Made To Worship

We were made to worship God. That is our purpose above everything else.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says…

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

 When God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden it was perfect and they worshipped Him simply by being in his presence and having a relationship with Him. (Genesis 1:31) However, they were enticed by Satan to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – they wanted to be like God and for their world to centre on themselves. They broke the perfect relationship with God and from them until now, man has sought to replace worship of God, with worship of self – power, money, sex, religion, ambition, human relationships, sport, music, art…the list goes on and on!

We all worship something, because it is a basic human need that God wove into our DNA (Psalm 139:13-14).We worship the things that we spend most of our time, money and energy on, and the things that we get most excited and passionate about. The problem is that we often choose to worship things that have no eternal value and only temporarily satisfy our human desires. Like Adam and Eve, we eat the fruit that tempts us and promises much, but fails to bring fulfilment.

Although the perfect relationship with God was broken in the Garden of Eden, God established a covenant with his people because he wants us to worship him (Exodus 24). He allowed his people to have access to Him through a system that involved keeping commandments, worshipping at the temple and making sacrifices to atone for sin, in order for them to enter into his presence and praise him. This was the pattern throughout the Old Testament, but we also read frequently that above law-keeping, sacrifice and ritual, God desired heart that was devoted to him and a lifestyle that pleased Him. (Hosea 6:6; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11). He desired genuine worship from a place of love and reverence. A good example of this is King David, who had “a heart for God” but also made some monumentally bad decisions, and didn’t always follow God’s commands. Despite this, God blessed him and used his worship to achieve great things. (1 Samuel 13:14)

This old covenant was replaced by the new covenant when Jesus came to earth to demonstrate perfect worship (Hebrews 8). He and the father were in perfect harmony and he made the ultimate sacrifice by dying as a perfectly innocent man and rising to life again to allow us permanent and unconditional access to God. There is nothing we can to do earn God’s love and there is nothing He requires from us, other than to worship Him – not by being religious and following rituals, and not by earning a place in His Kingdom by hard work, nor by achieving a goal or accumulating spiritual credit. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Worship is happening all the time in heaven (Revelation 4), and when we worship here on earth we join in the heavenly realms, praising God and finding purpose and meaning for life, entering into the presence of God and finding that the Holy Spirit has power to bring freedom from our sinful ways. Worship brings breakthrough of God’s Kingdom to earth and brings healing and deliverance from sickness, pain and suffering; worship changes the spiritual atmosphere and is a weapon that we have in the spiritual battle, because God’s presence brings light to dark places and releases people who are captive to fear, addiction, and bondage to evil. (Ephesians 6:10-20). Worship brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control – these are the fruits of God’s spirit and ours to enjoy as we spend time with Him. Who doesn’t want these things! (Galatians 5:22-23) Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit and turned their back on God, but through his incredible grace he allows us to have these fruits instead.

There is no greater thing in life than to worship God and the most amazing thing is that it is completey free. All we have to do is grab hold of the gift and enjoy it because it is what we were made for!


Inconvenient Jesus

Inconvenient Jesus

John 11:45-48

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

This short passage comes just after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. As with most miracles Jesus performed, people believed in him and followed him after he demonstrated his power over sickness, death and demons. Jesus was not drawing attention to himself or creating a spectacle by healing people, but rather was giving glory to God and demonstrating the power of the Kingdom to all who would believe that he was the promised Messiah – God’s son and the one sent to save people from their sins. In fact many times Jesus said these things happened so that the glory of God might be displayed. (John 9:3; John 11:4)

Despite this, the Chief Priests and Pharisees found his ministry highly disruptive. It was an affront to what they considered their God-given authority in spiritual, religious and political matters. They regarded Jesus as a threat to the comfortable position they had engineered for themselves, through establishment of a religious hierarchy amongst the Jews, and the construction of an empire where they were all-powerful, whilst on the other hand acquiescing and compromising to avoid any conflict with their Roman occupiers.

Jesus was a threat to them on these fronts because an uprising against the religious status quo would reveal their hypocisy and jeopardise the freedoms that the Romans afforded the Jews to continue with their way of life. The crazy thing is that Jesus was the promised Messiah that the Jewish nation had been promised for centuries, and yet the leaders couldn’t recognise him even though he was right under their noses!

They held a meeting to discuss the “Jesus problem” and their true motivation for silencing him is very apparent. They don’t discuss whether or not he is the Messiah. They are only interested in whether or not he will interfere with their position and comfort – “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

In other words they are saying “If we don’t keep him quiet the people will follow him and believe what he says. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we won’t relinquish any position or status to this scruffy preacher from Nazareth. We won’t let Jesus turn everything to dust when the Romans get wind of an uprising and take everything away from us.”

Further on in John’s gospel it says that many of the leaders did recognise Jesus teaching and believe in him, but they wouldn’t act on it because it endangered their status in society and their comfortable life:

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. John 12:42-43

In basic terms, Jesus was a massive inconvenience to them and their world order.

It is easy to read this account two thousand years later and deride the Pharisees for their blindness and hypocrisy, but I wonder if we sometimes have the same attitude towards Jesus as the religious leaders of his day. It’s very easy to get comfortable with the status quo of our church life, especially when we are very seldom subjected to persecution for our faith in the UK. The established church and so-called “new church movements” are equally susceptible to protecting an organisation that looks like the church, but where empire building has overshadowed the emphasis on Kingdom building, and where the church structure, name, denomination or brand has become an idol in itself. Are we too concerned about protecting our little piece of “church territory” and fearful of losing all that we have worked for and forsaking all that Jesus wants to do through us. Are church leaders too wrapped up in the status and position of leadership to relinquish control to the Holy Spirit to move in power and shake us out of our slumber? This equally applies to our individual relationships with Jesus – are we just too comfortable to let Jesus in and disrupt everything for the sake of his Kingdom?

Now I’m not suggesting that this is the case for every church family and every individual – far from it. What I am keen to do is pose these uncomfortable questions because if we are in the position of holding tight to our own little domains, we will squeeze the life out of our spiritual walk and the hinder the progress of the church and God’s Kingdom in our sphere. If we don’t leave room for the Spirit to move in HIS church, then it will become something that is unrecognisable as the family of God and will be more akin to a social enterprise at best. If this is the case, God will look elsewhere for people to build His Kingdom – because it will be built! We need to be open to Jesus shaking us out of any stagnation that may have crept in, despite our best intentions, but this will only happen when we are immersed in prayer and the word of God, when we are living in communities formed from radical discipleship, and when we are fully committed to the spread of the gospel no matter what the cost.

Lets not behave like the Chief Priests and Pharisees and treat Jesus as an inconvenience who threatens to take away our earthly securities. Whilst it may be uncomfortable to allow him to challenge and shake us, His way is the only way to build something that is lasting and glorifies God. The Pharisees motives are exposed when they say “what are we accomplishing?” – the emphasis is on the protection of their human efforts and their agenda. The question they should have asked, and we should be asking ourselves is “what is God accomplishing?”

As the Psalmist says: Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

I encourage you to commit this to prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to light any areas where you may be building your own kingdom, rather than God’s.


