Word for the Day

21st January 2021

From Liz Martin

Hebrews 1 – J. B. Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless,

Liz

20th January 2021

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

19th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 6:10-17

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

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

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

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

 

18th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

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

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

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

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

 

15th January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

A MODEL FATHER-IN-LAW (1)

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

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

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

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

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

What can we learn from him?

Jethro was grateful and hospitable.

We pick up the story from Exodus 2:15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jethro was adaptable and open to God’s will.

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

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

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

 

14th January 2021

From David Depledge

Learning from King David (2)

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

David waited for God’s timing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

13th January 2021

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

12th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 6:1-10

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

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

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

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

 

11th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

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

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

– IN GOD WE TRUST – ALL OTHERS PAY CASH!

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

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

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

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

Psalms 56:3 (NIV)

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

[4] In God, whose word I praise—

in God I trust and am not afraid.

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

 

8th January 2021

From Coral Lynes

Peace & Tranquility through Prayer

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

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

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

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

COURAGE to change the things I can,

And WISDOM to know the difference.

What do these words mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

7th January 2021

From Barbra Depledge

Do you need to continue our journey by another route?

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

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

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

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

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

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

[i] Matthew 2.1-12

[ii] Philippians 4.12

[iii] John 11.38-444

[iv] John 12.10

[v] Jeremiah 6.16

 

6th January 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

LIFE LAUNDRY 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5th January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 5:21-33
 

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

 

4th January 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

"I know who holds the future"

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

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

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

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

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

 

For 3rd January 2021

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

For 2nd January 2021

From David Depledge

Learning from King David (1)

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

2 Sam 5:22-25

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

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

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

How did David deal with his problem?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is always good to ask God!

For 1st January 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the Lord says:

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

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

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

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

For 31st December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

A friend shared this following story.

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

Keep your fork! ❤️❤️❤️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And just remember ... keep your fork!

The BEST is yet to come!

With much love

Graham 

‘Faith not fear’

For 30th December 2020

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

For 29th December 2020

From Coral Lynes

His Majesty

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

For 28th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

NO MORE TEARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The product is baby shampoo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO MORE TEARS

For 27th December 2020

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

For 26th December 2020

From Anna Grimshaw

Genesis 8:22

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

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

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

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

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

With Christmas blessings

Anna 

For 25th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

GODISNOWHERE

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

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

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

For many, God is nowhere.

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

The Christmas story reminds us that God is sovereign.

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

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

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

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

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

It also reminds us of his gracious condescension.

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

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour

all for love’s sake becamest poor.

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

What can we learn from this?

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

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

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

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

Immanuel.

GOD IS NOW HERE

For 24th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

God With Us Brings Peace 

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

23rd December 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 5:8-20                                                                                                        

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

22nd December 2020

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

21st December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Star so bright

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

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

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

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

 

20th December 2020

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

19th December 2020

From Kay Hamer

'God with us'

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

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

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

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

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

The wonder of the shepherds

On the hills of Bethlehem,

Made me think about the promise

They saw fulfilled for them;

In the coming of Messiah,

In the answering of their prayer,

In the HOPE that came in Jesus,'

'The anointed one is here'.

 

The angels told the story,

what a sight it was to see

The Heavenly Host in splendour

Brought a tale of liberty.

They said He'd come for everyone,

There was no need to fear,

The Saviour of the world is born,

'The anointed one is here'.

 

Many times I've wondered

How the shepherds really felt

As they rushed to see Messiah,

And in adoration knelt.

Hearts lifted high in worship

In the stable, cold and bare,

God had kept His promise!

'The anointed one is here'.

 

As Christmas comes around today,

How do we His people cope?

Do we marvel like the shepherds

In Him our only Hope?

So let's be still in wonder,

Let's get the message clear,

We must show the world- Our love for Him,

'The anointed One is here'.

 

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

The anointed One is here!.

 

 

18th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (5)

He satisfies your desires with good things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This fifth benefit is reinforced with a wonderful promise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, my response once more?

Praise the LORD, my soul!

 

17th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

God with us ... Brings Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

16th December 2020

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

15th December 2020

From Iain Colville

Ephesians 5:1-7 

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

Walk in the way of love

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

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

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

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

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

Many blessings,

Iain

 

14th December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Back to nature

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

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

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

Romans 1:20

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

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

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

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

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

13th December 2020

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

12th December 2020

From Miranda Shieh

You Can Be Untouchable

Psalm 91

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

11th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (4)

He redeems your life from the pit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He crowns you with love and compassion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

10th December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

‘God with us brings Love’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

9th December 2020

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

8th December 2020

From Liz Martin

Ephesians 4: 25-32

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

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

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

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

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

 

7th December 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

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

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

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

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

 

6th December 2020

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

5th December 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Part 2: Keeping your life line unclogged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4th December 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (3)

He heals all your diseases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3rd December 2020

From Rev Graham Banks.

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

December 3rd: God With Us Brings Hope

December 10th. God With Us Brings Love

December 17th God With Us Brings Joy

December 24th God With Us Brings Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

2nd December 2020

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

 

1st December 2020

Ephesians 4:17-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

30th November 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

The first week of Advent is here and thoughts are turning to Christmas decorations and so on.  Two of my grandsons (11 & 13) went into town to spend some money they had earned and struggled home with a 6ft Christmas tree on their bikes.  I would have loved to be a fly on the wall watching them with their purchase and getting it home!  At the moment, the whole country is talking about how they are going to be celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus.  They may not realise that that is what they are doing but all the Covid restrictions or relaxations are making us all think much more about how we will be celebrating the holiday and who with.

The Government is very keen to keep the family part of the celebration.  They realise that traditionally, at this time, families enjoy being together and celebrating.  Most are unaware what it is that they are celebrating.  In the Church we have an advantage in that we do know what all the ‘fuss’ is about as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. One question we can think about is what will others see as they watch the way we celebrate with decorations, food, drink and fun.  Will they be aware that we know what it is all about?

In spite of relaxations, many family celebrations will be very muted this year.  Many of us are already having to make decisions as to which part of our families we can mix with and which, for safety sake will have to kept at ‘zoom-length’.  Maybe it will help us reflect on Mary and Joseph being without family around when Jesus was born. Other people had to step in with their support.  Are there others around who need our support during this time of difficulty?

From what we read of Jesus in his later life he was no kill-joy.  In fact he was criticised by the religious people for the way he mixed in with celebrations in life in general.  He feasted with many people and told stories about people celebrating all kinds of things.  He also told us to look forward to the wedding feast in the future.  He would be happy, I am sure, to see us celebrating the incredible event of his entry into humankind. Celebration – yes.  Free licence –no!  Yet – even in the middle of the celebration he would not want us to forget what it is all about and would have us keep Him in the centre of it all.

 

29th November 2020

In today's spoken Word for the Day reflects on Phillipians 4:12-13. You can hear it here.

28th November 2020

From Miranda Shieh

Brag on God Today

‘Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer’ .......  no matter what you may be going through today. You may be feeling discouraged right now as you have been waiting on God. Continue to stand in faith. Do not give up hope, for God has not forgotten you and He will not forget you.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). So rejoice. For we are to live in Hope.   Dearly beloved in Christ, put your hope in God, He cares for you. For the arm of the LORD hasn’t lost his powerful strength; he can still hear and answer prayers (Isaiah 59:1).

But beware, for the devil will always come to try and steal your victory. He will tell you that God is not going to help you this time.  Always remember that He is the Father of lies and he only comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10, John 8:44). For as long as he cannot steal the Word from you, he cannot kill, and destroy you.  When the devil says, there is no way out, answer back in faith, that there is a way.   For Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). All His promises in Christ are Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). Tell Him that He is faithful and will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). So, just think on the Word of God and rejoice. Rejoice that you’re in Him. Rejoice that heaven is your home. Rejoice that Greater is He that is in you than is he that is in the world. Rejoice that you are already victorious in Christ Jesus. As you rejoice and brag on God, the devil will not be able to stand it.

Also ‘Be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation…’ That means, that when pressure comes don’t cave in and don’t faint. Instead, go to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in time of need. Go boldly in the Name of Jesus and get the help you need.

Remember that when things get hard is not the time to let go of the Word but it’s the time you need to press into, and double up on the Word of God. Don’t let go, for therein is your deliverance.  You also need to be constant in prayer so that you are immovable.

Do you want to sail through your troubles while keeping the devil underfoot?  Rejoice. Be patient under pressure. Be constant in prayer. The devil won’t be able to steal one thing from you.

 

27th November 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (2)

Praise his holy name

Throughout Psalm 103 God’s name is used: the LORD – in the original, Yahweh.

It’s the name by which God revealed himself to Moses.

I am who I am, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, yet not leaving the guilty unpunished (Exodus 3:14; 34:6, 7).

That is God’s name, his covenant name, the name which represents a commitment. It’s a gilt-edged guarantee that he will keep his word. It is repeated in all the major sections of the Old Testament: law, prophets, and psalms.

It’s here again in verses 6 to 8.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

David reminds us that it’s his holy name. Chapter after chapter in the Old Testament law reminds us of God’s holiness.

When Jesus taught us how to pray he gave us the words, ‘Our Father’, but reminded us that our Father is ‘in heaven’ and ‘Hallowed be your name’ must always be our first petition.

Forget not all his benefits

One of the problems of growing older is that our memories are not so good. We become forgetful. The trouble is we often find it easier to remember the bad things in our lives: the spiteful words, the unkind acts, the hurts and the harms we have suffered.

David reminds us of an important principle here. ‘Forget not all his benefits.’ Let go of the negatives and hold on to the positives. Don’t look back in anger. Look back in wonder.

The old hymn still has a lot of truth in it:

Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

David helps us by reminding us of five benefits which God has given. Here’s the first.

