Author: Simon

What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are both terms that the Old Testament and New Testament frequently refer to. The lack of absolute clarity of the nature of both has caused a considerable amount of debate. In this podcast we explore our approach

 

 

Guatemala Missions

Last year our much loved Maria & Jorge moved back to their home in Guatemala to continue their missions work. “Hands of Hope” or “Manos de Esperanza” in Spanish, is an initiative started in 2010 and the goal has always been to share the love of God through his Gospel and by helping those in need. Initially started to respond to a number of natural disasters that faced the area,  in 2015 Maria started a clinic that has been part  of Manos de Esperanza giving free or low cost medical consultations and medicine to those in need. In 2022 the goal is to go big with this program and to include as many people they can.

Although the clinic is the main project, they are also actively providing food and clothing for people in need in the rural area, sharing the gospel with students who come to volunteer and creating a network of other professionals to start projects int he future such as infrastructure improvement in some communities.

Their vision is based on Isaiah 58:6-10:

6“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

How can you help?

Praying for the Projects:

  • for the Lord to provide more volunteers and that He touches the hearts of the doctors that we have on our list to be part of this initiative, giving us a good price for their consultation.
  • For provision for the medicines and the resources we need at the clinic and to continue helping the communities.
  • For more strategies so we can reach more people

Donating to the Projects:

For now Maria is funding all the services at the clinic

  • They need some funds to be able to expand the services and to pay medicines and the consultations with other doctors
  • For the food, cloths and other goods we receive donations occasionally from people and other organizations, however we would like to reach more people
  • If you feel led to give financially please Linda and she  will be able to give you the bank details

Find out more about Manos de Esperanza by following their Facebook page and visiting their website

Christmas Week Reading Plan

It is always good to read the Bible. No matter what time of year it is we should be people who are reading it and meditating on it daily. Christmas however poses additional problems: the rush of preparation; the awkward conversations with relatives about where you’re going this year; tv adverts bombarding us with reminders to buy presents etc etc. And so sometimes at Christmas the Bible gets a bit crowded out. We should resist this. So, with that in mind here is a 7 day reading list that you can used to prepare:

Day 1 – Isaiah 7:13–14 & Isaiah 11:1–10 – The Prophesy of Jesus

Day 2 : Luke 1:1-25 – Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

Day 3: Luke 1:26-38 – Birth of Jesus Foretold

Day 4: Luke 2:1-21 – Birth of Jesus

Day 5: Luke 2:22-40 – Jesus Presented at the Temple

Day 6: Matthew 2 – Wise Men Visit the Messiah

Day 7: Luke 2:41-52 – Boy Jesus at the Temple

7 Reasons Why Someone Serves You at Church

 

We have a great team at Calvary – people who work hard during the week and spend their evenings and weekends serving the church. This is countercultural comfort (see this recent sermon for a context on that): people from all walks of life, who are sometimes exhausted from their day jobs, donate even more time and energy to their church for the good of others to the glory of God.

One of the questions that I sometimes get asked is why people do that? Well there are lots of stories but I just thought it would be good to highlight 7 reasons people at Calvary serve you – and perhaps you can think about and pray about serving others too?

1.It helps them grow in their relationship with Christ.

Being surrounded with other believers who are all working towards a common goal can encouraged and strengthen people’s hearts. They are hearing and seeing the truth of the Gospel lived out in word and in deed.

2. It helps them discover their purpose and gives them a place to belong

People do serve for all kinds of reasons but one one of the hidden motives and outcomes is that serving really does give you a purpose beyond the here and now, and gives you a sense of “I belong here”. Jesus said “Where your treasure is, so is your heart” and I think that when people pour themselves into something and invest their time and money they become attached to that thing. We’ve all experienced the problem of “I don’t really fit in” … those that serve on a regular basis don’t often suffer from that problem. They have discovered that through serving, genuine friendships are formed and deepened.

3. It helps them use their skills and talents for the Kingdom.

Every one who serves – from the set up team to the technical team – has incredible skills, talents, and abilities. This is simply what Paul says time and again in this letters – we all have a function and have been given unique gifts. You might think .. “well, putting out chairs isn’t really a gift” .. but the conversations that go along with it can encourage the heart of others. Maybe there isn’t a spiritual gift of “putting out chairs” but there is a gift of encouragement (not to mention the gift of helps).

