All posts by Pastor Alan

About Pastor Alan

Pastor Alan and his wife Claire serve as the Senior Pastors of World Harvest Bible Church. Alan’s passion is to see people encounter God, get rooted in Christ and become the amazing people God has called them to be. He is also father to three children, Abbey, Bex & Joe.

Bible Reading Plan: Jan 15th – 19th: Galatians 6, 1 Thessalonians 1 – 4

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
January 15th January 16th January 17th January 18th January 19th
Galatians 6 1 Thessalonians 1 1 Thessalonians 2 1 Thessalonians 3 1 Thessalonians 4

We finish Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia (Asia) and move on to his first letter to a European church.

Galatians 6 demonstrates the ongoing love and care we need to have for one another. So carry one another’s burdens rather than judging and be sure to check our own heart first. What we sow, we will reap! Sow to please the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian churches picks up that theme of love and faith working together but highlights the patience and endurance that is often required to see sowing actually resulting in reaping.

Paul’s gospel brought personal challenge and yet the church grew with Paul reflecting:

This pattern of behaviour was sparked by Paul …

  • Daring to tell them the gospel despite beatings
  • Sharing his life without any barriers

Thanksgiving punctuates Paul’s letter

  • We always thank God for all of you because of your work, labour & endurance (1 Thess 1:2)
  •  We thank God continually because of the way you accepted the Word of God (1 Thess 2:13)
  • We thank God for the joy we have in the presence of our God (1 Thess 3:9)

Questions to consider

  • Who are you thankful for? Be specific why?
  • Throughout Thessalonians Paul gives thanks through prayer for the believers. Pray for each member of your household or family, thanking God for each of them. What do you see in them?
  • What qualities do you demonstrate that you would want others to imitate?
  • What qualities do you see in others that you want to imitate yourself?
    Background History

Background History

Once Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) was extensively evangelised Paul began looking for new places to go. God spoke to him in a dream and that led to Europe becoming Paul’s new target (Acts 16).

Initially Paul stopped at Philippi where the first church was established but persecution soon started. After being imprisoned and beaten, Paul then moved to Thessalonica. This was the capital city for the whole province of Macedonia. A major trading transport hub and safe harbour for the trade between Europe and Asia. Once again, the attacks started and Paul was forced to leave the new church to survive on its own.

The new leaders of the Thessalonian church, who were actually young Christians themselves, suffered prison and beatings because Paul had escaped. But the church not only survived but became the model church for the whole region.

The Author

Paul, the apostle, is clearly stated as the author. This letter matches the tone and style of writing of his other letters.

Paul shows himself as a father not just a powerful apostle and church planter. He has wanted to visit but has been stopped on 3 occasions. With no mobile phones or social media, he has not been able to find out news. His relief at getting a good report from Timothy is clear from the tone of this letter. Constantly praying, longing to see them and now overflowing with thanksgiving.

Paul was a very humble man, aware of his weaknesses but also a faith filled man, aware of God’s greatness. This enabled God to use him to teach the new church how to walk in grace and not revert to religion.

Bible Reading Plan: Jan 8th – 12th: Galatians 1 – 5

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
January 8th January 9th January 10th January 11th January 12th
Galatians 1 Galatians 2 Galatians 3 Galatians 4 Galatians 5

Galatians is the first of Paul’s letters to the churches he helped to establish.  These new churches have become targets for religious teachers who target Paul and his teachings about grace.

Throughout Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches he defends and reinforces his role as an apostle, called by Jesus and the Father, not man.  Pauls’ identity and his authority are essential for these churches to be free.

With echoes of how Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, this is Paul facing the same challenge we have today. Who are we?  How can we believe that God would use us?  Why do we think that could ever work?

Paul’s defence of his position is essential to protect his gospel.  If Paul is discredited then everything he preaches is also discredited.  Paul clearly sets out his authority:

  • Sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father – not sent by men
  • With a gospel given by revelation direct from Jesus
  • A gospel checked by Peter, James & other senior leaders
  • A gospel that actually works
  • A gospel that the Holy Spirit confirms

Paul then unpacks his gospel – Jesus is the complete fulfilment of the Law

  • Both Jews & Gentiles need the same salvation – Jesus’ death & life
  • That salvation is only provided by faith in Jesus – NOT by law
  • Both Jews & Gentiles are to live by grace – through faith
  • Any works must be the result of salvation – not self-effort

Once again, we are called to depend on God.  James taught us wisdom comes from depending on God.  Paul now teaches us works depend on God too.

This dependency releases God’s power in us and focuses us on the life of the Holy Spirit in us.  The more we are aware of the Holy Spirit, the less conflict between the old nature & the new nature.

Total dependence and total obedience working together by faith!

Questions to consider

  • How do you identify yourself? What influences the way you think about yourself?
  • Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you going on being filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Galatians 5:1 speaks about the freedom Christ has given us.  So what stops you from being free? What do you need to throw off?
  • One of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness – last week we encouraged you to bless someone – can you do a secret act of kindness for a member of your family/household this week?