Keep your eye on the ball

Keep your eye on the ball

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich in London has the oldest surviving time ball in the world. A time ball is an old fashioned but accurate time signalling device. It consists of a large painted wooden or metal ball that is mounted on a tower or high building. At exactly 13:00 the ball drops to signal the time. They were used to signal accurate time to ships and for captains to set their chronometers by. The phrase “keep your eye on the ball” comes from the practice of watching the ball and setting a ships chronometer accordingly, which is essential in determining longitude and navigating successfully. The time ball was an independent, consistent and unchanging source of time by which all passing vessels could reset their time and set a course. Without regularly checking the accuracy of the ships time, the vessel could easily drift off course and miss its destination or run into a difficult and dangerous course.

Hebrews 12:3 says that we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” Like the sailors that set their equipment by the time ball, we need an external source to set our lives by and take our direction from. Left to our own devices we very easily drift off course and find ourselves in troubled waters because we have nothing to help us navigate through life and make the right choices. I know from my own life that when I have taken my eyes off Jesus, stopped reading his word, praying and spending time in his presence, and neglected meeting with fellow believers, I have wandered off course and found myself in difficult circumstances of my own making.

This is not to say that that we won’t face difficulty if we are staying on course with Jesus. In fact, we are promised hardship and persecution if we follow him, but in the midst of those storms and turbulent waters we will not lose our way and end up shipwrecked on the rocks, because we will know and who we are in Christ and have out eyes fixed on our eternal destiny that is beyond this earthly life and any hardship we may face. Just like Jesus who endured the cross, we will be able to endure the storms to receive the ”joy set before us” and “ will not grow weary and lose heart”.

Despite what the world tells us, we are not masters of our own destiny and setting our own path in life and deciding our own destination leads us nowhere. It may seem madness to many to set your life course upon the Jesus, and base your decisions on the teaching of the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Onlookers may consider it very restrictive in a world where tolerance, subjectivity and permissiveness are so dominant, but without an external source against which to check our direction, we will be blown around by the winds of change and end up getting lost, broken on the rocks, or sinking without hope.

As C.S. Lewis says.

“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

Pray that God will help you to fix your eyes upon his son Jesus Christ and keep you from getting lost in the storms that life throws at us.


The Good Father




There are few things as important to understand as the fatherhood of God and I don’t think it is any accident that it comes top of the list in the Apostles Creed. When we grasp what it means for God to be our father – the Bible, the Gospel and life make more sense. I hope that by looking at this more closely we will know in God the father better – not just in our heads, but in our hearts. This is absolutely life-transforming stuff!

Everyone has a father and we will all have different experiences of fatherhood. The mention of the word father may bring to mind a negative experience of a father who was controlling, distant, or absent. Perhaps you had a father who was abusive, violent or addicted.

Being a father is a huge responsibility. No father is perfect but some get it badly wrong and cause permanent damage and pain. You may ask the question “if God is anything like my father, I don’t want anything to do with him.” You may have a wonderful father who you are who did a good job – if that is the case, you have a lot to be thankful for!

Our earthly experiences of Fatherhood can be no reflection on God the Father whether good or bad, because he is so much higher and greater than any earthly father we could ever have.

Whatever our experience of fatherhood, we have a heavenly father who is perfect and as we look at an overview of God the Father as revealed in scripture I hope and pray that we all see something more of his love for us. I also hope that we can be challenged in our relationships with our families, our church, and our communities, in reflecting and sharing the love of the father.

There are five phases of the relationship that God had with his people through History and I want to show how they reveal to us the character of God as our father. It is a whistle-stop tour, but it should give us a context and framework on which to hang our beliefs about our heavenly father. We need to answer the question – What makes God a good father and why should I believe in Him.

To help our understanding I have put our relationship with God into 5 phases:


  • CREATION – The Father’s relationship with the Son and Spirit and God’s design for family and relationship Genesis 1; John 1.
  • SEPARATION – The disruption of the perfect relationship Genesis 3
  • RESTORATION – The restoration of the relationship through Israel (OT) Genesis 12
  • ADOPTION – The restoration of the family through adoption in Jesus (NT)
  • REFLECTION – We become more like the Father



From the moment God created mankind, he intended for us to live in family, male and female and to have children and “increase in number”. The whole story of the Bible is about God creating man to live in community, to be his family – for us to love him, and him to love us. He created us to be like him, as his children

Genesis 1:27-28

 So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number;

The close interwoven type of family relationship wasn’t a new idea to God when he created us. God exists eternally as a triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three “persons” of God exist in perfect harmony with each other, each fulfilling different but important roles within the heavenly community. There is mutual, love respect, honour and joy amongst them and the heavenly beings. Genesis 1;

 John 1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

God created us to live in family on earth and to live in relationship with him as our creator and heavenly father, and as part of the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He made us to share his love and for us to love him in return.

One of the questions often thrown at Christians is “if God knew people would rebel against him and the world would be a mess, why did he create them?” We may well ask the question ourselves – if everything was so perfect, why did God risk ruining it by creating us?

There are lots of complicated answers and theologians and philosophers have grappled with this question for centuries, but the simple answer is that he loves us and he wants a family. He had to give us the freedom to choose to love him, because without that choice any relationship would be not be genuine love. God isn’t a tyrant that wanted to create beings that would do his bidding and he could smite when he gets annoyed at them! He made us to love him and bring glory to him

If someone asked me why I had children when there is a chance they will, rebel and make a mess of their lives, I’d give the same answer – because I love them and I want a family to love and who love me in return. I don’t want to force my children to love me, because that would not be love,

There are no guarantees that my children won’t rebel and will choose to follow Jesus and give their lives to him, because they have a choice. There are no fail-safe parenting methods to ensure that they will stay on the straight and narrow, but that is a risk worth taking, because I want what is best for them and will do anything I can to show them the right way to live. There is something built in to all of us by God that makes us want family and relationship.


The tragedy is that from the very beginning, we have wanted to run away from the security of this relationship. Adam and Eve decided they knew better and as a result, all of mankind was separated from God.

Adam and Eve didn’t act alone though as we know from Genesis 3. They were tempted and led astray by Satan in the form of a serpent. Why did Satan want to disrupt the perfect relationship and this family that God had created?

Satan was the highest of angels but his desire was to be God and to have the power, so he rebelled and was cast out of heaven.

Isaiah 14:12

How you have fallen from heaven,

morning star, son of the dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth,

you who once laid low the nations!

He was the first to be separated from the family of God and he was “orphaned”, through his rebellion

In drawing Adam and Eve into disobeying God, he led them into separation from God as well. Satan’s only goal is to separate us from God. He is the chief “orphan maker”. Of course Adam and Eve had to face the consequences of their sin, and that was to exist outside of God’s family. The relationship was broken because they went outside what God intended for them and what was best for them.

Following the fall in Genesis, mankind lost its way and sin took hold in a big way as people continue to rebel. Relationships fell apart all over the place. Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy, and although some people worshipped God, generally the human population rejected God and did their own thing. God sent the flood to wipe out the wicked people, but saved Noah and repopulated the earth through him. Despite this, people still choose to abandon God and be gods of their own lives. They even decide to build a tower to celebrate their own greatness!

There are those who read the account of the flood and other passages where God wipes out sections of the population out of context. They can appear horrific and give the impression that God is a vindictive, bloodthirsty tyrant. This opens up the issue of God allowing or even causing suffering, and we don’t have time to go into that today.

You can’t take these incidents in isolation, because they are part of a greater plan that God has to save his people and restore a relationship with us. The role of a good father includes disciplining his children, and sometimes doing things that are not desirable in themselves, but ultimately save a child from harm or making a wrong choice.

