Word for the Day Archive 4

Archive from 21st July 2020 to 31st August 2020

31st August 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Ambassadors?

With all the lack of training and matches over the past few months, the English football coach, Gareth Southgate, could have done without the Harry Maguire episode just before the coming International matches with Iceland and Denmark.  This ‘episode’ had nothing to do with football itself, at least not directly, and has some challenging lessons for those of us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus.  Did you hear what happened?

Just a bit of background –  When Harry Maguire was transferred to Manchester  United he was the most expensive defender in football’s history.  Because of his football skills and leadership qualities, it was not too long before he became captain of the Manchester United team.  He is a highly respected member of both Manchester United and England’s team.

After a disappointing defeat, Harry went on holiday on the Greek Island of Mykonos with his fiancée, sister and a number of friends.  Whilst they were out ‘clubbing’, one night, Harry got arrested by the police and charged with a number of offences, which he denied.  The details are unimportant for our meditation.  This all gave the England manager, Gareth Southgate, a real headache.  Knowing the role of England footballers as standard bearers for the country and as role models for so many young people around the world, how should he react to this (alleged) very public misdemeanor?  Initially he accepted Harry’s word about his involvement until the court found him guilty.  (The judgement is being appealed and what actually happened we do not know and is irrelevant to our thought!). 

When the court stated that Harry had behaved in a way that brought discredit to the England football team, and by that to the country itself, the manager dropped him from the team.   This had nothing to do with his footballing ability, for which he had been picked, but was for the disrepute it brought to the team.  As an ambassador and example, he had failed.  The way he lived was not up to the standard expected.

Paul wrote something about this in his letters to the Ephesian and Colossian Christians.  To the Ephesians he wrote ‘I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received’ (4:1) and to the Colossians he explained that they needed to know God’s will ‘so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord’ (1:10).  Harry Maguire’s error was that he was (allegedly) not behaving in a manner that was worthy of an England player.  Paul challenged us to see if we are living in a manner which is worthy of something far more important than even the reputation of English football or England as a country – our Lord Jesus Christ and the calling He has given us.

The evangelist Dwight L Moody used to point out to folk that “Out of 100 men, 1 will read the Bible and 99 will read the Christians”.  As Paul pointed out in 2 Corinthians 5:20 ‘We are ambassadors for Christ’. People around us are judging our Lord by our behaviour, the way we live.  Another relevant saying – not Biblical is “Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God.’ Challenging isn’t it?

There is a difference between Harry Maguire’s case and ours as disciples of Jesus.  Harry lost his position as a result of his behaviour.  Even when we fail to be a good example of a believer, we will never lose our position of being in Christ.  If Christ is in us it does not depend on our behaviour but on God’s grace. We can never lose that.  Instead we accept our failure, acknowledge our embarrassment, seek God’s forgiveness and then the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to live closer to God’s way.

 

30th August 2020

Today Padre Kevin Jones briefly talks about his work and reads Luke 15:1-7. To listen click here

 

29th August 2020

From Liz Martin

Galatians 2

1Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism – they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Paul opposes Cephas

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 ‘We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 ‘But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a law-breaker.

19 ‘For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’

 

Chapter 2 of Galatians sees Paul asking a simple question. Do we need to adhere to an external law in order to be saved? We know that Paul, from other passages we read in the New Testament, is neither anti-law, nor anti-circumcision. But these ceremonial elements belong securely within the Jewish tradition. It is likely devout Jews who became followers of Jesus maintained the law, food laws, Sabbath laws, justice laws. But the gospel of Christ is not dependent upon following the Law of Moses, rather, ‘through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’

Paul understood that Jesus came to fulfil the law, and to break its curse. The issue of how we, as Christians, should view the Old Testament is for some a controversial one, though I have to confess to not really understanding why. These are the Scriptures that Jesus knew and loved, the ones that gave foundation to all that we believe, and which reveal the heart of our Father. We are wise to take them seriously. But they cannot save us. Our good works cannot save us. Only Jesus, in His atoning sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection, can do this as we respond through repentance and faith.

But it doesn’t end there. Our own lives are somehow crucified with Christ, and they become His life, in all purity, holiness, faith, love, truth that we now live. And so, in Christ, we, too, fulfil the law.

The gospel of Jesus matters; it mattered to Paul, so much so that he was willing to publicly disagree with Peter – going against the recommendation of Jesus (Matthew 18). It matters to us, not only for salvation, but for what comes next.

As Neil suggested last time, spend some time thinking about the gospel. Are there things for which we need to repent? Have we lost our first love? Do we need to know again the incredible grace and love that Jesus offers? Have we grown tired, and need to return again to our Father for rest? Do we need to be prodded to go out in obedience? How we respond to the gospel daily is a matter of importance, as Paul is at pains to point out to the Galatian church.

 

 

28th August 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

When we come to a ’T’ junction, the choices are limited.  It’s not possible to go straight ahead, only to the left or to the right. These types of decisions are the ones that shape and forge our destinies.

Sometimes it is difficult to know the best choice, especially if there are pros and cons to both directions, or if other people are affected by our choice.

Isaiah says in chapter 30:21, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘this is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or the left.”

God has not left us as orphans, He has given us the Word and Spirit to guide our paths. Like Isaiah, we will hear a word that the Bible and Holy Spirit will confirm is the best path.

What if we get it wrong? He’ll teach us and correct us amid the error, and we will learn in the process!

Let’s be prepared to submit all of our ways to Him for He cares for us.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

27th August 2020

Today Rev Ian Macnair reads Psalm 16 for us. You can hear it here. Perhaps you may want to listen more than once as the content is so uplifting.

A prayer you may want to use.

“Almighty God, thank you that you are my Lord. Thank you for the many good things in my life that come from you. Thank you for your faithful people to be beside in the life you have given me.

As I have heard in the Psalm, you guide me –help me to hear you more.

Your presence is near to me – help me to be aware of that all of the time.

With you I am safe and secure –help me to live believing that.

Thank you Lord.”

 

26th August 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Galatians 1

What is the most important piece of news you have ever heard? Maybe it was good news: ‘you've got the job’, or ‘I’m getting married’, or ‘you're going to be a parent!’. Or maybe it was bad news. Or maybe it was news that wasn't even directly related to you, but connected to someone you know. If you were to ask Paul what is the most important news he has ever heard, he wouldn't even pause to think; he'd tell you straight away. For him, the most important news he had heard, or could hear, is the Gospel of Jesus. It's the message that he's given his life to convey, and given it gladly.

This is why he starts the epistle to the Galatians so tersely. Galatians does not begin with an ‘I thank my God for you’ at the start, like the other epistles. He launches straight in with a challenge in vs:6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. Consider the behaviour of the other Churches that received letters, such as marital infidelity, and the Church politicking in Corinth, or the issues over Jesus' deity in Colossians. Yet even with the serious issues to be dealt with, the letters Paul writes all begin with commendation and prayer. So we begin to realise how serious Paul is taking the Galatians’ changing of the Gospel. In fact, he goes so far as to condemn anyone who seeks to alter the gospel of Jesus, be they angel or man, so strong is his feeling.

So Paul begins to prepare to remind the Galatians, and explain again, what the gospel of Jesus is. He begins with the supernatural way that he received it, and how it was confirmed, by those who were closest to Jesus, as the true gospel. He wants the Galatians to be in no doubt as to his source. Paul knew that the Gospel has power, power to change lives, to transform situations, to even transform the future of nations, so powerful is its message. He knew it was true because it changed his life, and I know it's true because it changed mine, and I suspect that you know it's true as it changed yours also.

As we go through Galatians over the next few days, can I suggest that you give thanks that you have heard and understood the Gospel yourself and also give thanks for the people like Paul who shared it in your own life. Then I suggest we pray, and ask for a fresh revelation of what it means in our current situation, and also for those who have still to hear it and understand it.

God bless,

Neil

25th August 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Part 2.2 Be at Peace and Unshakable

How to cast our cares upon God.

This is the last part on how to cast our cares upon God.

You cast your cares by getting rid of false humility

I Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves under the mighty arms of God by casting our cares upon Him because He cares for us. Notice that humbling of self is a prerequisite to the casting of cares upon God. According to this verse, it takes humility on our path to cast our cares.

So what does it mean to truly humble yourself?

True humility is not believing you are unworthy to receive God’s care.  According to 1 Peter 5:6, it’s humbling yourself under God’s Mighty arms, which is the Word of God. It is choosing to put God’s Word first place rather than what you think about that situation. 

Remember also that thinking that you have to solve your own problem is false humility. This is because, as you try to solve your own problems you stop God from being able to work in your behalf. When you humble yourself by allowing Him to carry your cares, you enter into His rest while He works in your behalf.

When you humble yourself before God and cast your cares on Him, you are submitting to Him and acknowledging that He has more wisdom and power to handle your situation than you do. You have released yourself and your life to God, trusting Him and obeying His every command. Anything less is pride.

So how can we apply this in practice?

Let’s say you were standing about 20 feet away from someone. If you tossed the keys to your car to that person, those keys still exist, but you don’t have them anymore.

That’s what we need to do with our cares. We must cast them over on the Lord and not take them back. If Satan brings a worried thought to your mind, saying, “What if this or that happens…,” then you can tell him to talk to God about it. It is in His hands, not yours!

