Challenging times part 3

Readings & Notes from 21st March 2021 

Hebrews 4:14-16 
[14]  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 
[15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 
[16] Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

Hebrews 12:1-3 
[12:1] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
[2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
[3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Mark 6:1-29
[1] Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 
[2] When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What's this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?
 [3] Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 
[4] Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 
[5] He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 
[6] He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 
[7] Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. [8] These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. [9] Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. [10] Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. [11] And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

 [12] They went out and preached that people should repent. [13] They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

 [14] King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
 [15] Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 
[16] But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
 [17] For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. 
[18] For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 
[19] So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, [20] because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. 
[21] Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.  [22] When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you.” [23] And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” [24] She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. [25] At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

 [26] The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. [27] So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, [28] and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. [29] On hearing of this, John's disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. 

Challenging Times

Mark 6:1-29 Introduction
 At the end of his account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Luke concludes Luke 4:13: [13] When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. The wilderness was not the end, in fact, it was more like 'I have started, so I'll finish'. Except it is Jesus who finishes off the power of the devil and persists all the way to the place where that happens, the cross on Good Friday. There the powers of darkness and evil do their worst but in doing so the price of sin is paid, death is put to death and those powers are disarmed. 

Colossians 2:15 [15] And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. On the way there though, Jesus is regularly confronted, directly or indirectly, by these malevolent powers and it is probably on two fronts: 
First, Satan and his taskforce of unclean or evil spirits. 
Second, by the earthly powers of rulers and leaders who mostly opposed him. 
We face similar opposition today. There is an increase in the so called 'new age practices' which are occultic in nature and there is nothing new about them! We need to be aware and beware and, avoid contact and pray against what folk are doing round about. Also, we need to pray they come to Christ. Also, we live in increasingly secular societies which, in varying degrees, oppose, not least, Christians. 
And, of course, in some parts of the world with a complete ban on worship and the persecution of believers. 
Again prayer is in order'

  1 Timothy 2:1-4 [1] 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. 

Paul's motive for these prayers is for believers to be free to worship and proclaim Jesus!
We live in challenging times, as did Jesus who was constantly facing challenges, and in our reading today we see another string of them.
 1. Struggling to be heard - vv 1-6a [1] Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. [2] When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What's this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? [3] Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. [4] Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” [5] He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. [6] He was amazed at their lack of faith. 
The hometown here is probably Nazareth where he was brought up as opposed to Capernaum where he lived for a time during his public ministry. 
The text seems to support this strongly. To start with, many are amazed and it is both his teachings and healings that cause quite a stir, v 2, but this amazement soon turns to offence, end of v 3. So, what's the problem?
 It is because they know and perceive Jesus and the family who still are round about. 
In brief, he is the lad off the street, the carpenter who fixes this that and the other. 
All this fancy stuff: teaching, wisdom and the ability to heal . . . . it's all too much for us to take!! 
The reality is, Jesus had lived among and with them most of his life and this is just not the Jesus they know - at all! 
Here we are again, and not for the last time today, looking at the question 'who is this?
We will return to it more fully next Sunday. 

For now, let us note, that many today won't even allow that question to be raised with any seriousness, and like the people there in Nazareth, and many in the land, reject him without a second thought. 
Sad and challenging, then and now. Jesus for his part, vv 4-5, acknowledges the reality with a quote and is limited, but not stopped, from being able to do much among them. 

As we look round the folk around us, we may feel a similar sadness at the rejection and brush off Jesus receives from many and should pray that eyes will be opened and for the tide of unbelief and wholesale rejection to turn. 
Within that turning is the basic of the message 'repent' - change your mind and direction of life. Jesus' sadness is expresses in v 6 - he is amazed at their lack of faith! Jesus, persists in anther direction. 

2. Sending to be heard - vv 6b-13 Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. [7] Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. [8] These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. [9] Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. [10] Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. [11] And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” [12] They went out and preached that people should repent. [13] They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. 

Two things happening here. 
First, Jesus continues his policy of travelling far and wide sowing seed here there and everywhere. He is the first sower of his own parable. 
Second, he is not the only one, and he now starts the in-service practical training of the twelve, note in v 7 'he began to send', to send them out in twos sharing his power and authority to preach, teach and heal - vv 12-13 describe their mini mission. 

We so often think that it is the 'upfront' people who do all the work of mission but the view of Jesus is that all have a role in it. 

The upfront people may be the public speakers whist the rest have a personal contact role to fulfil with simple guidelines given here. 

Preachers can have a good effect but witnesses from all walks of life who are often not seen as whatever preachers are seen as by folk, can have a real, vital and powerful impact.
 In addition, the upfront people have a role and responsibility
 to equip, 
encourage and 
enable the bigger aspect of mission and gentle evangelism. 

