come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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Guidance from the Holy Spirit – a service for 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 tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The Message for our Pentecost service this year was a very personal one. Vanessa has had some health issues recently and has at times struggled with accepting these challenges from a faith perspective. Whilst preparing for the service we looked at aspects of the Holy Spirit, and Vanessa brought us this powerful message of faith and trust. Members of the congregation took the various “parts” of the Holy Spirit and read the Bible verses.

Pentecost
Recently I have had to face I am not physically perfect and I can’t do anything about it. The term birth defect was used and it shocked me. I have an extra part in my heart which ends up short circuiting and makes my heart beat a bit quick, sometimes way too fast. A month ago I went to hospital again to get it slowed down, but what had worked in the past didn’t work this time. They finally got it sorted, but it wasn’t nice and it changed how I felt about things.

COUNSELOR:
Please help me I need a counselor to guide and help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am not afraid of dying because I know I will go to heaven and be with God – that’s something to look forward to really. But I don’t want to go now, not just yet. Will it be OK?
Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you. He will never leave you.(Deuteronomy 31:8)
Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER PARTNER/INTERCESSOR:
Please help me I don’t know how to put this into words. I have questions I don’t know how to ask. I have feelings I don’t know how to express. How can I pray to God when I don’t know what to say?
God’s Spirit is right alongside you helping. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does your praying for you, making prayers out of your wordless sighs and your aching groans. He knows you far better than you know yourself, and keeps you present before God. (Romans 8:26-27)

STRENGTH:
But life is always more just one thing. There are other things going on in life besides my heart. Sometimes I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend this isn’t happening or get in the car and drive until it all goes away.
You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives you. (Philippians 4:13)
God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to test you beyond your ability and strength, not to give you more than you can handle. He will provide you the way to handle this, to endure this patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

PEACE:
OK I’ll be honest – Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. I want to be well; I am tired of being tired. Why did I have to have this and why now? And sometimes I start to worry about what might happen. It just goes round and round getting worse and worse especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Talk to him, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your heart and your mind. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. (Philipians 4:7)

COMFORTER:
I forgot to mention I get scared. There are days when I have tears ready to fall, days when I cry. Sometimes I know why I cry, others I don’t. I get afraid.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power and of love and of calm. (2 Timothy 1:7)

GOD WITH ME:
And then I go quiet inside and feel God’s presence. Whatever this is about, or how it will turn out, it is in God’s hands, I am in God’s hands. He is a God of love
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

At Easter Jesus died on the cross, and they thought he had gone. But he rose from the dead, the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, so that we could all have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was not gone.
Jesus stayed for another 40 days. And then the last thing he said, as told in Acts 1, was to wait for the promised gift of God. He then rose in the sky to be with God in heaven. This time he was gone.

The promised gift was the Holy Spirit. We heard in the reading about its arrival: all wind and fire. I have been a Christian for many years, and had a relationship with Jesus but I didn’t know the Holy Spirit – to be honest I wasn’t sure about the wind and fire. However, over the last year I have intentionally and purposefully been asking the Spirit of God into my daily life.

The main thing it has done has changed the things I knew in my head into things I have experienced in my heart. The Holy Spirit is a counselor to help and guide you; helps you pray when you can’t; gives you strength and power; gives you a peace beyond all understanding; comforts you. And the Holy Spirit brings the gift of God’s presence into every situation you face right here, right now every day – if you ask.
(Vanessa)

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A game for Pentecost

 
Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is wind, we decided to get the kids blowing these lovely red plastic cups around. The twist was that each cup had a part of the verse for today on it, and they then had to put it all together on a board so that it could be read out.
 
 
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Pentecost Streamers
These streamers were really quick and easy to make. I found a pack of cheap girls bangles – 16 for $3! – to use as the base, then bought flame coloured parka nylon fabric (because it wouldn’t fray) and cut it into 1cm wide strips. Fold the strips in half, thread them through the bangles and tie them off. Everyone had fun making them, and even more fun waving them around in our last song!

