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Are you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and over-scheduled? I'd really encourage you to take some time out to work through this series of talks by Bill Hybels - very challenging and I believe timely for a world that is ever speeding up. Good to listen to, whether you are a person of faith or not.
Hope they bless you.
Following the headline news of this week that Donald J. Trump has won the presidential election and now awaits his inauguration into office on January 20th 2017, how have you responded? We join millions across the world watching on, waiting and wondering. Some with a sense of anticipation. Many with outrage and deep concern. The recent demonstrations across America and the burning of an effigy of Trump in Los Angeles only goes to show how sharply he divides opinion. In many ways it is a good thing that this news stirs up passion and conjures emotions in all of us. This shows that we believe politics matters. Leadership matters. Our world matters. The prevalence of social media today means that it has never been easier to express instant opinions for many to see. My concern however is this: are we quicker to express opinion at a world-changing event than we are to turn to the Sovereign Lord of all things in prayer? If we are Christians, we are called to be different to the world around us. So here is a question for us all to reflect on today: does our trust in a risen and ruling King impact how we will react to this week’s news?
The Bible helps us by reminding us firstly that Jesus Christ reigns. Have a read of Psalm 2 in which God declares that there is only one King who rules supreme. His name is Jesus. Earthy rulers, however powerful, have no ultimate authority. Secondly, we are given advice about the responsibility we have to pray for our rulers. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy: ‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Can I encourage us to follow this example and ensure that we as a church hold on to the hope of the gospel and avoid getting dragged into the hopeless despair of the world. God knows what he is doing and so we continue to pray that his kingdom would come and his will be done. This starts with our own hearts.
Having just returned from the FIEC leaders conference, an hour window remains open to reflect on the last 3 days before the school run kicks in and normality is resumed. As well as a cold apartment 2 things stand out from our time on the East Coast. Firstly the wonder of the gospel and its power to change lives. Secondly the desperate need for that gospel in the UK. Latest figures suggest that there are roughly 68 million people in the UK who have not yet trusted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. When you hear a stat like that how does it make you feel? How does it provoke you to act? Does it provoke you to act?
In Luke 19 v41 we witness the stunning sorrow of Jesus as our sovereign Saviour weeps over the city of Jerusalem.
Luke 19 v41: As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city he wept over it…
This moment maybe more than any other in scripture captures the heart of Christ for those who reject him. It echoes the heart of his Father in Genesis 6 who looks out on the whole of creation and is grieved to the very core of his being.
God’s heart breaks for those who choose death and not life. Does ours?
However as we reflect on the state of our nation and turn to pray for it, we must first recognise that before we weep with Jesus he wept for us. We were once of that number, alienated from God and enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviour. Marvel first at the reality of your own inclusion and let that joy spill over into seeing others know that same joy.
Pray that the Lord would give us a vision not just for our own community but for our nation.
Preaching on Acts 4:32-5:11 last week, one of the phrases I encouraged us to think about as a church was having 'open hearts, open homes'. It is an expression that I believe captures much of what the Biblical command to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31) is all about.
As we continue thinking this through, I hope the following article will be useful:
September is a busy month: schools start back, businesses pick up pace following the summer break and Strictly Come Dancing is around the corner! The temptation with busy months is to jump on the treadmill like everyone around us and start running faster ourselves to keep up. However, wisdom would suggest otherwise.
Jeremiah 6:16 is a wonderful verse for us to all reflect on together. The context is one of desperation. Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonian superpower, God's people are in despair and the prophet Jeremiah is no doubt feeling overwhelmed. Adrenalin would have been surging. How would you have responded if you were Jeremiah? Most of us would either give up or choose to jump into action to fix the mess. This may seem wise but as the treadmill speeds up, it won't be long before you or I get thrown off and collapse to the ground in a painful mess. Yet what does God call his people to do?
