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30th March 2014
Mary was an amazing woman. We talk about her a lot at Christmas, but not so much the rest of the year, though we can learn a lot from her. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was going to give birth to the Messiah – this was particularly incredible because she had not slept with a man!
Mary was a remarkable woman who believed what God said. God’s call on her life turned her world upside-down. Carrying Jesus, the Son of God, was life changing. It was extremely costly for her; she would have had to live with the stigma from those who didn’t believe she was a virgin. But Mary trusted God. She believed God despite difficult circumstances.
Mary’s faith was strengthened by her good friend, Elizabeth, who immediately recognised what God was doing in Mary and humbly honoured her. It doesn’t look like there was insecurity and jealousy in this friendship, but rather there was godly encouragement between them, pointing one another towards God. We really need friendships like this – the way God intended them, which is as a beautiful expression of God’s love and care for us.
Elizabeth proclaims truth over Mary, which leads Mary to pour out an amazing song of worship. We need to not settle for friendships that are too small! We can care about friends a lot yet somehow forget to be uninhibited about God in them.
Mary’s first calling was her relationship with God, and her friendship wit Elizabeth pointed her towards Him, the friend with whom she never needed to feel jealous or insecure or ashamed or shy. We need people to come alongside us and help us to focus our attention on God. Both friendship and worship are critical in our relationship with God.
Three decades later we see Mary again, at the foot of the cross. When her beloved son was going through his darkest ordeal, she was right there. She would’ve been the person who found it the hardest to be there, yet she was never lost to despair. Likewise, it is not the case that life will be easy for Christians. God promises not to leave us or forsake us; He promises that He will walk through tough times with us and will work all things together for our good. Just as Mary ended up at the foot of the cross, that’s exactly where we need to go.
Mary was there at the start and she was still going strong at the very end. She was there with the apostles and her children, Jesus’ brothers and sisters, were there too. She is an amazing example of trusting God from the very beginning to the very end.
Download the talk on 'Jesus & His Mum' and the life application questions here.
Posted by Paul Mann and Emma Hamberis
26th February 2014
Moses, a man just like me!
No, I’m not confessing to having murdered someone and then run away for 40 years! I’ve reread the account of Moses encountering God at the burning bush, and how Moses reacts. But then also, how God continues to require less and less faith from Moses.
So, God tells Moses that he’s to release the people from the grip of Egypt. Moses, quite reasonably I think, says, who am I to do this. He’s probably nervous about going back and getting caught for his crime, but also aware of the gulf that’s now between him and the palace of Egypt. And then God gives him a sign or a proof, but one that requires the most amount of faith. He says, when you’ve succeeded you’ll worship God on this very mountain. It’s not much of a sign to give courage when he’s about to knock on Pharaoh’s door, but then that’s why it requires the most faith.
What follows is a series of requests from Moses demonstrating that his assessment of his faith level differs dramatically from God’s assessment. And one step at a time, God provides more tangible signs that require less and less faith, until eventually he says, OK, take a friend with you.
I can see myself so clearly in Moses. I hear from God and then immediately doubt it. And believe me, it’s nothing so radical as releasing millions of people from slavery. I don’t move but I find God moving closer to me and giving me more and more encouragement to do his bidding.
Do you know what? I’m going to try to respond sooner, perhaps even on the first request. God, make me less like Moses and more like Jesus!
Posted by Kevin Rose
5th October 2012
Whenever I find myself running away from God, it tends to be primarily because I've failed to understand what He is like, and usually this comes about because He hasn't done something I wanted Him to do.
The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible says that Jonah was "exceedingly displeased" by God's actions (4:1). Jonah threw a tantrum because God did the exact opposite of what Jonah wanted Him to do!
We, too, can act in some bizarre ways when God doesn't do what we want. Sometimes we can find ourselves acting like petulant children when we don't get our way! In my case, it can be about even the most ridiculous things – when God doesn't provide a parking space when I'm running late, I can easily forget that maybe I should've left the house 10 minutes earlier! But sometimes it's about more serious things too; when we cry out to God for healing, or for a wayward child, or to see our families saved, or in any painful situation, and God doesn't respond in the way we want Him to, we can find ourselves hardening our hearts to Him.
Andrew Wilson preached at Newday about a 'pocket god', who we get out at special occasions to have a chat with when we feel like it, and I have to remind myself, at times, that God is not a genie in a lamp, just waiting for me to summon Him to grant me my three wishes. Actually, the reality is that He doesn't always respond in the way we want. But the truth is that God is good. He is in control. He knows better than I do. He is my Father, who "takes great delight in me... quiets me with his love... rejoices over me with singing" and has promised that all things work together for my good!
Rather than being a genie who grants whatever foolish wish I ask for in the heat of the moment, without seeing the whole picture, God is a patient Father who sees the end from the beginning, knows me better than I know myself, and can be trusted with my life, heart, mind and soul. The antidote to being like Jonah – "exceedingly displeased" when God doesn't do what we want – is plunging ourselves deeply back into the truth of who God is and understanding that His ways are higher than our ways.
Reading: Jonah 4:1, Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 8:2
Question: How do you respond when God doesn't do what you want?
Next prayer meetings: Sunday, 7am and 7pm (with Dave Holden) at THC
Posted by Natalie Williams
4th October 2011
As a child I was often drawn to my name sake in the Bible; to the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). When Hannah was provoked, she knew how to pray persistently, patiently, passionately and powerfully. I like to return to this story as an example and an encouragement.
Hannah was provoked by Peninnah, who irritated Hannah year after year. Instead of responding with bitterness or jealousy, the provocation became fuel for Hannah's prayers. Hannah was persistent. She prayed and prayed for something she deeply desired even though it seemed impossible. She did not give up. She was patient, trusting God's sovereignty.
Hannah was passionate in her prayers. She didn't have a fancy style of praying – in fact Eli the priest thought she was drunk as she mumbled and wept to God! The late Selwyn Hughes, when writing about approaching God in prayer, said, "God accepts you as you are, even though it is not His intention that you stay as you are." He goes on to encourage us to use this model of prayer: "…like Hannah, we should pour out our hearts to God."
And lastly, Hannah knew that prayer was powerful. I'll leave you with these words from Wayne Grudem: "If we are really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts and that God does bring about remarkable changes in the world in response to prayer, as Scripture repeatedly teaches that He does, then we would pray much more than we do."
Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2:11
Next Prayer Meeting: Today at 12.30pm
Posted by Hannah Beaney