A call to fasting – video and blog

posted in: Fasting 1

A call to fasting
By Donal Moroney

Video and blog

Introduction:

Have you ever felt strongly that something was supposed to happen? You were so sure you had heard from God? You waited, you prayed, you waited some more, and nothing. Then the questions started: Did I miss God? Was that just me and the cheese I ate the night before? Why isn’t anything happening? Why are the metaphorical doors closed when God seemed to be telling me they would open?
In Mark Chapter 9, a father brought his son to nine of Jesus’ disciples. The boy was demonized and epileptic, and even though the disciples had healed people before, they couldn’t heal him. When the disciples brought the boy to Jesus and he was healed, they asked Jesus this question, “Why couldn’t we do it?” Jesus answers in verse 29, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything except by prayer and fasting.”

Perhaps there are things that God desires to happen in the life of our church and our lives and ministry that won’t happen unless we accompany prayer with fasting. Fasting draws us more intimately into the presence of God, breaks strongholds, liberates people, and moves us into a realm of realising God’s power in our lives.

The more time you are spending with God, the more you’re going to see the hand of God on your life in an extraordinary way. You may not feel different; you may not even see the answers to your prayers, but there is a spiritual change.

We like most people around the world have been living with a deadly virus (Covid 19) for almost a year now. During that time we have in the UK experienced three lockdowns, a whole raft of measures ranging from the completely draconian to the exceptionally inconvenient. The lockdowns and associated restrictive measures have been necessary due to the fact that unprecedented numbers of people have tragically lost their lives and many more hospitalised with severe symptoms.

However, even though we are continuing to live through the coronavirus nightmare, in God’s gracious providence a nationwide vaccine programme has been rolled out, and is offering light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel. It is our way out of this pandemic, but even though we can now see a way out it is likely to be many months until life for us can return to anything vaguely resembling normal.
In light of the above, is there anymore that we can be doing as Hope church? Obviously, we need to continue steadfastly in prayer, but I also think that there is a weapon in our armoury that we could consider using now. I’m talking about fasting. I am increasingly sensing that as we individually and corporately combine fasting with our prayers we will experience greater depths of intimacy with Jesus, and incredible, supernatural breakthrough on so many different levels, individually and in our nation.

I (with the full backing and support from the leadership team ) thought that it would be prudent and timely to write a series of blogs on the spiritual discipline of fasting.

Church Prayer Meeting
The Blogs are intended to give us a biblical grounding and some helpful/practical advice on fasting in preparation for a church wide prayer meeting that will be taking place on
MARCH 28TH FROM 19:30-21:00 .

On this day we are encouraging those who wish to participate in a time of fasting culminating in the prayer meeting in the evening.

The structure of the blogs will be as follows….

Part 2: What is fasting?– Giving a definition, laying a biblical foundation, looking at different types etc…

Part 3: Why fast? – Looking at fasting as an expectation – not a command! Explaining the purpose and giving reasons.

Part 4 How to fast – giving practical guidelines, highlight benefits.

Blog and greetings video from Filipe

posted in: Uncategorised 1

By Filipe Almeida

A friend recently challenged me to write about what I have learned from the events of my life in recent years. I confess that I thought the exercise of putting this on paper would be easier, but it wasn’t exactly like that. I even tried to systematize, but “the call” to try to do this in a natural and reflective way was stronger. It was two weeks of reflection with thoughts that I had had before, but also new understandings.

 

I believe that something clear that I have learned is about the possibilities of making plans, but that when making the plans I need to be prepared for the geographical changes, of teams, people, personalities, cultures, diets and new languages. It is also necessary to be prepared for comings and goings, refusals (literally), “feeling at home” in another culture and “not and feeling so at home” in my own culture (Prov. 16.1).

 

I have learned how the Lord has spoken to me, taught me and shaped me. The Lord has done this by helping me to break paradigms that I had because I grew up in a very traditional context, both family and ecclesiastical. The Lord has done this by helping me to grow in confidence, to establish myself in Him each day as “the portion of my strength and strength of my life” (as a song says). The Lord has done this by helping me to overcome my shyness, that shyness that has accompanied me since I was a boy and that has already prevented me from doing several things, from the simplest and most fun, to the most serious and connected to His Kingdom.