I don’t enjoy disciplining my children, and I’d much rather they were good all the time, but sometimes it is necessary to deny them something they want and give a suitable punishment so that they learn and develop character. I also can’t force them to do certain things and as they get older they will have to stand on their own two feet. I can point them in the right direction but they have to make their own choices.

The Bible tells the story of God’s people rebelling against him, rejecting a relationship with him, and destroying relationships with each other. The effect of sin in the world is separation from God and broken relationships. Human nature hasn’t changed since then, but we know that God has never given up on us.

This is the sign of a patient and loving father. This is a father who loves us so much that he doesn’t abandon us. Those of you who are parents will know how much love and energy is given to raising children. I don’t think there can be many things more devastating than a child rejecting a parent. As a human race, we have rejected God but he doesn’t give up on us. Although we have orphaned ourselves he still loves us.



In Genesis 12 God picks out Abraham as a man who is trying to follow him amongst many that are completely going their own way.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

 “I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

    and you will be a blessing.

 I will bless those who bless you,

    and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

    will be blessed through you.”

God establishes a covenant with Abraham that he will establish a great nation through him and his descendants. God doesn’t give up on mankind because he made us to have a relationship with him. He chooses the nation of Israel through which to bless all other nations. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of the relationship between the nation of Israel and God. God the father

Teaches – Books of the law – Leviticus ,Numbers, Deuteronomy, Proverbs

Imposes rule and order – Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings, Chronicles

Guides and gives warning – Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

Rejoices and weeps with his children – Psalms, lamentations

Raises up the next generation of leaders– David, Daniel

Protects – Genesis – The Israelites escape from Egypt

Loves – Hosea (despite unfaithfulness)

Disciplines – Amos. Obadiah,

Compasionate – Jonah, Ruth


These are all traits of a good father.

This blessing promised to Abraham is eventually fulfilled through his descendant Jesus who comes to earth to restore the relationship of man and God once and for all.



The Old Testament is not only a History book on the nation of Israel. Running right through it is the salvation plan for us. The Father’s rescue strategy for his people is woven throughout – that is the adoption back into his family, by the redemptive work of Jesus. God the father sent his son to die so that we can ben brought back into the family.

As a father there is nothing that would be more devastating to lose a child. To willingly send my child to die is simply something that I can’t comprehend. God chose to give his son up to death so that we can have a relationship with him. Jesus was blameless and died the death that we deserved. He loves us so much he was willing to make that choice. It was in his plan

Out of love for his children, God sent his Son Jesus to restore what was broken and to reinstate the relationship. God broke his perfect relationship with the Son temporarily, to allow us to be brought back into the family.

That is the gospel! That is the good news! Although we were separated from having a relationship with God, he has made it possible for us to come back to him.

Having turned our backs on God we are adopted back into his family. We were estranged from God, cut off without a father but he makes the first move and reaches out to say “I love you. Come back home. I will adopt you as my own”.

Ephesians 1:5 says he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

It is a constant struggle for us because we still live in an imperfect world and until Christ comes again and creates a new heaven an earth we will continue to live in this tension. Satan is his most destructive when he removes us from a loving family.

His sole aim is to separate us from God and make us orphans because when we are away form the protection of the family, we are vulnerable to the temptations and influences of the world. This is why we need the Holy Spirit to be with us, keeping us close to the father:

Romans 8:14-17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

In this letter to the Romans Paul uses the language of adoption and that would have struck a chord with the readers. In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all the rights of his old family and gained the rights of his new family. He became heir to his new father’s estate. The same is true of our Christian adoption. We leave our old life behind and step into a new family where we are promised to inherit the father’s riches.

We area able to come to the father and call him “Abba”, which is roughly translated “daddy”. This is an intimate term used by Jesus when referring to his father. We have the right to call him this name because we are his beloved children.

The inheritance we stand to receive as children of God is beyond what we can comprehend. We are brought into relationship through the spirit that “testifies with our spirit” and we are co-heirs with Christ. Although there may be short term suffering whilst we wait for the fulfillment of all that we are promised, we will share in the glory!

John Stott sums it up very well:

“To be sure, all human beings are God’s offspring by creation, but we become his reconciled children only by adoption or new birth. Just as it is only those who are indwelt by the Spirit who belong to Christ, so it is only those who are led by the Spirit who are the sons and daughters of God. As such we are granted a specially close, personal, loving relationship with our heavenly father, immediate and bold access to him in prayer, membership for his worldwide family, and nomination as his heirs.”



The relationship with God that is now available to us is an invitation that needs to be accepted. It is a gift that is undeserved but we need to be willing to embrace it. It’s no use having a solution to a problem unless it is implemented, or a cure for an illness unless the remedy is taken. The result of the renewed relationship is that we begin a process of becoming more like Christ.

I’m sure most people, if not everyone, will at some time say something and realise that they sound just like their parents! Those of you that are parents will also have looked at your children and recognized some of your own traits or mannerisms in them – hopefully the good ones! Children generally grow up to be like their parents

The Bible tells us to imitate Christ, to be like him and to reflect him. He is the one by whom we come to God. How do we do this? By the Holy Spirit living and working in us to transform us. The New Testament is littered with references to being transformed into Jesus likeness.

Romans 12 – Be transformed by the renewing of you mind

 2 Corinthinans 5:17- If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation

 Ephesians 5:1 – Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

As we enter into the family of God, and as we spend time with him through prayer and worship and reading his word, and as we walk with him day by day we will change to be more like him. Children imitate their parents because that is how they learn. We imitate Christ, to become more like him and more like God our Father.

And here we come full circle   – God made started creation by making us in his likeness. Having been through the separation, restoration, adoption and reflection, we again become like him and are transformed into his likeness!



Nowhere is the love of the father illustrated better than in the story of the prodigal son. The father has two sons that he loves and are part of his family. The younger son decides that he wants his inheritance early so he can leave the household. He wants to break away and do his own thing.

He asks his father to give him an advance on the inheritance, which the father graciously does, and the son leaves home, only to blow the entire fortune on pleasing himself and having a good time. He wants to be the master of his own life and not subject to constraints imposed by having to live in a community.

The fun is short-lived though because the son soon finds himself penniless and eating pig food to survive. He is separated from his family and he loses his way – He can’t cope without the love and support and the boundaries and restraints that the family structure brings

He returns home, to grovel at his father’s feet and ask if he could work as a servant, but the father out of love for his son and a deep desire to have a his family back together welcomes him with open arms and throws a massive party! In fact the father is looking for the son and runs to meet him!

The son expects to take us a servants position in the household but the father “adopts” him back in the family so that he and enjoy all the benefits of an heir to the inheritance. What a picture of the love of a perfect father!

The story ends there, but I have no doubt that the son was eternally grateful and reflected that in the rest of his life and in the way he treated others from then on. He didn’t deserve to be welcomed back by his father, but that is the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

It is the same for us – we have all turned away from God in some way, and maybe we continue to do so in some areas of our lives. Perhaps there is addiction, or a weakness that keeps pulling us down. The good news is that God welcomes us back with open arms and a love that we cannot imagine, because he loves us and wants us to be part of his family and community


What does this mean for us now?

I think one of the reasons we live in a society that is so far removed from God is that we are so individualistic. Over the last few decades we have been moving further and further away from community and family values. People are far more transient these days and communities don’t exist in the same way as they used to. Our western culture in particular is so “me” focused that we have forgotten how to live in family and this is translated from family life into church life. Satan really has a stranglehold in this regard.

