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This week's message  - 2021

Short of time? 

Here we provide a bite-sized summary of the Minister's or the Local Preacher's Christian message, which may include a 'call to action' for you to think and pray about...

July 25th - Marks of Discipleship

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Rev Alf Waite spoke about the marks of discipleship this week.

 

The Christian Church is founded on Discipleship and Jesus chooses disciples to make new disciples. We are loved and accepted by God through faith in Jesus and our place in heaven is guaranteed through His Holy Spirit within us.

 

Unlike the lazy servant in Matthew 25 who buried his talent, disciples invest theirs to make more Christians, so what are ‘The marks of a Disciple’?

Let's briefly consider five 'marks', and ask What they mean and How to work them out in our lives?

 

A disciple must have Faith in Jesus the Son of God because anyone who comes to God must believe He exists. What Jesus did when He was on earth is life changing! He is the place to put our faith: Jesus died to give us life!

 

True disciples have an all-encompassing Love for God and everyone in the world, even enemies! Be empowered knowing that your Creator understands the risks of love. God took the risk for you so disciples need to do the same for Him and His world. “He who loves his fellow man is loving God the best he can.”

 

The next 'mark' is Service - getting involved in God's work. Jesus said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Get involved in God’s Mission through your church, your work or volunteering.

 

Holiness, being Christlike, is another 'mark'. Allow God's Holy Spirit's to make you more like Jesus both on the outside and in your inner self. Holiness is not just about keeping rules but living the life of Christ in all our thoughts and actions.

 

Finally, there's the 'mark' Knowledge, the Bible is the word and story of God’s interaction in His creation and speaks into any situation. If you do not know what to do or say, prayerfully seek God's insight through the Bible.

 

So how are you working these 'marks' out in your life?

July 18th - Rest in God

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Peter Walsham spoke about being able to find rest in God today.

 

In our busy lives achieving a healthy balance between work, rest and play, can be quite a struggle with little time for rest. ‘No rest for the wicked’ we often say.

 

Having returned from their first teaching mission Jesus tells His disciples, “Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.” So, they set off across lake Galilee but many people see them leave and follow them around the shoreline so that when Jesus and the disciples arrive at a lonely place there is already a crowd waiting for them. Jesus and the disciples must have felt absolutely exhausted!

 

But we can achieve a healthy balance between work, rest and play by putting our trust in God’s word. By seeking His presence in prayer, and by allowing His Spirit to administer His peace in our lives.

 

Psalm 62 says: “Find rest, O my soul in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. He is my rock and my refuge.”

 

Jesus knows what it’s like to be exhausted by a frantic workload. That’s why He tells us in Matthew’s Gospel “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd.”  He is referring to the famous 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my shepherd; I’ll want for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, leading me beside quiet waters and restoring my soul.”

 

When you find that work is getting too much, then rest in Jesus to re-charge your batteries, because unless you do, you'll be no good to anyone.           

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July 11th - Shall we Dance?

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"Shall we Dance?" asked Rev Dawn Brown today.

 

Do you like to dance? It’s been some time since we've been out dancing but perhaps you dance at home or sway to the beat whilst driving? Most people like to dance sometimes but who is your dance partner?

 

There is dancing in our scripture readings today. David danced when he recovered the Ark, the symbol of the presence of God on Earth, whilst Salome, Herod’s stepdaughter, danced for Herod's dinner guests. David’s dance was holy but Salome's dance was a lot less than holy!

 

King David was a man after God’s own heart. Despite his many faults what David wanted most in life was to please God. David was passionate about God when he went he went to fight Goliath! He was passionate about other things too, like poetry and music, writing over 100 psalms.

 

David knew the value of God’s presence and dances passionately. King Herod was very different. He was eager to please and promised his stepdaughter anything. Guided by her mother, she asks for the head of Herod's prisoner, the prophet John the Baptist, on a plate. Two very different dances indeed.

 

For us to dance in life we need to choose the right partner! David chose God, the best dance partner you could ever choose, but Herod chose the wrong dance partner and was led astray because he married Herodias, Salome's mother, despite having been told by John the Baptist not to do so.

Choosing the right dance partner to lead and guide is important because if both partners try to lead there will be plenty of sore toes!

 

With God as our partner there will be no end to our dancing. Think of the word 'Guidance' phonetically: "God 'u' and 'i' dance". Dance with Him whenever the road is hard because Jesus is our light and salvation.

 

God is waiting for you to ask: "Shall we dance"?

July 4th - Strength through weakness

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Local preacher Joan Murray spoke about vulnerability and dedication in our own mission for God this morning.

 

When Jesus tried to teach in his hometown He was met with huge negativity. They couldn't recognise that He was offering something truly great that could change their lives and could only see the individual who had grown up among them. "What gives him the right to talk in this way?" Jesus knew their thoughts, yet still demonstrated dedication to His mission, albeit showing amazement at their disbelief - a vulnerability that we don’t often associate with Jesus.

 

People see vulnerability as weakness, but Christians are told to be prepared to be vulnerable because God can raise us above it if we open ourselves to Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to prepare us for a lifelong dedication to His mission.

 

The Old Testament books of Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah and Ezekiel all talk about the disobedience and delusions of God’s people and His call to them to stand firm and tell the truth. Ezekiel is shown as weak and vulnerable, yet God fires him up to deliver a message.

 

When Jesus sent His disciples out to teach (Mark's Gospel, Ch 6), He told them not to take anything with them because He wanted them to rely on those they visited who would be more likely to recognise their need and invite them in where they could speak directly and personally to people about God.

