31st May 2019

The Certain Hope of Our Resurrection

“God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Acts 2:24 (NIVUK)

What power does death have over the Christian?

In Peter’s sermon at the first Pentecost of the New Testament era he preached that it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus Christ. Later on, in the book of Romans, Paul explained that, as illustrated in the symbolism of baptism, Christians participate not only in the crucifixion of Jesus but also in his resurrection. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:4-5).

Therefore death has no eternal power over us. In Jesus we have the victory, and the hope of our being resurrected to eternal life is secure. This new life has begun now as we live the life of the Resurrected Christ within us. Whether we live or die, Jesus remains with us, and therein there is hope.

Physical death is hard, especially for the relatives and friends who are left behind. It is, however, because we are raised with Christ that it’s impossible for death to keep hold of us. For us death no longer defines the end of our hopes and dreams but, rather, it becomes the passage into Life Everlasting in the arms of the Father.

Prayer
Thank you, Father, that through your Spirit we share in the risen life of your Son, and that we live and breathe the hope of the resurrection because you raised Jesus from the dead. In Jesus’ name.
Amen

Study by James Henderson
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About the Author:
James Henderson is the European Superintendent for Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in 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:
james.henderson@gracecom.church
Or email: admin@daybyday.org.uk

30th May 2019

Values

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting-place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
Matthew 12:43-45 (NIV)

This enigmatic statement of Jesus seems to be critical of cleaning one’s house! Of course he was speaking metaphorically, and I know his audience was quick to recognise that he was using metaphorical language. Although he was addressing an issue of that time dealing with demon problems, there are other lessons we can learn from this passage.

For me these verses speak of the truth that nature abhors a vacuum, and the importance of our values. We all have values. They are a vitally important part of our character. Values are at the core of our being, and determine how we make our way in the world. Our values might include the desire to be a good citizen, a commitment to helping the needy; or sacrificing our short term needs for our children’s future. A desire to be important, or putting our needs ahead of others’ are also values. Good or bad, it is impossible to be without them.

There are two sources of our values. The first is environment. We absorb values (mostly unconsciously) from our parents, our culture, and our friends. The second source is a conscious decision to pursue something that inspires us. That might be a heroic story, or a teacher we admire. For some, it is a political ideology.

Going back to Jesus’ metaphor of the house, you could furnish your house with comfortable furniture, a warm stove, and beautiful pictures on the walls. That way it would be an attractive place to invite friends over and spend an enjoyable evening in conversation. Or you could leave it mostly empty with the doors unlocked. Be assured in that case someone else will put your house to use; maybe a ‘friend’ who is too lazy to get his own place, squatters, or the local drug dealer might use it to hide his contraband. Either way your house will be filled. Likewise, if you don’t carefully choose your own values, someone else will rush to supply some of their choosing, and those other values won’t be intended for your good!

The good news is we get to choose our values. As Homo Sapiens (approximately translated ‘the thinking species’) we needn’t make do with instinct – as animals do – or the values handed to us by our circumstances. We can select and cultivate a set of values to live our lives by. We have the power to be the author of our own story.

Given that nature abhors a vacuum, it is crucial that we pay close attention to our values. Especially, we should think about where we got them. That is not as simple as it may seem! If you ask someone why they believe in something, they might say, “It’s obvious” or “I thought it out for myself.” If we are really honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we adopted some of our cherished assumptions without critically examining them. The story in Matthew 12 also hints that something as important as our values shouldn’t be left to random chance. The clean (empty) house didn’t remain empty for long. It filled up, and what filled it wasn’t good. Pay attention to what makes up your values.

Prayer
Father, I depend upon you for help in forming my values, and for the wisdom to apply them to everyday life.
Amen

Study by Joe Casey
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About the Author:
Joseph Casey is an Elder in the Limerick Congregation of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International, Limerick
Please phone for venue

Meeting time:
The first and third Saturday of each month at 1:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Joseph Casey
Phone: +353 872592983
Email: joecasey@shannontechnology.ie

29th May 2019

God Knows US Absolutely

“It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it.”
Isaiah 45:12 (NIV)

The Bible makes it absolutely clear that God, in Jesus Christ, is our Creator, who through his Spirit breathed life into us. The Son is the one of whom it is said, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:3-4); and in Hebrews 1:10, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.”

Many of us have created things (using God’s gifts and created materials, of course) but none of us ever became, and remained forever, our own creation. How then did our Creator become a part of his own creation – Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah? The know-how of this is beyond human comprehension, and the love of why he did this boggles the mind. Paul prays for us to be able to grasp, or at least gasp at this love, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18).

Given that Christ is the Creator and experienced physical life with his creation through the incarnation, nobody at all can know us outside and inside, the way Christ does. Psalm 139 leaves us in no doubt of the Creator’s knowledge of each one of us, from the conception of our bodies, to the thoughts of our minds. Verse 2 says “you perceive my thought from afar.” Verse 4 says he even knows what we are going to say, “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely”! Hebrews 4:12-13 puts it succinctly, “For the word of the Lord is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

To some this strikes them with terror, but to those who love God this is a comfort since they want to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If then our minds are open to Christ, we live our lives in ongoing dialogue with him, and as Christians, open to the Spirit’s ongoing guidance and correction. This is probably what is meant in 1Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray continually,” or in the New King James translation, “Pray without ceasing.”

