Be Encouraged in Crisis
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis we are sending out encouragement via email to our congregation.
Good Morning Church!!
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matt 5:43-48
At first glance the verse I have highlighted can seem so insurmountable that we just breeze over it. After all, how can we be perfect? For some of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day it meant strenuously holding to their interpretation of the law in an attempt to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. However, their lack of understanding is seen in how many avoided and looked down on gentiles and Samaritans and assumed others were ill because of sin or the sin of their parents.
Trying to be perfect often degenerates into becoming legalistic and bigoted and separates people. It can easily become the excuse for not mixing and forgets that Jesus came for you and I and that we were nothing like Him!
In scripture the word ‘perfect’ means to be complete and in Judaism referred to a learned person. Taking this into consideration and looking at the context we see that Jesus is instructing His disciples to have understanding concerning the Kingdom of God which is inclusive and not exclusive.
Jesus entered a world of social exclusion with a ministry of social inclusion despite being the most offended person who has ever walked in history. All were welcome and Jesus often sat and ate with men and women from incredibly diverse backgrounds whom others did their best to avoid. In seeing the way Jesus lived and how He reached out to all we see the prophetic in action and a foretaste of the world to come, a world with no oppression and no oppressed, where people support rather than ignore and where agape love is experienced at every level.
You and I are nothing like God, yet He still came for us even though many others would have turned away and even though He was fully aware of the number of times we would let Him down, He still came. We understand His love, grace, mercy and compassion and in understanding this and reaching out to others in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we are fulfilling what it means when Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Be encouraged.
The following is the testimony of a Jewish professional man and how he found Jesus – or rather how Jesus found him!
Thank you to every one who is sharing what has been happening with them...
Thank you Robin for sharing your encouraging devotional which I have attached.
Bonnie has asked for prayer for a young Christian called Corrie who was just so excited to see what the church is doing with Christ as a foundation and felt like he was meant to meet with Bonnie and Jerry on that day.
Jem and Pete
Good morning Church,
King David had a fascinating and tumultuous life even by biblical standards
The youngest son with few prospects, a shepherd boy living in wild places, a musician and poet elevated to the king’s armour bearer, an unexpected hero, a commander, son in law to the king, best friend of the prince. A criminal, outlaw, mercenary. A victorious general, King , ruler of the state, one who dances for God, temple planner, the one who is promised an eternal kingly line. An adulterer, murderer, sinner, a mourning father. Father of a fratricidal son, a refugee fleeing from his own son’s plot. A mourning father. One who unites peoples. A victim of a second usurpation from a different son. A dying man with regrets.
David the poet king who loved God described as 'a man after Gods own heart' wrote many of the Psalms that people cling to for hope. When you realise the depths of the lows and highs of this man you realise this is not a poet offering platitudes from an ivory tower. This is someone with a hard life who did terrible things and had terrible things done to him. Someone who had lived most of his life on a razors edge, a fragile existence yet watched over and protected. This man is the author of many hope songs that bring hope to me and I can to you.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”…
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
I have discovered two albums by group called Shane and Shane; Psalm I and Psalm II they are a retelling of many of these hope songs in contemporary music. I love this album and use it to reflect regularly I share with you a few songs from it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOzf0VrDNGU Psalm 34
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9JfJw6Wf-4 Psalm 91
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoojA0cLPWY Psalm 23
Pete and Jem
Good morning to all my dear brothers and sisters. It Ann and Jem here, I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you from God’s Word.
Proverbs 3:6 is such an important guidepost for our lives. When the world overwhelms us and pulls our thinking in so many different directions our Father says: -
“Acknowledge me in all your ways and I will make your paths straight.”
When the pressures and uncertainties of life fill our minds and hearts with restlessness and confusion our Father says: -
“Acknowledge me in all your ways and I will make your paths straight.”
We are God’s children. You wouldn’t expect a child to go off alone without the parents and walk through life unaided and God doesn’t want us to struggle on our own, left to our own devices. He wants to walk with us every step of the way and sometimes, when the need is great, He will carry us. Proverbs 3:26 says, “The Lord will be the source of your confidence.”
When I feel unsure about life and all its twists and turns I know my Father is beside me and He is my confidence.
I love the song, “I need thee, O I need thee, every hour I need thee,” because it expresses how much we need to depend upon God, the one who gives us everything we need for every situation.
Praise His name! In an ever-changing world His love and faithfulness always remain the same.God bless you all. Ann. T
“Lord I need you” – Chris Tomlin: -
Here is a song that has been encouraging Anne Plaskett:
Passion – God You’re So Good.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMji7TypHOI
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Col 3:12-14
In reading scripture, I find that I, a rebel, and disturber of peace in God’s world, am loved and although I often used His world as a playground for my amusement, I have always been of great concern to Him. When I really look at God, I find that the love of the One who is so holy that I couldn’t stand in His presence in my own merits, has always been there for me because the unseen cross - that incredible supreme sacrifice made by the perfect One – was already in the heart of God from the beginning of time as angels looked on in amazement at the creation of a world - the world where I live. I also see that the One present at creation and at Calvary will be there at the end and recognise that the Holy Spirit is here with me right now. And as He reveals Himself to me through His word and leads me by the Spirit, I begin to realise yet again that this amazing person is not some sort of imposition on my life, or a curtailer of true freedom. Instead, He is at the very heart of life because He is life: He is the Holy One who loves me.
As Christians we are called to love those around us and to be compassionate, considerate, and caring regardless of who they are or what they believe. In doing so we come alongside others as Jesus came alongside us and we reach out in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than standing like a journalist at a distance and pointing out everyone’s faults.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thess 5:11
Please listen to the following song and remember all God has done for you and ask Him to help you pray for others and encourage them. The song really expresses the heart of the one singing it, and its infectious, a real encouragement.
Good afternoon Church!
It is Pete and Rosie here today for your dose of encouragement.
Do you realise how amazing your faith is, Abraham was promised that through him all the world will be blessed and that is exactly what we see in the global church. A global family, utterly different yet united in Christ.
Ephesians 2:17-22 says
'He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit'
Here Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus; to both gentiles and Jew who are one family under Christ. Because of His love and what He has done for ALL in laying down His life, we can be called sons and daughter of the Most High. God hasn't allowed some to come to him and not others, instead the invitation is for everyone; no matter your circumstances, where you are from, or your past.
I am always in awe when I am reminded of the brothers and sisters we have around the world. It's so easy to forget and to not see beyond your own Church, town or country but we are a small part of an incredible global family all praising an Almighty King; all able to come to Him.
I love to see and hear people pray and worship in their own language and culture. God has created a diverse and magnificent world full of beautiful people that sing out His praises in their own personal way. I may not understand the words of our family in India when we have seen videos of them worshipping but I can see the love they have for the Father we share. I am so encouraged to know that they are praying for me also. I have been sponsoring a young girl in Indonesia for 8 years and am always humbled when she writes that she is praying for me and my family. A 13 year old girl I have never met but we share a Heavenly Father and are family.
All can worship, all can pray and all are loved. One body of believers.
A favourite song of mine is by Alex Boyé and BYU Men's Chrous/Philharmonic; it is the Lord's Prayer in Swahili. Two cultures coming together in praise and worship. As you listen I encourage you firstly to thank God that no matter the circumstances, our past, or who we are, He has allowed us all to come to Him if we believe and secondly to thank God for our amazing brothers and sisters around this world, each dealing with this crisis in whatever way they can but still praising Him who makes all things perfect and in whom we can find peace.
These are the translated words of Baba Yetu:
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who is
Let's glorify your name
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who is
Let's glorify your name
Give us today our food
We need you to forgive us
Our errors, hey
As we do forgive those
Who did us wrong, don't put us
Into trials, but
Save us, with him, for ever and ever
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who is
Let's glorify your name
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who are
Let's glorify your name
Your kingdom come that it be
done on earth as in heaven, amen
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who is
Let's glorify your name
Our, our Father who is
In heaven, our, our, amen
Our, our Father, who is
Let's glorify your name
Give us today our food
We need you to forgive us
Our errors, hey
As we do forgive those
Who did us wrong, don't put us
Into trials, but
Save us from this distress for ever
Our, our Father who is
Let's glorify your name
Our, our Father who is
Let's glorify your name
Be Encouraged and please continue to send in prayer requests.
Pete and Rosie
Good morning Church,
“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Ps 118:14
Israel was brought out of Egypt as God worked with a failed hero to deliver His people from the house of slavery (Ex 15:2-5), the 'shut in' life of oppression. It is because of God reaching in that Israel could not only experience physical freedom but also freedom in their hearts and minds. In Psalm 118, a Psalm that speaks of trusting in God through finding refuge in Him, David says, “The Lord is my strength and my song.”
The word ‘song’ can seem a little strange when we look at the root it comes from because it means ‘to trim’ speaking of pruning vines with Israel often being likened to a vine (e.g. Psalm 80:8-9). So how does this fit in with singing a song?