Once you do that, changes will start to take place in your life. Problems you’ve been fretting about for years will start being solved. You’ll no longer be tying God’s hands by worrying. His power can begin to operate because you’ve acted in faith and cast your cares on Him and He’ll exalt you over that problem and over the devil in due time.

You can also cast your care upon God by wearing your armor.

’’Put on the whole armour of God.” –Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV)

As a child of God, you have access to the whole armor of God and fighting any battle without His whole armour is a bad idea. When you’re dealing with worry, it’s no different.

As those who live in the light, we are urged to be clearheaded, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Think about where the helmet of salvation sits—over your mind. The helmet protects your thoughts from the lies of the enemy. The helmet also covers your ears—which keeps you from hearing the enemy’s threatening lies.

If you have a tendency to be fearful and to worry, consider what you’re watching on television or listening to. What are you hearing? We live in a time of uncertainty, where information is readily available at the touch of a button. The media and every other form of communication appears to be breathing doom and gloom. Remember that, programming that is negative (like most news channels) or those that stir up a spirit of fear are not going to feed your faith and protect your thoughts. You have to guard your heart by guarding your eyes and ears from ideas and information that will make you think gloom and doom all the time.

If you hear a fearful thought, immediately refuse to believe it, shut the door to that fearful thought and do not allow the devil a chance to sell you his thoughts. The same is true when you go to bed. Don’t go to bed with a care on your heart! It’s giving the devil an opportunity. Remember to keep that amor on. Find scriptures (the sword of the Spirit) that cover your situation, write them down, put them on the refrigerator, and read them out loud every day. The Word of God is a weapon that will drive that fear out! Have a game plan in advance.

You can also cast your cares upon God by finding a faith buddy.

“Encourage one another and build one another up.” –1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

If you really want to cast your cares and take a stand against worry, find a faith buddy—someone who will hold you accountable for your words, thoughts and actions. We all need at least one person like that in our lives—someone who lives and walks by faith and can call us to a higher level. Now, don’t get mad when you get corrected—correction is love, helping you grow.

Why do we need help in this fight of faith? Notice that in the fight of faith, you train how you fight, and you fight how you train. So, with the help of the Holy Spirit, find a faith buddy to train with, and you’ll fight the good fight with power. Spend time praying and asking the Lord to reveal who would be a good faith buddy for you. Prepare to offer encouragement and accountability in return.

Lord help and strengthen us by your Spirit to cast our cares upon you and to rest in you because you care for and love us dearly.

 

24th August 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger.

We have a relative who is unfortunately showing signs of dementia. He is very easily confused and when this happens he just walks around the house or garden, muttering to himself “I don’t know.  I don’t know. I don’t know”.  If it was not sad it might be a bit comical.  All the same, in these days of Covid uncertainty with the prospect of Brexit uncertainty not so far away on the horizon we can probably sympathise with our relative.  There is so much we don’t know nowadays.  Although there was a high degree of chaos over the presentation, most of our valiant GCSE and A level students now have a certain degree of knowledge about the next steps in their education and development.  I think most of them would agree that the worst thing in all the chaos and waiting, was not knowing what the result would be.

Uncertainty or certainty – knowing or just hoping – if we are honest, which is it that characterises our faith and thus our attitude to life?  In our autumn church Bible studies it is likely that we will be studying the Letters attributed to John, one of Jesus’ disciples.  He was clear that followers of Jesus should definitely be in the ‘knowing’ camp and not in the vague ‘hoping’ group.  In his short letters he uses the verb to know 25 times as well as using ‘to perceive’ 15 times.  He wrote –

We know – the truth (2:20) – who the children of God are 3:10) – we have passed from death to life (3:14) – what love is (3:16) – we belong to the truth (3:19) – God is greater than our hearts (3:20) – we live in Him (4:13) – we love the children of God (5:2) – we have eternal life (5:13) – God hears us (5:15) – we have what we have asked of Him (5:15) – we are children of God (5:19) – amongst other things.

With all the uncertainty around us, especially with all that is not known about the Covid-19 situation  and so on, we as Christians should be amongst those who are not talking about the unknowns but who are confident about the knowns which are much more important for our spiritual (and mental) health. All the truths mentioned above are things we can be sure about – we are forgiven – we have peace with God – we have God’s presence with us – our future is secure.  Perhaps in the midst of all the uncertainty around us today the statement made by Paul in Romans 8:28 is something we CAN hold on to –

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.

This may not always be immediately obvious and may be impossible to get our minds around in the immediate present, but we have God’s promise and also so many experiences of it in the past.  We have to be careful that this this does not give us an attitude of laziness or ‘anything goes’ or even arrogance, as God’s promises are the result of His grace and not our worth and do have conditions.  It should keep us humble yet confident in our God.

Having this quiet confidence in God does wonders for our mental health and puts us in a position where we can encourage and support others who are struggling.

(Look out for the Zoom Bible studies and join in to talk about how John had this firm confidence and believed that it is also possible for us.)

 

 

23rd August 2020

Today Judith Brazier talks about the new significance of Psalm 19 for her in recent times and then reads the Psalm for us. You can find what she says here

22nd August 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Have you ever noticed how unique dry stone walls are? I had a friend in Leeds who used to build them; it was fascinating to watch him and learn just how intricate they were with the individuality of every stone, and how no two walls are the same.

All different shapes and sizes of stone are useful, despite any perceived imperfections.

The careful craft of piecing walls together and their combined weight means that stones don’t even need to be cemented together to form an effective barrier.

A dry stone wall can withstand years of bad weather and intense storms.

Read Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:1-10.

Here are some of things that we can learn from the example of dry stone walls:

-Dry stone walls are just like the church. How do we all fit together? That’s Jesus’s job! Trust Him, get to know Him, allow Him to position you and He will put you in the right place!

-We are the stones, and Jesus is piecing us together. Every stone is different, but every one is useful, and somehow He knows where to place us!

-Any stone can be used, even when it seems as though it doesn’t fit elsewhere. It simply needs to make itself available. Don’t stay by yourself or remain in the quarry of life - make yourself available so God can put you where He wants to!

-If we are living stones and Jesus is the Living Stone, then we need to get to know more and more about Him.

-God is building His church and the Kingdom is advancing. The materials He is using are ordinary people! People just like you and me. He doesn’t want to use bricks or breeze blocks - He wants to use you!

-Christians are simply not called to be alone. That’s why God called us to be together as the church.

What good is one stone by itself? Not much. But, positioned by God, we can form something truly special, which can remain strong together and withstand any storm the enemy wants to batter us with.

-Your life is not your own - you were bought at a great price. We are defined not by our worth but by our birth. But Jesus paid the ultimate price for you, so make sure you give Him good value for money.

-Be available and let God place you where He knows you best fit. Work on your own shortcomings rather than focusing on those of others, and let God do the rest!

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

21st August 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE TOP TEN Part 4

The Ten Commandments summarise the righteousness of Christ, the life that was given for us on the cross. They also summarise the life of the Spirit, the life that is given to us by the risen Christ.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to turn those commands into promises, to turn the command, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ into the promise, ‘you shall have no other gods before me’.

Life in the Spirit has three aspects.

There is a negative aspect.

When I drive my car it’s a very negative experience. I keep seeing signs: no waiting, no stopping, no overtaking, no entry, no left turn, no right turn, no U-turn. They are for our safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.

The ‘Thou shalt nots’ in God’s commands are for our safety: No falsehood. No sinful anger. No stealing. No evil talk. No bitternesss. No brawling. No slander. No malice. No sexual immorality. No impurity. No covetousness. No filthiness. No silly talk, or coarse joking. No drunkenness.

Just as there are reasons for the negative signs we see on the roads there are reasons for God’s negative commands on the journey of life.

There is also a positive aspect.

Speak truthfully. Do useful work. Be kind, compassionate, sympathetic, tender-hearted. Forgive one another. Live a life of love. Be thankful. Find out what pleases the Lord. Make the most of the time.

The negative and the positive.

There is also what we could call a superlative aspect

This is the difference between Christianity and every other system of ethics. There is a different dimension. Real Christian living is not doing what comes naturally but doing what comes supernaturally.

We have been ‘created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’. All the resources of the triune God are at our disposal.

‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.’

‘Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.’

‘Be filled and go on being filled with the Spirit.’

Negative, but not just negative. Positive, but more than just positive.

Superlative!

‘Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer.’ That’s the negative. ‘…but must work, doing something useful with their own hands‘. That’s the positive. ‘…that they may have something to share with those in need.’ That’s the superlative.

‘Put off falsehood.’ That’s the negative. ‘Speak truthfully to your neighbour.’ That’s the positive. ‘Say only what is helpful for building others up.’ That’s the superlative.

The thief doesn’t just become honest but goes on to be a benefactor. The liar doesn’t just become truthful but goes on to become helpful. The bitter person doesn’t just become kind but goes on to be forgiving. The drunkard doesn’t just become sober but goes on to be filled with God’s Spirit.

The law of the Spirit of life will set you free from the law of sin and death. God’s Top Ten will get you excited and God will be your number one.

 

 

20th August 2020

Word for the Day takes the form of a reading of the first eighteen verses of Psalm 139 read by Margaret Newby. You can hear it by clicking here

After you have listened you might like to use this prayer written by Margaret.

