Word for the Day

23rd July 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE MAGNIFICENT … FIVE

They’re in the first chapter of 2Timothy: Paul, Timothy, Lois, Eunice, Phygelus, Hermogenes, and Onesiphorus.

The observant among you are probably thinking, ‘Don’t you mean The Magnificent Seven?’

Yes, there are seven. Unfortunately Phygelus and Hermogenes (verse 15) were less than magnificent. Christians from the province of Asia owed much to Paul but ‘everyone’ had deserted him. Yet these two are singled out. Perhaps their change of heart was the biggest let-down. Possibly their former friendship had turned to open hostility.

The less than Magnificent Two.

However, as if to compensate, Paul is a one-man Magnificent Seven in his own right: apostle, father, servant, intercessor, prisoner, herald, and teacher.

‘An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,’ God’s special agent. His mission, which he accepted, was to bring good news from God, the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, summarised in verses 9, 10.

He was a father to Timothy, calling him ‘my dear son’ in verse 2. Timothy’s real father wasn’t a Christian and Paul gave Timothy the Christian support which he needed. What a great ministry it is to be a Christian father or mother to those who don’t have a Christian home.

Paul was God’s servant, verse 3. It was service with a history. ‘I serve, as my forefathers did.’ And it was service with holiness, ‘with a clear conscience’. We live in a generation that despises history and holiness. Everything is ‘now’ and nothing is ‘wrong’, resulting in a moral maze. The Bible gives us a history and presents us with the challenge of holiness.

Paul was an intercessor, praying for Timothy ‘constantly’, night and day. It wasn’t that he did nothing else, but prayer was an integral part of his life. In any spare moment he would take the opportunity to pray, praying for people intelligently and specifically.

He was a prisoner, verse 8. The Roman authorities thought he was their prisoner, but Paul says, ‘No. I am the Lord’s prisoner.’ It was unjust. He was suffering. But the thing that enabled him to survive and thrive as a prisoner was this: I am ‘his prisoner’. What’s your job? How are you coping with it? Who’s your employer? What do you think of them? Here’s a perspective to transform your life. A Roman prisoner? No, ‘his prisoner’.

Paul was ‘appointed a herald’, verse 11, with a message to proclaim. He could discuss and debate, and he did. But there was an element of his message that was pure proclamation. No ifs, no buts, no discussion. This is what God says.

Apostle, herald – and teacher. His appointment to spread the gospel involved these three elements: mission, proclamation and instruction. There was a teaching element.

There’s an echo of the Great Commission of Jesus in this verse.

Go into all the world. There’s the element of mission.

Preach the good news to all creation. There’s the element of proclamation.

Make disciples, baptising and teaching. There’s the element of instruction.

 

22nd July 2021

From Liz Martin

Psalm 131

1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quietened myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and for evermore.

I thought I would return to my theme of contentment, and also to the psalms, and so we arrive at psalm 131. It’s a psalm we could describe as being short but sweet, yet it has great wisdom and depth.

It starts with humility, but humility not so much as a character trait, but as a virtue to be chosen and cultivated. It is not that the psalmist could not necessarily aim high, but that he chooses not to. The psalmist chooses not to look to things which are above him, in a high or lofty way, but instead chooses trust. He has somehow trained himself to trust, as a child when they are weaned.

Other versions of the Bible have verse 2 as 'calming and quieting the soul', which for me evokes the famous psalm of David: He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.

A child weaned is a child at rest, a child who has learned to trust their parent to provide for them, to not neglect them. A weaned child is content. As I talked about last time, in Philippians 4, Paul talks about learning contentment in any and every circumstance, and I think this psalm is something that Paul probably had in mind.

This is what the Psalmist is aiming for as he, in a few short verses, sets a pattern of surrender and trust in the midst of difficult circumstances. He is taking proactive steps to move back from a whirring mind trying to resolve issues that are simply beyond him, and take a step towards God with an approach of trust and dependency. Unlike a child, the psalmist is choosing this process. What is causing your mind to whir? Where might you need to lay some things down and instead ‘put your hope in the Lord, both now and for evermore’?

 

21st July 2021

The spoken Word for the Day from Ruth Jess is based on 1 Peter 1:3-4. You can listen to it here

20th July 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Colossians 1:9-14

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

If you could have any prayer answered for someone, what would you pray for? I find it an interesting question to consider when we approach Paul’s prayers. His prayers always seem a bit grander, his gaze seems to be aimed higher than my own.

This prayer starts with a threefold request for knowledge, wisdom and understanding that are to be imparted relationally by the Holy Spirit. This threefold request is in regards to comprehending the will that God has for us. It is a request not for mere information, but rather an impartation of a call or vision or purpose. These purposes are not just to be known; they are to provoke action and to spur us on with purpose that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.

We are to bear fruit, both internal, in growth of Christ-like behaviour, and external, in our outreach, and in our relationships with one another. It seems apt that as he prays for fruit in both character and outreach, he would also pray that we would have great endurance and patience, as both qualities are needed greatly in order to bear fruit.

Then, having prayed for the individual and society, he moves to thanks, as this is the right response, to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. We are rewarded with an inheritance that is not ours by right but by gift. There is much more that could be drawn from this passage, as this prayer is phenomenal in its profundity, wisdom and depth, but rather than considering it further, take just one of its points and pray it for yourself and your loved ones.

  

19th July 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Freedom Day – or sort of!

The long awaited Freedom day is upon us.  Legal restrictions on our behaviour have been officially lifted – even though we have been advised to remain cautious.  What does it all mean?

For the Jews in the Old Testament, one of the most commonly referred to events in their history was their Freedom Day – although it took a little more than a day to work it out in reality.  This was the exodus when a rabble of related slaves, up to a million including hangers on, left the country of their slavery – Egypt – and started to become a nation in their own right, or should we say in God’s purpose.  This was a great time which was remembered and celebrated each year at the time of Passover.

In the New Testament the concept of freedom is also quite prominent.  Writing to the Galatians Paul wrote ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set free’ Galatians 5:1 and to the Corinthians ‘ where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom’  2 Corinthians 3:17.  In Jesus manifesto in Luke 4:17 he includes ‘proclaiming freedom for the prisoners’.  When Jesus told the Jews that ‘the truth would set them free’ John 8:33 they claimed that they did not need setting free because they  had ‘never been slaves of anyone’ John 8:33.  Jesus then pointed out to them that ‘everyone who sins is a slave to sin’ John 8:44. The position of the Jews in those days is very much the position of modern folk.  We are taught clearly to be self-made people.  We can do anything if we put our mind to it.  What Jesus said and Paul backed up in his letters was that we are incapable of living God’s way we are slaves to sin and need the Son to set us free John 6:36.  Writing to the Roman Christians Paul pointed out ‘Thanks be to God, that though you used to be slaves to sin, … you have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness’ Romans 6:17-18.  He explained that this was possible because ‘our old self was crucified with him, so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we no longer be slaves to sin’ Romans 6:6.

From all this we can see that if we,

  • have acknowledged that we are not basically good but are in need of forgiveness,
  • have asked for his forgiveness, because of Jesus death for us on the Cross and
  • committed our lives into his hands

then we are FREE.  Christians above all people should experience the relief and joy related to true FREEDOM.  We are not controlled by anyone else, except Christ!