David recognised that whilst He was learning to trust in the Lord and seek His guidance in defeating the enemy, God was also pruning him – taking away the areas of his life that were wrong and enabling him to experience freedom of heart and mind and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we sing a song because we like it and to a certain extent there is nothing wrong with this. But I have always found the greatest blessing is in singing a song that helps me really focus on God – becoming more and more aware of all that He has done for me. I also become more aware of my inadequacies and failures as the Holy Spirit encourages me to let down barriers. He prunes my life and helps me acknowledge my failures, hand all things over to Him and proclaim God’s greatness and the victory we have in Christ.
David was aware of this happening in his life and as he went through difficulty and saw God’s victory he also found increasing freedom deep within his heart. In considering this we see why the word ‘sing’ here speaks of trimming, of pruning and thus allowing the absolute best to come forth; we can grow, even in the toughest of situations.
In singing we are declaring that we are His and that it is His victory that sustains us and recognise that we are a work in progress as we engage with the Holy Spirit through the victory that is ours in Jesus. So be encouraged, be very encouraged and, as you listen to songs, think of who it is that you are engaging with and allow Him to shape and mould you as His son or daughter.
Please listen to the following song that was originally sent to me with Farsi subtitles. It is filmed in Brazil and is ‘Because He Lives’ in Portuguese. Many churches have been singing this song through the pandemic. I have also included the same song with English subtitles. Please listen to both and allow God to capture your heart afresh.
Please let us know how you are getting on and if you are in need of prayer.
Jem and Pete
Good morning Church!
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22.
This week we provided food for over ninety people as well as supporting others in our community and offering words of encouragement and occasionally prayer to those who are struggling. As you will see from this email we also received a certificate from the High Sheriff of Essex (it came through on Tuesday) in recognition for what we have been able to do over the last few weeks. All glory goes to God for we are passing on what God has provided and helping people to find some security and hope. A big thank you to those who have been working so hard behind the scenes to help so many.
One of the interesting Hebrew roots that the word ‘hope’ comes from is one that speaks of a reservoir. In the Middle East water is precious and when collected in a reservoir gave the community confidence and peace of mind knowing there would always be enough water for everyone. For us as Christians God has a huge reservoir of blessing for those who seek Him and walk in the Spirit.
In Israel when the corn wine and oil had been gathered there was a feast (tabernacles) lasting seven days. Every day leading up to the last day of the feast the priests would go to the Gihon spring and fill a pitcher with water as people sang “With you we will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world” (Isaiah 12:3-5).
It was on the last day of this Feast, that Jesus stood up and said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-8). Living water is water that flows up from the ground and, for us, speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God is a reservoir of blessing and His Spirit flows out through our lives as He helps those who cannot help themselves and empowers us as we seek Him and share with others. Be encouraged.
Finally, just sit down and listen to the following song which is a combination of healing rain/let it rain and majesty. Ask God to cleanse you from all the damage you have done to yourself over the years and seek His blessing. The song is deliberately repetitive in places because this encourages us to open up more to God and receive from Him with the desire to know blessing and be a blessing.
Thanks to everyone who is sharing their thoughts, below is something Mary has written to encourage us
Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calms the Storm.
When life situations and our thoughts are in chaos, it can feel as if we are being swirled round and around, never settling and resting, unable to be still.
I was worrying, living with fear and I craved to know the stillness of God. Our house move was delayed again, and news was spreading of the Coronavirus around the world.
God showed me a picture in my mind of a tornado, I could see the force of the wind swirling around, but as I watched I found myself focussing on the eye of the storm. That completely still place in the middle of a tornado where the wind dies down and all is still.
‘This is where I want You to rest’, I felt My father whisper to me. ‘This is My safe place, the place of Peace where all is calm’.
I longed to be in that place where my Father was. He was in the midst of the storm, resting, everything under His control. I remembered the story in the Bible where Jesus and His disciples were in the boat whilst a storm raged around them. Jesus was asleep! In their panic and terror, the disciples called out to Jesus asking if He didn’t care that they might drown.
Do you relate to this? Are you like one of the disciples in the boat, questioning if God really cares or even knows the storm you are experiencing in your life?
In the Bible story Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm saying, ‘Be still!’ And the storm died down demonstrating His sovereignty over chaos.
Now, we may not physically be on stormy seas, but life can feel like we are. Jesus may not immediately stand up and still our storm, but He can be our safe place in the midst of the howling winds.
That’s exactly where He wants us to be, unaffected by all that is around us. Totally safe in His Presence, trusting that He is more than able to lead us beside still waters, to rest.
Does your heart cry out for peace? Real peace only comes with the Presence of our Saviour, who promises to give us His Peace that is beyond understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
Ask Him, He knows where you are, He knows exactly what is going on in your life, and He delights to draw near and still your restless heart.
‘Father, draw us into Your place of Peace, in the midst of our storms. That still quiet place where Your Presence is tangibly felt. You love to draw us near, help us to shelter in You even when the winds of fear and trouble are surrounding us. Thank You Lord, You are the Master of chaos, nothing is outside of Your control. Help us to lean into You and trust You more. Amen’
A huge thank you to everyone who continues to pray for all that is going on at church. Please share your requests too!
Jem and Pete
Good Morning Church!
“He was supreme in the beginning and — leading the resurrection parade — he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.” Col 1:18-20 The Message
Over the years I have read hundreds of books and found many encouraging stories which help me see some of the ways the power and grace of God touch our lives through others. One story that has always made me stand back and go “wow” concerns Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for twenty-seven years on Robben Island. During his incarceration he struck up a friendship with a young prison officer, Christo Brand, despite there being a forty-year age gap between the two.
Mandela eventually became President of South Africa yet never looked down on or gave up on those around him. He kept in contact with Christo Brand and when Christo’s oldest son Riaan was tragically killed in a car accident, he rang him whilst Christo was on the way to identity his son’s body. Mandela said, “I heard about your boy. It is a terrible thing when a parent has to bury his child. I understand how it feels because I lost my own son in the same way. I wish I could give you some strength to bear this.” Christo pulled over in his car and Mandela then continued to speak with him for over twenty minutes.
Nelson Mandela could have sent condolences through one of his aides but didn’t. Neither did he just speak to Christo for a couple of minutes. Instead the President of South Africa got alongside a now retired prison guard and spoke with him for twenty whole minutes and it is this that speaks to me of the love, grace, and power of God in the life of another. God has come alongside us. He didn’t send a secretary and He didn’t send a postcard; He sent His Son. In Jesus we see God with us, so be encouraged and spend time with the One who holds this world in His hands and has always had time for you so don’t let your view of life change because of the circumstances you are in. Someone much bigger is with you.
There is an old African Proverb which says, “If you want to go far, go together.” If we want to move forward in all that God has done for us and in the power of the Holy Spirit then we must need to recognise that even in the smallest of conversations the power of God can be present to bless us and others.
Paul Day sent in something that encouraged him and hopes will encourage you...
I wanted to share with you something I found really encouraging in an article in the latest magazine from the Evangelical Alliance, (hope to be able to forward a copy to you sometime!).
The article was headed ‘Show yourself some compassion’ and its principle thought was – If God is not asking us for perfection how can we ask that of ourselves? It was written by the founder of Kintsugi Hope who support people with mental health & social isolation a matter now affecting many people.
So I looked up ‘Kintsugi’ not a word I had previously come across and found it was the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage using lacquer mixed with powered gold, silver or platinum. The lovely thought that came to mind was that because the precious metals used stand out in the repaired item mean that as a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of the object rather than something to disguise when it goes back into service.
So when God repairs our broken selves using the precious blood of Jesus we should resemble the pottery repaired by Kintsugi so that our history and the work of Christ in us shows forth for all to see! We therefore live out our lives in service for God not as perfect beings but wonderfully repaired ones.
Beryl (Trevor and Beryl) has been feeling weary and tired lately but felt God said he would renew her strength and was encouraged with Isaiah 40: 31
But those who hope in the Lord, will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Please pray for them and be encouraged as they are! Similarly please share your prayer with us as a community.
Jem and Pete
God is bigger than you can know. His majesty and power are so beyond comparison that metaphors fail. Our Sun is 14 million degrees Celsius at its centre and burns through around 700 million tons of fuel a second; the most powerful energy source in our solar system. The mathematics that govern the Sun are not dissimilar from how a thermonuclear bomb works, an example of how humanity uses a tiny fraction of the suns power. God uses this violently explosive object to nurture, grow and give life. Our God is powerful.
For scale, if the earth was the size of a grain of sand, then the Sun would be the size of a pool ball 6 metres away and 232 metres away would be Pluto. Whilst Proxima Centauri; our nearest neighbouring star, in this scale, would be 977 miles away. That means if we were going to make a scaled model with our grain of sand earth in the church hall in Brentwood the nearest star would need to be in southern Spain. Look at the nights sky all the uncountable stars, that is God’s tapestry something he imagined and had the power to create, and the wisdom to put into order. Our God is big.
'Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.'
If that makes you feel small, then you are in good company because King David felt the same way.
'Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour... Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!'
This unfathomably powerful creator God crowned humanity with glory and honour, because of love. When we don’t understand what is going on we can bring it to God in prayer but we can know that God is vastly bigger, more powerful and wise than us and all our problems. Whilst we will not always know what is going on, we can know with certainty God has it in hand.
Thanks again to all who have shared, please continue to do so. Several people have found this video a tremendous blessing, thank you for Ian to sending it to us.
The UK Blessing
At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we're ...
www.youtube.comI (Pete) would appreciate prayer for my sister Rachel she has returned to work as a paediatric nurse one day a week.
Pete and Jem
Good afternoon Church,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:2
Think of a stained-glass window as sunlight begins to stream through it, highlighting the many-coloured pieces of glass and the picture represented in how the different colours were carefully placed together by the artist. Without sunlight neither the incredible depth of colour nor the picture they paint could be fully appreciated, but with the arrival of sunlight a transformation takes place as what is already present is revealed.
In keeping in step with the Holy Spirit our true colours (humanity as it should be with God) being revealed as darkness is overcome and the light of His presence brings restoration healing and wholeness. In genuinely seeking God, as opposed to having a ‘pit-stop ‘ prayer and glance at scripture every so often, we embark on an incredible journey of transformation and continually discover what it means to be His son or daughter in the life we now lead.
All around our world men, women and children are being transformed through the love of God impacting their lives and then shine His light as they reach out to others. Businessmen are no longer driven by money or fear but share their knowledge and what they have with those around them. Others, who have been controlled by substance abuse, find His power releasing them from the roots of addiction and turn to help free those around them. Slaves are rescued from bonded labour and seek to rescue others, whilst those who struggled to find meaning or purpose in life find a home in Jesus. Young people find security in the Shepherd King and in understanding their identity share with others, whilst incredible Christian organisations rise out of the rubble of life and seek to free the oppressed who, in so many cases, then refuse to live as victims but turn to help release others. All of this is amazing.
But then isn’t Jesus the One who takes people like Matthew a tax collector and changes his life forever?
As I write this I am reminded of the time when Ann and I drove home from hospital with our new-born baby daughter Rosie. As we drove into Kilburn on that hot day at the end of May I saw a couple of local homeless alcoholics I knew sitting in a doorway. One of them was John, a man in mid-fifties who, for whatever reason, was a hard, vitriolic and sometimes very bitter man. He would call into the church at least twice a week for a coffee and chat, if that is what you could call it! I didn’t know much of his background and occasionally he would rile up and get incredibly angry, but we had a friendship of sorts.
In seeing him as I drove home with baby Rosie, I stopped the car, got out and placed our new-born daughter in John’s dirty hands. John froze and looked at both myself and my baby daughter in utter surprise. I looked into his eyes and, through this act of allowing him to hold my daughter; it was as if all the rubbish and filth disappeared from his life for a few brief seconds. I saw John as he could be, I saw his humanity, and could see a man trapped through wrong decisions but made in the image of God non-the-less, a man who was precious to God peering out of the carnage of the existence that he had found himself living. Even now, as I write this, I find myself almost overwhelmed with compassion for this damaged man who often caused so much trouble and wish I had been able to do more for him. However, what I can do right now, is ask God to touch me, to continue to transform and empower me, but not so I can be some sort of superman and help everyone to change because that is not going to happen. I desire to be transformed so that I am the son I have been called to be, walking in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit and helping others.
After speaking of the many difficulties and troubles he had gone through, Paul reminds us that we are rooted in Christ and goes on to say….
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
No day goes by without God’s unfolding grace and all that He asks is that we are open to receiving from Him, and it is in desiring Him above all else that we are able to gain that which we never deserved but which is freely given. Be uplifted and be encouraged. Stand with your head held high in the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit because, no matter the storm, you can stand, and you can bless others and no matter how small what you are doing may seem to you, it is important and accepted by God.
Watch Zach Williams: ‘Survivor’ filmed in Harding Prison and be encouraged.
Please continue to pray and offer up your prayers and requests as well as anything encouragement. We hope that you will join us in prayer tomorrow. Thanks again for Gemma in putting this together.
Jem and Pete
Rosie and I like food, and we like eating together as a family. Although we have been busy during lockdown we have had more time to eat together. Similarly a lot of people are spending much more time with their family units or video calling them and mealtimes should be a big part of that (even having a meal over video call!). One of the amazing and encouraging symbols that recur throughout scripture is the offer of a place at God’s table.
To ‘dine with the king’ shows proximity as well as intimacy with the annuls of power, it is also a symbol of the provision of the King.
'The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine.' Isaiah 25:6
Our place at the King’s table goes further, we are not merely royal subjects at a banquet but part of a global community and family. 'And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.' Luke 13:29
Our place at God’s table is assured, for those that are in Christ nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38) There will always be a place for you at His table.
A final image of God’s table is that it is a place of peace, even midst difficulties. The community of God, His provision, the Kings protection and His intimacy are sustenance of themselves. That is why David said ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).
Open your Bible and read Isaiah 55, it is an invitation on the doormat to you, your family and all nations.
I love this song that centres on the restoration that is possible at God's table, I hope it encourages you as much as it has me.
Josh Garrels, At Your Table. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L87sCyCjrE
Please continue to share what has encouraged you!
Pete and Jem
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
Grace is a nineteen-year-old girl born with parts of three limbs missing and into a village community in Rwanda where many saw her disability as a curse with family members quickly pressurising her parents to kill her. Grace’s father was later murdered because he refused to kill his daughter and her mother, Beransiira, who then had to escape across the border to Uganda with Grace and her other children.
In Uganda Beransiira turned to Betty, a local Ugandan village leader for help. Speaking of that time Betty said, “When I heard Beransiira’s story, my heart was filled with compassion towards her and I offered to help. Grace came to live with me when she was just 4 years old.” Because of this woman’s love and compassion, Grace was brought up in a village where she was protected and treated as just as important as anybody else. As a young woman, Grace’s motto is “Disability is not inability. With God, all things are possible.”
As mentioned on a previous occasion, the main purpose of study in the ancient near east was to see God as He really is because being in awe (fear) of the Lord would outweigh everything. However, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this was only about seeing the power of God; it was so much more than this. It involved being captured and amazed at His love, grace, mercy and compassion, as well as His holiness and justice. It is being taken up with the wonder concerning who God really is, awed by His presence with a harvest of then never being overawed by the powers or problems of the world. No matter what we are going through God is loving and compassionate; He really cares for us.
Compassion speaks of loving deeply and is pictured, for example, as the womb that surrounds life and inner chamber of water surrounding and protecting a helpless baby. It also speaks of an incredibly deepfelt desire to get alongside and uplift others; God wants to get alongside us.
God knows how we are formed, and He is deeply loving and compassionate towards us; and yet, almost unbelievably, we can go further than this because compassion speaks of loving deeply and having mercy. For example, in scripture we see the master who had compassion on a servant who was unable to pay his debt (Mt 18:23-26). This does not mean that God does not exercise justice, but it does mean that, in compassion, He gives all an opportunity to turn to Him. We also see incredibly deep love, compassion and mercy in the father who welcomes home his prodigal son (Luke 15: 20) with a hug, and in the Samaritan who goes to the aid of a wounded traveller at great cost to himself (Luke 10:33).
In the gospels we see that Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw a crowd like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36, Mk 6:34) and He was also moved with compassion when aware of the hunger in those who had followed him out to the desert place (Mt 14;14, 15:32, Mk 8:2). In Jesus, God Incarnate, we see compassion for the leper, (Mark 1:41), the two blind men (Mat 20:34) the widow of Nain (Luke 7:13) and a man who had a demon –possessed son (Mark 9:22).
God’s compassion is an open heart and willingness to walk with you and I right now and for this I am incredibly grateful. There are so many times when I feel so helpless and saddened when I see the suffering in this world and at times it can almost overwhelm. But then the One who is so compassionate helps me as He quietens my heart, helps me articulate my prayers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and reminds me that, through Him, I really can touch people elsewhere in our world. Be encouraged, you are not alone; you are never alone.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Phil 2:1-2https://1drv.ms/v/s!AjMeg0K-OjSMkARqOmvcLL6a7uGr?e=ZEtsxy I encourage you to watch the link above which is a clip from, ‘The Chosen’ showing Jesus healing a paralytic. It is a very moving scene and, I think, captures something of the love and compassion of God. Then, in light of what we have been saying and looking at, spend time in prayer, not only for yourself but also for all that is going on at present and all the families who have lost loved ones. Your prayers may seem small to you, but they are heard by God, the One who is deeply loving, compassionate and merciful towards you right now.
Thank you to everyone who continues to pray and share. Below is some encouragement that has been sent in.
Julie sent this in: -
Love your neighbour as yourself, the second commandment that Jesus told His disciples. During this difficult time, I have been in tears many times as I read, hear, and see this commandment carried out. Communities have come together, neighbours have time to talk, people in the street, pass you by on the other side, yet still make a comment, or give a nod of the head. My prayer is that after this virus, we will still cherish the times we have spent with each other and will obey the commandment, to love one another and continue to do so when things revert back to a semblance of normal.(John 15: 12).
Paul Day sent this in: -
After Easter week my mind often goes back to the words of the thief on the cross next to Jesus; ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom’ (Luke 23:42) and Jesus’ reply ‘ Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43).
The thief was a man who acknowledged his guilt, had possibly no previous bible knowledge, teaching, theology- all things we place much importance on today. He may never have seen or heard of Jesus before, yet he saw in the man dying next to him the King of Kings and his simple acknowledgement of who Jesus was just a statement of nine words was sufficient for him to be saved and receive Jesus’ promise of eternal life.
Gemma sent this in: -
I’ve been encouraged by how many opportunities there have been to offer prayer for those people I work for and with, and excitingly, how willingly people are accepting it. I was able to pray with a parent that I tutor for, just before the lockdown kicked in- her 90-year-old mother had been admitted into hospital- a hospital which had covid19 patients. Her mother was released home this week. I’m amazed that even though we are locked down and barely able to go out, I am still given the opportunities by God to love and serve Him and those around me
Malcolm sent this in: -
There has been so much to be thankful for over the past weeks especially seeing a glimmer of the world as it used to be. The beautiful skies not masked by fumes, the birds singing not masked by a sky full of aeroplanes, the early spring flowers enjoying the full warmth and colour that it used to give. O how beautiful Eden was before man began to destroy it.
I have also seen the re-awaking of the love and kindness of one human being for another albeit there are still those who want to criticise the efforts of others.
And what a joy to see churches helping those in need and rejoicing in the ever-present Lord, supporting each other. Hallelujah.
These three still remain, faith hope and love. Faith grows as you commune closer, hope never ceases and love abounds in God's children.
John sent this in: -
I’ve been going through the O/T Kings of Israel and Judah and how our Father just spoke and intervened at significant times. In 2 Chron 15, God spoke to King Asa through Asariah about holding close to him. “God will stick with you as long as you stick with him. If you look for him he will let himself be found” and later “be strong, take heart, Payday is coming” At which point Asa, “took a deep breath, then rolled up his sleeves and went to work”. (Message Bible) And the Kings’ actions proved to be a significant testimony to a number of people in the surrounding territories in their walk with the Lord.
It is also more of an encouragement to each of us to stay close to our Father as we hear of the tragedies and difficulties happening all around us. Keep on Praying
Ken sent this in: -
I am encouraged particularly at this time of year by the the wonder and beauty of God's creation, the extent of which Paul highlights in Romans 1:19,20, so no one has reason to doubt our God. Jesus points to God's sovereign reign over all creation in Matthew 6:25 and tells us not to worry but seek God's kingdom and righteousness above all things. These things are enormous and mostly too difficult to truly comprehend. I am then reminded that we are living in the legacy of Easter, l am humbled and yet encouraged and cannot help but to worship and praise my gracious, caring, loving God outside of whom nothing matters.
On Saturday we will be praying together in a virtual day of prayer, attached is some prayer points that you could pray. You don’t have to pray for the whole day, or even a whole hour. Praying for a minute is still amazing. Thank you to Gemma for putting it together with support from Ken.
Be Blessed by our compassionate God
Jem and Pete
Good Evening Church,
“This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Captain Tom Moore has just won a Pride of Britain award at the age of 99 having raised well over twenty-eight million pounds by walking round his garden each day to raise money for NHS Charities Together. I doubt whether, in his wildest thoughts he could ever have imagined that the first steps he took in his garden for this challenge would lead to so much money being raised and a national award. Yet Tom did not do it for recognition or awards but as an act of kindness and support of others, not allowing his great age to limit him.
Tom reminds me of a man called John Baker in my first pastorate. John had worked in an Ice cream factory for most of his working life and when I met him was in his mid-seventies. I wanted to start an early morning breakfast for the homeless and John was instantly there asking if he could make the breakfasts. Those simple breakfasts and a desire to help others eventually morphed into a purpose-built hostel and was the impetus for two others being opened in London by a group we were associated with.
It is a great blessing to see so many good things going on across the country at this time and as Christians we need to be encouraged to plant small seeds of kindness wherever we can, knowing that however small they may be, God will use them to speak to others.
God notices even a cup of water given in His name, (Mk 9:41), but what does this look like today? It speaks of ordinary everyday acts which are often exceedingly small, that are done in love and with a desire to share God’s loving-kindness with those around us in thoughtful and practical ways.
In Jesus we see a Saviour who came to show kindness to the most undeserving, difficult and frustrating people you could possibly imagine – you and I.
We were like the naked, beaten man in the story of the good Samaritan – a man totally unrecognisable in a society where you were often identified by the clothes you wore or your accent. In the parable, the most unlikely person stoops down to tend his wounds and carry him to a place of safety – a marginalised, looked down on, often despised Samaritan.
In Jesus we see the One whose world we have trashed, and whose law of love we have broken on countless occasions, bending down to look at us (kindness speaks of bending the neck), looking at that which must have appeared unrecognisable compared to our high calling. He tended our wounds, some of which were self-inflicted, and stood in our place so that we could receive forgiveness, blessing, and loving-kindness in increasing measure.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:4-5
We are the recipients of great kindness and, in the power of the Spirit (fruit of the Spirit: Gal 5:22) can plant seeds of loving-kindness that can produce an incredible harvest because they are Spirit-empowered. So, don’t despise the small things you do for others, or assume that they are not good enough or as good as those of others. Recognise His great love and kindness for you and that nothing done in His name is ever trivial or insignificant, but a seed that can produce great blessing for others and for ourselves.
“I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”
Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf.
Be encouraged, you and I can give out to others and grow in Him no matter what comes our way.
“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them.” Isaiah 55:10-11
Why not listen to Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) and think about God’s kindness to you and be refreshed and encouraged by Him as you do so. https://youtu.be/Ao818R3h_Nc
Please continue to send in things that have encouraged you.
Thanks to to Terry who sent in this funny video showing what bored engineers stuck at home do!
Good Morning Church,
A well-known Professor of Psychology once wrote about bumping into a man he’d helped a few years previously during a series of counselling sessions. The ex-patient thanked the professor for the help he’d received and remarked that there had been one meeting which had impacted him more than all the others and really changed his thinking. The professor was inquisitive as to which of their sessions it was and was surprised to find out that it was none. Instead it had been the time when the professor had come across his patient sitting outside with friends and had sat down, talked, and laughed with them for a while. It was this time that had impacted the young man more than any of the sessions he had been through and had helped him on the road to recovery. Sometimes just sitting down quietly and meditating on the fact that we are in God’s world and are noticed and loved is all that it takes to begin to experience what Nehemiah speaks of when he writes, “…The joy of the Lord is your strength….” (Neh 8:10).
Sometimes we lose sight of the simple and amazing truth that God wants to be with us because, if we hare honest, reading His word at times and praying seems to get us nowhere. Yet maybe this is because we spend too much time using God’s word as a means of getting out of present situations instead of genuinely seeking His presence in the situations we find ourselves in, and for no other reason than wanting to know Him more. Perhaps David recognised this as he wrote, “God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps 63:1)
Being honest about how we allow things to dominate our thinking, and asking God to help us refocus on Him, makes us available and open to receiving the help of the Holy Spirit as we begin to see life afresh -from His perspective - and walk in His power as we do so.
In his book, ‘I asked for a Wonder’ Abraham Heschel captures something of this refocusing as he wrote about prayer, saying, “We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub, but the spoke of a revolving wheel. In prayer we shift the centre of living from self-consciousness to self -surrender.”
In surrendering our lives to Him day by day we conquer wrong thinking and emotions that seek to dominate, along with present situations that scream out and distract us. Therefore, let’s ask God to capture our hearts afresh, open our eyes, and help us move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us to do far more than is possible in our own strength. Let us seek His presence, not for the sake of ease of passage through life but that we may do great things for Him.
In concluding today, slow down and read the following verses from Paul, who clearly realised the importance of experiencing the presence of God and in doing so recognise that the reason Paul prays on this occasion is so that the church may be strengthened and more fully understand the love of God that surpasses measure and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. May we all be strengthened by His presence in such a way that we continue to grow stronger during this season of lockdown.
“…My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit — not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength — that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 The Message.
Please find a space where you can be on your own, slow down and listen to ‘Way maker’ asking God to draw you close and help you reach out in new ways. Above all, be encouraged.
Way maker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE_M9noEhNE
Please be encouraged and share songs or a scripture that has spoken to you along with any testimony that has encouraged you. Let's make these encouragement emails a 'noticeboard' of good news for the fellowship.
Thank you to everyone that has sent things in already.
Siohban Watson has found comfort in this song by Whitney Houston https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pze_mdbOK8&feature=youtu.be
Paul Day's care group includes Filip who lives in Poland and has visited us numerous times, he shared this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISPdRmYkBMc&feature=youtu.be
For Prayer, please pray for Rachel who is Pete's sister she is a paediatric nurse who has returned to work for the first time in over a year and due to senior nurses having virus symptoms has rapidly had to take a leadership role.
Continue to pray for Jonathan who is recovering from virus symptoms and awaiting test results.
Jem and Pete
Good morning church,
May you know great blessing as we look at our security in Him today. After reading this small offering please listen to the song by Jeremy Riddle called, ‘Let it Rain.’ Rain is a symbol of God’s blessing, so as you listen meditate on His greatness and ask the Holy Spirit to wash over your life with His love, grace and mercy and strengthen you as a son or daughter. Then be encouraged to spend a few minutes thinking about others in our fellowship and bringing them to the Lord in prayer.
He is the Rock.
“God, the one and only — I'll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He's solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I'm set for life.” Ps 62:1-2 The Message.
During the dehumanising issues of social apartheid in America in the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Junior wrote the following words that clearly speak of the presence of God with him and subsequently an incredible stability of heart and mind amidst all that was going on. He writes…
“…to our most bitter opponents we say, ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you…Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory...”
In Psalm 62 we find the words of another man who, despite his many ups and downs in life, his successes and failures, kept his focus on God: David.
Psalm 62 is about confidence in the Lord and is set between a prayer for those who are overwhelmed (Ps 61: “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”) and one that speaks of thirsting for God (Ps 63: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge”).
David was no ivory-tower theologian, but a man who had at times plumbed the depths of despair and, like us, certainly did not always get it right. He wrote the above words at a time when God delivered him from his enemies including King Saul who was determined to kill him. Elsewhere David writes of his experiences with God in the difficult times and says…
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn (strength) of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour — from violent men you save me. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” 2 Sam 22:2-4
A refuge ultimately speaks of safety and scripturally speaking carries the picture of being raised up to the Lord. David was aware that in life’s difficulties it was always the Lord who raised him up. Surely this is why he writes, “I’ll wait because everything I need comes from Him.”
His words can remind us of an often-quoted verse from Isaiah (Isaiah 40:31) where we read, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar (be lifted up) on wings like eagles…..”
The word hope/wait is a word also used for making rope and therefore speaks of binding together. Unlike modern-day nylon rope, the rope in Isaiah’s day would sometimes come lose and need to be rebound and, I guess, that is a little like us at times. Like King David and so many others, we can find that we have begun to drift and need to return and bind ourselves again to the Lord becoming stronger as we do so. The good news is that God always encourages us to do this. David knew that his ultimate place of safety, his refuge, was in the Lord and although circumstances and situations limited him at times, he was secure in Him.
This morning Robin was listening to the radio and heard about a prisoner who said that although he is physically in a small cell and is not free, he is free in his mind because of Jesus. Please pray for prisoners who are not having visitors at present and are in their cells for many more hours than usual.
Towards the end of Psalm 62 we find the same words repeated from the beginning of the psalm in verse six, with repetition being God’s highlighter pen emphasising a truth for us. King David, Martin Luther King Jr and an unknown prisoner in his cell today were all able to experience this truth: God is our rock, breathing room for our soul and a place where we will not be shaken.
God has promised to bring all things to their rightful fulfilment, sunrise and sunset, day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest and you and me. In the wilderness He was with His people and so the wilderness became a place of hearing and blessing to Israel. Our security is in the One spoken of as the rock in the desert: Jesus (1 Cor 10:3-4).
A friend of mine told me of a time when he was really struggling with life. He was at an all-time low and his job was one that he never thought he’d end up doing. He used to drive into London at night with a small car that had a camera fitted to the top of it to photograph all the parked cars late at night. The data collected would then go to a database where the relevant authorities would be able to see if the cars were taxed and insured.
In the early hours of one summer morning, just as dawn was breaking, he was driving home wondering where God was, if anywhere, in his life. He felt a failure, totally useless and wanted to give up on everything. As he drove along, he saw what initially appeared to be a pile of rags at the side of the road. He slowed down and it turned out to be a woman who needed a lift. After a few miles she asked to be dropped off although they were still in the middle of nowhere. As she got out of his car the woman turned to him and said, “God is with you.” As my friend drove off the words resounded in his mind and he looked in his rearview mirror to find that the woman had just disappeared. He told me that this was a major changing point in his life.
The mistake we can make is forgetting that God is with us and calls us to trust in Him. Sometimes He takes the initiative in reaching out to us, as with my friend above. As you pray for those around you maybe God will take you by surprise.
You are important and part of a global family as well as a local community and all are on a journey with Him. Take hold of your birthright in Him, seek the engagement of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to open your eyes to the greatness of God and help you know what He requires of you this day. Be blessed.
“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Ps 100:5
If you have a short testimony or song that has really encouraged you, then please let us know – send it to Pete or myself, so that we can share the blessing from others as we continue to encourage with emails every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Be uplifted.
Good afternoon Dodd Road.
What does a congregation that cannot congregate do? I have been pondering a verse that on first reading seems to contradict our governments advice.
‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:23-25.
Today I want to encourage you, the congregation and community of Dodd Road Church to heed and obey the lockdown as well as reflect on and follow the truths of Hebrews 10. Our hope in God is utterly unique it is different from our hope for good weather or for West Ham or that the shop will have enough toilet paper. Be hope-filled with certainty because ‘he who promised is faithful’.
Our firm foundation is not found in a Sunday service, or one another or anything that circumstances can take away. Our firm foundation is God, the eternal promise giver. Out of those promises springs God’s Kingdom; a community of the hope-filled people.
Whilst the last word in hope is God alone, the hope in you is contagious, so share it. Spur on and encourage. To that end we must treasure the most vulnerable among our community by maintaining physical distance, but my heartfelt prayer is that we ‘do not neglect meeting together’.
Text, email, phone call, Whatsapp. Share prayer, be prayed for.
Consider the New Testament books, we have the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then we have Acts. These are accounts of what Jesus and His church did, written for people who were not present at events. After Acts the remainder of the New Testament is the communication of individuals to God’s community, to people who, through distance or circumstances could not be physically present. Most of the New Testament therefore is written by a hope-filled person refusing to give up meeting another because of circumstances.
Pete and Jem
“…and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Cor 13:13
Sometimes when I wake up early on a sunny morning, I can almost imagine what a renewed Earth (at one with heaven), might be like as I look across creation. On these occasions it is as if the freshness of early-morning air and peace and tranquillity of a new summer’s day has lifted my heart and mind, helping me ‘see’ heaven and earth intertwined in a future that awaits us all (Isaiah 65:17, 55:22) and is promised by the One who knows and loves us most.
On these early summer mornings, it is as if God has walked through His world during the night and renewed the faded grass, reinvigorated the colours of the flowers, leaves and trees and purified the air I breathe.
As I think along these lines, I am reminded that this world is important to my heavenly Father and so are all of us. I am reminded that He has not let go of this world and will not let go of us and that the here and now of this moment in time is important to God. Although this world bears little resemblance to the wonder of creation in its first days, there will be a renewed heaven and Earth one day, because He says so, and you and I will be part of it.
This world has never been ignored by God and neither have we. It has never been pushed to one side as if it were no longer of any consequence to the One who created it in such love. This is our heavenly Father’s world and therefore there is nothing trivial or insignificant about it, and He is about His work of transformative grace right now and you and I are part of His work. Although the meaning, purpose and origins of our being are couched in a distant past, we are part of a story that is happening right now, the oldest story in history and the most up to date, and we serve a living saviour who rose from the grave and continues to reach out in incredible love to us all.
Faith speaks of leaning on another and of their strength and ability intertwining with ours. In faith we trust in God’s nature and character no matter what is going on and become firm and established in His strength through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. No wonder one of the pictures concerning faith is that of a tent peg firmly fixed in the ground. Faith understands that the invisible governs the visible, that what we see is not all that there is and that He is in control, and so we have hope.
Hope is not about striving for something but being rooted in someone who challenges us to look to Him. It is not about our plans and agendas but being focused on our destiny and not having the things of the world eclipse our view of all that God is and does. It is the calmness that comes from wisdom, knowledge and understanding that is rooted and established in Him. And now to love…..
God’s love is a sacrificial love which we need to continually open our hearts to. This is why Paul tells the Ephesian church that he is praying that God would strengthen them with power through the Spirit in their inner being so that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. As a result, they would increasingly know and experience God’s love which surpasses knowledge, so that they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:16-19).
The simple, deep and profound truth is that you and I have been placed here in order to be loved. Life is not about achievements, recognition, money or worldly success. Life is about being loved and we are loved and called to love others and you and I can be great in this life because, in one way, being great is about loving others who, like us, were created to know God’s love.
I finish with a recent story from the International Justice Mission. It is about Nahdini who, along with her husband was rescued from bonded labour. She wanted to help her community despite having no money and so, over the last few weeks, has been making face masks from donated saris in order to help families in need. In this we see the power of the resurrection at work today in a beautiful way.
Jem and Pete
P.s. Please continue to pray and offer your prayer requests. Thank you to Gemma for compiling the attached list for this week.
The Passover The Passover was a celebration of how God broke into the illegitimate rulership of Egypt and rescued His people from the house of slavery, releasing them into their true position in His household. For this to happen the enemy was completely defeated yet sin also had to be dealt with. Initially this was through the blood daubed on Israelite doorposts (the Passover Lamb) yet ultimately it was to be through the Lamb of God (John 1:29-30); God stooping low and standing in our place of judgement.
At this time of national and international difficulty we do well to remind ourselves that in Egypt God showed His power through His mastery over the elements as well as over all forms of demonic and military power. Let us also remember that there has never been a time when God is not in power and in Jerusalem, almost two thousand years ago God showed His power in servanthood and the weakness of a human body (Mark 10:45). As the perfect man Jesus stood in our place (1 Cor 15:47) and conquered sin, death (1 Cor 15:55-57), and all the powers of darkness (1 John 3:8). Therefore, because of Jesus you and I need never lose a battle for all things are ours in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). Yes, we may struggle and feel as if the whole world is against us at times, but the truth remains that we are His and He has taken the victory (Rom 8:37-9). This is amazing love.
No matter what we go through, the unknowingness of our future is known to Him and the blessing of our lives is a certainty through the One who has always been so very aware of us – our comings and goings, failures and successes, our ups and downs, our hopes and aspirations. All life is an open book to Him, and He is our Father (Mt 6:9).
And now let’s turn to ‘Good Friday.’
As I have written on many occasions, the word ‘good’ is a primarily a covenant word in that it speaks of a relationship with God and living in accordance to the covenant. It is good to be with our father, good to allow Him to mould and shape our lives, good to know His love and compassion for us and good to know that He is supremely in control of all things.
Good Friday is Good Friday because on this day we see the clearest most breath-taking sacrificial giving of covenant love – the offended party standing in the place of the lawbreaker, willingly giving His life and willingly undergoing judgement so that we could find forgiveness and come home. Let us remember that in all that Jesus went through in the lead up to the crucifixion and events surrounding it we see a perfect Son opening the door to heaven to you and me.
One thing that has always amazed me in the lead up to Calvary is how God continued to reach out to people in love, even as events came together to bring about the death of the One who had shown nothing but grace and mercy.
When you and I go through difficulty or face challenges it is easy to withdraw and become consumed by the problems we face. Yet not Jesus – He was always in control and He always reached out and He is always there for us.
For example, shortly before Jesus’ arrest Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34. This prophecy was fulfilled when Peter was seen inside the High Priest’s courtyard (a place he was not allowed to go). One of the high priest’s servants saw him and said, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26-7). This was the third time Peter had been challenged and the third time that he denied knowing Jesus. I wonder how Jesus felt at this time.
How would you feel if a friend who had walked with you for three years suddenly deserted you and even denied knowing you? Think of the heartache and pain this would cause, for there is always going to be great pain in being let down by a close friend whom you have shown nothing but love.
In a worldly sense, we probably would not have blamed Jesus if He gave up on Peter from this point onwards, but thankfully God is not like us. Peter had not wanted to deny Christ but had found the strength and power of the enemy too much for him. Yes, he had made some mistakes but would probably have been just as shocked as the other disciples with his denial. Yet God does not give up; God understands us. He might not agree with us all the time, but He does understand us.
Jesus knew that most of the disciples were going to desert Him in His hour of need and yet instead of castigating them as many castigate others when facing difficulty, He continued to love them. Even before they deserted Him, Jesus had said to them, “In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). I doubt very much whether any of us would have encouraged the disciples and spoken like this in the face of looming torture, death and judgment, yet Jesus did and in Him we find great hope. Even when we get it wrong and trip and stumble and fall, He does not write us off and He never stops loving us.
After the shock of spewing out his words of denial, Peter must have felt completely different – as if he were on the outside and no longer part of anything. He must have felt that he had crossed the line and gone way past the point of no return and undoubtedly, his failure would have greeted him afresh each morning and with equal vigour in the evening when he was tired and needed sleep. He was now a ‘not-real’ disciple - a mockery and laughingstock as one who had promised to protect Jesus yet had denied even knowing Him. What sort of friend acts like that? However, God’s love is not weakened by man’s failure; it is never weakened. What is weakened is our ability to receive love, but God still reaches out. Jesus never stopped loving Peter and would later go on to challenge him in such a way as to bring healing and restoration to his tormented heart and mind. This is amazing love.
Another incident revealing incredible love in the lead up to Calvary is the last healing Jesus did before His trial and crucifixion. He touched Malchus’ the high priest’s servant and restored his ear (Luke 22:51) that Peter had cut off with a swipe of his sword. I wonder how Malchus must have felt about his wound and instant healing? I’m sure that he would go home and really contemplate what had happened. Perhaps this was part of his journey to place his life in the hands of Jesus as Lord and Saviour; and what about Jesus?
I wonder how Jesus must have felt as soldiers and religious leaders approached Him led by Judas, a disciple He had cared for. The pain of desertion is sometimes more painful than physical pain, yet Jesus still reaches out to heal an enemy (Luke 22:51) which is incredible. If Jesus can do this whilst undergoing great suffering and hardship, then how much more as the ascended King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Is there not great wonder and hope in all of this?
When we go through hardship, we often shut in on ourselves, especially if we are deserted by friends at a time of great need, but not Jesus. No matter the incredible pressure on His life including looming death and judgement, Jesus remained perfectly in control of His emotions and His love was never weakened. He could have called on twelve legions of angels (Mt 26:52-4) but didn’t because He was present to fulfil scripture and there was nothing on earth that was going to prevent this from happening. Just pause and think about this for a few seconds.
Next we see God reaching into Pilate’s wife, who suffered through having a dream about Jesus (Mat 29:19). I am certain this is no accident but something that God deliberately brought about. No matter the events of the day and the power of darkness, God still reaches into the household of a powerful enemy and gives dreams, an, “I want you to think moment.” Here I am reminded of how God reached into Babylon in dreams and visions and wrote on a pagan king’s dream wall. God is supremely in control – He always has been, and He always will be, and the incredible truth is that even at Calvary, God continued to give love.
For example, whilst enduring the agony of the cross Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of John (John 19:25-6) and later reached out to a thief/terrorist with the words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:42-43). Then, from the sixth hour to the ninth hour darkness came over the land (Mat 27:45-6), reminiscent of the presence of God at the time when Israel was brought out of Egypt (Ex 10:21-23). Then Finally, when Jesus gave His life an experienced Roman executioner said, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Mat 27:54) a term usually reserved for the emperor and no one else.
Finally, when Jesus died we must recognise that He gave His life, it was not taken from Him, for none had the power to do so. He cried out in a loud voice and gave up his spirit (Mt 27:50) and then the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom because the way into the holy of holies was now through the blood of Christ. We later read that the earth shook, and rocks split; tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:51-52).
So, my brothers and sisters, on this beautiful Good Friday let’s remember and celebrate God’s victory at Calvary and wonder yet again at His incredible love. Let’s also remember that God in intensely aware of us right now and that in the ‘big’ events of this world, does not lose sight of us for even one second. In the events surrounding the crucifixion Peter is encouraged, Malchus is healed, Pilate’s wife is challenged, Mary is taken care of, thousands are made aware of God’s presence through darkness, a terrorist finds life in an unexpected place and will be with Jesus in Paradise and a Roman Centurion confesses the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Dead people come back to life and witness is given to the religious class as the temple veil is torn in two.
The master is about His work and you and I are part of that work on this Good Friday morning. The world is not the same as it is a few weeks ago, but then it has never been the same on any two days anyway. But One thing remains absolutely certain. You are His and no one can take you from His hands.
Enjoy this glorious day that he has made and join us in prayer today at 3pm on your own doorstep.
It is finished
Jem and Pete
Wed 08/04/2020 16:20
In the Shantung Compound during the Second World War there were interns from many countries who had been working in China at the time war was declared and who were now prisoners of the Japanese.
In January 1945 there was the unexpected arrival of food parcels from the American Red Cross and the whole camp of just under fifteen-hundred internees (men, women and children) gathered in excitement to see how they would be distributed. There were just over two-hundred Americans in the camp, and some of them worked out that they would get at least seven parcels each because they were American Red Cross parcels and not for others. Can you imagine how the rest of the camp felt? Hostilities soon rose between the internees and fighting broke out with the Japanese then refusing to distribute the parcels for just over two weeks whilst they asked Tokyo what to do.
In the week leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus never held back in any way whatsoever and all that He did was willingly done for all of us. Through Him we can always receive because all the promises to us are “Yes in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20). So, during this time of difficulty when life is certainly a little different, let’s pause, and recognise afresh that we are in Christ and part of an unshakeable kingdom: His kingdom.
In Christ (en Christo) is mentioned ninety-one times in the N.T. letters and speaks of Christ being the enabling power – the sole reason we can enter into new life in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Both the church (1 Thess 1:1; Gal 1:22) and the individual (Phil 4:21) are spoken of as “In Christ.” In Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) and find freedom (Gal 2:3-5) to live, with all the promises that God makes being confirmed and guaranteed in and because of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20).
Our heavenly Father knows us personally and we are loved with an everlasting love. He is the One who hears every ‘Hagar’ in the desert (Gen 16:7, 10-11; 21:17-20), does not forget the small bird sold for pennies and knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:6-7). His presence is with us because of Jesus (Heb 7:22), the ‘No one can take them from my hands’ One (John 10:28) and His power is experienced in our lives through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), who is described as ‘another counsellor’ (John 14:16). The word ‘another’ speaks of one who is exactly the same by way of nature and character as Jesus, with the word ‘counsellor’ revealing the Holy Spirit as another advocate. He defends us against the work and accusations of darkness and empowers us to live out the truth and His work is perfect in every way.
In Jesus we see just how much we are loved and living from His presence means that we accept who we are in Him (2 Cor 5:17, Col 3:12, 1 Pet 2:9) no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. We accept that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and, through Christ, adopted into His family (Eph 1:5). We are the ‘twice born ones’ and are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) who is spoken of as a deposit (Eph 1:14) guaranteeing the life to come.
We are empowered by His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 3:18) insofar as we are open to His guidance. In Christ and Christ alone, we are strengthened by His power in our inner being (Eph 3:16-20). We are kingdom people who are called to love one another in and by the Spirit (Col 1:18) whose fruit (Gal 5:22f) and gifting (eg 1 Cor 12) are given to edify, encourage, uplift and support us as we reach out to others with all that has been done by God.
“My Lord, you have been our At-home in every generation. Before mountains got born, before earth, this earth was begun, from ever and forever you are GOD!” Psalm 90:1-2.
Jem and Pete
In January, when Coronavirus was a far-off problem effecting far off people we distributed a postcard around the subject of worship. It started with the following sentences:
‘The concept of worship is often relegated to a short time of singing during a church service, yet worship is more than a specific activity; it is a life defining thing. Real worship is to truly know God and to response with love, wherever we are.’
More than ever it is essential that worship of the one true God is not bound to Sunday services, church buildings, hymn sheets and large congregations. Let your worship be unbound, a present companion, an outlook as well as an activity.
We the church, God’s people, can and will always worship. Sometimes that worship will be something that overflows from our heart; emotive and passionate. However sometimes it is an act of will, praising in the certain knowledge that God is in control and transcends our current misery, fear and anxiety. We can and will worship in lock-down, in the way we serve our families, in the way we pray, in the way we see and respond to the needs others. Even if that need means we do not physically meet up with one another.
What a beautiful gift music is, in the age of online streaming you can flood your home with sweet songs of praise from across the world. Raising your mood and lifting praise to the Most High. Turn the humdrum of dishwashing, laundry and gardening into a space and time of praise.
Whilst the world is going through difficulty the worshipping heart is uncrushable, resolute in difficulty. Many examples of people defying the spirit of anxiety with praise have appeared on social media.
https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-NXbjXgqmZ/ A vicar in Portabello London leads a block of flats in singing along to Amazing Grace.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI1DF-g-ur0 Italian Christians singing out their windows ‘How Great is Our God’
'Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him — his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.' Psalm 68:4-8
'Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.' Psalm 42:11
God does not earn our worship with his performance, or how closely he acts as we would want. We are made for worship, which is our first love. True worship creates a selfless love after God’s own heart. Real worship transforms and orientates towards love.
'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.' John 13:34-35.
Continue to pray and send in requests for prayer.
Pete and Jem
Palm Sunday 05/04/2020 11:44
Palm Sunday: Do you have manufactured Peace – or does the Prince of Peace have you?
Last night I dreamt of my dear friend Malcom Geffin. He used to stand at the back of the church leaning on his crutches. He would arrive late and leave early, wanting so badly to get involved but not quite having the ability to do so. Malcolm was a battered and bruised man and a lot of it was self-inflicted, but he trusted in Jesus Christ and we would spend hours talking through the philosophy of the world and the wonder of Jesus who does not fit into anyone’s mould of thinking – He is just too big, too amazing, too awesomely wonderful. And then we would pray, and Malcolm would always pray from the very depths of his heart with tears rolling down his face.
On New Years’ Eve a few years ago, Malcolm texted me to wish my family a happy New Year and every blessing in the Lord. He was reconciling himself with his family and we hoped for a good year. But Malcolm did not wake up on New Year’s day. Instead, his heavenly father gently bent down and scooped this battered friend of mine into his arms and took him into heaven.
At Malcolm’s funeral there were so many of his friends and acquaintances from Narcotics Anonymous present and I have never seen such incredible respect and love shown by those who know how difficult life can be and so genuinely wanted to pay respect.
At the end of the service one of his friends came up to me and looked me in the eye and said, “You know Jem, I think you are right. Someone much bigger came and wiped his slate clean, didn’t he?”
Rome always got jittery at the time of year when thousands and thousands of Jewish people would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover; but why? Because the Passover spoke of Israel’s foundational history – it spoke of the sacrificial blood on the doorposts of the Israelites protecting them as the angel passed over and brought judgement on the oldest sons of Egypt. Passover spoke of freedom from the oppressor and encapsulates judgement and deliverance from Egypt - the tyranny of a false King (Pharaoh) and blessing from God who brings His people to Himself. Considering this, Passover was a potentially dangerous time in the eyes of Rome – they dominated a nation that was, at Passover, celebrating freedom from domination!
So, Rome gets jittery and flexes her military muscles. Each year, at the time of the Passover she would send a column of Imperial Calvary and soldiers to Jerusalem from Caesarea which was about sixty miles away. This extra large contingent of soldiers and cavalry conscripts would squeeze into the Fortress Antonia overlooking the temple and its courts. The fortress had been built and named by Herod in honour of Mark Antony, a famous politician and Roman General.
However here, in this gentle, incredible, powerful, beautiful man riding on a donkey, you have the Incarnate Son coming to wipe our slate clean, yet so many did not like Him because He was a direct challenge to the religious leaders who had lost sight of the heart of God.
People were following Jesus and, on one occasion, he had fed over five thousand men at one sitting – a potential instant-army in the eyes of many. In the arrival of the Passover and, in some minds, a rise in nationalism, the religious leaders could have a major problem on their hands. If the crowds rose up with Jesus or caused too much of a stir, then Rome would march into the neighbourhood in even greater strength, as they had done during a previous anti-Roman demonstration in 4BC, when part of the Temple had been destroyed. Considering this it is hardly surprising that those with their eyes on themselves ended up saying…
"Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." John 11:47-48
The High Priest understood the political situation and along with his team wanted to keep the peace at any cost. Yet this was a manufactured peace, a status quo: with no real power. Jesus was a threat to this manufactured power and so they thought that executing Him would prevent people dying at the hands of Rome and get rid of someone who turned their ideas of God upside down. In light of all this they sought to kill the One who raises the dead! Now that really does not make sense, but they were getting agitated!!
However, Jesus came into Jerusalem to pay the price for all we had ever done wrong and to wipe the slate clean so that we could start again with Him.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem crowds took Palm branches and went out to meet Him shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel.”
It used to be said in the Ancient World that man depended on the presence of Palm trees which spoke of sustenance and survival in times of drought and hardship. When other vegetation died off the Palm tree would still be there.
Thus a key word associated with the Palm was victory and the ability to persevere in life no matter what situation you found yourself in. No wonder David says in Psalm 92: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree.”
Jerusalem was in turmoil with all the goings-on and on top of this when Jesus approached Jerusalem the crowds went out to greet Him. This sort of thing only happened when visiting dignitaries were on the scene and so it was just all too unacceptable to the Jewish council. In addition to this, the crowd was using words that would rattle the cage of Rome in quoting Psalm 118:26 which said: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” It also rattled the cages, so to speak, of many of the religious ruling classes of the day because everyone knew that what was being quoted was part of a messianic psalm and therefore Jesus was being seen by many as the Messiah.
The crowds would have been full of well-meaning people, yet many had their own version of what peace was all about. They wanted a political Messiah who would overthrow the might of Rome – yet their picture of how peace is secured was way too small. The crowd was right in seeing Jesus as a King – and yes Jesus is a warrior King who defeats all the powers of darkness – but not through endorsing their plans!
In bringing this together we see that on the one side you have Rome and their would-be gods, and the might of their army flexing muscles as they imposed their brand of peace on life. On the side of pseudo-peace you also have the Jewish Council seeking to keep their brand of peace in play and elsewhere, in another corner, a man called Barabbas who sought to manufacture his brand of peace and get rid of Rome and all opposition through violence. Then, in yet another area, we have some of those in the crowds who were undoubtedly excited for all the wrong reasons. In contrast you have the Prince of Peace – the One who consumes all evil and restores right relationships with God: Jesus Christ of whom the Father said, “This is my Son whom I love.”
In all that Jesus faced on that journey into Jerusalem and the lead up to His death He never deviated from His task. He was coming to bring earth and heaven together, to wipe our slate clean, to give us new beginnings. So be encouraged bothers and sisters, we are battered and bruised some of the time, we trip and stumble, we fall over and get picked up. Yet our slate has been wiped clean and one day we will be with Him forever and we will see old friends again like dear Malcolm Geffin. So, don’t get so caught up in your plans that you lose sight of your destiny and remember that wiping the slate clean is just the beginning.”
“He holds the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Please continue to pray and share your burdens and praises that we as a church can join you in prayer.
Jem and Pete
Good morning Dodd Road Church,
At the beginning of this week I spoke about God’s peace when everything falls apart. Primarily peace is restoration to fellowship with God through the work of another. It is then ongoing peace in and through the work of the Holy Spirit. In bringing this large Christian charity back into the area after such tragedy I was helped by two very good and highly qualified friends (John and Pete) who were God’s provision at a time of great hardship. Their grace, humility and love was a clear reflection of God’s amazing presence with us all. Together we were able to do what one of us on our own could never do.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18.
Living according to God’s teaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit means that we know whose we are. No matter the circumstances we find ourselves going through, we belong to Him. We accept that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), are adopted into His family (Eph 1:5), and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), spoken of as a deposit (Eph 1:14) guaranteeing the life to come. Therefore, no matter what may come our way, we recognise that, ultimately, our security is in Him alone. He is the One who says that the nations are like a drop in a bucket (Isaiah 40:15) and that the hairs on our head are numbered (Luke 12:7). In this we see incredible power and intimacy.
In all that we may be going through it is so helpful to recognise that the first thing God wants us to do is to receive from Him each day and that in doing so (through the written word and the Spirit), we find strength of mind and emotional wellbeing.
As sons and daughters of heaven we are empowered by His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 3:18) and strengthened in our inner being (Eph 3:16-20) so let us continue to seek His face (nature and character) and reach out with His blessings in all that we do. Pray for others and text them or give them a call to see how they are doing, but don’t get so busy that you forget how important you are to Him!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
A big thank you for all the prayers whist in hospital – Corona virus alongside a lung infection. Still feel over 100 years old! Please continue to pay for Jonathan and Louise at this time, and Liz who is also in a hospital environment.
Jem and Pete
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
For the majority of Dodd Road Community Church the pressure of our normal busy schedules has been removed. Because of crisis we have been given a chance to take stock and get closer to God. We have been forced to spend time alone or in our family units. What will you do with this time? Everyday that God grants us can be flooded with purpose and this time of partial lockdown is no different. We have been given an abundance of free time at home but also a weight of anxiety and fear of the future and yet we know who holds the future. Matthew 6:25-34 encourages us to look out the window, look at the birds and the lilies and see God’s provision, see the world breathing in and out, consider all that God gives. Matthew 6:30 reminds us that the pinnacle of His creation is you, a human being, made in God’s image, worthy and capable of love and relationship, a being that can know and be known, be blessed and be a blessing. These are things that no calamity or crisis can take away. The instruction to not worry in Matthew 6:34 is often unhelpfully taken alone, ‘the bible say do not worry so don’t’. But this instruction is part of a story of God’s care, creation and kingdom, full of God’s good promises that the good God reigns and he is not surprised, he is not in self-isolation, he is present.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
If you are at home self-isolating God is there, if you are contributing to the national effort by continuing essential work no matter how difficult God is there. If you are working from home trying to balance home and work, God is there. What will you do with this time we have been given? If you have always felt too busy to engage with God, seize this unique time and give it to Him. Garry Caine, one of our worship leaders has been blessed in his worship at home by this song and hopes it blesses others.
To that end we want to be a sharing and praying community, if you have prayer requests that you would like to share in the next email then please respond with them.
Jem and Pete
There are many times during our lives when we can feel isolated and on our own, yet we are never in a minority. Instead we are part of a kingdom that spans eternity and serve the One known as “our Father” (Mat 6:9) and therein lies our hope and as Paul reminds us:
“… hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”. Romans 5:5.
Hope is not something we wish for such as a financial windfall or new job which may or may not come about. Instead hope is rooted in the nature and character of the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we find our security. In considering this we see that hope is not about striving for something but being rooted in someone who challenges us to look to Him, the One who has all things in His hands. Through His incredible grace and mercy, we are the ‘brought home ones; established in the love of the One who gave His life so that we could live and in Him we find the strength and power to overcome all things.
As Isaiah writes, “Those who hope (wait) on the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31) with the picture here being that of slowing down and focusing on the Lord who then takes our weakness and replaces it with His strength. He does this, not because of anything good in ourselves, but because of His incredible grace, mercy and loving-kindness.
Today has not taken God by surprise in anyway and, like all others, is a day when He is in control. Our activities may be curtailed in this season of difficulty, but the way is always open to God and if you and everyone reading this pray for ten more people than usual, we have reached over a thousand more people in prayer. Catch the vision, be encouraged and root your hope in the One who loves you most.
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Cor 1:21-22
Please send in prayer requests as we can go forward in community with one another.
Pete and Jem
Its Jem and Pete here with your dose of encouragement.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2-3
Stanley Jones was a psychiatrist and missionary in India up until his departure for heaven in January 1973 and although I never met him, his life and words have always been an encouragement to me.
One day, at the age of eighty-seven, Stanley woke to find he’d had a stroke. Looking back on this time he wrote -
“I was a completely helpless person with my left arm and leg useless, the right side of my face numb and sagging, sight and speech badly impaired.”
Stanley went on to say that he had always expected to slowly descend into his nineties and one day wake up in the presence of the Lord; he had not expected to wake up old and crippled, and he panicked. However, the peace of God’s presence and security in Him through the power of the Spirit returned to him immediately when he realised one simple truth, this being that God could use him just as powerfully as an eighty-seven-year-old cripple as he could a man in his forties preaching three times a day. The difficulties Stanley faced, and his inabilities were no match for God. My prayer is that the following words he wrote will encourage you in all you are doing…
“By prayer, I am still communicating with the same Person. I belong to the same unshakeable Kingdom and the same unchanging Person. Nothing has really changed except my means of communication with the outside world”
Life will sometimes be difficult and it’s ok to feel small. What’s not ok is to assume we are alone or that God can’t work with and through our lives.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
God is the same God with the same life giving promises even when everything else changes including as Stanley said when our means of communication change. As many of you will have seen in the news, the most medically vulnerable in Britain are being told to isolate for 12 weeks. Those that are required to do so have been contacted by the NHS. This includes people in our beloved congregation please pray for them and everyone who will be self-isolating. Local governments are forming community hubs to help serve this group. We, God's global Church are all about service and this is an opportunity to do that, we will be assisting Brentwood council ion this. Please pray for the essential work of Brentwood Foodbank and its increase in pressure, pray for its volunteers and users.
Last Sunday will be our last service for sometime, whilst church services are not 'on'. Church is always 'on', even when we are isolated we are together in Christ.
Pete and Jem
Hi Dodd Road Community Church,
Its Pete here, I hope you are all keeping well whatever your current circumstances. We will be regularly sending out encouragement to you all at this time when so many of our beloved brothers and sisters can't be physically present meeting together. As you know Church is more than meetings and buildings, in fact you are Church, God's congregation, God's global kingdom expressed locally in the extraordinary everyday. We can and will continue to encourage one another, to bless one another and lift one another up in prayer. As it currently stands there will be a prayer service this Sunday 22nd March at the regular time however if you are in an at risk category or have a close family member that is we encourage you to stay at home. We are certain Christ's sufficiency and victory but we must look before crossing a road, be wise in God's victory, one way we can bless our wider community is to help combat this virus by stopping it being spread.
Thirty-seven miles off the coast of Asia Minor is what we could call the ‘Alcatraz’ of the ancient world - the island of Patmos. During the days of the Roman Empire, political prisoners and many who were perceived as a threat to ‘Pax Romana,’ were imprisoned on the island due to its isolated position. This island (twenty-five miles in circumference) was the one John was banished to by the Emperor, Domitian. Yet someone far more powerful than all the emperors of Rome combined – the King of kings – was about to speak into John’s life in such a way that millions of people were going to be encouraged down through the centuries being reminded that God is in control no matter what is going on.
John was a very small man in a very big empire, yet what we find with John, and with all who seek the Lord is that God really is the “I will never leave you nor forsake you” One (Deut 31:6; Mat 28:20, Eph 6:10).
God worked through John in an incredible way and is with us now in all we go through. In this time of difficulty and possible isolation, remember that you are noticed and loved and just as important to Him as anyone else. Remember that you can talk to the One who reaches beyond all walls, social barriers, geographic boundaries and even death if He so wishes. Use this time to pray more for others (without forgetting yourself) under the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is watching over you and despite any restrictions you may be facing, you might find yourself being freer than ever.Use this time to pray and be prayed for, send in prayer requests. Please pass this on to your family members and spouses, everyone who is part of our loved church family.
Pete and Jem