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!
Fridays will be the start of Family Friday Blogs – Either myself (Donna), Aimee, Rachel or Hamish will write something, aimed at the whole family.
This time at home together is an opportunity for us as parents/carers to step up and teach our kids how to live the life of following Christ and to spend more time together discussing and practising our faith. We would love you to sign up to doing church on line together as a family and use the message to direct conversations and responses to living it out during the week. At a youth and children’s level we would love you to encourage connection with our online helps and be actively involved in the challenges set. We would love to hear from you and would encourage young people to engage and contribute. You are your child's biggest influence, and this is a golden opportunity!
We are here for you on the end of a phone if you or your child is struggling, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Youth are going to keep connected by doing a zoom chat at on a Friday and Sunday at 7pm. We will keep in touch will regular Facebook and Instagram updates. We would love parents to tune in, and use any material to connect and converse with your teens in this challenging time.
Amidst the uncertainty, we believe it’s a tremendous opportunity to slow down and connect with our teens and learn together how to navigate this life of faith. Our first challenge this week is to read or listen to Marks gospel. It is the shortest gospel, maybe read or listen to it as a family. The fun challenge for this week is to send in a short clip of young people having fun with their mum this mothering Sunday so we can compile a video of all those special moments with our mums!
Send your clips by private message to any of our Source social media platforms or email@example.com. Please sign up to our Social media pages ( Facebook and Instagram) and we will post zoom links for Friday and Sunday meet ups online.
Kidzone and Kidz Klub will stay in touch via facebook, so please make sure that you are connected to PCC Kidzone and Kidz Klub Plymouth. We will be uploading videos, challenges and resources for you to use at home. We have also sent some weekly devotionals in the post. If you would like one and do not receive one by the end of next week, please contact Aimee or Donna.
May God bless you this weekend - stay in touch.
I thought in these coming weeks we would look at some of the “Songs of Ascent” together. These are the Psalms (120-134) that were sung by the pilgrims as they journeyed up to Jerusalem three times a year for the major worship festivals.
These journeys carried with them various dangers. The risk of stumbling. Striking a stone, spraining your ankle.
The risk of sunstroke – a long arduous journey under a hot sun – you could become faint and exhausted.
The risk of becoming emotionally ill – fatigued and anxious – which the ancients referred to as having moonstroke.
Dangers. Weariness. Exhaustion. Anxiety and fear.
Along this journey of life.
Even and especially in these crazy times – we could all be susceptible to these. Worried about what is going on. Worried about our job. Worried about school. Anxious about our finances. Watching the news headlines. The daily briefings. Asking why is all this happening? What has happened to the world? Has God deserted me?
The pilgrims would walk and talk. And they would sing! Sing these songs of adoration. These anthems of praise. These declarations of God’s power and majesty!
They would turn their attention to God in the middle of the valleys.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)
I walked into the kitchen the other evening and Jenny had worship music playing and was singing along. The contrast from the relentless barrage of bad news I had been listening to on the radio was stark. The songs she was listening to MAGNIFIED God, made him bigger. Focused attention on his greatness, his faithfulness, his strength, his grace. It was refreshing to listen to these words of faith and to lift my eyes to God – the Maker of heaven and earth…
Join us on Sunday as we share some teaching from Psalm 121 and we worship and pray together.
Turn off the radio or the TV for a while, switch off the tablet or the PC, and start singing in the rain, in the valley, in the midst of uncertainty and danger.
God remains faithful and true and he will lead us through this valley and out the other side. Here are a couple of songs to listen to and sing along with as you go. Lift up your eyes and remember where your help comes from!
The LORD! The Maker of heaven and earth!
Feel free to offer more songs in the comments below!
Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Remember
Lauren Daigle – Remember (Look up child)
Dear Church Family
These are unprecedented times!
On Sunday, we reminded ourselves that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46) We prayed together for God’s protection, his providence and for our political leaders. We will continue to pray for these and to lean into God as our refuge and strength.
“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
In light of the latest developments and government advice, we have decided the following:
You can use these various channels to communicate with us, as well as via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us pray for one another and practise what we heard on Sunday: “Love one another… in deed and in truth.”
God bless you and be with you!
Geoff and the team
I sat with someone on a park bench this week and listened to their story of financial transformation. They had been struggling for a while, their business was on the edge, and they could not see a way through. But a couple of years ago, they made a decision to start tithing properly and consistently to the local church. Previously their giving was a little ad hoc and inconsistent.