4. It helps them be obedient to Jesus

Jesus said in Mark 9:35 “if anyone be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”. Ok … so what other setting is better than the church to actually live that out? I really can’t think of any. Jesus commands us to serve others and those that do are doing so because they want to be obedient to what Jesus has called them to.

5. It helps them to follow the example given by Jesus

Paul, writing to the church in Philiipi instructed his readers to have the same mind as Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

People are serving in Calvary because they see Jesus – and want to have the same mind has Him.

6. It helps them to join the mission of the church.

Right now every other email and TV advert is a plea for something. Why? Mainly because people like to be part of something bigger than they are.  Whether it’s donating money to a good cause or organising a shoe box for a child overseas: people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The mission of the church is to make the name of Jesus known where He is not known. – whether than is in our own hearts or in bringing the gospel to the nations. People who serve want to be part of that.

7. It helps them to find joy

Jesus is Love. When we love others through serving, it is natural for us to feel a ‘spiritual tingle’ – you’re being Jesus to others! We feel joy when we give out. That’s why it’s more blessed to give than receive. People who serve have discovered that it’s a joy

 

Countercultural Comfort

 

 

 

Last Sunday’s sermon continued to challenge us about the nature and adventure of church. We’re going through a four-part series called “Uncomfortable – The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” and we’ve been saying that our culture is a culture of comfort:  we’re encouraged to do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want. If something is uncomfortable, we want to avoid it at all costs. However, we have been thinking about how the Christian faith is actually pretty uncomfortable. This series of studies aims to help us embrace, understand, and see the beauty and hope in the challenging realities of being part of God’s people.

This week, we looked at the end of the story – Revelation 19. The main idea was that the God has given us a comfort that is greater than anything the culture, other religions, or our own preferences and desires can provide and when we experience the uncomfortable, we can trust in God’s promises of what is to come.

As you reflect on this week’s message here are some further questions to help you apply this to your own life:

  1. How does our story end?
  2. How can pondering God’s promises offer us comfort?
  3. How is it easy to gravitate toward a comfortable Christian life?
    1. What are the countercultural things that Jesus calls us to walk in?

 

 

Uncomfortable People

Last Sunday’s sermon continued to challenge us about the nature and adventure of church. We’re going through a four-part series called “Uncomfortable – The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” and we’ve been saying that our culture is a culture of comfort:  we’re encouraged to do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want. If something is uncomfortable, we want to avoid it at all costs. However, we have been thinking about how the Christian faith is actually pretty uncomfortable. This series of studies aims to help us embrace, understand, and see the beauty and hope in the challenging realities of being part of God’s people.

This week, Geoff was leading us through 1 Corinthians 12. The main idea was that the church is made up of people we may not always get along with or agree with—but that’s something God can use for our good. We saw how despite our differences, the Holy Spirit unites us and works in our hearts for our good and his glory.

As you reflect on this week’s message here are some further questions to help you apply this to your own life:

  1. Awkward, uncomfortable, or downright obnoxious people are part of the everyday – and that includes people in church.  Often they are stereo typed as “the huggers”, “the know-it-alls”, “the church ladies”, “the flaky plan-cancellers” … and I’d add “the conspiracy theorists”. How does digging into the local church require us to form relationships with people we wouldn’t normally form relationships with?
  2. Why should we seek out relationships with people who are different from us?
  3. How is being a part of the local church sometimes difficult?
  4. What unites the body of Christ?

Covid Update – December 21

November brought the Covid Pandemic close to our doors with a number of families falling ill. Whilst none of those who caught the illness did so at Calvary we do need to be mindful of the increased risk during the winter months, not only of catching Covid, but also the common flu.

Since the last update the Government has implemented it’s so-called “Plan B” which has an immediate impact on churches:

  • MASKS – wearing a mask is now mandatory in indoor public spaces, including places of worship. Some people, including children under 11 and those who have a health condition or disability, are exempt from having to wear face mask so please do let the welcome team know when you arrive that you’re exempt. Anyone who doesn’t have a mask will be provided one at the welcome desk so that no one who wants to attend will be turned away.
    • Masks can be removed whilst singing
    • Masks do not have to be worn by those on set up or pack down when the main congregation are not in the building.
    • Those leading form the front also do not have to wear a mask whilst doing so.
  • ATTENDANCE & LIVE STREAM – Clearly there is no change on the government guidance to isolate if you have tested positive or our displaying COVID-19 symptoms. We are continuing to live stream our services for those unable to come in-person.
  • HAND SANITISER – please continue to use hand sanitiser on entry and exit to the building as well as after touching face and after handling shared items. Sensible hygiene should also be observed (covering mouth and nose when sneezing, using tissues and disposing immediately) in bins provided.
  • PHYSICAL DISTANCING – please judge your own risk tolerance when it comes to social distancing but please also consider that others may be more cautious about contact than you are. There are always more seats put out than we actually need so please make use of the whole space. If you’d really like your own space feel free to place your Bible or coat on the seat next to you.
  • DOORS & WINDOWS – Some doors and windows will remain open and we will continue to use an industrial “air mover” to circulate fresh air into the hall.
  • LATERAL FLOW TESTS – the single most effective way to support each other is to take a lateral flow test on Saturday or Sunday morning. Even if you don’t have symptoms. The reason for this is so that everyone who is coming to church has tested negative within 24 hours of meeting therefore the risks of meeting are dramatically reduced. This is not fool-proof – I recently tested positive for Covid and all my lateral flows were negative – but this is still the best way to ensure we are doing what we can to keep people safe.

Our desire is that anyone who wants to come to church should feel welcome, comfortable and able to hear the transforming good news of Jesus. Continue to pray for wisdom as we seek to do this

Uncomfortable Cross

 

In last Sunday’s sermon we continued our four-part series called “Uncomfortable – The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community”. Our culture is a culture of comfort. We’re encouraged to do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want. If something is uncomfortable, we want to avoid it at all costs. However, the Christian faith is uncomfortable. This series of studies aims to help us embrace, understand, and see the beauty and hope in the challenging realities of being part of God’s people.

This week, Bill was leading us through Mark 8. The main idea was that the Christian life—especially when it comes to being part of a church community—is full of discomfort and awkwardness, but God uses these challenges to help us know him better. Rather than attempting to find our dream church, we must embrace the uncomfortable and difficult parts of the Christian life in order to grow and experience gospel community.

Bill reminded us that the Christian faith is a faith that calls us to the foot of the cross. As you reflect on this week’s message here are some further questions to help you apply this to your own life:

  1. Why is this a difficult principle to accept?
  2. What does it mean to “take up” our cross?
  3. How does what Jesus did for us change the way we view the local church?

Embrace the Discomfort

In last Sunday’s sermon we started a four-part series called “Uncomfortable – The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community”. Our culture is a culture of comfort. We’re encouraged to do what we want, when we want, with whomever we want. If something is uncomfortable, we want to avoid it at all costs. However, the Christian faith is uncomfortable. This series of studies aims to help us embrace, understand, and see the beauty and hope in the challenging realities of being part of God’s people.

This week, Bill was leading us through 1 Peter 2:4-5. The main idea was that the Christian life—especially when it comes to being part of a church community—is full of discomfort and awkwardness, but God uses these challenges to help us know him better. Rather than attempting to find our dream church, we must embrace the uncomfortable and difficult parts of the Christian life in order to grow and experience gospel community.

As you reflect on this week’s message here are some further questions to help you apply this to your own life:

  • What would your “dream church” look like?
  • Why is searching for a “dream church” a fool’s errand?
  • How can we embrace awkwardness in our local church?

What is the Gospel

In our last sermon we attempted to answer the questions: what is the gospel and what does it mean to be a Christian? We used Acts 2 as a launch point so here are the notes:

  1. Revelation
    1. King Jesus cf. Mark 1:14 15
    2. Has come amongst us cf Acts 2:22
    3. He has the authority and the power cf Acts 2:36
    4. As the Promised One cf Acts 2:36, 1 Corinthians 1:2 , 1 Corinthians 8:6 , 2 Corinthians 4:5, Acts 10:36 , 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Peter 1:11, 2 Peter 2:20, Jude 4
    5. Killed by God’s Plan cf Acts 2:23
    6. Raised by God’s plan cf Acts 2:24
    7. Exalted cf Acts 2:33-35
    8. Poured out the Holy Spirit cf Acts 2:33
  2. Response
    1. Conviction cf Acts 2:37, John 16:8
    2. Confession cf Acts 2:37, 1 John 1:9, 2 Corinthians 7:9–10
    3. Repentance cf Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 26:20
    4. Baptism cf Acts 2:38
    5. Trust cf Acts 2:41
    6. Fellowship cf Acts 2:42, John 13:35
  3. Result
    1. Forgiveness of Sins and Acceptance cf Acts 2:38
    2. New Life cf Acts 2:38-39, Titus 3:6, Acts 3:20
      1. The Indwelling Spirit
      2. The Incorporating Spirit cf 1 Corinthians 12:13
    3. New Community cf Acts 2:43-45
    4. New Purpose cf Acts 2:46-47
  4. Realities to live by
    1. New Identity
    2. New Desires
    3. New Power
    4. New Community
    5. New Purpose