There, however is the caveat, which is clearly included by the New Testament writers.  Peter commended us to ‘live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil, live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor’ 1 Peter 2:16-17.  For us, as Christians, then freedom does not mean the freedom to do what we want to do for ourselves, but freedom to obey God and serve others.

As we enter into the ‘new’ freedoms from restrictions, we need to keep this mind, to behave not just as we want to ourselves, but in a way that will help others.

 

16th July 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

TITANIC

At 11.40 pm on April 14th, 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg. Two hours forty minutes later it sank. In the days before modern media such as Twitter, newspapers struggled at first to provide accurate information but soon the grim news began to emerge.

The unthinkable had happened. The unsinkable had sunk.

Only 705 of the 2200 people on board survived.

Shockwaves reverberated around the world, and nowhere more than in Belfast, where the Titanic had been built and launched. Pride in its construction and potential soon turned to disbelief and consternation.

If you had been able to conjure up a time machine to take those shell-shocked Belfast residents to the present day, their incredulity and embarrassment would have been replaced by something even more shocking.

They would have discovered here not a sombre commemoration but a vibrant celebration – ‘the best tourist attraction in Belfast’ – the Titanic Quarter, with its curious gawping tourists, its market stalls and studios, its arts, crafts and music, its sports, concerts and shows.

In short, a bustling, vibrant hotspot of joyful celebration.

If you can picture how those Belfast residents might have felt you will have some idea of the way Jewish people reacted when the earliest Christians burst onto the streets with their message of the cross.

‘We preach Christ crucified.’

Crucifixion was not only the most hideous and shameful punishment. The Law of Moses branded it a curse.

That their Messiah would suffer crucifixion, let alone that the crucified one would claim to be the Son of God, was unthinkable, blasphemous in the extreme.

Paul’s description of the cross as a ‘stumbling-block’ to the Jews must be one of the greatest understatements of all time.

And yet, the message of the cross, ‘a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,’ was God’s answer to the needs of the world – ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’

What appeared to be history’s greatest tragedy turned out to be God’s greatest triumph.

Today we can sing with the hymn writers:

‘In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time:
all the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.’

‘O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.’

‘Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adores his sacred name!’

SCRIPTURES: 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 2:5; Galatians 3:10-14; Colossians 1:19-23; 1 Peter 2:23‑25

 

15th July 2021

From Iain Colville

Psalm 66

Psalm 66 (NRSV)

1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”
Selah
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
Selah
8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid burdens on our backs;
12 you let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay you my vows,
14 those that my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.
Selah
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried aloud to him,
and he was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
  19 But truly God has listened;
he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.

 

The Psalmist begins this psalm with a call to worship. But it’s a call addressed not only to those who we might expect to be ready to worship God. Rather, the call is to all the earth (v1, 4).  The whole of creation is to “sing glory of His name” (v2) and to recognise the awesomeness of His deeds (v3).  This is a call to stop and be awed, to worship our God for how great and glorious He really is. And as we do so, alongside the created world around us, perhaps we might gain a new sense of how big and wonderful He is.

Next the Psalmist issues an invitation, that we might experience God at work, that we might “come and see” (v1). As the next verse calls to mind the crossing of the Red Sea in the original Exodus, we catch a glimpse of the reaction of those who witnessed this amazing demonstration of God’s power as He rescued His people and brought them out of Egypt on their journey towards the Promised Land.  How did they respond in that moment?  “We rejoiced in Him” (v6).  But there’s a reminder too that God didn’t just intervene once or twice in history.  He’s the One who “rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations…” (v7)

The next verses allow us to eavesdrop on the journey of God’s people, perhaps through the wilderness years, as they are sustained and kept safe (v9), whilst being tested (v10) and facing challenges (v 11, 12), before making their offerings of worship (v14, 15).  But these things didn’t take place randomly or by chance. It’s clear that those speaking were very conscious that it was God who was keeping them alive, that it was Him who was guiding and correcting them, and leading them through the fire and water, to bring them “to a spacious place” (v12).  Of course, it is to God that they then turn in worship.

The sudden change to the first person singular (v13) draws us closer, as if to witness one individual’s act of worship in response to God’s intervention in their life (v14, 15).  Perhaps as we look back into our own stories of faith, we can see God at work in our lives, that it was He who was guiding and leading us through times of testing and trouble, and who brings us to a safe space? May we then turn to worship, remembering the vows we offered in the depths of our trials.

Finally, the speaker invites us now to listen to his testimony, to hear him tell what God has done (v16).  Intriguingly, we’ve not seen exactly what troubles caused the speaker to call out to God, or precisely how God has intervened (and perhaps we don’t need to know).  “But truly God has listened, He has given heed to the words of my prayer” (v19). There’s a challenge here for us to share stories about how God has been, and is, at work in our lives.  But perhaps, as here, the details of what’s happened are less important than sharing the knowledge that it is God who has heard our prayers, and wanting to give Him all the glory, that we might join the speaker in saying “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me” (v20).

 

14th July 2021

Graham Carpmail bases today's Word for the Day on James 3:1-12. You can hear what he has to say here.

13th July 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Colossians 1:1-8

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Take a moment and list the qualities that you most admire in others. Maybe you appreciate someone’s courage in adversity, their loyalty or their ability to work hard. Whatever we regard in others, I think there is a quality that when we see it, we nearly always approved of it. As well as it being a quality in that person’s life, it enriches our own life immensely as well. That quality is thankfulness. 

Paul was a man of immense thankfulness; if we look at verse 3: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you. This attitude of thankfulness is found throughout all his writing. Even in churches, like the ones found in Galatia and Corinth, which are causing him a massive pastoral heart/headache, we find expressions of thankfulness.

In 1 Corinthians 1:4 we find him writing: I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. Even in Galatia, a church which has lost its way so badly it does not even merit a thanksgiving section at the beginning, thanksgiving sneaks in. Consider Galatians 3:14: [though] my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God. Even though there are a massive headache, he remembers better days with them, with thanksgiving.

Thankfulness is powerful, it can shatter hopelessness and despair. It can restore perspective and joy, and it not only makes life sweeter for yourself, but also for others. To finish, why don’t you think of five things to thank God for? And then think of five people to thank for what they have done for you.

 

12th July 2021

From David Depledge

No change

Hebrews 13:8 - "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Today the Prime Minister will tell us about changes to the Covid rules. For each individual there will be those changes that please us and those that that make nervous. As things have changed and are changing on a scale and in ways we have probably not previously experienced, I want to encourage us by directing our attention to three things that never change about Christ. These things are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

His Lordship is the same yesterday, today and forever

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." -Matthew 28:18

Simply stated, Jesus is the All-powerful Lord. Also, notice that Jesus said that this power had been "given" to Him. This simply means that at some time in the past, God the Father gave Jesus His power and authority and that this gift has ongoing power into the future, In other words, it is God's will that Jesus possess all power in Heaven and earth and nothing can change this fact.

By the very fact that Jesus is Divine, He is changeless. God said, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Christ's Lordship, his divine authority has never, can never, and will never change.

