Sunday, 12 July 2020

A Word of Encouragement

We can't avoid strife in the world around us, but with God we can know perfect peace even in the turmoil.
                   
Finding Peace 
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
"You will keep in perfect peace" that is help and complete protection against fear and worry. This scripture also says, where fear and worry come against the mind, its source is the powers of darkness attacking our minds and it needs to be renewed continually by the Spirit of God. 
Do not confirm to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Finding Grace
We can't avoid strife in the world around us, but with God we can know perfect peace even in the turmoil. Committed to Christ, we can be secure and stable, and not stricken by the chaos around us. We are able to trust and find grace in God's unchanging mighty power.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7  
Imagine never "being anxious about anything" Paul's advice is to turn our worries into prayers. If you want to worry less, pray more! True peace is not found in positive thinking, it comes from knowing that God is in perfect control of all things.

At times, our minds are attacked by negative spiritual forces, which want to feed us lies. This is where the battleground is.
However, we are told to "Submit yourselves, then to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.'' James 4:7

Renewing of The Mind
Paul also reminds us "to be renewed in the attitudes of your mind" Ephesians 4:23. Not giving credence to ungodly thoughts on folks who have hurt us in the past, or things that could happen in the future. Allow our minds to focus on all that is good. Focus on God, on His Word, proclaiming it aloud, where able. Thanking Him for His many blessings, our families, our friends, His constant love, even when we get it wrong.
Finally, brothers, whatever is right, whatever is  pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy, think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Being Overcomers
In the UK today, due to Covid 19 many are experiencing mental problems, being lonely and isolated. Many are turning to drink and other means to find temporary peace. Before coming to Christ I was the same. Now, I can honestly say, that Jesus set me free from worry, fears, and hopelessness. It has lasted for nearly 50 years!
At first, a fierce battle ensued, with the powers of darkness, but with the Holy Spirit, victory came, as I began to learn to cover my mind with the blood of Jesus. There are still battles, but with God's help, I can overcome them.   

Standing in The Victory
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

We can never fully understand the perfect peace of God, but receive it by faith and trust, knowing that Jesus is sheltering us under His wing, and will lead us in the way of everlasting. When the onslaughts come, quote Jesus's words, ''Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to me, you do not have in mind, the concerns of God, but merely human concerns. Matthew 16:23.



Author: John Yates 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 5 July 2020

Abiding 4 – The fruit

Jesus was abiding in the Father in the same way that He wants us to abide in Him.

I was thinking this week about an experience that Jan my wife had when looking at the “Chosen” site on line and sharing my thoughts with my friend, Ben. Jan wrote a blog about her experience (see Sunday 17th May 2020) and the thing that she shared from it was about reputation and how we guard it when Jesus abandoned His for us. As I talked to Ben though, and shared what had happened on that exchange between Jan and the other person, another seed thought began to germinate in my mind.

What struck me was how Jan could have responded like the others who were defending their views about the video. They were arguing from one viewpoint or another trying to undo the comments and arguments of the non-Christian. Jan took a step back and asked the Lord what to share with this guy, who was clearly angry about the message being conveyed on the “Chosen” site. She opened her heart and gave him a completely different kind of answer, full of the love and compassion of the Lord for this dear person. It pulled me up short because the response from the other person changed fundamentally – it became engaged and sincere and open.

This made me think about the scripture that says that our job is to plant the seed and water the seed – but the Lord gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”.
Paul is saying that the ‘ministers’ are nothing in themselves, the power is in the seed (the word of the Lord) and God who gives the increase. 

I thought about how so often we can be tempted not to ask the Lord how to respond in a given situation but try and manipulate our message to a desired end. Effectively we stop trying to sow and water the seed – share and live out His word - but instead argue to a particular end out of which often comes stress and emotion that does not bring glory to the Lord. Also, as a consequence if we think that we have won an argument or achieved something who does the glory go to – not the Lord but ourselves?

This isn’t the picture that Jesus paints about abiding in John 15:5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples.
In John 15 it is abiding that brings forth fruit to the glory of the Father. In a previous blog we looked at our need to fully embrace what Jesus says in this chapter, including “without Me you can do nothing”. So, if we make up our own answers and live our own living, what are we producing (no matter how good it appears to others) – does not bring glory to the Father.

