30th June 2012

The Only Sensible Response – Giving

“distributing to the needs of the saints,”
Romans 12:13 (NKJV)

When Paul and Barnabas left James, Peter and John at Jerusalem, they asked only one thing of them, “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)

Care for the poor was of prime importance to the earliest church leaders.  It has always been a measure of the Christian.  God has great compassion for those who are less able and vulnerable.  He is the ‘champion’ of the needy.

The needy in the verse above are those in the faith, our fellow Christians.  This encouragement is not just to look out for the needs of the members of our local church, although that is certainly included, it has a more far-reaching intention and this is evidenced by an actual situation recorded for us in the New Testament.

When Paul concludes his letter to the church in Rome he makes mention of help provided to the church in Jerusalem in Romans 15:25-26, “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.”  Macedonia and Achaia are respectively northern and eastern central Greece, a very long way from Jerusalem.  News had reached them of the needs of their brethren far off in Jerusalem and they responded with love and action.  Church services are an excellent way of learning of these needs 

Returning to the local church environment, needs are not always financial.  Some of the greatest needs are friendship and fellowship.  Loneliness is a twenty-first century disease.  We need to be distributing more than money, we need to distribute ourselves, our love and concern, our care and friendship.  Everyone has a need to feel valued and worthwhile and lonely people lack this touch from others that can say so much to them.  We can distribute this sense of worth to others by giving them attention, engaging them in conversation, showing them that we are interested in them, we can include them in our activities.

If we don’t regularly attend a church we are denying ourselves and others the benefits of friendship and fellowship that are so important to our and their well-being, and we are certainly missing the opportunity to distribute to the needs of the saints, which in the face of all that God has done for us is our only sensible response.

Prayer
Father in heaven, thank you for all you have done for me, for meeting all my needs, directly or through others of your children.  Let me become one of those who distributes to the needs of others.
Amen

Study by David Stirk

29th June 2012

The God-Given Human Spirit

“We were like those who dream”
Psalm 126:1 (NKJV)

Did you read or hear about the double amputee who recently ascended Kilimanjaro?

Despite having had both his legs amputated in infancy, Spencer West persevered and used his hands to climb Africa’s equatorial mountain. His inspirational ascent of Kilimanjaro reminds us that, what may seem impossible could be possible.

It is a testimony to the human spirit. But where does it come from, this impulse to achieve remarkable things? Even when all seems lost, we can imagine winning. Against all odds we dream of better things.

The Bible suggests an answer. The legendary King Solomon said of humanity, that God “had put eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The desire to reach beyond ourselves is a gift from God. Our human spirit comes from him. God gave us all the uplifting and special qualities that humanity possesses because he wants us to enjoy life abundantly.

James, the brother of Jesus, put it this way: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

The human spirit is an expression of God’s love for us.

Let’s use God’s gift. Think possibility.

You can do more than you think you can.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the human spirit, and that in Jesus what may seem impossible becomes possible.
Amen

Study by James Henderson

28th June 2012

It’s More Than Just A Dream

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
1 John 3:1 (NIV)

Those who can remember the summer of ’69 will be aware of the Woodstock Festival.  This was a music festival, held in the Catskills near Woodstock, that billed itself as, “Three Days of Peace And Music”.  Rolling Stone called it one of the 50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll.  The event was portrayed in a documentary movie Woodstock, and Joni Mitchell wrote a song, also called Woodstock, which became a major hit.  A line from the title song reads, “I came upon a child of God walking down the road and I asked him where are you going?” The song goes on to say “I’m gonna get my soul free.  We are stardust.  We are golden.  And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…”  The aspirations of that, ‘love is the key,’ generation were not fulfilled as many would have liked.

On the other hand, 1 John 2:6 tells us, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  So through the enabling Spirit of God we ‘walk as Jesus did’.  We will reach our destiny, and this destiny is not ‘back to the garden’, but on to life eternal (John 3:15).

Prayer
Father, please help us to follow the road which leads to us becoming loving children—true children of God.
Amen

Study by Ian Hardy

27th June 2012

Cat Antics

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
James 1:19-20 (NIV UK)

Picture the scene: Onnie, an easy-going red Devon Rex cat, has strategically placed herself within spitting distance of my evening dinner, hoping that whilst I’m distracted, talking to my husband, her paw can surreptitiously manoeuvre a piece of chicken off my plate.  However, Rum Tum Tugger, an equally clever feline, also sees the opportunity and sidles his way on to the chair next to me, before also sliding his paw towards my plate.

As quick as lightening, Onnie pounces on his head with her paw—a short sharp shock that startles and annoys her fellow cat.  Though ostensibly laid back, she can act quickly and decisively when she feels the need to.  Having been ‘hit’, Rum Tum Tugger then jumps to the floor and goes over to an unsuspecting third party, ie, Hetty, another feline furball sitting there quietly, and ‘hits’ her over the head.  Her crime?  She was there!

My husband and I burst out laughing at the comedy scene just played out in front of us in the space of 30 seconds.  But also, once again, we are dumbfounded by the ‘human-like’ emotions coming from an animal.

Rum Tum Tugger’s response was to hit out at a target different from the one that was the real source of his irritation.  How often do we act like this?  Reacting to a frustrating situation by taking it out on someone else!  I know I have—and many times it can be an unconscious and instinctive reaction.  For example, perhaps someone at work or church was rude or mean to us.  We leave to drive home, and our mood needs readjusting as our mind works through the incident—do we perhaps become an impatient and arrogant road user?  Do we get home in a bad mood and act grumpily towards our spouse or children?  Do we push the dog or cat aside when it comes to greet us?

Psychologists call this displaced aggression (redirected aggression)—believing that rumination plays a large part in this—ie, focusing on an anger-provoking situation, trying to make sense of it, but in fact forming new angry associations, and in effect setting up a vicious cycle of anger and rumination.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 (Message version) says, “Don’t be quick to fly off the handle.  Anger boomerangs.”  That means it comes back to hurt us.  As Christians we should know better.  We are forewarned and so we can be forearmed.  What better way to arm ourselves than with God’s word.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry.”

So next time you’re the target – take a step back, or a deep breath – and pray to God for His strength not to target someone else.

Prayer
Lord, we fight an ongoing battle to control some of our more negative human emotions.  Help us to help ourselves and others by allowing your Holy Spirit to guide our instincts in a positive direction.  As you are slow to anger, please help us to be so too.
Amen

Study by Irene Tibbenham

26th June 2012

Love Your Enemies

“Do not gloat when your enemy fails; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”
Proverbs 24:17 (NIV)

The other day my football team were playing their greatest rivals in the League and, as I regard God as a supporter of my team, I was praying very hard that they would win! Unfortunately, they lost badly—no doubt others were praying for our opponents…

God actually tells us not to rejoice when our enemies get into trouble, and in verse 18, tells us that He disapproves of that attitude and it may backfire against us.  In Matthew Chapter 5, verse 43, Jesus reminds us that we naturally hate our enemies—it seems obvious to us that we should also hate those we perceive mean us harm. God however, is not a respecter of people, and gives gifts to all men. The sun shines and life-giving rain falls on both good and bad people.

Jesus loves all people and he suffered and died so that all may have eternal life through belief in him. We are then to become like Jesus who commands us to love our enemies. Far from rejoicing at their problems, we are to pray for their health and prosperity and then to rejoice at their success. By doing this we may well help change their feelings towards both us, and Jesus, whom we serve.

Prayer
Father, we learn from your Word that you love all people. We pray that you would help us to learn to show love to our enemies that they may come to know you.
Amen

Study by David Boardman

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