‘… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’
(Acts 1:8 ESV)
This month we will hold our Mission Sunday Service where our focus is on the work of Christ’s church to reach out with good news of the gospel, locally, nationally and internationally. We may use this Sunday to specifically consider the work going on in different areas along with the work we support as a fellowship but mission cannot and should not be simply something we think about only at certain times of the year, it must be the very heartbeat of the church. In an age where people are bombarded with different, ideas, ideals, religions and where we are told that everyone can be right the question we need to ask ourselves must be: ‘Is the amazing, life changing and counter cultural message of the gospel being heard over the noise of all that the world promotes?’. It is a message so radical and so wonderful that all need to hear yet a message that is often whispered so quietly and spoken of with so little regularity beyond our church walls that it is not being heard. The love of a Saviour so great that he would lay down His life for sinners such as us so that the perfect justice of God would be served but not on us but on one so willing yet so undeserving, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only that but His resurrection means new life for us and His ascension means that he rules and reigns over his now established kingdom. Now importantly for mission the power of the Holy Spirit has been given to believers so that the ministry that Christ began on earth may continue through His church as he rules and directs from the realms of glory. As we have considered in our evening services in the book of Acts, the ability to be Christ’s witnesses to the end of the earth does not lie within us but by the power of the Holy Spirit. We may feel inadequate for the task, or unable to share the good news with others but we have all been given different gifts for the kingdom work and witness and he who calls us equips us for the task ahead. We do not do mission in our own strength, relying on our own abilities but the Holy Spirit empowers the believer to be bold and courageous but we need to take those steps out in faith and at each step we will be surprised what the Lord can do in us and through us. Mission is what the church is called to do so we pray that it will remain our focus not just on Mission Sunday but every day and in every aspect of the life of our fellowship. May the Lord bless you as you witness for Him.
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16
‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1:18
We come to that month in the year where cards are bought, gifts given and meals enjoyed as people celebrate their love for one another. February 14th is Valentine’s Day (just a reminder for all the husbands and boyfriends out there) and has become big business and another opportunity for our consumerist society to cash in on a commodity that we can’t put a price on, love. Millions are spent on that one day in a multitude of different ways that people want to use to show the one they love just how much they care for them. High prices are paid for gifts, sacrifices made to spent time with those we love and great (or foolish) acts undertaken all as displays of love but as we look at the scriptures we see in history acts by our great God that display His love for his people. He sent his only begotten Son into this world to live a perfect life amongst us, to die a horrific death on a cross, to rise again on the third day and then ascend into heaven from where he rules and reigns at the Father’s right hand. That giving of His son is the greatest gift of love the world has ever seen and cost more than we can ever comprehend. It is what shows us the depth of love that the Heavenly Father lavishes on us His children. It is a love open and available to those that trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a love that means eternal life in the glorious presence of the creator and sustainer of this universe. The world may see the cross as foolishness (the scriptures tell us that) but the gospel turns the world’s thinking on its head. For every believer it is far from foolishness but the symbol of love, forgiveness, a relationship with the living God and a fulfilled life. It is a message that we can’t keep to ourselves. So as you begin to see all the cards and the gifts and love hearts fill the shelves, think for a moment on something that you won’t find there, the cross and all that it means. As we explore how to become a more missional focussed church in the coming year we seek God’s leading in how to best share this wonderful message with our community so that they too would know this love.
May the Lord bless you in His service.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…’ Deuteronomy 7:9
As we begin another year we arrive at that time again when we make our New Year resolutions. We make promises to ourselves and to others about what we will or won’t be doing. Gym memberships will increase as people pledge to be more active and then there will be the New Year diets. People will promise their bosses to work harder and their families that they will work less and there will be the promise that this will be the year when we achieve XY and of course Z. Unfortunately by the end of January (I’m being generous for New year) most of these promises will probably have been broken. You might see me running on the 1st but the novelty will probably have worn off by the 2nd but what scripture tell us is that when God says He will do something He is true to His word. The whole of the Bible is testament to the fact that God keeps His promises and that as His people we are able to trust Him. We look back over a year where we have seen so much change in the world around us. There have been shifts in so many different areas such as in the political spheres with Brexit and then the American Presidential elections, in the world of fame so many famous figures have passed away and even closer to home we realise what a rapidly changing world we live in but what we know of God is that He never changes. His love, His mercy, His grace are still as strong and perfect as they were yesterday. So as we look forward into this New Year we can look as the world does with trepidation and uncertainty or we can look forward in the certainty that God is faithful to His promises and is working out His plans despite of all that will happen in 2017 and beyond. The amazing thing for us as believers is that He is such a wonderful and loving God that we are included in those plans. God does not need us but He amazingly chooses us for His work and His kingdom. Let us as individuals and as a fellowship seek His will and His ways for this year and trust in all His promises whatever this year may bring.
