You Are God’s Handiwork (By Les Kovacs)
Bible Verse: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. NIV
When I get up in the morning, I usually start my day with a prayer, but once my feet hit the floor, I’m thinking about my day ahead. What is on my calendar for today? What does my schedule look like? What do I need to accomplish today? Who will I need to meet with? What are the priorities for my list of things to do? I often have to catch myself and say, ”Whoa! Wait a minute. What are God’s plans for me today? What are His priorities for me today?” Because that’s what I really need to be thinking about.
As you start this day, you may or may not realize what great opportunities it might hold for you as you walk into the purpose for which He created you. What your day brings is often closely related to who you are. The Common English Bible translates Ephesians 2:10 as: “We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” Therefore, because we, individually and collectively, are God’s accomplishment, we can be sure that He does not shape us in a vacuum, unconnected to the world around us. It means that we can count on Him to continually work out His plan that will have us stepping into whatever He has prepared for us to do and to become. It also means that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. God’s work in our lives occurs all around us as well as within us.
At those times when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s going on at home, in your head, in your heart, or in the world around you, don’t be discouraged, because you are still a work in progress. We are all still works in progress. The process might be demanding at times and it might even hurt a little… or a lot. But, remember that we are the clay in the Potter’s hands, and the finished product requires a lot of molding and shaping and reworking because we often resist and struggle against His divine craftsmanship.
Some of the things we go through in life were ordained by God and others caused by our own mistakes. But regardless, continue to stand firm in the faith proclaimed to you through the Gospel because your Maker, your heavenly Father, is not done with you yet. If you’re wishing on tomorrow, know that good things are not just coming your way, but even more encouragingly, that they are already a part of the life that God creates with you every day. Whether you consider this day to be a good one or not, be encouraged by the fact that whatever God does, He promises it will be good, and that is true for you, too. Praise be to our Creator and heavenly Father!
“…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. .”
John 7: 37b-39a
In the last months it has become clear how stretched many people feel. We are in a new dynamic of life, we are continually adjusting, change appears to be a norm and many feel worn out mentally and emotionally. Let me give three illustrations for encouragement:
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 to 1153, a Burgundian Abbot), writes, “If then you are wise, you will show yourself a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water. In the Church at the present day, we have too many canals, few reservoirs,” In life, and in our current circumstances, it is all too easy to continually give out, without receiving, without being replenished. Living in this manner fits the description of a canal in the Bernard quote. The counsel is to become a reservoir. How?
In the second illustration consider the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The former has the river of Jordan flowing in and flowing out of its body. Life teems within its fresh waters. The Dead Sea has no such flow, its waters are still, they become stagnant in places and there is no life. I have had the privilege of visiting and swimming in both bodies of waters and attest to the truth of this illustration. For life and freshness water has to flow in and out.
In the third illustration Jesus tells us that if we believe in Him by God’s Grace and in our faith the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Our hearts become His reservoir. For life and freshness though we need to receive not just give out. Many of us, as God’s Children, in our western culture find affirmation in what we do, and we simply continually do. Tiredness and burn out can easily occur. We need to be still before our Lord on a daily basis and receive from Him. We need to allow the reservoir of our hearts to be filled with His love, truth and grace as we worship Him. The Holy Spirit can then flow out from us to others, truly blessing them with the waters of life.
Permit me to close with a fourth illustration. If our hearts are reservoirs they need to be filled with living waters. We may often help fill another’s heart with a drop of living water when we love, speak, help and witness. Very occasionally we may have the privilege of being used by God to put the final drop in another’s heart as they come to faith. Whether we are part of the topping up process or have the privilege of seeing their heart filled let us never give up on sharing these living waters.
To Ponder: Do you see yourself as a canal or reservoir? How might you allow God to fill your heart with His living waters?
