Word for the Day Archive 7

29th January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

A MODEL FATHER-IN-LAW (3)

We continue Jethro’s story in Exodus chapter 18.

He offered constructive criticism.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood round him from morning till evening.

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?’

Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’

Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good (verses 13–17).

I have often thought of this from Moses’ point of view. How unfair it must have seemed.

Acts 7:22 reminds us that ‘Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.’ To this day no Egyptian law code has been discovered by archaeologists. All authority flowed downward from Pharaoh. His word was law.

So it was natural for Moses to emulate this approach, setting himself up in place of Pharaoh.

Jethro saw things differently. It took courage to speak out. He was taking a risk. But he could see that such a leader-centred approach was neither good for the leader nor the people.

He offered good advice.

Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.

Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.

You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.

But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

Let them serve as judges for the people at all times, but let them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.

That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied’ (verses 17–23).

• Recognise your limitations

• Distinguish between motives and methods

• Share the load

• Keep God at the forefront of your thinking

And the advice worked.

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves (verses 24–26).

He didn’t outstay his welcome.

Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country (verse 27).

 

28th January 2021

From Iain Colville

Hebrews 2 (J.B. Phillips)

We ought, therefore, to pay the greatest attention to the truth that we have heard and not allow ourselves to drift away from it. For if the message given through angels proved authentic, so that defiance of it and disobedience to it received appropriate retribution, how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to the salvation that is offered us today? For this salvation came first through the words of the Lord himself: it was confirmed for our hearing by men who had heard him speak, and God moreover has plainly endorsed their witness by signs and miracles, by all kinds of spiritual power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, all working to the divine plan.

For though in past ages God did grant authority to angels, yet he did not put the future world of men under their control, and it is this world that we are now talking about. But someone has said: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet’. Notice that the writer puts “all things” under the sovereignty of man: he left nothing outside his control. But we do not yet see “all things” under his control.

What we actually see is Jesus, after being made temporarily inferior to the angels (and so subject to pain and death), in order that he should, in God’s grace, taste death for every man, now crowned with glory and honour. It was right and proper that in bringing many sons to glory, God (from whom and by whom everything exists) should make the leader of their salvation a perfect leader through the fact that he suffered. For the one who makes men holy and the men who are made holy share a common humanity. So that he is not ashamed to call them his brothers, for he says: ‘I will declare your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to you’.

And again, speaking as a man, he says: ‘I will put my trust in him’. And, one more instance, in these words: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me’. 

Since, then, “the children” have a common physical nature as human beings, he also became a human being, so that by going through death as a man he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might also set free those who lived their whole lives a prey to the fear of death. It is plain that for this purpose he did not become an angel; he became a man, in actual fact a descendant of Abraham. It was imperative that he should be made like his brothers in nature, if he were to become a High Priest both compassionate and faithful in the things of God, and at the same time able to make atonement for the sins of the people. For by virtue of his own suffering under temptation he is able to help those who are exposed to temptation.

 

In chapter 2, the writer starts with a short warning to his readers (and indeed himself) of the urgency of responding to the gospel message (v1-4), His principal concern is to ensure that his readers don’t allow themselves to “drift away” (v1).  So are we at risk of drifting away, like a ship which has lost its anchor? There’s a challenge here to re-examine ourselves and our response to the authenticated revelation about Jesus.

As the writer says, the message of the great salvation won by Jesus has been passed on to us starting with those who heard directly from Jesus, and has been affirmed by signs, wonders and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (v3-4). Let’s give thanks too for those who have passed on the gospel to our generation and for the signs and gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in His church.

Next, the writer rushes (from v5 onwards) to continue his exaltation of Jesus, the enthroned Son, seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1 v13).  Again, using quotations from the Psalms, the writer carefully constructs his argument that the same Jesus was fully human and obediently suffered, tasting death for everyone in order to bring about our salvation, before returning to be crowned with glory and honour (v9).  

If we stop to think about it, this is absolutely mind-blowing.  

We may just have celebrated the Christmas story, but did we really grasp hold of the truth of the incarnation?  The Jesus we rightly worship as Lord and God, became a human baby just like us, his earthly sisters and brothers. But the Christmas story leads towards Easter, and the baby grew into a man. Jesus came not only to share our humanity but so that he could suffer and die, leading the way to rescue us and to restore us to a new relationship with God. God’s audacious plan to bring about our salvation didn’t just involve Jesus becoming fully human but it also involved his sacrificial suffering as a forerunner or pioneer (v10). So in going before us, Jesus has opened the way to bring us, as his sons and daughters, to enter into “the glory” that ultimately awaits us.

How can we respond to this, other than with thankfulness and worship? Take a moment to give thanks for the incredible grace and mercy shown to each of us, that Jesus would leave his throne to become human and die for you.

And finally, don’t overlook the amazing promise in v18: because Jesus was tested (or tempted) by what he suffered, he is able to help us in our temptations and testing.  With lockdown prohibiting so many things we long to do, there is much temptation to bend the rules as well as all of the other temptations which face us. But let’s turn to our brother Jesus for help as we seek to live obedient lives that honour Him.

 

27th January 2021

Today Graham Carpmail speaks to us based on the book of Ruth. You can hear what he has to say here.

26th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 6 18 – 20

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Following on from the armour of God, we have this piece of advice about the necessity of prayer: pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Now some have argued that the prayer ‘in the Spirit’ mentioned here is that of the gift of tongues. I do not believe this to be the case here, because, as a general rule when praying in tongues, the person praying does not know what they are praying. Here Paul is clearly talking about different sorts of prayers and requests which would imply two things. One, that you are praying in a different style, such as thanksgiving or intercession, and two, that you know what you are praying. 

These verses serve as an encouragement to creativity, to a varied prayer life, to opportunities of spontaneous prayer, a reminder that God wants to hear from us and is eager to be involved in what we and others face. They remind us that Paul believed that prayer changes things, and that he believed it was effective for him (and we have the assurance of history that it was). We see Paul asking to be fearless, and we know that he was both fearless and effective in drawing people to faith. Even when he was in chains he succeeded. (Acts 26:28-29; Philippians 1:12-14). Prayer works; it changes us, and it changes situations.

Who are you praying for? What are you hoping to see in 2021? Don’t stop. Take encouragement from what Paul has said. God may be seeking to inspire your prayers for others. Take some time now, and ask for the Spirit to bring people to mind, and to guide your prayers for them, and then pray, trusting He’s at work in your prayer. Let’s see what answers come.

 

25th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

How did you respond to Neil’s very honest sermon on prayer, yesterday?  Did it shock you when he admitted that he did not always ‘feel’ God’s presence when he prayed?  Surely that is a sign that he is not ‘spiritual’ enough.  Perhaps he was just being a little more honest than most. I admit that I share Neill’s experience of not always ‘feeling’ God’s presence. Notice that it does not stop him praying.  In some ways, Neil was pointing out that it is not our feelings that are important. It is our obedience in doing things God’s way.

Prayer is hard work and cannot rely on our feelings.  If it does we give up far too easily.

Sarah pointed out the value of praying with other people.  Neil showed that when the early church met together prayer was a major feature and answered prayer was a characteristic of what happened.  We must agree with Neill that this does not seem to happen here at the moment.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  I wish I did.

One of the reasons some of us are finding the lockdown so painful in our Christian walk is that we like to be doers, sometimes rather than pray-ers.  There are so many things we cannot do as we cannot meet or serve or help other people.  We are very happy to give our time and effort to doing things to help people, but maybe think that praying is not our thing.  Prayer, however, is possibly the most important thing that has not been affected by the lockdown.  We do not need to go out to pray.  We just need the desire to seek God’s will and to pray.  I would like to think that lockdown has increased the prayer life of our congregation!  Only you know what your experience of this is.

Both Sarah and Neill spoke of the importance of prayer together.  Sarah, with her different colour Lego bricks and Neill with his reflection on the church in Acts who met together with the intention of praying and saw great things happen as a result.  Once a week, a few of the church members meet together to pray. Usually this amounts to less than 5% of the membership.  I wonder what this says to God about the desire and intent of the heart of our fellowship?  Does this indicate that as a church we really want to know God’s will for us?  Does this say that we really want God to work in and through us?  Does this show that, as a church, we really trust God to work in our community?

There may be many reasons why church members, who have committed to pray for the church, do not make the effort to join with others to pray.  It is certainly easier during the lockdown as you do not have to even leave your own home.  Although some folk feel ‘zoomed out’ this is an easy way to join with others once a week to pray.  ‘I don’t know what to say’ say some, but remember what Neill said  yesterday,  ‘God does not listen to our words but looks at our hearts’.   ‘I don’t like prayer meetings’ another will say – is this back to the dangers of feelings?  You can have more effect on the format of a prayer meeting by being here than by staying away.  There are quite a few members who cannot comment on how we pray together, because they have never tried to join in.

Perhaps we need to join the disciples again as they ask ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ Luke 11:1

 

22nd January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

A MODEL FATHER-IN-LAW (2)

Exodus chapter 18 takes us beyond Moses’ confrontations with Pharaoh, beyond the exodus and into the start of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It’s here that we meet up with Jethro again.

He did all he could to look after Moses’ family.

After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons (verses 2–3).

From this we deduce that Moses had the good sense to send his wife and sons back to Midian when things were getting hot in Egypt.

Today there are tremendous pressures on the family and often the older generation find themselves taking on responsibilities they thought were past, at a time when their energy and ingenuity are not what they were. It can’t have been easy for Jethro. Perhaps it hasn’t been easy for you.

He saw the importance of keeping the family together.

Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. … Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God (verses 1, 5).

The time of separation had been necessary but at the earliest opportunity Jethro took steps to reunite Moses with his family.

He showed tact and consideration.

Jethro had sent word to him, ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons’ (verse 6).

He didn’t take anything for granted but made sure Moses was kept in the picture. He knew the value of good communication.

He was a good listener.

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them (verses 7, 8).

He was able to enter into other people’s joy.

Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians (verse 9).

‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’ along with ‘mourn with those who mourn’ is another key element in our ‘true and proper worship’ (Romans 12:15).

He had a growing relationship with God.

He said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.’ Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God (verses 10–12).

 

21st January 2021

From Liz Martin

Hebrews 1 – J. B. Phillips

God, who gave our forefathers many different glimpses of the truth in the words of the prophets, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in the Son. Through the Son God made the whole universe, and to the Son he has ordained that all creation shall ultimately belong. This Son, radiance of the glory of God, flawless expression of the nature of God, himself the upholding principle of all that is, effected in person the reconciliation between God and man and then took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high—thus proving himself, by the more glorious name that he has won, far greater than all the angels of God.

For to which of the angels did he ever say such words as these: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you?’ Or, again ‘I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?’ Further, when he brings his first-born into this world of men, he says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship him’ This is what he says of the angels: ‘Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire’ But when he speaks of the Son, he says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions’. He also says: ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak you will fold them up, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not fail’. But does he ever say this of any of the angels: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?’ Surely the angels are no more than spirits in the service of God, commissioned to serve the heirs of God’s salvation.

Over the coming few weeks, Iain and I are going to be looking at Hebrews in a weekly word for the day, and I have the privilege of starting. I’ll say right from the start that I love the book of Hebrews. It’s a fascinating book, and to me, comparable to Paul’s letter to Rome in terms of the depth of its theology, its richness, its challenge and its encouragement. Having said that, it’s a complex book: its author is unknown; its recipients are unknown; even its genre is debated, as well as its right to belong within the canon of Scripture. I hope you enjoy our journey through it, and that we are able to embody some of the joy I have in reading it, and engage in wrestling with it.

Hebrews is unusual in that, unlike Paul’s letters, it just starts, there are no greetings, no thanksgiving; the author just jumps right in. Yet he starts with worship, he starts by immediately focusing on Jesus, the Son of God, the truth of God, the One to Whom all creation bows, the radiance of God, flawless expression of the nature of God, upholding all things, reconciling humanity to God, now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Wow! That focus draws us in and, when we read with care, leads us to worship. Not necessarily bursting into song, but our attention is caught, arrested for a moment, like when we see an incredible sunset which appears out of nowhere, or when our breath is caught by a surprisingly beautiful piece of music.

Jesus, the author of creation, draws near to us in a sacred moment, revealed in the opening verses.

As Neil reminded us on Sunday, the church exists for Jesus; as disciples, we live to serve Him. Spend some time in worship, meditating on the incredible goodness of Immanuel, God with us.

God bless,

Liz

20th January 2021

Today's spoken Word for the Day is short but challenging, encouraging us to go on in safety with the Lord. You can hear it here

19th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 6:10-17

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I start this thought with a simple statement: you are in a battle. In a point of fact, this very moment, you are involved in a colossal, global war that began before you were born. This war has rumbled across the centuries, millennia in fact, affecting the past, present and future of every man, woman, and child in the world. It is a cosmic war of epic proportions, and you are involved. This might sounds like an opening to a new fantasy, or Sci-fi, novel, yet it is the truth. We are at war.

The problem for us is that, very often, it’s an invisible war. A war that we can neither see nor hear. This creates a problem because when we can’t see something, we forget it’s happening even though it continues in the background. For example, if I’m playing a video game and have to leave the room and I forget to hit pause, the game continues, but I can’t see it, so when I come back to find I’ve lost, I’m annoyed with myself. Yet I was oblivious to what was happening around me on the game, as I could neither see nor hear it. It’s not happening. Occasionally we’re reminded, when we see someone fall, or when we face a difficulty, but we need to be reminded that we are at war, whether we see it or not, whether we like it or not.

Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 6:10 to 17. We have an enemy who schemes against us, and wants to destroy us. Yet are neither helpless nor defenceless, for we have the armour of God. We have the knowledge that the ones we fight are not flesh and blood. We have armour to protect us, and a way of fighting back. We are also assured of victory as we follow the One who has so dazzling defeated our foe before, as Paul reminded us in Chapter 4: When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’ So let us remember to put on our armour, to pray for one another, our Church and our world, to seek after Jesus in prayer and in His word. So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

 

18th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

This week many Christians from around the world will be joining together to pray for something that Jesus first prayed for in his ‘high priestly’ prayer just before his death on the Cross.  Although he prayed for it so many years ago, it seems in some ways that, as we look at Christian churches today, it still looks a ‘forlorn hope’. In John 17:20-21 Jesus prayed ‘My prayer is …… that all of them may be one’  and many Christians put aside this week as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Have you ever had your children argue with one another?  Sometimes you can just push it to one side as part of ‘growing up’ together and often that is what it is.  Sometimes, however, these arguments, which often start over relatively minor issues, become serious divisions and continue into adulthood with siblings hardly talking to one another to serious antagonism.  How would you as parents feel about this?  I know that often you would like to just knock their heads together and tell them to sort it out, but the overall feeling would be one of gross sadness. 

Paul wrote to the Romans that ‘you received the Spirit of sonship and by him we cry Abba Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.’  Romans 8:15-16.  How do you think that Abba Father feels when his children don’t live in harmony with one another.  If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ as the only one who can bring us back into relationship with God through his death on the Cross and resurrection from the dead, then we are children of God in the same way as any others who have this same faith.  We may have different ways of expressing this faith but we are still God’s children just as much as others from different ‘traditions’ and perhaps need to work harder as recognising our common dependence on God’s Spirit and forgiveness in Jesus and learn more about what makes others ‘tick’.  That does not necessarily mean changing what we believe, but it does mean celebrating what we have in common in our relationship with Jesus.  In a family every individual is different and follows different ways, habits, interests, friendships and occupations.  We do not live in one another’s pockets.  We do, however, have a common family bonding.  The family of Christ is much the same.  Some ‘enjoy’ one approach others another, but we have the common bond of relationship with the father through the death and resurrection of His Son.

The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Unity is ‘Abiding in Christ’.  If we are seeking to get ‘deeper’ into Christ, it should not surprise us to ‘bump into’ others doing the same thing from a different angle.  The important thing is not where we start but where we are now and where we are going. If that is ‘in Christ’ that is what matters.  In a way, this is good preparation for heaven.  We will all be together there!!  No Baptist – Anglican – Methodist – United Reform – etc. there.  We will all be concentrating on Jesus and in carrying out his will in such a positive way that there will be no dissension. Won’t that be something!

 

15th January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

A MODEL FATHER-IN-LAW (1)

Like Barnabas in the New Testament, Jethro was an encourager.

He appears in Exodus chapters 2, 3, 4 and 18 and is also referred to by the name, Reuel (2:18).

We don’t know a great deal about him. A minor character. In the shadow of a more famous man.

I guess most of us are minor characters, but we can have a key role in God’s plans and purposes.

What we do know is that he was a priest in Midian, he kept sheep, he had seven daughters, and one of them married Moses.

What can we learn from him?

Jethro was grateful and hospitable.

We pick up the story from Exodus 2:15.

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.

Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 

Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, ‘Why have you returned so early today?’ They answered, ‘An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.’

‘And where is he?’ Reuel asked his daughters. ‘Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.’

Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage.

Showing gratitude and offering hospitality are two important virtues that feature throughout the Bible. When we lose the gratitude attitude we become sour and bitter and lose a vital element of our humanity, not to mention our spirituality.

21st century western culture has reduced the need for hospitality. Covid-19 has brought us into an enforced isolation and separation and we have had to adjust but ‘Practise hospitality’ is still a key element in our ‘true and proper worship’ (Romans 12:1, 13). As the prayer of St Francis reminds us, ‘it is in giving that we receive’.

Jethro was adaptable and open to God’s will.

Forty years passed between Exodus chapters 2 and 4. Moses had settled down to life as a shepherd with his wife and family in Midian but suddenly all that changed when God called to him in the burning bush.

Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.’ Jethro said, ‘Go, and I wish you well’ (Exodus 4:18).

If Moses was older and settled in his ways, how much more Jethro. He stood to lose his key worker and a significant number of his closest family. But he accepted that God’s will was best, and sent the family off to an uncertain future with his blessing.

 

14th January 2021

From David Depledge

Learning from King David (2)

In my last contribution (2nd January) we looked at 2 Sam 5:22-25 and were looking to learn from how King David dealt with the problems he faced. Firstly he listened to God and then:-

David waited for God’s timing.

God told David to wait until he heard the sound of marching on the tops of the poplar trees; then attack. That was God’s signal to David that the time had come. Can we wait on the Lord for His timing of things? Pride proceeds with or without God; humility knows it must have God or fail.

Eccl 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.”  Notice the way that verse ties timing to purpose. I need to understand and commit myself to God’s purposes in my life. But I also need to allow God to sort out the timing. That means I do not get impatient and ahead of God. It also means I don’t procrastinate and let opportunities pass me by. I stay alert. I stay in step with God. And I listen for His go ahead before I take action on my problem.

That also means I develop an ear to hear what God is saying. I tune in to His frequency. I listen to His voice. God might have some interesting and unique strategies for us that will effectively deal with our problem if we will get it straight from Him.

Before His ascension, Jesus emphasizes the purposes of God. He told His followers (Matt 28:19-20) “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.

We have our assignment. At the same time He gave this strategy in Luke 24:49, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

We must be a people who listen to the Lord before we act. We must be a people willing to wait on the Lord for instruction. We must have the empowerment of the Spirit to accomplish God’s purposes in our lives.

As those disciples waited in Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus’ command, nothing significant happened at the end of day one. Day two was the same, and so was day three. By day six some may have wondered what was being accomplished. “This prayer thing may be good; but what are we actually going to do?”  Well prayer is actually doing something. In fact, it’s just about the only thing to do until you get some direction from the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is hard work; it is one of the hardest things we will ever do. Waiting on the Lord is not passivity. Waiting on the Lord is actively anticipating the goodness of the Lord in this life. It is the discipline of not taking matters into your own hands. G. Campbell Morgan put it well, “Waiting on God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

David waited until he heard the sound of marching in the tops of the trees. He waited until God said go!