It reflected everywhere and everything is geared toward the individual. Advertising and the media tell you that you’re better off looking after number one, and you should treat yourself because you deserve it. If it isn’t working, throw it away, and try something else.

That also extends into our relationships. Technology isolates us whilst giving the impression that we are more connected that ever. You can have 500 friends of Facebook and talk to people the other side of the world at the touch of a button, but many people are lonely because they don’t have family or community.

We also face a Crisis of fatherhood and the breakdown of families like never before in history. Single parent families and absent fathers are commonplace and there are many here this morning who will know the pain and heartache of the separation of their own families. The reality of life is that relationships breakdown, parents separate and get divorced, children rebel and families hurt each other.

What this world needs is a father. There is so much hurt and brokenness in our lives that we need a place to go for comfort. As a father, the one thing I want for my children is for them to know that they are loved by Ruth and me and, and by God.

God wants us to know that he loves us. He has loved us from the beginning when he put Adam and Eve in the Garden God created us and he knows us better than anyone – Psalm 139 – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

There is nothing you have done that excludes you from relationship with the father. No matter how unworthy you may feel, or how much you may find reason to discount yourself you are welcome into the arms of a loving father. He paid the ransom for you and is waiting for you to come home. He is reaching out his hands and saying to you “come with me my child and I will live and protect you”. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.

He is not an abusive or absent father. He does not expect us to earn his approval, or achieve anything for him. He knows that we get things wrong and we can be selfish, stubborn and impatient but he loves us anyway and he longs for us to come to him. He is a Father of restoration and new life.

He longs to see us coming down the path towards the house so that he can fling open the door and run to embrace us. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past because he is a father who has restored our relationship. He has forgiven us and adopts us back into his family just as we are.

He is a father who cares intimately and deeply for us to the extent that he separated himself from a perfect relationship with Jesus his son to win us back.

Jesus came to lead us to the father. As the flesh and blood of God he came to tell us how much the father loves us and then to demonstrate it in the most incredible way by talking all our rebellion and selfishness on himself. He died and rose again to give us access to God and to restore our relationship by forgiveness.

He is a father who wants to be involved in every area of our lives and give us the help of his Holy Spirit to do this. He is a father who wants to grow and develop so that we reflect him and give the glory to him.

I want to show you a video that is a demostration of the love of God the Father. Meredith is a 19 year old girl who has spent most of her life without a family and moving from home to home. She is taken in by her High School teacher and after a few months of living with them, this is what happens.

That is the love that our father God has for you.

I really hope and pray that God has spoke to your heart this through this. There is something here for us all today because none of us has life sorted out and all of us need a loving father, who accepts us and adopts us. If God has spoken to you then please take some time to respond on your own in prayer, or with someone else. He is a loving father who is longing to hear from you.



Night Vision

Night Vision


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,


“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told



I would love to know what was going through the minds of the shepherds in this account. On another ordinary night out in the fields looking after the sheep, an angel appears out of the darkness. If my mobile phone goes off in a dark room it makes me jump, so an angel making an appearance in a dark field must have been rather petrifying! Luke tells us that they are “terrified”, and rightly so – it’s not an everyday occurrence!

The angel tells them the good news of the birth of their saviour Jesus in the nearby town. After calming their nerves by telling them not to be afraid, the angels give directions for how to find him- there couldn’t have been many babies sleeping in a manger! There is no instruction from the angels that they must go, instead it is more of an invitation – I believe the shepherds always had a choice whether they went to find Jesus.

And then, just in case the shepherds weren’t sufficiently awestruck, a heavenly host appears to praise God, with what I can only imagine was a symphony of music and singing, and brilliant light that would put the most spectacular firework display to shame. It would seem that as quickly as the angles appeared, they went – I bet it took the shepherds a while to get their night vision back and start to absorb what had just occurred.

I find it strange that there is no mention of what happened when they found Jesus, but perhaps this adds to the mystery and sacredness of the event. They were probably some of the very first people to meet Jesus, other than Mary and Joseph. I’d love to know what they said and what they did. I’d also like to know what Mary and Joseph thought of a group of shepherds turning up unannounced to see their baby!

The important thing is that they went to find him, which was really the only possible response after such a mind-blowing announcement – beats a Facebook notification, which is how I’ve told most people about the birth of our children!

Having seen Jesus, they don’t return to the return to the fields unchanged. They “spread the word” about him. They had experience something so incredible they were compelled to tell people about it and they praise and glorify God for it.

I think there is much we can learn from the shepherds…

God chose to announce the birth of his Son and Messiah to them before anyone else, completely demolishing the expectations of the day that the religious leaders and those in positions of power had some divine right and exclusive access to God. No matter how insignificant we may feel, God can and will speak to us, sometimes out of darkness and obscurity. He uses the weak and insignificant things of this world to spread his message and build his Kingdom.

God never forces us to do anything. He is a loving father wants what is best for us, by coming to know him through his son Jesus, but he gives us the choice. We either accept the invitation to be in relationship with him, or we reject him and go our own way. The shepherds could have stayed in the fields if they had really wanted to, but they saw the glory of God and they couldn’t ignore the good news that the Messiah, the saviour of the world had arrived. If we really allow God to reveal himself to us and we are open to the work of his spirit in our lives, we will urgently seek him every day, just as the shepherds hurried to find Jesus in the manger.

Having seen Jesus, the shepherds had two responses. Firstly, they spread the word about him. There was no way that they could have kept such amazing news to themselves…was there? We have the same saviour, the same God, the same message of hope and yet we are often reticent to share it with others. Why is this? Perhaps it is a cultural conservatism, fear of appearing superstitious or “religious”, lack of confidence and faith?

Secondly, they returned glorifying and praising God. An encounter with Jesus should inevitably lead to worship and adoration. By making space and time to be in the presence of God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and by soaking in the vastness of his love communicated through the scriptures, we should be moved to praise and deepen in our love for Jesus. When we return to our own “fields” – the places where life happens at work, home, with friends and family and where we go through the highs and lows, the rough and smooth – we will have the attitude of praise and the joy, hope and peace that comes from knowing the living God.

Happy Christmas!

Bless you!

Bless you!

The beatitudes are one of the best-known sections of scripture and they encapsulate Jesus teaching in a few short statements. They form part of the Sermon on the Mount and set the tone for the rest of Jesus ministry.


1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled,

We are only looking at the first four beatitudes here and these describe the Christian’s relationship to God. The second four describe a Christian’s relationship and duties to his fellow man. There are three main things we will cover this morning and I hope that as we look at these beatitudes we can see how these are woven into them.

  • What it means to be blessed and how the beatitudes completely turn our human perspective and priorities of life upside down.
  • How Jesus demonstrated each of these beatitudes through his life, ministry, death and resurrection, and the huge implications this has for our understanding of God ‘s salvation plan and the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • How these simple, yet profound statements, when taken as more than simply good and moral principles, are radical, counter-cultural and life-changing.


What is blessing?

We use the word all the time and it is part of our Christian vocabulary, but do we every think about what is really means?

When we pray we often say “Lord, please bless ____ as they step into the next phase of life / Lord bless our time together / Lord Bless our church”

We can also use it in conversation to talk about what God is doing in our lives

“ feel so blessed to have found this new job/house/friendship/spiritual gift/talent”

What are we referring to when we use the word? Do we have a good understanding of what we are saying, or is it just a nice Christian thing to say?



