Dare to be a Daniel!

Daniel is perhaps one of the most cherished of stories in the Bible about non-conformity to the world and faithfulness to God.

Daniel simply means “My God is Judge” or “God is my Judge.”

But like the beginning of the 23rd Psalm can we say with David and Daniel that possessive pronoun “my.” Is the Lord ours, are we His? If we have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and if we are following Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then the answer is “yes, God is our Judge!” He has looked upon us, and because of our faith in Christ, counted us righteous (“just”) in His eyes. He judges us and does not find us wanting.

That our God is Judge is also a reminder to walk uprightly before Him, just like Daniel (Dan 6:4). We ought not conform to the world, for worldliness brings forth judgement. We are called to be faithful witnesses. Furthermore, the knowledge that God is our Judge, bolsters our resolve to stand firm when the world pressures us to conform. The world is not our judge but God so our aim ought to be to please Him. When the world chews us up and spits us out as a result—so be it—for the day or reckoning is coming. But blessed be the one who trusts in the Lord as his Judge and so is saved from the Judgement to come.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Time to seek the Lord!

Today is the day of salvation. 2 Cor 6:220180409_190800

Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Isaiah 55:6

Last week I was visiting Ilfracombe in north Devon. Near the quayside is a church and as the spire draws your attention heavenward your eyes pause at the clock and a clear and gold statement that reads, “IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD.”

I was encouraged that this church has this timeless message featured so prominently (and also surprised no one has complained to take it down[1]).

I wonder how many people notice it or take time to heed its message. We are living in a day and age in which too many people are busy, but busy about the wrong things. We focus on fleeting worldly things, rather than seeking the Lord Jesus and the things that are eternal.

The saying (almost certainly gathered from Bible verses as those quoted above) remind us of some simple truths:

  1. We need to seek the Lord (and the promise we will find Him when we do, Deut 4:29).
  2. Today is the day to seek Him and not tomorrow (for tomorrow may never come, or we may be called to meet Him today and not be ready).
  3. There will come a time when we can no longer seek the Lord (when He will no longer hold out the offer of peace with God through the Gospel but rather the sceptre of judgement).

And for the Christian comes the challenge, are we taking time to invest in the Lord, perhaps it is time to recommit to pursuing Him more diligently?

There is no time like the present to seek Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Years ago a church in Bath painted John 3:16 on its roof tiles (in what is now a World Heritage City!). Recently the church needed to repaint it and wanted to update the Bible verse to modern English from the KJV and they faced a backlash, whilst had they put it up from scratch they probably would have faced a similar backlash; sometimes you cannot win).

 

A Chasm and the Cross

Darkness, an earthquake and more… What exactly happened on the cross?chasm

The Bible puts forward the rich and multi-faceted truth of the atonement to capture the magnitude of what transpired on the cross. It was the moment when God addressed the chasm sin had created between mankind and Himself to restore all rebels who would believe in His Son Jesus to Himself.

People often don’t make much of sin, but the Bible does and so should we! It says the chasm of sin is the difference between:

  • Life and death
  • Unrighteousness and righteousness
  • Heaven and hell

The Bible says there is only one way to get across, trusting in what Jesus did on the Cross. Are you trusting in Jesus for your salvation? Faith in Him is the only way to get across the chasm created by your sin.

I tell you the truth. Whoever hears my message and trusts in God who sent me has eternal life. They will not be condemned for their sin but have crossed over from death into life!  (John 5:24).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

An oft misunderstood funeral passage

*Taken from a recent funeral address.

John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Our second reading is a very common reading at funerals; sadly it is commonly misunderstood. Permit me to put it in context for us and draw our attention to the personal hope it offers us today.

Jesus’ followers were scared; Jesus was speaking of leaving them (ch.13) & returning to heaven (that is the context). It is near the end of His earthly ministry right before His death, resurrection, & ascension to heaven where He reigns and whence He will return to judge the living and the dead (Apostle Creed).

