The Church.

When we think of the Church we tend to think of it as a building but this is not how the New Testament writers thought of it. The New Testament authors expect us to see that the Church is the community of the people of God. Jesu himself said that the Church would be built on the confession of his name.

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 16:15–18.

Here Jesu is reacting to the confession of faith that Peter had just made about who he is when he states that the Church will be built upon it.

On the day of Pentecost, the Church is born by the Power of the Holy Spirit, the whole of chapter 2 0f the Book of Acts demonstrates this, but I want to concentrate on just a few verses from the end of the chapter.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ac 2:41–42.

Peter in his sermon had called on those who were listening to him to “repent and be baptised” the Apostles saw baptism as part of the whole process of becoming a disciple. It was not an optional extra and it should not be for us. About three thousand people respond to the message that day and were baptised.

These new disciples devoted themselves to the apostles teaching ( they really wanted to understand their newfound faith), and they also devoted themselves to fellowship ( a deep sharing with one another in a variety of ways). They also devoted themselves to the breaking of bread ( In other words receiving communion and really celebrating what Jesus had achieved for them on the Cross) and they also devoted themselves to prayer.

We ss that the early church devoted themselves to these things but we must ask do we devote ourselves to them?

Paul in chapter 2 of his letter to the Ephesians lays out the way of salvation and how Jesus has abolished the deciding wall between Jews and Gentiles he then goes on to make some profound statements about the Church which we will briefly look at.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Eph 2:19–22.

All those of us who are true believers are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of his household, this means that generations of hostility have been broken down. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets ( we find the teaching of the prophets and apostles in the pages of scripture) but the cornerstone of the Church is Christ himself. This is not the end of the matter because we are being built together to be a building in which God dwells by his Spirit. The New Testament sees the Church as a body, they would not have understood our modern individualism and our centred faith as being an accurate reflection of their teaching.

Peter in his first letter stresses the importance of the corporate nature of our faith, these words should cause us to rejoice that we are privileged to be part of such a wonderful people.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Pe 2:9–10.

These words are a tremendous encouragement to value our place in the Church of God, we are his people, saved by his grace and transformed into his people. We are called to be priests together who offer our praise and prayers to God. We are called to be a holy nation, a people set aside for God’s own purpose. This is so that we may declare the praises of him called you out of darkness into his glorious light.

In the light of the above we need to embrace the importance of the Church as part of god’s plan for our salvation and edification. We have not been able to look at all the significant marks of the Church in this post, we must not forget the importance of evangelism and discipleship but those subjects will have to be addressed elsewhere.

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Anger is a fire that Consumes

Anger is like a fire that consumes my heart and then hurts others

A Judgmental attitude creates division where none should be.

Legalism is more concerned with rules than with people.

Gossip betrays the secrets of others and destroys relationships.

Self-centred thinking leads to jealousy and bitterness.


Love is like a refreshing stream that flows out to others

Love seeks peace, understanding and reconciliation.

Love is patient, and tries to build others up

Love seeks to forgive and to see others blessed.

David Rollings, January 2013

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The Lord Jesus Christ.

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.


[1] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Php 2:1–12.

This passage brings together the great truth about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post, I want to look briefly at who he is, what he accomplished and his exaltation.

Who he is, the first thing to note from this passage is that he is truly God, he is equal with God in every way and has existed from all eternity. This means that as God he has the same power and love as His heavenly Father. This means that he is full of compassion which explains why he would be willing to leave the glories of heaven for our redemption. He has always been the Lord and is Sovereign over all things and as such is just and holy. God in his holiness cannot overlook sin. Sometimes when we talk about Jesus we forget that he is the holy one and that is to do him a great injustice. He is truly God in every aspect of who he is and he has all the attributes of God In this short post I do not have the space to consider them all but he is the Almighty God the creator of heaven and earth.

Jesus Christ is also truly Man, he humbled himself and came down to earth and was born of the virgin Mary, he then lived a very full human life. It is very important to affirm that Jesus Christ is truly human, it is only as such that he can be our representative before God. It is vital that we affirm his true humanity the New Testament is very clear that as a man Jesus got tired, sometimes he was sad and at other times he was angry with sin. We also read of him being full of compassion for the needy and the lost.

It is important therefore that we maintain that Jesus is God and Man, he is not a mixture of God with humanity but rather truly God and truly Man, this is a great mystery with which the greatest theologians of the Church have wrestled with but who all affirm this to be true and essential for our faith.

