Author: Simon

We’d like your opinions

A few weeks ago we sent our email asking for your feedback about the church. About half of the church has already provided feedback which is awesome but we’d like more. The more the better.

Why do we need your feedback?

We are aware that church is probably going to look and feel a bit different for several years ahead. We are also aware that the church is 18 years old this year and we’ve never really done a wholesale evaluation of how we are doing.

Paul wrote to Timothy and said to him: 1 Timothy 4:15-16 – “ Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

These two verses offer a context for evaluating how church is operated and what we view as “success”. Paul’s stated goal is not perfection, but progress (v.15) and that a consistent and thorough evaluation of ourselves and our Church leads to the furtherance of the gospel (v.16). In short, are we making progress in the gospel?

What we are doing

There can be no doubt that this process requires courage because we must be willing to consider and confront the most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be. We must 1) Create a climate where truth is heard

2) Get the data

3) Never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, with the discipline to confront & make the changes, however difficult they might be

How we are doing it

Before we do anything we’re listening and asking lots and lots of questions. We’re taking the answers before God in prayer to ask Him to open our eyes and give us vision.  Then, once we’ve heard from God we’re moving forward.

So, items 1 and 2 above are where you come in. We’re not only asking for survey results but in future weeks we’ll be asking some people to feedback in conversations. Your opinion is super important as the church leadership prayer and plan. If you haven’t already completed the survey please go ahead and do so in the next few days.

The link to provide feedback is here: https://s.surveyplanet.com/8Hl_09hBZ

 

Life Group Notes for Sunday 25 April – 1 John 3

Life Group Notes for Sunday 25 April – 1 John 3

The big idea from the message: We are saved to adoption. We get to call God our Father! This should change the way we love others.

Outline: All Christians should live in three arenas:

  1. what we are (v1)
  2. what we shall be (v2)
  3. what we should be. (v3)

Disussion questions:

  1. How great a love did the Father bestow on us? Outside of salvation, give examples in the Bible of how God loved people.
  2. What about you, outside of salvation, in what ways has God shown love to you?
  3. What are the privileges and blessings which are ours as the result of our adoption?
    1. Read the following passages to define these things.
      1. Romans 8:15. Galatians 4:6.
      2. Ephesians 3:14-15, Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16.
      3. Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
      4. Hebrews 12:6-11, Philippians 1:6
      5. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Isaiah 66:13. Matthew 23:37.
      6. Romans 8:19-23, John 15:13-15.
      7. Romans 8:17
  4. How does this text speak to our attitude towards orphans? How can we make a difference, in the name of Jesus, to demonstrate the Father-love of God?
  5. What do you think of fostering and adoption as a practical outworking of this text?
  6. How can we pray for your walk this week?

Learn the Ropes

We are looking for a few people to be trained in doing the Live Broadcast on Sunday mornings. If you’re interested you’ll be partnered with someone who is already doing it, you’ll watch and learn “on the job” and eventually (after a while) you’ll be part of a rotating team. If you’re interested we need to hear from you. Please drop Simon an email.

What is making you so noisy – part 2

In my previous post about Pslam 131 suggested that the problem of a noisy mind is a prideful heart. You can go back and read it here if you can’t remember.

David says:

 1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

  1. This is about David but it is also about Jesus. God who became Man is thinking out loud for us.
  2. The psalmist is speaking to God (v1-2) then leads us by the hand and speaks to us (v3)
  3. This is about learning peace, a peace that is learned in a relationship

Last time I looked at the biblical view of peace and how David seems to suggest that the reason peace often escapes us is that deep down we’re trying to make sense of the world around us with our own eyes. The questions we ask don’t get an answer – at least not one that we’re very happy about. Questions like:

  • I want control. But I don’t seem to have it. Why not?
  • Comfort, ease, convenience. I want it but I want more of it. Why don’t I have it?
  • I want to feel good. About myself and about others. I don’t feel good therefore God is withholding this from me. Why?

It’s easy to get into that trap of questions that are based on me, myself and I. Increased stress anxiety and worry tend to mount up. Of course, I’m going over some of the things that I wrote about last time so let’s move on …

The issue of noise isn’t only about what I think about myself. Pride .. pride has a way of looking at myself .. but also looking at others too. This is what David writes about when he says “my eyes are not raised too high”.

Pride is not only about me. It’s also about you.

