Monday Reflections

We will be posting a new reflection each Monday, written by different people in church, to encourage and inspire you.

10-Aug-20: Let heaven fill your thoughts Elaine Young

A few weeks ago, I was reading Colossians and chapter 3:2 jumped out at me.
The NIV says “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”
The Living Bible puts it like this, “Let Heaven fill your thoughts.”

I stopped to wonder about this. That sounds so other worldly, like the kind of thing you would expect from a monk, or a hermit. But we are called to do this as believers.

How can we mere mortals let heaven fill our thoughts? We have so many pressing things to deal with, how can Heaven fill our thoughts? It’s not just thinking about the sweet by and by with us sitting on fluffy clouds and playing harps. (where did that image come from anyway?) I remember someone being described as being “so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good!” But we are called to think differently.
Let Heaven fill your thoughts…

We have never been there so how do we know about heaven?

We know that Jesus is there. We can’t begin to imagine the beauties of heaven except we know this important fact. Jesus is there and He is coming to take us there! Before He went to heaven, He promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and that He would come back and fetch them. When I think of the magnitude of this it brings me to tears.

Jesus spoke a great deal about the Kingdom of Heaven. In some gospels it is called the Kingdom of God, but it is the same thing.

In Matthew 13:44 Jesus spoke about a man discovering a treasure hidden in a field. He went away joyfully and sold everything he had to buy that field. When we really dig into the Word we certainly find the treasure of heaven.
Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.

So, we meditate on the Word and we live joyfully, the way He wants us to live, by setting our minds on the things above not on earthly things. Jesus said seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of the haphazard daily problems we face, what we shall eat, what we should wear, the money in the bank, will be swallowed up in the glory of knowing Him and knowing He will provide. It isn’t about worldly goods. The one who will enter the kingdom of heaven is the one who does the will of the Father in heaven.
And that is summed up by Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

It’s about the inheritance, which is imperishable, kept in heaven for you. We can say with the psalmist:

“Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you.”
Psalm 73: 25-26

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3-Aug-20: Why do I still feel guilty… even though I know I’ve repented? Susan Hunter

If you’re like me you may have at some time or other found yourself asking that question.
We’ve done that thing, that we now strongly regret. So, we earnestly come to God and we confess our sin and repent. We expect to feel better … ‘washed’, forgiven. And mostly, perhaps … we do.
But then there are those times when we still feel the full weight of the guilt. Why do we not feel forgiven. Even despite our knowledge of scriptures such as Ephesians 1:7-8 (MSG):

“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!”

One reason could be that we’ve missed a step. The part where we need to receive God’s forgiveness.

In his book ‘Spiritual Depression, its Causes and Cure‘, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests that this is a main reasons Christians can carry guilt and feel so unhappy. He suggests that, though we may well believe Jesus died and paid the price for all sin. Yet. That thing that I did. It’s so big. He couldn’t possibly forgive that. So, we are unable to receive the forgiveness He freely gives.

Have you ever found yourself thinking like that? Then bringing that same thing to God to ask Him to forgive you again, then again. When, the truth is of course, He forgave us the first time.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, “we must never look at any [forgiven] sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus.
Those verses in Ephesians again, that assure us beyond doubt:

“Because of … his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
Ephesians 1:7-8 (MSG)

John Wesley wrote ‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin.’ How can cancelled sin still hold power anyway, we could ask. Perhaps simply by not receiving the forgiveness God holds out to us, we give power to something powerless.

Instead – the key, it seems, lies in simply holding out our hands and saying to our loving, Heavenly Father, “I receive Your forgiveness.” Then taking Him at His Word and walking in it.
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27-Jul-20: The High Places Rob King

The second book of Kings is heavy going in places. The halcyon days of King David are long gone, and Judah and Israel have split apart. Would-be leaders murder, conspire and seize power, other Gods are embraced and gradually the Jewish people begin to resemble the very nations they have driven out. As kings come and go, their reigns are dismissed in a single short sentence:

“He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”
2 Kings 15:9

A handful of kings get brief nods of approval, but always with a note of regret. They “did what was right” but the high places “were not removed.” (2 Kings 15:3-4)
And then, out of the blue, comes King Hezekiah:

“He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles… He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him.”
2 Kings 18:4-6

As victorious as Hezekiah’s life is, he also endures great suffering. Jerusalem is besieged by the mighty Assyrian army and its inhabitants starved until only a remnant remain alive. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king sends Hezekiah a taunting letter, ridiculing his faith in a God that cannot possibly save him. Hezekiah responds by taking the letter into the temple, spreading it out before the LORD and praying one of the most powerful prayers ever uttered.
Instead of pleading for his life or the lives of his people, he says:

“open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.”
2 Kings 19:16

Hezekiah, we are told, was unique:

“There was no-one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after him.”
2 Kings 18:6

And yet, just a few chapters later, King Josiah gets described in just the same way:

“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength.”
2 Kings 23:25

In other words, getting rid of the high places and abandoning themselves to God didn’t turn these two men into clones; rather, it made them unique and distinctive.