 

13th January 2021

Today's spoken Word for the Day from Graham Carpmail based on Psalm 127:1-2 can be found here

12th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 6:1-10

Ephesians is a book that has an idea at its heart which I’ve previously noticed in passing, but failed to notice how significant a theme it is. This is the recurring idea of mutuality; the idea that we are to be reciprocal in our relationships. We saw in chapter 5 vs21 the exhortation to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We also had the mutual idea of wives serving their husbands, and husbands serving their wives. Now we see this laid out again before us in different fashion.

We see children given a charge to obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Yet parents are equally ordered to not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The very thing that you should seek to be doing yourself as an adult and a follower of Christ, the idea that your children should be observing and copying what they see in you. As someone who did many years of youth work, I was always amazed at how often parents couldn’t see that they were directly responsible for behaviour that annoyed them intensely. As an example, I had one parent who would encourage his child to be cheeky to authority, and always answer back, until it was his authority she was disrespecting; then she should accept his authority. His child didn’t agree, she was simply acting as she had been shown. Obviously I’m not saying that all bad behaviour is the parents’ fault, but sometimes parents might want to check what they are encouraging in their children.  

Equally, there is a warning to those who hold power: read vs 5 to 8, and see how Paul instructs slaves to act and to serve. Notice also how he promises a reward to the powerless in vs 8. God will see the sacrifice of slaves and reward them. They may have no legal or positional status, yet God intrinsically sees that they have worth and significance. He values slaves, and they will be free. Yet what is the instruction to the slave owner in vs 9? Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Why does Paul say this? Because just as they call their slaves to account, they will be called to account: you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.

The same is true for us all, husbands, wives; parent, child; slave, master; employee, employer. Regardless of our position, how we treat others is one of the ways by which we are judged, both here and there. As is often the case, we find that Jesus sums this up with immense clarity and brevity: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

 

11th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

It is only as I checked today I found out what the official motto of the USA is.  You probably already knew.  It first appeared on a 2-cent piece in 1864 but it was not until July 1956 that it was adopted as the official motto of the United States of America.  From 1957 it started being found on paper money.  You remember what it is.  That’s right – IN GOD WE TRUST.

Looking at affairs ‘across the pond’ at the moment we might ask ourselves how seriously they take their own motto.   Seeing it on a dollar note reminds me of some shops I have seen in different places who have used this motto on a sign saying

– IN GOD WE TRUST – ALL OTHERS PAY CASH!

We might also ask what it actually means for us.  It is easy to say this, but is it any more serious than those shop-keepers?  In services we sing about our trust In God but in the middle of this pandemic, how true is this?  Indeed, ‘trusting in God’ could almost be the Christian’s motto couldn’t it.  In a quick search I found nearly 50 Biblical references to the importance of trusting in God.  Many of these are the Bible’s songbook, the Psalms.

These positive references are, however, often contrasted with things we should not put our trust in.  This is where the ‘rub comes’.  Some of them are very obvious – stolen goods and riches (Ps 62:10) – chariots and horses (Ps 20:7) – fortified cities (Jeremiah 5:17) – your deeds and riches (Jeremiah 7:4) – your righteousness (Ezekiel 33:13) – idols (Isaiah 42:17).  But then we are warned against trusting in deceptive words (Jeremiah 7:4) – relatives (Jeremiah 12:6) – ourselves (Proverbs 28:26)- and what may be quite relevant today in our own cleverness (Proverbs 23:4).

But you say, I don’t (at least at my good times) trust in any of these things.  My trust is in God.

What has been the No 1 topic of conversation over recent weeks – on the news – in our homes – in our chat groups, even connected with the church?  The pandemic, Covid 19, lockdowns and so on.  Where has people’s confidence been put?  Is it in God or in scientists or more recently in the vaccine?  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not decrying the skills of our scientists (I am in awe of their skills) or the importance of the vaccine (I shall definitely be in line when invited for my vaccination). What worries me is the way we are talking about our hope and trust being in the vaccine.  Surely, as Christians are hope and trust are in God.  If not how are we different from our neighbours?  We appreciate the skills and acquired knowledge of scientists and medics and take full advantage of all they can offer us, but even they can let us down. The God in whom we put our trust is greater than all these things.  He protects us most of the time and when he sees fit for us to suffer in one way or another, he carries us through these times to teach us more of His love for us.

Psalms 56:3 (NIV)

[3] When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

[4] In God, whose word I praise—

in God I trust and am not afraid.

What can mere mortals do to me? (or viruses?)

 

8th January 2021

From Coral Lynes

Peace & Tranquility through Prayer

In my father’s study was a copy of a print by Albrecht Durer, a German artist living during the 15th -16th Century.  It is a famous picture of PRAYING HANDS and there are various ideas about whose hands were used as a model.  I like to think that they were the hands of an ordinary person with an ordinary everyday job, much like the disciples chosen by Jesus. 

Alongside the drawing were words which are often referred to as the SERENITY PRAYER.

Together with family and friends we have often looked to these words when faced with difficulties and never more so than during the current pandemic.  When one of us has felt exasperated and ready to rant and rave we pray these words and are encouraged to remain positive. 

God grant me the SERENITY to ACCEPT the things I cannot change,

COURAGE to change the things I can,

And WISDOM to know the difference.

What do these words mean?

It is said that Serenity means to remain tranquil/calm/peaceful even in the middle of a bad situation (not easy!)

Acceptance is not merely resignation but being able to come to recognize the reality of how things are even in difficult situations.  (Easier said and done!)

Courage- It is normal to be fearful but takes courage not to allow fear to take over so that one becomes paralysed and unable to function.  (This takes a lot of Faith).

Rev Graham is constantly reminding us to have “Faith not Fear”

Finally, we pray for Wisdom. How often have we heard the phrase “having the wisdom of Solomon”, a gift God chose to bestow on King Solomon who is renowned for his good judgements and wise decisions.

 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock Eternal.”  Isaiah 26 v.3-4

 

 

7th January 2021

From Barbra Depledge

Do you need to continue our journey by another route?

Yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany when traditionally we remember the visit of the wise men to Jesus[i].  From the gifts of the wise men together with the GREATEST GIFT from God to us of Jesus, we get our practice of present giving at Christmas.  But Epiphany also offers us the opportunity to reflect on our journey through Advent and Christmas.  As we have listened to the Advent readings, beautifully read to us by Kath and Jenny, listened to familiar carols and perhaps used other Advent studies and reflections, we have had the chance to go beyond the angst and uncertainty of this year’s Christmas and whatever its celebration ended up being for us.  But this Epiphany is also a good opportunity to reflect on our journey through this strange year which we have experienced.

The wise journeyed from who knows where.  They thought they were coming to see a prince in a palace.  They actually saw a child living in poverty and soon to become a refugee.  Few (any?) of us could have envisaged 9 months ago where we would find ourselves now.  The place we have arrived at is indeed strange and largely not what we would like it to be.  And the journey we have come through holds memories of some pretty tough challenges as well as, hopefully, a few blessings (remember, just for example, the almost unremittingly lovely weather we had from March to June?).  The next stage of the journey continues to be very hard for most – whether it’s home schooling AGAIN whilst trying to fulfil your work commitments - or yet more long, lonely days with little or no real human contact – or the almost physical pain of not being able to see and hold loved ones – or the worry about your own or a loved one’s medical condition – or …. the list is endless and is important to rehearse, not in order to be negative, but rather to be more aware of what others are going through.

But is there any way in which we need to continue our journey from here “by another route”?  Physically it feels as if we don’t have much choice of route.  The rules and restrictions define where we can and (mostly) can’t go!  But we do have choices spiritually and emotionally.  I wonder whether you have ongoing life goals?  God has reminded me in recent days that he called me many years ago to live contentedly, gratefully and prayerfully.  (I leave the evangelization of unbelievers and saving the world to others!).  I fail abysmally at these goals most of the time and certainly in the past year they have rather dropped out of view.  But God has called me to “settle” and seek to be contented once again within all the limits and restrictions that continue for an unknown period.  As a friend has reminded me it is a lifelong journey[ii].  But the wise men presumably knew they had to get back to a certain place (their home one imagines) at the end of their revised route.

God has also reminded me several times recently of the story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus[iii].  This was obviously an extraordinary miracle but Lazarus was going to die again one day. Although there was undoubtedly much joy in his reunion with his sisters, life was also pretty challenging for him in the meantime – he was a figure whose appearance courted controversy and the chief priests wanted to kill him[iv].  Hopefully he had some sense that his “final” death would actually be a gateway to a more glorious future.  We may be placing our hopes in the vaccine, in warmer weather, in the virus burning itself out, in some combination of these – or in God intervening in yet unimagined ways.  But we may need to re-captivate a sense of where we are going beyond that.

I am not at all suggesting that your journey or the goals you have along its path in any way mirror mine.  I am simply suggesting that this is a good time to consider what “other route” you might be needing to switch to – as against the one you have followed over the past months.  We may have been in “survival mode” or concentrating on “keeping on keeping on” and these are no bad thing but do we also too easily slip into “blame and complain” or other less helpful coping mechanism.  The wise men presumably needed a fairly significant change of direction in order to avoid not just Jerusalem but also the reach of Herod’s spy network.  Our change of route may be a slight tweaking or it may be a more drastic change of mind-set. 

I pray that as you “stand at the crossroads and ask God for directions, where the good way is for you, that you will find the rest for your soul that we all so much need” (My paraphrase of the church’s verse for the year!)[v]

[i] Matthew 2.1-12

[ii] Philippians 4.12

[iii] John 11.38-444

[iv] John 12.10

[v] Jeremiah 6.16

 

6th January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

LIFE LAUNDRY 

Some of you will remember The Life Laundry, a reality TV show which ran on BBC from 2002 to 2004. Dawna Walter, a home consultant, and Jamie Breese, a collectables expert, visited the homes of people, some just ordinary, some famous, but all with one thing in common. Their houses were filled with so much clutter they could hardly move. 

