Saturday 30 December 2023

Start in me

I find that the answer to anything at all is – Holy Spirit please start in me
There’s nothing like a few questions to get you examining yourself and thinking…I meet from time to time with a group of prisoners from a jail not too far from us and it can be a challenging experience. The first thing is the number and scope of questions that are asked, and the second is how penetrating they can be. The more that I participate in these conversations, the more humbled I am. Those asking the questions often want to find out what God is saying to them or to understand what is going on in the world from God’s point of view.

What did Jesus come to do?

Luke 4:17-21Then Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath, he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”

What did Jesus want us to do?

John 14:12-18, I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do—yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father's glory will be shown through the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you. “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you. 

What did Jesus say to the disciples when the crowd was hungry?

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
I realize that this is a somewhat sketchy blog (parts of the story are missing for the sake of brevity) but the truth is that time and time again I find myself in the same place. No matter what my efforts might be without Jesus – without the Holy Spirit - I can do nothing. I can worry myself to death, I can work my fingers to the bone, I can spend all of the energy that I have trying to help others, but unless the Holy Spirit is involved it can be totally fruitless.

If the Holy Spirit is not involved, I end up giving these young men bible studies or pat answers. If He is involved, He gets to the heart of a matter. So, I find that the answer to anything at all is – Holy Spirit please start in me…

What is God’s answer to all of the problems in the world?

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Where is the first place that this prayer needs to take effect? In me. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in me…without His rule in me how can His character be shown to others? Without His will being done in me how can I know how to hear the Holy Spirit prompting? How can I do what Jesus did? How can I be what Jesus wants me to be to others?

Why hasn’t God done anything about the world’s problems?

He has – He has sent His people. Followers of Jesus are sent into the world to reveal God’s character, do His works and share His words. In this way the world will hear, and see and know what the Father is like, and understand and experience what He has done for them. Jesus constantly sought the face of the Father to know His will and therefore know what to do in the situations that He encountered, to glorify Him. Whether Jesus’ answer to people was “Yes” or “No” or “Not Yet” it always brought glory to the Father because that was His purpose. Without that yielding to the Holy Spirit and a focus and intention to glorify the Father come what may, our own efforts can become vague and purposeless and, in the end, although well-meaning and maybe very time-consuming, fruitless.

A prayer for the new year?

These few imperfectly formed thoughts take me to a prayer for the New Year. It goes something like: “Holy Spirit please start in me. Lord, I know that means trying to find ways of spending more time in Your presence so that you can work on me and so that I can learn to hear You better and You can fill me more. Help me to be hungry for that time with You, so that people can see You in me, and I may do those things that You have already prepared for me to do and above all bring glory to Your name. Help me Lord because although this is what I want, I am inconsistent and weak in my determination to set the time aside to seek Your face”.

Here is a song link by Keith Green and an extract from the lyrics which are about the Lord “starting in me”:

Oh, Lord, You're beautiful, Your face is all I seek, for when Your eyes are on this child, Your grace abounds to me
I wanna to take Your word and shine it all around, but first help me to just to live it, Lord
And when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown for my reward is giving glory to You
Oh, Lord, please light the fire, that once burnt bright and clear- replace the lamp of my first love, that burns with holy fear

A seasonal offering with the same conclusion by Matt Maher can be found at:

May the Lord bless us as we “start with Him” in 2024.

Author: Chris Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 23 December 2023

The Gift of Christmas

May this Christmas be a time when we remember the greatest gift of all. A gift that never disappoints and one that constantly fills our hearts with joy and thanksgiving
As I have been thinking and mulling over what to write for this Christmas blog and unable to generate any (or limited) original thought my mind turned to the Gift of Christmas. Whether your reaction to the season is dread, delight or indifference I think it does us all good to remember and recall the greatest gift, given to mankind by the Triune God of the bible. 

Certainly, disputes exist regarding the time of year of Jesus’ birth (the ‘when’ of His birth), however, the fact remains that He was born. This miraculous event, so significant, that it divides our history into two major epochs B.C. (Before Christ) or A.D. (Anno Domini ‘in the year of our Lord’, i.e. Christ) establishes, that at the centre of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. Even the more, dare I say, politically correct change to BCE (Before the Common (current) Era) and CE (Common (current) Era) and its supposed religious neutrality, what is it that makes, or explains the dividing line date? I leave that up to you to answer!