So, what are the high places and what do they signify to us today? For me, it is about those entanglements with a Godless culture; the things that I persuade myself can co-exist with my walk with God; the things that I think give me identity, but in fact, do just the opposite.

This is the theme of the late Leanne Payne’s spiritual classic, ‘The Healing Presence‘. The book’s focal point is three verses in Ephesians:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

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20-Jul-20: God’s Protection Emma Claridge

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sandstorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God of Angel Armies protects us.”
Psalm 46:1 (The Message)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about standing strong and firm during the turbulence of life. I don’t know about you, but it just feels like you’ve just got life sorted and then one or several things in a row happen that literally pull the rug out from under your feet. During these times, I hardly feel like I’m “standing fearless at the cliff-edge of doom”!

I love this version of Psalm 46 verse 1 as I think it really gets across the turbulence and potentially destructive side of life; how we can not only stand firm and strong in God’s strength, but be fearless and courageous as the windstorms of life rush at us.

God is depicted as strong, capable, reassuring and willing to fight and defend on our behalf. He is a strong protector and has our best interests at heart and more than capable of fighting our battles for us, if we let him, that is!

One of my favourite albums (my Covid album if you like!) is Matt Redman’s ‘Glory Song’ album.

If you haven’t heard it before, I’d encourage you to listen to it as it contains some of the most heart-felt lyrics I have heard in contemporary Christian music. His voice, to me, really has a depth and reality to it which makes you realise he has been through these difficult issues himself.

I came across the album during lockdown and have listened to it almost constantly since, often finding at times that many of the songs spoke to me so clearly and powerfully lifted me out of some of my lowest times. I have many favourite songs on the album, but one of them really speaks to me and links in with the Psalm. It talks about that even though you may have questions, battles and disbelief, God holds us tight in our wrestling.

Questions (You Are Faithful) – Matt Redman:
In all of our questions, all of our searching
When we are wrestling, You don’t let go

In all of our fears and doubts, all our anxious thoughts
When we are restless, still we are held
Lord I believe, but help my unbelief

The questions come, but You remain
The battles roar, but still You reign
And I believe one thing will never change
You are faithful, You are faithful

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13-Jul-20: The Lord’s ‘Blessing Smile’ Elaine Utting

Part of my daily reading last week was a commentary on Psalm 80, particularly verse 19.

In the NIV, this reads:
‘…make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.’

The Message puts it this way:
‘…smile your blessing smile: that will be our salvation.’

The commentary mentions Father Raniero Cantalamessa being famous for how his face shines like a light, especially when he smiles, and quotes Mother Teresa, who said: ‘The smile is the beginning of love’.

I started to think about how important smiling is in sharing love and hope as we go about our everyday lives.

Then I realized with a shock that not only has Coronavirus closed our churches, it is also requiring us to cover our smiles when we meet people!

But as we are finding new ways to be church, and attracting more people to our videoed church than would have come to our building, so also I discovered God has the mask thing sorted too.

I didn’t realize that there is a specific quality to a sincere, genuinely happy smile that we all recognize, whether we are aware of it or not.

The lips can smile to convey many things – politeness, cynicism, smugness. I know when I’ve been on the receiving end of one of these smiles.

But when we are smiling to express affirmation, joy and love, we smile with our eyes too! The muscles around our eyes contract, and we get ‘crow’s feet’ at the corners of our eyes. I’ve even heard these wrinkles described as ‘smile lines’.

So though wearing our masks might hide our lips, they don’t hide our eyes, and it’s in our eyes that people recognize a genuine smile.

