Thought for the Week 07 - Sunday 3rd May 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

Carlton Colville Parish ‘Thought for the week’ – 3rd May 2020

Greetings everyone, we hope you are still feeling blessed as we look at God’s word together each week in these ‘Thought for the week’ emails

We all recall very well that in the middle of March we were told that we had to close church buildings for the foreseeable future, and as we know, we are still in ‘lockdown’

We will continue sending out these ‘Thought for the week’ emails as long as we need to do so while ‘lockdown’ continues.

At the same time we will keep you updated of any change of plans as and when they occur as we look to ‘return to normal’ over a period of time once we begin to move out of ‘lockdown’.

We continue to be encouraged at the number of people who are setting time aside at 10:30 each Sunday to work through the ‘Thought for the week’ together – though each in our own homes. (Mark: this written for Gunton congregations as well as ours, we have our YouTube service at 10:30, but trust that you are then reading this at some other time).

Don’t forget that if you have any prayer requests or if you have any problems please let us know and we will do what we can to help.

As we move on let’s now share a short time of prayer, reflection and worship as we think of our fellow church community members each in our own homes worshipping at the same time as each other – and so we pray …

 

Almighty Father, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: we thank You for all the members of our parish who know You as Saviour and Lord.

Help us who trust in Him to allow ourselves to be taught by Your Holy Spirit as we seek to grow in Him.

We pray for our ‘Thought for the week’ that through it we may grow in faith and in love, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

At the beginning of the time we want to be quiet before God and seek to know His presence with us and so we turn to sing together the song ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here’

It is a favourite for many and if we focus on the words as we sing it can be a very powerful song to help us focus as we prepare to share this ‘Thought for the week’

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here;

come bow before Him now

with reverence and fear:

in Him no sin is found -

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here.

 

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around;

He burns with holy fire,

with splendour He is crowned:

how awesome is the sight -

our radiant King of light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around.

 

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place:

He comes to cleanse and heal,

to minister His grace -

no work too hard for Him.

In faith receive from Him.

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place.

Over the past few weeks with our ‘Thought for the week’ we began by reminding ourselves from Psalm 46 that ‘God is our strength and refuge’ and then we took time to look at the great value Barnabas, the encourager, was to the early church.

From there we followed the chronological account of the life of Jesus and His early followers from Palm Sunday up to the week after Easter Day, and within that time frame last week we observed the two on the Road to Emmaus.

We are going to step outside the ‘chronological’ time frame today and for the next 3 weeks but return to it again at the end of May.

We take note in passing that from the perspective of the Jewish traditions, there is, however, a strong chronological process that continues after the Passover Festival. 

While the Sabbath, (which is the Saturday that  we call Easter Saturday), brought the Passover Festival to an end, the following day, the Sunday that we call Easter Day, was the beginning of the ‘Festival of weeks’ that would run for 7 weeks and would culminate  with Jewish festival of Pentecost.

We find the record of that first Christian ‘Pentecost’ in Acts 2:1-41 – but more of that in a few weeks time.

Obviously, we will want to take a look at the account of that first Christian ‘Pentecost’ (Pentecost Sunday is 31st May this year), but today we look at part of the ‘story’ just after that particular Pentecost festival.

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early ‘church’ we see how the followers of Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to move them and empower them they saw many coming to faith in Jesus and the ‘church’ began to grow very quickly.

Today we are going to focus our attention on a time soon after that first Christian ‘Pentecost’ as we look at the Bible passage from Acts 2:42-47.

At this stage the ‘church’ was already over 3000 in number and we see that the Lord was adding to their number each day – what an exciting position to be in.

The believers continued to use the temple for their place of assembly and ministry, but they also met in various homes. 

The 3,000 new converts needed both instruction in the Word of God and fellowship with the people of God if they were to grow in this new-found faith and become effective witnesses. 

The early church did more than make converts; they also made disciples (Matt. 28:19–20), and there is a difference.

The foundational content for the believer’s spiritual growth and maturity was the Scripture, God’s revealed truth, which the apostles received and taught faithfully.

With this in mind the Apostles knew the value that these early disciples needed to be ‘challenged’ by the Word of God.

Like those on the Road to Emmaus, these new believers needed to have a fresh understanding of the reality of the promises of Messiah contained within what we call the Old Testament Scriptures.

They would need to move away from ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’ that they had been brought up with and they would also need to allow the Holy Spirit to teach them ‘new things’ about the Messiah that the Father had sent to them.

All too often, the problem with the modern ‘church’ is that it does not make its decisions based on what Scripture says but on ‘gut feeling’ or ‘tradition’.

The very thing that the Reformers were calling for was a return to Biblical teaching and understanding.