What He did. Jesus humbled himself by taking on himself the nature of a servant he could rightly have come as a King but he did not and the reason for this is he came into this world for our salvation. Jesus lived a life of service in obedience to his heavenly Father by which he also works out righteousness for us, his active obedience to his Father is of vital importance to us as part of the plan of Salvation. But in this passage, the emphasis is on the passive obedience of Christ, and his willingness to die upon the cross. The cross was reserved for the worse criminals and the lowest in society, this does not seem the appropriate place for the Son of God to die but he does this for our sake. We need a Saviour who is pure and holy and only Jesus Christ fits this picture, but we also need both a holy man and God to act on our behalf. It was a man that fell and therefore we need a new Adam to save us but because we are fallen there is no way that any ordinary man can pay the price for sin. This is where the marvel of the plan of salvation comes into focus because Jesus could accomplish our salvation because he is both fully man and fully God. It is so important to hold these things together because our salvation depends upon it. Jesus died upon the cross to atone for our sins, he died as our substitute so that he took upon himself the punishment for our sins. There is so much we could say about the Cross but we don’t have space here.

His exaltation. Jesus was willing to die upon the cross therefore God has exalted him above every name above every other name. He is therefore to be regarded as holding a place of highest honour which is why everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord, every knee will bow before him and here we come to the sober truth that some will bow the knee unwillingly while others will the knee rejoicing in the fact that Jesus is their Lord and Saviour. This passage should encourage us to rejoice in the greatness of our salvation and to give the Lord Jesus Christ all the glory that he so richly deserves.

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The True Light Gives Us The Right To Become Children of God

In the first Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find these amazing words,

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 1:9–13).

Here we find that the eternal Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to be its Saviour. As God he gives liight to everyone who is born into this world. Sin has caused us to live in darkness and many in the world do not recognise him for who he is. What is really sad is that his own people did not recognise him, they had less excuse than the pagan nations as they had the witness of Scripture that ponted them to who Jesus really was and is. We cannot point our fingers at the Jews without also having to reflect that we also have lived in the darkness of sin. Sin has a had pervasive effect on all of humankind.

The good news is that when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ he gives us the right to become Children of God. The good news does not stop there however because we are told that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ do so because of the new birth.This is not something that we bring about rather it is God’s action in us which gives us new life. The Apostle John makes it quite clear that just as we do not give ourselves birth when we are born the first time, neither can we give ourselves birth spiritually. The whole of being a child of God shows that we have a change of status before we become children of God we are slaves to sin, now we have been set free. Yet, it is not only a matter of being set free but also coming into a close relationship with the living God through Jesus. A child can come and speak to his Father and know that he has good purposes for us. with a human Father the relationship is always broken and flawed by sin but with God we have a perfect heavenly Father.

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Praying for the Nation

The Bible gives us a clear instruction to pray for those in authority over us and gives us good reasons to do so. It seems that is a relevant matter at the present time and firstly we need to listen to Paul’s words to Timothy.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.. (1 Ti 2:1–6).

In this passage Paul grounds our praying for those in authority in the reconciling ministry of Christ, we are to pray that we may be able to live godly lives so that others would come to know the Saviour. We cannot say that we need to concentrate on the spiritual matters in our prayers when we have such a clear exhortation from the Apostle Paul. for those of us living in countries where we have a democratic vote, we need to pray for wisdom when we vote. It also seems to me that from this exhortation we should be praying more in our worship services for those in authority over us. We need to pray for anyone who is in authority over us whether we like them or not, I doubt if the believers in the early church really appreciated the oppressive power of the Roman authorities but they still prayed for them.


When we pray for the nation it is very difficult to know how to pray after all we see so much sin and rampant ungodliness all around us, we can be tempted to give up in despair or on the other hand to pray self-righteous prayers. How are we to get the right balance, I think that Daniel has a lot to teach us in this regard he was a man of the utmost integrity and of a known godly character. Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 is very instructive in this regard. I want to look at what lead to the prayer and then to look at some sections of the prayer itself.

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes (Da 9:1–3).

Daniel was motivated in his praying because he was reading the scriptures, he was not just praying out of frustration or anxiety but in a way that the Scriptures inspired him to. Notice that he does not just assume that because Jeremiah had prophesied that the exile would last seventy years that he did not have to do anything, in fact it was just the opposite he prayed for those promises to be kept But he was also aware of the continued sinful state of the nation. Now I want to turn to some elements in the prayer in some detail.

4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land (Da 9:4–6).