Makes me want to open my heart to the Lord’s ‘blessing smile’ so my eyes will reflect the love I’ve received from him.
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6-Jul-20: The Value Of Questioning Rob King

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
John 14:5

I love Thomas. I love his courage (John 11:16) and for his willingness to ask challenging questions. Asking questions can make you vulnerable. You run the risk being perceived as a troublemaker or, worse still, a fool. Yet God always has time for them. The psalms especially are full of very difficult and deeply profound questions.

“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
Psalm 10:1

Good teachers also love questions.
They are a sign that people are engaged and listening.
Questions infuse energy and get people thinking.

A while ago I read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. Although it posed some very difficult and hostile questions, I found that ultimately it sharpened my faith rather than undermined it.

For me, the hardest thing to deal with is apathy and indifference – the person who smiles benignly and says, “How very nice for you.”
But when someone hits back with all kinds of difficulties and objections, I know they have been touched.

Sincere, heartfelt questions release the truth rather than undermine it.
Thomas’s question lead to Jesus making arguably His most important ever statement about Himself:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

Over the years I’ve asked God loads of questions – and it’s always the ones He answers that cause me the most consternation.
Once I was reading the passage in James that says, “get rid of all moral filth and evil in your lives…” (James 1:21)

“And how do you do that?” I responded tersely.

I was living in a house set way back from the road. The refuse collectors wouldn’t come to my house, so I had to wheel my bin out to them via a long pathway. I was pushing it one morning when He said,

“Just like that.”
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29-Jun-20: My Soul Finds Rest In God Emma Claridge

I was going through a difficult spell recently and on a particularly low day, came across the following verse on my Bible app which really spoke to me:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
Psalm 42:11

On the app, it also gave a one minute video reflection on this verse which on this occasion was done by Lisa Bevere (a Christian author/speaker), which was so simple, yet powerful and lifted me immensely and so I wanted to share it with you, to encourage you if you are also going through a difficult day or week.

She reminded me that I need to SPEAK to my soul (like David did in this psalm) and command authority over it, to ANCHOR myself in God that He will keep me steady and calm through life’s storms and to determinedly look to God and not my circumstances and other people to provide that security.

It’s so easy to anchor ourselves in something other than God at the moment… often we do it without realising it.

We eagerly await the next parliamentary speech to see whether lockdown restrictions will be lifted and offer some alleviation of the pressure of our current circumstances. We look to people for emotional and practical support, and then become disappointed and saddened when people let us down or don’t offer us the support we may crave at this time.

It reminded me again that if I choose to place my hope in anything other than God, I will regularly become frustrated, downcast and low.

It takes a big shift in my mind-set to choose to anchor myself to God, particularly during these challenging and turbulent times, but as I visualise myself as a boat being anchored to him in the storm, it makes me feel calm, confident and assured that He will help me deal with whatever is before me…

“truly my soul finds rest in God”
Psalm 62:1

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22-Jun-20: His Humility Rachel Bridge

The word “humility” comes from the Latin word “humilis” which means low or humble, indicating someone who is not proud or arrogant, someone modest, someone who puts others before themselves.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under Gods mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)

I love these lyrics from a song very close to my heart (I’ve listened to it a lot on my travels to Scotland.):

Be Exalted (Dave Miller)
Would you take the little in my hands and use it for your glory
It’s not much, but everything I have, use it for your glory
We only give, what we received from you, use it for your glory
It’s your love that we’re responding to, Jesus for your glory!

Be exalted O God higher and higher
Be exalted O God higher and higher
Take the little that we have and fill it with your power for your glory

You’re the power in our weakness
You’re the treasure shining through
You are for us, Christ within us
We give everything for you

I think these lyrics say it all – the sheer humility that we are expressing when we give the little that we have, it’s so incredibly innocent and beautiful. Seeing how our amazing God turns it all around for his glory.

As we each go about our daily lives with Christ further along on our journeys, we realise more and more that it isn’t about us – but all about him!! It’s always good to remember that our very giving – our very sacrifices, are always for his glory and not our own.

Let’s encourage one another during this time.
I sense God wanting to use the little that we have (when we humbly give it) to turn it around for his glory as we help those around us, through this difficult time.

I want to end with a short prayer for us all:

Jesus, we come to you now.
As we draw near to your shelter and your safe place,
protect us as we go into this coming week.
Giving the little that we have,
we lay it down at your feet
and ask that you bless it to bless others abundantly
for your glory.

Amen.
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15-Jun-20: Let Love Filter Our Lives Emma Claridge

During this crisis, have you learnt to be more tolerant and accepting of others, or increasingly less so?!