I must look down on you in some way in other to lift me up (or give me the sense that I am lifted up). This means that I have to establish my superiority in some way.  Let me give you an example … talking over people … this screams “I HAVE SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT TO SAY THAT YOU!!!”

Pride.

Of course, some people just wear this on their sleeve a lot more than others but we’re all guilty in one way or another of passing judgement on others.

A prideful heart says, “I’m right in myself.” – my heart is not lifted up

A judgmental heart says “I’m right compared to you.” – “my eyes are not raised too high”

If you are prone to grumble about others and criticise others the chances are you are suffering from “noise”.

That’s the second phrase in Psalm 131. Next time we’ll look at the third phrase:

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

Titus 2:11-14 – Men’s Bible Notes

In our monthly men’s bible study in April, we continued to look at Paul’s letter to Titus. We used an online tool called Google Docs to create a bible study map of Chapter 2:11-14. I’ve attached it here so you can see. It’s a pretty rough format but we hope that you’ll be blessed by it.

The main outcomes were:

  • God’s grace is teaching us to wait well.

 

Christians and the Covid Vaccine

Today is Good Friday. It’s a day we remember when Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many.

I’m writing after receiving my 1st covid vaccine. I can’t say that it was a pleasant experience, receiving side effects that knocked me off my feet for 24 hours. Still, that’s not the reason I’m writing. The reason I’m writing is to help you as I recount my thought process in deciding whether to get vaccinated or not.

What’s the problem?

You might ask .. why is there even a debate? Well, according to some research up to a quarter of people are hesitant to get vaccinated (this increases up to 72% if you are in a BAME minority group). So what are the most common factors for Christians to consider and how did I navigate these issues?

Issue #1: We Should Trust God

The Bible time and again exhorts us to place our faith and trust in God rather than men. I think we can say “Amen” to that. However, the Bible doesn’t say that God always works supernaturally.  In fact, that would be a denial of the way that God works through the physical world He created. We don’t do the same with food and yet we go to the supermarket each week and purchase it – we don’t wait for it to arrive “trusting God” will feed us. He feeds us by working in the physical world. And we give thanks every mealtime to acknowledge that “every good and perfect gift [ultimately] come from heaven”.

So the Bible endorses medicine and the work of doctors. We love the fact that our church family has those working in medicine and we thank God for them. We trust that God works through them.

Issue #2: YouTube Says …

There are so many conflicting theories online – not just YouTube. According to some, Bill Gates, the Illuminati and Kayne West are all involved. Some theories seem more Biblical, saying that the vaccine is the fulfilment of the “mark of the beast” from Revelation 13:15-17. I find that those who promote “discernment” are actually the ones that have fallen for some of the most outlandish claims, to even suggest that Covid is a myth. Christians we must stand for what is true which also means rejecting that which is false.

Issue #3: It’s Unsafe

This is probably the most legitimate concern. The speed of the vaccine getting approved, as well as news reports about blood clots as well as the claim that the technique used might alter our DNA in some harmful way. This way I rationalised my fear was to think about it based on risk and benefit. In my life, I’ve had three operations requiring general anaesthetic and none of those were free from risk. They had side effects. Like those, the regulatory bodies that oversee such things have given assurances that it is safe. I have no reason to distrust the regulatory bodies aren’t being honest.

Issue #4: Abortion

Here’s a big issue that we need to consider: some Christians take the view that it would be ethically wrong to accept the Covid vaccination because it has been developed and tested using cells derived from historic abortions. John Piper is one who has called for Christians to renounce the vaccine. He states that we would be “complicit in the desecration of dismembered human beings”. Others argue that we would be endorsing and supporting the ongoing practice of abortion.

This takes serious consideration. I’m pro-life. I think abortion is a sin. The World Health Organisation estimates that 55% of total global deaths were down to abortion, far outnumbering those killed by Covid. So how did I conclude that the vaccine was ok?

Well, let me say first that it is completely right for Christians to fight against this immense evil, which is a violation of human rights far greater in scale than slavery or the holocaust. And yet, we should consider many other medical procedures in the same light and also reject those too. Here’s what I mean …

Regardless of some popular theories, the vaccines are not manufactured from foetal tissue. The vaccine development process utilised a cell line (HEK-293) derived from an abortion performed in 1972. A past sin. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not directly developed using this cell-line, but it was used in the testing phase. These are past sins that we should stand up against. For the issue was this ..  much of what we know about organ transplants is because of the Nazi experiments on Jews in the 1930s. I dare say that we would not reject a lung transplant based on the past sins of the Nazi’s? If someone came to me and told me they had a sexually transmitted disease I would tell them to go to a doctor and get treated – even though the USA conducted medical experiments on African-Americans who had sexually transmitted diseases. The 1972 abortion, Nazi and US experiments are past sins and should shame any society.