Many of us on Christmas morning are the recipients of a gift or two from loved ones. Over the years I am sure I am correct in saying some gifts have been enthusiastically and appreciatively received others perhaps less so. Some very desirous, practical and beneficial, others although aesthetically pleasing, their functionality and possible usefulness may be questioned. You all know the plethora of emotions you have felt over the years on receipt of gifts. Nonetheless the tradition of gift giving rests ultimately on the greatest and highest gift, which first came from God – His son. Therefore, let’s set aside the commercialised holiday of Christmas, that Western culture has deluged upon people, and turn attention to the supreme gift God has given the world.

The accounts of the birth stories in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, are very well known and the glorious theology of John’s prologue in his gospel is sheer beauty and are such wonderous gifts to us all. In addition, Paul in his letter to the Galations, succinctly records the good news of our greatest Christmas gift. In a short paragraph Paul sums up the theology, and beyond, of Christmas. It does us good to remember and remind ourselves exactly what that gift is.

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’ (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)
Everything about God’s gift was (and is) perfect. ‘But when the fullness of time had come’…God sent His son at the right moment in human history when everything that had been ordained by God was in place. Scholars have debated the meaning of ‘fullness of time’ extensively and in detail. Some of the arguments highlight the anticipation, which was prevalent thinking amongst Jews at that time, of when Messiah would come. Roman oppression had made them hungry for His coming – if only to save them from such tyranny. Many knew the prophetic passages that their Scriptures spoke of in their ‘book’. They knew that centuries before, the prophets such as Moses, David, Isaiah had foretold of His coming. Expectancy was high, even if mingled with doubt and discouragement by some of this ever happening. Might these also be similar thoughts of believers today regarding His second coming?

On a practical note, Roman rule had undertaken extensive road building aiding travel and of course the spread of the Greek language, spoken throughout the Empire, facilitated trade but more importantly made it possible to communicate the future good news of the gospel.

God ‘sent His son’; Paul clearly recognised the pre-existence of the Son. ‘Born of a woman…’ which acknowledges not only Jesus’ divinity but also his true humanity.  Our Saviour was (and is) truly God and truly Man. ‘Born under the law to redeem those who were under the law’; our redemption required not only that Christ died for our sins, but that He lived a perfect, righteous life – to keep the law on our behalf something we cannot do because of the  inheritance of the Adamic sin nature. But Jesus Christ made the way and His birth initiated God’s plan to save sinners.

‘For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’  (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV)

Surely this is gift enough. But no, Paul also states we are ‘adopted as sons’ – sons and daughters of The King. With sonship comes the right of inheritance. Ellicott’s (1971) bible commentary describes this as follows: ‘The admission of the believer into the Messianic Kingdom, with its immunities from sin and from law, implies an admission into the Messianic family, of which God is the Father and Christ the eldest Son – “first born among many brethren”. What an inheritance. 

It doesn’t stop here though! Not only are we ‘redeemed’, ‘adopted’ but also ‘indwelt’ with the gift of the ‘Spirit of God into our hearts’ for which we have the assurance of the rich reality that God has made for his children. We can open our hearts and cry out to Him as our Father and know we are received with great tenderness and delight. We are no longer a slave to fear, anxiety and concern that sin entraps us in but with the assurance of everlasting life through our Saviour Jesus Christ. 

What a gift! May this Christmas be a time when we remember the greatest gift of all. A gift that never disappoints and one that constantly fills our hearts with joy and thanksgiving.

Warmest greetings to everyone who reads this short message. May you all have a Christmas time that is peaceful, joyful and blessed as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given.

Author: Irene Cherrill

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Saturday 16 December 2023

My Shepherd

His heart never stops beating with love for His church and He is always ready and willing to carry our burdens
I have been reflecting more and more lately on a fundamental truth which, I’ll be honest, so often escapes me, and I suspect, many of us, because it has become so embedded in our thoughts that we ignore it.

That truth is: who Jesus is and what he does in our lives, day in and day out.

It is a truth that was included in scripture nearly 3000 years ago when the prophet Micah wrote: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. (Micah 5:2-5 (ESV))

Our understanding of this has to start with our acceptance that we are no longer our own but, like sheep we need a shepherd. In considering Jesus’ place in our lives, we should be continually asking ourselves; Does He have absolute supremacy, that of a King and a Shepherd? 

By supremacy, I mean that supremacy which the wise and tender shepherd exercises over his needy and loving flock; He commands and should receive our obedience, but it should be loving obedience, given freely and joyfully, when if we are honest about ourselves we know we often obey grudgingly after a lot of delay  (Isn’t “I’ll pray about that” often our response and a means of delaying action?).