 

I have learned to seek dialogue and not feed the ‘hate speech’ that is unfortunately common in the world today. I have learned that I must maintain my positions, including those that are intrinsically linked to Social Justice and the refugee cause. I have learned to respect the opinions and positions of others and that I must not or need to say that those who think differently from me are wrong and / or need to change. I have learned the exercise of reflection, of challenging listening to what is different for me, both in terms of cultural differences and political positions, and even though maintaining my positions, seek the balance to contribute to a healthy life in community and to a non-colonizing society.

 

Another important lesson is about working with international teams. It has been an exercise in humility. An exercise in listening to the other in a language other than mine and a different way of thinking than mine. An exercise that some of my ideas may not be well understood, just as I don’t fully understand the opinions and ideas of others from other cultures. It is an exercise in remembering what it is like to be part of the community of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the greatest example of humility. It is an exercise that leads me to think that if I look at Jesus, if I am patient and a good listener, and the rest of the team do the same, in the end we will make good decisions, with literal laughter and no traces.

 

These past few years have been so challenging, in addition to the pandemic several other episodes have happened in my life. Episodes that sometimes almost made me give up on taking a next step. But I can’t help but remember that each of these events has given me such good feelings, new friendships, a new way of dealing with circumstances and making decisions (and risks!). I have learned how it is necessary to give grace to myself in the face of each new challenge and learning. I have learned how my worldview can change over the course of three years, but that my historical horizon also adds significantly to these new experiences. All of this impels me to do something new, to participate in something new and even if I am afraid, I don’t stop and walk forward and if the doors open, I will enter.

 

I cannot fail to mention how I have learned from the birds of the sky. With sparrows with branches in their beaks. With the different songs of the birds that moved me several times. I have learned to look at heaven and see how the Lord is glorified through His creation. How He loves the creation He created and how He loves and cares for me (Mt. 6. 26). I have learned how pedaling a bicycle in different countrysides with birds around can generate sincere prayers, from a guy who needs every day of the Father’s love, direction and mercy.

These are some of the deep learnings that I have lived, being showered with ups and downs, for some moments of doubts and fears and for other moments of joy and courage. I have learned to walk with the Father in this adventure of life that He has given me. I have learned every day to refine my faith and improve my sense and purpose of life. I have learned to live and remember the verse in Isaiah 43. 18-19.

 

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” NVI.

 

These are some of my reflections on this question that my dear friend asked. It is good to feel that the Lord has helped me to understand these steps and to reframe my experiences. This is our Father! A loving Father who allows us to go through different situations, both good and bad, and thus learn more from Him and from ourselves for His glory and the manifestation of His kingdom in our lives and through our lives.

 

I would like to encourage you to reflect on what you have learned in the last years of your life. Regardless of where you are and where you’ve been, I’m sure you can have good insights. I encourage you to write about it and thus bless other people as well. May the Lord use you in this way and may your experiences, even with risks, be filled with the presence and joy coming from the Father!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is new about the New Testament Part 4

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By Rob Lampard

Recap

This blog concludes my series entitled What’s ‘new’ about the New Testament?  In part 1 we considered why this is an important question for us and looked briefly at how the New Testament itself answers our question.  In part 2 we took a more detailed look at the following topics: the new authority with which Jesus taught, the new covenant, and the new life which his ministry to people results in.  And in part 3 we considered the answers which the book of Hebrews supplies.  In this part we’re going to consider the answers which the book of Revelation supplies.

What’s New in Revelation?

First, Jesus’s personal assurance to believers who overcome is new:

 

“To him who overcomes … I will give a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” (2:17; cf 3:12)

 

Second, there are two songs specifically declared to be new (5:9 and 14:3).  This is an idea first introduced by the Psalmist:

 

Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.  (Psalm 33:3; cf 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1)

 

It is picked up later by Isaiah:

 

Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. (42:10)

 

And finally, it resurfaces again here in Revelation.  Chapter 5 begins with John seeing a scroll in the right hand of God.  It seems important that the scroll be opened and its message read, for eager search is made for someone who is worthy to open and read it.  When no one is found, it causes John to weep uncontrollably.  But then one who is there present consoles John:

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David,[1] has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll.” (5:5)

 

Jesus comes and takes the scroll.  The effect of him doing so is like that of a huge stone being thrown into a lake: the ripples spread and spread, getting bigger and of greater intensity the further they go.  First the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down in reverence (v8).  Then they sing a new song (v9-10).  Next millions of angels join in (v11).  Finally, every living creature ‘in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea’ takes up the refrain, declaring their ultimate praise to ‘Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’ (v12-13).  In contrast, the words of the second ‘new song’ of Revelation (14:3) are not recorded.  Indeed, they are only known to and learnable by ‘the 144,000 who had his (the Lamb’s) name written on their foreheads’. (14:1)

