CHRISTMAS MORNING

Please join us as we gather to celebrate on Christmas Morning!

10.00am Thursday December 25th 2014 at the Carrigaline Community Complex.

It will be a short (less than an hour), family friendly service where we will remember and celebrate Christmas together through hearing from the Bible and singing Christmas Hymns.

 

Ruling King, Eternal Kingdom – The Book of Daniel

 

The World of Today

It seems that the Kings and Kingdoms of this world are in an unending cycle of conflict and search for political power: wars between Russia and Ukraine, Palestine and Israel; the violent spread of ISIS across Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria; the ruthless regimes of North Korea and Zimbabwe; the never ending struggles in Congo, Darfur, Pakistan and Burma; the posturing of world leaders, Barack Obama, Angela Merkle, Vladamir Putin and David Cameron – one wonders if there is anyone in control and if it will ever end?

This is the world we live in and if that’s not bad enough God’s people face the daily oppression and persecution of living in these kingdoms and under these kings – many to the point of torture and death. It’s easy to get disillusioned and discouraged, and come to the conclusion that God is absent from it all.

 

The World of Daniel

Well that was life for Daniel, his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and the many thousands of God’s people, who were brutally defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar and transported off to the Kingdom of Babylon (603-586 BC. You can read the story of these events in 2 Kings 25v1-21). Here they were expected to do things the ‘Babylonian’ way, deny God and worship the god’s. The song recorded for us in Psalm 137 ‘By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept..’ helps us understand the struggle and the suffering God’s people went through during these years. They longed for God to intervene, take them back and defeat their enemy. But rather than lift them out God calls them to live faithful lives in this unfaithful world. To ‘build houses and settle down…Marry and have sons and daughters…Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile…For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29v4-11. In summary they were to be his witnesses.

 

The God of Daniel

As they made their way to a foreign land the question is; Has God lost control? The answer from the book of Daniel is this: In a world where Kingdoms clash and King’s oppress God’s people, God proves himself to be ‘The’ supreme king who rules over the Kings and Kingdoms of this world and is sovereignly building his Kingdom which will last for all eternity. Those who trust in the one true King will live forever in His eternal Kingdom.  

That’s how the book of Daniel starts and ends. In 1v2 we are reminded that: The Lord delivered Jehoiakim King of Judah into his (King Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand…’ From the very outset we must learn that even when God’s people are under the rule of a godless king, God is not absent but controlling and ordering the events of history for his good purpose. In 12v13, the very last verse, Daniel is told: ‘As for you go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.’ God may not take us out of the situation we find ourselves in, but he will be with us through it, working out his good plan and guaranteeing our safe arrival into his eternal kingdom.

Of course that was a lesson they would learn under seventy years of captivity and it’s the same message we need to learn and trust today. Daniels God is our God and we are called to live as faithful people in an unfaithful world, in the knowledge that he is the Ruling King with an Eternal Kingdom.

 

The story of God in our World

Kings will come and Kingdoms will go but they will never supersede the Kingdom of God. We see this worked out in Stories (Chapters 1-6) and Visions (Chapters 7-12)

Stories: Ruling the Kings and Kingdoms of this age

Chapters 1-6 primarily tell the story of Daniel and his friends under the foreign rule of Nebuchadnezzar ch1-4, Belshazzar ch5, (Babylonian Empire) and Darius ch 6 (Persian Empire). Here they each face the challenge of living faithful lives under an unfaithful King. Through their faithful witness God shows Nebuchadnezzar that he is the supreme and sovereign King who rules over every Kingdom rising up and tearing down as he wills (2v47, 3v28, 4v17, 34-35). The only right response is to humble ourselves before God and honour him (4v34). To refuse and reject God’s rule will only bring disaster as Belshazzar came to learn, ironically, at a party to celebrate his powerful empire (5v30). Darius maybe a new King of a different Kingdom (6v1) but he too must learn that ; ‘(God) is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves…’ (6v26-27)

Through their lives Daniel and his friends face the fiery furnace and the den of lions but God remains faithful and equips his people to stand strong in the face of great opposition and persecution.

