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Matt 6:19-21

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (NLT)

This passage spoken by Jesus resonates with 10 chapters in Isaiah (13-23). Here God is instructing Isaiah to speak to several nations about their demise from worldly success to rags. The key seems to be in chapter 17 v10 -You have forgotten God.

People, nations and even churches are successful economically, socially, financially etc, forging ahead leaving God, their author and sustainer behind.

The warning came again in Revelation 2 v4 in the letter to the church in Ephesus. Jesus said through John that despite their ‘successes’, they had forgotten their first love. It is interesting to note when reading through the 7 letters to the 7 churches, that only 2 out of the 7 towns have Christian churches there today…

In your life and in your church, what is your treasure and where is it? How do we measure success?

It is good to have a place to live, clothes to wear and money to pay the bills. But Jesus challenge was all about attitude. Are we holding tight to our ‘stuff’ or are we happily sharing it? Are we living in a way that reflects Jesus to people? Are we allowing Him to produce the fruit of the Spirit in us and hone our character?

Reflect on your treasure. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.

Take Time Out

Time is a very precious commodity. Each of us has 24 hours in a day and we decide how to fill it. It is always ‘today’ and once lived, we will never live it again. It is refreshing to have time and space away from the routine at home of things to do people to see. Just nice to breathe, relax and reflect.

Reflect on the life lived at home

Reflect on the movement of God in my life

Reflect on His goodness and creative wonders

IMG_1852It is good to reflect – to look back and take stock. Equally important is looking ahead. To make sure I am in the right place, fulfilling my God-given call. The vision or plan for my life and the mission of how to fulfil it in practical steps.

It is also important for churches to take time out, to reflect on their story so far, where they are now and to look to the future. To stay fresh and keep up with a God who is always on the move. This can be through awaydays, periods of prayer, church weekends or stopping the usual programme for a month and taking stock of the purpose of each activity.

Get back to the vision and check if the church is still on track or if there is distraction or a slowing of pace. Regular retreats are a good discipline to put into the routine.

Be good stewards of the time God gives you. Don’t waste it, make it count.

Be an Encourager

I am reading a book by Jeff Lucas – “There are no ordinary people”, which is essentially a long look at the life of a Jewish Cypriot named Joseph. We know him by his nickname, Barnabas.

The dictionary defines ‘encouragement’ as to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence, or to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.:

We see in Barnabas 3 actions of encouragement:

  1. Exhortation
  2. Drawing alongside
  3. Prophetic

Do a bible study of Barnabas and see the potentially tricky situations which he calmed and changed by being God’s encourager.

“Encouragement is oxygen to the soul” said George Matthew Adams

“One compliment can keep me going for a whole month” said Mark Twain

Walt Disney said there are 3 types of people in the world:

  1. Well poisoners – discouragers who trample dreams, snuff out creativity, tell others what they can’t do etc.
  2. Lawn Mowers – keep to themselves and are not willing to help out or care
  3. Life Enhancers – quick to reach out, live with eyes and hearts open, fuelled by passion to strengthen and enrich others

If encouraging was an Olympic sport, Barnabas would have been a champion!

Hebrews 10:24

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works

That’s the challenge this week – are you an encourager?

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of small church ministers recently and they shared what God is doing in ans through their churches. Be encouraged as i was.

One church were planning to sell their 2 storey building but instead now lease it for 2 years (spent £120,000 to do it up) to a private nursery. Hefty income. They wanted to use the building for the community. Both parties are delighted.

One church is running a toddler group and making good relationships with the parents/carers. They invite the parents for a meal (eg. at the local carvery) on a regular basis. The atmosphere has changed for the better since this started. They now hold special services aimed at the unchurched parents on occasions with many 2-3 years olds! Small Church is relaxed, informal and welcoming.t The parents are now telling their friends.

Another church also runs a toddler group with a non-Christian in charge, a Hindu helper and 2 others. The church people are getting older so feel they cannot get involved. The church has recently started a gospel choir for anyone who wants to come. They have a professional person to lead this. Friendships are building through this.