I am sure that we can all relate to the circumstance where we are in conversation with someone who doesn’t know the Lord and suddenly there it is – a moment that we recognise as a “divine appointment moment” – the conversation turns and presents an amazing opportunity to say something about the Lord. Only, instead of saying what we feel we should be saying, we are hunting wildly for words to say – a gospel punchline or a way of bringing the Lord into the conversation that occurs to us either not at all or 5 minutes after the moment has passed. Or maybe there is a difficult situation with a work colleague and we want a sanctified and righteous way of addressing it without resorting to manipulation of some kind?

I can relate to this latter situation well because when I was in my last job there arose a number of occasions where I felt righteous indignation about a situation within my team of peers and totally failed to find a way through that dealt with the issue and also gave testimony to the Lord at work in my life. This grieved me greatly I have to say and I felt that I glorified the Father not at all. When I thought about these things and talked with my friend, it occurred to me in a new way that whilst on earth, Jesus Himself was never in any of these situations without an appropriate response. From the accounts that we have He answered even those who were trying to kill Him with wisdom and grace, and for those He met with issues of faith He got right to the heart of the matter.
For example, to Nicodemus He said: “Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3 v 3) and to the woman at the well in Sychar: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4 v 10). At the same time He responded with righteous anger when He found the temple grounds full of marketplace activities: Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Matthew 21:12-13)

Sometimes His response was silence, as with the Pharisees who accused a woman of adultery in John 8:6 “This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear”.
It occurred to me that Jesus, called in Revelation “the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14) was completely congruent in thought, word and deed. Leaving the issue of wisdom aside for this blog, where did this wholeness and congruency come from?

In Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and us in John 17:20-21 He prays: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”. So, Jesus was abiding in the Father in the same way that He wants us to abide in Him. Also, all that Jesus thought, and said and did was to glorify the Father – that was His sole concern. In John 8:28-29 Jesus tells the Jews: “… I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

As I thought about this I thought about the power of it – its not the whole answer I know, but the power of changing the issue from working out what to say to pleasing Jesus is all that we think, say and do changes the problem in my mind completely. My prayer changes from “what do I say Lord”? to “How do I please you in this situation Lord”? It changes from “how do I work out what I should do here”? to “how do I please you in this situation Lord”? It changes from “how do I think this through”? to “how do I please you in this situation Lord”?

Now we see more clearly one of the reasons that Jesus is telling us that we must abide – and why there are so many gaps in some of our responses to people. If we are abiding (“being one in us” as in John 17:21 above), then all of this becomes a natural part of the way in which we live. We will sow and water as we live our lives and the prayer “how do I please you in this situation Lord”? does not become a desperate scramble for words as much as a part of the way we live our lives and relationship – abiding in Him. If we have a close loved one, we know that oftentimes it is not necessary to speak to ask a question – a look or a small facial expression will do – even so the Lord wants our communication not to be as strangers but close family members.

If this is the way that we walk with Jesus and our prime goal is to please Him then maybe it doesn’t matter so much if we get the words exactly right on every occasion – He is the one that brings forth fruit and if our chief concern is His glory then I am sure that He will deal with the rest. As with life in general and Jesus in particular, sometimes the words matter a lot and the Father provides exactly the right ones, and sometimes they matter less. Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we can ask what we will and it will be done.

One final thought; my assumption was always that it was the fruitless branches that were cut down and burned – but no, let’s look again – it’s branches that are not abiding that are cut down and burned. Fruit is the Father’s business, let us seek and find the place of abiding and to please Jesus and glorify the Father in every situation.  ”For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord”. (Ephesians 5 v 8-10)




Author: Chris Pearson 

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Sunday, 28 June 2020

Let your light shine

There is no point telling people what a wonderful Saviour we have if they cannot see it in the way we live our lives.

Matthew 5 v16
‘In the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your 
Father in heaven.’

When I was in primary school and Sunday school many years ago, we would often sing, 
‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!’ 
The second verse was, ‘Hide it under a bushel? No!! I’m gonna let it shine’
We would hold a finger in the air, to represent a candle and when it came to the second verse, we would put our other hand over the ‘finger candle’ and take it off in a big flourish on the word ‘No!!’
I didn’t realise the significance at the time. I think we were just told (as five-year olds) that we must be kind to one another. But what does it really mean to ‘Let your light shine before men.’?

Light exposes danger and leads the way to safety.

There is a story about a lighthouse keeper, who had a certain amount of oil for the lamp provided at regular intervals. On one occasion some of the locals asked him for some oil as they had run out. Thinking it was a legitimate request he gave it to them but then ran out of oil himself the day before his delivery date. On that night many ships were wrecked on the rocks he was supposed to be lighting.
Sometimes we can be so busy doing the things that are admirable in themselves but are not what God wants. He wants us to shine a light on the way to keep people from the danger of living without Jesus. 

The light shows up shortcomings and dangers but also lights up the way to get out of them.
2 Corinthians 4:4 says ‘In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.’ 
This is what we have to deal with. Our lives have to reflect the light of Jesus, to expose the danger of the work of the enemy, to shine through the darkness, so that others will see Him through us and give God the glory.

How can we be that light?

Where we are situated is important. Our light has to be conspicuous. It can’t be hidden under a bushel but must be placed on a hill. It has to be in the best place possible for everyone to see it.                 
Matthew 5:14 -15 says, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.’
A light bulb has an energy source. If the connection is broken the light goes out. We need to stay connected to our source, who is Jesus. We must not let anything or anyone break our connection to the source of our light. If we don’t keep close to the light the reflection of Jesus will become dim. The further we stray away from the light the dimmer our light becomes. To keep close to the source we need to be people of prayer and readers and doers of the word.

We need to be Jesus to those around us.  If people don’t know Jesus they will receive their impression of what He is like from those around them, who profess to be Christians. We have a great responsibility to be the light of Christ. People are watching us to see what a lover of Christ is like. 
It says in Colossians 4:6 ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ In 1 Peter 2:12 it says, 'Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong doing, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.'

If we do not practise what we preach we will not be recognised by those around us as light. German atheist Nietze was quoted as saying that if he saw more redeemed people, he might be inclined to believe in the Redeemer
There is no point telling people what a wonderful Saviour we have if they cannot see it in the way we live our lives. I have heard many people over the years say that their faith is a private thing for themselves and not for anyone else. This is a challenge to all of us. We have a responsibility to transmit light and shine in the corner of the world we find ourselves.

We need the Holy Spirit. To be the light we are called to be, we need the Holy Spirit. We need Him to help us to live continually in the very nature of Christ. We need to reflect His character. Our light, therefore, is only shining as it should be if we are living in the fruits of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22 it says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ 
These may not form part of our natural character. We receive them by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Some years ago, a friend, not of our Fellowship, described some people in our Fellowship as ‘shiny people’. Being ‘shiny’ is not about who we are, it is about who Jesus is and how we reflect Him. It is about our relationship with Him and not about how busy we are with ‘church stuff’.
So, in conclusion, let us make sure our light is shining by keeping close to the source, praying continually, being often in the word and walking in the Spirit.



Author: Thelma Cameron 

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Abiding 3 – The Bread under the table

Jesus is worth abandoning everything for, and as we abandon everything and draw near to Him, He draws near to us and starts to feed us.

This reflection was prompted by Linda from our fellowship, who a few weeks ago sent me some thoughts from Matthew 15:21-28 about the Syrophoenician woman that Jesus met in the Region of Tyre and Sidon. The story is that the woman’s daughter was demon-possessed and her mother came to Jesus to ask Him for help. He replied that He shouldn’t give the children’s food (God’s people’s food) to the little dogs that fight for scraps under the table (meaning to a gentile)! She replied that this was true but even the little dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs – meaning she would be happy with the crumbs!

Linda pointed out that the bread that Jesus talked about  (“It’s not good to take the Children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”) was the same on the table as were the crumbs underneath it (the woman replied “Yes Lord yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table”). The crumbs were still bread – they would still feed the hungry and do the job.

This first of all reminded me of the parable of the sower where Jesus told a story about a sower sowing seed (Luke 8). As he threw the seed from the basket it went everywhere – onto the path, into beds of thistles, onto stony ground and onto good ground. The same applies to the seed in this parable as to the bread that He spoke about to the Syrophoenician woman. Like the bread the seed, which stands for the Word of God, is the same no matter what ground it falls on: thorns, the pavement, stony ground or good ground. The seed is the same. It is the Word of God. The difference is not in the Word received but the heart of the hearer. In a repentant, softened, receiving, prepared heart the Word grows and bears fruit. In an unprepared heart there is a different response and there is no fruit.

So, with the bread – on the table or under the table it was still bread – the difference was in the heart of the recipient. Jesus was not being cruel or needlessly obstructive to the woman – He was giving her bread in a way that would release her immense faith and spirit.

Now she could have despised the bread on the floor but He knew her and what she needed. There was the opening for her heart’s desire – a crack in the door offered by Jesus – and she was through. She didn’t care where the bread was, she was after it in a shot! She had waited for this ever since she had heard of Him, she had desired this with her whole heart. She laid aside all restraint and burst through. “Lord – I am pleased with the bread on the floor”!

Here is hunger set out for us all to see! We wait on the edges until everything is right in our minds and hearts – the right speaker, the right meeting, the right tone, the right feeling, the right time of day, the right interpretation of scripture! What? Bread off the floor how could Jesus possibly be giving us this? (What! - The filthy river Jordan Naaman had said (2 Kings 5) – and we might walk away and miss it. Let’s not do that beloved, lets abandon our constraints – the baggage that crowds in on us and recognise that it is Jesus who offers us the chance to eat! Jesus offers us the chance to eat – bread that is of His very substance. Are we hungry enough to eat off the floor? Or are we distracted by the setting? What if we really abandoned who we are in pursuit of Jesus – all of our thinking, all of our constraints about what we think and feel is the way that we should receive God and just be hungry enough to eat off the floor?

Now we have been restricted by the Corona Virus lockdown – not in fancy meetings full of good singing and great speakers – we often haven’t even been able to see each other when we do calls by telephone, BUT Jesus is here right now – with each one of us with bread – will we receive it? Will we receive Him even though there are many things about this situation that we would change if we could? Have we faith to believe and know these are just the circumstances in which Jesus wants to meet us and for us to partake of Him?

So, in the breaking of bread (Communion / Eucharist) we agree together as His Church that the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ that are before us are consecrated as representing Him and His offering for us 1 Corinthians 10 v 16“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread”. In essence we identify ourselves fully with Him and partake of Him – His very substance. Not the actual flesh and blood of the crucified Lord but the very substance of our risen Saviour. In doing this, we show that we are His people – born out of His offering for us (the torn offering for sin and the blood ransom for our souls) – and bearing witness of His victorious work on the cross until He returns.

In doing this together, we become like one loaf – though we may be separated by distance it is no distance at all. We are united in His Spirit as close as the grains in the bread. We are letting go our thoughts and agendas to agree that in this moment He is the only one that matters – even though He gets us all to kneel on the floor and pick up crumbs of bread we will do it because He is above everything:

* Our sin, our pride, our dearest thing
* Our sense of worth, our reputation, whatever it is we rely on,
* Our intellect, our need to be better than the next person
* Our need to be a teacher not a learner
* Our need to be different or our need to fit in
* Our need to lead not follow, our need to follow and not lead
* Our need to be humble even - Jesus is worth abandoning everything for, and as we abandon everything and draw near to Him, He draws near to us and starts to feed us. Suddenly the bread on the floor becomes the gateway to the deepest desires of our hearts that He placed there from the foundation of the world.

Let us receive Him when we partake. Let our focus be Him, let us be hungry for Him. Let us realise that when He said “with desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you” His mind was not only on the original disciples but also on us - giving us not a ritual but a way to partake of Him and His very substance today. Let us desire this as He desired to make this act of communion available to us.

So where does our ongoing theme of “abiding” fit in (John Chapter 15)? If we have been responding to Him at this time and His call to abide in Him, our hearts will be prepared for this challenge. Sometimes there might be a test of faith involved – or a humbling process to address the way that we see ourselves? Do we see ourselves at the head of the table or prepared to sit wherever and wait for “leftovers” if necessary? What if the Lord puts obstacles in our way before we can partake of the meal? God led the Israelites to the fear and panic of being trapped by the Red Sea before deliverance came. Jesus led over 5000 people into the Judean wilderness for 3 days and they were hungry enough to faint before He told the disciples to feed them “You give them something to eat” He said. Then He was asleep in a storm on Galilee strong enough for the waves to start to fill the boat: “Why have you so little faith”, He asked?

But if we are living and walking as He wants us to, our abiding in Him and His words abiding in us, will mean that our hearts are fertile ground for His good seed and our souls are humbled to receive bread from Him – even if it means getting down on the floor and picking up the bread. If this is the case it seems that we won’t be on the floor for long! The Syrophoenician woman didn’t even make it to the floor! Jesus’s words – “great is your faith – let it be to you as you desire” met her even as she stooped for the bread He offered. Jesus went all of the way over to Tyre to meet her there – He had an appointment with this dear lady to see faith released, deliverance brought, the works of the evil one overturned and glory go to the Father. What a yield of fruit from a willingness to get under the table! His promise is to “Perfect that which concerns me” (Psalm 138:8) and so He knows what the Syrophoenician woman needed to release Her faith and He knows what we need to release us into full liberty and bear fruit to glorify the Father.



Author: Chris Pearson 

May God bless and enrich your life


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Sunday, 14 June 2020

It’s the small things

He has been saying, put down all the big things, seek Me in the small things.  Don’t look to the usual ways to keep your spiritual life buoyed up, just sit and spend time with Me.

Recently I had a significant birthday, I’m not saying which one but I can now get free prescription (every cloud has a silver lining). I wondered what kind of day it would be, I know that my husband had planned some kind of party etc. but under the current restrictions the only way I could meet anyone was in the garden and then in very small groups.  But the weather had changed and I knew that even that was not possible. My expectation of the day was now very low, however an amazing thing happened.  I found myself not being disappointed at all, but actually being totally blown away with all the small acts of kindness done for me and messages given by phone or facetime etc.

The day was so special even though if I didn’t actually see anyone except my husband and my son who lives with us.  But I'd have to say it was one of the best birthdays ever because I valued every small thing so much.  Sometimes we live in such a material world with expectations of everything being big, bright, and fast, and easily provided at the push of a button that we miss the beauty in the small things.

I was thinking about this today and my mind was drawn to Elijah, in 1 Kings 17 & 18 we read all about the miraculous things that God had done for and through Elijah.  He had been fed by ravens, provided food out of virtually nothing to keep a small family alive, and raised a child from the dead, as well as battling with false prophets over the sovereignty of God and calling down fire from Heaven, oh and of course praying down rain after 3 years of drought.  Elijah was used to living in the time of `big things`, he was used to seeing God move and being in the centre of things.  But then suddenly we find Elijah fleeing for his life and hiding out in a cave on mount Sinai.  He found himself alone, afraid and wondering at the series of events that had gotten him in this isolated place.  I imagine he never expected to be in such a low place when he had been so used of the Lord, both too many and too few.
   
But eventually God speaks to him and asks him what he is doing there, and as anyone would he pours out his feelings and thoughts to the Lord. Then the Lord passed by the cave and all of Gods power exploded before Elijah in the form of an tornado, an earthquake and a fire, but it was at the still small whisper that the Elijah stepped out to the entrance of the cave and heard what the Lord had to say to him.

This made me think that we often expect the Lord to do big things to get our attention, maybe listening to a world renown speaker, maybe travelling to a place where the Spirit is being poured out, maybe doing a new bible course, or many other ways that we expect the Lord to speak. Sometimes I have found in doing these things that I have had high expectations but actually come away a little disappointed that the speaker or the meeting or the teaching had not quite been up to what I had expected, and so I was left feeling flat and sometimes a little sad and discouraged.

I think in these days of lockdown and social restrictions the Lord has been speaking to us in the small whisper, He has been saying, put down all the big things, seek Me in the small things.  Don’t look to the usual ways to keep your spiritual life buoyed up, just sit and spend time with Me.  I struggled at first with this, thinking I had to do all the expected things.  Stay in contact with everyone, read every WhatsApp and follow every link to every new word or prayer programme and although they were good, they did not fulfil my expectation. It was only the quiet times with the Lord and His word that really spoke to me.

The lowering of my expectations to be `blown away` with everything has actually led me to see the word more clearly than I have for years. To stop and read the word, to meditate on it and actually study some words, rather than dash through it to get onto the next reading or to seek the “big” message has meant that some of the little truths in God's word has become infinitely more precious, and I have valued them so much. In Luke 2:17-19 we read that “Upon seeing this miraculous sign the shepherds recounted what had just happened.  Everyone who heard the shepherd`s story was astonished by what they were told.  But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant.  (TPT)

It`s easy to be caught up in the excitement of the story but fail to ponder what the Lord is saying.  Taking time to look for the small things, be thankful for the small things to ponder and pray about what the small things mean will ensure that we don’t just move from `wow` to `wow` experiences without really hearing what God is saying.  But by asking the Spirit to slow us down, lower our expectations of `wow` we can actually learn to see and appreciate the small things, because these are often the things that bless us most.




Author: Jan Pearson 

May God bless and enrich your life


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Sunday, 7 June 2020

A Parable for Today

There was a moment in that field with all that was going on; distressed sheep, concerned neighbours, a heart-broken dog owner, and a dying lamb, when I glimpsed a bigger picture. 

Late one evening tragedy struck at the farm.  From my work in the veg patch I heard a disturbance and rushed to the field where the worst thing for a shepherd to see was in motion; a loose dog was worrying the sheep, chasing ewes and lambs back and forth as they fled at top speed.  The whole flock was in panic while the dog owner looked on helplessly. I ran into the fray and, surprisingly, was able to grab and restrain the dog, (in retrospect either a brave or stupid action).  All of this took place in full view of neighbours who came out to see the commotion.

The next thing was to calm the flock and check for damage.  Most animals were fine, albeit traumatised, some a bit lame, but one lamb became the focus of attention.  The dog had caught and savaged it, tearing it open.  Though still alive it was obvious that we would have to put it down.  However, the lamb soon died, not directly of its wounds but of shock. There was a moment in that field with all that was going on; distressed sheep, concerned neighbours, a heart-broken dog owner, and a dying lamb, when I glimpsed a bigger picture. 
A picture that replaced anger with compassion in my heart.

Jesus is called the ‘Lamb of God’. Though completely innocent He was accused, attacked, abused and torn, dying as a sacrifice so we don’t have to.  Though His injuries were terrible it was not the cross that killed Him.  Normally it took days for crucified victims to die but after six hours on the cross Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished’, then gave up His spirit, dying not of His wounds but of a broken heart. 

I often explain to people that sheep are by nature predated animals, and that their apparently harmless pet is still a wolf and a predator awaiting release.  The message is this:  like dogs we humans have a veneer of respectability and goodness but inwardly are selfish sinners.  Given the wrong circumstances we turn on others and fight to get our own way.  It may be subtle but the evil nature is crouching ready to pounce when provoked. Greed, lust, jealousy, envy, anger, conceit, and fear, all features of man without God, cause us to fall short of His standard.

But God provided a rescue plan.  (1John 1:7-9)
the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We need to stop covering up, stop deceiving ourselves, and admit to God what we really are.  In Jesus there is forgiveness if we confess, and deep cleaning of all that offends Him.  Jesus gave His life so His blood could purify us.  Then He rose again and one day we will all meet Him.



Author: John Plumb


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Sunday, 31 May 2020

Finding The Shelter

This hope leads us to prepare our lives in such a way, that we shall be ready for His appearing.

Psalm 91
This Psalm, is the voice of encouragement and speaks to the man of faith. Under God's protection, nothing can harm him, neither man nor beast, wars or diseases, including pandemics. This is not to say our lives will be a bed of roses.
Psalm 91 has been called the "atomic" age psalm. A psalm of perfect protection from every kind of evil, danger and harm, whatever way it may come.

God is a shelter and a refuge when we are afraid. Our faith in the Almighty God as our protector will take us through all kinds dangers and fears of life. This should be a picture of trust giving all our fears to God. To do this we must dwell and rest with Him. This psalm is well known among Christians and I'd like to focus now on the first two verses of it.

(1) He who dwells in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (V1)
 The word abide in Hebrew means " to pass the night." So, this tells us that during the hours of darkness, when we are asleep, as believers we shall be spending the night under the shadow or protection of the Almighty. His angels take charge over us to guard us in our ways

(2) I will say of the LORD "He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust. (V2)
This is the gateway, into the complete protection of the remaining verses of the psalm.
It is our testimony "I will say." We proclaim it in faith, only then do we have the right to live in it. It is the word of our testimony that makes it effective. 

My Own Experience of Hopelessness.
Looking back over the years, I realise, I didn't have that kind of hope and security, in fact it was a life of hopelessness.
As far back as I can remember, I could not focus on what I wanted to achieve in life, because of illness in my primary years. It was impossible to achieve and accomplish the basic requirements to build my life on. This inadequacy eventually broke me, and I was brought to a place of complete brokenness. I needed a miracle.

This didn't happen until I was 32, when I found Jesus in a Salvation Army Hostel. Seven more years of struggle and battle ensued, until one day Jesus came into my life in a much deeper and powerful way. It changed me completely. Now I knew what it was to come under the Shadow of the Almighty, and to have a hope in the God who saves, and promises He will never leave us. At last I had a hope and purpose for my life, under God.
At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, from having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12).    

Ultimate Hope for God's People.
For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly lives in this present age, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus. (Titus 2:11-13)  
In verse 13, it tells us to look for the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
This will impact upon our lives in a wonderful way, (if we allow it to) and our ultimate eternal hope, will be established deep within our spirits. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. Where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Being Ready For His Appearing.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation, to men, instructing us. (v11) 
There are many yet to hear about this grace. That grace is available and provided for all, whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, young or old.
Grace provides a way to be a demonstration to others of this hope we have. This hope leads us to prepare our lives in such a way, that we shall be ready for His appearing. John adds: when He appears, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him just as He is, therefore everyone who has this Hope fixed on Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2-3) 

God's Word is the Living Word and He has the last word. "But whoever listen to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil" (Prov 1:33)
But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. (Prov 4:18)





Author: John Yates 

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Sunday, 24 May 2020

Is it time for some spiritual ‘weeding’?

When we feel that our spiritual reservoir is running dry we should search for living water, we should look for Jesus.

One place I continually see the miracle of creation is on my allotment.  This is such a wonderful, peaceful place where God’s creation is continually played out before me.  Make no mistake the allotment is hard work however it is enjoyable and provides a place of contemplation as I go about preparing, planting, maintaining, watering, weeding and so on in order to produce a harvest.  I often feel God prompting me as I go about these tasks where I’m continually reminded of different biblical scriptures.  

As I write this article we are currently coming toward the end of April in the UK and this is a particularly busy time for preparing and planting at the allotment.  The short message below is something that came to me whilst I was preparing strawberry plants a few weeks ago.

Strawberries are an amazing fruit and loved by most people.  As a plant the strawberry is quite durable.  At the very end of the growing season it will die right back, but not completely.  Over the winter months the plants appear almost dead as visibly there is very little sign of life, most of the previous year’s leaves will die, go brown and dry and fall away.  Then in the Spring when the temperature starts to increase a miracle happens.  New growth starts to appear and over a short period of time with a good mix of sunshine and rain the strawberry plants start to become healthy and vibrant in preparation for the fruiting season. White flowers then start to appear which will eventually become strawberries once pollinated. We then get a wonderful harvest of beautiful ripe strawberries.

The miracle however is not just in the production of the fruit themselves. Prior to and after fruiting the strawberry plants start to think about reproduction and start to push out ‘runners’ which are new shoots that can run for many metres.  Once the runners find suitable ground they will root into the ground and produce a ‘clone’ which is a new strawberry plant.  This is a miracle from God; Genesis 1:11-12 ‘Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds’. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good’.

In order to maximize the harvest of a strawberry plant it is necessary to do some ongoing maintenance. If watering, weeding and general maintenance were neglected then the likely result would either be a poor harvest and/or even a dead plant. This is also true of our own spiritual lives which if neglected can negatively impact on our spiritual growth, our relationship with God and the ability for God to use us to reap a harvest in His Name. 

You do not need to be a horticulturist to know that fruit, vegetables and all other types of plants and vegetation need water in order to survive, it is essential.  In John 4:13-14 in His conversation with the Samaritan women Jesus talks about living water; ‘Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’. Plants may thirst for earthly water however, as Christians we should continually thirst for the living water that Jesus is talking about. This world has an abundance of reservoirs that promise love, self-worth and acceptance etc.  however, these water supplies will never provide full satisfaction. When we feel that our spiritual reservoir is running dry we should search for living water, we should look for Jesus. He is the only way for our thirst to be fully satisfied, with His Spirit—if we let Him.

Weeds can be a particular problem for strawberries (and all other fruit and vegetables).  It never fails to amaze me how fast weeds grow and how healthy they always look.  Weeds compete with the strawberry plants for water, light and the nutrients in the ground therefore the strawberry plants do not get as much of these important elements as they should because the weeds are ‘stealing’ them away.  Weeds are major competition to a healthy strawberry plant which is why they need to be regularly removed.

I am sure that the Parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13 will come to mind to many Christians reading this and the analogy that I have described above demonstrates well what Jesus was trying to say to His disciples.  In the example above we (Christians) are the strawberry plants.  If we allow weeds to grow around us which in our case could be sin, distractions or anything that takes us away from God then we are effectively giving these weeds the right to compete for our soul.  They will be in completion with the nutrients we need for a healthy spiritual life.  If we fail to regularly remove these weeds then we are compromising our ability for a healthy relationship with God because they could so easily take all our nutrients/energy and overpower us.  In a worst-case scenario, we could even die.

To conclude, here is the good news. If you feel that your relationship with God has suffered because you have let the weeds of sin or the distractions of life over-power you then take heart. Just like the strawberry plants that appear to die off during the winter, it is possible for God to bring that plant back to life, to be vibrant and to produce an amazing harvest. Even where there appears to be no life at all God can revive a willing heart.  All you need to do is repent, remove the weeds from your life and drink the never-ending flow of living water. 