Please pause and think about what's really needed to live a life of dedication to God. What is the absolute minimum you need for your Christian journey?

 

Ezekiel was vulnerable. The disciples were vulnerable. Yet for those who choose to follow Jesus, it's an opportunity for God to work through us in our daily lives.

 

Use the times you feel vulnerable to trust God and feel closer to Him. Think about the image above, then about the people you meet who might be grateful for something you can offer!

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June 27th - Faith conquers fear

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The church, the gathered people of God, is about commitment to Worship, Learning and Caring, Service and Evangelism said Rev Alf Waite today. The Christian faith is not a solitary experience, it's about working it out in community.

 

In the story of Jesus' healing of the woman with haemorrhages and then Jairus' daughter told in Mark Ch 5, there was a crowd. They wanted to hear Jesus speak as well as wanting a Messiah to rescue them from the Romans.

 

Two desperate people were freed from their illnesses that day through their faith. But it wasn't without cost. Jairus was a local leader, so in approaching Jesus, a revolutionary, he risked the Romans thinking he was in conspiracy. For the woman, she feared recognition because in those days her condition meant she was an outcast.

 

Jesus' healings in the Gospels, signpost the kingdom of God - and a life promised at the end of time without sickness, death or pain to threaten God’s wonderful creation. Whilst Jesus is heading to the cross where he will defeat evil, the crowd are our witnesses to the truth of what Jesus came to do, ushering in the Kingdom of God where we can fully know how much we are loved, valued and precious.

 

The late Rev Dr Donald English said: “True faith is self-risking trust in Jesus.” It highlights a continuing commitment to Jesus as our Saviour, Healer and Friend. We never know where that will lead but I can say with real assurance that whilst it will bring both challenges and difficult choices it will also bring tremendous blessings.

 

As Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for us, so we need to be willing to give ourselves to Him and help others come to know and trust in the full measure of God’s love. Then, we too will hear Jesus' words to the woman “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed."       

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June 20th - Questions... Questions

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This week Jean Shotton explored the hard questions we ask as we go through the storms of life.                                                                                                                       

Sometimes it must have been difficult to be a disciple of Jesus because He challenged them time and again, through testing situations or by tough questions. But Jesus was steadily building their trust in Him - as

 

He does with us today. That’s what is going on in the story in Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a storm.       

 

As seasoned fishermen, this wouldn't have been the first time that the disciples had experienced a frightening storm and their complaint to Jesus is about the mismatch between their peril and his continuing nap! They cry out because they felt abandoned. "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

 

When He wakes, Jesus calms the sea saying: "Peace be still." He then asks about their fear and lack of faith. His command of the wind and waves affects them more than their experience of being tossed about the terror of the storm. They wonder who is this man? Questions, Questions.

 

Fear is something we all struggle with at times. Occasionally it's about physical danger. But more often our fear comes from worrying about the worst-case scenario.

Our first instinct might be to say: "Take this away, God!" But we will probably accept that it's part of 'life'. So, our next question to God is often: "Don’t you care?"                                                                                                                                      

In our spiritual journey we will have difficult questions to ask of God. There will be shouts, protests, denial. But be confident that God hears and cares for us in our troubles and that He will provide us with strength we need and an understanding of what is really important. Knowing Jesus and His saving Grace helps us to move forward.

 

So, on this Father’s Day, pray to your heavenly Father to open your heart and mind to a proper perspective on the life challenges you face.

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June 13th - Growing Faith

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Rev Dawn Brown taught us that God is a fantastic gardener - just gaze around and see the beauty He has created. In gardens, parks or just growing wild. It’s breath-taking.

 

Plant a garden and believe in tomorrow! But what makes it grow and how does that help us to believe in tomorrow?

 

There are moments in our lives where things that have grown in us come good. Some we have sown ourselves but others were planted by God, secretly growing for a future purpose, that we may not have known were there. God has prepared everything that we need and it will be there when we need it.

Jesus taught that God Himself scatters the seeds saying “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground..."

 

God's Voice scatters His life-giving Seed all over the earth, not holding back on His blessings! Even those who don't know God benefit from His gracious gift of life, making the rain fall and the sun shine on everyone.

The Bible explains how God works. Like the food given to the Israelites journeying in the desert. They went to sleep, got up and there it was! God's mercies, new every morning!  Without fail.  And when God planned for Jesus to pay the price for our sin, even before sin had entered our lives. All prepared beforehand, in readiness.

 

But this is not a Jack and the Beanstalk story. It doesn't happen overnight. No chapter can be removed or skipped, each stage takes time and is needed to produce the harvest.

God's promises develop over time. St Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth tells us to have confidence and live in Faith. Plant the garden and believe in tomorrow!

 

And God wants us to plant seeds in others, to tend the soil, making sure no weeds come up, so while you wait, keep Working, Witnessing, Worshipping  - and Wonder!

June 6th - Feeding Faith

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Speaking about Faith Maureen Simpson said: "I love greenery! Just look outside - so many greens. Green means alive!"

 

In the Biblical Eastern Mediterranean, the Cedars of Lebanon grow big green and strong, but grass is only green for a while. It dies off quickly.

 

Similarly, faith is either big and strong like the mighty Cedar, or temporary, like the grass. It should be ongoing and constantly growing. Who can fail to be amazed at how an acorn turns to an oak, a caterpillar to a butterfly or a lost person to a believer?

 

Jesus loved plants and trees, He often used them in His stories because speaking to a farming community it was something people could understand.

