The day of preparation

As we, down in Pairc, look forward to the Lord’s day and his supper, we think of how our Saviour stepped down into this world.
With Saturday traditionally being the day of preparation, (Thursday and Friday traditionally seek to prepare our heart and soul),it prepares us for the Lord’s supper by encouraging us to look to Christ, who he is, what he has done for us and what he promises still to do for us.
Below there are some Bible passages and other bits and pieces which I hope will help us to prepare our hearts for the Supper, for the table that he has prepared for us :
(Even if it’s not your communion, then there is never a reason not think what Christ has done for you)

“He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
– Song of Solomon 2:4

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2: 5-11

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows,and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
– Isaiah 53: 1-12

Sing Scripture –  “The Suffering Servant” v 7+8

“But surely he took up our pains,
our sorrows he has borne;
Yet we esteemed him cursed by God,
afflicted, pierced and torn.

But for our sins he was condemned,
for our
transgressions bruised;
He brought us healing, peace with God,
though wounded and abused.”

“The blood of Jesus! Sin dies in its presence, death ceases to be death: heaven’s gates ore opened. The blood of Jesus! We shall march on conquering to conquer, so long as we trust its power!
I can never express that thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, “At one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.”
– Spurgeon
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. “
– John 19:30″You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;

let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
-Psalm 45 : 2-5
Hope these few verses are a true blessing to you.

 


The Symptoms of a sick soul

If we are Christians then we will know fine well what means for us to feel far from the presence of God, to feel that our souls are not at ease and that something is wrong, we can be comforted in knowing that this is nothing new to the people of God. In fact,  throughout the Scriptures, and particularly in the Psalms, we see the people of God expressing these feelings to God in prayer.

In order to see this clearly we can look at Psalm 42, in this Psalm we can clearly see a man that is under extreme stress, he is exhausted, he is crying out to God, he is under attack from those around him, he is being mocked and derided, he feels utterly abandoned.
What we have here is a man with a sick soul, a soul that is unwell and is in desperate need of care, his soul is not perishing, he obviously knows God and in fact worships him as his Rock.
This is not the cries of the pained unsaved and dying soul, it is the cries of a soul that is in need of restoration and healing. This feeling of a sick soul is something that we have all experienced, in one way or another we have all had to echo the Psalmists question to his soul:
“Why are you disquieted within me ? OR EVEN “Why are you in turmoil within me ?”
We all know just how desperate we can feel at these times, times when God feels so far and when times of blessing and joyful serving seem far gone in the past.
The Psalm does not address why the Psalmist is undergoing these trials, as we know ourselves, sometimes it can be a trial from God and other time it can be a chastisement from our loving father.
This Psalm sums up all these feelings and situations for us , it shows us plainly the symptoms of a sick soul :

THE SYMPTOMS

1. The sick soul is a thirsty one (v.1 + 2)
We know that God breathed life into us and from that he gave us our soul, the further we are from God the more our soul longs to be satisfied, we see that and we know that from our own experience , before we were saved our souls were distant from God , they were thirsting and we tried so hard to fill them with something, anything to stop and abate the thirst that was in us. It is different for the Christian, our souls can never really run empty because we are fed from the one who gives eternal drink, Christ who promised the woman of Samaria “ if you drink form this water you will never thirst again”.
So how can we then say the Christian is thirsty ? The Christians soul will never run empty, but it will feel as though it is dry – as we have it in Psalm 63:1 :
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
God will never go back on his promises , the living water never leaves the soul of the saved one , it cannot – but God will remove our sense of its filling, the Puritans called this ‘God’s Desertions’, those moments when your soul feels dry, it feels as if it is lifeless and has lost all of its vitality.
The Psalmist uses the illustration of the deer looking for a a river to drink from, we must always remember nothing from God’s word is accidental, the deer is not jut looking for a drink of water, even for a drink of water from a pool, but the deer is looking for a drink of water from a flowing stream, most translations use the word flowing instead of just water brooks – Christ promises a spring of eternal water , and just like a deer is searching for this flowing water, the soul that is sick looks again for this stream it used to know and drink from regularly.
Although we may not be looking deeply at the cause of the symptoms it might be good to note that a well that is not often used will soon become clogged and almost unusable, the water is still there but the well soon becomes stagnant.

