Sunday, September 6, 2020

Review, Reset & Revive

"So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 25-27.

In the verse above from Corinthians, we are told the true meaning of what it is to be part of the Christian Community. Whichever denomination, whatever your beliefs or habits, sins or doubts, we are in this together. We suffer with one another as we are one body. 

I've been thinking alot about community in the last few months. We are called to come together to share in all parts of our lives and faith. This has been difficult in the current times...churches have been closed, people have been staying at home and interacting online (if they have been able to!). 
We have learnt that church is most definitely a term to describe the people and not the buildings in which we gather on a Sunday morning. We have learnt that we can pray and worship wherever we are. We have learnt that God is with us where we are. 

For some of us, there is a feeling of guilt that we are not in church. As some churches begin to open, please do not feel pressured into attending if you don't feel ready. God is not confined to the walls of the building, and neither are we. Love is not confined within bricks and cement. Love is not confined by the perimeters of social distancing. Rest assured that when you are ready, you will be welcomed with love and understanding.

I have seen such amazing things happening in our communities over the last few months. People who are able have been visiting and shopping for those who are isolating. People have been reaching out to neighbours and checking in with those who live alone. People with no faith have been living out God's vision of caring for one another. What a blessing it is to see God's hand working in such a real and physical way! 

For a while, noone was less equal than anyone else. If someone asked for help, they would receive it without question. Donations to the foodbank rose, community groups handed out essentials to the vunerable and there was a real sense of love and community. 
I know that in our church, some wonderful friendships were made during pastoral phone calls, people were able to chat with one another freely and with no time constraints as there can be on a Sunday morning. 

Church services being broadcast online was another blessing to many. Some weeks I would see people who I knew were not part of the church logging in to watch the services...I hope that is the same for many other churches! People were able to anonymously peek into church life, with no pressure and no follow up. With the walls down, church became more accessible to all. This reminded me of times when Jesus would preach out in the open, and each time this is mentioned in the bible we would be told that crowds would gather to hear Him speak. I believe that we should bring those walls down more often and take our services out in the parks, gardens, beaches and in the streets and allow people to wander over to hear the word of God.

As our lives begin to return to normal, we have a unique opportunity to "reset". We have had months of being at home, away from friends and family, from work and from school. We have had alot of time to reflect on our lives, on our faith and on our habits. 

What did you miss the most? Personally, I missed being with friends. I missed going to mother and baby groups, meeting with the house group, going for meals with friends. I missed being sociable, and I'm not usually the most sociable person! I like time to myself and I like the quiet house when my children are at school. I think things will be different when the children go back to school this week...I'm not sure what I will enjoy the peace and quiet as much as I used to...I will now be missing the laughter, the mess, the arguments, the busyness of home life. I will appreciate time spent with my friends so much more because I haven't been able to see them in so long! I have seen their children growing and taking first steps online. I have had friends who went into lockdown pregnant and now have babies who I haven't been able to meet properly. I can't wait to be able to give them cuddles!

This is the time when we can think about what is important to us, and what isn't. 
We may have new priorities and have found new callings in our lives as we have had time to sit and be still. 

The main thing I think is important to us all is meaningful relationships...getting back to our friends, families and social groups. 
My hope is that communities continue to blossom and grow and stand by one another. And that we as a church continue to be transparent and accessible to anyone with that spark of curiosity. 

I pray that we continue to love our neighbours as God loves us, and that each of us, whether still isolating or "back to normal" has the deep and profound knowledge that we are all a part of the body of Christ, united by a love that cannot be confined or divided.

If you have lost a loved one in the last year, I am so sorry for your loss and I have been praying for you all, that you may feel God's love, peace and strength in this difficult time. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Dear Jesus...

Lord, our world is in mourning. At a time when so many are dying, they seem to be just a growing number and statistic. We thank you that they are not just a number for you, because you know each of us by name.
We pray for all of those who have suffered loss at this time. Help us to remember that you conquered death on the cross so that we may live eternally.
When we wake up in the Land of Glory we will see our loved ones again.

Only a handful of people can attend the Funerals of our loved ones as our churches have had to shut their doors. We can take comfort in the fact that you share in our sufferings and you are here with us.
You weep as we weep for our losses.
There are limits on how many people can be in hospital with patients, and we thank you that you are there with them. Each and every one. 

We pray for all of the readers of The Bible Lover. Please bless them with your comfort and peace and be with them. We thank you for bringing us together on this platform as we are united by our love of you and your word. 