 

I wonder at the colours, shapes and sizes of trees, each a unique creation. Both people and trees need the right conditions to grow. It's the same with faith; to grow it needs feeding! We can sow seeds of faith in people to begin with but it's up to them to nurture and grow it.

 

Sadly, sometimes we put up barriers to growth in ourselves and others. Like not really getting to know people, especially new people. That's not what God wants! He wants us all to be part of His growing kingdom. Like trees searching for light, we need to give everyone space, respect and understanding. Valuing their experiences, whether they be young or old.

 

We are constantly reminded to care for the Earth. It's the same with faith. Faith needs to be fed, nurtured, shared and understood, recognising our different stages of spiritual development. Do we do that? To illustrate, I wrote this poem, I hope you enjoy it:

 

I have faith, but can I see

How faith can blossom like a tree?

I stop and thoughtfully compare

How tree and me our spaces share.

 

As the trees share earth and sky

Let us pause and wonder why

We are so slow in faith to grow

Faith in those who do not know.

 

Is your faith evergreen?

Always there to be seen?

Or is it temporary, like the grass?

Temporary - soon to pass.

 

Do we plant faith like a seed

In folk we meet, folk with need.

Do we rejoice and let faith grow

In ourselves and folk we know.

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May 30th - Coming Home

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For Trinity Sunday Rev Alf Waite took the example of the holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son in Jesus and God the Holy Spirit, to ponder where we feel at home. We often try to explain the Trinity when really, we should just marvel at it. They are at home with one another and God wants us to feel at home in Him.

 

We can over-complicate the Christian faith when it is just about finding our home in God. They say ‘Home is where the heart is’ and that might give us the best question for this message. Where is your heart?

I remember setting up my first home in a one-bed flat and with just a few possessions, yet slowly but surely, I eventually made it home. Then when I moved into a house I was amazed how that too soon became home.

 

The Bible prophet Micah told the exiled people of Israel and Judah, that they would go back home to live in peace and prosperity. And that message is for us too. If we put our trust in Jesus we can all find, in Him, a place of safety.

 

When Jesus spoke of preparing a safe home for us and coming back to take us there, He was preparing his followers throughout the ages for Life but that in the end, God will make His house a home for us for eternity.

It's been God’s promise throughout history. When we face Life's curve balls, we can see things in perspective and know that in the end, everything will be put right. Worship should remind us of this.

 

Remember the promise of Father God from the prophet and the work of God through Jesus the Son and the eternal vision given to the disciple John by the Holy Spirit, because they are more real than anything the world can offer.

 

Is your heart safe at home with God?

Pentecost May 23rd - Make Christ Known

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It’s the birthday of the Christian Church, born 2000 years ago at Pentecost! So, Happy Birthday!

 

From babies we develop, grow, change and adapt as the years go by. So it is with the Church, because we are the Church.

 

During the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve had to do things differently but essentially the job Jesus gave us is the same: with the help of His Holy Spirit, to make disciples of all nations, teaching everyone to obey His commands.

And so our task is: ‘To know Christ and make Him known.’  It's what Jesus wanted of the original disciples and what He wants from us today. It's an order! (Matthew 28 vs19)

 

Through God's Holy Spirit I am offered a close relationship with Jesus. I know and can testify to what He means to me and has done for me. Through reading my Bible I find comfort, guidance and encouragement in Jesus’ words, but through prayer, I know that Jesus loves me and is right here beside me, helping me cope with life.

 

And I know that through His death on the cross, Jesus removed the stains of my wrongdoings.  I want to share Him, ‘Making Christ Known’ and finding new ways of explaining the message of God's love to others.

Using prayer alongside new technology, like video or Zoom, or by worshipping outdoors, we can still reach out to those who don’t know, that Jesus loves and wants them, how Jesus wants us to make His love known.

 

Those timid disciples became bold when the power of the Spirit came. They did amazing things, as subsequent followers of Jesus have always done, not in our own strength, but through His gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Whether young or old, with our different gifts, trusting in Jesus' promises and with God's Spirit beside us, we can Make Christ Known here and now. It will be an exciting ride!

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May 16th - True Repentance

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Rev Dawn Brown told us what it means to be truly 'sorry'.

 

The first step is to admit what we are sorry about. It's not the fear of being found out or failing to cover it up. It's being really heartfelt sorry for what has been done and the effect it has had on us and other people.

 

The Bible's King David was a man who knew about sin and true repentance. David loved God, but after having an affair with a married woman, getting her pregnant and having her husband killed he knows he's in big trouble. What made David "a man after God's own heart" was not his great deeds but his repentance.

David felt the weight of his sin so pleaded with God for mercy. Like David, when we're really sorry for something, we must admit it without excuses and then sincerely seek God's forgiveness.   

True repentance means learning and growing from our mistakes. David wants God to restore their relationship, praying "Create in me a pure heart ... renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence ... restore to me your salvation"

 

God's approach to forgiveness is very different to ours. We understand forgiveness as excusing someone for a fault or an offence but for God, it's so much more. He removes our sins completely, as if they never happened. We may forgive but we don't often forget the pain caused, tears shed or hopes crushed. But God forgives completely, giving us a new start and keeps no record of past sins.

 

Jesus told us to repent saying "The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good News!”

 

So begin by owning your sins in true repentance, asking God to change your perspective and show you anywhere your heart is not aligned with His. And when you do that, God works through us to share His message of salvation with others and His Kingdom will come.

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May 9th - God's Amazing Love

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Today Alison McLeod explored the Disciple St John's writings and how they played a major role in the early church – and are still essential now.