Pray: Lord Jesus come and waken our souls. Help us to worship with all our strength and in that place of grace may your Holy Spirit, O Living God, come and fall afresh on us. Come and wake us from our sleep, blow through the caverns of our souls and pour in us your living waters so they overflow and give life to others. To your glory O Lord. Amen
(Adapted from Fall Afresh)
Praise: Gracious Spirit, Heavenly Dove sung by St. Aidan’s
Holy Water, We the Kingdom
Overcome by Pastor Dave
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43: 2
Isaiah 43: 1-7
Loneliness, isolation and separation can be immensely hard. We’ve just learnt that the restrictions placed upon us will extend through Christmas and into the New Year. This is tough and will upset many if not all; we are not used to nor like our freedoms curtailed. I would, however, like to encourage you this day. As we know that the restrictions are working for the good of society and communities we can know that God will work for our good in this situation. He will bring us through this time, He WILL sustain us.
The people of Israel had a time of exile in Babylon far from their home. They faced this plight because they had gone their own way and abandoned God. Through the prophet Isaiah God encouraged them, this would not last forever, He had not deserted them and He would sustain them. The beautiful verse recorded above is a message of assurance and hope. Though they, and we today, may go through trials, God was going to be with them and will be with us; He is the sustainer God. Notice the words ‘pass through’ and ‘walk through.’ We may wade through depths of despair, cross a raging challenge and deal with a fiery trial but we will get to the other side. The waters will not sweep over us nor will the flames set us ablaze because God will be with us.
This is a time to bear our souls to God, to ask why, to lament, to raise petitions in serious, genuine and honest prayer. We are to wait on God and not force ourselves through this time or even try to hasten its end to get back to ‘normal.’ We need to hear what God has to say to us, to heed His direction. If we give our cares to God and humble ourselves before Him, He will raise us up in due course (1 Peter 5: 6-7). The Psalmist assures us that affliction has a purpose. It leads us back to God and teaches us His ways where His Words sustain and save us (Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75 & 92).
Why can we have this confidence, because of God, where can we get the strength to endure, in God! Look at the words of assurance and encouragement in this passage (Isaiah 43: 1-7), God: has made us; He will redeem us; He calls us by name; we belong to Him; He is our God; we are precious to Him and He loves us.
This may not be a pleasant time (to say the least!) but we are not alone in it. God loves us deeply and will be with us, sustaining us. Be encouraged; be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer (Romans 12: 12). Overcome by the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ and the word of your testimony (faith) (Revelation 12: 11).
To Ponder: Consider what Jesus Christ went through and overcame for us: trials, temptations, hatred, opposition and death to name but a few of His trials. If Christ is in you what can you overcome?
Pray: Stir up your power, O God and come among us. Walk with us through the depths, through the fire and heal our wounds, calm our fears and give us peace. Call us back to you and show us the way to go so we may live to your glory. Help us overcome by the power of the Lord Jesus and our words of faith; in your grace we ask. Amen
Praise: How Firm a Foundation, ye Saints of the Lord from ‘Together for the Gospel live’ Sovereign Grace Music
Overcome by Jeremy Camp
Peace Offer (By Chris Barnes)
The Old Testament is full of promises that are dependent on the coming of the Messiah who would be from the line of David and would rule as king. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that this king would not make war but would bring peace.
The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. (Isaiah 9: 6-7)
The prophet Isaiah also prophesied about how this Messiah would bring this peace. ‘The punishment that brought us peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). This peace would not come through waging war against His enemies, but by laying down His life for them. It would not come through the demonstration of overwhelming power, but through the agony of crushing weakness.
When the angel appeared to the shepherds to tell them about the baby born in Bethlehem, the angel was not alone. The angel brought an army alongside – not an army of soldiers but an army of angels. And they didn’t come to make war; they came to announce peace. “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those whom God is pleased”” (Luke 2: 13-14).
Jesus’ arrival was an effort to turn His enemies into friends. All of us are naturally at war with God deep within our hearts. But Jesus has offered peace to us and has given us grace to overcome our natural opposition to Him. This peace is open to all who have faith to trust in Him, making us one of ‘those with whom God is pleased.”
Jesus brought this peace offer, not through battle or negotiation, but through offering Himself up to death. The Apostle Paul summed it up well in his letter to the Romans “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son” (Romans 5: 10).
