Sunday, 19 February 2017

Do we miss the chance to love?

The consequences of doing the right thing for Jesus, against the odds, or against worldly thoughts, attitudes or actions can have eternal value and can impact and change lives forever.
Two believers in Christ were discussing an issue for which both had different opinions. The older of the two seemed smug as he wielded scriptures like a weapon, chopping away at the things he saw as wrong in the other's life. The younger believer just seemed to be weary of the lecture, weary of the other person and discouraged. As the exchange drew to a close the older man commented on the other's dis-interest; 'you used to be so eager', then he abruptly stopped and said 'I don't know what it is you want'. The younger man replied; 'you missed the chance to love me. In all of the time you have known me, what has seemed to matter the most to you is pointing out what you think is wrong about me!' He went onto to say 'You asked what it is I want, well, I want to see Jesus in you and through you'. Have there been people that we have missed the chance to show love to? Can people see Jesus in us? These are good questions to challenge ourselves with because showing love is much more effective that giving a lecture; John 13:34 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another' and 1 Corinthians 13:1 'If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal'.

I can remember one occasion where I witnessed the love of Christ in action. It was a cold wet Saturday afternoon on a muddy football pitch. My son was the manager of a Christian football team, however most of the young men in the team were not Christians but it was a good outreach activity. The team were doing very well and were about to play an important quarter final cup game, which they had all been talking about for weeks. On the side of the pitch there was a young man named John, who was going through a broken relationship which he was really struggling with. He had a very difficult and problematic childhood, most of which had been spent in children's homes. He had recently attempted suicide and had just been released from hospital. I can remember how broken he looked as he stood there with a vacant, lost expression on his face. John was part of the team but not one of the regular players, however all of the other players, even the 'tougher' ones were sad to see him in such a bad place.

Source: The Royal Parks
At half time the team were losing 1-0 and my son (the manager) made the decision to bring John on as a substitute at the expense of one of the better players.  Even though the decision would have reduced the chance of the team winning the other players were so compassionate about John's situation, not a single one of them complained. Even though the team were arguably a collection of 'rough diamonds', helping John was all that mattered to them; Proverbs 3:27 'Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act'. The players would pass the ball to John at every opportunity, the game itself no longer seemed to have any importance however a miracle was about to happen. The ball was passed to John near the half way line who subsequently, with all his might kicked the ball toward the goal. Everyone watched in amazement as the ball flew past the goalkeeper and right into the back of the net. It was one of the most amazing goals I had ever seen. It seemed as if the angels had guided the ball into the net. John was elated with joy and the players made such a fuss of him, not just during the game but for many weeks and months after.

John had walked onto the pitch that day as a broken man and walked off the pitch at the end of the match as a completely different person. The love and compassion shown by his team-mates was exactly what he needed to re-focus and to snap himself out of his depression. Following this life changing event in his life John started to turn his life around, worked hard and has been happily married for a few years to a lovely young woman who gives him the love he has always needed. John and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their first child, a beautiful baby boy.  Significantly, they are both seeking to know more about Jesus Christ and have been attending church. Praise God.

John’s life turned around as a result of a football match on a muddy football pitch on a cold wet Saturday afternoon, where the real winner wasn’t the team who scored the most goals, or who won the 'man of the match' award, no, the real winner here was love; Galatians 6:10 'Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers' and Philippians 2:3-4 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The consequences of doing the right thing for Jesus, against the odds, or against worldly thoughts, attitudes or actions can have eternal value and as we have seen, can impact and change lives forever. On the other hand we can easily miss opportunities to put love (God's love) into action and never know what might have been.  

Prayer – Father God in the name of Jesus and through the Holy Sprit we give you all the Glory, all the Honour, all the Worship and all the Praise.  We thank you that through your unconditional love for us you gave us your Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins so that we may be reconciled with you in eternity.  Father we pray for an overflowing of love and compassion for those who you put into our lives and those who cross our paths every single day. We pray that you use us as a vessel of your love so that people will see and feel your love in us. May lives be changed forever as we walk in obedience and aspire to follow the ultimate example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Author: Eileen Greaves

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Choices, Choices, Choices!!

What is God asking me to do today? Am I going to choose to follow Him, even if it gets uncomfortable and the future is not so clear?  Will I abandon my own thoughts and plans and follow His?