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
When life is overwhelming, we all need to stand still, look to our great God who is in total control and ask him for wisdom. What does HE wants us to do? How does HE call us to respond? What is HE teaching us? What truths is HE seeking to speak into our lives? Being still before God and asking for his spirit to still our hearts and guide our thinking and actions is not an easy discipline, but it is an essential one.
Let us commit as a church family to standing still, looking to God and asking him to lead and direct us. For as the verse ends, the promise for those who find God's good way and walk is that we will find rest.
CC image http://www.cnskaty.com/
Our first sermon series of 2016 has focused on some of the ‘one another’ commands from the Bible: we started with our verse for the year which is to ‘be devoted to one another in love and honour one another above yourselves’ (Romans 12:10) and then looked at what it means to ‘forgive one another’, ‘teach and admonish one another’, ‘be humble towards one another’ and ‘encourage and build one another up.’ What all these have in common is a willingness to consider others before ourselves.
When we see these values being lived out in others, there is something very beautiful about it. I recently attended a funeral of a retired professor who was very successful in his field of food science and yet his lasting legacy will not be what he achieved by way of scientific discoveries (which will be incomprehensible to most people!) but the kindness and humility he showed to the people he met.
These are attractive values and yet, if we are honest, we often find it hard to put them into practice because we are so turned in on ourselves that we put our own pleasure before that of others. As Christians, we are aware of this natural tendency of ours and for this reason ask God for his forgiveness. We also acknowledge our struggle to change which is why we ask the Holy Spirit for the strength he provides to help us become more like Jesus who was the only one to live out these values perfectly.
We also appreciate that God has given us one another to help us. At a recent all-age service at LCBC we looked at how the root of the word translated ‘encourage’ in our Bibles is ‘para’ which means alongside. Jesus came alongside people while he was here on earth and then sent the Holy Spirit, the ‘encourager’, to come alongside us. I would like to recommend a book I read recently called Side by Side – walking with others in wisdom and love by Ed Welch, which emphasises the fact that we are all both needy and needed people who are here to encourage one another in the strength that God provides. In short, it is about true friendship.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in a local garden centre and beginning to think about writing some talks for our December Carol Services. It’s the first of December, I’ve just flicked through a depressing edition of the Times newspaper, with a creamy flat white, whilst being serenaded by Christmas Carols playing in the background. The CD is clearly set on repeat and is now probably on its fourth play through. Anyway, enough of my situation, how are you? 18 days until Christmas. 18 days to get that shopping done and find the right gift for the right person. When it comes to the Christmas dash, perhaps you love it, perhaps you dread it, perhaps you haven’t even thought about it and if so I’m sorry for bringing up the subject! Most of us like to give gifts, especially when they hit the mark and bring joy to someone.
But as I reflect on this annual shopping tradition, I like to spend a moment to think about the purpose behind giving and receiving gifts. The Bible reminds us that ‘every good and perfect gift comes from above’ (James 1:17) and in another place ‘God gives us all good things richly to enjoy’ (1 Timothy 6:17). If you can believe this, perhaps you may ask a follow up question: why?
The purpose of giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is to point to Jesus, the greatest gift ever given, and the Giver, God himself. As the Apostle John writes: ‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him’ (1 John 4:9). If you want to find out more about this wonderful gift, we’d love to meet you at one of our events over Christmas. You'd be very welcome. Right. Time to get back to the talk writing...but maybe another coffee and mince pie first!
Can I wish you a VERY happy and peaceful Christmas,
(Assistant Pastor at LCBC)
In September, politicians will be debating assisted dying.
This and other issues are part of a myriad of ethical issues that the church needs to be more engaged with if we are to see lives changed for His glory. Perhaps you are not sure what the Bible says about these issues or what a faithful Christian response should be.
Dr Peter Saunders is Chief Executive of Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) and offers us a Biblical perspective in this thought-provoking article.
Let's commit as a church to praying for this issue ahead of September.
Can I encourage you to consider forming a prayer triplet? It is a great way to deepen friendships, commit to being held accountable and it’ll help you to pray!
