Friday, May 22, 2020

Connect Group – 14- Who does Jesus say He is? Part 3

Text: John 4: 4-14 

Icebreaker: When you are really thirsty what do you like to drink? Do you like a hot drink like tea, coffee, or chocolate? Do you like water or juice? Do you like something cold from the fridge or even something with ice? If you are thirsty what is the drink you would most want?

Today’s group is about water!! But it’s not like water that comes from the tap when we turn it on, it’s the Living Water, another name that Jesus called Himself when he talked about who He was.   

There are a few things that Jesus said here that can help us understand what it means for us that He is the Living Water. 

  1. There is no life without water
Did you know that our bodies are up to 55-60% water, that your brain and heart is 73% water and that your lungs are about 83% made up of water? Even our bones are watery containing 31%. It’s incredible! We can only live for 3 to 4 days without taking water into our bodies by drinking and through food. If we do not have enough water then we become dehydrated which can cause everything from headaches, dizziness and confusion to, in extreme cases, kidney failure, brain damage and death. 

There is no life without water. We see that in the desert, we see it when places are hit by a drought, it is an inescapable fact. Without water, nothing can live. 

How powerful is it then, that Jesus described himself as the “Living water”? He describes himself as the very thing that we can have no life without and he meant us to take that description very seriously. Just take a moment to reflect – are you thirsty spiritually right now? Do you need to be refreshed today? Do you think you know what it feels like to be spiritually dehydrated?

  1. We will always be thirsty without the Living Water of Jesus
The scripture that we are thinking about today, shows Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. The first thing to know is that this was very shocking for the time – a Jewish man would not have been expected to talk to a woman that He didn’t know, and the fact that she was a woman from Samaria  (a place and people that the Jews considered as unclean) added to the risk He was taking. But Jesus knew that this woman was drowning in the dirty water of her sin, and that what she needed was the fresh, clean, living water that knowing Him could give her and so He is willing to speak to her. 

They are having a conversation on two levels. On one level Jesus is genuinely thirsty because it is the middle of the day and he has been travelling – he is literally asking for a drink of water – he was human – he needed to drink. But as the conversation unfolds he starts to talk at a completely different level – the level of her need. He offers her a different kind of water, one that goes beyond what she can get from the well. It is the Living Water that comes through Jesus. He tells her that if she drinks it she will never be thirsty again.

WHAT?? How is that possible? We all know that whatever we drink we will get thirsty again. 
But of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about physical thirst any more when he made this promise. He is talking about the thirst for God that is in the heart and mind of everyone that He created. If we choose to drink God in, through prayer, through His word, through fellowship with other Christians, then the thirst that is at the very centre of who we are will be quenched. If we choose not do that, we will be spiritually dehydrated and we will shrivel up and dry out in our lives. 

What do you think it would it mean to your life today if you asked Jesus to give you this Living Water again, or for the first time, right now?

  1. The Living water of Jesus will never dry up and it can overflow
In 1976 there was a deep drought in the UK. The reservoirs dried up, and in some parts of the country people were not allowed to use water from taps in their houses but had to take buckets and pans to a tap in the street so that everyone could ration how much water they were using. Of course in many parts of the world, this shortage of water is a common and desperate problem, there are many people who do not have the water they need to meet their physical thirst. 

But when it comes to spiritual thirst, no-one ever needs to be without water. Jesus said “Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring welling up to eternal life”. The living water that Jesus gives us is not like a pool or a pond that just sits inside us, it’s like a bubbling stream or a fountain that springs up within us. The Living Water will never dry up and it can fill us so full that we overflow, and others are blessed by the refreshment that Jesus is bringing to our lives. 

Take a moment to reflect – how does this ‘Jesus water’ seem in your life right now – is it a rushing stream or a tiny trickle? Is it Niagra falls or a puddle? Jesus is longing to fill you and take away your thirst. Come to Him again, and ask Him for the Living Water that will refresh you all the days of your life. He came so that you could have it. 


Conclusion: 
How awesome it is that Jesus is the Living Water. He wants us to accept that water so that our spiritual thirst can always be met by the refreshment he gives.  I don’t know what is making your soul thirsty today, but whatever it is, let Jesus, be the Living Water in your life. In Jeremiah 17: 8 it says that those who trust in the Lord are “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by the long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” If we refresh ourselves with the living water that Jesus offers, then the dryness of the world can’t steal our joy or our fruitfulness and at the roots of our lives we will always be getting the refreshment that we need. When that happens we will overflow, so that we can lead others to find Jesus so that they can stop being thirsty too. 

Let’s pray.

By Amanda Martin

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Connect Group – 13- Who does Jesus say He is? Part 2


Text: John 6: 27-35

Icebreaker: What food are you enjoying eating in this time? Are there any foods that you miss because you haven’t been able to eat them?

Today’s group is about food!! But it’s not food like we have just been talking about – it’s food from heaven, it’s food for our hearts and minds. It’s food for our soul. Last week we talked about how Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd. This week we are going to talk about how He said that He is the Bread of Life. 

There are a few things that Jesus said here that can help us understand what it means for us that He is the Bread of life.

1)    Jesus came to feed people – He is the bread of heaven
When we read about Jesus in the Bible we will soon discover that food was a big part of His Ministry. He taught people whilst he ate with them, he fed large crowds by the miracle of making a small amount of food multiply, He even had breakfast ready for the disciples when he appeared to them after He had risen from the dead, but all of this was about more than putting food in their stomachs – as important as that was.

Jesus was trying to show them that He himself was food – the most basic and necessary food – bread.  

When Jesus came he came to save, but he also came to teach and to give people the clearest image of God that they had ever had and that there could ever be. Now we can know Him as the ‘Bread of life’ too, because He wants to feed us with the living Word of God that shows us the way to live life beyond this life.

Do you know Jesus as the “Bread of life”? Are you accepting the ‘food’ he offers you?


2)    Jesus is the only one who can feed us with food that will last
Before I was born, my parents did not have a refrigerator – it was too expensive. When I came along they decided to buy one and all the rest of the family came round to look at it because no-one else had one in their house!!!! Before this moment any food that needed to be kept cold was just kept on a cool shelf in a little room off the kitchen. As you can imagine it meant that food didn’t last for very long before it became rotten!

I guess it was the same in Jesus’ time - food would have spoiled very quickly so when Jesus told them to ‘work for food that will last’ it would have sounded strange to them. It might sound strange to us too!
What Jesus knew about the crowd that day, is still true for us today – we often choose to focus on things in our lives that offer us instant happiness or that offer us physical or emotional happiness but that don’t last. We often choose to feed our lives with things that actually leave us more hungry and wanting more. Jesus tells us that we should feed our lives with ‘food’ that will last – that is with the living bread that is God’s word.

Just take a moment to think about some of the things that you are feeding your life with at the moment? Are you focused on things that are nourishing you spiritually or are you feeding your heart and mind with things that don’t last.

3)    When we are ‘hungry’ – Jesus is the ‘food’ we need

You know what it’s like when you eat our favourite takeaway – when you finish the meal, you feel so full, but two hours later you feel empty again – that empty feeling comes very quickly even though you felt full at the time. It can be the same with our hearts and minds when we don’t take the Living Bread that Jesus offers to us.

The people that Jesus was speaking to about being the Bread of Life, were ‘hungry’ for something that would fill them up – they wanted to see Jesus do miracles, but they didn’t want to follow Him and obey his teaching. So really, they were choosing things that led them to feel emptier and emptier. It can be the same for us, and so Jesus’s message is just as important now as it was then.

We know that in our lives we can use all sorts of things to ‘feed’ our hungers. It might be real food when we eat emotionally, or alcohol or drugs when we are hungry for escape, it might be unhealthy relationships when we are hungry for connection – it could be many things. But the truth is that whatever we try, it will not stop us from being hungry again.

The only one who can ‘feed’ the God-shaped hole in our lives is Jesus, and if we try to fill that hole with anything other than Jesus, the Bread of Life, we will find ourselves spiritually empty and hungry over and over again. When we are ‘hungry’ only Jesus can fill us up and only He can satisfy us in such a way that we don’t need to keep trying to ‘feed’ ourselves with other things.

Conclusion:
The amazing news is that Jesus wants to be the Bread of Life for us. He wants us to accept that Bread and ‘feed’ on it every day. I don’t know what is making your soul hungry today, but whatever it is, let Jesus, the living Word of God, be the Living Bread in your life. Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one takes refuge in Him”. Today we can be blessed by accepting Jesus, the Bread of Life, but we can bless others too by inviting them to know what it is to be ‘fed’ by Him.

Let’s pray.


by Amanda Martin 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Thank you RAVI!

RZIM

Today I found that my good and old friend apologist and ministry leader Ravi Zacharias doesn't have much time left on this earth.

Honestly, we haven't met in person. And I have never had the opportunity to have attended one of his live debates or services. However, that doesn't make him less of a good and old friend.

Receiving the news that the doctors have sent him home and have done all that they can. Broke my heart. I know that we haven't met, but did I tell you that he is my good old friend, Right? so let me explain.

I met Ravi (as friends I will call him by his first name) 15 years ago on a trip that I made to Switzerland to preach. I was a young minister that needed an honest and wise friend to share my doubts and questions with. On that trip, I drove two days straight and I heard around 15 hours of his messages, podcasts and other materials. And I can say that I was blessed on a deep level. A friendship and student-teacher relationship was formed.

Ravi became the person that I go to when I have doubts, or when I want to know more about a theme or issue. I had many mental debates with him and his ideas and my ministry and family life were profoundly shaped by his life and ministry.

Thinking about the news that the doctors have no treatment to offer and that his time might be ending on this earth. I cannot stop thinking that there is no more appropriate way for Ravi to be promoted to heaven. He is leaving the doctors without answer, people quiet and then We can hear his voice reminding us Jesus is the way, the truth, and eternal life.

My good and old friend that I have never met, you blessed me beyond words.

Thank you, and I will see you soon (in this life or in heaven).

Your friend, Luiz

Monday, May 11, 2020

Connect Group – 12- Who does Jesus say He is? Part 1

Text: John 10: 9-16

Icebreaker: When you think of a Shepherd – what comes to your mind? What does a Shepherd do? What do you know about that job?

Do you remember Psalm 23, from our group a couple of weeks ago? King David, who was himself a Shepherd boy when he was young, wrote a song about how the Lord was his Shepherd. We talked about how God provides, guides, leads and offers comfort to us. This song is found in the Old Testament, and so was written before Jesus came, but in the Gospel that John wrote, we see Jesus using the same idea – reminding his listeners about God as Shepherd as He talked about himself.

There are a few things that Jesus said here that can help us understand what it means for us that He is the Good Shepherd.

1)    Jesus is the one – the only one who can save us, the only one who can bring real life.
Jesus talks about being a gate – it might seem a bit of a strange thing to say, but if you think about a Shepherd, guiding the sheep through the gate is a very important part of the job! If you have ever seen a flock of sheep you will know that they can wander off in all different directions and sometimes that leads to them getting lost! It’s the job of the shepherd to make sure that they know which way to go, to get through the gate and into the safety of the barn each night.

Here Jesus is saying that this is His job in our lives – He guides us through the gate, makes sure we reach the safety of the place where we can rest in Him, where we can be fed, where and where we can be safe from anyone or anything that wants to steal our joy and our peace in knowing Jesus.

I love the part where Jesus says that He has come so that people can have ‘life to the full’, or in some versions it says, ‘life in all its abundance’. It doesn’t mean that we will live a full-on life that is always exciting, or daring, or where everything is as we would like it to be – it means instead that we can have a life where because we know Jesus we are not worrying about death, or about how we will cope when things go wrong, because He shows us the way. If we follow Him, we are always on the right track for going in the direction that God wants us to go.


2)    We can rely on Jesus and trust in Him, because He is the one who is willing to lay down his life for us.
Do you remember the story of the ‘Boy who cried wolf?’ This is a story about a shepherd boy who liked to prank the people of his village. He would shout “Wolf! Wolf!” so that they would all come running – because they wanted to help him protect the sheep. He did it so many times, that one day, when a real wolf came, and he shouted for help, no-one came to help and the sheep were lost to the wolf.

Jesus is not this kind of Shepherd. He does not pretend that the enemy is not real, and he always takes his job of protecting the flock seriously. So seriously in fact, that He was willing to give His life for us on the Cross. He stood between us and death and let death take Him for a time so that we could have life. He will never abandon us. How does knowing that change your life?

3)    Jesus knows us completely and we can know Him more and more as we listen to Him.
Think about the people who know you. Do they know you completely? I would say that some people know me better than others, but no-one knows everything there is to know about me – in fact I don’t even know everything about me!!! But with Jesus it is different. He knows our talents and our weaknesses, he knows the things we think, even when we don’t say them out loud to anyone.

There is no-one except God, who really knows who we are. But the amazing thing is that there is no-one except God who knows who we have the potential to be when we follow Jesus. Who better to guide us than someone who knows everything about who we are in this moment, and who also knows everything about who we can be with Him? As we read the Bible, as we pray, as we talk with other people who want to follow Jesus too, then He reveals to us more and more about who He says we are and we are transformed little by little by knowing Him more and more. Can you see where you are in that journey with Jesus? What is he doing in your life right now that is showing you more of Him? Are you hearing Jesus’ voice strongly in your life or do you need to ask Him to help you tune in to Him again?

