Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Changing Hearts in Derbyshire

An overnight visit to Swanwick Conference Centre in North Derbyshire for the Biblical Counselling UK Conference.

It was publicised as 'A focussed 24 hour introduction to Biblical Counselling in the local church' and 'especially suitable for busy pastors'...

It was a packed 24 hrs, with excellent sessions on how, through preaching, small groups, evangelism and others ways we apply  'the riches of scripture to the realities of life', and see God at work changing our hearts to make us more into the likeness of Christ. Particularly memorable was the evening session by Tim Chester on 'Biblical Counselling and Preaching', but any one of the sessions would have been worth the trip.

We looked at a new 6 week course - Real Change' - which aims to teach how the gospel changes us from the inside out.

I come home with plenty of material to read and to reflect on, and excited at the prospect of putting some of it into practice. Chat with me if you'd like to know more - or to Stuart Cookson who came with me. There is a 2nd part to the conference which continues through to Thursday, and a couple of HT members (Nicci Durant and Rachel Hart) arrived just as we left, to attend that. 

A busy 24 hrs, but managed a bit of time to sit in the sun and admire the Derbyshire scenery!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Abundance or scarcity?

‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’  John 10 v.10

This time of year speaks (shouts, even) of life - everything in our gardens drinks in the rain, soaks up the sun and reaches up to heaven.  'Creation sings the Father’s song', and it is a song of abundance and overflowing generosity.
In his Lent Book for 2017 ‘Dethroning Mammon’ Justin Welby has contrasted a world-view of scarcity with one of abundance.

If we see the world in terms of scarcity, then we will believe that there is ‘not enough to go around’ – a mindset that will apply not just to material things but to love, forgiveness and grace; we will know fear, which in the end will shape our lives and control us. This is personified by Jesus as ‘Mammon’ (Matthew 6:24) –  a master who in the end will demand our worship to the exclusion of the worship of God.
The biblical picture is one of abundance, and God is the Creator who has poured out his love and abundance in Creation and in Salvation. In Genesis we see God repeatedly saying ‘Let there be’, and the earth and heavens are filled and teem with abundant life; the experience of God’s people time and again in the Old Testament is of a God who provides in plenty for his people as they look to him in trust. Justin Welby contrasts ‘Mammon’ with ‘Manna’; pointing us to the God who provided abundantly for his wilderness people each day. The God of Creation is the God of abundance, not of scarcity.

This Easter we will celebrate again the God of our salvation, and the greatest revelation of God’s abundance – in his overflowing love, grace and forgiveness as Jesus gives up his life (not grasping but giving up), so that we can look to him and discover new life,  ‘life in all its abundance’.

We’re called to be transformed by our experience of God’s generosity in Christ – to be those whose lives speak (shout, even) of our confidence in his abundance. Will we let go of a scarcity mindset, and risk living generously in and for Christ, for the sake of the world that is in the grip of Mammon?

The world we long for

"He who was seated on the throne said: 'I am making all things new'."
Last evening we met for the 4th session in our Lent series 'Have you read this...?'. It was the end of a day where the news had been dark.
The passage in question was a great reminder of how how the revelation of Jesus Christ shines light into a world in darkness, speaks truth and peace into a world where false ideas of 'god' are shouted with violence , and offers hope into a world where people are willing to accept it.
The Bible begins in Genesis with a world make good: 'very good', the Creator calls it. God is seen 'walking in the cool of the day' in an unhindered, unspoiled friendship with humankind.
The voice of the serpent, the 'father of lies' whispers subtle untruth about the God who is Creator and Father to the man and woman, and they listen...and doubt God...and act on the lie...and then live in fear of God because of their guilt. They are banished from the garden and from that unspoiled relationship with God. The rest of the story is history - literally.
Yesterday saw the worst and the best of humanity: a twisted, perverse understanding of 'god' that leads to one man believing that he is doing right (and will be eternally rewarded) by killing and maiming as many as he can; contrasted with those who serve and risk their lives by rushing to the aid of those injured, and by doing so reflect something of the compassion and image of their Creator (whether they know it or not) who has stepped into the world to bring salvation and hope.
The Bible ends - in Revelation - with a promise of a new, restored creation:
'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying for the old order of things has passed away'
It's a picture of order and relationships restored - its a picture of a world that we were made for and long for. Everything that mankind longs for is a longing after this (whether we know it or not).
And the person at the centre of it, the one who has made it possible and will bring it about is Jesus. Jesus who has come to live as man, to die to take away our guilt and to rise so that we may live once again with God.
'He who was seated on the throne said: 'I am making everything new. Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.'
As I think about yesterday, the light and beauty and truth of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness, horror and twisted thinking of that act of terrorism in Westminster: One man bent on bringing about carnage and terror and on fuelling hatred. Another man who is called the prince of peace, who comes 'not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many', who prays for those who are crucifying him, and who in last night's verses from Revelation offers hope of reconciliation and a world made new.
To those troubled and afraid by acts of violence such as yesterday, Jesus speaks words of comfort and invitation:
'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me...Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.'
Today I am grateful for Jesus Christ, 'the way, the truth and the life' - the one who is making, and will finally make, all things new. He issues each of us an invitation to come to him to find life in him.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Heaven breaks into the ordinary

Luke 2:8-20New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks  night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas in Redhill

A full day of Christmas celebrations today in Redhill. Three Nativity services at Holy Trinity, followed by a Community Carol service in Timperley Gardens, then in the evening, a Carol Service in The Belfry Shopping centre.