Prayer
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Amen

Study by Christina Campbell
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About the Author:
Christina Campbell attends the Glasgow congregation of Grace Communion International in the UK, where she is an occasional speaker and Bible Study facilitator.

Local Congregation:
Gracecom Glasgow
St Stevens Presbytery
(Garnethill Room)
260 Bath Street
GLASGOW
G2 4JP

Meeting time:
Sunday 11:15am

Local Congregational Contact:
Ian Smillie
Phone: 01505 348758
Email: glasgow@gracecom.church

28th May 2019

Espionage

“Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
Numbers 13:2 (NKJV)

There is lot of spying going on in today’s world. Through news media we often hear of spies expelled from the nations as they are caught in their scandalous activities. We have a new word—cyber-attack—by which our personal data is sabotaged. Based on a Commission to assess threat to the U.S.A. in 2004, Electromagnetic Pulse is another device by which power stations could be crippled and halt the functioning of electric gadgets in our homes.

There is nothing new under the sun. Spying was taking place 3500 years ago as we read in the header scripture. God Himself directed Moses to send spies to search out the promised land. They went up and down the country and found it was very rich and fertile, a land flowing with milk and honey. After 40 days, they brought samples of pomegranates, figs and a cluster of grapes so heavy that two men had to carry it. Could producers of grapes today duplicate such a crop of grapes? The spies reported to Moses, “The people of Anak were big and some were giants in whose eyes we were grasshoppers, and the cities were fortified and large.”

Question is: Why would God suggest such an act of espionage? As our God is Omniscient and knew the stiff necked-ness of Israel and their rebellious hearts, God wanted to be fair, so that they would have no excuse to bring any accusation against Him. But they did it anyway. In Numbers 14 we find that they did not believe God and refused to enter the promised land because of the negative report by the ten spies. In fact, they wanted to go back to Egypt. Only Joshua and Caleb were filled with faith and encouraged them to believe God, who would give them victory. What happened? The people wanted to stone them, but God intervened. As a result of the peoples’ rebellion, all those over twenty years old died in the wilderness while wandering for 40 years, except Joshua and Caleb.

There is a lesson for us to learn. Do we trust God who is able to perform what He has promised? Abraham was fully convinced of God’s power to fulfill His promise, and that was accounted to him for righteousness, but it is written also for us, so we read that His righteousness is imputed to us, who believe in God who raised up His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead (Romans 4:20-24).

But in the reign of Jesus, He will bring peace, prosperity and plenty; and there will be no more wars, but harmony. No need of espionage in the Kingdom of God. All nations will be blessed as they will learn to walk in the way of God and love one another (Isaiah 2:1-4).

Prayer
Father in heaven, thank You for Your glorious Kingdom, when every nation will bow down before Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In His Worthy name, I praise You.
Amen

Study by Natu Moti
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About the Author:
Natu Moti is a Deacon in the Birmingham Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, UK, a part of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Birmingham
All Saints Church
George Road
BIRMINGHAM
B23 7QB

Meeting Time:
Saturday 1pm

Local Congregational Contact:
David Gibbs
Phone: 01213420609 (answer phone)
Mobile: 07974440580
Email: david_gibbs@wcg.org.uk

27th May 2019

Body Language

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

Are you a good communicator? We do not only communicate to one another by what we say or write, but also with signals we make either consciously or unconsciously. Our body language can communicate to others far beyond simple words, whether spoken or written. For example someone attending a job interview can say to their prospective employer that they are comfortable and at ease with the interview, but their clenched hands and fidgeting on the chair communicate something else. A person can feign interest in what someone else is saying but their constant lack of eye contact gives the game away.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul describes Christians, each one of us, as part of ‘the body of Christ’ which begs the question, ‘what body language are we communicating?’ We may say or write lots of good, positive and encouraging things but it is the way we conduct ourselves, the way we live our lives, that will communicate loud and clear what our values and convictions are. Our attitudes will convey the true message we have for people. As an individual, local congregation, or a church, are we warm, friendly, and welcoming of others? Or are we self-absorbed and cliquish, barely noticing anyone outside our own little group? Our attitudes speak and communicate something to the watching world. Our words of love, acceptance, inclusiveness, and belonging can be stopped dead in their tracks if our body language denies them. Our words and our actions have to align, otherwise as Shakespeare might say, ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’

As Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 12, let’s resolve that our body language gives honour to all (verses 23-24); that we have equal concern for each other (verse 25), as we suffer and rejoice together (verse 26). In demonstrating this most excellent way of love (verse 31), others will know that we truly are Christ’s disciples because he loved and gave himself for us. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As that love of Christ in us flows out to others in practical sacrificial service, our body language affirms what we say. Now that’s effective communication.

Prayer
Father, words come so easily and are cheap if they are not supported by our actions and attitudes of love. When I communicate, whether through the spoken or written word, or by the way I live, may people see the love of Jesus in me. A love that forgives, accepts, heals and reaches out to everyone. May that be my body language towards all I meet.
Amen

Study by Barry Robinson
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About the Author:
Barry Robinson is an Elder and part of the National Ministry Team directing Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He is also a 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

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