The Book of Jonah opens with God making an extraordinary request of the prophet Jonah. We learn from this request that God is the Lord not only of Israel or the Church, but of every nation. He is also the Lord of each of us, and each of us has our own radical mission from God.
In Psalm 1, God presents us with the enticing vision of the blessed person of God who stands strong in the face of challenges this life throws at us because they are planted in Christ and drink deeply from him through delighting in God and meditating on his word.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
In our culture the traditional understanding of Gender is a thing of the past. Gender has become not so much related to biology – chromosomes, birth sex or genetics – but more related to psychology – Am I really a man in a woman’s body? Am I really a woman in a man’s body? Do I feel like I could be biologically male but psychologically female? How as Christians do we respond to a situation like this? We hold fast to the fact that we were created as male and female – biologically and psychologically – and seek to love our gender confused neighbours well. We do all this whilst seeking to understand gender ourselves. This means that we should refuse to enforce or endorse non biblical gender stereotypes and seek to learn what God’s mandate for biblical masculinity and femininity is.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
What does the good life look like? Social media accounts are full of carefully curated photos of our ‘perfect’ lives, with little or none of the bad on display. Psalm 32 paints a different picture. The good life is found through being honest with God and His people about who we are (with all our flaws) and receiving the forgiveness He always offers to repentant sinners.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
In the conclusion to Paul’s letter to the Colossians we see a picture of the Church. The Church is a global kingdom of people from all different nations gathering together in local congregations and living in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. A better understanding of Church helps us to love one another despite our diversity and it also helps cultivate a heart of worship towards God.
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant[b] in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers[c] at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
As Paul concludes his letter to the church in Colossae, he makes special mention of several believers who are with him and he expects to soon be visiting Colossae. Paul’s words concerning Tychicus, Onesimus and Mark teach us about how God is glorified through shadow ministries, submissive hearts, and second chances.
7Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.8I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts,9and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him),11and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.13For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.14Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.16And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.17And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
How do you hope in seasons of sorrow? We see today two particular things Christians hope in doing seasons when the storms of life rage. Firstly, We hope in the character of Christ. Christ is sovereign and all powerful, he is in control, and he knows exactly how much sorrow we can bear. He promises not to burden us with something which will extinguish our faith. Secondly, we hope in the true healing of our heartbreak. Time may well dull the pain of sorrow but it never fully heals it, we look forward to the time when the Lord God will truly heal our heartbreak as we finish the journey and go to be with Him in heaven. Hope in the character of Christ true healing is what can help us journey with Jesus through hard times. We may well even be surprised by worship in the hardest of times.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Paul exhorts us to walk in wisdom towards outsiders; he wants us to approach people who may not know the Gospel of Christ. Considering this passage from the perspective of someone like this, we are confronted with three critical questions: How are you approaching me, how will you speak to me, and will you answer my questions?
In a society that values and encourages independence, how do we come to a place where we declare our dependence on God? In this passage Paul encourages us to come to God in prayer both for the protection of the church and for opportunities to share the Gospel, freeing us from the weight of our own responsibility and recognising our complete reliance on Him.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Do we worship God while we work? Is it even possible? If we spend so much of our lives working, it’s worth knowing how to worship while we do it. When we look at how we work what we see is that we are often motivated by a number of things; money, achievement, even pleasing our boss or our colleagues. Ultimately, all of these things will not satisfy us fully and will not last. Paul encourages us to glorify God through our work as we work in the light of Christ being our Lord and look to our inheritance as the reward for work. Despite many of us being aware of our failings at work, the glory of the gospel is that Jesus takes both the burdens of our shortcomings at work and provides for us the perfect ‘work’ record – We can only celebrate the goodness of Jesus Christ, and in doing so again find an opportunity to worship.
22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
4 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Starting December 25, 2016, Sunday Morning Worship takes place at 10am in the Piano, located on 156 Armagh Street. Free parking for GPC attendees is available off Oxford Terrace.