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Service at Home – 11th July

Service at Home for 11th July 2021

for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 11-07-2021

As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you may want to use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.

Welcome and introduction

Watch: Welcome and introduction

Welcome to this week’s service at home. This week we look at what the Gifts of the Spirit are, why they’re so important and how we can receive and start using them. In particular, we see why they’re like the tools in our toolbox, which God gives us to do his work and to strengthen and encourage each other.

Watch: What a beautiful name it is

Watch: How great Thou art

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

O Lord my God, I do indeed worship you when I see the wonders of your creation, from the stars and mountains to the birds singing in the trees. I worship you for this world that you have created for us, with its beauty and everything that we need for us to flourish. Most of all I worship you because you sent your son to this world to die for each one of us, to take away the result of my sin, so that I can be at one with you for all eternity.

Lord, when I consider what you’ve done for me, I’m ashamed that I withhold so much from you. When I consider how much you love me, I’m ashamed that my love for you and for other people can be so lacking in comparison. So Lord, in a short time of quiet, help me to bring to mind the ways in which I’ve let you down….

Lord, I confess these failings to you now……

Lord, forgive me.

I thank you that through the sacrifice that your son Jesus made for me, I can be absolutely certain that you have forgiven me and the burden of my sin has been removed.

Lord, I know that your Spirit is with me now. Help me to feel you living in me. Help me to be open to what you want to teach me and the gifts that you want to give me. Amen.

And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name;

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Watch: Way Maker Miracle Worker

Prayers of intercession and Bible readings

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Bible readings

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God, we pray for the world you have made. Help us to see the people and situations we are praying about through your eyes. Equip us through your Holy Spirit to respond as you guide us.

We pray for all victims of human trafficking and all those who are exploited or abused. We thank you for the work of the Salvation Army to rescue and support victims of human trafficking in the UK..

We pray for those who are suffering because of the wildfires in Cyprus and in Canada.

We hold in your love those who have been bereaved by the collapse of the apartment block in Miami and those who are still waiting for news of missing loved ones.

We pray for your worldwide church.  We ask for a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit to equip us and our brothers and sisters throughout the world to meet the challenges and new opportunities for service that have arisen because of the pandemic.

We pray for our community.

We hold in your love all in hospital or suffering at home and those who care for them.

We bring to you in the quiet of our hearts those especially known to us who are in need of our prayers today.

We pray for our schools, their pupils, staff and governors.  We ask you to protect and bless them and their families as they celebrate the end of term with special activities and look forward to the holidays.

We pray for ourselves.  We thank you for your faithful, unfailing love and provision.  We ask you to strengthen and sustain us in all that we do.  Renew and refresh us by your Holy Spirit and help us to live to your glory.

We ask our prayers in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Gospel reading: John 14:8-14

Epistle reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 & 14:1-5

Watch: Spirit Break Out

Sermon

Watch: Sermon

Sermon

What are your thoughts about the gifts of the Spirit?

Different Christians have very different views. For some they’re a bit scary – pushing them well outside their comfort zone. Some are suspicious of them – or they’re suspicious of people who say they have these gifts. Some don’t even believe they exist. But for others, the gifts of the Spirit are as commonplace as praying and singing hymns.

But whatever you think about the gifts of the Spirit, there’s no escaping the fact that God gives them to us to do His work: in other words, they’re the tools in our toolbox. And therefore we need to know about these gifts, and learn how to receive and use them.

So that’s what we’re going to do today. Except that as the gift of healing is such a big topic, we’re going to look at that separately in a couple of weeks.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the gifts listed by Paul, which we heard just now. In addition to healing there’s wisdom, knowledge, faith, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues. Rather than looking at each one in turn, which would take a long time, we’re going to group them together with similar ones.

So we’ll start with what many people think are the most puzzling ones – speaking and interpreting tongues. When we read Corinthians, it might appear that Paul is dismissing speaking in tongues, but he does say: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues”. It’s just that, as he points out, it’s not as useful to the church as other gifts, such as prophecy. I suspect, from what Paul writes elsewhere in his letter, that the gift of tongues was being rather overused in some of the early churches, possibly even as a bit of “showing off”, which we must never do.

So what is speaking in tongues? Well, quite simply it’s allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us in a language we don’t know. Sometimes it’s a real language, like if I suddenly started speaking Chinese. But usually it’s a language that nobody knows, but it is recognisable.