BUT they were on the other side of the cross, they didn’t have the blessing of hindsight as we do. So this talk deeply troubled His followers. Jesus was their friend, their teacher, it upset them that he was speaking of leaving; just as no doubt we are troubled and saddened at [name]’s departure. So Jesus said to them, Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me (v. 1).

Jesus IS God, God the Son. If we believe in He whom the Father sent, we believe in the Father. If we don’t believe in Jesus we don’t believe in God, just like Judas. But if we trust in Jesus as the Lord and the Saviour like Thomas and the other disciples did, a place will be made for us in God’s kingdom, which is what is meant by the metaphor of the Father’s house. That is the ultimate reason Jesus came, to prepare—to die and rise again, defeating sin & death—so all those who’d trust in Him for salvation and follow Him would be assured of a way to heaven, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (v.6), an assurance [name] found before He died, and Good News of assurance & peace that Jesus offers to all who fear death & mourn [name]’s departure today.

A psychiatrist recently said that if guilt and inner turmoil were taken away, 2/3 of the patients in her hospital could go home!

Some great wisdom, because forgiveness and peace with God is what we are ALL looking for & what we ALL need…. Indeed, as that early Christian Augustine put it, our hearts will go on being restless until they find their rest in Him [Jesus Christ].

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

God-confidence

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Whilst it is good to believe in yourself to the extent of not being falsely modest of the natural gifts you have (remembering with gratitude these are from God!), and whilst it is good to challenge oneself to sharpen and hone those gifts, ultimately the self-confidence promoted in society today is misguided because it roots its confidence, strength, trust and hope in SELF—Just do it! (Nike slogan). It teaches that believing in your own actual or potential strengths will save you. It doesn’t recognise that we are finite and limited beings who can’t do everything and anything, nor does it take into consideration the effects of sin on our lives which impairs what we could do. Ultimately, it fails to use those God given gifts for God’s own glory and instead risks self-glorification.

This is a far cry from what Jesus taught in the Gospel, to abide in Him…for apart from Him you can do nothing (John 15:5b). It is the complete opposite of the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5–8 that tells us to trust in God rather than in a reliance on self. It is far better to trust in God and find our confidence in His promises, including His promise to be with us always when we trust in and follow Jesus. We must remember that whilst we have value as persons created in God’s image, in the grand scheme of things we are a mere vapour as Ecclesiastes tells us. When we use our gifts to honour God there is meaning. When we seek his help he blesses and multiplies our gifts. When we trust Him we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). We can do the impossible with God (Lk 18:27). Salvation, meaning, bounty, infinite power, peace; trust in self cannot produce these things. It is no wonder that our society that champions self-confidence is still chasing after the wind, leaving only despair in its wake.

God-confidence over self-confidence is the essence of what Joshua learned. God told him before he assumed his duties as Moses successor, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). Insofar as he trusted the Lord the Israelites were victorious (like at Jericho), but when they trusted in themselves they were defeated (like at Ai). In light of this may we have God-confidence as we trust in the One who is unfailing and in His promises which are ever true. You may want to learn this song, which the Lord inspired and which I taught to the village school to help us learn about God-confidence as we focused on our termly Christian value of courage. May it draw to mind this promise and may the Spirit enable you to remember it when you are facing discouragement. To listen click here. Jos 1.9

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

 

Us vs. Them

This year our theme verse is Romans 12:2a and our motto is “Don’t conform! Be transformed!”

This focus on being apart from the world could logically lead, quite dangerously, to some very harmful and unbiblical positions (superiority, seclusion, hate and a lack of evangelism to name a few). There is an “us vs.” them mentality in the Bible, but lest the existence of this lead us into any hazard allow me to offer some ballast that should keep the ship stable and on course (lest we end up embracing aspects of the Amish or the Exclusive Brethren who pervert John 17:16 to be in but not of the world).

The Church is to be an inclusive yet exclusive community.

