Week Commencing Sunday 11th October

Devotional Materials. Week Commencing Sunday 11th October 2020.

 

Call to worship

‘Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength…Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name. Come before him, worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness’ (1 Chronicles 16:28, 29).

 

Hymn

 

1 Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless king
through all eternity.

2 Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o'er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing
who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.

3 Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified;
no angels in the sky
can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye
at mysteries so bright.

4 Crown him the Lord of years,
the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres,
ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail
throughout eternity.

Matthew Bridges

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuMh_ept-Js

 

Opening Prayer

You are the Lord of love. We marvel at this wonderful love you have for us. There are many in this world who seek their own glory and who would seek to influence or gain power over us, but they do not love us. But you, the Son of God gave up all, even your life on the cross to rescue us and bring us a Salvation we did not deserve. You are the lamb upon the throne.

You are the Lord of Life. We were ‘dead in our sins’. We lived our own way. We worshipped the material things of this life. We thought money was our security. But you give us freedom and life. You overcame death and one day we will be raised with you.

You are the Lord of Peace. Though we were your enemies you have reconciled us to yourself, and you have reconciled Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in you. By your Spirit you shoot down our troubled thoughts and emotions.

You are the Lord of Years. You have always been and always will be. We do recognise that you are the King above every King, Lord Jesus Christ. You are greater and more glorious; of greater value than anyone or anything else. Amen.

We looked at James 1: 1- 8 and verse 12 last week, today we focus on verses 9-11:

Reading. James 1:1-12.

1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 

Song

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

 

Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
Seek, and you shall find.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word
That proceeds out from the mouth of God.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

Karen Lafferty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1Y8Naj3RFk

Sermon

Last week we looked at James teaching about trials. These are necessary to move us from what we think is best- the pursuit of comfort and pleasure alone- to choose God’s best: His sanctification of our lives. He intends to make us whole and complete. He refines/purifies our lives into something great and wonderful. The diamond to emerge under pressure of trial is endurance. This is a Christ like quality. So God intends to make us Christ like in character, bearing the ‘fruit of the Spirit’- showing sacrificial ‘agape’ love, joy, patience, kindness and so on, and these fruits enrich our relationships with others.

We also develop a greater love for our Heavenly Father as we appreciate the wonderful care He takes in maturing us and we find we have grown closer to Him; reassured of our heavenly Father’s control rather than given over to the depression and anxiety that comes from self- reliance.

But ultimately in all of this our Father is preparing us for our heavenly home that stretches on for all eternity: ‘Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him’ (verse 12).

In His sanctifying work of our lives here we must remember the Lord loves us and has our genuine best in view. God is not the author of evil (James 1:13). He is not treating us badly. He is not playing with our lives. The Bible clearly teaches He gave men and women the freedom to choose, and He created a beautiful world and indeed universe, much of which we clearly see retains its beauty today and speaks of His power (Romans 1:20).  Everything God created at the beginning was very good (Genesis 1:31). However with the fall resulting from Adam and Eve’s sin, suffering and death entered the world. (See ‘God and Viruses’ Update 29/3). Sin causes suffering in our relationships with one another and nature can now be cruel.

But the Lord’s hands are not tied. He is still sovereign. He permits trials and can work above and beyond them in a far greater way than we can comprehend; to redeem, to bring good for all who put their faith in Him. As we put ourselves and our hardships into his hands He has promised to never give us more than we can bear. Further His promise is ‘All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28). He has a perfect plan for each of our lives. And in eternity we will fully and completely see that plan realised as we share in his glory (Romans 8:17). Then we will understand fully why He permitted our trials, and from that eternal vantage point, we will be grateful that He didn’t do it any other way.

James, having spoken about the purpose of trials in general and doubt in particular, now turns to trials associated with:

Wealth (9-11)

James is clear that wealth does not produce the ‘wholeness’ or maturity he has mentioned in verse 4.

Looking throughout James’ letter it does seem that Money and social status were real problems for these people. James wants them to see beyond such worldly judgements and see their true standing and value before God.

Verses 9 and 10 indicate that Christians should boast of their spiritual wealth and not evaluate themselves by material standards:

So, to believers ‘in humble circumstances’- he says they ought to take pride in their high position (or ‘being raised up’). (Verse 9a).

Some of the believers James was addressing were poor and socially despised. The Greek wording here is richer than ‘in humble circumstances’, it means ‘insignificant in the world’s eyes, lowly, relatively poor and powerless, lacking in material possessions.’ These scattered Jewish Christians, especially those in Palestine and Syria, would have faced such circumstances; low on finance, ostracised by the Jews and disowned by their families. They may also have been affected by famine.