 

Jesus named John and his brother James the 'Sons of Thunder' because they were so passionate, zealous and ambitious yet although his later writings hint of a still fiery spirit, let's say that he aged well whilst retaining a passion for God's truth, which he remained bold in proclaiming!

 

John's Gospel quotes Jesus' final instructions as to how to go on after His crucifixion, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends". It's His gift of sacrificial love in action for us all.

 

In turn, we musn't contain His love and devotion - we should act it out by sharing it and "love one another as I have loved you". But what is the measure of our love?

Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross shows Jesus' crucifixion from above. There is no blood, no crown of thorns and crucially, no nails, nothing keeping Him on the cross except as the hymn writer says, 'my sin that held him there'. Love in action, doing everything He could for us, His friends! And all He asks is that we love others as He did. So the measure of our love is reflecting Jesus' love in our lives.

 

Faith, love and obedience to God are all related. Faith brings us into a loving relationship with Him whilst love for God leads us to love others. It's the proof that we love Him… but at times it isn't easy.

 

Can we show that love, putting aside any prejudices and fears to bring others to share in the life and love of God? Can our actions, words, prayers and money make that loving difference in a life of obedience and commitment to God?

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May 2nd - Thy Kingdom Come

It's important that God’s Kingdom comes into this world, our communities and to hearts that do not know the love of God, so Rev Alf Waite invited us to Google the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ campaign and join the empowering mission of the Church.

We do not know how prayer works but we know it does. Prayer is vital and it's one way God wants us to be involved.

 

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches a pattern for prayer summarised as: approach, requests, reflection, and praise.

 

How do you approach God? What name do you use? Jesus calls Him ‘Our Father in heaven’. Although human fathers are not always good, it's the name Jesus uses because it relates to the intimacy that God want with us.

 

But what should we request from our loving God? “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”

 

By praying 'Thy kingdom come' we ask for God to reign in the world, our communities and our individual lives because God's way brings life, healing, justice and peace of mind. It's not about removing freedoms and making people toe the line. The answer is that with God, we flourish!

 

"Give us today our daily bread" means asking for God's help in everything. Your needs are important and God is listening and waiting. He loves to help and wants us to ask.

 

Then we reflect. "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". God wants us to be aware of our flaws, not to do us down but to enable us to live lovingly with Him and those around us, free from wrongdoings - ours and those of others. It's a better way of life!

 

All this leads to praise. "Thine be glory and power for ever and ever!"

 

So may 'Thy Kingdom come'. Wherever you are, pray for it!

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April 25th - The Good Shepherd

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In the famous 23rd Psalm, King David describes God as the ‘Good Shepherd’ and today Peter Walsham explored this picture of God, which has given peace and hope to so many people in times of trouble, with Jesus who says, “I am the Good Shepherd”.

 

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus appoints one of His disciples, St Peter, as the leader of the Church which will come into being with the words: “Feed my sheep, take care of my lambs.” It's part of 'The Great Commission' to spread God's Gospel message of salvation, available to everyone who believes in Him.

 

Throughout His life, Jesus makes it clear that following Satan’s persuasive ways in a life of self-gratification and sin will end in a burning hell because Satan is the ‘Bad Shepherd’ who cannot protect anyone.

 

Like a troublesome weed, Satan plants evil thoughts in us, hoping they will take root and overcome the goodness we are all born with but at the mention of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, he runs away as the coward he truly is.

 

How does this relate to us today?  Well, after Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep, He ends by saying two profound words, “Follow Me!” and like Peter we are called to be good shepherds to other people, searching for those who are lost, trying to find peace for their souls.

 

You and I have a responsibility to lead these His lost sheep back into the arms of the great, Good Shepherd, trying our best to convince those who are tempted by Satan’s cheap and easy values that there is a better, more fulfilling way to go.

 

Let’s make it our goal in life to seek out those who do not know Jesus and His saving Grace until finally, we can all claim Psalm 23's final verse, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”  

God ever present

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April 18th - Let's Get Building

As we move out of Lockdown Rev Dawn Brown commented that we need to start all over again - even with friends and family! Rebooting!

 

Imagine yourself as a house God starts rebuilding. He begins with the obvious jobs, fixing the drains and the roof, but then He starts knocking the house about which makes no sense to us because He has begun building something totally different. We're no longer a decent little cottage, He is building a palace to come and live in Himself!

 

When they were with Jesus, the Disciples thought they had it all. Yes, there was much they didn't understand but as He was with them, it was okay. Then came the Cross and the Tomb. Three days later, the tomb is empty and they meet the risen Jesus. It had hurt, now it was confusing. They are asking themselves “What’s next?” as Jesus speaks of Repentance bringing Forgiveness and their need to share this with others.

 

So this is what Peter and John are doing when after Jesus had ascended to heaven they heal a lame man and change his life!

 

Afterwards, Peter tells the crowd about Repentance, Forgiveness, Assurance and Reconciliation, challenging them to move from darkness to light, allowing God into their lives to change their houses into a place with Jesus as the cornerstone, where He lives.

 

If we accept Jesus, then the empty Tomb offers us eternal life with our Father in Heaven as we REPENT our sins and seek FORGIVENESS which is God’s gift to all who call upon Jesus' name through the precious blood He spilt. We are called home, rebuilding our relationship with God, broken by the sin in our lives.

 

It’s time to get building! Allow Jesus your Builder to come and fulfil the plans God has for you. We were created to share His Good News and bring other people to Him.

Victor Meldrew

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April 11th - Believe the unbelievable

Local Preacher Peter Walsham speaks here about St Thomas, one of Jesus' original disciples or 'Doubting Thomas' as he is often called.