Background History

Galatia is a region of Asia Minor (Anatolia – Modern Turkey) which includes the towns of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra & Derby.  The name comes from a group of Gauls (Celtic tribes – France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Northern Italy) who settled in the area around 300 BC.

Most of these churches were established by Barnabus & Paul on their 1st missionary trip (Acts 13-14) around AD 46-47.  Paul returned to those churches on his 2nd missionary trip (Acts 15-16).  At Lystra he took Timothy as his disciple.

Only a short while after the 1st Church Council which approved Paul’s gospel yet already “Judaizers” are affecting churches.  These Judaizers affected the rest of Paul’s ministry & his letters to the churches often dealt with these people as false teachers.

The Author

Paul, the apostle, is clearly stated as the author.  This letter matches the tone and style of writing of his other letters.

Paul describes himself, a Jew, a trained teacher, an expert in the Law (Phil 3:5-6) and reminds us in a very humble way of his sacrifices (2 Cor 11:23-29)

Paul is completely dependent on God to lead him in life, even to prison and death.  He never forgets his past attacking the church but also never lets it stop him advancing the church.

Everywhere he went churches grew but more importantly he left leaders, people he had personally invested into.

Paul was released after 2 years’ house arrest in Rome (end of Acts).  He may have travelled to Spain before being arrested again AD 64, taken to Rome where he was imprisoned in a dungeon before being executed around AD 67-68.

Bible Reading Plan: Jan 1st – 5th: James 1 – 5

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
January 1st January 2nd January 3rd January 4th January 5th
James 1 James 2 James 3 James 4 James 5

We are starting 2018 with a new bible reading plan looking at the New Testament in the order it was written and reading the entire New Testament in a year.

James is the first book to be written of the New Testament.  15 years after Pentecost James is now the lead elder (Pastor) of the main church in Jerusalem.  James tackles real life, the New Testament version of Proverbs.

Some of the church has been forced out of Jerusalem by 2 periods of persecution and they are now in the middle of a major financial crisis (famine).  To make matters worse some Christians have been causing major divisions by their attitude to those less well off.

Pastor James gets us looking differently at our daily life – trials, tests, persecutions, problems – these are no barrier to Christians who understand the character and nature of God.  The total and complete goodness of God is so different from the hatred and evil desires of the devil.  God only gives good gifts; the devil only seeks to attack us.

However, faith that is real sees people differently, thinks differently and acts differently.  Faith is not blind, does not show favouritism.  The royal command of love controls our thoughts, adjusts our attitudes and requires real action.

Our deeds are a basic expression of our faith.  Caring for the poor, the weak, the hungry requires practical love. Our faith needs people in order to be shown as real.  Faith is love in action that just needs wisdom to work.

That wisdom is not in short supply but it is NOT what we learn from life around us.  Not the school of hard knocks (experiences) but learning from God BEFORE events so that we are not limited to survival mode but walking by faith, understanding what is happening and knowing that anything is possible, if we believe.

Wisdom is part of God’s plan for Christians!

He expects us to need wisdom, to ask for it and actually use it.  Not to lean on our own ideas but humble ourselves to find out and obtain God’s plan, resources and power.

This dependency on God is what makes mercy, healing and tremendous power available – fruit that lasts!  The first thing that changes is our speech.  If we control our words, speaking in love, then our faith is genuine and productive.

Questions to consider

  • What do you notice about the heavenly wisdom at the end of chapter 3?
  • What words are you speaking over 2018 as you think about yourself, your family, your school/college, your workplace and your church
  • What practical things (good deeds) can you do to bless someone this week? How could you bless one person a week for the whole of 2018?

Background History

James is generally accepted as the first book to be written of the New Testament church. Written around AD 45 to a mainly Jewish Church now spread across the world because of 2 persecutions, through Saul (Acts 8) and Herod (Acts 12) and in the midst of a major famine (Acts 11:27-30).

Most of the Jerusalem church is either Jewish or a convert to Judaism prior to becoming Christians.  Less than 5 years have lapsed since Cornelius and his family in Caesarea (Acts 10) became the first of a new type of believer – Gentiles who believed without conversion to Judaism!!

The church in Antioch actually sent a special offering to support the church in Jerusalem because of the famine.  Further gifts were also sent by the churches established by these apostles about 5 years later.

The Author

James, the half-brother of Jesus, is generally accepted as the author.

James did not believe in Jesus before the crucifixion (John 7:3-5) but had a supernatural encounter with Jesus after the resurrection (1 Cor 15:7) and is listed as part of the early church before Pentecost (Acts 1:15).

James is recognised as the lead elder of the Jerusalem Church by the time of the 1st Church Council (Acts 15). After all the discussions about what to do with the new Gentile Christians it is James who makes the decision that everyone appears to accept. Paul called him a “pillar of the church” (Gal 2:9) and checked his own ministry with him near the start (Gal 1:19) and towards the end of his life (Acts 21:8).

James was stoned to death in AD62.