….happiness – The Greek word used here is “makarios” which is translated “happy”. However, our English word happy doesn’t convey the true meaning behind the beatitudes and the best match is blessed. It is misleading to read the beatitudes as “happy are those…” because happiness is a changeable emotion.

John Stott says “it is seriously misleading to render makarios “happy”. For happiness is a subjective state, whereas Jesus is making an objective judgement about these people. He is declaring not what they may feel like, but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are: they are blessed”

….health, wealth and prosperity

Blessing is not, as the prosperity Gospel preaches, a comfortable life where everything goes well for you. There is a real danger that we can get led into thinking and believing that if we are not rich and successful then we are not blessed.

Conversely we can also believe that if we are free from pain and suffering then we are blessed.

THIS IS WRONG!!! The bible very clearly says that if you choose to be a disciple for Christ you will suffer -it is not a path to financial comfort and material gain!

1 Timothy 6:6-9 “ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”

There is nothing wrong with being healthy, wealthy or successful, and God does give us these things to enjoy and to use – but these things are not a measure of how blessed we are. If anything they can be a burden to us.

For example – When I buy my children presents it is because I love them and want to demonstrate my love and see the joy on their faces. But the real blessing is the gift of my love and the relationship I am building with them. They wouldn’t be any less “blessed” if I didn’t give them presents, they’d just have fewer toys! The important thing is my love for them, because that will outlast any gift I can give.

We can create a culture of “blessing” where our money, possessions, circumstances can be seen as a “reward” from God for good behaviour. The beatitudes refute any notion that blessing comes in the form of material gain. In fact, as we shall see when we look at them in more detail, they give us a very clear idea of what blessing entails.



…to be in right relationship with God or as John Stott puts it “to have the approval of God and to find fulfilment as a human being”. It is God moving to restore new life and forgiveness that comes through faith in Christ. It is the glimpse of the Kingdom of God, coming now in part and one day coming in full, when all will be restored. Material blessings are temporary, but spiritual blessings are eternal.

Lets look more closely at the individual beatitudes and we’ll discover more about God’s blessing.

The beatitudes outline Jesus’ specification for the Christian disciple. There is no option of leaving a few out because we don’t like them. You cannot choose to only be merciful, or meek, or a peacemaker and it is our responsibility to seek them all.

They do not describe what we are to do, but who we are -our character. They are not pre-requisites to enter the kingdom of God, unlike applying for a job where you have to meet a certain skill set or have certain qualities to be accepted, because we are accepted by the grace of God despite our failings.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This is the first beatitude and the one that underpins all the rest. It is the starting point to having a relationship with God. To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty and that there is nothing we can do to find our own salvation.

It is very difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. I have seen this countless times through my work. I have encountered people who are is desperate and dangerous situations due to domestic violence, but will not accept help because they think that they can handle the situation on their own. I have dealt with people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, but will not acknowledge that they have a problem and need support and guidance. Only when people see their lives for what they are and their hearts are softened will they accept help.

To be poor in spirit is the opposite of pride that says “I’m ok and I can do it myself”. It is only when we admit that we can’t do it by ourselves and come to God open handed and open hearted, that he can fill us with his spirit and bless us.

When we first come to know Jesus and accept his salvation it is because we recognise the need we have to be rescued from our own sinfulness. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there. It should be a continual process of humbling ourselves and surrendering our pride and selfish desires because it is very easy to revert to our default setting of doing it our own way. It is important to remember that this is not done in our own strength. Only though prayer and repentance through the work of the Holy Spirit can we be changed.

The prevailing attitude of the world towards those who have low self esteem is “Don’t put yourself down. You are somebody. You need to believe in yourself. Have confidence in you own abilities and you can achieve anything”

This may seem like good advice on the face of it, but it is not God’s way. When Moses was paralysed by fear at facing pharaoh God said to him “don’t look at your own abilities, look to me and I will help you”. The biblical answer to low-self esteem is not a boost of self-esteem, it is sovereign grace!

Right through the Bible God uses people who acknowledge their spiritual poverty and acknowledge their unworthiness and spiritual inadequacy – Moses, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul… the list goes on!

This verse has nothing to do with being physically poor. You can be a millionaire or a homeless and living rough, and still be poor in spirit. It is an attitude of the heart. Some have tried to suggest that Jesus was saying “blessed in spirit are the poor” but nowhere in scripture does it suggest that poverty is a good thing.

It is often in our times of greatest suffering and hardship that we find God. Sometimes God uses our difficult circumstances to bring us to a place of total dependence on him. It is not pleasant to have painful experiences and endure pain and suffering, but when we look back on these times they are often the most significant times of spiritual growth because it is only when we are emptied of ourselves that we can make space for God. As long as we are self-sufficient and self-reliant it will be very difficult rely on God.

John Piper says – “you may be going through things right now that are painfully preparing you for some precious service for Jesus and his people. When a person strikes rock bottom with a sense of nothingness or helplessness, he may find that he has struck the Rock of Ages”

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor and he spent most of his time with those who acknowledged their spiritual poverty and need for salvation. Tax collectors, fisherman, lepers, prostitutes and criminals.

Jesus himself knew what it was to be poor in spirit. Not long before he preached this message, he spent forty days in the wilderness and was tested and tempted by Satan. At the end of his ministry he went to the cross and endured a horrible death to allow us access into the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 8:9 says “For you know that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich yet for your sake became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich”

The blessing that comes to those who are poor in spirit is the knowledge that we are saved from death and can be members of the Kingdom of Heaven. We don’t deserve this – it is a gift, but in order receive it, we need to let go of what we are currently holding on to.

You may ask “ok, but what is so great about having the kingdom of heaven?”

We only have a glimpse of the benefits of kingdom now, but one day we will fully experience them. God didn’t intend for the world to be in the state it is in. He created a perfect world free from suffering, pain, disease and oppression. Our human pride and selfishness fractured the relationship we had with him at creation and through Jesus he as brought about restoration.

We can now look forward to a time when everything will be made new, when we will have no more sickness and death, no more suffering and injustice. One day God will make a new heaven and earth and we will live once again in perfect harmony with him and each other. I’d say that sounds like a pretty good blessing!

It’s not just a future blessing though. God promises that when we come to him for help he will be with us here and now. He will sustain us and give us everything we need. He will be with us through every situation and carry us through the rough and the smooth.


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

The beatitudes reveal a spiritual progression and they all link together. Having realised our spiritual poverty and come to God in a state of dependence, we move to a position of sorrow and mourning over the sin of the world and the terrible consequences of turning away from God.

When we think of the word mourning, we automatically think of death and bereavement. When we lose a loved one we mourn for them because they are gone from this world and we miss them. We feel sorrow because we can’t share our lives with them and we miss them being around. We linger on thoughts of what could have been if they were still here with us.

This is exactly the mourning that Jesus is referring to, but it’s much broader than having sadness for those who have died. Jesus wept over the sin of the world and the bitter consequences of judgement and death. (Luke 19:41)

Jesus himself knew sorrow and the pain of mourning. When his friend Lazarus died he wept bitterly. He wept in the garden of Gethsemane because of his impending death and separation from the father. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3)

Part of the process of being a disciple is mourning the loss of our innocence and righteousness. Having sorrow over the state of our lives when we stray from the life that God intends us to have. I think sometimes we make a big deal of God’s grace to cover over our sins – which is right – but we take that too lightly and forget the gravity of our sins. When we see our sin for what it is, compared to the glory and majesty of God, it should bring us to our knees in prayer and humility before God.