We are the body of Christ.
3. Being heard but . . . vv 14-16 . . . . Misunderstood by the people - 14-15 [14] King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” [15] Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” This mini mission and work of Jesus were having a growing impact all round, v 14a, which included king Herod. The conclusion of the people, here we go again, 'who is this?' is that Jesus is JTB back from the dead or even Elijah or even one of the prophets. This is stated again by the disciples when Jesus later asks them the questing, 'who do people say that I am'. The answer is the same. Of course, he then goes on to ask them, the all important question, 'but who do you say that I am?'

It is a persistent question and remains so today. Back to the people at the time in the passage. At least they are asking and answering the question that Jesus poses by who he is and what he does and says. They also are giving him a decent, albeit incorrect, affirmation. They don't see him, as the teachers of the law and Pharisees have as the prince of demons. Nor do they see him as his home town did, the carpenter, Mary's son etc. Could he be Elijah, another prophet or JTB back from the dead? All of them were important and significant figures. Oh, that today people would up the stakes as to who Jesus is because then we can take them by the hand, so to speak, and lead them on to see who he really is and what he has actually done. I say it again, 'pray'. And there's more, because all this is also . . . . . .

 Misunderstood by Herod - v 16 [16] But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” There's a difference to note. The folk are looking in interest as to who Jesus could be but part of their answer leaves Herod quaking in fear that JTB has come back not to haunt him but confront him once again with his evil and sick ways in his personal life, a wrong marriage - vv 17-18, his stupidity at a feast - vv 21-26, and his callousness to acquiesce to a request born out of personal grudge held by Herodias v 19 and executing him, JTB, whom he feared, protected, viewed as a holy man and liked to listen to - v 20. What could happen, what was in this sinister man's head at this dawning realisation? When Jesus is on trial Herod finally gets his chance to meet Jesus as Pilate sends him there, Luke 23:8ff but he gets no answers from him there at all. [8] When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. [9] He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 

4. Seeing Power, Pride & Frivolity go horribly wrong - vv 17-29 That's how I choose to entitle this horrible event which I briefly outlined under the last heading and here don't want to look at it in any more detail as I think the text itself is clear, sad and graphic enough. I want to look at this from another standpoint - that of Jesus.
 We are not told he was told but undoubtedly, he would know most of what we read at some stage or other. 
My title is 'Challenging Times' and I am sure that Jesus hearing about this would have found it challenging at the very least. 
Remember, Jesus and John were related and they were born a matter of months apart. They couldn't be direct cousins as there was a generation gap. John's mother, Elizabeth was old and past childbearing until the Lord intervened. 
Mary, a direct relative of Elizabeth, was at the other end of the spectrum and very young - it's all there in Luke's early birth narrative. 
So, in brief, John and Jesus were close blood relatives. They possibly played together as children but more than that, John had fulfilled the significant, highly significant, biblical role of being the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord - none other than Jesus. 
If Jesus wept at the grave of a friend, Lazarus, hearing now that John was dead must have struck a deep, sad and painful note for him. 
Herod, was a weak, stupid man who let party merriment be an opportunity for revenge from and evil woman. I wonder what was in the mind of Jesus when on trial he stood before Herod? Perhaps all this answers Jesus' silence. The powers and authorities, human and spiritual, all bear down against Jesus. We have seen his reaction to people, today, in Nazareth. We have previously noted the attitudes, actions and reactions of the teachers of the law and Pharisees and their criticisms and accusations of Jesus. 

We know nothing of Jesus' reaction to this with JTB and so can only surmise. 

Those in leadership both within the church and elsewhere need prayer.
Power is a precarious thing and so easy to misuse and abuse - we see and hear about it far too regularly. We are also aware that in many places people are under not just suffering, but long term suffering through power abuses and they are wide ranging in their scope. 

Pray as we are exhorted so to do in Scripture. Also, let us examine our own use of power and authority at personal and church levels! 
Too often the home, the street and the town can be a microcosm of the larger world and its problems. We need to live in an attitude of repentance and constant change. 


When I included Hebrews 4:14-16 I had no conscious intention to coming back to it but now feel I must because Jesus, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin, strikes a chord here. 
He faced challenging times, he went through the mill, he was stirred and shaken, beaten and tortured, etc from straight after his baptism until he died on the cross. 
He remained true to his Father's will and the eternal plan for the Kingdom, and the salvation and changes it brings . 
    As we look, reflect on life, our lives, God and all he knows, does and how he acts for us, can take heart and 'run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 'fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith' knowing he ran that race first, won the victory and shares it with all who profess him as Lord and Saviour.

 Take courage, it is I, don't be afraid, says, Jesus as he walks on the water during a storm and when he rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he does so to face the ultimate storm and challenge of his life. Next week we will come to both events in some shape or o

Difficult times part 2

Difficult times part 1


Reflect on your personal encounter with God through King Jesus

Morning bros and sis, I'm posting this talk a bit late, reminding you that the readings are in the previous post. 


