Sunday Thoughts 17th May

Read John 14 v15-21

V15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command” Obey….command….. This seems rather a harsh statement in some ways. It reminds me of a story of a husband and wife. Every day before going to work, the husband gave his wife a list of chores to do while he was out. She did them out of obedience to her husband, but it felt like hard work, and gradually the relationship deteriorated. It became a very unhappy marriage. After a few years he died and sometime later she remarried. One day while clearing out a drawer, she came across one of her first husbands lists. As she looked down the list, she realised that she did all of those things naturally and yet felt happy and had a lightness of spirit. What made the difference? Love. She loved her husband and he loved her.

Love is the basis of our reading today. Jesus loved his disciples and wasn’t going to let them struggle on their own but sent the Holy Spirit to accompany them and support them, to work in them and through them.

V20 – speaks of the close relationship between God the Father, God the Son and the disciples. This is no different for us today. God intends that we should also be in a close spiritual relationship with him. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been available to all believers, to teach us and work through us and lead us into truth. We can welcome Him into our lives or we can resist Him.

Question – Do you love Jesus and want to keep his commands or are you just going through the motions?

Question – Have you welcomed the Holy Spirit into your life so that He can help you live a Christ-like life or have you rejected him by refusing to listen to him?

Sunday Thoughts 10th May

Read John 14 v1-14

V6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though me”

When I became a Christian, God took me from despair to hope – “from a death worth dying to a life worth living”. I had heard about Jesus, but didn’t know him personally until this point. He showed me that indeed He was the way to God, and that he was the embodiment of truth. He didn’t just speak it, but also lived it and gave us an example to follow. He also intended for us to have abundant life too, not to scrape by and simply survive life, but to thrive and blossom. Coming into relationship with Jesus and God made an extraordinary impact on my life, one which I will never forget. It is a lifelong relationship too, and He remains faithful, whatever the circumstances are around us, He is with us in them.

Question – Is this just a verse to you or does it have personal significance? If so, share it with someone today.

V1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me”

This weekend in Seaton there were to be many activities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Sadly these have been curtailed to decorating houses and gardens with bunting and Union Jacks.

In 1940, King George VI asked the nation to pray on Sunday May 26th, to put their trust in God. There were queues at cathedral doors and churches were full. The nation prayed. That evening, the seemingly impossible began; the evacuation of British and allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. Over 300,000 were rescued over the next few days. This proved to be a turning point in the war.

Once again, we are a country in crisis, but this time we cannot gather together and we can’t see the enemy, but we can pray, and we can be thankful to God, not only for those who gave their all so that we can live in freedom but also for those who have given their all in this current COVID-19 pandemic.

Question – As individuals and as nation are we prepared to put our trust in God? If we are, then surely there will be a turning point now too which will release us from the heartache that so many are experiencing. What will you do to show God that you have put your trust in him?

Sunday Thoughts 3rd May 2020

Read John 10 v1-10

In this country, we may be familiar with sheep in green fields or on hillsides, and they are moved from one place to another by a farmer with his dog and/or quad bike. So, so different from that 1st century, when Jesus spoke about the shepherds of the time. Once again Jesus used everyday images to impart truth to his hearers. On this occasion the Pharisees. Shepherds then spent so much time with their flocks, as sheep were kept for their wool rather than for meat. The shepherd could recognise each individual animal and the sheep in turn recognised the shepherd’s voice or whistle. They were constant companions, always seeking fresh grass in the rough and stony pastureland. At night, if there was a sheepfold with an open entrance, the shepherd would lead his sheep there for safety and then lay down across the opening to protect them; which is why Jesus describes himself as the gate for the sheep (v7). It is at this point that he speaks plainly to those who lack understanding, and speaks of himself and the safety and peace that people will find if they are in His flock. They will be given life in abundance (full to overflowing), compared with the thief in v10 who has no authority over the sheep and gives nothing, but seeks to steal and destroy the life they have.

Questions – Are you following the Shepherd or going your own way? Do you recognise the Shepherd’s voice or is it lost amongst the clamouring voices of the world? Are you experiencing the abundant life that He promises or does it feel like you are being sucked dry?

Read Acts 2 v42-47

Note these aspects about the early church – They wanted to learn (v42), they were generous (v45b), they met together in open spaces and in homes (v46), they prayed (v42b), they praised God (v47a) they witnessed God’s miraculous power (v43) and they grew in number daily (47b).

Questions – Look at your own situation. Which of these elements are missing from your own personal life and your church’s life today? These aspects should be seen in order to be healthy and living out the abundant life that Jesus gives. What are you prepared to do to bring change?    

Sunday Thoughts 26th April 2020

Read Luke 24 v13-35

The two disciples assumed Jesus to be a stranger, having come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, but not knowing the events that had happened that were dear to them. They had hoped that Jesus would rescue Israel from the Romans, as they had recognised him as a powerful prophet in word and deed. But now there hopes were dashed and they were feeling despondent, their faces showing their feelings. Despite being downcast, they felt able to speak truth to the ‘stranger’ and recounted the events of the last week. They talked, he listened, but they missed a crucial link in their understanding. Then it is their turn to listen, while the ‘stranger’ speaks and he clearly reveals Old Testament prophecy to them. In time, they reach their destination, but Jesus does not impose on them, but he does accept their urgent offer of hospitality.

Unusually at the supper table, the ‘stranger’ takes the bread and gives thanks and distributes it. The disciples recognised the style; only one man had ever done it just like that! Their spiritual eyes were opened and they knew that he was no stranger, but the risen Christ. Now filled with joy and excitement, they rush off to Jerusalem to share the news with the other disciples.

QuestionWhen was the last time that you were excited by the revelation that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today?