We can fall into the mindset sometimes that as Christians we should always be happy and joyful and be skipping about with a grin on our faces. There are times when we do, and this is brilliant -we should be filled with joy. However, it is also ok to lament and be moved to tears and be upset.

We will continue to experience sorrow and mourning until the Kingdom of God is made complete. It is good to feel “divine discontent”, because it shows that we are engaged with the world but we know that it is not as it should be. This should move us to pray and seek God for his will and his intervention where we see the needs around us.

It is not just our own sin that we should mourn over. When we look at the world the world around us, we should be moved to weep over those who are lost and hurting.

Jesus says that those who mourn will be blessed with comfort, but how does this comfort make a difference to us?

We are comforted by holding to the hope that there is more to life than we experience here and now. It is always easier to bear suffering if there is an end in sight. We know that God’s kingdom is breaking though here and now, and we experience God in our everyday lives through his spirit. Lives are being changed everyday by the power of Jesus. People are being healed, relationships restored, relief brought to desperate situations.

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”

The blessing we receive is also a blessing we can pass on. Time of trouble and hardship are not necessarily a blessing in themselves, we can give and receive blessing through them.

We can see this everywhere we look. Churches are meeting the needs of this country in a way that the government and other institutions cannot. In this time of austerity Christians are stepping up to support those in need, driven by their compassion for those who are in poverty. Soup kitchens, food banks, financial support, counselling are all in full swing up and down the country. This is the gospel in action.

Beyond our borders there are also countless Christians working tirelessly to bring hope and comfort to those affected by poverty, natural disasters and oppression. They are living out the gospel in the way that Jesus demonstrated.

In serving others we invariably find comfort for our own struggles and fulfill the deep desire that should be in every disciple to serve others and spread the Kingdom of God.


Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

This is possibly the most misunderstood beatitude. Meekness in our society is seen as weakness and lack of confidence. To many this would probably sum up Christians quite well -shy and submissive church mice, who are afraid of their own shadow and can be walked all over. Many also think of Jesus as “meek and mild” -a helpless baby, or a slightly effeminate, long-haired bloke that wore a long white dress!

On the surface it seems strange that Jesus would choose this character trait as something to be desired.

What is meekness?

Martin Lloyd-Jones describes it like this “meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing an attitude and conduct with respect to oneself. The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as they do” 

It means that we are gentle, humble, sensitive, patient in all our dealings with others. That’s a massive challenge and we need constant help from God to transform us from our default selfishness into people that demonstrate these qualities. They are very similar to the fruits of the spirit and character traits that need to be developed and nurtured with self-control, discipline and staying close to God to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.

Meekness is our attitude towards ourselves in the light of the previous two beatitudes. Having acknowledged our spiritual poverty and mourned for our sinfulness we realize that we need to depend on God for everything and we come to him with humility.

We cannot rely on our own efforts for spiritual blessing and we don’t have to fight and trample over others to get ahead and succeed. The blessing promised here is also surprising -they will inherit the earth! You would expect the meek to get nowhere because everybody ignores them and they get walked over.

It is the opposite of the worldview that springs from secular thinking and evolutionary theory -it is not survival of the fittest! It is not the toughest, strongest, dominant who succeed. It is those who are meek who are blessed.

Meekness is not weakness! Meekness is confidence in Christ and all that he has achieved for us. Meekness is such a rich and beautiful thing it is difficult to fully explore it here, but I’ll give you a few aspects as an overview –


Meek people commit their way to God and trust him to sustain them through the obstacles and pressure of life.


  • Meek people have a steady calm that comes from knowing God
  • Meek people are unconcerned when the wicked prosper and seem to have the upper hand and do not give into anger and resentment
  • Meek people do not seek anger and revenge and leave judgement and vindication in God’s hands.
  • Meek people are slow to speak and quick to listen
  • Meek people are teachable and discerning
  • Meek people do not lack passion and conviction, but are able to remain calm and stand up for truth in the face of adversity.

Do you recognise these traits? They are the very things that Jesus demonstrated whilst on earth!

Meekness goes against the grain because it leaves us open and vulnerable, and instead of fighting our own corner, we have to rely on God to vindicate and defend us.

I see it like this -we have been promised an eternal inheritance and everything that the father has is ours. There is nothing the world can offer us and nothing that man can achieve that is greater than what God has already promised us. We need to have confidence in this and what God thinks of us, not what the world thinks of us.


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled

This is the last beatitude we will look at this morning. So far we have seen how being poor in spirit leads us to mourn for our sin and the state of the world, which in turn creates in us an attitude of meekness. Theses three things lead us to have a hunger and thirst for righteousness. We should have a spiritual appetite for change in the world and put these things into practice.

This appetite is only possible if we are hungry, and we can only be hungry if we are not filled with other things. If our lives are too full and busy with our own efforts to succeed and if we are filling our time and using our energy to work out our own righteousness, we will have no appetite for what Christ has to offer.

This short story illustrates the point well:

There was once a man lost in a desert. He was dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old, weather-beaten shack. Sat down in the shade of the shack to get away from the heat of the desert sun. About 15 feet away there was a rusty, old water pump. He dragged himself over to it and began to pump up and down, up and down. Nothing! Bone dry!

Disappointed he sank to the ground. As he glanced around he noticed an old jug in a corner with a message written on the old label. ”You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug, my friend. P. S.: Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.”

He unscrewed the cap and sure enough there was a jug full of water. Now he was faced with a decision. He could drink the water and survive awhile; OR he could pour all the water into the rusty old pump, and maybe it would yield fresh, cool water from the deep well. He could have all the water he wanted.

What should he do? There was no telling how long ago those instructions were written.

Nervously he picked up the jug and walked over to the well and poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle of the pump and began to pump as fast as he could. . . squeak, squeak, squeak the old leather valves sounded like they were tearing apart. Then a little bit of water began to dribble out, then a little more water, and finally it gushed forth. Clean, clear, cold, fresh water poured out the rust old pump. He drank and almost drowned himself in the beautiful, clear water.

Then he filled the jug for the next weary traveller. Before setting the jug down he added this note: ”Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”

Jesus promises to give us the water of life that satisfies, but we need to surrender to him first and give up our own agenda and rights before he can fill us. He promises to fill us to overflowing with his living water

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 he says to her “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”



How does this work out in our lives?

Jesus top priority for us is that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Everything else will follow! It is not a legalistic piety that leads to righteousness. It is being filled with the Holy Spirit and being transformed so that we are becoming more Christ-like.

We are called to bear witness to God’s righteousness is every area of our lives. In practice that means having integrity with our finances and tax returns, standing up for Justice and equality in the workplace, honouring our husbands and wives, teaching our children how to live according to God’s word, helping the poor and needy -whether that be on our doorstep or the other side of the world.

Just like with the other spiritual characteristics, they are perpetual and part of an ongoing process. Just like eating food, we will be temporarily satisfied by eating breakfast, but we still need lunch and dinner. We will only be truly satisfied when we reach heaven because. For now we live in an imperfect world and that should move us to hunger and thirst for justice and mercy, which are integral to righteousness.

Philip Greenslade says – “Disciples are those who long for God to be all in all, who pray for God’s heavenly will to be done on earth’s stage, who are learning to want what God wants and to feel what God feels. Followers of Jesus are those whose deepest hunger and thirst can never be satisfied by anything less than God’s Kingdom because they have read the menu, tasted the hors d’oeuvres and now long for the final feast.”



