Notes of Meeting 26th February 2023
Worship – led by Brian Legg
SONG: Praise God from whom all blessings flow
We have come together to worship our Lord God together this morning. He is of course the only one who is worthy of our praise. We may get lost for words as we begin to realise the wonder of the person we have come to meet this morning. We are however blessed to have already prepared for us a vast number of songs we can use to put into words what we really want to say to God.
Not all the songs in our books are songs of worship = some simply remind us of who God is, and what he has done for us.
Those who lead us in our worship time each week seek to choose songs to reflect what we all want to say to the Lord. Sometimes they choose songs on a particular theme – other times their selection may appear more random. But the aim is for us each in our own way to be led into the very presence of God to bring our individual worship to him.
For some of us, what we perhaps need most is time to be quiet – an opportunity to reflect and meditate upon the Lord and what he means to us. Before we launch into some further songs, let’s just have a few moments where we focus our minds on the Lord, and allow him to speak to us individually.
Just listen, perhaps keeping your eyes closed, so you can meditate upon the words of the Psalmist as I read Psalm 19:1 – 11.
Our next song invites the Lord, the King of kings, to come amongst us and to fill this place with His glory, as we bow before Him in worship.
SONG: Come, let us worship the King of kings
Our next song calls us to Rejoice! We may not feel we’ve got too much to rejoice in – rising cost of living, winter still here, endless wars between nations, no tomatoes or cucumbers to go in our sandwiches this week – and so our list of woes goes on. But this song reminds us that the Lord IS King – He is reigning, and the time is coming when he will take His servants to be with Him in His eternal home
SONG: Rejoice, the Lord is King!
What a lot we do have to rejoice in – the Lord reigns, He has taken our sin and guilt away, and He has given us the glorious promise of his future return to take us to be with Him for ever.
Paul reminds us in two of his letters of one of the greatest things imaginable – that Christ is in us, yes, by His Spirit He is living within us. Col 1: 27 “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Paul was writing to Gentile believers about their acceptance by God.
But this is with a purpose, that by His grace and with His power, we will do our part to extend his kingdom here on earth. So this gives us another reason to Rejoice! As our next song tells us
SONG: Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is in you
Yes, God has graciously put His breath in us. Remember how, after his resurrection, as Jesus was sending his disciples out to be his witnesses, he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
How ever thankful we should be that Christ has given us His precious Holy Spirit.
Let’s tell Him we love Him, the third person of the Trinity, that we are truly thankful that He gives us strength and guidance, that He is a true Friend walking beside us through our sometimes treacherous pathways, bringing us true peace in our hearts and minds.
SONG: Holy Spirit, how I love You.
Breaking of Bread – led by Ken Cowell
Esther 4. 14. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but you have come to royal position for such a time as this.
Romans 5. 6. You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 8. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we still sinners, Christ died for us.
The background to the passage in Esther was that the Jews were in exile in Persia. The king of Persia issued a decree that on a certain day every Jewish person had to be executed. There seemed no way out. But Mordecai, an influential Jew saw a way of deliverance. His niece Esther was the Queen and he urged her to plead with the king for the nation, believing her position as Queen was just the right time for her to save the nation. The only problem was that she could only go into the King’s Presence if she was invited. To go at any other time would cost her life. However, if the king extended the gold sceptre to her she could be spared and enter his presence and plead for her people. This she was able to do and secured their deliverance from death. That was a great day for the nation.
We read in the New Testament of a far greater deliverance. Just as Mordecai motivated and sent Esther to intercede before the king, so God in his love for us sent his Son to die in our place on the cross. As the nation had no hope of deliverance Esther was there at the right time to intervene and secure their salvation. We read “just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5.6) When we were without hope and unable to save ourselves Christ came to our rescue and saved us. Esther risked her life for her people but she was spared giving her life as the gold sceptre was given to her. Jesus didn’t risk his life for us but gave his life for us even though we were ungodly and didn’t deserve such love. There was no other way of salvation apart from the death of God’s Son. Like the nation of Israel who rejoiced in their deliverance from death so we rejoice this morning not only in our freedom from sin and its judgement but have been given eternal life to spend it with Jesus. How we can thank and praise God for such a great salvation.
Choose Life Deuteronomy 30. 11-20
When we arrived in Crawley from Japan we had the important choice to make of where to live. The Estate agent we selected was called “Choices,” which we thought was very appropriate. We prayed the Lord would give us three things. A driveway to park the car, a downstairs toilet and a conservatory. He gave us all three and as a bonus he gave us a house just a 2 minute walk from Tilgate Park. What a good God we have.
Life is filled with choices which we make every day. We must choose when we go to bed and when to get up. What to eat and what not to eat. What to wear and what not to wear. What to do and what not to do. Some of our choices are easy but others are difficult. It’s easy to choose which football team to support. That’s a “no-brainer.” Of course its Bolton. Any other team to support is a bad choice. I’ll not mention any team names but they seem to be crowded together in London.
