Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The art of practising the presence of God

Norma touched on something this Sunday in such a practical way that We need to come back to it and make it our own on an ongoing basis.

The Old Testament reading (Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28) was the story of Joseph which formed the backdrop to Norma's message. It presented a familiar situation of the old father, Jacob who send his favourite son to go and check on the rest of his sons, where family politics created an almost unimaginable cruel scenario of brothers plotting to kill the favourite brother, Joseph, by throwing him in a well. One brother, Reuben, tried to safe his him by convincing the others to rather sell Joseph as a slave to merchants, who then resold him in Egypt.

What a harsh situation. If we imagine for a moment what crossed Joseph's mind...
  • Where was God at this moment?
  • Does God really care?
  • How can He allow this to happen?
This brings us to the the art of practising the presence of God :
  • irrespective of circumstances
  • irrespective of one's health
  • irrespective of one's situation
An example to draw from is the life of Brother Laurence, a 17th  century monk (1614- 1691),  a Godly man, born in the eastern part of France. Due to extreme poverty of his times, he joined the army and fought in the Thirty year War. He lost his right arm, returned home and decided to join the Carmelite order of monks. He had no education and was allocated to the kitchen, where he repaired sandals for the rest of his life. Despite his lowly position in life, many people were drawn to him. What was his secret? He lived the art of practicing the presence of God.

James Goll  wrote a book called "The lost art of the practice of the presence of God" in which he states that if you hunger for more of GOD and less of yourself, these principles are for you.

New testament reading: Romans 10: 5-15 v 8 “ the Word is near you, ...in your mouth and in your heart”

We need to take an inward journey,  proceeding into His presence.
  • Mary at the feet of Jesus, hair loose ( showing her vulnerability), opening herself up, to express her utmost love & respect for her Master.
  • Moses at the burning bush....shoes off ( vulnerable), in awe, waiting, the expectation
  • The Last Supper: that intimate meal with Jesus' closest friends....discussion time, clarifying "how would we know".....and then just listening....no talking.
In Brother Lawrence's own words: “this is not an easy task. But the benefit is great:
  • draws down God's grace abundantly,
  • leads one's soul the ever-present vision of God's love for us, as He often calls us " my beloved " through out the Bible
This is the road to intimacy ....daily, making time to interact with Jesus, whether you're getting up and looking at the sunrise, seeing God the creator displaying His artwork, or walking in your garden, hearing God speaking thru' His beauty. Maybe stopping with whatever you're doing, bowing in a moment of reverence and awe....respect for who God is.

Quietness of the soul -we need to wait on Him

If we yearn to be intimate with Christ, we must learn to be still. We can learn from the story of  John Ortberg consultation with his mentor, Dr Dallas Willard. John complained about the little change that he saw in his church. He asked how he could achieve a deeper level of spirituality in the church. He wanted to know what he should do, to excite and enthuse the people.

Dr Willard's answer was: “ You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God”

John was disappointed and pointed out that he was not asking about myself! He wanted to know what to do about the congregation. Dr Dallas stressed that the main thing you will give your congregation, just like the main thing you will give God, is the person you will become. If your soul is unhealthy, rushing around in “doing” lots of things, trying to achieve huge numbers......your soul will be unhealthy. So you rather should spend time with God....sit and listen to Him, without interrupting Him, or telling Him what He should do. Just being with God is enough.

The practice of the presence of God

  • Meditating on Scripture......that is a tool of quieting oneself . Here we are not talking of New Age meditation or Far East methods of being still, Concentrate rather on maybe on ONE verse, one word that speaks to you.....and let the Holy Spirit speak to you through that portion.When we let our minds dwell on Scripture, the Holy Spirit, who inspired all Scripture, interprets it in our hearts, and brings our spirit into harmony with God.
  • Be ready to deal with distractions....your mind begins to wander …..outside interruptions. What should we do? Madame Guyon suggested to focus on Jesus. Imagine you are sitting there with Him, looking into His eyes, waiting for Him to do the talking. 
Initially you may think this discipline of solitude, is a waste of time. However, the discipline of solitude is one of the most powerful disciplines in developing your prayer life. The more we practice this, the more we hear God's voice and the more we will be able to practice His presence!!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Sermon Sunday 17th July: How are we remembered?