 

Third, there is ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (21:1).  This is something foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

‘See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create,

for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;

the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.’ (65:17-19)

 

We note that this new heaven and earth will incorporate a renewed, delightful Jerusalem, marked by the absence of crying.  John sees the fulfilment of these things (Revelation 21:2 and 4).  He also hears a loud voice declare:

 

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (21:3)

 

Here is the fulfilment of the ancient promise which, throughout history, has consistently marked the covenants God has made.[2]

 

In summary of all this, John hears the voice from the throne declare, “I am making everything new.” (21:5).  One might think that such a declaration would be a fitting one with which to end the book of Revelation and the Bible.  But that’s not what we find.  Instead, John’s vision goes on for another two chapters.  In the remainder of chapter 21, the focus turns to ‘the bride, the wife of the Lamb’ (v9).  We know from other parts of the New Testament that the bride of Christ is his church (Ephesians 5:25-27, 32).  And we know from many New Testament passages that the Lamb is Jesus Christ.[3]

 

These connection chains, wherein one title is connected to another to another, are typical of Revelation.  From one point of view this makes the book less than straight-forward to follow.  From another however, it gives its teaching a greater strength than a series of simple statements would.  The huge beams which supported the ceilings or roofs of ancient buildings are impressive.  But they are only capable of supporting up to a certain distance – may be 30 metres.  The vast roofs of modern community building, sports halls, and especially stadiums (which might span a distance of 150 metres or more) require a different support structure, a lattice.  Such a support structure, though more complex to design and construct, is actually far more elegant and effective.  This is so of Revelation’s teaching, especially it’s teaching about the person of Jesus Christ.  It’s with a consideration of this that we’re going to end.

 

The books known as ‘The Gospels’ (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) present us with a developing picture of Jesus.  Exploring this theme in any detail would require a separate document.  But briefly, Mark begins with Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist (1:9-11), his calling of his disciples (1:14-20, 2:13-17, 3:13-19), and various healings and deliverances (1:21-45, 2:1-12, 3:7-12).  Various teachings are interspersed.  Despite all this, when, in 4:35-39 Jesus calms a storm whilst in a boat on a lake, the disciples’ reaction is to ask, “Who is this?” (4:41).  It’s not until 8:27-29 that Jesus directly asks his disciples who they think he is.  Peter replies that he is the Messiah.  But when Jesus goes on to start predicting his rejection, suffering, execution and resurrection (8:31, in line with the prophecy of Isaiah 53), Peter rebukes Jesus for entertaining such a notion (8:32).  Jesus in turn rebukes Peter (8:33).

 

It’s clear from all this that the disciples did not receive a brain-dump revelation of who Jesus was.

Instead, they experienced progressive revelation.  In line with this, Jesus deliberately employed the enigmatic title ‘Son of Man’ to designate himself by – to the bafflement of his hearers (John 12:34).  The reasons for this are several, but one of the key ones is this: no one presenting themselves as man amongst men, which Jesus obviously did, would be received credibly if, from the outset he went around explicitly declaring, “Hey folks, I’m God you know.”  (Imagine how we would react if someone did such a thing today!)

 

All this changes however in the book of Revelation when Jesus speaks to John, not as a man on earth, but as a man in heaven.  As such, he unreservedly designates himself by multiple exalted titles.  He is the First and the Last, the Living One who was dead and is alive forever more.  He holds the angels in his hands and walks among the churches.  He is the Son of God.  He is holy and true.  He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.[4]  He is the root and offspring of David and the bright morning star.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords![5]  To those who ask, “Where in the Bible does Jesus say he is God?”, the clear answer is, “In the book of Revelation!”

 

[1] We know this is Jesus because he explicitly tells us later that he is ‘the root and offspring of David’. (Rev 22:16)

[2] This idea is first expressed in Genesis 17:7 and is repeated at least 18 times in the rest of the Bible.  See the footnote in our section about the New Covenant for a fuller list of these references.

[3] John 1:29, 1Corinthians 5:7, 1Peter 1:19, Revelation 5:5-13, etc.