Prayer – Prince of Peace, I thank you for your wonderful peace offer. I had declared war with you within my heart but you still offered me peace. You are a true King and have made me an offer that I could not have achieved on my own. I put my faith in you and will serve in your army of peace and reconciliation.
Song: Come Now, O Prince of Peace
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.”
Philippians 2: 12b-13
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
At St. Aidan’s our Vision summary statement reads, Real God, Real Church, Real Lives. This is not some fancy or glib marketing tool; it has real meaning for those who wish to listen and understand. If God is real, knowing Him should transform the Church into Christ’s Body and Her member’s lives into genuine imitations of Jesus. We’ve just finished working through the letter of James. In essence He is saying the same thing in a much better way. If God is real and we have faith in Him our lives, what we do and say, will be transformed. Lives of faith will be authentic and actions will follow in obedience to God’s Word. We will live in anticipation and readiness for Christ’s return.
If you are reading this the chances are that you agree with what I have just said. The reality of its truth however may not be reflected in our lives, this can make us feel uncomfortable. Well let me encourage you! In Philippians 1: 6 we read that we can ‘be(ing) confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.’ I was recently speaking to a fellow Pastor who shared the truth that we are all unfinished creations. As we read in Isaiah 64 we are the clay and the Lord the potter. We begin a new life in Christ which is then perfected by the author, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12: 2). However, as we considered on Monday, as God is not passive we can find ourselves to be passive in this wonderful relationship. We are called to work out our salvation with God while He works in us to fulfil His good purposes. This means following the directions James has given us along with the Lord’s directions elsewhere in His Word, through His Holy Spirit and in His Church.
When working out our salvation it is a good challenge to consider what type of ‘soil’ we are in line with the Lord’s parable of the sower; how much Kingdom living is going on? Is God’s truth snatched away from our hearts easily (seed on the path), do we have very shallow roots (rocky soil), do the cares of the world inhibit us (amongst weeds) or are we producing much fruit for God’s Kingdom (fertile soil)(Matthew 13: 18-23).
We are not the finished article yet but with Paul’s encouragement let us forget what is behind and press on to attain that which God has called us heavenward for (Philippians 3: 13-14, 7-11); the goal is life itself and is worth more than anything else….anything else!
To Ponder: In which soil do you find your heart residing? Why is that and what do you do next?
Pray: Keep us, O Lord, while we tarry on this earth, in a serious seeking after you, and in an affectionate walking with you, every day of our lives; that when you come, we may be found not hiding our talent, nor serving the flesh, nor yet asleep with our lamps unfurnished, but waiting and longing for our glorious God for ever. Amen
Richard Baxter (1691)
Praise: No Longer Slaves sung by St. Aidan’s
Take my Life and let it be
The Bible Attacked (By Les Kovacs)
Bible Verse: 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
As we prepare to delve deeper into the Bible next year, I am reminded that not everyone believes it is the Inspired Word of God. If fact, two weeks ago, one of the assigned readings in my diaconal ministry course was written from the point of view of a theologian who didn’t believe that scripture was written by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, but rather by human authors who were reacting to what they saw God doing in the world. Therefore, he concluded, that hat was written in the bible was at best good moral teaching, and at worst an incomplete history book. I might be forgiven for being dismayed that this was required reading except that it was intended to raise awareness that not everyone held the Bible in high regard, even by some so-called theologians. For many people in the world, the reading Bible is like me standing on a windy corner reading Shakespeare aloud while inhaling helium.
However, for serious students of scripture, the Bible makes a unique claim. It claims to contain the inspired Word of God given to us in order to guide our lives, and which can penetrate into even the deepest depths of our hearts where no other voice can reach. Paul’s second letter to Timothy confirms that all Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
The Bible is a unique document in the world of religious literature. It comprises 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. It is written by approximately 40 different authors over the span of at least 1500 years. And it is the single most analyzed, dissected, and attacked book in history. It is revered by its adherents, and reviled by its detractors. Many people have sought to destroy it, failing spectacularly in the effort. Voltaire, the French philosopher, famously said he would rid the world of it, and yet within a few years of his death, his house had become the home of a Bible Society. It has been banned in many places and times throughout history, and has even been called hate literature, or a threat to the status quo of the established social order. And yet, it has survived and thrived for millennia.
Every worldview and religion has its sacred texts. Islam has the Koran, Secularists have the Humanist Manifesto, Hinduism has The Vedas, Upanishads & Bhagavad Gita, and Atheists have their Science. Yet, no sacred text has been challenged as feverishly as the Bible. It is the Benchmark to which all the other sacred writings are compared and contrasted. Unique among the world religions is its accessibility. Christians have always seen the need to translate it because we understand that the God of the Bible is an incarnational God. He entered into His creation as a human being in Jesus Christ, and therefore his Word should be readable and reliable for every culture. This has also made the Bible the most translated book in the history.
The Bible declares that God is Spirit, and, while people attempting to describe what God is like are akin to ants trying to describe General Relativity to a fish, the Bible also tells us that one of the ways God has revealed himself to us is through scripture. By reading our Bibles, we can know God! Furthermore, we can know the purpose and meaning of life through His Word. This Word will always be God’s Word, and as the Holy Spirit opens your eyes, your mind, and your heart to the message of hope and salvation, it will become the Word of God to you and for you.
So please join us at St. Aidan’s as we read through the Bible in One Year in 2021. Praise be to our eternally faithful Father in Heaven.
Is God Passive? by Pastor Dave
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33: 3
Isaiah 64: 1-9; & Luke 11: 1-13
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing.” This is a well-known saying over which there is debate as to the original author (possibly incorrectly attributed to Edmund Burke, used by J. F. Kennedy but probably used originally by John Stuart Mill). The point, however, is well made and its truth is clear. I use this quote though because I was thinking about the state of our world and the impact of the pandemic. In addition I was considering some personal difficulties that my family and I have experienced; where was God in all of this, was He acting, what were/are His purposes? I found myself frustrated with what I perceived as passiveness on God’s part and felt guilt for thinking this. All my life in my relationship with God I have found utter honesty to be the right approach so I poured out my heart with as much respect as I could muster. In God’s grace the result was an overwhelming sense of peace and the relearning of a truth I know and have often taught. God is NOT passive, it is we who are passive in reaching out to Him. Self-sufficiency, comfort, unbelief and a simple lack of knowing God are some of the many reasons we do not reach out to God. We do nothing and evil triumphs. In our lives, families, communities and world.
Just look at the Scriptures I’ve listed. God tells us through Jeremiah to call on Him and He WILL answer and tell us wondrous things. Through the prophet Isaiah (the passage was the subject of my talk on 29th November) we see how God’s people are implored to call on Him to show Himself and act. Consider the Biblical teaching of lament and prayer (listen to my Real Lives talk on 25th November). We see this amazing truth, God has chosen the Church to be the Body of Christ. We are His chosen agents of His Mission of reconciliation. In Luke, Jesus teaches us principles of Prayer: Pattern; Persistence; and Providence. The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful and holistic pattern of prayer we can apply to all situations praying for God’s Kingdom, will and provision (vs. 2-4). We see Jesus teaching us persistence in prayer, we are not to give up; God will answer (vs. 5-10). And we are assured of God’s loving desire to provide what we truly need empowered by His Holy Spirit (vs. 11-13).
Another quote, this time from a bad movie source Spiderman (!!) (but probably dating from the French Revolution); “With great power comes great responsibility.” The truth is there tough, God has given us a great responsibility and He is the ultimate power. I would encourage all of us to turn to God in prayer and to call upon Him to act so that evil does not triumph.
To Ponder: Oftentimes complacency and comfort are revealed in our lives by difficulties and challenges. What has this pandemic revealed to you about your relationship with God? How might this affect your prayer life?
Pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Praise: More than Conquerors by Bruce Moore
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5: 1-2
Romans 13: 1-6; 1 Timothy 2: 1-6; & Isaiah 42: 1-9
On national and local media, it is reported that a few Churches are flouting Provincial Health Directives to meet for Worship. Some take precautions some appear not to. I do not know the full reasoning of those involved and I certainly do not believe that the reports I have watched and articles I have read are the full story. The perception given is that the Churches are making a stand for religious freedom and their rights. Indeed as I write this blog one Church will take their Province to Court to seek an injunction by arguing a breach under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a secular society where these rights seem to be less and less important and where legislation seems to restrict that freedom their concerns are perhaps understandable. Is, however, a ‘Rights’ approach the right approach; is this the time to make a stand and this the right issue to challenge? I believe that God’s Word gives direction which history supports.
As a Senior Police Officer, I worked with different levels of Government and with other services including the Health Service. When major crises occur, it is not a simple matter to lead, nor is it easy to coordinate a joint approach. Every decision has a consequence and knock on effect, sometimes these are not foreseeable. Communication is essential but inherently difficult. With the ever-changing circumstances that this Pandemic has brought coordination will be extremely difficult. We read in Romans 13 that it is God who has established earthly authorities for our good (vs. 1). The passage calls on us to submit to such authority (vs. 5), if we rebel against them, we rebel against God (vs. 2). I am not calling for blind and naïve obedience; there are always grey areas over which questions should be raised and even challenges made. Again, what I am asking is whether this is a time in which, and an issue over which, the Church should challenge the authorities in relation to Her secularly listed Rights; I believe not.
The early Church was called upon to pray for such leaders so that we can live quiet and holy lives, this is good and pleases God (1 Timothy 2: 2-3). This witness helps others see the truth and love of God who wishes all to know Him, His truth and to be reconciled with Him (vs.4-5). With these truths in our minds we can ask whether the witness of Churches breaking Provincial directives is something that pleases and honours God and points towards the salvation He offers in and through the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ (vs. 6)? Whilst there seems to be some contradiction in the Directives I believe there are explanations (even if it be simple error) and that the better witness is one of quiet obedience to the Lord. When working out such dilemmas and understanding what God wants of His Church as well as looking to His written Word it is essential to look to His Living Word, Jesus Christ.
We read throughout the Bible of the Lord’s obedience to and love for His Father God (e.g. Philippians 2: 1-11). We read of His love for us in His self-sacrifice which made reconciliation with God possible (1 Timothy 2: 6). In one of Isaiah’s prophecies (42: 1-9) we see the Lord as a light to the world, a light which shines through service, submission and teaching. He frees His people. The Lord establishes justice but with gentleness and without taking to the streets in a loud vocal stance (vs. 2). In effect Jesus gave up His right to equality with God to humbly serve, He gave up His right to life to save and He did so in submission to God motivated by love. As N.T Wright points out Christians in the past have followed the Lord’s example in self-sacrificial love during previous pandemics caring for the sick and actually establishing hospitals and hospices; this was a powerful witness to the surrounding world.* With this shared history I believe that both sides can benefit the other. The Church is in a way the ‘hospital for the soul’ and holds the God given truth for spiritual life. As human beings we need care for the physical and spiritual, especially the eternal life of our souls. In short the Church, as Christ’s Body, needs to imitate Christ and work with and for the benefit of Society not seeking her own Rights but following in the Lord’s footsteps of humble service and obedience to God.
In conclusion I express a degree of understanding for the concerns of fellow Pastors/Priests and indeed share some of them. That said I believe that God would have us submit to the authorities He has established, pray for the leaders and reflect Jesus in our lives giving witness to His salvific self-sacrifice. In the quoted Scripture above from Ephesians 2 we are called to imitate the Lord and live a life of self-sacrificial love. I believe that the Church should be standing up and shouting about the Lord Jesus not her rights. Shouting in the sense of living lives of powerful witness with deeds of love and words of truth. The World needs God, the World therefore needs the Church, Christ’s Body, and God’s chosen agent in His mission of reconciliation. Our approach should be that of Jesus Christ’s.
To Ponder: The Church is called to be the Body of Christ and be His hands and feet, His voice in the world. What is an appropriate witness during the pandemic, how can we live in His love in such a way that others see the truth and long to be reconciled with Him?
