Are you looking for Hope? Try Romans 15.13

If you turn on a tap, you expect water. If you pour from a carton of juice then you expect juice. When you ask God to pour something into your life, what do you expect?

According to Romans 15.13, God will fill us with hope, joy and peace if we trust in him. As the source of hope, all of our hope should begin with and flow from Him.

Are you relying on God as your source for hope, joy and peace?

We may say that we follow God, but are we trusting him to pour these things into our lives or are we trying to find them primarily in other places?

A cup, can only contain so much of what is poured into it and the same is true of God’s presence in us. If we are continually asking for His presence to fill us then it will overflow and the people around us will be blessed.

So many people are desperately in need of hope at the moment and so I would like to encourage us all to pray this prayer for people. May we each be open to receiving what God is longing to pour into our lives.

I pray that God,
the source of hope,
will fill you completely
with joy and peace
because you trust in him.
Then you will overflow with
confident hope through
the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15.13 NLT

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God’s Love Never Ends: Lamentations 3.22-24

I woke up this morning thinking about these verses from the Bible.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3.22-24

At a time when people are looking for hope, may we each be reminded of God’s faithfulness as we receive his mercy and love afresh today.

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Psalm 62: Giving our Stress and Worries to God Video Resource

Are you worried and stressed? If so, Psalm 62 is for you.

In the Psalm, David pours out his heart, describing how he was barely hanging on and that he felt like a broken fence.

As well as expressing his desperation, the Psalm is also a cry to God. As David prays, things change in his mind and his perpective shifts and I hope you can find hope and help as you hear and read his words.

My daughter and I have created a video with some visuals and the Bible reading with gaps for reflection. I have also copied the images we used below and you can download a PPT with the images and words using this link: Psalm 62 (these are all free for you to use). If you would like to you can also read some thoughts I have written about the Psalm here.

The images (The background images are from pixabay.com and unslplash.com)

Ps

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My Soul Clings to You

So much in life feels uncertain at this time with the global pandemic that we are facing and in moments like these I’m reminded of the phrase ‘My soul clings to you’ from the prayer in Psalm 61.

We all have the opportunity to reach out towards and to cling to God but will we take it?

Your instinctive answer may be yes but can I encourage you to take a moment to really think if this is true of the way you are living?

Are we really clinging to and relying on God or are we trying to cope in our own strength?

Psalm 63 v8 my soul clings to God climbing picture

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Time to Pause and Reflect? Some thoughts and questions for church leaders

TV RemoteThis post is a copy of my contribution to the Eastern Baptist Association ‘Thought for the Week’ which is sent to the Ministers in the EBA. I am reposting it here in case other church leaders find it helpful as we reflect on how we are adapting to being church together during this pandemic.

As I was praying about what to write to you all as church leaders, a series of thoughts and questions came to mind:

1. It’s okay not to be okay

In recent weeks life has changed dramatically and if we are feeling under pressure, we need to be honest about this. Some of us are mourning as we feel a sense of loss and deep sadness that our normal way of life has been taken from us. In some way, all of us need to pour out our hearts to God. As we do this, we make room for Him to fill that space with His loving presence.

2. Well done for trying something new

Whether it’s writing letters, sharing audio, services by phone conference or video, lots of us are ministering in new ways. We have had to take risks and when life returns to normal, I hope that we will continue to think outside of the church box and to look for the new things that God is continually doing.

3. Will we be honest about what works and what doesn’t? Are we flexible enough to change?

We are all different and we each have individual gifts and so we shouldn’t all be trying to minister in the exact same way. Some of us may be producing online content when if we are honest, we don’t have many people in our churches who can access it. In these instances, can we collaborate with other churches rather than several churches connecting with a few people each? Is it more appropriate for some of us to point to well produced online content rather than trying to muddle through ourselves? Perhaps you are feeling the pressure to copy the approaches that others are taking when you should be finding freedom in ministering as the person who God made you to be.

4. We need to remember that we are a part of the body

Is our content only communicating at people? If so, are there ways that we can we add a sense of interaction and participation eg alternative platforms or approaches? If we feel that we can’t be interactive in our communication, could we ask for people to share their thoughts with us and include them in what we share next week?