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Elijah & the Prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18

Last week we looked a the story of the Contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. We illustrated our retelling of the story with two “altars” made out of cardboard boxes with cellophane flames. The altar for God had a hidden container into which we could pour water, before the flames were lit up from inside the box by a couple of torches being waved about.

The Story:
Well, we have been having an awful lot of rain recently, although I’m pleased to see that we actually have sun shining today. It is nice when the rain holds off for a bit – how long do you think would be good for us to go without rain? A week; a month; 2 months; a year?

How about 3 years? – would that be good? What sort of problems could that cause?

Well, I have a story about a time when there had been no rain in Israel for over 3 years. And why had there been no rain? Because the King, and most of the people, of Israel had turned away from God, worshipping false foreign gods. Most specifically they worshipped Baal, who was supposedly the god in charge of the rains. Now the prophet Elijah was sent by God to the King – King Ahab – to tell him that there would be no more rain – not even any dew on the ground – until the Lord God said so. So, three and a half years later and there has been no rain. The people have got fantastic suntans, but the food’s not growing very well, and there’s certainly no lounging around the pool – no pools!

Time for Elijah to put in another appearance:
“Hey, King Ahab. You getting thirsty yet? Are you ready to admit that there is only one true God and turn away from worshipping Baal?”

The answer was a definite NO!

“And what about you people of Israel? You can’t seem to make up your minds at all – if the Lord is God, follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways”

The people just mumbled and looked the other way.

So Elijah proposed a contest “let’s see who is the real deal – Baal, or the Lord God. Only one of them is the true God, so lets get them to show us which one it is! This is what we’ll do. We’ll go up to the top of Mount Carmel – all the prophets of Baal, and all the prophets of the Lord God. Now how many prophets have you got? 450. Okay, and how many prophets of the Lord God are there? Oh, that’s right, I’m the last one left. I do enjoy a fair challenge!”

The prophets of Baal built an altar. They piled it high with plenty of wood, then they chose a bull as a sacrifice, killed it and put it on top of the wood. What they didn’t bring was any matches, or lighters (they didn’t have them in those days), not even any flint to strike sparks with. Remember, this was to be a show down between Baal and the real God, so they had to get their god to light the fire. Feeling very confident they called out to Baal “Light the fire! Light the fire!” All 450 of them. All at the same time. But no flames appeared.

So they threw in a bit more showmanship – shouting out; dancing and leaping about; singing; they even started cutting themselves with knives! But, still no flames.

This went on for about three hours. Round about lunchtime Elijah started ribbing them about the lack of progress. “What? Can’t he hear you? Could be he’s gone out for the day. Maybe he’s sleeping and you need to wake him up! Or perhaps he’s a bit hard of hearing – shout louder!

The 450 prophets redoubled their efforts – more noise! More dancing! More shouting! But still, no flames.

The evening came and they were all getting a bit hoarse – probably cold as well because, guess what? Still no flames!

Now it was Elijah’s turn. Just Elijah, all by himself. “People of Israel,” he said. “Come here and pay attention to me.” He took 12 stones – one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel – and repaired the altar of the Lord God, which was in ruins. He piled wood on the altar; he dug a trench around the altar; he killed his own bull and put that on top of the wood. And then…. well, he asked for water. Four large jars of it. And what did he do with the water? He had it poured all over the wood. Then he asked for four more jars and did the same with them. And then four more jars.

So there he is, with this soaking wet sacrifice on top of a soaking wet pile of wood on top of a soaking wet stone altar. Elijah lifted his arms and prayed “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, so that these people will know that you are God, and turn their hearts back to you again.”

And the flames came. The fire of the Lord God burnt so fiercely that not only the sacrifice and the wood were destroyed, but the stones vapourised in the heat; the earth all around was scorched, and the water in the trench surrounding the altar evaporated.

The people fell to the ground in fear and amazement – they now knew the truth, and cried out “The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!”

But what about the rain?

Elijah sent his servant to look towards the sea. And all that he could see was blue skies – far into the distance, and as far as the horizon; blue skies.