One church had a toddler group but couldn’t sustain it. An independent person wanted to run it so it is now open again and doing well. Dance group using the building. Also a recent event run by the street pastors saw many people coming for a good evening.

A small Tamil speaking church meet in the same building as a host church. The Tamil minister is a member of the host church as well as leading his congregation. They invited local people to come and see the Christmas story re-enacted which included a song/dance programme by the children. People of many faiths attended and some are now asking questions.

Another church have new people coming along – it is a quiet but welcoming church and attracts people who don’t like large and loud gatherings. People are often invited back for lunch.

Do share what is happening in your church.

Think Global!

Today, I am off with 2 others from my small church on a mission trip to India. We are celebrating our 10 year partnership with a church across the globe and 5.5 hours ahead in time.

In 2004, we began thinking that our newer people in church would appreciate God as a global God if we had a link overseas. After much prayer, our pastor went to the Baptist World Alliance conference, with Gods assurance that he would meet a pastor from overseas (we didn’t know what country!) to be our partner.

Long story short, this happened and we met pastor Timothy. We have seen many changes in both our churches over the years and our people feel connected and involved with the work there, especially the work with the street children.

Any small church can make a BIG impact by being linked overseas. Sometimes the link is through missionaries or sponsoring a child. Any link is good. We have enjoyed the challenge of our pastor asking every year, ‘who feels God is calling them on the next trip to India?’. People have come on the trips who would never have volunteered to be missionaries, yet this is exactly what we are ALL called to be, at home or abroad.

I encourage you to be linked globally and make a difference. A few pounds sterling turns into a lot of rupees!

visible.clothing is a fairtrade company working alongside workers in a factory in North India. Their christmas line 2015 was pyjamas (PJ’s).

It is all about team work – to make the simple Pjs, took over 1.5 hours and involved 20 different people. 20. That’s a lot of people for a simple, no thrills, pair of PJs.

Let’s meet them all:

1. Bitu: “I stored the fabric for your PJs (we also found out first hand at dinner that he is the factory’s celebrity chef and does an awesome curry!)

2. Ayaz: “I cut the pattern for your PJs” (on our way to dinner we experienced that he can also carry almost as many people on a motorbike as it takes to make a pair of PJs.)

3. Ajay: “I cut your PJs” (he competes with Ayaz on safe riding with multiple passengers but thankfully a little slower.)

4. Sheshi: “I collect the waste fabric from your PJs (in addition to beginning to think through ways of using waste fabric, as a cutter Sheshi works closely with Ayaz and Ajay to make sure the PJ fabric is perfectly cut.)

5. Shakil: “I stitched your PJs (he is one of the team of tailors who have clearly been trained to the highest standard, the quality and attention to detail was incredible.)

6. Sanjila: another of the team of tailors (Sanjila, a mother to an 8 week old daughter, sewed your PJs.)

7. Ramen: “I measured your PJs (a great team player, who is both deaf and dumb and therefore relies on gestures to communicate with his colleagues.)

8. Mahinder: “I made the button hole on your PJs” (Who knew that there a specific job to make the button hole on a pair of PJs? Its a very useful feature on any PJs so we appreciated his attention to detail.)

9. Swati: “I sewed in the elastic on your Pjs” (a valuable member of the tailoring team who is able to make anything out of anything)

10. Sonam: “I made the drawstring for your PJs (thanks Sonam for ensuring Visible PJs will stay on…!)

11. Pema: “I sewed in the label on your PJs (a Tibetan member of the tailoring team whose skill is matched by her beaming smile!)

12. Sushma: “I sewed the button on your PJs (Sushma even spends her lunch break knitting clothes for her friends.  That is a serious commitment to making clothes!)

13. Shiwani: “I trimmed your PJs” (Ever find loose threads on your clothes? It’s Shiwani’s job to find them before they reach your bed.)