 

Don’t Quit

I’m really thankful for the last few verses in Romans 16 where Paul encourages us to not quit, to carry on, to be strengthened in God. He acknowledges that life sometimes can cause us to become weak or tired. Sometimes we can even be prone to throw in the towel. Paul says in these verses that there is a strength that we can gain that helps us to keep going. A strength that helps us to live the Christian Life, to persevere.

This is how he begins the final section of this letter by saying “now to him it was able to strengthen you”, and he then proceeds to give us 4 ways in which we can be strengthened

The first way that we can be strengthened to live the Christian Life is by understanding the gospel. We can get strength from the fact that Jesus has already won all of the battles that will ever take place.

The second way he says that we can be strengthened to live the Christian Life is by preaching the gospel. Now this doesn’t mean that we are preaching in the street or preaching from behind a pulpit. The idea of preaching refers to declaring what is true. How often we need to declare the truth in our own lives. That Jesus has already won and we should fix our eyes upon him rather than on our circumstances.

The third way we gain strength is by God revealing himself to us. This talks about the open nature of the gospel that God’s plan from ages past wasn’t an accident. It was God’s plan that Jesus should come to earth. Furthermore, God’s plan has been to disclose his plan to us: it’s no longer a secret. This should strengthen us because God has a plan as well as the power to execute it. Nothing has been left to chance.

The fourth way we gain strength to live the Christian Life comes by living according to God’s rules. This is what he says in verse 26 and 27 to “bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God”. The purpose of the eternally decreed mystery (the gospel) is that all nations might believe and obey him because this is the best way to live.

The Divisive Person – Sermon Recap

Last week’s sermon (here) looked at the difficult subject of Christian division. The text was Romans 16:17-20:

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The basic idea that Paul wants to teach is that we should watch out for those kinds of people who make divisions, and then divide from them. We saw how this is a frequent instruction in the New Testament:

2 John 10:  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

Matthew 18:17: If he refuses to listen to [you], tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

2 Thessalonians 3:14: If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

The Old Testament uses language that we a probably even less comfortable with, where Solomon says that there are certain things that God hates:

Proverbs 6:19 … one who sows discord among brothers.

The really sad thing is that quite often, these sowers of discord were once counted as friends and Solomon says that  “calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing” (Proverbs 6:15). Since it is “good and pleasant” when “brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1), there is something particularly heinous about the one who sows discord among brothers.

We know that those who “cause divisions” haven’t come to that place overnight. There might be years of history and struggle in their own life that has caused them to then turn on their friends. So, it’s helpful to consider those seeds that get planted in our own lives and prayerfully consider if these might one day bear dividing fruit. Three I can think of: pride, selfishness and gossip.

PRIDE

Solomon writes frequently about pride because the true and ugly reality is that pride is never far from the door of our hearts. Jerry Bridges calls pride a “respectable sin”. Not that it is respectable but we’ve made it so. Pride insists that I am better, and therefore deserve better, than others. My opinion deserves to be heard, and if it is not heard, I will make my discontent known. This attitude is divisive.

John wrote:

3 John 9 – I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

In verse 17 Paul offers the way we can spot those who create division: “contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught”.

This interests me.

Proverbs 13:10 says that “Only by pride comes contention”.

Paul wrote to Timothy about contentious doctrines:

1 Timothy 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

2 Timothy 2:23 (ESV) — 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

The novelties of contentious doctrines originate in the proud swelling of “the fleshly mind” (Col 2:18; 1Ti 6:3-4).

Colossians 2:18 (ESV) — 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

1 Timothy 6:3–4 (ESV) — 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,

Men scorn the beaten track.

We are obsessed with finding a new path or a new secret meaning and we are ready to quarrel with everyone who does not value our ideas as highly as we do … and we are being inundated with contention!