However, let’s be consistent. I have no problem with you rejecting the vaccine so long as you are also prepared to reject the MMR vaccine, most medical procedures and the treatment of STIs. We also have to reject all products in our house that were made through slave trade – even the publication of our English Bible’s in china because of the persecution of the Chinese church.

I am not making a case that every Christian gets vaccinated. I’m suggesting that we should have a robust, well-informed reason not to be. I hope you have found this article helpful

 

Life Group Notes for Sunday 14 March – 1 John 2:1-6

Life Group Notes for Sunday 14 March – 1 John 2:1-6

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:1–6 (ESV)

The big idea from the message: Jesus loved us and has made a way for us to love Him. Love is relationship with God.

Notes:

  • The purpose of writing – so that you might not sin (v1)
  • What happens when we do sin? We have an advocate (v2)
  • What happens to our sin? We have a propitiation (v2).
    • John again uses the “unclean / clean” or “defiled / pure” paradigm of salvation, as he has done before, and uses this term propitiation to get us to think about the “atonement”. The atonement is an Old Testament act of making that which is impure, pure again. It literally means “At one”. Propitiation is a way to describe part of that process – it’s the act of giving a sacrifice that turns absorbs God’s anger. So, in Jesus, through His sacrifice, He absorbed the anger of God against sin making us clean.
  • The scope of this is “the whole world”.
    • The whole world is not saved and in fellowship with God because “atonement” isn’t the same as forgiveness. So the phrase “but also for the whole world” announces to the world that sin need not be a barrier between God and man, because Jesus has paid the atonement sacrifice.
  • What happens when we sin, confess and trust Him? We have the fruit of fellowship. (v3-6)
    • We keep His commandments
    • Our love for God grows
    • We imitate Jesus more and more

Discussion questions:

  1. What key things did you take away from the message?
  2. How does 1 John 1:8 (sin is a fact in the life of the Christian), and 1 John 1:9 (there is always forgiveness) marry with 1 John 2:1?
  3. Does propitiation mean that God is no longer angry at sin?
  4. Is there any specific thing that the Lord is challenging you to address this week?
  5. How can we pray for your walk this week?

What is making you so noisy?

Hands up if you could do with a bucket load of peace right now? Me too .. let me tell you that I have both hands up!

In the Bible, the idea of peace is “shalom”. Beautifully, one of the first times we see this word is in Exodus 21-22 when the Hebrew people were released from slavery in Egypt. In those two chapters, it’s used 14 times, and it’s all about making something good or returning something back to its owner or, better yet, in the word “restore”.  When we read the word else (Genesis 43:27-28 for example) the word means to restore wellness

“Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” (NKJV Gen 43:27-28)

In Hebrew, the word translated as “well-being”, “well”, and “in good health” is all one word – Shalom. And so the idea of “peace” in the Bible is not just about practical restoration of things that were lost or stolen but a sense of fulness and completeness in mind, body and spirit. Theologically, Paul picks this up in Romans to speak of the peace that we have with God because of the gospel.

What I’ve been meditating on this week is a short Psalm about peace. Psalm 131 invites us to listen in on a conversation between David and God – a kind of holy eavesdropping. We get to have intimate access to the inner life of someone who has learned Shalom, and then remarkably he invites us to come along. Psalm 131 is a tutorial for how to become peaceful inside. Let’s listen in:

LORD,
my heart is not proud,
and my eyes are not haughty,
and I do not go after things too great
and too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child on his mother, like a weaned child, my soul rests on me.
Israel, hope in the LORD now and forever.

Some initial notes about this Psalm:

  1. This is about David but it is also about Jesus. God who became Man is thinking out loud for us.
  2. The psalmist is speaking to God (v1-2) then leads us by the hand and speaks to us (v3)
  3. This is about learning peace, a peace that is learned in a relationship.

