Melbourne – Messages

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Psalm 18:9

‘He bowed the Heavens’

He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under His feet.

The scriptures are full of the predictions of the coming of the Lord through from Genesis to Malachi and especially in Isaiah and many speak of the virgin birth which is a hotly contested issue now. But in one sense it is necessary for us to understand the power of God at all levels of creation.

One of the things that historians contest is the genealogies in Matthew and Luke as they find it difficult to reconcile, especially with the 14 generations. However as with many things in the Word they are there to provide us with the general concepts and it is their inner meaning which contain the important principles. They attest to the link between Adam, Jesus and Abraham and are in descending and ascending order and are meant to give a picture of the way God descended through all levels to that of the person of Jesus and then ascended as the Lord glorified His Human.All of the genealogies speak about begat but not in the case of Jesus as it says, ‘Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.

If we believe in a Creator which is God then we can believe that the Divine created the natural world and the spiritual world and the simplest forms were turned into matter. These simple forms of matter became more orderly until there are atoms, molecules and then more and more complex mineral structures, etc.

The creative forces developed more and more higher forms or degrees of life until it can be the home for an eternal soul. The Divine clothed itself and its creative energy into the forces we call atomic energy, as such the power of God has been brought into the natural world.If we look at it in this way we can see the power of God entering this world in the varying degrees.

There is a drive in people to want to continue to learn and experience things and also the urge to know God. It is only when the natural world and selfishness take over completely that the desire to know and love God disappears.

Just as the Divine clothed itself with layer after layer, which is the inner meaning of the genealogies, to show the forces that were at play at the time of the first advent, it is only when we can see the creative force or the Divine in these powerful terms that we can come to see how it was possible and necessary for a virgin birth.

When we see it in these terms we understand the verse from Revelation, “I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end”. Jesus was the first, He was the soul of the Creator. He was last because He descended into the world and took on human form from ultimates.

The whole life of the Lord was to show how modelling our life on His will enable us to rise above the mundane to the joy of spiritual fulfillment.

As we contemplate the Advent and the Christmas story let us focus on the enormity and power of God which can easily become invisible if we only focus on what is around us materially and the way humankind has chosen to turn away from God.

Suggested application during the week

As we prepare for Christmas let us reflect on what the birth of the Lord really means to our life and how by thinking about the creative power of God we can then, if we will, see evidence of it all around us and in the life of Jesus we see the great example for us. The visible God in whom is the Invisible coming to earth to restore freedom to us all.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 01 December 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Ezekiel 46:9

(also verses 1- 15)

When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out by the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out by the north gate. No-one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.

If we look at this chapter on the surface it appears to be speaking solely about worship at the temple. To put it in context, Ezekiel was speaking to the Jewish people who were in captivity but who were looking for freedom, returning to Jerusalem and re-building the temple. Some scholars have interpreted this text as meaning that you have to enter one door of the temple either the north or south side and leave by the other and they speak of a very practical reason of crowd control. If we look at the remainder of the reading and what is to be sacrificed, it all seems to be focused on worship in the temple. However just as the burnt offerings, etc. have a spiritual meaning for how we should worship, so do the north and south gates.

Whilst the attitude with which we attend worship or worship the Lord in our daily life is important, the whole passage and this text in particular is about what is going on in our mind and life. To understand the significance of north and south in the context of this passage, we must first re-orientate our minds to the fact that this is talking about the land of Canaan which is in the northern hemisphere and the north and south relate to the respective heat of the sun. The east of course is where the sun rises and represents the Lord, the ‘sun of our soul’. In this case the south is where the sun is at its strongest and there is more light and heat at noon. The north on the other hand is where the sun is weak and therefore darker and colder.

If we transpose this into what is going on in our life and mind we can see that the south is where we get all the beautiful affections and thoughts from the Lord that come into our mind, whilst the north is where we get colder things which are the material things, ideas and thoughts which may not be loving and therefore things of the world.

Our passage says that if you come in by the north gate you must leave by the south gate. It speaks nothing about remaining. It is emphasising the flow of thoughts and affections both from the world and from the Lord and the angels that are part of what is going on in our mind. The fact that it mentions leaving by way of another gate it is saying to us that something must happen to both loving and worldly thoughts. If we do nothing with them and they just stay in our memory, they are of no use.

At all times there is an interaction between the Lord trying to reach us and what we are taking in from what is going on around us in the world. This passage is saying to us that we must make something happen. Be aware of what is going on around us and how we respond. Even in the most apparently mundane situations, there may be an opportunity for us to listen to the Lord and transform that situation into something good. On the other hand we can respond to the promptings from the Lord and make something happen in our life.

Our worship in the church is about finding time to listen to the Word, praise and pray, and it is a little more conducive for us to reflect and get in touch with the Lord, but this can happen in our everyday life.

We are always given opportunities to deal with anger, forgiveness, etc. Opportunities are presented in our life by the Lord to make a change. This is an important interaction between the world and the Lord, between truth from the Lord and the enlivening of this truth with love.

This is the power in the text to show is that if we are to progress we must ensure that we have proceeded to go in one gate and out another.

Suggested application during the week

Try to be aware this week of what is coming into our mind, the thoughts and affections and what is happening around us and then make every effort to ensure that we have linked the two to make change in our life. Worship is not only for church but for every day.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 24 November 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Genesis 23:17-18

The Cave at Machpelah

So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre – both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field – was legally made over to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city.

It is important to read the whole chapter to gain an understanding of the thrust of this message. We read in this story that Sarah dies and Abraham wants to find a burial place for her. He negotiates with the Hittites and in particular Ephron to obtain land in which a cave is located near Hebron. It should also be noted that not only Sarah and then Abraham but also Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah were buried in the same place.

The name Machpelah means regeneration by truth and Hebron symbolises a languishing spiritual state. Sarah being a woman represents the church or bride and wife. In one sense then, this passage is talking about the decline of one dispensation, or church, and the rising of another.

This is done out of the remnants of a former church and the Hittites, who were remnants of the ancient peoples and were people who had an essential goodness, were therefore happy to give the land to Abraham, but he insisted that it had to be paid for. We have nothing of our own to give. All comes from the Lord and this is why Abraham, representing the Lord, paid for it.

It is interesting that a cave was chosen as the resting place for the patriarchs and their wives, but there is significance in this. A cave being dark represents obscurity and therefore the people of each of the declining churches were in obscurity as to truth. It was the same when the Lord came on the earth and the Jewish church did not recognise Him. It was the Gentiles who formed the basis of the Christian church and the bowing of Abraham to the people of Heth or the Hittites, symbolised the joy that the Lord felt in the Gentiles recognising Him and His sorrow at the lack of recognition by His own people, the Jews.

We should couple the cave for burial with the rising or resurrection of new life. The angels, when they think of burial, immediately think of rising to new life and therefore the theme of this passage is not death but renewal.

This is further confirmed by the burial of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with their wives in the same place. Each represent a different state on our spiritual journey from natural to spiritual and celestial and there are therefore different states in us. Parts of us go into obscurity and others are brought to light.

Hidden from us is the way the Lord works within us in various ways as we grow and decline in certain areas of our journey, just as He raises up a new church from the remnants of the old.

It is the same in nature as it is in our daily lives. We know that from the ashes of a bush fire the trees eventually sprout and grow again – the forest is regenerated. For example, the plants and animals come to life in Lake Eyre during the times when it receives water.

We all know of new thoughts and new ideas which arise out of old thoughts which die. One phase of our life dies and another dawns if we will allow the Lord to work in us and respond to His prompting.

The sacred place at Machpelah gives a picture of a heavenly home provided by the Lord just as Abraham provided a home for all his family.

Let us think of renewal when we think of the cave at Machpelah.

Suggested application during the week

Reflect on how the Lord can bring something good out of something that has declined, and remember this at all times.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 27 October 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Exodus 28:33-35

Aaron’s Robes

Make pomegranates out of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.

This whole chapter looks at the description of the robes Aaron wore as High Priest in the Tabernacle when he ministered and led the Children of Israel in worship. This message is not looking at the whole description, but suffice it to say that the garments were in three layers and at the bottom of the hem of the garment were alternatively pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet and bells of gold.

It would be easy to dismiss this whole chapter as irrelevant and pose the question, ‘What has this got to do with my life?’ but it is in the Word so that with the help of the inner meaning we can see how it does relate to our daily lives.

The three layers of the robes relate to the layers in which the Lord works in our lives and through His revelation – from thought, to understanding, to love. It is this process that His Divine Love and Wisdom is filtered and flows into all we do. The pomegranates and bells being on the hem of the garment shows us how the truth needs to be transformed into loving actions. The hem of the garment is the part closest to the ground. In fact it and the bells and pomegranates touch the ground. This relates to the principles of the Word needing to be expressed in life.

A pomegranate is a rich, juicy fruit with a large cluster of seeds. The richness of the fruit represents living a full life, and the seeds represent the way we use truth in our lives. The colours of blue, purple and scarlet symbolise the way light and love come into the things we think and do. They represent the layers of the affection for spiritual and celestial truth and love in our life. Our listening skills are needed if we are to hear the truth and the voice of God, like bells ringing in our ears and these symbolise the way we put love, symbolised by the gold of the bells, into our life.

The pomegranates and bells were on the hem of the robes because true worship, represented by Aaron, is about the difference between thinking the truth, to going out and doing it. True worship is only true worship when we put the principles into practice.

Aaron ministered and the Israelites listened. The reference to this and the statement, ‘that he may not die’, is to reinforce to the Israelites that if they did not listen to what he was saying they would spiritually die, just as we will die spiritually if we do not listen to the principles of the Word of God.

Our presence at church to worship is a way of fine-tuning our life to the Lord’s truth. In prayer, singing, listening to the message and hearing the Word, we are receiving the tools to lead a good life. If we listen to the Word and think about it then the Lord will work through our thoughts, understanding and love to enable us to express this in our life. Our thoughts can then be transformed into loving actions.

We all know that sometimes we get hold of a thought or a truth and gradually it takes on more and more meaning and eventually it grows to the point where it has an impact on our life and the way we live and work with others. This is the process that is symbolised by the robes and the decoration of the hem of Aaron’s garment.

Suggested application during the week

Be aware of what is in our thoughts and how we are being moved to change the way we should do things and the way we should communicate and relate to others.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 06 October 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Psalm 25:4-5

The Lord’s Leading

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in You all day long.

Perhaps one of the things we think about in our spiritual journey is the way the Lord leads us. If we are honest we would like to think that the Lord will tell us what to do and give us the course we should take, leaving us in no doubt as to what we should do.However this instructional type leading would be by command not by leading.The Lord’s leading is much more subtle than that and if we are to listen and be guided at all we need to give the Lord the opportunity to lead.

On the one hand we want the Lord to lead us and on the other hand we want to be in control of our own destiny and make our own decisions.If our selfish needs and evil tendencies consume us then there is little room for the Lord to be in the picture.

We are at church because we want to be led and the Lord as the Creator and all powerful God is able to lead us but also preserve our freedom.Moses had no doubt that he would be able to lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land but he also knew that it would not be achieved without Divine leading.He acknowledged this up front.It was a pre-requisite for the journey.

How then does the Lord lead – is it by a voice, is it inner dictate, is it advice from friends or an inspired speaker?It is all of those things at times and other things as well but these methods are not going to hit us in the face so to speak.We must be in a state to be receptive to the promptings that will come to us.If we are too busy doing our own thing then we will not be able to respond to any of these methods.

Although the Lord uses various ways to communicate with us, the most important is through the precepts of His Word.The principles of truth contained therein and which in some cases we have had since children when we learnt the Bible stories are used by the Lord.The special passages that we love and make an impression on us are used.People we come into contact with who are speaking from the truth because each person, to a greater or lesser extent, possesses elements of the truth, are used by the Lord to lead us forward.

This does not mean that He leads us by a mass of memorised facts. The truth is linked to our living and if we listen, is fed to us and we have the freedom to respond or not respond.

We know that we are very much caught up in our day to day living and this is only natural, but we must take time to be aware of what is going on and the opportunities that are being given to us to be led.

How will this leading be affected? It will occur through the thoughts and ideas that come to us. It will appear through the way our conscience holds us back or makes it easy for us. It will happen through a heightened sense of what is right and through being urged and moved to do something that is good and useful. It will show in the strength that is given to us when we did not realise we had such strength. It may come when out of the blue something unexpected happens.

Each step is a building block to the next one if we are open to and aware of what is going on within us.

For the Lord to lead us we must reach out to Him in affection and love and ask for His leading and guidance.

Suggested application during the week

Try to focus this week on what is going on in and around us and pin-point times when we can see we are being led or we have responded to something in our life.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 06 October 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Judges 4:21

Tent Peg to Kill

But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

In the Word there are a number of quite violent and distasteful incidents and this is one of them. Many avoid them but often they teach us a very important lesson. In the text the final outcome of the story is that Jael drives a tent peg into the brain of Sisera, Commander of the Canaanite army and down into the ground. It is the people and events surrounding this act that enables us to put this violent act into perspective.

In many passages we see the Children of Israel fighting against the armies of other people and this fighting is a symbol of the struggle we have each day with evil tendencies. The main characters in this passage are Deborah and Jael, both you will note are women and they are the heroines. Deborah was one of the Judges who led the people at a time in the history of Israel. She provided solutions for her people’s problems. Most of this was done whilst sitting under a palm tree. A palm tree symbolises wisdom and she looked to the Lord for this wisdom in all her judgements.

Deborah means honey bee and this gives one clue to the thrust of the story. Bees produce honey that is sweet but they can sting, meaning there are always two sides to life and spiritual growth.

The name Jael is made up of Ja which means Jehovah (God) and el, which also means God so it means God is God. The represents making a statement of acceptance of Him in our life. Jael with her husband Heber lived separate from their kinsman and it shows that if we live by the truth this can sometimes separate us spiritually from others.

Deborah gave instructions to Barak to entice the army of Sisera into the area and they were beaten by the Israelites. Sisera fled and came to Jael and Heber’s tent, neutral territory, and it was there after being given a drink then falling asleep that he was killed in the graphic way mentioned.

It is easy to focus on the violence but the Word always teaches us something about what is going on inside of us. At the centre of the story are the two women. In all cases in the Word where women are mentioned they refer to the affectionate and loving side of us. Love supports, cares, provides, etc. The absence of love can bring chaos, a breakdown in relationships and many other insidious outcomes.

Jael does the deed and the tent peg goes through the brain into the ground. Leave aside the gory details and focus on the symbolism. The peg goes through the brain or our mind and the point touches the ground. What we are looking at here is a flow of love from the Lord into the mind and then into the ground which is the link with life. It is telling us that if we have harmony between the love from God into our life then this makes a wonderful impact on our life and can be the instrument for breaking down evil forces that can lead us away from love and doing good.

We all know what can happen when love leaves relationships. There are family breakdowns and a lack of love can destroy empathy. Even little things can happen such as feisty comments to a stranger. In business relationships customer relationships need an element of love to foster goodwill.

We can therefore see the force for good that love can be and we can see that this is driven more powerfully when we understand that God is love, which can truly change the world.

Suggested application during the week

Try to focus all our thinking this week on being loving at all the various levels in our life and see how it positively changes situations.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 29 September 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Exodus 3:17

The Purpose of Life

And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.

This is the proclamation by Moses and his leadership of the Children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. At the superficial level we can see it as setting a vision and a goal, as well as the path of struggle and challenge that is encountered on the journey. We can also say that it represents the journey from this world to the next – from an earthly life to a heavenly life. We all need a dream and a vision to give our life purpose and meaning.

At a deeper level, it is talking about what is going on within our mind because the land represents our mind and it will be flowing with milk and honey when we have gradually applied the truths of the Word and found they give immense pleasure and joy.

In other words, the journey from Egypt to Canaan is about going from bondage to true freedom. The leadership of Moses corresponds to our own dawning realisation of the need for and the love of the Word and the Lord and what it can mean in our life.

The principles of the Word are always using what the people of the time knew, and milk and honey were some of the staple foods that people used every day. Milk provides sustenance and honey sweetness and these symbolise the goodness and truth from the Word and the good affections and thoughts that are in our mind.

If we think of the land as our mind then to say that there are foreigners in the land and these have to be overcome, we can see that the passage is about a change in the way we think and live.

Moses spoke of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites who were the people living in the land and were the foes who could prevent the land from becoming a place of true heavenly bliss.

If we look upon these tribes as representing something that is preventing our own spiritual maturing then we can understand how the passage can apply to our life. There are three levels of the mind; an innermost, inner and outer, and the couplets of these tribes represent evil influences at one level or another that attack us to prevent us reaching that heavenly state.

If we imagine the Canaanites and Hittites as representing evil in general and having self-derived intelligence we can see that these attributes, at the innermost level, can prevent us fully knowing the Lord and unless we overcome them our spiritual growth cannot progress to the deepest level. This is the challenge for us to progressively overcome these obstacles to reach the true heavenly place within us.

If we hold onto the beautiful teachings from the Word and strenuously try to put them into practice in our life, it is then that we will gradually journey towards the land flowing with milk and honey.

The very words conjure up something beautiful and just as the Children of Israel struggled and then had times of peace, so it will be in our life.