Watch out for contentious doctrines as these often come from a prideful heart.

SELFISHNESS

Selfishness demands that our way of doing things be honoured. Because Paul is speaking to the local church there in Rome we can apply this quite readily: we must realise that things are ultimately done for the benefit of the body, not the individual.

You know something?

The body is always more important than the individual because:

“We are never isolated and alone, never acting .. in separation from others” – Barrington

It’s been referring to before as “I am because we are”. I like that way of thinking about it. Sulking when things are not done your way only produces division. Rather than insisting that your desires must be honoured, be willing to do things in a way that will guard the unity of the whole because “I am because we are”. The person who does not think about the impact of their actions on others is not living a Christ-like life because Jesus exemplified selflessness perfectly

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) — 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

So in the context of Romans 16, watch out of those people who are selfless when it comes to their doctrine. Does it benefit the whole or just the select few, or even just themselves?

GOSSIP

Gossip is a significant destroyer of unity but one of the easiest things to stop. Again, it’s Solomon who speaks into this most vividly when he says:

Proverbs 16:28 (ESV) — 28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

The “whisperer” goes about muttering unhelpful and destructive things to those whom he thinks will hear him. He will not do this honestly and opening but only to those whose ears he thinks he has. It’s the gossiper who is the divider:

Proverbs 17:9 (ESV) — 9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Are you eager to tell the faults of someone to another, or do you strive to cover those faults? This does not speak of trying to cover your own sins, but of lovingly covering the sins of others. Do you feel compelled to share the failures of others with anyone who will hear you, or are you willing to love them enough to cover their faults? Are you eager to guard the integrity of others, or do you want to see their every fault laid bare for the world to see?

The great news is that the Bible not only points out these problems, but also gives us clear counsel on how to avoid becoming a divider.

First, in verse 17, we are warned to avoid those who are divisive. So the instruction is “watch out for” and then “avoid them”. Paul write to Titus and said

Titus 3:10 (ESV) — 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,

Second, from passages elsewhere in the Bible, we are told to avoid the things that cause division:

1 Timothy 6:20 (ESV) — 20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”

What that means is to stop gossip in its tracks. here’s three helpful tips:

  1. It starts with me. Mind your own words. In an age when talking about others’ faults seem to be encouraged by the media, it is important that we make sure we are being mindful of the words that come out of our own mouths (Ephesians 4:29, James 1:26, Proverbs 21:23)
  2. Acknowledge it. The first step in responding to gossip is to acknowledge that the conversation is gossip! Many times we find ourselves in the middle of conversations that take sudden turns. What starts as general chatter could quickly turn to gossip. (Proverbs 18:8).
  3. Confront gossip. You can do this is a really loving and practical way. For example, questions like “do you know that is actually true?”. “Where did you hear this from?”. “Are you sure that the other person sees it’ the same way as you do?” can help shed light on what is potentially a dark activity.

Someone once said that the problem with the Christian church today is that where we should restore the sinner, avoid the divider and settle our personal differences, instead we want to avoid the sinner, restore the divider and we never settle our personal differences. We must get this the right way around!

Covid Update – November 21

I know, I know .. it’s a little early for a November update but there are a few things we’d like to bring to your attention as we move into November, related to our Covid response.

Still the most effective way for us to continue meeting in-person, without the need for wearing face masks is that everyone takes a Covid test on Saturday or Sunday morning. The reason for this is so that everyone who is coming to church has tested negative within 24 hours of meeting therefore the risks of meeting are dramatically reduced.

That being said we have made some changes to our risk assessment and these changes are likely to remain in place for the winter months. Here a summary of the changes:

  • ATTENDANCE & LIVE STREAM – Clearly there is no change on the government guidance to isolate if you have tested positive or our displaying COVID-19 symptoms. We are continuing to live stream our services for those unable to come in-person.
  • HAND SANITISER – no change. Please continue to use hand sanitiser on entry and exit to the building as well as after touching face and after handling shared items. Sensible hygiene should also be observed (covering mouth and nose when sneezing, using tissues and disposing immediately) in bins provided.
  • PHYSICAL DISTANCING – no change.  Please judge your own risk tolerance but also please consider that others may be more cautious about contact than you are. There are always more seats put out than we actually need so please make use of the whole space.
  • MASKS – individuals should choose how to manage their own risk regarding the wearing of masks. We would never say “you must wear a mask” and our current guidance has been to say it is your choice .. and it still is. However, we are now recommending you wear a mask when circulating the building or chatting to each other i.e. on arrival, then removing your mask when you’ve found your seat. To be clear, no one will be asked to wear a mask or turned away if you do not have one. 
  • DOORS & WINDOWS – Windows will remain open but the inner doors will be closed, and the door to the quad will be closed. To help draw in fresh air from the outside we will be using an industrial “air mover”. This will mean that the building is warmer but there will still be a bit of a breeze to circulate fresh air into the building.
  • SINGING – our previous restriction of only having 3 songs has been changed to having 20 minutes of singing, with an additional song at the end of the service.

Of course that isn’t to say that any of this is fool proof. Our desire is for anyone who wants to come to church that they are welcomed and able to hear the transformed good news of Jesus. Continue to pray for wisdom as we seek to do this.

Recharge Your Spiritual Life

Not long ago I had to purchase a new battery for my car. The warning signs had been there for a while … sluggish start, a little apathetic about getting going. Sooner or later the battery will need changing.

By God’s grace our “spiritual battery” never gets changed .. just charged. What level is your “spiritual battery” at?

  • Fully charged?
  • Good, but drained?
  • Weak, probably need a jump start?
  • Very little left; may need help?

Recharging your battery is a must for the Christian. Probably the closest theological term we would use comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus about “being filled with the Holy Spirit”.

So much has changed over the last 18 months or so, and you have absorbed the pressure and stress that came with all the change. How are you dealing with it?

We believe that one of the ways the Holy Spirit fill us is when we apply our hearts and minds to listen to Him speak in His Word. So, for the next 7-8 weeks we’ve put on four different mid-week small groups that you can be part of to help you recharge. The only thing we ask is that you sign up – here are the details:

Small Groups:

Empowered – Monday, 8:00pm – In-person Only

Empowered is a positive, practical and helpful small group that is designed to help you share the good news about Jesus in everyday life.

More details and sign up here


Hearing from God – Tuesday, 8:00pm – In-person Only

Working through a series of practical exercises you’ll be supported to foster healthy habits that will help you to grow in your walk with God. You’ll learn to mediate on God’s Word, reflect on past victories and challenges and increase your faith in a God who speaks. You will need a notebook (recommended types are an A5 Moelskine or Leuchtturm), as well as a good quality black pen (recommended are the 0.5mm Pilot G2)

More details and sign up here


Living by Faith in Fearful Times – Wednesday, 7:30pm – In-person Only

We get to choose whether to live in fearful days or faith-filled days. But how? What can we learn from the saints of old who lived in uncertain times, much like our own? Join this small group for a 7-week journey through Hebrews 11.

More details and sign up here


Discipleship Explored – Thursday, 8:00pm – Online Only

Discipleship Explored helps followers of Jesus turn up the gospel soundtrack to their lives. It goes beyond simply teaching the right moves – go to church, pray, read the Bible, share the gospel – and focuses on the music which drives discipleship: the love of Christ. The greatest love anyone can ever know. This is an eight-session small group through the book of Philippians and is ideal for believers at any stage of the Christian life. This is an online small group that contains live video discussion as well as documentary-style film presentations.

More details and sign up here


 

Covid Update – October 21

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 69,993 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK. Although this is a decrease of 2% from cases last week it does also mean that we are at the same level of infection as we were in December last year.  The data shows that amongst the double vaccinated population,  cases have been slowly increasing for a few weeks.

Still the most effective way for us to continue meeting in-person, without the need for wearing face masks is that everyone takes a Covid test on Saturday or Sunday morning. The reason for this is so that everyone who is coming to church has tested negative within 24 hours of meeting therefore the risks of meeting are dramatically reduced.

That being said we are making a few changes to our risk assessment next week that are likely to remain in place for the winter months. Whilst these will be announced before next weekend, these may include:

  • a change in the advice around face masks – we currently say “It’s your choice”, and although it still is your choice, we will now be recommending you wear a mask when circulating the building or chatting to each other i.e. on arrival, then removing your mask when your’ve found your seat.
  • restricting the natural air flow around the building and replacing the open doors with an artificial air flow. This will mean that the building is warmer.
  • more chairs put out on a Sunday morning so we can spread out naturally rather than asking you to sign up to come.