Because Tongues is a language that we don’t know, we don’t actually understand what we’re saying, so I can understand if you’re wondering what’s the point. But there are five very good reasons why it’s a very useful tool in our toolbox.

  1. Praying in tongues enhances our daily prayer life. When I pray in tongues I feel really close to God and it gives me a lovely warm feeling inside that’s difficult to describe.
  2. God often seems to give the gift as a sign that we’ve been filled with His Spirit and to strengthen and maintain their faith. I received the gift of tongues at a time when I was having a crisis of faith, when I cried out to God to prove that He was there and loved me.
  3. Someone is blessed when we speak in a tongue that’s a real language that the person understands. Nicky Gumbel gives an example of someone praying in tongues with someone but actually saying in Russian “my dear child”. The person she was praying with spoke Russian and found it very comforting that God spoke to her in that way.
  4. When someone present has been given the gift of interpreting tongues and they understand what God is saying. This can then be treated as prophecy, which we’ll talk about in a minute. In my experience interpretation of tongues is quite rare and I’ve never encountered it.
  5. Praying in tongues can be very useful when praying for someone when we don’t know what to pray for, or if it’s better that we, or the person we’re praying for, don’t know what we’re praying for. But we’ll look into this more when we talk about healing in a couple of weeks.

So, just as Paul encouraged his readers, I encourage you all to pray for and receive the gift of tongues, if you haven’t already.

Some people worry that if they have the gift of tongues they may suddenly start speaking in tongues while on the bus or at work or somewhere else where it might be rather embarrassing. But this isn’t true at all – although the urge to speak in tongues can be quite strong, we can always control when we speak.

But avoid speaking out loud in tongues in church services when there isn’t anyone interpreting, because it can distract others from their worship. The exception to this is of course if the congregation is invited to pray or sing in tongues, which can be very beautiful and uplifting.

The next group of gifts we’re going to look at is prophecy, wisdom, knowledge and distinguishing between spirits. The latter, distinguishing between spirits, is often known as the gift of discernment, which is a bit simpler to say. I’ve grouped these together because they’re all basically the same thing, i.e. being “tuned in” to God so that we can hear what He tells us. But if they’re all basically the same, then why did Paul describe them as four different gifts? It’s because they are used in four different ways, they have four different uses.

So first of all, the gift of prophesy. Paul obviously thought this was one of the most important gifts, because he wrote to the Corinthians: “eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy”; and “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort”. So what is prophecy? Prophecy is simply passing on a message from God to other people. What usually happens is that you hear God speak to you and He instructs you to pass this on to a particular person or the whole church or perhaps an even larger group of people. Or often, instead of words, God gives us a picture instead of words and explains what it means. Some people think that prophecy means telling the future, but it’s not, unless you’re passing on what God has told you will happen, which is of course what the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah did.

A very important part of the gift of prophecy is making sure that the message is genuinely from God and not just something that you’ve thought up yourself. In my experience, a message from God is just somehow recognisably different. It’s difficult to explain, but the words take you by surprise and are easy to remember, as if someone said them to you. Also, in my experience, words from God are usually very simple but incredibly wise, and impossible to argue with. In the same way, pictures from God are clear and they get lodged in your brain as if you’d seen a real event. Once you’ve had a few messages from God it gets much easier to recognise them.

But it doesn’t matter how genuine it seems, we must always test the message before passing it on, or better still, get someone you trust to test it for you. Testing a prophecy sounds complicated but in fact it’s very simple. Basically, ask yourself whether, from what you know about God, He would say what you think He said. The easiest way of doing this is to use the Bible. If the message contradicts anything in the Bible then it cannot be from God. Also ask whether the message will glorify Christ: if it doesn’t, then it cannot be from God. And ask whether the message is positive or negative. God will always build people up rather than knocking them down and so a message that condemns cannot be from God. That’s not to say that God doesn’t tell people what they’re doing wrong – think of Jonah at Nineveh - but it would be in a positive way. I’ve had scam emails and texts that appear to be from a friend, asking me to urgently send them some money. But there’s always something in the email that gives it away as a scam, usually because the language used or the situation they’re in just isn’t right for the person we know. Testing a message from God is like this: we need to ask, does it “feel” right to be from God.

