Getting Involved in the Work of God

To conclude our final meeting of the Spring 2017 season, Stephen Moore shared a message from the Word of God to encourage the young people in their service for Him. Reading from 1 Peter 3, Stephen reminded the young people that it is their duty to get involved. He also stated that we, at any age, can be involved in service for Christ wherever and whatever we are dong, but only through His power. And finally, he concluded that we will have our reward. The Lord is a rewarder of those who seek Him and of those who serve Him.

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The Testimony of Victoria Reid

In our final meeting of the 2017 Spring season, Victoria Reid explained how she came to know the Lord. Victoria realised that, despite her privileged upbringing in a Christian home, she herself needed to come to Christ as a sinner and accept, in faith, the price that He paid for her sins. Victoria has attends Listooder Youth Fellowship for several years, and also attends Saintfield Baptist Church where she was recently baptised. She shared how this had given her a moment, not only to obey the command of God, but to publicly declare her faith in Christ.

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Pivots and Hinges of Life

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome back former Listooder leader, James Greer, who brought an interesting subject considering the hinges and pivots of life. Beginning with a classic 'sword-drill', with verses from the Bible all featuring the little word but, James considered some major hinges of Scripture upon which some great Biblical truths hang.

Firstly the FALL, where in God's perfect creation Adam and Eve were given the freedom of the Garden of Eden, 'but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil' (Genesis 2:17) they were not to eat. Satan deceived them, they disobeyed the command of God, and sin entered into the world.

We were then reminded of our FAULTS in the story of Namaan. He was a mighty man, captain of the host of the king, 'but he was a leper' (2 Kings 5:1). Namaan's FLAW is a picture of our own sin, passed down from Adam and by nature separating us from God.

In Isaiah we read of the FRUSTRATION of a life without God, wearied with the burden of sin, 'but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength' (Isaiah 40:31). There is a new FUEL given to those who rely on Christ for salvation.

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered at the hands of men. The one who was perfect, the one who came to save our souls was not received as a king, 'but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities' (Isaiah 53:5). He came to bring us a FUTURE with God, and through His suffering we can have FAITH in all that He offers to His children.

In being brought, once again, into a close and loving relationship with the God of heaven, through the blood of Jesus Christ, the FEAR of eternal punishment is replaced with a reverance and love for God. No longer need we fear the retribution of God, 'but unto you that fear My name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings' (Malachi 4:2). There is healing from sin in a close relationship with Christ.

Born in darkness, as we all were, we had no prospect of healing and therefore no hope, 'but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ' (Ephesians 2:5). Those of us who have turned to Christ for Salvation, in faith, have been FORGIVEN of our sins, and FILLED with the rightoeusness of God, through Jesus Christ.

Without Christ there is separation, loneliness and eternal despiar, 'but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another' (1 John 1:7). Restoration to the Lord not only brings us close to Him, it also gives us the joy of Christian FELLOWSHIP. As part of the family of God, we can join with our brothers and sisters in Christ, share a close family connection and rejoice with others, anywhere, who know and love our Saviour.

Even as believers, however, we need to be wise. Many false prophets are in the world, teachings things about God that are not found in the Bible. Yet God has given us a divine understanding to discern what is of Him and what is FALSE, revealed in the keeping of the commandments of God. Those who do not strive to follow the teachings of Christ are liars, deceiving both themselves and others, 'but whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected'. The love of God is made perfect and complete in the lives of those who truly believe.

This falseness comes as a warning to those who live as though they are redeemed, yet have never come to Christ for salvation. They are deceiving themselves, living as those who have hope, while remaining in the darkness and rebellion of their own sin. But for those who have humbly called unto God for forgiveness, He has given them forgivness, new fuel and the joy of true fellowship, both with Himself and all of His children.

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Prayer and Fasting (Matthew 6)

We were joined by David Shields, who covered the Biblical principles of Prayer and Fasting and presented their relevance to Christian lives today. David began by considering these as two of the many 'holy habits' that Christians should be regular engaging in.

Reading from 1 Timothy chapter 4, David highlighted the trend of many churches who attempt to appeal to the world's logic and the world's standard for living. This is in stark contrast to the words which Paul uses here to encourage Timothy. He encourages the young man to be set apart from the world, to put aside its expectations and strive to live fully for Christ.

This is no simple task. It takes time, effort and discipline. Just as those who train for a sport or learn a new instrument, we must make our walk with Christ a dedicated, habitual process that draws us closer to Him.

