Week commencing Sunday June 14th

Prayer

God, Creator, we praise you for the earth and the wonder of its life; for the beauty of landscape and sky; for the variety of seasons, animals and plants; for their intricate interdependence; and for making us part of it all. Amen

Hymn

 

1 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.

 

2 Praise to the Lord, above all things so wondrously reigning;
sheltering you under his wings, and so gently sustaining!
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?

 

3 Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriends you.

 

4 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.  (Joachim Neander)

 

 

 

Reading. Matthew: 8 23-27:

823 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

 

Sermon. ‘Jesus’ Authority over Nature.’

The calming of the storm. The evening had come and Jesus wanted to cross over to the eastern side of the lake. A storm comes up, so great that the boat itself is swamped by the waves. In panic the disciples wake Jesus: ‘Lord save us, we are perishing.’ What happens next shocks them and us into pondering the identity of Jesus: ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? Even Nature submits to Jesus Christ.

Nature submits to God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created the sun, moon stars, seas, land, plants, animals and man (Genesis 1). God created Nature. (Please see Appendix1 about Creation and The theory of Evolution. ‘God and Viruses’ from the 29/3 Update also addresses this issue). Genesis describes how God said ‘Let there be light and there was light.’ He speaks and these things come to be. God is the Lord of Nature, Creator, and it is only He who sustains Nature. It is His Creation. The Jews understood that only God, who is Omnipotent (all powerful), and Sovereign can control the wind and waves: ‘O Lord God Almighty who is like you? You are mighty O Lord. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up you still them.’ (Psalm 89:8, 9).

The contrast between the disciples panic and Jesus’ peace as he sleeps already points to his Divine identity. He is the ‘Word’ by which all things were made (‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ John 1:1). He has no fear of Nature. No fear of his own Creation.

Here the Word speaks again. He rebukes the winds and the sea. These must submit to him; their Creator. There was dead calm.

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (26). This is the question Jesus asked his disciples before he calmed the storm. Their eyes were on the waves; the power of Nature, not Christ. Their faith was lacking because they do not realise who Christ is. They do not realise the Creator and the One who sustains Nature is with them. He who has authority over the forces of Nature they fear.

Their attitude resonates with our society today. Many believe that Nature is all there is. Matter is all that exists. Our society too has lost sight of Christ. Lost sight of the Creator. Many are influenced in their thinking by this philosophy of Naturalism. A philosophy where the Universe is conceived of as a machine, human beings themselves as complex machines; products of Nature- of time and chance; products of their genes (their chemical makeup) and their environment. For them there is no Supreme Being who can reorder their system from outside or be involved within it. And consequently these people are fearful. Like the disciples who felt afraid at the mercy of the waves.

Look at the documentaries regularly shown about the precariousness of the earth, how we might be destroyed by comets, for example. Or the doomsday predictions about global warming. The Lord had promised after the world wide flood that ‘while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer…shall not cease’ (Genesis 8:22). But the Naturalist does not trust the Lord, his eyes are on worse case scenarios extrapolated from observation of Nature alone. Closer to home there are those whose minds are similarly overwhelmed with other fears; fears about SARS, Ebola and COVID-19.

If the ‘material’, the ‘natural’ is all there is, then we will cling to it. Like the pagans who Jesus describes in Matthew 6:25-34 we will not see God’s provision. We will worry about what we eat, drink and wear. We will fear social pressures, changes in our environment. We will fear ageing and death.

Naturalism is a cold and stark belief system. Those who hold to it are left lonely, feeling uncared for. They are left wondering ‘What is the point?’ But mainly they are fearful. Like children crying out in the night. Mentally bound by a hopeless philosophy.

Human beings were created not for fear but faith. Faith in the living God. We were made to know God and enjoy Him forever. To know peace, hope and love in our lives. Christians do not fix their eyes on the wind and waves of naturalistic thinking. Our eyes are on Christ. He exercises sovereign control over the situation. We see His power, His care, and His union with us. He is in the boat with us whatever we face. We are confident in His authority. Our eyes are on Him and His promises. This is faith. The only remedy. We are not locked into fear- what people in the world fear. Now we see with a true perspective of Nature in its place under God. We see Christ’s authority over Nature.

So how do we practically perceive Christ’s authority over Nature?

First we see Christ’s authority over Nature in His miraculous rescue of people. We feel the force of Nature as the disciples did, but God on occasion ordains outcomes we would not expect. So someone is sick, they are prayed for and they are healed; a healing not naturally expected.

Here is a further example of the Lord’s authority over Nature:

In his book Signs and Wonders Dr Peter Wagner tries to find out why the Church in China grew so amazingly from 1949 onwards. In this period Chairman Mao expelled all foreign missionaries and executed or exiled to labour camps all Chinese Christian leaders. Thousands of Christians were martyred. Christians were forbidden to meet together and there were very few Bibles. Wagner concludes that ‘signs and ‘wonders’ played a major role in the growth of the Christian Church in China.

He recounts the story of a woman who worked in a quarry. She was in charge of the work shifts, so whenever she blew her whistle it was the signal for the people to come to the surface from the mines.

One day she was working in her office when she heard a voice calling her by name, telling her that she should blow the whistle to let the workers come up out of the mines. There was still another hour to go before she was supposed to do this, but she repeatedly heard the voice telling her to blow her whistle now. Finally, without checking with other members of her office, because she thought they would stop her, she blew the whistle. The miners started coming out. No sooner had the last one left the mines than an earthquake caved in several of the shafts. If the workers had still been in the mines, the death toll would have been staggering.

The miners gathered round this girl and asked her why she had blown the whistle early. She had to admit that she was a Christian and that she had just obeyed the voice of God. Hundreds accepted the Lord that day.

Then at an official enquiry, she gave a powerful testimony and many more families accepted Christ.

 

We can look back on our lives and see more subtle examples of God directing, making a way where there appears to be no way:

My wife and I pray for our children every day. They are grown up, married and left home now, but we bring their concerns to the Lord. Our second daughter Judith has suffered from M E these last six years. This leaves her easily exhausted. She is not in paid employment. Judith married in October last year and she and her husband set up home in Essex. However, the place they rented had a field next to it. Mice got into the house and Judith contracted an illness from them. She and her husband decided to move to Bournemouth where her sister lives, meanwhile, in January of this year, Judith came to stay with us to recover. It took some months for the rental in Essex to come up, and since they are on a very low income we suspected it would take a long time for something suitable to transpire in Bournemouth. However, they were offered a beautiful flat in February, and we unpacked for them on the 9th March. They were settled- just in time for lock down!

Similarly our eldest daughter Laura and her husband and three year old son lived in a small two bedroomed flat at the top of a block of flats. Laura was pregnant with a second child. Out of the blue they were offered rental of a four bedroom manse with a back garden. The minister at the church they attend did not require the accommodation. They moved in October of last year. We are grateful to God for the provision of the extra space they have for their children and we can also see with hindsight what a wonderful provision it is in the light of lock down.

 

The provision for our daughters are answers to our prayers and the prayers of others for them. To the criticism ‘answers to prayer are just coincidence’ someone has said ‘When I pray coincidences happen, when I neglect to pray, they don’t!’

Of course I do not want to imply all difficulty will result in miraculously changed outcomes. God often works to change our nature. Baxter writes ‘God does not want to keep changing your circumstances, He wants to change you.’ Answered prayer is shown by the peace Christ gives believers within their difficulties. Our daughter Judith is learning this. She still has M E, although there have been many prayers for her healing. This peace has sustained persecuted Christians, for example. But even this peace is not natural; it is not ‘naturally’ explainable; it is ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding’ a peace that ‘guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7). (For more on suffering please see ‘God and Viruses’ Update 29/3. Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ not taken away, Update 3/5 and ‘Dealing with Depression’, Update 17/5.)

Another way we can practically think of Christ’s authority over Nature is through our stewardship of Nature.

God said to Adam and Eve ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ (Genesis 1:28).

This understanding sees Christ delegating His authority and making us responsible to steward His Creation in a trustworthy and responsible manner. To be given rule in this way is not to selfishly exploit the earth, but to care for it. Nature does not belong to us. It belongs to God. We are not entitled to exploit Nature but to see the gifts in nature as though ‘borrowed or held in trust.’ We show our stewardship through medicine, ecology and technology.

Francis Schaeffer in his book ‘Pollution and the Death of Man’ argues Biblical Christianity has a real answer to any ecological crisis. He writes ‘There is hope ‘here and now’ of substantial healing in nature of some of the results of the Fall (See ‘God and Viruses’, Update 29/3, on teaching about the Fall), arising from the truth of redemption in Christ…A Christian based Science and technology should consciously try to see Nature substantially healed while waiting for the future complete healing at Christ’s return.’

