Prayer – February 4th 2018 – Rev. Alan Dives

The Spiritual Disciplines - The Inward Discipline of Prayer

Psalm 46:10a.Be still, and know that I am God.”

Prayer changes our lives as it catapults us into the frontier of the spiritual life and God’s presence. Prayer is the primary means at God’s disposal for our transformation. If we are not willing to change then we must abandon prayer! No-one can ever possibly come into the presence of God and not be transformed – it is impossible! Every Old Testament prophet is only as they are because of being changed and charged by the personal presence of God. From personal experience, I dare suggest every New Testament and contemporary prophet as well.

James 4:3 reminds us that we do not receive because we do not ask correctly. I contend that this is the malady of much modern day prayer. That we do not know how to pray properly and that is why history repeats itself, even within the church. I can only imagine what would happen if a handful of Christians truly prayed correctly. Even the disciples who had grown up in faith and praying, asked Jesus to teach them how to pray! They saw something different in how Jesus prayed and the results of His prayer in how He lived, and they desired the same in their lives.

What was different?

  1. Jesus spent much time in prayer. Early morning, late evening and sometimes all night. The saints in faith did the same, having regular hours of prayer above all else -Luther, Wesley, Fox, Murray to name but a few.
  2. Jesus’ prayer was about becoming one with God. John 17 – various verses state – ‘the Father and I are one!’
  3. Jesus committed life direction in prayer – Gethsemane and the selecting of the disciples are examples.
  4. Jesus knew and exercised the power of prayer. This displayed how important it was to him and His ministry. He also stated that some demons can only be driven out by prayer.
  5. Jesus was convicted that God always heard His prayer. He never concluded a prayer with; “if it be your will?” His prayers coming directly from the presence of God and in accordance with God’s will, were direct commands and instructions; walk, be still, stand up! There was nothing wishy-washy about Jesus’ prayers – they were simple and direct.

Meditation lays the groundwork for the discipline of prayer. Prayer is the means through which the world is changed one life at a time, starting with that of the person praying.

Before we come to God with a list of all the things we and others need, we first need to come before God with our hearts and lives in our hands, submitting to His authority and reign over us. We are very quick to demand that the other person change when more often than not we need to change just as much, and it is we who need to be prayed for.

Is God going to change the course of history for us? Maybe, but unlikely. There are very few people over the course of time who have been able to persuade God to change His mind. More likely, it is through prayer that heaven gets into us and we are changed and see the world differently and then respond more appropriately to the challenges we face daily.

If you want your life to be different then pray, but don’t expect all around you to change dramatically and you remain the same. The opposite is more likely to be true, that we will change and be better equipped to deal with a callous world that goes, without thought for us, on its merry way. This is the experience most often after a funeral – the family mourns while the earth turns, and life continues without a moment’s hesitation.

So prayer is about us coming before God, being real, listening to God, understanding that we will change and being convicted of the desire and authority of God’s grace.

How then do we pray? – this is not a perfect, complete guide –

  1. Put a regular time that suits you aside in a place that is conducive to prayer.
  2. Slowly build up the length of time that you are able to pray – push yourself.
  3. Have any prayer resources necessary handy – bible, journal, cross etc.
  4. First come into God’s presence!
  5. Keep prayers real and simple.
  6. Persevere.
  7. Be obedient – Noah initially never knew why he had to build an ark.
  8. Read up about prayer, talk to others about their experiences.

Today we have just skimmed the surface of prayer – but hopefully it is enough to emphasise the importance of prayer and to encourage further personal study and practice. We don’t need to be spiritual giants to pray, we just need to be faithful at practicing it correctly.

Meditation – January 28th 2018 – Rev. Alan Dives

The Spiritual Disciplines – The Inward Discipline of Meditation

Isaiah 6:1-8

The modern adversaries are; noise; hurry and crowds, they keep us busy, busy, busy! Psychiatrist CG Jung remarked; “Hurry is not of the Devil, it is the Devil!” if we hope to move beyond the superficiality of our culture we must be willing to slow down and enter into recreating silence, into the inner world of contemplation.

 There was a time when the mystics were revered for their wisdom and faith through their reclusiveness. We need not be reclusive but we definitely need to slow down and be still before God. Unfortunately meditation is a foreign concept to many and it is even avoided as something belonging to other religions and philosophies. Biblically clearly this is not the case, Peter’s whole direction of ministry was severely challenged and ultimately changed through the vision of many animals been lowered down on a bed sheet, in Acts 10, as he was meditating and praying.