The Beatitudes are paradoxical and counter-cultural. They completely turn the world’s priorities upside down, where the poor, sorrowful, meek and hungry are blessed. They preach a message of the first being last, and the last being first.

They encapsulate Jesus teaching and ministry and in a few short sentences sum up what it is to be a disciple of a God who has abundant blessing in store for those who recognise that they are in desperate need of salvation and restoration.

They are not intended to beat us over the head and set an impossible spiritual standard that we can never achieve. They describe the life that we are called to live so that we participate in the Kingdom of God and reap the reward that God has in store. Jesus describes radical discipleship, but it needs to be radical because the alternative is death and separation from God forever!

Like the man that found treasure buried in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field, it takes sacrifice and the cost is high, but there is no greater way to live and no greater inheritance to be gained!

We only see a fraction of the blessing now and although at times it may be painful to follow this teaching, one day we will see the blessing in full.

The beatitudes show is that blessing doesn’t come in the form of living standards, wealth or prosperity. True blessing is knowing a God who gives hope to the hopeless; who loves the unlovable; who comforts those who mourn, who feeds those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, no matter what the cost.

God blesses us by enabling us not only to experience this through our heavenly father, but he also imparts these qualities in us so that we may bless others. Our response to this should always be “Lord, change me to be more like you and use me to bless others as I have been blessed that your kingdom may come on earth as in heaven”

Jesus wants you to come to him just as you are so that he can bless you with a deeper relationship with him and the promise of being a member of his heavenly kingdom.

There are stages of our spiritual journey described in the beatitudes and wherever we find ourselves on this journey this morning, there is both challenge and encouragement that we can take.


  • You may feel spiritually poor and empty – This is a good starting place! Come before God and acknowledge your poverty and spiritual dependance. He will show you the Kingdom of Heaven and give you the blessing that comes from a hope of a certain future
  • You may be filled with sorrow and mourning, either for state of your own heart or in the life or others – Bring your brokenness to Jesus and he will comfort you, and enable you to comfort others. No matter how low your opinion is of yourself, he will welcome you with open arms.
  • Maybe you are struggling with being meek – Perhaps you feel weak or have realised that you have been fighting your own battles and need to give them to God. Allow God to develop in you an attitude of meekness and give you confidence. He will give you the inheritance he has promised.
  • You may find yourself thirsty and hungry righteousness but your life is too full of other things that crowd Jesus out. Come to Jesus with open hearts and hands and he will fill you to overflowing with his living water.



Final Destination


Have you ever booked a holiday without any idea of where you are going, or without doing some research on the internet, speaking to a travel agent or reading a Lonely Planet guide? It just wouldn’t make sense, because you need to know which airport to go to, what kind of clothes to pack, how much money to take, and what to expect when you arrive. You need something to look forward to!

Many people go through life without any idea of where they are going when they leave this world, and have not given the matter any serious consideration. Many people hold that this is all there is. This is the only life we have and after death we cease to be – there is no final destination!
To live my life as though there was nothing else beyond the grave would drive me mad and lead me into depression. It would be like having to work every day of the year without any breaks, holidays, payslip or pension to look forward to. We are designed to look forward to the future and have hope that there is something better on the horizon.
We have a in-built sense of purpose and destiny, and everyone has a deep longing for something more – it’s what keep us going and the reason we get out of bed every day. It is very easy to fulfill this desire with short-term dreams and goals such as holidays, a better car, a bigger house, finding a spouse, having kids – and there is nothing wrong with these things! – but they are limited by our time here on this earth and are only temporary.
The bible says that God has prepared a place for us when we die and leave this world. We have an open invitation to spend eternity in a new world. John’s gospel (chapter 14) describes it as “the Father’s house”…
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
And 1 Peter 1 says that we have an inheritance that cannot be destroyed…
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you
The message of the Bible and reason Jesus lived, died and was raised to life, is to give us something to look forward to. We have a free boarding pass to allow us access to the holiday of a lifetime – an eternal lifetime! All that is required on our part is to accept it and acknowledge that this nothing we can do to get there on our own. Jesus has already paid for it and wants us to accept the invitation. What could be more exciting and give us more hope than to know that after this life, which can be so full of struggle and hardship, we will be heading to a destination where there’s no more suffering and we can live forever in a new world.
1 Corinthians 4 sums it up perfectly…
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Wherever you are in your relationship with God and your understanding of the Bible, I encourage you to spend some time this exploring the best “travel guide” you will ever find about your life journey. It really is life changing to know where you are going when you die. It will happen to us all, but that is no reason to be depressed because there is a promise of the most incredible final destination. Having this to look forward to gives us hope and a reason to live life to the full!

The Costly Cross


Having watched “The Passion of the Christ” last night, I was struck again by the brutality of Jesus’ death on the cross. It is all too easy to become over familiar with the account of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and there is a danger that we can lose the awe and wonder at the pain and suffering that was endured on our behalf.

We sanitise the crucifixion account for our young children, but sometimes we carry this cartoon depiction into adulthood. Jesus’ death was not a neat and tidy affair. His beatings were horrific and torturous and his trial was fixed and biased to the extreme. The taunts, denials and abuse he received were piercing – and all these things before he even got to the cross!

The cross is the symbol of Christianity but it is almost always produced in shiny metal to be hung on a neck chain, or carefully crafted by a carpenter, planed and varnished to be mounted at perfect right-angles at the front of a church. Whilst it is good to have the cross as a reminder of what Jesus achieved for us, it is important to remember that Jesus died on a rough piece of wood,that had probably been used for previous crucifixions. It would have been heavy, bloodstained, covered in splinters and hideously uncomfortable. The nails that held him to the cross would have been thick and rusty; the rope that bound him, rough and chaffing; the crown of thorns, razor sharp; the hill at Golgotha was dusty, hot and hostile.

If you think this is all a bit graphic and gruesome, you’re right! That’s exactly what it is! Jesus death was unimaginably terrible, but why do we need to know about the gory details? It helps us to understand what Christ endured for our sake. It shows us that Jesus suffered and identifies with our suffering. It removes any illusion that the Easter account is a fairy story for children. It reminds us that although Jesus had the power to silence the Sanhedrin, and to climb down from the cross, he humbled himself and volunteered to walk this path.

All of this brings us to our knees in gratitude to our father in heaven, who gave his son as a sacrifice to release us from the consequences of our sin – death and separation from God. Jesus resurrection three days later is even more miraculous when understood in the light of the brutality and apparent finality of his death.

This Easter, spend some time thinking about the reality of the cross and ask God to renew the wonder and awe at how costly Jesus death was.

Keep calm and pray always!

Philippians 4:6-7– Keep calm and pray…always!


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There is something very antagonistic about being told to “calm down” when you feel angry, annoyed, or anxious. This short phrase tends to have the opposite effect on me when I’m feeling stressed – and I suspect most other people –and I tend to respond with a short, sharp “I AM CALM!” on a good day, and perhaps something less polite on a bad day!

This bible passage starts with the command to “rejoice in the Lord always” and “not be anxious about anything”, which can elicit a similar response to being told to “calm down”, especially when our lives can be consumed by stress and worry.

How can we rejoice and not be anxious when it feels like the world is falling apart around us?