I’ll write more about this Psalm in future posts but the thing that strikes me straight away in the first verse is that faith delivers us from a proud self-will. David has tremendous calm. He has practised and is now showing shalom. Listen to what he says:

“my heart is not proud …. I am NOT superior. I am NOT opinionated. I am NOT attempting the impossible”

Somehow, he has consciously distanced himself from everything that rattles inside of him. He has settled his heart to the degree that it is no longer noisy.

He’s quiet.

Are you quiet inside? Is Psalm 131 your experience, too? It’s not often mine, if I’m honest. So, next question … what is the “noise” going on inside you? Where does it come from?

What makes our minds so noisy?

To diagnose the heart of a Psalm I find it helpful to write out an Anti-Psalm. This turns the Psalm to the opposite and using some synonyms to personal application it soon becomes evident why shalom often escapes us:

Self, I’m absorbed in you
I look down on other people
and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.
the result? I’m noisy
and restless inside
like a hungry child fussing around mothers feet
I’m noisy and restless with my demands and heaviness of heart.
I scatter seeds of hope onto dry ground all the time.

So here it is. The problem: pride. Pride takes the things of life and makes them noisy. the trouble we have is that we try and quieten the noise when actually we need God to help us with our pride.

The Frog in the Pan

We all know the story of the frog in the pan of water:

Imagine a pot filled with cold water. A frog is quietly swimming in it. The fire is lit under that pot. Water starts warming up. Soon it becomes lukewarm. The frog finds this rather pleasant and keeps swimming. The temperature keeps rising. Water is now warm. It’s a little more than what the frog enjoys; it becomes a bit tired, but it doesn’t panic. Water is now really warm. The frog finds that unpleasant, but it has also become weak, by now, so the frog stands the heat as it can and does nothing. The temperature will thus keep rising up to the moment the frog will simply end up being cooked and die, without ever extracting itself from the pot. Plunged in a pot half-way through boiling temperature, the frog would immediately give a powerful and salutary push with its legs and find itself out of it.

Ever feel like the frog? Me neither until this week when I realised I was in a pot of boiling water. Short of a full-scale breakdown, those around me spoke some truth and told me to get some help.

So I did.

It was incredibly humbling for a “fixer” to admit he needed “fixing”.

So incredibly humbling to realise that this rational, (almost) emotionless, independent problem solver was out of control. The heat had been turned up and although there had been signs of a problem (heart palpitations before Christmas) I dismissed these as tiredness as my body just adjusted to the temperature.

When I recall the story of the frog, I totally relate to it.

I have been carrying a lot on these shoulders for many years and lockdown 3 has not been kind.

What do I make of this? Well, you probably know, but I meet every Saturday morning to pray with other pastors from across the UK. I managed to share with them what I have been experiencing and one of them said “good …. God’s grace!” …. and I was like … “wait, what?”. …. and what he meant was that circumstances come into our lives at just the right moment because we need them. I hadn’t heeded the warnings so God says “ok, I’ll allow some of this to get to you .. just enough to make you slow down and stop and see … Me”.

As the psalmist says: “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”

Life Group Notes for Sunday 7 March – Philippians 4:4-9

 

Life Group Notes for Sunday 7 March  – Philippians 4:4-9

Philippians 4:4–9 (ESV) — 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Big idea: Christians don’t have it all together but we are given help – something to rejoice in and someone to trust in

Something to rejoice in:

  • The Christian good news message is that the separation from God and spiritual death has been done away with.
  •  We have a God who has done something about our brokenness, freeing us into a relationship with God. We now longer have to fear.

Someone to trust:

  • Paul calls us to turn to God and trust Him with our fears.
  • He has given us a promise – Matthew 6:25-34
  • He has given us a purpose – Eph 2:10

Questions for discussion:

  1. What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? Why do you think he specifies “always”? Describe how it might be possible to do this even in hard times.
  2. How do we connect the idea of trust with prayer? How does prayer bring peace?
  3. What do our hearts and minds need to be guarded or protected from? How are we guarded “in Christ Jesus”?
  4. What other words might we use in verse 8? How does this clarify what Paul is talking about?
  5. Read Philippians 1:27, 2:2, 2:5, 3:15, 3:19, 4:8. Notice how often Paul talks about the life of the mind.
    1. What sorts of things occupy your mind? How does your preoccupation with these things affect your relationships? How does it affect your joy in the Lord? How does it affect your peace or your relationship with the God of peace?
  6. What about Jesus, his person or work, is most joyful to you? Share with the group. Where have you seen God at work in your life for which you are thankful?

