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Reflections

Find Strength in God

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Sam 23:16)

Many people are finding life difficult at the moment. Last Monday was the day known as “Blue Monday”. According to psychologist Cliff Arnall the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year! Thus the name “Blue Monday”. Additionally, this year in the UK we are also in our third lockdown. Not really a great combination. Whether or not last Monday is the most depressing day is obviously not a fact but life is not easy for many at the moment.

What do we do in the current situation to cope in these difficult times?

Do we spend more time on social media?

Do we binge watch loads of stuff on Netflix?

Do we try and drown our sorrows by excessive drinking?

Do we go out for long walks everyday?

Do we spend all day in bed and just hope the situation improves?

David, before he came king, was facing a very difficult situation with King Saul. He was in the wilderness with his group of 600 men and Saul was searching for him with his army. We are told that day after day Saul was searching for David. This must have been a very difficult stressful time for David. Although David had known the presence of God with him, he was also, like you and I, a human being too. When you hear that someone is searching for you with the intention of killing you then it would be understandable if you got very worried and concerned.

And then we are told that Jonathan, Saul’s son, went to meet David at a place called Horesh and helped him find strength in God. We are not told what Jonathan did. Perhaps he reminded David of how God had given him victory over Goliath. Maybe he reminded David of the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians. We are not told. It simply says that he “helped him find strength in God”

Three brief but important thoughts strike me from that verse:

Look to God

When we are facing problems we need to look to God for His help. We cannot do things in our strength. Many of us think we can. But we cannot. Our pride might not like that but it is true nevertheless.

Life might be a lot easier if we just recognised that. God’s strength is mighty, ours is not. Look to Him. Do not look to the solutions I mentioned earlier, instead we should be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:3)

We need others

We do not exist on our own as Christians. We are part of Christ’s family and share our faith with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although we can meet God anywhere, He will often use others to help us and to be a blessing to us. You will never reach the point when you outgrow the need for the help and support of other believers.

Others need us

Jonathan was able to bless and help his friend. We should look to encourage and support our fellow believers, especially during these difficult days. Let us aim to encourage them to keep on going and not give up. Being a Christian is not just about us. There are others in our family we need to support.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11)

Whatever situation you may be in today look to the Lord and find your strength in Him.

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Reflections

The Magi, Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law

Today is Epiphany, when the Western Church remembers the Magi visiting Jesus as described in Matthew 2. This is a very familiar piece of scripture which many of us have probably read or heard read to us dozens of times.

Last Sunday our sermon was preached from Matthew 2:1-12 and the preacher had some interesting thoughts about the chief priests and teachers of the law, mentioned below, who I had not previously thought much about before:

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

It is obvious from the response of the chief priests and teachers of the law that they were fully aware of where the Messiah was to be born. They knew the scriptures. However, strangely they did not seem to be interested in the journey of the Magi and meeting the child, to see if he was the fulfilment of the prophecies.

Why did they not ask to go along with the Magi? Bethlehem is only about 5 or 6 miles from Jerusalem. Surely that was not too long a journey to undertake to see if the Messiah had at last been born?

Why were they not excited and expectant on hearing about the star? They seem to have no spiritual hunger.

Were they like Herod and the rest of Jerusalem disturbed by this news?

Were they scared of losing their positions in the status quo?

Were they scared of the unknown?

Did they think that God could not possibly reveal the Messiah to gentiles?

Perhaps they were scared of how Herod would react? After all, he was not known as someone who was favourably disposed towards potential rivals!

Our preacher described the chief priests and teachers of the law as having “heads of knowledge and hearts of stone.” How very sad that they could quote the Bible but it did not seem to mean anything to them.

Is there a danger that perhaps we can know spiritual truths intellectually but not in our hearts? Do we quote Bible passages parrot fashion and not know their reality in our lives?

Compare that with the Magi who were overjoyed (v10) when they saw the star stopping over the place where Jesus was, and then bowed down and worshipped Christ offering their treasures to Him (v11).

As we go through 2021 let us not be like the chief priests and teachers of the law, but instead emulate the example of the Magi and seek Him eagerly.

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Reflections

The End of Another Year

As we come to the end of another year we will probably read articles and watch television programmes that review the previous 12 months. I often enjoy watching television reviews of the year, especially the sporting ones. It is amazing how quickly you can forget sporting events that occurred several months ago and enjoy watching them again.

This year has obviously been a very difficult and different one for most people. The word unprecedented has been used many times to describe it. I expect most of us will be glad to see the back of it. Perhaps we hope to wake up on 1 January 2021 and discover that 2020 has just been one bad nightmare!

When reviewing and reflecting over this past year there will be both good and bad memories for all of us. There will be things that bring a smile to our face but mixed with these there will also be events that make us feel sad too. Looking back honestly normally involves laughter and tears.