So firstly, let’s look at what meditation is not:

  • Not a connecting with strange spirits
  • Not an out of body experience – astral travel.
  • Not an emptying on oneself through repetitive repetition of a mantra – detachment!
  • Not something that should be entered into lightly – dealing with what is at the very centre of all life.
  • Not a quick fix

Let’s now look at what Christian meditation is; one of the most often asked question is ‘why don’t I hear God speak to me?’ Another is ‘I don’t know what God wants me to do?’

Meditation answers these questions:

  • Desiring to hear the voice of the living God. Frederick Faber wrote; ‘Only to sit and think of God, what a joy it is.’
  • Desiring God’s presence. Entering fully into the relationship or covenant that God offers us.
  • Being filled with the presence of God!

No wonder some are scared to meditate, as it boldly calls us into the presence of the living God – even Isaiah was afraid! But when we do ….

How to meditate;

  • Time is very important.
  • Venue must be quiet; inspiring; accommodating (time available);
  • Physical planning – writing materials; bible; focal points; comfort; read up about it.
  • Spiritual planning – becoming quiet – being aware of self – connecting with God.
  • Just start – something we learn as we go – not so easy to learn from a book.
  • Listen – with imagination or dreams more than physically.
  • Specific exercises; palms up and palms down; breathing – inhale and exhale; enter a biblical story; use a mantra to focus and guide.

An amazing journey to our beginning and our end! Not easy to start, it takes time to get things right. Moments of insight that will blow your world open and drive you to come back for more. Easy for some not so for others! I encourage all to exercise this means of grace available to each of us.

The Spiritual Disciplines – January 21, 2018 – Rev. Alan Dives


Matthew 6:19 – 21  “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But keep on storing up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal,  because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The word discipline is a swear word to some and a foreign concept to others! Why? Because normally we associate discipline with punishment for something done wrong! And so, the word generally has a negative connotation. Actually, the word means; ‘to apply a corrective action!’ It does not necessarily mean corporal punishment, but any action that will correct a wrong direction in life. Some also take it to mean that by being self-disciplined one is denied something desirable; ‘I have to be disciplined and stick to my diet and not eat the cake!’ Again, here a negative connotation is implied – giving up something nice for a stick of celery! Thankfully I love celery, especially with a big steak on it.

Unfortunately, we don’t often consider the positive side of being disciplined, of achieving something more than what we would otherwise have. It does take self-discipline to stick to our plans keeping our goal in mind – because I lived on celery for the last month my cholesterol has come down and I will live longer, and my life insurance will be cheaper. It does however also mean I will probably outlive my pension savings!

In this vein, the word discipline also refers to an action regularly undertaken or means by which we achieve a purpose. For us today, this is the understanding that needs to be at the forefront of our minds.

Looking to the year ahead our sole purpose as Christians should be to seek and be filled by God’s presence! Our whole energy should be for this purpose, knowing that if we achieve this we will be at peace with God, ourselves and others. There is not enough money in the world to buy such an existence.

The Spiritual disciplines are an essential means of achieving this goal! We need to know the various disciplines and be disciplined in our practice of them. So, until Easter we will learn more about spiritual discipline using Richard Foster’s book; ‘Celebration of discipline,’ as a resource and guide. You may already be exercising some or maybe many, of the disciplines, such as attending Sunday worship is a spiritual discipline.

Having just been on leave for two weeks and three Sundays I was reminded again how easy it is to simply stay at home. It is easier to remain there than it is to come to service. It takes a level of will and determination to get up early, get dressed and be here on time! The same applies to the other disciplines, it is easier not to do them than to organise, arrange, and forego other enticing opportunities than it is to exercise the discipline.

To encourage us we must constantly remind ourselves why we do what we do and believe what we believe! When we keep the bigger picture in the forefront of our minds it is encouraging and bolsters our determination.

So, before we go anywhere this year we all need to personally reflect on why we are here today? What do we seek, need or want? Having reminded ourselves we then need to take a hard look at our priorities, lifestyle and finances and ensure we are on the right track to what it is we desire.