It felt in the early days of lockdown that there was a collective sense of “we’re all in this together”… but are we really, or is this sentiment quite superficial? How can we all be in this together if we are all reacting and behaving differently to it, with health and wealth divisions continuing to drive us apart?

A quote I have seen banded about on social media is:

“We are not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm,”

with the hashtags – #bekind, #supporteachother, #dontjudge. This to me, encourages us to consider that people may be coming to this from different standpoints, but that in some way, they are experiencing a “storm” in their lives.

This crisis, as much as it may have in some ways brought people together in a collective force to offer neighbours and friends moral and practical support, it equally has given another excuse to vent about people’s different reactions to and behaviours during this pandemic. It’s so easy to judge on a daily basis. People also might be less tolerant due to their own difficult and painful personal circumstances where people’s behaviour may strike a chord and really cause frustration and anger within you.

I have felt really challenged as a Christian by what my attitude should be. Is it for me to judge and cause more division?

Our financial/health and family circumstances may look (and no doubt, will be) very different to others. There may be frustrations going on in your life – money/health/mental health issues which make us judge other people more harshly.

In Matthew 7, God advises us to first take the log out of our own eyes so it will help us see more clearly, before turning on others.
Billy Graham wisely said “It is the Holy spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love”.

In 1 Corinthians 13, it says “love is patient, love is kind” … “love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs” (GNT).
To truly change our behaviour, we need to go back to this basic truth about love and let that filter our lives.
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8-Jun-20: What a wonderful God we have! Jenny Dean

Whenever I have gone through difficulties, I have always found the words of 1 Peter 1:3-9 a great encouragement, and so in this time, when we are all going through unprecedented and trying times, I commend them to you.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

What encouraging words Peter starts with. We have new birth, a living hope and an inheritance, which can never perish, spoil or fade, which is being kept for us by God himself. How privileged we are that Jesus died for us, so that we can enjoy these things in the present or in the future and that the knowledge of them can sustain us now, when we are facing difficulties we could never have imagined.

Peter talks about believers facing trials in verses 6 and 7. The trials of the people he was writing to at the time were very different to our current ones, but we have the same living hope to sustain us, as he sustained them and the knowledge, as explained in this passage, that he is using the challenges we go through to prove that our faith is genuine, which will bring glory to Jesus.

My favourite part of this piece of scripture is verse 8, in which Peter talks about the ‘inexpressible and glorious joy’ we experience when we believe in Jesus. As I spend time with him and consider who he is and what he has done for me, that joy wells up in me (which accounts for me not being able to keep still when we are worshipping together). Moreover I know the joy I experience now is only a fraction of what I will feel when I come into the promised inheritance of the new heaven, where “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

This will be experienced by all of us who believe in him of course.

What a wonderful God we have!!
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1-Jun-20: Come Away With Me. Susan Hunter

“There is change in the air…
run with me to the higher place.
For now is the time to arise and come away with me.”

Song of Songs 2:13 The Passion Translation

For some time now God has been repeating again and again this same message to me: “Come away with me”.
I’ve sensed God say it directly, I’ve had people say it through prophetic words; one lady came up to me at a Christian event and interrupted a conversation to tell me urgently that the Lord wanted to say it.

It’s been written in emailed devotions I’m subscribed to and I’ve heard it in talks. It’s been expressed in different ways, but it’s the same message. “Come away with me to the quiet place, to the secret place, to your God-space. Come away to hear My voice”.

I know He has been saying it to us as a church family too. People came back from National Leaders’ Conference and gave testimony to that fact. Lisa, and others, shared how God had really impressed it upon her heart and Jeffrey shared something precious and similar from some years ago, that still holds true and fresh today.

Perhaps you’ve sensed the Lord say it too.

So, in this time of unexpected coming away and enforced retreating to our homes, when we’re not dashing out the door for the school run or to hit rush hour traffic; I wonder…

I wonder what we hear Him say at this time.
What do you hear the Lord say; for us, to you, for me?

“There is change in the air.
Arise, my love, my beautiful companion,
and run with me to the higher place.
For now is the time to arise and come away with me.”
(Song of Songs 2:13 TPT)

Maybe you can already answer that question.
If not… let’s try it. Let’s be obedient to His call.
Come away with Him. Intentionally. To hear His voice.