His Word is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Everything changes, even language. I’m sure you, like me, use words that we would not have done 10 or 20 years ago. Things like “mobile” (now doesn’t just meaning moving around), “tablet” does not just refer to taking medicine.

There are other words like 'holy', 'righteous', 'pious' 'God-fearing', that are rarely used in a positive way outside of church. We have freedom of speech in this country so then why do we get nervous about saying certain things? Possibly we listen too much to our culture and not our faith when we decide what is what is acceptable to say. Perhaps we obey our culture before we obey the Lord. We all need to come to a decision on who we want to please, who we want to obey, and who we want to follow and what He wants us to say.

His love is the same yesterday, today and forever.

"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." -Ps. 100:5

No matter how sad our spirits may be when we look to ourselves, we will always have a reason to praise the Lord when we look to his love. His love is never changing, and ever present and eternal. We have joy in our hearts when we look to his endless love for our comfort. The promise of grace, with so many promises, strengthens the faith of every weak believer.

 

9th July 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

REALITY CHECK

In 2017 the BBC assembled a team to fact check and debunk misleading and false stories masquerading as real news, everything from Brexit to Covid conspiracies.

It’s a sad fact of modern life that social media has opened up a whole new opportunity for the devil to do what he does best – deceive. From the beginning it’s the same story.

The serpent said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”? … You will not surely die’.

And God said, ‘Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’

Reality Check.

The Sunday Morning and Thursday Evening studies in the Minor Prophets have revealed God’s insistence on truth.

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

Rend your hearts and not your garments.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.’

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

The LORD has a case against his people;
he is lodging a charge against Israel.

Woe to the city of blood, full of lies.

The law is paralysed, and justice never prevails.

The unrighteous know no shame.

Friends on Facebook who follow my posts will know that I like to start the day with a hymn or spiritual song. Recently I’ve paused to ask myself just how far my own choices stand up to God’s Reality Check.

‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus, all my talents and my powers,
all my thoughts and words and actions, all my passing days and hours.’

‘The Saviour has come in His mighty power, and spoken peace to my soul;
and all of my life from that very hour I’ve yielded to His control.’

I was in my mid-teens when I heard God’s call to ‘full time Christian service’. Part of that process included the prayers of my Christian parents, the influence of godly ministers and missionaries, a particular passage of scripture – 2 Corinthians chapter 6, and the fact that I had no peace until I acknowledged that God was in fact calling me. It came to a head at an interview with the Head Master when he asked, ‘What do you intend to do when you leave school?’ and I replied, ‘Be a minister.’ He just wrote it down. But for me it was a huge release of peace.

Another important part of the process came during a Christian Endeavour national conference held in my home church. The speaker said (what I have since heard described as a cliché), ‘If Christ is not Lord of all, he’s not Lord at all.’ That was no cliché. It hit me like a thunderbolt.

It’s still a Reality Check, but these words give me hope.

‘Lord, it is my chief complaint that my love is weak and faint;
yet I love you, and adore; O for grace to love you more!’

 

8th July 2021

From Liz Martin

Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

A few years ago I set myself the task of trying to memorise more Scripture, and thought I’d start with Philippians. It’s fair to say it was significantly harder than I thought it would be! But I’m really glad I tried. These verses sit at the end of the book, and I think we can have the tendency to almost brush over them, equating our lives to Paul’s. Paul was in prison as he was writing this, not long before his death, and his life to that point had not been by any means easy. We only need to read 2 Corinthians to get a sense of this from chapter 4:7-12; chapter 6:4-10 and chapter 11:21-28.

This is a man who was familiar with difficulty and stress as standard. Yet at the end of it all, he encourages rejoicing, gentleness, faith, prayer, trust, to actively put our minds upon things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy – something which, I’m sure you’ll agree takes immense discipline! Even as I write thing, dozens of thoughts flit around and through my mind which are anything but those things.

No matter what we face, no matter how hard things get, how much pressure we find ourselves under, or what difficult decisions we have to make, or conversations we have to have, we can, like Paul, learn the secret of being content in all things, well-fed or hungry, in plenty or in want. Want to know his secret? I can do all this through him who gives me strength. It’s Jesus. It’s always been Jesus, it always will be Jesus. By surrendering to Him our very thoughts, impulses, actions and words; by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving; through meditating on His goodness and character. By being with Him, through all circumstances.

Spend some time in prayer – thanksgiving for those things which God has done, petition for what we need Him to do, and praise for all that He is.

7th July 2021

Graham Carpmail's thoughts are based on Luke 1:11-32. You can hear it here.

6th July 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 16 - A miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

If I was to ask you the question: how would you describe the word faith, what would you answer? Maybe you would give the answer that faith is a certain, belief or trust; maybe you might say it’s a religious principle. I think, in truth, most of us would reach for Hebrews 11:1 and we would say with the author of Hebrews: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Why am I talking about faith and applying it to this Psalm? Because this is a prayer of faith. The late David Watson famously would start services with shouts of faith and praise. This is a Psalm that is to be read aloud, with a hearty exclamation of faith. So, take this Psalm and as you read it out, read it out loud, and as you pray, apply it to your life, particularly to any area in which you may be struggling.

[a]  Title – probably a literary or musical term

 

5th July 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Yesterday, 4th July, our American friends celebrated a very important date for them. Here in Britain we don’t have an equivalent day.  It is Independence Day.  On 4th July 1776 a document was finalised, which became known as the Declaration of Independence.  From that date the peoples of the, then 13, states of America were removed from the control of Britain and a new nation was born.  Quoting the Newsround website:-

"The declaration of Independence is now one of the most important symbols to American citizens of their freedom and of what makes their country the United States".

and

"Now, Independence Day in the US is celebrated as the birth date of the nation as we know it today".

The people of Israel in the Old Testament did not have an Independence Day as such but they had an Independence event, which they celebrated every year.  This was the whole experience of the Exodus which started with the angel of death ‘passing over’ the Israelites who had put the lamb’s blood on the lintels of their houses and resulted in the rather disparate groups of slaves becoming the nation of Israel as they travelled through the wilderness and then settled in the land God gave them.

Every year they were expected to recall these events in the Passover Feast and frequently the psalmists and prophets brought these events to the attention of the people.  Why?  One of the reasons was because we, as human beings in general have much better forgetteries than we do have memories!  Even before they had set a foot in their promised land, Moses warned them that if they were not careful they would forget all that God had done for them and would start claiming the credit for themselves.  Fast forward to today, of course this is one of the reasons we celebrate communion together in church on a regular basis – to make sure we do not forget all that Jesus did for us on the Cross.

Can you remember the day you became independent of the evil one – the day you claimed that independence because of what Jesus did for you?  Like the Americans, some people have the privilege of remembering the exact day and situation when they – became Christians – were born again – saw the light – when it all clicked – whatever terminology you feel happy with. For me it was 70 years ago last month.   For others it may have been more of a process, as for the Israelites, over a period of time.  Whichever it was, we do need to reflect about it frequently to remind us where we were –‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins’ is the way Paul put it in Ephesians 2:1 – what God did for us – ‘God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ’ – and where we are now –‘by grace you have been saved’.

