Church at Home – 15 November 2020 – Genesis 3

Children’s Address

Sermon

Songs

Lyrics for the above song “Mary Consoles Eve” by “Rain for Roots”

Eve, my sister
The one who took the fall
Eve, my sister
Mother of us all
Lift up your head
Don’t hide your blushing face
The promised One
Is finally on His way

Almost, not yet, already
Almost, not yet, already

Eve, it’s Mary
Now I’m a mother too
The child I carry
A promise coming true
This baby comes to save us from our sin
A servant King, His kingdom without end

Almost, not yet, already
Almost, not yet, already

He comes to make his blessings flow
As far and wide as the curse is found
He comes to make His blessings flow

Almost, not yet, already,
Almost, not yet, already…soon

Eve, my sister
The one who took the fall
Eve, my sister
Mother of us all
The promised One
Is finally on His way

Written by Katy Bowser (©2015 Velveteen Songs [SESAC]), Flo Paris Oakes (©2015 Flo Paris Music), Sandra McCracken (©2015 Drink Your Tea, [ASCAP], Admin by Simpleville, Inc.) & Kenny Hutson (©2015 Jiggyfoot Music [SESAC])

Church at Home – 25th of October 2020 – 1 Peter 4:12-19

Click here to read 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Children’s Address

Sermon & Prayer

This year has been exceptionally difficult for so many people in this country and all over the world. We were caught off-guard and so many of our plans and dreams for 2020 were derailed. This year will go down in history. But life, normal life, has its moments too. We get derailed, caught off-guard, unsettled. We don’t like to be unsettled. It’s not a pleasant feeling to be reminded of the uncertainties of life and how little control we have over things. 

Peter was writing to a church undergoing a difficult time. They were facing persecution from the society they lived in because of their faith and how that changed the way that they lived. Peter’s advice to them is to not be surprised that this is happening: 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  

(1 Peter 4:12, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

Why shouldn’t they be surprised at their hardship? I’m not disagreeing with Peter, but I want us to reflect on why these people shouldn’t be surprised at their hardship. Because this can change how you view your struggles. And we’re all struggling with something, especially now. 

Notice what language Peter uses: “fiery ordeal”. Not “painful ordeal”, nor “upsetting ordeal”, even though enduring persecution must have been both painful and upsetting. Peter says “fiery”. Fire doesn’t just destroy; it’s also used to purify and to refine. Peter is referencing something that he mentioned at the beginning of this letter. 

Peter mentions the trials that these Christians are suffering and says: 

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  

(1 Peter 1:7, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

This is a “fiery ordeal” because it is a refining process. They are being transformed. Their faith is being refined in the fires of persecution. 

Christians should not be surprised that they are being refined. You cannot have a relationship with Jesus and not be transformed by him. If you view your Christian life as a refining, transforming, purifying process then you will not be surprised or disheartened by hardships. 

Transformation involves being stretched, being unsettled, being made uncomfortable. People who go to the gym are not surprised that they must work out. You wouldn’t be surprised to go to school and find that you must concentrate and study hard.  

You will be surprised and disheartened by fiery ordeals if you think that everything is already gold. If you think that nothing needs to be unsettled or refined, then you’ll just be upset. You will see it as nothing more than torment. But if we know that we need to be, and are being, transformed by God, refined by God, then we can have hope and even joy. 

This battle against COVID-19 has been hard on the church. We can’t currently meet for Sunday services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, youth fellowship, Sunday school, committee meetings, kirk session meetings and much of the normal socialising that is so important for fellowship and friendship. I’m glad that I can still communicate with you through our modern technology including these videos, or the CDs, or by post. But this isn’t church. This is a very poor substitute for meeting together and worshipping together. It’s easy to become disheartened, I know. 

Aside from our current situation, the church has other fiery ordeals that are just typical to the experience of being faithful followers of Christ in a world that does not know him. We have brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted, beaten, jailed and killed for their faith. The opposition that believers face in Ireland is not so severe, but still it’s not insignificant. We can do our best to nurture the faith of young believers (either young in age or simply new to the faith) but when they encounter mockery or abuse for their beliefs that can really hurt. It’s not nice to face mockery and accusations from your neighbours or those who once were your friends. It’s heart-breaking.  

So, we shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer for our faith. What should be our response?  

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  

(1 Peter 4:13, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

We can rejoice when we suffer for our faith, because we know that we are not only suffering for Christ but suffering with Christ. We’re walking his way, and if our Lord encountered opposition and hardship in the world then so will we.  

