How can we get to heaven?

If God is completely good (which He is)… Jesus the man was sinless (which he was) … and we are far from perfect (which we are) … how can we enter heaven where nothing bad or impure is allowed?

Heaven has a notice outside: NO ENTRY to sin!

  • In other words, how can we have our sins forgiven and become ‘perfect’ like Jesus, so that we are at one with God?
  • Jesus said we must first believe in God and also believe in Him. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (Greece)…

For God was in Christ, reconciling [bringing back in harmony] the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them… We speak for Christ when we plead [to people], “Come back to God!”

That’s the first step… to come (back) to God.

  • When we believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be… the Son of God and Saviour of the world, we need to accept that we are sinners and cannot get right with God by our own efforts…
  • Once we accept that we are sinners, we must believe that although we cannot get right with God by ourselves, we can get right with Him through Jesus
  • Jesus died that we might have eternal life… it’s a free gift… you can’t earn it! But you need to accept it and make up your mind to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ
  • When you do so, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life in a special and wonderful way.
  • You are still a sinner but Jesus’ death on the cross pays for our sins and in God’s sight we are ‘covered’ (protected) by Jesus

And our lives will never be the same again!

  • If we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives (and we have the choice as to how much we allow Him to do so) we are gradually changed to become like Jesus (‘Sanctification’)
  • In becoming more like Jesus, we become His representatives / witnesses / living testimonies in the world

The Holy Spirit is not in the business of just improving our existing habits, ideas and priorities… He wants to completely reorder them into the likeness of Jesus. It’s replacing our old lives with the life of Christ. We all need to consider the implications for our lives if we submit to this transformation process!

The question we all need to answer is this one: “Am I prepared to totally submit my life to God?”

We must keep moving forward… Someone once said that in the Christian life, we move forward or backward but never stand still!

But we must move forward in step with the Spirit of God, as He leads and guides us… so prayer, reading the Bible, paying attention to Spirit-filled teaching and taking time to listen for God’s voice are essential

David Livingstone apparently once commented: ‘I will go in any direction… as long as it’s forward!’

The Apostle Paul writesBut one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

So press on to win the prize!

Being Resolute

  • New Year Resolutions… How many have you broken so far?

According to surveys, the top eight New Year resolutions that we may have already failed to keep are as follows…

  1. Have more exercise
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get better organised … God is a God of order not disorder!
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby …
  5. Live life to the full… Which Jesus offers us!
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Stop smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends

BUT WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY about ‘being resolute’? There are 4 instances in the Bible when ‘resolved’ (determined/ resolute) is used:

  1. Jehoshaphat resolved to enquire of the Lord…‘Act in haste, repent at leisure’
  2. Daniel resolved not to defile himself… To remain holy… resisting sin
  3. (God speaking) You have not resolved to honour me…
  4. For I resolved to know nothing…except Jesus Christ & Him crucified

When we think of being resolute (determined), we must consider how Jesus behaved. In Hebrews 12: 2, we read that because of the joy awaiting him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding [setting aside, ignoring] its shame.

His disciples tried to dissuade Him from going to Jerusalem. The devil tried to tempt Him away … but He resolved to take the Calvary Road, not the easy one.

And we need to follow His example… to be steadfast / determined / undeterred in following the path set out for us by God today, tomorrow, this year and in whatever time we have left on earth.

Children & young people make resolutions…not just new year ones!

  1. To keep my toys/games/room tidy
  2. To make my bed each day
  3. To say please and thank you
  4. To work hard at school/college
  5. To brush my teeth twice a day
  6. To share my sweets and tweets with my friends

These are useful… but even better…

  1. To say thank you to God every day for His love and care
  2. To think about Jesus every day
  3. To pray to God every day
  4. To read some Bible verses every day
  5. To show the love of Jesus to my friends & family every day
  6. To invite my friends to church

I’ve also heard younger children say that they will try to be GOOD!

Some men came to Jesus and began by saying: “Good teacher…” But Jesus interrupted them: “Why do you call me good? Only God is good!”

None of us can claim to be good all the time!

  • ONE WAY STREET…No Entry, yet people ignore it to take a short cut!
  • SINKING SAND … yet some people ignore it and become stuck!

There are things in life God has warned us about… NO ENTRY… SINKING SAND!