He forgives all your sins.

The sin problem takes priority. This is our greatest need, and God has forgiveness for all our sins. Verses 9 to 12 expand on this wonderful truth. The construction of these verses is striking.

Verses 9 and 10 emphasise the negative aspect of forgiveness.

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

Verses 11 and 12 emphasise the positive.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Do you have a guilty conscience today? Are you thinking that your sin is so great that God could never forgive it? Then hear this word.

Forget not all his benefits: he forgives all your sins.

 

26th November 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Here is another Bible mashup combining Psalm 23:1-3; Genesis 2:2-3 & Luke 1:79 along with a little commentary!

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Genesis 2:2-3

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Luke 1:79

79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’

JESUS CALLING

Lie down in Green pastures of peace.

Learn to unwind whenever possible, resting in the presence of Your Shepherd. This electronic age keeps my children “wired” much of the time, too tense to find Me in the midst of their moments. I built into your very being the need for rest. How twisted the world has become when people feel guilty about meeting this basic need! How much time and energy they waste by being always on the go rather than taking time to seek My direction for their lives.

I have called you to walk with Me down paths of peace, I want you to blaze a trail for others who desire to live in My peaceful presence. I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower peace on all your paths.

With much love,

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

25th November 2020

Today Brenda Parsons reads 1 John 1:5-10 and reflects on honesty. Hear her contribution here 

24th November 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 4:8-16

When you consider what you do, how would you describe it? Paul is very clear on his role: he is a gift. God gave gifts to his people, and in the context of this passage, the gifts that He gave are the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. I don't know if I'd think of myself as a gift. I certainly don't think I'd address myself to a congregation and say, "Here you go people, as Jesus ascended to take His place at His Father's side, He thought of you and gave you a gift: me." It sounds a little bit pretentious to my ears. I suspect some of you might even throw things at me. Yet this is what Paul says, with no false humility or disassembling. Particularly when we bear in mind that Paul was not just some of the gifts he mentioned, he was all of them. He was an apostle, he was a prophet, he was an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher. He saw himself as being an expressed gift to God's people and clearly says so. He believed he was a gift.

However, I believe he only saw himself as a gift because of the purpose of that gift. The purpose of that gift was to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. He was a gift, but a gift with a purpose beyond himself. His role in all that he did was to build up the body of Christ, yet even in this, it had an outworking beyond himself. The outworking of Paul serving the body/Church in acts of service was to have the result of the body/Church serving itself and others beyond itself. Paul was not a gift to himself, he didn't thrill in prayer for himself, or learn deep truth for his own amusement and grandeur, he was a gift to others, so that they would be a gift to others, not a gift to themselves.

A question arises from this thought: are we a gift? Do we seek to serve, or be served? You are called to be a gift to others; are you that gift? For the purpose of all Paul's great gifting was not that it would pool in one place, but would rather flow out and be joined by thousands and thousands of tributaries, these would then make a stream, then joined with others, it would make a river, a river that changes the world, as each small gift is used.

How might we God use us a gift to someone in the coming week?

 

23rd November 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Responding to the plague

Unprecedented.  Have you heard that word used over the last few months?  At some times it seemed as it was the favourite adjective for the pandemic.  Of course it is quite true that we have never experienced a time like this and it may be true that there has never been a time when the whole world has experienced a virus like this. Just imagine yourself back in the 15th or 16th centuries, though.  Your known world would have been much more limited and your experience would have been centred around a much smaller area and group of people.  There are lots of things, especially to do with communication that you would not have had – phones, internet, TV radio and so on.  More importantly though there were lots of things that you would not have known.  Science was nowhere near as developed then as now, so the concepts of viruses, vaccinations and so on were unknown.  During that period there were a number of plagues which ran amok through whole communities.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to live in the middle of one those plagues?  No-one really knew why people were dying everywhere and no-one had any idea what to do about it.  Whole communities were wiped out.  It must have been very scary.

How did the Christian community respond to the challenge?  There are many stories of incredible devotion and service to others, but there was a very interesting piece of advice given by the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, who was himself seriously ill at one of these times.  It was part of a very long letter to a friend of his and has been quoted by a number of folk during this epidemic.  It is amazing how relevant it is for our day.  See what you think –

With God’s permission the enemy has sent poison and deadly dung among us, and so I will pray to God that he may be gracious and preserve us,  Then I will fumigate to purify the air, give and take medicine, and avoid places and persons where I am not needed in order that I may not abuse myself and that through me others may not be infected and inflamed with the result that I become the cause of their death through my negligence.  If God wishes to take me, he will be able to find me.  At least I have done what he gave me to do and am responsible neither for my own death nor for the death of others.  But if my neighbour needs me, I shall avoid neither person nor place but feel free to visit and help him

(Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. T.G. Tappert (London: SCM Press, 1955) 242   -from  a letter of 1527)

 

22nd November 2020

Today's spoken Word for the Day comes from Don Brown. He considers the need to do something to help others. You can hear it here

21st November 2020

From Kay Hamer

What are you doing here Elijah?

1 Kings 19 verses 9—13

God asked Elijah this question twice. It seems to me that it needed to be asked twice. Why was that and what did God want to hear?

Elijah had run away because he was afraid. He was actually hiding from God. Well, of course, God knew that and the fact is that it is not a good idea to try to hide from God. He is all knowing and, because He loves us, He watches over us always. Elijah didn't admit to the running away bit however so God asked him again.

On meditating on this passage or, more to the point,  'the question' I was led to wonder how I might answer if God were to ask me 'what are you doing here Kay?'.

I looked at some different aspects of 'here'. So here is a selection of where this led me.

  1. In my life.
  2. At Queens Road Church.
  3. This afternoon, at home, doing my own thing.
  4. In my family.

I asked myself some questions about my life here and now e.g. Am I passionate about prayer and listening to God?

  • Elijah was able to hear specific guidance. God said go and he was able to obey.
  • I long to hear specific guidance as did Elijah.
  • If God said 'go' surely I would go!
  • Do I spend as much time listening to God as I do talking to Him?
  • I asked myself, ‘am I sufficiently open to hear God speak'. It will come in a whisper! Lord whisper to me.
  • Lord help me to stand in the mouth of the cave.

There is so much more to think around these words.

  • Can I encourage others to travel this journey with me?
  • Am in the place God wants me to be?
  • Would He need to ask me twice?

At church I would want to hear God's guidance as an individual but also as a family.

  • Surely we want to hear Him leading us in His way?
  • Lord show us your way forward.
  • Lord God 'your way is best, show us your way'.
  • I question whether I am being, doing, living how, as a part of this family, God has called me to be?
  • Is the part I play honouring to God?
  • Each of us has a significant part to play.

What would be your answer if you were asked the question put to Elijah?

 

So what am I doing this afternoon? Well, of course, I am writing this Word for the Day.

As I write I pray that God is guiding me so that those who read these words are challenged and encouraged in their walk with God.

Each day is another opportunity to hear and obey. It is a gift from our Heavenly Father to be lived for His glory.

As we look back at night on how today has gone, would He need to ask twice 'what have you done today?’

Our walk with God is not about doing, it's more about being and living out our salvation in ways that bring glory to God.

 

Finally, we all have a part to play within our families. That might be our human family or the Christian family to which we all belong.

Praying for each other is a privilege, and Prayer Network is such a blessing; knowing the power of prayer in our lives as we support one another in this way.

Our church family is indeed a loving, caring part of God's church, so as we ask Him to show us the part we have to play, it would be good to know that He won’t have to ask us twice.

 

My prayer for all who read this article is that we grow closer to God as we live our daily lives and that we are able to hear Him as He guides our way.

Lord help us to live lives that reflect our love for You.

The Lord bless you.

Kay

 

20th November 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KNOW YOUR BENEFITS (1)

Psalm 103 always reminds me of my childhood. Grandpa Redman used to come and stay with us from time to time. He was a saintly man who loved the Lord and loved the Bible. He knew this psalm off by heart and would often recite it: ‘Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.’

It’s a psalm of praise.

It begins with the individual: ‘my soul’. Then it moves outward to the congregation: ‘the people of Israel’. By the end it has encompassed the whole universe: ‘all his heavenly hosts … all his works everywhere in his dominion’.

It starts in the narrowest compass: ‘all my inmost being’. It expands to the broadest vista: ‘his kingdom rules over all.’

There is so much in this psalm for us: as individuals, as a congregation, as part of God’s eternal purpose stretching beyond time and planet earth – to eternity and heaven itself.

It has a particular application for people who are going through tough times. Verse 6 says, ‘The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.’

If that’s how you feel today – oppressed – then this psalm is particularly for you. It may be family issues, health issues, work issues, financial issues, and it’s like a heavy weight pressing down on you.

Oppressed.

The Lord knows. He cares. You can find all that you need in him.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

There are many who blame God. ‘Why should it happen to me? It’s not fair.’ And they blame the Lord. But not David. The idea behind this expression of praise is that of kneeling, bowing before God, not rebelling but submitting, not objecting but accepting.

At the very start this psalm is deeply personal. Praise the LORD, my soul – just David and his God.

All my inmost being.

Worship demands all there is of me. Anything less does not do God justice. This was God’s instruction to his redeemed people in Deuteronomy 6:5.

‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’

Don’t hold anything back from God. He doesn’t withhold anything good from us and we should not withhold anything from him. It’s whole life commitment. God deserves nothing less.

Worship demands all there is of me and worship reveals all there is of me. What does it mean to be human? What is my life? Am I just a naked ape? Am I just a product of blind evolution? Am I just a complex machine? Am I just a pawn in the political game?

These definitions devalue our lives. They make us less than human.

If I want to know the full measure of my potential as a human being I will only find it in submission to the great God who created me in his own image.

Worship reveals all there is of me. It releases my full potential.

 

19th November 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

Two sides of the coin

Every Word for the Day that I have submitted always has a footnote ‘Faith not fear’

Hopefully this serves as a reminder to each of us that we are all in a battle. 

Faith, like fear, has two sides, just like a coin has two sides. Faith placed in the right thing is healthy, and faith placed in the wrong thing is unhealthy! 

And so with fear. Fear of the right things is healthy, fear of the wrong thing is unhealthy!

Many things are this way, passion has two sides too, lust and love, one negative, one positive.

In Daniel 4:1-37 Nebuchadnezzar had no fear of God and faith in only himself. A very bad combination that cost him his sanity. On the other hand, a young Jewish boy named Daniel had no fear of man and great faith in God which gave him great sanity and wisdom.

The contrast of their lives show us the importance of living by faith in God versus living in fear of man.

Fear magnifies your opponent / Faith glorifies your Saviour!

Remember the acronym 

  F= false
  E=evidence
  A= appearing
  R= real

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

18th November 2020

In today's spoken Word for the Day Graham Parsons talks about the difficult bits. Hear what he has to say here

 

17th November 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 4:1-7

George Mueller of Bristol (although he was originally Prussian) was a very famous Christian in the 19th century. He was famous for his good works, overseeing and running orphanages and schools, caring for over 10,000 orphans, and providing education for over 1,200,000 children. He was even more famous, world famous in fact, because he obtained the funds for all this work by the method of faith and by prayer. Obviously such an effective pray-er would receive many requests for prayer, and one day he was approached by a very earnest young man. "Brother Mueller, I struggle so much with people, they annoy me constantly and so easily, would you pray that God would deal with my impatience." Mueller with a beatific smile on his face replied, "Of course young man, let us kneel and pray." Eager for a divine answer, the young man sank to his knees. Mueller began to pray. "Oh Lord thank you for this young man, and his request for patience; send him lots of people to get under his skin, to annoy him, to vex him, and to irrita..." At this point the young man had surged to his feet, pulling George Mueller from his knees and began to remonstrate with him. "I wanted patience not irritation!" "Young man," Mueller replied, "how will you ever grow in patience unless your patience is stretched?"

This is one of my favourite stories about George Mueller, not least because I can easily imagine the horror on the young man's face as the easy answer he so wanted was replaced with a more true solution. I find it fascinating that Paul, in verse 1, uses 2 levers on his people. The 1st is: I am in prison for the Lord and for you; the 2nd is that he urges them to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. What is the aim of this serious appeal that he makes with such intensity? Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. The idea of bearing with one another suggests something that we may not always want to hear or to know. Sometimes, people in Church can irritate us, and even annoy us; they can be selfish, and even disappointing. Yet how we respond to this displays our spiritual maturity not theirs. Are we humble enough to look at our own flaws and weaknesses? Do we exercise patience with those who are trying to grow? Is our response mature, or one of self-righteousness?

This is not to say that such selfish or irritating behaviour shouldn't be challenged; particularly long held patterns of behaviour that are unhelpful. The excuse of, 'well, that's just their way,' will give them no excuse before Jesus. We are called to challenge each other to be more, to real communion, and to honest fellowship. To a true family dynamic. Yet we are called to do so in humility and in gentleness, not through anger and irritation. We are called to real, honest community, which is both the most rewarding, and at times challenging, way to live.   

We are called to be one family, so pray for us as a family; pray for those you know and love to be with, but also for those who you may love slightly less. Pray that we may grow and abound more and more in love and harmony. Also feel free not to emulate George Mueller's prayer for those you think need more patience.

 

16th November 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

How’s your mental health?  Not really the sort of question you can ask, is it?  All the same, according to the pundits in the media, nowadays it is a burning issue.  With fears of coronavirus virus complications through to the second lockdown, job losses, and shenanigans at No 10,  let alone thoughts of Brexit and how that may affect life and prices in the shops, there is so much negativity that the media can throw at us at the moment. It is not surprising that there is an increase in the number of people using ‘life-lines’ and an increase in people talk of increased rates of depression and so on.

How does this all fit in with our Christian faith?  I know that clinical depression is a real issue which needs real medical and therapeutic treatment, but I wonder if there is a level of depression caused by concern over events such as those mentioned above which is unnecessary for Christians.  In his letter to the Romans 12:2 Paul warns his readers (and us) against being conformed to the pattern of this world or, as J.B.Phillips put it in his paraphrase, ‘Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould’.  It is so easy to let the media news folk mould our thinking and attitudes into their moulds, thinking of things in the way they want to portray them.  How much of our conversations and phone calls replay what they tell us mirroring their ‘negativity’?

Paul does not only tell his readers what not to do, however, he gives good positive advice – ‘but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.  The opposite of being conformed to the world’s pattern is changing our minds – developing new ways of thinking.  He goes as far as saying that if we do this we will even be able to know God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.  How can this be done?  Paul is not specific at this point, but in his letter to the Philippian Christians he gives more than a hint. ‘Finally, brothers and sisters,’ he says in Philippians 4:8, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure , whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things.’  These are the things we should be filling our minds with rather than continual negativity.  The best place to find these attributes is to fill in our minds with God’s Word.  If we are prepared to make the effort to thus change our thinking patterns, it will affect what we talk about to others, encouraging them to think positively.

In the previous verses in Philippians, (4:4-7), Paul has again encouraged his readers ‘Do not be anxious about anything ….. present your requests to God’   and then commented that ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Surely this is the peace of mind, which comes from God, which can help us avoid much of the depression and uncertainties caused by concentrating on the negatives?

 

15th November 2020

In our spoken Word for the Day Graham Carpmail talks about our love of Jesus and love of others. You can hear it here.

14th November 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

So now we return to the prayer that Paul started all the way back in verse 1, and what a prayer it is! I'm sure we all have memories of sitting in church and listening to someone praying, wondering if the person praying had maybe forgotten they weren't delivering the sermon. Spurgeon and Moody were notorious for interrupting long prayers with comments such as: 'while our brother finishes, let us sing a hymn!' Paul's prayer is not a lengthy prayer at all. It is, however, a prayer that can be preached on. Each verse is full of thought, comment, devotion, and theological truth.

There are many things that can be said regarding this prayer. This is a Trinitarian prayer: all of the Godhead is involved. He prays to the Father, that we would be strengthened by the Spirit, so that Jesus may dwell and belong and be welcome in our hearts. This is an invoking of the full Godhead for our benefit. This is a prayer requesting the complete involvement of God in our internal life. That we would know, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but we would know deeply and fully the weight and profundity of God's love for us.

Not only is this prayer invoking an awareness of God's all consuming love, it goes further with an incredible statement, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. That we may be completely filled, like a cup that is just about to overflow, with the fullness of God.

Realising the weight of this prayer he finishes with a simple declaration of fact: God is able to do this. Not only is He able to do this, He is able to do more than all we ask or imagine. Yet this is not a sermon, it is a devotion on a prayer, so I'll stop now with a simple suggestion. Take this prayer and pray it for yourself, then pray it for your family, and finally pray it for the Church.

 

13th November 2020

From Simeon Colville

God first

Reading- Philippians 4:10-13

In this passage, Paul explains how his experiences both of hardships and need, and of times when he had what he needed have shown him the secret to being content through everything. He has done this through trust and contentment in what and who he knows God is. No matter what he is going through, he knows that God will provide for him. He doesn’t focus on whatever is going on around him, even if it is really bad, because he knows that God is all he needs at any time.

If, or when, we face bad times, it is important that we try to remember all that God provides for us and how much He loves us. It is important to remember that whatever struggles we are facing are a lot smaller than God, and what He can deal with, and that He will help us get through them.

But it can be hard to look to God before anything else when you are going through a time where everything seems to be pointing towards helplessness and that there is no way out. Paul says that he had to learn how to be content with what God gives, and Paul went through a lot of bad things, including imprisonment and being shipwrecked 3 times. But throughout all of that, he was able to trust God to help him with everything that was going on. And although our experiences may not seem as bad as what Paul faced, what happens to you is really important to God, and He wants to help.

This might not be an easy or quick process; remember to look to God first, before getting stuck thinking about the bad things. I’ve tried to start doing this but it does take time to get used to putting God first when you are in need. But once you do start trusting him in that moment you will see that when you let God take control, there is no need to focus on the bad because as Paul says in verse 13, “you can do all through Christ who strengthens you”. And that doesn’t mean you can do anything that you want to do, but that you will be able to get through those dark moments much easier with God on your side.

 

12th November 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

I have always appreciated the first three verses of Psalm 1 with its encouragement to take delight in and drink deeply of the 'Law of the Lord', or perhaps we would interpret this for us today as the 'Word of God'.  Then, in verse three, this drawing and drinking deeply of the Word of God is likened to being a tree planted by streams of water:

‘That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.’

I was meditating on this again last week. I have always looked at flourishing trees and just thought how amazing it is that they stand tall and strong and their roots stretch wide and deep bringing them all the nourishment that they need.  Apart from the basic knowledge of how this happens from school biology lessons, I had not thought much beyond that.  However on Countryfile the other week (yes I confess to watching Countryfile) they were talking with a man who has developed technology which allowed him to listen to trees as they draw up the water from the earth.  What was so staggering about this is that it is really noisy and sounded like a gushing waterfall, although technically I suppose it’s a ‘water-up’.  So as I returned to ponder Psalm 1 again and you read of being likened to being like a tree planted by a stream and that the leaves do not wither, because we dwell on the word of God, it made me realise, that the tree works daily to achieve its fruitfulness and longevity and it works really hard to flourish in all its beauty.

So it made me ponder some questions:

Do I take my easy access to the Word of God for granted?