I used to meet with two of my best friends. We ate together, laughed together and then used these 5 Ws to guide our discussion and prayers for one another:
Each of these Ws could be adapted and we never followed them as a hard and fast rule. But they did give us some helpful direction. Without this prayer triplet, I would never have been asked hard questions and much hidden sin would have continued unchecked. I would have also struggled through some tough times feeling every alone.
Why not plan to form a prayer triplet soon? Do it for yourself and do it to help serve your brothers and sisters. As Proverbs 27:17 reminds us: 'As iron sharpens iron, so one man’s word sharpens another'.
A few practical questions to consider:
1. How often shall we meet? Try to be realistic about what is manageable and sustainable. I would suggest a minimum of once a month as any less and it is very hard to maintain momentum.
2. Where shall we meet? Make it simple. It can be helpful to meet over food but try to find an environment where you will be comfortable praying out loud.
3. How long shall we meet for? Again, just find a space that is realistic and will not put you under pressure but, equally, where you can give each other quality time that is unhurried.
4. Who shall I meet with? Chemistry is key. It is essential you meet with friends you really trust, and that you are all equally committed to making it work.
I don't want to go to church! Church is boring. I'm the only boy. I want to play football. I don't like my SClub teacher. They pray too long. I want to go to a party. All excuses we’ve all heard in some shape or form and probably used ourselves.
I believe that too often these days godly parents succumb to the nagging and relent by giving in to the pressure from their children. I've heard it said that in the past we had strict parents and obedient children, well that seems to be turned on its head and we now have strict children and obedient parents. It appears that all over the world well-meaning parents are letting their children 'bunk' church and youth meetings.
Each family is different and has different priorities and different ways of dealing with the world around them and the pressures it brings. But I can't think of any Christian parent that doesn't want their children to share in their faith. So keeping in mind that each family is different, here are my penny's worth of observations on the subject:
'My parents forced me to go to church so I don't want to put my children through the same experience.'
I sympathise with this argument at one level. But you're still at church - even though you were forced. None of the above excuses would stop us from sending our kids to school. I think that there are more children and adults that don't go to church because they weren't encouraged than that don't go because they were forced. We will empty our churches more by not encouraging church attendance than by encouraging it.
'Church' kids are important to youth and children's ministry functioning in a healthy way.
This is a tough one, especially if you have younger children. Your children are ministers to the rest of the group: each other and the unchurched. Many Christian groups around the world are struggling to survive and need the support of Christian families in order to have a successful gospel ministry. Children come to groups for many different reasons but one of the main reasons is because of who is there. Most children come to these groups because they were invited. Our children need to be doing the inviting. Families (parents and children/teens) can work together at sharing the gospel, just by coming to the groups regularly and by inviting friends. Mums and Dads can help out at these groups (or other groups running at the same time) to make it a family ministry.
'Get out of Church Free' cards.
I hate Monopoly. Each person has their own set of rules, never mind each family. Stick to the rules in the box is what I say! But the 'get out of jail free' card is perhaps a helpful tool when trying to encourage our kids to attend church. This is how it works: you explain why church is important, you then give them a few cards (depending on their age, etc...) Each card can be 'played' by the child whenever they like and can miss church or youth that day. I would suggest that they need to play the card at least the day before. You may need some rules, like you can't play a card when you're involved in something or on special days.
This will hopefully show that church is important but that you aren't legalistic about it.
Model the value of church
If our children see that we value church and that we don't like missing it, the chances are - so will they. Attend regularly and get involved. Pray for the church. Don't talk negatively about church, even if the kids' talk was that bad and the band massacred your favourite hymn. Get involved and only miss church when you can’t avoid it. Go to church when you’re on holiday.
Set Sundays apart
Start a family tradition: Dad cooks to give Mum a rest, no homework, Mario Kart Wii Championships, board games, invite other families over for tea or lunch (let the children choose who to invite), etc...
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