Source: Biblical Proof
Sometimes making the right choice is extremely difficult because so many things influence the choices we make. I mean how hard is it to choose the right clothes to wear for an occasion? I dither in front of the wardrobe; should I go formal, or informal, low key or bright and breezy? Should I wear what I like or what the occasion commands; oh dear choices, choices!  If choosing the right clothes to wear can be difficult and perplexing then how much more difficult is it making the right choice about what we do with our lives?  I hate making choices, the bigger and weightier the decision the harder I find it. Do I go with my instincts or use logic (what will achieve the best outcome in a situation)? So as a good Christian I decided to pray about it, however the real tough choice comes when the Lord seems to be directing me towards something that is actually not what I want to do, or something that makes sense to me. What do I do then? Oh dear choices, choices!! I was thinking about a primary school assembly story I was doing this week about Ruth and it led me to read the story in the Bible. As God does, He used this to challenge me, so I thought  I would pass on my thoughts.

Source: YouTube
In the Bible there was a young woman from Moab called Ruth, who had married an Israelite who was living in her country. After a while her husband died, and not only did her husband die but her sister in law`s husband died and her mother in law’s husband died. So three women were left alone to fend for themselves; what would they do? How would they cope? Making the right decision at this time would be crucial. The mother in law (Naomi) decided to go home to Israel and take her chances with her own people and in Ruth 1:8 she advises the two girls to return to their own country and re-marry which seemed to be the most obvious choice, the logical choice, surely the right choice. One of the girls (Orpah) decided to follow that advice but the other girl (Ruth) felt such a commitment to her mother in law that she begged her to let her go back to Israel with her, even to the point of abandoning her own culture and beliefs and embracing Naomi`s culture and belief. Ruth 1:16-17 `But Ruth replied, ‘Don`t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried’.  

Her commitment to her mother in law drove Ruth to cling to her and follow her no matter what. This decision then set Ruth on a continuing journey of commitment, trust and faith. At her mother in law’s direction, it took her into the field of a strange and powerful man (Boaz) to gather grain to keep her and Naomi alive. It took her to the threshing floor in the dead of night and lying down next to this powerful man, to a place of vulnerability, trusting that he would not harm her or take advantage of her but would take care of her. All this because she had chosen to stay committed to both Naomi and to her God and choosing to make some very difficult choices, and not to take the easy path. Ruth continued to trust and believe even when things appeared to get complicated and difficult and obstacles appeared to block the way. But the outcome of Ruth`s trust and commitment resulted in her marriage to Boaz and a child (Obed) that would set on course the most earth changing event in History, the birth of the Messiah! Ruth 4:17 ‘The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son!’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David’. Read the book of Ruth in the bible, it`s only short but such a wonderful story of love, faith trust and commitment.

So, ok, great story, happy ending, but how does that help me in making the choices I have to make every single day? Well, the principles of the story are the same as many of the choices we have to make in our lives:

1. Who am I going to follow?  Ruth chose to follow Naomi`s God whatever that meant. It led her to do some very difficult and challenging things and took her right out of her comfort zone and set her on a course of action that was not clear at first. Regardless of this uncertainty and challenges Ruth chose to follow God’s instruction via Naomi`s direction. What is God asking me to do today? Am I going to choose to follow Him, even if it gets uncomfortable and the future is not so clear? Will I abandon my own thoughts and plans and follow His?

2. Who am I going to trust?  Ruth trusted Naomi and therefore Naomi`s God. It put her in some vulnerable places among people she did not know, and she had to do things she was not familiar with. Regardless of this she did not flinch, she did exactly what God was telling her to do. What is God telling me to do today that may make me feel vulnerable and put me in a place of unfamiliarity? The question I ask myself is; ‘will I flinch, will I pull back, will I choose to take the more sensible, logical path or will I follow what God is telling me?’

3. How committed am I? Ruth was completely committed to both Naomi and to her God. From the moment she left her old country behind she set her face to her new path and never turned back. I`m sure if I had experienced some of the difficulties Ruth had then I would have sat and thought ‘what if I had stayed at home, what if I had made a different choice, what if I tried doing things my way’? But Ruth was committed and only when she had done all that God had told her to do did the final glorious outcome reveal itself. This did not happen until Ruth had made the right choices, stayed committed, and completed the whole journey. Now this is a massive challenge to me, someone who can`t even keep committed to what outfit I`ve chosen to go out in, let alone to follow the Lord’s direction when the path gets difficult.

I am involved with prison ministry and go into a local young offender’s prison to take part in services on a Sunday. Recently I was talking to a couple of the guys about some of the things they had done recently that had landed them in disciplinary situations. I talked with them about what they had done and asked if it is worth the loss of privileges they had received and then went onto talk about making right choices. It was so obvious to me where they were going wrong and so easy for me to point this out to them however the Lord always likes to challenge me when I choose to speak into people`s lives. He likes to get me to look at my own life and see how well I do at making the right choices.

Frankly this week, like so many other weeks, I’ve not done as well as I would have liked. Some things have been good and I feel I have listened and made some good choices, but sadly at other times in haste, or following my own feelings and desires I have made bad choices. The piece of cake I could have managed without, the words said in haste I wish I could take back, the harsh response when gentleness would have been the Lord’s way instead.  Oh, Lord please help me to follow Ruth`s example and choose who I am going to follow and who I am going to trust and help me to be committed to serving you every day and not just my own wants or needs.

Choices! Choices! Choices!  My prayer is Lord please help me to make the right choices.  

Author: Jan Pearson

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Seek first the Kingdom of God at all times

If, by acquiring our own agenda we take God out of the equation we are just another person doing a good deed, completely of our own accord

Source: Tell the Lord Thank You
There are times when God puts something on our heart to do something for Him. Big or small, it doesn’t matter – it’s a task from God. Personally, I get a little bit passionate about the things God asks me to do, it’s hard not to when our Mighty Father has chosen us to do something for Him! I have found, however, that this passion can sometimes lead me off on a crazy path where I eventually realise that I have wondered off all on my own and managed to acquire an agenda of my own.

It’s great to be passionate about what God has put on our heart but it is also incredibly important to keep God at the centre of it all. With God’s leadership, who knows what could happen with the task at hand? If, however, by acquiring our own agenda we take God out of the equation we are just another person doing a good deed, completely of our own accord. If we keep God in the picture there will be miracles, God-appointments and God-incidences! Amen.

Source: Redeeming God
A simple example of God giving us direction to be more than just Gentiles is provided in Luke 6:27-36: ‘But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say here is whatever you do, keep God at the centre. Ask Him ‘what next?’ and ‘which way?’ In all things we do, let’s do it with God! Matthew 6:33 ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’

Prayer – Father we thank you that each and every day you shower us with your amazing agape love and we thank you for the amazing gift of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We pray for discerning hearts and minds to hear your voice and to be obedient to your direction.  We pray almighty Father that we are not distracted by the things of this World so that when you put something on our hearts we do not start to travel down our own path; because our hearts and minds are completely focused on you. We pray almighty Father that we seek Your Kingdom first, above everything else. Amen

Author: Samantha Tarplin 

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Demonstrating the Lord’s Grace and Wisdom

Mark 14:9; ‘Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her’

Source: WallpaperSafari
Recently at our local men's group the leader asked us to talk about someone who had influenced our lives for the good, who had now gone to be with the Lord. I immediately thought of my dear Grandmother and Aunt, both of whom have played a significant part in my life and were women of action and faith. My grandmother although a very slight woman physically was resolute both in body and spirit and had a quiet and immovable faith and truly believed that what the Lord said He would do. One evening when the cottage they lived in was lit by oil lamps, the lamp was about to go out and everyone was going to bed. (They were relatively poor and there was only a small stock of oil at any one time - none on this occasion). At that moment, a visitor came. Not wanting to turn them away my Nan invited them in knowing that they would soon be sitting in darkness. Without doubting she offered a prayer about the oil. The lamp just kept burning for the hours that the visitor was there. On the day that she died, just before she passed she came to for a moment and not able to speak she signed ‘176’ to those around her – which was the number of one of her favourite hymn; 'I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene'.

My Aunt was physically immobile for several years and in pain every day. Nonetheless her sense of gratitude to the Lord for every blessing was one of her signature themes. She would say ‘Chris we need to be grateful for all that the Lord has given us, don't we?’ She continued my Nan's practice of praying for the wider family every day and we always knew that we were being remembered in prayer especially when the day was presenting a particular challenge. Both my grandmother and my aunt had a positive influence on my life and it was nice to remember both during the men’s group meeting.

My mind also thought about two other people who few will remember (maybe no one outside of a very small circle). They very strongly brought to mind the scripture Psalm 116:15 ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints’. The first is a lady we knew as Mrs Reading. Her life had been such that she would have many reasons to be discouraged and bitter but instead she was the opposite. She was grateful for every small thing. She possessed little material goods and used to put out previous year's Christmas cards along with the decorations to make festive. She was so encouraging and her chuckle and peals of laughter were a delight. She was a person who on reflection you wish that you had visited more often and got to know better. Her faith was simple and her generosity of heart and encouragement great. The second person, Shirley, was a lady whose husband was a member of the family, who came to know the Lord at the time when ‘Make Way’ was very popular and if there was chance for suggesting a song would always say; ‘Shine Jesus shine’. Shirley was quite a sick person with several ailments including an amputation that had gone badly wrong. She loved the Lord dearly despite the difficulties of day to day life and the pain, and persevered in coming to meet other Christians whenever she could despite the complications of travel and movement. On the day that she went to be with Jesus her husband (not a churchgoer) witnessed that Jesus came for her. They were watching television and her attention suddenly diverted elsewhere in the room. She saw the Lord and He simply took her home.