Elijah sent him back for another look. Still nothing. Seven times Elijah sent him to look towards the sea, and the seventh time the servant reported “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and the Lord God sent a heavy rain on to the land of Israel, where the people had now turned away from Baal, proclaiming the Lord God to be the one true God.

 

The Message:
This was a story from the Bible I don’t remember hearing before  – and I loooove it, laugh out loud love it. I love the story of the challenge, one for God, 450 for Baal. I love how Elijah drenched  everything in water just to make it interesting, prove a point, push the limits, and how God didn’t just light the fire it was such an over-the-top bonfire the water evaporated and burnt everything to a cinder – and in my head I hear na na na na na.  I love this story it appeals to my sense of humour. And yes it is a good story but that is not why we chose to share it with you today.

So from this story – what can we learn about God? What can we learn about ourselves?

Elijah said “If the Lord is God follow him. If Baal is god, follow him. You can’t have it both ways.The first Commandment: You shall have NO other Gods but me.

Jesus said: Love the Lord God with ALL your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest and the most important commandment.

We don’t put God first. I don’t put God first – not all the time, that’s the truth. I think I will have time to read the Bible, or have some time with him later, but the day disappears before I get to it, and that’s OK because I will do it tomorrow, really I will. Sometimes I don’t.

I have been thinking…. what is it that we are putting before God. In today’s society there is more emphasis on Jesus’s second commandment “You shall love others as you love yourself“ than on the first. You are taught to show respect, be kind to one another and to have good morals, but there is a growing resistance to having the Bible taught in schools. There is a resurgence of people looking for God in all kinds of spiritual ways – but not Jesus. And what is this new thing that at Christmas as a society we are starting to say Happy Holidays to each other instead of Merry Christmas. Why? because it refers to Christ and we don’t want to offend anyone who isn’t a Christian. It is Christmas – it has Jesus’ name in it, not to mention it celebrates the day he was born.

Where has God gone? We can’t change society or our community, we can’t change our friends, or our husband, wife, or children. Don’t look at anyone else – look up at God and then look in the mirror. That is who God wants to know and that is who he wants to change. And then, it is only through God that everything can change.

In this moment, lets stop and ask if there is anything in your life that takes precedence over God, where God doesn’t come first – you can’t have it both ways.

Elijah soaked everything in water so it would be so impossible to light a fire – it would take an act of God; it would take a miracle. There are symbols in the Bible that represent the Holy Spirit – a dove, wind, water and fire. Water and fire. Elijah was soaking the whole moment in the Holy Spirit. When you are praying for God to show himself and feeling outnumbered or alone – do an Elijah and soak that moment in the Holy Spirit, stand back and get ready for a miracle. Hey – even expect a miracle, it can get quite exciting. God likes to do the hard stuff, it shows that he is the one true God.

And so all the people turn fully towards God, not sharing him with any other worship. Then after a 3 year draught, the rain came, just like that – no. Elijah sent his servant out seven times to look for clouds. For the big bonfire moment, Elijah prayed and BOOM – action. Rain – that took time. Sometimes the miracle is BOOM just like that, sometimes it takes time, it just always happens in God’s perfect timing.

Vanessa

The Prayers:
Amidst the noise around us, the crying out in desperation for answers from today’s false gods, let us be still.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

We cry to you Lord God, for those afflicted with an abundance of rain, and those afflicted with not enough. Work your miracles through us, that all may have sufficient food and safe shelter.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who suffer at the hands of their own governments – the very people who should uphold their rights and welfare. Work your miracles, that all peoples may know freedom and security.

We cry to you Lord God, for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Work your miracles that they may find the healing they need, in you, and through those who are your hands in this world.

We cry to you Lord God, for those who do not know you; those who do not know that they are lost, who do not know who to cry out to. Work your miracles through us Lord, that we will shine as beacons, leading them to you.

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord God and send our cries and pleas to the only one who can answer us. Let us wait in confident expectation of a miracle.

Amen

Gail