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Difficult Verses: 1 Cor. 10.13

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Someone recently asked me to discuss 1 Cor. 10.13 as they found it a difficult verse.  No problems there, let’s do it!

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

It’s quite a long verse, so let’s break it down a bit so we can digest it.  The first section says “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”  This is actually one of the most encouraging sentences in the New Covenant.  We all have times when we feel overwhelmed with temptation – when doing the wrong thing pressurizes us so much it seems difficult to imagine ourselves surviving temptation.  But the good news is this: firstly, everyone has been tempted too.  Nothing has happened to you that is unique.  In a healthy church or community, you can easily share what you are going through and people will understand because they have been through similar things: that’s part of the value of a strong, healthy community.  It’s why Jesus puts people in churches! Secondly, it means that everything you are facing in terms of temptation is on a human level.  That’s awesome – it means that you are not having to deal with problems that are supernatural or spiritual!  Even an unregenerate human can deal with temptation – and you are born again, you have the zoe life of God inside you.  You are the head and not the tail.  You can deal with the temptation.  So that bit is double good news!

The second bit of this verse says: “and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able”.  This sentence is another bit of double good news. Firstly, God is faithful.  Now, in the Greek, there is no difference between the words “faithful” and “faith”.  This verse is actually letting us know that God is FAITH.  God believes in you.  God knows you can make it.  God knows you can manage.  God knows you can cope.  And God – who knows and believes in you – will never ever let things get beyond your ability to handle.  So whatever mess you are in right now, you know you can cope.  God believes in you – so why not believe in yourself?  So here is the double good news from this part of the verse: God is on your side.  No matter how many times you have messed up in the past, God believes you can make it this time.  No matter your past, God believes in your future.  And secondly: you will never be put in a situation you cannot handle.

Finally, we find out that “but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Again, another double blessing in here.  With every temptation there is a way out.  You need to understand this – no matter what you are going through there is a way out.  Maybe you have a porn addiction – there is a way out, there is someone you can talk to, there are solutions to help you get out of it.  Maybe you are drinking too much, there is a way out.  Maybe you are becoming cynical and mean – there is a way out.  THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY OUT!  THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY OUT!  That’s great news.  And finally: you can endure.  The word endure means to put up with; you can find a way out – and it won’t always be easy, but you can endure the way out.  It might be difficult to share your struggles with another human, it may be a shame getting rid of the internet or satellite TV, it may be hard to ditch a couple of your best friends who are always leading you the wrong way.  But YOU CAN ENDURE – whatever the path out is, you can walk it, and you can walk in victory.

This verse is full of good news for anyone who is struggling with sin.  It really is.  

If you have any thoughts or comments, or prayer requests, why not comment below?

Difficult Verses 2: Hebrews 12.14

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Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12.14)

This verse is one of the verses that is used to condemn people all the time.  If you are not holy, you will not see the Lord.  It’s often taken two ways: firstly, if you are not holy you will not see the Lord (come through for you).  In other words, you will stay poor and sick, stay broken, stay a mess because God isn’t happy with you and doesn’t want to bless you until you reach a certain standard of holiness.  That brings so much condemnation.  The second way people add to this verse is even worse, they think: if you are not holy, you will not see the Lord (when you die).  In other words, you lose your salvation because you are not good enough to be saved.

Let’s refute both of these.  Firstly, you are not going to fail to get blessed because you are not good enough.  You are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1.3) so you are not going to fail to be blessed because you are blessed.  In Galatians 3.1-5 Paul is clear that miracles happen because you believed the Word not because of you obeying the Law.  Your goodness is not a currency that you can exchange for blessings.  The good news of the gospel is that you are blessed independent of your behaviour.

Secondly, you are not going to heaven if you are good enough.  You are not good enough – entry into heaven is through faith in Christ alone.  All you have to do is believe and receive.  You are saved from hell by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing with your heart that He is risen from the dead.  Again, goodness has nothing to do with it.