Titus 2:2-10 – Men’s Bible Notes

In our monthly men’s bible study in March, we continued to look at Paul’s letter to Titus. We used an online tool called Google Docs to create a bible study map of verses 2-10 of Titus chapter 2. I’ve attached it here so you can see. It’s a pretty rough format but we hope that you’ll be blessed by it.

The main outcomes were:

  • God has saved us from solitude and into a family of God
  • He calls us to act as a family to build each other up. We need to remember that each of us matters to God.

Life Group Notes for Sunday 28 February – 1 John 1:5-10

Life Group Notes for Sunday 28 February – 1 John 1:5-10

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5–10

The big idea from the message: Jesus is love and offers forgiveness that is final and forever. If we say we are in fellowship with him, we will begin to act like Jesus.

Light represents two concepts

  • perfection, righteousness, goodness, purity
  • knowledge, discernment and understanding truth

Five “if” statements:

  • verse 6 – “if we say”
  • verse 7 – “if we do” (walk)
  • verse 8 – “if we say”
  • verse 9 – “if we do” (confess)
  • verse 10 – “if we say”

Discussion questions:

  1. What key things did you take away from the message?
  2. Confession is not “telling God new information” or “self-flagellation”, it is “agreeing with God about sin”.
  3. John uses the “defiled / purity” paradigm of salvation to address a culture of shame. Under the Law, defilement made you an outcast of society. It was originally intended as a kind of sign to show us in our pride that we could not, by our own strength and power, keep ourselves pure. This is the emphasis that John makes where he draws on the idea of fellowship: we can’t have fellowship because we are defiled. We are outcasts. The intended lesson is that we need God to cleanse us through Christ so that we can have true fellowship with others, which involves extended “cleansing” to others how have wronged us.
    1. How do we view confession in light of three perspectives of sin that defile us that were highlighted in Romans …
      1. Sin that has been done BY us defiles us and bring shame?
      2. Sin that has been done TO us defiles us and bring shame?
      3. Sin that has been done in our presence defiles us and bring shame?
  4. Being “in the light” means ” knowledge, discernment and understanding truth” and therefore must include the whole gospel – both the need for confession AND the reality of our present purity in Christ.
  5. How did this week’s sermon help you to forgive others?
    1. What about those people who don’t agree about their sin against you? How do we forgive them?
    2. What about those who have really hurt us and have left deep scars, how do we forgive them?
  6. How can we pray for your walk this week?

Welcome Hong Kong

This year the UK is set to welcome an estimated 300,000 Hong Kong Nationals to the UK as the country introduces a new visa that will give residents the right to come and live in the UK. Because of this, we are taking part in an initiative to help welcome them to our city. These Hong Kongers may be looking for a new church or simply wanting to make new friends, either way, we are going to be here for them.

It is our hope and prayer that by doing a good job of welcoming people arriving from Hong Kong this could then help shape wider immigration policy in the UK as well as being a direct source of influence in China.

We know that it takes effort to put on a good welcome and we can’t just stand by and wait for people to arrive. We have to be intentional about reaching out and make the first move. If you would like to be part of the steering team that will help our whole church welcome Hong Kongers this year please do get in touch – you will receive training, learn to work cross-culturally and  learn more about the culture and values of people arriving in the UK from Hong Kong

Sign up here

    Get the Most out of Online Church

    You are more than a viewer.

    You are not a spectator.

    Your contribution matters.

    You make a difference.

    These are the things that we are passionate about repeating over and over again and as we go into yet another week of lockdown the Bible speaks loud and clear to us:

    “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

    How do we do this in the digital world? Here are some suggests on how to get the most out of online church:

    1. Come ready – I dare say that if you roll out of bed at 10:30(ish), you’re not going to be fully engaged in the service. If you’re fumbling around trying to make coffee, locate your Bible or something else your mind is not ready to worship.
    2. Come prayerfully  – You need to prepare your heart as much as you prepare your body. Consider spending some time in prayer before the service, to pray for the service. That the worship would be honouring and the sermon would be impactful. I remember years ago speaking to someone who didn’t like the style of worship we have .. I asked them, since they were so passionate about worship, why they didn’t attend our pre-service prayer meeting in which we pray that our worship would honour God. Needless to say they got the point! Our worship leaders and preachers need your help. So pray for them, that what they do would both honour God and serve you.
    3. Be fully present – there are lots and lots of digital distractions. However, there than give in the temptation of jumping onto Facebook to check your fame status mid-service, choose to stay committed and engaged.
    4. Take notes – unless you have the memory of Deep Blue you’re not going to remember everything. Indeed, taking notes is a good way to get the sermon from the ear to the heart. It’s also useful for when Life Group comes around and we get to discuss how the sermon is making an impact on us. Taking notes is also an excellent way of staying present.
    5. Be Aware of the limitations of technology – because our computers, phones, and televisions are so often used to consume entertainment, it takes work for us to connect with God in this way. Let’s not get confused between entertainment and worship! One thing to consider is being intentional about making the space in which you will engage more conducive for worship.

     

    Let’s do something to stand against the inclination to merely consume.

     

     6. Avoid YouTube – … I know I know .. YouTube is easy and slick and …. BUT … there is zero engagement in YouTube. What I mean is this .. church is not something you watch but something you are part of. Our chat window should be filled with conversation, prayer requests and encouragement. Instead, it’s actually pretty dull most of the time. Let’s change that. Let’s encourage one another, lift each other up in prayer, share with others what God is speaking to you about! I guaranteed this will transform your online experience.

    7. Engage (Like, Share, Comment) – Every week we post invitations on Instgram and Facebook inviting people to join our online church. You can share those posts and make them go further. Why not send a personal invitation telling them you’ll see them online!

    Church. Let’s be church.

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 21 February – 1 John 1:1-4

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 21 February – 1 John 1:1-4

    1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. – 1 John 1:1–4 (ESV)

    Big idea from the message: Jesus is love and we can’t hope to have or give love if we aren’t connected to the source of love.

    Jesus is:

    1. Eternal – “That which was from the beginning”
    2. Manifest – “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it”
    3. To be Experienced – “we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands”
    4. The Foundation for Fellowship – so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”
    5. The Foundation of Joy – “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

    Discussion questions:

    1. What key things did you take away from the message?
    2. What are the big differences between “Jesus is love” and “Jesus shows/displays love”? Why is this distinction important?
    3. Why is it important to know that Jesus came in the flesh? How does this doctrine connect to Romans 12:1 where Paul wrote to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”?
    4. In what ways have you experienced Jesus?
    5. If Jesus is the “foundation of fellowship”, how can we define “Christian fellowship”?
    6. What did you think about the quote from Craig Groeschel: “We might impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses.”
    7. How did this week’s sermon help you to love others?
    8. Is there any specific thing that the Lord is challenging you to address this week?
    9. How can we pray for your walk this week?

    What is this thing Called Love?

    This coming Sunday we are going to start a sermon series in the Apostle John’s first letter. We will be teaching this when we are not in Romans.

    There are many good reasons to read and study this letter, not least because John ranks only second to the Apostle Paul in the number of letters he wrote to the church. In fact, his Gospel and his the book of Revelation take up more lines than any of Paul’s letters. What we are going to discover as we study through this book is that “the Thing Called Love” is actually a person called Jesus. Additionally, we will discover that the only way we can bring genuine and lasting love to those around us is to ourselves be completely satisfied in His love for us.

    Here are some other things we’ll point out along the way:

    1. John uncovers the divinity and humanity of Christ in a way that Paul does not. And, John makes doctrine put on shoes and walk right in front of you. If I can use an analogy from a recent sermon in Romans …. John pleads with us to “come down the mountain and face the mess”. As a result, John writes with immense clarity about the nature of Jesus – who is He in both his divinity and humanity. This is the most exciting thing – we’re going to discover Jesus!
    2. John helps us to face the mess at the bottom of the mountain. At one point (1 John 2:15) John writes  about what we are not to love … “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” In other words, if you love the world and the things that are world, you can’t love Jesus because He is not of this world. The only way to raise the world out of the mess is to 1) love Jesus b) allow His love to flow through you.
    3. John helps us see that doctrine is equally as important as holiness and love in the Christian life. we would do well to hear John’s words. He doesn’t separate docrine and “doing”. It matters what you believe about Jesus but John doesn’t hold back to show that holiness and love are indispensable. An important point is that the gospel shows us that God has cleaned our records in heaven by the blood of Christ, AND he has also cleaned our hearts on earth by the power of his Spirit. It’s vital that these two truths are held in tandem.