Do I look at others flourishing and presume it ‘just happens for them’, when actually drawing on and dwelling in the Word of God is hard work and a daily commitment?

If I have the river of God flowing in, around and through me, by His Holy Spirit, do I choose to draw from its richness or just hope something splashes over me and that will be enough?

How seriously do I take dwelling in the Word of God that I may be fruitful in every season?

I find these questions challenging and so will continue to ponder them for some time to come.

With much Love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

11th November 2020

Today Kath Lewis reads from Psalm 119:105-122 & 169-176. You can hear it here. When you have heard it perhaps you will spend some moments in considering whether your life reflects the same attitudes, dedication, humility and piety as the Psalmist's. You may like to listen again.

 

10th November 2020

Ephesians 3:7-13

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Sometimes we are so familiar with Scripture that when we read it, we can pass straight over a slightly odd verse, such as verse 7. Take a second, and read verse 7, and see if you can find anything that might be odd to us in the 21st century. Did you spot anything?

My question from reading verse 7 is this: how many of us would put the idea of being a servant along with the ideas of it being a gift, and coming with a sense of power? Surely this is an oxymoronic idea. It must be a contradiction, because a servant is not usually someone of power, nor is it usually considered a gift to be a servant. The one who is served is surely the gifted one, and also the one who is served has the power, not the one who serves. Yet Paul clearly considers it a huge honour, and a sign of God's immense grace in verse 8, that he is called to be a servant.

So how are we to understand this idea? Firstly, we must recognise that the One that Paul serves is worthy. Even for us in this day, it is a great honour to be called to serve at the pleasure of the Royal family or the President of the United States, and Paul is called to serve One who is greater than them all. Paul is called to serve One who is greater in character, greater in position and greater in power. He is the One who would lay down his life for His enemies, He is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, so great is the One that he has been called to serve. All earthly title and power is a mere shadow to the substance of His eternal reign.

Secondly, Paul is not worthy, he isn't being down on himself; he oversaw the brutal oppression, and even killing, of those who loved Jesus, the One that he now serves. He set himself up as an enemy of Jesus and His Church. He was Jesus' enemy, and had made himself so, yet now, by Jesus' grace, is his friend, brother and servant.

So what of us? We combine the 2 ideas that are true for most of us, that at one point we were the enemy of God and yet were won for Jesus by the grace of His Spirit, and secondly we serve the eternal One who is unchanging. Just as Jesus was worthy then, so He is worthy still. It is an honour for us still in the 21st Century to be called to serve. This is good, as just as Paul was called to serve, we are still called to be His servants. So the question we are left with is this: how will we serve Him today?

 

9th November 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Both … And…

As far as we can see, John wrote the letter we call First John, to a group of Christians who were experiencing a time of uncertainty.  It seems that a significant number of their church had left the fellowship to follow an ‘enlightened’ teaching.  They claimed a special spiritual ‘knowledge’ which was only available under certain circumstances.  Those who remained would have been feeling insecure and fragile. Were they right to stick to the faith they had started with?  How could they tell what was true and what was false teaching?

John’s letter aimed to deal with both things  – to encourage them to continue in their faith and to help them to know how to recognise false teaching.  In the middle of his letter he gives a clear statement of what it means to obey Jesus’ command.  I wonder how you would answer the question ‘How can I obey Jesus’ command?’  John gave a double answer, where I guess some of us might have just given a single one.  It is found in 1 John 3:23

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he gave a similar double response

Jesus replied; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul; and all your mind’.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:

Love your neighbour as yourself.

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22:35-40

The age old dispute between the importance of faith or works is neatly answered by these two statements.  It is not either … or… , but both …  and… 

This is both a challenge and an encouragement to the oft repeated maxim – All you need is love.  It is a challenge to the rather slushy sentimentalism of ‘lovey-dovey’ don’t upset anyone and do what makes everyone happy kind of love.  However, if the true definition of love, as John describes it, is taken into account it is an encouragement.  In 1 John 3:16 John writes

This is how we know what love is:

Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

The love which we need is that of Jesus, Himself.  We need to receive the tremendous love that Jesus has shown us in giving his life for us and then show that same measure of love towards our brothers and sisters.  This is very different from the love mentioned before and just is not possible for us to attain, without that trust in Jesus.  When we appreciate who Jesus is and what he has done for us, then we can be motivated to love others with true ‘agape’ love.  The cricketer and pioneer missionary, C.T. Studd captured something of the priority here when he claimed that

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me

Then no sacrifice would be too great for me to make for him.

This would then include loving through good works.  When stimulated by God’s love for us, practical loving help to others is essential.

John goes on to say

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need

but has no pity on him

how can the love of God be in him?

Dear children, let us not love with words

but with actions and in truth.

 

 

8th November 2020

Sandra Hobley provides today's spoken Word for the Day. She reads and speaks about the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. Listen here

7th November 2020

From David Depledge

In my last contribution (16th October) I talked about talking the talk. Jesus did not just talk the talk, he also walked the walk. After saying that there was no greater love that a man can show than to give up his life for his friends (John 15:13), Jesus proceeded to do just that, as he died to put us right with God.

But we are mere humans, albeit those who seek to follow Jesus example. So how do we walk the walk? We cannot cover that in one devotional but here are some starters:-

 1 John 3:16-18 tells us.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

In the UK, at this time, we are not likely to be called on to die for the sake of our friends but we can give our lifetime over to loving our families, our brothers and sisters in Christ and, in fact, anyone we come across who needs our help. We can be generous with our material possessions but we can also be generous with our spiritual wealth, with what we have learnt about God and the salvation he offers us.

Walking the walk also involves our moral choices. The Ten Commandments is a good place to start (Exodus 20: 1-17) but there is plenty more in the Bible to help us with those choices. But let us not kid ourselves. It is not easy. We come across circumstances that the Bible does not specifically cover and we have to use principles (such as love, justice, grace) to come to our moral decisions. We can see a summary of how we should be in 1 Peter 1: 13-16

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.

What a challenge! We need to walk in Jesus footsteps and we need to be holy. We can only do that by staying close to God with the help of the Holy Spirit with all the implications that has for our priorities, our time and our behaviour.

 

6th November 2020

NOVEMBER!

Alexander Pope, the 18th century English poet and essayist, wrote:

‘True Wit is Nature to advantage dressed,

 What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.’

These words have often come back to me when I’ve wanted to be original but someone else has said it better than I could. So my Word for the Day is not original, but I hope as helpful to you as it was to me.

Extracted from Ray Simpson's Book ‘Celtic Daily Light’, Readings for Thursday 5th November 2020.

CLEARING THE DECKS AND BONFIRES

This is the time of year when the cold and the dark seem set to take over, a time when our instinct is to withdraw. It is the Celtic season of Samhain, when those cattle which had to be brought down from the hills, and which could not be accommodated, were slaughtered.

The bonfires which we associate with this season get their name from the ‘bone fires’, in which the inedible parts of the carcasses were destroyed.

The fires are also associated with the idea of clearing the decks for winter; the leaves and the excess things of summer are swept up and burned.

Something in the human psyche, too, needs to clear the decks, and to accept a reduction in the number of choices that are available to us, and to settle down.

Our ego resists the idea of accepting limits. Some people get depression at this time of year. Others flout what God is saying through nature by indulging in a reckless life-style throughout the winter.

Yet think of the animals who hibernate. Think of the wonders of spring flowers – they would not be able to burst forth if they had not first lain still in the wintry earth.

So how should a Christian respond to this time of year?

In two ways.

First, by fighting against the darkness of fear, despair, self-concern and evil spirits. We expel these in the name of Christ and receive his strength, faith, and self-less love.

Second, by not fighting against the God-given rhythm of the season, but by going with its flow. November’s grey days, dark nights, cold rains, thick fog help me to accept that I am mortal.

This means that I will take more time to be inside, alone, still with God.

I will take more time for study and the inner life.

I will spend less time dashing around, purchasing, starting schemes.

Father, Saviour, Sustainer, as this cold, dark month encroaches
give to us the stability of the deep earth and the hope of heaven.

Amen.

 

5th November 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

When I was a lad, Bonfire night was one of the highlights of the year. Preparations began weeks, if not months, ahead by searching for firewood, (Chumping was the Yorkshire dialect!)

 We would look everywhere for wood that was unclaimed. or we would go raiding! That was the term for stealing wood from other bonfires. It was vital that the bonfire was made as a sort of den so that it became your HQ  always guarded day and especially through until late evening. 

When kids came to raid your wood, your bonfire would be your refuge and arsenal.

When bonfire night eventually arrived the procedure for preparing the wood to be set alight was like a military exercise!

The fire would be kept alight all night sometimes!   Because our bonfires were also hollow, doubling up as a big Tipee like den  we would fill the space with kindling and screwed up newspaper which meant that they never failed to light(even on a rainy night)

Discovering our God-given gifts and abilities takes the same careful attention as starting and maintaining a bonfire. Our gifts from God are ignited when we believe and use them for His purposes. Because God wants us to “fan [our gifts] into flame,” He gives us exactly what we need to identify and develop them: a spirit of boldness, power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

When we love the way Jesus loves, our passion reveals our gifts. Once identified, self-discipline with maintenance and regular use will develop our gift into the perfect instrument of God’s will. And when we let God work through us for His purposes, He gives us the power to use our gifts in supernatural ways.  

The fire God ignites when we know and use our gifts cannot be contained like a bonfire. God also gives us the boldness to use our gifts to serve everyone we meet, to fan our flame into a roaring bonfire whose light would pierce the darkness for miles (Matthew 5:14-16).

If you are lighting a bonfire tonight have fun!