Paul reminded the Galatian Christians that ‘it is for freedom that Christ has set us free’ (Galatians 5:1) but reminds them ‘not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve on another’ (Galatians 5:13) so we realise that we are not only freed from sin but freed for service.  Enjoy your Independence!

 

2nd July 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

THE STILLING OF THE STORM

Mark 4:35 – 5:1

There are two sides to every story and the account at the end of Mark chapter 4 is no exception. The chapter division disguises this feature but there it is in verse 35 and chapter 5 verse 1.

That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side’ … and they came to the other side.

It had been a long day, with huge crowds and many demands. As they got into the boat the disciples took Jesus along ‘just as he was,’ suggesting that he was exhausted. In an action-packed Gospel where Jesus is the main actor, it’s unusual that they took him.

They were confident, assured, in control.

But what happened next tells a different story. A serious storm arose. Huge waves broke over the boat threatening to sink it with the loss of all their lives. Jesus was asleep, and in total panic the disciples gave him a rude awakening.

‘Don’t you care? We’re going to die!’

Were these the same men? Yes. But long gone was the ‘you can relax now, Jesus; we’ll take it from here’ attitude.

However, come to the other side they did. The waves rose. The boat was filling. The Master was asleep. But he had given his word and he kept it. He always does.

On New Year’s Day 2020 none of us could have imagined what the next 18 months were to hold. For some it may seem that Jesus is ‘asleep in the boat’ and doesn’t care.

Yet Jesus has given his word. We can trust him to keep us and accomplish his purpose.

He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

As well as two sides to the story there are two storms in it.

The Sea of Galilee is notorious for its sudden storms which strike without warning and what a storm it was! It speaks of those catastrophes of life which come upon us without warning: sickness, bereavement, unemployment, accident, fire.

But there was another storm raging, an inner storm in the heart of the disciples, the storm of resentment, doubt and fear. How turbulent the waves of that storm can be. Is that why Jesus gave the double command?

Peace! Be still!

The power which is able to calm the troubled waters can soothe troubled minds and mend broken hearts.

Finally, two solutions.

One was the solution adopted instinctively by the disciples. They did the right thing, waking Jesus. It was what they said, and the way they said it. Fear led to panic and to words that were bitter and resentful.

The solution offered by Jesus was the faith that overcomes fear.

‘Peace! Be still! … Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

Fear sees just the storm but faith holds on to the presence and the promise of the Master.

 

1st July 2021

From Iain Colville

Psalm 57 (NRSV)

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.

2 I cry to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

3 He will send from heaven and save me,
he will put to shame those who trample on me.

            Selah

    God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.
    4 I lie down among lions
     that greedily devour human prey;

their teeth are spears and arrows,
their tongues sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
Let your glory be over all the earth.

6 They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.

They dug a pit in my path,
but they have fallen into it themselves.
      Selah

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast.

I will sing and make melody.
8 Awake, my soul!

Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.

9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.

10 For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
Let your glory be over all the earth. 

In today’s Psalm, the Psalmist cries out for God’s help and mercy, as he seeks a place of safety and refuge from the storms and disaster that is all around (v1).  It is almost as the Psalmist gives breath to these words, that he knows that the God to whom he prays is the One who is his refuge until the storm has passed.  As the Psalmist then speaks to those listening in, he is both confident that he is praying to the God Most High and that He will send help from heaven (v2).  Perhaps today you need to echo the Psalmist’s words for yourself, or maybe for those you love, and know that God will send forth His steadfast and everlasting love and His faithfulness.

Next, the Psalmist faces his enemies, who are like a pride of lions ready to devour, with sharp teeth like spears and arrows, and tongues like sharp swords (v4). But again, the Psalmist turns to God, not just to pray for help but in praise and exaltation: his prayer this time is that God will be lifted up, above the heavens and His glory will be over all the earth (v5).  Once again, this is a prayer rooted in trust and confidence as to who God is and that He is greater than the danger the Psalmist faces from his enemies. As the Psalmist’s focus turns back to his enemies and his distress, he seems to describe a situation which is now in the past, and his enemies have fallen into the very trap that they had dug to catch the Psalmist (v6).  As we face up to those we find challenging and whose tongues are sharp, as we face perhaps those who want to do us harm, may we find the words to turn to praise and exaltation, as we turn towards the One who does not just provide shelter but who is so much bigger than whatever we might face.

Having received the steadfast love of his God and Protector, the Psalmist now sings of his “steadfast heart” in response (v7).  In his excitement, the Psalmist seems to burst forth with loud singing, as he calls out to waken the world around him – first himself, then the band and the dawn (v8)!   His song is one of thankfulness and praise, that God has acted out of his great steadfast love and faithfulness (v10), before returning to repeat the refrain of v5, that God will be lifted up and his glory over all the earth (v11).  If we have called out to God alongside the Psalmist and found shelter from the storms of life in the shadow of His wings, may we also be moved to sing so loudly that we awaken our neighbours and friends, as we give thanks and honour to Jesus!  Take a deep breath and give voice to your response to the steadfast love of God!

30th June 2021

Today's spoken Word for the Day from Graham Carpmail encourages to cheer each other on. You can hear it here

29th June 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 1:4-6

4Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Having been looking at the Minor Prophets over the last few months, there is a theme that emerges throughout the books: judgement. We find a similar theme in the Psalms. If we look at the latter half of Psalm 1, we see a contrasting image played out. In verses 1 to 3 we see the righteous portrayed like fruitful trees, planted by the river. The imagery conveyed there is that of solidity, robustness, security, vitality, those who are possessors of life, and givers of life to others.

In verses 4 to 6, we see how fleeting the wicked are. The image that is presented by the psalmist is hollow, crumbling, whisper-thin, dried out, a husk no longer serving a purpose. Not only are they empty, devoid of life, people who give no life to others, but they are unsecure, chaff that the wind blows away. This is a completely opposite of the image of the righteous.

Yet a question arises as we read these texts: What do we make of these warnings of judgement? Here, as in the Minor Prophets, we find a combination, I believe, of two elements. One is self-inflicted judgement; the other is divine judgement. The self-inflicted judgement is that the wicked who plot and scheme to commit evil do often live horrible lives. All the Psalmist says is true. In the course of my life, having rubbed shoulders with some career criminals, few of them would disagree with the sentiment of the Psalmist. This was life as they lived it, unable to trust, unable to rely on others, insecure and hunted. They were not able to be there for those they loved; chaff in the wind. 

Yet there is a second element, that of divine judgement. It seems that some in the Church dislike this image. For myself, I am glad that there is judgement to come. Not because I consider myself blameless, but rather because I trust the One who will judge. I trust in His fairness, total knowledge of all sides of a situation, and in who He is to judge. To quote Abraham, the friend of God: Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Ex 18:25)

Let us give thanks that there is true justice to come, and also that the One who metes out that judgement is the fairest of all.