Today's readings

Sunday February 28th 2021

Isaiah 51:1-2
Psalm 105:1-45
Acts 26:1-23
Psalm 135 1-7 & 19-21
Mark 4:35-5:20
Mark 8:34-38 - at end

Psalm 105
1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
5 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit.”
12 When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
16 He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
and teach his elders wisdom.
23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The Lord made his people very fruitful;
he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
because dread of Israel had fallen on them.
39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed like a river in the desert.
42 For he remembered his holy promise
given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
and observe his laws. Praise the Lord.

Acts 26:1-23
26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Psalm 135
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord;
praise him, you servants of the Lord,
2 you who minister in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own,
Israel to be his treasured possession.
5 I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

19 All you Israelites, praise the Lord;
house of Aaron, praise the Lord;
20 house of Levi, praise the Lord;
you who fear him, praise the Lord.
21 Praise be to the Lord from Zion,
to him who dwells in Jerusalem.

Jesus Calms the Storm
Mark 4

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man
Mark 5
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The Way of the Cross
Mark 8
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”



Breakthrough LIVE // Simon Brading Newday 2013 (HD)
•Oct 15, 2013

freedomsoundsuk1.75K subscribers

6500 worshippers singing 'Breakthrough' from Newday 2013 featuring Simon Brading, Jules Burt, Zac Guy and the Newday band.


You calm angry storms 
You muzzle hurricanes 
Water You walked, even the seas obey 
There’s nothing that You cannot do 
Nothing that’s too difficult for You

You open blind eyes, do many miracles 
Raise dead to life, work the impossible 
There’s nothing that You cannot do 
Nothing that’s too difficult for You 

You can shake the highest mountains
and You can make the desert sing 
More than we can dare imagine 
You’re the God whose power 
Can answer our prayer

Let Your kingdom come 
Let these mountains move 
Let unanswered prayer rise again to You 
For the more we ask, it’s the more You’ll do 

My heart is bursting again 
God of power break through 

You crushed even death 
Now there’s an empty grave 

Rose up in strength, to rule eternity 
There’s nothing that You cannot do
 Nothing that’s too difficult for You

 So we rise up in faith, all things are possible 
When we call on Your name O God of miracles 
There’s nothing that we cannot do 
Nothing that’s impossible with You 
Whatever we ask in Your name
 Whatever we call out in faith 
You have promised You'll do 
God of power break through Simon Brading Copyright ©2013 Freedom Sounds/Administered by Song Solutions CopyCare.


Today's readings!

Good morning brothers and sisters, have a blessed Sunday in the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus-Christ Amen

February 8th 2021

Colossians 1:13-14
Colossians 1:15-20
Psalm 29:1-11
Psalm 67:1-7
1 Samuel 8:1-9
Mark 3:13-35


Jesus - on the road of Kingdom Action

Jesus - on the road of Kingdom Action - 

Mark 1:16-45 


I suddenly noticed, as I was preparing and assembling this week’s material that the picture, we have in Mark is similar to that of Acts. As we saw last week Mark is eager to show us Jesus in action and after his brief introductions with truncated accounts of some events, after the Baptism of Jesus and his anointing with the Spirit, we see Jesus starts to preach Kingdom and repentance, calls his disciples and then we have signs of the presence of the kingdom. 
Acts 1 is Luke's link from his gospel to the current book and fills in a few details between Jesus' Ascension and Pentecost. At Pentecost we see the outpouring of the Spirit on those first followers, the Kingdom, death and resurrection of Jesus being proclaimed, people repenting and being baptised. What follows? Signs of the presence of the Kingdom! 
How wonderful it would be if in our worship we listened to God, engaged with him, sought his presence and the filling of the Spirit and then went out and showed signs of the presence of the Kingdom! 
I am not saying we don't but I think it is fair to say we are not showing the presence of the Kingdom with the power we could or should. I am making a generalisation and issuing us with a challenge. 
Given where we are at and where the world is - back to the start - something needs to happen! To that end we need real repentance and seeking God whole heartedly. 
We are doing that today but what about in the 24 hours from midnight tonight in the chaplaincy prayer vigil? I suggest we use that hour to look to the sovereign power of the Lord to fall in an old but new way - here and elsewhere!

1. Calling the task force, part 1 

- vv 16-19 [16] As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. [17] “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” [18] At once they left their nets and followed him. [19] When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. [20] Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. 
This passage has to be read in conjunction with John 1:35ff where we see the first encounters Jesus has with some of the disciples, he calls formally now to follow him. Interestingly as well, two of them, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, are described as having been John's disciples! So as Jesus calls them, these guys are already fired up at some level by the preaching of John and have spent some time themselves with Jesus. 
This then is not what we call 'cold calling' but something of an informed call to be disciples of Jesus. They will discover they have a lot to change over the next three years regarding their thinking and understanding of the mission of the Kingdom - shocks await them.
There is also an immediate 'cost' in that they leave their employment in the hands of others although I hastily add we see them fishing on later occasions and the last being in John 21 post resurrection. 
So, as so often, we don't have a full picture - but then, it's not really relevant, only interesting. 

The reality then is that they have embarked on a three-year discipleship course which maybe they part funded by doing some fishing now and again and, as it was a business, hired men are mentioned in v 20, perhaps they had something from any profits the business made! 

