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Monday, October 31, 2011

In Luton

Mon 31 Oct 1785: I set out for Northamptonshire and, in the afternoon, came to Luton. For many years, I had lodged at Mr. Cole’s in Luton, but he was now gone to his long home. The room prepared for me now was very large and very cold, and had no fireplace in it. After dinner, I called upon Mr. Hampson, the lawyer who had made Mr. Cole’s will. He gave me with the utmost courtesy all the information I wanted, and afterwards invited me to lodge at his house, which I willingly did. In the evening, the preaching-house was thoroughly filled. And we had a blessed season, both now and in the morning.

Daily Devotions for Week 12 of Sermon on the Mount Monday

Week 12 Day 1 Devotions

Do You Want to Be Holy?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

John Wesley believed that God raised up Methodism in order to spread Scriptural Holiness through the land. Methodism was perhaps never meant to be a church (denomination), as much as a revival  movement within the Church. Today, as much as ever or perhaps even more than ever, God doesn't want people in new churches as much as He wants new people in His church. “We must be born again” says Jesus, and we must pursue holiness and grow in holiness, because “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This week our devotional focus is on some of those things which hinder our growth in holiness, looking in particular at judging others, casting our pearls before swine, our lack of prayer and our lack of charity or love.

Before we meditate on the possibility of things hindering our growth in holiness it is important that there be a belief that we are indeed called to be holy and that it is possible to be holy. The Old Testament command, “Be holy, because I am holy,” (Leviticus 11:45) and the New Testament command, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15), both speak to us unequivocally on the subject of personal holiness.

The Psalmist can once again teach us the words and show us the heart we need. Give God permission to search you and to know your heartfelt feelings regarding holiness. Give God permission to test you particularly in the areas in which you may be anxious regarding holiness and what it will mean in your life right now. Realise that there is much within us which we, or the world, or both, think is acceptable but which is offensive to God. Finally, ask God to show you His way and commit yourself to walking in it.
Eugène Peterson's translation of the Bible, The Message, puts it like this: “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong-- then guide me on the road to eternal life.”

Do you want to be holy and do you want to confront hindrances to holiness in your life?

Try us, O God, and search the ground
Of every sinful heart!
Whate'er of sin in us is found,
O bid it all depart! (489)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One who is false to God

Sun 30 Oct 1763: I returned to London.  I now, for the first time, spoke to the society freely concerning Mr. Maxfield, both with regard to his injustice in the affair of Snowsfields and his almost unparalleled ingratitude to me. But I never expect one that is false to God to be true to an human friend.

Discussion Questions/Biblestudy based on Sermon on Mount 12

Week 12 Discussion Questions and Bible Study

Hindrances to Holy Living

Study Passage Matthew 7:1-12

Judging Others
1.      How is judging others a hindrance to growing in holiness?
2.      Depending the on the time you gave, read some of the following readings: Mt 18:15-17; Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 6:1-5; 2Corinthians 2:5-11;1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; 2Thessalonians 3:14&15; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 2:25-26 & 4:2; Titus 3:10-11; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2. How would you answer someone who said: “Christians shouldn't judge others”?
3.      How should we go about correcting error in others?
4.      Discuss the following statement: “The goal of discipline is to produce repentance in an atmosphere of support and forgiveness.”
Over Enthusiasm
5.      How is over enthusiasm a hindrance to growing in holiness?
6.      Has anyone had the experience of enthusiastically sharing the gospel, only to be left with the feeling of “casting your pearls before swine”?
Neglect of Prayer
7.      How is the neglect of prayer a hindrance to holiness?
Neglect of Charity (Love)
8.      How is the neglect of charity, a hindrance to holiness?
9.      Verse 12 is sometimes called the Golden Rule. John Stott says: “Confucius taught, ‘Do not to others what you would not wish done to you’ and in the Talmud it is written, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.’” How does the Golden Rule go beyond these commands? Read Luke 10:25-37. Who is worthy of our charity/love/good works.
10.   Mission Pillars
How does each of these hindrances to our personal growth in holiness become hindrances in                our mission endeavours in each of the mission pillars?
Spirituality
Evangelism & Church Growth
Justice & Service
Development & Economic Empowerment


© 2006 JohnWesleyProject.com 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wesley leads in French and Italian

Saturday, October 29, 1737. Some of the French of Savannah were present at the prayers at Highgate. The next day I received a message from them all, that as I read prayers to the French of Highgate, who were but few, they hoped I would do the same to those of Savannah, where there was a large number who did not understand English. Sunday 30, I began so to do; and now I had full employment for that holy day. The first English prayers lasted from five till half an hour after six. The Italian (which I read to a few Vaudois) began at nine. The second service for the English (including the sermon and the Holy Communion) continued from half an hour past ten till about half an hour past twelve. The French service began at one. At two I catechized the children. About three began the English service. After this was ended I had the happiness of joining with as many as my largest room would hold in reading, prayer, and singing praise. And about six the service of the Moravians began; at which I was glad to be present, not as a teacher, but a learner.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 11 Hindrances to Holiness

