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The Journal

The Beautiful Gift

Dear Friends,

When we get older we are prone to forgetfulness but Psalm 103 reminds us that all of us need to be reminded to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings. This generation in which we live has been described by some as “entitled” meaning that people see they are owed good things. We don’t see life as a gift. This country has an abundance of wealth and beauty and it is easy to think that we are entitled to it. Rather the Bible truth is that all good things which we have in life including material blessings are a gift from the Lord. James 1:17 says that every good gift is from Father in heaven. A true gift is not something which is earned nor are we entitled to it but it is graciously given to us by someone.  

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Jesus is the Centre of the Church

Dear Friends,

Peter is writing to Christians in Asia Minor which is modern day Turkey. These Christians are undergoing trials in their faith - see 1 Peter 1:6. They are most likely being ostracised because of their faith. Peter’s approach in dealing with the trials which these Christians encounter is to remind them of their identity in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:4-10 Peter explains our identity as the church. In v4 Jesus is identified as the living stone who is God’s chosen instrument to be the foundation of the church. Jesus is the centre of the church as the corner stone v6-7 who brings us salvation. It is the Gospel of Jesus and the proclamation of Him which both establishes the church and sustains the church - 1:23. It is very easy for churches to drift away from Jesus as the centre. To ensure that Jesus is the centre of the church we need to continually encourage the teaching of the Bible and encourage our people to hear and obey God’s Word as they gather on Sundays and in Bible study groups meeting during the week and individually in our homes.  

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Spiritual Gifts

Dear Friends,

Today we are looking at spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. In 12:1 Paul says “Now about the gifts of the Spirit.” Paul has used this introductory phrase in 7:1 “Now about the matters you wrote about., 7:25 “Now about virgins” and 8:1 “Now about food sacrificed to idols.” Paul is responding to a letter from the Corinthian church in which they raised matters of concern. He has also received infor-mation which has been conveyed to him personally 1:11. Commentators have discerned 5 themes con-nected with congregational conduct and they are: church leaders (1:10-4:21), lawsuits (6:1-11), the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), spiritual gifts (12-14) & Stephanas & Apollos (16:12-18).  

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We are Salt and Light

Dear Friends,

In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus teaches us about our identity as Christians. We are salt and light. Salt in Jesus’ day was used for flavour and preservation. Perhaps the main point in this imagery is that salt is meant to stop food rotting and so our role as Christians is to be distinctive and by our life and witness to point people Jesus who alone will stop communities deteriorating.  

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How to Resist the Devil

Dear Friends,

Today’s topic is “How to resist the devil.” When we become a Christian we enter God’s kingdom. We have transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of darkness are opposed to each other and unless we recognize that we are engaged in a spiritual battle we will find it hard to live the Christian life because we will not take advantage of the spiritual armour which God provides and we will fail to resist the “schemes” of the devil. In Ephesians Paul uses the everyday image of the Roman soldier to describe how God helps us stay strong as a Christian.  

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Seek to Discover God's Will

Dear Friends,

In broad terms Romans Chapters 1-11 has explained the work of Christ on the Cross for our sins and our new status as His children. Now in chapter 12 Paul explains that the logical outcome of this gift of forgiveness of sins and friendship with God is for us to present ourselves to God and to serve Him and His people. God’s recognises that when we come to faith in Jesus we bring all types of baggage with us. Some of it is good and some of it needs to be discarded. In effect we are exercising quality control over our lives so that our values and actions and motives increasingly conform to God’s revealed. God wants to use us and our lives and abilities in His service.  

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Filled with the Holy Spirit

Dear Friends,

Being filled with the Holy Spirit and the meaning of that is a controversial topic in the church. However like any controversy we need to come back afresh to the Word of God and see what we can learn together. Today we are looking at Ephesians 5:15-20 and in particular v18 says “Instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is a command from God because He knows that to live the Christian life we need God’s strength and it is the Holy Spirit who helps us to follow Jesus. Too often we fail in our Christian walk because we try to follow Jesus in our strength. The provision of the Holy Spirit is a great gift to us. We know from our lesson last week in Romans 8:9-11 that all Christians have the Holy Spirit. 

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We are Saints

Dear Friends,

The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is critical for following Christ. In Romans 8 Paul reminds us of all that Christ has done for us in being a sin offering 8:3 so that we can enjoy the benefits of not being trapped by sin.  Our core identity changes when we become a Christian because we are no longer identified as a sinner. Rather Jesus and the NT see us as a saint, who is someone who has been adopted as God’s child.   Of course sin is still present and we still sin and we must battle sin and repent but we are saints – those who are God’s children, set apart for Jesus. That is why in Romans 1:7 as Paul introduces his letter he addresses the letter to:- all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be the saints.” This is their core identity. Then in Romans 8:1 Paul reaffirms this identity by saying that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.   

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The Holy Spirit

Dear Friends,

Particularly in John 14-16 Jesus speaks extensively about the work of the Holy Spirit. fact as you read through the Bible the work of the Holy Spirit is an important aspect of God’s work. Our Alpha Course topics 8-10 highlights the point that the Spirit of God is at work in the beginning of the Bible in Genesis as God creates the world and the Spirit of God is also mentioned right at the end of the Bible in Revelation 22 as the church waits and longs for the return of Jesus. Often in the life of the church we have neglected the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Further Christians can sometimes operate as if the Holy Spirit is a force such as in Star Wars but Jesus in John 14:16 indicates that Holy Spirit is a person by referring to Him as He. Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure from this world and He says that He will ask the Father who will give the disciples the Spirit.  

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Put Your Faith in Jesus

Dear Friends,

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming. After his death Jesus appeared on numerous occasions to help his disciples understand that He is alive. This truth is a good reminder that just as the Lord helped His disciples to come to faith and have confidence He will also help us. On this occasion in John 21 Jesus is also strengthening faith. He wants to restore Peter. Peter was the one who had denied him 3 times and now Jesus shows him that there is a future for Him in God’s purposes. Jesus reminds Peter of his failure by asking “Do you love me ?” 3 times. Why does Jesus do this ? Before Jesus’ death He warned Peter that He would deny him 3 times – Luke 22:34.  

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