Friday 10 August

Bishop Ken Clarke (often known as Fanta) has served in churches in Northern Ireland, in Chile with the South American Mission Society (SAMS), and in Dublin. He was Rector of Coleraine Parish for 15 years and then Bishop of Kilmore Elphin and Ardagh for 12 years. He has led missions and preached at conferences and conventions in different parts of the world. Recently retired, he is fond of telling folks that he wants to be “re-fired” for the sake of the Lord!

Ephesians 1: 3 – 14 On this very day 10 August AD 258 (1,760 years ago) something quite remarkable happened in the history of the church. Lawrence was in charge of the finances of the local church of which he was a member and he was also of deacon. There was a great revival going on all around him in the city of Rome. The emperor Valerian did not like this and he took drastic action. He ordered all bishops, priests and deacons to be arrested – wanting to elimate all the leaders of this movement.

Lawrence was a wealthy Christian. The emperor called Lawrence and said, “There is a way out of this. If you gather together all the churches treasures and give them to me, then you can go free.”

Over the next three days, Lawrence gathered the blind, the poor, the sick, the widows and the orphans. He told the emperor, “These are the treasures of the church.”

Valerian was so angry that he ordered Lawrence to be roasted on a gridiron.  On the 10 August, Lawrence went to glory. Friends, the courage of this Christian man and leader was quite remarkable. After he had suffered pain for a long time, he said, “I’m well done on this side, turn me over.” Can you believe it? Joking with those who were killing him? His courage and faith made such and impression that the revival spread even more. Several senators who witnessed his death became followers of Jesus Christ.

Here was a man who lived to the praise and glory of God. The theme of NH this week. He literally gave his life for Christ.  How appropriate, that today co-incides with this incredible anniversary. Surely the theme of this week is a radical corrective to the dominant theme of our culture – “It’s all about me.”

We live in a me-centred society. Even church life, sadly, can be more about us than about Him. Our local church can become a private club for the members rather than a bold an courageous place filled with people like Lawrence.

Several times in this very first chapter of Ephesians we have this refrain… “To the praise of His Glory.”

We were create by and through and for God… not unto us but to your name be the glory says the psalmist.  This is one of the secrets of life . We were made by God and for God and until we understand that, life will never make sense.

I remember a man who was reflecting on when “answer phones” were a new thing. The first message he heard was, “Who are you? What do you want? These are the big questions of life. Most people take a lifetime to answer them. You have 30 seconds.”

David’s vision for the temple was clear. This palatial structure is for God and not for us. Where is the temple here tonight? Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? Too often we forget that we are a walking temple. Too often we are self-focused and self-centred.

Who am I living for?

We are made for Him. We are to live to the praise of His glory. That is the purpose of your life and mine but the key issue is this: Let’s be honest. No fake news. Am I living for Him and for His praise and His glory?  To whom is the temple of my life dedicated? Is it really for the Lord God or is it for my selfish desires, my self interest or someone else or something else?  As you search your heart, ask: Who am I really living for?

What am I bringing into the temple of the Holy Spirit?

1 Corinthians 6:19: Remember how Jesus had to go into the temple and clear it out. It is the pure in heart who will see God. What are we bringing into the temple of our bodies? What are we feeding our minds with? What are we reading? What are we looking at? We are temples of the Spirit of holiness made for a God who is Holy. What habits are some of us secretly practicing that should never be found in the temple of God? Why are we poisoning His temple with jealousy and hatred and foolish slanderous thoughts about other Christians

Rikk said this morning, “No room for bitterness, betrayal and gossip in the kingdom of God.” What about our attitudes to other people?

Are we polluting God’s temple with pornography?  The Lord is saying to us, have done with that. Let us live to His Glory.

Live a different way; a way that is going to lead to change, not just in our lives but in our churches and in our communities. Walk the paths of purity and holiness.

In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul goes through stuff that used to be the mark of their lives. He says that by God’s grace you have been saved from all that stuff. In chapter 4, he lists the things that are not appropriate for the people of God. Paul is saying, “Say goodbye to the past. Live for His praise and glory. Our focus is different. We are living for a different reason.”