Hindrances to Holiness

Matthew 7:1-12

Before we study these first 12 verses in chapter 7, let’s remember how Wesley sees the Sermon on the Mount as neatly divided by the chapter headings. 
In chapter 5, Jesus has described inward religion, the attitude of heart that God requires. 
In Chapter 6 Jesus describes how everything we do, be it giving, praying, fasting, building up treasure and the earning of money, all must be done with a pure and holy intention. This makes them acceptable to God. He has shown us that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. 
Now, in chapter 7, Jesus turns to common hindrances to holiness

In our reading we have four: judging, over-enthusiasm or what Wesley calls “intemperate zeal”, the neglect of prayer and the neglect of charity towards others. These are hindrances to holy living and Jesus teaches us how to avoid them.

 First of all – judging.

How is judging others a hindrance to holy living and growing in grace. Well, judging makes us take our eyes off ourselves. It makes us spend time finding out our neighbour’s faults instead of finding out our own. So Jesus issues this warning: in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. God, in a sense, permits you to determine for yourself the manner in which he will deal with you. But notice he says, “First look to yourself, remove the plank from your own eye". In other words, judge yourself. Spiritual poverty comes into play here. See yourself as you really are. Leading of course to holy mourning because of what you see in yourself. And then, and this is what most people miss, then, says Jesus, take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Then, you judge him or her.

In Matthew chapter 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses even to listen to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.

So, Jesus teaches us in that reading, how to judge. In Luke 17:2, Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him." In Galatians chapter 6:1, we have this, “Brothers if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” 1 Timothy 5:20, “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly so that others may take warning.” In Titus 3:10, “Warn a divisive person once, then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

So Jesus’ teaching is: don’t run around judging, judging, judging. That is going to hinder your growth in holiness. Look to yourself and then, when and if necessary, judge others, rebuke others, discipline others. In other words, take the splinter out of the other person’s eye. And when you do it, do it properly because what Jesus says next requires that we judge properly. 

Verse 6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw your pearls to pigs.” This is harsh! This person is a dog or a pig. That requires some judging, doesn’t it? Jesus is warning us here about the second hindrance to growth in holiness – over-enthusiasm, what Wesley calls intemperate zeal. Friends, know when to witness and share the gospel, and know when not to witness and not share the gospel. Know when to speak and when to be quiet.

We are called to judge people’s attitudes towards the gospel. That is what is sacred in the text before us today. Dogs, are those who when presented with the gospel, treat it with scorn and contempt. Trying to teach the gospel to those who do not want to listen is as futile as giving pearls to pigs. Such people will only tear apart what we say – pigs don’t recognize the value of pearls, all they know is that they cannot eat them. So they spit them out and they trample them into the mud. Contemptuous, scornful people cannot grasp the value of the gospel. So they scornfully cast it away. We should not stop giving God’s word to unbelievers, but we should be wise and discerning so as not to bring scorn to God’s message. Know when to cast and when not to cast. Do not give what is holy to dogs, do not give pearls to pigs, says Jesus.


What can you do for such people? Well, don’t waste time trying to share the gospel with them, but do pray for them. And this leads to the third hindrance to growing into Christ, to becoming more like him. And that is the neglect of prayer, which Jesus deals with in verse 7-11. “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. He who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake. If you then, who know you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?

Ask, friends, ask. James will later say that you don’t have because you don’t ask; so ask, says Jesus. Seek in the way he has shown us already, by searching the scriptures, by hearing and meditating on the word of God, by fasting, by receiving communion. And in these you will find the pearl of great price, that faith that overcomes the world. And knock, says Jesus, continue in prayer, don’t grow weary. Mr Wesley says, do not let God go until he blesses you. So pray, pray, because it is the neglect of prayer that is holding so many of us back, hindering our growth in holiness.

The fourth hindrance to spiritual growth is our neglect of charity. Jesus says, “So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” This is another way of saying, love your neighbour. And your neighbour, of course, is every other person with whom you come into contact. Now, this is one way of making sure that our prayers carry weight with God. You know, our prayers can bring a curse to us from God rather than a blessing. How can you and I ask God to bless us if we refuse to bless others? How can I ask God to help me if I refuse to help others? To be with us if we refuse to be with others? To strengthen us if we don’t strengthen others? So Jesus says, in everything do to others what you would have them do to you. Our failure to do this, our failure to love is thus another reason why we don’t grow in holiness.