Of course that isn’t to say that any of this is fool proof. Our desire is for anyone who wants to come to church that they are welcomed and able to hear the transformed good news of Jesus. Continue to pray for wisdom as we seek to do this.

What do I benefit from being in a Small Group?

 

 

 

 

Our new set of small groups are now available for you to sign up to. We’ve got a great range of Bible studies that we hope and pray will benefit you. You can see all the details, with details of how to sign up, on our calendar but you might be thinking: “What do I benefit from being in a Small Group?” … well I’m so glad you asked .. because here are some top benefits you get from coming along to one of our small group bible studies:

1. Discipleship
Undeniably this is the core of small groups. We need both the pulpit proclamation and the intimacy of small groups to help us walk with God on mission together. Small groups provide us the opportunity for friends to help each other wrestle through difficult questions. By discussing and applying the Bible together, those that attend can learn to understand not only the Bible, but also each other, so that each will know better how to love the other. This is the essence of discipleship: learning how to following God on mission together.

2. Honest discussion
I am not the best preacher in the world .. in fact I’m not very good at all .. which is why small groups are perfect for questions where group members are encouraged to ask questions they might not ask elsewhere. Perhaps they heard me say something on Sunday that just didn’t sound right, and in the safety of a small group those questions can be asked and answers clarified.

3. Hospitality
We love to have people over to the house! Many people are more comfortable and more at ease opening the bible on a sofa with a cup of tea in their hand (the odd biscuit doesn’t go amiss either!). We have the biblical command to love each other (Heb. 13:2, Rom. 12:13), but somethings that feels a bit wishy-washy. What does it mean to love? how do you do it? Well, one great way to start putting theory to practice is to attend a group in someone else’s home and “feel” and “share” the love. Maybe you’re not in a position to host a small group in your home but there are plenty of ways you can encourage each other practically … biscuits again come to mind!

4. Break-in
Let’s face it, being part of a church is sometimes hard. Work schedules, family responsibilities and just general life occurrences make connecting with each other difficult. Small groups can provide a way for those who are trying—or considering whether they would like to try—to break into the life of the church.

5. Prayer
One of the things that marked the NT church was that they prayed together “with one accord” (Acts 4:24). In small groups we can really through praise and petitions.

6. Socialising
We saw recently in our study in Romans that “fellowship” is not a spiritually-neutral activity. As we meet up with friends (and hopefully make new ones) we are obeying the command to love each other. Where socialising meets spirituality, we are fellowshipping.

If I can’t save them then what

In last Sunday’s sermon I made the point that we can’t save people. Salvation is something that God does. If you missed it please go here to check it out

So if I can’t save people, what can I do? Well I cam across a blog post this week that gives us 18 ways we can pray for unbelievers. This is the missing component of evangelism.

Once we’ve told people about Jesus .. we need to tell Jesus about people!

We need to pray. This is what I think it means to “break up the fallow ground” (Hosea 10:12 ) . So, from 18 ways you can pray for unbelievers, here’s my top 3:

  1. Pray that God would put his Spirit within them. The great joy of salvation is being indwelled by God himself. Pray that God would grant this honor to those unbelievers, that he would choose to take up residence within them. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
  2. Pray that God would remove Satan’s blinding influence . Unbelievers have been blinded by Satan and will only ever be able to see and appreciate the gospel if God works within them. So pray that God would give them sight—spiritual sight. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  3. Pray that God would open their hearts to believe the gospel. Once more, God must initiate and people must respond. So pray that God would open the hearts of these unbelievers so they can in turn believe, just as Lydia did. “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books I’m Reading

Every now and then I get asked what books I’m reading alongside my Bible reading so here is my current book shelf:

Just Leadership – “Justice is the heart cry of the next generation, but too often our fight for justice is confined to causes, bypassing conversations about individual leaders working in organisations, charities, communities and in our churches.” This book is co-authored by Simon Barrington and Justin Humphreys and is so far excellent and challenging. Right now, it’s asking me “what is motivating you”?  – so I’m not too far into the book but I can say already that this is a much needed read for any leader in any organisation who seeks to put justice at the heart of how they lead.

Even Better than Eden – this was a gift from good friends and a beautiful read so far. It’s by Nancy Guthrie and the purpose of the book seems to be to remind us again of the truth of the gospel. What I’m loving about this book is that it’s a conversational read – no long sentences, not hard to read – soul refreshing.