Schaeffer asks ‘Why has strip mining usually turned the area where it has been used into a desert?’ why is the Black Country in the Midlands black…man’s greed. If the strip miners would take bulldozers and push back the topsoil, rip out the coal, then replace the topsoil, in ten years after the coal was removed there would be a green field and in fifty years a forest. But it has usually been practised for an added profit, man turns these areas into deserts and then cries out that the topsoil has gone, grass will not grow there and there is no way to grow trees for hundreds of years.

 

Schaeffer adds this conclusion: ‘A purely secular or materialistic view of Nature can only justify the value of nature pragmatically. Its usefulness to us for food, drugs, natural processes and so on. The danger then is of Nature subjugated to human egoism and its being treated mundanely. But if we treat the things which God has made with integrity because they are His- things change. Wonder and awe of nature returns. We love the lover, so we love what the Lover has made.’

Finally, we see in Jesus calming of the storm a picture of Christ’s authority over Nature for the future.

The Bible teaches the creation of a new heavens and earth in the future. Believers will enter into the full enjoyment of life in the presence of God forever. Jesus will say to us, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34). We often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’, but the Biblical teaching is wider- there will be a new heavens and a new earth. A completely renewed creation where we will live with God.

The Lord promises through Isaiah, ‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered’ (Isaiah 65:17. See also 66:22). The Apostle Peter says, ‘According to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13. See also Revelation 21:1-3).

Compare that assured hope in Christ with this description of death. The naturalistic view is truly bleak and futile:

‘Without warning, David was visited by an exact vision of death: a long hole in the ground, no wider than your body, down which you were drawn while the white faces recede. You try to reach them but your arms are pinned. Shovels pour dirt on your face. There you will be forever, in an upright position, blind and silent, and in time no one will remember you, and you will never be called. As strata of rock shift, your fingers elongate, and your teeth are distended sideways in a great underground grimace indistinguishable from a strip of chalk. And the earth tumbles on, and the sun expires, an unaltering darkness reigns where once there was stars.’ John Updike.

People with this outlook have their eyes fixed firmly on the wind and the waves of Nature alone.

Now listen to the truth which you will see if your eyes are firmly fixed on Christ. Christ who has authority over Nature. For His resurrection is the promise of our own- for all who believe on Him:

 ‘For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40).

So imagine yourself in the boat, riding the storm of your last day on this earth. Imagine getting out of the boat and ‘stepping on the shore and finding it heaven. Of taking hold and finding it God’s hand, of breathing new air, and finding it celestial air, of feeling invigorated and finding it immortality, of passing from storm to tempest and finding it unknown calm, of waking up and finding it home.’ David Adam

Do not give way to fear in that storm, but put your faith in Christ on that day as you did when you first trusted Him for your salvation:

Speaking of the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes, ‘What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body…Then shall come to pass the saying that is written ‘Death is swallowed up in victory ‘O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen!

………………………………………………………………….

1 Appendix. It should be understood that the theory of evolution itself is a purely naturalistic explanation of origins. There is no intrinsic requirement within the claims of the theory for a Creator. Evolution operates by chance. According to the theory any one of thousands of possible changes might happen in an animal to help it evolve into a slightly different creature. It is claimed natural selection is at work, but by its operation alone no one could guess what the final outcome could be, because like the throw of dice, it is all settled by chance.

The theistic evolutionist wants to say God created by evolution. This leads to the difficulty of trying to reconcile the Biblical picture of the sure purpose and design of a Creator with the “hit and miss” story of evolution (The latter would go something like this: ‘God said ‘let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind’ and after three hundred eighty-seven million four hundred ninety two thousand eight hundred seventy-one attempts, God finally made a mouse that worked’) There are other discrepancies. The Bible teaches living things were made separate, each one after its own kind (this incidentally allows for subsequent diversification/adaptation within kinds- sometimes called “micro evolution”. All the examples Darwin gave are of “micro evolution”) but “macro evolution” (the full blown theory of amoeba to man) says all living things come from a single life form by evolution. Biblically man is a special creation, different from the animals, but evolution says man is just another animal, evolved from ape-like creatures.