There are many people, indeed most, that we do not know, but there are some people we have all heard of!  One of these is Mark, the writer of the second gospel. This was probably the first to be written; some suggest that it might have been Peter's gospel, Mark acting more as his scribe.  Apart from the gospel, there is very little that we know of Mark, but what we know can encourage us.

The first reference is an embarrassing incident (Mk 14:51), where most think that the young man who ran away naked was Mark himself.  Definitely an embarrassment, but then all the disciples should have been upset by Gethsemane - they all failed!  And that applies to us as well, as it was our sin that took Jesus there and to the cross.  Incidentally, it was right for Mark to leave his clothes, right to avoid unnecessary suffering.  If he had held he would have been arrested.  Is that us?            Do not be captured by possessions!  They can easily hinder our service, possess us and not we them.  "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim 6:10).

The second reference is another embarrassment (Acts 15:36).  Paul and Barnabas fell out over Mark, who had let them down.  He was then rejected by Paul, who quarrelled with Barnabas and separated from him.  There was a "sharp contention", surely wrong? And indeed Paul later specifically rejects contention (1 Cor 13:5).  Indeed later, Paul changed his mind (2 Tim 4:12).  We should be willing to admit mistakes.  We should just note that Mark's weakness was even after seeing the cross and a miracle (Acts 12:12).  Faith comes from more than even wonderful experiences such as this, but is God's gift to us.

After that experience, Mark was taken on by Barnabas, his uncle (Col 4:10).  Barnabas' name means "son of encouragement", and he lived up to it.  We should encourage our children, and especially our children in the Lord, seeking to build them up, and accepting that all fail from time to time.  The Holy Spirit, the comforter, works through us.

Mark was one who knew failure - like each of us, but then, like all of us, including Paul, found the power of Christ over weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

Mark then became a great disciple, as a great helper!  He was not one of the twelve, but did a wonderful service.  Not all are called to lead, not all are called to preach; the church is a "body" (1 Cor 12:4f), made up of people with many different inter-relating ministries.  Mark found his ministry in writing, and as such is still helping us and the Church as a whole.

In that he was guided by the Holy Spirit in inspiration.  He left a legacy and possibly even more; there is a tradition that he was the originator of the Coptic church, very strong in Egypt and surrounding countries.
            

How are we remembered?

Prof David T Williams

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sermon Sunday 18 June: Day of touble

Reading: Psalm 27
Trouble is one of the facts of life - how do we deal with it?

 The Book of Psalms resonates with experience, so can help us to deal with it; it is a help in worship and life. It is good to share your testimony, so that your experience can help others! David was one who experienced a life of blessing, elevated from being a shepherd to a king. But his life was also full of trouble, being pursued by king Saul for a long time, and having a couple of rebellions, one led by his own son, who was killed.

He was often afraid, often in trouble. And much was his own fault; the results of his sin with Bathsheba were far-reaching! Are you, like David, afraid? He had lots of reasons! Many do not apply to us, but there are many others. Of what are you afraid? The psalm gives confidence, but is it wishful thinking? Is it unrealistic? What was David's solution (Ps 27:4)?

The presence of God, who does help us to deal with our troubles, both in the immediate, but also in the gift of eternal life, when all troubles are past. David rested in the ultimate good. When we know the reality of God, all else loses significance. Paul could speak of his troubles, far more than most of our's (see 2 Cor 11:23f) as light and momentary (2 Cor 4:17)!

 As Christians, this is fulfilled in Jesus, who facilitates the presence of God with us. The Psalm gives us three results of this.