 

What gives us hope?

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

In our service last week the message concluded Paul’s “proper” letter to the church in Rome. Before finishing the letter with a few concluding thoughts and personal messages, Paul summarizes the entire letter by reminding us to keep hoping in God.

Hope in the Bible is not the same as we might think or use the term hope today. We quite often mention “I hope it doesn’t rain” or “I hope I get some rest tonight” … and this really gives us the idea that there is a chance, a 50/50 kind of “good luck” .. “wish” .. kind of sentiment. The Bible however, doesn’t use the idea of hope in that way. The Bible uses the word hope to refer to the idea that something is definitely going to happen – 100% true.

In this section Paul says that our hope is in God. So, God is doing something and because God is doing something it’s going to work! He is 100% successful and everything He does because He is God. The thing that God is doing is found in Romans 1-11 – the gospel. He is offering forgiveness and healing. He is offering reunion with Him and eternal happiness and joy. Paul points back to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a way to remind us that God is a keeper of promises. God is working today, albeit sometimes in the background, sometimes hidden, to bring about the promises that He has made. This is something that we can grasp now .. and something we have to look forward to .. but only because God is the one doing it. Therefore we can hope with all knowledge that it’s going to happen.

Paul also says that can hope in God because of what He has done to bring together Jew and Gentile. Remember the context of this chapter is church unity. Paul says, both Jew and Gentile are included in God’s plan of salvation and both are the recipients of Christ’s work. If God can heal the divide between Jew and Gentile, what do you think about your squabble with your Christian friend? Do you think God can be Lord over that too?

And to demonstrate what he means, Paul quotes from four Old Testament passages to prove that God’s plan was always Jew and Gentile together. The most fascinating of which is from Isaiah 11 which predicted that the Messiah would rise from the dead:

Romans 15:12 – “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

When did Jesus rise to rule? Of course in his resurrection from he dead. That is where He defeated sin and according to Ephesians broke down the wall of seperation. And so Jesus rose to rule over the Gentiles so that now the Gentiles will hope in him. It is this hope and this rule that will bring the warring factions in Rome together as the basis of worship and praise: because Jesus overcame and conquered death we can overcome our differences too.

Be Kind and Build Up

 

Last Sunday we looked at the part of Romans in chapter 15 that says ” Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up” and I gave three ways in which we can grow in our practice of being kind and being up others. If you remember, I challenged you to work these into your daily habits. How have you done this week? Here’s a reminder of what I said:

Be encouraging

Ephesians 5:8 (NLT) — 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

We talked about the difference between “I” and “Christ in me” and how the former, although already dead, needs putting on the altar each and every day. The latter is one of the best definitions of what it means to be a Christian that I know. Christ is living in me. So, because that is true, I need to practise the selfless kind of life that Jesus had. One of those things that Jesus did was that he was tremendously encouraging to those who needed it. He had a way of lifting their spirits.

Christ in me understands that the weak Christian (check the context of Romans 14 and 15) isn’t weak because they have chosen to be weak. They have convictions over certain issues and honest questions about honest problems. They have vulnerabilities in areas that others don’t have and they know their weakness better than you do.

Encouraging doesn’t mean that we have to remind them of their weakness. It means to give them encouragement to keep going. As Paul says in the text above, to bring light to their path. This is about encouraging them to be true to their convictions, to honour God with their convictions.

Let them know that you are thankful for them

Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) — 22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Paul made it a habit to tell people that he was thankful to God for then. Read the first few verses of most of his letters and he begins telling them things like: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” or “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you”..

Let’s not be shy about encouraging each other like this. The writer of Proverbs was right when he said that a joyful is good for you. It is! We need to be people who look for the things that are strong in others lives and praise them for it – and then praise God for it.

Tell them that you value them and that they bring something good and helpful to your life

Give hope by telling others what God is doing in your own life

Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NLT) — 4 There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

What a quote that is!!!! The writer of Ecclesiastes is actually being encouraging .. he is saying ..  so long as you are alive ..even if you’re struggling … there is hope. He is trying to instill hope in us.

Isaiah says a similar thing

Isaiah 60:1 (ESV) — 1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

How do you do that? Well simply by recalling all of the ways God has been faithful to you – this will then in turn remind them that God is faithful to them.

Psalm 19:8 (ESV) — 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

 

 

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