2. It is a longing soul (v.4+6)
In verse 4 we see a  heart wrenching phrase from the Psalmist:
“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me”
The is the  pain of the Psalmist as he laments where he used to be and the roles he had performed with joy,with a voice of praise, they are now just a memory to him.
It does not necessary mean that he does not still preform these same roles , but it does mean that they are no longer done with a voice of praise and joy – it done out of plain duty, done to keep up appearances – the desire to serve God has gone.
When our souls are sick we do not necessarily fall away from Church, from the prayer meetings or from our duties in the Church, but we no longer do these things to praise God, but instead just to put on a good face, to show people we are doing okay – even though the truth may be quite the opposite.
The sick soul will also often think back to times of past blessing, there is of course nothing wrong with doing this – it is a joy to see how God has dealt with us , but the sick soul does this because it can find no current pleasure in God.
In verse 6 we find the Psalmist writing :
“O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.”
The Psalmist looks back to three occurrences where God dealt with the people of Israel:
1. The land of Jordan, the promised land which God gave to his people.
2. The heights of Hermon, where Israel defeated many of their enemies, as we have it in Joshua 12:1-2:
“”Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto Mount Hermon.””
3. Lastly the Psalmist mentions the hill of Mizar, there is debate about where this hill his – most commentators believe that it s a smaller hill from which you can clearly see mount Sinai, where God Met with Moses, and where the law was delivered.

3. It is a soul that has shrunk away, it feels utterly overwhelmed. (v.7)
The psalmist is drowning, he describes his soul to be attacked by the very waterfalls of God, it is interesting here that the word waterfall can also be used for the word ‘waterspout’ – a waterspout is like a tornado that occurs at sea, the water is lifted up and spirals round, as the wind picks up the water spout only grows more and more until it collapses with a roar. These were and are still common along the Mediterranean sea.
The psalmist proclaims that deep calls unto deep, the sky is thundering as the sea is roaring , there are great columns of water, he is using this image to show us the state of his soul, it is overwhelmed, and he is in fear.
He declares that the waves of God have broken over him.
This feeling of an overwhelmed soul may be very familiar to us, we may know what it is to have it feel as though even nature itself is against us, that the waves of God have indeed broken over us.
In all this we must read carefully what the text says, it does not just say THE waves and billows have gone over me, it say’s YOUR waves and billows. God is still in control and he will never inflict this type of struggle on his children for no good reason, God is still in control,  full control.

4. It is a soul that still sings and gives praise to God (v. 8)
Like we said , the sick soul is not a dying soul, it is regenerate, it has been cleansed, it is not dead. And because of that it will and must still praise God.
We see an odd phrase from the Psalmist, he says that:
“God will command his loving kindness in the daytime”
with all the turmoil that the Psalmist is going through, it may seem odd  that he says that he is in the midst of God’s loving kindness . The Psalmist can only say this because he knows that God is still God, regardless of what he may be experiencing.
Now the Psalmist himself knew whether this was a visitation of God’s chastisement or a time of testing, either way he knows it is from God and therefore it can be endured.
Surgeon points out that God never leaves his beloved, he is is  his “loving kindness in daytime and his song at night”. In all his trails the Psalmist can still say that God is “The God of his life”.

5. It is a soul that is attacked (v.9 + 10)
Lastly we can say that the sick soul is a soul that is more easily attacked, the attackers will never prevail but they can and will do damage.
The Psalmist likens the attacks to the breaking of bones (v.10), with  the enemy continually asking “where is your God ?”
Is this not a question that we know well, when we are at our lowest ebb does this question not creep into our mind ?
“Where is our God ? Does he not care ? Has he taken you this far to just leave you here ?” e.t.c.
It is a thought planted by the enemy and it is one of his best attacks. It makes us question God’s care for us, his love for us and his control over the situation that we are in.