As we know, Moses led them and what kept him going when he was being bombarded by grumbles from the people was the vision described in the passage. We need to be like Moses and hold onto the dawning realisation that we are called to a spiritual life and the struggles will be well worth the effort because then we can see it is about the way we nurture relationships and gain joy from being of use.

Suggested application during the week

Take time to reflect on what is upper most in our life. What do we need to overcome to progressively gain a sense of the Lord in our life? This is about changing the areas of our mind from a desert to a place flowing with milk and honey.

Chris Skinner

Sunday 25 August 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Genesis 26:18

Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

This text looks at the digging of the wells by Isaac that his father had dug, but which were filled in by the Philistines. In one sense it can provide a better understanding of how we need to keep going back to the Word to gain enlightenment and it also gives us a sense of a continual returning, or what appears to be, a continual returning to things.

Looked at in more detail we can see that it is not just returning as if going round and round in circles but going back in a new state to make a better decision because we have grown spiritually.

We all know how fashions return, stage shows come back. In one sense there is nothing new it is just an improvement based on new ideas, new technology or other factors. This is similar to the principle that applies here.

Abraham dug the wells and Abraham symbolises a deep sense of God and His power in our life. These wells were filled in by the Philistines and they symbolise the love of self and the world and not being interested in anything spiritual. We all can see the significance of wells – often the deeper a well is dug the more pure the water and the more richer the oil.

It is the same principle in this case. By being asked to return to the wells that Abraham dug we are being asked to return to the Word and look at it again in a new light to move forward in the light of new truth that we see for ourselves and put into practice. This is the first step. Our state may not be that of Abraham, just as Isaac’s was not the same, or as deep but it is about revisiting the fountain or the water of truth to see what we can get out of it for our spiritual journey.

We often say we are returning to the place of our birth but we are returning a different person. Memories may be the same but we have moved on and therefore see the place in a new light. In our life we think a set of circumstances are the same as before and we have come full circle but in fact the circumstances are the same but we have the opportunity to re-act in a different way and make better choices. We all know what it is to face a situation at work or in relationships with the benefit of experience – we hope we make better decisions.

We might not have that deep spirituality of the ancients but we still must endeavour to make progress. In the text we read that Isaac gave the names of the wells the same names that were given by his father. Names have relation to qualities and Isaac was restoring the heavenly qualities that meant so much to Abraham and were the reason for their naming.

Our life can be restored and renewed by revisiting the Word and endeavouring to improve the quality of our life. By revisiting the Word we are digging the well, we are opening up the fountain of truth that lies buried. The wells will stay buried if we remain in our selfish state without any effort to find something spiritual in our life.

Isaac symbolises the understanding of truth put into life, which is one of the steps needed if we are to have real meaning in our life.

Suggested application during the week

Take time to look at a passage or text from the Word, perhaps a favourite passage, and allow the Lord to work with you to make it live in your life.Rev.

Chris Skinner

Sunday 11 August 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Luke 22:27

To serve and be served

For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

It is of some significance that this text comes at the time of the Last Supper when Jesus is acutely aware of His impending crucifixion and what He needs to do. There is a struggle within Him and yet the disciples are arguing about who should be in a certain position.

This text both in this Gospel and in the other Gospels focuses on the need to serve others – serving rather than being served. If we think about it, the concept of serving is at the heart of our living.

We all know that it is very nice to go out for a meal and be served and enjoy ourselves. Equally we can gain much by the joy we receive in having people over to our place and serving them.

At every level of life there is the opportunity for serving. Many jobs that have to be undertaken are not interesting and require people to serve employers. Employers can enjoy being in a position of control but there is also an opportunity for a master to be a servant. This can come about when the needs of those that are employed are considered, and in developing their talents the employer is serving the employee.

It is also the case that any job, if looked at in the right way, can be the opportunity for an employee to serve their customers and gain enjoyment out of the service they give and the pleasure they see in the eyes of the person they are serving. The act of serving is all the more fulfilling if the person doing the serving is looking less to himself and his circumstances and more to the needs of the other person. How many times have we been served by a miserable person at the counter? How many times have we waited for a tradesman who does not come, or if he arrives he never gets back to us with a quote?

In some team sports many of the players are get huge salaries but do not put in as much as they should. If they consider that the effort they put in is serving the team as a whole then their contribution takes on a new meaning. The important thing is that we should do this from our free will and not out of compulsion.

The Lord was the ultimate servant. God was put in human form and in His humanity Jesus had to suffer to overcome the ills and evils of the human race to restore their freedom. It was this that Jesus was thinking of at the Last Supper. Most the work was done but even though He knew He could come down from the cross He knew that He must not.

His example is the ultimate one and one that we should follow. It is in serving that we do follow Him but at the same time the serving brings with it joy and peace. By sacrificing ourselves and our own selfish motives we gain from the experiences we receive. In some cases they may be increased self-esteem and self-confidence gained from what we do.

At all times in our life we can find ways to serve and of course we are serving as parents, grandparents, carers, etc. If our job is unfulfilling then we can find ways through service organisations to be of service and this gives us the satisfaction we might not be getting in our job.

Older people can find ways to serve which does not need huge energy or physical strength. It may be as a listener, supporting someone spiritually or giving advice. It is important to find ways to serve because this is the essence of heaven, as heaven is a kingdom of uses or service.

All of this service needs to be done in freedom and the ultimate service that God has given to us is to allow us to think that all life is ours but true life is the Lord’s. We are receivers and it is important for us to live life in a way that serves others, rather than from the perspective of what’s in it for me. Too often these days people are only looking at their self-interest, rather than in serving others which would mean that society and the world generally could function better.

Suggested application during the week

Take time to review what we do each week and see what part of it, in some way or other, is serving other people and how can we increase that element of our life.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 4 August 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Daniel 4:1-2 (also whole chapter)

King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world:

May you prosper greatly!

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

Whilst we start with the first two verses, the whole chapter gives us a better understanding of what we are being taught. The first two verses show the peace and humility that King Nebuchadnezzar shows after going through trials expanded on in previous chapters.

However soon after this period of rest from temptation, he is embroiled in another trial which contains the meaning of his vision. We should understand that temptation, which in one sense is an old fashion word, really means a testing of our spiritual progress and love of the Lord.

It is the same with us as we struggle with our conscience at times and then this can followed by a time of relative calm. We should understand that unless we are challenged we make little progress. The whole of this chapter of Daniel in its inner meaning shows us the ebbs and flows of our spiritual life.

Nebuchadnezzar is moved from a period of calm into a period of upheaval and the dream is part of this pattern. It is the vision of the tree. The tree is always the symbol of spiritual growth with the trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruit demonstrating the growth of loving affections and thoughts over time. The reverse of this is shown later in the chapter.

Before Daniel is called to interpret the dream, Nebuchadnezzar calls on the soothsayers, etc. who have very worldly concerns and it can be the same with us. When things go wrong in our life there is a tendency for us to look to more material remedies such as alcohol, drugs and other things that satisfy the senses. When this did not work Nebuchadnezzar called on Daniel who represents the Word of God. We often leave the Lord until last when in effect He can help us deal with our difficulties and spiritual and natural problems from the outset.

In the chapter it mentions the watcher (messenger) who pronounces the fall of the tree and the watcher is a symbol of our conscience. If we withdraw from listening to our conscience then we find ourselves declining and falling into deep trouble. Temptation at its heart is the struggle between the inner person and the outward person. Our selfish life resides in our outer person and the more material we become the less influence our inner person has over us. It is in our inner person that the Lord resides. It is like the tree being cut off which is part of the vision.

This is why Nebuchadnezzar is ‘driven from men’ and becomes like a beast. The description of him eating grass like cattle and his hair being mangy is an illustration of the state we become if we are more influenced by evil rather than good tendencies.

In the vision although the tree is cut down the stump is left and bound with iron and brass. This means that the Lord never leaves us we can always call in Him in prayer to help us out of the deep pit. His continual presence is symbolised by the stump and the iron and brass represent the truth and good that we can call upon if we wish to raise above our difficulties.

Towards the end of the chapter Nebuchadnezzar comes to his senses and finds peace again and these new perceptions and thoughts are the ‘dews of heaven’ referred to in the later part of the chapter.

All the stories in the Word show the ebbs and flows of our spiritual growth and battles. This chapter is a very good example as it demonstrates how truth can be given in a story.

It should be observed that the more battles we have the more we are progressing. It is not that we are worse than others. We need to build an awareness of what is going on within us.

Suggested application during the week

Try to observe how we are feeling about life and what troubles seem to be happening – not in a material sense, but how we react to circumstances and the things that do, or do not, prick our conscience and the feelings of guilt that arise. This can be a sign of what is going on inside of us.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 28 July 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Mark 1:30-31 and Matthew 8:14-15

Healing Diseases

Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, He saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on Him.

The message today is taking a more detailed look at the two texts, which looked at closely, are almost the same. There are some very small differences which can easily be overlooked and thought of as insignificant but this is not the case, as each Gospel has a different focus. Matthew focuses on the fulfilment of prophesy and the coming of the Messiah, whereas Mark focuses on the Divine Human of the Lord and having a personal relationship with Him.

If you look at the setting of the two texts you will see that in Matthew the text comes immediately after the Sermon on the Mount and in Mark it is in the first chapter which focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ, John as the messenger, Jesus and his baptism, and the calling of the Disciples. It establishes a setting of the focus on Jesus and His ministry whereas Matthew focuses on the teaching and healing of the Messiah.

As with all healing and the types of healing in the passages mentioned (unclean spirits, lepers, etc.), the Word is not just focussing on healing miracles but more importantly on the spiritual diseases that occur in each one of us. The states of mind and life we are in and how they need to be healed by the Lord. The mother- in-law of Simon Peter had fever and a fever spiritually is when we are hot headed, lusting after something, being totally selfish and fixed on what is in it for us. We know the feverish moods we can get into and how it affects us. Life is a bit like that. We seem to live it at a fast pace with no time to settle down and listen and take things more slowly. Hot headedness gets us into all sorts of trouble if we are not careful and anger has the same outcome.

The text is quite similar in that it says that the Lord healed her, touched her and she got up from the bed. In Matthew it says and she ministered to Him. There is a similar passage in Luke but here it says, ‘and she ministered to them’ and in Mark it says, ‘the Lord took her hand and lifted her up’.

What are these differences saying to us? In Matthew it tells us that she was focussing on the Lord, in Luke using the word ‘them’ it is continuing the theme of Luke which is applying the truth to life for the benefit of others. It is interesting that Mark is the only one that mentions ‘lifting up’.

This is very significant because the Lord raises the woman up just as He raises us up from the depths of selfishness. This lifting up is more about what is happening spiritually to us. In the natural world the laws of gravity force us down. It is the ‘mass’ that affects us and draws us down whereas in the spiritual world it is the opposite; we are lifted up to heaven and go downwards to hell. In the spiritual world the Lord is the centre of gravity.

We cannot feel the pulling of planets towards the sun or the effect of gravity other than the fact that we can only jump up a small way. However the power of gravity is awesome and we do not realise it. It is the same with the power of the Lord’s inflowing into the world and the effect it can have if we allow it. The Lord coming into the world reversed the spiritual gravity which was diminishing.

The power of love is like the current in an ocean. This miracle symbolises the power of the Lord to raise us up above the lower states and the hot and feverish states we get ourselves in. We often say that depression brings us down and we have inertia. The miracle demonstrates that if we call upon the Lord He can lift us out of our low state of mind and bring us to a point where we can be of use to others and build a stronger relationship with the Lord.

Suggested application during the week

Watch our thinking pattern and states during the week and see how it is affecting our moods and our dealing with others. If it is having a negative affect then give a prayer to the Lord to ‘raise’ or ‘lift ‘us up.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 14 July 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Revelation 21

Descent of the Holy City

(New Church Day Celebrations)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me, “It is done, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia (approx. 2,200kms) in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits (approx. 65m) thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper; the second was sapphire; the third chalcedony; the fourth emerald; the fifth sardonyx; the sixth carnelian; the seventh chrysolite; the eighth beryl; the ninth topaz; the tenth chrysoprase; the eleventh jacinth; and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pear. The great street of the city was of pure gold, liked transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Our celebrations for New Church Day are not about remembering the establishment of an organisation but about a watershed when it comes to spiritual freedom. It is a freeing up of the links between this world and the next so that people can choose how they see the Word and not be restrained by the power of a church. This happened in the year 1770. This New Church is about a new dispensation, or new enlightenment. It is about the emerging of new truth so that people are not locked into old doctrines such as faith alone and three persons in the Trinity.

This New Church will not be one organisation, rather people finding their own way to express their love of God based on a greater understanding of a loving God and not a God of fear. This emerging dispensation which is now only in its infancy will gradually pick up pace over time. We have seen changes in old dogma, a greater understanding of the Word as providing spiritual principles and less on a rigid acceptance of the literal sense of the Word.

This passage from Revelation describes not what the Holy City, New Jerusalem, will look like physically, but the description is written in symbolic terms to explain the attributes of the people of its church and its truth.

You will notice that this passage mentions twelve tribes, twelve gates, twelve pearls, etc., because twelve represents the ‘all’ of truth and love, and that is why the streets were of pure gold. The twelve gates with each gate made of one pearl, along with the precious stones, all represent the way different people reflect the light of truth in their lives.

A gate is an entry point and just as now different denominations and spiritual paths reflect aspects of the truth, so this will happen more deeply and progressively over times to come. In the future the essential truths will be embraced even if in different forms.

If we think of a rainbow, it is the way light is reflected differently from the sun and this is why there will be many paths and ways. The walls of this city represent the literal sense of the Word which provides the essence of how we should live.

If we think of an orchestra at a concert the music is the same for all the listeners, but each takes from it what they will, the melody, the sophistication of the music, the tone, variety of the instruments, etc.. This is the same with the Word but based on essential principles of truth.

We need to free ourselves from the text of Revelation 21 and see within it the picture and the symbolism it is painting. As mentioned at the outset, a new spiritual freedom occurred and we all know that when we are free to choose we make mistakes and we have to see for ourselves what we have done wrong. The turmoil that exists in the world is part of this process. Humankind will over time recognise this and gradually change but in the meantime there will be difficulties until humankind truly sees the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God.

If we look at verses 2 and 10 we see references to the descent of the holy city seen by John. The reference in verse 10 is preceded by being carried into ‘a great and high mountain’. This is poignant because as the city descends it will progressively have new insights and be more perceptive. It is a rising up of consciousness. In the meantime turmoil will be present as the deeper understanding and love of truth and living according to it emerges based on love in action.

Suggested application during the week

The image of the Holy City provides us with a blueprint in its inner meaning of how we should live spiritually. Let us reflect on our own life and see if we are putting these principles into it.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 16 June 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Genesis 9:18-29

Thinking well of others

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan). These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!

The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”

He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem!

May Canaan be the slave of Shem.

May God extend the territory of Japheth;

may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,

and may Canaan be his slave.”

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

When we look at this passage, at first glance it appears obscure and of little relevance to us today. We read about Ham finding his father naked in his tent and telling his brothers about it and his brothers Shem and Japheth getting a blanket, putting it on their shoulders and walking backwards so that they did not see their father’s nakedness and could cover him.

How many of us are less than tactful at times and expose the weakness of others, or focus on the weakness of others, rather than looking at the positive aspects of a person’s character instead of the negative ones? It does not mean to say that we have to be naïve and overlook glaring mistakes or actions, but it does mean we should be discerning in how we think and act.

We can all have a general likeness or dislike of particular peoples or countries. We could say it is a prejudice. I found that my view of Americans has changed since my recent trip as I got to know them in their own environment and on a one on one basis. We can also form a view of someone on the surface but then this can change when we know them better.

In our story from the Word, Ham was quick to tell others of his father’s nakedness and drunkenness and Ham symbolises those who only see the errors of others and who lack true charity or kindness to those they meet. If they say something good it tends to be for the sake of themselves. Noah’s drunkenness is a symbol of error and perversions in general. We should understand that the Lord made a covenant with Noah and he was trying to walk with the Lord. Like us, he made a mistake.

We all know what thinking the worst of anyone can do to our own spiritual state and Noah when he recovered and found out what Ham had done was annoyed with him.

On the other hand, Shem and Japheth wanted to think well of their father by walking backwards and not taking any notice of his nakedness. They understood what had happened to their father but because it was not a major error they wanted to keep silent about it.

Shem and Japheth symbolise inner and outer parts of each one of us. Shem represents the inner person and Japheth the outer person. Shem is the goodness in the will and Japheth the outer actions that stem from this.

As far as the garment is concerned, it symbolises truth and what is applied out of love. The fact that it was put on their shoulders is because the shoulder symbolises power and effort. It emphasises for us the power that is in the truth and they applied this with all their might to avoid thinking ill of their father.

We can see here that as we grow spiritually and our new will is developed, we are more likely to act out of charity and love rather that superficially by being critical of a person, sometimes without cause.

By looking at the passage from its inner meaning, it comes alive for us in our own life and enables us to see the difference between always looking at the negative about a person or people rather than ignoring these faults when they do not have a major impact on our life or the lives of others.