Visions: Revealing his King and Kingdom to come

Chapters 7-12 primarily give us a vision of the future. Through vivid descriptions of beats, dramatic announcements from angels and curious numbers we get to see what is going on in the world right now and more importantly what is going on behind the scenes.The four beasts of chapter 7, representing the rise of empires, are scary and terrifying but they are soon silenced as the Ancient of Days slays and destroys the beast and reveals his true King the Son of Man (7v13-14 c.f. Mark 10v45). The beasts are replaced by Rams and Goats in chapter 8 representing leaders who clash with each other but also seek to destroy God’s people (8v23-25). Thankfully in chapter 9 the beastly creatures disappear but they are replaced by the curious ‘seven sevens’ and ‘sixty two sevens’! But this is not a maths test! God is revealing that while kings and kingdoms ‘strut their stuff’ he has set a time (symbolised by numbers) when he will forgive and restore those who turn to him (9v25-26). When our minds are completely fried with visions we are invited to with Daniel to look once more (10-12). It’s both terrifying and comforting as God pulls back the curtain of history: ‘Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.’ (10v14) The vision helps us to see that behind these earthy kings and kingdoms there is a greater battle between the god of this world and the Supreme and Sovereign God. The message is difficult, things will get worse before they get better, rather than expect safety we should prepare to suffer (Ch 11). As the Kingdom of God is established the battle will intensify. But victory is assured for God’s people: ‘There will be a time of distress…but at that time your people – everyone whose name is found in the book – will be delivered.’ (12v1). Knowing what is to come and being assured of God’s victory will enable us to live faithful lives in an unfaithful world.

 

Kings will come and Kingdoms will go but they will never supersede God’s ruling King the Lord Jesus Christ and his eternal Kingdom. We will witness the rise of rulers and political powers, we will experience opposition and persecution but God’s plans and purpose remain on track and one day the true ruling power the Risen Lord Jesus will come again and take his people to be with him forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Romans: Global Mission, United Community (Part 4)

The Gospel Applied 12-16

The Gospel must be announced and if we are to do that well we must be a church where the gospel is applied. In other words the church must look like the message that it preaches. So the Gospel we preach must be seen in action in the life of his people, as we love one another, grow in our unity and partner each other in mission.

Together the church is to live in response to the gospel ‘in view of God’s mercy’ (12v1). Because of all that we have received and experienced through God’s grace, (a righteousness from God through faith and adoption into his family with the hope of glory chapters 1-11) we are to live our lives in sacrifice to God (12v1) and in service to others (12v6ff).

The church soaked in the gospel will be a place of love. This love will be seen in a love for the church which has no limits (12v9-13), that crosses all barriers and reaches out to all people regardless of their background or race (12v14-16) and a love that will never give up, even if you think you have been wronged (12v17-21). But our love must go beyond our walls to those in authority. We lovingly submit to authorities as a sign of our loving submission to God (13v1-2). If the world is to see what living under God is like then they need to see his people relating rightly to those in government (13v6). The love of God also reaches out to our neighbour (13v9) and there is no restrictions to who our neighbour is. As we reflect on the blessings of the gospel, eternal life to come (13v11-12) then we will be encouraged to show that love more and more. Of course it is not easy to love others but as the spirit works in us clothing us with Christ (13v14) so we are enabled to love all those around us.

The church that has experienced the gospel and has a desire to reach out with the gospel must be united. A divided church will never reach a broken world. So we are not to be judgemental (14v1,13) because we have been accepted by God (14v3). Our aim is not to please ourselves or want people to fit in with our way of thinking, rather we are to live serving God and his purposes (14v8). We must remember that we will all have to face God’s judgement and give an account to him (14v12). Instead of being judgemental we should seek to build one another up (14v19, 15v2). Making every effort to remove any stumbling blocks or obstacles in peoples way (14v13) always watching out that use do not use your freedom to cause our brother or sister in Christ to fall (14v21). We must be careful to do what is right before God and what will be best for others (14v22). Therefore we learn to accept each other just as Christ accepted us (115v7). If the Gospel is all about God accepting us by grace we must display this attitude so that others will not only hear but see what grace is like.

