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It is always good to visit other churches so when I was abroad recently, I went to Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral. The word was powerfully preached by a man who admitted that he would rather be preaching on God’s love, grace etc, but was compelled by the Holy Spirit to preach ‘Please don’t go to hell’.

It was a full gospel message based on Jesus’ parable in Luke 16 v19-31 about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man lacked nothing material in life, died and went to hell. The poor beggar Lazarus died and went to heaven.

The preachers main points were:

  • Life on earth is temporal
  • In death, all we have physically vanishes
  • Everyone dies
  • We have this life to decide where to spend eternity
  • What you do about Jesus and His free gift of salvation will determine your destination
  • Whether you believe it or not, heaven and hell exist

The preacher went on to quote Jesus as he taught much about hell (Matthew 13, 16, 25, Luke 16 etc). To conclude, he simply stated that the fact that only belief in Jesus as your saviour opens the way to heaven (John 14 v6). He then asked people where they stood before God, and to come forward if they knew they were not saved. 12 people responded that day to receive salvation.

When was the last time you heard / preached a sermon on heaven and hell?

24/7 Faith

Listening again to one of my favourite songs ‘God in my living’ by Tim Hughes, I am reminded that God is God of the small, the everyday, the deep sorrows and the great successes. All of life. The key is to praise and thank Him anyway, regardless of circumstances. He does not change. His love and faithfulness, strength and comfort see us through any situation. Be blessed by these beautiful pictures alongside the words on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk4AuUbGWCE

God in my living, there in my breathing, God in my waking, God in my sleeping,

God in my resting, there in my working, God in my thinking, God in my speaking.

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming, God in my watching, God in my waiting,

God in my laughing, there in my weeping, God in my hurting, God in my healing.

Be my everything, Be my everything,

Christ in me, the hope of glory

You are everything.

 

 

Overcoming Hurdles

At a conference entitled ‘Missional Leadership’ Rev Anne Calver spoke about how to overcome those hurdles we face as Christian leaders. Below are my notes, reproduced with her permission.

When we face hurdles, our first instinct is to shy away, ignore them or run! Remember the children’s story ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury? When faced with obstacles they said we can’t go under it, can’t go over it, we’ve got to go through it! In Exodus 3-5, Moses is faced with a big challenge, yet God says ‘I will be with you.’

Encounter – Exodus 3 v3. Moses made a decision to check out the bush that was burning. He chose to encounter God. We too need to choose to encounter God or not.

Who am I? – Ex 3 v11. Moses asked God the question that we too ask. When God commissions us to do a job for Him, all of our life experience comes to the fore. The work God has done in you, He now wants to do through you. Nothing in your life up to this point will be wasted. He has chosen us for a reason.

Suppose I do go? – Ex 3 v13. If I do go, what will actually happen? Moses wanted to know, just as we do. We want it all taped down: the what, why, how, where and who, before we begin. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for trust…

What if…? – Ex 4 v1. These two words hold us back and bring anxiety, the opposite of trust. Our minds race ahead to various scenarios, most of which won’t actually happen. However, if God has set a task for you, it cannot fail. He does not set us up to fail, He brings success to those who are faithful. We must not crush God’s word with fear or insecurity.

Excuses – Ex 4 v10. Moses essentially says ‘you know my baggage and my faults, choose someone else!’ Moses pours out a list of negatives. When tempted to do this, we need to grasp again with confidence that God is in control (v12).

Chosen – Ex 4 v13. Moses is still pleading with God to send someone else, but he was the right man for the job so was chosen by God. However, God graciously gave him his brother, Aaron to work alongside him. He was a support and encourager on their long and difficult journey to free the Israelites from Egypt. Who is alongside you in your work? We are not designed to work alone, we need the body of Christ.

We read in chapter 5 v1 that Moses and Aaron went to Egypt, confronted Pharoah and demanded that the Israelites be set free from slavery. Moses albeit reluctantly at first, overcame his very human hurdles and God granted him success.

During 2017, Rural Ministries are holding 4 day conferences to encourage and build up the church across the UK. Each day contains 4 workshops based on pastoral care being an effective tool to reach people for Christ.