Suggested application during the week

Watch carefully our responses and thoughts in various situations when it comes to making a judgement about another person or their actions, and try and check ourselves before making hasty and arbitrary decisions on their characters.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 2 June 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Psalm 90:4

For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, or like a watch in the night.

This is one instance out of hundreds in the Word where a number is used to illustrate a point or a principle. If we think about it, numbers have a prominent place in our life almost without realising it. Many of us have a favourite number, which may have been chosen for all sorts of reasons. Numbers are used for addresses; numbers are used to measure; to assess; to research.

Mathematics is used in computers and programs because the binary system is the basis for computer programs. We look at large buildings around our city, we know that engineering computations are used to design the structure to ensure it will withstand all the forces that it will have to withstand. However, we often forget this whole process when looking at the architecture of a beautiful building.

In the Word there are many recurring numbers and we should recognise that the numbers in themselves, whilst quantifying space, size or groups, have a much more important use. These numbers are used to symbolise quality or states in people or principles in relation to God.

The number one relates to the one God, the Creator; two means conjunction; and, three means completeness. There are also the often recurring numbers such as twelve and forty. Twelve means the all or everything of faith, and forty symbolises temptation. Using two numbers and multiplying them also gives us a clue as to what spiritual principle is being used to help us in our spiritual journey.

As people living in a finite world we are very much caught up in the measurement of things. Not only the things around us but also time, and it is these two factors that come together in this text. One commentator calls Psalm 90 one of the most sublime of the whole 150 psalms, and verse 4 says “a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday”. The number 1,000 symbolises the infinite. Everything is from God and linking 1,000 years with a day is to demonstrate that God is out of time but in time. It is a principle that we can only measure with feelings. God is timeless and infinite, but out of necessity time has been created to enable us, who live in a material world, to relate to what is essential spiritual.

In our spiritual journey life is about progressing and growth and we need time to map and measure that progress and how we respond to the Lord. The Lord wants us to enjoy the love He gives through relationships. We build and nurture relationships over time and we have ups and downs in all types of relationships. As time goes on we build a deeper relationship with someone but the feelings we have as a result of it are timeless. We build a relationship with the Lord over time but the feelings we have are timeless. God is timeless and therefore we can make the comment that God forgives in an instance because he does not measure.

We could easily go mad if we try to analyse this too deeply because we are finite and therefore to grasp it is difficult, but what we can take from it is that we can have a connectedness to God and He is very near to us.

For us time and process are how we find joy and happiness and experience love, both from others and from God. If we think about it, I am sure there are instances when we do not consider time, for example: that moment we experience wise insights; the moment we are deeply affected by something innocent and precious; the moment we feel that the love of Lord is present through His mercy and forgiveness.

Our love for our family and friends is out of time and space. The spiritual world does not measure by time but by our state of being. A dream can last a few seconds but the contents may represent hours. Our text is showing us this principle. Our God is infinite and a full and developing relationship with Him will feel as a day because it is timeless. The infinite God is in time but apart from time because we need time as we are of this world for the moment.

Suggested application during the week

Whilst reflecting on this text, let us try and find instances in our life this week with our feelings and thoughts which take us out of time and capture the timeless moments.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 9 June 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Luke 10:38-42, John 14:23

and John 19:26-27

Mother’s Day Service

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had as sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

The texts shown above have relation to home, son and mother, and the different views on keeping a home. All of these are important when we consider the role of mothers. However we should also look at the wider context of caring and compassion because whether we are a parent or not, we can all assume a caring role to someone who needs to feel they are cared for and supported.

The home, in one sense, is at the centre of a caring relationship. We say that someone is ‘at home in their environment’, ‘they come from a good home’ or ‘they come from a broken home’. These phrases are not necessarily referring to a house or bricks and mortar, but to the security, support and love that comes as a result of the nurturing that goes on within the home.

In the text from John chapter 19 we see Jesus saying to John that he should take Mary to his home and be her son. This was a very significant gesture by the Lord at the time of the crucifixion signifying that everyone should have a mother figure and feel loved. Jesus could no longer be with His mother in this world and His care and compassion meant that He wanted to see her loved and supported. John’s gospel is known as the’ gospel of love’ and he himself symbolises love, which is why Jesus considered him to would be the right person to care for His mother.

Another aspect of a mother’s role is emphasised in the passage from Luke about Mary and Martha. One wanted help from her sister and became frustrated because she was sitting at the feet of the Lord. Jesus did not chastise Martha but pointed out that both roles were important. In relation to motherhood, there is a time for use and there is a time for listening to the Word. Truth is necessary for us to get the principles right in dealing with our children.

In all of these passages there is a close connection between understanding the truth and loving the truth. The Lord is close to us when we put the truth into action in a loving way and this is no better shown than in the role of motherhood.

However we should not just confine these principles to Mother’s Day and thinking about mothers. Each one of us, whether a parent or not, can provide a mentoring, caring or support role for a friend, work colleague, someone with no parent to call on, and many other similar situations.

As each person shows love and support to another person then Jesus is in the midst of us just as He was with the disciples, Mary and Martha and with Mary until the crucifixion.

The Holy Spirit is the Divine operating in our midst and each of us, by showing love, can be the hands and feet of the Lord.

As we reflect on our mothers or a mother figure we can think of what it means to us and that feeling of being loved spans distance and even the two worlds.

Let us never forget the power of love.

Suggested application during the week

Whilst reflecting on all aspects of a mother’s role, let us see if there is any way that we can give back to another what we have experienced from this type of love.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 12 May 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Daniel 1:8-9 (also whole chapter)

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now God had caused the official to show favour and sympathy to Daniel…

We are all aware of some of the well-known passages from Daniel, including the lion’s den and the fiery furnace. What stands out in this first chapter is that Daniel and his friends were taken from the safe place of Jerusalem, where they lived a comfortable life being from a noble family, to Babylon where they had to suffer a great deal.

They could easily have succumbed to the bad lifestyle of the Babylonians but they chose to keep true to their own principles and refused to partake of the King’s delicacies and wine. They also kept to the standards that they knew to be right. Daniel was brought into favour of the chief of the eunuchs and after 10 days their way of life was accepted.

At the heart of this story is the triumph of the inner or true spirit. We need to be able to stay true to what we believe even though those around us may not and be prepared to accept the ridicule if that be the case.

From a spiritual perspective we see a battle between our inner world which is represented by the King, and our outer world and the things that happen in our daily life. It should be noted that Daniel found favour with the chief of the eunuchs. If we look at what is going on in our mind and the imagery of the story, the eunuch is what may be called the ‘go between’. We have the inner and outer, or internal and external, part of our mind and it is within this internal part where we are close to God.

It is therefore important for us to nurture the principles we have so that we do not get throttled by life’s daily tasks and wrong principles. We need to find the place or space where we can nurture good thoughts and actions leading to a love of the Lord and a feeling of inner joy and peace, which is the foundation for our spiritual growth. In this world of ours this is not always easy and we have to deliberately seek it out.

Each of us will find different ways to do it. It may be a good book, it may be music, or it may be a quiet place that we feel at peace.

What is important is that we are able to get in touch with the deeper part of our being. If we can do this then by prayer or reading the Word, we will gain inner strength to help us overcome the challenges that we face in our daily life. Finding this inner peace will not solve all our problems but it will give us a firm foundation and a better state of mind to deal with the problems we have. It will give us the inspiration we need to continue to face and overcome the difficulties we have.

It will be noted that after 10 days Daniel and his friends were accepted and were able to continue the way they wanted to live their life. We do not have to be ‘Bible bashers’ we just need to show others what is important to us without argument or judgement and leave others to make their own decisions. We should also see that the number 10 refers to ‘all’ or ‘fullness’. If we continue to build our foundation on the Lord then we will reach a state where there is fullness, where truth and good in life come together.

Once we start on the road to building the relationship with the Lord we will find inner joy which will give us the strength to overcome and deal with the problems of life.

Suggested application during the week

Find a time each day to reflect, pray and seek strength to put some of life’s problems in perspective. See what is really important and what is not and make choices as to what is given air and what is not.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 05 May 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Matthew 14:35-36

Touching the Lord

And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to Him and begged Him to let the sick just touch the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed.

This text is at the very end of the chapter and comes after the Feeding of the Five Thousand and Calming the Storm. It is at a time when everyone is very much aware of the work that the Lord is doing.

If we look closely at the text we will see that Jesus and the disciples travel to Gennesarat, and as soon as the men see the Lord they run to tell all that were sick to come and touch Him to be healed.

Notice that there is no test for them of their faith only an instinct that if they touch the Lord they will be healed. It is also interesting to note that the meaning of Gennesarat is ‘valley of princes’ or ‘valley of riches’. Its previous name was Chinneroth which means ‘harp’ or ‘music’ and it is located in Galilee which symbolises the natural level of our mind, and in one sense touch is the most material of the senses.

To understand the real significance of this passage and the power of touch we need to see it in the context of the other senses. Each of our senses (hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and of course touching) requires us to do something. This requires some form of motivation and so it comes from our will to do something.

All the other senses can be used without necessarily feeling anything but the sense of touch is totally different. The sense of touch requires a number of things to happen; we have to want to do it and then we have to make the effort to move our arm and stretch out our hand to touch the thing or person. It requires our all to make it happen.

Touch is the way we express our love for someone. It is the most fulfilling way of showing someone we care, whether that be with a hug, kiss, or whatever. So all of the people in the Bible passage who were sick came to touch the Lord and be healed. In the Word there are many instances of the Lord touching people as part of the healing process. On one occasion the Lord put mud on a person’s eyes to heal them. Also, there was the woman with the issue of blood who only wanted to touch the hem of His garment.

This touching is the most powerful act and stirs feelings and emotions. Touching is not a passive thing, it requires giving and receiving. The Lord could not help people in the area in which He grew up because they were not receptive. We all know how powerful touch can be as it is tactile.

The people were to touch the hem of His garment and this very powerfully symbolises the sense of the Word. By reading this and sensing the power within it we are effectively touching the Lord’s garment ourselves. We could say that although it would have been good to see the Lord in person He is powerfully with us in the Word. For example, have you not found a book so gripping that you cannot put it down?

By reading and ‘feeling’ the truth in the Word we can be spiritually healed just as those people were physically healed. Just as the act of touch is the final expression of what is going on in our mind, so if we go to the Word in the right way seeking the Lord we can be touched by its power.

We are not just reading words from a book – cold stories or facts using our sense of sight – we are feeling what is behind the words which is the power the Lord has to help and change us and heal us.

Suggested application during the week

In all of our tasks and uses this week, let us become more aware of the sense of touch and what a difference it makes and what we would lose without it. Recognise it as the means to express what we feel and also see the power in the words of the Lord.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 28 April 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE

Text: Judges 3:12-30

Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and He gave them a deliverer Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, I have a secret message for you, O king. 

The king said, Quiet!  And all his attendants left him.

Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, I have a message from God for you.  As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king ‘s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out of his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house.  They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.

While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

Follow me,  he ordered, for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.  So they followed him down and, taking possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, they allowed no-one to cross over. At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

Spread throughout the Word are what appear to be obscure passages, which at first appear to have no application for our life, but we must always keep in mind that the Word is the book of the soul and all passages have relevance to what is going on inside of us.

Looking at the inner meaning of this passage, we can see that it is about our struggles between the times when we feel spiritually in a space of peace and other times when we are very much in the world contending with and being challenged by natural desires, pressures and circumstances. If we reflect on our lives we have been in a space where the natural world is not impinging on the peace we feel and we long to remain in this state but then everything changes and we are back fighting with the consequences of our everyday life.

However we have had a taste of the beautiful joy and peace and this is the impetus which motivates us to reach this again.Regrettably we are people of this world and we have to deal with everyday issues and the mundane thinking that goes on. However we should not lose sight of the cycle that is part of life.

The story today is about the struggle between Israel and Moab or the Israelites and the Moabites. This struggle is mentioned many times in the Word because it represents our ongoing battles in life. The Israelites are taken into bondage by Eglon King of the Moabites. Spiritually, this is about coming under the control of natural desires and worldly thoughts, feelings and interests and we therefore appear to serve a different master than the Lord. Remember that the Israelites were chosen by the Lord to show us about ourselves and the journey towards heaven, which is represented by the land of Canaan.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses was told not to harass Moab because natural desires and goodness are stepping stones for true spiritual goodness, which is the goal. The danger for us is to get locked into natural goodness and the Israelite ‘s bondage to Moab is what this portrays.

Ehud is called upon to assassinate King Eglon so that the Israelites can be released. There are graphic images in this passages and some would say are they needed, but remember the Word is about what is going on inside of us and that is not pretty at times. Eglon means ‘young bull ‘. A young bull is not broken in and does not want to comply with spiritual principles. He was also very fat. Fat symbolises natural goodness but being obese comes from gluttony, which is an overabundance of natural goodness and this prevents us reaching higher levels. Our lives can be swamped with natural values which overtake us and become all consuming.

Fortunately those on the spiritual path who have experienced spiritual goodness want this more than natural goodness and therefore wish to be freed. Eglon attacked and captured the City of Palms and palms represent spiritual goodness which is why palm branches were being waved upon Jesus ‘ entry into Jerusalem.

The Israelites served the Moabites 18 years which symbolises a complete state of repentance, with 6 being effort for spiritual growth and 3 being completeness.

The process of Ehud saying he was from God and King Eglon asking for silence in the upper room and sending the servants away is about reflection and removing active reasons and excuses for evil. It is a process we must go through to return to a spiritual state.

Ehud slays Eglon and then the fleeing army of the Moabites are intercepted. This is about the natural goodness being brought into order and the spiritual goodness ruling again. It is interesting and appropriate that Ehud’s name means ‘joining together’. This brings together the spiritual principles which names and numbers signify in the Word.

The process is now complete and the cycle will be repeated over and over again because we are on a journey onwards and hopefully upwards, with battles on the way.

Suggested application during the week

This passage shows us that we need to reflect our inner states regularly and monitor our thought patterns to see where we are at, and this will help us recognise what we need to do.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 07 April 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: John 20:1-16
Easter Message

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put Him.” At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

“Woman,” He said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Do we attend worship at Easter out of an obligation because it is a special time, or because we recognise a new relationship with the Lord as a result of Him being risen from the tomb? The essence of the Lord’s life was to touch life at all levels and become the risen glorified Lord. This means He is part of our life here and now and effects change if we will allow Him to. ‘He is risen’ is about a new dawn, a new reality, and enabling us to raise ourselves and our relationship with Him to higher levels.

The Lord appeared nine times, each to a different person or people, and at first they did not recognise Him. This was because they were clinging to the limiting factors of His earthly presence. His appearances after the resurrection were to show that His presence is enhanced and expanded, not limited.

How often have we said to ourselves, ‘I thought I knew that person’, but then something happened to change our minds and we realised that our impression was just that, an impression, and we are now seeing the real person. This is what the resurrection is all about.

The stone rolled against the sepulchre is when we deny or do not recognise the true power of the Lord’s presence in our life. The stone being rolled away by an angel is when heavenly truth is recognised and we see the Lord powerfully in our life.

In our passage we read that Mary Magdalene is the first at the sepulchre and she travelled there when it was dark but the light was just dawning. As a woman, she symbolises the affection for truth, whilst the disciples represent the understanding of truth. She was the first to look into the sepulchre and she was the first to see the Lord. Mary saw two angels, the one at the head and one at the feet of the where the body of Jesus had lain, her spiritual eyes were opened, so that she could recognise that He had risen and she was therefore enlightened.

The significance of Mary in these events is not fully understood unless we see the meaning of her name and her journey in life. The name Mary is derived from the Hebrew name Miryam which means love or charity and the name Magdalene is from the Hebrew ‘migdol’ which means tower. In other words, a tower of charity or love. We should also remember that her early life had been troubled and she had seven devils cast out of her. Seven is completeness and this change and dispelling of evil is the first part of the journey of spiritual growth

Sorrow and joy are all part of the Easter message and Mary’s sorrow was at the loss of her Lord and it was at this point that the Lord appeared to her but she thought Him to be the gardener. The gardener symbolises rational truth but this is not enough to fully love the Lord it is the love for Him that is important. It was not until He called her name Mary that she fully recognised Him. He knew her thoughts just as He knows ours. A name has within it all the qualities of our life and her life was now full of love and she recognised Him.

The message of Easter is about us rising above the material and mundane and seeing the Lord with our heart and we will then truly recognise Him in the things that we experience and the way we think. He will raise us up to higher thinking and acting and thinking out of love.

This will enable us to see things with new eyes just as Mary saw the Lord with new eyes. If we look at things with the eye of love instead of with blinkers or sun glasses, which are our prejudices, it will change our life and we will truly see the light and a new dawn will occur in our life.

Suggested application during the week

As we reflect on the Easter message let us ask the Lord to raise us above petty thoughts and feelings so that we can truly see the good in others and the truth contained in His Word.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 31 March 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: 1 Kings 12:6, 8 & 9
Taking Inner Counsel

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime, “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us?'”

All of us ask advice in one way or another. We may not ask as directly as King Rehoboam did, but even if we do not realise it we take counsel within the chamber of our own mind, weighing this up against that.

Each of us responds differently to the many inflowing, inclinations, thoughts and affections which we receive. All the things that go on in our mind, all the thoughts and feelings themselves can be explained as inflowing. They are unique to us as individuals.