A church that is united in love, is not only evidence that hey have experienced the gospel, it is a sign they are now equipped to share the gospel. Our message is always about Jesus Christ not ourselves (15v16,18) and our mission is always to those who have not yet heard (15v20). We are to be a church who is looking out to other nations and people (15v24) while not forgetting the needs of those close to home – especially the church family (15v26). This is not something we can do alone but requires the whole church in dependence on God through prayer (15v30-31) and in partnership with each other (16v1-16). God uses all the gifts of all of his people to reach all those who do not yet believe. This mission is always under threat so we are to be careful of those who are divisive (16v17) and live and teach what is contrary to the gospel (16v17-19). The church is created by the gospel and is used by God to announce the gospel (16v25) so that all nations might believe and obey this gospel (16v26). This is God’s design for the church: ‘to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen.’ (16v27) 

 

Bono on Jesus

C.S.Lewis when talking about Jesus Christ said: ‘A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunitic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.’

It seems through reading the reliable historical accounts of the Gospels, Bono has come to the conclusion that Jesus is nothing less than Lord and God. Look at the short clip below. What’s your choice about Jesus?

 

Romans: Global Mission, United Community (Part 3)

The Gospel Announced 9-11

Knowing the Gospel and Experiencing the Gospel is a wonderful privilege, but with it comes a great responsibility. In fact the sign that we have experienced the gospel is seen in a deep love for others that they too are saved (9v2, 10v1, 11v14).

We should be confident that the gospel will not fail but that *’All Israel’ will be saved (9v6, 11v26). We can be confident because it is God who makes Christians and he does that through his gracious promise (9v6-9) and his gracious choice (9v10-13). In fact salvation does not depend on our desire but God’s mercy (9v16). If it were not for God’s persistence and patience we would never be saved (9v22, 25) and the only right response is faith (9v30-32).

The gospel is for ‘everyone’ ‘anyone’ ‘all’ (10v4, 11, 12, 13), it is a universal offer to Jews and Gentiles but conditional to Faith. Therefore we must pray that people are saved (10v1) and preach until they are saved (10v14b). This Gospel must be announced, by all who believe, to all who do not yet believe (10v14-15). Sadly, however, not everyone who hears, like some of Israel, will believe (10v18) but we must go on patiently praying and preaching as God has been patient with us (10v21). Unless we preach people will not hear, and unless people hear they will not believe. This is the responsibility of all who have experienced the salvation of God.

Although there will be those who do not believe and reject the gospel, God has not given up on those he will save by his grace (11v2). God’s promise remains true he never fails to save those he has called to himself. While we may think it impossible for some to be saved God can save anyone (Paul 11v1) and he can save more than we could ever think or imagine (7000 in Elijah’s time 11v4). However while God’s grace extends to many people we should not miss the seriousness of turning our backs on God’s grace – God will harden their hearts (11v7) so that they can’t see or hear the truth of the gospel.

But we must never seek to limit or control God’s grace. His grace flows to those who have never heard and it continues to flow to those who have heard many times but have still not trusted in Jesus. Just because people stumble (11v11) at God’s offer of grace does not mean He gives up on them. God will pursue them through those who have accepted his grace even if they were irreligious outsiders (11v11-12). God’s design is to make unbelievers envious of those who have come to experience the blessings of the gospel (11v12) so that they in turn will believe and share the same gospel with others (11v15).

If we have experienced the gospel we must never become boastful (11v18) or arrogant (11v20) of our position. Instead we must be humble and continue trusting in God’s kindness towards us (11v22). Rather than use our position to gloat, we now use our position to share the good news of Jesus Christ, with those who have not yet heard, and with those who have heard but have not yet believed. If God can accept those who never went to church or read their bible (irreligious gentiles) can he not also accept those who do go to church and read the bible (religious Jew) but are not yet saved (11v24)? Our great comfort and encouragement is that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11v25). We may know those who have a hard heart but God is merciful and gracious and he will save all those who he has chosen (11v29), God’s grace is always greater than our disobedience (11v30-31).

We do not make Christians – God does. He does it by his own gracious choice and our response is to pray that those who are not saved will be saved and that those who have not heard will hear as the gospel is preached. This is God’s plan (11v33) we might find it hard (11v34) we may even think God should listen to us (11v35) – but we let God be God ‘for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen. (11v36)

*The true Israel are not defined by nationality and race but by those who have faith in the promises of God (9v8, 9v30-32)