One of the real dangers for us as Ministers in this crisis is that we can unintentionally reinforce the consumerism model that has infected the church. If we really believe that we are a part of the Body of Christ, then we should not be doing everything ourselves. Are we making time to consider how we can release more people into producing thoughts, resources and into pastoral care?

Some churches will struggle financially in the coming months as they have lost rental income and weekly offerings. Is the church that you are a part of in a position to be supportive of them in any way?

5. How can we love our neighbour?

Are we getting the balance right between producing resources and talking with people? During this time of physical isolation, people will need conversation and compassion more than ever.

Are we encouraging those in our churches who have capacity to care for the people in the community, perhaps by helping with shopping? In doing this, we need to take great care not to pressure on or to unintentionally create a sense of guilt in people who are barely hanging on themselves.

6. Is our focus Jesus?

We all know that we are called to depend on God but there is a good chance that some of us are exhausted as we have tried really hard to minister in our own strength. Will we let God’s power be made perfect in our weakness? If we are not doing so already, are we ready to hit pause in order to look for what God is doing so that we can join in with that?

Once, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in a storm. Jesus was asleep in the stern while the disciples were rushing around trying to cope while the boat sank. Everything changed when they woke Jesus up and I hope that we will follow their example as we cry out to Him to lead, empower and to act.

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What will you do with this Gift of Time?

If you had said to me six months ago that a time was coming when the people of the UK would be asked to remain in their homes for at least three weeks I wouldn’t have believed you and yet here we are. We are being told to only go outside ‘for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)’ and for most of us this is going to be very difficult time, even though we fully understand why it is neccesary.

As I was pondering this and telling God how I was feeling, these words floated through my thoughts:

What will you do with this gift of time?

As I began to consider this, I remembered a time several years ago when I was overbusy and overloaded. At that time someone recomended that I read ‘The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness’ by Tim Chester. I got hold of a copy and it sat on my desk for a few weeks and then it got moved to a bookshelf and that is where it has been since.

Yes, that’s right. I have been too busy to read ‘The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness’,  Pretty ironic huh!

As these three weeks (and perhaps longer?) roll by, what will we do with the gift of time that we have been given? What will consume our thoughts?

Will we be resentful and complain for the whole time? Let’s face it, the circumstances that have caused the social distancing we are living with are terrible and we could very reasonably spend the time in a downward spiral descending into deeper misery. We could do this, but is it what we want to do with the gift of time that has been given to us?

The start to this time of physical islation has been pretty busy for a lot of us but as it goes on, will we keep ourselves busy for the sake of it or will we seek to use the time we have been given to do what is important?

How can we use the gift of time to deepen our relationship with God?

The first thing that we may need to do is to follow the biblical command to pour out our hearts to God (Psalm 62.8). The reality is that we will be unable to find happiness, peace and contentment without confronting and naming our deep frustrations first. The good news is that as we make time to pour these things out in prayer, we make room for God to fill that space with his loving presence.

Eveb when God’s presence is growing in us, we still work on keeping our focus on him. You might find Who Have You Invited?: The Parable of the Dinner Party helpful as you reflect on this.

How can we use the gift of time to deepen our relationship with others?

I realize that at a time when we are not meeting people outside of our household that this may seem like an odd suggestion but this really can be a time when we deepen relationships. One of the things is keeping me busy at the moment is that I am using the time that I have to phone the leaders of the churches of which I am a Regional Minister. I’m not calling them with an agenda or with an outcome in mind, I’m simply calling, listening and offering advice, prayer and support. How can we make contact with people we know using the phone, letters or other forms of technology?

If you wnat to think some more about the importance of us growing as disciples together then you might find The One About Being Connected helpful.

How can we use the gift of time to deepen our understanding of God’s Kingdom? As we do this, will we recomit ourselves to playing our part in its expansion?

The Covid-19 Pandemic has reminded us of the value of life. We want people to live and I hope that we also want them to live well and to find fulfilment. As Christians we believe that we find this fulfilment in our relationship with Jesus and in the way that we can join him in the work of expanding his kingdom.

We are called to put the Kingdom of God first but the reality is that this can get lost in the busyness of life. Will we use this gift of time to put Jesus back at the centre of our lives if he has drifted out of that place? If you would like to think about this some more then you might find God is for life, not just for Sundays! helpful.