Prayer should be a habit. In Matthew chapter 6, the Lord gave us a wonderful pattern for prayer. Beginning 'Our Father' we are reminded of the privileged position that we have, to come and speak openly to the Creator of all things, as a son or daughter would speak to their own father. But we are also shown that prayer is not primarily about us, but about Him - 'thy will be done'. God's way is perfect, and a desire for His will is a desire for Him to do with us, and to us, what He feels need to be done. Sadly, we often have our own ideas on what God should do, and so miss out on the joy of seeing His will done in our lives and in the world around us.

Of course, we also have needs. The prayer of Matthew 6 acknowledges that. 'Give us this day...' - we ask God to provide our daily needs and daily guidance. Even in this, we ought to praise Him for the knowledge and power to sustain us and direct us. 'Forgive us our sins...' - we must accept our worthlessness before Him, knowing that we don't deserve to be heard, yet He hears us. Knowing that we don't deserved to be helped, yet He helps us. We don't deserve to be forgiven, yet, praise God, He forgives us our sins. 'Lead us not into temptation' - we ask Him to protect us, knowing that we cannot fulfil this request on our own.

Fasting is also implied here as an expectation on believers, rather than a command that needs to be made. Christ Himself fasted, as did the apostles and the early church as a whole. Praise, prayer and study are common in churches of our land, but where is the fasting? Is it because it is the only one of the so-called 'holy habits' that causes physical discomfort? Is it simply and sadly that we do not see such 'suffering' as a price that we are willing to pay for a closer walk God?

So how would we benefit from fasting? For one thing it would be a humbling experience, bringing a realisation of our own weakness before God. It would certainly test us, uncovering whether we have allowed food and other daily requirements to become a hinderance to our worship of the Lord. And it would remind us, as Scripture does, that man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

As with most things, there is a right way and a wrong way to carry out this habit. We are not be as the Pharisees were, who went about with long faces so that everyone knew they were fasting. No, fasting, like prayer, is a deeply personal thing. It must be discret, between yourself and your heavenly Father, for God's glory and not for our own. Fasting will bring us closer to the Lord. He wants us to seek Him, and Him alone.

It is something we should not take lightly. On the day of judgement, many of the nation of Israel will be judged for their worshp of the golden calf and other idols, made by the hands of man. Our generation will be held to account for their worship of celebrities, television and mobile phones. What is it that is keeping us from being wholly given over to the service of God? Maybe that is the thing we should consider fasting from as we seek to draw nearer to Him.

Neglect not the gift that is in thee... meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (1 Timothy 4:14-15).

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Grace Ministries - Mission to the Philippines

In 2016, Listooder were involved in the successful #BibleBox campaign, collecting almost 300 well used and well loved Bibles to be sent out to the Philippines for the work of God there. Tonight, we were delighted to welcome Gareth McDowell, to whom we sent those Bibles, to give us a report on the movement of God in this land.

Gareth began by sharing some of his early experiences sitting under Gospel teaching and learning of the free offer of salvation. Gareth was saved young, but was reluctant to get involved in the meetings in which he had been attending. Yet despite his reluctance, and despite challenges with his speech, God made it clear to Gareth that he was to be involved in missionary work - specifically the mission field of the Philippines.

Serving there with his wife and family since 1999, Gareth arranges for food, clothing and other essential supplies to be sent from Northern Ireland to the Philippines as a form of disaster relief from frequent flooding and other natural threats. He then works with local pastors to distribute the supplies to the people in need. He also recieves Bibles, tracts, Gospel literature and gift packs that can be used by the church leaders for outreach to the local communities of the cities of Tarlac and Manila.

In ecouraging the local Christians, and providing them with this material, they equip them with the ability to share the Gospel in a minstry of love and compassion for the needs of the people. They hold children's meetings, house meetings, ladies' meetings and Sunday services. At a recent youth camp, which Gareth had the pleasure of being involved in, 30 young people came to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a challenging work. The Lord is greatly blessing it, and giving Gareth and his family many tokens of encouragement. Their love for the souls of those around them is mighty, and a challenge to each one of us. The need is great, and Gareth would be very grateful of both your prayerful and financial support as they continue to serve the Lord in South-East Asia.

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Men and Women of Faith: ABRAHAM

Continuing on from our group Bible Study on the subject of Abraham, we were joined by Brian McCoubrey who also considered aspects of the life of 'Friend of God', who features so heavily in that wonderful chapter of faith, Hebrews 11.

It was in this chapter that Brian began, commencing at verse 8. As he considered also some of the other characters of faith, Brian pointed out that other individuals who appeared here do not feature too heavily in other parts of Scripture. What a wonderful reminder that God takes note of faithful actions of His children, no matter how small they may seem to us at the time.