Lord, I pray for all of the children and parents who are having to come to terms with isolation and lock downs. For children in particular, this is a scary time. They do not understand why they can't go to school and play with their friends, and we thank you for modern technology which allows them to continue their education at home. We thank you for their innocent hearts, and for their joy and laughter as they enjoy time with their parents and siblings. 

Lord, be especially with the people who are isolating alone. 

We pray for all of the businesses and workers who are struggling at this time. We know that you are with them lord, and have plans to prosper them, not to harm them. 

We thank you for our key workers at this time. People who are showing such selfless love for others, putting themselves at risk to keep others well and safe. Bless them Lord, and their families. Keep them safe.

We thank you for the technology that enables us to stay connected to our friends, families and our church communities, and in turn enables us to also stay connected to you through our worship, prayer and studying together. 

Above all, we thank you for the amount of love and light that we are seeing in this dark time. You told us that the two most important commandments are to love God and love each other, and we are seeing this love acted out in communities all over the world. 

Jesus, in your name we pray 🙏 


Sunday, March 29, 2020

With Thanksgiving

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7.

I love that in these verses, we are reminded to give thanks to God in every situation...and believe it or not there is a lot to be thankful for amidst all of this panic and tragedy. 

Schools and workplaces are shut and people are unsure when their next wage is coming. There is a surge of people having to claim state benefits, which can mean a long wait until they receive any money. Many businesses won't survive being closed for this long. The supermarket shelves are empty because people are panicking and stockpiling incase they need to isolate, meaning that many people can't buy what they need (this has actually started to improve as people are beginning to get used to this new way of living). Police are stopping and questioning people to see if they have a genuine need to be outside. Thousands of people have lost their lives. The world is in mourning and it's a scary and uncertain time for all of us. 

Though through all of this I can see alot to be thankful for. 
I see families spending time together, parents being involved in their children's learning as homes are being turned into classrooms, families are playing games, watching movies and sharing books together. 
Around lunchtime I can sit in my garden with a coffee and can hear the neighbourhood kids playing and laughing in their gardens...mine included! 
Most don't seem to notice that anything is wrong...all they see is that they are spending lots of valuable time with their families. 
I'm thankful for that laughter and the sounds of children happily playing in their gardens. 
Of course, this isn't the case for many families who will be finding this time very difficult, and we must remember to keep those families who are struggling in our prayers.

I also see communities coming together to help one another. 
Groups of volunteers are being set up to help pick up shopping and prescriptions for the isolated and vulnerable. 
One local restaurant has closed its doors, but the boss is still paying his staff and offering them as volunteers to any local organisation that needs some extra pairs of hands. 
Another local business, a gardening service, is dropping off free seed growing packs to local children. 

One of my favourite things that I have seen is a national game of "I spy"; people are putting pictures of rainbows in their windows for children to spot as they go for walks with their families. I love this! I love that there are so many symbols of God's covenant of love for us in windows all around the country. I could be wrong, but I like to think that this was inspired by God Himself as a sign for us all that He is with us and is watching over us. "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." Deuteronomy 7:9

There are many, many stories surfacing of community heroes. People working on the "front line"... teachers , retail staff, carers, NHS workers and many more putting themselves at risk to keep our country running and to ensure that we can still access the services and goods that we need. There is always alot of good to be found in these situations. Love always prevails, and I am thankful for the kind and loving members of our communities. 
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5.

How much more will we appreciate our lives when this is over? 
How much more thankful will we be for the small things that we took for granted in our normal day to day lives? 
An ice-cream on the beach, a trip to the park, visiting family and friends, going to church....I miss it all! 
We have all been forced to slow our lives down and live in the present. Life looks very different right now, but it's not all bad if you look hard enough and hold on tight to the good things. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21.

As a church we have had to learn to spread outwards even more into the community. We were never supposed to be contained within our walls. Our walls have been torn down and we are no longer contained. Church has been made all the more accessible without those walls. Millions of people have been tuning in to services on TV and online. 
People can have an anonymous peek into our Faith without any pressure or follow up and I feel that we should continue to bring church to people in this way when normal life resumes. 

The downside to this is that the Church is scattered and the enemy must be loving this opportunity to creep in! 
Jesus was tempted by the devil when He was isolated in the desert. Weirdly enough around this very time of year! 
Like Jesus, we also have a shortage of bread...both spiritually and physically! It is hard to come by in the supermarkets right now as people panic buy and strip the shelves of necessities. We are also unable to take part in Communion, breaking bread with our church family. "Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4. 
We still have God's word, we have our Bibles, we have an abundance of resources available to us online and we have more ways than ever of keeping in contact with our fellow Christians. We have all that we need to keep on our spiritual armour! 

