This is a conversation between our Associate Pastor Paul and Steven Adjei, as part of our soul-searching around the issue of racism, highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. While we understand that some may think this discussion doesn’t go far enough, this is the start of an ongoing conversation that needs to take place if we are to tackle the issue of racism, that as you will see and hear, black people face all too frequently.
Here is a link to the BBC series Steven recommends: Black and British: A Forgotten History: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b082x0h6/black-and-british-a-forgotten-history
There is also a book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, on which the series is based: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1447299760/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_KPG6EbSGHG2Y0
"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in UNITY!" Psalm 133:1
The church is called to unite together, across all ethnicities, and stand against discrimination and racism. We have asked one of our church members, Maya, to talk on "unity" and what that means for the church during this time. Please take 5 minutes to watch her video, and join with her as she prays for us to have the courage and conviction to stand for what is right.
We would love to hear your words of support, encouragement and prayers in the comments section below.
Maya Lawrence is a military wife to Sam Lawrence, mother of two young girls and has been attending Plymouth Christian Centre for 7 years. She works for a small organisation called ARC, which offers workshops and training for young people with Autism. She also posts her own family blog The Sailor, Princesses and I, where she gives insight into life as a military family, as well as some great recipes!
On Sunday I spoke from Psalm 131 on being still and resting in God’s arms – like a weaned child in its mother’s arms. A phrase that caught my attention and imagination as I was thinking and talking about this is found in Hebrews 4 – “strive to enter the rest”.
That almost seems like an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms.
But I kind of get it.
Do you ever have those days where you have a knot in your stomach, or aching shoulders, or sleepless nights. You are worried or anxious or fearful or angry. Sometimes you don’t even know fully what it is that is bothering you.
Sometimes you do.
Entering God’s rest, being still, trusting in him, casting your cares, seems to be the answer.
But you struggle to let go. To rest. To trust God.
Sometimes you have to work at it. You have to take the time to metaphorically climb into God’s lap (if we are staying with the image of Psalm 131) and to cast your cares, your burdens on the Lord.
Sometimes I cast my cares…. And then I grab them back again.
Sometimes my “prayers” feel more like anxious chunnering filled with turmoil.
There is no great sense of peace after telling God about it.
Sometimes, I really have to strive, to work hard, to enter God’s rest.
For me, this involves processing. Journalling. Being brutally honest with God. Sometimes chatting things through with someone else. Being gentle with myself.
It takes a little time sometimes.
But then, most of the time at least, comes the perspective, the calm, the peace, the supernatural presence of God (even if it doesn’t always feel supernatural).
So in a time that is full of stress and anxiety, and being fed up and impatient.
In a time, for some, of loneliness, or uncertainty, or pain.
Be still my soul.
Put your trust in God.
Like a weaned child in its mother’s arms.
It may take you a while, but strive to enter that rest!
Last time I blogged, I was inviting Jesus to dinner- and in His imitable yet seemingly impossible way, He showed up, fixed my oven, and hasn’t left.
By imitable, I mean that Jesus became a man to show us how to live. He showed us how to live with joy and faith, within the limitations of our humanity; setting for us a worthy model of a life that we are invited to copy.
And by impossible, I mean that this man, this Jesus, was also the exact representation of the glory of His Father, and His radiance and goodness shows us a seemingly impossible model to achieve. This side of heaven at least.
And yet Jesus imitably, impossibly, always shows up: a baby in a manger, a 12 year old in His Father’s house, a 30 year old beautiful man… Jesus shows up in the lives of the needy, the afflicted and the oppressed, He shows up for the sinners and the outcasts and fixes them with love. Not by calling out what was wrong with them but offering Himself as the solution to what was missing. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus did not condemn her but saved her. And Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector? Jesus did not judge him but invited Himself for dinner. And Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus? Lord, if you had been here… Jesus showed up in God’s timing, so that God would be glorified and people would believe that God sent Him but He still wept in compassion for those who had experienced the grief and pain in the waiting. Jesus always showed up, in His time and able to release and reveal what was missing: compassion, mercy, kindness, healing, power, glory.