But James wants these poor believers to look beyond their worldly situation and ‘take pride in their high position’, in being raised up’. It is not the world’s opinion of them that counts, but God’s opinion of them. And as far as God is concerned, these believers already belong to a heavenly realm.

In chapter 2, verse 5 of the letter James writes ‘Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?’ Poor believers are ‘rich in faith’. They are God’s sons and daughters, adopted into his family

Poor believers who have faith in Christ are truly rich because of their standing with Him. One day they will enjoy their family inheritance in Heaven, regardless of their present material standings in the world.

To rich believers (verse 10) James says these ‘should take pride in their humiliation’ (literally ‘take pride in your low position’).

As the Gospel spread around the Mediterranean world, some who believed would have been rich Jews. Some like Lydia in Philippi, were Gentiles and wealthy. James reminds rich Christians here that they are not to measure their worth by riches. Because in one sense God has humbled them: rich believers have been brought ‘lower’ in Christ. The rich are ‘great’ in the eyes of the world, but in God’s eyes they are made equal to the poor.

Furthermore both rich and poor Christians were being persecuted. The rich Christians’ identification with the poor Christian in persecution maybe part of the humbling James is pointing to.

James reinforces his point to the rich by showing how

Wealth is transitory

Rich Christians must not depend on their possessions for security and life because the rich ‘will fade away even while they go about their business.’ (Verse 11b)-just as the ‘sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed’

This thought reminds us of Isaiah 40:6, often cited at funerals: ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall…’ Apparently it is a common sight in the Middle East to observe colourful desert flowers in the early morning suddenly droop, wither and die as the sun rises. James is vividly describing how the rich person can suddenly die- even in the middle of their busy lives. People can be busy making money, but then they are gone! Life is uncertain. Disaster is possible at any moment:

In 1923, nine of the richest men in America met at Chicago’ Edgeware Beach Hotel. Their wealth and influence made them among the most powerful men in the nation. They were: the president of the New York stock Exchange, the most influential financier on Wall street, the head of the world’s biggest monopoly, the presidents of America’s biggest steel corporation, electricity company, and gas company, a powerful wheat baron, the president of an international bank, and the Secretary of the Interior.

Such men would have been the envy of America at the time, but just twenty-five years later the picture was dramatically different. By 1948 one of the men was insane, two had recently been released from prison, three others were bankrupt, and the remaining three had all committed suicide.

No doubt the Great Depression had a lot to do with it. But the story still illustrates that wealth is transitory. It cannot be depended upon for security, joy or life itself.

Underlying all this is the issue of inner motivation. In whom do we trust? Jesus taught clearly that Mammon- the love of money- is the rival god (Matthew 6:24).

This is the danger, we as Christians in the West should be most aware of. We must not put our trust, our faith in Wealth; the false god of Mammon.

In my own experience I have been challenged on two occasions not to trust in Wealth. After leaving school I initially trained as a Quantity Surveyor with what was the British Rail. After a year of that I needed to make a decision about whether to stay in Quantity Surveying. It was important to me as a Christian, as one seeking to measure true value, that the criterion I used to decide would not be one of how wealthy I would be in the future if I stayed in that profession.

The second concerned my family and I moving from Swansea to London for my attending London Bible College. I read these words from R T Kendall’s book ‘Does Jesus Care?’

‘The task of the Christian is to walk in the light and develop faith to the degree that our obedience to Christ is never in jeopardy owing to financial considerations. When God tells us to ‘go’ we must move. Once we begin to lag behind due to fear of how our need will be supplied, the devil will slip in and- before we know it- we shall have rationalised away God’s call completely.

The fear of insecurity needs to be dealt with in a radical manner. ‘And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19). My father’s favourite verse is this: ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33). As long as Satan can succeed in tempting us to worry about financial and material things, our discipleship will never rise above second class. ‘No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62).’

These and other such reflections led to my family and I going to London with very little money, but ‘by faith’ we saw the Lord provide for all our needs.

But I have certainly not ‘arrived’ when it comes to this matter. The spiritual battle is ongoing, and the tests come from time to time to challenge me about where I am putting my trust- in God or Mammon? What do I see as my security, my life and salvation? Just this month my annual statement arrived for my ‘pension pot’ for the future. I experienced a tearing at my heart because I realised its value had been cut by £7000!  After further (rather urgent) investigation I discovered the reduction was due to our present times. Eventually (!) I prayed it through and yielded it up to the Lord and had to preach to myself some of the lessons I have outlined here about His being my security and provision.

How else can we trust in God for financial trials that come to us in these Coovid-19 days?

Lutzer in his book ‘Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters’ writes ‘if you have made some unwise financial decisions, or if you lost your job and are unable to pay your bills, remember God has not abandoned you. He is available to give you the wisdom you need for your next move. Here is a promise I have claimed many times. (He then cites some of the verse we looked at from James last week):If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt’ (James 1:5, 6). Seek wisdom. Ask God. He will guide you.’

