According to a report I read over the summer something called SHRINKFLATION has been taking place in our shops almost undetected since 2012. The shocking scale of which has been revealed in that 2,529 products have fallen in size in just the last five years. Everything from toilet rolls to Mars Bars and the amount of tea in a tea bag has shrunk and done so surreptitiously by manufacturers and supermarkets who seldom announce these cuts in pack sizes, that without even noticing it, shoppers end up getting less for their money than they think. SHRINKFLATION however doesn’t just apply to big sellers like Crisps, chocolate bars and washing powder, sadly it now seems to be taking hold of the much needed gospel itself.
Before we get to that however let me say two important other things linked to this idea of SHRINKFLATION.
Firstly, the absence of the Shirley Baptist Magazine these last few months due to the editors’ house move has made me even more aware of just what a BIG job they do in helping to keep us all up to date with everything going on in our fellowship. I would want to personally thank them for all they do to protect any SHRINKFLATION of the much needed news and communications that keep us all in touch with one another and helps to fire our prayers.
Secondly, and as you all will know there has been no SHRINKFLATION of our vision here at Shirley either. Our new assistant pastor Paul Sutton arrives this month with his lovely wife Laura to help us expand our mission to know Jesus better and make Jesus better known by Serving Our Shirley through whole life discipleship. Please make them feel welcome and may there never be any SHRINKFLATION of our encouragement of them or our support for them.
Finally then to come back to the gospel itself, God forbid that we reduce the good news of Jesus to the level of saying only what we think people want us to say and sacrifice the truth for popular opinion. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God promised His people something new. At that time God’s commandments were written on tablets of stone; but one day they would be written on the hearts and minds of His children. At that time God’s Spirit was with His people; but one day He would be in His people. At that time sacrifices were offered over and over for sins; but one day there would be one sacrifice for all time. At that time God’s people placed their faith in a coming Messiah; but now our faith is in a risen and reigning Messiah.
Jesus, and the message He brought, was the fulfilment of thousands of years of prophecy. It was a promise kept to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. As Acts 10:36 says, “God’s message in Christ is the good news of peace.” Not peace between men, but peace with God and Peace with God can only come through Christ. There is no other way. SHRINKFLATION demands we cut back on that message and limit Christ to being nothing more than one of many good examples we can follow, but certainly not the only Saviour of mankind. How would Jesus have fared in this culture of “what’s true for you isn’t true for me?” It is common to talk about how loving Christ was of sinners. Of people who weren’t like Him, and He was, but as He said Himself, “No one could get to God except through Him.” The tension then between grace and truth is real and to be honest is hard to navigate. But whereas SHRINKFLATION would have us put our own need to be liked, ahead of sharing the most important truth on the planet. We must persevere, despite opposition that now attacks not only our beliefs, but also our character for believing the way we do, in boldly sharing the Gospel with grace, love, and kindness.
Let us not SHRINK from the challenge to be good news and share good news every day, everywhere and by all means in every situation we are in, offering our community nothing less than the full truth Christ paid the highest price to bless us with.
Think about that next time you measure your chocolate bar or replace your loo roll.
Your friend and pastor
This FEBRUARY the forecast is for snow! I don’t know if snow is a threat or promise to you but it was a miracle to Wendy Becker. She and her family were planning the funeral of her 29-year-old-son Matthew who was believed to have perished aboard a small plane that had crashed into a mountain side a few days earlier during the snows of Montana in Canada when news came through that he along with one other co worker had survived what rescue workers had described as “un-survivable”. They managed to trudge through the snow and the steep terrain from the crash site for 29 hours, often in subfreezing temperatures, until they reached a highway and flagged down a passing motorist. They called it ‘A Miracle in the Snow’ and although it happened over a decade ago now, it stirs me it terms of my own relationships to never to give up on those whose lives may have come crashing down in the snows of some subtle temptation they gave in to or an avalanche of testing that they failed to pass.
Many a parent with a child away from God has despaired of them ever coming out of the spiritual cold that they’ve chosen. They look at the emotional wreckage caused, the relational damage done, perhaps even the physical injuries inflicted, and cry for what they think is lost to them. But it’s always too soon to think it’s over.
