Our God is a God of Mercy. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that we can come boldly to the Throne of Grace – or the Mercy Seat – and receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need.
Jesus said to the Pharisees to “go and learn” what mercy over sacrifice means. They were obsessed with outward religion, but neglected to offer mercy to the weak and the struggling. They hadn’t understood the mercy in the Father’s heart.
Here’s today’s encouragement for our prayer focus.
As we approach another Christmas, and many of us are caught up in a flurry of activity, in addition to carrying concerns for church and nation, we do well to remember that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is a powerful statement of the premium God places on simplicity.
I was considering our pre-Christmas service in Golden Valley Church and I kept hearing the words “simplicity” and “simple.” I knew that Holy Spirit is wanting to impress this upon me – on us all.
In life we generally overlook the simple in favour of the complicated. The world mocks simple things, and ever looks for more sophistication. Our lack of simplicity breeds fear, control, pride, anxiety, strife, and unrest. But we actually miss much of what God has for us, because it is contained in the simple. He hides Himself; He hides our blessings – maybe our breakthroughs – in simple places. The sophisticated and cluttered minds will often miss Him there, just as they did in Bethlehem all those years ago.
Modern lives are so full of noise, clutter, surplus, and overload. Conveniences and technology which are supposed to make life easier and simpler can end up increasing the demands with which we find ourselves juggling. Simplicity is ever-illusive, and no less so at Christmastime when the plethora of competing demands – many of them completely unnecessary – shout loudly for attention. Even in modern church it’s easy to fall into living by a set of tick-boxes in our desire to grow and become all that God wants us to be. For example: “Four keys to this…”, “Seven steps to freedom…”, “do this course”, “attend this conference”, “read this book”, “master this truth”, “pray for this and that need”, etc. And so the plates continue to spin in overcomplicated lives.
The dictionary definitions of “simplicity” include, “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded; freedom from pretence or guile; restraint in ornamentation.” I like the “restraint in ornamentation” which is so apt in a modern Christmas where the true meaning is obscured – even obliterated – by the overload of lights, sounds, and Santa Claus.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1 that God has made the wisdom of this world to turn out as foolishness. He says, referring to Jesus and His cross, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” and, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” The ‘foolish simplicity’ of a baby laid to sleep in an animal feeding trough in a small out-of-the-way town is where God hides Himself, and where most people walk on by unknowingly.
The simple life – a life of walking daily with God and receiving everything from His hand – was stolen from mankind through deception, in the Garden in Eden, right in the beginning time of the Adamic race. But both the divine Baby in the manger and the divine man upon the cross are the wisdom of heaven to restore simplicity to us.
Last January Pope Francis tweeted the following: “In the simplicity of the nativity scene we encounter the tenderness of God which reveals itself in the Baby Jesus.” Tenderness. I think it is impossible to truly experience tenderness without – even for a moment – withdrawing from the overload, and finding a simple space.
I have a friend who recently proposed to his girlfriend in city centre Paris. In the midst of the bustle, the sights, the lights, the sounds, the traffic, and the masses going about their business, he knelt down and found tenderness to engage with the one he loves. It was an age-old simple act, yet totally new and fresh; full of power, purpose, and long-term promise. Tenderness and simplicity go hand in hand. And that soil of the heart is poignant with hope.
This Christmas the Vatican has taken their understanding of the simplicity of the nativity one step further. More than 700 pounds of sand were brought into St Peter’s Square in lorries for a chosen group of artists to create a beautiful 52 foot representation of the nativity scene – in sand. Pope Francis commenting on the symbolism is quoted as saying, “The sand recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God showed Himself at the birth of Jesus, in the precariousness of Bethlehem.” This is the unspoken message of their 2018 nativity scene.
It takes humility to embrace simplicity. Jesus chose to humble Himself to a level beyond our ability to humanly comprehend. From the Throne of Heaven he made the decision of love to become a baby in a manger in Roman-era Israel. His was outrageous humility! When we are proud – where we are proud – it is impossible to be simple. Pride by nature needs to exalt itself and seeks to impress by its accumulations.
It also takes trust to embrace simplicity. Jesus had to trust His Father in order to become that baby. He also had to trust His Father as He hung on the cross. On both occasions He stepped into trust that His Abba would come through for Him, would watch over Him and never let Him down. He was no longer in control. Simplicity demands that we stop trying to control everything and everyone, and rest in the Love by which we are held.