With much love

Graham

 

4th November 2020

Our spoken Word for the Day from Angela Montgomery is a little different. Today Angela re-tells the story of the woman at the well in John 4: 1-26 and then talks about its meaning and its promise. Hear it here 

3rd November 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 3: 1-6

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles –

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I don't know if you've ever noticed this when you read the Bible, but Paul gets excited about Jesus. In fact, Ephesians 3 starts with Paul getting so excited, he loses his place in his letter and begins to digress. He's that excited, it's almost like someone who you haven't seen in a while, who has so much news to share, that it all has to spill out, or they might forget some of it.

So what has got Paul so excited? What has got him to interrupt his thought and prayer, which he continues in vs14? What has him so excited is this: that this generation is the first to share in the knowledge of God's eternal plan, that Gentiles, yes even us Gentiles, would be joined and grafted into the vine of Israel (Romans 11:17). That we would be heirs with Israel in the inheritance of faith. That we can legitimately look back at the stories and experiences of faith as our stories of faith: the faithfulness of Abraham, the deliverance of the Exodus, the heroes of Samson, Samuel, and David and Jonathan. These are now our heroes today; we are heirs of faith.

Not only are we heirs of faith but we share in the continuing experience of Jesus. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is now our God; the God who shared with Daniel untold mysteries, the God who comforted Isaiah and his people. This God is now our God, and Paul, His apostle, who loves and adores the Jewish faith, is now called to share this truth with Gentiles. These are things to be excited about, a rich past to be cherished, nurtured in and grown from, and a present and a future that is so rich and full of promise as we continue the witness of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

So as we share in the wisdom of Israel, what is your favourite story of the Old Testament? What story has inspired and encouraged you? Give thanks that that story is yours to share in Jesus.

(If you would like to tell us the answer to those questions we will put your response in the “Our Stories” part of the website – email it to us)

 

2nd November 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

How many times have you heard this in the last few weeks?  "Christmas will be different this year!"  Lots of TV and radio presenters and even the Prime Minister have used this phrase many times.  With all that’s been going on around us it’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?  Ian has got in on the act in helping us find the Christmas story in Mark’s Gospel.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.  Thank you, Ian.  All the same, I wonder how you anticipate Christmas being different this year and whether or not you welcome it.

There are some of us who are guilty of always complaining about the commercialisation of Christmas with the heavy emphasis on expensive presents and decorations which more often than not don’t include the reason for the season.  Obviously ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers and manufacturers will be bemoaning how Christmas will be different this year, especially if the lockdown gets extended, although on-line retailers are probably rubbing their pockets with glee.

It is interesting that the most common comment about the difference of Christmas this year centres around the ‘family’ aspect of the season.  Missing the opportunity to have the whole family together and enjoy that extra large turkey or whatever you have.  This is what the Government seems most keen to be able to make possible and has been given for one of the reasons for the new lockdown.  This is something we would all applaud, especially when isolation and separation seem to be having such a devastating effect on the mental state of the nation.  We all hope to be able to spend some time with others in our family over the Christmas period.  The prospect of zooming Christmas lunch was greeted with a definite thumbs down at the after church chat on Sunday morning.

One of our best exponents of ‘thinking outside the box’, Sarah, was explaining something of what she has in mind for QRBC’s Christmas activity, based on the recent successful ‘Trail of light’.  It sounds great and could involve a lot of us, so look out for it.

It has made me think about how we, as individuals or families, might positively aim to make Christmas 2020 different as we put thought into how we can endeavour to put Jesus right at the centre of all we do.  It is his birthday party and even if others have succeeded in ‘gate-crashing’ for their own ends, there is no reason why we should just follow them.  After all Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2 not to conform (ourselves)any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of (our) minds.

Maybe, as we plan what we are going to do for this ‘different Christmas’ we can do a bit more towards claiming the season back again for celebrating the incredible fact of God becoming man. I am not making any concrete suggestions as this is supposed to be a ‘thought for the day’ but just suggesting that it is something worth thinking about and putting into our planning right at the beginning.

 

1st November 2020

Today's spoken Word for the Day is from Graham Carpmail and has a clear message from Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’" You can hear it here.

31st October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

CHRISTMAS LOST? (2)

As we look for a perspective on Christmas from Mark’s Gospel the next thing we hear are two voices.

The first voice is the voice in the wilderness.

It is part of the fulfilment of that amazing prophecy in Isaiah 40:3. It introduces John the Baptist, the voice of one calling out in the wilderness.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.

Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message. That was certainly true of John the Baptist.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

He was a rugged, prophetic character, uncompromising, challenging and rather frightening.

And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

John’s message was about two baptisms: a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and a baptism with the Holy Spirit. One was a baptism to get rid of something. The other was a baptism to receive something. John had the authority to carry out the first baptism but not the second.

The whole point of Christmas is to remind us of two things: there’s something we’ve got that we need to get rid of, and there’s something we don’t have that we need to receive.

The thing we desperately need to be rid of is the pandemic of sin.

The thing we don’t have that we desperately need is the power of God’s Spirit. And for this we need Jesus.

The voice in the wilderness. You won’t hear this voice in the royal palace or even the Temple. It’s out there in the open country. It’s where shepherds watch their flocks by night.

The second voice is the voice from heaven.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

Mark’s introduction to the good news of Jesus ends where he began – with God. A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

In the true Christmas story heaven is as important as earth, if not more important. Of all the voices that clamour for our attention it is the voice of God that is supreme, and not even God speaking to us but God speaking to his Son Jesus, a conversation that we are privileged to overhear. Because of this special relationship Jesus can bring God to us and Jesus can bring us to God.

Has Mark lost the Christmas story? No. He draws our attention to the gaps and asks us to fill them. Where does the good news begin? What are those prophecies all about? What is the voice in the wilderness saying? What is the voice from heaven saying? In the answers to these questions lies the true meaning of Christmas.

 

30th October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

CHRISTMAS LOST? (1)

Where is the Christmas story in Mark’s Gospel? It seems to have been lost. No angels, no shepherds, no wise men, not even a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Here is Mark’s verse 1.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This is all the more strange, given that scholars have identified a running theme in Mark’s Gospel, ‘the Messianic Secret’. Examples can be found immediately in his opening chapter.

Verse 34: ‘[Jesus] would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.’

Verses 43–44: ‘Jesus sent [the man cured of leprosy] away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone”.’

Shhh. It’s a secret. And yet right at the beginning in verse 1 Mark lets us in on the secret: the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

For Mark, the beginning is not an event or a time or a place or people. For him it all begins with God and his Son Jesus.

The most significant thing about Christmas is that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus stepped from eternity into time.

Mark forces us to ask questions. If Jesus was the Son of God why would he enter the world? How would he enter the world? What titles would be appropriate for him? How would he be received? What would he achieve?

Mark suggests these questions and encourages us to explore them. He compels us to fill in the gaps in his narrative from this one central and essential clue: Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

In verse 3 Mark jumps from eternity to history, to what God revealed through the prophets:

a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD, make straight paths for him.’

The importance of this prophecy from Isaiah 40:3 is seen in the fact that all four Gospel writers quote it. All through the centuries the promise had remained unfulfilled: the LORD God is coming. Get ready. And now it was to be fulfilled – by the coming of Jesus!

Unlike the other Gospel writers Mark prefaces his Isaiah quotation with another, from Malachi 3:1. God said:

 ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.’

Question to Malachi: ‘Who’s coming?’ Answer: the LORD God.

Question to Mark: ‘Who has come?’ Answer: Jesus Christ the Son of God.

It’s another way of saying, ‘They will call him Immanuel—which means “God with us”.’

And there’s another subtle twist in Mark’s use of Malachi’s prophecy. Here’s what Mark wrote:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.’

Do you see what’s happened? A revelation from God to the prophet has been reshaped into a conversation between God the Father and Jesus his Son.

This is what Christmas is all about: an event in human history, a very public event, foretold 700 years in advance, documented and verifiable.

But behind it is a relationship outside of human history, the relationship between God the Father and his Son in eternity, a divine plan and purpose – we might almost say, a divine collaboration.

Matthew and Luke give us the historical details of the birth of Jesus but Mark gives us this conversation from heaven and challenges us to fill in the gaps.

 

29th October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

The Myna Bird

I have been remembering a story I heard a little while back. It was about an elderly lady called Margaret, who owned a Myna bird.

 

Most of the time, Margaret’s bird lived in his cage. Margaret loved her bird and cared well for him. She gave him food, water, and the odd treat. At night, she would put a cover over his cage so that he slept. In the morning she would take off the cloth and he would wake. The Myna bird did not have to worry about anything while he was taken care of by the loving Margaret. The cage was a place of safety for Margaret’s bird.

Occasionally, Margaret would open the cage door. The bird would step out of his cage, stretch his wings, and fly around the room. You would think that the bird would like freedom, but it was torture for him. He would land on the window ledge and stare outside for hours watching the birds who were free. This was a reminder to the bird that, ultimately, he was captive. He was not free.

In his mind, Margaret’s bird would dream of freedom. He would imagine what it must be like to soar in the fresh air. He imagined what it must be like to build a nest, find a mate, and decide when he would sleep and eat and make his own choices. But, it could only be a dream, because his world was the room and the cage that Margaret kept him in.

Early one morning, Margaret came into the room and lifted the cover off the bird. She thought that the room felt a bit stuffy and so, she opened the window.

She left the room and carried on with her daily routine. Unknown to her, a slight breeze blew and the cage door sprung open. For the bird, this was his big chance. This is just what he had been waiting for. His big moment.

The bird stood at the open cage door and weighed up the situation. Would he take his freedom, or remain in the security of his cage? He could hear the birds outside and he longed for the freedom that could be his if only he would stretch his wings and fly. But the cage was secure and made him feel safe.

As the bird tried to make up his mind, Margaret came back into the room. She saw the open window, the open cage door. Margaret ran to the window and promptly shut it. She then went to the cage, closed the door, and popped the cover over the top. The bird went to sleep and dreamt of what he would do if only he was free.

Something to think about:-

  1. In what ways are you like Margaret’s bird?

  2. In what ways is our Church like Margaret’s bird?

  3. How can we as individuals and as a church experience more freedom?

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

28th October 2020

We have frequently heard it said over the last few months that these are "extraordinary times." As Helen Jones brings our reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 consider what these times have taught us and imagine how God, who has not been surprised, sees our situation. You can hear Helen here.

 

27th October 2020

From Iain Colville

Ephesians 2: 11-22

“Peace in our time?”

At different times, most of us will have been in situations where we were an outsider, a stranger or foreigner who didn’t belong in a potentially hostile place.  Can you recall how that felt?  You may have felt isolated and scared, not knowing what to do or how to act.  You may have felt uncomfortable and keen to get away.  Perhaps this is how you feel today?

Paul begins this second half of Ephesians 2, by noting that his Gentile readers (which will include almost all of us) were once separate and excluded from the promises given to God’s special people the Jews. Take note of the language Paul uses to describe this initial state of the Gentiles (v11-12): “separate from Christ”, “excluded from citizenship” and “foreigners… without hope and without God in the world.” 

But Paul’s real point is that the wonderful work of Jesus upon the Cross has shifted us Gentiles from being “far away” from his love and mercy to being “brought near” to the extent that Gentiles and Jews are now one people (v13-15). There is no longer any barrier or “dividing wall of hostility” between us because Jesus came to bring peace and reconciliation (v14-17).  No longer strangers and foreigners, the Gentiles are now fellow citizens with God’s people, fellow members of God’s household (v19), being built together into a holy temple where God dwells by his Spirit (v21-22).

We find ourselves in a strange new world, where “hands – face – space” is the oft repeated mantra, with the rule of 6, and those different tiers of risk and restrictions that prevent us from meeting with friends or family, and from being church as we know it.  It’s entirely natural that this feels like a strange and foreign land, where each of us seems to be isolated and cut off from many of the familiar aspects of our normal lives. And it’s good to be reminded that in place of those feelings of fear and exclusion, Jesus brings peace and welcome, and a sense of belonging.  

In Jesus and Paul’s time, there were some physical reminders of the spiritual exclusion of the Gentiles, for example the division of the Temple in Jerusalem between the Court of the Gentiles and the inner courts where only the Jews could enter.  But the barriers and reconciliation that Paul describes in these verses were essentially spiritual barriers and a spiritual reconciliation.  

Whatever we may be feeling about our current circumstances, Jesus’ work on the Cross has not been undone.  He has still saved us; He has still brought us together in peace, into a new humanity as fellow citizens and members of the same household; and He continues to build us into his holy temple, a place where he dwells today by his Spirit. Perhaps we need to ask Him to show us where He’s at work in our lives today and how we can share His peace to this broken and isolated world?

If we are members of the same spiritual household, there’s no need to distance ourselves from Jesus. Indeed, as always, he longs to come close and to bring us near to His promises and grace.  Perhaps today, you need to invite Jesus to come into your bubble in order to minister His peace to you?

 

26th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Yesterday was officially Bible Sunday for 2020, although some churches celebrate it on a different day.  On the Bible Society website for Bible Sunday there was a report of the importance of Bibles to children in some of the churches in Malawi.  This was what was written –

One child loved the Bible so much he read 10 stories a night

There are about one thousand children at Nsungwi Church in rural Malawi. For Sunday school they split into classes with about 100 kids in each class. This is church on a big scale … until it comes to their resources. There may be a thousand children in the church, but there are just 40 children’s Bibles. In one class, five children each week are allowed to take a Bible home. They must read a story every night and learn one by heart. One child loved the Bible so much he read 10 stories a night. Bibles are brought back to church the following Sunday. Children’s hands shoot up as they offer to retell stories they had read and knew inside out. Stories such as David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark, Jacob and Joseph are told with pride, clarity and accuracy. The Bibles are passed to another child. Children can wait around six months for their turn to take one home. One child said, ‘The Bible tells me about God’s love.’ Another said, ‘We love the pictures, and the stories teach us good behaviour. A very little boy added, ‘We know these stories off by heart and they help us trust in God.’ Clapperton, who leads Bible Society work in Malawi, said, ‘I remember one of the first churches we went to. We brought 120 Bibles, which we thought was quite a large number. When we got there, we found there were 750 children. Almost every week, churches ask us for Bibles and we can’t say yes to them all. We are still just focusing on the cities because the need is so great. But we believe we are sowing seeds. We trust God the seeds will germinate and grow, and these children will know the foundation of God’s word in their lives.’

Providing Children’s Bibles for situations like this was the project that Bible Society in Coventry were supporting last year and Jane and I had the privilege of visiting this time last year.

When you read of the importance these children put on the stories of the Bible when they are able to take them home (possibly once in 6 months according to the story), it makes you think about the importance that we give to the Bible and its stories in our lives.  The current Director of the Bible Society, Clapperton Mayuni, bought his first Bible when he was at school in the 1970’s. (He told us about this a few years ago.)  Now his life is committed to sharing this good news with others.  The keenness that some folk have in getting hold of their copy of the Bible is only matched by the way the Bible gets hold of them.  I trust that the ease with which we can get a copy of the Bible (or many copies) does not dent our love for it and the Jesus it shows us.  May we learn to value it as much as these children in Malawi.

 

25th October 2020

You can listen to Graham Carpmail considering the trials of life and what God has done about it, here

 

24th October 2020

From Iain Colville

Ephesians 2: 1-10    “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

After his great flight of oratory in the previous passage, Paul almost seems to catch his breath as he calls to mind the contrast between his readers’ (and indeed his own) original state – living in depravity and sin, deserving of God’s wrath – with the glorious grace and mercy of Jesus, which brings us life and salvation. 

It is often said that we can see more clearly as we look back with hindsight.  I wonder how often do we review and reflect upon the impact that Jesus has had upon our lives? 

Following in Paul’s footsteps, let’s start by considering the path we trod before we came to know Jesus and his salvation. Whether we were conscious of this at the time, just like Paul’s readers, we were following the ways of this world and Satan’s rule (v1-2). Paul makes clear that this was the status of even the Jews (v3). And in that place, we all were “children of wrath”, deserving of God’s judgment and death.

But let’s not dwell in that place of doom and disobedience. As someone once said, looking forward from the darkness of Good Friday towards the glory of the resurrection: “it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” 

Paul takes us in one leap, from the darkness into the brilliant light. Once again, Paul’s words seem to stream from the page in one joyous breath: “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (v4-9).  

Take a moment to re-read these verses and give thanks for all that Jesus has accomplished for each one of us: from the Father’s great love for you when you were dead in sin, raising you to life in Jesus, seating you with Jesus in the heavenly realm.  I pray that we’ll each catch something of Paul’s infectious joy and delight as we let these words sink in.

And there’s more: having been transformed by Jesus’ grace, we are now a new creation, a work of art made by God’s own hand, in order to live a lifestyle of good works (v10). Let’s look to make sure we can see our heavenly Father’s craftmanship and artistry in each other.

 

23rd October 2020

Jenny Young has some thoughts on the 'Tunnel of Dismay' and an encouraging prayer in her spoken contribution which you can listen to here.

 

22nd October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

‘Walking in another’s shoes’

I would like to encourage you this week to read Ruth chapter 1.  In this chapter we meet many characters who are experiencing life in so many different ways.  As you read this familiar chapter again take a moment to consider these characters: Elimelech, his wife Naomi, their sons Mahlon and Chilion, then their wives Ruth and Orpah.

Their life is mostly summarised in first five verses of this chapter. Consider anew what they are living through and who they are.

Let me introduce them to you again:

There is the successful, innovative Elimelech taking his family to safety.

The two pairs of newlyweds, with many hopes and aspirations of the life to come and what it will hold.

Then there is the middle aged woman devastated by the loss of her husband and both of her sons.

Finally the vulnerable young women from Moab about to travel to a foreign land to become unacceptable immigrants.  One of them chooses to go, the other stays.

Now pause and ask yourself some questions:

Do you relate to any one of these characters more than another?  Why is that?

How easy do you find it to put yourself in the shoes of each one?

What would you want to say to each one of these people?

In your context, your home, your neighbours, our church who are those represented by Elimelech, Mahlon, Chilion, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah.  Who are you to them, are you able to step into their shoes for a moment? In what way are you being God’s hands and feet?  What would God have you say to or do for them?

It is profoundly challenging for some to relate to those of a different background than ourselves, whether that is ethnicity, or class or age, but as God’s children we are called to draw alongside everyone.  Often we are the only expression of God that people meet, that is both awesome, in the correct meaning of the word and can be inspiring, if we allow God’s Spirit to work through us.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

21st October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY

The first wave of covid-19 looks set to become the second surge. The Prime Minister, primed by his scientific advisers, warns us that we need to be extra careful, introducing further restrictions – and greater penalties for ignoring them.

The relaxation of lockdown, accompanied by an unusual spell of good weather, has tempted us all to throw off restraint and take our freedom back – with ominous consequences.

How do you fight an invisible enemy?

I recently came across some reflections from Jelena Miličević, a facilitator in the Langham preaching movement in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and wanted to share them with you. Here they are.

How careful am I when it comes to spiritual things? Do I take care not to ‘infect’ other people with my negative attitudes, or with my anger and lack of kindness for people who come into contact with me? Do I put a mask over my mouth to stop words that are not glorifying to God, words that might infect, or even kill?!

I confess that sometimes I don't realise how much I can endanger other people when I thoughtlessly judge, complain, criticise, or tell inappropriate jokes. Sometimes my careless words and actions can offend someone so that instead of me being someone who brings people closer to Christ, I am the one who drives people from Christ. 

The enemy of our souls is invisible. We don't always recognise him. He lurks in the shadows and brings doubt, fear, judgement, anger; and he tempts us to sin. We collect his ‘germs’ and spread them around, not thinking about the people we contaminate along the way.

We need to be more careful about what we think, speak and do.

We need to shine the light of Jesus and allow the life of Jesus to spring up from within us.

We show our love for our neighbours by being careful and taking care of them.

We become those who bring hope and joy to others and who show strength to resist every fear and temptation. 

'Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:12–17).

 

20th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1:15-23

Some passages of Scripture are just so incredibly rich and full that to plumb their depths would take not one devotion, but rather a lengthy series of books. For me, Ephesians 1:15-23 is such a passage. This is a passage that is full of challenge, hope, insight, inspiration, and aspiration. There are so many profound ideas, you can struggle to work out where to start!

Firstly, there is the simple challenge of who Paul is. Look at his response to hearing good news of the Ephesians, he is full to bursting with joy and praise. How do we respond to good news from other places and people. Yet this passage also reads with such sincerity, and with no condemnation, Paul is simply expressing how he feels and his reaction to their good news. There is no finger wagging or self-guarding, this is a call to genuine delight and aspiration to respond with thanks and praise at the good news of others.

Secondly, there is the encouragement to more. The Ephesians are doing well, and Paul points to the more that they have yet to experience. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. There is so much more, even when things are going well, for us to experience of God, both in terms of our knowledge of Him, the truths of His word and His kingdom, and in our experience of His power.

Thirdly, there is the call to just glory in who Jesus is. Look at the place that Paul gives to Jesus, our friend, our brother, our King, and our God. Jesus is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

I could say so much more, instead I will leave you to read, think, and pray over this rich passage, with a promise that I have prayed for you, the very same prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

 

19th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Did you see that sniffer dogs are being used in airports in some countries to find people with Covid-19? It is amazing what these dogs can pick up.  Apparently some of these dogs are able to detect  certain forms of cancer or diabetes.  There are smells there that we cannot detect ourselves but can be picked out by these dogs. Quite amazing.

It got me thinking about the verses in 2 Corinthians 2 where Paul says that Christians smell.   Actually the word used is a fragrance as God … through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him (Christ). (2 Corinthians 2:14). If someone or something smells they emit an odour which everyone who comes in contact with them will smell.  Paul indicates that everyone who has contact with us, as Christians, should sense the knowledge of Christ.  They should see Jesus in us, mixing the metaphors a bit!.

He uses the pictures of a victorious army returning home in Roman days.  The general would lead in his troops to loud acclaim and these would be followed by their captives. All along the route as they entered the city people would be making sacrifices and burning incense to thank their gods.  Paul pointed out that the smells from these sacrifices would have different significances to the soldiers and the captives.  To the soldiers they were the smell of success and life of celebration ahead.  To the captives they were the smell of slavery or even death.  Same smells – different meanings.

As we share Jesus with all we meet, not always by word but by living out his love to others, there will be those who recognise and welcome this ‘fragrance’.  We should not be surprised, however, to find that the acts of love and kindness in Jesus’ name, will not always be welcomed but may even be rejected or laughed at by others. These are those, Paul says, who in their current state are rejecting Jesus and so heading towards death.  This should not stop us from ‘emitting this odour’ or living out Jesus in our communities.  We do not know which people will be attracted to Jesus by our words and actions and who will be turned off.  That is between them and God.  Our role is to be the fragrance of Jesus in our homes, communities and work places so that have the chance to ‘smell’ his love and goodness and be drawn to him.

 

18th October 2020

Today Ruth Jess speaks about the life of hymn writer John Newton and reads one of his hymns. You can hear it here

 

17th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1: 11-14 - What are you worth?

What's your worth? What's your value? That's a hard question to answer isn't it? Believe it or not, that's a question some companies actually do have to ask when they send employees into dangerous areas, for kidnap insurance.

So how much are you worth? I suspect the answer would depend very much on who you ask. To our families I suspect that we're worth a lot more than we would be to others. To a materialist they might simply examine the value of our assets; how much we have and own. So how much are you worth?

I think Paul gives us an answer of our value in God's eyes in the verses 11 to 14 of Ephesians 1. The answer is that we have great value, immense worth. How can we see this? We can see this in many ways. Firstly, as I said the other day, we were chosen; but look at the skill of the One who chooses us, in verse 11. We were predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. We were chosen by a master craftsman. I'm friends with a very skilled carpenter (no pun intended!) and it's fascinating watching him choose his wood. He examines the grain, and the weight of the boards, after carefully deciding which wood would best suit his purposes. This can be an exacting purpose, depending on the purpose of the wood. Yet imagine the skill and the intent that went into your choosing! You were chosen by not just a skilled carpenter, you were chosen by the One who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. Now that is a master craftsman! He works out the whole world to His purpose. So you were chosen with immense care.

Secondly, we are given a personal seal of value: you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. We only put seals on items and statements of significance and value, or on certain things with which we wish to be identified. God wishes to be identified with us. Yet we are not given a simple seal. We are given the complete investment of Him coming to live with us, by the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, how much are we worth? We are to be the receivers of a vast and rich inheritance. This is one of the reasons we are receivers of the Spirit, so that we can be assured of this inheritance. Look at verse 14, which states that one of the purposes of receiving the Holy Spirit is that He is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

So how much are you worth? A very great deal, and we need to know this. We are highly valued, we are worth much. Yet we do not know this in order to lord it over others, rather we know this so we can be secure to serve. Look at the incident with Jesus when He served the disciples in John 13:3, Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. Jesus was supreme, and fully knew His value, and then choose to serve. So also, we are called to serve. Let's give thanks that we are loved, and then use that knowledge to share with, and to serve others, to the praise of His glory.

 

16th October 2020

From David Depledge

John 14: 1-7

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

We have probably all heard it said “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” It is easy to say something, but often it is harder to actually follow through and do the things that we talk about. Often, we do a good job of talking about what is right and what we should be doing and what we believe…...... Well, at least, that is what we think  - but is it true?

What should we be saying? What is talking the talk? Many outside the church view Christians “talking the talk” as something very negative. They believe the church and Christians are saying “Thou shalt not…..”  have fun, swear, drink alcohol, smoke, use drugs, have sex outside marriage, steal, go to war, and so on.

They say that Christians are hypocritical because sometimes Christians do some of the things they have spoken against or that people believe they have spoken against.

Others will say that the church is always asking for money – the “thermometer” on the board outside saying just how much is needed to mend the roof or restore the bells.

Some will say Christians are bigoted because of Jesus statements about being the only way to God.

But what about us? We can see that people are getting wrong ideas about the Christian faith but how good are we at explaining “The Way”? Do we talk about our Christian faith at all or do we consider it just a private matter between ourselves and God?

Or perhaps we are very happy to talk about all the great things the church is doing in Coventry; about Foodbank, the Winter Night Shelter, Coventry City Mission, The Light House Counselling Centre, Global Care, Carriers of Hope and many more examples. But what do we say about what motivates this?

Perhaps we are prepared to talk positively about attending church services, saying they are ‘helpful’ or ‘lively’ or ‘uplifting’ but are we able to say why we attend, why we want to worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can we explain our relationship with Jesus? Can we explain why it is a current blessing and a solid hope for the future?

So how do we speak for Him today? The same way the disciples did long ago. They heard the words of Jesus and believed them – that is a huge first step and it is step of faith. They took His words and obeyed them. They confessed their sins to Jesus as their Lord and God. They believed that He died to take the punishment of their sins and rose from the dead to give them new life. Then they followed His example and command to tell others about “The Way” - about Jesus, who he is, what he said. When we follow Him in “The Way,” we can be assured of following Him all the way to heaven. 

So that is challenging stuff about talking the talk. In my next contribution we will think about walking the walk

 

15th October 2020

From Rev Graham Banks

I would like to encourage you by my sharing what I would describe as a Bible Mashup today!

So, from 1 Peter 5:6-7 ; Psalm 118:24 ; & 1 Thessalonians 5:18  a wonderful chorus is created to help you through today as you turn your eyes to Him.

IN ORDER TO HEAR MY VOICE, you must release all your worries into My care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My face unhindered.

Let Me free you from fear that is hiding deep inside you.

Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. REJOICE IN THIS DAY THAT I HAVE MADE, trusting that I am abundantly present in it. 

Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, THANK ME IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

Trust Me and don’t be fearful; Thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.

With much love

Graham

‘Faith not fear’

 

14th October 2020

From Miranda Shieh

You Have a Life Line

Have you ever tried getting hold of someone on the phone, and the line is busy or you are greeted by the answering machine? Or, have you ever wanted to make that call just to find out that there is no network in that area, or you do not have enough credit to make the call? How frustrating that could be.

Did you know that once you make Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour, you instantly have permission and unrestricted access anytime, anywhere into the very presence of your Heavenly Father? You do not even have to worry about losing His number. In Him, that is in union with Christ Jesus, and because of His love for you, you now have access to a unique and royal network, a life line to His throne room. So, you get to go boldly into His throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Unlike that busy telephone network, you now have an unclogged lifeline through prayer. What an assurance. You enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart and His courts with praises because you are loved by him, have been freed and adopted into an imperishable inheritance.

