God’s Amazing Grace

I have been looking again at God’s grace this week, realising afresh that our salvation is His amazing gift to us, and all mankind.  The word ‘grace’ means ‘undeserved favour’ – God loves us for who we are, not for what we have done. In fact – there is nothing I can do to make God love me more – and nothing I can do to make Him love me less!  That is not to say that we can live how we please – knowing that God will forgive us.  The Bible is clear that we are on dangerous ground if we sin wilfully (Hebrews10:26-31). But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9 NLT)

The people of Keresley need to know God’s grace. ICCkeresley must be a place where people can experience God’s love regardless of what they have or haven’t done.  Not a place of condemnation and judgement. That is not to say that we condone sin – but in the same way as God – we must love the sinner – while hating their sin.  After all – every Christian is a sinner – saved by God’s grace.

Many of my non-Christian friends think that they are too bad for God to forgive them – “If I came to your church”, they often say, “the roof would fall on me I am so bad”.  Perhaps like them you feel that way – but God’s grace is sufficient for all – including you!  Reach out and invite Jesus into your life – ask Him to forgive your sin and accept His gift of new life today!

Amazing Grace, how sweet  the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was  blind, but now, I see.

John Newton (1725–1807)

Seeds Grow

Matt.13:32 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

A friend messaged me this scripture last week, believing it was for the church here at Keresley. That morning, in my time with the Lord, God was confirming to me again that He was doing a new thing in the church.  He impressed upon me, that the years of sowing the seed of the gospel in the community, were beginning to bear fruit.

Seeds are Small and Insignificant
In the East, the mustard seed symbolizes something small and insignificant. It produces a large plant, but not a “tree” in the strictest sense. However, the plant is large enough for birds to sit in the branches.  For years, the church here in Keresley has been viewed as something small and insignificant – but “Seeds Grow” – God is doing a new thing.

In the natural, a gardener will plant a seed in the ground, he will cover it with soil – so that it is hidden from sight.  He will water it, put it under the rays of the sun – then he has to be patient and wait. Weeks pass when nothing seems to be happening, but the gardener has faith that the seed is good and that it will germinate.  But “Seeds Grow”, eventually new shoots appear, the plant grows to maturity, and produces yet more seed!

So it is with the Kingdom of Heaven – we sow the good seed of the gospel – it falls into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls – it is hidden from sight – we ‘water’ it – we place it under the ‘rays of the Son’ – and wait!  Eventually new ‘shoots’ appear and we will reap a harvest – if we don’t lose heart and give up!

Seeds germinate at the Right Time
Unfortunately, we live in an age where we expect instant results.  We have ‘instant coffee’, so-called ‘fast food’, eye prescriptions ‘while you wait’ – we can order nearly anything over the internet – not having to wait longer than a day or two before it arrives on our doorstep from anywhere in the world!

We expect the same with the things of God.  We sow the good seed of the gospel – have an evangelistic outreach, distribute Christian literature, start a new ministry – and expect immediate results!  We know that the seed is good – we know the fruit that it produces – but we are impatient – we want it now – we don’t want to wait.  And when it doesn’t happen in our time expectation – we lose heart – we give up!

It is the same with prayer!  I have often wondered why the prayer meeting is sometimes the least attended of all church activities.  We petition God for something – and we expect an immediate answer.  There are times when, owing to the urgency of the situation, God answers there and then.  But usually we have to wait – we fail to realise that God answers in His time – and His time is always the right time.  Someone once said, “God is never late, nor is He ever early – but He is always on time!”   That is where faith in God comes into play!  Even though we don’t see the results immediately – we have faith that God always answers prayer – but we must wait for His timing! (God doesn’t always give us the things we ask for in prayer however – usually because we have asked for something that is not according to His will – James 4:3)

My mother gave her heart to Jesus just before the Second World War.  Her desire was for everyone in her family to do the same.  She was particularly concerned for one of her brothers who went to war and had a particularly dangerous role as a dispatch rider, taking messages to troops that had been deployed deep inside enemy territory.  She prayed that her brother would be kept safe, but more importantly, give his heart to the Lord.  God spared his life – he came under fire from the enemy many times – often in very difficult circumstances – but miraculously escaping with his life!  He came through the war years unscathed – but still no commitment to Jesus.  My mother kept on praying – thinking that as God had spared his life – her brother would surely give his life to Jesus – but not so, (he seemed even more opposed to the things of God).  He became a successful business man – eventually entering retirement – still my mother prayed – but no result.  Then, awaking one Sunday morning – he announced, to the amazement of his wife, that he thought they should go to church that day.  After a few weeks of attending their local Baptist Church, they both gave their hearts to the Lord – serving God to their dying day.  My mother had prayed daily for fifty years without seeing any result – there were many occasions when she felt like giving up – but she kept on praying, and, at the right time – God answered! (Matthew 7:7-8).