Church doors may be locked, the buildings may be standing cold and empty...but the church is living, loving and thriving. We ARE the church. We are God's hands and feet on this Earth and we are called to feed the poor, comfort the lonely and pray for the sick. 
We sing songs and say prayers each week of faith and His Will being done. Now is the time to put our promises to Him into action!
We can still do all the things that we are called to do. We can donate to the foodbank and help to feed the poor, offer to pick up shopping for those who are unable and only buy for ourselves what we need. We can keep checking in on those members of our communities that we know will be isolated and lonely at this time. 
Those who live alone are going to be suffering immensely at this time, and a simple message, letter, phone call and prayer can really make a difference to someone's emotional wellbeing. 
Most importantly we must keep praying, keep worshipping and keep trusting.

People are understandably afraid right now, but we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus will stay beside us through anything and everything that life throws at us. 
A friend told me recently "put your hand in Jesus' and let Him guide you." I hope we can all be encouraged by this. Jesus is right here, holding out His hand ready to guide us if we stray, steady us if we stumble and catch us if we fall. 

This is a dark time that we are in, and so this is also our time to shine!  
Remember that God is always with us, He loves us entirely and eternally, and He will bring us through any storm! 
He will guard our hearts and our minds and give us peace and comfort through Jesus Christ...and I am thankful for Jesus more than anything.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Going Against The Grain

"Do not conform 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 12:2 

Sometimes, following Jesus takes not just Faith, but courage. We, as Christian's, are called to go against the grain. We are called to stand up for what is right and good, regardless of what other people may think of us.

The bible is full of messages of courage, bravery and drawing on God's strength, and for good reason...we need it!

It's so easy to join in with others and go with the majority, even though we know that they are wrong. We see this every day. Bullies go unchallenged by their peers due to fear of becoming their next target. People join in with gossip in order to stay relevant. We have all seen it happen, whether at school or in our adult lives...but how many of us have had the courage to stand up and say "stop"?.

How many of us have had our opinion of someone changed based on what a friend has said to us about them? We can be manipulated into thinking that it is justifiable to bully and put people down because "did you hear that they did/ they said this?". If everyone else thinks that a person is horrible, do we tend to agree without finding out for ourselves? Of course we do! Or at the very least our opinion of that person is changed. Other people's opinions matter to us. We want to be liked, we want to be in "the in crowd". We tend to agree to avoid making waves. It takes a great strength to challenge a peer, a friend, a colleague, or even a leader, in any situation.

How many of us have had our opinions of OURSELVES changed based on what others have said about us? A worship leader in my church once said to the congregation "sing loud...and if you think that you can't sing then you are wrong, you only think that you can't because someone once told you that." I wonder how many others things there are that we think we can't do just because someone has once knocked our confidence and told us that we can't?

What if David had listened to King Saul when he told him "you are not able to go out against this philistine and fight him, you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth."? (1 Samuel 17:33). David knew that he was the one who could defeat Goliath. He knew that God was on his side, even if noone else believed in him.

What if Ruth had listened to Naomi when she told her to "Go back to your mother's home."? It would have been normal practice for her to return to her family, it would have been expected. But Ruth knew that her place was with Naomi, and in staying with Naomi she met and married Boaz, and went on to have a son. That son was Obed, David's grandfather.

If Rosa Parks hadn't stood up for what she knew was right, black Americans might still be forced to sit at the back of the bus. If Emmeline Pankhurst hadn't stood her ground then women might still not be able to vote.

One decision to be brave and stand up for what is good and what we know is right can lead to amazing outcomes. Courage spreads like fire, one person encouraging another. All it takes is one person.

Jesus is that one person who stood up for what was right, regardless of what others thought of Him.

When Jesus was in Jericho, he left a city with a large crowd following him. They walked past a blind man, Bartimaeus, who was begging on the side of the road. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was in the crowd and he shouted out to him. The bible says that many people rebuked other words, they criticized and showed their disapproval of the man begging on the side of the road. Jesus told the man to come to him, and the crowd quickly changed their tune! "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you!" (Mark 10:46). Jesus wouldn't have just passed by the man and ignored his calls for help, I have a feeling that he waited for the reaction of the crowd before calling the man to Him. He showed the crowd what was right and led by example.

Through prayer and reflection, through listening to how God guides us, through reading the bible, we can know what His Will is, and yet others will try to persuade us to conform to their opinions and their idea of what is right.

Jesus told us that the most important commandments are to love God and love others. We are told to encourage and build one another up. We are told to stand up for the poor and the oppressed. When other peoples opinions or actions go against what Jesus taught us, then we must keep our focus on Him and go against the grain. Like Jesus, we must be the ones to go against the crowd and do what is right.

There is a message going viral on social media right now; "Be Kind".
This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunatley we live in a world where people will put others down to make themselves seem better. It took the tragic death of a woman for people to start standing up and saying "that's enough". If only someone had stood up sooner.

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:13‭-‬14

Thursday, January 23, 2020

"We've got stuff to do!"

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6 NIV.

God recently said no to something that I wanted, and boy did I throw my toys out the pram! It's a little embarrassing if I'm honest, but I'm sure we've all been there.

You pray for something, you feel 100% sure that it's going to happen...and then He says "no". 

Even though we KNOW that God knows what is best for us, we KNOW that He has plans to prosper and not to harm us...we still sometimes think that WE know best, don't we? 

When a door is closed in our face, it's easy to blame the person who closed that door. We get hurt, we get defensive and we can find it reeeeally hard to trust that it's part of His plan when it clashes with our own.
The enemy is quick to jump into those moments with little whisperings of "you're not good enough!".

I'm totally preaching to myself in this took me a while to remember that nobody would be able to close a door that He had opened.

I had a dream a long time ago of walking down a long straight road, and right in the distance at the top of the road I could just about make out a figure standing and waiting. The figure was Jesus. As I was walking down the road I could see lots of different things happening off the side of the road...a bonfire with people huddled around, a group of people playing sports, people having a picnic, people having a fight...and it's just like me to get distracted by shiney things along the way. Instead of keeping my focus on heading towards Jesus along the straight road, I'm wondering "ooh what's that over there?". 

Being a Christian is so, so theory. God has carved out a straight and narrow road, and we know where we are headed. We know how to get there and what waits for us when we arrive at the top of that road...but we get distracted along the way. 
We can wander off of the path, but no matter how far off we stray, the path is always there to jump back on and continue on our way. 

During my....let's call it "wobble"...I was mad. It was a time where alot was going wrong, I felt like what I was asking for wasn't something I wanted, but something that I really needed. I lost my fire for God, though I didn't lose my Faith in Him. But I did lose my motivation for a while. At one point I asked "Where have you gone? You were so present in my life! You were right THERE. Where did you go?" I felt Him say "I haven't gone anywhere. YOU have." 
I had been distracted by a shiney thing!

I had this image of Jesus standing next to me tapping His foot and looking at His watch, saying "C'mon! Are you done tantrumming yet? We've got stuff to do!". 
"But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away." Jeremiah 5:23. 

When I finally got back on the path I noticed that God had been busy. The road had been re-tarmaced... so to speak. While I was busy focussing on being mad, He had been putting my life in order for me and was quick to show me that His plans were definitely better than my own. 

God is Faithful like that, isn't He? He never leaves us, He doesn't hold our tantrums against us and He is always quick to welcome us back when we are ready.

We can make our own plans in life, but God has much bigger and better plans for us. He let's us make our mistakes, and we learn to trust Him when things go wrong. We learn to remember that He knows what He's doing. 

Not that it's easy...I already know that I will have plenty more "wobbles", and so will you...but thankfully He is patient and loves us regardless of our tantrums. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Turning Things Around

"He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord ."  Isaiah 2:4‭-‬5 NIV

It has been a couple of months since I have felt inspired to write a post, and I have been praying in the last few days for God to give me something to write about...well, since I am now writing this post, you can probably tell that God answered that prayer! 

I was approached this morning by a man who I see most Wednesday mornings at our Communion service, but who I hadn't really spoken to before, and he told me an amazing story which I want to share with you all. 

In 1939, St Martin's Church in Liskeard was appointed a Vicar called John Henry Parsons. Before becoming a Vicar, John would test drive and race Humber cars in Warickshire and he played Cricket for England. John was called away into the military quite soon after becoming Vicar of St Martin's, bringing back with him shell cases that he had made into Communion cups (these were more recently used as flower vases I believe, and have unfortunately disappeared).

During his time serving in the Great War, before joining St Martin's, John won a Military Cross for Gallantry for taking a Turkish Gun Emplacement (an armoured structure for holding weapons) following a Calvary charge and so winning the Turkish Officer's sword to whom he took captive. 