Whether you’re in lock down in a busy family home, there are fewer people with you or you’re on your own, see where you can carve time to come away and find your Secret Place. Take some opportunity for some quiet reflection with Jesus.

In your quiet space; tune into the whispers of His heart for you. Write down in a Notebook or Journal what you feel you hear. Don’t worry at first about it making sense. Just write what you sense you hear the Lord say. Rest in the space with Him.

Read some scripture. As I’ve been typing, the above verse and passage around it came to mind. See if it speaks to you.
Here’s a link to it in the NIV: Song of Songs 2:10-13 NIV

Try reading it phrase by phrase, and ask the Lord to show you what He wants to say to you through it. Note down anything that seems to jump out of the page to you.

Sing out any worship song that you find starts coming to mind. Or play a worship track.
Here’s a couple of great suggestions:

Keep writing down all you feel God is saying to you. Invite Him to Sing over you. Ask Him to tell you the specific phrase or words He’s singing. Listen for the direct answer and write it down.

Come away with Him. To the Secret Place. Listen to His voice.
What is He saying? For you? For me? For us as a Church family?
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25-May-20: A Meditation. Elaine Young

Do you recall, as a child, being told to “Go to your room!” Or as an exasperated parent yourself, sending your child off to their room to contemplate their wrongdoing?
Both of my children have told me (now that they are adults) that waiting for me to appear was worse than any discipline I might have applied!

In these days of lockdown, we have, effectively, been sent to our rooms.

How are you doing?
Angry at having your social life curtailed?
No coffee dates, no convivial lunches at the pub, no sweating it out at the gym.
Or are you afraid of the future?
Will you still have an income when this is over?
Will you and your family be safe through to the end of this pandemic?
Do you feel you have been abandoned at this time, missing the ebb and flow of human interaction?
You just need a warm hug!

The Israelites were basically sent to their rooms when they left Egypt. Their lives there had been grindingly difficult, but they were predictable. They had their little treats: the leeks, the garlic and the onions. They probably had fresh vegetables grown in irrigation furrows.

And then one terrifying night they went into lockdown as the angel of death passed over them and after a hurried meal, they set off on a journey to a land that many would never see. Fleeing Pharaoh’s wrath they followed Moses into a hostile desert, whining and complaining all the way!

Finally, after two months they arrived at Sinai and God called to Moses from the mountain,

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
Exodus 19:4

Not, “I have brought you into the desert to punish you.” But he brought them to this place to be with HIM.
So can we see this confinement as a call from the Lover of our souls to a deeper relationship at this time, away from the distractions and responsibilities of ‘normal’ life.
Hear him whisper:

“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Exodus 19:6

He loves you with an everlasting love. Your name is written on his hands.
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18-May-20: His Faithfulness. Ian & Joy Revie

We have all faced new challenges recently adapting to change both in our work and home. Often there is sad news and restrictions that we need to work through daily, however one thing we have more of is time and in particular, time to reflect.

As we look at God’s promises to his people time and again, the reflection back is the activity that helps us continue to have hope in God for the future – Faith.

We have been reflecting on how valuable our Housegroup family has been over the years and one of the many good times we have had was at a particularly difficult time over a year ago. We were encouraged to rest on God by reflecting on bible verses that are dear to us, treasured from helping us through previous tough times. These were verses on which we all built our faith and trust in God- promises from God to us in our life.

The result was a wonderful framed collage of everyone’s handwritten verses, and behind each verse was a beautiful story of God’s provision and faithfulness, time and time again, in a variety of situations.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation 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 minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise up on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sun, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become the night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7-12

For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you…plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Christ is all and in all.
Colossians 3:11

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old from ancient times.
Micah 5:2

When I was a child. I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope & love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13

So, we are encouraged as we reflect on the journey of how God has brought us to where we are now.Through it all, His track record of faithfulness remains and we feel strengthened as He continues to be our Way Maker, Promise Keeper, our Light in the Darkness.
Amen.
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11-May-20: Foundations. Roger Williams

After several monthly off-site meetings, I was getting frustrated that nothing seemed to be happening in terms of the construction of our next small care home in Bradford. I should have remembered that the foundations are critical and that, though hidden from view when the building is erected, the whole stability of the structure above, is reliant on them.
I recalled the passage from Matthew 7: 24-27 about being wise and building your house on rock not sand.

A life built on Jesus forms a solid foundation like a house built on rock.