In the film ‘Click’, Adam Sandler’s character finds a remote control that enables him to either pause, rewind or fastforward life. In one emotional scene, he uses the remote to watch himself being too busy to speak to his father (I have posted a link to the clip below). He looks on in disgust as his father speaks to him lovingly whilst he ignores him. The pain he feels in that moment is clear and his sense of regret that he could not see what was important in that moment. As he pauses and finds some perspective he can see clearly what life is about and what he should have been living for.

What are we living for and how will we use this Gift of Time that we have been given?

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Who or what is the Light of the World?

This feels especially appropriate for the times we are living in

Honest about my faith

candle light of the world1We used a simple illustration with a candle in church yesterday to think about the light of the world.

We lit a candle and encouraged everyone to think about what it means that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8.12).

After considering this, we reminded everyone that Jesus’ disciples are also called the light of the world (Matthew 5.14). All the things that we had just thought about also applied to us as Jesus shines in and through us.

Finally we covered the candle with a container (I said I wanted to protect it because it was precious). As the candle consumed the oxygen, it went out. In the same way that oxygen is the fuel for a flame, God’s presence (the Holy Spirit) is the fuel we need to keep the light of Jesus shining.

I’ve made a short video illustrating this.

So, what does it mean that we are the light…

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Lent is primarily about going With God, not going Without things

Lent is primarily about going With God, not going Without things

Honest about my faith

what-is-lent-all-aboutTraditionally people associate Lent with giving things up but if this is our only focus I think that we might be missing the real point?

During Lent, people especially remember the time when Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness.

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. (Mark 1.12-13)

It is important to note that Jesus didn’t randomly wander into the wilderness. He was compelled/led by God.

For me, the point of Lent is primarily that we should be open to listening and being led by God.

We know from the other gospels that Jesus didn’t eat anything during his time in the wilderness. Biblically, people fasted to show God that they were serious about something. Sometimes this involved repentance and sorrow but it…

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I am One with Christ and He is with me

I'm one with the Force, and the Force is with me. - Chirrut Îmwe (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Quotes)I recently watched the film Rogue 1 and I was struck by the phrase that was constantly repeated by Chirrut Imwe:

‘I am one with the Force,
and the Force is with me’

Although he is blind, Chirrut is able to do amazing and almost impossible things such as fighting off numerous attackers and instinctively knowing what to do as he repeats this phrase over and over (there is a Youtube clip with a clip showing this at the end of this post). I was especially struck by the way that he repeats the phrase over and over to focus himself on the power on which he was depending.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of our need to rely on the Holy Spirit. We all know that without God’s presence that we are relatively powerless but that doesn’t stop us trying to cope in our own strength sometimes!

As I continued to consider this, I found it strange that this thought hadn’t occurred to me when I had watched the film previously and then it stuck me that I had had a tough few days and I was feeling tired, discouraged and under pressure. It feels ironic that in those moments of feeling fairly low that I had become more receptive to the reminder that I need to rely on God’s strength rather than trying to cope alone but this was also Paul’s experience:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. (2 Corinthians 1)

When life is a struggle, we are especially reminded of our need to depend on God but it’s my hope and prayer that we might all learn to rely on God more consistently. After all, we are one with Him and that he is with us!

To consider:

  • Would things be different if we spent our life repeating the phrase ‘I am one with Christ and he is with me?’
  • In what ways can we maintain our focus on Christ, depending on his Holy Spirit to empower us rather than walking along with our limited vision?
  • Do we need to repent of our attitude of feeling that we are alone and with limited power?

Picture Credit: https://www.magicalquote.com/moviequotes/im-one-with-the-force-and-the-force-is-with-me/

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Getting Ready for Christmas

advent-reflectionsThe lead up to Christmas can be such a busy time and it is easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really all about.

This series of thoughts for the days leading up to Christmas are designed to help focus on the reality of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Rather than just focusing on the nice sanitised nativity that is so often presented I try to ask questions like ‘what was that like?’ or ‘How did that feel?’

I hope and pray that these reflections will help to keep us focused on the real meaning of CHRISTmas during this busy season of advent.

Advent 1: Surprised by an Angel (Luke 1)

Zechariah was in the temple where God’s presence is found, so why was he surprised to meet an angel?