The Church is an Exclusive Community:

A constant drum beat throughout the Old and New Testaments is that the people of God (the elect) form an exclusive community, special to Him, with certain blessings and responsibilities unique to them in their relationship with the Lord.

Consider verses on the special nature of His people, both Old Covenant and in the New:

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Bible also speaks about two ways: the wicked and the righteous (Ps 1); the wise and the foolish (Prov 9); those who are spiritually dead and those made alive in Christ (Eph 2); and those destined for hell or heaven (Mt 25:46).

The Bible also places restrictions such as limiting baptism and communion to believer’s, and likewise “marrying in the Lord.”

All of this centres around one’s response to Jesus and His Gospel: 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12).

These are just the tip of the iceberg for as one scans the pages of Scripture one will find these sorts of texts at every turn. The Bible does not just teach this exclusivity, it shouts it!

The Church is exclusively made up of the redeemed in Christ. If you are not in Christ you are outside the benefits of His body, the Church. In this sense the Church is exclusive.

The Church is an Inclusive Community:

HOWEVER, the Church is also inclusive! There are plenty verses to demonstrate this too!

First of all for the truly regenerate grace is humbling and never encourages pride: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:4–5). Grace is of a humbling nature.

God’s general will is that: all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4) and He calls Christians to extend the Gospel call to all nations (Great Commission Mt 28). If the Lord has had compassion on Christians (Mt 9:36) then we ought also willingly be obedient and extend that same offer to others, treating them not with disdain but remembering such were we (1 Cor 6: 11a) and loving our enemies as Christ loved us (Mt 5:44).

Therefore, whilst the benefits of the Gospel are limited to believers its invitation is universal (or inclusive, meaning open to any who would believe).

Whilst we journey under this year’s theme bearing this healthy tension between exclusivity and inclusivity—the us & them— in mind, we will not go astray.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

DV and the New Year

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

There was once a farmer who was herding his flock through a rustic village. The shopkeeper asked the farmer what he was doing. The farmer said, “taking my sheep to market, they’re going to fetch a handsome sum!” The shopkeeper, a Christian man, replied, “God willing!” Not long after the shopkeeper was surprised when the farmer passed back through the village. He wondered at his dress, he was all dirty, bruised and his clothes were all torn. The shopkeeper asked the farmer what had happened. The farmer muttered under his breathe, “I was robbed by sheep rustlers.” The shopkeeper inquired further, “what are you going to do now?” To this the farmer snarked, “go home!” The shopkeeper replied, “…God willing…!”

Whilst we may not say this in every breathe or include DV (Latin, Deo volente, for God willing) in every email, the wisdom of this verse is striking for a New Year. Are we entering this calendar year resolving that my WILL will be done, or rather praying, “Father…thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. —Psalm 143:8b

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Remembrance Day 2017

image-0-02-01-d9228c71bbd98012b45c19e8f8b516ba0809fe3e33c51d6a9d86258ce85c1e12-V

Today is Remembrance Day (I hope you bought a poppy and that you paused to remember!). This is a photograph of my grandfather, Jack W. Crocker, in 1943. My grandfather was a WWII veteran, many of his friends and countrymen paid an even greater sacrifice than his service by laying down their life for their friends, family and country. In serving as a chaplain in the Canadian Army Reserve for 6.5 year I had the privilege to meet many men and women who likewise sacrificed greatly, and knew of others who had—still today— paid the greatest sacrifice for our peace, their lives.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for their friends.

(John 15:13)

Whilst those who serve, served and have died deserve our respect and honour, and whilst the sacrifices ensured our freedom in the face of tyranny and still today protect and defend the peace we enjoy, it does not have any salvific quality spiritually speaking. Here, at best, these men and women are pointers and reminders of the one who was perfect and God and who gave His life to save us from our sin so we might have life and peace for eternity. Do you know this warrior, saviour and friend (Jesus)? If so, when was the last time you paused to remember and give thanks for Him?