The prayer starts with a heart of worship and an acknowledgement the greatness of God for Daniel, God is great and awesome, we have lost something of that awe in today’s church but it permeates the whole Bible. It is because Daniel realises how great God is that he can also appeal to the fact of God’s covenant of love. As we said earlier Daniel was a godly man but as he prays for the nation he identifies with it. This is so different from the way many of us would be tempted to pray, we need to be on the guard against spiritual pride and here Daniel is a good example of humility. Notice how he constantly use the word “we” not them or some fault finding category. If we are to pray effectively for our nation we need to have a similar attitude to Daniel’s. Daniel constantly says we have done this or that or we have not listened to God’s word.

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you (Da 9:7–11).

Daniel continues to acknowledge that the nation has sinned against God and that God’s judgements are just. But he also knows and relies upon the fact that the Lord is merciful and forgiving, this motivates him to continue confessing the nation’s sins and the fact that the nation has not obeyed the Lord. But at the same time he does not tone down the gravity of his people’s sinfulness. Daniel acknowledges the fact that Israel has rebelled against the LORD and he does not tone down their actions but in the light of them still seeks mercy. in the following verses he continues to confess the nations sins and admits that God’s judgement are just. He sees that the curses of the law have been releassed because God has not been worshiped and obeyed. He lists all of these things before he makes his final plea where once again Daniel looks at the character and promises of God. One of the things that is striking about this prayer is how much Daniel has immersed himself in the Word of God.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Da 9:15–19).

In this section we see how Daniel uses the history of God’s redemptive purposes towards Israel to guide his praying. This links in for us to the fact that we are called to pray for those in authoority over us based on God’s salvation in Christ Jesus. Daniel does not ask God to act for the nation’s sake but rather for God’s own sake, Daniel wants to see God glorified. Notice how many times he says “your” in this part of his prayer. Daniel is concerned for his people but he realises that the only way something good can be achieved for them is through the saving work of the Lord and in that saving work the Lord must get himself the glory.

I hope this blog post will cause us to pray more for our nation but to do so with heart that is in tune with God’s plan of salvation, then our prayers will be humble like Daniel’s but also like him knowing the character of God we will ask for great blessings.

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Finding Freedom In Christ

At some point every Christian needs to realise that they are free in Christ but what does that mean in this post I will try to answer that question to some extent.

Firstly, freedom in Christ is being free to be the person God wants you to be that means becoming more like Jesus. This means that we can live as people who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, using the language of redemption shows that Christ has freed us from slavery to sin. The concept of redemption runs through the pages of the whole Bible and is therefore fundamental to our understanding of Christian freedom. The Exodus event shows this in a very graphic way as God liberates the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and brings them out to form as his own special people.

Secondly, we need to note thaat Christian freedom is very different from the secular concept of freedom, many people today when they speak of freedom today speak of it as being able to do exactly what I want to do. The modern concept of freedom does not want to be restricted by anything whereas as we have seen above the Christian concept of freedom is very different from this. to understand this more fully we need to look at some of the key Scriptures that speak of freedom in Christ.

We need firstly to look at a key passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus speaks clearly about finding fredom through him.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 8:31–36).

In this passage we see clearly that Jesus makes a very clear and bold claim that if we hold to his teaching he will set us free. It is interesting to note that Jesus linked fredom to the teaching that he gave. We must grasp the fact that we will only be truly free when we submit ourselves to God and His word.. The Jews claim that they can trust in their descent from Abraham but Jesus holds that this is not good enough. We to must be careful that we do not rely on anything other than the finished work of Christ for us. Religious rituals and practices can never make up for a living relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul warned against this at great length in his letter to the Church in Galatia.We need to turn to that book and gather some of what it has to say for us.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ga 5:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Ga 5:13–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul lays out very clearly in the previous chapters of Galatians that salvatian is found only in the finished work of Christ but in these verses he calls us to walk in the freedom this salvation brings. He affirms that we need to walk in the Spirit so that we will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Paul shows us that a life of freedom in Christ should also be a life of loving service to others. We are to be aware of the Spirit’s leading and this means cultivating an awareness of the Spirit’s presence and reality.

Paul spells this out very clearly in another letter when he says,

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The New International Version. (2011). (2 Co 3:17–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

We do not really need to make much comment on these verses but once again the Apostle highlights that where the Spirit is there is freedom. Also, he stresses that we will be transformed by this freedom more and more into the image of Christ.

So far I have laid the foundation for walking in fredom now I want to look at some specific passages that will help us to do so.

Firstly let us look at Romans 12,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 12:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

This passage among other things calls us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” this transformation comes about the more we align our thinking with that of Scripture. This is why it is so vital that we get to grip with what the Bible says, it is on the pages of the Bible that we find direction, guidance and comfort. It is through the pages of Scripture that we can learn who we are in Christ. The Bible is also the compass for our journey through life and shows us clearly what God’s standards are. The Holy Spirit can and will help us in our understanding of Scripture but when he speaks he never will change the plain meaning of the text. When we are equipped with a transformed mind we can discern God’s will for us clearly, this does not always make life easy but it always provides us with the certainty that we are walking in God’s ways and not our own.

The subject of forgiveness is also vital in finding freedom in Christ, firstly we need to know that we are forgiven by God through the finished work of Christ but then we are called to forgive others. There are many Scriptures on this subject but I will look briefly at just one, Col 3:12-14 says,

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Paul here appeals to us to show kindness and love to others based on what God has done for us, we are addressed as “God’s Chosen people and dearly loved”, this should make us stop and think about the importance of what is to follow. Various virtues which are important in the Christian life are summarised here but when it comes to forgiveness we are called to forgive on the basis of what God has already done for us. We can not claim to be walking in the light of being forgiven if we hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness. We do need to be able to let go of past hurts and extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Sometimes we make excuses for harbouring unforgiveness, one common excuse is that we have lost contact with the person but we can still tell God that we forgive this person and pray that we would know God’s blessing in their lives..

There is much more that could be said about finding and keeping our freedom in Christ and these are only just a few examples of what the Bible teaches on this important subject but let us be sure of this we need to live out our Christian freedom from day to day. in the above I have tried to reflect something of what Martin Luther meant when he said “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all,subject to all” ( The Freedom of the Christian by Martin Luther). If we take this seriously we will serve others from a place of fredom not of servitude, delighting in the fact that we have been seet free to serve God and others. May the Lord help each one of us to live in the knowledge that we are free in Him.

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Mary The Servant of God Sings His Praise.

Mary can give us some great insights into the Christian life as can many other of God’s people. In this post, I will mainly concentrate on the Magnificat but we need to put that in the setting that is found in the Bible. Luke writes a very careful account of the historical events found in the Gospel, and we must look at these if we are to understand the importance of what he has to say. When we first encounter Mary in this gospel it is when the Angel Gabriel speaks to her. Here we find Mary encountering the unexpected and yet she responds in faith. She finds herself as an unmarried young woman being told that she will become pregnant by an act of God. This child that she will bear will be destined for great things because he is the son of  God, he will sit on David’s throne forever and as his name implies he will save his people from their sins. Mary accepts this astounding news, her only question is how can this come about. Mary is assured by Gabriel that this will all come about when the Holy Spirit comes upon her. Mary says that she is the Lord’s servant and is willing to do his will.

Now we are ready to look at the Magnificat, which is part of the interchange between Mary and Elizabeth, Elizabeth was fill filled with the Spirit when Mary greeted her. Elizabeth knew that Mary was bearing a child of great importance, she acknowledged that the child was the Lord himself. it is at this point that Mary utters the words that she is so famous for.

46 And Mary said:

     “My soul glorifies the Lord 
     47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 
  48 for he has been mindful 
     of the humble state of his servant. 
     From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
     49for the Mighty One has done great things for me— 
     holy is his name. 
  50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, 
     from generation to generation. 
  51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
     he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
  52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
     but has lifted up the humble. 
  53 He has filled the hungry with good things 
     but has sent the rich away empty. 
  54 He has helped his servant Israel, 
     remembering to be merciful 
  55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, 
     just as he promised our ancestors.”  Luke 1:46-55

Mary utters this song of praise which is saturated with influences from the Old Testament, particularly Hannah’s song found in 1Samuel 2. here Mary models for us what it means to let the word of God dwell in us richly ( see Colossians 3:16). Notice that Mary praises God for all his goodness, she praises God with her whole being. She speaks of God as her Saviour, Mary knew that as a sinful human being she needed a Saviour and rejoiced in the fact of God’s salvation. She knew that she came from a humble background but the Lord had been mindful of her, Mary knows that the blessing that has been bestowed upon her meant that all futures generations would call her blessed, here we are over two thousand years later still acknowledging that Mary was blessed and that her son is the fount of all blessing.  Mary praises God because he has done great things for her and this, in turn, causes her to reflect on the fact that God is Holy, in fact, Mary rejoices in the fact that God is holy. God is not only Holy but he is also merciful and shows his mercy to those in need. He is the one who can change history so that righteousness is vindicated. Mary believes that God is starting to set things right and we know that will be completed through the second coming of Christ. Mary believes in a God who can and does overthrow unjust rulers. Mary roots all of this in the fact that God is keeping his covenant promises to Abraham, God always keeps his word and Mary knows this and praises God for it.

We can learn Much from this account of Mary both from her encounter with the Angel Gabriel and from her encounter with Elizabeth. Mary had a heart that was open to God and she was able to hear his voice, we too need to be able to listen to God as he speaks to us. secondly, Mary was transformed in her mind by the way she allowed the Word of God to dwell within her. We can see this very clearly in the Magnificat because it echoes so many Old Testament passages, we need to be like her and spend time reading our Bibles and meditating on what we read/. Thirdly she knew that because God was at work in her life, she was being transformed and this would affect not just herself but future generations. we need to recognise that as God works in us we do not need to repeat all the mistakes of past generations and we too can be a blessing to those who follow us. Mary knew that she was a child of God and therefore could live in the light of that fact. We also need to know that as Children of God we are adopted into his family and live in the light of the assurance that this can bring us. Perhaps most importantly we see that Mary had a heart that wanted to worship the Lord, we should ask ourselves whether we are like Mary  and desire to be those who worship the true and living God.

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Serve The Lord With Gladness

All believers are called to serve the Lord within the Church. yet each one needs to discover how to do that with the gifts and personality God has given them. One of the keys to this is to realize that we are all members of the body of Christ and are given gifts to use in his service. As we see that our whole life is to be one of service to God we can see that we need to receive his wisdom and insight.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2. In this passage, we see something of Paul’s heart for the believer, he wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God and by so doing to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. This is not for primarily intellectual reasons but rather practical ones in knowing God’s will. We are called to have a have a very different mindset to that of people in the world our is to be a mindset which reflects the new age of which we have become a part in Christ Jesus. As our minds are transformed we will know God’s will for us, this is far better than anything we could devise for ourselves. Notice that it is his perfect will for us, God’s will is the place where we find that he as our creator knows what is good for us and therefore He will lead us in the way which is best for us.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. ( Romans 12:3-8) These verses spell out in more detail what is implied by becoming living sacrifices and living the life of service which God desires for us. Firstly we are called to think soberly about ourselves this excludes pride because that would miss the importance of the whole body of Christ. Service by definition calls us to serve the Lord and each other and therefore should spring from a heart of love. Each of the gifts that Paul lists here is to be used to serve the Lord and others and each gift has a valuable function within the body of Christ. We are to use these gifts to serve one another and to build the church up. As the gifts spring from God’s grace they are not something we can be proud of but rather we receive from the Lord what he has given to us and use it for the benefit of our fellow believers. some of these gifts are upfront ministries but others are less conspicuous, but all are equally important to the life and vitality of the local church.


9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:9-16)   

In the above verses, we see that Paul once again returns to the theme of loving one another, other believers are to be put first. One of the ways to maintain our love for believers is to be full of zeal and to have this we need to maintain our spiritual fervour. For Paul spiritual fervour leads to very practical results in our care for one another, we very often tend to think of spiritual fervour as being shown in our worship in Church, here we see that although this is true it is much more than that  because it is our spiritual fervour which causes us to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to live in harmony with one another and to achieve this we need to keep control of any tendency to pride on our part. We need to be fully open to one another.

Sometimes people say that that do not have any gifts but one of the quickest ways to discover our gifts is to serve the church in any way we can. It soon becomes obvious what our strengths and weaknesses are. It is not always given to us on a plate but we have to step out in faith. sometimes we try something and it soon becomes apparent that this is not our gifting, on other occasions, we try something and find ourselves enjoying it and being more and more drawn to it.also at various times in our lives we need to reevaluate what we should be doing to build the church up.

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Martha’s Faith and The Lord’s Response

We often think about Martha as a woman who was taken up with the cares of life but we forget to look at John’s account of Martha as a woman of faith. I want to look briefly at this important story and see how the Lord responds to her faith.

One of the things that become quite clear is that Martha’s activity in this passage is a strength rather than a weakness, she actively seeks the Lord while Mary sits at home. Mary only stirs herself when Martha fetches her.

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.           The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 11:17–20).


Martha expresses her feeling that if Jesus had been there he had could have prevented her brother’s death but even as she does this she says that she knows that God will respond to whatever Jesus asks for.


21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 11:21–22). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Jesus assures her that her brother will rise from the dead, and Martha responds by saying yes I know he will be raised on the last day. It is at this point that Jesus reveals more of himself to Martha in some of the most profound language to be found in the New Testament.This, in turn, causes Martha to express her faith in a very strong way. It is after this that we see that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

We very often quote Jesus saying ” I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” But we forget that these words were, first of all, said to Martha. It is how Jesus lovingly challenges Martha to see how deep her faith is because he asks her whether she believes this.  Her response is one of the clearest confessions of faith that we have in the New Testament, she said, “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”, here Martha shows a profound understanding of who Jesus is, this is very similar to Peter’s confession of faith. Martha makes this amazing confession of faith in the darkest of circumstances the death of her own brother. It is only after this that she goes to fetch Mary who is still sitting at home, once Mary joins them they go to the tomb.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 11:32–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

In this passage, we see that Jesus is deeply moved and in the wording for this implies that he was angry with sin and death but he had compassion for those who were grieving. We see also that the whole reason for his visit is so that he can raise Lazarus from the dead. Even at this point Martha struggles but is willing to have the Lord’s instructions followed. sometimes we find ourselves in a similar position where we know, love and trust the Lord Jesus but find some of his actions and directions confusing. Martha found it hard to believe that after 4 days in the tomb that her brother would be raised from the dead. But once Martha and the others at the tomb were reassured by Jesus they were obedient to his word. We too need to be like Martha and have a deep faith in Jesus even when everything seems to be going wrong. Martha knew that Jesus was the only one who could deliver her from her problems and like her we can receive the Lord’s blessing at the hardest points of our lives.

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The Reformation.

Part one, a brief historical overview of the Reformation

The background to the Reformation, the Medieval church had become corrupt and had departed from the gospel in many ways. Greed and immorality were common in the church with Bishops who were meant to be celibate promoting their illegitimate sons to places of authority in the Church. At times there were even rival popes. The days were dark but even in this darkness God raised up men like John Wycliffe (1329-1384) he was a great preacher and scholar and was the first person to attempt to translate the Bible into English. His views were to influence the Bohemian preacher Jan Hus (1373-1415), Hus was burnt at the stake for his views.

God was seen as very distant and therefore prayers to saints were often used. This idea of praying to saints has no biblical justification and detracts from the centrality of the work of Jesus Christ. Also, it was widely believed that one had to partly earn one’s salvation, and if one could not achieve enough merit in this life the believer was sent to a place called purgatory to suffer until their sins were atoned for. The Bible never teaches that we have to earn our salvation, nor does it have any teaching about purgatory. People were concerned about their dead relatives and the Pope authorised the selling of indulgences which released the soul from purgatory. One of the men responsible for the sale of indulgences was a monk called Tetzel. (1465-1519) He was known for his selling of indulgences, one of his sales pitches was “As soon as the gold in the casket rings the rescued soul to heaven springs”. The idea was that souls could be released from purgatory for a price, the money raised was used at least in part to build St. Peter’s Church in Rome.

Martin Luther (1483- 1546) was an Augustinian Monk who soon showed himself to be an able scholar. He taught others, but he felt God was a monster demanding of him a righteousness he could not possibly achieve. He particularly wrestled with the opening chapter of the Book of Romans. Then one day he saw the true meaning of the text and he felt as though he was reborn.

Luther said “I felt that I had been born anew and that the gates of heaven had been opened. The whole of Scripture gained a new meaning. And from that point on the phrase the ’The justice of God’ no longer filled me with hatred, but rather became unspeakably sweet by virtue of a great love.

Once he realised that the righteousness we have is received from Christ it affected his whole outlook. He wanted to share the good news with others and did so by preaching, teaching, writing and translating the Bible into German.

“Luther wanted to reach beyond an academic readership and touch the hearts and minds of ordinary people. The decision to publish in German was iconic, making a statement about the inclusive nature of the Reformation that Luther proposed to pursue. To publish in Latin was to exclude the ordinary people. To publish in his native German was to democratize the debate about the future of the church by including those who were traditionally marginalized by the use of the ancient scholarly language. From that moment onward, one of the hallmarks of Protestantism would be its use of the vernacular at every level. Most importantly of all, the Bible would also be translated into the language of the people”. [Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, 51.]

Luther was quite a fiery person and made some very extreme statements but nonetheless, he was a great man of God. We must be willing to face up to his faults as well as praise him for his tremendous contribution to the development of the Church.

Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531) was a priest in Zurich Switzerland who came to the same conclusions as Luther about the nature of the gospel at about the same time as Luther did. Zwingli does not appear to have gone through the same spiritual crisis as Luther but his conversion although a gentler affair was deep and very real. Zwingli set about reforming the Church in Zurich and helped to spread the Reformation message to other Swiss cities. Zwingli was first of all convinced of the authority of Scripture and he used this to test Church tradition, as a result, he came to the conclusion that salvation is by grace alone.



John Calvin (1509-1564) Calvin was born in Noyon France, he studied in Paris where there was a lot of theological discussions. We know that by 1534 he had become a Protestant. In January 1535 went into exile in Switzerland. He felt that his calling was to spend his time studying and writing and he produced his first version of his Institutes of Christian Religion, this was to become a great success and is still read today. Calvin himself wanted people to read the institutes alongside his Bible commentaries.

When Calvin visited Geneva, he was just planning on paying a passing visit, but he was not prepared for the intervention of William Farel who wanted the younger man to help in the Reformation cause in Geneva, Calvin but strongly objected saying that he needed to live in a peaceful environment to pursue his studies.  Farel responded by saying “May God condemn your repose and the calm you seek for study if before such a great need you withdraw and refuse your succour and help.”

Calvin stayed in Geneva and preached regularly and taught many the basics of Protestant theology, many came from other countries to learn from Calvin and his associates, amongst them was John Knox the Scottish Reformer.


The Reformation quickly spread to other countries we certainly don’t have time to look at the whole of that history, but we must briefly mention the Reformation in England and also in Scotland. Although people were becoming open to Reformation ideas Henry viii was strongly opposed to the Reformation until he wanted a divorce, but the beginning of the Reformation in England was one that did not immediately embrace the ideas of Luther and Calvin. However soon many people began to preach and teach the gospel. Amongst was man who was to make a real impact on the Church of England he was Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) He was to pioneer having services in English and was responsible for the publication of the first Book of Common Prayer His actions were somewhat restricted during the reign of Henry viii but during the reign of Edward vi he had great freedom to develop his Reformation agenda. All this was to come to an end when Mary Tudor came to the throne and once again Roman Catholicism was the official religion of the kingdom. During Mary’s reign, Protestants were persecuted and many were burnt at the stake including Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. When Ridley and Latimer were burnt at the stake Latimer said “Be of good comfort Master Ridley and play the man. We shall light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust will never be put out”

Another Englishman who was involved in the Reformation Was William Tyndale he was a great exponent of Reformation doctrine but his most lasting contribution to the English-speaking church was his very high-quality translation of the New Testament into English. He also worked on parts of the Old Testament but was captured and put to death before he could complete his work.

John Knox was a man of strong conviction who wanted to see the protestant reformation spread           He embraced protestant principles in the 1540’s and by 1546 he made it clear that he accepted the Swiss Reformer Bucer’s teaching on the Lord’s supper. In 1546 he was captured by the French and became a galley slave and during this period he wrote a short work on Protestant theology where he showed that he accepted the idea that justification was by faith alone.

The Radical Reformation, The Radical Reformers wanted to take the Reformation further and rejected the idea of infant baptism and were the first to introduce believer’s baptism.  They also believed that the Church should be separate from the state. There was various grouping around with similar agendas. We can see that much of our Church practice is indebted to the radical Reformers whereas much of our doctrine is indebted to the Magisterial Reformers.


Part Two, Some important teachings from the Reformation

At the time of the great Reformation as the Reformers tried to bring back the Church to biblical teaching, five important principles grounded all their thinking. These principles are often nicknamed the five Solas because each one points to a central truth which indicated the unique place each concept has, sola roughly translated from the Latin is alone, the five Solas are, Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone), sola scriptura (by scripture alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone) and sola gratia (by grace alone). I want to look briefly at each of these important concepts because they are vital not only to the health of the church but also to our involvement in the world in which we live.

Glory to God alone:  the reformers were reacting against a man-centred theology where the glory of God had been lost, medieval theology looked to see how a man could make his ascent to God. Indeed, a whole system of merits had been invented and the gracious nature of God had largely been lost. Against this backdrop, the reformers rediscovered the graciousness of God in all its glory. They also realised that the God of grace was the sovereign Lord of all history. when you read the writings of Calvin and Luther one sees how these two men were captivated by a gracious yet awesome God. These two men realised that because God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient that one should bow in worship before him and yet at the same time they realised how gracious this God is. They realised that God is sovereign over both creation and redemption and because of this God should be glorified in creation and redemption.

Calvin expressed it this way “All our controversies concerning doctrine relate either to the legitimate worship of God or to the ground of salvation. As to the former, certainly we exhort men to worship God in neither a frigid nor a careless manner; and while we point out the way, we neither lose sight of the end nor omit anything which is relevant to the matter. We proclaim the glory of God in terms far loftier than it was wont to be proclaimed before; and we earnestly labour to make the perfections in which his glory shines better and better known. His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can. Thus, men are incited to reverence his majesty, render due homage to his greatness, feel due gratitude for his mercies, and unite in showing forth his praise.” (Necessity of Reforming The Church)

The Puritans who framed the Westminster Shorter Catechism understood this when they said that “the chief end of man is to glorify and to enjoy him forever”. the reformation was a period when it was re-emphasized that the whole of life should be lived before the face of God. because of this, the whole of life was to be lived for the glory of God, not just a special sacred realm. For instance, Bach very often put on his musical scores “Soli Deo Gloria” he was conscious that whatever type of music he composed that it should be done for the glory of God. George Herbert the poet expressed this concept this way,

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold;
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

I know the language is old-fashioned, but we need to heed the teaching today. If we are to follow the reformers in their teaching, we need to realise the importance of giving glory to God for all that he has done.

By Scripture Alone: We are to submit all our thinking and deeds to the guidance of scripture, the Bible is the only book that has authority over our lives because it is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice. All our Church traditions are to be tested against the teaching of scripture and if anything conflicts with the clear teaching of scripture we must reject it. The Scriptures are our guide to our relationship with God, with one another and to the society around us. To see the life-transforming role of scripture read Psalm 119, here we see clearly someone who delights in the word of God but notice that he applies the scriptures to the whole of his life.

The Genevan Confession  (1536) Article 1 “First we affirm that we desire to follow Scripture alone as rule of faith and religion, without mixing with it any other thing which might be devised by the opinion of men apart from the word of God, and without wishing to accept for our spiritual government any other doctrine than that which is conveyed to us by the same word without addition or diminution, according to the command of our Lord”

Through Christ Alone: There is only one mediator between man and God and that is the Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who gave his life as a ransom for many, who paid the price for our salvation. Christ has achieved all that is needed by his atoning sacrifice, mankind cannot add anything to his work. He has done everything that is necessary for our salvation, on the cross he was aware that he had completed the work of salvation when he cried out “it is finished”. Our Lord now intercedes for his people before the right hand of the Father.

“We confess then that it is Jesus Christ who is given to us by the Father, in order that in him we should receive all of which in ourselves we are deficient. Now that Jesus Christ has done and suffered for our redemption, we veritably hold without any doubt, as it is contained in the Creed that is recited in Church, that is to say: I believe in God the Father Almighty and so on” Genevan Confession article 6

By faith alone: The only way that we can receive this salvation is to put our faith in Christ, we entrust him with our whole lives, knowing that we can never contribute anything to our own salvation. all we can do is put out the empty hands of faith and receive what Christ has done. the reformers emphasised the doctrine of justification by faith, one only has to look at Luther’s Commentary on the book of the Galatians to realise the central importance of this doctrine.  Paul clearly teaches justification by faith in his letters to the Roman and Galatian churches, this doctrine has abiding relevance for us today.

The Genevan Confession Article 11 “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed to us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the Gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God”.

By Grace alone: Grace is God’s favour shown to those who don’t deserve it, it flows from the Father heart of God and is shown supremely to us in his gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour. The Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530) it expresses the heart of the gospel this way.

Article IV: Of Justification.

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favour, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

The whole of the New Testament teaches us that our salvation is by grace alone. the old Sunday School acrostic helps us to remember what grace is,
We need to glory in the wonder of God’s grace, thereby glorifying him for all that has done for us.

Martin Luther said, “The law says, “Do this”, and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this” and everything is already done.” Martin Luther Heidelberg Disputation 1518

Martin Luther also said in his Commentary on the Galatians, “Grace and peace, comprehend in them whatsoever belongeth to Christianity. Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet. The two fiends that torment us are sin and conscience. But Christ hath vanquished these two monsters, and trodden them under foot, both in this world and the world to come. This the world doth not know, and therefore it can reach no certainty of the overcoming of sin, conscience and death. Only Christians have this kind of doctrine, and are exercised and armed with it, we get victory against sin, despair and everlasting death and it is a kind of doctrine neither proceeding of free will, nor invented by the reason or wisdom of man but given from above. Moreover, these two words grace, and peace do contain in them the whole of Christianity. Grace containeth the remission of sins, peace a quiet and joyful conscience. But peace of conscience can never be had, unless sin be first forgiven.”


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