  • SMOKING can KILL … yet people still smoke
  • GOSSIP hurts and poisons relationships… yet people still gossip
  • JEALOUSY can lead to violence, yet some people allow it to control their behaviour

Jesus referred to this type of wrong behaviour (thoughts, words & deeds) as SIN

  • Sin is conceived (formed) in our MINDS as THOUGHTS… our thoughts are created through what we see and hear… So be wise!
  • What we think is then expressed through our lips… (By what we SAY) … and then through our actions… (By what we DO!)

Yet the greatest sin is to ignore or reject God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life after we die through Jesus Christ


-- Download Being Resolute as PDF --


Transformed Lives

The Holy Spirit is not in the business of merely improving our existing habits, ideas and priorities… He wants to completely reorder them into the likeness of Christ. The process is far more profound than ‘improving’ our existing lives… It’s replacing our old lives with the characteristics of Christ. Consider the implications for your life if you submit to this transformation process!


-- Download Transformed Lives as PDF --


KINDNESS

THE POWER OF KINDNESS  

Stephen Grellet, a French-born Quaker, who died in 1855, wrote these immortal words:

‘I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again’

These words inspired the song: ‘I may never pass this way again’, the lyrics being:

I’ll give my hand to those who cannot see
The sunshine or the falling rain.

I’ll sing my song to cheer the weary along:
For I may never pass this way again!

I’ll share my faith with every troubled heart,
So I shall not have lived in vain.

I’ll give my hand, I’ll sing my song,
I’ll share my faith, because I know
That the time is now to fulfil each vow:
For I may never pass this way again!

A Really Happy Christmas

A REALLY HAPPY CHRISTMAS  

Here is a story, so wonderfully true

About the Lord Jesus, who loves me and you

He once lived in heaven but came to the earth

And Christmas is when we remember his birth

A baby so gentle, on top of the hay

And Mary his mother was happy that day

Lord Jesus was tired and lay fast asleep

Along came the shepherds who wanted to peep

The angels were singing their carols on high

The sound could be heard from the earth to the sky

And praises were ringing from mountain to sea

That Jesus was born, so that we can be free

The Wise Men came later and knew in their mind

That here was the king they expected to find

They left all their treasure, went home in disguise

To tell all their friends of the lovely surprise

So angels and shepherds and men from the east

Found Jesus who came for the smallest and least

And he is so pleased when we make him our friend

To love us and keep us from now ‘til the end

D Hayes


-- Download A Really Happy Christmas as PDF --


What does Jesus mean to you? POEM

As you prepare for Christmas, what thoughts are in your mind?

The coming of the Saviour or the presents you can’t find!

Do you think of baby Jesus as you deck the halls with holly?

Or are your thoughts preoccupied with the food that’s in the trolley!

Will you be moved this Christmas by the sound of Carol Singing?

Or are you more in tune with the sound of shop tills ringing!

On that family occasion when you choose a Christmas tree

Do you think of how that baby came to die for you and me?

Christmas could mean so much more if you’re prepared to see

The fact that Jesus’ coming was to open eternity

So as you celebrate this Christmas why not resolve to start anew?

And change your life perspective of what His birth should mean for you.

Source unknown (considerably modified by DH)


-- Download What does Jesus mean to you? POEM as PDF --


Night before Jesus came POEM

Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house

Not a creature was praying, not even a mouse!

The Bible gathered dust on the shelf without care

In the hope that the Saviour would never come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed

Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.

And Mum in her nightie with baby on lap

Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the sky there arose such a clatter

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?

But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here!

With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment that this must be THE DAY!

The light of his face made me cover my head

It was Jesus returning just like He had said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth

I cried when I saw Him, in spite of myself.

In the large Book of Life which He held in His hand

Was written the name of every saved Man.

He spoke not a word, as He searched for my name

When He said: “It’s not here” my head hung in dark shame.

The people whose names had been written with love

He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready, He rose without sound

While all of the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees—but it was too late

I had waited too long and sealed my own fate.

I stood and I cried, as they rose out of sight—

I should have been ready before this long night.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear

The coming of Jesus is drawing quite near.

There’s only one life and when comes the last call—

We’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

Anonymous (Amended by D Hayes)


-- Download Night before Jesus came POEM as PDF --


Real meaning of Christmas sketch

The Real Meaning of Christmas (original by “Rod”: www.rodchristiansketches.co.uk) slightly modified

Interviewer:  Christmas is a special time for all the family. Could you sum up what Christmas means for you – in just three words?

(Thoughtfully…)

Child: Lots of presents.

Mum: Lots of shopping.

Dad:  Lots of expense!

Child: The Christmas pantomime.

Mum: The family party.

Dad:   Pulling a cracker! (Mischievously)

Child: Parties at school.

Mum: Eating too much.

Dad:  Drinking too much.

Child: Waking at 5.

Mum: Squabbles at 6.

Dad:  Bedlam at 7!

Child: Chocolates for breakfast

Mum: Turkey for dinner.

Dad:  Turkey for weeks!

Child: The family together.                         

Mum: 15 for dinner.

Dad:  Washing up dishes!

Child: Wallace and Grommit.

Mum: The Queen’s speech.

Dad:  Sleeping it off.

Interviewer:  Haven’t you missed something out?

Child: I don’t think so.

Mum: We’ve mentioned most things.

Dad:  We’ve been pretty thorough.

Interviewer:  If I say it is Christ-mas, does that ring any bells?

Child: Sleigh bells ringing?

Mum: Church choirs singing?

Dad:  The penny’s dropping…

Child: (with sudden realisation) Birthday of Jesus!

Mum: (with sudden realisation) God with us!

Dad:  Saviour is come!                  

[ALL] That’s the real meaning of Christmas!


-- Download Real meaning of Christmas sketch as PDF --


Real Meaning of Christmas

The Real Meaning of Christmas (original version by “Rod”: www.rodchristiansketches.co.uk, slightly modified)

Interviewer:  Christmas is a special time for all the family. Could you sum up what Christmas means for you – in just three words?

(Thoughtfully…)

Child: Lots of presents.

Mum: Lots of shopping.

Dad:  Lots of expense!

Child: The Christmas pantomime.

Mum: The family party.

Dad:   Pulling a cracker! (Mischievously)

Child: Parties at school.

Mum: Eating too much.

Dad:  Drinking too much.

Child: Waking at 5.

Mum: Squabbles at 6.

Dad:  Bedlam at 7!

Child: Chocolates for breakfast

Mum: Turkey for dinner.

Dad:  Turkey for weeks!

Child: The family together.                         

Mum: 15 for dinner.

Dad: Washing up dishes!

Child: Wallace and Grommit.

Mum: The Queen’s speech.

Dad:  Sleeping it off.

Interviewer:  Haven’t you missed something out?

Child: I don’t think so.

Mum: We’ve mentioned most things.

Dad:  We’ve been pretty thorough.

Interviewer:  If I say it is Christ-mas, does that ring any bells?

Child: Sleigh bells ringing?

Mum: Church choirs singing?

Dad:  The penny’s dropping…

Child: (with sudden realisation) Birthday of Jesus!

Mum: (with sudden realisation) God with us!

Dad:  Saviour is come!                  

[ALL] That’s the real meaning of Christmas!


-- Download Real Meaning of Christmas as PDF --


PRAYER: Questions & answers

QUESTIONS ABOUT PRAYER for Christians

  1. Why pray?
  2. Why pray if God already knows what we need?
  3. To whom do you pray? (The Father / Jesus / Spirit / the Godhead / Mary?)
  4. What prompts you to pray… or prevents you from doing so?
  5. What happens to our spiritual lives if we don’t pray?
  6. How many different kinds of prayers are there?
  7. How do we decide what to pray about and not to pray about?
  8. What is the relationship between prayer and praise?
  9. How important is it to repent of sin before praying?
  10. How true is it that that God only answers the prayers of the righteous?
  11. How do we achieve a balance between praying specific prayers for something or someone (e.g. about an illness) and praying general prayers about an issue? (For example, about poverty or elections)
  12. Why did Jesus need to pray?
  13. What did Jesus mean when he told the disciples to “ask and you will receive”?
  14. What did Paul mean when he encouraged the believers to “pray without ceasing”?
  15. What do we understand by ‘persevering in prayer’?
  16. When should we stop praying about a certain matter?
  17. How important is faith in seeing answers to prayer?
  18. Why does God apparently answer some prayers of faith and not others?
  19. When have you seen specific answers to your prayers?
  20. How do we know that the outcome to our prayers wouldn’t have happened anyway (i.e. if we hadn’t prayed)?
  21. How do we reconcile ‘praying for our enemies’ (as per Jesus command) with ‘praying that our enemies will be overthrown’ (e.g. prayers of King David)?
  22. What is the value / disadvantage of praying with others?
  23. Why are some organised prayer meetings so uninspiring?
  24. What does your “amen” to another person’s prayer signify?
  25. To what extent do you agree that ‘prayer changes everything’?