The story about Rehoboam is as much about what is going on in our minds and the choices we make in freedom, as it is about the counsel he took with both the younger and older men. We respond to our own dialogue, perhaps we ignore some things that pop into our head, or we think positively or negatively about them. We are giving many of those thoughts life. We as, Rehoboam did, sit amongst voices, differing voices. King Rehoboam symbolises the ruling principle that governs in each of us depending where we are on our spiritual growth and the state of our conscience.

As we look at the story which is contained in chapter 12 of the First Book of Kings, we see that the counsellors fell into two general groups: old men who stood before his father Solomon whilst he lived; and, the young men who had grown up with Rehoboam and stood before him.

The advice of the old men was beautiful. It showed mercy, patience and far sightedness. It showed the ability to separate the passions and affronts of the moment from the real issues and needs. The advice was to say that if you will be a servant to them and say good words to them today, then they will serve you into the future.

This is contrasted with the advice of the younger men which is showing self-interest and lacked the ability to bend to the new demands. It showed that they looked more at the cold rule than administering it in the light of compassion and human need.

Rehoboam’s old and young counsellors typify the two basic perspectives of our inner advisors. In spiritual terms they represent two levels of our mind. There is the ‘internal’ person and the ‘external’ person, although we are not fully aware of this unless we reflect on the nature of what the thoughts are which are prompted by the state of our spiritual growth or regeneration.

Our internal person is the heavenly influence. It is responsive to heavenly feelings and spiritual thinking, it contains wisdom and represents the elders who stood before his father. If we trust an older person we expect that they will have the wisdom gained from life’s experiences. ‘Fathers’ in the Word stand for the good within the internal person. Our internal person or elder, will draw on the truth contained in the Word and the good within will draw forward spiritual insights, happiness and peace in our lives.

Youth is a relatively external state and will make judgements based more on appearances and the senses. The young men had grown up with Rehoboam which means they are very close to the love of self and the world. This does not mean that our external person is evil but is more prone to be influenced by evil forces in our life.

This whole passage highlights the processes that go on in our life and if we are wanting to grow in the Lord’s way then we need to be very reflective of what is happening in our thought processes and the two sides to any circumstances and pray that we can choose the way which is aligned to what will create a good outcome, not just a self-interested one.

Rehoboam made the choice of going with the advice of the young men and this came back to bite him later.

Suggested application during the week

When we have decisions to make, or to make a choice on which path to take, let us reflect on what is going on in our thoughts and affections, listen to our conscience and pray for guidance.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 17 March 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Genesis 8:22 and Isaiah 5:1-2
Harvest Thanksgiving

As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night will never cease.

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:

My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

The tradition of harvest comes from the three feasts in the Old testament: Unleavened, First Fruits and Ingathering. They have a variety of names but they were commanded not recommended by God. We should not need to be told to give thanks but often we do not think of it. The three feasts progressively symbolise our spiritual growth.

Our text from Genesis, which comes at the time of the story of Noah, is about another progression. It is about creation and the Creator. We should see creation as an example of the order in which God makes the universe for our use. God is the power and influx behind nature but not nature itself. We receive life but are not life itself. We need to recognise that we are because God is. All the elements of nature from ether, to air, to earth, etc., are part of the building blocks of our worldly environment. When we look at the lovely blue sky we are actually looking at gases in the atmosphere reacting, and so on. Our looking at a beautiful scene of nature is the way we can bring ourselves closer to God in thanks for the beauty He has provided.

In the first text we have a progression – the earth is the whole of time and seedtime and harvest symbolise spiritual growth as the seed gradually matures into a lovely plant or tree. The cold and heat represents the reception by individuals, or lack of reception, of faith and charity or love into our lives.

Summer and winter represents the establishment of a new will, the ebb and flow of our sense of closeness to the Lord. Day and night symbolises the illumination or enlightenment from the Word. Sometimes we think it is as clear as day and other times it is obscure, or dark as night.

The final words are, “shall not cease”, because God will never stop presenting opportunities in our life to receive His truth and love. We can therefore see that this text is showing that our spiritual growth mirrors our spiritual progress with the Lord who is always sustaining us often without our awareness.

Our second text is looks at the symbolism of a vineyard. Vineyards are mentioned many times in the Word and in parables because they epitomise nurture and growth over a long period of time. The story of Noah has him as a ’tiller of soil’ and ‘planting a vineyard’. For a vineyard to produce good fruit it must be nurtured and checked continuously over many years before fruit appears. The Lord selected a fruitful hill or the potential for fruit because it needed to be nurtured. As individuals and as the human race, we are that fruitful hill with the potential to respond to God’s love.

The notion in the text to nurture the ground to produce fruit can be mirrored in our life. Self-examination can be likened to ‘finding and digging out stones’, reforming our life can be likened to the process of ‘preparing the soil and plating the vines’. The ‘quality of the grapes’ are the fruits that the vineyard produces and in our life this is the quality of the way we use what has been given to us, which determines the extent of our regeneration. We must always remember that it is the Lord who designs, who builds and who maintains the vineyard. We respond or not to His influx.

Harvest is an opportunity to remind ourselves that life is a process of growth. Every day, every hour, every minute, we can respond to circumstances, react to something that is said, or take opportunities for growth. The natural world around is a reminder of this process of growth.

Suggested application during the week

Each day, let us make a point of looking out of our window to see the beauty of nature around us and remind ourselves of the continuous inflow of the Lord’s life and love in to our daily tasks and His nurturing of our growth.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 10 March 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Genesis 30:31-32
Black and White

“What shall I give you?” he asked.

“Don’t give me anything.” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-coloured lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.

The text for today is quite an unusual one when we look at it in the context of the life of Jacob and Laban, and at first reading we could be forgiven for wondering what relevance it has for us, but every passage in the Word is provided to give us insights into our own spiritual journey and the problems we face day by day.

We are all aware that life is never black or white; there never seems to be an easy answer for decisions we have to make or situations in which we find ourselves. Often when a group of people come together there are conflicting or different views on the way to go forward. Both as individuals and groups we sometimes agonise over what is the best way forward and what is the best decision to make, and many times we are left wondering whether the decision we have made is the right one.

What we have to remember is that we are not perfect and the decisions we make must be the best given the current circumstances and if we have done this and been conscientious and compassionate about it, then we should move forward without too much agonising and leave the rest to providence.

This passage from Genesis is about this very situation but in relation to our spiritual life, and from what appears to be an obscure text we can get a wonderful spiritual lesson.

Laban said, “What will I give you?”, and Jacob said, “You will not give me the best but I will move through taking the speckled and spotted…” In other words Jacob was focussing on the grey areas. Jacob recognised that although only a few were speckled and spotted he could over time breed many of these and they would be valuable. This was a recognition by Jacob that nothing is black and white.

Laban’s name in Hebrew means ‘white’, which represents the ideal that should be aimed for. In the inner sense Laban represents a certain kind of goodness but not genuine goodness. Real goodness is something we need to strive for and the way we strive for it is to make decisions as to the way we live knowing that we are far from perfect. However we must not let this deter us from striving to be better. We all have speckled and spotted aspects of our life. Our life is speckled when the good we try to do is not entirely selfless and may be tinged with ulterior motives in some cases. When not so good motives co-exist with good ones it is speckled. When false ideas obscure genuine truth then we are spotted. Jacob represents the Lord working in our life because Jacob is living the Christian principles at a natural level.

Whilst we must all recognise the evil tendencies, represented by the black cattle, we should also hold before us the fact that the Lord will always work with our good intentions and lead us to higher ground.

It is the same with working with the truth we know. We may feel inadequate in our knowledge and understanding of the Word but this should not prevent us from striving to put the principles we do know into practice. We must never let guilt drown our good motives.

If we are sincere and conscientious in trying to lead a good life then as we take true principles and do our best, the Lord will lead us and help us to make the most of what we are doing and thinking.

Jacob chose the spotted and speckled because he knew the potential with them and we should recognise that once having taken a step on the journey we should always look forward and higher and not be bogged down with our inadequacies.

Suggested application during the week

Let us this week be positive in how we live and make our decisions. Reflect prayerfully on the decisions we make and the things we decide to do knowing that the Lord is in the actions leading us forward, provided we accept His leading and do things from the best motives we can muster.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 3 March 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew 21:1-17
Cleansing of the Temple

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and He will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See your king comes to you, gentle and

riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David.”

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer’, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’.”

The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”

And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where He spent the night.

This passage is a very powerful example of why the Lord came on earth. It takes place almost immediately after the Lord has ridden into Jerusalem with people putting palm branches in the way to hail Him as King. The expectations of course were that He was going to be an earthly King who would lead the Jews to better and finer things as the chosen people. By His actions at the temple when He showed that His kingdom was not of this world, He was very quickly rejected and crucified within a week.

This begs the question for us and our expectations of the Lord. Are we expecting rewards for loyalty; success in what we do; material benefits like the Jews; or do we accept that our relationship with the Lord is entirely different? When Jesus entered the temple there were moneychangers, things being bought and sold and a general noisy and cluttered place in what should have been a house of prayer. The Jews had lost the whole sense of their worship and turned the celebration into a commercial exercise.

The Lord went in to change the emphasis from material to spiritual. We should not see the temple only as a place of worship but the temple in the passage represents our mind and soul where the Lord is present, influencing our life for good. If it is cluttered then the Lord cannot work with us effectively.

He overturned the tables of the money-changers, those who bought and sold doves and called it a ‘den of thieves’. Those who buy and sell in the temple represent those who gain materially from holy things. They make out they want to learn spiritual things but are only out for themselves. The money-changers represent those who distort the truths of the church for their own ends and not to grow spiritually. The ‘den of thieves’ means those who steal god principles and thoughts for selfish purposes.

It was therefore necessary for the Lord to cleanse the temple of all these evils so that it could be restored to what the church really should be, which is to lead people to the good of life. It should be noticed that after the cleansing of the temple the Lord healed the blind and the lame. The blind wanted to know the truth but could not see it in the Jewish church of that time. The lame wanted to be good but could not walk in the Lord’s way in what had become an evil way of life. The Lord enabled people to leave these impediments behind and walk in the light of the living truth not man-made rules.

The craving for reward for our faith and wanting material benefits to come as a result of knowing the Lord holds us back from benefitting truly from our Lord. These are the blind and lame thoughts that affect how the Lord can work with us. A life with the Lord is not about just obeying moral and civil laws.

Our selfish attitudes and focus on ‘what is in it for us’ clutters up our temple (our mind) and we are not open to how the Lord can lead us from an action, event or episode which requires us to change. The Lord can help us in this, however having ‘blind’ and ‘lame’ thoughts prevents this. He can heal us and if we put those thoughts aside we will truly feel and see the Lord from within our heart which will transform our lives and our temple will be clean so that a new and more powerful relationship grows.

Suggested application during the week

Let us use this period to review how we perceive our relationship with the Lord and rid ourselves of the baggage that prevents us going forward positively.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 25 February 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Genesis 37:1-11,
Matthew 2:11-23 and Ezekiel chapter 1

Dreams, Visions and the Spiritual World

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

This is the account of Jacob.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Billah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: we were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it”.

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.”

So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So he got up, took the child and His mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” – —

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

On the fifth of the month – it was the fifth year of exile of King Jehoiachin – the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was upon him.

I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.

Their faces looked like this: each of the four had a face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upwards; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: they sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the dour directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one towards the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.

Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surround him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

The above passages and many more in the Word of God make reference to dreams or visions in one form or another. If we look especially at the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation we see numerous visions mentioned.

Many people interpret them and try to relate them to what is going on in the natural world or will go on in the natural world rather than seeing them as one of the means by which God provides His people with truth for use in all ages. If we look at the visions in Ezekiel of the wheels, dry bones and flow of water, they show us spiritual truths for our own living.

Sometimes we will see images or paintings that make no sense to us at all until we have it explained to us and then it becomes clearer. We are all aware that sometimes we think we see things but it is in fact our mind telling us that we see them when in fact it is not the case. The prevalence of dreams and visions in the Word is because they demonstrate the very strong link between the spiritual world and the natural world. Just as there is a difference between dreams and visions in our own life, so is there a difference between dreams and visions referred to in the Word.

Visions that some people see can be inspired by angelic or hellish spirits and some of them are inspired by enthusiastic spirits and other visions are fantasies generated from the other world. There is a fine line between the visions of those who have a mental illness and visions that come from the other world.

None of these types of visions are like those experienced by the prophets who were involved in the writing of the Word. The prophets had genuine visions and were permitted to see into the other world in order to be able to see the real things that exist in heaven. Swedenborg was also permitted to communicate with the other world, including heaven.

Dreams differ from visions in that visions occur whilst people are awake and their spiritual eyes are opened whereas dreams occur whilst people are asleep. The prophetic dreams are ones that Joseph had, Jacob had, Nebuchadnezzar had, etc. and the one Joseph had where he was warned not to return to where Herod was. The second type of dreams are ones that are inspired by angels communicating with people of the most ancient church. These do not happen today because humankind is spiritually different. The third type of dreams are ones stirred whilst we are sleeping. Our own mind quietens and good or hellish affections are stirred and we have dreams or sometimes nightmares.

We have all had times when we have had dreams which intrigue us and we search for an answer. Whilst we should not dwell on these unduly they can be the catalyst to enable us to find a message that will help in some way. This interpretation should only be embarked upon when we are sure that the dream is coming from a good place.

The link between the two worlds is going on all the time. Whilst we are mostly unaware of this, it can be helpful sometimes to think about a dream we have had, although very often our dreams are non-sensical.

This link between the two worlds becomes closer as we move closer to leaving this world and we are in a semi-conscious state. The link between the two worlds enables the Lord to work with us in all sorts of ways through angels and spirits and at the time of our passing there is a peaceful transition.

Suggested application during the week

Without dwelling on it, it is important that we are always aware of the ways the Lord communicates with us and that we are open to His prompting and leadings, some of which can come via our dreams.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 10 February 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: 1 Samuel 15:22 (also whole chapter)
‘To obey is better than sacrifice….’

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in

obeying the voice of the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of

rams.”

  • Do we want to do the best we can and be the best person we can be? How often do we see a sportsperson or team with very talented players, or a player of any sport, who falls away? On occasions we find that the reason for the decline is that the person has moved from a committed program of practice and mentally is not in the right place. As a consequence their life and their performance suffers.
  • If we look at a tiny baby, although they all go through the same developmental stages at different times, we see them all striving to sit up, to crawl, to walk. Life is a matter of progression and if we want to progress we must learn and then put this knowledge into action in life – use it or lose it.
  • It is the same in our spiritual life. If we are wanting to be the best person we can be, we need to work on ourselves. The Word of God is a template for giving us an understanding of what is needed.
  • Our text comes at the end of a passage in which Saul is chastised by Samuel for not obeying the full command of the Lord to utterly kill the King of the Amalekites and destroy all their possessions. Saul obeys the command to overthrow the Amalekites but keeps some of their best possessions and Saul lies to Samuel when he uses the excuse for not killing all the animals by saying that the people wanted to keep the animals for sacrifice.
  • The essence of the story and the lesson for us, is that it is not about us picking and choosing what we want to use of the Lord’s truth, we have to obey all of it and not just pay lip service to it. How many people are ‘gunnas’, saying, “I’m gunna do this”, but it never happens.
  • There is a deeper inner meaning to this story and it arises out of the fact that the command is to destroy everything, which appears to be a harsh command. However when we see the story as it applies to our inner life it makes sense. The Amalekites represent the evil tendencies that lie deep within us. Saul represents the first rational level of our spiritual development, where we obey the truth. However if we do not destroy all that lies within which is of evil, then it will rise up again to affect us. Saul lost his kingdom because he did not do the best that he possibly could.
  • A similar principle applies in the story of Elijah passing on the mantle to Elisha. The main point of that story is that when Elisha takes the mantle he doubles it. The prophets are the messengers of the Word and represent the Lord and His truth. By Elisha doubling up the mantle it is saying that the power of truth is in the letter of the Word but even more power is gained by learning it and putting it into practice in our life. Then the Word becomes alive and a force for good in ours and other people’s lives.
  • Our life, whether we are old or young, is about us understanding what is required of us and to remain fully committed to being the best that we can be and doing the best we can.

Suggested application during the week

Ensure that we are always on the alert for those times when our thoughts are drawing us away from what we know we should do and always work as hard as we can to seek the Lord’s help to continue doing what is good and right.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 3 February 2013

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Isaiah 60:1-2
Christmas Day message

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the people, but the Lord rises over you and His glory will be seen upon you.