You may be thinking that this all sounds far too complicated and potentially embarrassing and there’s no way that you want this gift. But please remember that the gift of prophesy is a really, really useful tool because it enables God to speak directly to His people. The gift of prophecy enables God to lead His people down the path He wants them to take. It also helps God, as Paul stated, to strengthen, encourage and comfort us. So please pray for this gift and have the confidence and courage to use it. This church really would benefit from more messages straight from God.

And once people start using this gift, it becomes an ordinary thing to happen. For example, lots of prophesies are shared at the monthly Message Trust prayer days, usually encouraging people facing a new challenge. In fact, it would be thought strange if there were no prophesies.

The gift of wisdom is very similar, expect that it’s for ourselves and not others. It enables God to help us to make the right decisions and to encourage us, which is essential when we’re faced with challenging situations, remembering that God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than our own.

The gift of knowledge is similar again but is more specifically a piece of information about a person or a situation. It’s used quite a lot with healing, and I’ll talk about it in that context in a couple of week’s time. However, this gift can also be used to lead people to Jesus. Imagine being sat next to a stranger and then hearing God tell you something about that person. Then imagine sharing with that person the fact about them that you couldn’t logically know. It certainly gets their attention and enables you to tell them about Jesus.

And then there’s the gift of discernment. You might think it’s not much of a gift being able to tell the difference between good and evil, as surely it’s obvious. But sadly, evil influences don’t just come from obviously evil people. In fact, any one of us can be used to damage the work of the church without knowing it if we’re not careful. It then needs someone with the gift of discernment to realise what’s happening and do something about it. Don’t forget that we live in a spiritual war zone and the enemy is a master of disguise. The gift of discernment enables us to see what the enemy is doing so that we can defend ourselves and fight it. The gift of discernment is a bit like night vision goggles – we can use it to see things in the darkness that would otherwise remain hidden.

And the final group of gifts that we’re going to look at is faith and miraculous powers. These are linked because miracles happen when people have faith, and faith is increased when there are miracles. I know it does sound incredible that ordinary people like you and me can have miraculous powers, but remember what Jesus tells us in John 14 verse 12: “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. But of course, it’s not actually us that perform miracles, as only God performs miracles. But when we have faith and ask God to help us do His work, then He will.

It goes without saying that miracles are pretty useful. It’s great that when we need something that seems impossible, God makes the impossible happen. When I was at The Message it was wonderful to hear the amazing things that happened on a regular basis: something like a huge, unexpected donation just as they ran out of money, or exactly the right building becoming available.

But there’s much more to miracles than that. Even a very small miracle can be a sign for someone that God exists, and this then allows us to lead them to Jesus. And miraculous stuff happening also builds up the faith of a church and gets it praying and expecting even more.

Hopefully, you’ll all now agree that the gifts of the Spirit are really rather useful. In fact, more than that, they’re essential for individuals and churches trying to do God’s work. Without the gifts of the Spirit, our toolbox is empty. A Christian trying to do God’s work without the gifts of the Spirit is like a builder turning up on site without his tools.

You may be wondering what gifts you need. But don’t worry about that, because God knows what you need, and He’ll give you exactly the right gift when you need it. Simply have faith that God will give you the gifts you need. All you need to do is remain full of the Holy Spirit and joyfully accept the gifts that God gives you.

And when you receive a gift, start using it straight away. Think how silly it would be to receive a really useful tool but then leave it on a shelf in the garage without even getting it out of its box. So think how equally silly it would be to not use a gift that God has given you.

Just remember that God really does want to see His work done in this church and in this community. And God really does want to build us up and encourage us. So why wouldn’t He give us the tools that we need?

Prayer

Dear Lord, I thank you so much that you give us the tools that we need to do your work and to build us up and encourage us.

Help me to always be open to the Holy Spirit and to joyfully accept the gifts that you want to give me.

Lord, I pray now for the gifts that you know that I need to do your work and to strengthen me. So come Hoy Spirit, fill me now and give me the gifts I need………..

Thank you Lord. Help me to have the confidence that I need to use the gifts that you’ve given me. Bless me over the coming days, as I go out into the world equipped with the gifts that you’ve given me. Give me new and exciting opportunities to show your love and to lead people to you. Amen.

Watch: O Thou who Camest from above

Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here