ANSWERS ABOUT PRAYER: Prompts for leaders

  1. We pray because God invites us to do so. It develops an intimate relationship with the Father. It gives opportunity for praise & worship. Jesus regularly referred to the importance of prayer.
  2. God knows all things, including our needs but looks for faith in us to believe that He will answer (see 17 below).
  3. Prayer is directed to the Father in the name of the Son and through the Holy Spirit. Scripture forbids worship of humans or angels.
  4. We tend to pray when a need is urgent and may forget to do so when life is easier, which denies God His rightful place as the focal point of our lives in every circumstance.
  5. Lack of prayer results in a dulling of our spiritual antennae to receive God’s word to us and thereby hinders walking in step with the Spirit.
  6. Prayer may be spontaneous or planned or both. Prayer should always give God praise and glory. We may need to confess our sin, doubt or fear. Specific requests should be stated then confidently left with the Lord. Interceding is through the Son, who ‘intercedes for us’.
  7. We can’t pray about everything but if we are walking in step with the Spirit (i.e. living a life of obedience) and genuinely listening for God’s voice (through the Bible, faithful ministry, the advice of godly friends or directly, as in “your ears shall hear a word behind you saying: this is the way, walk in it”) the focus for prayer will flow naturally.
  8. Praise should both precede and follow prayer (see 13 below).
  9. God will only receive prayer from the repentant heart.
  10. No one is righteous of him- or herself. Righteousness is found in Christ alone. God, in His grace and mercy, will respond according to His divine nature but prayer must always be faith-driven.
  11. God appears to honour specific prayers in a special way. General prayers about the state of the nation and so forth must be set within a framework of whole-church repentance or from courageous individuals who are prepared to “stand in the gap”.
  12. Jesus was in constant touch with the Father. He set us the supreme example. In human form, He desired only to do the Father’s will of which prayer was a key element.
  13. Jesus was emphasising the responsibility and privilege of the believer to approach God as Father. The ‘asking’ must always align itself with the Father’s will, which means that seeking His will should precede the asking. The ‘ingredient of preparation’ is praise.
  14. Paul is saying that prayer should essentially be a ‘state of being’ that may or may not be facilitated by formalised activity (see 22 & 23).
  15. God sometimes waits for us to persevere as a sign that our motives are sincere and wholehearted. Perseverance in all things should be a characteristic of the believer but should never indicate a lack of faith in God’s willingness or ability to act.
  16. We should stop praying when the Holy Spirit tells us to stop!
  17. Faith (trust) in God has to be the foundation for all prayer activities. Doubting prayer is not prayer at all.
  18. God is sovereign in all things. Our prayer must rest on the prayer that Jesus taught, which contains the essence of submission to the will and purpose of God, namely: “Thy will be done”.
  19. There are many testimonies as to God’s direct intervention in situations. It is important, however, to ensure that we give God the glory and continue having thankful hearts, especially when an answer is different from what we expected or ‘temporary’… E.g. a person may be miraculously cleared of cancer but subsequently afflicted.
  20. We trust that God is ‘above all things’. It’s not possible to know what ‘might have happened’. We simply obey God and leave the outcome to Him.
  21. It is perfectly scriptural to pray for our enemies but also to pray that their evil schemes are thwarted and God is thereby glorified.
  22. Jesus referred to “two or three gathered in His name” but spent much of His time in solitary prayer. Praying together cements fellowship bonds and provides mutual encouragement.
  23. Group prayer needs a clear focus and high expectation. Individual spiritual preparation beforehand avoids vagueness and passivity.
  24. Amen is not merely a polite expression of support but ‘entering in’ to a spiritual pact with the one who has prayed and a faith-driven belief in the authenticity of the prayer and God’s willingness to respond.
  25. If we genuinely believe this to be true, why don’t we pray more!

-- Download PRAYER: Questions & answers as PDF --