Apart from the inspiration and encouragement that the examples above give us, as simple life stories, there is also something deeper about our relationships with God and the things that He wants us to do and be. I think that it inspires us to keep our faith simple - Jesus said that if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven we must come as little children; Matthew 18:2-4 ‘Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’.

If we aspire to lead we must be the servant of all. Mark 9:35 ‘He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else’. For me it’s also a major lesson in ‘being before doing’. None of the women discussed above could have sustained their behaviour and actions unless they had a relationship with Jesus first. Their character and grace came from the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ within them, not formulae or programmes or even a natural tendency to do good works.

Most importantly we need to be who God wants us to be and to never underestimate or undervalue what this means to others around us, in the Kingdom of Heaven and to the Lord himself. The Old Testament in 1 Samuel 30:24 establishes that; ‘The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle’. The reward for whoever helps those directly involved in doing God's work will be the same as those directly involved; Matthew 10:41-42 ‘Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward’.

In the New Testament, we are told that the church resembles a body and everyone has different functions. We are also told that we should not despise our own role or the role of others because like the women above we cannot know the impact that we have on others or the massive significance that our lives may have in heavenly places. Our mission is to demonstrate the Lord's grace and wisdom to principalities and powers; Ephesians 3:10 ‘His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’, and the Universe is watching on. So be encouraged and don't become weary in doing good; Mark 14:9 ‘Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her’. Amen.

Author: Chris Pearson

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

The abundance of God’s Grace and Mercy

God knows exactly where we are with Him, however our lack of honesty with ourselves often acts as a blockage to helping us make real progress in our relationship with God.

Source: Pinterest
As I've been reading the Old Testament lately I have been really struck by the way God was so precise in all of His instructions leaving absolutely no chance of misunderstanding of exactly what to do and how to do it. Look at the precise instructions that God gave for the building of the Holy Tabernacle in Exodus 36:8-39, which leave no doubt or uncertainty in the materials or way it was to be built. There were also strict warnings of the repercussions that would befall anyone not adhering to these precise instructions, sometimes even resulting in death. Although we may aspire to be precise and follow instructions, I am not sure if we make living out our faith in the world today more difficult than God intended it to be. We often seem to care more about what other people have to say on given subjects rather than what God has to say about them.

I was disappointed to learn the other day that someone who is well known in the Christian community had distanced himself from some of his comments and teaching he had been famous for. Unfortunately, the interviewer had video footage of the person completely contradicting himself. Instead of admitting that his opinion had changed or he had been in error he categorically denied that he had ever said these things. Isn't it sad that even if we have been a Christian for many years and earned respect for sticking to our beliefs we still want to fit in and be accepted by the masses!!  What hope then is there for the young Christian who doesn't know the Bible inside out and feels small, insignificant and unworthy? To that person I would say; every one of us is on a journey trying our best to navigate our path in life. Our Heavenly Father wants us to have an open and ‘teachable’ heart. If we think we know it all we will never experience all that God has for us because He will just let us get on and do it ourselves!! John 16:33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’.

Source: Flickr
Recently, I have been bowled over by the different ways God has turned situations around in a heartbeat; spiritually. physically and emotionally. However, the message I want to finish with is; when you pray for someone or something don't become weary or frustrated and give up because our timing is not God's timing. If God has promised you something keep on believing until you see the promise come into fruition and then give Him the thanks and adoration He deserves. It is said that we are very fortunate because in the UK the church and Christians are not under persecution. However, it is interesting to note that most countries where there is persecution are the very countries that are experiencing revival and abundant blessing. Maybe we have become complacent in either inviting or expecting God to come into situations and therefore miss out on His abundant grace and mercy. Do we read the Bible because it is a delight to do so or because it is a ritual? Do we give financially to God because we feel we must or is it a pleasure to sow into the Kingdom? Do we help others so they can do something for us in return or out of the goodness in our heart? These are good questions to ask ourselves to help us to understand where we are with God. God knows exactly where we are with Him, however our lack of honesty with ourselves often acts as a blockage to helping us make real progress in our relationship with God.

Fortunately, God does not dwell on the mistakes we make, He is interested in our hearts and gives us opportunities to make wise decisions even when our human frailty seeks to make unwise choices. He has given us a free will let us use it wisely. John 7:17 ‘Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own’.

I pray that the love of God would saturate your life and that it would in turn be poured out on all who come into contact with you.

Author: Lyn Hunt

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