The subsequent transformation for this individual and their business has been astounding. They are almost overrun with offers of contracts, their giving has gone up exponentially, and they feel very much the blessing of God on their business and finances. They give joyfully and thankfully, aware of the massive turnaround of their fortunes. They agree with Rick Warren’s statement that “you cannot outgive God!” That is a fight that you are never going to win.
I have, over the years, heard several stories of a similar ilk. People who have decided to honour God first with their finances and to trust him for his supply. We have certainly experienced similar circumstances in our own life on numerous occasions.
We need, of course, to be careful here. God is not a heavenly slot machine that you can prime with your tithes and offerings. We are not advocating a “prosperity gospel” here. But I think the Bible is absolutely clear that if we honour God in this very important area of our lives – he will bless us. No two ways about it. In this context, I think what Dave said in his sermon on Sunday is absolutely true. He recounted the faithfulness of his own father in this arena. The blessing that came back to him was not overtly financial – he never became rich or wealthy. But he was greatly blessed of God, was rich towards him, and left behind a rich legacy of faith to his children and grandchildren.
“The blessing of the Lord makes rich – and he adds no sorrow to it!”
Rick Warren gave some very practical and helpful advice in the small group teaching this week, which I think we can all learn from, as we think about and reassess how we handle our financial resources.
Where to start?
Church would be easy if it wasn’t for all the people….
As John Ortberg writes: “Every one of us – all we like sheep – have habits we can’t control, past deeds we can’t undo, flaws we can’t correct. This is the cast of characters God has to work with…..Everybody’s weird.”
Some are weirder than others.
The community of church – the body of Christ – is where we get to practise loving people. This people, in this place, at this time. It is easy to love people in the abstract, at a distance; to feel that our hearts are full of love and the goodness and kindness of God. It is a little harder to love people in reality. Face to face. Week in and week out. As Jean Vanier writes: “Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egoism are revealed to us. While we are alone, we could believe we loved everyone.”
But this is where it is at.
Jesus said that all the law and the prophets are summed up by two things: loving God and loving others. And he also said that you can’t pass on the “loving others” bit. You can’t say you love God, whom you can’t see, if you don’t love those people around you with skin on.
That is challenging at times.
But the older I get, the longer my teeth grow, the more I realise that relationships and friendships and intimacy and relating well to others is vital and central and of the utmost importance. More than visions and targets and purpose statements and campaigns – loving God and loving others is central to it all.
Some of the things that I think are important in this aspect, in no particular order:
Maybe you have some ideas and thoughts that you can add?
A couple of books I have enjoyed on this subject:
“Everybody’s normal till you get to know them” – John Ortberg. This is probably one of his best books and is divided into three sections: Part 1: “Normal, there’s no such thing dear”, Part 2: How to get close without getting hurt and Part 3: “The secrets of strong relationships.”
Friendship: An Expose by Joseph Epstein
“In a wickedly entertaining anatomy of friendship in its contemporary guises, Joseph Epstein uncovers the rich and surprising truths about our favoured companions. Is it possible to have too many friends? Is your spouse supposed to be your best friend? How far should you go to help a friend in need? And how do you end a friendship that has run its course?” (Good Reads)
Not a Christian book, but quite witty and entertaining…
On Sunday, Paul spoke to us about the two extremes of emotions: 1) Emotionalism, where we let our emotions rule and dictate our life and 2) Stoicism, where we live very rational lives, but don’t pay attention to our emotions and what they are telling us. By nature and disposition, some of us are more “gushers” and some of us are more “stuffers”. Some of us follow our emotions wherever they lead us and some of us ignore them at all costs. Some of us wear our hearts on our sleeves, and some of us would be great poker players – we are so inscrutable!
Perhaps you can recognise yourself and how you handle your emotions.
Learning to recognise, name, listen to and master our emotions is not easy, but it is a sign of growth and spiritual maturity. As Paul said on Sunday, we have to make sense of, monitor and manage our emotions!
One of the keys to this I have found is to be brutally honest. As Rick Warren put it in his small group teaching: “You must be honest with yourself, honest with God, and honest with one other person.”
As the Psalmist put it: “You desire truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6)
The Psalms are full of honest and raw expressions of emotion and feeling – laying it all before God. Sometimes I think we hold back, we gloss over our feeling and our failures, we hide in the likeness of Adam and Eve, we know God knows, but we live in the shadows.