14. Menu: “I checked the quality of your PJs  (Menu started as a hand stitcher and was promoted to this vital role.)

15. Tsela: “I ironed your PJ’s. (As we walked through the factory I realised that I’d never seen so many irons in my life. Critical to ensure your PJs arrive looking as quality as you would want them to look.)

16. Tenzin: “I took a photo of your Pjs (trained on the job to use a camera for amazing photoshoots, he now takes and edits all the product images)

17. Ganesh: “I processed the payment for your PJs (Ganesh’s wife, is also a tailor at the factory, but is currently on paid maternity leave as they have just had their first child.)

18. Shetal: I FedEx processed your PJs (the factory has an amazing partnership with FedEx which means that products can arrive on the customers doorstep 6 days after being made.)

19. Tsering: “I supervise in the factory that makes your PJs”

FINALLY 20. Namgyal: “I manage the factory that makes your Pjs. (A family man, and a man who works tirelessly to do things the right way for the benefit of all the factory’s employees.  Fantastic leader.)

So thats the deal.  20 people = 1 pair of PJs. Great to meet the dream team.

What a brilliant illustration of church! It matches up brilliantly with Ephesians 4 v16

He (Jesus) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love”. (New Living Translation)

Each of us is gifted and when we all do our bit, the church grows in love and in numbers.

Its like each member of the orchestra playing an instrument, all playing a different sound yet together producing amazing music.

In 2016, let’s work together as church to glorify God and see people come to know Him.

A Chocolate Christmas

A long time ago, God made the Galaxy,

It was beautiful, rich, wonderful and He filled it with people, people he made, people he loved, people like you and me, people who were special to him. And he gave these people everything. Everything except one tree, one Fruit (Pastille) which they were told not to eat.

But the people wanted to do things their own way, so they did a Breakaway from God. Trouble is, after the breakaway everything started to go wrong. Things were really really Rocky.

Suffering, pain, loneliness, bullying, violence, death, because we’d chosen our way instead of God’s way

Many years later, a young woman was FRIGHTENED OUT OF HER WITS, when an angel suddenly turned up.

The Angel wondered if he Malteser fear (‘might ease her’) Don’t be scared he said, You’re going to have a son, the Son of God, call him Jesus – A name that means he’ll save people, he’ll make them friends with God again.

And though Joseph was a bit confused, he was a good egg, you couldn’t hope to meet a Kinder man (Kinder Egg), so he decided to look after Mary, and God’s baby.

So the story goes that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem. Mary was heavily pregnant, and Joseph wondered if she’d Flake out on the journey. They finally found a room full of animals, a kind of stable. We don’t know what sort of animals were there, whether there was a Kit Kat!, but by morning there was Jesus, Nestleing in his mothers arms.

All sorts of strange visitors started to turn up.

First some shepherds: they’d been up on the hillside, looking up at the Milky Way, when some angels appeared in the sky and said go and see God’s promised Saviour. Tell everyone, don’t Wispa, shout it out, God is here. So straight as an Aero they headed for Bethlehem to find Jesus. And they were there in a Jaffa.

Further away, some wise men were looking up at the planets in the sky: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, when they saw something amazing. By the way: in the ancient world, Jupiter was the ‘king star’, and at the time of the birth of Jesus, Jupiter appeared in the night sky very close to Saturn, which represented Israel. If you were reading the sky you’d see ‘new king in Israel’.

So the kings packed up their Bounty – their presents for the new king

And came to see Jesus. They didn’t find him at king Herod’s palace, but those wise men were Smarties, they didn’t give up. And when they found Jesus they brought out their gifts, Gold for a king, incense for worship, myrrh for death.

And here’s the Crunch (ie). The baby Jesus is the Son of God, sent by God into the world. He is Divine, wrapped in human skin.

God’s gift to you: but you can only taste how good the gift is if you unwrap it.

I hope you do choose Jesus, but in the end, it’s your selection.

Definitely a reason for a celebration!

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