26th December 2018

Talents

“Then she said to the king: ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.  However I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You exceed the fame of which I heard!”
2 Chronicles 9:5-7 (NKJV)

Who has not heard of the Queen of Sheba? It was she who came to Solomon to hear his wisdom, to learn from him. 1 Kings 10:3 explains: “So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her.” But in coming to see for herself whether what she had heard was true, the Queen of Sheba did not come empty handed. In verse 10 we read “Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.” No quantities or types of the spices and precious stones are given, however the gold is stated at 120 talents. Looking to find how heavy one talent was I learnt the generally accepted figure for the Old Testament talent is 35kg. At time of writing 1kg of gold is valued at £29,388.62. So let’s see: if one talent is 35kg, then 120 talents is 4,200kg, at the above price £/kg that makes £123,432,204.00. And this is just the value of the gold—the value of the spices and precious stones can only be guessed at! The Queen of Sheba did not come with a miserly gift.

In Matthew 12:42 we find that Jesus makes the following statement: “The queen of the South…came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” Jesus’ wisdom is greater than Solomon’s, so of how much more value is Jesus’ wisdom? We can have this wisdom for ourselves—for free. The cost to us has no price, but it cost God His only begotten Son His physical life so that we could live.

In 1 Peter 1:7 we see “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our faith is purified by fire that it may be made pure like 22 carat gold. God will settle for nothing less than the best we have to offer Him. Our praise and thanks for what Jesus has done for us, that we could not achieve by our own efforts, is what He desires. This is something that we cannot put a price on, His wisdom is not valueless, but priceless.

Prayer
Thank you for your priceless gift to us and that you put your value on us as your children.
Amen

Study by Rosemary Gent

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About the Author:
Rosemary Gent attends Nottingham Grace Communion.

Local Congregation:
Nottingham Grace Communion
Lucy Brown Hall
Attenborough Lane
Beeston
NOTTINGHAM
NG9 5HZ

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Richard White

Email: nottingham@gracecom.church

25th December 2018

The Virgin Conception 

“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.”
Luke 1:35 (NIV)

Mary plays a prominent role in the birth narratives of Jesus, evoking several Old Testament incidents, notably the miraculous births of Isaac (Genesis 18:10-14), Samson (Judges 13:2-5), and Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20). Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) mirrors Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and the choice of the word ‘overshadow’ to describe the action of the Holy Spirit in the virgin conception echoes the cherubim overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:20), the presence of God overshadowing the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:35) and the hovering of the Spirit over the waters of creation. (Genesis 1:2).

The conception and birth of Jesus was a divine initiative in human history through the work of the Holy Spirit, which at first glance might appear to indicate an absence; the absence of a human father. But in reality it is the sign of the presence and the work of God (Matthew 1:20). God was at work in these Old Testament texts and in a real and tangible way was at work and demonstrated his presence in the coming of Jesus.

For Christian believers, the virgin conception is a sign of the divine sonship of Jesus and of the new life that comes through the Spirit. It also points to the new birth of every Christian as an adopted child of God. Each is born again (from above) by water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5).

Seen in this light the virgin conception of Mary some 2000 years ago is a powerful expression of the active work and personal presence of God, of the divinity (and humanity) of Jesus, and of our salvation.

Mary is called by the angel the Lord’s favoured one (Luke 1:28), a term meaning one who has been and remains endowed with grace. As we recognise the work of God and his presence with us in Jesus, bringing salvation to the world, we too are highly favoured, endowed with grace now and forever more.

Prayer
Father, thank you that in the fullness of time you sent your only begotten Son to be born of a woman for the reconciliation of humanity to yourself. We have been highly favoured with your presence among us and with the forgiveness so freely given. This is indeed good news for all humankind.
Amen

Study by Barry Robinson

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About the Author:
Barry Robinson is an Elder in and pastoral worker in the Greater London area, particularly the Camberwell and North London congregations of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International Central London
Indian YMCA
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
LONDON
W1T 6AQ

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Barry Robinson
Email:   london@gracecom.church

 

24th December 2018

The King and the Humble Maiden

“…Christ Jesus: 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…”
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Jesus sometimes spoke in parables. A parable can present things in a different way and the main theme can give an interesting illustration of religious truths. Bearing in mind that a parable is not intended to be a precise blueprint with all its details corresponding to actual reality. One such parable[1] about the incarnation is related below:

“The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden.
How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her in royal robes, she would surely not resist him. But would she love him?
She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind. Would she be happy at his side? How would he know?
If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover—an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and let shared love cross over the gulf between them.”

In this parable the king wanted a marriage of love and was wise enough to understand that love cannot be forced or coerced, it has to be freely given and freely received. The parable continues with him approaching her cottage incognito as a humble beggar. In this way she was free to develop a relationship and recognise his genuine love for her and was free to grow to love him. Alternatively she was also free to reject his love.

