Our ladies' ministry "Brave" have been posting regular messages of encouragement on their facebook page, in the form of short videos. Today Kay Bunt, a long standing member of our church, gave a great word of hope that we thought we would share with you all - men included!
Please leave your comments and ladies, follow Brave's Facebook page if you haven't already.
During lockdown, one of my new found loves is to go for a run (*jog) because I love what it offers me...freedom. Free to be out of the house, free to be without a toddler, free to worship, free to pray and free to listen to God’s voice. One day, as I was running, I felt God reminding me that I can still choose. Choose to believe who He is. Choose to be thankful for what He has done for me. Choose to pray. Choose to worship.
To keep the blog short, I decided on three things that we can choose to believe about God but I wanted this to be a blog that you can share as a whole family, so gather them together now and read/discuss together. If you are on your own, please know that as a church we are doing this together, so your family are doing this with you too. I have kept the language simple and encourage you to read it as a whole family, no matter how old or young!
God says: I am here - always. I am listening to you. When you want someone to talk to about your latest lego creation/piece of art, or your favourite book, or you want to thank him for your family or you want to ask him to help someone - He is listening. God never ever goes to sleep - wow - he is just always there and He absolutely loves it when you talk to Him.
God says: I am the provider. For lots of us, things are changing. We are maybe not going to school anymore or someone at home isn’t going to work anymore. In some families, they are worried they don’t have enough money or enough food. That is really sad and scary for some people. But God tells us in the bible that he will provide for all our needs because he is a great big God. Take a moment and pray for different people, that they will not worry and that God will give them what they need.
God says: I am your comfort. When you are feeling scared or worried, God can help you feel better. Imagine God giving you a great big hug. I love that idea. Give someone a hug now, hold on tight for a while and tell them that God loves them. Send someone a virtual hug - send a photo, a video or just a few words - reminding them that they are loved by God.
Today is Good Friday and I am choosing Jesus. I first chose Jesus when I was twelve years old, after hearing about what he had done for me, and I have chosen him many many many times since.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We have hope in God so I want you to all do something...find an upbeat worship song that you all love and can dance to and get up. Yes, I mean physically get up and dance - with no shame or embarrassment! Dance and smile and know that Jesus died for you because God loves you so very much! He has you in your hands.
As we continue in this period of lockdown due to the global pandemic, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on who our neighbour is and the type of neighbour that we would like to be.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus explains that anyone that we come across that we find in need is our neighbour, and that to be a good neighbour we should love them as we would love ourselves.
There are many people in need at the moment: the homeless, the poor, the isolated, the vulnerable, the aged and the poorly. Many of you are already involved with supporting your neighbours and friends – thank you so much for your efforts and sacrifice.
With the current lockdown and economic downturn affecting so many, we, the church, are presented with a great opportunity to love our neighbours and we would love to do just that.
To that end, as well as underwriting our soup run due to lack of donations, we will be running a “Love Thy Neighbour” campaign through which we will aim to help both our local neighbours in the Cattedown area, and the more vulnerable members of our congregation.
We are in touch with the local primary school who are already making referrals to us for families who are struggling at the moment and these needs have already been met by kind donations from our church family. We are also expecting referrals from our nursery here at church as well as from our Pastoral team.
What we are asking for is either food or financial donations that we can collect centrally and then distribute where and when the need arises.
To that end, from next week, the church will be open from 6-8pm on a Monday and 11am – 1pm on a Friday for people to drop off foodstuffs where you can be assured that strict social distancing will be observed.
For further details, please follow this link:
Alternatively, if you can’t come into church but would like and are able to contribute specifically to this campaign, over and above your regular tithes and offerings, you could do so by bank transfer using the reference “Love Thy Neighbour”:
Account details Please use these details to set up a standing order or BACS: Account Name: EFGA RE PLYMOUTH Account Number: 18533302 / Sort Code: 60 05 16
Cheque You can send a cheque to Plymouth Christian Centre, Embankment Rd, Plymouth PL4 9HP. (On the back please write “Love Thy Neighbour”)
Gift Aid it!
Don’t forget, if you are a UK Taxpayer, for every £1 you contribute, the fund will get an extra 25p!
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Right. That’s it. I have had enough of the C-word. I am all blogged out.