When looking back we will remember our sins and mistakes of the last 12 months. These sins can spiritually cripple us if we constantly dwell on them. Instead of lingering on them we need to confess our sins to God, forsake them and receive the wonderful forgiveness that Christ Jesus offers us.

We will recall opportunities that presented themselves to us. Some of these we took but others we missed. Those missed opportunities will not return to us and this could cause us to despair. There is nothing to be gained by constantly beating ourselves up, wishing we could turn the clock back and change events. We cannot change the past. The past is the past. It is gone. Instead of despairing we must put those wasted opportunities into God’s hands and then leave them in His hands.

On thinking about the new year perhaps we are excited about the future or maybe we are very worried. None of us know what the next 12 months will bring. We hope that it will be better than the previous 12 months, but we cannot guarantee that.

We can pray about the future and make plans. However as we have seen this year sometimes unexpected events occur preventing these plans from being fulfilled. Therefore, as we face the future we need to have open hands and commit our future into God’s hands, not worrying but trusting Him to work out His good purposes in our lives.

The above thoughts are inspired by a reflection written by Oswald Chambers and I shall conclude by a direct quote from it:

Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.

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Reflections

Good News that will Cause Great Joy for All the People

Shortly after Jesus was born an angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds who were nearby and said:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

That is a very familiar passage of scripture to many of us and perhaps we gloss over it quickly without paying it much attention. There are some amazing truths in these words from the angel. I especially like the fact that we are told that this good news will cause great joy for all the people.

Currently there does not appear to be much good news or great joy around. Last Saturday many people’s Christmas plans were ruined following the announcement of tighter restrictions to combat the spread of the new variant of Covid-19. Sadly, due to the late change of government policy concerning Christmas, many of us will be facing a very different celebration this week then we had planned a few days ago.

However, whilst the government may have cancelled our planned Christmas celebrations, you cannot cancel Christmas itself. Why you might ask? Well because at Christmas we are remembering the birth of Jesus and that has already happened!

As we have seen in the verses from Luke, Jesus has already been born. And it is: “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Maybe you are feeling fed up about your Christmas being ruined? Maybe you feel totally devastated at the end of a dreadful year? Maybe you have lost all hope?

Whatever your personal circumstances remember these three things:

  • The birth of Jesus was and is still in 2020 good news.
  • The birth of Jesus did cause great joy and will still in 2020 cause great joy.
  • The birth of Jesus was and still is in 2020 for all the people.

This Christmas put your hope and trust in Jesus and know He is the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

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Reflections

Feed Yourself Daily

It is Friday night and a man arrives home from work exhausted after a tough week in the workplace. He takes off his shoes and collapses onto the sofa. His wife comes into the lounge to greet him and the following conversation takes place:

Wife: How was work today?

Man: It has been another tough day.

Wife: Would you like to have some food?

Man: No I am fine, I had something to eat on Sunday.

Wife: Yes I know but that was five days ago. You must have something to eat. It is not right just to eat once a week.

Man: But I have only ever eaten on Sundays.

Wife: I know! You need to change that habit. You must eat every day. If you do not you will starve and your health will deteriorate. You will end up dying.

I guess most of us will think the man in this situation was behaving stupidly. I mean who only eats once a week? Imagine only eating on Sundays? None of us would copy this example or recommend it to others.

However I wonder how many of us only feed ourselves spiritually once a week?

Sunday is the day we attend church and read the Bible, pray and sing our songs of worship. But do we bother praying or reading the Bible between Monday and Saturday?

All of us need to spend time with God daily, getting to know Him and having our strength renewed. If we do not do that it is unlikely we will ever grow as Christians.

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Reflections

Put Your Hope in Him

Last weekend the clocks went back one hour as British Summer Time finally ended this year. The days are getting shorter and the nights are growing longer. Today sunset is at 4.40pm and each day this will get earlier until during December we see it reach 3.51pm. I do not like this. In fact I find it makes me quite despondent.

To make things worse this year we also have the covid restrictions too. The rule of six currently applies to the whole of England. Many places in our country have entered tiers two and three, which prohibits the mixing of households meeting indoors. Unless the government change their mind then most of us will not be able to celebrate Christmas with our families this year.

When will these restrictions be lifted? When will things return to normal again? There does not appear to be any easy answers to these question. My understanding from listening to the government scientists is that the restrictions could last until March. That does not bear thinking about.

It is going to be a tough long winter and I am not particularly looking forward to it! One can almost lose hope when thinking about the next few months. What is the motivation for keeping on going? Can I just hibernate and wake up in April next year thinking this has just been a bad dream?

Deep down in me though there is something telling me not to give up. There is the idea of persevering and hanging in there.