 

28th June 2021

STOP….. LOOK ….. LISTEN … .The Pandemic has almost forced us into this pattern of life over the last 15 months or so.  We have been forced to STOP our normal routines in many aspects of life.  We have been encouraged to LOOK around us a bit more at nature and God’s creation and LISTEN to the sounds in nature that are normally drowned out by the general busyness of life.   Geoff Colmer, Baptist Union President, took this in a slightly different direction in his talk to the HEBA (Heart of England Baptist Assembly) Gathering on Sunday afternoon.  His theme for the year is Rhythms of Grace.  His concept was that we often need to stop the merry-go-round of life and look and listen to see what God is doing and see how we can be involved in that.

As we look towards the re-opening of more aspects of church life in the next little while, it is very tempting to ask what isn’t happening and what should we therefore be doing.   Geoff Colmer pointed out that it is good to stop and remember what God has done in the past. It can also help to stop and look ahead to see what God might do in the future.  At the same time it is good to stop and look around and listen to what God is doing now and see what our role might be in working with God in that.

Neil took us through some of the debate between the prophet, Habakkuk, and God in Sunday’s sermon.  Habakkuk could not understand why God allowed violence, injustice and wickedness to exist in society without doing something about it – so he questioned God about it. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

God told Habakkuk to ‘watch and be utterly amazed’ about what He was going to do.  He already had the plans in hand to deal with this.(Habakkuk 1:5)  When God shared his plans with Habakkuk, the prophet just could not understand how God could do what he was planning.  It did not fit in with his idea of God, so he honestly told God so.  (Habakkuk 1:12-17). When he had done that he patiently waited for God’s reply (Habakkuk 2:1).

God then ‘filled in’ Habakkuk with more details of what he had in mind.   This time Habakkuk’s response was to remind himself of exactly who God had proved himself to be in the past, (Habakkuk 3:1-15).  This reminder shook him ‘to his roots’ as he remembered who it was he was dealing with, (Habakkuk 3:16).  The result was one of the most eloquent statements of faith in Scripture.  Now, Habakkuk said he was prepared for God to do what he said he was doing, even though it brought real hardship in every part of life, because God was his Saviour, his sovereign Lord, his strength and enabler.

As we ‘open up’ more let us see what God is doing and fit in with his plans rather than insisting on organising things our way and losing the joy that Habakkuk found in his renewed confidence that God was sovereign.

 

25th June 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

REFLECTING ON FATHER’S DAY

Psychologists warn us that to speak about God as our father may be intolerable to some who have only known abuse or neglect from their own fathers. Feminists urge us to emphasise the motherhood of God. But God’s answer acccording to Romans chapter 8 is to give us his Spirit.

‘The Spirit of sonship’.

There’s a wonderful line in verse 26 which says simply, ‘the Spirit helps us’.

A lot of the theological terms we use are words derived from Latin. They are a gift for the preacher because they have a rhythm to them. We talk about the Spirit of regeneration, liberation, redirection, mortification, adoption, redemption, intercession.

Yes, these words are a gift for the preacher but they are a nightmare for the congregation. What do they mean? They seem to make God’s truth obscure. God have mercy on us if we make complicated what God has made simple.

Paul’s words in Romans 8 are much more straightforward.

‘The law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (verse 2). When we receive Christ a power comes into our lives. Sin always drags us down but the power of the Spirit counteracts the law of gravity in the human soul.

‘The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship’ (verse 15). When we become Christians a person comes into our lives. Our new relationship with God is one in which we get to know God intimately as our Father, Abba Father!

‘The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’ (verse 6). He influences our thinking, encouraging us to feed our minds with God’s truth.

‘If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live’ (verse 13). He helps us to kill off wrong actions in our lives right thinking leading to right living.

The sons of God are ‘led by the Spirit’ (verse 14). He directs us in our decisions, both big and small.

He ‘testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children’ (verse 15). Most people have doubts at some time or another, but the Spirit of sonship brings reassurance.

‘The Spirit himself intercedes for us’ (verse 26). Prayer can be a struggle. It’s a spiritual exercise and we are so earth-bound. But the Spirit of sonship helps us. He prays for us and he prays with us.

‘The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you’ (verse 11). Our bodies are mortal. They will die. But the Spirit who lives in us is the Spirit of resurrection. God will raise us up again.

This assurance about the future is expanded in verse 17. ‘Because we are children we are heirs.’ There is an inheritance for us. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Verses 18–25 widen our perspective still further. ‘Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God’ (verse 21).

Freedom from sin. Freedom from death. Freedom from suffering. A glorious prospect.

 

24th June 2021

From Liz Martin

Psalm 65

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
    to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
    to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
    you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
    and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
    of your holy temple.

If someone was to ask you, “Does God answer prayer?”, I’m sure we would all respond instantly, “Yes, of course He does!”. But how often do we actually consider the fact that God does answer prayer? In this psalm, the psalmist is confident of the One to whom he prays: ‘You who answer prayer, to You all people will come.’ (v2)

Because the psalmist is confident of the character of his God (He forgives our transgressions – v3; He brings us near to Him – v4; He fills us with good things – v4), He is also confident that people will draw near to Him. And this is our aim, not as a rule laid down, but as a lifeline, and a constant means of grace. Prayer is a mainstay of the New Testament church (Acts 2:42), and it can be for us too. I love this quote from Billy Graham: “True prayer is a way of life, not just for use in cases of emergency. Make it a habit, and when the need arises, you will be in practice.” Slightly more succinctly put, in the words of Paul: ‘Pray continually’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

I think we all go through times in our lives when prayer is our desperate response to an emergency, as the only option we have. But wouldn’t it be great that our first response in any and every situation is to pray? We may need reminders to help us get in the habit, and it takes both discipline and grace, but there are loads of resources available to help with that. Remember that God is a God who answers prayer. His “ears are attentive to [our] cry” (Psalm 34), and so let’s seek to become a praying people.

23rd June 2021

Graham Carpmail's spoken contribution is based on Ephesians:2:1-10. You can hear it here.

22nd June 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

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.

What path will I take?

I love the clever use of imagery that is found so often in the Psalms and how they portray so graphically a picture. Psalm 40:2 for instance: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. The image of someone being rescued from thick, gloopy, clinging, mud that they are simply unable to free themselves from, as they’re in the middle of it. You can almost hear the schluping sound as their feet are pulled free. Psalm 1 presents such an image. It offers 2 paths that lead to 2 different results.

The first path is one of intentional choice and resistance. This is the path of blessing, to choose to pursue and follow hungrily after God; to read, to seek, to pray. For the one who is blessed meditates on his law day and night. This is an active path of committed searching and seeking. To do something day and night suggests recurring thought and commitment to that thing.

The second path is one of non-resistance; to go with the flow, to join sit in the company of mockers and follow the way that sinners take. To not seek to engage with the law, rather to let things go unchallenged or worse, join in. These 2 paths require conscious choice, and on the face of it one is easier than the other. It seems easier to let things pass, it seems easier to join in the mockery. It seems harder to resist and say no.

Yet we see that the ultimate reward appears. For the one who says no, the one who resists the easy path, becomes like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.  These 2 invisible paths lead to 2 visible outcomes. One is suggested as a life of vigour and health, whatever the circumstances. The other is inferred by default, as one of withering and decay. As for me, I know which one I would choose.

 

21st June 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

It was a real privilege but something quite out of the ordinary.  A few of us were allowed from the comfort of our own homes, here in Coventry, to witness and share something of the burial of our friend, Pastor Paul Kyalimpa.  His daughter Josephine, kindly linked us up with the proceedings over there in Kyenjojo, Western Uganda as they occurred.  It was clearly a very sad event as a wife, Christine, was saying goodbye to her husband and children, Joy, Josephine and Joseph, to their father.  We were able to enter into some of the frustration with them as the ambulance delayed in bringing the body to the farm and then in some of the deep felt sorrow and mourning as the body was laid to rest, as well as the concern as the rain started. 

Of course we could not understand much of what was being said and so were confused at times as to exactly what was going on.  One word which was continually being called out was ‘Amaati’, ‘Amaati’.  Paul had told us that this was a familial sort of nickname which people used for him.  The affection for Paul was clear.

We have lost a real friend and brother in the Lord who was still actively working in so many ways. We share something of the sorrow of the family, churches and farmers at his sad lost.

It was such a good reminder for us though, of the ‘smallness’ of the world nowadays.  Sitting here, in the comfort of our homes in Coventry we were able to experience something of this painful and significant event at the very time it was happening in Uganda and in a small way share it with our friends.  It was a very emotional time.  It did remind me of so many Christians, throughout our world, who are suffering for one reason or another about which we do not know.  Should we be sharing, at least in prayer, more with some of these.

The other thing I thought about was our common humanity.  Life on Paul’s farm and around Kyenjojo is different from ours in so many ways, without much of the sophistication and material aspects of Coventry.  When it comes to important events like this, although we could not understand the details of what was being said and so on, it was clear what was happening – the basics were not much different from Coventry.  Whatever part of the world we live in, however different our cultures and ways of life may be, in matters of birth and death we are all the same.  With so many divisions in life today by way of nationality, culture, wealth, gender, power, religion, and so on, there are some aspects which are common to all humanity. Birth, life and death are common to us all.  The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote

Like the fool, the wise too must die! Ecclesiastes 2:16 (NIV)

It is so easy for us with our ‘civilsation’ to assume an air of ‘superiority’ over people living in other nations in very different ways, but basically we are all the same – we are born, we eat, drink, work, make love, fall sick and die.  The real difference comes in whether or not we are ready to die.  Paul was ready, even though death came very suddenly for him. (We were told that he was preaching to others, even in hospital and even singing when he could!) He had the confidence that he was going to his Lord.  That really is the only difference between people – not where they live, how well educated they are, how rich they are or how successful they are.  It is are we ready for death when it comes?  Will we be going to be with our Lord or spending eternity without him?

 

18th June 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

ALL WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TRINITY (3)

How should we respond to the doctrine of the Trinity? The Old Testament commands us to fear God; the Gospels command us to follow Jesus; and the rest of the New Testament commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We’ve recently celebrated Pentecost.

When the Day of Pentecost came … all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1, 4).

Again and again in Acts we read that those first Christians were filled with the Spirit, empowered to worship, empowered to witness, empowered to suffer, empowered to rejoice.

In Romans chapter 1 Paul reminds us what happens when we reject the knowledge of God. If we’re not filled with the Spirit we’ll not just be empty; we’ll be filled with something else:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God‑haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them (verses 29–32).

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes, ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.’

The fulness of the Spirit is no optional extra.

Writing to the Galatians Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the actions of ‘the flesh’, that is, both the best and the worst we are capable of in a life where God is excluded.

To be filled with the Spirit is to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).

Who wouldn’t want that?

And yet people cling to a life characterised by hate, misery, and strife. They prefer to be irritable, unkind, evil, unfaithful, cruel and out of control.

The fact is that we need God, the one true God, our creator and redeemer. In spite of our rebellion God has reached out to reveal himself to us, and in Christ he wants to restore that image in us, his image, in which we were created.

One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – revealed supremely in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus reveals to us that the God of the Old Testament is his Father and our Father, that the fear of God is not the tyranny of a harsh dictator but the discipline of a loving father.

Jesus reveals to us that our highest goal and our greatest reward is to follow him.

Jesus reveals to us that the fulness of the Holy Spirit is not submission to a blind force but fellowship with a loving friend.

 

17th June 2021

From Iain Colville

Psalm 61 (NRSV)

1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I;
3 for you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

4 Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

8 So I will always sing praises to your name,
as I pay my vows day after day.

 

In the opening verses of Psalm 61, we find the Psalmist crying out to God to listen to his prayer, even as he is almost fading away (v1-2). God seems very distant; the Psalmist’s heart is weak and faint.  Have you found yourself in similar, desperate circumstances, when all hope appears to vanish and it’s a struggle even to utter the words of your prayer?

But the Psalmist does not dwell on his circumstances. His prayer is that he will be led “to the rock that is higher” than he is. His eyes are on the One who is his rock, his refuge and strong tower (v2-3). Let’s be encouraged to follow the Psalmist’s gaze – even in the darkest or the lowest of places, we can look up, to see Jesus with his arms open wide upon the Cross for you.  

The Psalmist continues to pray. He asks that God will permit him to stay in His tent forever; that he would be able to rest in the Lord’s presence, under the shelter of His wings (v4). Despite the initial feelings that he was far away and that God was very distant, the Psalmist has been brought close, into the place where God is present. Has the Psalmist actually moved from one location to another, or is it that his perspective has changed? With our eyes lifted up, we can begin to see the reality of God’s presence is actually there, close at hand.

Next the Psalmist reminds himself of God’s faithfulness. He knows the Lord has answered his prayers before, and he can have confidence that He will do so again. A long-promised inheritance, shared with those who fear God’s name, has already been given (v5). Take a moment to remind yourself of a time in the past when you’ve seen God at work in your life or perhaps in the lives of family and friends.

 

The Psalmist turns his attention to pray for the king, that he will have a long reign, marked by God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness” (v6-7).  Rather than allowing his eyes to drop back in self-pity, the Psalmist looks out to pray positively for those in power, and by extension for the nation. Who do we see as we look around, for whom can we pray in our communities and across this land?  Let’s pray in particular for the Government, our MPs, and the City Council. May the decisions that are taken this week bear the hallmarks of the steadfast love and faithfulness of Jesus.

Finally, the Psalmist is moved to give praise and worship to the One who has rescued him, who provides his safety and security (v8). It appears this isn’t a one-off event, but a regular daily practice. Let’s join with the Psalmist as we too make worship part of today’s activity, and tomorrow and the next day…

 

16th June 2021

Today's spoken Word for the Day from Graham Carpmail is based on Psalm 88. You can hear it here

15th June 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When you go through a whole bible book in a single sermon, there are, of course, significant passages which get passed over. With Micah, I had to pass over chapter 6:6-8 and, as I finished Timothy last week, I thought I might look at it today.  

There is a question that Micah 6 asks, and answers. What worship pleases God? With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? It’s a great question to ask. What pleases God? We know that different things please different people. When we buy presents, we don’t just get everyone the same pair of socks (unless you’re very bad at buying presents!). God is a person and, as such, has tastes and preferences. That may seem a bit obvious to say, but it is true; it’s one of the many ways that we can be in relationship with a person, not a nebulous force.