May I wish you all a happy and blessed New Year and I pray that 2017 will be a year where we trust more deeply in the Lord wherever that may take us.
‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…’ 1 Timothy 1:15
At this time of year the festive season is beginning to get into full swing. Some folks are even so organised to have wrapped and delivered Christmas presents whilst the rest of us have still to begin the wrapping or even the buying of gifts. It is a busy time of year with much to be done, lots to get organised and many family traditions to take place. As I write, the various things are beginning to appear in the church such as the advent candles, a star, a tree with lights and decorations. All these things this year will be a reminder to us of the real reason for the season, even the tree and its decorations will help us this remember important parts of the Christmas story but as the shops begin to fill and preparations for the festivities begin to come together for many, the very One central to the message of Christmas will be absent. The story is told of a young woman with a couple of young children franticly trying to get around the shops to complete the Christmas shopping. The children pointed at every new shiny toy and asked ‘please mummy’. She edged her way through the throngs until she finally reached the lift at the end of a hectic and harassed trip. As the lift door opened and she corralled the children through the doors she exasperatedly cried out ‘whoever invented this Christmas nonsense should be shot.’ Immediately a soft voice from the back of the lift said ‘Haven’t you heard we have already crucified him?’ In the rush of life and of the season it is easy for the one central to the season to become side lined. It can quickly become about so many other things but the wonder of Christmas is that God sent his Son into this world in the form of an infant, Immanuel, God with us, the One that would grow and would go to Calvary’s cross for our sins. God in his wisdom and mercy made a way for those separated from him to be reconciled to Himself through the shed blood of Christ. Let us remember this season as we look to the manger that without that gift of God’s Son lying there we could not look to the cross and the forgiveness and love of a Saviour. As you celebrate this wonderful event in the coming days may you be blessed and may the Lord reveal more of His glory. Have a wonderful Christmas and let’s look forward to what God has planned for the coming year.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV)
As the clocks change and the nights begin to draw in we get to that time of the year when we remember those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to Queen and Country. We remember those that have lost their lives in two world wars and numerous other conflicts since. It is a time to remember the cost that our freedom has been, and continues to be, bought at. We also remember those touched by the effects of war such as the families of the fallen, veterans and those still serving. It is good to be reminded of these things, to have time to reflect, to pray and to give thanks for those that have been willing to risk so much. It is also a reminder to believers of the one who paid the greatest sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. We have been blessed to just have had our communion weekend where we remembered the greatest ever sacrifice given for our freedom, Christ willingly and in perfect obedience to the Father suffering and dying on a cross to secure freedom from the power of death and sin for all those that believe in their heart and declare with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. The poppy has become the symbol of remembrance for the fallen and at the Lords table simple elements speak of all that Christ has done in the shedding of his blood and the giving of his body and yet we did not come to the table mourning but in thankful celebration that we serve a risen Saviour, death is not the end and all those that trust in the Lord can have new life as they share in his resurrection. This life is one that knows the joy of serving the risen saviour and one day being with him in his glorious presence for eternity. As the dark nights close in we remember that even with all the spiritual darkness in the world the light of the good news of the gospel has broken in and that it is spreading and Christ’s kingdom is growing. So as we approach Remembrance Sunday this month we come with hearts that are heavy from the loss that conflict brings but we also remember that there is one conflict that has been won, through the sacrifice of one, Christ has conquered sin and death and there is hope, life and joy for the believer in the Masters service.
We have added some new books to the church library for younger and older readers alike. Have a look and see what takes your interest.