 

Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to His disciples after the Crucifixion, refusing to believe until he saw Jesus for himself.

 

We don't know much about Thomas but earlier, when Jesus had travelled to a potentially dangerous place, Thomas expresses loyalty saying, “Let us all go that we may die with Him!”.

 

And so in grief after the Crucifixion, he had missed Jesus' appearance to His disciples. We can all sympathise with missing something important and can only imagine how Thomas must have felt! Had he felt excluded, no longer part of the group? Or maybe jealous and frustrated for not being there?

 

So like the comic character Victor Meldrew saying “I don’t believe it!”, Thomas cannot 'believe the unbelievable' saying “Unless I see the scars of the nails and put my hand in his side, I will not believe”. Many things today seem ‘unbelievable’ so when we are confronted with the evidence we are often lost for words!

 

I'm like that when I see the view from the top of a mountain. All I can think of is to thank God for making this beautiful creation so when eventually Thomas sees Jesus all he can say is, “My Lord and my God!”

 

Nowadays many people find Jesus' story unbelievable. In visiting the disciples when Thomas was absent, Jesus offers hope to us, to those who have NOT seen Him in the flesh.

 

When Jesus does meet Thomas He says: “How blessed are those who believe without seeing me” Amazing changes occur within us when we believe in the risen Lord Jesus.

 

Later, we know that Thomas took the wonderful Good News of God's love for us all through Jesus, to India.

 

And like Thomas, we are called to bring new people to that Good News through our words and actions, bringing them to Jesus' empty tomb so that He can confront each one with the challenge to believe the unbelievable!

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Easter Day - He is risen

Today is the great celebration of our faith, the transforming truth that changes everything for the whole world, THE epoch moment in history. What we could not do for ourselves Jesus had done by defeating death and evil. Making right what was wrong.

 

On this Easter Sunday, Rev Alf Waite turned his attention to the post-resurrection story of Jesus meeting His disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee, as they return after a fruitless night fishing.

 

Jesus had appeared to them before, but they are still lost - which is why they'd returned to their old way of life as fishermen.

 

Against all their experiences as professional fishermen, Jesus invites them to recast their nets and they are rewarded by a miraculous catch. Then He tells them that from then on they would catch people, not fish, reminding them of their journey with Him over the last three years.

 

This a lesson about trust. As with the haul of fish back then, in following Him today we need to trust Him to equip us for our task of love and service, offering the salvation and New Life that Jesus has won, to others.                                

 

As Jesus invited His disciples to breakfast on the beach that day, Easter Sunday is confirmation of our invitation to the eternal feast with Him.

 

We are a mixed group, all kinds of characters with limited talents, but God accepts us and has work for us to do. Just like Peter, who despite denying Him before the crucifixion was restored as the leader of the Church, Jesus never gives up on us saying as He did to Peter "feed my lambs, feed my sheep".

 

You may feel lost, confused or inadequate. You may have gone back to your old haunts or still be working things out. Just know that the Easter hope is that God can be trusted and invites you to His feast. He wants to dine with you! He has things for you to do. There is always a new start on offer.

 

The Lord is Risen. Hallelujah!

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March 28th - God comes humbly

Local Preacher Jean Shotton considered Jesus' humble entry into Jerusalem to deliver His message and asked if we are prepared to similarly offer ourselves to Him.

 

The disciples knew that Jesus intended to go to Jerusalem and they weren't keen - they were aware of the threat from both the Pharisees and the Romans but Thomas said to the other disciples ‘Let us also go that we may die with him’ (John 11 vs 16). 

 

Was Jesus brave or foolish? He knows that he will be rejected and as He makes his approach He weeps - not for Himself but for the people. Zechariah Ch 9 vs 9 says, “Rejoice greatly, behold your King comes to you: triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey.” 

 

The crowds specifically link him to the central figure of Psalm 118 shouting 'Hosanna'. It's what they expected to say to the Messiah whenever he came because the word means 'save us'. They wanted a warrior King!

 

Jesus was determined to see things through knowing that He needed to take His gospel message and declare it in the great Jerusalem Temple. There'd be no turning back! Yet He went humbly, without arrogance or the trappings of power. 

Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as King but what kind of a king? 

 

Sometimes His kingdom is hard to see and easy to miss, because God comes humbly. Often, the most powerful revelations don’t come with great gestures. The people who do things without fanfare, surprising you with generosity and humility, little acts of love done in the name of Jesus for His sake. God comes humbly - but He is still God.

So they laid their coats before the King on a donkey - as we lay down all that we have in praise of Him.

 

Lord, teach us Your ways of peace so that we may show Your glory to our neighbours and bring Your kingdom to the world.

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March 21st - Talk about Jesus

Today Rev Dawn Brown asked us how we might respond when asked about Jesus.

 

Everyone prefers a story to a lecture and the more personal it is the better. The Gospels, which tell of Jesus' life on earth, are full of tales of how people saw and experienced meeting Jesus and how that special unique relationship changed their lives.

 

In John Ch12 vs 20 - 21, some Greeks ask to meet Jesus. Right from the start, there were foreigners who wanted to live moral and ethical lives and found Jesus' teachings attractive. So wanting to know more, they needed someone to introduce them to the man Himself.

 

So they come to Philip one of Jesus’ disciples. ‘Philip’ is a Greek name, so perhaps there's a sense of connection. They say some of the most beautiful words in the gospels: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.

