Having a number of Spanish friends joining with us recently we praised God today in Spanish as well as English. This is 'The Splendour of the King'.
Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess
but not more than is found in thee,
the divine Treasury in whom all fullness dwells.
To thee I return for grace upon grace
until every void made by sin be replenished
and I am filled with all thy fullness.
May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened,
that I may honour thee by my entire dependency
and the greatness of my expectation.
Valley of Vision
The power Jesus gave to his disciples at Pentecost, was for the purpose of making him known to the ends of the earth - to every people. It was not an end in itself. It was for a purpose.
Last week saw the beginning of that as many people of different nationalities came to believe in the message Peter declared - the message that Jesus was alive. What did these hundreds and hundreds of people do next? They heard the call to believe, to repent (change their minds) and to be baptised, and they responded with enthusiasm. But what was life like for them next?
What did they do?
This little part of Acts (link: chapter 2:42-47) shows us a little of how they lived. Verse 42 especially tells us about 4 things they were really devoted to - things they made a priority above anything else.
Verse 42: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
1. The Apostles' teaching - learning
The apostles were the ones who had been with Jesus before his death and resurrection so they knew the things he had taught. So the new believers were desperate to know all about this one they had decided to follow. You can imagine them saying... 'what did he say?', 'tell us about him', 'we want to what he said we should do'. And Jesus had explained how the whole Old Testament all pointed to him, so there would have been lots to teach. The people wanted to learn. They were devoted to what we now have in our bibles, and they were in awe of what they heard (v43)
2. Fellowship - belonging
This is much more than meeting together in a general way. This is all about being together as a family, having a common life, being a team, serving together, being together. This was so important for these first believers - they wanted to be together and share life - which they did, radically, wherever one of them had need. A great generosity and love (v44,45).
3. Breaking of Bread - remembering
They made a habit of eating together and remembering the death of Jesus as they did so, just as Jesus had instructed the disciples at the Last Supper, the night before going to the cross. They ate (another expression of the shared life) and made a point of keeping Jesus' death for them, right at the centre of everything. They were never going to forget the cross. (v46)
4. Prayer - depending
Emphasising prayer shows great dependence on God. When we don't pray, its because we are living our lives independently of God and think we don't need him. That's why people often turn to pray in extreme situations - because they know they are dependent on something higher and beyond themselves at that moment. But the reality is we are dependent on God for everything, and that's why we need prayer. These guys knew that, and so were devoted to prayer. They were passionate about their relationship with God. And as they prayed and praised, they saw God at work. (v47)
We spent some time thinking about what happens when one of these is missing from church life. A church community that moves away from the apostles' teaching, from common life together, from the cross, from prayerful dependence... what happens if one of these is neglected or abandoned?
It was a new time. The time Jesus had told them to wait for. A new era. A new beginning. The start of something that would spread from one small place and one small group of people to the entire planet.
In Acts 1 (looked at a few weeks ago) we read how the author, Luke, referred to his first book (the Gospel of Luke) as being about all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach - even though it finished with his earthly life over.
The only reason this makes any sense, is because the book of Acts is all about what Jesus CONTINUED to do and teach - because he is alive with with us and in us through the Holy Spirit.
So as a backdrop to all of our weeks looking in the book of Acts, we need to have this question buzzing around the back of our minds: What is Jesus doing and teaching?
Jesus told his disciples in chapter 1 verse 8 that they should wait and that the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be empowered to reach out in Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), in Judea and Samaria (chapters 8-12), and to the ends of the earth (chapters 13-28). He outlined what the rest of Acts is about.
So on the day of Pentecost, in the middle of the Jewish Festival giving thanks for the first evidence of a new harvest, the Holy Spirit came as the first evidence of a new harvest.
1. WHAT HAPPENED?
The Holy Spirit came - sounding of a rushing wind, and in flames of fire (wind and fire - two of the least tameable bits of nature! Surely speaking of the free untameable moving of the Holy Spirit) and previously scared and hidden disciples came out and were declaring God's wonders in many different languages and dialects to the people's amazement. It was absolutely amazing.
The people asked this question:
2. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Peter stood up and spoke and told them.
- Christ is central to God's plan - and he always was. This was always the plan. The cross was always the plan. Peter then quotes Joel chapter 2 (in the Old Jewish Scriptures) that the Spirit would come on all God's people and live within them, and they would have a vibrant living relationship with him - a new era would come. And this is it!
- Christ is alive - quoting Psalm 16, he shows how King David wrote of one who would not decay in the grave, but rise from death. David's grave was there for all to see - surely well rotted! But Jesus was now alive.
- Christ is over all - quoting Psalm 110v1, often quoted about Jesus (including by Jesus himself in Matthew 22) to note the way that King David there, refers to his descendant as 'my Lord' - his Master. Jesus Christ is Lord over all.
So Peter summarises it all saying (v36): God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!
So having heard this the people asked another question:
3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Repent and be baptized. In other words, change your mind, you world view, your way of living, so that Jesus Christ is at the centre of it. Turning away from what is against his ways, and following him. And then demonstrating this by being baptized, a visual picture of cleansing and forgiveness of sins.