And then in the Garden of gethsemane Jesus showed up: He did not run, or fight, or protest, He did not hide or defer to someone else. Yes, in His humanity, He was broken and honest, He was afraid and desperate and asked that if it was possible the cup would be taken from Him -but in His Majesty He bowed His head and showed Himself obedient unto death, even death upon the cross. He endured the cross for the joy set before Him- and that joy was you- and that joy was me.
But it doesn’t end in death.
Jesus showed up in death and fixed it so that we need never fear death again. He showed up outside the tomb, upon the road to Emmaus, within a room, upon a shore and He breathed upon His disciples and fixed it so that He would never leave us again. And through the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus revealed the truth- that He is in His Father, and we are in Him, and Jesus is in us.
So, when I say that Jesus showed up and fixed my oven and hasn’t left- I really mean that during this period of confinement Jesus has slowly, patiently and with such lovingkindness (has it been 75 days?) brought me to places of revelation in which I realise that Jesus always shows up for me.
And, one of the things I have learnt is to redefine what it means when Jesus shows up.
In our human way of thinking, we can still limit Jesus by the parameters of our own experience and humanity. ‘Shows up’ means that I was sometimes thinking wrongly about Jesus- I believe that He is distant, hiding, absent, late, delayed, occupied, preoccupied- and I have cried out: If you had been here, Jesus… I have lamented- where are you? Hoping that He will hear me and show up just in time…
Yet in response to these questions, He’s revealed a new definition of ‘showing up’ for me. In Jesus’ terms, this side of the ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to ‘show up’ means to be revealed or to be seen. In other words, His Words: Aimee, I am always here but sometimes you don’t see me yet.
And Jesus has slowly, patiently and with such lovingkindness challenged: Aimee, do you really see Me? Are your spiritual eyes and heart open so that you can see Me as I am? Are you positioned so that I can give you a revelation of who I am for you and what I want to do for you now?
So, Jesus shows up and stays with me and doesn’t leave. Not because I answer- although when I do, that conversation creates the fellowship Jesus loves to have with me. Not because I’ve earnt it by becoming super spiritual and disciplined during this confinement- although He loves that I sometimes stop to have a cup of tea and bible time. Not because these circumstances are so challenging- although He knows that in this season, I am tired and trying hard and He is with me in it.
No Jesus shows up and stays with me and doesn’t leave because that is who He is. Jesus is the kindest, most steadfast, and most loving man I have ever met. Even when I don’t see it, even when the world seems blind to it. Jesus is the kindest, most steadfast, and most loving man I have ever met. Now doesn’t that truth make you smile.
Psalm 130 talks of both suffering and the antidote. It is written from the heart of someone who is suffering and crying out to God and yet this person knows that God is coming, is the antidote to their suffering. Despite the obvious suffering from the depths and a need for mercy, the psalmist’s main focus is on God and his coming deliverance.
Eugene Peterson writes, “Eight times the name of God is used in this psalm. We find, as we observe how God is addressed, that he is understood as one who forgives sin, who comes to those who wait and hope for him, who is characterised by steadfast love and plenteous redemption, and who will redeem Israel. God makes a difference. God acts positively towards his people. God is not indifferent. He is not rejecting. He is not ambivalent or dilatory. He does not act arbitrarily, in fits and starts. He is not stingy, providing only for bare survival.”
Much of our suffering can be short lived, some of it long lasting, but the psalmist recognises that God is the deliverer from all suffering and chooses to wait for him like the watchmen wait for the warmth of the rising sun in the morning, knowing the comfort that it will bring.
There is another suffering though – separation from God – ghastly isolation as P T Forsyth suggests, and this is also where God is our deliverer.
“If you God, kept records of our wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?” Despite our rebellious and sinful nature, God chases us down with his unfailing love to offer the antidote to this eternal suffering without God. The antidote? Grace. God’s unmerited favour on our lives that ensures that all suffering that we experience is temporal. Those who accept God’s offer of redemption can look forward to that time when ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
When we suffer, let us turn to God and wait on him like the watchmen waiting for the sun for he is coming to redeem us from sin, release us from pain and suffering and to take us home to be with him.
A post by Mark Bradley
Geoff encouraged us to keep running in his message last Sunday.
Firstly, I must confess.... I am not a very good runner !