My encouragement to you is to enter into this journey of discovering and exercising the Spiritual disciplines to the greatest extent possible because without them we are lost. Without them we will wander in the wilderness without a firm direction and it will be by pure luck should we achieve anything of what we desire. If we know what we want, are going in the right direction, and are resolute in our purpose, we will be virtually guaranteed of success.

The question remains; what do we want? Physical material things will never satisfy fully. They are nice to have but they soon lose their lustre and we want more or they need replacing. Do not for a moment think God does not know what you need, He knows better than you do what you truly need, and His promise is that He will supply it – many scriptures!

Today’s scripture reminds us that there are things we need to aspire to that will provide us that best in this life and the next – now wouldn’t those things really be worth something? We cannot take material things with us. Of course, we need some of them in this life, and God promises us enough of them. Our aim needs to be on far greater things that will not only mean a better life for ourselves, but also for those around us.

The Spiritual disciplines are a means of achieving the best for now and eternity. They open the door to God, liberation and all the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

They can be grouped into 3 main emphases;

  • Inward disciplines
  • Outward disciplines
  • Corporate disciplines

Richard Foster explores 4 disciplines under each of these 3 emphases – equally 12 disciplines.

A last word of warning before we start! Do not turn the disciplines into absolute laws that have to all be exercised at all times by everyone. Recognise which you already exercise and give yourself a pat on the back. Then recognise who you are and which disciplines you wish to exercise next, take them one at a time. Some you may exercise at special times of the year more frequently than in general – fasting over lent!

Very soon, if you persist, you will find you are closer to God than before and will be encouraged by how wonderful the journey is to exercise more of the disciplines. And lastly, this list is not complete. There may be other disciplines better suited to you and your journey of faith, continue exercising those disciplines.

We always need things to help us on a journey, to guide, to enable and to make it more pleasant. On the journey of faith this is the task of the Spiritual Disciplines! Exercise them well!

Lessons from Nehemiah -14th January 2018 – Rev. Allen Schnell

Lessons from Nehemiah

14th January 2018

Allen Schnell 14 January 2018

Nehemiah 1: 4- 2:8

Firstly, a little bit of background to our message today.

Nehemiah was in exile in Babylon. He was cupbearer to the King, which meant he chose the wine and tasted it before the King drank it to ensure it was not poisoned. In other words, he had a trusted and respected position in the house of the King.

His brother returns from Judea, and when Nehemiah asks about his old home, he is told it is in a mess. The walls are broken down, the gates have been burnt. When he hears this, he is shocked as he remembered Jerusalem in all its splendour.

What does Nehemiah do when he hears this news? He doesn’t say ”This doesn’t affect me“ or ”There’s nothing I can do”- instead he turns to his Almighty God in earnest prayer, over a number of days whilst fasting.  This shows how serious he is.

Now let’s look a moment at Nehemiah’s prayer.

He starts by acknowledging God or who He is.

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. (Nehemiah 1: 5-6)

Having done this, he confesses his sins and those of his fellow Israelites and remembers the warning given through Moses.

Only when he has done this does he turn to God with his request for success and favour with the King when he approaches him. We must remember that the kings of those days were fickle and could order a servant to be executed on a whim.

It’s interesting how he gets the kings attention.  I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.(Nehemiah 2: 1-2). This was not pre-planned by Nehemiah, but God used this to give him an opening …. and he was ready for it.

We need to note that he went before the King not only expectantly but also prepared. When the king asks how long it this would take, he is ready and sets a time. But he does not stop there, he continues and asks for letters of safe passage to Jerusalem. He still does not stop there, he also asks for a letter to the Keeper of the Kings forest for supplies.  He has spent time considering all he would need. He was well prepared.

And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. (Nehemiah 2: 8). Nehemiah acknowledges that this is not his doing but only through God’s intervention.  When God answers our prayers we know we are in His favour and moving in the right direction. But this doesn’t mean that it will all be plain sailing – the Devil will do everything in His power to stop something that is of God.

We find this was true for Nehemiah.

  • He was mocked – for what he was trying to do in the time he had
  • He and those working with him were physically and emotionally attacked
  • He was defamed by his enemy with false accusations.

But, while he trusted that God was with him, he took steps to be continually on guard and prepared against the attacks of the enemy. (Nehemiah 4: 16-18). They were prepared for attack just as we should be by daily putting on the full armour of God – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, (1 Peter 5:8-9)

What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah?