 

But Philip isn’t sure, so he consults Andrew who has no hesitation: “Let’s go and tell Jesus” he says. In life we often need 'introducers' so they needed Philip and Andrew, to introduce them to Jesus and all the live changing opportunities that await those who call upon His name.

 

Does the way you live, act, speak or smile reflect the beauty of Jesus, and demonstrate your relationship with Him? Would a person come top you to introduce them to Jesus?

 

Can we tell others what Jesus is to us personally? Of His love and gift of Life? His influence in our lives and His Promise of our home in Eternity with Him and how through Jesus we can conqueror any situation.

 

As we move out of Lockdown, people will be seeking, longing, searching and if they ask you how to see Jesus, what will you tell them? Pray that the Holy Spirit may be set free to share what Jesus has done for you.

 

Be ready! The time has come!

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March 14th - Look Up

Rev Dawn Brown told us that Lent is a journey of reflection and discovery and when on any journey you need to look around and UP.

 

We use UP in so many ways. Speaking UP, calling UP friends, locking UP the house. Confusingly, we open UP a drain when it is blocked UP or open UP a shop each morning and close it UP at night.

 

In good times, we say “things are looking up” and when trying to change someone’s negative focus, we say “look up” because people look down when they feel depressed, discouraged, worthless or ashamed.

 

Looking UP changes our lives, It's a positive thing, giving direction and purpose.

In John 3 Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." Jesus is referring to the Old Testament story in Numbers 21 where Israel had come out of Egypt, and wandering in the wilderness had complained against Moses and God doubting God's promises. As a punishment, God sent a plague of snakes and they began to die.

 

Yet even then the opportunity for salvation was given to those who looked up because God told Moses to “Make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole, and everyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” It was God’s saving Grace to all who LOOKED UP.

 

Remarking on that story Jesus says  that the Son of Man (meaning Himself) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life and that opportunity for salvation applies to everyone, including you and me.

 

So LOOK UP and receive God’s saving Grace. Ephesians puts it like this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."

 

Be lifted up all the way to heaven when your work on Earth is done. Looking down is not where you want to go!

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March 7th - Temples

YOU are the temple of the Lord was Rev Alf Waite's message to us today, recounting the Jesus story of when He drove the commercial traders out of the Jerusalem temple, told in John Ch 2.

 

John, one of the original 12 disciples, places the incident at the start of Jesus’ ministry because he is preparing his readers for one of the big questions: What is your heart like? Are you fulfilling the purpose God made you for?

 

The Temple was both symbolic and central to the Jews. It was seen as the place where God resided but it had become corrupted so it needed cleansing. But Jesus was also taking this understanding of 'Temple' to another level, moving it from the building to His own body and John is setting out the central theme of Jesus' death and resurrection that would redeem humankind.

 

After that, the meaning of 'Temple' changes again when St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you ... You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”

 

We are the temple of God as He dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. As we walk around the earth, we are the presence of God today.

 

There is a danger here for Christians even now. Are we more concerned about our churches than we are for the purposes of God? The buildings are but catalysts for bringing people into that loving relationship for which Jesus died.

 

As temples of the Holy Spirit we can be defiled when we give into things that displace God’s number one place in our lives, so now a question.

 

Where does Jesus fit in your world? Is He the light that shines out of you, like the morning star? Or is He a sideline to something which in the end will always be found wanting?

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February 28th - One Way

For the second Sunday in Lent Local Preacher Judy Tasker took us to the heart of Christianity - Faith and Discipleship.

 

But what is Faith? Well, it's about believing and trust. In Romans Ch 4 St Paul speaks of Abraham whose faith was the key to his life. Abraham believed and trusted God to keep His promise that although old and childless, he would yet be the father of many people. And it's this faith that is required to be a disciple of Jesus: believing and trusting that His way is the only way, even when it's difficult.

 

In sharing the Good News of Jesus, St Mark's Gospel makes sure the reader knows what is important in God’s kingdom, who Jesus is and what we need to know about being His 'disciple'.

 

Over His three year ministry Jesus taught and showed in action just what discipleship meant. His way wasn't the way of War, as a mighty and powerful Messiah leading the Jews into battle against their Roman oppressors, Jesus had already rejected such methods, it was the way of Peace, demonstrated through Love.

 

And yet it was only after the Resurrection that the disciples began to understand. Just as St Peter had had to realise that his dream of a conquering Messiah wasn’t God's chosen path, we too are required to follow, copy and live in the way of Jesus.

 

It’s a challenge for us to work out what we need to do. Some things are easy, others harder! For example, buying Fair Trade produce makes life better for Third World  farmers and their families, but speaking out against injustices can be challenging, leaving us exposed to insult or abuse.

 

Our journeys may not be easy, but there's only One Way and remember that as we walk with Jesus, strong in faith and true in discipleship, we know He’s been through it all and there’s help for our journey from our Lord and Saviour through His Holy Spirit.

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February 21st - Come and see

Local Preacher Maureen Simpson's message on 21st February was to ask us to come and see Jesus, as Philip had invited his friend Nathaniel in John Ch1 vs 43-51.

 

People have stressed lives searching for inner peace and many try to find peace in the wrong way. Shopping maybe, or through drink or drugs...

 

Philip had found that inner peace! He was bursting with it and like us when we have an exciting experience, he wanted to tell everybody! Philip wanted to share what he had discovered about Jesus with Nathaniel. Well, Nathaniel was a chilled out sort of person. At first he didn't want his boat rocked or to be pestered but eventually, Jesus and Nathaniel found each other and Nathaniel 's life was changed for ever.