Family Focus also offers practical advice:

‘God – not your job, your investments or the economy – is your provider. He knows your needs and cares deeply for you and your spouse. Philippians 4:19 is a constant reminder that God will take care of you: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

If you feel anxious about finances and your financial future, take a moment to pray this wonderful line from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6: “Give us this day our daily bread.” God will answer your prayer for provision.

 

When the world seems to be out of control, it’s easy to overreact. Avoid these mistakes when thinking about your family finances:

Panicking over the day’s news. Remember that events will change. Financial markets will fluctuate. What we know about COVID-19 today may change tomorrow as we discover new treatments. Plan for the long haul but prepare for ways to cover your day-to-day expenses.

Overbuying or hoarding supplies. Store shelves are bare as retailers scramble to keep up with consumer needs. While it’s wise to stock up on the basics such as food, over-the-counter medications and, of course, toilet paper, it’s also important to ask how much you’ll really need. Chances are you don’t need 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.

Giving in to hopelessness. Ours is not the first generation to deal with fluctuating financial markets or out-of-control viruses. Yes, we are facing a serious health crisis, but keep in mind that this will pass.

 

Help others affected by the coronavirus. Maybe you and your spouse are in a good place financially and can consider helping others. If so, now is a time to show God’s love to families in need. Here are ways you can help:

Check on your neighbours. If they need help, offer to buy food, medication or supplies.

Give to your local church. Families often turn to churches for food or financial needs. If you can do so, give extra so that your church can help families in need.

Buy a little extra and share it with others. If you’re shopping and can afford additional food or personal supplies, buy one extra to have on hand to share with someone in need.

Coronavirus – a final reminder

God will provide. The coronavirus may stretch our resources, but it hasn’t drained God’s. Nor should it drain our faith in him. As you and your spouse face these uncertain days, remember that God can do far more than we ask or think. He cares for you. He cares for your spouse. He cares about your family finances. He will provide.’

 

Conclusion

Over these last 2 Sundays we are in a position to answer our original question: ‘What is our best?’

It is a wisdom that is not merely knowledge or even academic prestige. It is certainly not the prevalent cynicism and doubt of today. Rather it is the wisdom from God himself, given to the humble Christian, whose heart is committed, whose mind is enriched by God’s Word. A person who will relate what they receive from God to their lives and decision making.

And it is a spiritual wealth. Where the poor Christian is glad that riches mean nothing to God; otherwise the poor would be considered unworthy. And the rich Christian is glad, because he humbly accepts that material wealth means nothing to God, since wealth is easily lost. We find true wealth by developing our spiritual lives in Christ, not by developing our financial assets.

…………………………………………

Prayers

Traces of Glory.

(Refs: 2 Kings 2: 1-12: Ps. 50: 1-6: 2 Corinthians 4. 3-6: Mark 9: 2-9)

Loving Lord, let your light shine in our lives, let its brightness fill our hearts and transfigure us; that seeing your glory, we may come to you in awe and wonder, and gazing upon you may be changed into your likeness, moving from glory to glory.

Come, Lord of light, transfigure us, increase our vision and reveal to us your glory. May your church seek to transform our darkest places with your light. May we seek out the lost and the deprived, the poor and the rejected, and bring them home to you and your love. We pray for the mission and outreach of the whole church.

Lord touch us and transfigure us

Lord of light come transfigure our homes, that they may be radiant with your presence. May they be radiant with your presence. Make them homes of peace and kindness, of holiness and hospitality, of grace and goodness; that you may be known to be among us.

Lord touch us and transfigure us

Lord of light and love, transfigure our hospitals and nursing homes. We pray for all whose lives have been marred by evil or tragedy. We pray for all who are downcast or fearful. We remember all who await a doctor’s diagnosis or an operation. We pray for all who seek healing and hope.

Lord touch us and transfigure us. (David Adam)

Prayer for business owners and families facing financial stress.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your faithfulness in how you have guided and equipped people in their jobs and have provided in the past. It can be scary and overwhelming not knowing how bills and obligations will be met or to not be able to provide for families. As people feel financial strain during the uncertainty that comes with Coronavirus, bring them comfort and peace, reminding them that You are there for them. Provide for them in their times of need.

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (World Vision)

Hymn

Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us
Shine on me, shine on me

Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light

Lord, I come to your awesome presence
From the shadows into your radiance
By the blood I may enter your brightness
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness
Shine on me, shine on me

As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story
Shine on me, shine on me
 

Graham Kendrick

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAFcwns4uHc

Blessing

The Lord open your eyes to his presence, surround you with his great love and fill your days with His glory.                                                                                                          

David Barnes 7/10/20