Our reading today is where the nation of Israel had a very important choice to make before entering the land of Canaan which God had given to them. About 38 years before the previous generation of Israelites faced the same choice. Sadly, they made wrong choice of not entering the land because they were afraid of the people already living there. God had already promised victory over their enemies but they didn’t believe his power could defeat them so they refused to enter. It was a bad choice that caused God to send them back in the wilderness to wander for over 38 years. They never had the opportunity again to enter the land that God had promised them and so they died in the wilderness. It was now their children that were facing the same choice and Moses was urging them to make the right choice which was to choose life in the new land or they like their ancestors would die in the wilderness. He reminds them of the covenant the made with God on Mt. Sinai to obey the 10 commandments. It was an agreement where both God and the nation of Israel sides promised to be loyal and faithful to each other. Last weekend we were at a wedding of a friend. We were reminded in the talk given by the minister that becoming a Christian is similar to a wedding ceremony where we say “yes” to God and begin an intimate relationship with him based on a commitment of our love and obedience to him.
As the previous generation failed to keep their part of the covenant by disobedience to God’s commands and forfeited the privilege of entering the promised land, it was now the turn of the next generation to make a new covenant with God. If they were loyal and faithful as a nation in obeying God’s commands there would be many blessings of life, prosperity and growth in the new country. However, if they were disobedient there would be curses of death and destruction. God knew they would fail in keeping his commands but he made provision for forgiveness and restoration so the relationship with God could be continued. We too fail often to remain faithful to God, but God doesn’t give up on us, but there is always a way of forgiveness and reconciliation that he offers us. We have so many examples in the bible of those who failed God miserably and yet repented. and were brought back into God’s fellowship and service. People life Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, Jonah and Peter all were used by God again despite their failure. Often times, such big failures lead to a greater love and commitment to God in the future. We see this especially in the life of Peter. He failed many times his attitude of pride, his words and his fear. Who would chose him to be one of the main leaders of the early church? He would have no chance on Dragons Den of winning the confidence of any of the investors. Even as Jesus is speaking about Peter’s denial he outlines one of his future roles. “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brethren.” His failure became his qualification to strengthen others who would fail and need help. Sometimes our failures and problems open doors of service that would never materialise had we not had them. That should encourage us when we fail not to give up. He is the God not only of the second chance but also of the third, fourth and fifth and the hundredth chance.
Last weekend at the wedding I talked with a person who illustrates how God can use our trials and suffering in ways we never thought possible. He is a pastor and has had two strokes. He was in hospital for twelve weeks after the second stroke. His speech has recovered but he needs a walking stick to help him with his disability. As we were talking he thanked God for his strokes because it has opened doors of witness for him amongst people with disabilities and he has led some to Christ. Through his trial and healing which is not fully complete, his witness has become effective in reaching people he would probably never have contacted without having his strokes. May the Lord help us to see the ways he can use us through our failures and trials.
Today marks the beginning of a new church year. We are like the nation of Israel on the border to the entrance of the Promised land. The next church year is unknown but we know God will be with us as we will face obstacles in our path but also opportunities for further progress. Before Israel went into the Promised land God called them through Moses to make a decision to “Choose Life.” In the same way God challenges us to do the same as we launch into a new church year.
What did their choice involve? In verse 11 God says the way he has for them is “not too difficult or beyond their reach.” They needn’t try to ascend to heaven or cross the sea to find God’s will. It was the message he had already given them which was in their mouth and in their hearts. It wasn’t a religion they had to earnestly follow to know God’s will, for he had already revealed it to them in the covenant he made with them on Mt. Sinai when he gave them the Ten Commandments. For us also, it isn’t difficult to know God’s will for our lives because he has given us his revelation in the pages of the bible. We are blessed to have God’s Word in our own language and are free to read it without fear whereas in some countries aren’t able to. We have people to teach us God’s Word, and books to explain it to us. Above all we have a personal tutor in the Holy Spirit without whose his help we could never understand it. So it is not difficult to know God’s will. We the have responsibility to open the bible, read it and listen to God’s voice. Without that we will not know his will for us.
We are commanded not only to know his will but also to do it by obeying his word. (v14) It also indicates that the obeying of God’s word is “not beyond our reach.” We might question that, believing it is easy to know God’s will but to do God’s will is a different matter. But God says it is the same. Would God command us to do something that is impossible for us to do? That would be very unfair on God’s part. What it means is that it is easy and possible when we do it in God’s way and with God’s power.
Jesus points to the same thing in the New Testament when he says “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt.11.30) How can pulling Jesus’ yoke be easy and the burden be light? It is when the pulling is done in his power and not mine. When I prefer to do it my way and in my power then it is hard and I can’t keep going. In one sense the Christian life is very simple. It is primarily about one thing. God wants us to do his will, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else. That is how Jesus lived. One occasion the disciples went to the town to buy food. When they returned they saw Jesus talking with a woman at a well. They offered him food but he replied “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” The main priority of Jesus’ life was the doing of the will of God. It was more important than meeting his material needs. Do we follow his example?