  • So God came to help us in our fight against evil and to roll back the dark powers. He experienced the human condition and suffering and in every situation His love triumphed against evil. He never allowed that evil to dominate Him for its own corrupting ends. His love is so great and selfless that He will not demand or force us. His love sets us free and we can respond, or we can choose not to.
  • Coming as a child He revealed also His humility and even His need to be loved by us. Just as a new infant in our arms depends on us for its survival, so also the presence of God needs to be nurtured, cared for and loved in our own homes and hearts. His words need to be read and listened to otherwise His voice becomes silent. His actions need to be our personal inspiration otherwise a terrible paralysis will overtake them. His commandments need to be obeyed or else they crumble into the dust of lifeless history. We, in one sense, have the power of life and death over the child, because He does place Himself in our hands. But He can become the light which will lead us to build a better world for all the children that are born everywhere. It is worth considering that the more horrifying scenes we see on our television screens, the greater the need to begin to love the child in Bethlehem so that the disarming power of love can begin to change evil in the world.
  • Will we love Him to the best of our ability? Will we give Him whatever He needs from us? Will we discover the world’s greatest mystery in a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?
  • If we do we will certainly have a joyful Christmas and a happy New Year.
  • Christmas is a time to reflect on how we continue to respond to truth. How we express the truth in love in our life.
  • The shepherds and wise men responded in different ways and so do we. The important thing is that we do respond.
  • The shepherds and wise men both heeded the call. Christmas is about re-dedicating ourselves to the response. Re-kindling the spark that gave birth to God’s presence in our life. Make no mistake, because of His birth He is fully present with each of us.
  • This is our opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. Not just know and have faith but find Him, love Him, experience that enlightenment that the shepherds and wise men gained at the stable in Bethlehem. It was for them as it is for us a life changing event.
  • I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and there was a Jew and Muslim leader affirming that at Christmas time there was a spirit in the air and it would be wonderful if this could last more than a few days. To last, the change must come from within from all people. The end of the Mayan calendar on 21st December did not bring a catastrophe in natural world terms. We should not be looking at outward phenomena but the power of God within each one of us and humanity to bring about a change.
  • This is the essence of “the light that has come into the world”. The birth of light and love provides the spiritual potential and environment for the world to change and humankind as a whole needs to see the light.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 25 December 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Genesis 9:18-19 (also the whole chapter)

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth (Ham was the father of Canaan). These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.

  • The text refers to Noah and the sons of Noah, namely Shem, Ham and Japheth. Most religions trace their genealogy to the three. Some say that the three represent the black, white and yellow races but this thought is not relevant to the message today. We should see that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are providing a spiritual history of humankind. Creation, Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden trace the people who were celestial hence the reference to paradise.
  • The story of Noah and the flood shows symbolically the progressive decline when people look to themselves and away only to God. The names of Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and whether these people actually existed or not is not the main point, it is about tracing the way communities developed. Noah symbolises the spiritual church and his sons the spread of these communities. We should not call them churches because they were not strictly organised as churches as we know it, but worship in different ways.
  • The people spread but all had elements of charity and worshipped their God. Even today we have denominations within the Christian Church but doctrine tends to divide people whereas this was not the case in those times. It is true that from these churches or communities developed the Hebrews and other races, but within all was an acknowledgement of God. We should note the general teaching that doctrine divides but charity supports. The strife between religions is caused by doctrine and lack of love and charity.
  • We can see that the reference to the ages of the three sons and Noah is a symbolism for a long people and refers to communities. The teachings of the church say that Shem, Ham and Japheth symbolise internal charity, corrupted charity based on faith and external charity . It should also be noted that Ham is said to be the father of Canaan from whom the Hebrews descend. It is important to note that the development of writing occurs slowly and there is a development of the ancient Word which has been lost but a few references appear in the Old Testament. This spiritual church of Noah learnt the truth and generally lived a good life.
  • In this same chapter we see that the rainbow is the sign of the covenant between God and the people just as the Ark was the sign for the Jews. This sign has a beautiful symbolism because a rainbow is formed by the sun shining on raindrops with the clouds in the background. Drops of water represent the truth and the sun represents pure love. The clouds are the extent to which we allow God into our lives because clouds shield the light.
  • It should also be noted that Noah and his people worked the land and so had an intimate relationship with the earth and this demonstrates how God provides for his people.
  • We should see these passages from the Word as showing us how God accommodates to the needs of the people of the time and always ensures that He can be received and that His truth is known. His taking on a human form was necessary to enable this relationship to continue and in the Gospels it says the Kingdom of God is within you.
  • It is up to us to meditate and pray and seek His presence in our life and the outward form of this love for Him is the way we serve and deal with others.

Suggested application during the week

Use our quiet times to recognise that God loves us and we should reflect this, both in our inner and outer life.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 14 October 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Feeling Lost

Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering round to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave his ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

  • The passage today is concerning the lost sheep and lost coin and was given by the Lord as a parable to tell us about how He always tries to bring all His people back to Him. Within these two parables are a wealth of teaching for us to consider when it comes to our own life.
  • We have all experienced times when we have felt lost or overwhelmed and did not know which way to turn. We may have felt that our life was empty. This can also be brought about when we focus on the wrong priorities and find satisfaction in material and worldly pursuits, which seem to gives us comfort for a time and then we drift into thinking all is fine. We do not recognise that a life according to the Word is fulfilling.
  • The two parables of the sheep and the coin are significant and it is interesting to note that the first involves a man and the second a woman. The man involved in the first parable symbolises the intellect and rationality, whereas the sheep represents innocence. The purpose of the parable is to show that when all is going well the good affections of innocence are protected by an understanding of the truth. However, when we go astray these affections are lost and the shepherd has to go to try find the one that is lost and bring it back. In general terms, it is about showing what happens when we forsake the truth and allow wild passions and unhealthy living to take over our life. The shepherd of course is the Lord who wants to bring us back.
  • The lost coin involves a woman who represents good affections and the coin symbolises wealth or truth in our life. Therefore, the parable represents the loss of awareness or acknowledgement of truth in our life. When the coin was lost the woman did three things; she lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently. If we feel lost it is important for us to come back to first principles. Often we will stray and then something will destroy the principles we had earlier and we will start questioning our faith and the place of God in it.
  • The lamp is the light of truth which is used to focus back on the principles that are important and sweeping the house is about cleaning up our act. In other words, reflecting on what is important to us and seeing what helped us in the past which is the part meant by searching diligently and re-ordering our thinking to revitalise the affection for truth, which is represented by the woman.
  • In Exodus 18, Moses was overwhelmed by the needs of all the people and the advice of Jethro was to find men of vigour and let them be in charge of groups of a 1,000, 100, and 50, so that they can deal with the small things and Moses deals with the big matters. For us, this is about establishing a structure for the truth so that we have the foundation for life which underpins our living so that we can rest on that when the going gets difficult. Moses represents the Lord, who will help with the big issues in our life.
  • It is so easy for each of us, whether old or young, to lose sight of what is meaningful in our life. This can mean that we also then loose the strength of the Word which the Lord can work with in our life and we find our life being shallow. Both these parables are telling us that the Lord always wants to bring our life to Him and He will always try to lead us back if we will let Him.

Suggested application during the week

Let us take stock of where we are at and how we really feel about our life. Does it feel meaningless and unfulfilling and do we feel the Lord is with us? What are our priorities and are they the right ones?

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 7 October 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew 5:23-24
Reconciliation

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

  • The principle of reconciliation goes to the heart of all human relationships and to the heart of what underpins the Ten Commandments. This passage comes from the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord, after speaking to the Jews about the law which is the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, commences to look at what, at a deeper level in our lives, they relate to.
  • If we look at the commandment, ‘do not to murder’, we have to recognise what contributes to this and the main cause is hurt, hatred and anger. This is the reason that we get these two verses in this great body of teaching which is the Sermon on the Mount.
  • When we speak about physical health we speak about diseases or illnesses which are debilitating. We need to look at spiritual disease in the same way because it saps our spiritual energy and make us spiritually weak. If we reflect on relationships of all kinds with others we know that various barriers in relationships have an effect on us, and harbouring hate, however it may have been caused, leaves a void.
  • The text is saying to us that if we have anything against anyone we need to reconcile and then come back and offer our gift. At the outset it is important to note that our offering to the Lord is one of worship, prayer and praise and at the same time honour. This gift is a symbol of our love and affection for the Lord but if there are things in our life that soil this relationship we must reconcile and come back and offer our gift. We should see the term ‘brother’ in a wide sense because it refers to all people. Another important thing to note is that the Lord does not say, ‘take the offering away’. He says leave the gift and go and reconcile. In other words He is not rejecting the gift because love of the Lord, which underpins the offering, is important. The call is to reconcile and then you can truly offer your gift because to be truly loving we must love the Lord and the neighbour.
  • The definition of reconciliation is, “make compatible; bring into accords; come to terms”. Like the reconciliation with the Aborigines, it may be an ongoing process but we have to make the first step because to harbour hurt, anger and hatred is debilitating and saps us of spiritual energy.
  • If we reflect on what has caused a breakdown in any relationship, it may be our thoughtlessness causing an offense or actions which are out of order or out of place. It may be that the person is sensitive but nevertheless we have to examine ourselves to see what contribution we may have had to the situation. Whether it be a partner, friend or general acquaintance, these situations occur and often result in people not speaking for a long time.
  • Elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount it speaks of taking the plank out of our own eye first, and it could be that hurt and anger festering inside of us is the cause of many altercations. Therefore we come back to the thoughts and feelings behind murder.
  • As mentioned earlier reconciliation is between two parties. When left unresolved a problem can become magnified and it is therefore important to deal with it quickly. Of course it needs all parties to be prepared to enter dialogue or accept our apology.
  • The passage from Matthew is very important and should be indelibly written on our forehead, whether we attend church or not, because it goes to the heart of human relationships and our own spiritual health and wellbeing.

Suggested application during the week

Let us give thought to what is unresolved with people we know or have issues with and have not spoken to in a while. Place these before the Lord in prayer, examine ourselves and see what we can do to amend the situation.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 30 September 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Leviticus 11:7

And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.

  • This verse in one sense is quite obscure and like so many passages in this book of the Bible, gives yet another law for the Jews to obey and there is a danger that the rules will take over their lives and that they are squeezed of any real spirituality. You will probably be aware that this and other passages in the Old Testament give rise to the reason why Jewish people do not eat pork and many people avoid reading this book because it does not appear relevant to their spiritual life. The non-Jew can observe that there are good reasons, proven scientifically, why it is better not to eat pork and perhaps many of the other laws were provided by God to assist with people’s overall health.
  • We can find other texts from the New Testament, specifically Matthew 15:11, which says, “It is not what goes into our mouth that defiles”, which points us to a more spiritual meaning. We also know that the prodigal son, after spending his wealth on riotous living, ended up living with swine. In many passages in the Word swine are mentioned. In this message we are going to see why we should look beyond the literal sense to the meaning within to get a better appreciation of what the Lord is trying to tell us.
  • If we look at how a pig lives, it is very much focussed on what is on the ground and is a scavenger that loves wallowing in mud and dirt. Spiritually this is telling us that the swine symbolises worldly and sensual things but if we look at our text it provides an understanding that there must be a balance.
  • You will note that it says that those animals that are cloven footed and chew the cud are clean, whereas the pig is cloven footed but does not chew its cud. A cloven foot is one that is divided into two and two symbolises conjunction. In other words, we have to marry up the truth we know with the good we do.
  • On the other hand, chewing the cud is regurgitating food more than once to ensure it is digested properly. This can be likened to the need for us to reflect again and again on what we know and how we live and so the two things combined make for a healthy life: the fact that the pig does not chew the cud is telling us that if we do not reflect on our life then we are not going to move forward and grow spiritually; and, the fact that the pig itself symbolises worldly things is giving us another lesson that is that there is nothing wrong with worldly things because we are ‘of this world’ but there must be a balance. We must ensure that we do not have such a pre-occupation with sensual and material pleasures that prevent us from seeing deeper things.
  • We can enjoy giving gifts because they are an expression of love and affection. Many caring employers are providing jobs for people and provide as much support as they can. It is important for us to ensure that the material benefits that we have are acknowledged with thanks to the Lord and are used as instruments to help others.

Suggested application during the week

As we go through the week and possibly get engrossed in worldly things, let us take time to see how we can make a move from this and dedicate it in some way to the Lord.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 23 September 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
“Centurion’s servant”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, asking for help. “Lord”, he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed and in terrible suffering.”

Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this’, and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, He was astonished and said to those following Him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go on your way! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

  • This instance of the healing of the servant gives us a very powerful message both as to its literal sense and as it applies to our inner states. How often do we put our trust and faith in the Lord that He will perform miracles of healing in our life? Not necessarily just healing of the body but of other issues in our life and the way we live.
  • The essence of the story is that the centurion, who was a Gentile and not a Jew and a Roman officer in command of 100 men, had faith in the authority of Jesus to heal his servant. He said he was not worthy but had the care and compassion for his servant to the extent that he wanted to see him healed of the palsy, which often leaves people in a paralysed state. His faith was so strong that he placed the request on the Lord and then went away knowing within him that the Lord would do the work.
  • We therefore have a man who acknowledged the power of the Lord, had the faith, care, compassion and humility in his heart to seek the healing of the man. These are the essential ingredients that we need if the Lord is to heal our lives.
  • This passage not only applies to healing of the body but also tells us a lot about what is going on inside of us. Symbolically, the centurion is our internal person or voice of conscience and represents the way the Lord works with us in our spirit. The servant is our external person or the natural person. It represents our senses, our natural urges and the way we live our daily lives.
  • The soldiers in the passage are also servants but they represent the truth and knowledge of what is true so as to bring order into our minds.
  • We should note that the servant was paralysed by the palsy which meant he could not move or go about his business. At times in our lives the way we think and act can be paralysed by the influence of evil from the other world which prevents us from doing the right thing and being led by our inner voice. Our inner voice needs the vehicle of our outer thoughts and actions to be the vehicle for spiritual growth and therefore like the centurion, it loves the outer life and yearns for it to be healed.
  • It is only the internal voice that can really know what is happening in our life and like the centurion, this internal dictate must have the faith and trust in the Lord that He will re-order what is happening if we go to Him in prayer. You will note that it was done indirectly because these changes do not always happen immediately they happen over time and we, like the centurion, must just leave it to the Lord.
  • This story is a powerful illustration of how we need to bring our problems to the Lord but first we must be aware of them. How many times have we realised that we needed to change our thoughts and actions because we were not going in the right direction? The Lord can heal us of the things that affect our life.
  • In the final verse the Lord says, “Go on your way”. This means we must live our life according to the truth in the Word and ask the Lord to give us the strength and awareness to act well in thought and deed.

Suggested application during the week

Be aware this week of what needs to be healed in us and ask the Lord to change things in our life.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 16 September 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Exodus 20:16 and Leviticus 19:16
“You shall not bear false witness”

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord.

  • The two verses above, each from different books, are talking about a similar principle. In Leviticus it chastises for tale bearing against the neighbour. Many people discard or focus very little on Leviticus because of its many, what appear to be, knit picking rules with some justification. However each part of the Word is there for a reason. The external rules are meant to provide a way inwards. Each of us has to learn what is acceptable and what is not as a child so that we can interact with others. The various worship rituals in Leviticus were for both health and spiritual reasons so that it is the catalyst for becoming more spiritual.
  • Being a ‘tattle tale’, tale bearing or as we would say ‘telling tales out of school’, is about saying things about people which may do them harm and may not be entirely true. This is the essence of the commandment, ‘you shall not bear false witness’. Most people overlook this commandment. They remember most of the others but this one falls through the crack, so to speak, although in one sense it is the most important. It is important because the essence of it goes to the heart of relationships and dealing with others.
  • This commandment is applicable to many situations in life. It is about false accusations, it is about perjury in court, it is about lies and half-truths that are told about other people, and it is about what is said about people in newspapers and our general conversations.
  • We all know what happens when politicians try to distort what the other party has said or done for their own ends. It is about things that are left unsaid by inference. How many times have we been guilty of saying something flippantly without thinking and later realised that it can be taken the wrong way or perhaps we have deliberately said something which gives another person the wrong impression?
  • The term talebearer can be another word for ‘gossip’. How many times have things been said ‘over the garden fence’ about another neighbour or person in the street? All of these examples are ways in which the truth is being compromised and the wrong thing is being done to another person. In one sense it goes to heart of how honest we are in all our dealings. How careful are we when around young children to set them an example of truthfulness? We know children are brutally honest but that comes from innocence and this will be tempered as they mature and learn to be more thoughtful in how they say things.
  • By bearing false witness we are misrepresenting, distorting or totally falsifying the truth or facts of a situation, either for our own ends or to be mischievous. The result can be the same as a dropped match, which is something quite small, causing a large raging bushfire.
  • To this point we have been speaking about actions or ways we deal with others, but there is a deeper level that we should look at. We should see that when we persuade someone that what is true is false, that this is wrong. At the highest level we are breaking the commandment if we act in opposition to the truth that is contained in the Word of God when we falsify the truth for our own ends.
  • It is important for us that we live our life by bearing witness to the truth and not bearing false witness to it. We must be careful with our words and in our deeds and always think about what is coming out of our mouth or what actions we undertake. By breaking this commandment we are breaking the two great commandments because we are also harming our neighbour and not loving them as ourselves.