  •  Hear my voice (Ps 27:7). We can tell him our trouble. Importantly we can know that God hears - we can relate to Him through Jesus. So especially in trouble, do not forget to pray. Turn not your servant away (Ps 27:9 (RSV)); 
  • We can know that God is with us. Such assurance is not there in the OT, but we are forgiven - through Jesus. But although God gives us access to Him, do not exclude yourself! 
  • Teach me your way (Ps 27:11) - so we may not make mistakes and cause trouble - much is our own fault! We can know the way - through Jesus (Jn 14:6), not just of final salvation, but of immediate need. Do not think that you know better than God! The Bible often promises blessing, but in obedience (see Deut 5:32-3). 
 We can share David's relief, we WILL know his goodness (Ps 27:13). Firstly in the land of the living, as all troubles overcome in death and eternal life, AND in the land of the living - thank him for many blessings now Worth waiting for? (Ps 27:14) INDEED! And he gives strength now

Friday, 2 June 2017

Sermon: How to deal with a problem in one's life? Colin Chambers



We were very blessed to have Colin Chambers with us last Sunday. His message was truly inspiring and we will remember the one thing that he told us to: Do what Jesus tells you to do!!!

He took John 20:30-31 as a text, with the three key words:
  • SIGNS (miracles) which point to who Jesus is. 
  • BELIEVE in Jesus
  • LIFE- the result of believing in Jesus.
I loved the way that he took us through the miracles Jesus performed as recorded by John, pointing out that, apart from Him walking on water and calming the storm, they were all a blending of the Divine and the human. People were told to do something when Jesus performed the miracles.

Water to wine. They had to fill the jars with water, which they did and Jesus turned it to wine.

The lame man who had not walked for 38 years had to pick up his mat and walk. He did it, his legs were healed and he now carried what had carried him for 38 years.

The feeding of the 5000 plus people. They were told to sit on the grass - those who were seated received the multiplied bread and fish.

The man born blind - Jesus made clay from dust and His spittle and put it on the man's sightless eye sockets (Colin's thought, Jesus created eyes for him). He then had to go and wash his face in the Pool of Siloam which he did and went home seeing.

How to deal with a problem in one's life?


Colin closed by looking at the raising of Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:17-44)
  • The problem - a dead brother
  • The answer to the problem - resurrection and life
  • Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life.
In other words whatever your problem may be - Jesus is the answer or can provide the answer. we have to identify the problem and what the answer is and accept that Jesus is or can provide the answer.

BUT - a key, "do you believe it ?". Do you believe that Jesus is or can provide the answer.

Then - "Where is it". Where is the root of the problem (could be fear, jealousy, greed, basically whatever). This is important to not only identify the problem, but to be ruthlessly honest and identify the real cause of the problem.

Then - "Roll away the stone". Expose the problem, the root and the cause to Jesus (in candid prayer), and invite Jesus to take over and deal with it.

Jesus brought life out of death - completely dealt with and removed the problem. But they had to roll away the stone and uncover the problem to Jesus. Another blending of the Divine and the human. And finally, Jesus gave life, but they had to give liberty, because Lazarus was bound him up in cloth. So they had to DO something.

So, what we took from Colin's sermon is that we must not just ask for miracles and expect God to do His thing, we also have to be prepared to Do something!!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Sunday sermon: The road to Emmaus

Reading:Luke 24:13-35
Sermon by David Williams 

The story of the appearance of Jesus to the two on the way to Emmaus strikes me as a clear indication of the truth of the resurrection - there is just no reason to invent such a story. More than that it is a revelation to ordinary people; God is no respecter of persons (1 Cor 1:26).  Not only does he reveal to ordinary people but he also witnesses through the lowly.  What however does matter is that they were disciples, wanting to learn of Jesus.

The two had been stimulated by events of the previous days, but Jesus also opened the scriptures.  Do we take the trouble to read them? This is essential for us as well if Jesus used them. However, as now, they needed interpreting.  Significantly, as Jesus was explaining, their hearts burned - was this the Spirit? We will never understand without him!