"Loving heavenly Father, thank you that this Psalm tells us how wonderfully unique and intricately we have been made by you, our Creator. Thank you that regardless of how we feel about ourselves, you love is beyond measure; made in your image and purposed to reflect your image to those around us. This is too wonderful for us to fully comprehend. Thank you too Lord that you desire to bless us and to be with us. Whether we are sitting or standing, inside or outside, waking or sleeping, You are there. Oh Lord, may we journey through this day believing these and all your wonderful promises, to the glory and honour of your Name. Amen."

 

19th August 2020

From Liz Martin

Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:
    the Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
    Answer us when we call!

One of the delights of the last few months has been to spend some time finding new, or previously unnoticed, pieces of Scripture. We’re reading through the psalms with the youth group (no mean feat!), and, although I must have read it dozens of times before, this gem has jumped out at me. I love it for its simple blessing, what wonderful words to pray over those who are struggling: May the LORD answer you when you are in distress, David begins. May the name of the God of Jacob protect you; may He send you help; may He remember your sacrifices; may He give you the desire of your heart. May we shout for joy over victory; may the LORD answer all your requests.

These are tremendous words, worth committing to memory, using in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

Following the blessing that David prays, he makes an affirmation: Now this I know. It’s a good thing, particularly when things seem difficult, to remind ourselves of what we know. The character of our God stands firm throughout time, we can be sure of it, and, like the people of God of old, it can be good to build altars in our lives to remind ourselves of God’s goodness and faithfulness, for when it seems in short supply.

God answers, He gives victory, these things are trustworthy and true.

Even as His followers, it can be so easy for us to trust in our metaphorical chariots and horses, wealth, position, family, but as we have found our lives shaken over the past few months, let’s return to David’s proclamation, in intent and reality: we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

I pray you are as encouraged reading the words of this Psalm as I have been!

 

18th August 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE TOP TEN Part 3

The Ten Commandments tell us something about Jesus.

Jesus knew the commands. He was able to summarise them. He kept them. From conception to crucifixion he was a pattern of righteousness.

His whole life was an act of true worship, no idolatry, no blasphemy, no infidelity. He honoured father and mother. He never lost his temper. He never gave in to lust. He was completely honest, completely truthful, completely content.

The Ten Commandments remind us of the life that was given for us on the cross. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’

The Ten Commandments also tell us something about our priorities.

There’s a pattern here. The first four are specifically about our relationship with God: loving God and giving him the honour due to his name. The next six are about our relationship with our fellow human beings: loving our neighbours and doing the right thing by them.

Interspersed with these commands which relate to people there are commands relating to possessions. We have to think about both people and possessions, but the first priority must always be people.

Ultimately, God is telling us that he is most important. After that people are most important. And after that, we can think about things.

In our consumer society, so often we get it the wrong way round. Things become all important – money, houses, investments, property, possessions, and people become secondary. As for God – he is scarcely given a thought.

And the result of this back-to-front thinking? More happiness? More compassion? More harmony? No. We need to get back to God’s plan for our lives, seen so clearly in his commandments.

So far we’ve followed the traditional Christian approach to the commandments, starting from number one and finishing with number 10. But let’s do it the way we’re more used to these days.

Counting down from ten to seven. No coveting, no lying, no stealing, no adultery. Our attitude to our possessions is important, and in particular, our attitude to the things which don’t belong to us. Don’t covet. Don’t steal. Straight away the focus is not so much on us but on others.

People matter more than things. Don’t bear false witness against your neighbour. Don’t commit adultery. Do the right thing by anyone and everyone, but in particular to the one who is closest to your heart.

Six and five bring us to the heart of the commandments, God’s concern for life and for love: the value of life and the importance of love.

Command number four is about the way we use our time and the priorities which that reflects.

And so to the top three.

Number three, respect for the name of God.

Number two, integrity in the worship of God.

And finally, number one. ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ God is number one and we must make him number one in our lives.

 

17th August 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

For Your Tomorrow We Gave Our Today!

What a powerful challenge there was from the VJ 75 year celebrations on Saturday.  The morning service of remembrance set in the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas was an extremely well presented collection of memories from some of the few remaining survivor’s from the war in the Far East. These had been known as the forgotten army as they had to continue fighting for three months after war in Europe had come to an end.  The things that survivors of the POW camps and war fronts had seen were so harrowing that they had been advised not to talk about them.  It was incredible what some people went through to secure our freedom.  It was encouraging  to hear how that the army fighting in the Far East was a truly cosmopolitan group with soldiers from Africa, India, Australasia, UK and USA working together for freedom from totalitarianism. This was emphasized as a Sikh survivor placed a wreath beside that laid by Prince Charles, together with pictures of wreaths being laid in other affected places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia  and Indonesia.  The morning service was very much centred around the memories of the survivors present and was extremely moving.  BBC coverage was presented by Sophie Raworth and Dan Snow and the Service of remembrance was led by Art Malik.

The evening commemoration was nearer what we would normally expect from the Royal Albert Hall with bands from the Royal Marine, Ghurkas and others  marching and so on.  Due to the Coronavirus situation, however, it could not be held indoors, but was incredibly well done outdoors in Horse Guard Parade. Various scenes were thrown up on to the buildings along the parade, depicting relevant scenes and events.  The story line of events was told by Joanna Lumley and readings from participants’ diaries were read by relatives. A number of other stars like Bryn Terfel, Ruby Turner and Hugh Bonnevlle joined Joanna in telling or singing the story of victory.

These were two BBC spectaculars which were extremely well put together and which gave those of us who were too young to remember those days a lot to think about and to be grateful for in the sacrifices made by so many for our freedom.  We will remember them.

There was one thing, however, which seemed to me to be missing from this year’s commemoration that I seem to remember from previous Albert Hall celebrations. In the past I have always been encouraged by the acknowledgment of God in the victory.  I can picture the setting up of the drumhead altar and the offering of prayers, not always Christian, but acknowledging God’s presence, at the climax.  At different times during Saturday’s commemorations a verse from Abide with me was sung and a very beautiful ‘Captives’ Prayer'* was sung, but no sense of gratitude to God for the victory.  In no way would I want to detract from the courage and bravery of the men who fought in these battles, but I would want to remind us of what God told Moses to say to the Israelites once they were in possession of the Promised Land:-

"Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today…. Remember how the Lord your God led you …. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God … Otherwise when you eat and are satisfied … when you silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and forget the Lord your God … You may say to yourself “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me …But remember the lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability …" (extracts from Deuteronomy 8:1-20)

That made me think how very easy it is to forget God’s involvement in every part of our lives. We talk about every other aspect of a situation but often fail to acknowledge His involvement.  If you listen to what we say, sometimes, you may feel that we have succeeded in this or that because of our training or study or skill or stickability or … or…!  Proverbs 3:5-6 says

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him

and he will make your paths straight."

Perhaps as Christians we need to take special care not to drift into taking God for granted and not acknowledging His part in our everyday lives – as the world around us seems to have done – but be prepared to acknowledge Him more to one another and to other people.  They may even ask questions about it which will open up ‘useful’ conversations.

* I am indebted to Judith Brazier who pointed out the tremendous background to this Captives Prayer which was explained in more detail in 2015 VJ Day celebrations. It was written by a missionary lady interred in a POW camp praying for themselves and for those left behind at home.  It became their camp hymn and raised the spirits of many. You can hear it here

 

16th August 2020

From Liz Martin

I was speaking to someone recently and I asked them whether they thought they had grown spiritually during the lockdown. It’s an interesting question, and one that’s quite difficult to answer - we can only usually see growth as we look back on where we were, and were we are now. Yet this is a stated aim of the Christian life: maturity, growth, becoming more Christ-like. It’s impossible to read the New Testament, particularly the epistles, without hearing a call to growth, and maturity, so it’s a pretty big deal.

The problem that many of us have with spiritual growth, however, is how do we measure it?  We can see physical growth in young people quite easily, not least because after lockdown they’ll all be taller than me! But spiritual growth can’t be measured like that; it’s not about church attendance, nor even how long we’ve been a Christian, how easily we recite Scripture, or how many prayer meetings we go to, although our approach to these can help show our heart.

While I think there are numerous markers of growth, of which Scripture reading, prayer, meeting together, discipline, and service all play a part, I think that the apostle John probably sums growth up  best: “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 John 5-6). Love, and love expressed in obedience, is a key marker of spiritual maturity. (See 1 Corinthians 13)

Obedience and discipline matter, but these are possible out of duty, not maturity. But love: it’s not possible to love out of duty, or to really fake it. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of an ‘I’m speaking the truth (as I see it) in love’ conversation, knows that nearly always, love has very little to do with it, rather we want the other person to know we are ‘right’. It’s often a way of spiritualising giving some a ticking off. Genuine love, as with genuine maturity, enables others to flourish, so truly speaking truth in love will cause both the speaker and the hearer to grow.

As we seek to grow, to be more like Jesus, to become mature, the more we will love Him, and others; the more time we spend with Him, with His word, seeking the Spirit, serving Him, the more we will grow, the more we will love one another, and we will experience more of His kingdom on earth.

