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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Be filled with the Holy Spirit

17 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: Spirit Divine attend our prayers

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Be filled with the Holy Spirit

Reading: Acts 7:55-60
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

Introduction
Our walk with God goes a lot better when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to completely surrender our thoughts, words and deeds to His control.  This is important especially when things are not going exactly the way we want or expect.  Even in the face of pain, suffering and imminent death, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that the He prayed to the Lord to forgive his assailants.  Although, it may be argued that anyone can do that, it is less difficult to forgive and do the will of God when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, than in our own strength. 

Questions/Discussion
1) What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? 
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
   do not let me ever be put to shame;
   in your righteousness deliver me.
2 Incline your ear to me;
   rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
   a strong fortress to save me. 
3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
   for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
   for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
   you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. 
15 My times are in your hand;
   deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
   save me in your steadfast love.

Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot,8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Galatians 5:22-26
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

2) What are the lessons for us in John 14:1-14 regarding our relationship with God?  
John 14:1-14
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ 8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

3) What are some of the challenges to being filled with the Holy Spirit?  How do we overcome them?
Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Colossians 2:6-15
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

1 Peter 2:2-10
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
   a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the very head of the corner’,
8and
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
   and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
   but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
   but now you have received mercy.
  
Intercession/Worship  

Conclusion
It is less difficult to do the will of God when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, than in our own strength. 

Closing Prayer (Collect for Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Perfect in every good work

10 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship

Hymn: When we walk with the Lord

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Perfect in every good work

Reading: Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Introduction
Our God is perfect and expects us to be perfect, not in our strength, but through our faith in His Son Jesus Christ and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be perfect in every good work; and we can only fulfill this mandate when we allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts, speech and action.  Being perfect in every good work requires total and complete surrender to the move of the Holy Spirit, and resolute desire to know and do the will of God at all times.  This may be relatively easy sometimes and difficult at other times, but if we resolve to serve Christ, He understands our weaknesses and imperfections, and will always fill us with grace for each day.  Perfection in every good work is not just about doing well, but doing the things we do because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Questions/Discussion
1) What does it mean to be perfect before God? 
Matthew 5:43-48
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Hebrews 12:1-17
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners,so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   or lose heart when you are punished by him; 
6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
   and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ 
7Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. 16See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.17You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

1 Peter 1:13-25
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ 17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers,and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.

2) What are the lessons for us in John 10:1-10 regarding being perfect in every good work?  
John 10:1-10
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

3) What are some of the challenges to being perfect in every good work?  How do we overcome them?
Psalm 23:1-6 (KJV)
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Acts 17:24-31
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.” 
29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

1 Peter 2:19-25
For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 
22 ‘He committed no sin,
   and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ 
23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Intercession/Worship

Conclusion
Perfection in every good work is not just about doing well, but doing the things we do because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Fourth Sunday of Easter)

O God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do your will, and work in us that which is well-pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Essence of Faith

3 May 2017

Opening Prayer/Worship            

Hymn: Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Theme: King of kings

Topic: Essence of our faith

Reading: Acts 2:14A, 36-41
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, "Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Introduction
Last week, we discussed hope; this week we turn our focus on faith.  Faith is indispensable in our walk with God, for without faith, it is impossible to please God.  Faith in God is having confidence that He is who He says He is and will do what He promised to do.  Faith encompasses God’s universal love and salvation to everyone, and His promises to us as individuals, families, communities and nations.  Note that at times present reality can be in disagreement with God’s promise of healing, provision, deliverance, help etc.  It is as such times that we need more grace to believe regardless of discouragements.  Our God is forever faithful, and will always do what He promised to do.

Questions/Discussion

1. What is faith?
Matthew 17:14-20
14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17  “You unbelieving and perverse generation,”Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

1 Peter 1:17-23
17Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.


Hebrews 11:1-6
1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

2. What are the lessons for us in Luke 24:13-35 regarding faith?
Luke 24:13-35
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
3. Why should we have faith even in the face of discouragement?
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
REFRAIN I will lift up the cup of salvation.
I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him. The cords of death entangled me; the grip of the grave took hold of me; I came to grief and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: "O Lord, I pray you, save my life." R
How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. R
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants. R
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant and the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds. I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord. R
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! R

Mark 11:22-26
22  “Have faith in God,”Jesus answered. 23“I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”26

James 1:2-8
 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Intercession/Worship

Conclusion
Our God is forever faithful, and will always do what He promised to do.

Closing Prayer (Collect for Third Sunday of Easter)
O God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.