The first thing that Brian considered about Abraham was that he was a saved man. In Matthew 11, Christ Himself speaks of the multitudes of people that will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. Abraham's faith in God was a saving faith, and as we read in Genesis 15, "Abraham believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness".

As well as having a saving faith, Abraham also had a faith to follow. God called Abraham out of Ur, a place of idolatry and faithlessness, and asked him to move out for a land that would be shown to him. Even today, God asks us to turn our back on the sinful things of this world, and step out in faith to accomplish the great plan that God has for our lives. That is a challenge to every believer. Are we prepared to step out, in faith, and claim the promises of God? I will shew thee... I will make of thee... I will bless thee... I will bless them... Abraham received promises from God, tokens of grace and guidance that he could grab hold of when the challenges of the journey came upon him.

In dealing with these challenges, Abraham was not always perfect in the way he handled them. His appearance, however, in Hebrews 11, gives us the wonderful thought that failure is not final. What an encouragement, when we find ourselves constantly stumbling and falling in our walk with God, that even the 'Friend of God' had times of great failure in his relationship with His Heavenly Father. When the challenge of famine came upon Abraham his reaction was to find himself among the company of the ungodly, and in Egypt he made the unwise decision that could have brought danger and great shame upon him and his family. Spending too much time in the company of those who don't love the Lord will affect our decisions, our judgement and our wisdom. Abraham's fear of man caused him to falter in his walk with God. Likewise we must understand who it is that we serve, and strive to live a life that pleases God, rather than men. Failure is not final. God is faithful to forgive us our sins, if we just confess them to Him. He will forgive us and restore us.

As the promises of God began to be fulfilled in Abraham's life, God had a test for him to go through. God often tests us in our lives, not to try and bring us down, but to bring us through, stronger, bolder and closer to Him. This is why God tested Abraham when he asked him to take the son which was promised, which Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years to come to pass, and sacrifice him upon the mountains of Moriah. This was the moment we understand Abraham's reaction to his future that was promised. Rather than argue, he obeyed. Rather than delay, he rose up. Rather than question, he believed. Abraham's faith in God was so strong that in Hebrews 11:19 that he believed even that God could raise his son from the dead again. God had never yet demonstrated His power over death yet, in faith, Abraham believed in that power.

Abraham never did have to sacrifice his son, but his faith is a great lesson to us. Does God have a troubled path for you to follow, a path that you do not understand? Trust in God. Believe that He has a great purpose for your life. Believe that even in the deepest darkness, God can take your hand and lead you through to the fulfilment of the promised future.

Abraham believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness - Genesis 15:6

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What was God doing in 2016?

Tonight we welcomed back John Hanna to consider some of the devasting, staggering and 'random' events of 2016, and consider the question: what was God doing?

Turning to John 16, and reading it in full, our attention was drawn to the final verse of the chapter and to the final words "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world". The Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.

So, what is 'the world' in this case? In the context we read that 'in the world ye shall have the tribulation'. The world is 'tribulation' for the Christian. It is a heavy weight, a hinderance and a challenge to our Christian walk. It is unpredicatable, it is uncertain and it is potentially destructive. Yet, with this knowledge, many people trust in the world for comfort and for contentment. But if we are trusting solely in Christ, we have sure foundation, a rock, with which to build our lives upon.

When we look around us at the world, our faith can be shaken. But we are reminded that in overcoming the world, Christ already reigns victorous over it. Whether challenged morally, physically or intellectually, we can be encouraged that these challenges will not and cannot last. They have already been defeated. God is not merely everlasting; He is eternal. God exists outside of time itself, from where He controls every event within time - from the actions of human beings to the pattern of the mighty waves and the division of a tiny cell. God is sovereign. God is in control.

What was God doing in 2016? We don't know. But we know that He is constantly working out His purposes. The world is unpredictable. It is no friend of the Christian. But Christ is the same, last year, this year and forever. What happens around us, to us, or in spite of us, does not matter. Christ remains in control.

What are you resting on for security? Your British citizenship, your European allegiance, your celebrity icons or your financial status? If 2016 has told us anything, it is that none of these things can be relied upon. Everything falls away. But Christ, He alone will never change. He alone is secure. He alone is eternal. What are you resting on? Put your faith in Christ, not just for your salvation, but for everything! Stand back and see what God has done.

He has overcome the world.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest - Matthew 11:28

 

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The Hands of the Saviour - Kyle Boyd

The first meeting of 2017, saw a good crowd of young people gathered into the hall as we welcomed back Kyle Boyd to speak. Opening the Word of God in Mark chapter 6, where the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was recounted, Kyle began to consider the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this passage, Christ showed that He had compassionate hands. Despite the exhaustion of the day, the hunger of his own body and that of His desciples, the Lord used His hands to produce a miraculous abundance of food. Not only were the people satisfied, but they were completely filled. The compassionate hands of the Saviour are infinitely abundant in reaching out to help His people.

Moving over to Luke 22, Kyle then considered the praying hands of Jesus Christ. In coming to His Father, with the shadow of the cross looming over Him, Christ's humanity is in full view. He is in need of support from His Father, desiring the comfort that comes from Heaven. In this action, the Lord not only shows us His human nature, but sets before us an example of prayer. We must bring our needs to our heavenly Father, trusting Him to take our troubles and cares upon Him and perform His perfect and wonderful will in our lives.

The working hands of Christ are found back in Mark 6. Verse 3 reminds us of His working background, as a carpenter, no doubt working alongside His earthly father in Nazareth. This paints a very interesting picture of a man who works with His hands, shaping and moulding the wood to create beauty, yet who's hands were in turn cruelly taken and nailed to the old wooden, rugged cross. As a carpenter, Christ also showed us an example of dedication and motivation to work, a lesson which is of great benefit in church, in school and in our employment.

In Matthew 14, as Peter cries out to the Lord to save Him, we find the saving hand of Jesus reaches down and saves Him out of the water. Christ was nearby, He was willing and He was ready. All Peter had to do, in verse 30, was to cry out for help and he would get it. Even today, the Lord is waiting, listening for the cry of the sinner's heart. He is nearby, He is willing and He is ready to save. We just need to cry to Him for the salvation that He freely gives us. Salvation from sin, salvation from eternal separation from God and salvation from hell. Christ's hands are ready to save.

Finally, turning to John 20, Kyle reminded us that the hands of the Saviour were pierced hands. Christ's hands, right now in heaven, retain the marks of the brutal death He suffered on the cross. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, bled and died for the sins of the world. His nail-pierced hands are the eternal evidence of His love for men, women, boys and girls. When we see the hands of the Saviour in Eternity, we will be compelled, as Thomas was in verse 28, to utter the words 'my Lord and my God'. Will you see those hands in glory? Will you see the Saviour face-to-face?

The hands of the Saviour are compassionate, praying, working and saving hands. THey are hands pierced by the brutal nails on the cross. If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, they are also the hands that will welcome you into hands, and the hands that will place that Crown of Glory upon your head. What a wonderful thing to look forward to. The hope of every believer.

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Dinosaurs in the Bible?!

Philip Robinson joined us again to consider the challenge many believers face against those who claim that God's creation of the world is a lie. This time around he focused on the topic of Dinosaurs, and how perceptions of these magnificent creatures have been shaped by many sources. For example, the tagline of the famous dinosaur movie, Jurassic Park, "65 million years in the making", presumes that the account of creation was not correct and that instead everthing evolved slowly over time.

While merely a Hollywood film, Jurassic Park, and other sources of a similar theme, have been instrumental in the belief that evolution alone has the answer to the origin and extinction of great beasts such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. There is, of course, an alternate view to this one. It is a view that opposes evolution, ocurred within thousands of years - not millions - and places God in control of everything we see, feel and hear. It is the view of the world contained within the pages of Scripture; detailed for us in the book of Genesis.

While considering these two contrasting views, it is important to realise that these views are based, not on Operational Science (which which can be tested, repeated and observed), but on Origin Science (that which must be extrapolated from the evidence we see before us). Whether we believe in evolution or creation, the evidence at our disposal is the same. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle to see the final picture. The difference, for Christians, is that we know what the final picture looks like before we began fitting together the pieces. This gives a unique insight into the evidence and how it all fits together.

There are many challenges with the evidence. In particular, with dinosaurs, the fossils which have been found do not have labels that say how old they are, and with so much room for error in the dating process it is impossible to be sure of the numbers. It is then necessary to look for other things we are certain of. In some interesting recent discoveries, soft tissue and DNA have been found in dinousaur bones. While, again, it is not known exactly how old these finds are, it is well established that bone tissue and DNA would not survive beyond a few thousand years. This further piece in the puzzle supports the view that God created man and beasts (inlcuding dinosaurs) on day 6 of creation, around 6,000 years ago.