     

    Men’s Bible Study Notes

    In our monthly men’s bible study in February, we continued to look at Paul’s letter to Titus. We used an online tool called Google Docs to create a bible study map of verse1 of Titus chapter 3. I’ve attached it here so you can see. It’s a pretty rough format but we hope that you’ll be blessed by it.

    The main outcomes were:

    • God desires the spiritual health of His people and as given people the task of bringing that about in the church
    • The Fall has meant spiritual health doesn’t come easy
    • Paul was keen for Titus to restore spiritual health and this came by teaching certain things that fit with bringing it about.

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 31 January – Malachi 3:1-5

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 31 January – Malachi 3:1-5

    Big idea from the message: God has sent Jesus as his messenger to reveal God’s great salvation for his people once and for all.

    The Christian who loves salvation …

    1. Seeks the Lord
    2. Delights in Jesus and His message
    3.  Lives in remembrance of HIs incarnation
    4. Looks noticeably different
    5. Takes joy in sanctification
    6. Increasingly reflects the Lord in their life
    7. Desires to worship the Lord
    8. Worships God in Spirit and in Truth
    9. Tells others of God’s good grace
    10. Shows love to those in need

    Discussion questions:

    1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
    2. How does God feel about salvation? (Answer: God’s love is God’s salvation). How do you feel about salvation?
    3. Salvation has three perspectives: Set free from sin (PAST), we are growing in Christ (PRESENT), we are going to be with Christ (FUTURE).
      1. How does God use trials to refine and strengthen our present faith? What is the purpose?
    4. Salvation occurs firstly from the inside. Why does God change us from the inside out and not the outside in? How does this change our relationship with / how we approach God?
    5. How has Jesus changed your life?
    6. How can we pray for you?

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 24 January – Malachi 2:10-16

    Life Group Notes for Sunday 24 January – Malachi 2:10-16

    Big Idea of the Message: God loves his covenant with his people, and believers are called to reflect this in their faithfulness to Him and each other.

    Discussion Questions:

    1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
    2. Verses 10-12 point out that our relationship with God has an effect on our relationship with each other – and vice versa.
      1. What flawed cultural ideas about our relationships might you need to challenge in light of this text?
    3. Verses 13-16 points out that God delights in faithfulness
      1. How is marriage a reflection of God’s love and commitment to his people?
      2. Why is it important to reconcile with another Christian you’ve fallen out with before worshipping God?
      3. How does our behaviour in marriage reflect our relationship with God?
      4. If you are married, what have you done to intentionally honour your covenant with your spouse in the last month?
      5. If you are not married, what temptations do you face that challenge the covenant of marriage? How can community help you in those areas?
      6. How can we pray for you?

    An Open Letter to a Discouraged Saint

    This letter was posted on CCEF.org here https://www.ccef.org/an-open-letter-to-a-discouraged-saint/ so I thought it could be good to share here

    Dearest brother,

    I know you are discouraged and distressed this morning. The trials and temptations you’ve faced this past week have brought you low. Suffering clouds your vision. Sin’s hangover—guilt, shame, and doubt—still pounds in your soul. The hardships you face and the failures you recounted to me loom large in your life. They seem to be what is most true, most real, and most compelling about your experience as a Christian right now. I know you have prayed about these things. You are seeking to honor Christ amidst your difficulties, and trying your best to take loving, constructive steps in your contentious relationship. I know you have asked for forgiveness for choosing to give in to desires that took you from God’s good and ancient life-giving path (Jer 6:16). In spite of this, you remain heavy-hearted and downcast. May I help you shift your gaze upward?

    You see, what is most true, most real, most compelling, (and most long-lasting) about your life are not the multiple places of suffering, nor your two-steps-forward, one-step-back battle against particular sins. What is most foundationally true is that you are a beloved child of the Father, a co-heir with Jesus Christ. You are a saint! Yes, it’s true! The apostle Paul used this designation for God’s people repeatedly (1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2) and it characterizes the members of Christ’s body throughout the ages. You are a saint who suffers and a saint who sins, but a saint nonetheless. This is ground-zero of the Christian life. It’s your most basic and primary identity. You and I are “in Christ” (a term Paul uses repeatedly to highlight the seismic identity shift that happens when we become Christians). Do you see how intimately connected you are with Jesus Christ even in a week filled with deep disappointment and discouragement?

    Read the rest here

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