I pick up my Bible and read the first verse of Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, “

I read that Christ Jesus is our hope. My spirit starts to rise. There is still hope. Life is still worth living. I stop looking at myself and my circumstances and instead I put my hope in Christ. I realise that my hope is found in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you dejected?

Are you despondent?

Have you had enough?

Do you want to experience real life?

Do you want a living and true hope?

If so then put your hope in Him!

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Reflections

Thanking God for all our fellow Christians

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2)

Paul starts his first letter to the Thessalonians by thanking God for all the members of the church in that city. I think the Thessalonians would have felt quite humble to hear that Paul valued them all this highly.

I wonder if we thank God for all our fellow believers that we worship with each week? Are we more likely to moan to God about the ones who we find it difficult to get along with than to thank Him for them? It is easy to thank God for the ones that we get along with but notice that Paul gave thanks for them all.

The Greek word used in verse 2 for all “pas” can also mean “every” or “whole”. So we can learn from Paul’s example here and thank God for everyone in church and yes that includes the difficult ones too!

If we do this then maybe it would help us to be more united as the body of Christ. Thanking God for all our fellow believers shows that we appreciate and value them. It will mean that we are less likely to criticise them. Imagine a church where there was no criticism but only thankfulness. That would be a wonderful place to worship and a place where Christ’s love radiates out for all to see.

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Reflections

Behold Christ and Be Conformed

Do you desire to be conformed to become more like Christ? If so the following quote from Charles Spurgeon encourages us to behold Christ and be conformed:

Well,” say some, “we have proceeded so far, what next shall we do? We know we have an interest in him, but we are still sensible of manifold deficiencies. Next then, let me entreat you to study Christ’s character. This poor Bible is become an almost obsolete book, even with some Christians. There are so many magazines, periodicals, and such like ephemeral productions, that we are in danger of neglecting to search the Scriptures. Christian, wouldst thou know thy Master? Look at him. There is a wondrous power about the character of Christ, for the more you regard it the more you will be conformed to it. I view myself in the glass, I go away, and forget what I was. I behold Christ, and I become like Christ.

The above quote is taken from the Old Guys website.

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Reflections

Do it all for the Glory of God

In his first letter to the church in Corinth the apostle Paul said the following words: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Whatever and all are big words! They seem to cover everything. Surely there must be some areas that they do not cover?

I spend my day at work looking at boring spreadsheets. It can be very difficult to motivate myself sometimes.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I work in a supermarket serving customers all day, some of whom are rude to me. I do not enjoy my work.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I work in a factory on a production line doing a mundane task for the whole day.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I am a manager at work and I get grief from both my team and the senior management team. I am stuck in the middle and have had enough.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I serve coffee at church each Sunday after the service. I do not think anyone appreciates what I do,

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I spend all week preparing the bible study for my housegroup and people often do not show up. I have had enough.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I have spend several hours learning how to operate the software so that we can stream our church services as we cannot fully open yet due to the coronavirus restrictions. However, all people do is complain when anything goes wrong.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I am a youth leader at church and have become disillusioned that a number of our young people have stopped coming along. I have just found out that they are now going to the trendy church on the other side of town. I wonder why I bother?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I am a pastor at a struggling church. It is really hard work and I am feeling that I have failed the church.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I open up our church building each Sunday and get all the chairs out. I then stay afterwards and put them all away. No-one else offers to help. I feel unappreciated.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I have been cleaning our church for 25 years and never get a word of thanks.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I give up several hours each week to run the local scout group. I am not sure people understand or appreciate my commitment to the group.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I make no apology by finishing with the same verse used throughout:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

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Reflections

The Last 4 Months of 2020

Yesterday was the 1st September and we are in the last 4 months of 2020. Summer is now over and autumn has started. The temperatures will start to become cooler and the days will continue to get shorter.

Normally at this time of year there is the expectation of new beginnings as the new academic year starts. Young people will be changing school years, joining new schools and going onto further and higher education.

In our churches September usually sees the reopening of the various groups that have had a break during the summer holidays.

However, this year has been very different due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year as we face the last 4 months of 2020 there are many concerns including:

Will there be a second wave of coronavirus?

Will the schools be able to return successfully?

Will unemployment increase when the government furlough scheme finishes?

Will there be cuts in government expenditure or increases in taxation to pay for the cost of the lockdown?

When will people be able to go on foreign holidays again without worrying about having to quarantine on their return to the UK?

When will churches be allowed to meet and worship without restricted numbers? When will we be allowed to sing in churches again?

In the midst of all these concerns it is very easy to be discouraged. However the following words that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi are ones that I personally find very encouraging. The amazing thing is that Paul wrote these incredible words whilst in prison!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)

Yes things may not be great at the moment, but let us focus on these words and ask God to renew our hope in the truth of what Paul wrote here.