24 hour news. Online media. Blogs. Podcasts. Daily updates.
I’ve got nothing new to say.
So I thought I would pray. For you.
Problem is, I am finding it hard to pray. To concentrate. To focus. I know - I am a pastor. It is in my job description to pray.
I am just being honest.
But I was greatly helped this week as I read the Bible and Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 along with a commentary by Frederick Dale Bruner. I found it really freeing.
This is what Jesus said:
“when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
There is no need for show prayers. Religious prayers. Impressive prayers. God is not impressed. God sees. Just go somewhere private and talk to God. Straightforwardly. Simply. From the heart.
“and your Father who is watching there in secret, oh! Will he reward you!”
There is not much needed – God knows. He knows what you need before you ask him.
You don’t need to be long-winded or repetitious.
Just keep it simple and honest.
Arrow prayers. From the heart.
Rubbish prayer that I am – I can do this.
I have been keeping it short. Keeping it real. Keeping it simple. And keeping it from the heart.
And I have been using Jesus’ model – the Lord’s prayer.
Every time I wash my hands – I pray the Lord’s prayer. Slowly and rhythmically and intentionally. And sometimes I pray for two or three people who come to mind as well.
And I write some of my prayers down in a journal. It helps me to think and be clear.
And I have been keeping it daily.
Give us today our daily bread.
Give us the strength and the peace we need for today.
Forgive me today.
Lead me not into temptation. Today.
Deliver us from the evil one. Today.
I can pray. A day at a time.
It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be clever.
We can do this one day at a time.
That is all Jesus says.
Don’t worry about tomorrow.
Pray for today.
So today, I am praying for you.
God bless you! And keep you! And make his face shine on you! And be gracious to you! May he smile on you! And give you PEACE!
Everything you need for today.
Earlier this week I was ready to disqualify myself from being a mother. After a day of conflict and frustration in isolation with my children- a thirteen-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son- I went before God and tendered by resignation.
As I journaled my letter of resignation: Father this is too hard, Father I’m too tired, Father I’m too weak, too intolerant, Father I’m not good at this, Father, I nearly forgot to feed them and we haven’t got dressed for two days, Father I don’t know how to help them through this… I made it to my closing arguments and genuinely found myself suggesting to God that maybe He was mistaken when He made me a mum, and clearly, I’d have been better as a nun.
Easy mistake to make God- mum and nun are very similar sounding words and You and I both know that I would make a great nun.
I love Silence. Solitude. A cloistered existence is my idea of heaven. Let me read and study for hours…bliss. And I look pretty good in black.
So, God- in conclusion, it’s time to redeploy me: get me to the nunnery!
And closing my journal, I felt a sense of resignation and relief.
Do you believe what I believe about you, Aimee?
His question broke the silence and solitude with such clarity, despite the quietness of the voice. Intrigued, I answered His question with a question- Well that depends, what do you believe about me, LORD?
And He answered. ‘I believe that you are my child. I believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made- I believe that I do not make mistakes and you are a mum ( and not a nun- said with a smile, because God has a wonderful sense of humour) to Lyra and Isaac because they are my chosen and I trust you to steward them for Me’.
Awkward, reverential silence on my part.
And God asked a second question.
So, Aimee, how long is your mind going to be hostile to Me in these new circumstances, or are you going to be open to learn?
Ouch. Truth hurts.
In response to these new, unprecedented circumstances, I’d been fallen into the trap of trying to control those areas of my life where I’d felt I must exercise control- that would be me, my home, my children. I had usurped God from His place of Lordship and placed myself back upon the throne. And in doing so, the frustration and conflict of the day was the consequence of making myself hostile to the only One qualified to rule and reign in these circumstances- in all circumstances.
And then, He asked, ‘Are you now going to be open to learn from Me?’