So what does the verse mean?  The context is clear from the first part of the verse (and the surrounding verses) that Paul (or whoever you think the writer to Hebrews is) is talking about how we relate to other people.  It’s to do with peace with all people.  You see this verse is about following holiness because without that holiness no man (i.e. other people) will see the Lord.

You are holy already (Ephesians 1.5).  Your spirit has been made in true holiness and righteousness.  Deep down you are holy – your salvation and you being blessed is secure in Him and His work.  But unless you follow that holiness other people will not see the Lord in you.  You have all the love of God in your spirit, but if you steal from your boss, are mean to your co-workers and are known as the office flirt, no one will ever see that love and that holiness in you.  You have to follow holiness – not to get saved, you are; not to get blessed, you are – but so that the world will see our light and come to the light.

So go and live holy.  Not to impress God – He loves you to bits.  Not to get blessed – everything is yours in Christ already.  But so the world may know.  So you have credibility when you ask people to church.  So you can impact the world with the love of God.

Your Time is Limited

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life” – Steve Jobs

Every one of us is a unique soul with a unique personality.  You were designed to be unique!

Listen: it’s ok to have preferences – it’s not right when Christianity tries to make people into clones – the Stepford Wives church!  Everyone dresses the same, walks the same – no, we are unique individuals.  In Genesis 10, at the Tower of Babel was built with bricks.  That’s how the world builds – everyone is shaped to be the same, fit in, fit together, become a clone.  But in Exodus 20.22, we are told not to build the altar of the Lord with cut stone – use the stones as they are.  God wants to use you as you are with your personality as you are!  Some stones are more loud, some more quiet – but God does not want to change your personality for you to be part of His kingdom. 

(Now there are some sins more tempting to loud people, some are more tempting to quiet people and you have to be aware of that in terms of your disposition – but having a unique personality is not a sin!)  You are who you are! 

All our life we spend so much effort trying to fit in, but God has made you to stand out.

 

God is YOUR FATHER!

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God is Your FATHER!

http://treeoflifelondon.weebly.com/the-father-and-his-family.html

God loves you. It doesn’t matter what you have done, it doesn’t matter what you do, God loves you. It is a lie that God’s love for you depends on your performance.

In this bold, uncompromising sermon Benjamin preaches the truth about a God who is not a harsh God looking to get you, but a tender Father looking to get stuff to you. This is a foundational message that every Christian needs to build into their life – it will set you free from worry, fear and sadness for EVER!

What is going to happen TOMORROW?

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God is still going to be your Father

God is still going to love you

God is still going to care for you

God is still going to provide for you

God is still going to give good gifts to you!

Melvin Banks Healing Crusade

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People got out of wheelchairs, people laid down their walking sticks, and people got born again!

Praise the Lord!

Despite a room with some terrible acoustics (we will never hire that hall again!) and despite some of our regulars being away for family reasons, we still had 81 people on Saturday night and over 50 on Sunday morning (9.30am!).    Tree of Life Church is on the move!

23 people on the Saturday were either born again or re-dedicated.  All good!

When Dreams Come True

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I have just uploaded our fourth and fifth parts to our building a foundation for success series:

http://treeoflifelondon.weebly.com/january-2010.html

Part 4: Gifts, Operations and Offices

Every Christian has something they can bring to the local church. Every Christian can operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian can flow in the power of God.

This message will show you and inspire you to take your place in your church and be all you can be in Christ!

Part 5: A Dream Fulfilled

Your dream is from God. it is not from the flesh, not from the devil – it is from God. And God is not a tease. He wants you to walk in the fullness of your dream and your destiny.

Thie simple and practical message will inspire you and encourage you to step out in faith and see what God sees and do what God calls you to do in your life

Romans 1.23

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And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

In the last verse we found out that a man as soon as he steps away from God and His grace and mercy starts to exalt himself and his achievements and his popularity and his attributes.

In this verse we find out what happens next. And this happens in EVERY individual and every community and society that rejects God and His ways and His truth.

As soon as mankind rejects God as His source of worship, gratitude, strength and truth – he immediately has to create another god to take the real God’s place.

This is a universal principle and it is always true.

The NIV translates this verse as:

and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Exchanged is a better translation of the Greek allaso than the KJV changed. It means to swap (or swop for the transatlantic readers of this!) one thing for another thing.

Whenever you give up on God and His goodness, you cannot leave that gap empty! You have to generate something or someone else to be your god. You exchange the glory of God for the image of:

1) man
2) birds
3) animals (four footed things)
4) reptiles (creeping things)

Now, in our contemporary culture idoltary is not as blatant as it was 4000 years ago say, with genuine false gods with names and statues and so on. There is not too much of this around today in Western culture. Certainly in Hinduism for example this idolatry is maintained.

Just as an aside the gods of Hinduism are totally false gods. We have a lady in our church who was a Hindu and she is clear: none of those gods have ever done anything for her, and none of them have ever answered a single prayer.

In our culture though, false gods are not so noticeable, so let’s first define what an idol is.

1. An idol is something that you give unconditional emotional investiture into.

2. An idol is something that you spend disproportionate time, money and effort on.

3. An idol is something that you value its ideas and ideals without question.

4. An idol is something that without which life would not seem worth living.

So, when Hindus worship Ganesh, they unconditionally love him and worship him whether he answers their prayers or not.

They spend time and money and effort feeding and clothing and caring for what is essentially a statue of a man with an elephant head.

They value his ideals, such as being in business, overcoming obstacles and unity. I am not saying they are not good ideals, but it is the idea of not questioning that makes him an idol.

Finally, having access to Ganesh makes life worth living for many Hindus and Jains across the world.

This identifies him as an idol. Now to us the idea of doing all this for the statue of a man with an elephant head seems bizarre, but we have our idols too!

Let’s put the same first test to let’s say the televsion:

Some people put unconditional emotion into the television. I remember once being in a church as a preacher and an elder rebuked me for being too exuberant during the worship. I said to him: “maybe I should be telling you off for being too wooden”, trying to build a rapport with him and help him see the nature of worship.

He said that he just did not get emotional about things and it was not his nature. I told him that I did get emotional about Jesus, so the conversation was left there. A few weeks later I had reason to visit this elder at his house while the football was on (soccer for you Americans!). This was a revelation as the same man who worshipped like he had left the ironing board inside his shirt on the Sunday was screaming and yelling and was very mobile indeed in front of the television on Saturday.

You see he did express strong emotions visibly – he just did not have strong emotions for Jesus. Unfortunately, he is now divorced and not in the church anymore.

Do you laugh more and cry more due to secular TV than you do with Jesus and with real people? Do you watch programmes that make you feel scared because you enjoy the rush, but wouldn’t dare putting 10% of your pay check in the church and enjoying the rush of wondering how God is going to keep His promises to you as a tither?

What about the second test? Do you spend disproportionate time, energy and money on anything? Sometimes I am preaching in an evening service and it might get late and people get edgy and some people might leave because it is 9pm. Listen – 9pm is not late when you are in the world. But people would give hours of time to the nightclub and only a little bit of time to the church!

What about money? Before I became a Christian my gods were music, alcohol and whatever girl I happened to be seeing at the time. No-one ever had to take up an offering to persuade me to give far more than 10% of my income to these false gods every single paycheck!

What about the third test? An idol is something whose values you imbibe without questioning. So many Christians have a favourite preacher (and there is NOTHING wrong with that, I have my favourite) – but it is the unquestioning nature.

I honestly believe that some of the big name charismatic stars could go on TV and say that Jesus wants us all to dress up as oak trees to be saved and Christians would be down the costume shop the next morning. I have no problems with people with big ministries, I have a problem with anyone receiving what someone has to say without question. I have a problem if you receive what I have to say without question! That is idolatry.

And finally, an idol is something you could not live without. Could you live without TV, the radio, your favourite Christian rock star?

