want to punish them.

What a relief that was. The bible record doesn’t tell us what the response of the people was – we can only guess.

Some no doubt thought “What’s the use of looking at a bronze snake on a pole outside Moses’ tent?” – “how can that help me – I just need a doctor”. So they didn’t bother going outside their tents or crossing the camp to look at the bronze snake.

Others thought it was at least worth a try – if they did nothing, they would probably die as a result of a snake bite just like their neighbours. So off they went, in search of the snake on the pole. And they looked up to it, recalling God’s words of promise through Moses, that if they did this they would live. And they returned, safe in the knowledge that they would live, even though they had been bitten.

The people had a choice – look and live, or don’t bother and die.

The nation of Israel had people of faith, who would have gladly taken God at his word – and others who scoffed at the very idea of God acting in the way he had said.

It’s interesting how, some 1500 years later, the apostle John picks up this well remembered incident from Jewish history, when he writes in his gospel ch 3 vs 14 & 15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”.

And Jesus himself, shortly before his crucifixion, had told his disciples “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. John adds “He said this to show what kind of death he was going to die”.

Jesus crucifixion wasn’t a mistake – it was part of God’s master plan to bring men and women back to himself – to provide a way of escape from the deadly effect of sin, to make it possible for people of all nations and colours to be drawn into God’s kingdom and be able to enjoy the wonders of eternal life.

What do we see, as we contemplate the cross of Christ? We usually see it as an empty cross – because we know Jesus’ body was taken down, buried, and that God raised him to life on the 3rd day. But I think it’s also important that we see the cross with our blessed Saviour as he bore away the sin of the world – forsaken by man and by God – suffering the most excruciating pain, the ridicule from Roman soldiers and from Jews alike. Yes, he was lifted up from the earth, for all to see.

As always, the responses to Christ’s crucifixion were varied, and I’d like us to note some of the responses of people who witnessed it at first hand.

We know what some of the soldiers did – they sat down and cast lots as to which of his clothes each was to have.

Matthew tells us that passers-by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”. That was of course the very reason he stayed on the cross – because he was indeed the Son of God.

What was the response of the chief priests and the teachers of the law – as they saw the one with whom they had disagreed on so many occasions? They too just mocked Him, saying “He saved others – why can’t he save himself?

What about the two criminals, hung on the crosses next to Jesus? One just hurled insults at Jesus.

After Jesus had given up his spirit, there was a great earthquake which tore the curtain in the temple in two from top to bottom; and we read about the response of the centurion who was responsible for guarding Jesus – he exclaimed “Surely this was a righteous man - he was the Son of God!”.

I quoted that verse earlier where Jesus declared that, when he was lifted up from the earth, he would draw all men to himself. I guess the first fulfilment of this was the second of the two thieves hung next to Jesus.

He admitted he was being justly hung for his crimes, but said that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He added the request “Jesus, please remember me when you come into your kingdom”. And despite all the anguish that Jesus was going through, he found the energy and compassion to reply “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Those words of Jesus remind us again of what John said about the purpose of Jesus being lifted up on that cross – “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”. In the very dying moments of his life, that criminal was forgiven and accepted by Christ into his kingdom. Jesus heard his heart-felt cry for help.

Going back to where we began, with the Jews in the wilderness being struck down by the plague of serpents, they were given an opportunity to be healed. Some believed – and lived. Others gave the idea short shrift, and probably died when they were bitten.

I repeat the verse we read earlier “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”.

This verse rightly reminds us there are 2 distinct categories of people – those who believe, and those who don’t. It makes no mention of the un-decided, those as it were who are sitting on the fence, unsure which way to jump. The Bible says you are either a believer, or an unbeliever.

This verse also sets out the purpose of Christ’s death – that believers may have eternal life. Our brother Ian Crawford spoke about this 2 weeks ago – the certainty that a believer can have of eternal life, because of the work of Christ on our behalf on the cross. The words of Jesus recorded in John 5: 24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned” As the old hymn reminds us “He died that we might be forgiven… that we might go at last to heaven, saved by his precious blood”.

The best-known verse in the Bible may well be John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. I love that word “whoever” – we’re all included - whatever our nationality. whatever the colour of our skin, whether we’re well educated or un-learned people, bright or less-able, strong or weak, young or old, if we believe in Christ and his work of redemption on the cross, we HAVE eternal life. The power that Satan had over us is defeated once and for all.

The Bible leaves us in no doubt that Jesus has done his part – the question we have to answer for ourselves is “Have we trusted Him? Do we believe the promises of God  - have we trusted him for eternal life?.

I trust we have all made that commitment, and have the assurance of eternal life.

But what of the here and now? Yes, by the eternal grace of God, he has accepted us as his children, and given us the promise of eternity in his glorious presence. But how does that help me to deal with all the day-to-day problems of life?

The writer to the Hebrews gives us some sound advice in ch 12 vs 2 & 3: ”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Where do we look when times are hard, when we don’t know which way to turn?  Surely we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, because he has sorted out the problem of man’s sin and paid the price for our eternal redemption – he knows what suffering is all about. He endured the cross – opposition from cruel men – so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.

Closing Hymn: 1187 Before the throne of God above

 

Notices

  1. Wednesday at 10.30am – Coffee Morning
  2. Wednesday at 7.45pm – Churches for Horley Lent Course begins – at Lee Street this week. The subject of  the Course is “The Lord’s Prayer”, and the programme is repeated on Thursday at Horley Baptist Church at 10.15am.
  3. Saturday at 10.00am – Church Cleaning
  4. Next Sunday – an open service – please come with an idea of songs or readings you wish us to share together.
  5. As a church, we are supporting our fellow believers in Ukraine through one church in Lviv, which we know is heavily involved in supporting refugees fleeing the country. If you feel able to support this humanitarian aid, please put any donations in envelopes marked UKRAINE into the offering box next week.