In giving up his power and glory and becoming a humble human being, Jesus showed God’s unconditional love for all humanity. He came in a way that human beings can relate to and freely learn to love him, without coercion or manipulation, out of a response to his love; they are also free to reject that love.

Prayer
Father, we thank you that you have revealed the breadth and depth of your love through Jesus Christ. Give us the wisdom to be able to play our part in revealing it into an unknowing world.
Amen

Study by Eddie Marsh

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About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Sheffield
The Source Training & Conference Centre
300 Meadowhall Way
Sheffield
S9 1EAMeeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

[1] Philipp Yancey, Disappointment With God, Page 109.

23rd December 2018

Getting Our House in Order 

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
Hebrews 4:14 (NKJV)

If you need to get your house in order, have a baby! Well, that’s extreme. But I remember anticipating the arrival of our first child. Our house was transformed. Anything dirty, got washed. Everything broken, finally got fixed. Creepy crawlies were “taken out”. And all things fitting for a new baby were welcomed in. As a parent, I was compelled to set things right, which included setting some things aside, so our baby daughter could take her place as a new child in our family.

Maybe you can relate to this experience? Or maybe you relate to Mary and Joseph’s experience as they anticipated the birth of Jesus. Imagine not being able to provide a proper place for their baby. In fact, Jesus had to enter our world in the muck and mire of a dank and dark stable while sleeping in a manger.

Spiritually, I’m sure we can all identify with that. Nobody can provide a fitting place for the arrival of God’s own Son. Yet, here we are in Advent, celebrating and anticipating the arrival of Jesus. In this celebration, we are reminded once again of the Father’s amazing love. God didn’t wait until we got our spiritual house in order before giving us the precious gift of his Son.

In fact, as we receive his precious gift today, we find him wrapped with the gift of sanctification. That’s a theological word which means being set right and set apart. In other words, “He gets our house in order.” In his love for us, the Father chose to set us apart for himself—so we could become his beloved children. In Jesus’ birth, we are the babies the Father is preparing a place for. This is his will. Listen to how the author of Hebrews puts it. “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10 NIV).

This sacrifice is the perfect “once for all” offering given to us in Jesus’ birth, and finalised in his death. It’s the whole life of Christ that brings us to a life of wholeness in him. He set everything right for our arrival. So, if you are feeling like your house is “not in order”, you really don’t need to have a baby. Jesus was born so the Father could have you.

Prayer
Beloved Father, no other god, no other religion, sends God to be with man, to be a man. Often the wonder of this is lost in the tinsel and turkey. Help us to focus on this reality. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Study by Jeff Broadnax

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About the Author:
Jeff Broadnax is a GCI Elder in Grace Communion International in the USA and serves as National Coordinator of GCI Generation Ministries.

Local Congregation:
You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.church under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

Contact:
Email: admin@daybyday.org.uk

 

22nd December 2018

What – You Think You Can Stop God?

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed…”
Psalm 2:2 (ESV UK)

God didn’t provide a world-wakening trumpet blast to announce the arrival of his Son into our world. Only two small groups received the exclusive invitations to see the baby, and a third had the chance to go as well, but together they can be seen to represent our world.

First to be invited were the shepherds, brought out of their fields to the Christ child on the day of his birth – representatives of the ruled, the poor and the powerless in the world.

Later the Magi rolled into Jerusalem, their baggage trains, servants and camels causing quite a stir in the city. They are thought to be Zoroastrian astrologers, so they stand in for the religious class, and the Gentile nations and the world’s pagans.

Their astronomy could only get them so far and they needed Biblical guidance to complete their journey.  The whole of Jerusalem city was rocked by their arrival and their enquiries soon came to Herod’s attention. Herod was Arab by birth, but supposedly a practicing Jew. So now he had the chance to have the honour to go and kneel before the King of Kings on behalf all the rulers of the world. He said that’s what he wanted to do. Instead he plotted to have the baby killed. Warned by God in a dream, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt. Thwarted in his plan, Herod hit back and had all the babies under two in the village murdered. As so often, the innocent suffer from the perverted plans of the powerful. Not long after this Herod died.

Herod had murdered his wife, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother, and three sons but he couldn’t kill the Son of God. Psalm 2 goes on to say that God laughs at the opposition of the rulers of this world and he holds them in derision. Really, you can’t set yourself up against God.

Prayer
Our Father, we know the destruction and misery that our rulers can bring on us, but against you they are powerless. You will let nothing stand in the way of the coming reign of your anointed Son.
Amen

Study by Hilary Buck

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About the Author:
Hilary Buck pastors Grace Communion in Lewes.Like us on www.facebook.com/GCLewes

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Lewes
The Priory School
Mountfield Road
LEWES
BN7 2XN

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Hilary Buck
Email: hilaryjbuck@gmail.com

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