When the inevitable concerns of life come, such as disappointments, difficult decisions, family worries, financial concerns, unfair criticism, I want to have the resources to be able to withstand these and remain strong and act with wisdom.  I want to be a beautiful house that radiates God’s goodness despite the pressures that come, and I know that this can only happen if I focus on the foundations being strong. I don’t want to be worried and anxious, buffeted like the house built on the sand, with cracks appearing in the walls as the foundations subside.

Psalm 91 tells us that:

‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord ‘he is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

Let us pray for wisdom and strength as we seek to build strong foundations as we trust in God. Let’s praise his name, aware that on the cross Jesus did everything to enable us to be united with Him.
Like Jesus’ disciple, Peter, whom Jesus restored and whose declaration of Jesus’ identity led to Jesus saying, ‘upon this rock I will build my church,’ let us ask that whatever comes our way in life, we will stand firm and ‘rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’
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4-May-20: His Safety. Rachel Bridge

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91 (NIV)

Since the lockdown we have all started to go through different emotions of anxiety frustration, etc.
The above Psalm has been in my thoughts a great deal and I have been studying and meditating on it every night since the lockdown began.

I believe it is a Psalm where the very essence of it speaks of:

  • life
  • protection
  • reassurance
  • rest

Overall God’s voice is calling us and guiding us ever closer to himself, wrapping us in his love, warmth and comfort. He’s teaching us to LISTEN TO HIM amidst all the chaos and sadness that COVID-19 is throwing at us, drawing us to his shelter and his safe place.

I do encourage you to take time and reflect on it.
I have felt a tremendous calmness and peace when reading it.
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27-April-20: Invisible enemy. Invisible Saviour. Stephen Price

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
Colossians 1:16 (NIV)

If you are as old, or even older(!) than me you will probably remember the name, Gerald Coates. He used to regularly be involved in conversations with non-believers on the Radio. One evening, when his ‘opponent’ was getting particularly irate, Gerald said something to the effect of:

“Okay, let’s just leave it that I believe that everything was created out of nothing by someone, and you believe that everything was created out of nothing by no-one” – an observation which was probably hard to come back at …

The guy that Gerald was speaking to was struggling with the concept of putting faith in the invisible and intangible.

With Coronavirus the entire world is being challenged to have faith that something invisible exists. It has been easy for me to accept the existence of Coronavirus just from watching the media but, now that we have a daughter who is extremely likely to be suffering from Coronavirus, faith in this invisible plague becomes far more active.

Seeing those we love suffering or the people of our church living alone and cut off from fellowship brings the reality of our situation in this world home.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

Currently, the ‘powers of this dark world’ are not only causing suffering but suffering in isolation. This is when we need to remember that as Christians, we are not isolated from God. Not now, or at any point in the future!

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)

 

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20-April-20: Blessed Is The One Who Trusts In The Lord Emma Claridge

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 (NIV)

I shared with my small group recently about some things that struck me during a recent little break to the Isle of Arran, which we returned from just in the nick of time, although I quite happily could have isolated there!

During these 4 days, I saw 3 rainbows in full (wow!) reminding me of God’s promises and that He won’t leave or desert us – remember how the rainbow appeared after a devastating flood?

“whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:16).

I love that rainbows are now popping up in people’s windows during this time, such a reminder to us all!

Another striking thing, was walking past a really majestic forest of tall pine trees. I was struck by how some of the trees had come down in the previous stormy weather and had crashed down on to other trees. There was no reason why certain trees had come crashing down and others hadn’t, as they all looked the same – good solid, strong trees – but clearly certain trees were either in the wrong position, too exposed, too vulnerable or their roots didn’t go down deep enough.

I have been thinking about this since and trying to work out the significance. I felt that God is saying that we may appear as if we are strong, majestic and coping ok, but unless our roots – ie. our thought processes, beliefs and fears are ground deep enough into Him and His truths, we could be taken out by a freak “wind” or even another “tree” – person / situation / thought / belief / anxiety.

Again, this brings me back to that verse above… who or what are we leaning on?
Ourselves, our friends, family, the media, politicians, blind hope…or a mighty God?

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8).

Both these insights became even more prominent and significant on my return, as the Coronavirus situation developed at such a speed in just a few days and with everyone having to navigate new living and working relationships and define a new normal.

I’m reminded not to try and make sense of this – not to desperately seek some reason, find something to dull the pain, lessen the horror or take away the anxiety… but to fully trust in God and lean not on my understanding in the midst of confusion, hurt and fear and sink my hope into Him and his stream of life.