Back in Liskeard, John took his 2 military swords to a local blacksmith (James Harry Pryn) and had them beaten into Ploughshares, which was a common concept in which military weapons were converted for peaceful civilian purposes. 

The man I spoke to this morning remembers the field near the church where John had actually used his ploughshares to harvest wheat, which he then made into bread for Communion.

I found it so cool that this man who had seen such horrific things whilst serving in two wars would come home and use shells and swords from the war for the wine and bread of Communion. 

It's such a wonderful example of using our situations and experiences, however bad, for God's Glory. Using things that were made for such a different purpose, for God's purpose. 

I wonder how many people came to hear John preach at St Martin's, how many were saved through his sermons and work that he did here in the 1950's, and how many of those lifted those same shells to their lips to recieve Christ's blood that was shed for them, through a vessel that also had quite possibly shed blood in such different circumstances. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 

God can work through the bad things in our lives to accomplish His purposes. He is always in control. He allows the good AND bad things to happen, and we can trust Him to work all things together for good in the lives of those who love Him. Like turning a weapon of war into a symbol of peace, He can (and will!) turn our lives and situations around, even when we are in our darkest and most helpless moments. 

I hope that you find this story as encouraging as I have. I hope that you remember that God is faithful, and He will always turn your weaknesses into strength, your failures into wins, and he will turn your darkest times into light. 

You can find out more about John Henry Parsons (though mostly about his cricket career) by clicking the link

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Thy Will Be Done

Have a click on the link above and listen to the song "Bury the Workman" by Unspoken.

This is such a clever song, about the power of God's will.
"When the Spirits moving His Will will be done". I find it such a comfort to know that nothing and nobody can come between God and His Will. When God wants something to happen He makes it happen!

God has an amazing plan for each of us. We can put our lives in God's hands and go where He leads...trusting completely that everything that happens is meant to be. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.

The problem we have is free will. Now, free will is super important. God doesn't come before us in person and say "this is what I want you to do" and forces us to do things His way. We wouldn't force our children to live as we would like them to (as much as we would like to!)...we don't plan out their entire lives and ensure that they don't stray from the straight path that we set out for them. It would be so great if we could! But we want our children to grow, to learn, to make mistakes and to come to us for love and advice, not because they have to...but because they want to. Our children need to make their mistakes and experience pain in order to learn and to grow.
God, as our father, wants us to follow His plans for us, but we can choose to do our own thing.
Of course if God appeared in front of you right now and told you "do this", you would do it without question and without hesitation...and He knows that. When He really wants something done He can make it pretty obvious, but still in a way that when the excitement wears off and time has past, doubt can creep in and tarnish the memory. Eventually you will forget, or think "was that from God?". And it's on purpose. God wants you to come to Him by Faith, not by force. Because you want to, not because you have to. God is subtle and He wants us to be faithful to Him as He is to us.

However, you can say "no". Sometimes God wants us to do things that we aren't ready for. He might want us to let go of something that we are stubbornly clinging on to. He might want us to go somewhere or do something new. We might not understand why God puts us in certain situations, we might not trust that it's what is best for us. We are stubborn creatures and just like children, we think we know best!
We have the freedom to say no, even though our freedom actually comes from saying yes. It takes time to learn this.
I know this, but I am terrible at being faithful under pressure! When things get rough or don't go how I expect them to I am quick to blame others, or mostly myself, before I remember that if it was GODS will then He would have made it happen.

Take a look at Jonah...God needed him to do something for Him and Jonah said "no". "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord .  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up." Jonah 1:3‭-‬4.
He ran, he made himself miserable and made others around him miserable. But God used Jonah's disobedience to His Glory by showing His power to the others on the boat, and Jonah ended up doing what God had asked, but suffered on the way.
Saying yes to God isn't always the easy option, it takes faith, it takes boldness. But saying no can be worse. The good news is that God can be quick to turn our mistakes around and straighten our path.
Do you really think that your plans for your life are greater than God's plans?

I'll bet you can think of many instances in your life where everything seemed to be going wrong, but God has very clearly pre-planned and coordinated things in a way  that is almost undeniable...lots of coincidences culminating in something awesome happening...but it's often in hindsight that we realise "aaah yes, there you were Lord!".

Lord, help us to remember that you are ALWAYS there, in EVERY situation. Give us the strength to trust in you especially when the situation seems too difficult and impossible for us to handle alone. Help us to remember that you have a plan for each of us and that whilst the journey to get there might be tough, your plans for us are far better than the plans we have for ourselves. Help us to have the faith to let your will be done in our lives!