 

As Christians we all want to share Jesus with other people but unlike an outright gift, sharing is a two-way thing. Think of sharing a box of chocolates, you get some and somebody else gets some.

 

Belief as with friendship has to be two-way. We cannot make people believe. We can give sympathy, compassion, love and companionship but not belief. People have to believe for themselves and sometimes, as with Nathaniel, it takes a while.

 

In a world full of fake news, folks are suspicious, so how should we share Jesus with people seeking a better life? We have to get to know them first. Meet someone for coffee perhaps and try to understand their life whilst sharing some of your own. Find a volunteering role maybe.

 

Jesus didn't just busy himself with a small group of followers, He reached out, saying to Nathaniel, as He says to all of us, “Come and see".

 

So take stock of your life. Look at how and where you can connect with God and then with others.

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February 14th - Where Faith leads

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This morning, Local Preacher Alison McCleod reminded us of the death of the great Old Testament prophet Elijah who was lifted into heaven on a chariot of fire and of Jesus' transfiguration, when during His ministry here on Earth He took three of His disciples with Him to pray on top of a mountain, and asked how our faith and loyalty to God has transformed us?

 

When Elisha witnessed the vision of Elijah’s ascension, it confirmed everything he had come to believe. Then reading of the experiences of Jesus and the disciples on Mount Tabor, we see confirmation for Peter, James and John of their calling and their growing understanding of Christ.

 

Jesus had spent the weeks beforehand preparing the disciples for his imminent death and so the transfiguration is a glimpse of His future glory, beyond the suffering and tragedy of the crucifixion. The disciples saw Jesus bathed in light talking with Moses and Elijah two of the greatest figures in Israel’s history. And then comes God's voice affirming everything for them, making sense of it all - that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Many people feel closer to God in Nature, but God doesn't just dwell on mountains or in churches. God is all around us, in every place and in the people we meet.

 

Where do we glimpse the glory of God? Is God revealed to us through preaching or the Bible? Or through prayer and the knowledge of His love for us? Or seeing the actions of other faithful souls?

 

And so I leave you with this to ponder on. We know where the disciples love for Jesus lead them but where does our love for love of Jesus lead us in service to God's world and His people?

 

Let Jesus' love for you transform your life so that His glory may be revealed to others in all you do and say.

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February 7th - Unity

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Today Rev Alf Waite explored the need for all Christian people to be unified with God and with each other, quoting John Ch 17 vs 22 & 23, Jesus' prayer that his followers in every generation be united as the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is united:

 

"... I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

 

There are many divisions in the Church and it takes the Supernatural power of God's Holy Spirit, as poured out at the first Pentecost, to put differences aside for the good of God's Kingdom. For example, major doctrinal differences existed between George Whitfield and John Wesley, two of Methodism's founders. They believed different things but the Word and Spirit of God enabled their love for Jesus to draw them together. It's not easy to put aside strong differences. We need the Spirit of God to lead us into unity with our Christian brothers and sisters.

 

In Acts we are told that the first disciples loved one another and this attracted other people to become Christians, so the results of unity are Tangible. With all the different forms of Church it is important that we show the love of God in the world by working together. All over the world Churches are praying and working in unity to clean up their streets whether of rubbish, drugs or violence.

 

Such Christian unity is Evangelical because the way we live expresses the good news of Jesus in our communities. When unity is seen in church, between churches and in everyday life, it speaks volumes of the love of God for all people.

 

Do you want to be part of the work of Jesus today? Then seek unity with all who seek to follow Jesus, using all that you have and are to spread the Good News letting the Holy Spirit work through our words and actions.

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January 31st - God's authority

This week, Local Preacher Joan Murray looked at the authority of Jesus. In Chapter 1 of Mark's Gospel the healing of the ‘The Man with an Unclean Spirit’ wastes no time in introducing us to the real Jesus who Mark wants us to know and follow.

 

Back then Jewish people would have been brought up in a strong religious/legal environment. Listening to the teachings of the Scribes was a duty but verse 22  says Jesus wasn’t like the teachers of the law because He taught "with authority".

 

Although the Scribes had the authority to teach, were they doing this to the best of their ability, accurately and without prejudice? Or had greed and self-gain crept into their work?

 

Mark speaks of the immediate effect Jesus had that day. The power to deliver and make a difference! Jesus is open, honest and unafraid of who or what He comes up against. He doesn’t disguise or promote himself. Whenever Jesus heals, he does so with authority and backs it up with positive action. Salvation for all starts right here!

 

In the Old Testament, Moses gained authority as a leader through positive action, leading his people out of Egypt to the promised land. People understood him, because he used familiar words. He did what it said on the tin!

 

As does Jesus, who stands fearlessly before God on our behalf!

 

We long for genuine authority. Whether it’s climate change or dealing with the economic fallout from Coronavirus, we hear experts speaking with authority on their subject but sometimes we have no idea whether the person speaking is an expert or whether it's just ‘Fake News’.

 

Christians recognise God’s authority and we look to both the words and actions of Jesus to reveal it. If someone claims to have authority today, do their actions match their words? And what is the fruit of those words?

 

Be honest, open and pure in how you treat others. Follow Christ with truth and integrity and you too will be saved.

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January 24th - The Promise

Every year Methodist people renew their 'Covenant' promise with God and today, Rev Alf Waite reminded us that the earlier covenants God made with His people pointed to the final covenant that came with Jesus.

 

God's covenant, or agreement is His promise that if we accept and renew our covenant with Him then we will never be alone and we will receive new life.