The first church was known by its lifestyle of simplicity of heart [Acts 2:46]. The Apostle Paul’s testimony of His team’s conduct was that they had conducted themselves in simplicity and godly sincerity [2 Cor. 1:12]. And writing to the same church again in chapter 11, verse 3, he expresses his deep concern that the same serpent that had deceived Eve was continuing his fraudulent schemes and beguiling them from a life of simple devotion to Christ. Sometimes spiritual warfare comes to us in the form of clutter, distractions, and deceitful feelings that we have to occupy ourselves with any number of seemingly important enterprises. There is always a battle on against divine simplicity.
In the simple we hear Him; that ‘still small voice’. Elijah was unable to engage with God in the blast of the fire, the swirling of the winds, or the noise of the earthquake. He had to pass through these to the place of simple stillness.
Those who managed to find the manger in Bethlehem found the Messiah. Those who stooped to enter the cave, met with the Saviour. In locating the place of heavenly simplicity, they found hidden treasure.
As we again approach Christmas, it’s important for us to dial down on the clutter, the noise, and the assumed demands. Let’s focus in on the Babe in the manger – the simply powerful and powerfully simple birth of the Man from Heaven. Stop to savour ordinary moments, quiet times, and that Still Small Voice. Reflect again on Love come down to us. And somewhere as you savour it – Him – ask Him to help you embrace His simplicity in your life.
In Psalm 131 David testifies how he has simplified his posture from being overly concerned with too many things, to resting in God as a young child would on its mother’s lap. He has chosen to resist pride and arrogance. He has decided to stop looking at others with contempt and judgement. He has quietened his mind and heart, and focused on one thing – the simple child-parent relationship he has with God. From this place hope has risen in his life. He is able to encourage others to hope, because he has found the simple place where it grows, and where fear and anxiety die.
Jesus, for His whole life, lived from this same stance, beginning with the manger. And wherever He went hope grew. Love sprung forth. And faith began to return. Simple.
Let’s find the tender simplicity of His heart this Christmas as we find Him off the beaten track lying in the manger.
The subject of grace is a hot topic in some parts of the church right now. I have observed friends who have received greater revelation of the grace of God in Christ which has given them a new sense of freedom, joy, and peace. I applaud such fruit. The grace of God which is ours through His Son Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross is meant to produce in us such results .
What can we say about grace?
It is ‘amazing‘, as the hymn goes. It is meant to make us stand in awe and wonder at the goodness and kindness of God in dealing with our sins and sin-nature, once and for all.
It is ‘extreme‘. The Father welcoming back His prodigal sons and daughters and throwing a party for them, completely covering their shame and dirt with His own robe of righteousness sounds almost too ‘extreme’ to be true! Yet that is the grace that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. He came to bring us to this very Father as sons and daughters.Continue reading “HOW EXTREME IS GRACE?”
It was a truly awesome weekend in GVC as Emad and Ash shared with us their own remarkable testimonies, stories of what is happening in Egypt right now, and encouragements from the Word of God.
The Presence of God crammed the worship, which was poignant with prophetic urgency. But it was the (repeated) exhortation by the Spirit of God to pray which perhaps came across above all else.
Emad encouraged us to continue to store up prayer with God. Ash shared his own story, that His godly Christian mother prayed daily for him for nine years when as a young man he was in a rebellious, drug-fuelled state, until He personally encountered Jesus Christ, who immediately turned His life around.
We heard that on 11/11/11 seventy thousand Egyptian Christians gathered together in Cairo to pray; to humble themselves and seek God for their nation’s condition and future. God heard the cries of His saints.
There is clearly a spiritual revival going on in this nation that is beloved by God. Accounts of miracles and healings continue. There is much in the Bible regarding Egypt. And several prophecies yet to be fulfilled. How good to know that our God is on the move outside of what normally appears in the media.
Let’s take this example of persistent prayer to heart, and continue to call on God for our own very needy nation, and the global purposes of God in our day. Jesus still calls for His church to be a “House of Prayer for all the nations”.
Often at the beginning of a New Year we have a clear mandate or direction from God as to the focus or prophetic significance of that year. We knew that 2013 was a ‘year of alignment’ and we have spent many occasions in prayer regarding this. There are some who interpret the current Hebrew year 5774 as meaning “the year of the Open Doors”. Whilst I don’t feel strongly enough to declare it as THE year of open doors in Golden Valley Church, I do believe that within this next 12 months the Father is wanting to open up new ‘doors’ for us in many areas of life.
Biblically, and in within ancient cultures, the concept of doors, gates, and doorways are more significant than we generally regard them in a modern western society. Clearly doors into our homes or businesses are significant as both entry points and security factors. Continue reading “OPEN DOORS IN 2014”
On Good Friday we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ who was crucified on behalf of humanity. Why us it ‘good’? The horrors of crucifixion cannot be called ‘good’. The murder of an innocent man by jealous religious leaders conspiring against Him can’t be called ‘good’. The rejection of One who healed the sick and blessed the poor can’t be described as ‘good’. The mourning of His family and friends can’t be called ‘good’.
Yet it is ‘Good Friday’. It is a memorial of the day when one sinless man – the Son of God, Jesus Christ – was put to death on behalf of the remainder of mankind who had no eternal hope because every one had sinned and missed the mark of God’s glory. God Himself, both just and loving, became a man and received the penalty of sin in Himself as He was crucified on the cross. Now, anyone – however far they have fallen in life – can call on Him because He has paid for their failures Himself, and receive forgiveness and eternal life. That is GOOD! This is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. He has loved us to the very end! Why not step into it for yourself this Easter?
Our Good Friday Service is at 10:00am,
in the Firehouse Chapel, Newton Avenue, Coney Hill, Gloucester, GL4 4NS
Come drink of unfailing love
Come feast on unfailing love
deep, deep love
He’s calling out to you
Come away with me
Beloved, the winter is past
Sorrow is past
I’m so loved by you
Nothing can ever fade away
Thank you this morning
for such Incredible love!
I’m so loved by you
Loved with everlasting love
Nothing can ever separate
You embrace us with
You have brought us to your banner
of unfailing love
Written over our lives
of mistakes, weaknesses, struggles and failures
I am so loved by You For Eternity
Nothing I can ever do can take
Your love away from me
You have loved us and
written over all our lives
Wes sang this beautiful poetic prophesy over the whole church during our worship time this morning. God’s love was tangible and there was a powerful sense of family, warmth and comfort as we rested in His arms. We were at home, together! Bex continued our worship time through encouraging us to give our praise and thanks to God. We have such richness in our worship and it was good to have Nathan joining in with his Bass guitar, and Julie with the ‘Bongo’ drums.
Wes began to teach the word from a prayer of realisation from Ephesians 3:14.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’ This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the law of the prophets.”
God wants us to sing of His love for us. He is calling us into position and love is the hook that we hang on. If we don’t have this hook – we fall. So much of church life is often law based and not love based. Past revivals and movements of the Holy Spirit gradually become structures and programmes. It’s all about love and we need to get the roots into us. 1 Corinthians is known as the love chapter. It shows us what love is, yet we cannot produce fruit in a vacuum. We must first produce love and the fruit will then grow naturally. In this generation, the heart of God is pushing outwards to the nations. We need to be firmly rooted and grounded in love.
Wes pointed out that there are three loves that we are commanded to have:
1/ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul
2/ Love your neighbor as you….
3/ Love yourself
This week, Wes focused on loving ourselves. He showed us that we cannot love God or others the way He loves us – until we love ourselves first. How do we do this? Love is often lacking in our society today. We have so much guilt and shame that we carry around with us. The devil sows lies into our hearts and shame causes us to hide because we believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with us. How do we become the people that God has made us to be?
Good News! The price has been paid! God has picked up the bill! Jesus gave His life on the cross for you and for me! God has clothed us with righteousness. If we don’t value ourselves, we won’t value the promises over our lives which are Yes! And Amen! We are worth it! If we don’t value ourselves we won’t ask and receive from God. Loving ourselves is agreeing with God what He says about us. Jesus said ‘Lay down your life’ (John 15:13) We can only give away what we have first received. We love because He first loved us. We limit God and others if we don’t love ourselves and position ourselves through Him.
Jesus lived His life out of the bosom of the Father. How does God love you? God created you in His own image and said that it was very good (Genesis 27 – 31). You are fearfully and wonderfully made and God knew you before you were born (Psalm 139). John 3:16 declares – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The good shepherd left 99 sheep to go and find one that was lost (Luke 15:3-7). Father stands at his drive every day waiting for his prodigal son to come home (Luke 15: 11 – 32). If you don’t love yourself the way God does. You will not bring His gifts in you to fruition.
Start resting in His love. The gospel is good news!
We were encouraged to ask the Holy Spirit to show each one of us our core beliefs about ourselves and to pray that God would practicalise His word in us. Ask Him to show us what memories we have, and where they are, to ask for His healing in our hearts.
That’s the title of tonight’s ‘Winter Bible Study’ – Get Rid of Fear.
This is the second out of three studies on ‘Fear’. Fear is a natural, and sometimes healthy emotion, but at other times can paralyse us and rob us of experiences and growth that are ours. So often Jesus tells us, “Fear Not!”
May His love that drives out fear impact us as we study the Bible together and pray for one another.