Talk on Psalm 84

Psalms

Tonight as part of our Psalms, Pudding and Prayer series, for our 11-18 year olds, I spoke on Psalm 84 – you can download the powerpoint here:

You might know the words of this Psalm from the Matt Redman song that we sing at Soul Survivor. The Psalm is the musing of one unnamed pilgrim as he makes his way up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. He’s longing to get to God’s house – he has this intense desire for the House of God. He longs to be with God’s people, worshipping. We read about it in vv1-2.

 

This traveller is even jealous of birds! The Temple courtyards were open to the sky, and the great eaves provided a place for good nesting, so there were always these birds in and around the Temple.

 

Do you have a love like this – a longing for God’s house?

 

As we read through the Psalm I think there are four key things to reflect on. Firstly:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength

How many have found that the Christian life is impossible without God’s strength? Yet so often our greatest battle is about learning to trust Him instead of doing it on our own steam. That’s human nature.

 

We do not have enough resources in ourselves to make the whole journey. Christians burn out because they strive in their own strength. And you know, you can get so far, but you’ll never finish without God’s strength.

 

At some points there has to be refuelling. Refilling. It’s why it’s so important to stop each day to read the bible and pray – to live daily in God’s strength.

 

2. Put your heart into the journey

Put your whole heart into the journey. We shouldn’t be people who are just letting life pass us by – being dictated to by our circumstances – “waiting out” our time until Jesus comes – we must have our eyes on the finish line, but our energies, our heart, our hands and feet, ought to be occupied with making the journey count – living for Jesus – Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ”.

 

3. See the opportunity in every trial

Trials are on nearly every page of the Bible. The Bible talks about them a lot, because they are common to every person on the face of the earth. And if some well-meaning person has suggested to you that Christians aren’t supposed to have trials – that we’re never supposed to ever have a cold, that we won’t ever experience sadness or loss, that we shouldn’t ever feel a financial difficulty – then I think you should go back to that well-meaning person and invite them to read their Bible through again.

 

The 3rd key is not to pretend trials don’t exist but rather to see trials as opportunities. “The Valley of Baca” is literally: “The Valley of Weeping”. Haven’t we all passed through some Valleys of Baca? Some Valleys of Weeping. But here it says that, if the Lord is your Strength, and if your heart is set on the journey, you can see the Valley of Weeping become a spring. What to others is a place of bitterness can to you become a place of blessing. A place of growth.

 

It might not always be apparent, but the opportunity for growth and blessing is always right there in the middle of the trial. It’s not always easy, but with God’s help, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can use trials as opportunities.

 

We all love the “mountain top” experiences; times of blessing and sunshine – but where does the fruit grow? You won’t find many orchards on mountain tops – oh, the view is nice up there, but the fruit grows in the valleys. And it’s those trials in our lives that God can use best to bring us on “from glory to glory” by His Spirit.

 

And this leads us into the fourth, and final, key:

 

4. Remember that God is in control

He’s always in sovereign control. He will never surrender His position on the throne to any person or any thing. He cannot be defied. God is in control!

 

Let’s read together verse 6 of this great 84th Psalm … [Read]. Here is the promise of God. If I am (1) looking to God alone for my strength, and (2) if I’ve put my heart into the journey, and (3) I’m looking to see what opportunity God might have in every trial, then the sovereign God will do two things for me:

a)     He will direct my steps in strength, and

b)    He will bring me right through to my eternal destination

 

He will direct their steps in strength: When you allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your life, you will go from strength to strength, until you bear the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Oh, let God do that in your life! Submit to Him, I urge you today.

 

He will bring them through to their destination: This pilgrim is just longing to get to Jerusalem – to the House of the Lord. And here is the assurance – God will bring him through, safe all the way.

 

Can you be sure that you’re going to make it all the way to Heaven? Can you really know? ABSOLUTELY. He IS the Author and the Finisher of our faith!

 

Conclusion

I don’t want to just limp through life – by the grace of God I want to go from strength to strength! With faith in God I believe I can outgrow my difficulties. I believe YOU can outgrow YOUR difficulties.

 

Here again are the 4 keys to a successful passage through life, as we see them in Psalm 84:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength
  2. Put your heart into the journey
  3. See the opportunity in every trial
  4. Remember that God is in control

Word War II veteran disappears for Normandy trip

Bernard Jordan

An 89-year-old WW2 veteran disappeared from his nursing home without saying where he was going and went to France for the D-Day commemorations.

The former mayor of Hove, Bernard Jordan, left the home at 10:30 BST on Thursday, and was reported missing to Sussex Police that evening.  Staff later discovered he had joined other veterans in France and was safe and well at a hotel in Ouistreham.