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22 ESV)
Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ (Matthew 9:37-38 ESV)
The first verse above is part of the promise made to Noah after the flood and it shows Gods commitment to sustaining his creation. It is a promise that the seasons will come and go, the sun will rise and fall and that there will be a time of planting and a time of harvest. God has been faithful to these promises from the time of Noah and we come to the time of year when we give thanks for the harvest that has been gathered in and the provision the Lord has made for us of the past year. We once again acknowledge that every good gift comes from the Lord and we rejoice in His faithfulness. Yet we also know that we need more than just food for our physical bodies and we give thanks also for the way that he has provided for us spiritually as we have been able to feed upon his life transforming Word. It is a Word that uses the illustration in the second verse above of a harvest to speak of another, greater and more important harvest that is taking place. When Jesus talks about the harvest in Matthew he is talking about those that will hear the good news of the Gospel and respond. He talks of about how great this harvest is but at the lack of laborers to do the work, to tell of this good news and what is His solution, it is again that theme of earnest prayer that we have heard of in our services and bible study. As Charles Price writes ‘ Our task is not so much to run around and do everything but to allow the Lord to direct our path and bring us in touch with the right people in the right place at the right time to reap the ripe harvest.’ Let us be encouraged to do just that, to be in earnest prayer that the Lord may use us for His glory where He has put us and with those that he has directed us to. One day that harvest will be gathered in and we will be surprised in the ways God has used us to speak to others if we have been faithful to his leading. May the Lord encourage you in His service.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
As a new session begins to get underway and the various organisations of the church get back into full swing it is good to remember why we meet together as believers. These verses sum up the importance of fellowship with each other so that we can encourage each other and stir up one another in love. Meeting together allows us to share, to learn and to love together and it makes the people of God stronger. As Donald Guthrie notes ‘Close and regular fellowship with other believers is not just a nice idea, but an absolute necessity for the encouragement of Christian values.’ Indeed the New Testament lends no support to the idea of lone Christians because a lone Christian is a vulnerable Christian however a believer who is part of the community of faith should be loved, cared for, strengthened and taught. When believers stand together there is strength in their unity that makes them more resisted to attack and discouragement (more resistant but not immune). We as a fellowship are fortunate to have the opportunity to meet together for the very reasons these verses give. Alongside our regular times of worship, we have an active Women’s Guild, a growing Men’s Breakfast, opportunities for Bible Study and prayer and to add a slightly different dimension we will be starting our Food for Thought evenings that will be on the first Wednesday of the month instead of our regular Bible Study. This is an opportunity to gather around a simple meal to enjoy fellowship and then listen to a speaker on a variety of interesting topics. It is a time to receive food both for the body and the soul, to stir one another up to love and good works. The taster we held before the summer break certainly gave us much to think about so please pray for this new venture as we seek to learn and grow together.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
As we look at these 2 short verses we are told of how important the Word of God is for our lives and from whom it comes. As Christians we hold the inspired Word of God as our highest standard, nothing else comes even close because it is the words of the very God of the universe whom we serve that it contains. His statutes and laws and teaching are perfect and they help us navigate through this world that we live in.
Recently within the church we have sought to establish a church library, a place where resources are available to help us as we dig deeper in God’s word. The Lord has gifted many people to write good, solid and reliable books that can be used to help us deepen our understanding of the scriptures and inspire us in our Christian life and witness. The library is still in its infancy but it is hoped that over time it will offer a rich collection of useful tools that will help us apply the wonderful teaching found within the pages of our Bibles to our lives. We plan to be decidedly picky as to what the library contains as we want the best and most useful resources that we can provide to be available. Unfortunately along with the large number of excellent books available there comes some decidedly questionable material and your prayers for discernment in this area will always be a great help.
Along with the library we are excited to be able to partner with 10 Of Those who are a distributor of some excellent Christian material. Anything they stock or sell must fit within their statement of faith which is available on their website. Their work is seen very much as a ministry and not as a business so that they can get useful material into the hands of believers. Through partnering with them we now offer an online bookstore on our website that stocks thousands of titles. Please have a look and see what might be useful for yourself, family, children or grandchildren.
May God bless you as you continue to study His Word and seek His ways.