When stepping out into something new, no matter how big or small –

  1. We should earnestly seek God’s guidance, remembering how awesome and powerful He is – nothing is impossible for Him.
  2. We need to take a deep look at ourselves to see if there is any sin in our lives that can be blocking us from moving forward, and confess this. We might also have to acknowledge the sin of a bigger group.
  3. We need to be expectant to hear God’s answer to our prayers. This can come in many different ways.
  4. We need to be prepared for when the answer comes and ready to move forward. This could mean many different things, big or small, but we must be ready to go, trusting that God is with us.
  5. When this happens, we must know that the gracious hand of God is on us and we are in His favour. But this does not mean there won’t be challenges. We must never become complacent and let our guard down.

Nehemiah went forward with great expectations. And he saw God’s hand at work.

Let us also move into this year with great expectations!

“Jesus knows me this I love”

He – our shepherd – knows us and what we need even before we ask.

New Beginnings – 31st December 2017 – Rev. Allen Schnell

New Beginnings

31st December 2018

Allen Schnell


A comparison of the church in the West and the church in China shows that there is major growth of the church in China while facing major persecution. On the other hand, the church in the west is ‘soft’ and not growing at nearly the same rate.

Looking at new beginnings in the bible, we find many scriptures that speak of new spiritual growth, e.g. Psalm 40:1-3the emphasis here being on waiting patiently.

In Lamentations 3 Jeremiah speaks of the importance of earnestly seeking God and waiting on Him.

Then in Isaiah 42:1-7 and Jeremiah 33:31 there is prophecy of a new dispensation, a new covenant.

Ezekiel speaks of the new covenant being written on our heart – Ezekiel 36:26

What does this mean for us in the New Year? We live in the time of the new covenant and are reminded of this each time we share in communion, we are a new creation –

2 Corinthians 5:17

How do we respond to this? Jesus taught in Matthew 9:14-17, that people do not pour new wine into old wineskins because they will burst. We pour new wine into new wineskins.  Another scripture that speaks of this is 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

The challenge for us this New Year is, “What kind of wineskins are we?  Are we old wineskins trying to put new wine into them or are we going to be new wineskins ready to receive new wine?”

Finally, a challenge from Hebrews 10:19-25 to encourage each other and spur one another on in the coming year.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Come and See – 7th January 2018 – Deacon Ernie Nightingale

Come and See

7th January 2018

Ernie Nightingale

John 1: 29-42


How would your life be different if you were not a Christian? For some of us who have been surrounded by Christian people it’s hard to imagine another way of life, but what if you had no interest in God? How would your life be less or more or just the same?

What would you miss about church? For one thing, I’d never sing out loud in public were it not for church on Sunday! Seriously though, what religious activities could you do without, and how would you spend your time on Sunday morning? If you were not a Christian, would your life be more or less interesting?

Every once in a while the disciples thought about how different their lives would have been if they had never met Jesus. For some of them it all started so quietly, so unspectacularly – John the Baptist and two of his disciples see Jesus coming toward them. John makes a casual remark and two of his disciples turn around and follow Jesus.

In response to Jesus’ question about what they want, they almost sheepishly ask where he is staying – it’s as if they were caught off-guard by Jesus question!    

Jesus says, “Come and see” and the disciples stumble along, following without knowing where they are going, discovering well after the fact that they have wandered onto a path that leads to grace; a path filled with wonder and mystery; a way of life they could never ever have imagined

We know what happened – they spend the day with Jesus and have no idea whatsoever what they are getting themselves into. They don’t know that they will end up leaving their nets and boats, homes and friends and having a complete change of heart and attitude about almost everything.

What are we looking for?

So what are we looking for? What are we looking for in worship today and why did we come to church? Did we come with great expectations or is this what we do on Sunday – go to church that is. If we’re in church today for no particular reason, that’s okay because lots of people find their way “by accident”. .

What are we looking for? Deep in our souls we’re looking for something to believe in and hold on to; something important enough to live for, and something big enough to claim our passions. Whether we recognise this or not, we are looking for challenge and purpose – we are looking for God!

“Come and see” is how the disciples’ story begins. For us it’s an invitation to explore, discover and experience without knowing exactly where we are going, but to know that if we catch a glimpse of God, we will also catch a glimpse of who and what we can be.