And I realised, if we need to learn how to think, and act, to serve and parent in these unprecedented days, there is only One qualified to teach us. There is only One- Jesus- who invites us to stop worrying and being anxious (like Martha) and to sit at His feet and listen to Him (like Mary)- and the word reminds us that Mary’s choice was better, in fact is was the only choice needed. (Luke 10: 38-42)
So as the rest of this week has unfolded, and as I anticipate the coming weeks in front of us, I am ready to sit at the feel of Jesus and learn. And because, I’m positioning myself to sit at His feet and learn, He has taken my worry and given me back my joy which means He laughs with me and reminds me of His sense of humour, so He is teaching me- the non-nun mum- wait for it… habits (get the nun pun?) for this season
Habit #1 The power of Choice I get to choose to love God, to listen to His voice, to believe who He is for me every day… Deut 30:19-20
Habit #2 Self-control- Galatians 5:22-23- I heard an excellent teaching by Graham Cooke on self-control which God reminded me of… self-control is the trunk of the tree; without it the other fruits of the spirit cannot grow. Self-control is my ability to press pause on my circumstances, to come away into a quiet place with God and listen for His direction.
Habit #3 Worship- 2 Chronicles 20:14-19 This is always my response to who God is- we worship because He is worthy!
Habit #4 Word- Make it not just a discipline, but a delight to read the word- taste and see that it is good and sweet like honey! Psalm 119 v 11, 103, 105
Habit #5 Pray- Daniel, despite being a captive, despite the threat of death, would take himself to his room and pray three times a day and it led to his prosperity and peace. We are called to pray too! 2 Tim 1: 7
Habit #6 Tell Lyra and Isaac what God loves about them- Psalm 139. God has really challenged me to ask Him what He loves about Lyra and Isaac and then I get to tell them! This means I am praying about them more and God is focusing me on how He sees them, not how I – the frustrated mum- see them or the situation.
Habit #7 Reset each day- Finally God is teaching me about the power of repentance and return- I can begin again each day new, in Him as His compassion never fails, it is new every morning… No matter the mistakes I make, the frustrations I feel, I have hope in Him.
Lamentations 3: 21-24
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.”
This blog post is written by one of our congregation, Matthew Fish, who works in Mental Health.
The experience of anxiety among Christians in the west is not novel, and given the current climate of insecurity and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is no wonder that some predict a nuclear fallout in all our global mental health in areas such as anxiety.
What is anxiety? To begin with, at a disorder level there are different types: Panic Disorder, Health Anxiety, Social Phobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are some of the big hitters within the UK.
Despite the variability, there are common experiences. One which most will relate to are the physical characteristics of anxiety: high heart rate – sense of feeling restless – sweating – feeling hot - breathing faster – tight chest – feeling dizzy – stomach issues – headache etc.
What is going when we feel this in an anxiety context is our body has turned primal, the threat system has become live, and physically it is preparing to fight, flight or freeze! The emotional label commonly ascribed is anxiety, and it is horrible.
As with all difficult emotions however, how we respond to them can have a dramatic effect on how they later affect us.
We know what the bible says about anxiety: (Philippians 4:6; Luke 12:25; Matthew 6:25), and we know that we should be trusting in God (Proverbs 3:5). The risk though is that in an effort to appear ‘good’ to God or others, we can adopt a bit of pretence by locking it down, supressing it, ignoring it, or avoiding it.
Most theory within the Cognitive model indicates that the sense of threat that causes anxiety originates in our mind: so what we think, what we believe, what we predict, what we anticipate. It is important therefore to identify what the thought/fear is, and within the current climate potential fears are numerous. As the bible says, taking captive these thoughts, and putting them up against what God says is a good start. Attempting to eradicate anxiety without identifying the underlying fear is hard work.
“… take every thought captive to obey Christ”. 2 Corinthians 10:5
I think we have to be realistic about that we will experience anxiety in the current climate although this does not have to be seen in a pathological light. After all, we need our emotions to warn us in the first instance, either about impending danger or wayward thoughts. Attributing a sense of shame alongside anxiety perpetuates the problem.
Prescribing a treatment for anxiety is multifarious, and even identifying our fears at the root of our anxiety is not a simple task. There are however some practical things we can do to mitigate anxiety:
The Mind website offers some helpful practical advice within the current climate:
Sleep is a biggie when it comes to reducing anxiety. You can find evidenced based advice here:
Making steps to calm our ‘threat system’ can really help us think less anxious thoughts. I find this free daily ‘meditation’ from encounter a great tool.