In conclusion: Very often we are aware that we are not moving forward in our walk with our Lord. We are not growing in holiness, not becoming like Jesus. Here are four possible causes: we are judging others rather than ourselves, we are forcing the gospel on those Jesus says we mustn’t force it on, and that can tire us out and discourage us, we neglect our prayer life, we neglect or perhaps even refuse to love in word and in action, we refuse to love those we don’t want to love.

Let’s not make these mistakes and if we are, let us pray for the grace to change. 

Amen.

A solemn fast

We observed Friday the 28th [Oct 1757] as a solemn fast. And from this time the work of God revived in Bristol. We were indeed brought very low. A society of nine hundred members was shrunk to little more than half the number. But God now began to turn our captivity and put a new song in our mouth.

Daily Devotions for Week 11 Fri

Week 11 Day 5 Devotions

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus devotes substantially more words (looking at the English translations) to the subject of worrying than he does to the subject of prayer. Could this be because we worry more than we pray? And could the inverse be true, namely, that if we prayed more we would worry less? One doesn't want to trivialise the subject of worry or oversimplify the possible cures which might help those who are sometimes made sick by worry, but at the same time let us never forget that Jesus and Scripture tells us that we should not worry.

It is interesting that Jesus talks about worry in the Sermon on the Mount in the context of serving God or serving Mammon and the things that we think Mammon provides, life, food, drink and clothes. Jesus doesn't say that we don't need these things. In fact He says emphatically that our heavenly Father knows that we need them. There is a sense in which He seeks to teach us what our priorities should be: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

In our text for today the Apostle Paul reminds us that the kingdom of God is not about food and drink, but rather is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Wesley says: “For the kingdom of God, that is, true religion, does not consist in external observances, but in righteousness, which is the image of God stamped on the heart; the love of God and man, accompanied with the peace that passeth all understanding, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

How will it affect your day to day, to be concerned first and foremost with loving God and loving people? In other words, if you're going to be anxious about anything let it be about using every possible opportunity to love as Christ loved. 

In preparing this devotion I have taken time to pray to our heavenly Father for all those who will decide to make this righteousness a priority today. I have prayed that you will have a peace that passes all understanding through this day and that the Holy Spirit will bless you with the deep joy about which our text verse speaks.

Speak, gracious Lord, my sickness cure,
Make my infected nature pure;
Peace, righteousness, and joy impart,
And pour thyself into my heart. (127)
                                                                                            

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 11 Thur

Week 11 Day 4 Devotions

Fear Not

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” Luke 24: 37

It is not fun to be afraid. Fear is an emotion that is well known. It is produced by a sense of danger, impending calamity or some dire emergency, or even by walking into a dentist's surgery. It is a powerful emotion that can damage both the physical body and the personality. Fear can even block the thought processes.

Several years ago, a televised circus act with Bengal tigers was broadcast live. The tiger trainer went into the cage with several tigers to do a routine performance. The door was locked behind him. The spotlights highlighted the cage, the television cameras moved in close, and the audience watched in suspense as the trainer put the tigers through their act. However, in the middle of the performance, the lights went out! For 20 or 30 seconds the trainer was locked in a dark cage with Bengal tigers, a whip and a chair. The tigers could see the trainer, but he could not see them! After the event was over, in an interview, the trainer was asked how he felt about his situation in the cage. He first admitted to the chilling fear of the situation, but he pointed out that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. He said, "I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them until the lights came on. They never knew I could not see them as well as they could see me."

This story says something about many fears. Face them and go on doing the best you can. As a child you may have had a fear of the dark. As an adult you may fear failure or rejection, the future, some potential health crisis, or your death or the death of a loved one. The Bible has the answer for our fears.

In 1 John 4:18 we are told: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear...." Christ's love is the perfect defense against the physical and mental effects of fear. Paul, in Philippians 4:13 said it this way; "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." As pointed out yesterday, the phrase "fear not" is found at least 365 times in various forms throughout the Bible. One writer said it this way: "The greatness of our fears shows us the littleness of our faith." 

We need to pray about our fears and our faith, and turn to the Lord for help to face our fears.

