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. 


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

GRACE CHURCH’S GREAT ESCAPE

For just one Sunday in each year since way back, was it  in 2,005? the intrepid Ross and Ann have organised an Away Weekend. For this  Sunday in the year the doors of our chapel remain closed.
Not only finding a suitable venue but taking on the catering in order the keep the expenses down, it has been a huge commitment, but one that has proved to be very worthwhile.
Last year we were more than satisfied with the accommodation at the Poplars,  once a fruit farm but, pushed into diversification, is still being farmed,  but also producing spiritual fruit, through providing facilities for Christian camping.
How can I, in the few lines of my blog, share with you something of yet another wonderful ‘Away Weekend’?
The date was booked, ample provision for maybe a hundred, for we had been over eighty last year. But first one family, another and then others told us that they already had commitments. Oh dear! But instead of giving up, discouraged, they steadily proceeded to plan.
I had been struggling with some viral infection, but was lovingly persuaded to come, and doubtless it was the same loving family ministry that brought so many of us together. When we counted up, in spite of absentees, we were nearer 90 this year.
What can I bring as my impression of the weekend? I can only describe it as SUN SOAKED. Yes, in spite of the calendar, Spring had shown no inclination to come until – yes. Warm, wonderful sunshine, especially for us?
But we were not just blessed by the natural sunshine. We were basking in the presence of  God. We could also say we were SON SOAKED.
One of the blessings of ‘Grace’ is happy children. On being informed that they could not attend this year for the exciting reason that they were having a very special holiday to New Zealand, one little boy burst into tears. ‘But I look forward to this all year.’
Not only was there lots of opportunities for fun and games, and a kitchen, which seemed to have a non-stop supply of snacks as well nourishing meals, there was also food for our souls. Some of our one time youth had returned to take some sessions with the children, thus giving our usual teachers a break. A big big thank you to you too.
And of course spiritual food for us adults was a priority, though physical needs were met too. While some laboured cheerfully on kitchen duty, taking their turn at serving, you would often find groups lingering in the dining room and you knew that meaningful relationships were being formed. And for those let off heavy duties there was a wonderful lounge, full of old fashioned and well worn settees where we had opportunities to share and get to know each other.
 We held our services over in what was once the packing shed, now turned into the sanctuary, where we gathered  to hear from God even as we brought our worship. I am not going to attempt to bring you a synopsis of Tom’s ministry, as you can find it recorded on our website (if you are cleverer than I am), but when he introduced his subject I knew God had seen my need and was here to meet with me, for he spoke of the wonder of knowing God’s presence, and of the importance of always seeking, knowing more and ever being surprised by him. 
Our prayer meetings following breakfast were well attended, with grateful parents, now child-free. I think one prayer highlighted for me the ministry of the weekend. Tom has told us the story of how Moses had pleaded with God that he would not send them any further without God himself going with them. As one brother prayed, we felt he had  been there amongst those watchers, perhaps envying the faithful Joshua, and we realised that for him too this was the greatest need of his life. 
As ever, we had our ‘Grace has got talent’ which produced much hilarity, but there were moving moments too, and we had some precious times of joyful worship. Tom had been teaching us of God’s prodigality in giving, and how he wants us to ask and receive, and now we were encouraged to give back to God of the precious gifts he had been giving us.
So what of little Arthur, who had been looking forward all year to our Away Weekend? I am sure that their special holiday in New Zealand more than made up for it. But I am sure too that we could do well to look forward all year to our next special Weekend Away.
But what about our intrepid Ross and Ann? God is no man’s debtor, they say. I’m sure this is true, for their hearts were overflowing when they told us how one of our own Kids Club had come home to ask, ‘How can I know that Jesus is my own Saviour?’ What a reward for his parents, and also for the young people who had so willingly given up of their holiday time to come, not just to have fun with the kids and to keep them occupied, but to teach them from God’s word of his wonderful love.

Friday, 11 May 2018

SEND THE RAIN


I wrote in my last blog about the terrible drought in South Africa. Would God hear and answer the cries of his people? And what were the chances of me even hearing about it?
The God who had wakened me in the small hours to turn on my radio to hear of the drought, now made sure that I was tuned into The Bible Network (Freeview 65) when Angus Buchan was giving his report of God’s wonderful answer to prayer.
Yes, the people had gathered in their thousands to pray, and yes, they had responded to God’s call to repentance. He had challenged the gang leaders to surrender and they came and laid down their weapons as they turned to Christ.
Then we saw pictures of the deluge that fell as the drought was at last broken. Halelujah!
Maybe you have seen the film, ‘Faith like Potatoes’? It is the story of the conversion of Angus Buchan, as a young SA farmer, and how he dared to believe God and answer his call. It is well worth seeing.
But what of us? We may have water in our pipes, but surely we have a terrible spiritual drought in our nation. Where is a man whose faith is great enough to dare to call us back to God?
God had his Peter, and Paul in the early days of the church, but he had many other faithful men and women who were fellow labourers. Elijah had thought he was the only one, but God assured him  that he yet had 7,000 who were true to him. God does raise up great leaders, but they would not be great if there were no faithful followers.
I have never been a good runner. My one aim in a race was not to be last. It was so humiliating, when leaders were choosing people to be in their team, to be either left out or taken unwillingly as a last resource. But there is no such humiliation in Christ. He said, ‘you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ He delights in each one of us.
Yes, there was a day when I made a decision, as I thought, to follow Jesus, but it was he who had first called and drew me. Now he is assuring me, and wants to assure you too, that we are called and chosen, specially selected to be in his team and so happy to have  us. And now, together with him, nothing is impossible.
So let us pray for God to call us as a nation back to him, and believe that he will pour out water on our thirsty land. We don’t have to worry any more about being first, or not being last. It is enough to know that we are on God’s side and he has chosen us.


Monday, 16 April 2018

THIRST


The tiger was thirsty. There was no doubt of that. Bas, our wildlife artist, had captured this magnificent creature, his tongue stretched out, about to slake his thirst.
As I was looking for a suitable card to send to friends, dealing with a long spell of ill health, where it seems the doctors can find no solution, I felt maybe this copy of a wonderful painting, might meet a need.
The Apostle John prayed for his friends, that they might ‘prosper and be in health,’ as their souls prospered.
Somehow thirst and health go together. While my husband and I waited expectantly for him to recover from the viral infection that had laid us both low, I could not get him to drink. Looking back, it seems as if his body knew that his time here on earth was drawing to a close, so it refused the life giving sustenance.
I had to go to Africa to learn to enjoy water; yes, life giving, unadulterated water. I was not interested in tea, iced or not, or pop. If I was thirsty, I wanted water, and I still prefer cold water to drink.
While climbing a mountain in Papua New Guinea, my guide pointed out some green leaves that indicated a source of good drinking water pouring into the river. And sometimes, spiritually, we need to be directed to where we will find water. We also need to be planted beside God’s rivers so that our roots are actually in the river. Then we will never be affected by times of drought. Best of all, we can drink of that living water that springs up in the inner beings of those who believe in Jesus, so that we will never, ever thirst again.
Was it a sleepless night, or was it the Holy Spirit who prompted me to switch on the radio in the small hours of the morning? I was horrified to hear of the drought in Cape Town; of how, after five years without rain, and many warnings and pleas for economy, the water supply has had to be switched off and the residents are having to queue at the stand pipes with their buckets and bottles.
I recalled the misery of having our supply cut off, though I don’t think it was caused by drought but because they had run out of chemicals to ensure the safety of the town supply. On rare occasions of need in New Guinea we could resort to the river, but here in Ghana I was warned I must on no account use river water, even for washing clothes, as it might cause river blindness.
My heart goes out to the people of South Africa, but recently I heard Angus Buchan, the South African farmer, but also Evangelist. He believes this is all in the purposes of God, for he had already booked an area, the size of several football fields, to hold a rally calling the people back to God.
When he heard the supplies had been switched off, he said something to the effect that when they   want the cattle to gather together, they cut off their water supplies. Surely God is now calling his people to turn to him in repentance.
Yes, we need to pray for the suffering people on the African continent.
And what is it going to take to turn us as a nation back to God? But meanwhile, may we learn to drink deeply of the water that Jesus came to bring us, to make sure that we are planted by the river of God; and that there is no hindrance in our own lives but that always that well of living water will be springing up in us.
‘Drink deeply of the fountain of salvation.’