Come and See

Let’s consider two possible responses to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”. One response could be similar to that of Nathanael – scepticism. Phillip invites Nathanael to “come and see”. Nathanael is sceptical at the start. His initial attitude toward Jesus is based on his preconception and his contempt for Nazareth, from which he thinks nothing good can possibly come. However, his actual experience of Jesus changes his mind.

Now that’s nothing unusual because there are many sceptics today. There are also people who find Jesus an interesting person and may even privately admire Him, but who reject the Christian faith in its entirety.

In some cases people have been blinded by their preconceptions about the church, just as Nathanael was blinded by his preconception about Nazareth. What they have heard or seen about the church – and generally from a distance of course – convinces them that the church is not the kind of place they should be involved in.

Are people’s preconceptions about the church being filled with cliques and hypocrites correct? Sometimes these preconceptions are unfair. People prejudge the church without actually getting to know it.

But the church (you and me) must also ask itself whether it has failed to offer people reasons why they should “come and see’. Does the church thoughtfully offer people a clear vision for life? Or does it offer a mixture of entertainment and superficial spirituality that satisfies in the short term but leaves people empty when the difficult questions and problems of life arise?

Now if we are convinced that the Christian faith holds the truth about human life, then we must, in all earnestness, show people how that truth makes sense and is embodied in our own lives, both as individuals and as a faith community.

The second response is about invitation – “come and see.” It’s not about cramming your faith down someone else’s throat and instilling the fear of God into them because they are not saved or they don’t speak in tongues or whatever other threat we might resort to.

We’re simply required to say “come and see”. Why? Because this news is so good it’s hard not to share, especially with people we care about. And if they aren’t interested or dismiss what we’re saying or make some sarcastic response, let’s not get discouraged, just try again!

Holy Spirit Partners

Several verses in the Bible make it clear that inviting (or witnessing if you prefer) is something the Holy Spirit and we do together. I like the way Paul put it in Acts 5:32, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 1:8 and Rev. 22:17 make the same point! It’s about team work – God chooses to use our witness, but God makes His witness too through the Spirit.

Keep this in mind when you feel you’re on your own and not making any headway – and remember it too when you’re tempted to take over, or become too pushy! You’re a team player not a lone ranger!

I wonder whether many of us find it awkward or uncomfortable to invite people to “come and see” because we ourselves might have forgotten what the true nature of the Christian life is all about?

Just in case you might have forgotten here’s a quick refresher course to get us going again:

  • It’s a new life, 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  • it’s life imparted by a new birth, John 3:3 – “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” and
  • it’s a new life experienced on receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, John 1:12 – “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Perhaps if we better understood that God has made provision in Christ for believers to enjoy victorious living, to have a more abundant life, to be delivered from bondage to sin and self and to have an assurance of eternity with God free from the problems and pains of this life we might be more encouraged to invite people to “come and see.”

Here’s a challenge – in December this year your church will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first service in these buildings was held in the hall on 8th December 2008. How about making your church vision for the year “Come and See’ – a call for each person to pray about whom God would like them to invite to “come and see.” 

We know that the good news of God’s love for us and for the entire world can be hard to believe. In fact, the more we honestly think about it the harder it may become to believe – that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the vast cosmos, not only knows we exist but cares about us – a thought so beautifully expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 139: 1-6.

Perhaps this helps us to understand why people aren’t sure, why they hesitate, why they’re afraid, why they believe they’re not good enough! Because the news is so good, it may seem too good to be true, so it’s okay if they’re not sure or walk away. Remember – it’s not our job to convert – just to invite!

Our response to the invitation

Perhaps we’re in church today because someone invited us to ‘come and see” and here we are to open ourselves to God who will lead us to new places and new adventures in our faith.

You see people who follow Jesus end up doing the things Jesus did – they care for the hurting, listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, pray for the broken-hearted, welcome the visitor and stranger and do so much more to love and serve God. They look for God and find extraordinary lives.

The people who follow Jesus come to seek the meaning of life, join with fellow travellers on the journey and ask God for help in living in God’s grace.

If we worship God, if we share our lives with other people looking for God, we will see beyond what we have assumed – we will find, like Nathanael, that God already knows about us, that God is looking for us – looking to offer us life.