Clearly there are changes; of a break from work and to some degree or other within family life but the extent of it is never clear possibly because, again, it isn't that significant to the message.
The message, for them, at this point is that they are going to have a change of occupation - v 17. 
What is your cost in following Jesus and what changes has it made to the way you shape, or have shaped, your life, family, finances and career? 
If little or nothing then what do we mean by discipleship? 
We note that later on Jesus is going to say that to follow him involves taking up your cross to follow - that means sacrificial service! 

2. Challenging the expected and confronting evil spirits - vv 21-28

[21] They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. [22] The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. [23] Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, [24] “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God!” [25] “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” [26] The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. [27] The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” [28] News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

It's Saturday - the Sabbath, they are in Capernaum, they go to the synagogue and Jesus, an untrained teacher, begins to teach. I say that because as far as we see Jesus has had no formal training but given who he is establishes himself not just as a teacher but an outstanding teacher! He has a natural and apparent authority, v 22, and I suspect the folk actually understood him not like the normal teachers of the law. 
He was a breath of fresh air. But then, what preachers and congregations dread, is an uninvited interruption. 
On this occasion it's not a little heckling or someone putting in their two penneth, this is rather dramatic as a man enters and cries out . . . We are told he has in impure spirit, the word also means, 'unclean'. There are three things to note: 1. At that moment it has control of him 2. Jesus' presence is something of a threat to either the man or the spirit or both - v 24a - have you come to destroy us? 3. The unclean spirit tells the truth - v 24b - I know who you are - the holy one of God. 
Without us going off on a tangent regarding demonisation I think what we need to see is that this is disruptive and destructive. It stops Jesus teaching as he wishes and announces truth in a way that is unhelpful. 
Jesus, as we shall see a little later and in other passages, does not want his full identity revealed yet - he has too much teaching to give to explain who he is before it is made more public. 
The latter actually only happens as the cross draws closer. Jesus, v 25, rebukes the spirit and, with quite a do and a lot of noise, the spirit leaves him.

The result is amazement and explanation from all present - not criticism for healing on the Sabbath, that's just around the corner! What is significant is the question - v 27: what is this? 

People are reacting and responding to Jesus. As Jesus had power and authority so does his name and preaching, praying and sharing in his name. Beware and don't be shocked! As we pray tomorrow in our prayer vigil let's pray for the power and authority of Jesus to be manifest among us and through us - and more widely!  

3. Caring and receiving care - vv 29-34

After Saturday worship and teaching off go the small group, more are yet to be called, to the home of Simon and Andrew.
 From drama in the synagogue we move to a domestic and homely setting but all is not well, well, at least Simon's mother in law isn't - she has a fever and it's reported to Jesus who heals her and before long lunch is on the table - so to speak! 
Saved to serve - and the care Jesus showed enabled her to care for Jesus, her sons and James and John. This is a rare window of life amongst the disciples - Peter had a mother in law - I am told Les Dawson used some of Peter's jokes - which means he was married and probably had children. 
This is an indicator of real life and what Peter was going to have to work and live with as time goes on and he becomes a key leader. 
This is true for others as probably all or most of the twelve would be married and families and responsibilities. Jesus too, although single, had family responsibilities along with his brothers and sisters for Mum Mary after Dad Joseph died.
 Let's remember as we read this is a real world with real people in everyday life with all its joys and complexities - just like you and me! 
When Sabbath ended, sunset, many in the village turn out to seek more of the healing care of Jesus in all its ways for wholeness of life. Perhaps the 'after sunset' reveals an unspoken fear the people held for those in authority about work on the Sabbath an attitude Jesus will challenge in due course. Jesus needs time to reflect and so . . . .

4. Communicating with 'base' and then further afield - vv 35-38

4. Communicating with 'base' and then further afield - vv 35-38 [35] Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. [36] Simon and his companions went to look for him, [37] and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” [38] Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” [39] So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. Jesus isn't a super hero or lone ranger. He is the son of God and works in conjunction with his Father in the power of the Spirit so, prayer and reflection were vital. Hence, a very early start, still dark, and off he goes for solitude, refreshment and communication with Father God. What happens, his newly called disciples seek him out with a message, 'everyone is looking for you'. 
You're a hit and we can gain ground. But no, no, no, his time of prayer has left him focused - we have to move on and keep on doing so. I have to take the good news far and wide not just here and so the mission moved out from Capernaum all round Galilee. 

Two observations: 1. If the eternal son need time for prayer, refreshment in the spirit, to be kept focused in Kingdom priorities, then so do we!
2. If our desire is to see people, communities and the world changed through prayer then first and foremost we have to be changed through prayer and respond accordingly. 

God works as he pleases and it pleases him to work through his children who act in faith. I add, sometimes he works without them or despite them! I will not tire of saying it 'your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven'. 
That's what Jesus was probably praying that morning and maybe every morning. God gives good things to those who ask but we are here for his glory, his kingdom and the honour of his holy name.