 

15th August 2020

By an interesting "God-incidence" the first part of the first chapter of John's Gospel is our Word for the Day today and the reading for the service tomorrow. Consider what God is saying to us this weekend as you listen to this reading.

John 1:1-14 read by Jenny Young is here

A prayer - Lord your light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it. Father we pray for all who are feeling the darkness today and ask that they may see your light. I pray particularly for [someone you know is struggling] that they may have peace and hope. 

 

14th August 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Part 2: Be at Peace and Unshakable

How to cast your cares upon God

In Part 1 we looked at God’s perspective on worry. We found out that God is vehemently against worry. He has commanded us not to worry and to cast our cares upon Him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). This is because worry is a sign that we are fearful of something and fear is the opposite of faith. God needs our faith to act in our behalf while Satan preys on our fear to perpetuate his evil works in our lives.

Let’s look at how Scripture tells us to cast our cares upon God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take captive every thought. The mind is the battleground and it is the place where we either win or lose a battle in life.

That is why scripture admonishes us to guard our heart above all else, for it is the source of life (Proverbs 4:23). So, whatever we allow to captivate our mind will determine our response and therefore the outcome of life circumstances.

So as a child of God, how should you respond to that dreaded phone call or bad report you have just received? First, you have to determine if that information or thought lines up with the Word of God? Then, you can choose to accept that bad report and go down the worry and fear route, leading to death. This response will only give place to the devil to act in your behalf. And Scripture says…refuse to give in to the devil. Stand strong in your faith (1Peter 5:9).

 Alternatively, you can take captive of that thought immediately, and stop it in its tracks before it takes root in your heart. You do this by refuting that bad news and rebuking the devil with the Word. Remember that to take captive of that thought, you must stand firm on your faith and speak out in faith…faith in God’s faithfulness, His covenanted promises and that He is able to bring His Word to pass and to see you through that situation. The choice is yours.

As Scripture says…this day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life... (Deuteronomy 30:19).

You choose life and blessings by refuting arguments, theories and reasoning that sets itself against the true knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So take captive of that anxious thought by choosing life…God’s Word regardless of how you are feeling. By an act of your will, choose to exalt God’s Word above all else. Set your mind instead on the things that are above …God’s Word, His promises…, not on earthly things…your circumstance that are temporary (Colossians 3:2). When you do this, you command God’s peace into that situation and give Him the chance to step in and act in your behalf.

Remember that it may not always be easy at first and you may have to reject that negative thought a few times as it will keep trying to take over your mind. Refuse to take it and pray in the spirit if need be to edify yourself but be reassured that mastery will come through constant practice (Hebrews 5:14). Also be constant in hiding God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11). As you constantly keep the Word in your heart and in your mouth, you will get to a place where the knowledge of God’s faithfulness within you will become bigger than any anxious thought and His peace will continuously garrison your heart and mind in Christ when tough times come.

Secondly, you can cast your cares unto God by replacing worrying thoughts with the Word. In the book of Joshua, God appointed Joshua and sent him on a challenging mission. He had to take over from a well-known champion - Moses in leading the children of Israel into the promise land. To stop Joshua from being anxious, God gave him a secret that brought him success. That secret was replacing worry with God’s Word and this message is for us today.

….Meditate on (the Word) day and night.” –Joshua 1:8

As we meditate on God’s word, we keep our spirit man well-nourished and strong and each time a worry thought arises, we will be ready with the Word of God to respond. We will find ourselves in that place of peace, which will constantly garrison our mind in Christ (Philippians 4:7). Remember that God’s peace comes from acting on His Word, to cast our cares upon Him by replacing our worrying thoughts with His Word.

So what must we replace our worrying thoughts with?

Philippians 4:8 (KJV) says to think on whatever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Beware that you cannot combat thoughts with thoughts but with words. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Mathew 4, He had to speak out the Word to overcome and you will have to do same. But remember that, the Greater One, your helper lives in you but you must be obedient to replace your worries with His Word.

(The next part will continue on how to cast our cares upon God)

 

13th August 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 40:11 to 17

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. 12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. 13 Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. 15 May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame. 16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.
 

"God, how long will you put up with me?" Sometimes that's a question that we find ourselves asking God. Either at the behaviour of some of His people or, more sadly, at our own repeated failure to change and correct the things that we know are wrong. So how long is it, God, until You say, "enough, I'm done with you"? Or do we go even further; when we get what our sins deserve, when we finally get our due, would we dare ask God to step in to keep us from punishment? Even when it's our deserved fault? Does Scripture not say, in Numbers 32:23, be sure your sins will find you out?

David was a man who asked these questions. David knew sin and failure, his decisions to cover his adulterous affair cost Uriah the Hittite his life. He failed his children, to be a just father, and to discipline them. At times he even failed his nation as their king, resulting in death and catastrophe. Yet for all this, he knew his God. He knew God from his youth as a faithful, loving companion, a God of compassion and mercy. A God of immense patience and grace, so when he despaired, he would turn in his need to the only one who could rescue him.

Time and again, David would find mercy, he would find grace. This is the staggering promise of this Psalm, that God is gracious. David did not deserve or merit God's favour or grace, yet he knew that it was his to receive by asking.

This leads us to ourselves, here and now, for what do you need grace this day? Maybe you find yourself declaring, as David did: I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me. Give thanks that this is true, that God is faithful in our need and he does not shun us because we need his aid. Rather, He longs for us to turn to Him in that need.

 

12th August 2020

From Kay Hamer

Social Distancing

James 4:8

Come near to God and He will come near to you

Social distancing is a phrase that we didn't use not that long ago and yet it is part of our everyday thinking and 'being' now. We have to conduct our lives in this strange and uncomfortable way—Two metres apart!!

This is everywhere we go and also if people come to visit. The restrictions are so intrusive to our lives. We must constantly be alert to how close we are to other people.

It is becoming more and more a new natural way to live. It is quite definitely not the thing to do to get to close to others. How quickly we are learning to look after ourselves, face masks to the ready, when out and about and the sadness we feel when we can't hug our loved ones and friends. I must say this 'distancing’ doesn't feel very social to me.

We have been brought up to greet people by a handshake or hug, and as Christians to lay hands on those for whom we pray. Yes, I know you all know all that, that we must adopt this new way of being. However we have missed spending time with those we love, to be able to hug and cuddle the little ones. Perhaps we took a lot for granted, not feeling gratitude and appreciation of what being together meant. I for one relish every time we as a family can meet up and share together (socially distanced of course).

However I was thinking about wanting to be close to Jesus, to be conscious of His nearness, to want Him to reach out and touch me. Oh to get closer! No social distancing here. Hugs are allowed. His loving arms around us giving strength and encouragement, comfort; meeting our inmost needs. This is our prayer for others, those in need, those who are alone or 'Shielding'. Asking that people would experience the touch of His hand—in healing, in blessing, in peace, in love and encouragement.

Can I encourage you to recognise, feel, enjoy God's loving presence as you spend time with Him but also as you go about your socially distanced life. So many times in God's word read how Jesus was close to people. He related to all in a physical as well as spiritual way. Coming near to Him in our quiet moments and experiencing His closeness is so powerful.  We are fed in so many ways as we stop and enjoy (yes enjoy) being in the presence of our Lord and Saviour.

There are many examples in the Psalms where David asked God to come near to him and tells how good it is to be near to God. Psalm 69;18 and Psalm73:28 are but two examples.

The writer in Lamentations 3:57 says that when he called God came near to him.

The father in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15) ran and held his long lost son as he saw him approach.

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we have no fear or need to be distanced from Him. We can relish our times when we are especially close up to God and know His love and power at these times.

May we always be close to our loving heavenly Father. I have heard and indeed used the phrase 'He is only a name away'. I pray that this might be your experience too. James tells us that when we come near to God He will come near to us.

The Lord bless you as you continue to cope during these strange days.

Kay.

 

11th August 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE TOP TEN Part 2

If The Ten Commandments lift us up to the heights to see the beauty of God’s holiness they also plunge us into the depths to see the extent of our disobedience.

We are not morally neutral. We have a bias towards sin. No one ever needed to teach a child to do wrong.

1.    We have worshipped other gods, writing the Creator out of his creation and replacing him with the gods of evolution, science, money, and celebrity.

2.    We may no longer bow down to images of wood and stone but greed is a form of idolatry. When we put ourselves and our own interests first we are guilty of breaking the second commandment.

3.    We have failed to honour God’s name. How many times do you hear the name of God and of Jesus Christ taken in vain?

4.    The idea of one day in seven devoted to God is alien to us. Even as Christians we struggle with the concept.

5.    Family values have been eroded. In our (supposedly) sophisticated society the family unit has broken down. Kids are out of control because parents are out of control.

6.    The media records a catalogue of murders on a daily basis. It is, of course, a sin which horrifies us. But in case we should feel that this command, at least, doesn’t condemn us, the Bible reminds us that ‘anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer’.

7.    Adultery is specifically unfaithfulness to your marriage partner. Jesus took the issue a stage further. ‘You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’

8.    ‘You shall not steal.’ There are all sorts of ways in which this command can be broken: unfair wages, crippling interest on debts, bribery, petty pilfering, as well as criminal activity.