Idolatry is the natural state of man without God. As soon as someone rejects the glory and goodness of God and fails to glorify and thank God, they need to find someone else to fill that void. That is why idolatry is utterly universal within humanity – false religions, personality cults, false ideological concepts have always thrived – because a person rejecting God’s goodness and glory and the gospel always exchanges that for a false god.

Now as a Christian, is there an area where you have an idol, a false god? Do you give unwarranted affection or unquestioning loyalty to any thing or anyone?

So why do people serve false gods? Because the truth of the good news of God forces them to strip off their own confidence in their self. As I said when talking about the previous verse, you cannot serve God and hold onto valuing your deeds and your attitudes.

You can worship a false god without letting go of these things. That is why so many people do.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.9

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For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

Let’s start with what Paul says first: he serves God with his spirit. This means that Paul is always serving God because he serves God from the inside.

He doesn’t need a crowd to listen to him to serve God, he can serve God chained up in prison. Sometimes we think that we have to do great things on earth to impress God – but God is impressed by our spirit, by us worshipping, praising and praying for people. Also – if you do mighty public works without your spirit being humble and pure before God you are wasting your time – you gain nothing (see 1 Cor. 13).

You can serve God right now – lift your hands to heaven and thank Him for making a wonderful day, pray for someone who has persecuted you and ask God to bless them and show them honour, then speak life over your family and your church. How easy it is to serve God!

Paul says that without ceasing he prayed for the Roman church. This word without ceasing is adialeiptōs in the Greek. This word is only used four times in the New Testament:

Romans 1.9 – without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers

1 Thess 1.2-3 – We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus
Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

1 Thess 2.13 – For this cause also we thank God without ceasing

1 Thess 5.17 – Pray without ceasing

Notice that this word is only used in the Bible in the context of our relationship with God. We should pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5.17), and incase we dismiss this command as an ideal and not reality Paul says clearly in Romans 1.9 that he prayed without ceasing for the Roman church.

Now this does not mean that Paul prayed non-stop for the Roman Christians. It does not mean that whenever you found Paul he was lying prostrate praying in tongues for the Romans.

Firstly, Paul slept, he ate, he drank, he was a worker, he was a preacher. You cannot pray non-stop and nor can I. There is no Biblical command to pray non-stop.

The devil likes to get in to these sorts of commands and condemn us for not praying enough. He misquotes the Scripture to make you feel like rubbish.

Listen when God convicts us it is always three things:

1) Redemptive
2) Specific
3) Achievable

If the Holy Spirit says “Every day before you leave the house pray in tongues for 20 minutes” that is probably God because it is redemptive (it is something positive), it is specific (you can easily tell if you have done it or not) and it is achievable.

The devil is the one that says “you must pray more” – he wouldn’t dare tell you when to pray or give you a method of prayer or a goal, he just wants you to feel like rubbish. You must be more loving is another one of his phrases.

You cannot pray non-stop so stop feeling guilty that you don’t.

Let me explain what without ceasing means: it means without an intermission. Have you ever been to the cinema (I know all you holy people have never been to the cinema!) when there is a long film with an intermission: it is a break where something else happens.

You should pray without a break where something else happens. It means without an interruption to your prayer. Look at Strong’s Concordance:

Adverb from adialeiptos; uninterruptedly
When you read without ceasing in your Bible, translate it in your mind to without interruptions.

When you pray, you should be operating in faith and love. What praying without interruptions means is that just because you are not in your prayer time, don’t drop the faith and the love.

Let me try and make it practical for you so you can grasp this. Imagine you are praying for one of your children. You know that prayer must be in faith and you know that faith comes from hearing the Word so you search the Scriptures for a Scripture for your child. Maybe your child is having difficulties or starting to rebel.

Imagine you find Isaiah 54.13, which says great shall be the peace of thy children. So you go to prayer:

Father, thank you for Bob. Thank you that your Word says that His peace shall be great. He is not controlled by fear but by peace. He shall not have a broken life, but a peaceful life. He is a man of peace, and brings peace with him. Amen.

Now to pray for Bob without ceasing doesn’t mean that you pray non-stop, no drinking, no thinking, no sleeping, no anything that stops you praying and never doing anything else. Imagine if Paul prayed for the Romans like that and if pray without ceasing meant that, then Paul would never have prayed for the Thessalonians because that would mean to cease praying for the Romans! This is clearly not what pray without ceasing means.

To pray for Bob without ceasing means that after you have finished praying, you don’t phone Sister Bucketmouth and say “Man, what am I going to do with Bob? I can’t get a handle on him, it’s getting worse.” If you say contrary to your prayer, you have interrupted your prayer. You have failed to pray without interruption.

You have interrupted your prayer of faith with doubt, fear, worry and unbelief. You are undoing your prayer!

Listen: Paul prayed (and gave thanks – read Romans 1.8 and 9 together) for the Romans without ceasing. When he finished praying for them and thanking God for them, he did not go:

“Well, those Romans, it is so tough being church in Rome, I don’t know how they have made it. I hope they keep making it, I better go there and sort them out… you no what kind of mess they will be in without me…”

No – he refused to interrupt his prayer. He didn’t pray for his bills to be met on Sunday and get up Monday and worry and fret – he never interrupted his prayer. He didn’t pray in faith for the church to be revived and then tell his friend what a bunch of unspiritual fools they were down at the church as soon as he said amen.

Paul didn’t quit being thankful and appreciative for the church when he finished praying. He didn’t take faith and love into the prayer closet and leave them in there.

No – God was and is His witness, he refused to interrupt his prayers.

My encouragement to you today is this:

Pray without interruption (1 Thessalonians 5.17, Ben Conway Translation)

Do not let anything interrupt your prayers. When you have offered up your prayer in faith and love, don’t go and speak something in doubt and hatred. Don’t interrupt your prayers.

God doen’t interrupt prayers, He answers them. But if in the process of that answer manifesting, you interrupt yourself, then you are the one stopping the answer from manifesting.

You don’t have to pray non-stop, you need to pray and keep the attitudes of faith and love non-stop.

I hope this clarifies for you and helps you realize that 1 Thess. 5.17 is a command you can obey, and should obey, I hope it stops the devil ever thumping you on the head with this Scripture!

But more than that, I hope it helps you pray the prayer of faith for yourself, for friends, for enemies and for entire churches and see your answers manifest because you refuse to interrupt yourself.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Wonderful News Healing Crusade Evening Two

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No sermon sorry – that old wonder of technical difficulties!

Only 8 adults, mostly new people – all Christians. Then had one person come in off the street, he was sitting outside drinking and I invited him in, and I preached the gospel to him as if that was my intended message to all the Christians! He loved the message, and took my business card and a church card away with him.

We then prayed for him as a church and I preached on the free grace of God and how Christ has paid the complete price for all our sin and sickness and we can enjoy the righteousness of God.  And also because it is free that we should welcome in people off the street no matter how different they seem.

I talked about respectable sins and disrespectable sins.  Some slaves would be made to be cooks, treated well, almost as part of the family.  Other slaves would be used as the family prostitute.  One respectable, one disrespectable.  Both slaves – both need redemption.  Lazarus was dead and he stinketh – Jairus’ daughter was dead but could be mistaken for sleeping.  You couldn’t mistake Lazarus for sleeping!  Both needed resurrection.

Our sins might be “nice” ones or they might be “horrible” ones but we all need a Saviour so we should never be proud towards people who come who are obviously sinners and who stinketh and who are disrespectable because actually they need the same miracle we needed.

When I started to preach, the Lord said to me that the meeting was smaller but more significant and this is true because two ladies caught me at the end and want to join our church and our vision.

You know God didn’t say make crowds but make disciples, so I receive His Word that tonight has been more insignificant. The man who came in off the street said everyone made him feel so welcome even though he didn’t like large crowds (I know we are hardly a large crowd!!!)… afterwards I was discussing with my wife and every example I chose was relevant in his life, praise the Lord.

All in all a very positive night… tomorrow the Lord has told me the Holy Spirit is going to do special things. I cannot wait!

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