Paul summed it up, “For to me, to live is Christ.” That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He gives us a strength that is not our own.

Who is in control?

I remember the Ulster workers’ strike of 1974. The poster outside one of the shops said, “Sorry no power.” I remember thinking, “How often could that be written across our lives and outside our churches?” We are trying to do things in our own strength.

I remember seeing a sign outside Stormont Presbyterian church in Belfast, “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats.”

Some of us are so ruthlessly independent and we do not trust in Him. I really believe the Lord is saying, “Trust me. Lean on me. Rest in me. Start living my way. Live for my praise and glory.” What Paul prays is so powerful and relevant.

Look at Ephesians 3:16 – I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

Corrie ten Boom was leaving from a train station. She leant out of the window of the train and shouted to her friends, “Don’t wrestle. Just nestle.” Sometimes the Lord wants us to nestle in Him.

Sealed with His Spirit

In this first chapter of Ephesians, Paul says we have been selected, saved and sealed. Look at v14, You also were included in Christ… You were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Seals were so important in the past. They guaranteed the promise and showed the authenticity of a particular document.

AW Tozer – this seal is a sign of a God’s utter faithfulness to His people. It is His guarantee. This is a guarantee from God that is for all eternity. We are His forever. Any of us feel unsteady? A bit unsure? God has you and I in the palm of His hands and He is not going to let us go. We have an eternal security. He will hold us fast.

Loving His people

In a gathering of this size I have no doubt that some of us here tonight have been hurt by the church or by another Christian. Heartbreakingly, some of us cannot cope with church any more. Some of us get hurt, some of us do the hurting.

We are the recipients of His riches. Christ lovers are church lovers because we have been purchased with the blood of Christ. To love God’s people is not an option, it is a command. Maybe God is calling some of us to forgive and to start loving the church again.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. This emphasis has been one of the great strengths of New Horizon since it began. We are so thankful to God that we have had the privilege of hearing God’s word. We have been so blessed through New Horizon, not least with the friendships that have been forged with Christians from different traditions. We are called to love one another. Friendships forged here, have taught me to love and appreciate His people. I know in the church of Christ we make many mistakes. Hallelujah, it won’t happen in heaven. But despite all the mistakes, there are no people on the face of the earth like the body of Christ. I thank God for the church of Jesus Christ. I want us to go away excited about being a part of the church. It is a privilege. Let us live for the praise of His glory.

What a privilege to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ. And to receive God’s glorious inheritance and to go out tonight to wherever God calls us.

A call to pray

When the Holy Spirit moves in our lives we become praying people. How are our prayer lives. I’m passionate about seeing God at work. Surely these are words are words for Ireland, north, south, east and west, the key group of people are the people of God (we are good at blaming the politicians, etc. but we need to pray).

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

He wants the church to be part of this movement on this island.  In Columbia, there is a revival is going on. A pastor was moved by God to commit himself (with others) to prayer. After several weeks, the Lord said, “Don’t focus on bringing in the numbers, focus on bringing in my presence.” Last New Year’s Eve, one million Christians were out in the capital city praying for their nation.

As a teenager, a book that had a huge impact on me was The Cross and The Switchblade. As a pastor in a small rural church, he set aside an hour each night to pray (instead of watching the TV).

 Live a life worthy of your calling

He also says, be kind and compassionate to each other. Jesus gave everything as a fragrant offering. He wants you and I to be His aroma wherever we go. There is a city in France where there is a perfume factory. The people who work there always smell of that perfume. We need to spend time with Jesus, so we bring His aroma wherever we go.

At New Horizon in 1990 there was a young man sitting here and Charles Price was speaking.  That young man was deeply moved. He had been saying, “I’ll serve you in Ireland but not outside.” God spoke so powerfully and he stood up that evening and gave everything to Christ. He said, “God, I will go anywhere.” Because of his obedience over half a million young people in Uganda are now receiving an education and ¾ of a million are having running water. His name is Trevor Stephenson, the founder of Fields of Life.

We are called to live for the praise of His glory and, when we do, we will become agents of change and transformation.