9.    The ninth command is not simply about telling the truth in general, but about telling the truth in a court of law: ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.’ This is the place where telling the truth counts most because telling lies can cost most. By implication it forbids lying at any level.

10.  ‘You shall not covet’ is radically different from ‘You shall not steal’. It shows us that these are more than a code of laws to govern human society. After all, who could police covetousness? These are the laws of a higher court than any on earth. They are God’s laws and they govern not only our behaviour but our thoughts and motives. God is not just looking at outward appearances. He sees the inward reality.

The Ten Commandments tell us something about ourselves. They shine a light on our darkest secrets. They remind us that we are sinners, that there is sin in our world, in our society, in our cities, in our homes and in our hearts.

 

10th August 2020

Today’s Word for the Day is one where we have something read to us. In this case it is Psalm 46 read by Coral Lynes who breaks new ground by signing to us before and after the Psalm. You can hear Coral’s offering here

If you would like to offer a reading for Word for the Day, perhaps with a brief explanation as to why you chose the passage and/or a short prayer after it please contact us to for more details.

 

9th August 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Be at Peace and Unshakable (Part 1)

1 Peter 5:7

…Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (NKJ).

Worry, stress, fear and anxiety; that seems to be the norm of the day. As the days and weeks go by, the world is plunged into more uncertainty. Worries and fears about the future, your finances, that bad health report you have just received, that failing relationship, risk of a job loss and the future of children. People are seeking for answers and even the very world’s own system cannot provide reassurance or the needed answer. As the pressure mounts, the tendency to problem solving mode kicks in with sleepless nights, more worry, stress and panic.

But did you know that as a born again child of God you can be sailing in the boat of peace and remain unshakable in the midst of uncertainty? Yes, because you are not meant to live in fear and worry. Did you know that as a child of God, whatever concerns you, whether spiritual, temporal, big or small, God also concerns Himself with them? What affects you, affects Him and in all your afflictions He is afflicted. God’s plan for you is to live in peace and to be delivered from trials (Colossians 3:15, Romans 8:37). God is vehemently against worry and worry of any type does not produce anything but stress, strain and death. For anxiety in your heart will weigh you down (Proverbs 12:25) and  ...’can anyone by worrying add a single moment to your life? That is why Jesus preached against it; Paul preached against it. The whole Bible is against worry because Satan designed it.

So, what does Scripture have to say? Scripture commands us… “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), “Don’t worry” (Matthew 6:31). According to these scriptures, worrying is not an option. It is a sin because God directly commands us not to worry.

So, what are we supposed to do if God does not want us to worry?

Scripture, says, casting all your care upon Him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Notice that it does not say one care but all care and the word casting means a continuing action. That means you cast that care into his hands each time it surfaces and refuse to take it back. When you cast that worry or fear or anxiety upon Him, He will sustain you and He will not allow you to be moved or shaken (Psalm 55:22). God says… Fear not, I will help you (Mathew 6:25). Isn’t that reassuring, that you can put your cares into God’s hands and have peace in the midst of chaos? But remember that casting your care upon God is an act of your faith… an act of your will. So, you have to decide to do it, because God will not just take them away from you.

Today can be the last day you ever have a care in this world. Make a decision right now that you will do whatever it takes to cast your cares—every care—on the Lord by faith. Remember that your worrying stops God from acting on your behalf. For God is your Father and He loves and cares for you. He knows what you have need of and has already made provision in Christ for all that you need now and for the future (Mathew 6:8, 2 Peter 1:3). He will not with hold any good thing from you (Psalm 84:11). Therefore by prayer and thanksgiving for what He has already provided for you in Christ Jesus, continue to present your request to Him and His peace that passes all understanding, that peace that the world cannot give will garrison your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippian’s 4:6). Choose to hand over to Him your cares and continue to look up to Him….to His Word…to the things that are above where you are seated with Christ Jesus and not to the circumstances around you. Remember that God loves you as if you were the only one on earth.

Part 2 will look at how to cast your cares upon God.     Miranda.

 

8th August 2020

Today's contribution is from Ruth Jess. Listen as she reads Psalm 103 and explains why it is important to her.

Click to listen

7th August 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE TOP TEN Part 1

If you’re like me ‘the top ten’ will make you think about pop music charts but if you google it you’ll find that there’s much more to it than that.

Every year Hamlyn publish a ‘Top 10 of Everything’. Whatever you’re interested in, there should be a category to satisfy your curiosity.

I looked for ‘Commandments’ in the index but it wasn’t there. However, God has his top ten, The Ten Commandments.

For the most part, people outside the church don’t have much time for them. But Christians have long recognised that they have an importance beyond their original time and culture. Nearly all of them are quoted in the New Testament.

The  first thing to say is that they’re not given to us as a way of salvation. In Galatians 2:16 Paul wrote, ‘A person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ’.

So if we’re not saved by keeping The Ten Commandments what significance do they have for us today?

In the first place they tell us something about God.

1.    He alone is worthy of our worship. That is why he says, ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’

2.    His essential being cannot and must not be represented in any material form. That is why he says, ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything.’

3.    He is worthy of honour, respect and reverence at all times. That is why he says, ‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.’

4.    He has set apart one day in seven to be observed in his honour. That is why he says, ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.’

5.    He is a God of love. That is why he says, ‘Honour your father and your mother.’

6.    He is the giver and sustainer of life. That is why he says, ‘You shall not murder.’

7.    He is a God of faithfulness. That is why he says, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

8.    He is a God of justice. That is why he says, ‘You shall not steal.’

9.    He is a God of truth. That is why he says, ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.’

10.  He is able to satisfy the needs of everyone who depends on him. That is why he says, ‘You shall not covet.’

The first reason The Ten Commandments are important is because they were given by God and they reveal what he is like.

He is the only God who rightfully deserves that title. He is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. His majesty and glory are too great to be treated lightly. He deserves to be held in honour and given a special place in the timetable of our lives. He is a God of love. He is the giver of life. He is faithful and just, true and dependable.

 

6th August 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 40: 4-10

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire – but my ears you have opened; – burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.’

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. 10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.

David asks a simple question at this point in the psalm: what or who do you trust in? What or who do you look for, or to, to solve your problems? It's an interesting question to ask both yourself, and also others. What do you trust in? For some it's money, for others it's their position, for others it's the people they know, or their knowledge or looks, or power. For others it can be an ideology, or principles. What do you trust in?  In whom do you put your trust?

David has a simple piece of wisdom: if you're trusting in anything, or anyone, other than God, you're in for disappointment, you will miss out on the best. David should know, as David had it all; he had good looks, great charisma, immense military skill. He had great advisers like Ahitophel, whose advice was akin to God's (2 Samuel 16:23), immense personal power as a King, immense personal wealth and fame, songs were even sung of him in the street. All of this could have led him to trust in himself, or any of the other things or people around him. Instead the advice that this man who has everything, would give to any who listen was this. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

What do you trust in? Anything less than God and you are missing the best of what God has for you. You don't want to miss out on all what God has and may have planned for you.  Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

How do you show what you really trust in? You show it by simply seeking it. If it is power, then you will seek after power, the same with money, people, advice. You seek after it and then do what it asks of you. David presents the same picture with God: if you trust in Him, you will seek to know Him and to follow. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

Let us seek to place God in His proper place, so that we too, can with joy, proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly.

 

5th August 2020

From Simeon Colville

Time for God

Romans 12: 1-2

One of the most difficult parts of lockdown for me has been having to continue doing schoolwork in a completely different way to how I’ve ever done it before. And that is a change that I have struggled with, because the work seems much harder to do, and it takes a lot longer than it normally would. By the end of a difficult day, I can be so fed up, that I’m concentrating on anything other than the things I need to be focussing on at that point. So when I finish, I quickly move on to doing something really enjoyable to take my mind off everything and make me feel better.

But with everything going on, we also need to remember to make time for God. In Romans 12, we are told to offer our lives to God, and not to be changed for the world, but for God, so we can see what he wants for us. In a situation when it looks like we should have more time on our hands because we’re stuck at home, everything seems busy and full on, and sometimes we just don’t think about needing to do that.

It is really important, however, that we make time to spend with God, not just when we can give thanks for things that are going well, but also in difficult moments when it seems like the worst time to build your relationship with God because he still wants you all the time. And it’s easy to say, ‘spend more time with God’, but it’s a lot harder to know how to actually do it.

The best way I’ve found to get into spending time with God regularly is to do it at the same time every day, so it becomes normal to fit it into your day. It can also be helpful to do more than just think about it, doing something like writing something down can help you stay focussed on what you’re doing.

So, please do try to make time for God, which will help you to as it says in Romans 12: “know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”

(Simeon wrote this to share as a youth group devotion)

 

4th August 2020

Today's Word for the Day is of a different kind to those that have gone before. We invite you to listen as Lesley Austin reads 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (You can, of course, play the reading more than once if that is helpful)

Play Reading

A prayer:-

Lord we have heard that each manifestation of the Spirit, each gift that you have given us, is given for the common good. We pray that you will help us recognise the gifts you have given us and that we may indeed use them for the common good. Amen. 

