Psalm 46 & Jeremiah 31 v 31-36

Poppies grow naturally in disturbed earth, for example where wars have taken place.  The use of red poppies as a symbol of remembrance of those killed or injured in wars was inspired by the first lines of the poem "In Flanders fields" by John McCrae - "In Flanders fields the poppies grow/Between the crosses, row on row."  However Christians have another symbol of remembrance, of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  In John 15 v13, Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."  William Dobbie, the governor of Malta during World War2, realised the full significance of the words of Psalm 46 v1 "God is our refuge and strength,

Psalm 66 v 8-16 & Mark 5 v 1-20

This story in Mark 5 was a terrifying experience.  The demon-possessed man living outside the town in the graveyard was terrifying to the people.  He broke chains that held him and could not be subdued.  The demons that tormented him were terrifying to both the man and the people.  Jesus terrified the owner of the pigs when he allowed the demons to enter the pigs and the whole herd rushed down the hillside and were drowned.

Scripture tells us that demons do exist.  This can be seen today; people's lives are destroyed by the demons of drugs and alcohol.  Their families and friends are all affected by it.  Jesus had power over the demons in the story, and He still has power over modern day demons, as can be seen when drug addicts meet with Jesus and their lives are changed forever as they leave their demons behind.  When Jesus healed the man of his demons, the people were terrified of Him.  Does Jesus' presence terrify us today?  Are we afraid of Jesus' power and authority?

How do we respond to Jesus' power? Sometimes we refuse to do what Jesus asks of us because we like to be comfortable.  If we allow Jesus to transform us we can be used as His witnesses in the world to what He has done for us.  We can make a difference where we live.  What is your response to Jesus?

Colossians 2v1-5 & Romans 12 v1-8

In the Good News version of the Bible, Colossians 2v3 says that Jesus is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God's wisdom and knowledge.  The church at Colossae had been founded by Epaphras and was a fellowship of mixed ethnicity.  This had given rise to some false teachings and Paul wrote to the church to draw their attention back to Jesus as the key to their worship.  Jesus is the key to the past, the present and the future.

The life of Jesus makes sense of the Old Testament.  He fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah, Micah and Malachi.  It was always His conviction that he must fulfil the Old testament.  When Jesus came alongside the two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, He explained to them the meaning of the prophecies in the Old Testament and

how they related to the Messiah (Himself).  He called them foolish and slow to believe the prophecies.  When they finally recognised Jesus, He disappeared from their sight.  Jesus is not subject to time and space as we know it. 

Galatians 2v1-10

The encouragement of friends and family is important to us.  Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, and it is possible that they spent time together when they were growing up.  Jesus and His disciples would have enjoyed the ordinary everyday things that we do - meals laughter, celebrations (they were guests at the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine).

Barnabas means "son of encouragement" and he certainly lived up to his name.  When the early church needed money for food and clothes, Barnabas sold all he had and brought the money to the apostles to use for the common good.  Barnabas was the person who worked with Saul (who became Paul) at the church in Antioch, when the disciples were still rather uncertain about Saul.   Barnabas could see the good in people, and saw that Paul would be used greatly by God.  When Mark fell out with Paul, Barnabas took him under his wing and nurtured and encouraged him, and he grew in faith.  In his letter to Timothy, (2Timothy 4v11) Paul tells Timothy to get Mark and bring him to him, "because he's helpful to me", so Barnabas had evidently  healed the division between Paul and Mark. When there were divisions in the early church about how things should be done, they came together and talked and prayed about the matter, and this is how we should sort out differences today.

Luke 17 v11-19

This passage describes Jesus' healing of the ten lepers.  Only one of them came back to thank Jesus and praise God for his healing, and he was a Samaritan.  It was related to the last part of our text for the year, namely "give thanks in all circumstances".  It is easy to look back over a year that is past and focus on all the bad things that happened, but the congregation were encouraged to write down one thing for which they gave thanks in the past year.  These were used as thanksgiving prayers.

We need to come to the Lord with an appropriate attitude - an attitude of gratitude.  We need to thank Him for all that He has done for us, in particular for our salvation.  We shouldn't look at the blessings others have and become discontented with our lot in life.  Paul tells us that joy with contentment is a blessing in itself.  We need to acknowledge where all our blessings come from - and "give thanks to the Father."  It is an essential element of thanksgiving to acknowledge God as the giver of all things.

All ten of the lepers cried out to Jesus "Master, have mercy on us."  If we expect help form God, we need to accept Him as our Lord and Master.  And we also need to take things in the way that God gives them to us, which is not necessarily the way that we think they should be.  Jesus told the lepers to go to the priest to be inspected.  He tested their obedience.  If we do what God asks of us, in the way that He wants, He will meet us at least halfway.  We need to accept the abundance that God offers to mankind.  The one guaranteed way not to receive all the blessings God offers, is not to accept them.   We must come to Him humbly, and give Him thanks for offering to forgive us and save us, and respond to Him by inviting Him into our hearts and lives.  God is waiting for our response to this offer.  It is always there and is guaranteed.