Suggested application during the week

Make a particular point this week to listen to what we say to ensure that we are not doing harm to others and remember the word ‘gossip’ and try to avoid it.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 26 August 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Revelation 22:2
The Tree of Life

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

  • The passage from which this text comes in part of the description of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, and refers to the Tree of Life being in the centre of the garden. In the first book of the Bible, namely Genesis, it also refers to the Tree of Life being in the centre of the Garden of Eden so at both ends of the Word the Tree of Life is prominent.
  • The symbolism of the Tree of Life is that it represents the perception that all life comes from the Lord even though we think we have life from ourselves.
  • We all are aware that Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which represents the notion of thinking that instead of all life coming from God we are saying that life is our own and therefore we become very self-centred rather than God-centred.
  • It is interesting to note that between the first and last books of the Bible there are stories of the wandering in the wilderness, Kings walking away from God, leaders of all types trying to lead people back to God. This echoes the fact that all of our life is a challenge for us to change the focus from ourselves to God.
  • We all know that the eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a parable for showing how humankind fell into evil because it relied on itself instead of recognising that God is at the centre.
  • It is very striking that the Tree is used as the means to demonstrate the way our lives develop and the way we grow spiritually. We have the seed, branches, leaves and fruit which shows what happens when our life bears fruit for good. True living is recognising that we need the Lord to guide us and if we are able to come to the view that it is the Lord’s life within us which is the true life we will get life into perspective.
  • The description of the coming down of the New Jerusalem is a picture of what will happen when the Lord truly is at the centre for all humankind. The tree with life flowing down through the tree to the branches, leaves and fruit is a beautiful way of showing how if we truly love the Lord then our life can be transformed and this flows into our actions.
  • It is unfortunately very apparent when we look around at what is happening in the world that most of the problems are caused because people are only looking at what is in it for them, which means the Lord’s love and life finds it difficult to get through.
  • The power of the Word and the power of God are illustrated in the Tree of Life.

Suggested application during the week

As we walk around our suburb and see the trees, let us turn to this passage so it can remind us that we have life because it is from God and help us to reflect that life in our own.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 5 August 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Exodus Chapter 3
Significance of Moses

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over the look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.'”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.’ This is my name for ever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.'”

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.”

“And I will make the Egyptians favourably disposed towards this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbour and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

  • This passage about the burning bush captures our first thoughts of Moses but he is a major figure in the Old Testament following on as he did from Joseph as leader of the Jews. If we look at his life and the major parts, it symbolises our journey through life and the way the Lord works in us if we will let Him.
  • We should also reflect on the fact that Moses was believed to have been the writer of the first five books of the Bible, which bring together ancient wisdom and the journey of the Children of Israel out of bondage to the Promised Land. If we look closely we will see that the life of Moses was broken into three parts. His life in Egypt after being found in the basket. His time as a shepherd in the mountains of Midian and then the leadership of the Children of Israel.
  • If we look closely we can see this mirroring our own life. He spent forty years in each phase which reflects temptation of one sort or another in life. The first part he spent in Egypt and the fact that he was found in the basket is a sign of the way truth or the Word is preserved. The papyrus material of the basket was similar to the scrolls that were used to write the Old Testament. During his time in Egypt he was cared for by women who symbolise affections and this is the same as our stage in life during infancy and childhood, where remnants of truth from the reading of Bible stories are stored.
  • The second part of his life was spent in Midian tending sheep. It was a time of preparation for his major task and in this period he was able to recognise in one sense the power of God in the mountain areas around where he worked. However the period leading up to his leadership of the Jews was marked by doubts about being the most appropriate one to lead and he found difficulty in answering the Lord’s call. It was during this period that the episode of the burning bush took place. It was God’s way of showing Moses how powerful He was and how He could help Moses achieve the task. The doubts are a little like us as we grow into teenage years and question and doubt the truth and rebel in various ways.
  • The final stage of his life was to lead the Children of Israel and of course apart from leading, he was instrumental in the giving of the Ten Commandments. It is this period of his life that we see how he represents the truth or law that is given to us. The principles of life on which to base our living. Moses represents truth while his brother Aaron represents love, and together they lead the Jews through the wilderness. Our life in one sense is a journey through the wilderness where we face all sorts of trials and challenges and we need the truth to guide us on our journey. The journey from Egypt to Canaan represents our journey where we gain knowledge to the use of this knowledge in loving deeds.
  • If you look at the Word you will see that Moses did not actually step in the Jordan or go into the Promised Land. He was only able to see it from the nearby mountains and died there. The reason for this is that he symbolises truth in the mind, but if we are to truly reach heaven we must put it into practice. It is not just knowing truth but using it in our lives which is important. This is why Joshua led them into the Promised Land because his name means truth fighting. In other words, living the truth in our life. Our journey starts with truth but moves on to living it. Always using it to give us the strength to move forward.

Suggested application during the week

As we move through the week let us reflect on our actions and see if they are accordance with the truth we know from the Word.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 12 August 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Joshua 24:13
Final Speech of Joshua

So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.

  • This text encapsulates all the principles of life in relation to love of the Lord and the neighbour and the use we perform in life. To fully understand the power of it and the leadership of Joshua, we need to understand his relationship to the Children of Israel. He was with them in bondage in Egypt, he followed Moses out of Egypt and on the journey to Canaan. He, along with Caleb and others, were the spies that went to check out the land before crossing the River Jordan.
  • He was the one that came back and said there were giants in the land but said ‘we can overcome them’. He was the one that led the Israelites into the first battle with the Amalekites. It can be seen from all this that Joshua was a true leader when he took over from Moses.
  • This speech must be seen in the light of the fact that the people who left Israel were still in one sense in bondage because they did not really trust the Lord and strayed many times. It should be noted that this was the reason that they wandered in the wilderness for so long. None of the people that left Egypt other than Joshua made it to Canaan. Joshua trained an army from those who had not been born in Egypt. At one level this shows what spiritual slavery can mean.
  • This speech then was a reminder to the Israelites of who led them out of Egypt and who was with them performing miracles like the crossing of the Red Sea and the manna in the wilderness, etc. – it was Jehovah or the Lord and not themselves. The text can only be understood fully if we see the meaning behind it.
  • There is a trine or trinity in everything and especially in the Word. We have the three rewards that were given to the people: the land; the cities; and the fruits. Each in parabolic or symbolic form gives us an insight into exactly what the Lord gave them and also what He gives to us and gave people of every age.
  • The land that is given is ‘mother earth’, the source of all food and the base on which everything else rests. It supports the growth of food and the land of Canaan symbolises heaven – the place where we can abide for eternity if we live well.
  • Cities, which essentially are buildings made of stone, symbolise the truth that is given to us to use in our life. As with the materials for building we have to work with the truth in our life.
  • The vineyards and olives are the fruits of the field, which are the results of labour and nurturing. We need to work with both truth (the wine from the vineyards) and the love (oil from the olives) we have for the Lord. The olive is also used to give light and to anoint and cleanse.
  • We can see then the essential things of life are given to us by the Lord, and in essence the order in creation comes from His love for us.
  • This was the last reminder Joshua could give to the Israelites to focus on the true power in our life. Once we have made the choice to follow the Lord, He will work for us in unseen ways and this commitment will show in all we do. Each of us needs to be reminded that we are not in control, it is the Lord.

Suggested application during the week

As we go about our daily life this week, pause to remember that we are given so much by the Lord and we should not take it for granted and think we are in total control.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 22 July 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Exodus 23:28-30
Little by Little

I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

  • This text occurs not too long after the Israelites commenced their journey to the Promised Land. They were given the Ten Commandments which had been provided with manna in the wilderness. Moses told them they would experience difficulties with the people who they would meet and that the Lord would drive out the beasts.
  • If we look at it closely the passage is talking, not only about the journey of the children of Israel to the Promised Land but about our faith journey and all the obstacles we will meet along the way. We know that the Israelites experienced all sorts of problems and that they looked to other Gods when they became discontented. All of these events are an illustration of the journey of faith.
  • Faith is an internal acknowledgement that God exists. It is faith in the Lord, a faith in a visible God – not in the sense of seeing Him physically but recognising His presence in the way we see Him in the Gospels. Our journey, like the Israelites, is a different type of journey but nevertheless it is a journey. A journey which will gradually change the way we think and live and this change happens slowly throughout our life. We are moulded by the way we sense God in our life and the way we respond or react to the circumstances that life presents us with.
  • Our journey, if we are progressing, will enable us to change bad habits; change the way we think about things; and change our conscience. Our faith will develop based on the way we respond to snags, pitfalls and also of course the moments of enlightenment and sense of God’s presence.
  • In our text we see that the Israelites are told they will meet various tribes present in the land and that they have to overcome them to move forward. We have things about our nature and personality that we need to curb and overcome. As mentioned in the passage there will also be wild beasts present which the Lord will help us deal with.
  • As with any journey if we share it with others and have others support us and we support them, it makes life easier and it is the same with having the Lord in our life.
  • The wild beasts that we need to overcome with the Lord’s help are the selfish inclinations and bad traits that we have which do harm to us and to others. This is the internal journey of life and faith. As our text says, these things will not be done in one year but little by little. We all know how hard it is to overcome our deficiencies, but we need to tackle them one by one. The evil inclinations and thoughts that well up inside of us and which we need to continually fight against.
  • Our faith is made stronger when we recognise that we cannot do it without the Lord being there and we realise what progress we have made when we look back. Little progress will be made if we do not have the motivation or the inclination to start the journey, but the fact that we have faith and a sense of the Lord provides us with the impetus. It is all about resisting those things that before we had allowed to swamp us and drag us down. These could be many and varied things, such as telling tales, fault finding, or the criticism of others’ actions.
  • As we overcome the evil inclinations that can give rise to many of our actions, the superficial parts of our nature will gradually subside and be replaced by a developing love for the Lord and the true way.
  • Faith is the means, love is the force.

Suggested application during the week

Reflect this week on our actions and way we deal with others and identify how we can change our patterns of behaviour and thinking.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 08 July 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Passage: Psalm 33

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him.

Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre.

Sing to Him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses.

Let the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him.

For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the people.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.

From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling-place He watches all who live on earth – He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.

  • We are looking at one of the Psalms but before looking at it in a little detail, it is important to understand what the Psalms in general are. Most, according to the scholars, are written by David and they are an expression of what was going on in his life, in his heart, in his emotions and reflect his relationship with God.
  • If we read the Psalms some uplift some are quite sad some are a little depressing but they as a body of work showing the ups and downs of his life, his relationship with God and how he is feeling. They also show how his understanding and love of God can be seen around us.
  • We often say that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and whilst this is true it also reflects the state of our society – the instant message. We are used to seeing television ads which try to capture in a few words the message that they want to convey to make us buy things.
  • When we look at the Lord’s Word we should be saying the reverse. A thousand words paint a picture because especially in the psalms, they are giving word pictures of our relationship with our God. The words and symbolism builds up a picture of how the Lord works in our life and how the truth triggers emotions and shows us the truth which can move us from one state to another.
  • Some verses will be extracted to explain this concept and draw out the beauty and power of the psalm. Please read the whole Psalm to see how it speaks to you.
  • The psalm is at one level focussing on God’s creation but on another level at how He works in us. The first three verses talk about praise and rejoicing to the Lord and because these psalms were meant to be sung, we can think of the way music and singing becomes an expression of our love for God how singing affects our soul.
  • Verse 4 speaks of the Word of God and the power that truth can be to our life. It is the way that the Lord guides us. We need to focus on the words of the Lord and not on the words of the world. We are created and sustained by life from God. It is how we use that life which is important.
  • In verse 10 it speaks of the Lord frustrating the counsel of the nations. We can see that the Lord’s principles are different to the power and selfishness that is present in the world of political leaders and therefore for the world to change, it is the Lord’s laws which need to be obeyed and for governments to serve the people.
  • In verse 15 it says the Lord ‘forms the hearts of all’. We need to recognise that for us to have a fulfilling life we need to base our actions on the truth that we know.
  • In verse 18 it speaks of the eye of the Lord being on us and those who have hope in His mercy. It is our faith and love which will guide us through and underpins all that we do.
  • In verse 19 it speaks of delivering us from death. It is not speaking of the death of the body but the death of the spirit. With the Lord’s help we can look at things in a positive and loving way and not from a selfish perspective. In that way we will look to the heavenly life.
  • Verse 21 speaks of our heart and our trust in Him. The state of our heart and the way we trust the Lord determines how we live and the power of our inner life and this is the central aspect of the way the Psalm is speaking to our spirit.

Suggested application during the week

During this week, if we feel low or need some uplifting let us try going to the Psalms or other parts of the Word and allow the Lord to speak to us.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 01 July 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Jeremiah 29:7

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

  • We have to put this text in context. Jeremiah is talking about the fact that the Israelites have been taken captive by the Babylonians and they are in captivity for more than 70 years before they are released out of bondage. In this text and the verses around it, Jeremiah is trying to give them advice about how to deal with this situation.
  • The verse which speaks of seeking peace and making dwellings is about finding a space in which they can be content, even if it is not what they want. The dwelling, our spiritual dwelling, is our mind and with it in the midst of difficulty we can try and make the most of what we are confronted with.
  • A very easy trap to fall into is to be frustrated and miserable about our lot and this is not conducive to working our way through the difficulties and towards a better position.
  • The word contentment is found very little in the Word but it is a state that is important to find if we are going to deal with the struggles of life. A lack of contentment is a very common human frailty and it stems from a focus totally on selfish motives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve but it is the manner and state of mind we are in whilst working towards our vision that is important.
  • The temptation for all of us is to look at others and wish we had what they have. We look at film stars and their lavish lifestyles and wealth and think what a wonderful life they lead. However we all know that what appears is not always what is happening. Many lead very sad and difficult lives behind the glitz and glamour.
  • How many times do we wish our time away? Youngsters wish they were older and had more freedom; teenagers wish to act as adults; parents say it will be easier later when the children get older; workers look forward to their retirement. It is easy for us to wish our time away and not make the most of each stage of life.
  • One of Swedenborg’s rules of life is ‘to be content with the dispensations of Providence’ and in essence this is about contentment. Contentment is not necessarily being happy in the circumstances in which we find, but if we let the circumstances eat at us we are less able to think clearly and strive over time to overcome the difficulties we face.
  • In our spiritual grow, as in all parts of our life, there is a need for change and we have to accept that change is a part of growing. We do not achieve growth without struggles and we do not grow spiritually without temptations being overcome. The text from Jeremiah is looking at dwellings and cities and homes. It is talking spiritually about the way we use the principles we have gained in our journey and therefore to have stability and comfort during times of turmoil and disruption.
  • The journey to the Promised Land took 40 years and had many meanderings and struggles but the goal was always known and strived for. Are angels content in heaven? Of course they are. They have found a place spiritually where they can be content and their love of the Lord is ever the bedrock of their lives. This contentment brings the happiness and peace of which Jeremiah is speaking.
  • If you read Jeremiah 29 verses 10-14, it speaks of calling on the Lord and that He will hear. It says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
  • Our life needs to be one having goals and vision and of striving to achieve these, but as part of this we need to be content with the circumstances we find ourselves in at a particular time, because then we can see each step as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Suggested application during the week

Let us examine what is causing any discontent and try to find ways in pray to work to change the situation and find peace and contentment.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 24 June 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Revelation 21, Luke 13:22-30
and Matthew 24:29-31
Descent of the Holy City

The New Jerusalem

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be His God and he will be My son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The narrow door

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem. Someone came and asked Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door to us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evil-doers!’ There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Signs of the end of the Age

Immediately after the distress of those days,

‘The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give us light;

The stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

  • In one way or another the passages above have a bearing on the subject of the Holy City and in the principles laid out in Revelation 21, it lead us into the celebration of New Church Day. New Church Day is much broader than thinking about a church organisation. If we think of a church organisation then we truly limit what the celebration is about. It is not about the birth of a church organisation, but about the dawning of a new spiritual age. An event that did and will continue to shape the lives of all people for millennia to come.
  • The dawning of a New Age, according to our teachings, was effected in 1770 when events in heaven changed the course of spirituality for ever. As we look closely at the passage from Revelation we will see that it is not speaking about an earthly city, but the symbolism is speaking about a spiritual age. John was in the spirit when he saw these things; events that for him would happen way into the future and the description of the Holy City is showing us about the spiritual make up of this New Age. The majority of what it is talking about is what is going on unseen, however, some of its effects can be felt and seen.
  • If we look at earthly events around the time we are speaking of, we can see changes in industry; the opening of access to the Word; the age of reason; and many other things, but the most important is the freeing up of the minds of people to understand more fully the meaning of the Word. From being bound to being opened is what is most important and during the Reformation, the Bible was more widely available to the people.
  • The effects of the changes in heaven and earth is about seeing a commencement of change to worship – the idea of the one God and a freeing up of the understanding and meaning of the Word. The passage from Revelation provides us with a snapshot of a spiritual age which would be less judgemental and more embracing of different views. We are all different and there are many ways to see the truth that is given to us by the Lord.
  • The passage from Luke shows us that no church organisation, no group, is the true church. Rather, it is matter of worship and love of the Lord. We see a breaking down of barriers amongst Christians and the establishments of interfaith groups which broadens people’s thinking to something more universal.
  • In the description of the Holy City, it emphasises that there are many gates and there will be worship of the one God. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, signifying a shift in the sense of freedom that people feel. The new heaven and earth is about inner and outer things. The walls of the city had three gates on each side. The walls and foundations represent the spiritual principles to protect us, but the gates on all sides demonstrate that there are many ways into heaven – some based on the understanding, some on love, because we all have different personality traits. The walls each had a precious stones inset. Stones relate to truth and the different colours reflect the ways in which the light is seen. The colours come from the way light is refracted by the stones. The truth, or light, we receive is dealt with in different ways by each of us. Again it demonstrates the diversity of people who will enter the Holy City.
  • We are only at the relative beginning of the new spiritual age but we can see the changes that are taking effect. The true worship of the one visible God as given to us in the gospels will emerge, but more important is the understanding and use of truth in our lives. It will be the way all people use the truth in love that will determine their future in the life beyond, not their status in this current earthly life.