Dawna, the de-junking guru, would say, ‘When you walk into your home / living room / bedroom / kitchen, does it seem like it’s under control?’

They got everything, absolutely everything, out on the lawn (laundry : lawndry – get it?) They went through it ruthlessly. Some of it was junk. Some of it was valuable. Some of it had sentimental value. Some was a symptom of emotional hang-ups and bad experiences. 

Part of the fascination of the programme was to see how the clutter junkies reacted to the process of de-cluttering their homes. Inevitably they went through an emotional roller coaster which was often painful to watch.

At the end some of it was sold, either by auction or at a car boot sale. Some was sent to charity. And some was consigned to ‘the crusher’! 

What was kept was put back in a house that had been restyled to give order and comfort and each programme closed with a series of before and after shots.

People got rid of stuff they didn’t really need. And as a by-product they rediscovered precious things that had been lost. Finally they had a home which was a pleasure to live in.

This new year gives us the opportunity to do a Life Laundry, not on our homes but on our lives, our minds, our hearts, our spirits. 

James 1:8 tells us that double-minded people are unstable in all they do. Our lives can become cluttered with all sorts of things that shouldn’t be there, pushing out the good things that should be there.

Writing to the Colossians Paul says, ‘you must rid yourselves of all such things as these,’ and then he lists anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lies.

‘Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry – all these must go to the crusher!’ (my translation).

Writing to the Ephesians Paul says, ‘Each of you must put off falsehood. In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. If you’re a thief, stop. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’

When, with the Lord’s help, we get rid of this poisonous clutter we can replace it with the good things he has for us: sacrificial living, thanksgiving, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, all of which can be summed up in just one word: love.

Writing to the Philippians Paul says, ‘Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things … and the God of peace will be with you.’

 

5th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 5:21-33
 

It’s always dangerous to talk to a non-conformist about submission. The Baptist tradition is noted for its stance not to confirm to the hierarchical demands of the pre-existing denominations. No priest tells me what to do. I am one (1 Peter 2:9). Equally often, the people who most seem to talk about how we need to respect authority and submit to it seem to use it as a shield to cover questionable behaviour and teaching. Often, too, we bypass verse 21 and rush on straight to argue about the issue of women and men, in the Church and at home.
But let’s stop and go back, let’s read again verse 21. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is not a demand for obedience to hierarchy, and a finger wag to follow the person in charge, rather it is submit to one another; not do what you’re told by the apostle Paul, but submit to one another. If ever there was a challenge to the 21st century, self-obsessed lifestyle, it is this verse. The reason that we submit to each other, from this verse, is out of our reverence for Christ.
Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of submission at all, it jars with our independence. Or we believe we agree with the idea and will submit to it, just as long as we agree with you. Which isn’t really submission; submission implies acquiescing, even if we
don’t agree. Yet Paul is not talking about submission to authority here, rather it is mutual submission, it is a process of agreement. Not you doing what I want, or me doing what you want, but rather us, together, preferring one another, and caring for one another, rather
than a combative, ‘you will do what I say’.
There is in this idea of submission the idea of unity. One of the prayers that I most look forward to seeing answered is the one on unity from John 17:22: that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. The
reason why this unity matters, why our mutual submission matters, is because they produce a spectacular result, which we find in vs23: Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Unity matters, and we attain it through submission to one another, but it is not easy. Let’s pray that God would grant us grace to submit and prefer one another in this coming year.

 

4th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

"I know who holds the future"

Well it has started! We are on our way! Last time we were here we had no idea what was coming. New Year 2020 most of us had never heard of Covid-19 or Coronavirus. Now it is restricting all our lives in one way or another. People were keen to ‘kick 2020 into touch’ and start afresh with the New Year. The vaccine is gradually being rolled out and it has been claimed that ‘the light at the end of the tunnel is getting nearer’. Everybody is full of hope – well almost. The new variant has ‘put its oar’ in and nobody really knows what is happening with it. So much of the country is under Tier 4 with more restrictions promised ahead. There are endless debates about whether children should be going to school or not and so it goes on. Not much new here for 2021 we might say. In is All Age talk for yesterday, Dan quoted a hymn which can give us just that note of optimism which we all need. It is not too difficult to see how it fits in with our church verse for 2021.
This is what the Lord says:  ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.                             Jeremiah 6:16

Dan quoted the chorus ‘I know who holds the future’ but the verses spell out truths that could be quite daunting – 'I do not know what lies ahead, the way I cannot see' - and – 'I do not know how many days of life are mine to spend' - and – 'I do not know the course ahead, what joys and griefs are there.' 

These are all sentiments we know about as we start this New Year. Each of these are clearly balanced, however, by clear positive statements to which we can hold through the year – 'Yet one stands near to be my guide, He’ll show the way to me' – 'But One who knows and cares for me will keep me to the end' – 'But One is near who fully knows, I’ll trust his loving care.'
Then to emphasise the hopeful, positive view of the future which we all long for the chorus says:

I Know Who Holds The Future,
And He’ll Guide Me With His Hand;
With God Things Don’t Just Happen,
Everything By Him Is Planned.
So As I Face Tomorrow,
With Its Problems Large And Small,
I’ll Trust The God Of Miracles,
Give To Him My All.

As we go into 2021, with all of its unknowns, these words by Alfred B Smith (1916-2001) point out that we do not need to face it with fear and doubt but with confidence and trust in our God who knows the way ahead and will lead us through it.

 

For 3rd January 2021

Our spoken Word for the Day is from Graham Carpmail who is thinking about "God's Protection" here

For 2nd January 2021

From David Depledge

Learning from King David (1)

In our reading below, David has become king over all twelve tribes of Israel. He has conquered Jerusalem and made it his new capital, and he had defeated the Philistines at Rephaim. But now they have rallied their troops and come against him again.

2 Sam 5:22-25

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David listened to the Lord, and he answered, ‘Do not go straight up, but circle round behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.’ 25 So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

This passage begins with a problem. An enemy has come to destroy David. The problem is real and the problem has to be dealt with. My focus is on how David dealt with his problem. And I want to suggest that it may help us to understand how to deal with our problems.

Do any of us have a problem that needs a solution? Of course we do. I doubt any of us are currently dealing with Philistines. But we may be dealing with an illness. We may need to resolve some relationship issues? There may be problems with our job (or lack of one). There may be problems in the family. Sometimes there are financial problems that are dogging us. Maybe it is just a pandemic! I don’t know what problems you may be facing in life right now; but there may be some wisdom in David’s behaviour here that would be helpful for us.

How did David deal with his problem?

I want to suggest three things that David does right in this passage.

  1. He listened (2) He waited (3) He acted

Today I am just dealing with the first of these – the others will follow in future WFTDs

David listened to the Lord. He did that before he did anything else! Sometimes we impulsively act on a situation and then when our action blows up in our face, we listen to the Lord. That’s better than never listening; but David gets it right when he does that first.

If you or I skipped that step with our problem, we might want to go back and check with God before we do anything else.

David did not assume that he knew what to do. The interesting thing about this particular situation is that David just fought the same enemy at the same place. What he did last time worked. So it would be very tempting to assume it would work this time. But, in his heart, David knew where his last victory came from. Therefore He listened to the Lord rather than presumptuously assuming he already knew the answer.

This inclination to ask God is a key to David’s success. Even before he fought the previous battle, we hear that he asked the Lord for guidance. On another occasion, before David became king, the Amalekites had attacked his camp while he and his men were gone on a raid. They kidnapped all their wives. David’s men were so distressed over the matter they were even talking about stoning David. So here is David with the wives kidnapped, his men freaking out.

You would think it would be a “no brainer:” go get the wives! But 1 Sam 30:8 says, “..David enquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’

‘Pursue them,’ he answered. ‘You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.’”

David had learned the value of asking the Lord’s guidance and listening to the answer.

So, are we asking God what to do about our problem or are we just assuming we know what to do? James 1:5 :-

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

In our reading, David asks and God gave him a strategy for dealing with his problem. God has him approach the problem in a different way than before. In the last battle, David won through a frontal attack on the enemy. But this time God tells him to circle around behind the enemy and catch him off guard.

It is always good to ask God!

For 1st January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the Lord says:

‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

This is the verse that we selected recently to be our verse of the year. It is the verse that seemed appropriate to us, as we look ahead to the year 2021. In many ways, it is a verse that is always appropriate. Each day, we stand and look to decide where we should go, and how we should live. We make that decision consciously each day, even if we choose not to make those decisions, a choice is made. Yet it seems particularly appropriate for our times.

I started 2020 by asking where my jetpack was, and then spent most of the year not missing technical gadgetry, but missing the simple things, like contact with human beings. The ability to stop off and have a cup of tea as I visit with someone. The ability to see where I was going in Tesco’s without my glasses being steamed up by my face mask. This is what many of us, in fact, I suspect all of us, have wrestled with this year. The simple ability to interact with people, unconcerned about safety and risk.

Yet now we begin to look again to the hope of the future, as vaccines become more available, we can see a way forward. As once again a more normal life becomes a possibility, let us use this in-between time. Let us take the chance to stop, and use this time to regroup, to reassess, both as private individuals, but also corporately as a Church, where we are and what we are called to do. Let us do what this verse advises us to do: Let us ask for the ancient paths; let us give thanks for what has gone before; and let us seek to learn from our forebears and build on the legacy of the past. Yet let us also ask where the good way is, let us seek what God has for us, for now, for the situations that we are in. Let us pursue with diligence and prayer what God may be calling us to this day. Then, when we have sought this good way, let us make sure that we walk in it, so that we will find the promise that is made. That we will find rest for [y]our souls. Let 2021 be a year where we learn from the past and embrace the present so that as we walk with God in 2021, we may receive all the good that He has for us.

For 31st December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

A friend shared this following story.

You will never look at a fork the same way again! 

Keep your fork! ❤️❤️❤️

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things 'in order,' she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly..

"What's that?" came the Pastor's reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, "Keep your fork." It was my favourite part because I knew that something better was coming .... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!"

"So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder... "What's with the fork?" Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork ... the best is yet to come."

The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolised to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share. Being friends with someone is not an opportunity, but a sweet responsibility.

Share this to everyone you consider a FRIEND... and I'll bet this will be a message they do remember, every time they pick up a fork!

And just remember ... keep your fork!

The BEST is yet to come!

With much love

Graham 

‘Faith not fear’

For 30th December 2020

A spoken Word for the Day from Jim Barber on 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 - Love- can be found here

For 29th December 2020

From Coral Lynes

His Majesty

During this last year one of the activities which was suggested was to take a look at the Psalms and maybe to share some of our favourite ones in Our stories or Word for the Day.  I had so many favourite passages I found it hard to choose at first but I settled on recording Psalm 46 earlier this year.  This time I don’t intend to sing… but in thinking about the Majesty of Creator God which can be found in a number of passages of scripture I was reminded of a plaque Stan & I saw a few years ago when out on a walk during a holiday in the Lake District.

 

Whilst on a boat trip from Keswick, we had left Derwent Water and walked to find Lodore Falls.  We had followed a path meandering through woods, climbing steadily and scrambling over rocks until we reached a point where we could fully appreciate the power and beauty of the falls, cascading down towards the river.  We were glad we had made the effort to explore and after spending some time there, we returned the way we had come.

We climbed down carefully, picking our way along the uneven path, but as we were about to turn to cross a bridge over the river, a simple plaque caught my eye.  Why had I not noticed it on our way up the hill? Surely this could not just be a co-incidence.  The inscription was based on Psalm 93 v4 “Mightier than the thunder of great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty.”  I have recently found out that these Rambler Plaques can be found in many locations around the world. 

 

In this case what a wonderful reminder that God is always greater than all of our troubles!  

 

 

For 28th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

NO MORE TEARS

As we enter 2021 you may be thinking that NO MORE TIERS is the slogan we really want. But stick with me.

Probably most people outside the church today think that science has disproved the Bible, and specifically Genesis chapter 1.

Recently I decided to see exactly what scientists are saying about the origins of the universe. I’m not a scientist and I struggled to cope with the concepts and the terminology: galaxies and galaxy clusters, dark matter, gravitational lensing, nucleosynthesis, accelerators, quantum theory, the ekpyrotic universe, and so on.

Clearly it’s all a world away from the six days of creation in Genesis 1.

However I was also interested to discover that scientists themselves are not of one mind. The article I read concluded with this: ‘Science grants a real possibility of approaching an answer, but we still have no idea if an absolute answer can ever be found.’

A verse that has always helped me in my thinking about the Bible is Deuteronomy 29:29.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

In other words God doesn’t reveal everything to us. He reveals what we need to know and particularly what will help us to live our lives the right way.

Johnson and Johnson is the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company.

Their scientific credentials can be measured by this list of ingredients for one of their products:

Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Lauryl Glucoside, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-150 Distearate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Fragrance [Benzyl Acetate, Ionone Beta, Methyl Ionones, Peach Pure, Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol, Tropional], Polyquaternium-10, Disodium EDTA.

The product is baby shampoo.

Their target customers, Mums with babies, are hardly likely to decide what to buy based on the scientific small print. So the marketing department has come up with a solution. They’ve simply called it ‘No More Tears’.

if God had published the science of creation it would have been beyond even the most eminent scientific minds of our day, let alone the centuries before this generation.

God decided against a scientific textbook. So how could he explain creation in a way that would be understandable for everyone, clever or simple, young or old, civilised or barbarian, ancient or modern? The method he chose is in the opening chapter of Genesis.

It’s simple enough for a child to understand and deep enough for a scholar to explore. That’s the glory of Genesis 1.

God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The God who created the world will one day bring it to an end. But ‘in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13).

God is not only the great Creator. He is also the great Communicator. And in Revelation 21:4 he has given us this promise. You guessed it …

NO MORE TEARS

For 27th December 2020

A spoken Word for the Day from Mhairi Boxer can be found here

For 26th December 2020

From Anna Grimshaw

Genesis 8:22

22 ‘As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

No matter what time of year it is, when I look out on my garden I’m reminded of God’s generosity to us.  Maybe it’s my Irish background but even now in the middle of winter, He doesn’t just give us green, I’m sure I can see at least forty shades!!   There are quite a few evergreens but several of the other trees are bare now, having gone from the glorious display of autumn colours, to the starkness of a leafless frame.   But even here there is generous beauty displayed in the different shapes and frameworks – a reminder that despite their surface appearances, the trees continue to live through the dark days of winter.

As we move towards the end of 2020 – a year like no other, many of us have had our lives stripped back to basics.   But without the sometimes frantic activity of our former lives, we have the opportunity to look at what’s underneath, where we have put our faith, what we believe, think and do on a day to day basis in “normal” times.

Thankfully, just as for the trees in my garden, spring will come for us, because that’s what God’s Word promises.  We already have signs of hope with vaccinations beginning and hopefully more vaccines to follow.  But the pandemic has affected so much more than our health, and life will very likely be quite different for some time to come. 

As individuals and as a fellowship at QRBC we have the opportunity to start afresh, learning from the past, but moving into the future keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.  This Christmas we have been limited by the current restrictions, but perhaps more than ever before we need to focus on the gift of the baby in a manger who came to bring hope to a troubled world.   And as we look towards the new beginnings that we hope will come in 2021, let’s use the remaining days of the year as a period of preparation, to concentrate on what He wants, to think less about the restrictions, and more about the freedom we have to choose to be willing to be clay in the Potter’s hands, ready to begin a new season when it comes.

With Christmas blessings

Anna 

For 25th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

GODISNOWHERE

How do you read that heading? For probably the vast majority of people in our country the answer would be ‘God is nowhere.’

What a year we’ve had. And it’s not over yet. Yes, there’s the prospect of a vaccine to tackle the dreaded Covid-19 virus but that doesn’t wipe out the feeling, shared by many people, that 2020 has been a miserable wipe out, a year we would rather forget, and sadly, a year that for its sense of loss and wasted life will be impossible to forget.

Such hope as there is will be found in science, in the government (possibly…) and the NHS, but not in God.

For many, God is nowhere.

And yet the Christmas message is still Immanuel, God with us. ‘God is now here.’

The Christmas story reminds us that God is sovereign.

Did Joseph sit down one day with Micah’s prophecy and say, ‘How can I ensure that the Messiah is born in Bethlehem?’ Absolutely not.

Did the great Emperor Caesar Augustus suddenly take an interest in Jewish history and Messianic expectation and manipulate the affairs of a whole empire in order to accommodate an ancient prophecy? No way.

And yet the organisation of an entire empire was manipulated to ensure that scripture would be fulfilled.

The controlling hand behind all these events, on the world stage and at a domestic level, was the hand of the sovereign God, working his purpose out deliberately, relentlessly, unstoppably.

The Christmas story reminds us of God’s sovereign control.

It also reminds us of his gracious condescension.

It was the custom in Mary‘s day to swaddle a newborn child, but to lay a newborn child in an animal’s feeding trough was no contemporary custom. It was invention born of necessity. The house where they were staying was packed out with hardly an inch of space. The only place Mary could find to lay her newborn son was a manger.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour

all for love’s sake becamest poor.

The grace that we see at Jesus’ birth would be seen also in his death, when he chose the cross, taking our sins and sorrows, dying the death of a condemned criminal, but more than that, dying as an atoning sacrifice, to set us free from sin and bring us back to God.

What can we learn from this?

Firstly, that this is God’s world and the affairs of the world are in his hands. In a way that we cannot fathom, and often cannot follow, God is in control.

Secondly, the seemingly random and inexplicable events of our own little lives are over-arched by the sovereign purposes of God. That illness, that accident, that loss, that frustration. We can say with David (Psalm 31:5), ‘My times are in your hands.’

But most importantly, at the centre of God’s plans is his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

History, prophecy and sovereignty all converge to put him in central place.

Immanuel.

GOD IS NOW HERE

For 24th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

God With Us Brings Peace 

In Luke 2:25 we hear of a man called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. The term consolation means “comfort,” in the specific sense of “help” or “rescue.” Simeon was waiting for Israel’s deliverance in the person of God’s Messiah.

Verse 26 says, ‘It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon gives us all encouragement and hope, for he had waited and waited so many years to experience Immanuel, ‘God with us’ and it was the Holy Spirit that led him into the temple courts, After Simeon’s encounter with the promised Messiah, his joyful response was expressed with these words. “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss your servant in peace!”

Simeon was in effect saying, “Now I can die in Peace! I’m ready!”  He was filled with such a peace because he had experienced ‘God with us’ the promised Messiah, KING JESUS!

We too will know a peace that the world cannot know when God is with us, for He is the Prince of Peace.

Happy Christmas, May His Peace overwhelm you as you welcome Him into your hearts anew.

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

23rd December 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 5:8-20                                                                                                        

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

15 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I enjoy reading, and I read a lot. Hopefully, in a few days’ time, I’ll have some new material to enjoy. Yet one of the things that always grabs my attention in a good book is the title. One of the titles that still grabs my attention was written by theologian and apologist Francis A. Schaeffer. The title of the book is: “How should we then live?” It’s a great title, as it sums up the content, intrigues the mind as to possibilities, but it also offers solutions.

This chunk of Ephesians is in the same mould; it could even have the same sub-title. It starts with a statement of fact, a recognition of where we were, and then moves to where we are. 'For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. As we are no longer of the dark, but rather light, we should live as in the light.' It’s a simple argument that we should act according to the situation we are in. If I had an old suit that doesn’t fit, looks horrible and smells even worse, and was given a brand-new, tailored, great-looking suit to wear instead, it would be very stupid of me to put on the old, awful suit.

Then we move on to the radical truth that each day is a fresh opportunity new for today. We may have made a mess of yesterday, or even many yesterdays, but today is a new day. This is a fresh day of new hope and possibilities. ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ This is a new hope; so wake up! Why wake up? Because this is a day of fresh opportunities, a day of fresh starts. A day with a chance to act with wisdom, tact and to take each opportunity that comes. This is a new day to choose: will you live in the light, full of life, alert and wise, or in the dark, blind, befuddled and lost. This is a new day how will you choose?

 

22nd December 2020

Today Mhairi Boxer talks about Zephaniah 3:17 to remind us how much God loves us. You can hear what she has to say here

21st December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Star so bright

Have you heard what is happening tonight?  I am told that at 6.20pm, this evening, there is going to be a Great Conjunction in the sky. Do what, you may say, as I did.  It appears that at that time, on this date, Saturn and Jupiter, bright lights in our sky which follow different orbits to one another, will be so very close together that they will appear as one very bright star.  As we live in the Northern Hemisphere we need to look towards the South West horizon to see this.  It should be quite spectacular. Apparently the last time this happened was on 16th July 1623, but it would not have been visible from earth because of the position of the sun and the time before that was in 1223.  Quite a rare happening.

Interesting, isn’t it, as we are just about to celebrate another time when a bright star appeared in the sky.  As was said in church, the week before yesterday, the Magi who saw that star and realised its significance were the scientists of the day.  Just like our scientists who have been working hard on studying the Coronavirus, they have taken what they can see, (the effect of the virus on people and the structure they have worked out),  have related it to what they already knew (from the study of other viruses and their effects) and have put this knowledge into action (by developing the vaccine and advising what should be done to reduce the spread of the virus).  The Magi took what they could see (the spectacular star), related it to what they knew (quite possibly including Balaam’s prophecy about a ruler coming out of Israel signified by a star Numbers 24:17-19 – and other wisdom they had gained) and put it into action by following the star to find this new king.  The data, knowledge base and techniques were quite different but the pattern was the same.

We have been told a few times recently that we should follow the science! This is what we do as Christians.  We see reality around us and in us.  We relate this to what we have learned or gained beforehand.  For us, as Christians, this includes what we have learned and are learning from God’s Word.  Then putting the two together we act in faith according to what we have learned.

As you look for the bright star tonight or meditate on the original Christ star of the Magi over Christmas remember that the One who created the stars and put them into orbit, entered our world as a baby in order to give His life to bring us back to God.  Look at the facts of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Relate them to what God’s Word has to say about them. Then you will only want to worship Him, as the Magi did, and commit yourself to live in His way.

 

20th December 2020

Today's spoken Word for the Day from Anita White focusses on Colossians 3:12-17. You can hear it here.

19th December 2020

From Kay Hamer

'God with us'

Have you ever spent time looking at the story of the shepherd's that night years ago? Can you imagine how they must have felt? They were quietly getting on with night's work of caring for the sheep, trying to stay awake and keep warm. When all of a sudden there was an enormous interruption! Neil spoke about waiting in his sermon on 29th of November, and raised the question of whether the Jews were still waiting for that prophesy in Isaiah to come to pass. I wonder if the promise of old had just settled into their everyday faith? I am sure that there would not have been an eager expectancy.

When the sky filled with angels bringing the most amazing news.

Imagine the sight, but the message they brought, as it slowly became clear must have been shattering.

The truth was that God had kept His age old promise.

Small wonder that they left their sheep and went to find out if this was really happening.

The wonder of the shepherds

On the hills of Bethlehem,

Made me think about the promise

They saw fulfilled for them;

In the coming of Messiah,

In the answering of their prayer,

In the HOPE that came in Jesus,'

'The anointed one is here'.

 

The angels told the story,

what a sight it was to see

The Heavenly Host in splendour

Brought a tale of liberty.

They said He'd come for everyone,

There was no need to fear,

The Saviour of the world is born,

'The anointed one is here'.

 

Many times I've wondered

How the shepherds really felt

As they rushed to see Messiah,

And in adoration knelt.

Hearts lifted high in worship

In the stable, cold and bare,

God had kept His promise!

'The anointed one is here'.

 

As Christmas comes around today,

How do we His people cope?

Do we marvel like the shepherds

In Him our only Hope?

So let's be still in wonder,

Let's get the message clear,

We must show the world- Our love for Him,

'The anointed One is here'.

 

So can I encourage you to stop, look and listen as in the road crossing code, ask God to help you as you think again at how amazing is the Christmas story. Besides the fun and festivities, the amazing, powerful, hopeful truth is that for us too......

The anointed One is here!.

 

 

18th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (5)

He satisfies your desires with good things.

One of the anthems representing the youth culture of my teens was the track ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones.

Psalm 103 tells us that the way to satisfaction in life is to be satisfied with good things and that is what God promises us.

So many are seeking satisfaction in bad things, in sinful things, in doubtful things. The devil is the master of deception, making them seem so attractive and disguising the poison they contain.

The New Testament reinforces the truth that true satisfaction is to be found in good things.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness
(Ephesians 4:22–24).

Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world.  The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but those who do the will of God live forever (1 John 2:15–17, Good News Bible).

This fifth benefit is reinforced with a wonderful promise:

… so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The eagle is a magnificent bird. To see an eagle in reality and not just on film is a rare sight and always brings a sense of privilege. If the lion is the king of beasts, the eagle is the king of birds.

We find another reference to it in Isaiah 40:30, 31.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
     They will soar on wings like eagles;
     they will run and not grow weary,
     they will walk and not be faint.

Throughout David’s psalm there is a theme of ascending. Being upwardly mobile in a spiritual sense is a good thing. The images may differ but the direction is always heavenward.

Lifted from the pit, released from oppression, elevated to a royal position, soaring like the eagle.

Verses 20 to 22 bring Psalm 103 to a fitting close. What is an appropriate response in the light of all that God has done and is doing?

Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

And finally, my response once more?

Praise the LORD, my soul!

 

17th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

God with us ... Brings Joy

The year was 1977, my first year at Theological College in South Wales, A land far, far, away from home! Many students would return home most weekends leaving the Halls of residence very quiet with just 2 or three students around. After several months in College I found myself in a strange environment with so many unfamiliar aspects to what I had been used to at home.

I remember that the most difficult thing was that the God I knew also seemed far, far away too.

I had been getting up at 7am every morning to do my quiet time with God, but I felt disconnected from God and that was what concerned me more than anything else.

On one particular morning I knelt beside my bed and cried out to God, I then held up my hands, cupped together, waiting in silence. What followed was one of the most remarkable experiences I have had with God. I felt something like a physical sensation of my hands being filled with what I can only describe as a beautiful smooth Oil that poured into my cupped hands. As the oil began to flow over the sides of my now filled up hands, my hands moved toward my face and suddenly I felt completely drenched, filled with Joy and the very presence of God.

Wave after wave of joy overwhelmed me as I knelt there, now with my arms held high. I arose from that encounter  as a completely different person in that whereas previously I was lonely and lost, distant from God, now, feeling filled with Joy and  truly loved by my Heavenly Father.

My experience that morning was such an experience of God being with me once again, and because of that, I was filled with inexpressible Joy!!

If you are feeling that God is somewhere else rather than being with you, ‘Don’t give up, look Up’

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

16th December 2020

Today Graham Carpmail speaks about loneliness and our response to it as Christians. You can hear him here

15th December 2020

From Iain Colville

Ephesians 5:1-7 

​ 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.  

Walk in the way of love

As chapter 4 ends and chapter 5 begins, Paul continues to call his readers to live lives that honour Jesus. 

This is a call to imitate our Heavenly Father’s ways, as His dearly beloved children (v1).  Paul particularly emphasises that we are to “walk in the way of love” or to “live in love”, just as Jesus demonstrated in his great love for each one of us, by giving himself to death on the Cross (v2).  In doing so, Jesus acts out and embodies His Father’s love.

It’s often the case that children will imitate the behaviour or mannerisms of their parents and other adults, whether consciously or subconsciously.  As we seek to follow Jesus’ example, as the Son imitates His Father, let’s pray for the children and young people that we know, that they will see and learn from us a way of love inspired by our Heavenly Father.  Let’s also give thanks for those who taught us to live in love, perhaps your parents or grandparents, or maybe a teacher or someone else who showed you how to follow Jesus.

Next, Paul makes clear that imitating our Heavenly Father requires not only that we mirror His love but also His holiness.  As “God’s holy people”, Paul demands that his readers guard against “even a hint” of sexual wrongdoing and “any kind” of greed or impurity (v3).  We also need to watch our mouths too, which should be filled with thanksgiving, rather than obscenity or coarse joking (v4), and to be careful that we don’t listen to those who speak with “empty words” and who might deceive us (v6).  Paul wants his readers to be in no doubt as to the seriousness of his exhortation to follow the Father’s way of holiness, and the judgment and wrath that awaits if we do not (v5,6).

Take time today to consider your response to this call to holiness and right living.  Is the Holy Spirit drawing something to your attention, which is not consistent with imitating our Heavenly Father’s way of love and holiness?  Let’s focus too on all that we can and should be thankful for as God’s beloved children.   

Many blessings,

Iain

 

14th December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Back to nature

Are you one of those people who have found ‘solace in nature’ during the lockdowns and isolations of 2020?  From most accounts this has been a common response to not being able to do many things, including socialising during this time.  People have spent more time in their gardens or going for walks or cycle rides and have begun to appreciate the joys of nature.  We have heard the birds singing that much more  (we have had a family of 8 sparrows in our garden for most of the summer and autumn)  we’ve noticed the colours of the turning leaves of autumn – we’ve been more aware of insects – and in general terms been drawn back into our natural surroundings.

Some of the most popular TV programmes recently have been the Spring, Autumn and Winter watches fronted up by Chris Packham and others.  One of the things the presenters have succeeded in doing has been to show off many of the wonders of the interconnectedness of so many parts of the animal and plant worlds.  They are often heard to just wonder at the beauty of nature and the skill of nature in the abilities insects or flowers have in providing for or protecting themselves or their young.  As you listen to them there is a real sense of awe and wonder in their voices.  As I join them in this sense of beauty, awe and wonder in nature, I long to just take them the next stage to the One who created all the systems and life that that they are exploring.  In his letter to the Romans Paul put it like this

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…

Romans 1:20

Our own Chris Headon has been helping us appreciate this power of God in nature with all of her photos of what is around us here in Coventry.  If only others could see behind the Creation to the Creator !  They do in the fashion world, car design world, cookery world and even in the sports world.  Credit is given to the creator of new things not just to the things themselves.  Why can we not take that step in the most important area of life?

Prince Harry entered into this attitude this week.  Did you see his comments about the Covid-19 pandemic?  In an interview he said

"Somebody said to me at the beginning of the pandemic, it's almost as though Mother Nature has sent us to our rooms for bad behaviour, to really take a moment and think about what we've done.

"It's certainly reminded me about how interconnected we all are, not just as people but through nature. We take so much from her and we rarely give a lot back."

He is not the first person to personify nature in this way.  It has been done throughout the ages, but I wonder if he has not struck a truth.  We would want to go a step further than he did and go beyond the creation to the Creator. If the Creator has ‘sent us to our rooms for bad behaviour’ what do we think that bad behaviour is and have we started to learn the lessons from it?  The next few verses in Romans 1 may help. Have a look and see what you think.

13th December 2020

Today Don Brown reads one of his favourite Bible passages - the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus - and explains what he learns from it. Hear Don here

12th December 2020

From Miranda Shieh

You Can Be Untouchable

Psalm 91

Would you like to live in a place where no evil, danger or calamity can come near you?  I surely would. How about you? You will agree with me that we live in a world that is getting very dangerous and insecure as the days go by, regardless of where you live or your status. Thank God, that as His dearly beloved, we can live in a secured place, a secret place that is under the shadow of God’s wings, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because our Father wants to be our Protector, our Refuge, our Fortress, and our God in Whom we can trust. He has angels ready to be our divine escorts and supernatural security at all time. How would you like to go about each day with the assurance that Gods’ Shadow is hovering over you and your love ones? Isn’t that reassuring? So how do we get to live in such a place?

God through Jesus has already made provision for our protection from all danger the world can throw at us. Anyone that has made or makes Jesus Lord of their life can enjoy this supernatural protection. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that ‘whosoever’ believes in Him should not perish (John 3:16). There is a lot of perishing in the world today that we need protection from; pestilence, terrorist attacks, accidents, earthquakes, sickness. That is why the Word admonishes us not to neglect our great salvation once we have been born again; we cannot let it slip so that it will be deliverance to us when we need it (1Peter 1:1-3, Hebrews 2:3). For there is no safety out of God. Our Father is offering us a secret place with angelic protection, so that we can hide from the dangers of this world. So how do we enter that secret place?

We do this by abiding in Him, and obeying His commands. Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). To activate the fruit of Psalm 91, we have to stay in that secret place, to believe, receive and obey His Word, trust in Him and be fully committed to Him.  We have to fill our heart with His word and speak it out in faith at all time. We cannot afford to dip in and out of God’s Word and expect to dwell under His shadow. We cannot live in disobedience or keep on speaking fear and unbelieve and reap of that security promised to us. For from the abundance of our heart, our mouth will speak (Mathew 12:34). The choice therefore is ours.

As Scripture says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh that you would choose life…”  (Deuteronomy 30:19). 

Make up your mind to choose God as your Protector and obey what He says. “If you remain in me and My Words remain in you ask whatever” (John 15:7).  We’ve got to remain in God’s Word, trusting in God’s protection. If you have and keep my commands, the Father will love you, I will love you and reveal myself to you (John 14:21). God’s manifestation of His protection in our life is tied to our knowledge of His word, so that we can believe it, receive it, and walk in it. Abiding will bring us to a place where we are fully persuaded of God’s protection. As our faith arises from within, it will dislodge any fear and insecurity in our hearts. We will walk in freedom because we now know the Truth and we can boldly say of the Lord;

“He is my Refuge, my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust”. As we say of the Lord in faith, we are activating the fruit of Psalm 91, giving God the faith to work with because we are guarded by God through our faith.

We will be able to say as the Psalmist did; For He is a shield for me, my glory and the lifter of my head…I lay down and sleep; I wakened again, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about (Psalm 3:8). For Our Heavenly Father is saying, your salvation, protection and deliverance belongs to Me. Give me the faith to work with. I am willing and able to go to work on your behalf to protect you.

 Therefore, because you have made Me (God) your refuge and dwelling place, I will see to it that, no evil befalls you, and no plague or calamity comes near you.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand but you will be spared. I will assign my angels as your divine escort and supernatural security wherever you go. Continue to walk in with Me (God). My mercy will continually hover over you and your love ones to deliver you.

So stand in faith today. Like Noah, take God’s Word and build an ark of protection around you and your love ones and stay in that inaccessible place where you can see the waters of destruction consume the earth. So arise to your deliverance on a daily basis and say of the Lord… You are my Refuge, my Fortress and my God; on You I lean and rely, and in You I confidently trust.  Our Father is faithful and able to keep that which we have committed to Him.

 

11th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (4)

He redeems your life from the pit.

With this benefit we move from the literal to the metaphorical. Sins and diseases are all too real but the pit is a metaphor, an illustration.

It describes a situation which you find yourself in or which someone else has put you in and you’re trapped. You can’t escape. It’s as if you’ve been dropped in a deep pit with smooth sides and there’s no way out.

The pit was used to trap animals, usually in order to kill them. Death in the Old Testament is described as going down into the pit.

It’s this aspect which is picked up in verses 15 and 16.

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

When these verses talk about grass, it’s not the lush green grass that we have to keep cutting, even over winter. It’s the short-lived grass of the middle east, springing up in the cool of the morning but burnt off by mid-day, scorched in the blazing noonday sun.

We are like that grass but verses 17 to 18 offer hope.

From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children –
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

The Bible teaches that death is the result of sin. That’s why scripture says, ‘He redeems your life from the pit.’

The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The gift of eternal life is free but it is not cheap. A price was paid to redeem us and that price was Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.

He crowns you with love and compassion.

The helpless sinner is not only lifted out of the pit but received into the palace – and crowned!

God’s mercy delivers us from sin and condemnation. But grace goes beyond mercy, and this benefit is all about grace. God does not just take away our sins. He gives us what Paul described as ‘the riches of his grace’. He crowns you with love and compassion.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Verse 19 assures us that he has the right to crown you with love and compassion, giving you a royal security and a royal authority and a royal responsibility.

This theme of love and compassion runs like a rich seam throughout Psalm 103.

He crowns you with love and compassion. … He is compassionate, abounding in love. … As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. … As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. … From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him (verses 4, 8, 11, 13, 17).

 

10th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

‘God with us brings Love’

In the second of our ‘God with us’ series for Advent, today we are exploring how when God is with us, He brings love.

Jesus is indeed Immanuel - ‘God with us’ This was the prophetic promise given by Isaiah 7:14

Then fulfilled, hundreds of years later, as a reassurance by the Angel to Joseph that Mary’s child was born of God and that Joseph should not name him Bar (son of) Joseph, but name him Jesus which from the Hebrew root of the name (Joshua) meaning ‘God saves’ The Angelic encounter with Joseph is recorded in Matthew 1:23

 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).

Jesus’ life and ministry was an overwhelming demonstration & testimony of love.

He loved the outcast, He accepted the unacceptable and ate with Tax collectors and Sinners. He is truly the ‘Living Word’

1 John 4:7-9 so perfectly describes how that, when God sent Jesus His only Son, He sent God to be with us and He lived love and brought love, showing us how to live and love others in the same way that He loved us.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live (and love) through Him.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

9th December 2020

In today's spoken contribution from Ruth Jess we are asked the question "Will your anchor hold in the storms of Life?" You can hear it here.

8th December 2020

From Liz Martin

Ephesians 4: 25-32

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 ‘In your anger do not sin’[a]: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I wonder whether Paul had any inkling when he was writing his letter to the church in Ephesus that his words would be read thousands of years later by us, miles away from his world geographically, in context, in thought. I suspect if we thought that our messages, letters and emails would be read by others in years to come, we may be slightly more careful at times as to what we say! Most of us are not deliberately rude or dishonest, but sometimes we don’t bear in mind the recipient in how we communicate. I think this is partly what Paul is getting at in the first verse of our reading: ‘speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.’ Speak what is true. I am reminded of Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians in chapter 4, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’ Speak about such things; write about such things; have your minds and your conversations full of such things. We do this because we are members of one body, what hurts you, hurts me; what brings you joy, brings me joy. As has often been said, we’re in this together!

Paul returns to this idea in verse 29, that what comes out of our mouths should be to the benefit of those who listen. I am told by my mother that when I was younger, I was a waffler. I waffled. I gabbered. Now, this could be partly because both my parents are fairly quiet by nature; or it could just be that I was yet to learn the art of thinking before I speak. I doubt my waffle was harmful to those who heard, but I also doubt it was particularly of benefit! Of course there can be immense value in just chatting with people, with no particular aim in mind; it’s partly how we connect. But I would love it if what came out of my mouth was of benefit to others, ‘helpful for building others up according to their needs.’

Even as I write this, my mind is full of ideas as to what I could say on this passage, it’s so rich, it’s so instructive and helpful. But I think I’ll exercise self-control, and leave you with the thought that we are to be ‘kind and compassionate to one another,’ in our speech as well as in our actions and thoughts, ‘forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.’

 

7th December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

One thing many of us will be missing out on this year, at least in their normal formats, is our children’s or grandchildren’s nativity plays from school.  Some will be put together to go on line, which is good as the children will still be learning songs and activities relating to Christmas.  On the other hand, parents and grandparents will miss out on seeing their youngsters dressing up and performing!