Workshop 1, entitled ‘Why Care?’ asks what the Bible has to say about pastoral care, how we define ‘need’ and identifies some skills and tools which need to be developed in our congregations.

Workshop 2, entitled ‘Building a Community of Carers’ asks how a local church can identify, train and release new people into caring roles across the generations. It also addresses the question of burnout in the busy frontliners of the church.

Workshop 3, entitled ‘Pastoral Care as an Outreach Model’ uses scripture to explore a Biblical model of pastoral care which brings about personal and community transformation.

Workshop 4, entitled ‘Pastoral Care across the Generations’ acknowledges that rural churches are growing and ageing faster than urban churches, putting them at the forefront of tackling the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society. It also looks at how to effectively minister to those who are elderly.

Dates and Locations of Conferences – cost £15

4th February in Huntingdon, 4th March in Taunton, 16th September in Berwickshire, 14th October in Oswestry

To book, go to http://www.ruralministries.org.uk/events

I am currently reading ’Explore’ daily bible notes from ‘The Good Book Company’. I’d like to share the opening days describing one way to check on your spiritual health as the new year begins.

They ask the following questions:

  1. Are you in love with Jesus? (Revelation 2 v1-7, 1 Corinthians 13 v4-7)
  2. Are you grateful for the cross? (1 Timothy 1 v15, Mark 15 v1-39)
  3. Are you excited about your eternal life? (Romans 8 v18-25)
  4. Are you committed to God’s people? (John 15 v9-15, Romans 12 v9-16)
  5. Are you pursuing godliness? (2 Peter 1 v1-8)

Another good question is to ask ‘How healthy is my church spiritually?’ Colossians 3 v5-17 has some pointers on how this may work in practice.

Make a point of encouraging each other regularly, sending notes of thanks to build one another up. Stand shoulder to shoulder as you journey together through this new year.

May you thrive in the new adventure God has for you in 2017.

Life is like running a race – it is a marathon not a sprint.

God plans out our race path, both as individuals and as a church. God’s plans are always good. Jeremiah 29 v11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

 

Hebrews 12 v1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12 comes after Hebrews 11 – it lists some of the flawed but faithful heroes in the Bible. They were all ordinary people, like you and me, who did extraordinary things for God. It’s amazing is that we are told that they are cheering us on as we run our race!

God gives us strength to do that which He asks of us – Philippians 4 v13 “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”

How do we run? By “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” Hebrews 12 v2

Jesus, the pioneer – He went ahead of us, doing something no one else had ever done before, opening the way to the finishing line of heaven, showing us how to run enduring hardship because of the joy ahead.

Jesus, the perfecter – we are all works in progress, Jesus is perfecting us slowly as we persevere in our faith.

We are called to run both individually and together as a team (church)

Do you know your personal race that God has marked out for you?

Do you know the planned course of your church life together?  What is the specific task for you?

Check out Philippians 3 v13-14

 “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’

He replied ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’”

ONWARDS & UPWARDS with God into 2017

May you be richly blessed this year.

 

Let your Light Shine

In Matthew 5, Jesus was talking about believers as being salt and light.

Light is the source of all life (Gen 1 v1-3) we need light to help us to see, to make plants grow etc. We have our natural body clock, to be awake in the light and asleep in the dark. In believers, its God’s light that shines, not ours.

In John 9 v 4-5 Jesus said “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. Now he is not physically here, we are the light of the world. He described John the Baptiser like “a lamp, burning and shining” (John 5 v35). We need to let people see Jesus shining through us, keep your oil topped up!

Jesus said don’t hide your light – let it shine.

How can we hide our light?

  1. Being quiet when we should speak
  2. Going along with the crowd
  3. Denying the light
  4. Letting sin dim our light
  5. Ignoring the needs of others

The world is full of darkness, we need to shine in dark places. We used to be living in the dark, now we are in the light. That’s good news to share!

Ephesians 5 v 8-10 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

We need to fulfil our job description of salt and light – Stop talking about it, show it! Be aware that people are watching you shine (or not!). Let us reflect Jesus, we are ambassadors

Edgar A Guest wrote this (part) poem:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are those who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Happy Christmas!