Pray: Almighty Father, you call your Church to raise petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving all people and for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Enable us to obey you in this ministry as it is good, and pleases you our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. You are one true God and the Lord Jesus the one mediator between You and humankind. Thank you Jesus for giving Yourself as a ransom for all people. Enable your Church to witness to this truth and give Glory to the Father. Amen
Based on 1 Timothy 2: 1-6
Praise: The Servant King by Graham Kendrick
*N.T Wright, God and the Pandemic, Zondervan Reflective 2020
Prepare the Way (By Chris Barnes)
The Jewish people were on the lookout for someone who would be like the prophet Elijah. This was due to the prophecy in Malachi 4:5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord’s arrival.”
The father of John the Baptist (Zechariah), remembered this prophecy when the angel of the Lord spoke to him about his son,
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1: 16-17)
So in essence, John the Baptist would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus by “turning” them away from their ways and pointing them towards God. This message of repentance was received by many but it was also dismissed by many.
Repentance means turning the direction of our lives and the desires of our hearts so that we will become in line with God’s will for our lives and desire the things that He desires. Repentance is altering what we rely on in life, what we hope in and what we are counting on for salvation.
Although we would like to think this is something that will happen naturally, this is not the case. But God has not left us on our own to find the way. Not only has He come to us in the person of Jesus, He also sent ahead of Jesus one who would help prepare our hearts to receive Him, one who would call us to repentance.
Just as John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of the Lord, we also prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives when we embrace John’s message of repentance.
God has turned His heart toward us in Jesus Christ, and God invites us to turn our hearts to Him in repentance.
Prayer – Lord Jesus, you are the Way! Help me to examine the condition of my heart to see the ways that I am not aligned with you. Change my ways so that I may help prepare the way for others to know you.
Song: Prepare the Way
The Health of the Body by Pastor Dave
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
James 5: 13-14
James 5: 13-20
Our bodies are amazing, when we are in good health it is remarkable and the possibilities are great. When we have an injury or health issue the body still performs but with restrictions dependent on the ailment. The body of Christ is just the same, read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 if you require a deeper explanation. In the last section of his letter James calls on the functions, the ministries, of the Body to work well for the benefit of all and God’s glory. He covers: prayer; praise; pastoral care; confession; teaching; and salvation.
The Church is to be the Body of prayer whether in petition, supplication, praise or for specific needs such as healing (vs. 13-14). Prayer is powerful and if spoken in faith by a believer (made righteous by Christ’s work) it ‘availeth much.’ The practical example of Elijah is referred to (vs. 16b-18, 1 Kings 17-18). Praise is always a powerful prayer that brings God into a situation and helps us to see the same from His perspective; it reminds us who is sovereign.
Pastoral care for one another and prayers for healing under the authority that God has given the Church are vital ministries of the Body (vs. 14-15). As well as physical health, spiritual health is vital, confession provides real freedom and the ultimate healing of the soul (vs. 16). The truth of Christ (vs.19) needs to be taught as the foundation of the Church; believers and non-believers alike need the salvation that God offers in Christ (vs. 19-20). In a short passage James has managed to summarise the role of the Church and what will lead to the health of the Body.
The reality that we now face in some ways raises the importance of these ministries but equally makes it harder for them to function. As the aforementioned passage in Corinthians tells us we are all part of the Body. The Body needs each part to fulfill God’s calling upon them, when one suffers, we all suffer. In these times of trial let us look to God and one another. Let us connect with one another by all the means available and work to support the health of the Body of Christ. Let us prayer, praise, care for one another, make our confession, stand on the truth and share that Great News with all who will listen.
To Ponder: What role has God called you to in the Body of Christ? How is it being affected by the pandemic; how might you fulfill your calling in different ways in these trials (and yet also opportunities!)?
Pray: Almighty Father, grant that your church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Praise: The Church’s One Foundation sung by St. Aidan’s Church
Here I am to Worship sung by St. Aidan's Church
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.