Father, 'tis thine each day to yield
Thy children's wants a fresh supply;
Thou cloth'st the lilies of the field,
And hearest the young ravens cry.
On thee we cast our care; we live
Through thee, who know'st our every need;
O feed us with thy grace, and give
Our souls this day the living bread. (226)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An amazing conversion and a sad death

Wed 26 Oct 1743: I enlarged upon those deep words, ‘Repent, and believe the gospel.’ When I had done a man stood forth in the midst, one who had exceedingly troubled his brethren, vehemently maintaining (for the plague had spread hither also) that they ought not to pray, to sing, to communicate, to search the Scriptures, or to trouble themselves about works, but only to believe and ‘be still’, and said with a loud voice, ‘Mr. Wesley! Let me speak a few words. Is it not said, “A certain man had two sons. And he said unto the younger, Go and work in my vineyard. And he answered, I will not; but afterwards he repented and went”? I am he. I said yesterday, “I will not go to hear him; I will have nothing to do with him.” But I repent. Here is my hand. By the grace of God, I will not leave you as long as I live.’
William Blow, Mrs. S., and I set out at six. During our whole journey to Newcastle I scarce observed her to laugh or even smile once. Nor did she ever complain of anything, or appear moved in the least with those trying circumstances which many times occurred in our way. A steady seriousness or sadness rather appeared in her whole behaviour and conversation, as became one that felt the burden of sin and was groaning after salvation. In the same spirit, by all I could observe or learn, she continued during her stay at Newcastle. Not long after her husband removed from thence, and wrote to her to follow him. She set out in a ship bound for Hull. A storm met them by the way. The ship sprung a leak. But though it was near the shore, on which many people flocked together, yet the sea ran so exceeding high that it was impossible to make any help. Mrs. S. was seen standing on the deck as the ship gradually sunk; and afterwards hanging by her hands on the ropes, till the masts likewise disappeared. Even then for some moments they could observe her, floating upon the waves, till her clothes, which buoyed her up, being thoroughly wet, she sunk–I trust into the ocean of God’s mercy.

Daily Devotions for Week 11 Wed

Week 11 Day 3 Devotions

Peace Indeed

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —think about such things.” Philippians 4:6-8

We all long for peace, sometimes on a grand scale like hoping for world peace, sometimes on a national level, sometimes we long for it in our homes, but many, many people sometimes just long for a deep and abiding inner peace. 

Peace is one of God's gifts to us and in John's gospel Jesus says on one occasion that He not only gives His peace to us, but He leaves it with us as well (John 14:27). Worry and anxiety rob us of our peace. Philip Yancey says in one of his books that the command, “do not worry” occurs three hundred and sixty five times in Scripture, once for each day of the year! In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us not to worry about food, drink and clothes. 

“Easier said than done” is many people's response!

Commenting on the above verses one commentator says that continual prayer is a safeguard against all anxiety and Paul describes in a compressed sentence here the nature of true prayer. It involves first the attitude of waiting upon God; then it means that in our weakness we ask His help; then it requires that we state clearly what we want from God, believing that He will give it. But along with all this there must be the spirit of thanksgiving. We cannot ask God for new mercies unless we are mindful of those He has given already. The unthankful person cannot pray because he or she has no real sense of the goodness of God.

If you struggle with worry and anxiety why not try the above pattern for prayer. God's peace is for you. 

Hallelujah!

Peace be on this house bestowed,
Peace on all that here reside!
Let the unknown peace of God
With the man of peace abide!
Let the Spirit now come down,
Let the blessing now take place! (467)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miracles as School house burns down

Tue 25 Oct 1757: In my return a man met me near Hanham and told me the school-house in Kingswood was burned down. I felt not one moment’s pain, knowing that God does all things well. When I came thither I received a fuller account. About eight on Monday evening, two or three boys went into the gallery, up two pair of stairs. One of them heard a strange crackling in the room above. Opening the staircase door, he was beat back by smoke, on which he cried out, ‘Fire, murder, fire!’ Mr. Baynes hearing this, ran immediately down and brought up a pail of water. But when he went into the room and saw the blaze, he had not presence of mind to go up to it but threw the water upon the floor. Meantime one of the boys rung the bell; another called John Maddern from the next house, who ran up, as did James Burges quickly after, and found the room all in a flame. The deal partitions took fire immediately, which spread to the roof of the house. Plenty of water was now brought, but they could not come nigh the place where it was wanted, the room being so filled with flame and smoke that none could go into it. At last a long ladder which lay in the garden was reared up against the wall of the house. But it was then observed that one of the sides of it was broke in two, and the other quite rotten. However John How (a young man who lived next door) ran up it with an axe in his hand. But he then found the ladder was so short that as he stood on the top of it he could but just lay one hand over the battlements. How he got over to the leads none can tell, but he did so and quickly broke through the roof, on which a vent being made, the smoke and flame issued out as from a furnace. Those who were at the foot of the stairs with water, being able to go no further, then went through the smoke to the door of the leads and poured it down through the tiling. By this means the fire was quickly quenched, having only consumed a part of the partition, with a box of clothes, and a little damaged the roof and the floor beneath.
It is amazing that so little hurt was done. For the fire, which began in the middle of the long room (none can imagine how, for no person had been there for several hours before) was so violent that it broke every pane of glass but two, in the window both at the east and west end. What was more amazing still was that it did not hurt either the beds (which when James Burges came in seemed all covered with flame) nor the deal partitions on the other side of the room, though it beat against them for a considerable time. What can we say to these things but that God had fixed the bounds which it could not pass?

Daily Devotions for Week 11 Tues

Week 11 Day 2 Devotions

The Lord - He Is God

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD - he is God! The LORD - he is
God!” 1 Kings 18:39

These are the words that are shouted out by the people after Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. You'll find the story in 1Kings chapter eighteen (If you have a Children's Bible in your home you might want to read the whole story from there just for fun). Evidently the chant: “The LORD- he is God! The LORD- he is God!” is a play on the Elijah's name. The ‘Eli’ in Elijah stands for God and the ‘Jah’ comes from the word Yahweh which means ‘The LORD.’ Isn't it a beautiful chant for the start or the end of the day for an individual, a family, a small group and even a nation?

Let the following hymn (based on 1 Kings 18) guide you in prayer and meditation today.

Thou God that answerest by fire,
On thee in Jesu's name we call;
Fulfil our faithful hearts' desire,
And let on us thy Spirit fall

Bound on the altar of thy cross,
Our old, offending nature lies;
Now, for the honour of thy cause,
Come, and consume the sacrifice!

Consume our lusts as rotten wood,
Consume our stony hearts within;
Consume the dust, the serpent's food,
And lick up all the streams of sin.

Its body totally destroy!
Thyself the Lord, the God approve!
And fill our hearts with holy joy,
And fervent zeal, and perfect love.

O that the fire from heaven might fall!
Our sins its ready victims find,
Seize on our sins, and burn up all,
Nor leave the least remains behind.

Then shall our prostrate souls adore;
The Lord, he is the God, confess;
He is the God of saving power!
He is the God of hallowing grace! (400)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The mob had reigned

Mon. 24. I rode to Bury. Here the mob had for some time reigned lords paramount. But a strange gentleman from London, who was present one evening, when they were in high spirits, took them in hand, and prosecuted the matter so effectually that they were quelled at once.

Christian Perfection, the Second Change

Mon 24 Oct 1774: I set out for Northamptonshire and received a particular account of one that eminently adorned the gospel:
            1. Susannah Spencer was born at Whittlebury in the year 1742. When she was young, she contracted a very general acquaintance and was exceedingly beloved by them, having an agreeable person, a good understanding, and much sweetness of temper. And being modest and decent in her whole behaviour, she seemed, like others, to think she had religion enough.
            2. In 1760 Thomas Grover came down and preached several times at Whittlebury and at Towcester. She went to hear him but with a fixed resolution ‘not to be catched’, as she called it. But her resolution was vain. In a sermon she heard at Towcester, she was cut to the heart. Her convictions grew deeper and deeper from that time for about a year. She was then hearing him preach but felt her heart as hard as the nether millstone. Yet at the love-feast which followed, it was suddenly broke in pieces, and she was all melted into tears by those words applied to her inmost soul in an inexpressible manner:
                        My God is reconciled;
                                    His pard’ning voice I hear!
                        He owns me for his child;
                                    I can no longer fear.
            3. The day following, being exercised with strong temptation, she gave up her confidence. But the next night, wrestling with God in prayer, she received it again with double evidence. And though afterwards she frequently felt some doubts, yet it never continued long; but she had, in general, a clear abiding sense of the pardoning love of God.
            4. From that time, she walked steadily and closely with God and was a pattern to all around her. She was particularly exact in reproving sin and lost no opportunity of doing it. In her whole conversation she was remarkably lively, and yet gentle towards all men. Her natural temper indeed was passionate, but the grace of God left scarce any traces of it.
            5. From the very time of her justification, she clearly saw the necessity of being wholly sanctified and found an unspeakable hunger and thirst after the full image of God. And in the year 1772, God answered her desire. The second change was wrought in as strong and distinct a manner as the first had been. Yet she was apt to fall into unprofitable reasonings, by which her evidence was so clouded that she could not affirm she was saved from sin, though neither could she deny it. But her whole life bore witness to the work which God had wrought in her heart. She was as a mother in Israel, helping those that were weak, and tenderly concerned for all, while she sunk deeper into the love of God and found more and more of the mind that was in Christ.
            6. In the summer 1773, she took cold by lying in a damp bed. This threw her into a violent fever, which not only brought her very low but fixed a deep cough upon her lungs, which no medicine could remove. It quite wore her down, especially when there was added the loss of both her sisters and her mother, who were all taken away within a little time of each other. She had likewise a continual cross from her father and was at the same time tried by the falsehood of those friends in whom she confided, and whom she tenderly loved. The following year, 1774, she had a presage of her death, in consequence of which she was continually exhorting the young women, Betty Padbury in particular, to fill up her place when God should remove her from them.
            7. In the beginning of winter, I understood that, weak as she was, she had not proper nourishment, being unable to procure it for herself and having no one to procure it for her. So I took that charge upon myself. I worked with her in the day (for she would work as long as she could move her fingers), lay with her every night, and took care that she should want nothing which was convenient for her.
            8. For some time, her disorder seemed at a stand, growing neither better nor worse. But in spring, after she had taken a quantity of the bark, she was abundantly worse. Her cough continually increased, and her strength swiftly decayed, so that before Easter she was obliged to take to her bed. And having now a near prospect of death, she mightily rejoiced in the thought, earnestly longing for the welcome moment—only still with that reserve, ‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
            9. Mr. Harper (the preacher) took several opportunities of asking her many questions. She answered them all with readiness and plainness, to his entire satisfaction. She told him abundance of temptations which she underwent from time to time, but still witnessed that the blood of Christ had cleansed her from all sin. She often said to us,
                        The race we all are running now!
                                    And if I first attain,
                        Ye too your willing heads shall bow;
                                    Ye shall the conquest gain!
            10. Commonly when I came into her room, I was not able to speak for a time. She would then say, ‘Why do not you speak? Why do not you encourage me? I shall love you better when we meet in heaven for the help you give me now.’
            11. In the last week or two, she was not able to speak many words at a time; but as she could, with her feeble, dying voice, she exhorted us to go forward. Yet one day, some of her former companions coming in, her spirit seemed to revive, and she spoke to them, to our great surprise, for near an hour together. They seemed deeply affected, and it was some time before the impression wore off.
            12. Her father now frequently came, sat by her bedside, and expressed tender affection, weeping much and saying he should now be quite alone and have no one left to whom he could speak. She spoke to him without reserve. He received every word and has never forgotten it since.
            13. A few days before she died, after we had been praying with her, we observed she was in tears and asked the reason. She said, ‘I feel my heart knit to you, in a manner I cannot express. And I was thinking if we love one another now, how will our love be enlarged when we meet in heaven! And the thought was too much for me to bear: it quite overcame me.’
            14. On Friday, she seemed to be just upon the wing; we thought she was going almost every moment. So she continued till Tuesday. We were unwilling to part with her but, seeing the pain she was in, could not wish it should continue and so gave her up to God. I sat up with her that night, and the next day, June 7, she fell asleep.

Daily Devotions for Week 11 God and Money

Week 11 Day 1 Devotions

Stop Wavering

Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD
is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. 1Kings 18:21

There comes a time in the life of the individual, the family and hopefully even the nation when a decision has to be made regarding this issue: “Who will we serve?” Who will we look to for guidance, what model will we look to as we seek to find a solution to the current crisis? Perhaps the question is more plainly put like this: “Who will we obey?” 

In the text before us today it is “people from all over Israel” who have been summoned to Mount Carmel. The nation has been in the grip of a drought for more than three years, a drought which had been sent by God in response to Ahab's many sins which included setting up an altar to Baal, worshipping him and encouraging the Israelites to do the same. So there is a sense in which the words in our text are spoken to the nation but they are spoken to each individual person as well: “Choose who you will follow.”

Archaeological excavations from that period indicate that many homes were involved in both the worship of Yahweh (The LORD) and of Baal. People followed their leader and there are indications that even child sacrifice was taking place as people desperately tried to encourage Baal to send rain so that fertility could return to the fields! It is into such a situation that the prophet Elijah calls on the people to make a choice.

Wesley's comments on this verse are as follows: “Why do you walk so lamely and unevenly, being so unsteady in your opinions and practices, and doubting whether it is better to worship God or Baal? If the Lord, whom you pretend to worship, follow Him. Worship him, and him only, and that in such place and manner as he hath commanded you. If Baal can prove himself to be the true God, then follow him.” 

But the people said nothing. The history of the world shows over and over again how worshippers of the Lord sometimes find themselves wavering between full commitment to Him and commitment to other ideals, values or principles which are contrary to the revealed way of the Lord. On another occasion, Joshua addressed the nation and said these words to them: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Why not start today with the same commitment?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 11 You cannot serve God and Money

You cannot serve two masters

Matthew 6:24-34

By now each one of us is getting a good idea of whether the foundation of our faith is on rock or sand. If on rock, we praise God for his grace. If on sand, we praise him for his mercy in showing us while we still have time to change.