This VALENTINES day I encourage you not to give up on those that you love if they are away from the Lord. Hope may sometimes be hard to hang onto, but we have the promise of God that “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6) Never feel that all those months and years of praying and weeping and sowing the seed of God’s Word into your loved one’s life will ever return un-harvested.
How God does it, when God does it, whether or not we may even be here to see it is totally in God’s hands, but we can be sure that the One who loved us and gave Himself for us is persistently and graciously pursuing that lost sheep we love.
As a pastor I can’t begin to tell you of those loved ones that my heart has ached for over the years and in certain cases still aches for. Those who had tasted the goodness of God but lost their way with Him through a careless word said, a bad decision made or an unbiblical bit of teaching taken to heart. I Thank God that most of them have gloriously come home to Jesus and now live for Him with the fervour of one who loves much because they’ve been forgiven much. Let us not plan the funeral of those who seemingly have lost their faith too soon then. Remember there is a difference between a chapter and a book. Those dark times in the life of that one we love are not the whole book; they’re a chapter, or even a series of chapters, but many a book with sad chapters has had a happy ending. Don’t judge the ending by the dark chapters in the middle of a book. Don’t decide the game is lost because your team is losing at halftime.
If we think it’s over, we may actually be contributing to their continued falling away! By resorting to nagging we will only drive them farther off track, It’s not that we need to compromise and accept what can never be acceptable to God, but by slowly giving up on our prayer of faith for them, or by just withdrawing from them when our unconditional love may actually be their best hope, we fail to love them as God has loved us. For when someone we love is the least loveable, they need our love the most. As long as there’s breath, there’s hope. It just isn’t over so long as they have breath to cry out to God for rescue. So keep on fighting for them in the Throne Room of Almighty God with a faith that defies the lie that it’s no use. Keep on loving them. Keep on gently sowing seed, as the Holy Spirit opens up a natural opportunity. Keep on asking God to make their way of life unsatisfying to them, telling the Lord to do whatever it takes, within His will, to bring them to home.
A Miracle In the Snow ought to remind us all this FEBRUARY that Jesus is still bringing back alive loved ones that had been spiritually given up for dead. This VALENTINES why don’t we do more than anonymously send a card to someone we want to love us and stay true to those who still need us practically, prayerfully and passionately to love them. Just a thought!
Your Friend and Pastor
I don’t know if a NEW YEAR delights you with all its natural promise of a fresh start, or defeats you with the speed in which heartfelt resolutions can be broken as OLD habits once again take hold and trump the desire to do better. In a boxing match of course, when a fighter is too beat up to continue, they always have the option of throwing in the towelContinue reading
NOVEMBER is remember month. First there is Guy Fawkes. “Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot!” Then six days later there is Armistice Day, when we wear our poppies and lay our wreaths “lest we forget” those who for our tomorrow gave their today. Some things we truly need to remember so we are not condemned to repeat the same mistakes of yesterday, but other things we would do well to forget in order to move on and make the most of today.Continue reading
According to the Daily Telegraph the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick rates very high as one of the ten worst days out in Britain. “It’s like OCTOBER, just too ordinary to be extraordinary in any way at all.” Clearly, here is one reviewer who doesn’t see the point in having a pencil museum! It’s biggest attraction is the World’s Longest Pencil coming in at 26 feet, which I think is pretty impressive but apparently it is so big it is useless because unless you have an equally enormous piece of paper and giant hands, you can’t even write with it, and even if you could, it would still be no good without an utterly massive desk to keep it in.
I don’t know about giant pencils but I have to say that I like the idea of something ordinary becoming extraordinary? Someone said, “The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary are the actions you decide to take.” And that is never more true than when we choose to put our ordinary lives into the hands of our most extraordinary God. Then, even when we are having to deal with difficult life issues, we might get to see that God not only works through miracles that are noticed by everyone, but that he also works much through the plain ordinary too. Indeed one might argue that God actually prefers to do His greatest works through the most unlikely people and unlikely tools. Being ordinary doesn’t disqualify us from God doing something very special through us. It actually qualifies you!
In (Exodus 3:1) God is preparing to do something that people will talk about throughout history – the miraculous rescue of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It’s amazing what and who He uses. The story begins: “Moses was tending the flock of…his father-in-law…, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and he came to Horeb, (that’s what we know as Mt. Sinai) the mountain of God.” Horeb is just another mountain among many in this desert region. But when God chooses to make it a part of His plan, it’s not just another mountain any more. It’s now a mountain of God. The Bible says it was, “…there the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.”
A bush which was doubtless one of the many countless bushes out there in the desert, but God chooses that bush to be the platform for His awesome announcement about Israel’s rescue. Later when Moses questions whether he’s up to the job God is calling him to, God asks him what is in his hand, and Moses says, “A staff.” When he obeys God’s command to throw that stick down, it miraculously turns into a snake and back into a stick. As the story starts, it’s called the rod of Moses. Verses later, it says Moses “took the staff of God in his hand.”
Get the picture? An ordinary mountain becomes the mountain of God. An ordinary bush becomes the voice of God. An ordinary stick becomes the rod of God, and an ordinary man becomes the rescuer of God. An ordinary people become the people of God. And, an ordinary you can become the instrument of God to help change the lives of people all around because it’s not about you. It’s about the awesome God who’s using you. He loves to use ordinary people because everyone knows it’s got to be God!
It won’t be our ordinariness that disqualifies us from being part of a great work for God. It will be our unwillingness, or our unavailability, or our succumbing to our fears. Don’t miss what God wants to do through you. He does His most amazing things through the most ordinary material! As the apostle says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” So whilst not many of us were wise by human standards or greatly influential, nonetheless God chose the likes of us to do His work so we wouldn’t boast.
The godliest people I know are also the most down-to-earth. God is looking for ordinary people to use. God is not limited in any way by our education, economic status, race or social standing. Those are artificial limitations that only matter to the world, not to the Lord. The moment we say, “Lord here am I, send me,” something amazing will start to happen in our life because God can do extraordinary things using ordinary people. Even this OCTOBER could be more fruitful than we imagine if we give it to the Lord and let him make his point through the often derided and seemingly insignificant pencil that is our life.
Your Friend and Pastor
What can learn from the Olympic participants and apply to our journey with God.Continue reading
As AUGUST arrives there is much in our trouble filled world that underlines the truth as someone once put it that “The only thing certain about life is its uncertainty.” In other words “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” There is nothing new about this, only that at present it seems we are vulnerable to many previously unexpected happenings like our almost total dependence on cyber technology without which we would be paralysed, and our interconnectedness with a ‘house of cards’ world economy, in which the hackers, identity thieves and terrorists are moving faster than the systems devised to stop them.
I take all this seriously but it reminds me a little of the resignation note the maid who worked for the late American poet and wit, Dorothy Parker wrote when she found an alligator in her bath. It said, “I cannot work in a house where there is an alligator in the bath. I would have mentioned this when I first took the job on but I didn’t think it would come up.” But things are coming up now that frighten some, cause others to become uneasy and make many more feel vulnerable. We shouldn’t make light of it, because these are genuine concerns, but let’s not forget that when we are looking out of a dirty window everything looks dirty. That is why as a follower of Jesus our prayer ought to be, “Lord, please help me to see what You see when You look at our world today.” To look at things through the window of His word, which makes the uncertain, certain. As the psalmist says “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne.” (Psalm 11:3-4) No Prime Minister, President or terrorist organisation will rule the future. The Lord of history “Who is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8) He writes our destiny. And to place our lives in those all-powerful hands means we can watch the ever-turbulent changing world situation and live with faith not fear knowing Our Father is in charge.
God has long predicted in the Bible there would be a time when “evil men…will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13). When, “there will be terrible times” (2 Timothy 3:1), and “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Jesus called it “the last days.” So for those of us who belong to King Jesus, it’s a time to charge, not to retreat. To live like heaven is home and earth is just our hotel. To pour our lives and resources into what will matter forever, not just for a fleeting moment. Like helping the people around us and knowing that whatever our situation, Jesus has put us there ON THE FRONTLINE to represent Him so we can bring His best to those who live uncertain in uncertain times. We don’t need to worry but we do need to care.
I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers of COMMUNICARE for the last 25 years of active service in Jesus name and remind us all that an uncertain world leaves in its wake a multitude of bleeding people and needy people and Jesus still says how we treat “the least of these” is how we’re treating Him. So even though we are in the holiday season, let’s be certain in all the uncertainty around us that whilst we can’t fix the world, we can let what breaks God’s heart break our heart enough to bear the burdens of a hurting world and help to bring them hope. Not sit back and do nothing. Have a good summer BREAK but never break from doing what Jesus would have you to do.
Your friend and Pastor
I know that everyone in the world thinks I exaggerate too much, but as this July is my 35th wedding anniversary, I couldn’t let the occasion go by without letting the world know just how good those 35 years have been and how blessed my wife is to have me!!
Anniversaries are good because they take us back to where we started. And though our wedding was pre video so I can’t get depressed watching how young I once was, now and again I go back and ponder what I promised this wonderful woman who was in essence, trusting me with her life on July 11th 1981. I know there are areas I need reminding of in order to make right what I’ve not always lived up to. She knows it even more!
To stop the world for a little while and go back to where it all started, is not just good for couples, but even more so for those of us who belong to Jesus Christ. In (Matthew 28:10) just after Jesus has just blasted out of His grave on Easter morning, He has a message for His disciples: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; THERE they will see ME.” Why this trip back to Galilee to be with Jesus? They were in Jerusalem at the time. That’s a long 90-mile walk from Galilee, but Jesus would send them back to Jerusalem to start their mission. “To go make DISCIPLES of ALL Nations…” So what’s the reason for going back to Galilee? I believe it was because that’s where it all began. That’s where they met Christ and abandoned everything to follow Him. That’s where they needed to go after all the battles, the failures, the mountains, and the valleys they had experienced since they met Jesus and before He launched them with “All authority in heaven and on earth…” to go and do it. Go make a difference. Go change lives. Go be all that I called you to be and the means by which I am still calling others.
Maybe Jesus is asking us to go back to our Galilee? To remember the wonder of what He did to rescue us? To think again on those things about Him that captured our heart then? The time we surrendered fully to His purposes for our life. When you couldn’t keep us from church and any chance we had to serve was grabbed like it was the last dessert in a buffet. Sadly, all of that does tend to get obscured by all the baggage we’ve acquired, responsibilities, disappointments and disillusionment. But Jesus is saying, “Come back with Me to where we started, so you can remember again just who I am, who you are, and just what I’ve created you to do.” Let’s remember the excitement, the joy, the hope and the reason for why we came to Him in the first place.
When we started, following Christ was pretty simple, right? Wherever He was going, we were too. But now with all the other voices in our life; the extra risk of being distracted; the scars caused by insensitive words or hurtful action it can be easy to take our eyes off Him and wander away. That is why He wants us to go back to that point where we sensed things that He was calling us to do. It’s still His calling on our life, like me being faithful to my wife is, no matter what has happened since the day that vow was taken. There was probably a time and a place where we totally surrendered to Jesus with no strings attached. We didn’t care where that commitment took us and what sacrifices would be required. We were all His for whatever He wanted us to be and do. Maybe that unconditional surrender has become a conditional surrender, encumbered by our position, our possessions, our convenience, our comfort, a lot of stuff? Well, just as my wedding anniversary calls me back to renew my heart, my love and my vows to Kathie, so too perhaps today Jesus is calling us back to that original surrender where it all began with Him.
Maybe it is time to go back to our Galilee? To rekindle our first love and remember that it’s still all about Jesus. Like His first disciples He wants to bring us back to where it all started so He can take our life where it’s never gone before!
Happy anniversary to my dear wife and whilst I pray that in being stirred afresh to stay on track in my own marriage after 35 wonderfully happy years together, we all might be reminded to stay true to Jesus, looking back to what was in order to look forward to what is yet to come. In the words of the apostle Paul, “To press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)
Your Friend and Pastor
This month sees the much talked about and debated referendum on Europe. Shall we go or shall we stay? Will we remain in or remove ourselves out of it? So much seems up for grabs in this turbulent debate and these troubled times, but ONE thing isn’t; the fact that God is still in charge.Continue reading
Most golfers who play forest courses around the south coast are normally reminded that May is the month in which the Adder, the only venomous snake native to Britain, having come out of hibernation and looking to mate is probably more aggressive than it normally would be at any other time outside of being trodden on…..Continue reading