What does God ask for? At the time of asking Micah pondered: Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? For us, the rhetorical answer might be: is it a million songs, a colossal cathedral, a piece of glorious art? What worship does God seek, that reflects who He is? Micah answers that He has shown us what is good. To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

We can miss the significance of this answer. The reality is that God wishes for sincere worship. Worship that is lived out and acted on. All the other things listed, a rich man could buy and offer, with no sincerity. Yet justice, mercy and humility are all qualities that are lived, they are relational and involve relationships with others and with God.

So what does God ask for from us in our worship today? He asks for sincerity and truth, and worship that is lived with Him, and with others.

 

14th June 2021

From David Depledge

Verse of the Year 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

Ralph Hanger, who usually provides Word for the Day on Mondays, often takes something from what the preacher said on Sunday as his inspiration for his piece. But I am taking what is written on the sign on the organ behind Neil to bring some thoughts! It is our Verse of the Year.

Today perhaps we are focussed on the Covid decisions that our Government have to take but we also need to consider our own decisions, our own crossroads. A crossroads is a place of decision. It may be a place of doubts and questions. A crossroads is a place where we may wrestle with conflicting voices.

A crossroads is a gate or access point. It is sometimes a place of separation and goodbye. A crossroads is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another one. A crossroads is a critical moment. It can be a place of crisis, where the pains of yesterday connect to the hope of tomorrow.

 A crossroads is a place of opportunity, where the road ahead offers promises. A crossroads is a point in your life where you have several options that you need to weigh. Each option will lead you to a different destination or goal. Each path to a different place.

Crossroads are unavoidable. Every day we make significant decisions that will affect our lives positively or negatively. The choice to continue the same straight path is perhaps no longer possible. A decision has to be made. The straight road has now split into two or more. Which decision will you make? Looking left, right, back from where you came, and looking straight ahead. Where do you turn? Do you turn back to where you came, choose a path to follow, or do you stand around in the middle of the road? Which road is the right one?

How should we pray? Here are some possible themes:-

  • Lord, open up my spiritual understanding.
  • O God, teach me where the good way is and how to walk in it.
  • Father please remove from me every form of distraction that has blocked my spiritual eyes and ears.
  • Our God, please give those who lead the church revelation and the gift of wisdom as they seek to discern the right path for the fellowship.
  • Lord, open my spiritual eyes to see visions concerning my life and guidance for my future path. Lead and direct me in knowing Your mind.
  • O God give me rest for my soul.

 

11th June 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

ALL WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TRINITY (2)

When we turn from the Old Testament to the Gospels the focus changes from fearing God to following Jesus.

When Jesus called the first disciples his command was not, ‘Follow the Law’ or the great modern mantra, ‘Follow your heart’. His command was ‘Follow me.’

Christianity is not a philosophy or a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus, a commitment to follow him.

That’s where discipleship began and as the disciples continued to follow Jesus they learned more of what it meant.

In Luke chapter 9:23 Jesus told them, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’

That must have shocked the disciples. The cross was not a piece of jewellery that a lady might wear on a pendant. It was a cruel, shameful punishment, a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man, a horror too terrible to contemplate.

And yet, here was Jesus saying: to follow me means taking up your cross – your cross – and following me. This is no picnic in the park. This is costly obedience.

And Jesus said, ‘You must take up your cross daily.’ It was a call to a life of suffering and sacrifice, the life which Jesus himself came to live, and the death which Jesus himself was to die.

There is a cost to following Jesus but, again, there is a reward.

In John 8:12 Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

One of the disciples who failed the most in his promise to follow Jesus was Peter. ‘Even if all fall away, I won’t. … Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’

But he did, and with oaths and curses. Mark gives us a clue as to where he went wrong. When Jesus was being taken to the High Priest, we read, ‘Peter followed him at a distance.’ Perhaps he thought it was a safe distance, but a distance from Jesus is never a safe place to be.

Jesus is the good shepherd. ‘When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. … My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:4, 27).

Someone has said that in any flock there are sheep who follow the shepherd and there are sheep who are just following the sheep. Which kind of sheep am I?

A reward is promised for those who fear God. For those who follow Jesus there is again a reward.

‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one’ (John 10:28–30).

 

10th June 2021

From Liz Martin

Psalm 115

1 Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
    ‘Where is their God?’
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.

I’ve been doing the Bible in a year, as an audio version, which has been a different way of approaching the familiar. The past few weeks have been a journey through the Psalms, which has been an enriching and uplifting experience. So much of what we experience in life is expressed in the Psalms, not least the reminder, in our difficulties, of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness.

The Psalmist reminds us that God is so much bigger, greater and more worthy than we can imagine. So often we lose sight of who God is. Sometimes even our worship can slip into focusing on us, putting us at the centre. But in the shaping of our lives around His glory and name, and the wrestling, surrender and submission which this often involves, He pours His love and faithfulness down on us. Yet we are reminded and repointed by what the Psalmist says:

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.”

Our worship, our attention, our focus is to be on Him. This is because it is right for this to be so. It is the only correct response to seeing God as He is. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, not because He will force it from reluctant lips, but rather because when we see Him, we will see His character, His glory, all that He is. We can only confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Try to find some time today to worship. Maybe read through some Psalms and give thanks for all that He is, for His love and faithfulness, which He pours out over us.

9th June 2021

Graham Carpmail has called his spoken Word for the Day "Crayfish" - yes really! You can hear it here.

8th June 2021

From Rev Neil Martin

1 Timothy 6:20-21

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.

There is a solemnity in the final part of 1 Timothy. Paul is writing to Timothy, who, as we have looked at, is a young man dealing with a vast array of difficult and troubling situations. This all in a Church that was once renowned and famed; the Church that Paul was so involved in, and so committed to. This Church has lost its way in big and little matters. Yet Timothy is commanded to guard what has been entrusted to your care. He is not to just shrug his shoulders and walk away. He is to invest in it. To protect it. To guard it.  

With what have you been entrusted? Is it your family, or maybe it’s your work, your friends, a vision for the future, a calling? With what have you been entrusted? Are you guarding it? With whom have you been entrusted? Are you shielding them, praying for them, and challenging them? What are you doing to ensure that those things, those people, are thriving?

 It’s a solemn challenge and with all that it entails, I’m very grateful that Paul ends his epistle with a vast and precious promise:  Grace be with you all. In order to rise to the challenge of all that we face we are in need of God’s grace. His unmerited favour and mercy. Pray that I may know God’s grace in all I strive to do, and I shall do the same for you.

Grace be with you all.

 

7th June 2021

From Rev Ralph Hanger

Why should we pray?

At our Sunday service John White from Global Care used the little book of Jonah to teach us some big truths and at the same time point out how different God’s views are from ours.  I was particularly struck by the way he dealt with the question of ‘Why we should pray’.