Earlier, it was believed care home staff stopped him going to the events.  Brighton and Hove police had tweeted: “90 year old veteran reported missing from care home. Turns out they’d said no to him going to #DDay70 but he went anyway #fightingspirit”

Hundreds of veterans have been marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, with events on the beaches of Normandy.

Bernard Jordan Royal Navy

Mr Jordan, served in the Royal Navy, was mayor of Hove from 1995-96, is a resident of The Pines nursing home in Hove.  The pensioner had gone out wearing a grey raincoat and a jacket underneath with his war medals on, the police force said.  A spokesman said:

“We have spoken to the veteran who called the home today and are satisfied that the pensioner is fine and that his friends are going to ensure he gets back to Hove safely over the next couple of days after the D-Day celebrations finish.  Once the pensioner is home, we will go and have a chat with him to check he is OK.”

Nev Kemp, the police commander for the City of Brighton & Hove, tweeted: “Love this: 89yr old veteran reported missing by care home who said he can’t go to Normandy for #DDay70 remembrance. We’ve found him there!”

Word War II paratrooper recreates his D-day jump at age 93

Jim %22Pee Wee%22 Martin - Paratrooper

World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin belonged to the 101st Airborne Division that parachuted into Normandy on the evening of June 5, 1944, just ahead of the D-day landing. He did that same jump again 70 years later, which you might expect to be difficult now that Martin is 93 years old. But to Martin, this time around was easier.

“It didn’t (compare),” Martin said, “because there wasn’t anybody shooting at me today.”

Martin did not jump alone. And he is used to being the oldest paratrooper.

It’s ironic, in a sense, because Martin was among the oldest of his bunch in June 1944 — at 23 years old — surrounded by others who were mere teenagers.

Together, they parachuted onto France’s northern coast in the dark of night not knowing what awaited them. Whatever it was, it would not be friendly or easy, they expected.

“Everybody (was) scared all the time, and if they tell you anything differently they are full of crap,” the former paratrooper recalled. “But you just do what you had to do regardless of it. That’s the difference.”

Learn more about Martin and his experiences both as a paratrooper in World War II and as a veteran at his Facebook page.

D-Day Memorial

I love this picture from last year’s D-Day Memorial, the “Fallen 9000″ project serves as a reminder of the staggering cost of lost peace.

Normandy beach memorial

A tribute to the roughly 9,000 civilians, Allies and German soldiers alike who lost their lives on D-Day, the project involved the painstaking stenciling of 9,000 silhouettes on the Normandy beach at Arromanches where so much blood was once shed.

CMS and Greenbelt launch Missional Entrepreneurship competition

Pickwell Manor

There’s an interesting new missional entrepreneurship competition being launched by Greenbelt and the Church Mission Society:

The Church Mission Society, in partnership with Greenbelt, is launching a missional entrepreneurship competition ahead of this year’s festival.

Submit your entry by 18 July 2014 >

RS37572_United_Kingdom_Events_98066-scrWe are asking festivalgoers to submit an idea that is both transformational and includes a means of generating income.  

The shortlisted entrants will get to pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs at Greenbelt 2014.

The Prize

The winner will receive a free place – worth £400 – on CMS’smissional entrepreneurship week, an annual residential atPickwell Manor in Devon (pictured above). They’ll be taught with other budding entrepreneurs, the expertise necessary to work up their idea into a realistic money-making venture and have the opportunity to present to a panel of potential funders.

RS58016_ME_2013-8-scrHow to enter

Simply tell us, in 20-25 words each:

  • What is your idea to make a positive difference in the world?
  • How will it generate income to be financially sustainable in the long term?

Entrance criteria

The other beach nearby!

You must be:

  • over 18
  • a UK resident
  • able to take up the prize from 16-21 November 2014
  • attending Greenbelt Festival 22-25 August 2014
  • and willing to pitch at a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event over the Greenbelt weekend.

Closing date for entries will be Friday 18 July.

Announcement of the successful shortlisted entrants will take place on Monday 21 July.

Submit your entry now >

All-Age Talk: Jesus turns water into wine

nearly-empty-glass-of-wine1

This morning I spoke at our all-age service on John 2:1-11 looking at Jesus turning water into wine, and here’s the PowerPoint:

The first miracle of Jesus took place in Cana of Galilee. The event was a wedding. Cana was a inconspicuous little town that lay outside of Nazareth. Cana had no social prominence in its day.  It’s interesting to note: Jesus ministry, like his birth, began in a small, unimportant town, to common every day people.

