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Happy New Year ?!

Well actually, I’m 2 weeks late! November 30 is ‘New Years Day’ for the church.

Advent in the first season of the Church year, a season to celebrate and to prepare for the arrival. It is a time to look back at the past, celebrate the present and look forward to the future. During advent, Church leaders often wear purple, a royal colour, to signify that a King has come, yet is coming again.

In church, we often have 4 advent candles

Candle 1 Hope – God speaks hope to the world through the church

Eph 3:10-11 God’s purpose was to show his wisdom in all its rich variety to all the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. They will see this when Jews and Gentiles are joined together in his church. This was his plan from all eternity, and it has now been carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Candle 2 Peace – the Prince of Peace, the Messiah was promised – at least 400 times in the Old Testmament. Isaiah, 700 years BC, wrote this:

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Candle 3 Love – the God of love was on his way. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. When John was only 8 days old, his father Zechariah prayed over him, saying: And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

This fulfilled the words of Isaiah 40 ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”

Candle 4 Joy – celebrates Mary’s joy and faith

After life changing news from the angel, she totally trusts God and declares in Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Candle 5 Birth of Jesus – the King has arrived

Luke 2:6-7 While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And he gave him the name Jesus.

So in Advent, we need to prepare, not only our homes but our hearts for celebration. To share the good news that Jesus has come, that Christmas points to Easter and our lives can be changed forever.

Invite people to come to your church this week to sing carols and to hear the truth about Christmas. Many people said that last year more visitors came to their carol services than for a long time. People are searching. Pray that they come.

At Christmas time, when we receive presents we don’t really need, God offers us a gift we cannot do without.

I remember when I was exploring the whole question of leadership, I was given this sound advice. ‘Spend time with good people.’ I have done this over a period of 20 years or so with different ‘good people’ with various gifts and ministries. It is vital to be alongside more mature Christians to learn from and be accountable to, to prevent being a spiritual ‘loose cannon.’

It is also important for mature Christians to be mentors, to train, encourage and support younger Christians in the faith. The church family usually has Christians of all stages in it so this pattern of support is available.

Mike Breen of the Network City Church in Sheffield has devised a simple way of teaching of passing on skills to people. It is in the form of a square, with 4 sides.

Side 1 – I do, you watch

Side 2 – I do, you help

Side 3 – you do, I help

Side 4 – you do, I watch

A simple but steady progression of learning with encouragement to gain confidence and independence.

For more info, http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/guide/discipleship/resources/passionatelife

I am using this process at my church with a lady who is daily growing in the Lord. It is a joy and privilege to watch her develop her skills and serve the Lord in the family and safe environment of the church.

So here’s the question – Who is mentoring you? Who are you mentoring?

1 Thessalonians 5 v11-21

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Churches are small for many reasons (and actually health is more important than numbers) but it seems that small numbers often influence the morale and outlook of the church.

I have heard comments like:

‘If we had more people, we could….’

‘We used to do…’

‘We’re only small so we can’t…’

We need to remember that the church is God’s plan A to save the world by sharing Jesus – there is no plan B.

Small can be effective.

Have you ever (accidentally of course!) put a red sock in a white wash? Or had a mosquito in your bed?

A dedicated small group of God’s people can accomplish great things for the Kingdom. Each person is unique and has many contacts every day with people. We must be encouraged and strengthened through worship, the Word, the Spirit and each other as we meet as gathered church. We are then equipped to out into the world as scattered church. Each day holds opportunities, we just need to take them.

You don’t need a programme of activities, just simple ideas to get people together, such as a coffee morning. All you need is coffee and a morning! Relationships are key as we all need to belong. When we belong, we trust, we listen and are then more likely to believe and when we believe, our behaviour changes.

I read that Rick Warren took the dictionary from the shelf in his church office, got the scissors and cut out the word ‘Impossible’. He said that this word had no place in the vocabulary of his church. Amen.

Can I encourage you to stop saying ‘can’t’ or ‘it’s impossible’ and think on Philippians 4 v13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. NKJV

Even 20 people who really believe this can impact their community for God.

Do comment on the small things you have done which God has blessed.

I have just returned from a weeks holiday in Samos, a Greek island. Warm, sunny, relaxing and an interesting variety of craft out on the water.

As i watched, I reflected that the variety of boats speak about the different approaches to the Christian life.

There was the yacht, with its sail up and a sailor experienced at catching the wind.

There was the yacht but with its sail down and the outboard motor moving the craft. The sailor had chosen to go fast but not to use the wind.