Further, there are many respected scientists who think the theory of evolution is now discredited; not because they believe religion and science have no common ground, but because they argue evolution is not true science. Neither can these be labelled “fundamentalists” since they include agnostic scientists as well as those who are not Christians but believe in a Creator:

Molecular biologist Michael Denton in “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” shows that evolution cannot cross the major divisions of nature (such as that linking birds to reptiles and humans with animals) or the relationships between other classes and orders. Neither have any such ‘missing links’ been found in the fossil record. The most devastating part of his attack concerns the working of the cell. The cell, writes Denton, is far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world (p250). At the end of his book, Denton comments: “Ultimately, the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century” (p358)

Professor of Biochemistry Dr Michael Behe in “Darwin’s Black Box” uses many fascinating illustrations to show that the complex systems which operate on the molecular scale could not possibly have come into existence through evolution; all their component parts had to be complete and working as a unit from the very beginning. He calls this “irreducible complexity”. Many secular journals and scientists have pronounced Behe’s arguments unanswerable.

Jewish scientist Dr Lee Spetner in “Not by Chance” appeals largely to information theory to prove that evolution simply cannot happen. Subtitled “Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution”, Spetner’s book demonstrates that mutations (genetic mistakes) could never transform single cells into human beings, and exposes as nonsense Richard Dawkins’ claim to have simulated evolution on computer.

Philip E Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial” (Pub. By IVP) shows evolution is based not on fact but on faith- faith in philosophical naturalism, and is incompatible with meaningful theism. A good over view to begin with.

I have other resources (no cost to you) giving more detailed information than I have room for here should anyone like a more detailed investigation of the issues. On Saturday the 6th February 2021 we have Professor Colin Garner Ph.D coming to speak about Creation and Evolution (and why it matters what we believe about these) at Angmering Baptist Church from 10.00am-3.00pm. All are welcome and there is no charge. Just bring a packed lunch!

 

 

 

 

 

Song. ‘Ready for the storm

 

The waves crash in the tide rolls out
It's an angry sea but there is no doubt
That the lighthouse will keep shining out
To warn a lonely sailor
And the lightning strikes
And the wind cuts cold
Through the sailor's bones
Through the sailor's soul until there's nothing left that he can hold
Except a rolling ocean
 

CHORUS

Oh I am ready for the storm
Yes sir ready
I am ready for the storm
I'm ready for the storm

 

Oh give me mercy for my dreams
Because every confrontation seems to tell me
What it really means
To be this lonely sailor
And when the sky begins to clear
The sun it melts away my fear
And I cry a silent weary tear
For those who mean to love me


CHORUS
 

The distance it is no real friend
And time will take it's time
And you will find that in the end
It brings you me
This lonely sailor
And when You take me by the hand
You love me, Lord, You love me
And I should have realized
I had no reasons to be frightened
 

CHORUS (repeated)

 

 

        

(Rich Mullins. From album ‘Winds of heaven, stuff of earth’ 1988. On YouTube)

 



Lyrics taken from http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/r/rich_mullins/ready_for_the_storm.html

 can add structure tags, correct typos or add missing words. Send your correction and

 

 

Prayers

 

 

-Lord God, we entrust to you the families and communities

Affected by Coronavirus, wherever they may be.

We pray especially for health care workers, that you may guide and protect them.

We pray that your Spirit might inspire those researching new medicines and treatments.

And in the midst of this, keep us strong in faith, hope and love. Grant us the courage and perseverance to be good neighbours.

May the words of your Son Jesus Christ in the Our Father,

be our prayer as we entrust ourselves and all of us who are affected

to your infinite power and love. 

Amen.

                                                                                                                                                             

 

-Take time to tell the Lord of any concerns you have at this time. The Bible says we can cast all our anxieties on to Him because He cares for us. Pray for your friends and members of your family.                                                                                                                                          

 

-Dear Lord, we will face many terrifying events throughout this life, but may we never forget that the ultimate victory belongs to you. Through your sacrifice, death has been defeated. As we continue to walk in your truth, help us to set our eyes on Heavenly things. Amen.

 

Hymn ‘Cornerstone’

 

[Verse 1]
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name
 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

[Chorus]
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

[Verse 2]
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

[Chorus]
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
 

He is Lord, Lord of all
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour's love
Through the storm, He is Lord. Lord of all.

Edward Mote, with additional words 2011 Hillsong
 

 


 

Blessing

 

 

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.