 

Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus and his disciples had all been invited to the wedding.  Weddings were, and are, a big deal in the Jewish culture.  The wedding ceremony would take place late in the evening after a time of feasting. The father of the bride would take his daughter on his arm, and with the wedding party in tow, would parade through the streets of the village so that everyone could come out and congratulate the bride. Finally the wedding party would arrive at the home of the groom. The wedding actually took place in the front door of the grooms house. It was no short ceremony … no the festivities lasted for days. It was a time of great celebration.

 

After the wedding ceremony the bride and groom walked through the streets accompanied by flaming torches. Their attendants walked with them keeping a canopy over their heads. The wedding party always took the longest route through the village so that as many people as possible could wish them well.

 

There was no such thing as a honeymoon! No, the couple kept open house for a week. They were treated like royalty. They dressed in fancy clothes and many times actually wore crowns on their heads. Whatever desire they spoke for…they received. Their word was law!

 

The groom’s family was expected to provide all the refreshments for this week of festivities.

 

That’s where we pick up today’s Bible reading.  Suddenly the host discovers that they are running out of wine. They had more guests than they anticipated. It would have been improper for the culture of this time to not have wine. Jews did not get drunk at these celebrations — drunkenness was considered a disgrace. But the host could have actually been sued for a breach of hospitality to his guest.

 

We can assume that Jesus’ mother was a close friend of the groom’s mother and she heard about the problem.  Jesus’ mother comes to Jesus and says, “Son, we’ve got a problem here, and we need your help. The groom’s family is running out of wine.”  The fact that Mary came to Jesus with such a problem is a reminder that Jesus is concerned with the everyday things in life that we face.

 

Jesus answers his mother in what seems like a harsh way. He was not being harsh, he was just simply already focusing on his life and ministry, and had began to detach himself from his family.

 

John calls this first miracle a sign. Signs are usually placed in places to give us information, or point us in the direction. The miracles of Christ were always meant to reveal to us the glory of God, and point us to who He truly is.

 

Let’s take a look at what this first sign means for us today.  Notice that first of all:

 

The wine can run out.

Mary realises the seriousness of the issue. You can hear it in her words… “They have no wine.”  To the Jewish people wine symbolised joy. The Jewish rabbis had a saying, ‘Without wine there is no joy.” At the wedding in Cana their joy had run out!  It is a reminder of the emptiness of our life without Christ.  This statement by the mother of Jesus goes beyond liquid refreshment at a wedding. It is symbolic of our lives. It is a scary thing when the “wine runs out.”

 

There are times when the wine runs out. The joy is dry!  For example, families that once began with exuberant joy are now ending in the pain of divorce – why? There is no more joy in the relationship.  You and I have no resources available within ourselves to replace the joy. Only new wine can come from Jesus Christ.

 

When the wine runs out, Jesus can turn the water into wine.

Mary came to Jesus and told him of the problem that they were facing. I can just imagine her telling the groom’s mother, “You hold on just a minute! I know just what to do with this situation.” She came to Jesus and told him.  I love her instructions to the servants. “Whatever he says to you, do it” Just Do It!

 

Jesus took the waterpots that were filled with ordinary water for handwashing. When the guest arrived someone would pour some of this water over their hands in a symbolic purification. To eat with unwashed hands would have been a defilement.  Jesus took this water and made approximately 180 gallons of wine.

 

It’s interesting to note that Jesus took the water for purification and used it for his first miracle. The water in those pots was merely for an external cleansing. Jesus ministry over the next three years would teach people about an inner cleansing.

 

Jesus takes the ordinary things and makes it into something amazing.  But not just that, if we look at the first miracle of Jesus we see this truth: “Jesus is not just the giver of joy…he is the giver of “abundant” joy.” He not only met their immediate need, but he gave an abundance.  Jesus did not just make some ordinary wine. No, the wine that he produced was better than that which they had started the celebration with.

 

Jesus didn’t just doctor the water so that it tasted like wine. No, the water in those pots was transformed into the finest wine the people had ever tasted.  The truth for us is this—Jesus is not going to just doctor up our lives a little bit, just put a plaster on our needs—no he wants to transform your life, just like he transformed that water. Our lives will take on a new nature.

 

Jesus is all about transforming power. Changing people—that’s what its all about.  This Sign teaches us that…

 

Jesus offers an abundance of new wine at the end.

Sometimes its hard for us to understand God not only meeting our need but providing for us an abundance.  That’s the story of grace. There is no measure to grace. There will always be enough grace to meet our needs. That’s the story of God’s love. There is nothing that you can do that will cause God to diminish his love for you.