Instead of watching your youngsters doing their thing this year, how about a bit of day-dreaming and imagination for yourself?  Knowing yourself, as well as you do, which of the characters in the original, Biblical story would you fit into best or perhaps would you have liked to have been.  Would it have been Mary, with her quiet confidence and trust in a God who had promised?  Or Joseph, who only wanted the best for his betrothed and was willing to trust God and take the circumstances?  Would you have been more likely to have been one of the ‘rough’ shepherds taken by surprise by the group of angels with such strange news?  Would you have gone to investigate?  Perhaps you would have liked to be one of the angels proclaiming God’s Good news to those who would listen?  If you were honest do you think you might have been a bit like Herod, who felt he was in charge of what was going on in his life and resisted the thought of change – using all his initiative and at any cost?  On the other hand perhaps you would have been amongst the wise men and their entourage who were prepared to undertake almost anything to find out what was going on?  Maybe you might have been one of the religious leaders, who were not ready for the ‘coming one’ and so did not travel the few miles down the road to greet him, even when it was possible he had arrived?   Perhaps you think you might have been in the family that let Mary into their house so that she could lay her baby in the comfort of the animal manger? (Sorry there was no innkeeper in the Biblical story.)  What would you have thought of the arrival of the shepherds so soon after the baby was born?  What would you have thought, probably several months later, when that other group of foreign visitors came to see the new child?  If you had been a resident of Bethlehem, what would you think might happen when the rumours of who this baby was came to Herod’s ears?  How would you have felt if you also had a young boy born around this time?

There were so many people involved in this event which we are still remembering this year.  Take a little time to put yourselves into the shoes of one or two of these folk.  Think through the circumstances.   How would you have felt?  How would you have reacted?  It might help you have your own nativity play in your head and perhaps appreciate again, why people reacted in the way they did.  It might help you understand why they did or said what they did.

Most of all, perhaps it will lead you with the wise men and shepherds to worship the Christ child.  This was God Almighty entering into our human life. Absolutely amazing.  What a privilege those folk had to be around when it happened!  What a shame that so few of them realised what was happening!

 

6th December 2020

Today's spoken Word for the Day is from Liz Martin who talks about the gifts that Jesus can give if we have faith. You can hear it here

5th December 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Part 2: Keeping your life line unclogged

As dearly beloved children of God, we have unrestricted access into the throne room of our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe. It is His desire that we are in continual fellowship with Him anytime, anywhere and in any season in our life. 

But did you know that we can restrict our access to the throne room through the sin of unforgiveness? Walking in unforgiveness, blocks our access into the throne room. That is why Scripture commands us to forgive if we have anything against anyone when we stand to pray, so that our Father who is in heaven will also forgive us (Mark 11:25).  To keep our life line open, we have to forgive.  Notice that the ‘when’ in that verse means prayer is our access code into the presence of the Father and so we are expected to pray. Secondly, anything, means there is no justification for unforgiveness and ‘anyone’ means no exceptions. So what is that something that you have been holding against someone that you feel justified not to let go?  Our father is saying today that you need to let go for your own benefit. May God search and know our hearts: try us and know our thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in us and lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

We live in a world that tells us that we are justified not to forgive those who hurt us. But God commands us to forgive, not once but seventy times seventy times (Mathew 18:21-22). We are commanded to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who mistreat us. Why? Because it is the nature of our heavenly Father, whose nature we have. For He forgives all our sins (Psalm 103:3). He is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9). You may be wondering how you can really forgive.

Remember that it is God, living in you, who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to forgive (Philippians 2:13). For it cannot be by our might or power but by His Spirit. You may say, I was the one who got hurt. However, unforgiveness in your heart, never hurts the other person but you. It will create bitterness and hate, and that bitterness will eat you up like cancer in the bone. For if we say we are in the Light and yet hate our brother we are in darkness (I John 2:9). For if we cannot love our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen? (1 John 4:20). So unforgiveness is not walking in Love and it will hinder your faith.

Moreover, you will not have boldness in God’s presence. For if our conscience does not make us feel guilty, we have complete assurance and boldness before God, and we receive from Him whatever we ask, so that our joy may be full (1 John 3:21-22John 17:24). Walking in unforgiveness will deprive us of this boldness and God says if you forgive others, He will also forgive you.

Therefore, let all bitterness, wrath, anger and outburst and blasphemies, with all malice, be put away from you; be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32-32). That statement is completely against what the world would have us do when we are hurt. Remember that we are in this world but not of this world and we are children born of Love. For if we do not love, we do not and never did know God, for God is Love (I John 4:8). Let your love shine by walking in the command to forgive.

If you are still wondering why you should forgive, just take a minute and think about what Jesus did for you. Remember that at one time you were apart from Christ and a stranger to the covenant of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But because of the atoning blood on the cross, in Christ Jesus, you have been brought near, adopted into a new family and given an imperishable inheritance all borne out of love (Ephesians 22:11-13). Jesus had every right to hold a grudge against us but He did not. On the contrary, He has provided forgiveness for our present and future sins if we will receive it.  What a loving Father, who is abounding in mercy (Psalm 145:8).

So if we have been forgiven much, why must we not also be forgiving towards others? We are commanded to forgive and not to keep a record of suffered wrongs, for Love does no harm and overlooks offenses.  (1 Corinthians 13:5). Our Father wants us to live in freedom. You may be wondering if your Heavenly Father can still forgive you considering how long you have held that resentment. God loves you and is not holding back on you. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It may be hard sometimes but if you are willing to confess your sins, to let go and to ask for help, God will help you.

Be quick to forgive and unclog that life line. Turn that person to God and let God deal with them. Go before your Father and repent for being unforgiving and ask him to forgive you and to heal you of any hurt feelings caused by that resentment. Believe you receive your forgiveness and healing. For forgiveness is an act of faith and you can forgive because you have a helper, the Greater one within you.

 

4th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (3)

He heals all your diseases.

After sin, the greatest human problem is suffering and disease. Suffering always follows sin. When sin entered the world so did suffering. Suffering is not always the direct result of sin, more often the indirect result of sin, but the two are inextricably linked.

People with severe health issues may find this difficult but here are some facts that may help us.

Firstly, when God created us he put powers of healing in our bodies, power to fight off infection, power to heal wounds, power to resist disease and to restore health.

Secondly, when God created the world he put resources into nature that would effect healing. The great advances in medicine have not been created by clever pioneers. They have been discovered, because it was God who put the resources there in the first place. The great pharmaceutical companies of the world are not creating cures; they are discovering and then developing them but God put the resources there in the first place.

Thirdly, many diseases could be avoided if we followed the rules for living which God has given in his word, rules to govern health and hygiene, right thinking – and right living.

In the preface to his book ‘None of these diseases’ Dr S I McMillen wrote, ‘I am confident that the reader will be intrigued to discover that the Bible’s directives can save him from certain infectious diseases, from many lethal cancers, and from a long gauntlet of psychosomatic diseases that are increasing in spite of all efforts of modern medicine.’

Fourthly, there are times when the Lord intervenes in a miraculous way in answer to the prayer of faith. But faith is the key.

Faith says, ‘Lord, I trust you to heal me. But even if you don’t, I still trust you.’

Fifthly, God has promised relief from all pain and suffering in the new heaven and earth when he will make all things new.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).

‘No more pain, no more sadness, no more suffering, no more tears, no more sin, no more sickness, no injustice, no more death.’

He heals all your diseases. David enlarges on this benefit in verses 13 and 14 of Psalm 103.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

 

3rd December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks.

During Advent this year I am going to focus each Thursday on the theme of ‘God with us’

December 3rd: God With Us Brings Hope

December 10th. God With Us Brings Love

December 17th God With Us Brings Joy

December 24th God With Us Brings Peace

So, today, let’s look at Our God with us who brings us real hope! How poignant for this year is the world’s need for real hope!

We are all hoping for change, hoping for a vaccine, hoping for normality (as we knew it), hoping we don’t catch the virus, hoping for the time that we can gather as a fellowship again and sing!!

Whatever hope you have, hope is completely transformed when We know that God is with us, and when God is for us!

Remember what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39. ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.’

Earlier in verse 31, Paul said, ‘What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?’

So, these two promises help us to rise above every fear and circumstance!

1) Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

2) If God is for us (with us too), who can be against us!

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

2nd December 2020

Today Linda Bradley shares with us why Philippians 2:3-4 is precious to her and important for all of us. You can hear her here.

 

1st December 2020

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Its official; I’m middle aged, and I don’t mean because of my dad jumper that I wore on Sunday morning, but because I can now eat, and enjoy, Skips prawn cocktail crisps. How does this make me middle aged? It’s because my taste buds have aged and have diminished, so that flavours like olives and, of course, Skips, that once were once far too strong when I was young, are now just right. It’s just a by-product of how repeated exposure to something wears off resistance. So that now I enjoy something that wasn’t palatable before.

This is what Paul is telling us is a danger in verses 17 to 20. He refers to people who are gradually getting worse and worse, caught in a natural spiral. Their thinking is futile, and in that futile thinking, they harden themselves against God, and as they lose sensitivity, they seek to indulge in more and more, till they are full of want and incompleteness. Because what is being full of greed but a complete sense of not having enough. Just as foods that were too strong and unpalatable to myself in the past have now become palatable, if we follow this path of living as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking, we will find ourselves embracing behaviour and attitudes that lead to empty, hollow living.

We are called to think and live differently in full, satisfied and complete lives. Not to our own empty fleeting glory and satisfaction, rather we are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This requires not just a mild adaption but a total rethink, to be made new in the attitude of your minds. This is a call to something bigger, not to live petty, hollow, dissatisfied lives, rather lives that can change our world, and the world of all that we meet. There is a simple question to ask for the outworking of this truth to be seen. Who lived the fuller, greater, better life: Jesus or Herod the great? One lived not for his own glory, not my will, but yours be done. The other, murdered 3 of his own children, to ensure his glory. Yet one of those names lives on in infamy and disgrace, the other is a name cherished by millions. Who lived the fuller life by all standards? The answer is plain; the answer is Jesus.

Today, as every day, we are called anew to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, to change the world in small or big ways. Which legacy will you choose? 

Archive of earlier contributions

here (14th March to 20th April 2020)

 here (21st April to 31st May 2020)

 here (1st June to 20th July 2020)

here (21st July to 31st August 2020)

here (1st September to 8th October 2020)

here  (9th October to 30th November 2020)