God has a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) – His time is always the ‘right time’ – Romans 5:6.  Jesus fully understood the will and the timing of His Father – John 7:6-8 – and lived His life accordingly.  We all (but particularly church leaders), need to be like the men of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32)

Perhaps you are discouraged – you have laboured for God – planting the seed – watering it – exposing it to the sunlight of God’s love – but nothing.  Maybe you have prayed for a loved one to be saved or healed – but nothing!  Remember, “Seeds Grow” – God will answer when the time is right!  Keep going “…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9 NIV

Faith as small as a Mustard Seed
Jesus also talks about mustard seed in the context of ‘faith’ – believing God. “…I tell you the truth, 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.” Matt 17:20 NIV  Someone once said, “Faith is like a muscle – the more you exercise it – the stronger it becomes.” You may feel that your faith to believe God for something – is small and insignificant… but “Seeds Grow” – exercise the little faith you have – see God work on your behalf – and your faith in Him will grow.  Then you will be able to trust Him for much bigger things!

I have to admit that I am not good in these things – we have been planting and watering for years at ICCkeresley – with very little result.  At times I became downcast and lacking in faith.  But “Seeds Grow”.  Just as there is a right time in the natural for a seed to germinate and grow – so I believe it is the right time for us as a church – we are beginning to see the ‘shoots’ of new growth.

How encouraging it is for the gardener to see the first shoots appear above the ground His ‘faith’ in the seed he has sown has strengthened – he gets excited and begins to look expectantly at other pots in his green house – to see if he can see any other shoots.  He is satisfied that the seed is good and is confident that in repeating the process – he will get similar results again.  But now the hard work begins – he has to tend the young shoots – supporting them with garden canes until they are strong enough to support themselves.

So it is with us – when we begin to see people come to know Jesus – we are encouraged that the ‘seed of the gospel’ is bearing fruit – things become exciting and we become expectant in seeing others follow. But then the real work begins!  As people come to know Jesus, they will bring with them all of the problems that sin has caused in their lives.  Some things God deals with straight away – but others things need the ‘body ministry’ of the church, manifest in love and understanding. ( 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, 1 Corinthians 13)

Seeds produce New Life
Then we need to realise that ‘new life’ is a miracle only God can perform. The miracle lies within the seed.  The gardener may provide the right conditions – the right soil – water in the right quantity – and sunlight (incidentally, all these are provided by God too!), but germination and growth are all of God’s doing – part of His creative work.  Similarly with childbirth.  I had the privilege of being present at the birth of both my daughters – what a wonderful experience to witness new life!  Medical science can do many things – we may be able to help infertile couples – but as yet – no scientist has been able to produce new life – and I believe they never will – this is something only God can do!

In the work of God we need to remember that ‘new life’ has nothing to do with us.  We may provide the right conditions – prepare the ‘soil’ (break up the fallow ground etc.) – ‘water’ the seed and expose it to the sunlight with witnessing and prayer – but God gives the increase!  In fact the planting of the seed and the watering may be performed by different people – but it is always God that produces new life! (1 Corinthians 3:7).  We must remember this and be careful to give God the glory for all that He is doing!

Seeds produce yet More Seeds
Finally, “Seeds Grow” producing mature plants – which then produce more seeds – and so the cycle continues! This is the law of reproduction – Jesus commissioned us to be His witnesses in all the world – to communicate the gospel message to those around us and further afield. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8)

We reproduce after our own kind.  Many people say that I take after my father – I look and sound a bit like him.  I even notice myself saying things in the way he would say them and do things as he would do them.  When I was younger I used to lead praise and worship at church services on a regular basis.  Now both my daughters lead in the church at Keresley.  Although they have their own unique style of leading, I often see methods and mannerisms that I used when I did it!  We all, but particularly church leaders, need to be aware of the influence we have on those, particularly young Christians, around us.  The Apostle Paul was aware of this when he penned the words “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” to the Christians in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 11:1 NIV). I thank God for those Christian men and women I have looked to for an example over the years – they were not perfect by any means – but their commitment and faithfulness to the work of God have been a help and inspiration to me.  But the greatest example of all – the One who should be our ultimate pattern in life, is the Lord Jesus Himself – He invited ordinary people to “Come follow me” (Matthew 4:19).  Jesus invites us to be like Him – as the old chorus goes…