They recognised how far the church had strayed from ‘Biblical teaching’ at that time, and sadly, we can see how far the church has strayed from ‘Biblical teaching’ once more.

The church today needs to return to ‘the Apostles teaching’ and a real and deep sense of ‘fellowship’ and get back to being a Bible based church.

As a result of this following ‘the Apostles teaching’ and Holy Spirit growth the members of this early church lived such attractive lives that people held them in a sense of awe and had a desire to join them and accept Jesus for themselves, and all too often that is not true of us.

I remember someone saying on one occasion, ‘it’s like this, if we were put on trial accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us’?

Or, as someone else put it, ‘When people look at us, do we give such an attractive picture of Jesus that they want what we have’?

As these early believers went about their every day lives, they took eery opportunity to meet together in groups to learn about their new-found faith.

Two phrases in Acts 2:42 may need explanation. 

First of all we have the phrase ‘Breaking of bread’. Bread and wine were the common fare at a Jewish table – and this could refer to their regular meals, but it is also true that at the close of a meal together, they probably paused to remember the Lord by recalling what He had said and done at that Passover Meal.

The second word that needs a comment is the word fellowship – and this is a word that means much more than just ‘being together.’ 

This phrase does not convey that the early Christians lived in a commune or pooled and redistributed everything equally, but that they held their own possessions lightly, ready to use them at any moment for someone else, as needs arose.

We so often speak of ‘having fellowship’ and use the word in a very loose way.

The Bible dictionaries say that ‘fellowship’ means ‘partnership’ or ‘sharing’ or ‘having in common’.

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Saviour they become partners with Jesus Christ, and, as a result, at the same time they become ’partners’ with all other believers.

It should then become their joy and desire to stimulate and encourage one another as they continue to grow in faith and love.

It does us no harm to reflect on this word fellowship and how we use that word – and seek to have a deeper understanding of all that it can mean for us.

The early church had a powerful testimony among the unsaved Jews, not only because of the miracles done by the Apostles (Acts 2:43), but also because of the way the members of the fellowship loved each other deeply and served the Lord. 

The risen Lord continued to work with them and through them and people continued to be saved. What a church!

The Christians we meet in the Book of Acts were not content to meet once a week for ‘services as usual’. 

They met daily (Acts 2:46), cared daily (Acts 6:1), won souls daily (Acts 2:47), searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), and increased in number daily (Acts 16:5). 

For these new believers their Christian faith was a day-to-day reality, not a once-a-week ritual and routine, and they shared with one another whenever they were able. 

Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them, and His resurrection power was at work in their lives through the Spirit.

As we mentioned the other week – we can look to share with one another even during ‘lockdown’ by email or phone call – to encourage and stimulate each other.

The promise is still good: ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). 

Are we open to the power of the same Holy Spirit to equip us in our worship and in our service for Him?

Whether we meet in the church building, in our homes or in any other place we need to continually look for His power and presence to be recognised and felt among us.

As we come to the end of this ‘Thought for the week’ we turn to a time of prayer – and so, below there is a prayer and then we have included the Intercessions that we included last week;

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Let us pray to God, who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus, either through illness or isolation or anxiety, that they may find relief and recovery. We pray for all who are seeking to offer help and support.

        Lord, in Your mercy Hear our prayer

For those who are guiding our nation at this time, and shaping national policies, that they may make wise decisions. We ask You to support and encourage all who have the responsibility upon their shoulders at this time. Grant that they will have both the wisdom and courage to make the difficult decisions.

        Lord, in Your mercy Hear our prayer

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights many will be restored to health. Guard all who are working at the front line and give them strength and courage.

        Lord, in Your mercy Hear our prayer

For the vulnerable and the fearful, for the gravely ill and the dying, that they may know Your comfort and peace.

        Lord, in Your mercy Hear our prayer

We lift before You all those who have lost a loved one in recent weeks and ask for Your arms of love to surround them.

        Lord, in Your mercy Hear our prayer

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of You, our God.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

As we conclude this ‘Thought for the week’ we turn now to a hymn the help us focus on Jesus and His victory for us and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His church. 

The Hymn is ‘Jesus, we celebrate Your victory’ - we may or may not know this one, but we can listen to it or sing along to it.

   Jesus, we celebrate Your victory,

   Jesus, we revel in Your love,

   Jesus, we rejoice You’ve set us free,

   Jesus, Your death has brought us life.

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,

no longer to be subjects  

to the yoke of slavery.

So we’re rejoicing in God’s victory,

our hearts responding to His love.

   Chorus

 

His Spirit in us releases us from fear,

the way to Him is open,

with boldness we draw near.

and in His presence our problems disappear,

our hearts responding to His love.

   Chorus


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