There was a Hobie Catamaran with an instructor with the sailor, teaching them

how to catch the wind.sailing

There was the motorboat, choosing speed over stability, rushing over the waves and ignoring the wind.

There was the windsurfer, who gets on, balances, catches the wind, goes fast then falls off. They get back on and the whole process is repeated and repeated and repeated until they are too tired to continue.

And lastly. there were the 2 kayaks: one with one person paddling, going at their own pace, in control of speed and direction and working hard, but not using the wind. The other had 2 people aboard, sometimes working together inn a rhythmn and achieving speed and distance, but sometimes, paddling in an un-co-ordinated way and ending up going round in circles.

As I watched and took photos, I asked God which one was nearer my journey as a Christan.

Which one are you?

Organised Spontaneity

Last Sunday, the service at my church was a little different. The pastor was preaching at another church and the church member due to preach had major family issues. It was decided last week in the light of this, that instead of a sermon, anyone in the church could bring a scripture, a message, a prayer or a story of what God has done this week.

The results was a great blessing. As usual, the Holy Spirit wove it all together, as if each person was playing a different instrument yet producing a symphony of worship. 2 people brought sermonettes, one asked a deep question which was answered, several brought verses of scripture and one a poignant prayer.

God was honoured and we were blessed. People who spoke never usually get the opportunity to do so. THIS IS CHURCH according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 v26:

“Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize what I am saying. When you meet, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in an unknown language, while another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord.” NLT

Why not try this in your church? Be prepared to be surprised and blessed!

Dancing with God

A while ago, a friend sent me this, mainly because I am a Christian and
I love my dancing classes. It puts the two together beautifully. I
have worked this into a message for 2 churches recently, using
Ephesians 1 as a starting point. Its a great challenge. Let it move
you as you read it and you won't look at the word 'Guidance' again
without thinking about dancing with God. 
When I meditated on the word Guidance 
I kept seeing 'dance' at the end of the word. 
I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot
like dancing. 

When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
The movement doesn't flow with the music, 
and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. 
When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, 
both bodies begin to flow with the music.

One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back 
or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. 
It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. 
The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person 
nd gentle guidance and skill from the other. 
My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. 
When I saw 'G: I thought of God, followed by 'u' and 'i'. 
'God, 'u' and 'i' dance' 
God, you, and I dance. 
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. 
Once again, I became willing to let God lead. 

My prayer for you today is that God's blessings and mercies be upon you on this day and everyday. 
May you abide in God as God abides in you. 
Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life. 

Author: anonymous 


									

Come to the Well

A few years ago, I discovered a Christian band called ‘Casting Crowns’. I now have 6 of their albums. Their music is great, the lyrics are Bible based but challenge all aspects of life and attitude. They sing it straight from the shoulder and I love that.

Check out their website www.castingcrowns.com

One of the songs I love is called ‘Come to the well’

I have what you need, but you keep on searching. I’ve done all the work but you keep on working

When you’re running on empty and you can’t find the remedy,

Just come to the well.

You can spend your whole life chasing what’s missing But that empty inside, it just ain’t gonna listen

When nothing can satisfy and the world leaves you high and dry.

Just come to the well.

And all who thirst will thirst no more, And all who search will find what their souls long for.

The world will try but it can never fill

So leave it all behind and come to the well.

So bring me your heart no matter how broken, Just come as you are when your last prayer is spoken

Just rest in your arms a while, you’ll feel a change my child

When you come to the well.

And all who thirst will thirst no more, And all who search will find what their souls long for.

The world will try but it can never fill

So leave it all behind and come to the well.

And now that you’re full of love beyond measure, Your joy’s gonna flow like a stream in the desert

Soon all the world will see living water is found in me

‘Cause you’ve come to the well.

Leave it all behind, leave it all behind

Your pursuit of perfection, Your fear of rejection, Your temporary pleasures, All your earthly treasurers

Dried up empty religion, Rusty chains of addiction, All the guilt that weighs you down

Just leave it all behind and come to the well.

Casting Crowns Copyright 2011 Sony/ATV

The comment on the album sleeve throws a different light on a familiar passage from John 4.

“The woman at the well thought she was standing by a well and talking to a man. In reality she was standing by a hole in the ground and she was talking to the well. She thought she had already had her source but she was in fact dying of spiritual thirst. We often come to the Father with our well. We already have our own idea of what will fill us. Then we ask God to bless our ideas, our source, our well, but we soon realise that Jesus is not the blesser of our plans but the Author of life! He is our source. Any other well we attempt to draw from, is just a hole in the ground”.

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