This reading is really self-explanatory, isn’t it? There’s really nothing difficult to understand about it. Can I encourage you to read it over and over and over? It is truth and it is truth spoken by the one who said, “I am the truth.” Meditate on this reading, on the truths it contains and on the commands that it contains.

There’s an interesting little bit of history tucked away in 2 Kings 17, from vs 33. We are going to look at it in the bible study. I won’t read it, but it speaks of people who settle in Israel. In vs 33 it says, “They worshipped the Lord but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” And in vs 41, “Even while these people had been worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”

Wesley, in commenting on that verse, says this: “The practice of most modern Christians closely resembles the practice of these ancient heathens. They perform outward acts of service to God but they divide their service between God and the gods of this world – money, pleasure and praise. In other words, the god Mammon. And they teach their children to do the same.”

That described what he saw in 18th century Christianity. Do you think 21st century Christianity is much different?

Jesus says you can’t serve two masters and He mentions God, and in the older translations, Mammon, the god of money, possessions and treasure, in a sense the god of all the things that many of us hold dear in the world.

What does it mean to serve God?

Let’s look at that in some detail. How do we serve God?
Well, we serve God first of all by believing in him.
We serve God by trusting in him.
We serve God by looking to him for our joy and our happiness.
We serve God by loving him.
We serve God by resembling him, becoming like him. Someone has said that the best form of service is to imitate the one who you worship. The apostle Paul calls us to imitate Christ.
We also serve God by obeying him.

That’s what it means to serve God: to believe in him, to trust in him, to look to him for our joy and happiness, to become like him, to imitate him, to obey him.

What does it mean to serve mammon or money?
Well, it means trusting in money or the things money can buy for security or strength or pleasure.
It means looking to the world and the things money can provide for joy, for happiness and for contentment.
Serving mammon means loving the things of this world, desiring them, hungering and thirsting for them. “I must have that”, is the prayerful refrain of someone who serves mammon.
Serving mammon means becoming like the world and its way of doing things, imitating the world and its ways. The servant of mammon will say things like, “That’s the way it’s always been done, that’s the way it’s done in the world.”
And this leads to the final way of serving, obedience. Serving mammon means to obey the world and its ways, to conform to its customs, to follow the multitude, to be in fashion, to imitate our neighbours and the people around us.

Friends, can you see how it is impossible to serve both God and mammon, to serve God and the world, to serve God and money. You cannot serve the one without denying the other and they are opposites. For example, God says serve me by turning the other cheek. The world says you donder the one who hits you.
Trying to walk between God and the world will result in your being disappointed in both. You will find no rest in one or the other and no peace, either in God or in the world.

Jesus goes on in vs 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, about food or drink, about your body or about clothes.”
Now, let’s be clear on this: This does not mean that you must not plan things, that you must not provide for you and your family, that you must not choose a career, find work, run a business. You might remember that we looked at all of these things in the last talk. But, do not worry, do not become anxious about these things. Remember from last week – keep your eye on God.

Jesus reinforces his teaching about money and possessions by pointing out that we spend far too much energy worrying about what we cannot change and worrying about things that God will provide. He says that such worry is not only pointless but it is also faithless. By worrying about our personal appearance or our health, we say something negative about our relationship with God. By worrying we declare that God is not to be trusted so Jesus invites us to look at nature and to see God’s faithfulness displayed there. In fact, we are told that we could learn a lesson or two from the birds and the flowers, who never worry and yet are always provided for.

Finally, Jesus gives an antidote to worry and to wrong priorities.

Here it is: by seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, not only will what we really need become clear to us, it will also be provided.
Isn’t that good news? Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. That’s really good news. Can you see why the gospel is called good news, especially to the poor? Mr Wesley calls this the infallible way of being constantly supplied with our needs. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.
Let your concern be that God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, reigns in your heart.
Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seek his righteousness. That is another way of saying the beatitude, you remember it – blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied. Therefore, no need to worry.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. So don’t worry.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Remember righteousness can be summed up by one word – love. Love of God, love of neighbour. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.

I’ll end where I began. This is a beautiful piece of Scripture. It is the truth spoken by the one who said, “I am the truth.” Read it, meditate on it, believe it, obey it.

Amen.



Get the lambs in order, and I will quickly tame the bears

Sun 23 Oct 1763: I met the society for the first time [at Norwich], immediately after the morning preaching. Afterwards I went to church, with a considerable number of the people, several of whom I suppose had not been within those walls for many years. I was glad to hear a plain, useful sermon, and especially for the sake of those who, if they had been offended at first, would hardly have come any more. In the evening God made bare his arm, and his word was sharp as a two-edged sword. Before I had concluded my sermon the mob made a little disturbance. But let us only get the lambs in order, and I will quickly tame the bears.

Discussion Questions/Biblestudy based on Sermon on Mount 11

Week 11 Discussion Questions and Bible Study

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Study Passage Matthew 6:24-34

1.      Discuss the various things that take up people’s time, energy and effort in the world today. How many of these things would you describe as inherently bad, and how many would you say are relatively harmless? When does something become your “master”?
2.      List six things that were mentioned in the talk under the question: “What does it mean to serve God?”
3.      Using the list from question two, discuss how each of those things can be applied to our relationship with money, or the pursuit of money. This discussion can be applied to other things as well, for example, our hobbies or our work.
4.      Read 2 Kings 17: 28-34. Discuss the statement made in the talk that people are no different today to the way described in that reading.
5.      How many times does the word “worry’ occur on the lips of Jesus in the reading from Matthew's Gospel? How many times does Jesus say: “Do not worry”? In this reading, what does Jesus tell us not to worry about?
6.      How is worrying a sign of faithlessness?
7.      List the things that God promises to provide in this reading. Why are there so many people in the world without these things?
8.      Discuss ways of ministering to people who worry a lot and in particular to those who get sick from their worries?
9.      Read verse 33 aloud. Discuss how we can do the things required in this verse. Share any experiences you might have had regarding the truth contained in this verse.
10.   Mission Pillars
Spirituality
Evangelism & Church growth
Justice & Service
Development & Economic Empowerment

Think of the different areas in which you or your church are involved in each of the mission                pillars. How often is “worry” a problem in our mission endeavours, and how can it be overcome?


© 2006 JohnWesleyProject.com 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

JW miraculously saved from drowning

Sat 22 Oct 1743: I rode from Nottingham to Epworth, and on Monday set out for Grimsby. But at Ferry we were at a full stop; the boatmen telling us we could not pass the Trent. It was as much as our lives were worth to put from shore before the storm abated. We waited an hour. But being afraid it would do much hurt if I should disappoint the congregation at Grimsby, I asked the men if they did not think it possible to get to the other shore. They said they could not tell; but if we would venture our lives, they would venture theirs. So we put off, having six men, two women, and three horses in the boat. Many stood looking after us on the riverside; in the middle of which we were, when in an instant, the side of the boat was under water, and the horses and men rolling one over another. We expected the boat to sink every moment, but I did not doubt of being able to swim ashore. The boatmen were amazed as well as the rest, but they quickly recovered and rowed for life. And soon after our horses leaping overboard lightened the boat, and we all came unhurt to land.
They wondered what was the matter, I did not rise (for I lay along in the bottom of the boat); and I wondered too; till upon examination we found that a large iron crow, which the boatmen sometimes used, was (none knew how) run through the string of my boot, which pinned me down that I could not stir. So that if the boat had sunk, I should have been safe enough from swimming any further.
The same day, and as near as we could judge the same hour, the boat in which my brother was crossing the Severn, at the New Passage, was carried away by the wind, and in the utmost danger of splitting upon the rocks. But the same God, when all human hope was past, delivered them as well as us.
In the evening, the house at Grimsby not being able to contain one fourth of the congregation, I stood in the street and exhorted every prodigal to ‘arise and go to his father’. One or two endeavoured to interrupt; but they were soon stilled by their own companions. The next day, Tuesday 25, one in the town promised us the use of a large room. But he was prevailed upon to retract his promise before the hour of preaching came. I then designed going to the Cross; but the rain prevented; so that we were a little at a loss till we were offered a very convenient place by ‘a woman which was a sinner’. I there declared ‘him’ (about one o’clock) whom ‘God hath exalted, to give repentance and remission of sins’. And God so confirmed the word of his grace that I marvelled any one could withstand him.
However the prodigal held out till the evening, when I enlarged upon her sins and faith, who ‘washed’ our Lord’s ‘feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head’. She was then utterly broken in pieces (as indeed, was well-nigh the whole congregation) and came after me to my lodging, crying out, ‘O sir! “What must I do to be saved?”’ Being now informed of her case, I said, ‘Escape for your life. Return instantly to you husband.’ She said, ‘But how can it be? Which way can I go? He is above an hundred miles off. I have just received a letter from him; and he is at Newcastle upon Tyne.’ I told her, ‘I am going for Newcastle in the morning. You may go with me. William Blow shall take you behind him.’ And so he did. Glory be to the Friend of sinners! He hath plucked one more brand out of the fire.—Thou poor sinner, thou hast received a prophet in the name of a prophet, and thou art found of him that sent him.