Your Almighty Father who has every solution to every problem you’ll ever have has now crowned you with a royal garment. For you are now chosen, a royal priesthood and His special possession with a royal line (1 Peter 2:9).  But remember that you have to take your place as a Royalty and use your royal line to allow Him access into your life. You do not have to beg like the Centurion did when his daughter was dying for your Father to heal you. But notice, that even when the Centurion came and begged Jesus to come and heal his daughter, His response was I will…it is my will, just give me the permission to heal (Mathew 8:5-7). For the Centurion’s asking was an indication of his faith in the Healer. He is saying to us, it is my will to give you all good things, to heal your body, to meet that need, to comfort you but I am just waiting for you to come to Me, to give me access, so I can give you the answer. It may take some private time alone with Him for you to hear it but He will never disappoint you.

Jesus, the firstborn among many brethren, of whom we are, depended on a direct and unceasing communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit and the fruit was evident in the success of His earthly ministry. This was same for every successful man and woman in Scripture. And what about us who have been earmarked to do even greater works and we have so many witnesses to learn from and our Helper – the Holy Spirit.

He is calling us today to, pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances for it is His will in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5 16-18). So, if you are afflicted; ill-treated, or suffering evil, then pray (James 5:13). If you are happy, sing praises to Him (James 5:13). Let every bit of your life and your daily task be an act of worship to God. For the effective prayers of those who have been made right with God will make tremendous power available; which is dynamic in its working; The power to heal you, set you free from that captivity, overcome your battles, to withstand evil, to be over your circumstances and not under, to be joyful and stand tall in the mist of adversity because the greater one lives in You.

We are living in times when we are continuously being separated physically from each other and circumstances are such that we may not always be able to reach out to others when we want to. God is calling us today to a place of intimacy with Him and with Jesus Christ. That fellowship that is a distinguishing mark of Christians (1 John 1:3). You can enter into that intimate relationship and you do not need to only depend on others to access that lifeline, although there’s is nothing wrong with having others pray for you.  For we are called as a body of Christ to strengthen and lift each other up. But God is calling you to come personally to His throne room today.

You may say, I don’t know how to get there. Remember that you have God’s Word that is alive, active and able to bring itself to pass, you have a helper, the Holy Spirit who is in you to teach, help you and to intercede in your behalf in harmony with the will of the Father. The Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Truth will teach you everything, but you must live in, be rooted to, knitted in and never depart from him. As you fellowship continually with the Father and Jesus Christ, what so ever you desire when you pray, in accordance with His will, believing that you receive you will receive (Mark 11:24). So, ask in faith, in the Name of Jesus and you will receive, so that your joy may be full (John 16:23-24). Does that not awaken within your soul the fervour for persistent prayer?

Part 2 will look at how to keep our life line unclogged

 

13th October 2020

From Rev Neil Martin

Ephesians 1:3-10

When I worked in Aldershot, I would occasionally be asked to go and speak at a fellowship group on Tuesday afternoon. When I arrived, I would be encouraged to go and and sit with the three or four men in the back row, which I was never entirely sure if that was for my benefit, or for theirs! After a hymn and the notices, I would get up to speak to the group, before they finished with a final hymn. This hymn was the same song with which they finished every meeting.

The song they sang was "Count your blessings" which, if I can trust the internet, was written by Johnson Oatman Jr. The first verse is as follows:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

There are 2 ideas going round my head as I write this devotion. The first is how completely unequivocal Paul is in this passage. If you asked him the question, 'Paul how blessed are you?' his response is pretty clear: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. How blessed we are, completely and utterly. The second is we may sometimes feel like we're not blessed; we may have issues of health, or money worries, or family problems. Or we may be just fed up with the daily restrictions we are currently facing, and don't feel blessed. But we were reminded on Sunday that we walk by the Spirit not by sight. How blessed are we? We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

What do some of these blessings look like? Here are just 2 examples:

Firstly, we were chosen in love to be holy and blameless. We were not selected grudgingly, or with a passive apathy. We were chosen; picked deliberately; considered and selected; wanted. We were chosen in love to be holy and blameless. To look and sound like, to reflect the glory of our Creator. We are chosen.

Secondly, we were chosen to reflect praise. We praise things that are impressive and good. We don't generally praise a missed goal; but we cheer a scored goal! We reflect praise onto Him because of His incredible grace to us.

There are many other blessings given, but I'll leave you to enjoy looking into them.

 

12th October 2020

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Have you ever been asked to do the reading in a service?  Nothing to it you may think.  Sometimes it is not quite so straightforward.  It is not just a question of reading the words, it involves reading with meaning and there are all sorts of things that can trip you up.  Take 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 for example.  In these few verses one word is repeated 9 times (+once in the past tense).

[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us  in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. [5] For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,  so also our comfort abounds through Christ. [6] If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation;  if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. [7] And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,  so also you share in our comfort.

Comfort is one of those words which can be a noun or a verb and it is being used in both ways in these verses.  It could be a little confusing to think who is comforting whom and what is it that is being used to comfort them.

The first point is that Paul points out that all comfort basically comes from God, who is the God of all comfort (vs3).  This comfort has been given to Paul and friends in all the troubles they were experiencing.  In itself this is encouraging, but Paul says there is more to it than just soothing his problems.  Because he has received this comfort from God, he can now pass on that comfort to others in trouble.  This is important that we can (and should) pass on what we have gained to others.

Let me explain how this works.  Sometime ago, in Malawi, a friend of ours had been married for a little while but just could not get pregnant.  For a Malawian lady this is more than a little difficult.  Then she announced she was expecting and everyone was eagerly expecting the birth.  The day came – and the child was still born.  She (and many others of us) were devastated.  How or why could this happen?  She was a keen follower and servant of Jesus, well loved by everyone.  We all cried with her and prayed with her that she would know the consolation that only God could give in the circumstances.  Months later she came to us and said ‘I think I know a little of why God allowed this thing to happen to us’.  Obviously we were keen to hear more, so she told us that a very good friend of hers had also just had a still born child.  Alice, our friend, said that whilst other people just could not help her friend, she was able to sit with her, cry with her, pray with her and assure her of God’s love for her – because she had been there before and received the comfort which God can give.  It was a great lesson for us.

Paul had learned this.  The comfort he had received in his troubles, from God, he could pass on to the Corinthian Christians in their troubles, because he had been there before and been comforted by God.  Especially during this time of coronavirus epidemic, when so many people are getting depressed and  frustrated, those of us who have experienced something of God’s comfort and peace should be looking for opportunities to share this ‘good news’ with those who are suffering.

Two other helpful notes are that

  • this comfort ‘abounds’, is found in plentiful quantities – in Christ – because he has had similar experiences
  • this comfort leads to endurance – greater strength through future difficulties.

One other note about this word ‘comfort’.  If you remember it comes as part of the standard Anglican wedding service promises – to comfort.  For reasons which are not relevant to this note Jane and I were given the opportunity to write our own wedding service, so long as we left in the important ‘legal bits’.  We spent a complete safari holiday with two other friends, who were also about to get married, going through the Anglican and Congregational wedding services asking ourselves what each word and phrase meant and how they were relevant to ourselves.  When we came to the word ‘comfort’ we were not sure what it meant.  We came to the conclusion that it did not necessarily mean applying a cold flannel to the brow when needed but could also be being like a gad-fly, stimulating or stirring up.  In the end we promised to encourage one another.  There are times when we need that more active ‘comforting’.  I know I have needed it on many occasions over the years – not that I have always realised the benefit at the time!

Whichever type of comfort you receive from others or directly from the Lord, are you willing to pass it on to others?

 

11th October 2020

Today Margaret Newby reads Isaiah 40:12-31 which talks about how unimaginably big and powerful our God is. "'To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?' says the Holy One."  You can listen here.

 

10th October 2020

From Rev Ian Macnair

KING DAVID’S LAST WORDS (5)

‘If my house were not right with God …’ (2 Samuel 23:6).

If David did believe that his house was ‘right with God’ then subsequent history was to prove him wrong. The kings who followed David were rebellious and disobedient.

God was faithful. He sent prophets to warn them and judgments to waken them, but ultimately they failed to rule in righteousness and the fear of God and that royal dynasty came to an end.

When we come to the final verses of 2 Samuel 23 David turns from the promise of blessing to the problem of evil.

‘But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
       which are not gathered with the hand.

Whoever touches thorns
       uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.’

At first sight this looks a bit obscure.

David is again using picture language: not this time the clarity of early light or the refreshment of sunshine after rain but the way we deal with sharp thorns.

If you’ve been digging up branches with vicious thorns you don’t gather them up with your bare hands, or if you do, you don’t do it more than once. They’re sharp. They cut you. They need to be handled with extreme care. You need gloves and a suitable tool to prevent them doing you damage.

David combines two thoughts with this imagery of evil people. The danger they pose in the present is all too real but in the future they will be destroyed.

Eugene Peterson puts it like this in The Message: ‘Better not try to touch them; keep your distance with a rake or hoe. They’ll make a glorious bonfire!’

This stark contrast presents us with two visions of the future.

A future in Christ: the blessings of salvation. A future without Christ: the fire of judgment.

It will soon be Christmas, when we celebrate the coming of God’s Son, born as a tiny baby to a human mother. Jesus came to be our Saviour. But, more than that, he came to rule as King. He came to redeem but also to reign.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this’
[Isaiah 9:6, 7].

How much do you know of the reign of King Jesus in your life? Is he reigning as your King or is your life a republic in which you are the president?

Peace on earth and good will towards men? Yes. But only when Jesus is King.

These are David’s last words.

 

9th October 2020

Today Brenda Parsons reads Luke 10:30-35 and reflects on what we do with what we have got. You can hear her here

 

Archive of earlier contributions

here (14th March to 20th April 2020)

 here (21st April to 31st May 2020)

 here (1st June to 20th July 2020)

here (21st July to 31st August 2020)

here (1st September to 8th October 2020)

here  (9th October to 30th November)