John continues our Building One Another Up series by talking about challenging and forgiving each other.
At the beginning of the year I started a sermon series called Attractive Christianity. What got me going was reading Acts 5 vs 12-14. It talks about all the believers meeting together, but ‘none of the rest dared join them.’ That’s fine until you look at verse 14,
And more that ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.
What’s going on here? Something is turning these people around. They want to walk away but find themselves joining in.
The words between these two phrases help us understand what’s going on. We know that God is involved in all this but He has decided to have agents on the ground. Luke tells us that
the people ( the ones that wanted to walk away) held them (the believers) in high esteem
That seems to have had an amazing effect on the population of Jerusalem. In front of their eyes God’s promises were being worked out in ordinary, very visible people. My goodness, how our community needs to see that today. This is not a time for us to hide behind our Church walls but get out and live it with all our might.
I was lucky enough this week to hear about the work that the Holy Spirit is doing among the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Those who convert from Islam to Christianity do so in the face of severe persecution. Labelled apostates by the Taliban their lives are forfeit, and they often have to leave behind family, communities and possessions. Martyrdom is a daily reality, and yet God is moving powerfully among them.
There are 49 million Pashtuns in the world (30 million are in Pakistan), yet they are one of the most unreached people groups for the gospel. In their culture to be Pashtun is to be Muslim, so choosing to accept Jesus means breaking this connection. However over the last decade thousands have been called out of Islam into the truth. Even among the Taliban God has been bringing some into the light.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Rev 12 v 11
For the moment this all has to be done secretly, becoming a Christian means you are no longer safe where you are. They have to be moved to other parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or into Iran. Any property they have has to be left, taking what they can carry they become refugees overnight.
Mountain Spring Ministries is a Pashtun led organisation that is supporting, training and encouraging Christians and seekers among the Pashtun.
They have asked for the following to be prayed for
First of all I am not going to tell you who you should vote for, that’s up to you to decide. However I do have some suggestions about how to choose and why you should vote.
Peter in his first letter tells us:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor. – 1 Peter 2 v 13-17
He was living in a time where there was no real democracy – the Emperor’s power was supreme, he selected the governors and other public officials.The people prospered under good Emperors and suffered under bad ones
And Yet Paul tell us that these authorities are placed there by God:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. – Romans 13 v 1
Even though those in government persecuted Christians and made life difficult for them, they were to be the best of citizens; to pay taxes (even the ones they didn’t agree with), to honour the Emperor, to:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. – Titus 3 v 1-2
So like those early Christians we must be enthusiastic citizens our our country, wisely taking part in the choosing of those who will lead the country. But being careful not to put our reliance on candidates who promise more than they can provide, our hope is in Jesus not man.
Despite what the writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be advising :-), there is no party a Christian should vote for over the others.
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. – Ecclesiastes 10:2
However we do need to weigh up what the person standing says and does and what their party stands for. When Moses was starting the Hebrew state from scratch after their escape from Egypt he was told to:
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. – Exodus 18 v 12
We want to choose people who will help the area, are people of good character and will govern/lead in a righteous way rather than a wicked way.
Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ – Deuteronomy 1 v 13
Finally whoever is elected, all Christians need to honour them and support them in prayer, being careful what we say about them.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. – 1 Timothy 2 v 1-2
We are very fortunate in the UK to be relatively well off. As Christians God blesses us with resources not just for us, but for us to share with others. It is his preferred way to bless people.
The Hebrews in the Old Testament were told many times to help the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow.
In the New Testament Jesus and the later letter writers like Paul, emphasised that good works don’t lead to our salvation but come out of it.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2 v 8-9
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5 v 16
Doing good is something that is a key part of the Christian life, we do it because it brings glory to God and brings him pleasure, rather than making us feel good.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.- Hebrews 13 v 16
In particular the rich (and most of us in the west fall into this category – if you can afford things other than the basic essentials then you are relatively rich), are instructed to be ‘rich in good works’ by Paul.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6 v 17-19
Which brings us to micro lending as one constructive way of being generous and doing good works.
The old proverb of ‘give a man a fish and he feeds himself for one day, but teach a man to fish and he feeds himself for life’ has a certain amount of truth.
Giving someone money helps them out in the short term, like a friend who is short this month for example, but will not help them in the long term, to fix their long term need.
However if you could help someone to be able to provide for themselves and their family for years to come, that is surely better. If you look back to many of the Christian entrepreneurs of the 19th Century, they wanted to create good jobs, with good housing so that their employees would be able to provide for their families.
Micro lending is where a lot of people give small loans (as little as £15) to a business person in a poor country. This helps them start or grow their business in places where bank loans are not available. It could be a rice farmer who wants finance to buy new equipment, or a street seller who wants to set up another stall. These men and women will often employ other local people, so your loan will help more than just the person or group you are lending to.
The basic principal is that you as the lender make a small loan to an entrepreneur, who will pay back this loan after a predefined period. You can then take this money back or reinvest in another entrepreneur.
As there may be others in the church who would like to be involved in this, I have set up a lending team (Woodbank Community Church Lending Team) on the lendwithcare.org website. Once you are set up as a lender and have chosen someone to make a loan to, you can select a team to attribute this to. You don’t have to select a team, but it may be an encouragement to see what we can achieve together.
Out of the group that was meeting in Stainburn, Workington we have created 2 new groups.
One of these has focused around helping each other achieve goals over a year. These goals are anything from fitness, to learning a skill, becoming better at sharing your faith. As long as the goals are achievable for the person over a year and progress can be measured it can be chosen.
The bible study we do is then focused around these goals, helping us apply the word to our lives. As a group we help each other plan out in small steps how to meet our goals, when we fail, we encourage.
So far it is a work in progress, we haven’t completely worked everything out, but it has had the effect of focusing us.
The group will soon be moving to Woodhouse from Workington, which will be our first small group meeting on the estate.
I have made some design and content changes to the church website.
Our latest Sunday morning talks are available on our Facebook page Woodbank Church, and I will add links to our podbean hosting site, for previous talks.