Sometimes I see runners and am in awe that they almost seem to glide along their path, with what appears to be minimal effort, and don’t even look like the are breaking a sweat. At the other end of this picture of perfection, is me ! I looked up the definition of ‘lollop’ and it says (move in an ungainly way in a series of clumsy paces or bounds) which sums my efforts up almost perfectly. Yet.... I’m running.
Since the lock down, I felt the need to get outdoors and run. I’ve started slowly and started to increase my distances, routes and terrain. I know it’s good for my physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
I’ll confess, at times, I’ve felt like giving up but I’ve tried to keep going, with the exception of the other day that is, when a new blister literally stopped me in my tracks. Just before this small set back, as I was running, I became very aware my gaze was fixed firm on the path I was on. I lifted my head and turned my focus to take in the beauty of my surroundings as I ran through Saltram. I saw the sun shimmering on the water, clear blue skies, and tree after tree with the most beautiful and vast colours of greens. I was surrounded by all that God had made, yet, as my focus was on the path, I was missing this amazing canvas of creation.
I’m aware at times over the past weeks, my focus has been fixed on the wrong things. We are in a season of great uncertainty and it’s easy for our time and attention to be on the wrong things. This may be worry around finances, health, employment or family to name but a few. It says in 1 Peter 5 ‘cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you’. He has His attention on every part of your life as He cares so deeply for you. As we navigate through these next days and weeks I’d encourage you to lift your head, turn your gaze to him, take in the view, enjoy your journey and the blessings He has for you.
Hebrews 12 vs 1 -2 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’.
Written by Rachel Macdonald
We have been enjoying such beautiful weather, and I have appreciated having a garden albeit small in this time of lockdown. It has been a place to read books that never got finished, a place to hear nature get louder whilst traffic got quieter, watch the changes in the plants as winter gave way to spring. It has also been, a time of treasured conversation with my closest family members.
Today in one of these garden conversations I admitted to my children, “I fear everything just going back to normal”. I understand there will be others who are desperate for everything to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and there will be others, whose normal will never be the same again. I do not for a moment want to diminish the suffering and distress of so many at this time, and we too have had some testing days. Whatever end of this sliding scale you are on, it is ok to feel the way you do, but when something this big comes along, we tend to reflect on our lives, things we may have discovered , and how we continue to live personally ,and how to be the church in this new day.
So, for me personally, why do I fear everything going back to normal? This is what I could LOSE
Living more simply
Operating more creatively, learning new ways of working and connecting
Sensing Gods presence and hearing him more clearly
Extra time to enjoy family
Of course, it is largely our rhythms and habits that will determine how we live going forward, but our breakneck speed, consumer driven world just stopped for a while, and I found I did not miss it…
As we the church, continue to meet differently, we recognize there are things for the moment we have lost, but there are things to be gained. I am confident God is at work, and his kingdom advancing. Let us not be too hurried in bringing the old normal back, God may be wanting to do a new thing. I was reminded today by Sian Lowry about the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, a tiny seed is sown, yet it grows into a huge tree. God wants us to plant seeds of the kingdom everywhere we go, it is God who makes that seed grow. I finished reading Mark Comers book,” the ruthless elimination of hurry” (in the garden of course) and I find myself guilty of much of it, but am determined to live a life more akin to the one Jesus modelled . He lived simply, connected to the Father, empowered by the Spirit he ministered to the crowds and to the one. He invites us to live in the same way. Let us take some time to grieve our losses, discover our gains, listen, and move at Gods pace.
We are all included in this wonderful invitation from Jesus whether you are afraid of going back to normal, or eagerly anticipating it, let us not hurry, but be yoked with him in this new season.
Matthew 11v 28
Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Lyrics 'Fun' / Rend Co. Kids
While my heart is beating, while my body’s breathing
My future’s there for You to write
Though today I’m hurting, there’s a new day coming
Bright and shining like your smile
I won’t give up, no, no I won’t give in, no, no
You are the tide on which I rise I won’t back up, no, no I won’t back down, no, no
This is the time for me to rise
You are the fun in my life, you are the joy
You are the laughter inside and I want more
No one can ever make me happier, no one can ever take me higher
Let’s have some fun, let’s have some fun
This I know for sure now, nothing’s keeping me down
Every fear has gotta go, can’t stop my feet from dancing
Stop my spirit soaring, you’re the rhythm in my soul
Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care
Reach for the sky, let your heart run wild
Dance like there’s no one watching
Sing like your soul is bursting
In Romans 7, in a passage of scripture that you might be forgiven for thinking was a tongue twister, the Apostle Paul talks about his decisions and habits…
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
Even Paul struggled with sinful habits and wrong decisions and yet he is widely regarded as the foremost Christian of all time. How could this be?