[4] To see that this is a direct declaration of divinity compare Isaiah 41:4, 44:6-7, 48:12-13 and Rev 1:8.

[5] Revelation 1:17, 2:1, 2:18, 3:7, 3:14, 22:13, 22:16, 19:16.

What is new about the New Testament Part 3

posted in: Bible 0

By Rob Lampard

Recap

This blog continues my series entitled What’s ‘new’ about the New Testament?  In part 1 we considered why this is an important question for us and looked briefly at how the New Testament itself answers our question.  And in part 2 we took a more detailed look at the following topics: the new authority with which Jesus taught, the new covenant, and the new life which his ministry to people results in.  In this part we’re going to consider the answers which the book of Hebrews supplies.

What’s New in Hebrews?

Any commentary on or human exposition of Scripture is bound to fall short of and miss important strands in the writer’s thesis.  Such commentaries can nevertheless help us see ‘the wood for the trees’.   The following outline of Hebrews 1:1-10:18 has been drawn primarily from Arthur W. Pink’s substantial commentary[1] and the section headings in the NIV Bible.

 

  1. Christ superior to the prophets (1:1-3)
  2. Christ superior to the angels (1:4-2:18)
  3. Christ superior to Moses (3)
  4. Christ superior to Joshua (4)
  5. Christ superior to Aaron (5:1-10)
  6. (Warnings against falling away: 5:11-6:12)
  7. (The certainty of God’s promise: 6:13-20)
  8. Jesus, the high priest like Melchizedek, superior to the Levites (7)
  9. The superior covenant (8)
  10. The superior tabernacle (9:1-11)
  11. The superior sacrifice (9:11-10:18)

 

The reader will note the repeated use of the word ‘superior’ in this analysis.  This highlights the major part Hebrews plays in the subject we are considering.

 

First, Hebrews asserts that Jesus, being the Son of God and Messiah (as spoken about in Psalm 2, 2Samuel 7:14, Psalm 45, Psalm 104 and Psalm 110), is necessarily superior to the prophets and the angels.  The prophets simply spoke God’s word and served his purposes in their generation (eg David – see Acts 13:36-37).  The angels are simply ‘ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).  Jesus was likewise sent (mentioned 33 times in John’s Gospel).  Hence his designation as an apostle (Hebrews 3:1).  But unlike the angels he first took on human form to carry out his ministry (Hebrews 2:14, 17); unlike the prophets, ‘after he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven’ (1:3).

 

Second, Jesus is shown to be greater than Moses.  Both faithfully carried out the task they were appointed to (3:2).  But Moses was faithful as a servant (3:5); Christ is faithful as a son (3:6).  Moses was part of God’s house (3:5); Christ is the builder of that house (3:3).

 

The people of Joshua’s time, by entering the promised land, sought the promised rest from conflict (Deuteronomy 12:9-10), and found it in a limited way (Joshua 11:23).  But since Psalm 95 several hundred years later still speaks of God’s people entering his rest, it becomes apparent that a better, eternal rest from the struggles of this life is in view.  Hebrews urges all believers to fix their minds and efforts on this goal (4:11).  In all this, Jesus himself remains our example (3:1, 4:14-5:9, 12:2-3).

 

At verse 4:14, Hebrews introduces a major new theme.  Not only is Jesus the promised Messianic king of Psalm 2 (quoted in 1:5 and again in 5:5); he is also the great high priest in fulfilment of Psalm 110 (quoted in 5:6).[2]  As such, his priesthood exceeds that of Aaron, who was only appointed in the time of Moses, then died and passed on his priestly role to his sons, who each in turn died (7:23).  ‘But because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood.’ (7:24)  This contention is in full accord with the declarations of Psalm 110.  Put simply, the role of the king in Israel was to be God’s representative before the people, whereas the role of the priest was to be the people’s representative before God, especially in the offering of gifts and sacrifices for sins (5:1).  Because Jesus’s priesthood is permanent, ‘he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.’ (7:26).

 

The writer moves on to display the superiority of the new covenant over the Mosaic one.  We’ve considered the primary substance of the new covenant in a previous section.  Hebrews expounds this further by focusing on two key aspects of the Mosaic covenant: the tabernacle and the sin offering.  It points out that the tabernacle constructed during the time of Moses (the construction of which is described in great detail in Exodus 36-38) was ‘a copy a copy and shadow’ of the true one in heaven (8:2, 8:5, 9:24).  The inference is that it is Jesus himself who is this true tabernacle (10:20; cf John 1:14, where a literal translation would say something like ‘The Word became flesh and lived in a tent (or tabernacled) among us.’).