In Acts, chapter 5, we can read of the time when Peter and the apostles were flogged by the High Council in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel. After they were released, they rejoiced: 

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”  

(Acts 5:41–42, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

As Peter says in this passage: 

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”  

(1 Peter 4:15–16, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

We have fellowship with Jesus in suffering for our faith, and just as we share in this suffering, we will share in his glory too. As Paul wrote to the Roman church: 

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

(Romans 8:17, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

The path to true glory goes through suffering because we must be transformed if we want to see glory. And transformation, changing to something better, is an unsettling, uncomfortable and sometimes painful process. Jesus didn’t need to be transformed, but he endured suffering for our sake. As we walk this path, we walk it with Jesus and his Spirit will be with us in a special way. As Peter says in verse 14: 

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”  

(1 Peter 4:14, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

When our faith takes us through suffering the Spirit of God rests on us. Now the Spirit dwells in all Christians, but those who suffer for their faith can experience the presence of God in a very powerful way as the Spirit blesses them with what they need to endure, to bear witness, and to be transformed. Those who cling tightly to God in these hard times find their faith strengthened. That is a blessing worth rejoicing over. 

Judgement is coming. Evil will be dealt with and done away with. But when we think of evil, we must not think of it as something out there. Evil is in me too and it must be cut away by God. Because I belong to him, God is dedicated to cutting that evil away and transforming me. Sometimes it is a painful process. Sometimes God uses unlikely events or experiences to achieve this end, but I trust in him. As painful as it can be to go against the flow in this world and undergo the transformation that God is working in me, it is ultimately a far more painful and terrible thing to simply go the way of this world. That’s what Peter means in verses 17 and 18: 

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’”  

(1 Peter 4:17–18, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

God may discipline me out of love, to correct my ways and transform me so I become more like Jesus. I know that God isn’t just punishing me when I suffer, because my punishment was taken by Jesus on the cross. I have faith in Jesus and his sacrifice in my place and so I am saved. My debt is paid. My sins are forgiven. I hope the same is true of you because this is a debt you could never afford to pay yourself. Thank God you don’t have to if you put your trust in Jesus. 

Cling tightly to God when you suffer, knowing that he is faithful and is working in you to bless you and transform you into what you were always meant to be. 

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”  

(1 Peter 4:19, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))  

Don’t be surprised that things are difficult. Commit to God and continue to do what he has called you to do. An athlete doesn’t get discouraged when their muscles ache after training. They know they’re putting in the work, they know that their body is changing and growing, that they are being transformed. Christians who suffer for their faith should have the same response, knowing that they’re being refined and transformed by God who loves them.  

Commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good during these difficult times, and always. 

Prayer 

Faithful Lord, help us to trust you in our fiery ordeals. Fill us with the faith and knowledge that you are good and are working all things for the good of us who love you. We pray again for healing and restoration. Heal the sick, comfort the mourning, protect our communities we pray. Help our health service to handle the enormous pressure they are under now. Help those out of work or barely scraping by because of the economic devastation this virus has brought. Help your church to grow in faith and in love for you and each other and to be a powerful and bright witness in a dark world. 

We pray for those who are lonely. Help us to remember to reach out to each other, by phone or letter, or other technology, and share friendship. 

We pray for the peace, protection, and justice for the people of Nigeria during the ongoing “End SARS” protests. 

We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted for their faith. May they be encouraged and strengthened by your presence with them and may they be a powerful witness for the gospel in their countries. 

We pray these things in Jesus’ name, 

Amen. 

Songs

Church at Home – 18th of October 2020 – 1 Peter 4:7-11

Click here to read 1 Peter 4:7-11.

Children’s Address

Sermon

“The end of all things is near” sounds like something out of a disaster movie. It sounds like something said to scare people. But to a Christian this isn’t doom and gloom. TV and Hollywood just don’t seem to get this. “The end” in films is a disaster, it’s destruction. But in the Bible, “the end” is glory. For Christians “the end of all things” does not mean destruction or doom, it means fulfilment. When we talk about the end of something, we could mean the closing or finishing of something, but that word can also mean the point or purpose of something. Like when we talk about “the ends justify the means” or we say “to what end” someone is doing something. It’s even in the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q 1: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

What that question means by the word “end” is “purpose”. What is the chief purpose of human beings? What is the main point of people? Humanity’s chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. So, “end” is not a bad, scary word.