 

Understand this principle of God today…God is not just a God of the required—he is a God of the abundance. Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, If I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it”

 

Not “just enough”—an abundance  Look at creation – the New Forest, there is an overabundance. God didn’t give us “just enough” beauty, it is all around us. Have you ever been to the seashore and looked out over the ocean. There is far more beauty that our eyes can absorb. Have you ever seen a field of wildflowers? Not just enough to fill a vase in your living room, but more than enough. This is the picture of grace…God always gives more than you will ever need!

 

So the wine is poured out and all the people who are present rejoice at the richness of this “new wine”.  This was completely against custom. The best wine was always offered first.  Isn’t that just like our Lord? The best always comes at the end. The grace we once tasted cautiously—we now drink freely. Jesus has poured out in us the richness of his love and forgiveness.  There is one among us who is pouring out the rich “wine” and there is enough for everyone!

 

 

What do you do when the wine runs out? Mary showed us by example. She told the servants that if they would just do what Jesus commanded they would see a miracle. A miracle that not only met their immediate need…but a miracle of abundance.

 

Has your joy ran out today? Jesus wants to transform you! Bring your need to him!

Why don’t we see miracles all the time?

Justin Holcomb:

Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).

Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?

To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

Read the rest.

Sturridge scored a stunner for England

England v Montenegro - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Daniel Sturridge scored a stunning goal as England recorded a 3-0 friendly victory over Peru at Wembley on Friday night.

The Liverpool striker curled home the opener just after the half-hour mark, collecting a throw in from Anfield teammate Glen Johnson before skipping inside and clipping into the top corner over goalkeeper, Raul Fernandez:

The Reds duo were joined in the starting XI by Steven Gerrard, who skippered the team, and Jordan Henderson. Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, was introduced into the action as a second-half substitute.

Centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka were England’s other scorers.

Afterwards, Sturridge said:

“It is not important about myself, it is about the team and our preparation; putting in a shift tactically and technically to be in the best shape for the first game.  It was difficult to be fair because they defended well and they were very compact.  We had worked very hard throughout the week and there wasn’t the match sharpness as much as we would have liked.  But it was great to be out there and we are happy with the result.”

Funny headlines from around the world

Some of the more random headlines from the BBC News website over the last week or so:

Liverpool FC: Rickie Lambert fee agreed

Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert, preparing for Friday night’s England first pre-World Cup friendly with Peru, is on the brink of signing for Liverpool in a deal worth £4m plus add-ons, with the striker understood to be desperate to join his hometown team, who rejected him as a 15-year-old.

Rickie Lambert is expected to undergo a medical at Liverpool on Saturday after an initial £4m fee was agreed with Southampton.  The Reds had a bid accepted for the 32-year-old and personal terms have been agreed.

Lambert, a lifelong Liverpool fan, was born and raised in Kirkby and was with Liverpool’s Academy from the age of ten, before director Steve Heighway told him, at the age of 15, that he would not make the grade. “I never hold any grudges. These things either make or break you,” Lambert reflected recently. “At the time he (Heighway)was quite right to let me go. I wasn’t good enough. I thought it was the end of the world.” After three subsequent appearances for Blackpool, Lambert was released in 2000 by then manager Steve McMahon.

The centre-forward, who is in England’s squad for this summer’s World Cup, scored 14 times last season for the Saints, who paid Bristol Rovers £1m for the player’s services in August 2009.

Since then he has become an established Premier League striker and scored on his England debut, notching with his first touch in international football after coming on as a substitute against Scotland in August 2013.

A powerful and strong player, Lambert is also a free-kick specialist and has an exceptional penalty record, having scored his past 34 spot-kicks and having never missed for Southampton.

In Lambert, the Reds would be getting a player who will be an excellent back-up to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and he will see the move as a dream come true, being a boyhood fan and Liverpool-born, like Robbie Fowler returning to Anfield in 2006.

Lambert is a player who will add experience, professionalism and desire to the squad – a player with an excellent attitude, which will endear him to manager Brendan Rodgers. He’ll also add much-needed depth up front.  Attitude and the correct mentality are constantly mentioned by Rodgers and have become synonymous with Liverpool lately under the manger’s transformation of the club. Those attributes are what Lambert will also bring to the club.

He certainly offers more options from the bench than Rodgers has had in the past 12 months, and at that price would be a good buy for the club.  When Man United signed Teddy Sheringham in 1997, aged 31, it proved to be a superb move, and Lambert’s could be likewise for Liverpool.