 5. Cleansing and containing
 - vv 40-45 [40] A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” [41] Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” [42] Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. [43] Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: [44] “See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” [45] Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. 

It's lovely, to see how this man comes and addresses Jesus in v 40. He is humble and certain in his request to Jesus. There are no doubts in his mind - if you are willing, you can. Plain and simple and bristling with faith. Jesus' response is equally lovely and loving too and, equally brief - I am, be clean - and he is. Like met with like. No drama and no fuss but then it all goes pear shaped because this man does the opposite of what Jesus asked - vv 43-44. 

A sign of his delight and joy which is understandable. From being outcast he was now able to be included in life but Jesus was keen for it to be official and appropriate in accord with the law. Jesus, we see, upholds the law but when necessary he challenges how the priests etc. used or misused the law. Subtle difference. 
The final verse demonstrates how his disobedience threw a spanner in the works for Jesus. 
Jesus now had to avoid the crowds because the demand for a 'wonder worker' was growing and we can understand but, we also have to understand that there is a whole agenda, for Jesus, not just a healing one. Jesus cared and cares for whole people.
Yes, he heals, yes, he calls for justice and care for the marginalised but he also has a message of the Kingdom which has to be heard, and, be heard it will. Balance is needed and I say similar to what I said last week and that is that we, which includes the church as a whole, can easily get out of balance with what we do and say. Perhaps its back to prayer that is Kingdom focused! 


If what we have seen over two weeks in Mark 1 is, more or less, plain sailing, Mark 2 brings change and the start of Jesus being questioned, albeit silently, about who he is and his authority. The intensity and opposition will grow. 

In ministry we have times of plain sailing when all goes well and there is interest and growth - we need to pray for these.

However, there are also times when we face opposition and attack from 'unclean spirits' and opposition from within and outside the fellowships we belong to. I say it again - prayer and this time add, spiritual warfare, Ephesians 6:1ff. Remember: who is reigning and has won the undefeatable victory and that therefore, in him we are more than conquerors.


Journeying from the past to the present and beyond

Readings & Notes from Sunday 3rd January 2021 

Isaiah 60:1-6 
[60:1] “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 
[2] See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 
[3] Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 
[4] “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip. 
[5] Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 
[6] Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. 

Matthew 2:1-23 
[2:1] After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem [2] and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 
[3] When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
 [4] When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
 [5] “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 
[6] “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” 
[7] Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. [8] He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 
[9] After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 
[10] When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 
[11] On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 
[12] And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 
[13] When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 
[14] So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, [15] where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 
[16] When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 
[17] Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 
[18] “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 
[19] After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt [20] and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.” 
[21] So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 
[22] But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 
[23] and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. 


Wise Men, and Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and, 
Journeying from the past to the present and beyond - 

Matthew 2:1-23 Introduction

Late last year there were a few jokes around about being able to see clearly in 2020 - how wrong. No one saw what was coming in terms of the pandemic as no one sees all sorts of events that can happen, good or bad, that have a deep impact on life. The pandemic is just adding to and exacerbating the more normal unforeseen events of life and of course has affected just about everyone in the world!

Through our extended reading from Matthew, I want us to follow wise men and Jesus and family on their journeys and look to what God says to us on our ongoing journeys of life and faith in the living God through Jesus the Saviour. As we have moved into a new year just reflect briefly on what 2020 brought and what you 'anticipate' for 2021 but with caution on the latter! 

I have six headings

Five start with 'S' and one nearly does - you'll have to wait for that. 

1. Searching - vv 1-6 What is really behind the journey of wise men / magi from probably Babylon to Israel, a journey of over 900 miles that would take a long time, be difficult and costly?
 We are talking about a journey of nearly 2000 miles with a camel train and taking supplies of tents, food and water with servants and a whole lot else. 
Forget three wise me, yes, three gifts, as we don't know how many, but there would have been many others and they would have joined a bigger group, for safety, travelling such a long way. This isn't a trip to the local beach. 
They were probably astrologers and although we are warned in the bible against such 'arts' God can use what he wants for his purposes. 
So, something in the heavens made them set off on this journey but a star in itself seems an inadequate explanation for them to go seeking a new born 'king of the Jews'. 
Could there be something else and most of what follows I say with caution.

First - facts. The Jews had been in Exile in Babylon for something like 70 years. Ezekiel was speaking to the Jewish exiles there in Babylon and giving them messages from God along with challenges, encouragement and rebukes! 
Daniel, and other 'prime' Jewish youths were initiated into the Royal court where Daniel, not least had a considerable impact on it and the kings, he was there a long time and of course Babylon was also taken over by the Assyrians during his time and he had an impact there too. 

All that was 6th and 5th century BC and we read of incredible events of that impact in the first part of the book.

In the second half there are various prophecies which include references to one to be born who could be seen as the Messiah, an anointed king for the Jews. Second, now more speculative, from all of that was something left behind in that court that these magi picked up and went with and led them to come to search for a King.