 

3rd August 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Rainbows

Thank you Angie for your all age talk on Sunday reminding us about the origin and importance of the rainbow.  A timely reminder in so many ways.  Various groups have sought to ‘hi-jack’ the rainbow to represent their particular ideas or ethos and it has been used to excellent effect to remind society of the heroes of the frontline, especially the NHS, during this Covid pandemic.  For us, as Christians it is important to see behind the symbolism to the God who lies behind it and the promises of hope that come with the sign.

Do you remember the old pneumonic  we were taught years ago to learn the sequence of colours in the rainbow – Richard Of York and so on.  I came across another one a little while ago, which would seem a little more relevant.  You remember the colours – Red – Orange – Yellow – Green – by Rely On Your God .  The rainbow was given to Noah and family to know that they could depend on God never to flood the world in this same way again.  God gave his word and sealed it with the Rainbow. Over the years, decades and centuries God has proved Himself to be one we can rely on in so many ways, so our pneumonic starts with:-

          

The Rainbow goes on to Blue and our pneumonic calls us to Believe.  When things are dark and dismal and we cannot see the light ahead we need to have faith, to believe.  It is so important not to be controlled by all the negatives that we feel around us at any particular time but to have faith, to believe that there is a lot more than this:-

It is also important that it is not some vague belief that we hold on to.  So many folk say ‘I believe’ but when pressed to go further cannot say what or who it is they believe in. As Christians we have a faith that is much more concrete than that.  Our faith is based in a man, Jesus , who has gone before us, experiencing all degrees of difficulties, suffering, abuse, pain and even separation and isolation (Remember the ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’ from the cross) before the ‘final’ humiliation of death on the cross only to prove that this was not the end by rising from the dead and declaring final victory over all that is wrong – sin – disease – hatred – death.  This is what we believe in and so our pneumonic is complete as Indigo and Violet finish In Victory:-

So, as we see all the rainbows in people’s windows and so on, we can be encouraged that whatever happens with Covid, second spikes or whatever other problems get thrown us, we have a God who can be relied on and will give us the final victory.

 

2nd August 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 40

Psalm 40:1 to 3 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Come closer, just a little closer, because I'm going to share a secret with you. There, that's perfect.

The secret that I want to share with you is this: I'm a hummer. You can always tell when I'm happy or excited, because I start to either sing or hum. Does anyone else want to confess to that as well? Because, you see, I'm not the only one. It really shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that David is clearly a man who sings when he is happy.

In verse 2, he presents a striking picture, doesn't he, of the mess he's in. If you've ever slipped in a bog or marsh, you can well identify that horrible feeling, as your feet slide and slip in dank, brackish, slimy mud and water. David is in an even worse situation; it's not just his feet, he's completely stuck. He's surrounded completely, he can't even help himself. Every time he would go to climb out of a slimy pit. he would have slithered down in a worse state than he already was. Can you identify with that feeling of being trapped, stuck, unable to go left or right? I can, at several times, remember feeling utterly enclosed, unable to work my own way out.

Once, I was surrounded by a gang of about 7 or 8 sixteen year olds on bikes. They were following and circling round me, and forcing me down a completely empty dark path, away from any witnesses and help. I was stuck, so, I found myself praying, as I could see no real way out without violence. I stopped and waited patiently, as they circled me, until one of them looked me in the eyes and said to his mates, 'come on, this isn't funny, sorry mate' and they rode off. Did I sing and praise? Yes, I most definitely did.

Maybe you're not in a pit, or even a bog, maybe you've just lost your song, you feel a bit dry and despondent. This psalm speaks to that as well. Ask for a return to joy, a return to a song, that you will join with David in saying: He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Then share your good news with people, your deliverance. Not to attract attention to yourself, but to point to the One who gave you back your song, so that many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

 

1st August 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Walk in the Light you have

2 Timothy 3.14

"But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and have been assured of, knowing those from whom you have learned them’’

Do you know that as a born again Child of God with the Word of God in your heart you can live in victory?  In Christ Jesus, our victory is already assured (1 Corinthians 15:57). You may not have all the answers. There may be great spiritual things that you do not yet understand but you can still live in victory.

However, living in victory in any area of your life requires your cooperation. You do this by walking in the light that you have.  For it’s not those things that you do not know that destroy you. It’s the things you know to do but do not do them that usually makes you fall.

So, what does it mean to walk in the light that you have?

Consider going down an unfamiliar path in the dark. You have a tour guide leading you with a flashlight. That light from the flashlight helps you to walk safely along the path. Your steps are ordered in accordance with the light that is being made available by the tour guide. But supposedly, you decide to go off track. You are most likely to stumble and fall.

According to Scripture, the Word is a lamp for our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105) and God, is light (1 John 1:5) and the Word is God (John 1:1). Therefore, just like the tour guide and the flashlight, God knows what is ahead of you all the time and shines just enough light for you to take one step at a time. But you will have to decide to continue walking in that light in order to get to where you’re going.

To do this, you will need to continue in the things… the Word, which you have learned and have been assured of (2 Timothy 3:14). As you do this, God’s grace and peace will be multiplied to you (2 Peter 1:2). You may not know why God is leading you a certain way. You may not understand all the things involved. But keep walking in the light you have, and God will make up for your ignorance by the Holy Spirit. He’ll see to it that you have victory if you continue in what you know.

It’s good to keep studying. It’s good to keep learning.  As Scripture urges us to crave pure spiritual milk so that by it we may grow (1 Peter 2:2). As well as aim to mature in the word (Hebrews 5:12). But, remember that, it’s not the great revelation you haven’t yet had that will cause you the most trouble. It’s failing to walk in the ones God has already given to you. May God grant us the grace to be faithful in the things that He has given to us. May He enable us by His Spirit to continue in them day after day so that we can make it through victoriously.

Miranda

 

31st July 2020

From David Depledge

Christian Fellowship (4)

If we are going to build and sustain fellowship with each other we need, I suggest, to think carefully about what we say.

In the last few months we have had to think a lot about communication. How we do it (– to Zoom or not to Zoom?), when we do it (- it may not happen as naturally as it used to) and lots of other issues. But fundamentally the “how” and the “when” are a lot less important than what we say.

There are several questions we might ask ourselves about the things we say (or put on social media) – before we say them!

1. Is it in line with Ephesians 4.29? “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”.

2. Is it in line with Colossians 4:6?  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (In biblical times, of course, food “seasoned with salt” was to prevent corruption – going rotten.)

3. Is what we say true? Paul said, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Col. 3:9). (We need to remember that a lie may be told by telling part of the truth in such a way as to leave the wrong impression.)

4. Is it gossip? “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Prov. 26:20).

Even if gossip is true, we need to consider: (a) Why am I telling this? (b) Why do I want to tell it? (c) Will it do any good? (d) Would I want it told about me, or someone I loved?

Because we are made in God’s image we are called to minister grace. Ministering grace can be taken in a general sense of doing what is beneficial or favourable to the hearer. Instead of speaking in a way that is unwholesome and harmful, we speak in a way that seeks the good of the one we are speaking to.  We can be so prone to seek our own benefit, to meet our own needs, in everything we say to people, but God wants us to seek the benefit of others.  To love them as we love ourselves.

Ministering grace can be taken to mean we actually speak in a way that conveys God’s grace to people.  This is an amazing thought.  By the words and the way we speak to others, we can be the means by which God imparts grace to them.

Perhaps you have experienced this?  Someone said something that God used to work graciously in your heart and life.  That person was a channel of God’s grace to you.  We can be the same for others.  God can use our words to minister his grace to people’s hearts.  This is surely a good reason to be careful that what we say is wholesome and good.  Using what we might call corrupt communication will lose the chance to be used by God to minister his grace to others. 

Our words and the way we speak them are so important.  By our speech we can actually participate in giving God’s blessings of grace.  Should not this be our desire in everything we say?  Our ambition should be “I want to be a channel of God’s grace to you.  I want God to use my words to minister his grace to your heart. That’s why I will let no communication come out of my mouth, but that which is good, edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers”.

We are made in God’s image, but the potential value of this image will not be realised unless we reflect God’s image in the way we live. To be living in God’s image, we must be in a right relationship – in fellowship - with God and with other people, using our gifts and talents to serve God and our fellow humans and to be filled with the grace of his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Quite a challenge!

 

30th July 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalms

Let me start this morning with a difficult question: what is your favourite psalm? It's a tricky question, isn't it? It's like being asked to name your favourite film, or song. How can you pick only one? But I love different Psalms for different reasons. I love the reality of Psalm 73, when it looks like evil is winning. Having worked in physically dangerous places at times, I love Psalm 91. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust! When walking through the red light district in Amsterdam, or bypassing a drug deal in Toxteth, I would often repeat and pray this Psalm to myself.

I'm not alone in loving, or using, the Psalms like this. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and a bit of a hero to me, used to pray through the Psalms once a week. In fact, it is believed that he had committed them all to memory; yes, even Psalm 119! As he would walk and work throughout the day, he would be found reciting aloud relevant Psalms.

So what is your favourite Psalm? If you have one, would you be willing to share it with me and why it is your favourite? Helen is even hoping to record some readings of the Bible, so maybe you would be willing to read it aloud?

What I'd like you to do this morning is to go and read aloud your favourite Psalm. Then try and return to it throughout the day in prayer.

In case you're wondering what my answer to the question is, it's Psalm 40, and over the next few of my devotions, I want to look at why it means so much, and why I so enjoy it.

 

 

29th July 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

I came across this prayer recently and found it really thought provoking and helpful, I trust that you will find it helpful too.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.’

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.

Your ideas mature gradually - let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time; that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will, will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.

Give the Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

‘Faith not fear’

With much love

Graham

 

28th July 2020

From MIranda Shieh

You are Righteous

 Philippians 3.9  '…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith’

Did you know that you were made right with God the moment you put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and this is regardless of who you are, what your past is or how bad you have messed up things? Your new life in Christ changes everything. The world may have or may want to define you based on your past or by their own standards. But by faith in Jesus Christ alone, you are made right with God (Romans 3:21). This means you are as beautiful as His spirit that lives within you; you are special and a new creation made in the very image of the Almighty God.

So don’t let the world define who you are because as far as God is concerned, you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and He sees you through the eyes of Jesus. For Jesus has been made unto us righteousness… (1 Corinthians 1:30). Therefore from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16).

The book of Philippians says, be found in Him. So what do you take pride in or rely on? Are you still trying hard in your best efforts, to earn the favour of a Sovereign God? Scripture says, never boast in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).  For through faith in Jesus Christ, you have already been made right with God, made new and brought under a new covenant of grace that gives life and not of the law or works that brings death.  You are beneficiary to a privileged status by Grace through faith that no amount of obedience to the Law or self-effort could earn for you.

So now also be known in Him.  As Scripture says…I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God… (Galatians 2:20). Therefore go on, possess and live out that genuine righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. By grace, take it, believe it, receive it, walk in it and enjoy it. You have to keep it at the forefront of your mind lest you unconsciously slip back into your old self-righteous mind. 

So what are some of the privileges that Scripture says being the righteousness of God in Christ will bring?

‘’The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree’’ (Psalm 92:12).

‘’When righteous prospers, the city rejoices’’ (Proverbs 11:10).

‘’The seed of the righteous shall be delivered’’ (Proverbs 11:21).

‘’For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive unto their prayers’’ (1 Peter 3:12).

‘’Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield’’ (Psalm 5:12).

‘’The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles’’ (Psalm 34:17).

‘’I have been young and now am old; yet I have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread’’ (Psalm 37:25).

‘’The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it for ever’’ (Psalm 37:39).

So begin this day and every day reminding yourself that you are the righteousness of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Declare and receive what is rightfully yours in Christ Jesus. Refuse to allow the devil to rob you of your privileges by telling you, you are unworthy. As far as God is concerned, you have been made right in Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and that’s what matters. So step out in faith and enjoy your privileges in Christ.

Miranda.

 

27th July 2020

From Ralph Hanger

Last Monday, in our thought for the day, we considered how the exiles returning to Jerusalem, went back over their history to remind themselves of what God had done for them.  This encouraged them to think He was able to do similar things for them now.  We commented that recalling our own spiritual history can often encourage us in the present circumstances.

As they remembered all that God had done for them, however, they also had to acknowledge the way their ancestors had spurned God’s goodness and gone their own way. (Nehemiah 9:16-17a; 26; 28; 29;).  In spite of the way God had saved them from slavery, from physical enemies and from hunger and thirst, they had chosen to do their own thing. Does that ring a bell? One of my problems is that I am quite good at finding extenuating circumstances or someone else to blame, so that I don’t see that my ‘failings’ or ‘errors’ are really sins.  As they looked back, the Israelites faced up to their ‘errors’ and acknowledged it was God who was offended.  Is there something we can learn from the Israelites?

In his letter much later John told us that God is ‘ faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).  That is great.  Unfortunately it is not the whole story, because this forgiveness is dependent on the first part of the verse –‘If we confess our sins… ‘ It is possible that some of us are not experiencing the full joy of peace of mind and forgiven sin, because we are not prepared to admit our sins and therefore are not the peace of forgiveness.  It is interesting that sins is in the plural, so it is not a question of saying to God that I am human and thus have sin in my life, it is bringing those individual actions or words or attitudes or thoughts to God and asking for His forgiveness.  It is what we used to call ‘keeping close account with God’. 

There is a saying that ‘he who does not learn from history is bound to repeat it.’  That has got a lot going for it.  That was part of the motivation of the Israelites.  They had seen who God was and how good He had been to them.  They had acknowledged the ways in which they had failed and let God down.  Now that they were again the recipients of God’s goodness as they had been restored to their own land, they did not want to repeat the failures of the past.  They recognized that it was not good enough to just say ‘we will try and do better’.  Any good teacher at school or supervisor at work knows that good intentions are often not enough.  Which path are they supposed to line?  No intentions need to be followed up by actions and commitment that will see those intentions carried out.

The Israelites knew this and so after this long reflection and confession we read ‘In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it’ Nehemiah 9:38.  In order to not slip back into their old ways the Israelites made certain commitments about their behaviour in the present and future which would enable them to keep their promise of worship and obedience.  The commitments they made in Nehemiah 10:30-39 fitted their situation and were relevant to them.  The details may not fit our situation in 2020, but the principal remains.  Perhaps at different stages in our Christian walk we may have made commitments to God that we would a…b…c… or would not a…b…c… . Is coming out of lockdown a time to revisit some of these commitments?  Keeping these commitments to God did not save the Israelites.  God had already done that.  It was their response to this salvation.  No end of making promises to live a certain way will bring us salvation in God’s eyes.  He has already given it to us through His grace and mercy in the death of Jesus for us – but what is our response?  We are not bound by law but what steps are we prepared to take to ensure we are able to hear God’s promptings and obey.

 

26th July 2020

From Joseph White

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." Ecclesiastes 7:8

I wanted to share about patience, in a time where we need patience more than ever. We are all going through the same things, feelings of loneliness, boredom, and just being fed up. We are stuck with the same family members, and our work demand may be higher and harder than ever before. We may be worried or scared, and this is why we need patience.

 

So what is patience? Google describes patience as: "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious."And if you look up biblical patience, it gives: "forbearance or endurance." It speaks about not giving way to anger. God must have incredible amounts of patience for us all the time, He somehow allows us to make mistakes, and when ask forgiveness, He forgives us. When we think about how much we have done against God, when we come back to him, He shows us great patience. He has so much patience for the “lost sheep” who repent.

 

Patience isn’t easy, but we can try our best not to get angry, and to know that we are showing some patience. When we try to be patient, we are trying to take on one of God’s many characteristics. There are many things today that require patience, such as dealing with our family, or in waiting for lockdown to ease. Obviously, we can’t just become completely patient overnight, and we will inevitably fail at times, but if we can show patience with our family once, or patience while we wait for lockdown to ease, I think we can call it a small success, and use it to grow.

 

Ecclesiastes 7:8 also says to us that “The end of a matter is better than its beginning” which instils hope in my mind. I believe that this can be especially relevant today, when we are patient, as it suggests to me a sort of reward. I take from this a knowledge that whatever happens, when we come out of lockdown, it will be better. This could be in ways we do not expect, this could be that we are changed as people and have better experiences, better patience, and more self-control maybe. We could even end with more hope.

 

I personally find that after going through something that worried me previously, I am not worried as much by it a second time around, for example, the vaccines last year at school worried me as I wasn’t sure what would happen. I took them and found that it wasn’t too bad. Earlier this year, we went to get vaccines so we could travel to South Africa and I found that taking the vaccines that time didn’t worry me. Unfortunately, our holiday was cancelled, but the point is that we can gain hope from our past experiences. As we read, the end of a matter is better than its beginning, so we know that however this does finally end, it will be better, at least in some ways, than it was when we started.

 

So I leave you with a message of hope, and also a challenge. If you have a chance this week, try to be patient with someone or something that annoys you, and lastly know that the end of lockdown will be better than it was when it started.

This was a devotion prepared for the Thursday night youth group, by Joseph White.

 

25th July 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

TRAFFIC LIGHTS Part 2

In Philippians chapter 2 the lights are still on red when we get to verse 5 but now the amber light has come on as well. It’s not ‘Go’ yet, but ‘Get ready’.

In the original language this verse is very compact. ‘Think this in (or among) you, which also in Christ Jesus.’ It can be translated in two ways.

There is the traditional translation we are familiar with. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ Consider the life of Christ, and discover the very opposite of selfish ambition, vain conceit and self-centred pride.

‘… who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient, even to death — and that, death on a cross!’

The devil came to Jesus in the desert and offered him the world. But he turned his back on all that because he put our interests beyond his own.

This is the way we should be thinking.

But there is another way of understanding verse 5. ‘Let this mind be in you, which also you have in Christ Jesus.’ This reminds us that the Christian life is not a struggle to imitate Christ. It is a power that enables us to live ‘in Christ’.

If your idea of being a Christian is to imitate the life of Christ in your own strength you will struggle and fail. It’s like being in a car that’s run out of petrol when you have to get out and shove. You shouldn’t be pushing the car. It should be carrying you.

In Christ we have all the resources we need for life and godliness.

Christ has set us an example, the greatest example in the world, but he has also promised his power. We can say with Paul, ‘I live – yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).

In verse 14 we come at last to the green light. ‘Do everything…’ There’s still a note of caution. ‘Do everything without complaining or arguing.’ We’re not alone on the journey of life. There are other travellers and the way of safety is the way of courtesy.

Some people – even Christians – are morphed into a different character when they get behind the wheel of a car. The way of safety is the way of courtesy and that has to be true of the Christian journey as well. Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Then Paul says ‘so that you may become…’ It’s a process. In terms of a journey it’s progress. There’s plenty that’s crooked and depraved and dark in the godless world around us but we are to become blameless and pure, children of God without fault, shining like stars in the universe, holding on to the word of life and holding it out to the world.

This message is the only hope for light in the midst of darkness, salvation in the midst of evil, life in the midst of death.

Ignoring traffic lights is a very dangerous thing to do. It’s dangerous to keep going when you should stop – and it’s just as dangerous to stop when the lights are telling you to go.

 

24th July 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

TRAFFIC LIGHTS Part 1

You won’t find traffic lights in the Bible, right?

Right.

However there’s a Bible passage that always reminds me of traffic lights. We’re back in Philippians chapter 2. Here’s how it begins.

‘If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’

Life is like a journey. Christ and his Spirit are our navigators and the emphasis seems to be more on how we are travelling than where we are heading.

Encouragement, unity, comfort, love, fellowship, tenderness, compassion, joy, harmony, co-operation: these are the evidences of progress on the Christian journey.

Verse 3 begins with the words, ‘Do nothing…’ That’s a red light. It’s saying ‘Stop.’

Verse 5 says, ‘Your attitude should be…’ That’s not saying, ‘Go’ – not yet – but ‘Get ready. Get into gear.’ It’s an amber light.

Verse 14 says, ‘Do everything…’ Now we’re on green. Now it is ‘Go.’ These signals are not here to frustrate us or to hold us up. They’re here for our safety and our progress.

Verses 3 and 4 are like a Red Light. They’re saying STOP.

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’

Here are three situations where God turns the lights to red.

STOP having selfish ambitions. Paul is talking about motives here. I may be an active Christian but if my motives are not right then I need to stop and take a good look at myself. Is it all just for my own glory, my own advancement, to make me look good?

STOP trying to impress other people. Vain conceit is thinking I’m more important than I really am.

STOP being proud. Humility is defined here as thinking that other people are better than me. Pride is thinking that I’m better than other people. Pride is looking after my own interests and ignoring what matters to others.

True humility is not navel-gazing and asking, ‘Am I humble yet?’ It’s looking at other people with the attitude: ‘They’re better than I am. How can I support what matters to them?’

You’re coming up to a red light. You check your rear view mirror but what you see is not the rear view. Your mirror is angled towards yourself. All you can see is you. That’s not good driving. That’s a sure way to have a big crash.

Do you recognise any of these? Selfish ambition? Vain conceit? A lack of humility? Have you seen that red light? If you don’t stop you’re in real danger.

In the sequence of traffic lights there are four settings: Red, Red+Amber, Green, and Amber. It’s significant that three out of the four mean Stop.

So today let’s do that before we go on.

 

23rd July 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Psalms of Crisis (the last one!)

Psalm 46 - The Earth Quake! (When Our World is Rocked)

We were on holiday in Crete many years ago. It was breakfast time, our Joel was just over a year old and into everything. Suddenly the apartment began to sway accompanied by an unmistakable rumble, Earth Quake!!! The children started to run round the room in panic , and I shouted, ‘Come here, let’s pray!’ (I should have said, ‘Come here, Let’s get out of the building.’) However, as we prayed watching a very large stone planter outside being bounced down the road by the vibrations, the shaking slowly came to a halt. We later heard that it was a significant quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter  Magnitude scale.

Thankfully we were all safe and had a story to tell for the experience.

An earthquake couldn’t be a bigger metaphor! So often we use the earth as a metaphor for stability. We talk about being on solid ground, or solid as a rock.So what happens when the ground you are walking on literally shakes? When something you took as a constant is not as fixed as you thought?

We can certainly use an Earth Quake as a metaphor for what we are going through right now. Suddenly, many of our securities and familiar ways and routines are taken away. Nothing is predictable anymore.

Our natural response is to ask God to return everything back to normal and take us back  to a predictable and safe place, and this is not a wrong thing to ask. However, I believe that the Lord can teach us some deep lessons in how to trust Him and rely upon Him, the One and Only True constant in our lives.

Psalm 46:1-3 gives us great encouragement, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.’

In times of peace or panic, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-Present help in trouble.

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

22nd July 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Matthew 28 11-20

So we come to the end of our series of thoughts on Matthew. We end both with a challenge that rings through space and time, and 2 blessings. First to the challenge, and what a challenge we face. To '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'. The disciples were called to go to all people everywhere, and win them for Jesus, not to sit back complacent, secure in their salvation and knowledge of Jesus. They are to go out and find people, people who have either never heard, or have never been convinced of the good news of Jesus. This is a challenge that was not just for the early disciples, rather it stands as the calling and commission to the Church for all time, for every single believer. To seek, to follow and obey more and more each day, and to share the good news that we have.

If this seems a challenge and intimidating to us today in the 21st century, can you imagine how challenging it must have been to the fishermen, zealots, tax collectors who had before Jesus led them most likely not travelled more than 100 miles from their birthplace? Certainly it was unlikely that they would have left Israel. Now they are to travel to a completely alien, and probably hostile, world, to tell them about Jesus. What do they say? How do they get here? Surely it must have felt that it was all too much for them. Except that they also had 2 promises; 2 promises onto which we must also hold.

The first promise is this: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me'. Not some authority, not a little authority, but all authority. God is in control. This is the promise that Jesus makes to his disciples, and because of this assurance, He tells the disciples to go. So we too go, and we can face this daunting challenge, even in the face of Coronavirus, with that selfsame promise and assurance that God is in control.

The second promise is the promise of comfort; 'surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'. Whatever we may face, be it in our home life, our professional life, or even our spiritual life, we are not alone. This is how we can handle all the challenges that we face, and may face still. This is how we can say with confidence like Paul to Timothy  'I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day'. For God is in control and He is with us always. Because of this, we can have confidence to go to the people to whom He sends us, because He is with us always.

So as we move forward, we give thanks for these promises: God is in control, and He is always with us, and we ask for His Spirit to equip us to face this challenge.

 

21st July 2020

From David Depledge

Christian Fellowship (3)

So, having thought about sharing ourselves in Fellowship in previous Words for the Day (1st and 11th July), we now need think about how this leads to sharing what we have.

1 Cor 16:1-4

“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me”.

Within a few decades of Jesus' death, the apostle Paul initiated a collection of money from communities he visited to support impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. Paul attached great significance to this project; so important was the collection to him that he even risked alienating those churches that he had founded in order to complete it.

The beginnings of the collection go back to a meeting held between Paul, Barnabas, and the leaders of the Jerusalem church. The meeting took place in Jerusalem in the mid–first century. Prior to the meeting, Paul and Barnabas had been working in the area of Antioch and they journeyed to Jerusalem as representatives of the church in Antioch. The meeting in Jerusalem occurred due to a debate over the status of non–Jews in the Antioch church. Some believed that non–Jews should be welcomed into the church only if they converted to Judaism; others, however, were content to allow them to be incorporated into the community as non–Jews. In order to settle the matter, Paul and Barnabas travelled to Jerusalem to consult with the leaders of that church.

The meeting reached an agreement and as a term of the agreement “the Jerusalem leaders asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do" (Gal 2:10)”. The collection was intended not merely as a symbolic effort meant to demonstrate unity among the different churches; it also addressed a genuine need in the Jerusalem community.

Soon the agreement fell apart but Paul's collection efforts did not come to an end. Evidence from his letters–in particular, the Corinthian correspondence—suggests that after he left Antioch, the collection took on more significance in his eyes. The collection project changed. For Paul, the effort no longer represented the simple transfer of money from the Antioch community to Jerusalem. Instead, Paul attempted to involve all of the non–Jewish churches that he founded in the effort. He believed that non–Jewish believers in those churches owed the Jews a debt of gratitude.

We read about the start of the collection in Corinth a few moments ago.  There Paul instructs the community–most of whom must have had little money to spare—to set aside for the project whatever money they could afford on a weekly basis. In this way, they would be able to raise more money than by relying on a one–time collection, an option rejected by the apostle (1 Cor 16:2). Further information about the collection in Corinth appears in several places in 2 Corinthians. We learn that the Corinthian collection proceeded by fits and starts; at one point, it seems to have been put on hold.

The problems were eventually worked out and the Corinthian collection was completed. We know this because, in his letter to the Romans, Paul tells  us that he was about to travel to Jerusalem with the money that had been collected in Achaia, the province whose major city was Corinth (Rom 15:25-26).

Why is all of this relevant to us? Paul was encouraging the Christians in churches he had formed to give what they had to support brothers and sisters, in this case in Jerusalem, in their need.

So what are we challenged by today? I suggested in previous 'Words' that we need to consider how we share ourselves. Do we have true Christian fellowship where we not only drink tea and eat biscuits but where we encourage one another, where we learn from one another, where we make ourselves accountable for our behaviour and our ministry for God? Are we sharing ourselves?

And now we need to ask do we share what we have, not because we are rich (although we are in world terms) but because we see a need, we see an opportunity to grow God’s Kingdom?