Do we recognise that Jesus’ reign is wholly practical?

Another translation of “shepherd” is “feed”. Jesus, as head of His church, actively provides for our needs. He is not a ruler who sits on His throne in state, He is totally ‘hands on’. He does everything we would expect of a shepherd; He feeds us, He guides us, He watches over us, He preserves us, He restores us, and He cares for us.

Do we appreciate that His reign is on-going?
The scripture says; “And he shall stand and shepherd” not “He shall shepherd now and then and then leave” not “He shall give us a revelation of Himself one day and abandon us the next”. Scripture tells us that His eyes never sleep, and His hands never rest. His heart never stops beating with love for His church and He is always ready and willing to carry our burdens.

Finally, have we accepted that Jesus does not reign alone?

He reigns “in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” Wherever Jesus is, God is there also. Whatever Jesus does is an act of Almighty God. The one who stands in intercession for us and lives within us, through the Holy Spirit, is “God of very God”, and one day every knee will bow before Him. When we give all these things their due place in our thoughts we shall “dwell secure” and “He shall be our peace”.

We should be overjoyed that we belong to a shepherd/king whose humanity connects with us and whose divinity protects and provides for us. We are left with no alternative but to bow down before Him and worship as the ‘sheep of His pasture.’

During lockdown, as a fellowship, encouraged by Pastor Kevin, we focused on the 23rd Psalm;
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This beautiful Psalm says it all, really, but I have to confess, despite having said it and reflected on it almost daily during lockdown I can’t recall the last time I looked at it since then. How fickle my mind is. If you are like me, I pray you will be encouraged by the Micah passage and by the Psalm and that you will have a blessed week.

(My gratitude goes again, to Charles Spurgeon for his daily reflection on the verse from Micah which I read in August and has been lying dormant since then)

Author: Alan Cameron

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Saturday 9 December 2023

In Heavenly Armour

It is not our job to find solutions, it's our job to pray and let the Lord do the Heavy Lifting
Recently my mother-in-Law introduced us to the joys of the Antiques Road Trip programme on the TV whilst having a few meals at our house, and we really enjoyed it. We were thinking of something we could share with her that she would enjoy and remembered a film we had seen a good while ago and decided to show it to her. The film is a Christian film called The War Room, and it is well worth a watch. It is set in America and tells the story of a Christian family whose lives are falling apart, and a wife who meets an older Godly praying lady who is selling her house. A relationship builds between the ladies when the older woman introduces the younger to her favourite room in the house, a small closet room. The younger is astounded as the walls of the small room are covered with papers containing prayers and answers to prayer. What is this she asks? This is my war room, it’s in here I pray and see God answer is her reply. The rest of the film is about the younger woman establishing her own war room and the way the Lord moves in her marriage and life. A lovely film but it spoke to me again so much this week. I`d like to share some of the things the Lord spoke to me about through the film. 

Firstly, make a time and a place to pray Matthew 6:6 says “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (NLT). Now this might seem like an easy thing to do, but it takes time and determination to pray. You need to make time to be by yourself (not always the easiest thing to do in a busy house or a busy life) but however you do it, a small room or space in the house, a daily walk, or whatever works for you, clear time and space to pray; just you and the Lord. Shut the door behind you. If you’re in a room then use the physical door, close yourself in with the Lord or if not then shut the door to distractions (honestly the hardest thing I find, especially in this age of mobile phones they never cease with their enticement to just check something or text someone) or if finding space in the house is hard, go for a walk. Walk and talk with the Lord its good for the body and the soul!  And your Father who sees everything will reward you. It takes time and practice but God is waiting for you to make the time and space and He will be there, waiting to meet you.

Secondly use the word of God as your strategy for prayer. Ask the Lord to give you promises and revelations from His word to pray over the people/ situations you are praying for. No General ever went into battle without a strategy, he would be called reckless and negligent to send his men into battle without a battle plan. God has given the battle plan through His word. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit how to use it. “Lord please reveal to me today from your word how to pray and what to pray over these needs”.

Next takes notes of the meeting. When business meetings take place there is always someone taking the minutes (notes) of the meeting or people might forget the key points. I never used to make any notes of my prayer times with the Lord. But now I write down what I’ve asked for and what He has revealed to me through His word for my own growth and for prayer over situations. This not only reminds us of what we have prayed for but encourages us when we see the prayers answered. This encourages us to pray and be specific in our prayers.