Their perception of Jesus was of a prophet and doer of good (Lk 24:19), so they needed more.  Jesus rather said that he had to suffer.  This only really makes sense if he is the son of God, dying for us to atone for sins.  When they got to Emmaus they invited him in, wanting to continue.  Incidentally, this shows the value of hospitality (Heb 13:2).  More seriously, have we invited Jesus into our lives?

Then came the experience of Jesus when they saw who he actually was.  Their eyes were opened; God has to act if people are to understand - the best we can do is to PRAY!  Jesus was recognised in breaking of bread, a familiar act - may we perceive him as we come to the table.  He then vanished from their sight, as he did in other experiences.  He is usually hidden from us.

Not surprisingly after such an experience, they wanted to share it and rushed back to tell others.  They could not keep it to themselves.  What they wanted to do was to tell the central Christian truth


HE IS ALIVE!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Liz Thomas Inducted as our resident priest

We were very blessed last Sunday when Liz Thomas was inducted as our resident priest at our little chapel by archbishop Ebenezer Ntlali !! She has been serving our community since Margaret has left with gentleness and consideration. We are all happy to know that she is know Official!!

For all the rest of the videos and photos, see here: https://goo.gl/photos/dx6F2n5v5gSS4xxF8

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Sermon Sunday 26 February: Is life easy?

This Sunday Norma talked to us about this painful question. She asked us to reflect on.....
  • Is life easy in SA?
  • Is life easy for us, here in Hogsback?
She related personal stories from her childhood when despite her parents severe health challenges , her father still prayed: "Thank you Father, that You are so good to us......."

So how did he manage that?  Matt 7:24-27 give us the answer.

We know storms here on the mountain: broken trees blocking roads, blocking the pass, blocked gutters, hail that destroy gardens, Tyume tributaries flooding their banks, no electricity.....

Jesus tells the story of a house that had been exposed to such a storm where the rain lashed down and the stream rose while the wind blew against the the house. Yet, it did not give way. Why? It was built on a rock......THE ROCK.

This is the secret that Jesus shared with the crowds on the side of the mountain so many years ago. He wants to share this with us this morning. What does He say?
  1.  Build on the rock .......
    Choose your foundation carefully
    Build in good times, while the sun shines and the plaster can dry completely
    In other words: Build in time, don't wait till life becomes difficult, tight, full of worries and anxiety. Build in time.....

  2. Practice daily to withstand hardship
    Doing something over 6 weeks, daily, becomes a natural habit
    If not in practice, hardships will push you over.

Norma shared an anecdote from her personal life: When she was visiting her kids in Denmark last August, Troy, her grandson, got very sick with chickenpox. With his low resistance and immune deficiency, it became an overwhelming infection. As young as he is (3 years old) he asked his father: " Daddy pray for Troy......I am not feeling well"

Because as a family they know where their strength and power lies....in times when life is at its worst, when they are in a critical moment, they know to who & where to turn to.

       3. Stay in touch with the Builder, who maintains everything.....
           walls, roof, Windows foundations


Don't become slack on maintenance. You may think that you have a smart house.....your faith is fine because years ago you gave your life to God......but, it is not enough when the storms come today.

Your maintenance must be in place. Stay in regular touch with the Builder.

Do we choose hardship, suffering, difficult times? Of course not. But why then does God allow these things to happen to us?

Rom. 5: 3 - 4
"....we know that suffering produces perseverance,
perseverance, character
And character hope"

Who is speaking here ? Paul
Does he know what he's referring to? Indeed he does!! He was a man that knows hardship, persecution, suffering .....
  • He was unjustly charged with treason. Acts 18:13
  • Jews tried to dis-credit him...... Acts 21: 28-29
  • He was shipwrecked
  • He was beaten
  • He was imprisoned in Rome
But.....

He had built in time, on the rock.
He had practiced his faith
He was daily in touch with his Builder

Psalm 1:
The tree that is planted next to the stream ( the water source, the life- giving source)
That tree - grew
- bore fruit
- flourished

Whether there were droughts, hail, storms

Are you planted, built.....on a rock? Then even if life is not easy, you will be safe!