THE CURE

It would be a very dire message if that was the end of it, if the Psalm only described the symptoms but gave no cure.
But we do OF COURSE have the cure provided to us !
In God’s wonderful workings, as the palmist poured out his heart on the page he was led by the Spirit to twice include the cure for his sick soul, whilst he is crying out for help he is already writing down the answer that God gives him.
Verses 5 and 11 reveal the simple cure to us:
HOPE IN GOD
Although his trials were many and he was going through a time of extreme testing,  he knew that his only hope was still God, like we said before he still praised God, he still knew that God would look after him.
He looks to the future, “for I shall yet praise him”.
W
hom else will he praise even though the current situation is not good , he looks forward to the future where he knows he will again be able to praise God with a heart full of Joy.
He will not do this by his own efforts, only God can heal the soul, and only God can reveal his presence again to the one who feels far from him.
Because God himself is the very definition of truth, he keep his promises, and he promises to never abandon his children. We may go through great trials and testings, our souls may be in great turmoil , but we can know that God will help us. Then we can conclude as the Psalmist concluded:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Walk before you run

The other day as I was meant to be starting an essay, I started thinking about my own upcoming communions. I went forward three years ago and I have been a Christian for around six years. I know that in the bigger picture that I’m only still just a child in the faith. But in these six years God has taught me many things, mostly through me getting things completely wrong, but also through his Word and  his people.

Whilst I was staring at my blank screen, waiting for 2500 words worth of reasonably coherent essay’n to appear, I started thinking what advice I would give to a 13 year old me as I began my life as a servant of the Lord:

 

1.
You do not know it all.
As a new Christian, you are like a new born child. And as a new born child you need to be fed on milk and be looked after by others. In his first letter Peter words it like this:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1Peter2:2)

By spiritual milk he means the basics of the Christian faith,  you have to know the basics of what you believe, and know why you believe it. Only then will your spiritual bones grow strong and you will be ready to have some solid food. Don’t run before you can walk, in this case don’t even walk until you can crawl properly! But how do you get this spiritual milk and food, how do you grow?

2.
Read your Bible.
One of the ways you will grow up into an older and more mature Christian is by reading the Bible. And no, don’t just flick through and see where you land. And really don’t just read Jeremiah 29:11 or John 3:16. The Bible contains a theme, a narrative that runs right from Genesis through to Revelation. That theme is God working through people and situations and eventually sending Jesus down, all so that you would be saved from eternal death and Hell.  If you jump around random chapters, you won’t see the way that God worked throughout the Old and New Testament, you wont see how all his promise to Adam and to Abraham came true, you won’t understand correctly  all the things and people that pointed towards the coming Saviour, you won’t see to the full extent the love and care and example of Jesus in his all that he did , you won’t learn well from the carefully laid out instructions in all the letters of the early Church and finally you won’t see properly  how it all culminates in an eternity with your saviour. Use a reading plan, the Murray Mc’Cheyne one is especially good, makes notes of verses that stand out to you and ones that you don’t understand. Don’t just ignore the hard bits, ask another Christian about them and ask your minister, that’s what he’s there for! And don’t forget to pray, before you even touch the Bible ask God to reveal himself and his will  to you as you read.

 

3.
Pray, pray and pray again!
Another way you will grow up into a stronger Christian is by praying. As a Christian you now have a mediator between you and God, that mediator is of course Jesus, as it says in first Timothy:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

In other words because you are now a brother/ sister with Jesus, you can now offer up your prayers to God. Jesus is called the eternal high priest, in the Old Testament days the priest would sacrifice and pray for the people. But because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us we can pray any time we want, and we can know that with Jesus taking all our prayers to the Father, God will hear all the prayers of his children. Our ability to pray to the creator of the universe is incredible, and it’s a privilege that we should make the most of.  I guess the next thing is  how should you pray?

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus taught the disciples the famous Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says to use this prayer, I was taught by an old lady in the congregation to use the prayer as a template:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Start off by praising God for what he done for you and for who he is. When times are tough it is hard to do this, but that is when we need to give God the most praise.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Pray that God’s will would be accomplished, that he would prepare you to be used for his purposes and that people both near and far would also come to love him as their Saviour.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Give thanks for all that God has provided and ask that he would provide physically and spiritually for those around you  and yourself. Remember those who are not as fortunate as you, and especially the persecuted brothers and sisters across the world.
 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Admit our own sins to God, remember that through Christ we can always offer our prayers to God. Ask for help in forgiving everyone who does us wrong.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Ask God to help us in our daily life and help us with the war against sin.