To conclude, here are some teachings on the topic of fear and anxiety from PCC and others. http://www.plymouthchristiancentre.org/messages/media-item/598/dont-worry-be-happyhttps://www.htb.org/sunday-talks-archive/2020/3/16/faith-not-fear
Talking with different friends over the last week about how life as we know it is changing so rapidly, one of Jesus’ parables came to mind. Do you remember in Matthew 7 how Jesus described two builders?
One of them, the wise man, as Jesus calls him, built his house upon a rock. Jesus likened these actions to someone who heard Jesus’ teachings and put them into practice – they didn’t just think that they were a good idea, they acted on them, making them a code of life to live by. Jesus had just been preaching the sermon on the mount, a message that would begin to turn the world upside down with its counter cultural and deeper meaning for life as a follower of Christ. The titles within his message include - The Beatitudes, Salt and Light, The Fulfilment of the Law, Love for Enemies, Giving to the Needy, Prayer, Do Not Worry, Judging Others and concluding with The Wise and Foolish Builders.
Why not go and read Matthew 5-7 and be amazed by some of the revolutionary teaching from Jesus that gave us a new way of approaching life with God and with one another. This was the rock that Jesus was calling us, like the wise man, to build our lives upon. Why? Because when the storms and trials of life rise up and swirl around us, we remain standing firm on the rock of Christ.
So what about the foolish man? What did he build his life upon? Sand. Sand that is moved along the shore with every wave, sand that we can pick up and watch slip through our fingers, never firm or solid but always drifting and changing.
If the rock on which we should stand is Christ and his word, what is the sand to us? Money, possessions, status, security, position, relationships, share prices, employment – all of these things may come and go but as Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In these uncertain times, many things seem to be slipping through the world’s fingers but the Rock of Christ on which we stand cannot and will not be moved. As everything around them changes, the people of the world need certainty and hope. Just as the foolish man no doubt looked at the wise man and thought “I wish I had done that, I wonder if he’d show me?”, the world will be looking around for a way to do things better, wishing they had done so in the first place.
Could we show them? Could we be the face of calm in the storm, standing on the rock amidst the raging sea? The world needs the Rock of Christ. Can we help them learn to stand on it? Can we learn to see past the mockery and the cynicism and see their loss of hope and certainty?
So how do we do this in the middle of lock downs, isolation and suspicion…Perhaps as the world moves almost completely online, this is the space within which we can show the world another way. One that is free from anxiety, free from fear, free from hate, judgement and harsh words.
How about where we see anger, we speak words of peace, where we see fear we show love, where we see criticism we can encourage, where we see need we reach out to help. As followers of Christ we do not have the monopoly on kindness, but we are called to be different, to be set apart to show another way - The Way
Let’s take a look at Matthew 5-7 this week and remind ourselves of who and what and how we are called to be. People are being lost in the darkness and chaos – let’s turn a light on and show them the way to the Rock on which we stand.
As I am writing this, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi comes to mind…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred, let me sow love Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith Where there is despair, hope Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may Not so much seek to be consoled as to console To be understood, as to understand To be loved, as to love For it is in giving that we receive And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned And it's in dying that we are born to Eternal Life Amen
This I Believe (The Creed) - Hillsong Worship
Cornerstone - Hillsong Worship
For kids – The Wise Man Built His House
We were looking at the spiritual discipline of sabbath just a couple of weeks ago in Source on Sunday. It’s a practice largely forgotten in our fast paced world, and we are guilty of not prioritizing this day of stopping from the ordinary. I think it’s a timely topic, amidst these unprecedented times, where we have literally been forced to stop doing life as we know it.
Sabbath literally means to cease or stop.
(Exodus 20 v8-11)
The Sabbath was a day to stop work, a day which was holy/ set apart / different to the others, a day to rest weary bodies and tired anxious minds. Sabbath serves as a healthy reminder that we are human beings not doings, that we have limits. Sabbath is a gift from God to us and not merely a religious exercise.
Jesus lived a full and fruitful life, yet it was never hurried. He was often found retreating away from the crowds, getting up early to simply take time out to be alone with his father, we even see him taking a nap amidst a storm. Yet in our hurried world, we resist receiving this gift. It is so counter cultural to stop!