Well, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God but thank God! We have an advocate through Jesus Christ who has paid for our sin allowing us to repent, which results in forgiveness and allows us to get back on track in our relationship with God.
But what about the type of person we become? How did Paul, despite his mixed decisions, become the great leader, Apostle and man of God?
Because in the main, he kept making the right decisions from putting God first every day, to praising God in prison, to refusing to renounce Christ despite being flogged and ultimately dying for his faith.
You see, Paul wanted to be like Christ more than anything else and it this desire that ultimately drove his daily decisions. It would have been easy for Paul to look at his past as a persecutor and murderer of Christians and think, “When will I ever be like Christ? I’m so far off.”
Yet Paul became the man he was in likeness to Christ because of the sum of the small daily decisions to follow Christ. We need to picture who it is we would like to be – a good Father, Mother, great teacher, colleague, disciple – whatever or whoever ever we want to be or be like, we need to allow that to drive our small daily decisions.
Whoever you are today or however you see yourself is not a result of what you have done today or yesterday, you did not become you overnight, but through the result of the many small decisions, both good and bad that led you to who you are today. If we desire to change, we can achieve it through being mindful of the small daily decisions that will ultimately shape us.
For me, I too want to be like Jesus and even though it seems a lofty goal and a long way off, the small decisions that I make every day to be like him will add up to make me more like him.
Jesus always took time to spend with his Father, he was always kind, he loved everyone, even those who cursed him, he was patient and he sacrificed his life for others.
This may well be the toughest of all acts to follow but if it is who I want to be like then I must allow that desire to drive my decisions, one small choice at a time.
The good news is that whoever it is that we want to be or whatever it is that we would like to become, we are not alone. In all of Paul’s struggles with habits and decisions he had this to say about the answer -
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
While we must make decisions and choices if we want to change or emulate someone, if we want lasting success in this, we must partner with Christ through his Spirit within us.
Many of us have recently had time to reflect on the way we live our lives and the type of people that we are. Think about the changes you want to make or the type of person you want to be and ask the Holy Spirit daily in prayer to help you with your decisions. It will be the faithful, small, daily decisions that will add up to make the big changes that you want to see.
Jesus waited 30 years to begin his 3-year ministry and the bible says this about his growth
“And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:40, 52)
Jesus spent 30 years making faithful decisions to pray, do the right thing, learning, respecting and growing. If you are thinking that change is a long journey, know that you are the sum of all your decisions and that change is coming.
Psalm 128, which we looked at this weekend, contains the secret of blessing. How to be blessed. How to live a blessed life.
Blessed! Four times over.
In work, in family life, in church, in society…
In prosperity and in posterity.
It is all here.
The blessing of God is an amazing thing. God wants to bless us so much that he sent his son to die for us and take our curse – so we could be blessed. He took the cup of cursing and he offered us the cup of blessing!
I was moved again watching the UK Blessing song this last week. Just the fact of how much God is for us, how much he loves us and wants us to live blessed lives. His amazing extravagant love for us. This song perfectly captures that heart, the heart of scripture and the Aaronic blessing. God wants his people to be blessed!
And I was touched by the line of Amazing Grace – “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.”
The secret of the blessing is not a cowering, religious, performance-based, must-do-better type of thing. It is being touched and moved and loved in the presence of God, standing in awe and amazement at his love and patience and mercy and grace, and learning to walk in loving intimacy with a Father who sacrificed his son for us and yearns to give us all good things – his cup of blessing.
The secret is to fear God and to obey his commandments. To live like we were meant to live – in relationship with an amazing awesome God.
We really are blessed beyond the curse. His promises will endure.
So may the Lord bless you this week and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May he lift up the light of his countenance upon you. And give you peace!
He is for you!