Conclusion:
Jesus told us that He was the ‘Good Shepherd’ and today we have thought about some of the things that He meant by that. These days, we may not see many Shepherds where we live, but there are many ‘lost sheep’ who are in need of Jesus in their lives. Who do you know who needs Jesus now? As we keep listening to the Good Shepherd and following where he leads us, we can invite others to know Him as the Good Shepherd in their lives too.

Let’s pray.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Connect Group – 11- Love or ‘fish love’


Text: 1 Corinthians 13

Icebreaker: What is the thing you love most?
(Questions for reflection – just read – no need for answer): Do you love your family? Do you love your church? Do you love your friends?

Story (From Rabbi Abraham Twerski): “To a young man. Why are you eating that fish?’ The young man said, ‘Because I love fish.’ He says, ‘Oh. You love the fish. That’s why you took it out of the water and killed it and boiled it?’ He says, ‘Don’t tell me you love the fish. You love yourself, because the fish tastes good to you; therefore, you took it out of the water and killed it and boiled it.’

We could call this kind of love, ‘fish love’; it is selfish and self-centred.  So much of what is called love nowadays is in fact ‘fish love’. We can see it in many situations like when couples fall in love, or when people speak about their church or look for a church to join. We can see it when people make friends; in fact we see it in many areas of life! What they mean when they say that they have fallen in love is that they have found something (or someone) which can fulfil their needs and which will make them feel good! Unfortunately the other person, church, job and so on, becomes merely a vehicle, a way of having ‘my’ joy and ‘my’ needs gratified. In other words “It’s not love for the other.”

“Too much of what is called love is ‘fish love’. An external love is not on what I’m going to get, but I’m going to give. The rabbi Abraham Twerski quotes rabbi Dessler: ‘People make a serious mistake in thinking that you give to those whom you love, and the real answer is you love those to whom you give.’ True love is a love of giving, not a love of receiving.’
Here are a few concepts about love that must reshape the way we understand it and receive it so that we can truly love people, our churches, families and jobs:

1)    Love is intentional
Love is not a mere feeling - a feeling cannot come and change who I am forever! That feeling could be passion or something else. But true love is when I consciously decide to care and to give in an intentional way. Love is a decision and a choice that we have to keep making, even when that costs us. 
·      The man that took someone else’s place on the execution line (in the Nazi camp).
·      John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son…..”
·      Missionaries that gave their lives to share the gospel (and even sold themselves as slaves in order to reach people).
2)    Love is not selfish
I like the story that Rabbi Twerski told - ‘Do You love fish?’. We could ask similar questions - Do you love your spouse? Do you love your church? Do you love the people around you? Really what we are asking is are you willing to give, or just seeking to feel good and have your needs fulfilled?

Love that is not selfish says “I do not desire for others, less than what I desire for myself”.

·      Jesus came to die for us
·      Because we expect things from others, sometimes we don’t believe that Jesus loves us without a hidden agenda.
·      Just as we are told not to keep an account of the wrongs that are done to us, so we shouldn’t keep an account of the good that we do for others. Do things because you love, and not because of pride or so that you can say how much or for how long you have loved.

3)    Love is self-giving

A serious mistake that people make is to think that we give to those we love, when the truth is that we love those to whom we give.

True love is giving and not receiving!

When we love we cannot stand still, we have to do something! We build our families, relationships and churches to glorify God and to bless the world around us and beyond us.

We have a phrase in Brazil that says:
“What the eyes haven’t seen the heart will not feel” I would like to say that this phrase is wrong, the more accurate phrase would be “What the heart doesn’t feel the eyes may never see”!

Love is care in action! It is to give ourselves, no matter the cost. It is not just to give what we don’t need, but to give what will cost us something.

In II Samuel we see this principle in action when king David insists on buying the land to build an altar, instead of being given it for free: “But the king replied to Araunah "No! I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” II Samuel 24.24

Conclusion: How amazing would our relationships, jobs, friendships, churches and society be if we truly love them?

Are you willing to Love God beyond anything and everything and your neighbour as yourself?

Let’s pray.

Connect Group 20 – Keep the fire burning!

Text: Leviticus 6.8-13    Icebreaker: What is the easier thing to do - to start a diet, or to keep going with it for a while? (This questi...