Sticky situations – Exodus 14:10-15

The Israelites have just been liberated from captivity of the Egyptians. They were being led by Moses into the promise of God. Then God instructed his newly liberated people to go backwards and asked them to wait there. He asked them to go back towards where they just escaped after years of captivity and camp there! That sounds like the most absurd, impractical thing you could do.

After that, God then went and hardened their captivator’s heart so that he could rally up his army and pursue after the newly liberated, former slaves. The Israelites after a while look up whilst in the desert, only to see the Egyptians charging at them. They naturally begin to panic and start to question the point of the rescue mission, when they were still going to be hunted by their wicked captors.

In retrospect, to them, it was better, more comforting to live under the level of oppression they were in, than to face what looked like certain death. Fear and panic kicked in and they lost sight of all God had done to bring them out of slavery. Loosing sight due to fear and panic, disabled them from rationalising that if God did all of that to get us out, surely he can’t leave us out here to die.

Then God simply asked Moses why he was crying out to him and that he should tell every one to get a move on. Moses, before hearing from God, told the people to be still in their time of panic. God then said, “start moving”. Rationally, God’s instruction makes sense. You see the enemy fast approaching so the natural response is you get up and start moving. Moses however thought the better option was to be still, something you wouldn’t opt to do naturally in the face of danger. The Israelites opted to panic and assume the end.

It makes you question, did Moses suggest to be still to hear first from God. If that’s the case then I understand why he would say that and I admire him for thinking about hearing first from God rather than acting on impulse.

Reflecting on this scripture and my current circumstances, it makes me realise that God has the power and will do whatever he wants to with my life, in order to glorify himself and to make me understand that the glory belongs to him. By default, I think life should be peachy and everything should be straight forward. However my past experiences in life and present ones say otherwise.

It’s interesting that God purposefully made the situation more difficult for the traumatised former slaves. But in doing so, the Israelites were able to see that, no one could snatch them from the hand of God. They were able to see God raise them up, in the presence of their enemies and after, crush their enemies before their very eyes. They were able to see God make a way where there seemed to be no way. They had no choice but to look to God because it was only him that could deliver them from this predicament.

Situations like this build faith. They make me have an appreciation for God. Many times when I feel like I’ve been liberated and it’s smooth sailing from here, I find myself moving backwards and suddenly in the middle of a storm. Before, I’d think God was punishing me for sinning and for being bad. But after many storms, I’ve realised it helps me see God clearly. Sticky situations help me understand my limitations and God’s omnipotence.

They make me understand God’s love for me and his faithfulness as well as commitment to me. From this scripture, I know that fear and panic will only make me forget and lose hope. Which makes no sense when the God of hope is my God. So as God commanded the Israelites to “Get Moving!” while they panicked and concluded it was over because of their great enemy, I too, will get moving because God is about to do the impossible in front of my enemy. He is about to make a way where there is no way. He is about to crush my enemy before my very eyes for his glory. I will give him the glory and glorify his name with my life.

Thank you God.

 

Stephany Medani

Strengthening the Body – taking responsibility as individuals

posted in: Hope Church, Tony Thompson 0

During the Autumn we had many prophetic words. It feels like an important time for us.

These words include promises of what God will do and the impact we will have. However, as leaders we feel the key word for the year is “strengthening the body”. The prophetic word said that the arms of our body are strong, (we feel they represent the work we our doing reaching out to the community through Open House and 4pm service, and building friendship with Muslims through Holiday Club and in other ways) so need to focus on building the body as the arms cannot function without a strong body. The body is currently weaker than the arms.

This word, and others were shared at our half night of prayer and another word came, inspired by a song, that new wine is produced by crushing. That strengthening, new wine may require crushing. You can listen to the song:

 

 

This and subsequent blogs and sermons will seek to explore how the body can be strengthened.

There are different elements of strengthening, as individuals but also as a church family. 

We are reviewing our structures, our organisation to strengthen them. Over the year we will be giving more information on this.

We also need to grow as individuals within the church.

The Parable of the talents or bags of gold, Matthew 25:14-30, describes servants being given 5, 3 and 1 bags of gold. Those with the 5 and 3 bags invested the gold to produce more, the person with 1 buried it to keep it safe. Those who invested their money were commended, the person who buried the money was condemned.

The important and relevant truths from this parable are – 

It is not about how big we are, how much you have, what is important is what we do with what we are given. Human instinct causes the person with 3 bags from God to feel bad compared to 5 bag people but superior to the person with just 1 bag. We look at the gifting of others and ask, why didn’t you give me the gifts like….. Similarly, we can look at other churches in other towns or nations that maybe richer, full of people with greater gifts and complain to God why don’t you give us what you have given them?

The parable says it not about how much you have been given; God holds you responsible for what you do with what he has given you.

In the context of strengthening the body we need to take responsibility for strengthening ourselves, growing ourselves, allowing God to turn us into wine. Whoever you are, whatever gift we have been given.

This is true for individuals as well as corporately.

 

Example of how we can take responsibility to strengthen ourselves amid challenges. 

 

A Kairos moment is when something significant happens in your life, maybe a crushing like in the song or maybe just general circumstances. Taking responsibility, being strengthened through the event depends on how we respond to it. This picture gives a healthy way to respond and grow.

Observe (describe the moment)

Reflect (what went on in you – thoughts, feelings, choices) Importance of understanding feelings. Many different feelings – anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, shame.

So easy to ignore them – especially those we consider more difficult, fear, sadness, anger. Yet God speaks to us through our feelings. Understood properly, it is part of us taking responsibility for strengthening ourselves. God “feels” – our feelings are part of being made in the image of God.

Discuss (talk with someone about your reflections, talk about what could change for the future, what can you learn about God, the world and yourself) 

Plan (think of a simple achievable step(s) you can carry out in the next week – you will be surprised about how much change can happen with a series of small steps.) 