To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus,
all I ask – is to be like Him.
All through life’s journey,
from earth to Glory,
all I ask – is to be like Him

Do we have the likeness of our heavenly Father?  How wonderful it is when those of our family and friends see the characteristics of Jesus in us – His love – His nature – His personality – His temperament.  This is the greatest witness, the greatest testimony we can ever give – more powerful than any words we can say!  How can we be like Jesus?  When God’s ‘seed’ is in us – our lives are transformed, (1 John 3:9).  And “Seeds Grow” – as we allow God into our life more and more – we will be transformed into a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17) – we will become more and more like Him (Romans 12:1-2)

Seeds Grow
The Bible has a lot more to say about ‘seed’ – but remember that, although small and insignificant; “Seeds Grow”.  Perhaps you have sown the gospel ‘seed’ in the life of a friend or family member – or you are involved in an outreach ministry but with little or no visible result. Remember:

  • There is nothing wrong with the seed – it is good seed – it is the gospel – the Word of God. (Luke 8:11)
  • The ‘seed’ of God’s Word will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
  • Some seeds fall by the wayside, or on rocky ground, or among thistles – but some fall on good ground and produce an abundant harvest. (Matthew 13:1-23)
  • We need to be patient – and not give up – for in God’s time – the shoots will appear! (Galatians 6:9)

Above all, remember… Seeds Grow!

See, I am doing a new thing!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isa 43:18-19 NIV

God, through the prophet Isaiah warns His chosen people, the nation of Israel, that He is going to punish them for their unfaithfulness to Him. He will cause them to be defeated by their enemies, becoming exiles in foreign lands. They would be far from God relationally and far from the land He gave them, for many years. Then, when all hope seems to be lost, God promises to restore His people, to their homeland and in their relationship with Him.

I have preached from these verses of the Bible many times – the theme is that “God is doing a new thing” – usually in a church setting, or in a person’s life. My preaching has often been more out of faith – believing that God is about to do something new – rather than from fact – seeing the evidence of the new thing that God is doing.

There have been many prophecies to the church in Keresley in years gone by – “that the church would decline to just a few – then His blessing would be poured out, as never before.”

The past few years have been very difficult – a time of breaking up the fallow ground,  a time of labouring in the ‘fields’ – sowing the good seed of the Gospel, a time of watering the seed – with no signs of any shoots – let alone a harvest!  Added to this, the loss of labourers, as God promoted some to glory, others to pastures anew.

I clung to the prophecy, and to the scripture promise that we would reap a harvest – if we did not give up! (Gal.6:9). The temptation to ‘give up’ came many times, but the substance of faith is ‘believing God’ – that He will do what He has promised to do – even though you can’t see it! (Heb.11:1)  My faith at times was very weak, and I thank God for ‘fellow labourers’ who encouraged me and helped me to carry on!

Then, just before Christmas, the spiritual atmosphere seems to have changed here in the fellowship at ICCkeresley and in the community we serve.  It seems that God is doing a ‘new thing’ among us – ‘springing up’ – ‘now’ – the present tense – for all to see!

Forget the former things – do not dwell on the past:
God had performed many miracles for Israel – probably one of the most important, and memorable is mentioned a few verses earlier – their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea on dry ground!

But God was now saying, “forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do” (v18 NLT)

The church at Keresley, like most churches, has had a chequered history.  There have been times of great blessing, as well of times of failure and disappointment. I believe that God is telling us to forget the past – blessings and failures – the past will fade into insignificance compared with what God is doing, and going to do.

How many churches and individuals are held back in entering into God’s best for them because of past blessings and failures.  Both can be a hindrance:

  • Past blessings can hold us back because we want the same again! Thank God for past revivals – but God is moving on – He is doing a new thing – bigger and better than ever before. Past blessings are for a time gone by – this is a new blessing for a new day!
  • Past failures can hold us back too! We’ve let God down in some way – ‘surely He could never use me – again?’  I am reminded of Peter – a disciple close to Jesus – “I’ll never forsake you Lord”.  Yet he let his closest Friend down by denying he ever knew Him – at a time when He needed him most.  But Jesus restored him by the lakeside of Galilee, and days later, Peter preached probably one of the greatest gospel sermons ever on the Day of Pentecost, with the result of 3000 saved and added to the church!  None of us are ‘worthy’ – but Jesus makes us right before God through His precious blood, shed for us on Calvary!

Let’s forget the past – good, or not so good – it’s nothing compared to what God is going to do!

God is doing a new thing:
He is a creative God – He is always doing something new.  His laws and principles never change – but His blessings are new every morning.