Suggested application during the week

Let us see the Holy City, the New Jerusalem in our lives as the ability to choose spiritually, and by the choices we make look towards the one gate that is open for us.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 17 June 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Luke 7:1-17 and 36-50
What is Faith?

The faith of the centurion

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, “This man deserves to have You do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue”. So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’, and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’, and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this’, and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Jesus raises a widow’s son

Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him. As He approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry”.

Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help His people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two men owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I supposed the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then He turned towards the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

  • The passages from Luke contain a number of miracles and give us an idea of what a developing faith is. Faith is an inner confidence in the Lord. Faith is an internal acknowledgement that there is a God and He is the one.
  • Faith is trust in the Lord that He will give us strength when we need it. Having faith is not about curing all our ills and giving us a trouble free life.
  • The symbolism of the moon is that it represents faith. It is reflected light from the sun. Our faith is a bit like the moon; it provides some light even though things appear dark around us. Faith is like a mustard seed; it grows from something small and becomes an imposing bush.
  • People often say that we are saved by faith, but faith alone is not what it is all about. In James 2 verses 14-17, it specifically says that faith needs to be coupled with good works, or actions. Faith on its own is cold. Faith is the motivating force for us to demonstrate our love for the Lord, because faith without love is of no real benefit.
  • We need to reflect on what was the catalyst for coming to an acknowledgement of the Lord in our life. Perhaps it was a particular verse or passage from the Bible. Perhaps it was a reflection on the Lord’s life on earth and how He showed love. As we grow in our faith and it becomes deeper, even when we are going through many struggles we always feel that the Lord is there beside us.
  • The passages we are considering have three events which demonstrate a growing sense of God in our life. These are: the centurion’s servant; the widow’s son at Nain; and, the woman who was a sinner.
  • Each of these circumstances shows a developing faith. The centurion was a man of authority who led a very regimented, orderly life and was in charge of 100 men. In one sense his willingness to trust the Lord to heal was a little distant. He did not want to get too close to the Lord but knew that He could heal his servant. The widow whose son was dead wanted to get close to the Lord and knew that He could heal and the Lord came close to the body and brought her son back to life.
  • The woman who was a sinner recognised her weakness and need, and knew that the Lord would forgive. As a result she showered great affection on Him to show her thanks.
  • Each of these circumstances shows a deepening love for the Lord which was progressively expressed. It is the same in our life. Not only do we have faith in the Lord to give us strength when needed, but we also have to demonstrate that love in the way we interact with others. Our faith needs to be the catalyst for loving actions and support of others, so that we are giving back to the Lord the strength that we receive from Him.
  • Faith is the underpinning we need when the going gets tough in our life. It is support when there appears little support. We are shown love by others because the Lord is moving them to come alongside us.

Suggested application during the week

Reflect on how having faith has helped us in our life and how it continues to help. Look for opportunities this week to demonstrate our faith in what we do for others.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 3 June 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Acts chapter 2:1-21
Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked, “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

In the last days, God says, I will pour my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,

your old men will see dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in

those days, and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below,

blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the

coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

  • The giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a significant celebration for the Christian church, particularly when it is looked at in the context of the three persons of the Trinity. For the New Church it is no less important but is seen with a different emphasis. The idea of a trinity of persons separates the aspects of God. When all aspects are seen as essentials rather than persons, we get a much more powerful image of the power of God.
  • The power of God flows into all things of His creation and this power never leaves humankind. In the Old Testament God was seen as the Spirit of Holiness and His love was always present but invisible. The life of the Lord Jesus was a visible expression of the power of love in the world and then after the ascension there was the giving of the Holy Spirit.
  • The festival of Pentecost stems from the ‘festival of weeks’ or ‘festival of first fruits’ which occurred 50 days after the Passover and was called the jubilee. In spiritual symbolism 50 represents what is full and complete and is the conjunction of truth with good. This epitomises the power of love in the world which is seen in the giving of the Holy Spirit. The wind and fire are expressions of God’s love being fire and the wind which is felt but not seen.
  • The disciples felt alone after the resurrection, but the giving of the Holy Spirit was to show them that even though Jesus could not be seen He was nevertheless very much present in their lives. The Pentecost event took place 10 days after the ascension and the power behind the event should be recognised, not only for what was happening on earth but what was going on in the spiritual world and heaven. As a result of the Lord’s coming, crucifixion and resurrection, both earth and heaven spiritually were re-ordered. In one sense the giving of the Holy Spirit is similar to the word ‘connected’. All the pieces were connected and we can feel connected to the power of God.
  • In the event of Pentecost the most striking factor was that although the people spoke various languages, they all understood what was happening. This was very powerful but if we look behind it we will see that spiritual laws were being acted out in this world. The people were seeing and hearing with their spiritual senses not their natural ones. This again is an example of being connected.
  • I recently saw a film called ‘I am’, and the central theme was that in creation there is an underlying connectedness. It can be seen in the way birds flock to protect each other when they fly; shoals of fish gather together for protection; and, animals in herds follow a pattern of protecting each other. Similarly, in times of great tragedy we see people coming together. There is this innate drawing together which is a demonstration of the love of God in our midst.
  • The Lord’s love flows into all life and the giving of the Holy Spirit is an expression of how the Lord is connected to our life if we want Him to be. The more we tap into and recognise His presence, the more we can respond to it in our life. The Holy Spirit is the Divine operating amongst us, it is a matter of how or if we respond to it. As we use and read the Word the Lord operates within us so that we can grow spiritually. If we are alive to His presence then we will be more able to change the way we re-act or respond to situations. We will also recognise His presence in what is going on around us. We feel the presence and love of someone we care about, whether they are near or far.

Suggested application during the week

Let us look at what is going on around us and in our thought patterns to find demonstrations of the Lord acting in and with people.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 27 May 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Luke 17:11-24 and Revelation 12

Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him – and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well”.

The coming of the kingdom of God

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the kingdom of God is within you.”

Then He said to His disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There He is!’ or ‘Here He is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in His day will be like the lightening, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to His throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.

For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives, so much as to shrink from death.

Therefore rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them!

But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!

He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon has spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

  • On television recently there was a debate between Cardinal Pell and Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins is a scientist and a confirmed atheist. Cardinal Pell was responding to Richard’s questions from a traditional Christian perspective but nevertheless trying to show that science cannot prove God; we have to use other senses and see from within us.
  • Both the Word of God and the world in which we live is one of appearances. We think we see things with the naked eye but many are illusions because of time and space and the way our brain and eyes work. Much of what we think we see is not exactly what we see.
  • In Luke 17 the Lord says, “The Kingdom of heaven is within you”. Another translation says, “The Kingdom of heaven is in the midst of you”. In other words, what we really are comes from within. The way we react to situations and the way we respond in relationships, is very much affected by who we are inside and whether we have a deep love of the Lord within. If we think about it, nothing is affected solely from things outside us. What we are is on the inside – our personality, where we are spiritually, etc.
  • The Word of God therefore is dealing with spiritual things and whilst most of the Word is set in an historical context, it is using those events to give spiritual lessons. This is why the Book of Revelation has confused and astounded many because they cannot get a handle on it and take it literally and not spiritually. It is too much for some people because it is otherworldly with visions etc. It is an accepted phenomena that dreams can often be a guide to something that is going on in a person’s life, however strange some of the events may be.
  • The chapter from Revelation is one such passage: the woman clothed with the sun, the child and the dragon. This all appears far-fetched but it is dealing in a symbolic form with future events depicting the state of the church. John was in the spirit and therefore not fixed in time and space when he received these messages from God.
  • A sign of the woman clothed with the sun, is a picture of the new order in heaven because the text says, ‘a great sign appeared in heaven’. The woman represents the church and being clothed with the sun illustrates that it is surrounded with love and light. The moon at the woman’s feet represents faith or the rock on which the church is built, because the moon is reflected light. The child is the offspring of love and spirituality in the church because it is based on the innocence of a child. The pain and anguish is the struggle to bring this loving state into being. The dragon is worldliness and selfishness which will endanger the true meaning to life.
  • Whilst humankind generally is hell bent on its own interests, the true church cannot grow. At an individual level we see this in life. Murders, car accidents that kill due to speed, etc. The only way that this earth will reflect the new heaven and new earth is when all people look beyond themselves for the good of others.
  • The Lord has put the building blocks in place and all the anguish in the world is not the Lord’s doing, it is the fact that humankind is misusing the gifts which have been given. It is important that in our responses to situations in life, we start from within and use the love we have for the Lord as the basis for our actions. Compassion, fairness and empathy are but three qualities that exemplify the true principles. The passage from Revelation foresees the struggles that humankind will experience until the new heaven and new earth is established amongst us.

Suggested application during the week

Before we act in situations during the week, let us take a breath and say, ‘What would the Lord want me to do in this situation? How would He respond?’

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 6 May 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Numbers 16:6-7
Focus of Life

You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!

  • All through the journey in the wilderness the Israelites oscillated between thanking Moses and being against him when trouble came. The focus of this passage is Korah and his attitude to Moses and Aaron. It is not that he was against them as such, but he was against all the rules that they were insisting be obeyed.
  • The name Korah means ‘baldness’ which is someone with no hair. Hair symbolises truth in its ultimate and therefore baldness is the absence of truth, or in Korah’s case the reaction against having written rules to govern life. Korah wanted to live his life without rules and have no spiritual foundation.
  • Our text centres on the command of Moses to bring incense, fire and censers, which are fire pans for burning incense, and is part of their worship ritual. The point of this is for Moses to point Korah to the worship not of the ritual but of Jehovah or the Lord. In other words to make God part of his (and our) life.
  • We need to look beyond the utensils of worship to the symbolism of them and what they can mean for us in our life. Incense symbolises all knowledge and understanding and in one sense can include our aspirations and goals. The fire represents our passion for what it is we are doing or want to do.
  • The censer where the flame and incense is situated symbolises worship that is centred or placed before the Lord. So this was the way Moses was trying to bring Korah back to a centred approach to life and to recognise that we need truth and principles in our life if we are to make something of real value of it. The lesson it was teaching Korah was that we can have our own goals and aspirations and dreams if you like, but if there is no real focus then it will not be really fruitful. Later in the chapter it is shown that Korah, Dathan and Abiram stayed outside their own tents.
  • This was a sign that they only wanted to please themselves without worshipping the Lord at the tent or tabernacle. This is the centrepiece of what we can draw from this text.
  • Whether we are older or younger it is important that we have our own goals and aspirations and depending at what stage of life we are at, then these goals will vary. However if they are to be meaningful they must be centred on the truth from the Lord and in one sense dedicated to the Lord so that as we live our life He can be part of the journey with us to ensure that the goals are meaningful.
  • The purpose of our worship both in our life and at our services is to help us keep on track and to remind us that we are not an island and we need to think beyond ourselves and continue to re-evaluate our goals.
  • The purpose of the Holy Supper which is a Sacrament (sacred) is to bring everything back to the Lord and see the bread and wine as symbolising the Lord’s love and wisdom. It brings us into communion with Him and helps us stay focussed on true and principled goals for our life.

Suggested application during the week

Think about the goals that are important to us and what we want to achieve, but look at the quality of those goals and how they can benefit others and ask the Lord to help us achieve them.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 29 April 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: 1 Kings 12:1-20
Choices

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehobaom answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’ – tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'”

Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfil the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:

“What share do we have in David,

What part in Jesse’s son?

To your tents, O Israel!

Look after your own house, O David!”

So the Israelites when home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labour, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they went and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.

  • This passage in history comes at a time when King David and Solomon have died. Their reigns were marked by stability and a sense of peace for the most part until Solomon placed burdens on the people when building the temple as his love of dominion got the better of him. Rehoboam is his son and was to take over as King. He was faced with a dilemma regarding the burdens, or yoke, which had been placed on the people.
  • He took council with the elders who advised him to relieve the people of some of the burdens. Before making a decision he spoke to the young men who wanted him to continue the burdens. As a result he listened to the young men. However this did not make all things well and the northern area of Canaan separated under the kingship of Jeroboam, who was always seeking power.
  • Within this passage are a number of elements which have a symbolism for our life and the choices we make, depending on whether we are trying to grow in the love of the Lord.
  • At an overarching level, this dividing of the kingdoms is also a mirror of what happened to humankind. Like the united kingdom all was one of peace and love whilst goodness and truth were united. However when Jeroboam looked more to understanding than to love, he was influenced by other forces and divided the kingdom through his actions. This is what happened to humankind over the centuries; they declined and it was necessary for the will and the understanding to be separated.
  • At the level of the events and characters in the story, we can see that the choice Rehoboam made was not the right one. He consulted the elders who possessed wisdom and experience and the younger men who had no real experience and ended up choosing the latter’s advice. The two levels of advice can also be seen as the interior and external path.
  • If we look at our day to day life we have to make choices all the time and mostly at a relatively superficial level but some at a deeper level. The decisions we come too are influenced by all sorts of factors: our environment; our upbringing; our motivation; our stage of life; and, the experiences we have had.
  • If we think about it, how much are these decisions influenced by the stage we have reached spiritually? This is the measure of how much we are listening to the voice of love and wisdom and how much we are not. How much are we guided by what is spiritual, and how much are we guided by the world in which we live?
  • If we look at the passage we will see that Jeroboam took to idol worship which is influenced by evil loves and the need for dominion, just as the Israelites worshipped the golden calf when they turned from God.
  • This passage therefore is all about whether our understanding of truth will lead us to love, or whether we will allow our selfish influences to dominate. We need to think about the decisions and choices we make and see what influences are moving us to make particular decisions.

Suggested application during the week

Evaluate our choices this week to understand whether love of others or self interest are our motivation.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 22 April 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Mark 16 verses 1-15
He is Risen

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid them. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.'”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it.

Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

  • We go from the sadness and gloom of Good Friday to the joy and praise of Easter day. No longer is the Lord in the tomb but He is the Risen Lord. Easter Day is more than just the Lord rising, it is the culmination of His work on earth. The final act of crucifixion enabled the Lord to overcome all that was thrown at Him. The final and most grievous temptation of the pain of the physical body. This final temptation was the means by which the Lord could touch and conquer all levels of human existence. His human made Divine and from then on people were in freedom to choose to love or not.
  • If we look at all the events that occurred on the third day we see that it is all about new insights and new awareness. The old views of the Lord that bound the disciples and the women were changed. It was like a new awakening as indeed it was because the Lord was present at all levels.
  • It is interesting to note that the women went to the tomb in the darkness and then the light dawned. This portrays a gradual enlightenment and the morning is a new state.
  • On their way to the tomb they were wondering how they would be able to move the stone, but it had been done for them. The stone that entombed the Lord represents hard truth. When love is brought into it the Word is enlivened and becomes powerful. It takes on a new dimension just as the awareness of the Lord takes on a new awareness.
  • It should also be noted that whilst the disciples and the women went to the tomb, it was the woman and in particular Mary Magdalene who saw the Lord first. It is our affections that will throw light on our understanding of the Word.
  • If we look at the appearance of the Lord to Mary, to the disciples and to Thomas, we see a progressive enlightenment turning to the Lord for Mary was weeping at the tomb and the Lord came up to her and she thought it was the gardener and then the Lord.
  • Gardens contain trees and plants and they represent understanding of beautiful things and the Lord is the gardener when we are teachable. Mary then recognised Him when He said her name and it was the full presence of the Lord with her.
  • The Lord walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus but they did not recognise Him until the end. Thomas was the most doubting and wanted to touch His hands. We are not told whether he did or not, but the turning came when he said My Lord and My God. It was enlightenment.
  • The message of Easter is that He is risen. He raises us up to a new understanding and love of Him if we wish. The Word becomes powerful and is not just words in a book. It can shape our lives because love is opened up within its pages.
  • I am sure we all aware of how freeing love is and how debilitating hatred is. Love coming into everything provides the opportunity for spiritual growth. The Lord brought us salvation, not by faith but by our ability to choose love over evil and to know the Lord in His Divine human.

Suggested application during the week

Each morning this week, let us go to the Lord as the women went to the tomb, and ask the Lord to bless our day and enliven it with love.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 8 April 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: 1 Samuel 3
Do we hear the voice of God?

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down and if He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times. “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

And the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hear of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family – from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family for ever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'”

Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” “What was it He said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything He told you.” So Samuel said him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His eyes.”

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of His words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and there He revealed himself to Samuel though His word.