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

ISingPop Ministry

Hands

By Chris W. Crocker

Presented at the St.Andew’s CE School ISingPop concert at St. Andrew’s Church on September 28, AD 2017, a community event sponsored by St. Andrew’s Church and Cromhall Chapel. This 360 degree reflection of the Christian faith followed the song See Those Hands.

The Lord be with you!

Hands up if you think the students of St. Andrew’s School are doing a fab job this evening! Let’s give them—and ISingPop— a big hand for all their hard work (clap [draw attention to hand actions with each subsequent reference]).

Take a look at your hands for a moment. Our hands have done a lot of things we are proud of, and if we’re honest also a lot of things we’re probably not. But our hands are amazing aren’t they! The Bible says they were created by Jesus, just as a potters’ hands shape the clay. Did you know the finger prints on your hands are unique to your DNA. No one else in the world has hands like yours, you are special!

But while we were designed to bless Jesus our creator in worship with our hands (lift them up) and live in a relationship with Him, instead we choose to go our own way and curse Jesus with our hands, we sinned.

BUT God the Father, with loving, gracious, merciful and just hands, sent His one and only Son, Jesus into the world He created so whoever would believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).

So, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary—that first Christmas—and she held the Rescuer with her hands as she pondered these things in her heart. As Jesus got older, He grew up with His hands in wood, working in the family business as a carpenter.

But there came a day when it was time for Jesus to set His hands to the work His heavenly Father had sent Him for. And as He began that work, and was baptised at the hand of John the Baptist, God the Father stretched out His hand from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

During His 3 year ministry, Jesus laid His hands on people and healed them of illness, stretched out His hands and fed people, calmed the storm, taught them, all to prove who He was, but most importantly to make a way back to God, which He did in the strangest way.

Jesus suffered abuse at the hands of the Roman soldiers, crowds and religious leaders. Finally the soldiers took nails and a hammer in their hands and nailed Jesus’ hands to the Cross. He hung on that cross by His hands and died. And to make sure He was really, really dead, a soldier picked up his spear in his hand, and thrust it into Jesus side. He died the death that all those who’d believe deserved to die.

BUT that isn’t the end of the story, because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that He was God’s Son, showing He had power over sin and death in His hands.

People don’t come back to life from the dead though, we’ve got a handle on that, and they knew that back then too!

Yet, 100s of people saw the risen Jesus—this miracle—including His disciples, all but one, Thomas. Thomas said, “Unless I see His hands,… and place my hand in His side, I will never [ever, ever] believe.” (John 20:25).

But a week later Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, Thomas “put your fingers here, and see my hands; put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe!” (John 20:27) and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will give you” life and life to the full” (John 10:10).

For the Bible says there is coming a day when Jesus will return, not as a baby or a suffering Saviour, but as a great and mighty King and Judge with justice in His hand. What will be the deciding factor?

Not by the “good works” done by our hands but whether we’ve put up our hand and said, “Yes, Jesus, I believe,” put up our hand and said, “Jesus I’m sorry for my sin,” praising Him with our hands and serving Him with our lives.

This is the message of the Lord to us this evening. Thanks be to God!

The Excellency of Jesus Christ

easter-2017

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.

(Philippians 3:8 KJV)

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8 ESV)

Can you say this statement along with the apostle Paul? Above all things is Jesus your all in all, your delight? Various Bible versions translate a word from Philippians as either “excellence” or “surpassing worthy.” In this instance I appreciate the way the KJV puts it—excellency. Alluding to a story in the OT (Nu 21:9) Jesus said of himself, “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:14–15). To “lift up” means to exult or to magnify. Jesus said this about His being lifted up on a cross for the salvation of sinners, it can also apply more generally to His name being highly esteemed. Does your soul delight when you hear His name? This Easter we are going to be looking at the excellency of Jesus in his life, death, resurrection, ascension and return. Why? So disciples of Jesus may marvel at the excellency of their Lord and so non-Christians might come to behold his surpassing worth, believe and so call Him, “my Lord.”

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris