Hello all. June has arrived! Do you have any plans for the summer months? Perhaps you will be going away or maybe you will be staying at home…whatever you do, may these coming months be a blessing. My ongoing prayer for us as a church is that we will grow up into all that the Lord has for us and in our understanding of who He is and the implications that this has on the lives we live.
I remember when I was younger and my Mum or Dad, or maybe a schoolteacher, would ask me to do something. My response would often be to say “In a minute”. After some time had passed and I still hadn’t done what had been asked, they would say, “Actions speak louder than words”. In other words, it’s one thing to say you’re going to do something, it is another thing to actually do it!
Do actions speak louder than words? Maybe sometimes they do. One thing is for sure, actions and words must go hand in hand as far as the Lord is concerned. We cannot claim to have faith, trusting in Jesus and his word, if our actions do not support such claims. As James says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14)
As you know, our current Sunday morning series is “The Greatest Story” which is taking us through the big picture of Scripture. A few weeks back, we looked at Noah and Abraham. Both of these characters point forward to a coming rescuer who will rescue us from the disease of sin and the coming judgement.
Noah and Abraham were declared right with God because of their faith in God. We are rescued from sin by trusting in Christ alone. However, these two men had faith which impacted their actions. Noah believed God would graciously rescue him and so
he obediently built the ark in faith. Abraham believed the Lord would be faithful to his promise, making him into a great nation, from whom the rescuer, Jesus, would one day come. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, even though it was through this son that the Lord had promised to establish the nation of Israel. Abraham acted in faith, believing the Lord could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:19).
Both Abraham and Noah were saved because they trusted in God alone to rescue – and the same is true for us. Our works and efforts do not save us at all. However, once we have come to a knowledge of God’s saving grace, every area of our lives must be impacted by this glorious saving truth. True faith in God alone will impact the entirety of our lives.
Picture this: you’ve just been saved from the results of a deadly heart attack through the emergency, surgical intervention of a skilled surgeon. After the surgery, the surgeon says, “You’re alive and well, but please change your lifestyle. Change your diet and get some exercise.” Anybody who realises what they have just been saved from is going to hear and respond with the appropriate actions.
Similarly, those who have truly heard the gospel and come to the realisation that God has acted through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue us from the disease of sin will, by the Spirit’s help, live lives that reflect the reality of the Lord’s salvation. Those who realise that God, like the aforementioned surgeon, has intervened, reaching out in Jesus to rescue us from sin through faith in Christ alone, will be radically transformed.
May we as a church grow in our understanding of the Lord’s great love and salvation, so that every area of our lives may be transformed by God’s amazing grace. Let us declare to a broken world, through word and deed, that Jesus is the rescuer and may our lives back up that truth.
God bless you all. Have a great June!
Welcome to the Month of May! We are a third of the way through 2019 already. How did that happen? Spring is a great season – the lighter, longer days, the sun (hopefully) shining and signs of life bursting forth after the winter months. As a church, we enter an exciting season – a season full of expectancy. In faith, I am looking for increased signs of the Spirit’s activity amongst us as we see lives touched and changed by the life-giving reality of Jesus.Continue reading
From the beginning of May until the start of September, I will be taking a sabbatical from my role as pastor of Shirley Baptist Church.Continue reading
As the nights draw in and 3 o’clock in the afternoon is feeling more like 8 o’clock at night, I’ve been thinking about some of the dark clouds that can block the light of the rising sun of Christmas, that is Jesus. The promise was clear, “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79) The reality is however that be it through death, disaster, disappointment, discouragement, doubt or despair, the SUN RISE of Christ’s birth can be blocked out by the gloomy clouds of these many common place things.
In many families each Christmas, there is for the first time someone missing around the table, some unexpected problem to face or perhaps some impossible request beyond either our ability or finances to fully satisfy. And through which we are reminded that sadness and stress, mixed with “joy to the world” is a bittersweet cup at best.
Still, there is, as was announced that first Christmas night, “good news of great joy” even for those walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” Maybe, especially for them, after all as Isaiah foretold it some 700 years before, it was “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Don’t we all take our turn there? When the night draws in and the days run out for someone we love or for us. Yet that IS why Christmas IS such good news, because Jesus came as the rising sun to illuminate those clouds and shine the light of heaven on even the darkest corridors of our lives. Born to die, Jesus walked out of His grave to prove there is life beyond the funeral, hope beyond the failure, and a future beyond the immediate dilemma we face. Not with some religious speculation about it, but as living proof of it! His coming as the light of this world at Christmas time disperses every dark place we find ourselves and brightens every situation because not even sin and death could black Him out.
Darkness has lost. The Light has won. So why wouldn’t we not want to celebrate this Christmas? The first to do that were Shepherds and they glorified God for what they had experienced. Then came Wise Men and they worshipped Christ when they saw him. What a blessing it will be if Christmas is like that for us too!
Some might argue that as many of our Christmas celebrations grew up out of pagan roots we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. I would say they didn’t so much grow out of it but grew against it, and in contrast to it. We are not celebrating Christmas so much as we are celebrating Christ. Not celebrating by going to excess with our lives but by giving up our lives in celebration of Him. Not being squeezed into the world’s mould and conformed to its way of doing things, but being transformed by Christ to live counter-cultural to the world and joyfully celebrate His goodness to us.
I hope you will celebrate greatly this Christmas the fact that no matter how dark the days are and how quickly they draw in, when the sun comes up, it reveals what we could never otherwise get to see. The fact that in Jesus the once Rising Sun who became the eternal Risen Son, there is an answer as to why we are here, how we don’t have to be alone whilst we are here, and the certain hope of heaven when we move on from here. However we celebrate Christmas then, it isn’t a true celebration of Christ if we don’t celebrate that.
Happy Christmas and a blessed New Year,
Your Friend and Pastor.
As I am sure you all know this NOVEMBER marks the centenary of what it was hoped would be The War to End All Wars. This Remembrance Sunday on 11th November, people all around the Commonwealth will be reflecting on the lives that were changed irrevocably by the events of those four never to be forgotten years between 1914 and 1918. Nearly 65 million men alone were mobilised across Europe during World War 1. Twenty-one million were wounded, eight and half million were killed and over seven million were taken prisoners of war. All of them had family and friends whose lives were changed forever because of it.
Remembering gives us the chance to pray and work for peace, looking forward with hope. 100 years on, not all can now still put a name and a face to the price the freedoms we too often take for granted came at. But as one old soldier from a more recent conflict remarked, “It is still important for us who fought to believe the sacrifice was worth it.” I wonder if that is the question our Saviour might ask of us? “Was the sacrifice worth it?”
Jesus didn’t risk His life. He gave His life. He came to us knowing that He alone could pay the price of all and every sin for us. “The righteous for the unrighteous” is how the Bible simply states it. But I doubt nothing could break His heart more than to see the ground He died to liberate in our lives being lost to the enemy once again. Sins Jesus died for to free us from still wounding us, scarring us and binding us.
Far from just breaking rules, sin is more about breaking Jesus’ heart. Like when His blood-bought child fills their heart with selfish pursuits or gives their runaway mouth permission to gossip, slander and lie. But whatever temptation we surrender to and however dark the impulse we indulge, it surely cheapens the sacrifice He made and is unworthy of Him. “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” we are told in (Philippians 1:27) for anything less is showing dishonour to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Most dishonouring of all is to think that we don’t need Jesus’ sacrifice to be right with God, forgiven of sin and ready to live to the full His eternal life. But that simply being good or religious will do it. Yet if there was any other way my spiritual death penalty could have been paid, Jesus would never have endured the agony of the cross. Why would He do that if there was another way? Our faith in anything else to make our peace with God is telling Jesus, His sacrifice wasn’t worth it.
We wear a poppy to honour the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy as country and we pray for peace as we do so, but the only way to be at peace with God and enjoy true freedom from the threat and penalty of sin is to abandon faith in anything other than Him and drop the sins that crucified Him.
Our very own dear Frank Tye, now in heaven himself, summed it all up beautifully for us in his very personal and touching poem entitled ‘Remembrance Day’
“Today we’ve been remembering, the men whose lives were lost, Defending King and country, at such tremendous cost.
They gave themselves for loved ones, for strangers and for friends,
Securing Britain’s future, so freedom never ends.
But also, we’re remembering another man who died,
For those who were His enemies, our Lord was crucified.
And now our future is secure from Satan’s power and sin,
The door to heaven stands open wide, so all may enter in.”
I wear my poppy in memory of and out of respect for those who gave their tomorrow for our today. But I want to live my life in honour of Him who looks at me and looks at you and then to the nail prints in His hands and asks: “Was the sacrifice worth it?”
Your Friend and Pastor.
As OCTOBER is the month the clocks go back to widen the GAP between darkness and to give us more natural daylight to both see and be safe by, I was taken with the idea of how every GAP can impact us!
Anyone who has ever taken the London underground would have heard the warning MIND THE GAP on the arrival of their train. Injury can occur and even lives can be lost if the gap between the train and the platform is not taken seriously. The gap between our teeth can cause gum disease and tooth decay if left unattended. The gap between our income and our outgoings can be debt ridden if we don’t budget well and live within our means. The gap between what we say and what we do can destroy our trustworthiness, whilst the biggest gap of all between us in our sin and God in His holiness can leave us lost forever if we don’t come to Christ who crossed that gap for us. Some GAPS are wider than others and some GAPS impact us more than others but all GAPS are to be minded if we are not to fall into the danger each GAP represents.
Think of the GAP between WHAT is promised and WHEN it is delivered. That GAP can be a chasm for many of us. When God promised to take Israel out of the land of lack (Egypt) and into the land of plenty (Canaan) they ended up living in and grumbling about the land of just enough because they had a poor GAP mentality.
They couldn’t see past what was to what was to come, so remained forty years in a dry and discouraging desert of doubt and death. They blamed anyone and everyone including God of course for their miserable situation. But how often in one of God’s strange and wonderful ways, He allows something to be taken away so He can ultimately replace it with something so much better! It is in the GAP between what is lost and what is gained where the difficulty lies. MIND THE GAP. I don’t know what you may be missing or have had taken from you, but I do know that there may well be months of faith-stretching, heavy duty praying, and soul-searching, before God brings you in His always perfect time, to the upgrade and abundance you long for.
God did do for Israel what He had always promised to do and what at least Caleb and Joshua believed He would do. He took them out of Egypt and into Canaan. He replaced their loss with something much better.
This was Job’s painful experienced too after he had lost everything, his fortune, his children and his health. The Bible says, “The Lord made him prosperous again, and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:20) Indeed it goes on to make clear that, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first… He also had seven sons and three daughters… nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters.”
I don’t want to minimise the loss you may be suffering with or lessen the GAP you are confronted by. I would however encourage you in it, not to discount the goodness of the Lord.
You may not be able to imagine how He could replace what you’ve lost, or what you’ve surrendered to Him, let alone with something better. I certainly don’t know what it is going to look like or even when it is going to come, but I do know we have a Saviour who loves us, who knows what we need, and who desires our best.
In the GAPS we struggle with we must trust Him who is the God of the greater good. This OCTOBER when the clocks go back I urge you again to MIND THE GAP and remember that one reason God allows crashes is to upgrade us to something better!
Your Friend and Pastor
I read that ahead of this year’s expected and exceptional summer season, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is asking for more recruits to consider wearing the red and yellow uniform of a lifeguard to help the charity keep people safe on beaches and save lives.
Carl Harris, from the RNLI is quoted as saying: “I think working as a lifeguard has got to be one of Britain’s best summer jobs. It is incredible to be able to call the beach your office but far more importantly than that, you are there to make sure the public enjoy it in the safest possible way.”
Last year RNLI lifeguards alone rescued 2,082 people across the UK and Jersey and saved 127 lives. Who can doubt the importance of doing such a worthwhile job?
Interestingly Mr. Harris also states that the ongoing day to day training necessary is given only after the final beachgoers have left for home and that the lifeguards themselves are assigned to their stations early morning before any beach users arrive for the day. That makes good sense because you don’t want lifeguards training and discussing their day’s duties when the beach is buzzing. You want your lifeguard up where they ought to be, in their high chair, focussed on the water and looking out for swimmers in difficulty. One family whose son nearly drowned on a popular beach at Camber Sands which draws up to 25,000 visitors a day in the height of the summer, was extremely grateful to the lifeguard who spotted him in trouble, plunged in, and got him to safety just in time. “It’s a good thing they were there and were not having a lifeguard meeting at the time,” said the grateful family.
“Here is a trustworthy saying,” says Paul to his young apprentice Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners” (1Timothy 1:15). Those who know Christ are God’s lifeguards. It surely follows that we who follow the Saviour must seek to be soul winners ourselves.
At Westminster Abbey in London, for over a thousand years they have buried some of those perceived to be the greatest people of British history. Kings and queens of all those centuries are buried there as well as some literary and music greats. Just this week they interned the ashes of Professor Stephen Hawkins! But only one missionary is buried there. Only one whose goal it was to reach others with the gospel. “To bring the sheep not yet of His sheep pen” as (John 10:16) states it and which is written on the tombstone of David Livingstone, who sacrificed the comforts of his homeland to go and give his life to bring hope in our Saviour Christ to the continent of Africa.
We don’t necessarily have to go to Africa or to any foreign mission field to be soul winners for Christ. We are surrounded at work, in school, and in our neighbourhood by sheep not in the sheep pen yet. Who don’t know Jesus the Shepherd who said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Lifeguards are what we might better be called today. Those assigned to rescue other dying people as those once in need of rescue themselves. The danger is that we simply stay in our lifeguard station – “Church” – and have our lifeguard meetings, sing our lifeguard songs, offer our lifeguard offerings, and check our lifeguard equipment, yet forget to go to the beach where the people who most need us are.
Meeting together for encouragement and equipping is vital. Mission is never fruitful when we are not faithful in our meeting but we have to go out from the safety and the comfort of our lifeguard station to plunge into the surf to bring Jesus to someone? We can’t settle for just feeding ourselves in the lifeguard station while people are drowning and dying in the sea of their godless existence.
Our Saviour’s magnificent obsession was people who were not saved yet. Please God that we all have that passion in our heart? Let us be strengthened in our faith through our lifeguard meetings but let us never forget that lifeguards are needed at the beach! There are those desperate to be beach body ready for a summer at the seaside, but my hope is that as followers of Jesus, we’re truly soul alert.
Your Friend and Pastor
Many people wake up at the start of a New Year wanting to be someone they’re not. And certainly there are no shortages of opportunities being promised to them through various diets, workout routines and inspirational websites to make them that better person they aspire to be. I am not knocking the ambition of anyone to keep fit and stay healthy in the body but this year at Shirley Baptist we are going to be SHADOWING OUR SAVIOUR in order to stay fit in our spirits. To follow Jesus closely by closely following Jesus is the goal so that we can say along with the apostle Paul to those who best know us, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
At Christmas we rightly highlight the truth that Jesus came to earth from heaven to make it possible for people when they leave the earth to go to heaven. His mission on the earth however was to clearly make disciples. He wants followers that follow Him, and so when He left this planet having died for us and then resurrected to prove that His job of securing our salvation from sin and death was done. He gave His followers one job to do, make more disciples. This should tell us something. Whether we drive for a living, build houses, mend bodies, preach or are at present without employment, we were created for one purpose. Whether you have a PhD or struggle with our A-Z we were put on this planet for one purpose. We all exist to follow Jesus, and to lead others to do the same.
In the 1st Century the word “disciple” didn’t mean what we take it to mean today. It didn’t refer to a pupil in a school who sat and learned certain truths or certain principles. More accurately, it meant an apprentice. A disciple was someone who didn’t just learn principles, or ideas, or even a philosophy. A disciple was someone who learned a way of life. A disciple was a follower, not just of a set of teachings, but of the teacher himself and the way the teacher lived.
The life of a true disciple of Jesus means following Him. It means we will become more like Him. And Jesus’ life was one of grace, service, and ultimately, death. Jesus should be the passion of our life, because of the cross. If Jesus had such passion for God’s glory that He was willing to die on the cross, we should have such passion for Him that we are willing to live under the cross as one of His disciples.
Some people strive to get out from under the shadow of someone else to make the own way in life and live it to the full, but SHADOWING OUR SAVIOUR is never something we want to stop doing if we are to continue following Jesus, learning from Jesus and growing to be more like Him? Only by staying in His shadow will be able to bring others into the fold along the way, and live to the best of our own God given potential. Paul said to the Corinthian believers, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ?” This is the purpose for which you were created, to become a disciple of Jesus and then to become a disciple-maker for Jesus. Every day in every way I pray that 2018 will be a year for us when in SHADOWING OUR SAVIOUR we shine the light of His glorious gospel on all those who in some way shadow us.
Happy New Year.
Your Friend and Pastor
When you are a child Christmas appears to take FOREVER to arrive. We count it down by sleeps but it still takes its time. When you are a parent however Christmas can appear to take FOREVER to plan for, FOREVER to prepare for, and worst of all, FOREVER to pay for.
This year at Shirley Baptist however, we are contemplating the idea of FOREVER CHRISTMAS as we look past the present to the gift that guarantees the future. That is to say we want to own the truth that the best part of Christmas is not the presents we receive from one another which may last but a moment. Rather it is the gift of God’s presence with us that determines our eternal destiny.
To tie this all up in just one verse consider (Matthew 1:22). “All this (ALL WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MESSAGE AND MEANING OF CHRITMAS) took place to fulfil what the Lord had said (IN THE PAST) through the prophet. ‘The virgin will be with Child (IN THE PRESENT) and will give birth to a son (THE GIFT) and they will call Him Immanuel, which means God with us.’” A real guarantee of our FUTURE, because Immanuel does not mean “us with God.” It means “God with us.” And where will He be with us? In the eternal home He is preparing for us. That is why Jesus promised His disciples, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). That is just how much God wants to live with us.
There was an old gospel song that said, “This world is not our home.” And that’s true but it is not the full truth. It also needs saying that “This world, as it now is, under the curse, is not our home, but as it once was originally, and as it one day will be again delivered from the curse, will be our home.”
When we die we go to live in the Present Heaven with Christ and we will be full of joy for sure, but one day when Christ comes again and joins our eternal spirits to our resurrection bodies, we will reign with Him FOREVER on the New Earth.
The incarnation of Christmas isn’t temporary; it’s permanent. Christ rose in a glorified human body which He will have FOREVER. It’s not that Jesus became a baby at Christmas, and then 33 years later came the resurrection and ascension and then he suddenly stopped being a man. No, the second member of the triune God will be a human being for all eternity, reigning from a throne on the New Earth. FOREVER CHRISTMAS is telling us that the ultimate joy is not us going to live with God but God coming to live with us.
One thing I love about Christmas is relaxing and celebrating and laughing with my family. Heaven will be the best of Christmas every day. We’ll be able to relax and laugh and celebrate, with no tensions or arguments. No skeletons will fall out of our cupboards because Christ paid the ultimate price so that we would be FOREVER free from sin and the fear of sin. All barriers between us and Him will be FOREVER gone.
FOREVER CHRISTMAS means that God loving us, gave to us, His Son to be sin for us, so that we can live with Him and He with us FOREVER. And that’s the best Christmas present anyone could ever receive.
Happy Christmas to you all, and all glory to Immanuel, the God who is with us, and will be with us, this Christmas and FOREVER more.
You Friend and Pastor
I am flying off to the Ukraine this October and let’s face it news from there is seldom good, with the threat of Russian invasion imminent at least in the minds of the Ukrainians themselves. They are not the only ones feeling the pressure of impending doom. North Korea’s missile tests continue to threaten world peace whilst Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc among the Caribbean Islands and the Florida coastline. Mind you with Donald Trump in The White House the world should already be over according to those who prophesied it if he ever came to power.
We live, to say the least, in troubling times where one little spark could send things spinning out of control; our control anyway. So maybe it is time to turn off the news and turn to God’s Word? For we read in (Psalm 11:3) where David, the revered Jewish king, asked this question, “When the foundations are being destroyed what can the righteous do? A question we can easily echo with so many natural, moral, political and spiritual foundations being shaken today. But there is an answer and it is this says David (Psalm 11:4). “The Lord is in His temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne.” Now, if that doesn’t sound like much of an answer to you then understand that we are being told about the one unmoving anchor when everything else is up for grabs.
Things might be out of our control, but they are NEVER out of God’s control. Nations may fall. Evil men can plot and even succeed. The doctor may stun us with bad news. The finances may seem impossible. The funeral may seem like the end. Our family may look hopeless. But God has not vacated the throne from which the universe is governed. (Proverbs 19:21) reminds us that, “It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”
Do you recall your first time on a roller coaster? I was scared to death first time I went on one and was convinced I wouldn’t make my next birthday. I was being knocked about every which-way through bends and turns whilst defying gravity. It seemed like we were out of control, but NOT out of control, because the whole time that car was flying all over, it was attached to the tracks and headed for a safe destination.
Likewise, no matter how we feel and what is happening around us, know that “The Lord is in His temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne.” We are NOT at the mercy of a roller coaster world. We are loved by the God who rules the galaxies; whose plans can’t be derailed. Be NOT afraid for however wild the ride, things are still on track.
The Bible says that IN CHRIST we have been given the greatest insurance policy in the universe, for “NOTHING can separate from God’s love.” I may not know what is happening to you specifically but IN CHRIST we have un-lose-able source of security that is missile proof, invasion proof, divorce-proof, terror-proof, recession-proof, unemployment-proof and even death-proof. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The same one, who loved us enough to die for our sins and was powerful enough to walk out of His grave, is the one sure thing in a rapidly changing and deteriorating world. I don’t know what will happen whilst I am in the Ukraine but I do know I can trust the sovereign OVER ALL with it.
Your Friend and Pastor