Let's face it they wouldn't make a journey such as theirs unless there were something highly significant about this particular king. Remember the Jews were the ones held captive and treated virtually as slaves and this now is something big. Something goes wrong. They have some guidance yet go to Jerusalem. Was this an example of one in the group not trusting the GPS star.? Are you with me? There you are driving along, the Sat Nav says left and a passenger says, no, that's not correct, right! Someone said, 'Jewish kings live in Jerusalem and that's where we have to go' and they do and its - wrong! We can understand why Herod is alarmed, threats to his throne and all the rest' but why the whole of Jerusalem with him? 
Jerusalem was on trade routes from all over, but, first we have these, no doubt, regal men who may have worn court robes so they looked splendid as they arrived. In addition there was their entourage and it would have been like the circus coming to town and I don't say that derisorily but in terms of the spectacular. Also, they are looking for a new born king and as far as the court in Jerusalem was concerned there wasn't one! Herod wanted to know the truth, where is the Messiah, God's anointed one, to be born and his specialist tell him from the book of Micah - Bethlehem. 

The journey and the plot continue! 

2. Scheming - vv 7-8 Herod, feeling threated, did what many did and do, even though Jesus posed no threat, prepared a plot to get rid of the opposition. Grizzly, nasty and sick. But, happened and happens too often - get rid of threats and opposition.

 3. Seeing - vv 9-12 They leave and head south from Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem guided by the star - wrong way for stars to travel - and it stops over the house where the toddler and his family are living. Yes, Matthew indicates Jesus is no longer a baby but more a toddler by the word he uses for child. The star GPS did it's job and made it clear where the child was. They worshipped him - appropriate for the Lord and King of heaven and earth. They gave gifts that seem prophetic for his life, which would also be valuable in aiding what was to follow. They also represent something that the early church would be slow to grasp and that is that Jesus was not just for Jews but everyone.
 Even we struggle with taking Jesus to all! 
Then, because of Herod's evil scheme, being warned in a dream, they journey home another way and don't report back. However, Herod's evil means Jesus and parents have to embark on a totally unexpected journey.

4. Escaping - vv 13-15 Joseph is told by God to flee to Egypt with his family and this is a 200 mile plus journey depending on route and destination. Here we have something slight odd and seemingly contradictory. 
Many of the prophets had waded the Jews against alliances with the Egyptians because when all is said and done God took a lot of effort to get them out of Egypt. 
Why then did he want Jesus there until Herod was dead? 
Surely there were other places just as safe. No. You see, God has an eye for detail. 
He brought Israel out of Egypt and as we read in Psalm 80 Israel was the vine he took from Egypt and planted in the land of Israel. 
Jesus is the true vine, the true Israel, John 15. He is the one who is going to be all that Israel never was to their Lord and God - holy, true to him and totally obedient. 

As such, when Jesus returns from Egypt a second Exodus begins which is to have a climax at the last supper, the Passover celebration, Jesus shared with his disciples the night before the cross. 
The journey to true freedom is now complete and following the cross and resurrection the way is set for the journey to the ultimate promised land - a new heaven and earth with all who are in Christ transformed to live in this place by nature of having being given bodies that are immortal and imperishable. 

'Out of Egypt I called my son' - a quote from a very powerful passage in Hosea 11 where God speaks with maternal passion of his people who he brought from Egypt but who refused to take him seriously. Jesus is called out of Egypt when Herod died and so fulfilled this longing of God for one who would be faithful and obedient which Jesus was - even to death on a cross - the faithful and true servant of the Lord. 

The magi journeying home without seeing Herod led to something terrible, namely 

5. Slaughtering - vv 16-18 This is the most ghastly part of the birth narratives which is truly shocking. It is also another indicator of the age of Jesus at the arrival of the magi - under two and under two year old boys suffered because of enraged and jealous king who wanted rid of any potential rival and stopped at nothing to achieve it. 
Of course, there was no rival and what he did was a pointless waste of life but then some years later his brother was to be complicit in the death of Jesus and later still of others in the early church. 

6. Settling - vv 19-23 The text tells us their reasoning for going back to Nazareth although it could appear that it was a sudden choice.
Of course we know, from Luke, the family were from Nazareth and went to Bethlehem with good reason. Matthew's readers don't know that bit so he just tells them this is where they went to live. This part of the journey keeps them well out of the way of the latest in line of the Jewish royal family and in a place where Jesus can grow up in safety and enjoying a good number of years of what we might call 'normal human life' before embarking on the next part of his journey. 

We have followed two sets of journeys and I hope that may cause us to reflect on those we are involved in and relating that to our journey of faith. 
The first was of the magi following 'guidance' that could have turned out to be a wild goose chase. Perhaps there are times we think we may be being guided by God in a particular long and arduous journey. How do we know if it is right? Perhaps, by seeing where we end up or if we draw real blanks by looking afresh at what he is saying. 
The second is Mary and Joseph with their little guy and fleeing to Egypt as a result of a dream but in obedience to God. Did they ever find out the actual atrocity of Bethlehem? I suspect they did but only after they settled back in Nazareth. Sometime we wonder why things have happened and want to know. Sometimes we see dimly, other times clearly and yet others, nothing. 

Walking with God our Father, in faith, can be risky, costly and sometimes we feel astray. We are called to trust and obey so how do we react when we feel called? 

Plump for safety or take the step of faith and go and then see . . . I note - Human nature is prone to take the least line of resistance!
Jesus took up a cross for us out of faith and obedience and said, for my sake and that of the kingdom, do similarly if you want to follow me. 

Yet too often we, and the church, sit comfortably and conservatively - that's how we've always done it, no point changing now! 

What new opportunities are we personally going to have to grasp in 2021? Who knows but will we still have to face and handle what comes? 
Who knows what is going to happen to them in 2021? We might rather not know, but how will we handle what comes?
On whom will we rely to lead and who will we keep on following through thick and thin?
Only God our Father is the one to ultimately trust in all matters even though we value and seek the guidance and counsel of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 
What will the Church face, what will your church face, what will this chaplaincy face? 

Let's not try and guess, but rise with faith in him who has only good things for those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. (Rom 8:28) 

The day you and I said in response and commitment to God, in Jesus name, 'my life is yours whatever you want I will do it' (they were mine - what were yours) we started on a journey. 

As Christians we are part of a family, the church, and with fellow Christians we are involved in various journeys. Like the magi, like Mary and Joseph, we step out in faith and love with our heavenly Father under the guiding of the Holy Spirit in obedience to Jesus and keep on going with this journey remembering that we are to bring glory to God who has called us


Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel 2020!

May the Lord our God bless you my friends in abundance and guard you in the mighty name of Jesus-Christ, our Saviour, in the power of Holy Spirit. Amen


#Merry #Christmas to you all!

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a #virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was #Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the #Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father #David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the #Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 2 
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 🎵🎹🎺🎻
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.


Signs that Show the Way - John 9:1-16

Signs that Show the Way
- John 9:1-16


 As I said the other week: to get to Paris you follow the signs pointing to Paris. Following signs for Bordeaux will lead you in the wrong direction. Of course, following the signs for Paris from here as opposed to say from Lyon will take you on a completely different route altogether, but, you'll arrive in the same place. 
Of course, you may never had wanted to go to Paris until someone told you of a sight that made you think, I would really like to see that, and so, you go and you follow the signs. 
Also, on any route from say A to B there are different routes to be taken - motorway / main roads / back roads. Again, following the right signs will get you there - in the end! 
Similar, and I stress similar, is true in coming to encounter God in and through the Lord Jesus who is the Way the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to the Father except through him! He is the sign we have to ultimately follow to get to the right place! 
Some amongst us may never have had a time when they didn't have a faith in God through Jesus. Others, may have been total disbelievers with no intention or desire to know God and not even sure he exited - until - something happened that caused a change of direction in their lives. 
Then there all those who are in-between. 
Being in Christ and knowing God as Father in full assurance of all he has for us because of the completed and perfect work of Jesus is the important point for a life that should be being lived in Godly and holy living. 
From there we become increasingly his fruit bearing children and servants. 
I'm aware that many people only see Jesus as a man albeit special in some way or other and so I have been focussing very much on His divinity, although I hope I haven't under stressed his humanity. 
I have also stressed his victory through death and resurrection and the Kingly role he has and has fulfilled - he is the Christ / Messiah / King and rules now on the throne. 

I have felt this especially important given our current circumstances - we need to focus on 'who' is in charge and 'who' has the last say!!
 Jesus, of course, does not have two parts to him - one God, the other human. The two are indivisible. In other words he is a complete and whole person who is both God and in the image of God (Hebrews 1:3)

 As we journey to, and then celebrate, his birth there will be a change of direction - starting next week, whereby we look a little more at his humanity and see something of how he shares fully in what we are. Today I want to look, briefly, at the seven 'signs' John has chosen to highlight from the many Jesus did. 
We have only read one of these today, the sixth, but we have already, in looking at the 'I am' sayings touched on others and last week I used the first to lead us to see how Jesus brought the best wine and rocked the rest of the established order of old wine! 
So, we are treading a slightly different path to Christmas with some different scenery. You can decide if I have chosen a motorway or a back road - perhaps it even seems a bit like a cart track!!!
1. Recap - the Seven I am Sayings alongside the Seven Signs
 1. “I AM the Bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51) 
2. “I AM the Light of the world” (8:12).
3. “I AM the Door of the sheep” (10:7, 9). 
4. “I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14).
 5. “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25).
 6. “I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life” (14:6). 
7. “I AM the true Vine” (15:1, 5) 

These are all printed in my notes, and now I look at the seven Signs which are also in the notes: 

1. Water Turned to Wine (John 2:1-11) 
2. Healing of the (Nobleman’s) Son Near Death (John 4:46-54)
3. Healing of the Lame Man at the Pool (John 5:1-17)
4. Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:1-15) - cp I am number 1 
5. Walking on the Water (John 6:16-21)
6. Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41) 
7. Raising of Lazarus from the Dead (John 11:1-47) cp I am number 5 We note that most, and maybe all, of the 7 I am sayings tie into actions of the Lord God in the OT and so invite us to see that in Jesus God is acting in ways consistent with what God has done in the past. 

Beginning with this emphatic 'I am', clear in the Greek, he is linking to the great I am of Exodus 3:14 to Moses - the Lord revealing his name - YHWH. Jesus is not beating about the bush and the 'I am sayings' say who he is and in that we see he is mirroring the image and work of God - back to Hebrews 1:3. 

2. The Point of the Signs 
By contrast, the signs in fulfilling their purposes as signs, show who he is. They still point to the fact that Jesus is the great I am. 
At one and the same time they echo OT prophecies about what the Lord would do when he arrived and we read a short part of Isaiah 61 and all of Isaiah 35. 
From Isaiah 61: to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 
From Isaiah 35: [5] Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. [6] Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. 

    These are the 'sort of things' the Messiah was expected to do from a bible standpoint and these are the sort of things we see Jesus doing, and the healing of the blind man, in John 9, is one example which also indicates in its wider context the need for all eyes to be opened to see Jesus. In fact, the anomaly, which becomes clear later on in the passage, is that the Pharisees are the ones who remain blind as to the true identity of Jesus whilst the man who was blind sees and worships Jesus as the Son of Man / Messiah (9:38)! 

But of course, there is more: He brings the best - water to wine - and therefore supersedes the old which cannot be contained by the new! People are set free from captivity - illness - the nobleman's son, is a very interesting healing as it is without Jesus going to his house and with Jesus challenging people about wanting to see signs and wonders! 

Then there is the man at the pool who is healed and also released from some form of mental captivity. The Lord fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna (bread from heaven) and Jesus fed a crowd on a deserted hillside - then soon, he declares 'I am the bread of life'. 

The raising of Lazarus, the final sign and which anticipates his and our resurrection, is again linked, as we considered, to the I am saying of the resurrection and the life. 
Because I only want to summarise all this I think it is helpful to see how Jesus answers John the Baptist when he sent his disciples to Jesus because of a lack of clarity in his mind as to whether he had got it right about Jesus as the Messiah: 

Matthew 11:2-6
[2] When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples [3] to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” [4] Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: [5] The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. [6] Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 

For some reason, perhaps he was a bit caught up with current ideas that the Messiah would free the Jews from Roman rule, John couldn't quite get his head around what Jesus was, and what he was doing and saying, it didn't quite square with what he expected of the Messiah, so, he did the sensible thing and asked! Excellent! 
When we don't understand we can ask for our eyes to be opened! Which is just what Jesus does, he invites him to look and see him from scripture. Jesus' reply, which echoes our two OT passages, invites John to see that this is what should have been expected of the Lord's anointed, the Messiah, and that it is exactly what he is doing - and what's more, he is doing more!! 

He fulfils and exceeds all expectations. Do you allow him to do the same for you, do we as churches and chaplaincies, do the same? Expect him to do more? 

His action, summed in John's seven signs, point to who he is - the Messiah and also the Lord who is to come. John the Baptist, in picking up Isaiah 40 accepted the theme of preparing a highway for who? The Lord - YHWY. Jesus is saying, 'you got it right John (the Baptist), look and see, it's OK'. Well done! Task complete. 

One sign stands out and apart - walking on the water which can be linked to the stilling of the storm. The Jews were not mariners, some were fishermen, but they didn't like big open seas or even rough little seas! In the OT, it is the Lord who rides the storms and is supreme over all violent and rough elements in the natural world. It is the spirit of God who hovers over the unformed world's waters in Genesis 1 before the full act of the variety of creation comes into being. When God speaks to Job (38ff) he points to his sovereignty over the winds, the seas and the snow - as well as so much more. 

There are many references in the Psalms to the Lord and winds and rain and waters and waves and that He is over them all, as indeed, He is 'overall' whether people like it or not. Agreed? 

The reality is, there is no chaos in the created order for the Lord - and Jesus shows the same when he walked on water and stilled a storm - it is part of His domain! He is the Lord. 

The other signs point to other areas of his overall sovereignty as Lord. 


As we close a few things to consider: 

• The Lord's sovereignty over your / my life and all aspects of it! Your permission and submission to his sovereignty and will. Hmm? Actually, this is not a little thing, but is central to being a disciple and follower of Jesus. 

• By extension, when we go to our Father in prayer in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit do we see ourselves as in and relying on the King of creation?

 • How we and the church might be 'downgrading' Jesus and the Christian message and so be pulling the teeth of the gospel, which in fact is the whole bible account.

 • How we look at Jesus, the baby, as we approach sharing the celebration of His birth. Too many miss the dynamic of what is happening and what God is doing! To that, we will return but, not this week!