 

Deuteronomy Ch 29 shows us God's intention to fulfil the promises He made to the Jewish people whilst Jeremiah Ch 31 tells us a day is coming when a new covenant will be made and intimacy with God restored for all generations and every people, reaching right down to us.  

 

Then in the New Testament we see it fulfilled when He comes Himself in the form of Jesus to enter a covenant with the whole of broken humanity. Jesus shows us what a relationship with God looks like. In His death and resurrection, the covenant is sealed, He becomes the sacrifice and we receive new life. In Christ we are delivered from the penalty and bondage that comes from being part of broken humanity. That is the Good News of Jesus.

 

Romans Ch 12 vs 1 invites us to go further: "Therefore... present your bodies as a living sacrifice... it is your true and proper worship." It basically means total commitment to the New Covenant that God has made with us. This Covenant promises that God will be with us especially when we feel alone or vulnerable, weak, or hopeless and much, much more. Being in Covenant with God also brings a transformation to our lives. We can find out who we really are, who God believes us to be.

 

Do you want to enter into the Covenant and promise to put your trust in the living God? Will you be one of His people allowing Him to be your God? If you have questions then do not hesitate to be in touch with us or another Christian that you trust. 

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  January 17th - God calling...

Recounting the stories of the prophet Samuel's call (Samuel Ch 3 vs 1 - 21) and the story of Jesus' call to Zacchaeus (Luke Ch 19 vs 1 - 10), Local Preacher Peter Walsham asked us 17th January if we'd heard God calling, and if so what our response was.

 

The 12 year old Samuel didn't know God despite sleeping in the Holy Place where God might be expected to speak and Zacchaeus was a sinful tax collector, called by Jesus from the crowd as Jesus passed by. Neither were expecting God to call them.

 

When God speaks, it’s a personal and intimate experience. Has God spoken to you? Have you felt God’s presence in the still of the night like Samuel, or does He speak to you during the busyness of your day as He did with Zacchaeus?

 

For each of us it’s different. The fact is God might speak anytime and anywhere. But more importantly, do you put yourself in a position to recognise it and when it comes, how do you respond?

 

Samuel spent his time surrounding himself in the things that brought him close to God, praying and studying the scriptures and offering his work as a dedication to God, trying his best to be good, true and kind.

 

Jesus, who often sought solitude to pray, instructs us to do so in private because God blesses what He sees us do in secret (Matthew Ch 6 vs 6). Often, it’s totally unexpected when God calls us into His Kingdom of Love and Service, just like it was for St Paul, called by Jesus on the Damascus road.

 

God gives us free will. Samuel, Zacchaeus and Paul, like so many others called by God, said 'yes'. Countless others have said 'no' but if we truly want God’s blessings we have to respond positively saying “Lord here I am!”

 

Make it your goal in life, to listen for and obey God’s call and prepare to receive His richest blessings. 

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January 10th - Witness for change

Local Preacher Jean Shotton focussed on John the Baptist's ministry today, 10th January. John is understood as the one who according to Isaiah Ch 40 vs 3 was to come before Jesus and make a clear path for Him.

 

After urging people to put their lives in order and walk the straight and narrow, John quickly turned to what he came to do. He would challenge the status quo, both people and ‘establishment’, providing us with a model of courage. “Speak truth to power,” John would tell us now, “and when you do, shout out your message no matter what the consequences.” John's words were his sword. He was an agent of change.

 

We must never underestimate the power of the spoken word and today there are many issues to be challenged! The media sometimes makes disreputable behaviour look acceptable and even within the church we face situations that can limit our effectiveness as Christian witnesses. “Don’t rock the boat” some will say but we have to listen for the word of God, then speak out and be the instruments of change.

 

In becoming effective witnesses the scriptures invite us to choose our words and actions carefully, to bring comfort, heal, soothe, work for justice and work for peace. So a word in the right place… inviting a friend to ‘tune in’ to the online service perhaps, may change a life. A word spoken in someone’s defence may right an injustice. A word about Jesus may save a soul.                                                                                                                           

We recognise, through the role of John the Baptist, the part we can play in proclaiming God’s message, communicating in a way that those who hear us can comprehend. But first, we must look at our own lives and clean up our act. Then, like John, we will be ready to “Prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight"

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      January 3rd  -  Rise and Shine

Citing Isaiah Ch 60 vs 1 - 6 Rev Dawn Brown called us all to action in our first service of 2021, inviting us to 'Arise and Shine' and become the people we were created to be.

Isaiah's vision of hope and restoration, was a wake-up call not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations. It offers timeless images of majesty and power, with God’s reign breaking into everything.

 

Waking up and getting moving is what the Wise men who followed the Star did, risking everything to travel so far to kneel before a baby born of poor parents in a small town. They must have talked about this for the rest of their lives. It changed them, or rather, made them who they were meant to be. 

 

Following Jesus and relying on His Grace is not easy. Above all, it is costly. It cost God the life of His Son and what has cost God so much cannot be cheap for us. God experienced our sorrows, difficulties, and temptations and it cost God everything dying the death we deserved to save us.

Isaiah tells us that God breaks into our world and illuminates our very existence. Look around, he cries, and pay attention! God is here! Jesus Christ is alive and present in our world here and now. Don’t crawl back under the covers, this is news worth getting up for!

 

Can you take a new direction with your days, beginning with an eagerness to find out what God is doing and wants for your life? How might our days be different if we looked for God and His guidance each morning? 

 

So friends, untangle the bed sheets that may be holding you down! Jesus the light of the world has come and there's work to do. Let your journey, to become who you really are, begin. Use your gifts and together with God, change the world! Arise and Shine this New Year!

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