Account (ask someone you trust to hold you accountable to what you have planned.) THEN ACT.

Below is a sermon that expands on the thoughts in this blog.

Click here for the webpage with download link

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Removing Idols – Fighting the battle till victory is secured

The Christian life is full of challenges and change. We walk a lifelong journey of  being changed to be more like Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Recently at Hope Church we have had a series on recognising and removing idols in our lives. Idols are sometimes good things which have subtly taken the place of God in our lives. We may need help to recognise them as they can be hidden from us. They do not want to give up the ground they have gained in us and we may experience a battle as they seek to take back control. Thankfully we know we have victory in Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of His body the Church.

During the the series I found I was challenged by the preach on the Idol of power and glory. I recognised that although I know that I am totally reliant on God, when things go well I can easily take credit for them or look to be validated by others instead of giving God the glory. During the service I stood to respond and repented of this idol. What I didn’t expect was the battle in my mind that started 2 days later. As a mature christian I have overcome many battles but the lies thrown at me felt real and tapped into my emotions leaving me an emotional mess. It was as if many past hurts that had been dealt with and forgiven came bubbling up, all of them made me feel unvalidated. Fortunately for me I have sisters and brothers in the body of Christ that love me, don’t judge me when I struggle and help me through to final victory. Victory involved standing on forgiveness, forgiving anything new and announcing the truth that Jesus is the only one to be glorified and I live to serve Him and don’t need that validation from others. My relationship as His child is the most important one. I chose to put to death the earthly desires I struggled with. The next day I felt completely different. None of the pain of the previous day was there. the old scars healed as before.

 

Why do I share this? Because when we respond to God identifying an idol or an ungodly belief we may hope for immediate freedom in our lives, but often a further battle follows as we put in place new ways of thinking and behaving. As part of the body of Christ I encourage you to find a trusted brother or sister to help you recognise things that need to be prayerfully dealt with and lies you may be believing. (Ephesians 6:12) Find someone you can be accountable to. It can help to have someone alongside you as you establish your life in a way that puts God in His rightful place as first in your life. We replace the idol with Christ and line up our lives with the truth in God’s word. (Colossians 5) This may take ongoing effort on our part until victory is secured but with his Spirit living in us our victory is assured.

Hallelujah!

 

Written by Theresa Middleton

Thoughts to ponder from Genesis 1

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson 0

I recently came across two separate thoughts that spring from Genesis 1. 

The first is how the trinity is involved in creation. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, that is God the Father. He did it by his word, God said, that is the Son. The Spirit of God was also involved, hovering over the waters.

Genesis was originally written is Hebrew but in the time of Jesus most people read the Scriptures in an Aramaic translation. It is in the translation of this passage that we have the only place in the Old Testament that the Spirit of God is described as a dove. The Hebrew original literally says the Spirit is fluttering rather than hovering. In the Aramaic translation he is called a dove. Therefore, in the gospels at Jesus baptism where God the Father speaks over his Son and the Spirit is present as a dove the Aramaic readers would have seen this as re-creation, the creation story of Genesis being repeated. An interesting train of thought.

I also same across the point that Genesis 1 describes mankind as made in the image of God and created to work with God in partnership within the world. Prayer is a major way we acknowledge our partnership with God in the world. As it is a partnership it doesn’t mean that God will do everything we ask but it does mean we ask and talk to Him about what we are doing, how we can work together and what we would like Him to do. I found this train of thought very helpful.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Idols

This doesn’t seem to be a relevant topic for today. It conjures up pictures of ancient cultures bowing before statues or of Eastern cultures far removed from Western society. However, it is a topic that occurs throughout the Bible. As Paul travelled throughout the Roman world, as described in the book of Acts, he found each city had its favourite deity (God) that had a shrine and was worshipped. We need to ask the question, is our society really any different? Ancient cultures worshipped Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty; Ares, the god of war; Artemis, the goddess of fertility and wealth. Doesn’t our society worship beauty, power, money and achievement? Doesn’t each of these have their own shrines – office blocks, gyms, stadiums, shopping malls? We can be blind to the idols within our culture, even our lives. A Ugandan bishop travelled to the UK and identified what he considered to be the major idol of our society, security. He discerned this from the fact that the first question people asked him was, is Uganda safe? We called ourselves Hope Church, as hope is the antidote to despair which we found all around us. There is a great difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, e.g. if you lose your job you gain comfort from your family. Despair is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. The cause of despair is idolatry, making things other than God the ultimate thing. The first commandment says, you shall have no other gods before me. When we make things other than God the ultimate thing, we will always end up disappointed and vulnerable to despair. During our sermon series we will be seeking to unmask the idols in our society, the impact that they have and most importantly how we find and replace the idols in our own lives.

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO OUR ‘IDOLS’ PREACHING SERIES

 

Written by Tony Thompson

The Bible and Cultural Challenges – Part 4: Individualism and you

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson 0

One major disadvantage of reading the Bible in English is that the English word you can be either singular or plural. Due to our inclination towards individualism we tend to assume that you is singular which often causes us to misread Scripture and over emphasises my relationship with God verses our relationship with God.

For example if you understand 1 Corinthians 6: 19 to mean: “your [singular] body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you [singular], whom you [singular] have received from God,” you might conclude a good application would be, “I need to quit smoking.” (That’s what I had always been told was an appropriate application of this Scripture.) If, however, you read “your [plural] body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you [plural], whom you [plural] have received from God,” you might conclude Paul’s concern has more to do with the community at large. In the context of 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is speaking about visiting temple prostitutes. If you read the passage individually, you think in terms of personal repercussions, but Paul was worried about how bad behaviour contaminated the entire congregation.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

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