  • How much to we hear in today’s world and what goes on around us? Do we tune out to what people are saying? How often have we heard people say the road noise was terrible when they first move into a house but now they don’t hear it? When you go into shops how many times have you found that the assistant is not really listening and they get you something you have not asked for? The same happens on the phone and in many other parts of our life.
  • How much are we listening to the inner voice of the Lord trying to tell us something about how we should act or the way forward in a particular troubled situation? Hearing the calling of the Lord is essential for our life. The call of Samuel is a very powerful and sensitive passage in the Word. There are many passages in the Word which talk about hearing what the Lord is saying, so we can understand that it should feature in the forefront of our life.
  • Samuel was given by his mother Hannah to serve at the temple as a thank offering to the Lord. Samuel’s task was to open the doors of the temple each morning. This symbolises opening the doors of the mind as we have a natural and spiritual mind. The natural mind is open most of the time and takes in all the mundane thinking and actions that go on. The spiritual mind however needs to be opened to have some sense of the Lord in our life. Samuel symbolises the truth in spiritual life, or the receptivity to the light of the Lord’s truth. As we grow from childhood our states of innocence are closed and these need to be opened in another way. This can only be done by listening to the voice of the Lord.
  • This call to Samuel came at night and there were three calls. This is significant because the Lord is calling us out of the dark states that we may have descended into and need to be lifted from. The number three symbolises what is full and conjunction with the Lord. He is calling us forward and upwards so that we can respond to life from Him.
  • The first call is the one we get when we read the Word and acknowledge it as a fairly superficial level. It stores the sense, impressions, etc. The second call is when we think about it and see it as giving principles for us to live and the life of the church. The third call is when it really becomes part of our life, we respond to its teaching and we really see it as the Lord speaking to our whole life. We have leaders like Moses and Isaiah who were given calls and at first did not want to respond but when they did the results are significant.
  • To be called or to send is about proceeding. It is sometimes a challenge from the Lord, it is sometimes a leading from the Lord, but whatever way it is, we must respond. In the Word the Lord issued a challenge, ‘Who shall I send, who is willing?’ This challenge comes to us. The commitment to regeneration or spiritual growth is a response to that call. We are being sent out into the world to reflect and show the principles of truth and how they affect our life. The example we give can help others. All of our life in one way or another touches someone else and we can therefore reflect the principles of the Word in all that we do. We always need to be listening to the voice of the Lord and making sure that the clamour of the world does not drown His voice out.

Suggested application during the week

Let us try and be conscious this week of what is going on inside our head and try and see beyond the clutter to recognise the Lord trying to say something to us.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 25 March 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Exodus 23:19 and Psalm 65
particularly verses 11-13
Harvest Thanksgiving

Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

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You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.

The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with corn; they shout for joy and sing.

  • It is always good to give thanks to the Lord for all that He has provided and in Exodus the Jews were given instruction to keep three feasts. Celebration of the harvest has been done in various ways over time. In England in the middle ages they celebrated ‘Lammas’ or ‘Loaf Mass’ in which each farmer gave a sheaf of wheat from his crop and all the contributions were then made into a huge loaf which was paraded through the streets to the church where everyone gathered. A rather nice way to share the produce of the land and thank the Lord. This died out eventually and then in 1843 Rev Robert Hawker commenced the celebration we now know as Harvest Festival. Of course we are all aware of the focus that the Americans have on Thanksgiving which is a very appropriate festival which brings all family members together.
  • The focus of our celebrations is the fruits of the field and yet most people are urban dwellers. Children see fruit in the supermarket or green grocers and do not know where it comes from and perhaps it is grown overseas. It is only when you are close to the land that you can fully appreciate the dependence of the farmers on weather and how much they have to toil to get a good and quality harvest.
  • It is interesting to note that there is no mention of farmer in the bible. It refers to landholder, vine dresser, shepherd, herdsman, sower, ploughman, etc. This could be that the focus of the feasts is on nurture and the fact that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. That is, it is God’s world and we are holding it on trust and should do the best we can with it. It is the same with our life, the one true life is the Lord’s and we are recipients of that life and it is how we use our life and nurture the goodness and truth that is available from the Lord. It should be noted in the gospels that the seed was sown and some yielded 100, 60 and 30 fold. Similarly, it is what we do with what we have that matters.
  • In Exodus the three feasts mentioned are the Unleavened bread or Passover Feast, First fruits and Ingathering at the end of the year. As with everything in the Word it truly relates to the cycles of our spiritual life just as the harvest is about the seasons. The first feast is about taking that first step to rid ourselves of the falsities and evil that plague is. Unleavened bread is bread without yeast, without fungi, it is bread without any impurities.
  • We have to make a conscious decision to nurture our minds to lead to heaven and this is the first step. The second feast is the first fruits. It is about the affection we have for what the Lord has given us and we take this into our mind and life and as we use it the first appearance of goodness appears symbolising the first fruits. The feast of ingathering is the bringing together of all the usefulness and love that has grown in our hearts during the year or period of our life. We therefore celebrate these stages in our regeneration and the Lord instructs us to observe these feasts of thankfulness. We should recognise that it is an instruction. Not that the Lord wants our thanks but He knows that we need to give thanks.
  • It is very interesting to note that Psalm 65 verses 11 to 13 reflect these same principles. It is a song of praise and comes immediately after a number of sad or dark Psalms. It speaks of the pastures and the flocks, the valleys and the corn. In the inner meaning, it is speaking about the two levels of our minds – the natural and the spiritual. The pastures refer to our spiritual mind and the valleys our natural mind, the flocks represent spiritual truth and the corn natural truth. These developments are to be celebrated and praise given to the Lord.
  • In Leviticus 23 verse 22, it says that people must not take all of the harvest but leave some for others. This refers to being thankful for what we have and what we can leave for others.

Suggested application during the week

Let us see around us this week evidence of the Lord’s creation and silently give thanks for all that we have been given.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 3 March 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew 17:1-13
The Transfiguration

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” He said. Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no-one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He was talking to them about John the Baptist.

  • We are currently in the period of Lent when people focus on specific areas of their life they need to change leading up to Holy Week. The powerful event of the transfiguration also occurred 40 days before the crucifixion, and at a time when the Lord was fully aware of what was to come and He wanted to show the disciples in a visual way that He was God in human form. The event took place at the top of a mountain to reflect the higher states that we must find to see the Lord in His fullness.
  • It is interesting to note that the event is recorded in three gospels and the detail is slightly different in each. This is to reflect the different states that we are in during our spiritual growth. In Matthew it says “after six days” and in Luke “in 8 days”, which refers to one day before and one day after the Sabbath which symbolises that one is a more external state. If you read the original texts, the three gospels give different detail of the way the Lord’s face and clothing shone. This is to show that as we progress spiritually we see the Lord in a different way because we are growing closer to Him.
  • Jesus took with Him three of His disciples namely Matthew James and John and this is significant because they symbolise faith, love and charity, or the coming together of the things we know and love of the truth and how we put them into action in our life. On the mountain they saw Moses, Elijah and Jesus together. One represents the law, one the prophets and the other the gospels of love which Jesus came to show. We should recognise that the disciples were seeing this event not with their natural eyes but with their spiritual eyes.
  • It is interesting to compare the giving of the commandments when a dark cloud shrouded the mountain and on this occasion there was a bright cloud. This shows that the Israelites had a very obscure knowledge of the Lord and the disciples were in a simple understanding of the truth in their lives.
  • The whole purpose of this beautiful event was to show how love was being brought into our lives and that Jesus in His life on earth by his actions and sayings was gradually making His human divine. He wanted us all to see the divine love and light that was deep within Him but at the same time make us recognise that we must know Him as a person as the disciples did. Their understanding was being opened to see the God within the man they knew as Jesus. Jesus who was the living Word, the truth amongst us. We need to be able to see the Lord firstly as a man so that we can have a personal relationship with Him, but also to see that the Word gives us the wonderful truths that as we progress we come to see the beauty of God amongst us.
  • The transfiguration means change of form. The Lord put off His human form and put on His divine and when we change our form our light becomes brighter as we work with the truth and acknowledge the Lord in our life.
  • The real power of this event and message is to recognise as we live the truth and love the Lord more dearly we see Him shining in our life and in experiences, and we see the Lord’s face or form in the everyday things of life.

Suggested application during the week

As we work with the truth from the Word should try to picture Jesus and the man becomes living in the truth we use.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 4 March 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew 14:22-36
Peter Walking on the Water

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to Him and begged Him to let the sick just touch the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed.

  • Whilst we will be focussing on Peter walking on the water, we must see it in the context of Jesus calming the storm and coming to them after being on the mountain to pray. The disciples were in the boat and afraid because of the storm. Jesus had left them to their own devices. As they were tossed about so He came to them walking on the sea. At first they did not recognise Him but as He came closer they could see it was Jesus. This is the same with us, we are strong when all is going well but the essential lesson is that we need to know is that the Lord is there for us. In life we may only see the Lord amongst us dimly on occasions, or it could be quite vividly at other times.
  • The disciples were in the boat going from one side of the lake to the other. They were going from the desert side to the place where there was good growth, which symbolises our own spiritual growth. Jesus came to them walking on the water and Peter decided that he could do it, so he went out to meet the Lord but became anxious and started to sink and Jesus put out His hand and saved him.
  • Part of us, when we read or hear this story, wonder at why Peter tried it and how stupid he could be in thinking he could do it himself. However if we think about it we are much like that in our own life. Most, if not all of the time, we think that we can do everything ourselves. We are very self-reliant and work on the basis that everything is up to us and we will get it done. This is the way of the world.
  • Scientists think that by their own ingenuity and capabilities they will solve all the problems of the world. Governments and politicians generally think they have all the answers and they can solve everything. Peter had faith and it became the faith, or rock on which the church was built, but we have to see it in the context of our relationship with the Lord. The disciples were in a ship which symbolises our religious or spiritual teaching and principles.
  • Peter felt strong in his faith and decided he would go and meet Jesus by walking on the water. He was fine for a little while but the sea was choppy and he began to doubt. This is a very good example of the difference between a faith in the mind and one in our heart which can be carried into life.
  • Jesus permitted Peter to try because He wanted him to realise what faith really was and come to the recognition that it needs to be used in our life. Faith can become a source of strength by acknowledging we need to be ready to ask and seek strength from the Lord and know that He is there beside us even if we do not recognise it. Just as the disciples did not first recognise Jesus.
  • This passage gives us the opportunity to reflect on the substance of our faith. What it is and what it is not? Do we rely on the Lord and see Him guiding, leading and supporting us, or is our faith one that is in our head only? Peter walked on water for a few moments but we need the support of the Lord at all times.

Suggested application during the week

We should all give some thought to how often we call on the Lord or recognise Him in our midst when the going is difficult and or whether we just think we can overcome by ourselves. True faith is resting on the Lord and allowing Him to support us

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 26 February 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Genesis 16:7-9 (also whole chapter)
Hagar and Sarai

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? 

I am running away from my mistress Sarai, she answered.

This passage is yet another in which the Word acts as a mirror to what happens in our life. Abram and Sarai are unable to have children and an Egyptian bond servant is given to Abram so that they can have a child. Whilst initially the sacredness of marriage was paramount, this was lost at the time of Abraham and they were ignorant of it and this act enabled the couple to have a child. However when Hagar became pregnant she despised Sarai who then had to chastise her. As a result she got upset and fled into the wilderness. This is the story at the literal level.

• At the level of our everyday actions we all need to be brought to account for things we have done wrong and Hagar was not respectful to her mistress. She ˜took her bat and ball and went home ‘, as they say. How often do we take offence at something someone says to us and often it is because we are not looking at what we have done wrong and are being very superficial.

• Our text in its spiritual meaning looks at it at a much deeper level. The level of our conscience and the way it should work. Hagar went off into the desert or wilderness. It is a very dangerous and desolate place and all sorts of harm can come to someone there. This is what happens when we act out of self pity. However we should note that the Lord never leaves us in this state if He can help us, and so an angel of the Lord came to Hagar. The message from the angel was not a meek and mild event or rebuke. The message was that Hagar was to submit and return to her mistress. It is even stronger in the Hebrew language because the Hebrew word for ˜submit ‘, translates to ˜abase yourself ‘ or ˜chastise yourself ‘. In other words, ˜pull yourself together ‘. The name Hagar means ˜stranger ‘ or ˜sojourner ‘, which intimates a temporary state. So here we have a clear message for Hagar and indeed us to snap out of whatever it is that we have been silly about and start doing the right thing.

• Sarai symbolises our sense of what the truth is saying to us and the angel in the text represents our conscience or our ‘gut feeling’ of what is the right thing to do. Whilst it is never the right thing to try and compel others to do something because they will resist, neither does the Lord try to compel us but He urges us as with the angel coming to Hagar. How did Hagar respond, she went back and her descendents multiplied.

• This passage from the Word reflects times in our life when we do not respond as we should; we act in a petulant manner. These are times when we do not act according to our conscience and it is whilst we ‘re in those moods that we do not want to listen. However we should listen to the angel, to our conscience, and sometimes the only way to do this is to talk sternly to ourselves, get off our high horse, and do the right thing.

• Following this passage it says that when she returned, Hagar ‘s descendents were many. In other words there was in her life fruitfulness, blessing and prosperity. This is not referring to material circumstances but to spiritual ones. It is important for us to be alive to what our conscience is telling us and be on guard against those times when we act in a superficial and petulant manner.

• The Hagar factor is when we say to ourselves, ‘I know I should have done this or that but I did not feel like it’, or I should have had the courage to step in and do what was right. There are many other examples but this is the Hagar factor.

Suggested application during the week

Examine our actions during the week and try to observe whether we are acting in a Hagar way in our responses to life situations.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 12 February 2012

SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE
Text: Matthew Chapter 13
Parables of the Kingdom

The parable of the Sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round Him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then, He told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprung up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.

The disciples came to Him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:

Though seeing, they do not see;

Though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn,

and I would heal them.

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once received it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but he worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

The parable of the Weeds

Jesus told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.

The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

“An enemy did this”, he replied.

The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”

“No”, he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

The parable of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

He told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.

He told them still another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables,

I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world”.

The parable of the Weeds explained

Then He left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

The parables of the Hidden Treasures and the Pearl

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had bought it.

The parable of the Net

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes”, they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

A Prophet without honour

When Jesus had finished these parables, He moved on from there. Coming to His home town, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offence at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “Only in his home town and in his own house is a prophet without honour”. And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

  • In this chapter we have a number of parable which, if looked at as a series, one builds on another and provides us with insights as to how the Lord works with the truth – we have to turn our life from being natural to being spiritual. As we all know a parable is defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The parables were the Lord’s way of introducing us to the concept that within the Word there is a spiritual meaning which will be progressively shown to us as we understand and love the Word.
  • Many of the parables are prefaced by the words,’ the kingdom of heaven is like…’. These parables then provide us with insights as to how, when we understand them fully, they show that our inner spiritual life is slowly transformed so that we are gaining glimpses of heaven within us in this world.
  • The parables given in this chapter are the Sower; the Mustard Seed; the Leaven; Hidden Treasure; Pearl of Great Price; and, the Dragnet. Each leads us that little bit further to show us how our spiritual growth develops.
  • It is also interesting to note that in the chapter there are three different elements of the sower. The first gives the basic examples of sowing and where the seeds fall. The second is a rudimentary explanation of how it relates to the development of our faith and the struggle with good and evil (wheat and weeds) and the third given to the disciples looks at how our growth and choices affect whether we come into heaven or not. It is also interesting to note that Jesus starts the discourse by the sea which symbolises the natural plane and later He goes into the house which symbolises the mind, our higher thoughts and our spiritual development.
  • The second parable is the mustard seed which is very small but which can grow into a big tree. It symbolises the first introduction to truth, even if we think it is from ourselves at first, it has the potential to grow into something beautiful so long as we try to remove our selfish ego from our life.
  • The parable of the leaven and leaven being bread with yeast, which is a fungi, is symbolically the introduction of falsity or temptation to challenge us when we commence using the truth. It is the first step in making the truth our own. The parable of the hidden treasure is a beautifully simple parable that is given to show the first heavenly joy experienced when we work, love the truth and sell all we have, we renounce self, to acquire it.
  • The Pearl of Great Price demonstrates the maturing of our faith which is underlined by belief and trust. A pearl grows as the oyster secretes fluid to cover the grit and it becomes a beautiful pearl. The same happens in our life when the irritations which are temptations test us in our way to building a spiritual life. The Dragnet shows us that all is gathered which means all are instructed but drawing to shore represents a new state which is with those who love the truth and live it.
  • A reference is also made to the scribe who is instructed and he is like a householder. The householder is the Lord which is receiving the Word so that we reflect on what is given to us by the Lord. We must not separate the literal sense from the spiritual sense. We first work with the literal sense and then are given to see the inner sense as we progress.
  • This chapter gives living examples at various levels of what it is like to progressively serve the Lord at different levels. The challenge for us is to see in the incidents of our everyday life ways in which the Lord is leading us and presenting circumstances to help us grow if we make the right choices. We apply the truth out of love and this will enable the Lord to be a part of our decision making.

Suggested application during the week

Try to be in tune with the events of the week to be aware of the circumstances and decisions that face us and how they give us opportunities for growth.

Rev. Chris Skinner
Sunday 5 February 2012

Welcoming all people to be part of a living community serving the Lord and encouraging personal development