“It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 8)

 

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13-April-20: Chasing After Joy Shelley Johnson

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

(He has sent me to) provide for those who grieve – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Isaiah 61:3

It’s easy to have joy when things are going well and there are exciting things to look forward to. So much harder when life is difficult, uncertain and just plain mundane. Nothing quite saps joy like a mundane, routined, treadmill type of existence.

I think the only way to break this cycle of behaviour and thinking is to put on a garment of praise and thankfulness. Take pleasure and delight in all aspects of your day.
From the butter melting into your toast to blue skies peeping through the clouds. From the laughter of the next door neighbour’s children to the smell of dinner. Take each experience and regularly give thanks to Abba who has given all this and more.

The world we live in, broken as it is, was created for us to explore and know our Abba.
Whilst I know that there are many people who are facing great mountains of fear (loss, finance, illness, etc), don’t allow negative, miry thinking to drag you down and let you lose sight of how truly blessed you are. There is always something, no matter how small, to be thankful for.

Praise and a thankful heart will keep us close to Abba, who in turn will help sustain us through this time of great challenge.

My prayer for you:
May Abba place his loving arms around you.
Open your ears to hear him singing joyfully over your life.
May the seeping despair and lethargy be banished
and may you wear a garment of praise and joy.
I pray that your eyes will be opened
and that you will see His goodness in every aspect of your day!

 

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6-April-20: Trust in the Lord Emma Claridge

“Trust in the Lord and LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING”
  Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
“…Don’t rely on what you think you know” (GNB)
“…Don’t try to figure out everything on your own” (MSG)
“…Do not rely on your own insight” (AMP)

The above verse came to me one night (pre-corona, if anyone can remember back then!) when I was praying for some friends of mine living in a foreign country and who were experiencing difficult emotional and personal problems. I didn’t know the circumstances of them needing to come back to the UK, but as I prayed, God almost shouted this verse at me (but emphasised the bit in capitals!).

I passed on what I hoped was a God-inspired word to my friend and she said it was exactly what they as a family needed to hear at that time (which shows that occasionally we can hear God clearly!). However, as time has gone on and the impact of the virus has gripped hold of the world and turned everything on its head, this verse has never left my mind and its meaning has become ever more poignant and insightful into the current situation we find ourselves.

On the one hand, there is the desperation and fear of millions of people trying to work out how and why this is happening and trying to make sense of it, and yet, there seems to be an amazing sense of God moving in His people and encouraging us to “rise up” and meet the challenge presented. How quickly people have responded with meals, generosity, kindness, praying for people, serving on the front line and loving and caring for others in different ways than they may be used to. Truly beautiful to see God’s work in action.

I find myself strangely at peace inside (you know, that “peace that surpasses all understanding”?) – but experiencing a real mixture of emotions, often all within one day! Occasional real deep rooted fear and anxiety, desperate sadness, a longing to see people and to hold loved ones again, a feeling of being out of sorts and missing routine… but also moments of real intense connection with God; watching the world reluctantly slow down and go back to basics; an uncontrollable fire and passion to be used by God and to reach those I live with and love – a desire to truly love and connect with people and share my faith like never before and also seeing the beauty in simple things (a beautiful sunny day, a lovely cup of real coffee, a bird singing).
I almost experience some total joy at these times and find myself almost loving this new reality, tranquillity and stepping off or in many cases “crashing off” (!) the endless treadmill of modern life, until the reason for why we are in this lockdown comes to mind and threatens to disturb my new-found existence.

However, I remain resolute to choose love over fear and not let the what-ifs take over and disturb my peace and my prayer is that this is the same for you.
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30-March-20: Even if He does not… Stephen Price

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17-18

When I am confronted with crisis, it makes me go back to the fundamentals of my faith. I believe in God. God gave us free will. We got above ourselves. God redeems us through His son. We are invited into a salvation which allows us to be ‘heirs and co-heirs’ with Christ, who was, is, and always shall be. While we are on earth, we are Christ’s ambassadors.

I love the passage above from Daniel because it seems to put all this into perspective, even though it is pre new-covenant. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say that their God will deliver them but, EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, they won’t forsake God because their faith in their saviour is firm.

I would like my faith to be at that place; to pray protection and deliverance for self, family and friends from the latest pestilence and plague whilst remaining unshakeable in my belief that God has ultimate control.