Whether you write it, or sing it, or speak it; whisper it or shout it, it is a good and healing thing to be very honest with God about where you are and lean in to him and his wonderful mercy and grace. Being honest about our feelings, watching our gauges, and spending time in God’s presence will help us to grow and flourish emotionally.
I was thinking this morning about God’s peace – and how he tells us to bring our worries and anxiety to him and he will give us his peace in exchange. I listened to the song “It is well” by Kristene diMarco, and was struck by the line:
“So let go my soul and trust in him
The waves and wind still know his name”.
May God’s peace come to you and rest on you as you lean into him.
Transformed is a strong word isn’t it?!I get nervous and wary around the claim that something is going to change my life.
This book will change your life!This diet will change your life.It is quite a claim – and it is often exaggerated!Obviously the title of this series – this 50 day campaign – is a strong one.
But it’s not my word. It’s not Rick Warren’s word.It’s God’s word.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
As the New Living Translation puts it: “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind. As Joyce Meyer writes:“your life will not get straightened out until your mind does. You should consider this area one of vital necessity”
If you want to change anything in your life, you are going to have to change your mind. It always starts in your mind.
What are you feeding your mind?What is the track that you are listening to?What are the messages that you are imbibing and believing?
According to a 2015 study, we check our phones on average 85 times a day. Multiple studies found that almost half of smartphone users are glued to their screens for over five hours a day — that’s almost a third of our waking life. And some of us sit for hours and hours and hours and stare through this window on the world – this Instagram image of reality – this Facebook painting of facts, this televisual trash – and we are surprised that our minds our so messed up.
If I spend 5 hours a day on social media and using the Internet, and I engage with the Bible for 5 minutes a day – what is informing my mind and my reality?
Two ways that we can change and renew our minds:
a. Feed your mind with the truthb. Fend off destructive thoughts
“One of the sovereign remedies against sin is to spend much time, thoughtful time, meditative time, in the Scriptures, for it is impossible to get rid of the trash in our minds without replacing it with an entirely different way of thinking.” D.A.Carson
God’s word has the power to wash and renew your mind.
The only way to get rid of a bad thought is to replace it – to change the channel.
Thomas Chalmers said in his sermon called The Expulsive Power of the New Affection: “The best way to disengage an impure desire is to engage a pure one; the best way to expel the love of what is evil is to embrace the love of what is good instead. To be specific, we must replace the object of our sinful affection with an infinitely more worthy one-God himself…the expulsive power of our new affection weakens and even destroys the power of sin in our hearts.”
Only the word of God or the knowledge of God that enables to demolish and destroy these strongholds. This is a serious battle that cannot be ignored. The battle of the mind will dictate how you will live, whether you live in freedom or captivity.
A Mind for God – James Emery White
Battlefield of the Mind – Joyce Meyer
Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
Twelve ways your phone is changing you – Tony Reinke
Competing spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the digital age – Tony Reinke
Podcast interview – How do I resist smartphone overuse?
“The way we use and treat our bodies, for better or worse, will profoundly shape our spirit and our relationship with God, others, and life itself.”(Ken Shigematsu – God in my Everything)
Just as we often create separate categories for our lives of secular and spiritual, so too we often separate the spiritual from the physical. I think this is a profound mistake.
What is happening with you physically affects you emotionally and spiritually.
In one section of C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters”, the senior devil tells the junior devil to try to persuade the Christian whom he is tempting to believe that the body is inconsequential:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget…that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affect their souls.”
So, writes Ken Shigematsu:
“the care of our bodies through regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating constitutes a foundational part of our rule, our trellis that supports our life with God. The body, mind and spirit are interconnected. This means that physical practices are also spiritual practices”
At a personal level, I know my life looks and feels very different when I am exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep. My “spiritual capacity” rises exponentially.
When I am stressed, not sleeping well, not exercising, and not eating right, it is a whole different story.
Some questions to think about:
1) Are you getting enough sleep?
2) Do you have good night-time routines to help you sleep?
3) Are you switching off from technology enough?
4) Are you constantly feeling tired and jaded?
5) What are you going to change about this?
6) Do you have a regular sabbath?
7) Do you eat healthily?
8) Do you get enough/any physical exercise?