Paul’s instruction to “rejoice” is not empty words of advice, or a head-in-the-sand type of approach where “everything will work out in the end if you keep your chin up”. He is not telling us to be “happy” either. Happiness is not the same as joy. You cannot be happy when you are suffering, but you can have joy.

Happiness is a fleeting emotion and joy is a deep seated contentedness and confidence in the love God has for you. God doesn’t promise happiness to those who follow Christ, but he does promise peace and joy.

Paul says that the way to deal with anxiety is to pray.

“…but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”

Notice that there are three components to prayer in this verse. Prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.

PRAYER – Paul is talking about entering into the presence of God and filling our hearts and minds with Him. We are to soak our minds in God’s presence which is why he says “in everything”. We should be so in tune with God through prayer that every aspect of our lives can be brought to him in a continual conversation through the Holy Spirit.

Bringing ourselves before God helps us to refocus and get perspective. Freedom and release from anxiety comes when we spend more time thinking about who God is, rather than how big our problems are.

When we spend time in the presence of God we realise our sinfulness and are brought to a place of repentance. When we hold onto worry, we are saying to God that he is not big enough to deal with our sins. This is why he commands us not to worry and is so eager for us to deal with it.

PETITION – This is the aspect of prayer where we make our requests know to God. This isn’t a shopping list of wants that we submit like our monthly expenses claim, but an earnest seeking of God for answers to things that are on our hearts.

Having come to God in adoration and worship, our requests should be more in line with his heart and his will for us, because frivolous and selfish requests will be shown for what they are. When we pray and ask God for things that are in line with his nature and will for our lives, amazing things happen.

We need to learn patience and perseverance in prayer, especially in an age where everything is instant. We need to wait on God for his timing and the answers to our prayers. He very rarely does things to our timescale and we mustn’t worry when we think he hasn’t heard our petitions, or is not giving us what we think we need.

THANKSGIVING – If we are not careful we can fall into the habit of always asking but never showing gratitude.

If we are coming to God with an attitude of worship and adoration, this should flow naturally out of our prayer life, because we will be in awe of all he has done for us.

Thanks needs to be made as you make the request. It is not simply gratitude for the prayer that he answered last week. It is a prayer of trust and thanking God for what he is going to do, and thanking God for what he has done through Jesus.

A thread that runs through all these aspects of prayer is obedience. These instructions are not suggestions – they are commands and are quite specific. Rejoice, pray, do not be anxious. This process begins with obedience and when we follow these commands, we will find peace in God.

What is the result of this prayerful approach?

When we come to God with our anxiety and worries, prayerfully presenting our requests to him we with thanksgiving we will have “the peace of God which transcends all understanding”

“TRANSCEND” – means “to be or go beyond the range or limit of something” God’s peace is far bigger and better than anything we can grasp or image. When we give our worries over to him in this way he overcomes our anxiety and “guards our hearts and minds”

It is filling your heart and mind with the truth of the Gospel in Christ Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work.

THIS IS THE KEY – “IN CHRIST JESUS” Without Jesus, we cannot have this relationship with God and find peace. If we look back at Genesis and the account of Adam and Eve, they broke the perfect relationship and peace that they had with God, by ignoring his instructions not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The perfect relationship of peace was broken, but Jesus restored this on the cross. We now have access to God through the sacrifice of Jesus and the Holy Spirit living and working in us.

The night before Jesus was crucified he said to his disciples:

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”

He was about to be put through an agonising torture and death and yet he was able to speak about peace in the midst of his turmoil. Matthew 26:38 says that Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. His anxiety was so great that he sweated blood! He prayed in his hour of greatest need (John 17) and presented his requests to the father.

He identified with our anxiety and gave up his perfect peace, by allowing himself to be separated from His father, taking on the sin of the world so that we might have everlasting peace.

That is the astonishing message of the gospel of peace! Although we still live in a world where we face anxiety and worry, we can have confidence that if we stay close to God and walk in step with him, we will have peace and joy.

Anxiety can cripple us and be a huge barrier to peace and joy if we don’t allow God to deal with it. Take a step of faith in dealing with any anxiety or worry that you may be carrying with you. God doesn’t want you to be anxious, so bring you worries to him in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. If you are obedient to this advice your hearts and minds will be guarded in Christ Jesus and you will find peace that transcends understanding.



Self-preservation Society

Self-preservation society

Genesis 3

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”


The essence of sin is to put human judgement above divine command. This has been the case since Adam and Eve first disobeyed the single instruction God gave them. The fallen human condition began right there and set the precedent for all sin, for all time. The desire to be like God and have his knowledge and power was too much to resist, despite the warning that they would die. They had encouragement along the way by Satan in the form of a serpent who distorted the truth, but they always had a choice.

The immediate effect of the departure from God’s guidance was that they felt shame. Their newly acquired knowledge showed them that they were naked and they covered their bodies in a desperate attempt to preserve dignity and save face. I imagine that Adam and Eve would have been hoping that God didn’t notice their transgression, rather like my two boys who hide behind the sofa when they’ve been naughty. Despite his question, God knows where they are and what they have done – he is omniscient after all!

Instead of admitting his sin, Adam stalls by saying that he was ashamed because he was naked, so he hid. The only reason he knows he is naked is because he ate the fruit, and when God presses him on the matter he immediately points the finger at his wife! Again, like my boys who often respond with head bowed and finger pointed – “he told me to do it!” In fact Adam indirectly blames God – “the woman YOU put here gave me the fruit, so I ate it”. God then turns his attention to Eve. Her response is very similar and she blames the serpent!

The consequences of their sin are then outlined by God and can be read in Genesis. (They do not die immediately as the reader might assume they would. I don’t propose to cover this matter in this blog, but a good explanation can be found here: )

Our response to sin is no different to Adam and Eve, or my children for that matter! Our first response, once we realise we’ve done something wrong is to stall, deflect blame or hide. When we engage in premeditated sin, these things are often done in preparation for the act. All these actions are employed for self-preservation. We don’t want to be found out, admit that we were wrong, or deal with the consequences. Like Adam and Eve we feel shame and make efforts to cover up our vulnerability. Everywhere you look in life, humankind is trying to cover up for sins of the past, present and future. There are fresh scandals in the news every day, where people from every strata of society cover up for wrongdoing. This creates scandal and outrage, but we all do it to some extent because we are only human!

We can’t hide from God. He sees everything that we do and he knows what we are thinking. That can be a terrifying thought and without Jesus, it would be. The good news is that although we are subject to our human nature, we are selfish and have a proclivity towards self-preservation, our sin has already been accounted for. Centuries after our relationship with God was broken, Jesus came and gave his life as a cover for our sin and to restore our access to God. We don’t need to atone for own sin by making sacrifices, and we don’t done need to hide away from them. We don’t need to point the finger of blame because he has taken all the blame. We may have to face earthly consequences for our actions, but our eternal salvation is assured so long as we admit our failings, bring our sin into the open, and confess it to God.

Jesus is the only person in history with the right to self-preservation, but he surrendered this on the cross so that we could be free to live without the burden sin, and the oppressive need to cover it up. As Jesus said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:25-26.

Self-preservation may provide short-term benefits but the price will be the forfeiture of our souls. We must be willing to take up our cross and follow Him as self-preservation only leads to self-destruction. Pray that Jesus helps you to do this so that you can be free from sin, by the power of His spirit and for His glory.

(I’m sorry to disappoint you if you were expecting a reference to “The Italian Job” movie. I only borrowed the title from the soundtrack as it was quite apt!)