Isaiah 61:11 ‘For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations’

Be blessed.




Author: Anonymous


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Sunday, 17 May 2020

Reputation

Good reputation can block true repentance and only in true repentance can true forgiveness flow.

I am writing this on day 48 of lockdown, that is 48 days since we have met together with anyone, gone to church or family and if you think about it, that it is now longer than the time Noah spent in the Ark! No wonder we are all doing things we never really done before.

This week I made a rash decision, I decided to give a positive comment on a facebook site for the new ` Chosen` free you tube presentation.  I have watched it twice and thought it excellent, so I thought I would just add a few personal views to their face book page.  Well you never know what one single action will do.  As you might expect (and I didn’t, as I did not post this on my personal site) there were a few comments back.  Most I ignored but one I felt drawn to replying to.  It personally challenged the character of Jesus.  

There were then a few posts to and fro between us discussing the nature and validity of the Bible etc. I prayed before each one and felt led to reply.  They were reasonably good natured (from the person) and I felt I could stand back and answer unemotionally as I was defending the Lord and the Bible. I did feel the person was slightly goading me from time to time but was completely able to detach from being drawn into attacking the person on a personal basis right up until the last posting when he chose both to attack me personally and be inaccurate in detailing my actions and motives.

Well this was the moment the little green imp of anger and resentment jumped on my shoulder and even though I knew it would be wrong, unhelpful and really against what the Lord would want me to do I really just wanted to tell this person they were WRONG!! And to stop twisting the truth blah, blah, blah, and to defend my actions publicly…...I didn’t. 
Thank you Lord, for reminding me I needed to get showered and ready at that moment.  Off to the shower I went and as so often happens in the quiet and isolation of the shower the Lord quietly questioned why I so wanted to put things right. “Because they were wrong Lord and didn’t represent me truthfully and sought to damage my integrity”.

Then these words came so powerfully to me ''let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.  Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant'' (Philippians 2:5-7 KJV)
Reputation: I was thinking about maintaining my reputation, the comment was personal, it was against my character, my integrity. When the Lord chose to remind me, that for me “Jesus gave up all His divine privileges” (NLT) for my redemption

Our Pastor has been encouraging us to return to the cross the truths of the cross and lay everything down at the cross and go back to the place where we first met Jesus, and connect again with the simplicity of giving everything to Him. And here was I thinking about defending myself over the smallest thing.
    
I then started to think about Jesus and His selflessness.  When you read Jesus prayer in John chapter 17 you realise the agony of His journey, to want so much for His disciples, for those He knew would believe and follow after He had gone.  He wanted so much to know that He had fulfilled His mission, that He had brought Glory to His Father and to experience the awful wrench that He was now leaving these precious followers in a world that would hate them because they would share such an important message. And He also knew what was ahead. 

Isaiah tells us He would be – despised and rejected -  a man of sorrows  - oppressed and treated harshly – His life would be cut short midstream – die without descendants -  buried like a criminal -and what`s more it was His Fathers plan do all this to Him to crush Him and cause Him grief.  He would be left with nothing and even His reputation would be destroyed, so that the Lords plan could be fulfilled. The only blessing was that He would see all He has accomplished by His anguish and be satisfied, because of His experience He would make it possible for many to be counted righteous for He would bear their sins. He will lose His reputation so they can gain salvation.
His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane was very real ''Father if you are willing please take this cup of suffering away from Me, yet I want Your will to be done not Mine'' (Luke 22 v 42 NLT). The suffering was not just pain but the public removal of all credibility and reputation.  He was tried and executed as a criminal.
  
Our pastor was right when he said that we need to come to the cross, to lay down our all at its foot; rediscover our first love there and the simplicity of giving all our sinfulness to Jesus and receive all His purity.  As a new Christian it's hard to do but in many ways it's simple. It’s a simple transaction (although not cheap by any means) we give our old selves we get a new self, His self, a new life.

After many years following the Lord I think it's harder. We've accrued so many 'good things' about ourselves including our reputation that we cherish and hold on to but the best reputation in the world can still get in the way of what Jesus might be wanting to do now and next. Good reputation can block true repentance and only in true repentance can true forgiveness flow.  

Oh Lord today thank You for teaching me such a lot from a simple facebook interaction. My prayer is that this process won't just be for today in the heat of the emotion, but day after day as You seek to bring Your people to a new awareness and obedient walk with You. And thank You that You counted equality with God not something to be grasped but gave up everything for me.


   
Author: Jan Pearson 

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