Choosing life in this passage is doing the will of God. What does it involve? The first command that Moses gives them is “to love the Lord your God.” Earlier in the book he is more specific when he says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6.5) This isn’t a casual love that ebbs and flows like the tide. This is a committed and continual love that lasts throughout our lives. I mentioned before that becoming a Christian is similar to man and woman getting married. The foundation of that relationship is their deep love for one another. Their relationship grows and deepens on the basis of the growth of their love for each other. From our love to God measures the development and the growth of our relationship with God. We are urged “to keep yourselves in God’s love.” (Jude 21) That includes our love for God and the appreciation of his love for us. One of the areas of temptation we face is losing the love we had for God when we first met him. How can our love for God grow and remain fervent?
The second command is “to walk in his ways.” One of the things you see in Tilgate Park is couples walking together often hand in hand. It is not just the young couples, but the older ones too. Walking together speaks of fellowship with each other. Its a great privilege to walk with God and fellowship with him. But this kind of walking with God goes deeper for it is walking in his ways. It’s not going my way but his way. If we are walking in his way then our love for him will deepen and grow.
The final command is “to keep his commands.” We are not just walking in fellowship with God but also in obedience to him. The true proof of our love is our obedience to him. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14.15) That is the kind of
proof that Jesus is looking for in our love for him. What happens when love motivates our obedience? This is what the apostle John says, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5.3)
Before a man is married he most probably used to hate doing the dishes, but after he is married he can’t to get to the sink soon enough because he is doing it out of love for his wife. Maybe after a little while his enthusiasm cools down. When our obedience to God is motivated by our love for God his commands are not burdensome. They may be difficult sometimes as often our old nature doesn’t want to obey. But we know that his commands are not to enslave us but for our good and blessing. It is similar to a father disciplining his son to bring him to maturity. These are the things God commands us to do in order to choose life which results in prosperity, life, growth and blessing. He can only show us the way but he can’t chose for us. That is left to ourselves to exercise our free will. We might feel overwhelmed and completely incapable of doing God’s will. So what is the secret of doing God’s will in those circumstances? We chose to do it, but also trust in the Lord and his power. As it says in verse 20 “For the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in the land.” To chose life is to trust in the Lord who is our life. This life of victory comes from the life of the Lord within us. That life of power is released by trust and dependence on the Lord. The source of power is not in our ability as the apostle John says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” This belief in Jesus isn’t just an intellectual faith, but a practical faith that trusts and depends on Jesus. The reason the previous generation of Israelites failed to enter the land was primarily because they didn’t trust and rely on God for victory. It followed that because they didn’t believe God’s word they weren’t willing to obey his word. True obedience to God’s word comes from unconditional faith in his word. When Jesus commanded Peter to throw his net into the lake, Peter’s experiences as a fisherman and the time of day told him it was impossible to catch any fish. What did Peter do? He threw his net into the lake. What was the reason? The answer is, “Because you say so, I will let down the net.” And we know what happened! The word of Jesus cancelled out all the doubts and fears of Peter. It would have been a different story if the nation of Israel had entered the land believing God’s promise of victory.
Because the nation didn’t trust God’s word, they didn’t obey God’s word and so never entered the Promise Land. Why didn’t they trust God’s word? It was because they had lost their love for God. That is why Moses’ first commandment to the people about to enter the land was, “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your strength.” Jesus said this was the first and great commandment. Why did they lose their love for God? The had forgotten that he alone was the only true God. They had forgotten what God had done for them especially their deliverance from Egypt. They had forgotten what God had said to them on Mt. Sinai. They had forgotten his provision for them in the wilderness all that time. When we start to forget God and his love for us, together with all he has done and spoken to us, our love for God will grow cold. When our love tank for God is getting empty then our trust in God also becomes weak. We can only trust God fully as we know him fully. When God told them to enter the land he had given them they hadn’t the faith to trust him. The result of not trusting him was to disobey him and not enter the land. We only obey the words that we completely trust. They refused to trust in God’s power to deliver them from their enemies in the Promised Land so they disobeyed his command to enter the land. They lost the opportunity to enter the land with life, prosperity and God’s rich blessing. Instead they wandered in the wilderness for about 38 years never experiencing the blessings of the Promised Land God had prepared for them.
The key words for those about to enter the Promise Land were chose life by loving God, trusting God and obeying God. That could be God’s message for us as we enter a new church year. Let’s make those words our motto. Love God, trust God and obey God. Joshua Moses’ successor repeated what Moses had said to the nation as they were about enter the land, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24.15) May that be our choice today.
- Thursday at 10.00am at Horley Baptist Church (HBC) – Churches for Horley Lent Course continues.
- Friday at 2.00pm at HBC – World Day of Prayer – focusing on Taiwan
- Next Sunday at 10.15am – worship and extended prayer time.