New things are always exciting – for the ‘boys’ perhaps a new car, for the ‘girls’ perhaps some new clothes, (for me… a new camera or lens!).  So it is with the things of God, it may be the same church meeting, kid’s or youth work, prayer meeting, home group, outreach work… but somehow there is a new dimension – somehow it’s different. Preaching is powerful – prayer is fervent and effectual – outreach work is productive. You don’t want to miss a meeting because you don’t know what God is going to do!

New things are refreshing – something ‘old’ has been replaced by something ‘new’.  A new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the church is refreshing – it is described in the Bible  as ‘New Wine’ (Joel.2:18-52, Acts.2:13-21) – ‘Living Water’ (Jn.7:37-39). I believe that we are experiencing a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit at ICCkeresley.  My only prayer is that ‘all’ will be filled with the Holy Spirit – as in the Early Church (Acts.2:4, 4:31, 10:44, 19:6)

Finally, it is all of God’s doing – it’s not of us!  It is certainly nothing to do with me!  We may have ‘laboured in the fields’ sowing and watering – but it is God that gives the increase – causes the seed to grow (1.Cor.3:7-9).  Whatever ‘new things’ happen – we must humble ourselves before God – realising that it is not because of anything we have done – but it is only by the grace of God.  We must ensure that God gets the glory for it all!

It is happening now – but do we see it?
We can be in the midst of blessing – and not ‘see’ it.  One of the greatest hindrances to revival is the fact that God has never done it quite like this before.  I am always very sad when God is moving in a meeting and it is evident that there are those that are ‘not in it’. Through a hardness of heart – a stubborn or critical spirit – they are missing what God is doing!  How sad that this can happen to ‘mature’ Christians, those that have been praying for revival for years… then when it comes – they miss out – because it’s not happening how they expected it would – or how it happened last time!

This ‘critical spirit’ or ‘hardness of heart’ is often attributed to the older members of our congregations – but this is not the case.  I know men and women of God that are advanced in years whose hearts are supple and open to the things of God – they may not fully understand what the ‘younger generation’ are doing – but they recognise a move of God and are fully supportive and encouraging of the ‘new thing’ that God is doing. Conversely, I have known younger members of our congregations that have experienced something of God’s blessing in the past, who believe themselves to be spiritually ‘mature’ – resist any move of God that does not fit into their pattern and belief.

God give us hearts that are humble, supple and open to ‘see’ the new thing He is doing – and be a part of it!

God makes a way where there is no way:
“I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isa 43:19 NIV  God’s promise of restoration must have seemed impossible to the Israelites in exile – but God makes a way where there is no way!  “How is it going to happen?” must have been the question on their minds.  No doubt there were those who knew the prophecies concerning God’s restoration to their homeland – and tried to give God a ‘helping hand’ by trying to return before God’s appointed time.  Giving God a ‘helping hand’ never works! In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s children into a great nation – just one problem – his wife could not have children, and they were both too old anyway! In Genesis 16 we see Abraham trying to ‘help God out’ – then as now – it only ends in disaster.

In my Christian life, I have learned that you cannot fight against God – God will always have His way – His will, will always be done – and in His time – there is nothing you can do to change it – you might just as well surrender to Him your will, to be in line with His. But God will move mountains, make a way through the sea if necessary, for His will to be done.

In Keresley – I have often wondered how God was going to restore His church – how He was going to fulfill the prophecies of old.  I have often looked at the odds that seemed stacked against us – the huge community of Keresley – in the main headed for a lost eternity – versus a few God-fearing folk in Greens Road.  How was it going to happen – when was it going to happen? But God makes a way where there seems no way!

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t consider ourselves to be in revival yet!  But I believe we are beginning to see the shoots of a harvest of souls.  We have a long way to go – we still have many obstacles in our way – but God is making “a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland!”

And finally…
See, I am doing a new thing! – Blogging is a ‘new thing’ for me too!  This is a particularly long blog – if you’ve got this far, then – well done! I have always loved writing – but never seemed to have the time to do so – life as a church leader while working in full-time secular employment – is busy!  I’m not sure how often I will ‘blog’ or how long they will be – but I trust that they may be a blessing to those who read it.  And for those who support us in prayer – that it will help you to pray for us intelligently.

This blog also serves another purpose – ICCkeresley is in the process of updating it’s rather old and tired website.  We have some very talented people in the church that are doing this for us – but it takes time.  So in the interim – I’m hoping that this serves the purpose of a church website – until the new one is ready.  Please check out the pages to learn more about us as a church – and if you are reading this – and not a part of a church fellowship in Keresley, Coundon, Radford, Holbrooks or Exhall… please feel free to check us out – by attending one of our services – you will be made most welcome!