Week Commencing Sunday 9th August

Week Commencing Sunday 9th August 2020

Call to worship

‘For I am the Lord, your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear; I will help you.’ Isaiah 41:13

Opening prayer.

‘O God our true life, to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to enjoy you is a kingdom, to praise you is joy and happiness of the soul. I praise and bless and adore you. I worship you, I glorify you. I give thanks to you for your great glory. I humbly beg you to live with me, to reign in me, to make this heart of mine a holy temple, a fit habitation for your divine majesty.’ Amen. (St. Augustine, 354-430).

Hymn.

How lovely is Thy dwelling place
O Lord of hosts
My soul longs and yearns for Your courts
And my heart and flesh sing for joy
To the living God
One day in Your presence
Is far better to me than gold
Or to live my whole life somewhere else
And I would rather be
A doorkeeper in Your house
Than to take my fate upon myself
You are my sun and my shield
You are my lover from the start
And the highway to Your city
Runs through my heart
 

Ted Sandquist                                             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARutIbhWcHc                                

 

Reading. 1 Corinthians 14: 1-12

14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

 

Sermon. Encouragement (Part 2). ‘Building the House’

Today we continue to look at some key New Testament words and their usage in promoting encouragement, with special reference to how these apply to our speech.

Last Sunday we explored the most frequently used word for encouragement- Parakalein. We saw that Parakalein means to be ‘called alongside’. The Father encourages us by giving us the Son of God, Jesus Christ who ‘came alongside us’ through the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit also comes along side us. He gives us the words for the fight. We too can come alongside others and speak to strengthen them.

Another word or idea for encouragement in the New Testament is Oikodemio.

Oikodemio means ‘to build the house’ (‘eco’ is the root word from our words ‘economics’ and ‘ecumenical’. ‘Eco’ means ‘whole’, and ‘demio’ means ‘to build’).

The key question we need to ask in this respect is ‘Does our speech build up the church?’ The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in our reading from 1 Corinthians 14:1-12. It seems that some in the Corinthian church were making the ‘gift of tongues’ the all-important gift (the ability to speak in other languages unknown to the speaker). Paul teaches that this gift has its place; verse 2 describes how it edifies the speaker in their relationship with God. But by this gift’s very nature, no one else understands the speaker if they speak in a tongue publicly.

So Paul takes the opportunity of establishing an important principle. He says use speech as a means of building up the church. ‘Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts try to excel in gifts that build up the church’ (14:12). He uses the word Oikodemio here. If that is your aim- to build up the church- then there are more appropriate gifts of speech that can be used to build up fellow believers. Paul refers to ‘some revelation or knowledge or prophesy or word of instruction’ (6) that can be brought instead. The Message translation puts it this way: ‘some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching’. These contributions are more appropriate in a public context. Actually Paul does concede that a tongue can be given publicly but it should be followed by an interpretation (13). Again, so the church is built up.

The danger to avoid is the use of speech that draws attention to oneself, rather God intends we use the gifts of speech He has given us to help others and encourage them/ build them up in their faith.

Last week we looked at Barnabas, also called ‘son of encouragement’. Barnabas spoke up for Paul when no one else believed Paul could have possibly become a disciple (Acts 9:27). We also saw in Acts 15:36-39 how Barnabas was an advocate for John Mark. Paul did not want to take John Mark with him and Barnabas on a further missionary journey because John Mark had deserted them on the first journey. But Barnabas did not focus on John Mark’s past failure. He saw his potential and spoke up for him against Paul’s view.

We read of another episode in the book of Acts where Barnabas yet again shows the truth of his nick name- ‘son of encouragement’. Here we see clearly in him that the encouraging tongue is a humble tongue:

Acts 11 describes a great move of the Holy Spirit taking place in Antioch. It was the first time that non- Jews were being evangelised by a Christian church. The Hellenists or Greeks were being won to Christ (20). The church in Jerusalem heard about this and sent Barnabas to investigate. The issue of gentiles coming to faith was still new and the church in Jerusalem had only just accepted its possibility, mainly because of the Apostle Peter’s account how the gentile Cornelius and his household had come to faith and been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts Chapters 10, 11).

So Barnabas was on a critical mission. A lesser man would have been tempted to pride, possibly envy, at what was going on in Antioch. After all the church was in Jerusalem. A lesser man would have been tempted to dismiss this new church full of gentiles, and instead draw attention to himself and his church. But Barnabas is a humble man, a good man (11:24) and that shows in his speech. He rejoices in the grace shown to these new believers and encourages them all to remain faithful to the Lord.

Notice too the humility of Barnabas in his looking for Paul (previously called Saul) and asking him to share in the task of teaching and discipling these new believers (25). Barnabas was not using his gift of speech to draw attention to himself. His concern is not his prestige, but that the new believers get the best possible instruction. It is because of his attitude and encouraging words that the work in Antioch greatly expands.

Later in Acts 14 we read of Barnabas returning to this church, still encouraging the church.

The church can only be built up through such encouragement.

Paul and Barnabas believed gifts of the tongue were given to benefit others. Perhaps you are an articulate person but up to now you have used that gift for your own ends. Is the Lord calling you to use that gift to build up others in the church? You could start by joining a house group and share an insight during Bible study to encourage others there. Those who sing, play instruments or speak publicly in a service, we need to continually ask ourselves- are we using these gifts of the tongue to be ‘seen’ or to minister and so build the church?

All of us can ‘build the house’ through our conversations with each other.

The Scriptures warn against gossip (maliciously spreading the news of someone’s failings to others), Proverbs 16:28; 26:20, and slander (attributing false unworthy motives and actions to someone thereby seeking to poison others against that person. Ironically such slander is usually about someone who has been obedient to the Lord and His teaching and the slanderer has hardened their heart against God’s Word. The Apostles frequently met slander (Acts 16:19-22; Acts 21: 27-29; 2 Corinthians 12:20).

Then there is grumbling. Moses was called by the Lord to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, across the desert to the Promised Land, and communicate the Lord’s instruction in so doing. Although the people came to recognise the Lord had called Moses to that mission, throughout the exodus we read how the people mistrusted the Lord and so blamed Moses. They grumbled whenever things looked difficult. They refused to walk by faith in God and looked only at their circumstantial difficulties. They grumbled against Moses and even slandered his motives (Exodus 16: 2-10). This grumbling led to Korah’s rebellion- which the Lord judged (Numbers 16:8-35). New Testament believers are similarly warned (1 Corinthians 10: 8-11).

Gossip, slander and grumbling destroy the house. Lack of love for one another in the church repulses others who are considering joining the church. But love builds the house. The Lord Jesus taught our love for one another draws others to Christ (John 13:35). Gossip, slander and grumbling have the opposite effect.

Alan Redpath once formed a small group for mutual encouragement and the members of the group promised to keep to a simple formula before speaking with or about anyone else. The formula was based on the word THINK:

T is it true?

H is it helpful?

I is it inspiring?

N is it necessary

K is it kind?

 

Redpath said that ‘if what I am about to say does not pass these tests, I will keep my mouth shut. And it worked. That sounds like a useful formula for the way we talk to each other. Paul says much the same thing in Ephesians ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Ephesians 4:29).

 

A further word used for encouragement in the New Testament is Sulambano

 

Sulambano means ‘to lift with’. It conveys the idea of encouraging someone by helping them.

The word is used for example in the cause of evangelism. Paul uses it in Philippians 4:3 to describe how Christian women had ‘lifted up’ the cause of the Gospel by labouring with him.

Members of the church who are gifted in administration and the ability to organise, those who are able to deal with finance, those who have ability with audio visual technology, those who are good with publicity, those who are practical helpers, those who cater, all such are lifting up the cause of the Gospel when they use their gifts/abilities to help its smooth transmission.

Perhaps prayer is the best means of speech available to us if we want to encourage each other. By praying with someone else you help that person to lift up their concerns to the Lord:

Paul writes ‘How I thank God through Jesus Christ for (this good report, and for) each one of you. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to the one I serve with all my might’ (Romans 1:8,9). The Christians in Rome would have been greatly encouraged in the knowledge that Paul was praying for them like that. So too with the Corinthians, knowing that Paul was constantly giving thanks to God for them. In a similar fashion Paul prayed for Timothy ‘I am grateful to God whom I worship with a clear conscience…when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day (2 Timothy 1:3).

Perhaps praying with others is a better way of using our tongues than talking much or giving advice. Certainly when we want to encourage others who are in pain or finding the going tough our words should be few:

Joseph Bayly in his book ‘The last Thing We Talk About’ wrote this after the premature death of one of his sons: ‘I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved except to wish he would go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.’

A further way we can ‘lift with’ another is through expressing our appreciation of them. Peter says husbands should show consideration for their wives and ‘pay them honour’ (1 Peter 3:7). Verbal appreciation is important:

Stacy Reaoch describes how she and her two daughters walked into a service station toilet area. ‘As we walked in, I noticed that, despite how busy it was, the wash room was sparkling clean. I saw a woman hard at work, scrubbing the floors and sinks amidst others walking in and out. It struck me that, while most other women were home preparing turkeys or traveling to visit family, she was doing a thankless job. The room was remarkably tidy and, as any mum would be, I was grateful.

I should say something to her, I thought to myself. When I looked up from the sink, she had disappeared. For a minute, I felt a sense of relief that I could avoid a possibly awkward interaction. But while drying my hands, I felt a nudging within me to go find her and express my thanks. My girls and I walked around the corner to the other side of the washroom and found her reloading her supply cart in a closet. I slowly walked up to her and said, “I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job cleaning this washroom. I really appreciate it.” A warm and curious smile spread across her face as she looked at me. I wondered if anyone ever thanked her for her diligent work.’ (‘Desiring God’ website, 2/2/2017).

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who ‘builds the house’. Christ builds His Church and He is the sure foundation (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4-8). And when we are weak and weary the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who lifts us up; He lifts with us (Matthew 11:28,29); He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25) and one day He will lift us up to share eternal life with Him (John 5: 21,22). Praise His name!

 

 

Hymn

For the joys and for the sorrows
The best and worst of times
For this moment, for tomorrow
For all that lies behind
Fears that crowd around me
For the failure of my plans
For the dreams of all I hope to be
The truth of what I am

For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus, I have Jesus
(Repeat)

For the tears that flow in secret
In the broken times
For the moments of elation
Or the troubled mind
 

 

 

For all the disappointments
Or the sting of old regrets
All my prayers and longings
That seem unanswered yet

For the weakness of my body
The burdens of each day
For the nights of doubt and worry
When sleep has fled away
Needing reassurance
And the will to start again
A steely-eyed endurance
The strength to fight and win
 

Graham Kendrick

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

 

Reflect and pray

 

A Church is at heart a community, with people choosing to join together from many different backgrounds. In any church, people of all ages, races and life experiences share a desire to worship God and meet with others to pray, learn and grow in faith. In any group it is inevitable that there will differences of opinions and even at time strong divisions, with many different personalities trying to coexist. Are there times you find it difficult to be part of your church community? There is great strength in diversity, when it is used in a positive way. When we find ways to work together as a church, building each other up, recognising differences and individual strengths it brings unity.

Think of building blocks, and imagine you are one of those building blocks. Each building block does not have much use on their own, but together each one is important when they are built together forming a strong tower.

Pray and ask God where in the structure you are, remembering that every ‘building brick’ is important.

Pray for a fresh discerning of the gifts God has given you which you can use as part of the body of believers. 

Pray to let go of any feelings of inadequacy and know that God has a role for you that only you can fulfil. 

Blocks in a tower have to be placed carefully so they don’t fall. Reflect and pray upon the ways we need to be gentle with each other, appreciating each person’s differing abilities, yet also standing side by side in prayer and friendship to create a solid place where we can glorify God together. (The Barn Church. Scotland)

 

https://www.barnchurch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Jenga.png      

 

Praying for protection

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-15)

  • That God would heal the elderly and vulnerable who have contracted Covid-19
  • That there would be adequate medical and personal care for all who are affected
  • For all the carers, frontline medical staff and other key workers who are more exposed to the virus – that God would protect them, that they would know his presence and that they would have adequate personal protective equipment
  • For the friends and family of those who are ill, that they would be comforted and enabled to care for those who are sick
  • That God’s mighty hand would be shown through the slowing down and eradication of the virus

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.”  (Psalm 91:1-3)                                            Christian Concern

 

 

 

Hymn

1 Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and corner-stone
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion's help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

 

2 All within that holy city
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
sing, in perfect harmony;
God the One-in-Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

 

3 We as living stones implore you:
Come among us, Lord, today!
with your gracious loving-kindness
 

 

 

hear your children as we pray;
and the fulness of your blessing
in our fellowship display.

 

4 Here entrust to all your servants
what we long from you to gain
that on earth and in the heavens
we one people shall remain,
till united in your glory
evermore with you we reign.

 

5 Praise and honour to the Father,
praise and honour to the Son,
praise and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One:
one in power and one in glory
while eternal ages run.

(Jubilate Hymns version) John M Neale

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bC0tgGblE

 

Blessing

 

May the eternal God bless and keep us,

Guard our bodies, save our souls, direct our thoughts,

And bring us safe to the heavenly country, our eternal home

Where Father, Son and Holy Spirit ever reign,

One God for ever and ever. Amen

 

 

 

David Barnes 5/8/20