Advent 2: The God who Promises the Impossible (Luke 1)

Do we still believe that God can do the impossible or have we come to think that the impossible is greater than God?

Advent 3: When life is FRUSTRATING!!! (Luke 1)

Zechariah was unable to speak but his faith and relationship with God thrived despite this. When life is frustrating do we turn towards God or drift away from him?

Advent 4: The God of Miracles (Luke 1)

For years Elizabeth had only known a twisted feeling of failure and embarrassment within but now she carried a child who was growing inside of her and she was so grateful to God for her miracle.

Advent 5: God is in the Ordinary (Luke 1)

Meeting an angel is probably not what you would expect to happen when you are doing something ordinary like washing the dishes or working on your wedding dress!

Advent 6: A Special Child (Luke 1)

Jesus was running the universe with his Father one minute & in the next he was a foetus. Why would he do this? Why would he limit himself to the confines of a human body?

Advent 7: Mary says YES (Luke 1. 39-56)

It is surprising that Mary didn’t need to think about it for longer before saying yes because becoming pregnant whilst unmarried was going to cause her some real problems in her culture.

Advent 8: Mary served God Gratefully rather than through Gritted Teeth (Luke 1.39-56)

When we obey God, do we do so with joy or through gritted teeth?

Advent 9: Receiving a new Perspective from God (Matthew 1.18-25)

Joseph encounters an Angel and his perspective is changed. Often we look at God through the lens of life but how different would things be if we looked at life through the lens of God?  This is what Joseph does and it meant that he and Mary knew God leading them forwards.

Advent 10: Jesus is God With Us (Matthew 1.22-23)

Have you ever wondered why the angel said that Jesus would be called Immanuel?

Advent 11: Change Takes Time (Luke 1.57-80)

Nearly a year earlier Zechariah hadn’t believed what God had promised but over time his faith had grown. Are we willing to allow the time for our faith to grow or is our impatience getting on the way of what God s trying to do in our lives?

Advent 12: A Long Time ago in Bethlehem

A decree from Augustus meant that Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. God had previously said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, so was Jesus born there becasue of the will of Augustus or of God?

Advent 13: The Journey to Bethlehem

The Road to Bethlehem was a hard place to be for Mary & Joseph. God didn’t transport them miraculously but he was with them for every step of the way.

Advent 14: Did Mary Cry?

Joseph must have knocked on lots of the doors of his family members in Bethlehem but none of them had room anywhere clean and comfortable for Mary and himself.

Advent 15: Clean enough for God?

Some people think that their lives aren’t clean enough to invite Jesus to be a part of but the birthplace of Jesus reminds us that God isn’t fussy about where his presence dwells.

Advent 16: The Wrong Sort?

Shepherds in Jesus’ day couldn’t go to the synagogue or temple because they had to watch over the sheep. They were poor and insignificant people who were not able to go to the Jewish equivalent of church. So, what does it tell us about God’s priorities that shepherds were the first people to be told about the arrival of his son, the saviour of the world?

Advent 17: That is Amazing News!

Before their encounter with the angels, the shepherds had no expectation that God knew or cared about people like them but they were about to learn the truth and if God was communicating with them then they were in!

Advent 18: The Long Road to Bethlehem

The journey of the Magi started hundreds of miles from Bethlehem but it also started hundreds of years earlier when the angel Gabriel visited Daniel.

Advent 19: The Long Wait Until Christmas

Instead of waiting in isolation from God and getting frustrated, Simeon and Anna were waiting with God and getting excited.

Advent 20: The bit that feels Awkward to Talk About

The Magi traveled to find Jesus which is wonderful, but they were led to him through astrology which feels err, a bit embarrassing.

Advent 21: The One about Strange Gifts

Have you ever wondered what the unusual gifts of Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh symbolized?

Advent 22: The bit that feels too Horrible to Talk About

There is a part of the Christmas story that I don’t recall seeing in many or even possibly any Nativity plays. As we face up to the darkness, we will see the light appear to shine even more brightly.

Advent 23: Jesus was a Refugee

Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped in the night. They left behind everything that was familiar and traveled to live in a foreign land so that they could survive.

Advent 24: What do we really need for Christmas?

What do we really need for Christmas?

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