Of course this is just an idea of a template, but it is a good starting point. It is also a good practice to pray (and read the Bible)  first thing when you get up in the morning , as John Bunyan said:
” He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day”
In reality we must spend our day in prayer to God, Paul tells us to “pray ceaselessly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), of course we couldn’t function if we spent all day with our hands folded and eyes closed! But John Piper provides three ways of understanding this command:
1. In all things we should depend on and trust God.
2. Pray repeatedly and often.
3. We should never give up on prayer.
The Christian must pray, without prayer we live a life on our own strength, and if we try and live on in  our own power then we will faint and fail, as Murray Mc’ Cheyne put it:
“A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”

4.
Times will be hard.
At the beginning of your Christian life you are entering into a whole new world, and it is incredible, it is beautiful and it is a whole new beginning for you. But the truth is that this initial wonder will wear off, and you will be faced with sin, both in your own life and in the world around you. But God has not left the Christian unprepared, in Ephesians 6: 10-18 we find out about the armour and the weaponry that God has provided to the Christian.
As a Christian you will be tempted, remember to be tempted is not sin, but to give way at all to temptation is to sin. Even at the slightest inkling  of temptation you must remember again the last phrase that is found in the Lord’s prayer, without God’s help and guidance we stand no chance against sin.  We must us our shield of faith, we must believe that God is more than capable of protecting his children.
You will go through tough times, sad times and times of great trial. But always remember that Christ suffered all things, and is able to help  us through all things, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

This post will be added to, and the list will grow. All the  things in the list are facts which apply to me as much as the new Christian, they are things which will apply to all of the family, no matter how far along in the walk they are.

Here are some pearls of wisdom from some brothers who are older  more experienced in their walk:

” Two essentials of discipleship – from the outset, adopt a disciplined personal bible reading plan for everyday in life and, secondly – pray. Spend time in prayer every morning in particular. Commit each day to God”
– Calum Iain Macleod, Back Free Church

“If you are a new Christian welcome to the family! My advice as someone who has been in it for a number of years? – get to know your brothers and sisters, make sure you eat the food of Gods word (be a doer as well as hearer), and talk often to your Father. With Jesus as your elder brother and the Holy Spirit as your counsellor, even though you face many enemies, you cannot lose. “
– David Andrew Robertson, St Peters Free Church Dundee, Solas centre.

“Submit your life entirely over to God; Make him Lord of ALL. Read the word, pray the word, study the word and LIVE the word then you will do great things for the Lord and his kingdom.”
– Malcolm Macleod, Steadfast Global

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”

This short blog post was meant to have gone up just after my granny passed into eternity, since then there has sadly been four deaths connected to this small community, two of those who have passed were publicly following and serving their Lord.

Death is not natural, although it is now the way of all things, Scripture tells us in Romans 6:23 that death is the final working out of the curse of sin:
“For the wages of sin is death…”
If this was all the verse had to say to us, then there would really be no point to anything; we live, we sin and then therefore we die and face God guilty of our sin and fully deserving of it’s punishment.
But if we read on in the verse we come to the second segment:
“… but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is what has given, and still provides, hope and joy for the people who love and serve Jesus. Christ took our place, he received the punishment for our sin, we need do is believe and follow him.
Yes, the Christian will still die, and why is that?
Well although the Christian is completely forgiven by God, the punishment for their sin has been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus; the presence and the effect of sin has not yet been removed from the world, and death must still take place.

That then takes us to the question, what happens to the Christian once they die ?
Well we must first note that on the instant of death, the soul and the body separate. The body has served it’s purpose for now , and for a while will simply decay away back to dust, but our souls are eternal, as we have it in Ecclesiastes 12: 7:
“…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
The Christian’s soul then goes to be with Christ and God the Father in heaven, one of the many times from which we can learn this is from Christ’s own words to the thief that was crucified beside him, Luke 23:43 :
“”Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise” 
The instant that the Christian’s soul enters heaven they will be made perfect, there can be no sin in heaven, no more pain, no more tears, only joy and only eternal contentment (Revelation 21: 1-7). The Confession of Faith words it well:
“… the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.”