 

Every sin offering of the Mosaic covenant involved three participants: the sinner, the sin offering, and the priest (see for example Leviticus 4:27-31).  Under the new covenant, Jesus simultaneously fulfils two of these roles.  He is both the priest to whom we come (see the paragraph two above) and our sin offering (8:3, 9:12, 9:14).  We must also note that this sacrifice is repeatedly declared to be a one-off, sufficient and effective for all who will embrace it for all time (7:27, 9:12-15, 9:25-28, 10:10-18).  Wow!

 

So here’s a quick summary of what we’ve seen in the book of Hebrews.  Jesus is superior to the angels, the new and better Moses writing the law in our hearts (10:16), the new and better Joshua leading us to rest in a heavenly country (11:16), the eternal high priest in the order of Melchizedek (7:24), the mediator of a new covenant (12:24), the new and better tabernacle, the new and better sacrifice.

[1] Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, Baker Book House, 1954, (1307 pages).

[2] These two Psalms are the most quoted ones in the entire New Testament.  As well, here in Hebrews, they are both alluded to in Acts 2:36.  And Jesus himself declares Psalm 110 to be Messianic in his debate with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41-45).

Gentle and lowly part 2.

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In a previous blog I introduced the book Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland. My favourite chapter was on the emotional life of Christ. He has fascinating things to say about emotions generally and the emotions of Christ. He focuses on the relationship between Christ’s compassion and his anger.

 

Our emotions are diseased by the fall, of course, just as every part of fallen humanity is affected by the fall. But emotions are not themselves a result of the fall.

 

Sin is restrained my emotions of compassion; what would unrestrained emotions of compassion be like?

 

It is an inner life of perfect balance, proportion, and control, on the one hand; but also of extensive depth of feeling, on the other hand.

 

Perhaps we feel that to the degree we emphasize Christ’s compassion, we neglect his anger; and to the degree we emphasize his anger, we neglect his compassion. But what we must see is that the two rise and fall together.

 

What we are saying is that, yes, Christ got angry and still gets angry, for he is the perfect human, who loves too much to remain indifferent. And this righteous anger reflects his heart, his tender compassion. But because his deepest heart is tender compassion, he is the quickest to get angry and feels anger most furiously—and all without a hint of sin tainting that anger.

 

Are you angry today? Let us not be too quick to assume our anger is sinful. After all, the Bible positively orders us to be angry when occasion calls for it (Ps. 4:4; Eph. 4:26). Perhaps you have reason to be angry.

 

In that knowledge, release your debtor and breathe again. Let Christ’s heart for you not only wash you in his compassion but also assure you of his solidarity in rage against all that distresses you, most centrally death and hell.

 

Gentle and Lowly.

I have just finished an extremely encouraging devotional book called Gentle and lowly by Dane Orlund.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gentle-Lowly-Christ-Sinners-Sufferers/dp/1433566133/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1Y9ATRY8W7ASZ&dchild=1&keywords=gentle+and+lowly+dane+ortlund&qid=1611920624&sprefix=gentle+and+%2Caps%2C166&sr=8-1

 

The whole book is a mediation on the heart of Christ based on Matthew 11v29

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

The Authorised Version says gentle and lowly rather than gentle and humble. Hence the book title. Ortlund uses Christian authors from previous generations to guide him as he unpacks the heart of Christ. I found chapter after chapter to be encouraging and uplifting. A great way to start the day. I fully commend the book to you.

 

Here are a few nuggets from the first chapter.

 

“Gentle and lowly.” This, according to his own testimony, is Christ’s very heart. This is who he is. Tender. Open. Welcoming. Accommodating. Understanding. Willing. If we are asked to say only one thing about who Jesus is, we would be honouring Jesus’s own teaching if our answer is, gentle and lowly.

 

Meek. Humble. Gentle. Jesus is not trigger- happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms.

 

The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.

 

Only as we drink down the kindness of the heart of Christ will we leave in our wake, everywhere we go, the aroma of heaven, and die one day having startled the world with glimpses of a divine kindness too great to be boxed in by what we deserve.

 

He doesn’t simply meet us at our place of need; he lives in our place of need. He never tires of sweeping us into his tender embrace. It is his very heart. It is what gets him out of bed in the morning.

 

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