First of all he looked at the character of Jonah as he prayed to God from the fish’s inside. He pointed out that Jonah was doing exactly the opposite of what God wanted.  God had told him to go to Nineveh over 500 miles to the North East of his home, so he was trying to go as far West as he could by catching a boat to Tarshish, way across the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah was rebellious in that he did not want to do what God had asked him to do and argues about it.  In doing this Jonah was basically selfish as he put the lives of others on the boat at risk by his behaviour and, on top of this, he was quite arrogant.  This description of Jonah did not make him out to be a particularly nice or holy character but, John pointed out, God answered his prayer.  He had all of these negative traits but was desperate and turned to God who answered his prayer.

John’s conclusion from this was that prayer does not depend on the person who is praying but on the God who is answering.  Answers to prayer do not depend on us but on God, himself.

The question John inferred from this was ‘What is our part?’.  If answers depend on God why do I need to pray.  John has been a Christian for many years and involved in Christian work for quite some time, so it was interesting to hear him say that ‘it is difficult to understand how prayer actually works’ even though he has studied it for a long time.  What he did say was that ‘God who loves me so much asks me to pray.  Jesus was very keen on it when teaching his disciples to pray.’  That was really enough to keep him praying.

There are lots of things to chew over in this but there is real encouragement in seeing that if we earnestly turn to God, particularly in hard times, he will answer according to his plan.  Often he is just waiting for us to ask.  He is not waiting for us to get better or get to know more.  We can come to God right as we are and look to him for help.  After all, one of the first prayers many of us had answered was when we came to God as sinners and asked for his forgiveness and for him to live in us.  We were not ‘good’ people when we made that prayer.  The sin in our lives was forgiven but we did not become perfect.  It was just the starting point for God to start his life-long work of transformation within us.  We will never be ‘good enough’ to pray but God is always ‘big enough’ to hear and answer that genuine prayer for ‘his will to done on earth as it is in heaven’.

That was just one of the lessons I learned from Jonah on Sunday.  This little book is full of all kinds of treasures for those who are willing to see them!

 

4th June 2021

From Rev Ian Macnair

ALL WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TRINITY (1)

The God of the Bible is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This truth has been revealed progressively, in Scripture and in history.

It is not intended to lead us into theoretical speculation. There will always be that element of mystery and the need for humble faith.

But it is intended to lead us into practical application, obeying God’s commands and becoming conformed to his image.

We can divide scripture into three broad categories, the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Acts plus the Epistles. In the Old Testament the emphasis is on fearing God. In the Gospels the emphasis is on following Jesus. And in Acts and the Epistles the emphasis is on being filled with the Spirit. This is where we find the practical application of what God has revealed.

Fearing God doesn’t mean that we should be afraid of God in the way that we might be afraid of an enemy who is threatening us, but it does mean that in our dealings with God we should approach him with reverence. There were times in the experience of the Israelites when they literally trembled before God but much more dangerous were the times when they were complacent.

Here’s an interesting verse.

Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11).

Fear and trembling – yes, but also service and rejoicing.

The fear of the Lord is not incompatible with the joy of the Lord. It’s only living in the fear of the Lord that will bring true joy.

We find a further practical outcome in the experience of the Israelites at Mount Sinai following the exodus.

Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning’ (Exodus 20:20).

It is only living in the fear of the Lord that will keep us from sinning.

It covers how we use our money. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro saw that Moses was crumbling under the weight of responsibility, trying to go it alone, he advised him to appoint capable men to help him. This is how he described them: ‘men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain’ (Exodus 18:21).

The fear of God keeps us from dishonesty, particularly in the area of money.

It even covers how we respond to people with disabilities.

Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling-block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord (Leviticus19:14).

Fearing God is all about obeying his commands. But it is also about receiving his blessings.

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children for ever (Deuteronomy 5:29)!

Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing (Psalm 34:9).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

 

3rd June 2021

From Coral Lynes

TIME & SPACE - Part 2

When we look around, we can see a balance in all things created by God.

In Psalm ch.74 v.16-17 the psalmist writes: -

“The day is yours. and yours is the night; you established the sun & the moon.  It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”

Among my father’s jottings, so I know it’s old, he had written words from an old poem/prayer which resonate with my thoughts about the importance of maintaining a “balance.”  I have also seen them written in beautiful script in a country church and on prayer cards.  These words are by an unknown author and worth sharing.

                                                                                              Take Time

 

Take time to THINK.  It is the source of power.

Take time to PLAY.  It is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to READ. It is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to PRAY.  It is the greatest power on earth.

Take time to LOVE and be LOVED.  It is a God-given privilege.

Take time to be FRIENDLY.  It is the road to happiness.

Take time to LAUGH.  It is the music of the soul.

Take time to GIVE.  It is too short a day to be selfish…..

 

 

 Part 1 of “Time & Space” focused mainly on a time for rest and reflection, in maintaining a balance and in managing our God-given time wisely.  Continuing with this theme, I must admit that although I can be very organized, I often struggle with time management.  This might be considered a weakness, but I have learned that sometimes it helps to be a little flexible.

 

God is concerned about our whole being.   I need to be reminded to spend my time wisely and to try to balance how I manage my hours both waking and sleeping.  During the pandemic we have continually been encouraged as a church and in our small groups not to neglect our spiritual well-being, to keep close to God through prayer, bible reading and teaching, sharing together as a body of Christ’s people and encouraging one another so that our faith might be strengthened and we will be better able to be of service to others in our community. 

 

I was encouraged by a verse in Psalm 62. 

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”

 

 

2nd June 2021

From Graham Carpmail

"Still new" 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Click here

 

1st June 2021

From Coral Lynes

TIME & SPACE - Part 2

When we look around, we can see a balance in all things created by God.

In Psalm ch.74 v.16-17 the psalmist writes: -

“The day is yours. and yours is the night; you established the sun & the moon.  It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”

Among my father’s jottings, so I know it’s old, he had written words from an old poem/prayer which resonate with my thoughts about the importance of maintaining a “balance.”  I have also seen them written in beautiful script in a country church and on prayer cards.  These words are by an unknown author and worth sharing.

Take Time

Take time to THINK.  It is the source of power.

Take time to PLAY.  It is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to READ. It is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to PRAY.  It is the greatest power on earth.

Take time to LOVE and be LOVED.  It is a God-given privilege.

Take time to be FRIENDLY.  It is the road to happiness.

Take time to LAUGH.  It is the music of the soul.

Take time to GIVE.  It is too short a day to be selfish…..

 

Part 1 of “Time & Space” (24th May) focused mainly on a time for rest and reflection, in maintaining a balance and in managing our God-given time wisely.  Continuing with this theme, I must admit that although I can be very organized, I often struggle with time management.  This might be considered a weakness, but I have learned that sometimes it helps to be a little flexible.

God is concerned about our whole being. I need to be reminded to spend my time wisely and to try to balance how I manage my hours both waking and sleeping. During the pandemic we have continually been encouraged as a church and in our small groups not to neglect our spiritual well-being, to keep close to God through prayer, bible reading and teaching, sharing together as a body of Christ’s people and encouraging one another so that our faith might be strengthened and we will be better able to be of service to others in our community. 

I was encouraged by a verse in Psalm 62. 

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”


 

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)

here  (1st December 2020 to 29th January 2021)

here (30th January to 31st March 2021)

here (1st April to 31st May 2021)