We are on a journey too. Not a physical one, but a social one – coping with isolation from our family and friends. We are also on a spiritual journey, but we are not isolated from God. We can’t come together as church on a Sunday, but we can ‘be’ church. It is imperative that we talk to Jesus and listen to him, through worship, prayer and scripture in these unusual days.

Sunday Thoughts 19th April 2020

Read John 20 v19-31

The disciples were together in a locked room, probably the same room as they met in for the last supper. They were living in fear. Fear of a known and seen enemy – Jewish leaders who could have them arrested and killed as they had done to their beloved leader. They were fearful even though Mary Magdalene had told them that she had seen and talked to the risen Christ. Instead of knocking and creating more fear, Jesus appears inside the room and greets them, “Peace be with you” and proves that it really is him, by showing them his wounds. This assures them and they know for certain that Jesus is alive again.

Question – Today, are you living in fear of an unseen enemy?

Jesus says to us today, “Peace be with you”. The enemy may not disappear but the fear will if you open your heart and receive His peace. In v22 – Jesus “breathed on them” and they received the Holy Spirit. This is the same breath that we read of in Genesis 2v7 at the creation of man and Ezekiel 37v9 in the valley of dry bones. The breath of God brings LIFE in all its fullness and with it comes authority and responsibility to carry on the work that Jesus commissioned his disciples then and now to do.

We are not told why Thomas was not present on that first occasion, perhaps he was ill or had travelled away. Even when the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he was sceptical and the only proof good enough for him was to touch Jesus’ wounds. The following week Jesus granted Thomas’ request to touch his hands and his side. We don’t know if he did that, but he certainly doubted no more.

Today, we generally do not “see” Jesus but we are blessed if we believe and we can have life in all its fullness, regardless of whether we are in the midst of seen or unseen enemies. Why not ring someone this week and declare “Peace be with you” over them, that they might receive Christ’s peace in these difficult days.

Bad Friday Blues

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Picture this: November 1972, a teenage girl sits upstairs in a former jewellers shop, now being used as a temporary outreach cafe by local Christians. A young man with long hair and long finger nails (why didn’t he cut them, she thought….) chatted to her about faith. She was not a Christian, but had a friend at school that talked about Jesus a lot and had invited her to the cafe. She went, probably out of curiosity more than anything else and besides what else was there to do on a Friday night?

In due course the young man went over to a corner of the room, picked up a guitar and began to sing. One of the song titles stuck in her mind “Bad Friday Blues”. It has stayed with her ever since.  Later on, she learnt that the young man was called Graham Kendrick……… The girl was me and I became a Christian the following year.  

Why do we call it ‘Good Friday’, when it commemorates what seemed to be a tragic event – the death of an innocent man? His mother, siblings and friends suddenly bereft of their son, brother and leader. Just what were they to do? How were they going to manage without him? Would they ever get over their grief?

We have been used to seeing people with various piercings for some years now, and if you change your mind, you can always remove the stud and it will heal up. Not so for that innocent man, his piercing led to death. It was a bad Friday. Yet we could not celebrate Easter Sunday, had it not been for that man’s death. In Isaiah 53 v 5 it says-

  But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

So his death brought us peace and healing.  Whatever the circumstances are around us, we can experience the healing of relationship and peace with God. As you wait for circumstances to change, remember that he was pierced for you.  

Sunday Thoughts 5th April

Read John 11 v1-45

When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, they assumed that he would come straight away and save their beloved brother from death, but Jesus deliberately stayed put. Though he loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus greatly, he loved his heavenly Father more, and knew that the unveiling story was “for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it” (v4)

When the time was right Jesus went to Bethany, even though he knew that it would have been fraught with danger for his personal safety. Both Martha and Mary blamed Jesus for not saving their brother. Lazarus would have been the breadwinner for the family and probably their social status relied on him too.

Question – How do we respond when God does not appear to answer our prayers?

Note that many Jews came from Jerusalem to mourn Lazarus. There was a strict code of mourning for at least seven days, which included much wailing and weeping and outward signs of grief. The shortest verse in the Bible appears here in v35 “Jesus wept”. Yes, he wept for his dearest friends in their predicament, but surely, this was also a prophetic scene of his own future, that he too would soon be in a tomb.  Jesus had to command Lazarus “come out” else other bodies in the tomb would also have appeared! His grave clothes hampered him as he emerged and others needed to help him be released. Many Jews saw what Jesus did and put their faith in him. (v45)

Question – Do we need to see a miracle in order to put or maintain our faith in Jesus?

Read Matthew 21 v1-11

‘The Triumphal Entry’ is the title as we read of the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life. Jews from every part of the known world made their way to Jerusalem to participate in Passover, one of three main festivals in the Jewish calendar. A time to remember and be thankful for the angel of death passing over the blood stained lintels of the Jewish homes, saving them from death (Exodus 12). So the city was thronging (a bit like Blackpool in the summer – and so different from cities around the world this Palm Sunday).

Jesus entered the city on a donkey foal, an animal not ridden before and therefore unblemished and suitable for sacred purposes; chosen to carry the one was to become the perfect sacrifice.

It was important for Jesus to fulfil the prophecy from Zechariah 9 and for Matthew’s readers to later understand Jesus’ purposeful journey. Amongst the crowds were some who welcomed him, placed their outer garments or palm branches on the road and shouted ‘save us’ or quoted Psalm 118 v26. Certainly it was a significant event and the “city was stirred and asked who is this?” Others didn’t care who he was and to the Romans and Pharisees, he was a troublemaker.  

Imagine yourself there in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday and seeing Jesus ride past you.

Question – Who do you say Jesus is?