Like we see in the quote from the Confession of Faith, it does not just end with the soul forever in the presence of God, although that in itself is a truly wonderful thought.
There is more, at the moment that Christ comes back to earth, the Christians (both those who have passed and those on the earth at that time) will be again back in their own bodies, but our bodies will now be made perfect, eternal and made like Christ (Phillipians 3: 21). As John Piper states:
“”The old body will become a new body. But it will still be your body. There will be continuity. God is able to do what we cannot imagine. The resurrection is not described in terms of a totally new creation but in terms of a change of the old creation” 
So we will still be ‘ourselves’, but we will be fully perfect, fully Holy and like Christ.

We read in Ephesians 3: 20 that God can do:
“…far more abundantly than all that we ask or think …”
This is no different when it comes to the death of the Christian, at death the soul goes to be with Christ looking forward to the future resurrection. At this resurrection the Christian is reunited to their body, which will be perfect and eternal. The Christian will then spend eternity with God, enjoying the new Heavens and the new Earth that will be created.

What a future! What a promise for those who are saved!
Further Reading:
2 Corinthians 5
Revelation 21
Philippians 3

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-happens-at-death

http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Sing Scripture !

sing s
The Free Church of Scotland has released a second and updated version of Sing Scripture.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of Sing Scripture, it is pretty much as it says on the tin. It consists of a collection of worship songs, each one is a paraphrase of a passage from Scripture.
This second edition offers 52 paraphrases created by the special praise committee, from the foreword:

“These songs differ from most other Scripture paraphrases and from Scripture-based hymns in that they attempt to represent the meaning of the Scripture passages as fully and accurately as possible without undue expansion or omission. 
“The length of the songs has been determined largely by the natural structure and length of the Scripture passages rendered.
“Following the pattern of the Psalms, the passages selected contain not only words of direct prayer to and praise of God, but also teaching about God’s character, his dealings with us in providence and grace and our response to him.
“In singing these songs we show forth and extol the wonders of God’s sovereign salvation in Christ by the Holy Spirit, bringing glory to him and instruction, comfort and assurance to his people.”

Each of the paraphrases are metrical, and can be sung to all the favourite and common Psalm tunes that are already used to sing traditional Psalms and the newer Sing Psalm tunes.

Personally I cannot recommend these paraphrases enough, by singing the words that we are accustomed to reading – it brings a fresh awareness to their meaning. After having used them in fellowships/Bible-Studies, it really benefits singing the words you are about to study.

Unlike many of the other hymns, because the words come directly from Scripture, you can have the confidence of their theological integrity. And because they are arranged metrically they can be easily sung by anyone who knows even a few of the psalm tunes.
Sing Scripture provides and excellent alternative to conventional hymns/worship music. Sing Scripture adds  a new dimension to personal or public praise, with the confidence that the words are honouring and true. Have a look for yourself:

This is the Sing Scripture version of  Revelation 7: 9-17   (8787D)

1. See! Around the throne in heaven
gathered all before the Lamb
Stands a multitude unnumbered,
drawn from every tribe and clan,
Every nation, every language,
dressed in robes of shining white,
Waving palms with shouts of triumph
to salvation’s God of might.

2. Loud before the throne their voices
praise the God of saving grace,
Praise the Lamb while all the elders
join the creatures in their praise;
All around them are the angels
worshipping towards the throne,
Falling down upon their faces,
as they shout “Amen” as one.

3. “Praise and glory, thanks and wisdom,
honour, strength and sovereign might
Be to God, our God, for ever,
his by everlasting right.”
Then is heard the elder’s question:
“Who are these all clothed in white?
From what regions have they journeyed
to this place before God’s sight?”

4.“Great was once their tribulation,
through it they’ve been brought by God,
White their robes, for they have washed them
in the Lamb’s life-cleansing blood.
So before the throne of heaven
in God’s presence they are found,
And they serve him in his temple,
day and night their praises sound.

5. “God upon the throne of heaven
over them will spread his tent.
Never will they thirst or hunger,
nor will scorching sun torment.
For the Lamb enthroned will lead them,
as their Shepherd bring them near
To the springs of living water;
from their eyes God wipes each tear.”

A Traveller’s Guide to Heaven

4e93ef6f77ac4abe96446018767f2254-customs-flipper

The following is not mine, it’s from a great wee tract made by “Way of Life”, please feel free to share it or copy it :
‘Way of Life, 148 Blackisland Road, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland BT71 6NL’

A Traveller’s Guide to Heaven

Accommodation
Arrangements for first-class accommodation have been made in advance.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” – John 14:2

Passports
Persons seeking entry will not be permitted past the gates without having proper credentials and having their names registered with the ruling authority.
“There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth…but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of life”
– Revelation 21: 27

Departure Times
The exact time and date of departure has not been announced. Travellers are advised to be prepared to leave at short notice.
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” – Acts 1:7

Tickets
Your ticket is a written pledge that guarantees your journey. It should be claimed and its promises kept firmly in hand.
“He that heareth MY  Word, and beleiveth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” – John 5:24

Customs
Only one declaration is required while going through customs.
“I declare unto you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins…and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:1,3,4

Immigration
All passengers are clarified as immigrants, since thy are taking up permanent residence in a new country. The quota is unlimited.
“They desire a better country, that is, an heavenly…for He hath prepared for them a city” – Hebrews 11: 16

Luggage
No luggage whatsoever can be taken.
“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” – 1 Timothy 6:7

Vaccination and Inoculation
Injections are not needed, as diseases are unknown at the destination.
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” – Revelation 21:4

Currency
Supplies of currency may be forwarded ahead to await the passengers arrival. Deposits should be as large as possible.
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” – Matthew 6:20

Clothing
A complete and appropriate new wardrobe is provided foe each traveller.
“He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation. He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” – Isaiah 61:10

Reservations
Booking is now open. Apply at once.
“Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

The Coronation Ceremony 
At the end if the journey you will be treated to the welcoming reception and coronation which awaits each new arrival.
“There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” – 2 Timothy 4:8

Why wait a second longer ?!
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”
– John 3:17

“The lights are on, but the Spirit’s not home…”: The Church of Sardis

Ruins at  Sardis

Revelation 3 verses 1 to 6

There are plenty of reasons for us to worry about the state of the Churches in our country, most of the news looks bad, and the prospects might not seem much better. But in these verses we see a Church that Jesus himself called dead, but he did not leave them without hope. We can look at what it means to be a healthy Church, and look at the hope that Christ offered to the dead Church in this town of Sardis.

The city of Sardis was a very wealthy one, in its time it had been famous for making woollen fabrics, colourful dyes, jewellery and other various types of and for being city of military power. But it also was a centre of pagan worship, there were two big temples dedicated to the gods Artemis and Cybele. It was believed that Cybele had the power to bring people back to life. They believed her to be the God who formed the world, if she was still worshipped she would be a Mother Earth type figure.

Before we go on to look at the church we must address the phrase we have in verse 1, and look briefly at the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
In chapter one and verse 4 we have a similar phrase:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne “
So who or what are these seven Spirits of God?, very often when we see numbers used in Scripture it is not too beneficial for us to delve to deep into their meaning, but in this verse it is made plain to us that we need not delve into studying all the biblical numerology, the seven spirits refers to the Holy Spirit and his operations/ his moving in the seven churches we have in these chapters, it is talking about what the Holy Spirit has to say to each of the seven churches. This is shown to us by what we see at the end of all the letters to the churches :
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And what about the seven stars ? Well they are of course the seven ministers/pastors that were over these seven churches, elsewhere in these letters we see them called the seven candle stands, they were set over the churches to give light and guidance to the congregation. This follows directly on from the phrase about the Spirit’s involvement in the churches. Showing us that the lights of thee stars or these candles only exist because of the Holy Spirit and his guidance and leading.
So this phrase talks about the Holy Spirit’s individual involvement in the seven Churches and the seven stars refer to the pastors/ministers that were over these Churches As we can see from verse one this Church is accused by Christ, accused of being dead, what a horrifying condemnation to hear from the one who truly sees our heats and our intentions !

This Church which was known for its vitality and for its works. They might have had a large congregation, much money and we can see they were well known, we don’t read of any unhappiness or divisions amongst them, so why then were they called dead ?

Well much like the city they were living in, the Church was living on it’s past glories, they were relying on their great history to take them through each day. As G. Campbell Morgan put it:
They had reputation but no reality”
As well as a message for the Church, this applies to individual Christians also, we cannot live each day relying on how strong our faith was – or by looking back all the time. If we base our life on the past then how can we expect to move forward and grow in our faith ? Yes, look back and marvel at how God carried us through. But we can’t linger on the past and not want to grow in our faith.
The Church is Sardis had become stagnant, and slowly entered into state of temporal spiritual death. This of course did not mean that they had all lost their salvation, as we will see later.
But it did mean that they ,as a Church, were no longer performing the real functions that the church was established to do.
So then what are the marks of a living church ?

A.
A living church seeks God’s glory above all other things:
“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your loving kindness, because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115 verse 1
They seek God’s glory because they recognise that they were created for that very reason, as we have it in our first catechism:
“What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
If a church begins to glorify In it own reputation, or in numbers or in the money it brings in, as soon as it starts to move it’s eyes away from praising Christ then it instantly starts to fall away and to slip into a deep sleep. This is something which we very sadly do see happening in the Church around us, emphasis is put on everything else apart from the very God who formed the Church in the first place. Much like Peter when he was on the water with Christ and he began to sink the moment he moved his eyes away from Jesus.

B.
Secondly a living Church is a loving church, a congregation that treats one another like brother and sister, that treats each individual as an essential part of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 verse 16 (talking about Christ):
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
A dying church shows partiality, it does not care for each and every one of its members. Valuing some of the congregation above others.
But we are strictly commanded in the word of God not to be partial in the love of our brethren:
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
-James 2 verse 9

We must care for one an other, build each other up, offer guidance and give discipline so that we may all grow together. Doing this results in a Church that knows and loves its members and accordingly minister to them as personally needed.

C.
Thirdly a living Church Teaches the true and un-altered word of God, it does not change it’s teachings or its messge depending on the situation or on what the common thought of the day is. Again this is something we see happening very often, the message is watered down and in the worst cases its utterly altered.
But we know that God’s revealed word is never to be changed:
-Deuteronomy 4 verse 2:
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you ”
Proverbs 30 and verse 6:
Do not add to his words,lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar
-Revelation 22 verses 18-19:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. ”
In any way to purposefully alter the revealed Word of God is severely condemned.
But a living Church preaches and teaches the word as it is, with no alteration. Because a living Church recognises that only God’s unchanged word and law can reach the very heart of its listeners, not just tickle their ears and make them feel warm and fuzzy for a while:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; ” -Psalm 19 verse 7
A watered down message will impress for a while but it will not settle in the heats of its listeners, only the true Words of God, taught faithfully can impact on the heart.


D.
A living Church cares for the community around itself. It is not a closed community that only caters for the saved, no it is to seeks to reach out to the lost, to point a hurting and sinful world to Christ. None of us have any excuse not to be witnesses, we all know plenty of people who do not know Christ, they are our mission field.
We all know the Words of Christ in Matthew 28 verses 18-20:
“And Jesus came and said to them,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptising them in he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In the words of the Theologian, John Murray:
“Preach abroad. It is the cooping yourselves up in rooms that has dampened the work of God, which never was and never will be carried out to any purpose without going into the highways and hedges and compelling men and women to come in.”

These are just few of the marks of a living Church.
But we can see from verses two and three, that even though Christ gave a warning to this Church, he did not fully condemn them.
Although they had stopped acting like a living Church, they had not fully abandoned faith, we can see that from the verse , Christ tells them to strengthen what remains. Some faith still remained in this Church.
They were not beyond the summons of Christ, if only the would listen to his instructions to remember, obey and repent.
Christ tells them to wake up. Twice in it’s history Sardis was over-run by its enemies, both of these time was due to the watchmen not staying at their posts and placing their confidence in the cities defences, rather than doing their jobs and watching out for the enemies.
It is Christ that keeps the Church, even though they may wander far from what they were called to be, only with his words he can restore them back to life.
This is why we should not totally despair for the Church when we see things the way they are today, we are Christ’s bride, it is him alone that takes care of the Church even through the toughest times:
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.”
-Jeremiah 2 verse 2

Even though the Church may be going through a difficult time, through ground that does indeed seem dry and into are as not yet sown with the Gospel seed, we must still keep our trust in Christ. Trust in him because it is Christ that is the same yesterday, today and forever, He was with the Church through its toughest times in the past and he will be same with the Church in our day, and will continue with the Church until he comes again.