Friday, 4 January 2019

A HAPPY NEW YEAR

https://unsplash.com/search/photos/fireworks?modal=%7B%22userId%22%3A%22QWFJlWwPh-w%22%2C%22tag%22%3A%22CreditBadge%22%7D
What can I share from my many years of experience that might be of encouragement to you as we face this New Year? For yes, there are still giants in the land who might fill us with fear. Maybe not Philistines, or Jebusites, but there might be other sorts of  ‘-Ites’ we have to face.
My memory takes me back to 1957. I was 36 years old, but I had never lived away from home, nor experienced much by way of adventure, but here I found myself in Australia en route to the remote Highlands of New Guinea. My initial courage had forsaken me, and I felt terrified by the vast distances around me, and still to be travelled. It was then that, unexpectantly, God spoke to me.
‘I know that you face vast distances, but I am pledged to come with you.’  God went on to speak the promise that still fills me with hope and joy. It was this:-
‘You will be able to turn, readily and easily to me at all times as to a friend who is alongside.’
Yes, it is in the Bible. You will find it in Hebrews 12: 5,6, but if you will close the door and speak to God you will find that he will answer you and you will know this is a personal promise for you too.
It is more than fifty years since God gave me that promise, but today it is as precious as ever. No more ‘vast distances’ before me, but the threat of failing health and loneliness, or other whispers from our adversary might cause me to fear. But no, for God is with me.
I don’t bother any more with Watch Night services or New Year’s resolutions.  For years I resolved to get up early and have my quiet time and year after year I had failed in the first week, but now I have an inbuilt clock that wakes me soon after six,  a pastoral team that have set us on a course of journaling our encounter with God through the Bible, and always that ‘Friend alongside’ to respond to my cry and fill my cup with blessings and anoint my head with oil.
Days may yet come when I am unable to rise early or even read or write, but our risen Lord will always be there for me, and for you too. Nothing can separate us from his love. May we all experience a blessed New Year.
  


Friday, 21 December 2018

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS


My friends were concerned when I admitted that I no longer had a Christmas tree to decorate my home. Well, I am alone now and do little in the way of entertaining, so what is the point?
Wonderful, caring friends! Father Christmas, looking strangely like one of our churchfamily, arrived with a miniature tree, and set it up for me, complete with a star and other decorations. It looked lovely, but wait. He had not finished. The best was to come. He now showed me how to operate the battery so that it became adorned with tiny lights.
So now, not only do I have my candle bridge standing on one window sill, but my little tree on the other, both  gleaming brightly into the darkness. Each evening as night closes in they shine out into the night.
I hope my neighbours are reminded that Christmas is very special because it is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the world, and the Light of Life.
25th December. Christmas Day! It may not be the actual date of Jesus’ birth, for shepherds might not have been out in the fields in the depth of winter; and if the Wise men began their journey when the star first appeared, they  could hardly have arrived to find him still in the manger. Those who nit-pick about such details, perhaps miss out on the joy of knowing that the shepherds did hear the angels message and find the holy child, and that the wise men did indeed bring their gifts and worship him?
<a style="background-color:black;color:white;text-decoration:none;padding:4px 6px;font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;San Francisco&quot;, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Helvetica, Ubuntu, Roboto, Noto, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Arial, sans-serif;font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.2;display:inline-block;border-radius:3px" href="https://unsplash.com/@joshboot?utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=photographer-credit&amp;utm_content=creditBadge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" title="Download free do whatever you want high-resolution photos from Josh Boot"><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px"><svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" style="height:12px;width:auto;position:relative;vertical-align:middle;top:-2px;fill:white" viewBox="0 0 32 32"><title>unsplash-logo</title><path d="M10 9V0h12v9H10zm12 5h10v18H0V14h10v9h12v-9z"></path></svg></span><span style="display:inline-block;padding:2px 3px">Josh Boot</span></a>
We may not know the actual date of Jesus’ birthday, but let us not miss out on the glory of the message with concern over accurate details. We too can rejoice with the shepherds and share the awe and worship of the wise men and if we do this by sending cards,  giving gifts, or by putting up our decorations  and trees and candles, most of all may we, in  whatever way we are able,  let the light shine out from our hearts and homes.
            ‘Oh, come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.’


Monday, 26 November 2018

TEMPTATION


‘Lead us not into temptation.’ We are taught to pray this, aren’t we, when we say the Lord’s prayer? (Matthew 6:13)
Yet I recently heard a message concerning Jesus himself being led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.
 I have reason to thank God for that message.
 I’ll begin by explaining that I might well be called a technophobe.
At the age of fifty I married a man, even older than myself, who loved technology and wanted the latest of everything. How thankful I am now that he lovingly and patiently taught me to become friends with my computer.
I had just learned how to open emails, and also how to cope with debit cards when he was called home to heaven.
God, who has promised to be a husband to the widow, has always provided ‘very present help’ though I have had to learn the hard way that sometimes I must ask.
Recently I had a problem with my credit/debit cards. I thought it had been sorted, but when I took friends out for a meal I found my card was still rejected. What was happening? Was my mind going, that I could no longer remember my numbers?
I should have phoned a friend, even if all they could have done was to say a comforting ‘Aah,’ but a voice whispered, ‘Don’t disturb them now.’ 
I tossed and turned in bed, assailed by wrong and evil thoughts. I would go to the doctor and ask if I needed to be tested for Alzheimer's, imagining I would become an even heavier burden to my friends, but it was when I thought of jumping off a cliff that I realised from where these troubled thoughts were coming.
How grateful I am for the message I had heard concerning the temptations of Christ, how he was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.  In the light of day I realised that the Holy Spirit had allowed me too to be tempted.  I realised too that even if I some form of dementia, that I need not fear, for I had seen my sister and also my dearest friend pass this way, and in it all Jesus had never left them..  As to jumping off a cliff – I used to have a persistent nightmare of falling over a cliff, but the Lord had wonderfully delivered me, enabling and preparing me to climb mountains when I went to New Guinea. I certainly would never consider jumping
So, the Devil, as with Jesus, has left me for a season. If or when he returns, I trust I will be ready to route him, as Jesus did, with the word of God. Even as now I am speaking out this verse,
‘God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ 2 Tim.2:7
And I pray God will help us  not always to struggle to be independent, but to learn to ask for help when we need it, for he has set us in families who are more than willing to give of their time, skills or strength, or sometimes just sympathy. And maybe you too need to remember, as I do, that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.


Friday, 28 September 2018

BAPTISM


The sun was shining, despite the weather forecast, as people began to pour out of Hope Chapel and make their  way  down Beach Road.lWhat began as a trickle turned into a river of people, who soon flowed out over the sands until eventually reaching the receding shore line.
An extra crowd had gathered with us in the chapel that morning because they knew that a very special young lady was to give her testimony before being baptised. It was she who had insisted that it was to be in the sea, and had boldly invited so many of her family and friends.
We had reached the shore line, - yes, me too, with a lot of help from my friends,- just as the tide was on the turn. There was a hasty shuffling back from the now gently incoming waves, but our eyes were on our heroine as, accompanied by our Pastor and his wife, she was stepping boldly into the waves.
No, we could not hear the pastor’s prayer or declaration, but we saw her well and truly dunked and yes, raised up again, - that was the important part.
But we had heard our heroine tell us her story, before Tom preached his sermon explaining the significance of the ordinance of baptism.
The youngest of a Christian family, and the only girl, she had risen from Bubbles to Kids Club, to Explode for the teen agers and now had become a helper. A loving carer of old and young alike, surely she of all people was  a Christian?
Yes, brought up in a  Christian family, as a little child, as much as she understood of the Lord Jesus, she had loved him. But now she was about to step out into the big wide world, and she needed a faith that was her own, to know that she had a Saviour who forgave her sins and who would never led her go. Out of her struggles she had found peace.
She was ready to demonstrate to the world her complete faith and trust in her Saviour. As she allowed Tom and Laura to hold her beneath the waves and then to raise her up again, even so she was yielding her life to God and trusting him completely for her future.
How very different was her experience of baptism from mine. In       my teens I too had been baptised my immersion. We had gone to an ornate Baptist church and been allowed to use their snow white robes as well as their baptistry. It was certainly an awesome l occasion Yes, but joyful? No.
You see, I had never been taught that I was a sinner and that Jesus had died as my Saviour. I had been taught to be baptised to show that I was consecrating my life to God.
But God is merciful. He knew that as far as I knew him I loved him and wanted to serve him. It was when Billy Graham first came too UK that I understood that I was a sheep who had been going its own way, and that if no one else had sinned, that Jesus would have needed to die on the cross that I might be saved. Now he was giving me power to live a Christian life.
So did I need to be baptised again? I had not thought so, but I did need to learn to yield myself to God, as this young woman had symbolically yielded her life as she placed herself there in the ocean, waiting to be plunged into the waves.
Later I believed God was calling me to go abroad as a missionary. I was praying, even fasting, asking God to show me where he wanted me to go. He answered me, telling me that it was not about people or places, but he wanted me to know a ‘joyful abandonment to my God.’
Yes, our candidate’s joyful abandonment is a life time commitment, and I know that as I eventually arrived in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, having had no sense of call to that particular place, that almost immediately I felt I had come home and came to realise that he was giving me the desires of my heart.
In every change of circumstance I have had the same experience. And I know that she too, and all who joyfully seek to follow the Lord, will also find that God is giving them his very best.
God wants each one of us to find his very best for our lives, to yield ourselves to him in every situation, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and he will direct your paths.’


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

THE UPPER ROOM


I wonder what comes to our minds when we mention ‘the Upper Room’? There is a story in the Old Testament about an upper room that a woman had built onto her house where the prophet might stay. It was there that she took the dead body of her beloved child, and her faith was honoured. But probably most of us think of the Upper Room as the place where the disciples were sent to prepare for Jesus, so that he might gather with his disciples to eat that special Passover meal before he, as God’s Passover Lamb, was slain for us. And was this the very same room where the disciples who had gathered around our Lord in Galilee and who, having seen him ascend into heaven, had now gathered together at Jesus’ command to wait for the promise of the Father?
We don’t know whether it was the same upper room or not, but I do know that when I inherited my husband’s upstairs room which had been his study, commanding a view over the rooftops to the hills in the distance, it became to me a very special place.
But when eventually I had to leave our well-loved family home and knew God had led me to this my top floor apartment which immediately became my ‘Eagle’s Nest’ I knew that this was to be for me a place where I would know God’s presence and blessing in a very special way.
But there is another ‘Upper Room’ which is also a special blessing in my life and which I would like to share with you.
I don’t remember how long ago it was, and who it was who introduced me to this blessing, but some
dear friend had placed this small booklet of daily devotional reading, ‘the Upper Room’ into my hands.
When I was first married, the church we attended all began our days with ‘Every Day with Jesus,’ but, after I was widowed, ‘Daily Bread’, ‘Daily Light’ and especially ‘The Upper Room’ became part of my pre-breakfast diet. The Upper Room is particularly special in my life, because those who contribute are not necessarily well known writers but people who bring us thoughts out of every day experiences and who come from far flung places all over the world.
It has become a special blessing in my life not just because of the messages that it brings but because it also welcomes new writers. Called by God to write, it has been a joy to write of special happenings – God incidents, from my own life.
Having received my next issue, I began to thumb through, to see if maybe there might be one of my contributions, but then I closed it, telling myself there was no way I would be there if I had not been informed. But, just a few days later I turned the page to read this my story of the lonely lamb who had somehow wandered away from the flock. As our bus drove on we had been so comforted to catch a glimpse of the shepherd in the distance, a new born lamb already on his shoulder, aware of the need of this wayward one. Yes, it had been a special incident on our holiday and such a privilege to share it, and to have it accepted for the Upper room. But perhaps the greatest thrill for me was to write out another God incident in my life and email it to our UK Editor, and receive an immediate  reply saying how it had spoken into her life just when she had needed it.
Which reminds me of something God had told me many years ago, that it is not what we do but where he takes it to that matters.
So to you writers, or would be writers, I recommend The Upper Room, and to those who are in need of a gentle read first thing in the morning or before you tumble into bed I recommend it too.
BRF, 15 The chambers, Vineyard, Abingdon OX14 3FE
Biblereadingnotes.org.uk/subscriptions

Monday, 13 August 2018

JOURNALING

Journaling was something I loved to do. Living alone in a strange land, I wrote happily of my journey to the uttermost parts of the earth and my many strange experiences among the recently stone age people of the Highlands of New Guinea. My journal, sent home in weekly instalments, became my companion.
Now living a more mundane life, though there are always adventures as we walk with God, I still like to keep a diary, but now only a five year one in which I can jot down some reminders of my busy, or not so busy days.
But now I have been persuaded to purchase a proper journal, beautifully hard bound, with two pages to fill for each day. What joy it would be to fill it. So I thought.
But I had a problem. With arthritis in my neck, it was much easier for me to write on the computer. And another problem too: after a poor night’s sleep I often struggle to keep awake in the day.
I tried to persevere with the long readings, one from the OT and one from the NT but, ignoring the little squares to be filled in on one page, I sometimes managed to write a few lines on the other. But do not fear, Pauline. Help is at hand.
God had previously sent help when ‘Grace’ community church was first planted through ‘Search the Scriptures.’
So why did we now need this new method? Well, this is the  Community Bible Reading Journal. The idea is that we do it together. Getting into groups, each day, hopefully, we record the nuggets we have discovered from God’s word and share them by texting to each in our groups by means of some special app. No, not all we have written but just one concise sentence encapsulating the lesson God has been speaking to us through our New Testament passage. I think we all felt this was plenty for starters anyway.

But there was yet another difficulty for me. Pauline does not sport an i-phone and, nearer ninety than eighty, isn’t willing to cope with any more technology in her life. Any chance of her joining a group  willing to use the old fashioned means of email? Watch this space.
I was not the only one who had been struggling with our new journal when Tedrick and his wife Tricia from USA came to our rescue.
We had already agreed that we should concentrate on the New Testament reading for starters. Now, we were shown the worth of the little boxes on the first of the two pages. Working in twos or threes, we were shown the purpose of each little box. Taking Psalm 23 as our example, first, we realised the need to surrender through prayer, then, based on the words of this wonderful psalm, we wrote a few thoughts under the headings of a)Adoration, b) Confession, c)Thanksgiving and d) Supplication.
Now for the community part. The idea is that we each fill in where it says ‘How has God impacted you the most through   today’s passage?’  No, we do not have to write an essay, but just a few concise words to share with our special group, by means of i-phone or whatever. It may here this same passage referred to throughout the day, maybe in our prayer meeting or perhaps our Re-Vive group in the evening.  As we seek to dwell in the word we will find, as David did, that God does indeed ‘prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies’ and that he is anointing our heads with oil and that our cups are running over. So – don’t let’s give up on journaling.


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

THE AMERICANS ARE COMING!


And yes, once again we  had our annual visit of Americans who came to the Bridgend district. Pastor Mark Fenn, Global Ministries Pastor of First West Baptist church, who was our preacher at ‘Grace’,on the last day of their visit, was quick to assure us that there is a big difference between being American or, as they are, from Louisiana.
For more than ten years their visit to the churches of Bridgend has been a highlight of our year. It came about out of tragedy. There was a terrible time when suicide among the young seemed to be sweeping through our district, until the news was reaching world wide.
Far away in Louisiana God placed a burden for us on the members of this flourishing church. In response to their offer of help, the young pastor and his wife from the Vine Christian Fellowship went out to see how they might be used of God to help us.
It was agreed that a party of them might come over, entirely at their own expense, to minister wherever doors were opened for them. It was a joy for the local evangelical churches who united not only to feed them, provide transport, but also, for those who were able, to don their distinctive red tee-shirts and join them in their visits to many of our schools and old people’s homes. We were welcomed in many places, but the high light of their ministry was through their musical skills.
Their own churches are overflowing with professional musicians, and many of these were so happy to come and share their gifts, while the schools visits made the opportunity to invite the young people to a great concert at the Pavilion which included, in all the entertainment, a clear presentation of the Gospel. Year by year these events have been packed out and seemed to cause a great response.
Later they have also included a concert geared more specifically for an older generation, ‘Sounds of the South’. This too was very popular and provided an outreach for those who might not be attracted into a church but who also so need to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel.
The Ladies outreach at the Vine is always a high light for me. In more of a party atmosphere there were some wonderful testimonies and other contributions, from both sides of the Pond.
These have been years of sowing. We have not seen the hundreds of children who flocked forward as yet filling our churches, but we press on in faith and our wonderful friends from Louisiana continue to come. Our trust is in our great God who gives us the seed of his Word to broadcast, and who promised that ‘all by itself’ it would bring forth fruit.