I read an article in Christianity today and loved what the writer expressed:
“I want my children to grow up and know how to work hard. I also want them to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that grace is real. I want them to know that they were loved before they existed. I want them to know they will always be loved, and I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who they are. I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who God is.”
Sabbath is a day to remember our father God loves us eternally. God delights in you, and gives us this day of stopping as a gift for our physical, mental and spiritual benefit. Its good for us, yet we resist receiving it, and making it a rhythm in our lives.
We know for many, this is a challenging time of fear and uncertainty, but if you are stuck at home it is also an opportunity to receive God's grace into our lives, and the lives of our entire families. It’s a gift of God to be together, play together, talk about our faith together, and to have space to listen for the still small voice of God.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46v 10
It’s a time to recognize we don’t have all the answers or control, but he alone is our help, our security, we can look to no one else for our help (Psalm 121). We can rely on him for everything.
Psalm 4v8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety.”
Let's take time this week to enjoy all God has given us, to hear that he loves us, to recognize he is watching over us, and wants us to enjoy his peace in every circumstance.
This week let's discuss as families:
- What can we STOP doing as a family to make one day a week different to all the others, to bring life giving rest?
-What can you DO as a family to make this day different from all the others, to make it the best day of the week?
Please comment below to share helpful tips for creating a family Sabbath day of rest and delight in God.
Today was the funeral of John Smyth. Because of the current health crisis, the planned celebration service at the church has had to be postponed and the committal service at the crematorium had to be restricted to close family members only.
John was such an influential figure in the Elim movement and has touched so many lives in over 60 years of ministry, that many more people would have attended today if they were able. The tribute that was read from the current General Superintendent outlined some of the scope and breadth of John’s ministry and influence. It was very substantial!
I am sure that the celebration service later in the year will give fitting tribute to John and his life and legacy.
Today our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary and the family.
A recent memory I have of John is when we met in my office at church with two others to help with a sermon preparation class. I had asked John to meet with us and to share his thoughts on studying scripture and preaching. I know that John was a powerful and effective preacher. As we talked and studied the passage together, John shared his thoughts and insights with us. He was lucid and insightful and he saw things and brought out contours of the passage that none of us had seen or thought of. It was a privilege to sit with him and to listen. The light still glowed strongly.
I wanted to post this short post today to pay my respects to John, but also to give others the opportunity to do the same. Please add your thoughts and memories of John in the comments below.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” (Psalms 116:15)
I was walking round the supermarket the other day, perusing the empty shelves, when I was struck by the irony of the song that was playing over the sound system. It was Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and specifically the line:
“Don’t it always seem to go / You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”
Within one or two very short (or very long!) weeks, the world has changed beyond recognition. And things that we took for granted until recently, have now suddenly grown in importance and significance at some level. Here’s a random list, not in any particular order of importance:
A handshake. Toilet paper. Bread flour. Human contact. A walk in the park. Gathering together as a church to worship. Social gatherings. Going to watch a film. Eating together with friends. Popping by to see your Elderly mum. McDonalds. Hugging. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Your job.
And on the list goes.
Things that we took for granted just a couple of weeks ago are now extremely rare or impossible. And more and more restrictions seem to be coming our way in the face of Covid-19.
I don’t know about you, but I felt a palpable sense of gratitude, a deep sense of relief, to “gather together” on Sunday, to see familiar faces, to have Andy and Rachel and Clau lead us in worship, although I have to admit, it was a bit weird listening to myself preach.
And I thought about how grateful I am for the body of Christ, for our church family, for brothers and sisters whom I sometimes take for granted.
This week’s Song of Ascent is Psalm 122 – “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
I don’t want to take this too far. I am not a massive hugger and kisser, and you know I am at the introvert end of the personality scale….
But I am looking forward to the day when I can plant a big kiss on Joy Pluckrose’s cheek and give Ruth Wellington a big bear hug and shake your hand at the door and watch Maldwyn snooze off during my sermon, and see Dave Beresford shifting in his seat and looking at his watch, and have Andy tuning his guitar while I am trying to give the notices.
I am looking forward to it!
And that day is coming my friends. So keep your heads up and your gaze fixed on Jesus, and the day will come soon enough when we rejoice with those who say to us: “Let us go to the house of the Lord”!
So get ready Joy – pucker up!