When we do, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit aswell, living in us, giving us power to live for Christ, strengthening us, leading us, and changing us.
3000 people responded to the good news message that day. And many millions more since then. All because they grasped what life is all about.
It's all about Jesus.
The book of Acts in the New Testament describes the early days of the followers of Jesus Christ. And it describes all that he continued to do in this world through his followers.
We looked at Acts chapter 1 not so long ago. Tomorrow we pick up in chapter 2.
King David writes another song!
This week we have looked at Psalm 5, and it is a cry to the Lord for his help, and for justice for those against God and his ways. But the thing that was most striking was the basis for all he said.
David composed these songs carefully, and in this psalm he uses an ancient literary structure which we don't really use today. We call it a chiastic structure. Based on the Greek letter 'chi' which is an X.
Stick with this, because if you get it, it reveals the heart of the psalm!
Just as the letter X is all connected through the centre, when someone writes in a chiasm, everything is connected through the centre. All the other sections mirror one another, as you move out from the centre.
So in Psalm 5 is like this:
Section 1 (verses 1-3)
Finding a confident hearing in the LORD
Section 2 (verses 4-6)
Against the enemies
Section 3 (verses 7,8)
Because of your unfailing love
Section 4 (verses 9,10)
Against the enemies
Section 5 (verses 11,12)
Finding joyful refuge in the LORD
So what's at the centre of all David's confidence and hope and desire for justice?
verse 7,8: God's unfailing love. And that is the translation of the old Hebrew word 'hesed':
And this is massive. In the Old Testament, this 'hesed' idea was more than love, and more than mercy. To be honest, people struggle to translate it into English. It was what God revealed himself as being like to Moses in Exodus 34v6, where the commandments were given and God's covenant with the people was explained. A covenant - loving promises between two people, like in a marriage.
The 'Jesus Storybook Bible' for kids takes the 'hesed' idea and describes God's 'never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love'. That's about as good a description as you can get. And the ultimate fulfilment of this covenant love? The coming of Jesus Christ. God's love and his forgiveness and his mercy for us in Jesus Christ, as he gives us a new life, and a new hope and destiny. Now that is something to have at the heart of your prayers to God; a rock solid confidence in God's covenant love for us. Meditate on that and have that at the heart of your prayers.
Here's the psalm:
Urban Lifers! Sunday morning we meet for drinks and will then spend time in worship and praise of our great God, and learn from the scriptures together - Psalm 5 this week. God's unfailing love anchors our prayers and confidence. Amazing words of encouragement as we reflect further on these songs that shape us!
Afterwards, a BBQ together!
We like a bit of Rend Collective. Several of us are going to see them in concert next week. Here a song reflecting on a theme coming up in our recent studies in the Psalms - finding the joy of the Lord to be a source of strength, and a response to trials and troubles and disappointments and challenges. This song was written in response to such trials in the lives of the band members.
Blokes of Urban Life! Saturday morning at St Chads Centre. Pastries and time to chat, pray and read the bible together. 8.30-9.30am
The ancient king David is in a mess... on the run from his son who is taking his throne and trying to kill him. Pretty stressful!
Psalm 3 showed the journey he went on, in his heart and mind, before God. Psalm 4 is probably a continuation while in the same situation, and he is addressing several different people in this song.
He speaks to God first v1 - answer me - crying out, with confidence, for God to hear him.
He speaks to those who have turned against him v2,3 - 'why believe lies?' he challenges them. Lies and deceptions (wherever they come from) have power only in as much as we believe them. 'Know this', says David, 'God will stand with his own people and will not abandon them.'
He speaks to his friends who are angry at injustice. v4,5. And while that anger may be right, it is hard often for us as people to be angry in the right way, at the right time, to the right measure, with the right motives... and so on. David's counsel here is wise: step back, sleep on it, don't react quickly. Spend time with God - go offer sacrifices... sit at the foot of the Cross again, with Christ, examining your own heart and mind, and then act accordingly.
He speaks to his friends who are despondent and sad. v6,7,8... 'who will show us any good?' Remember the joy we have in God - remember all we are promised in Christ, all he has done for us, and remember how this is a greater joy than all the money in the world, all the material gain you could dream of - 'grain and new wine'.
In our stress we cry out to God, resist the lies that would come and undermine, come back to the cross, trusting Christ in the middle of all our anger and disillusionment at events, and going purposefully to Jesus and all he promises for our source of joy, happiness and meaning.
Easier to say than to do. But we take the first step, as we fall to our knees and cry out - 'answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent.'
Here's the psalm:
For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.
1 Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies? Interlude
3 You can be sure of this:
The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
The Lord will answer when I call to him.
4 Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude
5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
and trust the Lord.
6 Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let your face smile on us, Lord.
7 You have given me greater joy
than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
Urban Life communities - followers of Jesus living life and bringing life in an urban setting!
The blog gives a snapshot of our life together as we post things we are learning about; things we believe; songs we love; readings and prayers to strengthen and help us; and general information about what is happening in our communities.
So here are updates, reviews, reminders and support for those who are part of our communities, and a chance to 'look in' for those who are interested and wondering what we are all about.