Another interesting piece of the puzzle is the existence of clear drawings and descriptions of dinosaurs made well before the first fossil discoveries. Carvings on walls, etchings on stonework, stories of dragon-like creatures being fought by brave humans and Biblical references to large grass-eating beasts with tails like trees and bones of iron. The evidence strongly suggests that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, once again supporting the presentation of Creation in Genesis 1.

So, then, what happened to them? If these mighty beasts (although not all were large), lived alongside man within the last few thousand years, why are they not still here today? Firstly, we can't say for certain they are not, as not all areas of the world have yet been explored. Secondly, since the book of Job was most likely written after the Flood, they must have made it on to the Ark, built by Noah. There are many who would mock this notion, but as Philip explains, it is perfectly reasonable that a range of dinosaurs would have been able to fit onto the Ark - perhaps up to 50 different types!

The dinosaurs, like all the other animals, would have then left the ark to find food and reproduce. It appears this happened successfully until at least the days of Job and likely much more recently (according the markings that have been found and the 'legends' uncovered), before they died out through natural means - and perhaps hunting - like so many other ancient species before and after them.

The Bible is true from the beginning. When we read of God creating large, land-dwelling beasts on the same day as He created man, there is no reason for us to doubt this. Nor should there be any reason to fear what scientists and archaeologists will discover under the ground. While the extrapolations and best-guess scenarios of many scientists have seemed to be in direct contradiction with what the Bible teaches, the actual evidence itself has been far from that. In fact, when viewed through the completed picture of the Bible, the evidence takes on much more meaning and makes a lot more sense than through evolutionary eyes.

Sinful man will not want to accept that God exists, that He created us and that He can both judge and redeem us. But the actions of sinful men should not taint our enjoyment and excitement of new scientific discoveries, for with every new discovery comes a further example of God's great power and His wonderful creation of the world. Science books change constantly as new evidence is found, highlighting errors in the previous versions. On the contrary, the Word of God remains the same, as yet another piece of evidence adds weight to the claim of God.

The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
'Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.

The Bible stands tho' the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.

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Men and Women of Faith: ABEL

Continuing our long-term series on the characters of faith found in Hebrews chapter 11, Scott Woodburn spoke on the story of Cain and Abel, focusing on the faith displayed by Abel. Before stepping into the Word of God, however, Scott briefly shared his testimony, recounting how the Lord saved him as a young man when he came into contact with both Christian company and with the glorious Gospel.

Moving on to Genesis 4, where we read that God accepted the offering of Abel, we also find that the offering of Cain was rejected. This made Cain very angry, against both his brother and against God. Driven by his anger, Cain then killed his own brother. As with many who read the Scriptures, Scott shared how he first, as a young child, sympathised with Cain. Why should his offering be rejected? Why would God treat him so unfairly? But as Scott grew in his knowledge of Scripture, he began to realise that there was a far deeper understanding to be had of this passage. Allow the Bible to interpret itself, which is how it is meant to be, we read in Hebrews 11 that Abel came to God by faith. Abel came believing in the holiness of God and the importance of the sacrifice.

Cain, on the other hand, did not come with either faith or a sacrifice. He came his own way, of the work of his hands, in a faithless and selfish act. This is key to why Cain's offering was not accepted. The sacrifice is critical, as it points back to Genesis 3 and the clothing of animal coats provided to Adam and Eve. It was from innocent animals who had to die that a 'covering' might be made for sin. This set a standard that only the shedding of blood could atone for sins; only the sacrifice of an innocent party could satisfy the wrath and justice of God. That standard was what was ignored by Cain.

The sacrifice also points us forward. The sacrifice of an innocent lamb, for the sins of an individual, is a beatiful picture of the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. The Lord Jesus, in dying on the cross, taking upon himself the sins of the whole world, became the ultimate sacrifice - the final sacrifice. In Christ, those who trust in Him have been set free from the stranglehold of sin. We have been redeemed by faith. We have been redeemed from sin by the faith that saved Abel, the same faith that saved Abraham and the faith that saved Paul.

The story of Cain and Abel is not about Cain, and how unfairly he was treated. It is not even about Abel, and how he was accepted of God. It is about Christ. It is about His love, His suffering and His redeeming power through His precious blood. Are we trying to get through life our own way, relying on the favour of God on our good deeds? Do we reject the notion that there can only be one way to get to Heaven and insist on testing God with alternatives? Or do we humbly accept our own worthlessness, as Abel did, knowing that Christ alone has the power to forgive sin. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Impossible. Abel had the joy of being the first believer to be received into Glory, as the redeemed of God. Be sure that you will join him, by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.

"...to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Heb 12:24

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