The culmination of all things, the purpose of all things is at hand. All that needs to be done for God’s great plan of salvation has been done. Jesus has come, he has performed his rescue, dying for his people on the cross. Jesus has been resurrected. Jesus has ascended to heaven to reign. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on his people. Everything has been put in place. Christ can return in glory at any moment to make all things new and to put away evil, death, mourning and tears forever. Our role is not to just wait around for that, but to be alert, to pray and to be useful to our King.

Yes, there will be judgement, but in Christ, God has already declared us righteous because Jesus suffered in our place. So, for us, thanks to Jesus, the end is glory and joy. Since the end is near, let’s stay the course, let’s remain faithful. The finish line is near, so let’s keep going.

Above all, Peter says, we must love each other deeply.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

(1 Peter 4:8, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))

The work that the church is called to do in this world we must do together in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s how God wants us to live: cooperating with one another, each using the gifts that God has given us by his Spirit, each of us a member of the body of Christ in this world. A holy community.

Just because this is a holy community doesn’t mean that we’re a perfect community. Like any community we are a community of sinners. Because we are still sinners there will be falling out, there will be hurt, there will be acts of selfishness. Although this is expected, we don’t have to accept it and surrender to it. We must fight against this with love. If we love one another, we will be less inclined to act in selfish ways that hurt each other. If we love one another, we will be able to forgive one another and reconcile when we fall out, and then we can get back to being that holy community that God calls us to. This is as true in the church as it is in the home. We simply must love each other, there’s no way we can be the church without love.

It’s not easy to forgive. True forgiveness is costly. Forgiveness means deciding not to make someone pay. It doesn’t mean pretending that everything’s okay. It doesn’t mean excusing sins. It doesn’t mean putting up with abusive relationships that endanger you. It means that you have decided that you are not going to make them pay.

If someone owes me money and I forgive them I have decided not to make them pay. But it costs me. Now I end up short however much they owed me. If someone crashes my car and can’t afford to repair it and I forgive them, then I’m the one who must pay. If someone hurts me and I forgive them then that too is a painful and costly process, but it’s the way of Christ.

In the cross of Christ, we see God forgiving us and just how much it cost to do that. The cross is the best picture we have of God’s love for us. God forgave us, but the debt still needed to be paid. On the cross we see God paying that debt himself, we see God’s painful costly forgiveness.

If we are recipients of such a costly forgiveness, then we don’t get to begrudge anyone forgiveness. We don’t get to say that although God has forgiven such a great debt for me, I’m going to make sure you pay for all the little ways you’ve offended me. That’s not an option for those who have received such grace. If we want to call ourselves Christians, then refusal to forgive is not an option.

That means we don’t hold grudges. We don’t grumble, but we show hospitality to one another.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

(1 Peter 4:9–11, NIV (Anglicised, 2011))

We have received the grace of God and so we are stewards of that grace. In other words, we must pass it along. Those who have received grace must be gracious. Being hospitable is more than just having guests in your home, which is good really because we can’t have guests in our homes right now. Being hospitable means being kind to strangers, loving those who are not like us.

We are to serve one another with the gifts that God has given us. Whether it’s speaking or serving, we do so in God’s strength and as agents of God so that God will be praised. This is the calling of the church: to do God’s work in God’s strength for God’s glory, If we are going to do that then it needs to be done together. And if we are to be together, then we will need to be forgiving. We are going to need to love one another. There’s no other way.

Prayer

Our loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for saving us and making us a people. We pray that you would help us to be that people: a people of grace, a people of mercy. Help us to be a gracious community, gracious to one another so that we can show Christ’s grace to the world.

We pray for those who lost jobs or are struggling with their business or finances during this time of increased restrictions. We pray that when this virus passes our economy would bounce back, but not just with more money for the rich. We pray that employment would be restored. We pray for a fair and equitable society for all.

We pray for protection from the virus, especially for those who are most vulnerable. We pray for healing for those who are sick. We pray for your comfort and strength for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Help us to weather this storm we pray. Help those working on the front lines to keep society going. Help those who fight against this virus, caring for and treating people. Help those working to produce medicine and vaccines.

We pray that we would see the end of this soon and be able to enjoy community and fellowship again.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen.

Songs

Engage for Teenagers

Engage

Another delivery!

Youth fellowship has also suffered greatly during these pandemic times, so I’ve bought these to help our BGPC teenagers. These “Engage” books are are designed to help teenagers engage with God’s word. If you or your teen would like one, please let me know and I’ll get one out to you.

Bailieborough Group members can request a copy by commenting here or by email or phone.

Also, I want to remind you please just let me know if you’d like a chat about anything.