So now we are ready to pray! But it’s how to pray that is the question.
In the film the younger woman was asked to write down all the things about her husband and her marriage that was the problem. She filled 3 pages, but the older woman just ignored the list. When asked why she replied the list was the wrong list. It was full of bitterness towards her husband, and complaining about her unhappiness. The older woman explained that you can’t pray clearly out of bitterness. So, the first prayer was to repent of the bitterness, forgive her husband, and to ask the Lord to replace it with love. Ephesians gives really good guidance on this matter Ephesians 4:26 “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry (hurt). For anger (hurt) gives a foothold to the Devil. And Verse 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT) This really spoke to me, bitterness can spring up over the most unexpected things, and if not dealt with can grow into a massive root and tree that blocks out all the sun of the Lord’s love. It can leave you feeling cold and hard and well just plain bitter! And you really can`t pray effectively out of bitterness. So, first step is to recognise and own the bitterness (honest it’s no good pretending with God) and repent. Ask the Lord to replace it with His love. It’s such a relief when he does, and then you can be in a better place to do battle for the person/situation.

The older woman then explained that the list was also wrong, as it sought to attack the person themselves. To list all their faults and behaviours and the results of the behaviours which was destroying her marriage and family life. She explained that to achieve victory and change we need to address the battle to the real source of the problem. Ephesians 6:12 says “For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (NLT).

Now if we have been a Christian for a number of years we know this truth in our heads, but when we get overtaken with fear and emotion, we forget it. We start seeing the people/situation as the real enemy, and start to tell the Lord that He needs to put them right and how to do that. But I was so reminded that the battle is against the unseen world and the chaos that is being directed from there to disrupt our lives and rob us of our peace. So it is against these forces that we need to pray. We put on the armour of God to protect us, found in Ephesians 6:10-11 (“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God`s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all STRATEGIES of the devil.”) (NLT) Ephesians 6:13-17 list all of these. And Ephesians 6:18 directs us to “Pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (NLT).

Then the older woman gave the younger woman one other priceless bit of advice.  Go away and pray for your husband and family in this way, be repentant, forgive your husband and  pray the word the Lord gives you over the situation, direct your prayers against the powers and authorities of the unseen world, and pray in the Spirit. She reminded her that it was not her job to sort out the problems, but to use Gods prayer (war) strategy to defeat the devils (war) strategy, and then thank the Lord in anticipation. Because it is not our job to find solutions, its our job to pray and let the Lord do the Heavy Lifting!!!

The film has been a great inspiration and tutorial for me this week.  And as for the end of the story well………..You will have to watch the film to find out. 

Author: Jan Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 2 December 2023

Ask for the ancient paths

The ‘olam’ (ancient) paths lead to ‘olam’ (everlasting) life. So let us fix our eyes on Jesus and walk in these ancient paths
I do like to mull over a few thoughts for the blog for a week or two to try and get some sort sense of order. However my submission date has jumped out as a bandit on a simple soul. Remembering back to my short teaching career, I would try to prepare a short spiel about a topic but just stringing together a couple of sentences would seem to take the evening. 

Anyway, last night as we were meeting together as MCF church, someone spoke a short exhortation which featured these words: ‘..Ask for the ancient paths..’  Some readers may recognise these words as from the prophet Jeremiah. We read in Jeremiah (6:16): “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

What are these ancient paths, this good way? Is there a clue in the final clause, ‘and find rest for your souls’? Matthew’s gospel (11:28-29) records Jesus saying these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This open-handed invitation is made to all; saint and sinner, simple and sophisticated. Is this invitation the answer to our question? Could it be that the ancient paths lead us to Jesus?
Perhaps we can learn a little more about the word translated ‘ancient’. In the Strong’s dictionary the Hebrew word is transliterated as ‘olam’ and has various meanings: Concealed, eternity, frequentatively, always. Most of the English bible translations use ‘ancient’ or occasionally ‘old’, but in a german translation that I sometimes read, it uses ‘Vorzeit- literally ‘before time’. Before time, takes us back to the biblical beginning, maybe the words at the opening of John’s gospel are appropriate: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

Yes, Jesus the Word, as part of the God-head, created those ancient paths. According to Proverbs chapter 3, they are paths of peace, those who find them and walk in them will grow in wisdom and God’s favour. But Jesus also demonstrated how to walk in these ancient paths, even the ultimate path to the cross. The paths are not easy, as Jesus cried out in agonising prayer in the garden of Gethsemane: ‘not my will but yours be done’. However, the ‘olam’ (ancient) paths lead to ‘olam’ (everlasting) life. So let us fix our eyes on Jesus and walk in these ancient paths.

Author: Richard Windridge

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