This morning the all-age congregation at the Nativity Service were treated to the nativity acted out by the Climbers. The congregation were then asked what connected the various pieces of equipment that Lizzie (our Youth Minister) had left around the church for the children to find: a phone. a keyboard, a mobile phone and a letter. The first answer from a child was that they were all 'old'...clearly our visual aids need to be updated.

Timperley Carols in the Scout Hut began with refreshments plus craft activities for children before we sang carols and heard the story of the Christmas Truce and how lasting peace can be found in Jesus. One member told the story of his grandfather, who had served on the Western Front and had been reported killed in action. His grandmother received a widow's pension...up until the time he came home and it became clear that the telegram had been in error. At least she hadn't remarried, as some had done.

Carols at the Belfry? I'm afraid I arrived late and missed most of it, but heard good reports from the people I walked home with!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Carols by Floodlight - mud stops play.

Churches United, a football-related grouping of Churches in Redhill, were due to be the match sponsors of today's Redhill FC v Ramsgate FC fixture. An early pitch inspection this morning led to the pitch being deemed unsafe due to a waterlogged area in one goal area.

I stood at the gates in the lead up to 3pm as a trickle of fans took a look at the sign on the gate and turned their cars around.

It's tough going for Redhill FC at the moment. This is the 4th home game postponement of the season. On Thursday I witnessed the efforts of the Chairman of Redhill FC and others as they wielded barrow and shovel to try and get the pitch ready for today, and now they have to try again for a home match on Tuesday evening.

The cost to the club in terms of finances and good-will of fans must be  high. It's all a long way from the Premier League. It's also a long way from football in the 70's when Derby County were twice League Champions on a pitch worse than the one here at Kiln Brow!

The plan today was to sing Carols at the ground, including at half time as we related the story of the  1914 Christmas Truce and invited the crowd to join in Silent Night. For what it's now worth, here is the text of what I was going to say!

Football clubs all around the UK have been remembering the 1914 Christmas Truce this past week. As Match sponsors today Churches United want to celebrate this event with a few carols and a souvenir gift.
But just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about let me explain. On Christmas Day 1914 Peace broke out between warring factions across the Western Front. In place of the sound of gunfire and shelling there was the sound of a Carol sung in English and German; exchanging of gunfire was replaced by exchanging of gifts; shooting one another was suspended in place of shooting on goal, as the two sides kicked a football around together. Peace replaced hostility. But it was short-lived – the next day they were at war again.
Churches United represents all the churches in Redhill in believing that Christmas offers us good news of a longer lasting peace.
The message of the angels on that hillside over Bethlehem was this: 
‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth on whom his favour dwells.’ 
The baby born at the pub in Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is God’s offer of peace. It cost Jesus his life, but he gave it willingly. One title given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace.
He comes to bring us news of the peace that this world badly needs, and that so many of us long for. He comes to bring peace with God for those who come to him. 
On Christmas Day in 1914 there was a glimmer of that peace before it was snuffed out. This Christmas in our churches we shall be celebrating the hope of everlasting peace that Jesus made possible by his death.The Carol that was sung by the English and German soldiers in 1914 was Silent Night, and we’re going to hear it sung by a member of Holy Trinity church. The words are in the matchday program, and we invite you to join in. 
Sing: Silent Night 
Churches United wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas. Join us at any of our services – we’d love to welcome you as we celebrate this Christmas.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Encouragement from Zimbabwe

Holy Trinity last night welcomed Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda to our Sunday @ 7 service
Bishop Ismael is the Bishop of the Diocese of  Central Zimbabwe, and was here as part of the historic link between his Diocese and the Croydon Area of our own Diocese.
His message from Philippians 1 was an encouraging one - the church in Zimbabwe has suffered greatly in recent years, with congregations and clergy being locked out of their buildings, at the same time as enduring economic and political pressures, and yet is thriving and growing. Bishop Ishmael made the connection between the apostle Paul's prison chains which served to advance the gospel, and his Diocese's own sufferings which have served to grow the church and witness to the faithfulness and sovereignty of God.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
 Bishop Ishmael spoke of how the church had grown in reliance on God through their recent difficulties. He encouraged us not to ask 'Lord, why is this happening to us?', bit rather to ask 'Lord how can we serve you here, with what we have?'

The future of leadership in Zimbabwe is still uncertain, but the economy is gradually improving. Bishop Ishmael gave an example of this as he explained that for the first time he had been able to pay his own air fare to the UK, rather than to receive it as a gift from the Croydon Area.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes with a greeting that many of us who were at last night's service would want to echo in relation to the church in Zimbabwe:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

To read more about the link between Croydon and Zimbabwe click on the map below: