Introduction

Welcome to our new Sunday Talks blog. On this blog you will find notes and questions for reflection from our Sunday talks. Don't forget that you can download or listen to our talks too...click here to find them.

We hope that you find these resources helpful as you continue to think and reflect on our Sunday series.
 

Winning With People part 4: The Boomerang principle

On Sunday 19th July at our morning service, we finished our series Winning With People with the topic 'The Boomerang Principle'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

We live in a culture of suspicion and distrust and are encouraged to be suspicious of others:  afraid of people cheating us letting us down and making fools of us. The television and papers are full of scare stories. 
Our ability and willingness to trust is being eroded.
But just think about a time when someone put their trust in you.
Remember how it made you feel and how it affected your relationship with that person because trust deepens relationships.
In one of the biographies of Jesus, we read how Jesus trusted and entrusted his disciples with carrying out his mission.

Our reading was from Mark Chapter 6. You can read this by clicking here.

7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits…

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 

This happens soon after the twelve start to follow Jesus. 
They have seen and heard Jesus preach, heal and cast out demons. Now Jesus was asking them to do the same. This was risky. His reputation was in their hands. They might do things differently; they might fail or say the wrong things. It’s probably scary for them as well, but also a real boost to be entrusted with this.
Jesus did this because he knew what it would do in them?
Trust is one of the greatest tools for building relationships because trust deepens relationships

 “Trust is the result of a risk successfully survived”. Jack R. Gibb.

Jesus risked the disciples making a mess of things. 
They survived the risk and his trust in them grew and their confidence grew as a result. We need to grow in trusting other people but also grow in being trustworthy ourselves. 
Trust is the basis of any relationship… friends, family, neighbours and people you meet professionally.
 
What is at the heart of trust? T.R.R.U.S.T.
1.    Truth; people have to know that we keep our word
2.    Reliability: our reliability is assessed from their experience of us.
3.    Relationship: it is easier to trust someone that you have a relationship with. You know their heart.
4.    Universal: you have to be trustworthy in different situations and contexts. Would you lie for a friend, if so that friend knows that you might lie to them!
5.    Sacrifice: it is easier to trust someone that has your best interests at heart. These people will be willing to sacrifice for you. That is how you know just how        much they care. They will give their time, their resources, maybe a listening ear when they are tired or busy. Sacrifice is the visible tangible sign of love.
6.    Truth: trust begins and ends with truth.

Like constructing a building trust takes time and needs good foundations.

Trust is like a bank account. Every time you are entrusted with something and are found trustworthy it is a deposit. Each risk successfully survived is money in the bank. You have got to keep making deposits to make it grow. 
On occasions things will go wrong and it is like making a withdrawal. 
You have to keep making deposits to stay in credit. 
Too many withdrawals and too few deposits bankrupts the relationship.
Because trust deepens relationships.

The boomerang principle builds on this.
Jesus invested a lot of time and patience in the twelve that he sent out.
He had no guarantee that it would pay off, but it did.
Just like throwing away a boomerang it comes back to you.
You might not get the return but someone else benefits.
Sometimes it just makes you feel good.

There are 3 types of people
Takers: only concerned about themselves, concerned only for others when it threatens what they can give you.
Traders: Give for what they can get.
Investors: Focus on others with no expectation of return, but usually get one.

“There is a destiny that marks us as brothers;
No one goes his way alone:
All that we send into the life of others
Comes back into our own.”
Edwin Markham

Jesus has invested in you. He came to earth to serve, to love, to demonstrate compassion, to die in our place, to rise to enable us to enter new life. He has demonstrated how to live a full life with great relationships. 
What he expects from his followers is for us to do the same. 
To put the needs of others before our own, to invest in others and if necessary sacrifice for them. 
Whether you would call yourself a Christian or not these principles apply. 
Trust is at the heart of good relationships and the more you invest in others the more you will get back.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. What are the issues is it that this talk raises for you?

2. Think of a person you don’t trust and someone that you trust completely. Why do you trust one and not the other? Make 2 lists. 
    
3. Do you think that you have trust issues, if so why and what can be done to overcome them?

4. Are you trustworthy or is this something that you need to work on?

5. Who do you need to put trust in? A friend or colleague or maybe even Jesus?
 
6. Takers, Traders, Investors: Which kind of person are you more likely to want as a friend or colleague?
What kind are you a giver trader or a taker? Is it different in different circumstances? If so why is that?

7. What sort of a return do you experience when you help others?

 

Steph Littlejohn, 21/07/2015

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Winning With People part 3: Becoming Interested in Others

On Sunday 12th July at our morning service, we continued our series Winning With People with the topic 'Becoming Interested In Others'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

How do we build relationships of influence? How do we ensure people want to know us and be around us? How do we do better with relationships of influence with our children, friends, work colleagues? 

What we are talking about today is a critical thing that we can do to ensure that that happens and the good news is that this works whether you’re a Christian or not, but rather like the rest of the series, we will discover that if you are a Christian this is a command, not an option.

Paul was a follower of Jesus who lived around 2,000 years ago. He started lots of churches and he wrote letters to the people in them. One of those letters was to some people in a place called Philippi. In Philippians chapter 2 verses 1 to 8 we read about how we can build relationships of influence. You can read that by clicking here.

In verses 1 and 2 we see that this is a command for Christians, if you have any encouragement from being united with Jesus…if you would say you are following Jesus, if you take comfort from his love for you, then be of one spirit and one mind, basically get on with other people.

Then Paul goes on to tell us how to do that in verses 3 and 4. Don’t act out of selfish ambition, don’t act of vain conceit, be humble. Value others above yourself. Don’t look to your own interests, look to the interests of others.

People who remain self centred and self serving will always have a hard time getting along with others. Albert Einstein said “A person first starts to live when he can live outside himself”. This is so true isn’t it? Look at people you love relating to, look at people who have lots of friendships, look at the people who are at the centre of a community like a church…they are the people who are not self centred or self serving, they are the people who give of themselves to others, who realise that the entire world with one minor exception is composed of others, so they better be interested in other people.

It is also true that believing the best in people, usually brings the best out of people. We mustn’t allow our disappointment in a few people to stop us believing in people.

For non Christians this is just a great way to live, but for Christians look at what Paul goes on to say – in verses 6 to 8…this is what Jesus did and that is why people flocked to him. 

Here are six ways to let people know you are interested in them (from John Maxwell’s book Winning with People).
1. Become genuinely interested in other people
2. Smile
3. Remember that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound
4. Be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves
5. Talk about the other persons interests
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely

The person who is interested in themselves walks in and says “here I am,” the person who is interested in others walks in and says “there you are” and anybody can learn to do that. If you want to be the kind of person that makes others smile when they see you coming, get outside yourself, change your focus, and become interested in others, it will change your life.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Think for a minute about the sorts of people you love to be around, or the sorts of people that make you smile when you see them coming…what makes them that way?

2. Think about the people that have influenced you positively throughout your life…what kinds of things have they done?

3. Do you think you are a person like this, do you think you are a person that others seeing coming and smile?

4. If you are a Christian what does it make you feel to think that these commands are commands from God? Does that make them more of a priority for you?

5. Which of the things that Paul lists do you need to work on? How might you do that?

6. Do you agree that it was because he was this type of person that people flocked to Jesus?

7. How can you have the same ‘mindset’ as Jesus?

8. What are you going to do to make some changes?

Chris Porter, 21/07/2015

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Winning With People part 2: The Lift Principle

On Sunday 5th July at our morning service, we continued our series Winning With People with the topic 'The Lift Principle'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the start of our talk we watched a clip from 'The Pursuit of Happyness' from Wingclips. You can watch this by clicking here.

 

Talk Summary

I wonder if you have a Christmas party at the place where you work. If you do I wonder if there is a discussion similar to the one that seems to happen every year where I work about the seating plan. Who is going to sit next to who? Do you have people you would really prefer not to sit next to and others you would love to sit next to? 

What is it about some people that seems to lift us up and yet others just seem to drag us down?

One of Jesus’ first followers – a guy called Paul wrote to a church in a place called Thessalonica about how we can and in fact should be encouragers of each other. There are some particularly helpful bits of that letter when it comes to encouragement. You can find them in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 9 to 15. You can read them by clicking here. 

One of the key things to notice is that Christians need to realise that Paul was telling the church here that this isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is actually something we should logically want to do. In verses 9-11 it says “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The key word is therefore. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. Paul was telling Christians that if we truly believe that God sent his son for us then we should be encouragers of one another, we should be looking to build one another up.

Then in the following verses Paul tells us who we should be encouragers to: those that work hard, those who admonish us, those who are timid and weak. Admittedly not all of those people are easy to see as people we should encourage and build up, particularly those who admonish us as none of us like to be told off.

However when Paul talks about people who admonish us he was referring to people who are telling us things because they care about us. They are telling us that maybe something we are doing isn’t helpful and actually they only want the best for us, He wasn’t talking about those who are constantly on our case, yelling at us and making us feel bullied.

In his book Winning with People John Maxwell outlined a principle he called the elevator principle. I guess we would probably call it the lift principle. He said that what you have to imagine is that we all have a lift and what people say and do can either have a positive effect on us and take us up in our lift, or it can have the opposite effect and take us down in our lift.

He then went on to explain this further by talking about four types of people that we may have in our life. Some who take us up in our lift that we love to be around and others who we find draining that we try to avoid because they take us down in our lift. Just like at the Christmas party!

The first group he talks about are adders. He describes these people as ones who take us up one floor in our lift. These are the kind of people who notice what we do and say thank you. When someone does this it gives us a lift.

But then he talks about a second group who he called mulitpliers. These people have the ability to take us up multiple floors, maybe 10 at a time. Now why is that? Well these people usually are far more intentional about how they encourage us and what they encourage us about. These are the kind of people who make time to write maybe a card to us, and when they do they talk to us about us as a person. Not what we have done, but about our personality about our traits, about us.

If you have ever been the recipient of this kind of encouragement you will know what kind of a lift it gave you!

He also outlined people he called subtractors. These people have the ability to take us down a floor in our lift. Sometimes people can do this simply by not saying thank you, maybe they have taken something you have done for granted, it can take us down a floor if we feel like our work is being ignored.

I think we also quite unintentionally can take people down a floor. You could well be aware of a term “banter”. When people have banter about one another and I have to admit I have some banter with my family and people I work with. Most of the time it is fine but I do have to catch myself at times wondering if I have just crossed that line, and actually what I have said may have taken someone down a floor.

Then last of all he talks about dividers. These are people who can take us down lots of floors at a time, maybe even right down to the basement! Usually this is because they are being intentional and also they are usually telling us something about our personality. That hurts and I know when it has happened to me I have felt very hurt.

So what do we need to do with these ideas? Well I think it leads us to the conclusion that we should be more like the adders and the multipliers that John Maxwell outlined, not just within church but within life in general.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Can you think of experiences in your life where you have been on the receiving end of people who have lifted you or encouraged you? What about times when people have brought you down?

2. Can you think of examples where you have encouraged others?

3. Why do you think Paul was saying that for Christians this is especially important?

4. How easy do you find it to thank people who work hard or who admonish you?

5. How can you be an encourager of the weak or the timid? How can you do that?

6. Where do you need to be more like and adder/multiplier?

7. How can you be a better adder/multiplier?

8. What might be stopping you being an adder/multiplier?

 

Stephen Nower, 07/07/2015

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Winning With People part 1: How We See

On Sunday 28th June at our morning service, we started our new series Winning With People with the topic 'How We See'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

A traveller nearing a great city asked an old man seated by the road, “what are the people like in this city?” “What were they like where you came from?” the man asked. “Horrible” the traveller reported “mean, untrustworthy, detestable in all respects”. “Ah” said the man, “you will find them the same in the city ahead”. Scarcely had the first traveller gone on his way when another stopped to inquire about the people in the city before him. Again the old man asked about the people in the place the traveller had just left. “They were fine people: honest, industrious, and generous to a fault” declared the traveller “I was sorry to leave”. The old man responded “that’s exactly how you’ll find the people here”.

The way we see others is often reflection of the way in which we see ourselves:
•    If I am a trusting person, I will see others as trustworthy
•    If I am a critical person, I will see others as critical
•    If I am a caring person, I will see others as compassionate

How we see ourselves is often the single biggest factor in how we see others. If our inner voices are angry, bitter, frustrated or if our self image is too low or too high then it affects our capacity to relate to other people because it affects how we see them.

Do you want to be a better friend, be a better partner, be a better father or mother, be a better brother or sister, be a better son or daughter? If you’re not a Christian then the good news is that this stuff is as relevant to you as it is to anyone else.

There is a story from the life of Jesus that perfectly illustrates this issue of how we see others being affected by how we see ourselves. In the story we hear about two very different people. The story can be found in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life chapter 7 verses 36 to 47. You can read this by clicking here.

Simon is a Pharisee and he is self righteous and believes that he is better than everyone else. He looks down on the woman who arrives in his home, he calls her a sinner (verse 39). He fails to understand that he is a sinner too, we all are. Because he has this distorted self image he looks down on the woman, he is unable to see her as she really is, there is much more to her than her behaviour. And he is failing to see Jesus for who he really is too. He needs to look in the mirror and take a good look at himself.

Look what Jesus says to Simon in verse 44 – do you see this woman. Do you really see her? The stuff going on inside of you Simon, is meaning that you can’t really see her for who she is.

But the woman here, she knows herself. She knows that she is in need of forgiveness and because of that she is able to see Jesus for who he is. The one who can forgive her and set her free.

In his book “Winning with People” John Maxwell talks about something called “the mirror principle” and that is highlighted by that story. The mirror principle says that if we want to build great relationships the first person we must examine is ourselves. 

People who are unaware of who they are and what they do often damage their relationships with others
•    The way to change that is to look in the mirror and as we look in the mirror to consider these statements: The first person I must know is myself - self awareness
•    The first person I must get along with is myself - self esteem
•    The first person to cause me problems is myself - self honesty
•    The first person I must change is myself - self improvement
•    The first person that can make a difference is myself - self responsibility

The truth is that really the only way to really get an accurate view of ourselves is to ask others to help and the best question we can ask is this “what’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The way to change is to look at ourselves and do the hard work of starting to change ourselves and that starts with looking in the mirror and asking others to help us with that.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Can you think of a time when what was going on inside of you affected your ability to relate to others?

2. Do you find it easier to judge other people rather than look at yourself?

3. What do you think Simon the Pharisee was thinking when the woman arrived in his home?

4. What do you think Jesus was thinking?

5. What was going on inside of Simon that caused him to react to the woman and to Jesus in the ways that he did?

6. What was going on inside of the woman to cause her to react towards Jesus as she did?

7. What was going on inside of Jesus to cause him to react to both the woman and to Peter as he did?

8. Who do you most feel like in the story? Who do you most want to be like?

9. When you look in the mirror and use those five statements which one speaks loudest to you? What are you going to do as a result?

10. Who might you ask “what is it like to be on the other side of me?”

 

Chris Porter, 29/06/2015

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Taking Responsibility part 4: Embracing Your Response Ability

On Sunday 21st June at our morning service, we continued our series Taking Responsibility with the topic 'Embracing Your Response Ability'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

We often hear children cry out, “That’s not fair!” And as we become adults we fully understand the truth, that life is not fair. Some people have money, talent, personality, a good marriage, are very intelligent and so on. However, the fact that life isn’t fair or even, can quickly become an excuse for acting irresponsibly. We can easily adopt an attitude that says, “since you’ve got more than me (whatever it happens to be) you can clear up my mess, you deal with it.” This behaviour leads to a downward spiral for the individual. Self respect plummets, which leads to self-destructive behaviour. The real issue is, “what am I going to do with the hand that I’ve been dealt, whether it’s fair or unfair, even or uneven. Am I going to be responsible?

Matthew records a series of parables that Jesus taught to help us understand the relationship between our lives here and God’s coming kingdom. In one of these, he addresses directly our responsibility to respond appropriately to the unevenness of life especially uneven opportunities. You can read Matthew 25:14-30 by clicking here.

This is a lesson about being responsible with the uneven opportunities that God brings our way. It is also a reminder that every opportunity is a stewardship for which we are responsible.

When you think about the opportunities in your life, do you see yourself as a “5 bag” person, a “2 bag” person, or a “1 bag” person? Look at what you have been given (not what you haven’t), take responsibility, refuse to take it for granted, and decide how to use it to the maximum advantage for helping others for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Every one of us has time and opportunities in our life; they are not equal and they are not fair. In Matthew 25:19, Jesus makes it clear that we will have to give an account of our life. So, when opportunities do come our way, let’s 
1.    Not take them for granted
2.    Not be lazy
3.    Not make excuses
4.    Not blame others or circumstances
5.    Not compare ourselves to the people around us.
              
LET’S TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!

To whom something has been given, regardless of how great or small, something is required. When we embrace that, and refuse to make excuses or blame others, then we begin to take full responsibility for our lives.

 


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1.    Do you agree that, “life’s not fair!” If yes, why do you think that? If no, why do you think that?

2.    In the parable, the master distributes the bags of gold unevenly, which seems unfair. However, since it’s his money, he is free to do with it what he likes. Therefore, it seems that life can be both fair and unfair at the same time. Do you agree? Why/why not?

3.    Can you think of any examples of “5 bag”, “2 bag” and “1 bag” people? Either those that you know personally or that you may have read about.

4.    How do you see yourself in terms of the opportunities that you have?

5.    Do you think that you are guilty of taking opportunities for granted, being lazy, making excuses, blaming others/circumstances, or comparing yourself with others?

6.    What one thing will you commit to doing, that will ensure that you take responsibility for the opportunities that you do have?

Rob Lea, 22/06/2015

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Taking Responsibility part 3: This is No Time To Pray

On Sunday 14th June at our morning service, we continued our series Taking Responsibility with the topic 'This Is No Time To Pray'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

A survey in 2013 widely reported in the newspapers including the Guardian and the Telegraph stated that six out of seven adults said that they pray. Normally when there is a crisis or they have behaved irresponsibly and want God to do something.


Most of us whether Christian or not, shoot up some pretty fast prayers when something is going wrong or life is not as we hoped it would be. And there is a time to pray, but there is also a time not to pray.

To help us understand all of this, we are going to use a story from the Old Testament part of the Bible in a book called Joshua. God commanded Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the land he had promised them years earlier. And when God commanded them to enter into this land, God said I don’t want you to marry the people who live there, I do not want you to take their cattle or their gold and silver. We are going to do something brand new, their behaviour is so awful that we need to start afresh, so Joshua leads the people of Israel into Canaan.

The first city they come across is Jericho and God gives them an amazing victory. They move on, come to a city called Ai and this is where we pick the story up. You can read it in Joshua chapter 7 verses 1 to 13.

They realise that the city of Ai is small, so they go with a small army to defeat it, but they are routed and they were shocked and they begin to have doubts, what is God doing, where was God (verses 4-5)? We do this don’t we? These are the sorts of things we say when life doesn’t go as we planned it. So they start praying (verse 6). We do this don’t we? We start praying when things go wrong. Then they start blaming God (verse 7). We do this don’t we? Start blaming God when things go wrong.

And what is God’s response to all of this? God says “Get up, what are you doing? This isn’t time to pray, stand up, why are you praying?” (verse 10). There are times when we just need to stop praying, get up and take action. 

And just go back to verse 1– we know what happened, it wasn’t all of them, it was just one, this guy Achan who did what he shouldn’t have done, who took some of the stuff God commanded them not to (the devoted things).

In this story we get a glimpse into what happens in a community, a community of friends, a community of a family, a community of a work team, a community of a church, when someone acts irresponsibly The whole community is impacted, the whole people of Israel is impacted by the actions of this one irresponsible person - Achan. That wasn’t fair on the rest of the people of Israel, that’s not fair on a community, a family, a work team, a church when that happens. It’s not fair, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And you may have had experience of this:
•    When you’ve tried to live well but your husband or your wife has behaved irresponsibly  and you are picking up the mess.
•    When you’ve tried to do your best at work but someone on your team has not carried their responsibilities and you are left having to cover for them.
•    When you’ve served faithfully in church but you are doing way more than your fair share because others aren’t contributing.

It’s not fair, but that is the nature of irresponsibility because we are connected and that leads to two conclusions:
•    Firstly we better make sure we are acting responsibly, because if we aren’t we are expecting other people to pick up our mess and that’s not fair, and if you are a Christian even more importantly it’s not a godly way to behave, because as we discovered in week 1 of this series we were created for responsibility.
•    Secondly it means that we shouldn’t tolerate irresponsibility, we should be prepared to challenge it.

What are we praying about that we should be dealing with? How do we know?

Firstly if God has already addressed the issue, you don’t have to pray. If God’s already addressed it you don’t have to pray about it, you just have to act, to take responsibility.

Secondly if you are trying to pray your way out of something you behaved your way into, it’s time to stand up and do something. If you are substituting prayer for not taking responsibility that just means that you are an irresponsible person who prays. 

So here is the challenge, what are you praying about that you actually just need to take some action on? Because…there are times when we just need to stop praying, get up and take action.

 

 


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Do you agree that it’s not fair that the entire community of the people of Israel suffer because of the actions of one man – Achan? Why do you think that is?
 
2. Why do you think God tells Joshua to get up and stop praying?
 
3. Can you think of times when you have been on the receiving end of someone else’s irresponsibility?
 
4. Can you think of times where you own irresponsibility has created problems for other people?
 
5. What are you praying about that God has already dealt with or that you have behaved your way into?
 
6. What actions do you need to take?
 
7. Is prayer still important? What should you be praying about?
 

Chris Porter, 15/06/2015

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Taking Responsibility part 2: The Disproportionate Life

On Sunday 7th June at our morning service, we continued our series Taking Responsibility with the topic 'The Disproportionate Life'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

During our service we watched two clips from Wingclips about the interview between Frost and Nixon. To watch these, click here and here.

 

Talk Summary

Legend has it that the Greek mathematician Archimedes discovered the principle named after him while in the bath and then ran round the streets of Syracuse shouting “I have found it”. The principle helps us understand why a pebble will sink but a ship weighing thousands of tons floats. All Archimedes did was to discover something that already existed, that is a part of the world in which we live. In this talk we looked at an important principle that affects all of us: you reap what you sow. 

It is important to understand that this is part of how God has made things. You can't change it – it just is. The principle appears a number of times in the Bible, one being in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Chapter 9 vv 3-11. Here, Paul has been encouraging the Galatian churches to help, encourage and support one another – but he breaks off to emphasise that to so effectively they need to get control of their own lives.

If we are going to take responsibility for our lives we must focus in the right place. And that is right there with us, no one else. It is far too easy to think we are right, we are important and it's always someone else's problem. More fool you if you fail to recognise, and own, your own problems and focus on someone else instead (see v.3). We should not distract ourselves by comparing ourselves with others (v.4).  If I focus on someone else, I will just make excuses but if I focus on me, I’ll make some progress. We must take responsibility for our own actions (v.5).

Paul makes the principle bluntly clear in verse 7 where he says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (NIV) Don’t let people lead you astray, or fool yourself into thinking that you can somehow put one over on the Almighty! There will be consequences to our actions. We can’t fool God, who won’t fall for it if we try and wriggle out of what we have done or blame Him when something we choose to do rebounds on us.

Paul spells out that although there is a price to pay for irresponsible living, living responsibly brings its rewards (v8). If you get involved with bad stuff, don't be surprised when things get bad or worse. To use religious language, sin leads nowhere but deeper into sin and, ultimately, to destruction. Whereas, if you focus on things that are good, following God’s way, trusting Jesus, then the long term prospects are life-giving – and for ever. Life is connected. There is a correlation between what you did/said in the past and what’s going on in your life now. 

Time and again in the Bible we see this principle in operation – EVERYBODY reaps and, importantly. It happens LATER and GREATER. Because it happens later, we tend to give up too soon and when it is greater it takes us by surprise. We cannot complain that “it’s not fair” like a disappointed child – it isn’t fair as we measure it. We reap what we sow. You can’t pray yourself around it, going to church doesn’t make things right, you can’t serve your way around it. Like Archimedes Principle, it just is.

We have a simple choice – to ignore the principle and reap the consequences or to take advantage of it and make it work for us rather than against us so that we reap the benefits. Why don’t you take responsibility for your slice of the chaos – own it – admit that it was essentially your decision, whatever the circumstances might have been at the time. Don’t dwell on those circumstances – on the ideas that “it wasn’t my fault” or “I didn’t know” or “someone else didn’t know”. Next, think what it is that you need to do now that you should have been doing all along and then do those things – and keep doing them because, in due time, you will reap if you do not grow weary (verse 9).

In another letter (2 Cor 9 v 6-8) Paul also talks about this principle of reaping and sowing.  He reminds us that although the responsibility is ours, God’s grace will help us: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

 

 


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Think about your life experience. Can you think of a time when you didn’t take full responsibility for your actions? Did you try make excuses, blame      someone else or even God? What were the consequences?

2. Is there something is happening in your life now where you are reaping what you have sown? What can you do to “own” it and change how you act to make it better?

3. Can you think of something where you sowed wisely and have reaped well?  How did that happen?

4. Remember the idea that reaping will be “later and greater”. Reflect on what your life is like at the moment and consider whether you might be sowing something that will not reap well in the future and take responsibility now.

 

Peter Roe, 12/06/2015

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Taking Responsibility part 1: Let The Blames Begin

On Sunday 31st May at our morning service, we started our series Taking Responsibility with the topic 'Let The Blames Begin'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here
 

Talk Summary

Irresponsibility is not a neutral thing, whenever someone is irresponsible or doesn’t do what they are responsible for, someone else has to come along and clean up that mess – it must be handled by someone. When I act irresponsibly I am expecting other people, who aren’t responsible for me to carry the burden of the mess or the chaos I’ve created.

Today we are going to look at a story that comes right at the start of the bible. I realise that this story can be interpreted in lots of different ways: some think it is a real story, some a parable, but I don’t want to get into that today, we have done that before, if that interests you, then look up some of our other talks on that subject, for today just go with the story.

The story is in the first book of the Bible – Genesis chapters 1 and 3. You can read that by clicking here and here.

Look at Genesis chapter 1 verses 27-28a. Before God gives them anything to do, he gives them responsibility, be fruitful – have babies. And he goes on in verse 28b: rule over the earth, because you, human beings, you are responsible for it. So in the beginning God gave human beings responsibility to rule over the earth and take care of it.

You were created to be responsible, intuitively you know this, and in fact we are often happiest when we are responsible.

Now the story goes on, they fulfil their responsibilities, but then they mess up. They eat the fruit from the tree God has told them to avoid, and then this in chapter 3 verse 8. Firstly they hid, they messed up, but instead of taking responsibility, they hide. How often do we do that? Mess up and instead of owning it or apologising we try to hide away from it?

In verse 9 God knows where Adam is, he doesn’t need to ask, but he is giving Adam the chance to own up and in verses 10 and 11God says, Adam, I am holding you responsible”.

Adam refuses to accept responsibility – verse 12. “Oh no, it’s not my fault, it’s that woman you put here with me, I didn’t ask for her, God this isn’t my fault, in fact it’s your fault because you put her here.”

Eve refuses to accept responsibility – verse 13. Eve says “it’s not my fault either…it was the snake”. So no one is taking responsibility and we are introduced to another insight when it comes to irresponsibility, it always creates conflict. Irresponsibility that leads to blame always creates conflict.

You were created to carry certain levels of responsibility and when you shirk those responsibilities and expect someone else to pay for it, to shoulder the burden, to clean up the mess, you have lost something that is a part of you and you will never reach your God-given potential, because you were created to be responsible. And you will be at your happiest; you’re most fulfilled when you shoulder the responsibility you were designed for.

Two things we can do to ensure we are taking responsibility: Firstly own your blame: this week listen to your blame, because we all do this. Just listen to the words that come out of your mouth or the thoughts that run through your head. It might be as simple as “I deserved that new thing that I can’t afford”, “I didn’t do my exercise today because…”, “I’m too tired to…”

Then second thing: own your responsibilities and think about what you are asking other people to do. Three areas to do this in: family, work, church. God asks us to be responsible in these three areas of our lives.

And if we blame someone else and don’t take responsibility then we are asking them to clean up our mess.

So own your blame and own your responsibility in your family, work, church. And let’s stop blame shifting and start taking responsibility because we are happiest and most fulfilled when we do that, because it’s how God made us.

 


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Can you think of a time when you haven’t taken responsibility for something you should have done or have acted irresponsibly? How did you feel about that? What was the outcome?

2. Why do you think Adam and Eve hid when they heard God in the garden of Eden?

3. What might have been different if first Adam and then Eve had owned up to their responsibilities?

4. Why do you think they tried to shift the blame?

5. How does it make you feel to think that God created you to be responsible?

6. Are you at your happiest and most fulfilled when you are being responsible?

 

Chris Porter, 01/06/2015

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50 Shades Of Grace part 3: Surrender

On Sunday 17th May at our morning service, we finished our series 50 Shades of Grace with the topic 'Surrender'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our service we watched a Youtube media of the song How Can It Be. To watch this, please click here. 

At the start of our talk we watched a Skit Guys clip called Cards You've Been Dealt. To watch this, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

Lots of people are terrified of flying, and I think the reason why is that when we fly we are totally surrendered, we have given up control. We find total surrender a really difficult thing.

You and I are surrendered to many things in our lives…career, relationships, desires, passions and material things. We are all surrendered to something and when we surrender it costs us something: sometimes financially, sometimes surrendering a part of ourselves or our desires or our time and our energy.

What are you surrendered too? And have you chosen that or has it been forced on you or something you have stumbled into?

And what about God have you ever considered surrendering to him?

One of the first followers of Jesus was a guy called Paul. Paul was not always a follower of Jesus. In fact it was his job to round up followers of Jesus and torture and kill them. Paul was completely in control of his life, he was not surrendered to anyone. Then he had a radical encounter with God, became a follower of Jesus in a dramatic way and he started telling others about what he had discovered.

He wrote them letters to keep encouraging them and one of those letters was to a bunch of people living in Rome and in a part of that letter he said this: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans chapter 12 verse 1 – to read the passage click here).

Paul is telling those followers of Jesus that they needed to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. And that is about surrender…look at what he says…offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…this is about surrender. He is saying it is pleasing to God when you surrender to him. 

Now if you’re a Christian this is for you…as a follower of Jesus, Paul is saying that you should be surrendered to God – look this is your true and proper worship. If you’re not a Christian, this isn’t for you, God isn’t expecting those who don’t even believe he exists or who aren’t following Jesus to surrender to him…but it is useful to know…if you’re exploring Christianity this is what you need to know, this is what you are in for – total surrender to God.

And whether you’re a Christian or not, one of the things you might be thinking at this point, is hold on, who is God to demand that I surrender to him? What has God every done to deserve my complete and total surrender?

Look what Paul says in the first part of verse 1: “in view of God’s mercy”. You see God isn’t some draconian, distant, remote figure who is demanding our submission and our surrender. God’s mercy is that God became a human being. God surrendered everything when he sent his son to arrive on earth as a baby and to give his life.

You see God knows everything there is to know about surrender, because he surrendered everything, he gave away control when he stepped into human history and became a human being himself. Not because we deserved it, not because we had earned it, but because he wanted to, because he feels that strongly about us, because he loves us and wants to be in a relationship with us, and that is grace…undeserved, free, unearned surrender by God toward us, that’s grace.

Who is God that he should ask for our surrender to him? He is the one who surrendered everything to us first and that’s what gives him the right to ask this of us, and in my view it is the only appropriate response to the one who first surrendered and who gave everything.

The second of God’s goals in asking for our surrender is so that our lives will be better. Look at the next part of what Paul says “be transformed so that you can know what God’s will is for you.” God wants us to surrender to him not for his benefit but for ours.

So let’s return to that fundamental question: who or what are you surrendered to and did you choose it? Is the thing that you are surrendered to going to bring you the best, is it going to be good for you, is it going to bring you hope and a future?

We can surrender to all kinds of things, or we can surrender to God who is the only one who truly has our best interests at heart, who truly wants the best for us, who truly knows what is the best for us. And we can be sure of that because he has surrendered everything for us first, and that is grace. And the only appropriate response to that kind of extraordinary grace is total surrender.


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Who or what are you surrendered to in your life or part of your life?

2. Did you choose that or did you stumble into it?

3. How does surrender feel? Why is it scary?

4. What do you think about God being pleased when we surrender to him?

5. How does it feel to surrender to God?

6. How does it feel to realise that God surrendered everything to us first? Think about what it meant for the creator of the world to send his son (who was present at creation) down to earth as a baby.

7. Do you believe that God has your best interests at heart?

8. What is stopping you from surrendering totally to God? How might you take steps to surrender yourself completely to God?

 

Chris Porter, 18/05/2015

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50 Shades Of Grace part 2: Sacrifice

On Sunday 10th May at our morning service, we continued our new series 50 Shades of Grace with the topic 'Sacrifice'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our talk we watched a Skit Guys. To watch this, please click here. 

At the end of our talk we watched a media of the song 'Saving Grace'. To watch this, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

Have you ever asked yourself the question “What did I do to deserve this?”
It could be something bad or something good that happens to you that prompts the question
What did I do to deserve this?
This is often the way we think isn’t it.
I hope that I am able to help you with the answer to this question for followers of Jesus. For those checking out Christianity I hope I will help you understand something central to our relationship to God.

Sometimes we believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. We know it is not true but when trouble hits we often revert to this idea. This is not a Christian concept but feeling that our circumstances are caused by our actions are deep rooted in us.
Sometimes this is true. Our actions have consequences we have to deal with. But sometimes things happen that are unrelated to our actions. The car is stolen, we are made redundant or get ill. The rain may pour down every day of our holiday and we think…What did I do to deserve this?
This is a human feeling.
If we are a person of faith it can be difficult because you may feel that God is punishing us for something. We have lost God’s love or favour. This question is dealt with in the Bible in a few places.
Early followers of Jesus suffered all kinds of difficulties and I guess they asked themselves the same sorts of questions.
Paul an early convert to Christianity deals with this issue in a letter to the church at Rome.

Romans 8:31-39 
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? 
If God is for us, who can be against us? 

In the previous chapters of this letter Paul outlines how much God loves his people and tells them that they are no longer judged on how well they keep all of the Old Testament laws. He wants them, and us to know that God is for us. How do we know that God is for us? Because…

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?...It is God who justifies. 
Justified: Jesus death brings freedom from any condemnation for sin. All God is looking for is; regret, remorse and a desire to change.
Jesus has suffered the consequences for us.
Jesus gets what we deserve.

The God that didn’t spare his own son, who gave us his son, will graciously give us all things. 

This the logic that Paul puts to the question. He has sacrificed his son for love of you. Jesus has suffered the consequences for love of you. He wants you to know this. You may now ask;
“What did I do to deserve this?” Nothing…God loves you
This is what grace is: undeserved, unearnt love and forgiveness.
This is the most he could do to express his love, why should we ever doubt this love then? 

Paul goes on;
34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 
Jesus is pleading our case, getting us off the hook. He wants us to know this when we ask the question What did I do to deserve this?
The answer is nothing…God loves you.
When bad things happen we can feel as though God doesn’t love us. Paul deals with these feelings when he says this;

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ……
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Jesus has won the battle for our souls for us. 
He says;
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

FACT

So how should knowing this affect us?
Every time that we think “what did I do to deserve this” we need to answer with the truth… Nothing, God loves me.
When trouble hits it is not God punishing us; we need to get that into our souls. It may be that God uses these circumstances to teach us something to help us to grow up in our faith, but it is never because he does not love us anymore. God wants everyone to know that.
We need to help others understand this when they struggle with these feelings.
Always remember the answer to this question.
“What did I do to deserve this?”… Nothing God loves me.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1.    What is it from this Passage that strikes you? What word phrase or idea?
       Why do you think that is?

2.    What surprises you or shocks you when you read this?

3.    Have you ever asked yourself “what have I done to deserve this” when troubles have hit you or have you heard anyone else express these feelings?
       What was happening to make you or the other person feel like this?

4.    What, if anything helped you or them at the time? 

5.    Is there anything in this passage that helps with this? If so what are they?

6.    Is Paul’s logic convincing? If so how and if not why?

7.    Are there particular things in you that makes you vulnerable to these kinds of feelings? If so, what are they and what do you need to do to overcome them?

 

Steph Littlejohn, 13/05/2015

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50 Shades Of Grace part 1: Saved

On Sunday 3rd May at our morning service, we started our new series 50 Shades of Grace with the topic 'Saved'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our talk we watched a Youtube clip from The Big Bang Theory. To watch this, please click here. 

At the end of our talk we watched a media of the song 'Saving Grace'. To watch this, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

I love watching “The Big Bang Theory” and this clip is my favourite – one of the characters, Sheldon, receives a gift from his friend Penny that is so overwhelming, he feels the need to try and earn it. Eventually he realises that he really can’t – whatever he tries to give back just doesn’t measure up – and in the end all he can do is accept the gift and show Penny he loves her.

I think this is a wonderful metaphor for God’s gift of grace and our response. We wrestle with the issue of Jesus dying on a cross to pay for our sin, and we feel the need to try to earn our way into being right with God (righteousness) by being “good”. But in the end, we can never measure up – all we can do is accept the free gift by faith and return the love.

The problem is we often attach more value to things that we earn than the same things given to us for free – we may even begrudge people having stuff they didn’t earn when we did earn it!

 I used to be in sales and I earned great commission when I did well – after one particularly successful month I remember going out and treating myself to a new guitar. It’s a lovely guitar but it’s more valuable to me because I know how hard I had to work to earn it! Would I swap it for a new one – even a better one? No way! Because we’re so proud of ourselves, we place a higher value on things that we’ve worked really hard to earn, compared with the same things given to us for free – and we’re likely to resent someone else getting it for free either!

In the early days of the church some Jewish Christians, trying to follow God’s laws as set down by Moses, struggled to accept that Gentiles could be acceptable to God – they (the Gentiles, non-Jews) didn’t follow the Law. They didn’t “earn” the right to be right with God! Tensions arose between the Jewish and Gentile Christians because of this, and this same confusion and tension still arises today!

A man called Paul – a Jew who was also a Roman citizen - was ideally placed (by God) to address the Jews and the Gentiles, and ideally placed to know that God not only loves the undeserving but can use them powerfully – he himself used to go around persecuting Christians before having his life transformed by a radical encounter with Jesus! Aware of the tension over this issue of Grace, Paul wrote a letter to the early church in Rome, made up of Jews and Gentiles.
Paul started by tackling the Jews’ attitude head on. He addresses it directly – sets out their argument about how God is offended by sin and has given us rules to live by. Then Paul points out no-one had ever fully adhered to the Law – everyone is guilty of sin – and he listed a whole load of scripture that would have driven it home to them. 

But then he continues by showing that there is now a new way to be made right with God, which comes from God and is available freely, through faith in Jesus, to EVERYONE. He writes: “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (

We need to understand that God’s grace is not a reward for those who follow the law. God’s grace is for the otherwise damned – God’s grace is for everyone.
But why through the cross? Why through Jesus shedding his blood? 

We might think: “Why not just forgive us? Why all the blood and gore and weird language… righteousness… blood of the Lamb… substitutional atonement….what? Just forgive us! You’re so loving – just forgive us!” Well, OK… How about if God “just forgave”…. Hitler?
What if God said: “Ah…. Go on. I’ll forgive ya Hitler. Six million Jews…. Countless millions of others…. The SS, the Gestapo, the Blitz… but I’m a nice guy… no skin off my nose, we’re good - it’s just the kinda God I am!”

Would that make him more admirable? Would you worship Him for His perfect justice? No – sin offends God and it must be paid for. There must be a reckoning, even if he bears the cost himself. And because all sin offends God, in a sense what applies to Hitler, applies to me – and to you. 

So what sort of God is worthy of your worship? A big softie? A God who doesn’t care about right and wrong? Or a God who justifies us (makes us just in his eyes) and is at the same time just? A righteous God, who doesn’t just forgive us, but is just and forgives us. It’s righteousness and it’s wrath and it’s justice… but all wrapped up in an overwhelming love – like with your kids! And who can make you more angry – yet who do you love more – than your children?

You see, we can never earn our way into being right with God – we have all messed up and still do. And God is a righteous God – there is a price to be paid for sin, even if He in His overwhelming love has to pay it Himself. So God doesn’t “just” forgive us. God forgives us – ALL of us - and is just at the same time. All we need to do is accept that free gift of Grace by faith in Jesus. 



Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Do you think you need to “earn” your way into being right with God? Where does following biblical teaching (“the Law”) fit in with this?

2. What do you think when others who say they are Christians behave badly? 

4. If we have faith in Jesus, how should this affect our outlook on life – and our behaviours?

5. What might be an example of when you have felt angry at something someone has done, but put it aside because of your love for them? 

6. Read Romans 3. How do you view what God requires of us? What does “placing our faith in Jesus Christ” look like in the way we think and act?

7. What are the differences between trying to follow the rules to earn something and trying to follow rules because you love someone?

Simon Lace, 28/04/2015

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A Case for Christianity Part 3: The Case for God

On Sunday 19th April at our morning service, we contuinued a new series called A Case for Christianity. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our talk we watched an edited clip from A Few Good Men. To watch this, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

Most people would agree that deep inside ourselves we know that some things are right and some things are wrong – regardless of what people think about them. For example the holocaust, when 6 million Jewish people were murdered. Even if the Nazis thought that what they were doing was morally justified, we would say, “we don’t care, it was wrong!”
Where do these moral absolutes and moral obligations originate? Where does this knowledge of objective right and wrong and truth, come from? Is it social convention, personal preference, evolution or from God?

Here is a simple piece of logic and reasoning that will help us to work this out:
1.    If God does not exist, objective moral values and obligations do not exist.
2.    Objective moral values and obligations do exist
3.    Therefore, God exists

Premise 1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and obligations do not exist. Just to clarify, objective means independent of people’s opinion, and subjective means dependent on people’s opinion. Therefore, objective moral values is to say that something is good or bad no matter what people think about it. Similarly, objective moral obligations is to say that certain actions are right or wrong regardless of what people think.

Therefore, if God does not exist, then there is no way to say that any action is objectively right or wrong, good or bad. All that you can say is “I like this” or “I don’t like this”. And if that’s the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings in to law? Since we live in a democracy, you might say that the majority should decide.  In which case, the majority has the right to exterminate a minority if they so decide? I’m sure that you would say, “No! That’s wrong!!” Who says? Who is to say that the majority has a moral obligation not to kill a minority if they decide? Why should your will (“No! That’s wrong!!”) prevail over the majority? If there is no God, what basis remains for objective moral obligations?

The atheistic view is that human beings are just animals, but animals have no moral obligations to one another. When a cat kills a mouse, it kills a mouse, but it doesn’t murder the mouse. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her, but it doesn’t rape her. There is no moral dimension to these actions, because they are neither prohibited nor obligatory.

So, if God does not exist, and humans are just animals, why think that we have any objective moral obligations to do anything? Any moral obligations would be subjective and informal, and objective moral values and obligations would not exist. The problem with this of course, is that:

Premise 2. Objective moral values and obligations do exist – and what’s more, most people on the planet know that they do, including atheists!
We know that it really is wrong for stronger human individuals or groups to kill or injure weaker individuals or groups:
Napalming babies is bad; starving the poor is wicked; Buying and selling each other is depraved, as is adults sexually molesting children.
Actions like rape, torture and child abuse aren’t just unacceptable social behavior; they are moral abominations; they are objectively bad and they are wrong! By the same token, love, generosity and self-sacrifice are really objectively good and right.
If that is so, and it is, who or what imposes these moral values and obligations upon us? Where do they come from?

Conclusion 3. God exists! Here we can pick up the biblical account of things and see if it explains our moral sense of right and wrong, good and bad, any better than a secular/atheistic view. If the world was made by a God of peace, justice and love, then this explains why we objectively know that violence, oppression and hate are wrong. If the world is fallen, broken and needs to be redeemed, that explains the violence and disorder that we see. This really is the best explanation!

If you believe that objective moral values and obligations exist, then the most reasonable explanation by far is that God exists; it makes so much more sense than if he did not exist. Now, you may think that I have been trying to prove to you that God exists, but actually I’ve been showing you that you already know that God is there because of the objective moral sense that is in you. 

Of course the ultimate evidence for the existence of God is Jesus himself, so we come back to where we started in this series. If you’re a Christian, you can be confident in your faith, it is entirely reasonable and can be defended. Finally, I really encourage you to read the books that we’ve recommended throughout this series, there is so much more!


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1.    What would be on your list of “right & wrong, good & bad”?

2.    Do you think that premises 1 & 2 lead to conclusion 3? If, “yes” why? If “no” why?

3.    What is your view on the majority deciding  “right & wrong, good and bad”? What are the plusses and minuses of this approach?

4.    In what way are humans different from animals?

5.    Do you think that the biblical account is the best explanation of why we objectively know right from wrong, good from bad, and why the world is as it is     today?

6.    If people have an “in built” sense of right & wrong, why do we do bad things?

7.    Which of the recommended books have you read so far? (The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel; The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel; On Guard – William Lane Craig)

 

Rob Lea, 20/04/2015

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A Case for Christianity Part 2: The Case for A Creator

On Sunday 12th April at our morning service, we contuinued a new series called A Case for Christianity. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our service we watched a clip from the Big bang Theory. To watch this, please click here. 

At the start of our talk we watched a clip from Noah. To watch this, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

When I look at something my kids have made for me I have no doubt that they were made by someone. It never occurred to me to think that you believed these things had just popped into existence. Because I could see them and touch them I knew that someone had to have made them. It is very reasonable to believe that anything that begins to exist must have a cause.

And that is the first of three steps that I want to introduce to you. These come from a Muslim theologian: Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammed al-Ghazali, born in Persia AD 1055. Ghazali thought deeply about the beginning of all things and studied philosophers and philosophy. He wrote a book in which he wrote down the results of his studies. His reasoning in that book can be summarised in three simple steps which are so simple that its easy to memorise for when you want to talk to someone about the origins of the universe and it is also a logically airtight argument:
•    Step 1: Whatever begins to exist must have a cause
•    Step 2: the universe begins to exist
•    Step 3: therefore the universe must have a cause

Step 1: Whatever begins to exist must have a cause. In the Sound of Music when Captain Von Trapp and Maria reveal their love for one another Maria says this “nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could”. And she is merely expressing a perfectly reasonable assumption, nothing comes from nothing. If something does come into existence from nothing then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything doesn’t just pop into existence. I am pretty sure you aren’t too worried sitting in your seat right now that something is going to just pop into existence from nothing right above where you are sitting and fall on you. 

Step 2: the universe began to exist. Science really helps us here: the relatively recent advances in scientific understanding of our universe all point to the big bang as it is known. The big bang theory points to a start point for the universe
And the more research scientists do and the more they try to disprove this theory the more they discover that the only models that work are those that point to an absolute beginning of the universe. So we discover that it is entirely reasonable to believe that the universe has a start point…step 2 is true.

If it is entirely reasonable to believe that whatever begins to exist must have a cause and if it is entirely reasonable to believe that the universe began to exist at some point, it follows logically that it is entirely reasonable to believe that the universe had a cause – a creator. In fact to deny a creator one has to deny either of these first two steps. 

So which takes more faith to believe…if you don’t believe in a creator…in God then you have more faith than I’ve got. You believe that something can come into existence from nothing or that science is wrong and that the universe didn’t ever have a beginning point. Which is more reasonable?

There is one final set of arguments I want to present for a creator…just in case these steps aren’t enough and these are called the fine tuning arguments. 
I have a coin here, if I toss this coin I will get either heads or tails, toss

Scientists have estimated that the probability of the chance creation of a single molecule to be one in ten to the power of 243, one in 10 with 243 zeros after it. That is just one molecule…think of how many molecules are required to make up our universe…it is just so improbable that our universe came into being by chance as to be unbelievable.

If the forces of gravity were different by one part in ten thousand, billion, billion, billion the results would be catastrophic, the sun wouldn’t exist, animals and human beings would be crushed, planets couldn’t form. Gravity has this amazingly narrow range that enables life to exist.

The earth is titled along an axis of 23.45 degrees: if it were different by the tiniest fraction life couldn’t exist. There are lots of these including the ratios of protons and electrons in an atom, the balance between matter and anti matter and the energy density of space. 

These are so finely tuned it takes a huge and vast amount of faith to believe it all happened by chance. These fine tuning elements pose the question which is more reasonable to believe…that it all just happened by chance or that someone was behind it all?

People who believe in a creator are often presented as unreasonable. But in fact the opposite is true. To not believe in a creator is completely unreasonable.

So what? Well there are so many so whats. If there is a creator, you are not here by chance. If there is a creator, all that we see around us is not an accident. If there is a creator, he made you. If there is a creator, he is so magnificent it goes beyond our imagining. If there is a creator, even human being is precious. And that changes everything

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. When you look at our universe or our world what do you really like and what makes you stop in awe?

2. What do you think that the evidence of the universe points to?

3. Do you find Ghazali’s three steps helpful?

4. Do you agree with the logic?

5. If you wanted to deny the existence of a creator, how would you have to refute Ghazali’s logic?

6. When you read the Christian creation story in Genesis chapter 1 what strikes you?

7. If the evidence points to a creator what difference does that make to you and to your life?

Chris Porter, 13/04/2015

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A Case for Christianity Part 1: The Case for Jesus

On Sunday 5th April at our Easter Sundaymorning service, we started a new series called A Case for Christianity. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the end of our talk, we used a drama based on a script from the Skitguys. We performed this drama ourselves but to watch a video of the original, please click here. 

 

Talk Summary

When we debate matters of philosophy and religion and what we do and don’t believe (regardless of whether we are Christians or not), it seems to me that there are three really important questions:

  • Where did we come from?
  • Why are we (humans) different from the other animals on the planet?
  • What do we do with Jesus?

In this series we are going to look at each of those questions and we start with what do we do with Jesus? Whether you are religious or not, whether you are a Christian or not, whether you believe in another faith system or not, you have to do something with Jesus. Jesus has changed our world and so we have to do something with him.

If you’re not yet a Christian be assured, I am not trying to argue you into becoming a Christian, I am not going to beat you over the head. What I am trying to do is to ask the question where is your faith? We all have faith, might not be in the Christian God, but we all believe things and I just want to pose the question…how reasonable are those beliefs?

Is it reasonable to believe that a guy called Jesus lived and died 2,000 years ago and is it reasonable to believe that he thought he was the Son of God and is it reasonable to believe that he rose from the dead on that first Easter Sunday?

Well let’s start with that first question: did Jesus live and die 2,000 years ago? This is easy: there is so much historical evidence that says that Jesus lived and died in an obscure part of the middle east 2,000 years ago that no serious scholar doubts it, the evidence is overwhelming. 

The second question is about whether or not Jesus believed he was the son of God and here once again the evidence is overwhelming. Again no serious scholar, even those who are critical of the bible and critical of the Christian faith, doubts that Jesus believed he was the Son of God. They are not saying they believe it, but that Jesus did.

So we are really just left with this last question: is it reasonable to believe that he rose from the dead? Is the story that is in the New Testament part of the Bible and was written by John detailing Jesus’ resurrection reasonable? You can read that story by clicking here.

There are three pieces of evidence that need exploring if we are to answer this last question:

  • The empty tomb
  • The appearances of Jesus
  • The changed disciples

One of the most remarkable facts about early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been risen from the dead. And if they had believed it the authorities would have exposed the whole affair by simply producing Jesus’ body. There are many documented sources – both in the bible and in other historical documents of the time that detail the fact that the tomb was empty. According to Jacob Kremer an academic and critic of the bible and who has specialised in the study of the resurrection says this “by far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.”

Our second piece of evidence is the appearances of Jesus. Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after his alleged resurrection. He appeared to his brother – James who during Jesus’ life didn’t believe that Jesus was anything special, but after this appearance James came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

The third piece of evidence is perhaps the most compelling – the changed disciples. Christianity as a faith sprang into existence sometime midway through the first century AD…again history doesn’t doubt that. Why? What caused to begin? Well even sceptical scholars recognise that the Christian faith owes its origin to the belief of the earliest disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead. These disciples…followers of Jesus, who had run away when he was arrested, were now so convicted by the belief that they had seen him resurrected from the dead, that they launched this whole movement that we now call Christianity. And many of them were tortured and killed for that belief and that movement. Would they really have done that if they didn’t believe to their core that Jesus was risen, and would they believe that to the core unless they had seen it?

So what is the best explanation for these three pieces of evidence…evidence by the way that very few serious scholars disagree with?

Maybe the disciples stole the body and made up the story about Jesus’ resurrection? But what about their willingness to suffer and die…would they have done that if they knew that it was just a big conspiracy?

Maybe Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, just passed out and came round in the tomb? But the Romans who killed him on the cross really knew what they were doing when it came to executing people, they were relied upon to ensure that their victims were dead and just to make sure they would thrust a spear into their victims side.

Maybe the disciples were just hallucinating when they thought they were seeing the risen Jesus? But that doesn’t explain the empty tomb.

So what is the most reasonable explanation for the evidence? Which takes more faith to believe? It seems to me that the resurrection explanation actually takes the least amount of faith to believe. I know it takes some, but surely it takes more faith to believe the stolen body explanation or the fainted came round explanation or the hallucination explanation?

And so the very final question I want to leave you with today is so what? So what?

Well here’s the so what…if the simplest explanation, the one that is most reasonable is that Jesus rose from the dead, that changes everything doesn’t it? It means that what he said means something, what he did with his life is worth investigating and who he was is worth following. It means that there is a God who not only exists but who gave everything for us and who has the power to raise Jesus from the dead. It means that what we are celebrating on Easter Sunday really happened, it isn’t a nice fairy story, and that changes everything. 


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. What do you make of the evidence for the existance of Jesus and for his resurrection?

2. Does it help you to think that the resurrection of Jesus is reasonable to believe?

3. Do you think faith and reason are incompatible?

4. How does it help you to understand that it is entirely reasonable to believe that Jesus really lived, died and rose again?

5. What do you think changed the disciples from a fearful group who ran away at Jesus' arrest into a group who were prepared to die for what they had seen?

6. What about the so what? If Jesus really did rise from that dead what does that change for you?

7. Why do you think so many people choose to ignore Jesus?

Chris Porter, 06/04/2015

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Action Sunday

On Sunday 29th March, we had the opportunity to go out and do some work in our local community for our Action Sunday. At two of our local Primary Schools and a local Pre-School we were able to do some gardening and painting. We helped tidy up our local area by litterpicking and made up book bags to be sent to a new school that is being built in Tombo, Sierra Leone.

Because we were out doing these projects, there is no talks blog for this week but there will be a blog next week when we start our new series 'A Case For Christianity'.

Chris Porter, 31/03/2015

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Follow Part 6: What I Want To Want

On Sunday 22nd March at our morning service, we continued our series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our service we watched a media from two episodes of The Big Bang Theory. To watch these, please click here and here.

At the start of our talk, we watched the video 'Lord I'm Ready Now'. To watch this, please click here. 

 

Talk Summary

So often in life we make decisions based on our response to the question, "What's in it for me?" As a young Christian (I was only 12) my prayers had more to do with what I could gain than what God wanted for me. We all of us fall into the trap of wanting God to do things our way. There is no need for us to beat ourselves up about it, though - Jesus first followers were no exceptions and the stories of the time they spent with Him have frequent examples of wanting their way, not his.

One of the most telling stories is mentioned in several of the accounts in the books of the Bible we call the Gospels. You can read it in Matthew 26, verses 6 to 14. The place is Bethany, a small village near to Jerusalem where Jesus had close friends (one was Lazarus who he had raised from the dead). In this story, Jesus and his followers (disciples), who are on their way back to Jerusalem for the great feast of the Passover and stop off for a meal.

While Jesus was reclining at the table a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head (and his feet, according to John's account of the same event). This was very unusual - having a servant wash your guests' feet was normal but for someone to anoint a guest like this was odd and when the disciples saw this they thought it a great waste of money - the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, they said. 

Jesus often has a different perspective: his agenda does not necessarily match ours and he pointed out that, laudable though spending money to help the poor might be, on this occasion the woman had done something special. The poor would always be around and there would be plenty of opportunities to help them but Jesus wouldn't be and this was different: " When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial", he said (v12).  However, this idea that using her prized possession to anoint Jesus was a beautiful thing did not wash for one of the disciples in particular . John gives us a telling detail: Judas Iscariot was the main objector and he was keeper of the group's common purse suspected of using some of the money for his own ends.

Judas had very different expectations of Jesus to the way things were developing. He was looking for a political leader who would rebel against the Roman authorities, proclaim himself king and change the world. But this wasn't happening. Jesus was not preaching rebellion, he even encouraged people to pay their taxes and now he was talking about being arrested and killed. This talk about burial, this waste of money that he, Judas, couldn't get his hands on, was the last straw and Judas goes to the religious authorities who, for their own reasons want to trap and eliminate Jesus, and asks "What's in it for me if I give him up to you?"

This was an absurd idea really since by this time Jesus was making no pretence of who he was or what he stood for and was pretty public about it - a few days earlier he had ridden into the city on a donkey amongst cheering crowds! But a way of getting hold of him in a private place, where there would be no crowds to support him, was very attractive so they stumped up thirty silver coins. their last meal together, when Jesus told Judas that he knew what he was up to, Jesus and the disciples went to  a garden to pray and Judas turned up with an armed crowd and betrayed the one he was following with a kiss.

Afterwards, Judas realised too late that his agenda was the wrong one and he regretted what he had done. He went back to the chief priests to see if he could reverse the process, by giving the money back, but the priests weren't having any of that. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Too late, Judas realised what he had done and couldn't live with himself - he went away and hanged himself.

Actually, even here he  fails to realise that Jesus would have been arrested and executed anyway - this whole business was part of God's plan and Judas would not be able to alter that. By taking his own life he makes sure that he can't be reconciled.

Now, our life circumstances may not lead us to such extremes as Judas but we still face the challenge, in following Jesus, of answering the question "What do we want to want?"  What should our desires and objectives in life be? Are they to be based on the principle of "what is in it for me" or, rather, what would God have me do?

Sooner or later, we will face some kind of challenge in our lives, some division in the path, where we must ask one or other of those questions and in which choosing God's way could have a significant impact on us. 

My challenge to you is to decide to follow Jesus - for the first time, perhaps, or to keep following, maybe in a new direction.  What do you want to want - your own ideas, pleasure and satisfaction or God's way, serving Him in love and faith? Remember, God's plans can't be thwarted but for your life direction, right now, it's your call.

•    Think about your life experience. What occasions can you recall when you made a decision on the basis of "what's in it for me?" (be honest!)
•    How might the idea of putting God's agenda first affect your work life - such as accepting promotion or a new job?
•    How might this apply to decisions in our families and relationships?
•    What impact do you think the attitude of "what's in it for me?" might have on your spiritual  life and your church involvement?
•    How might you put this principle of wanting God's way rather than your own into practice in the way in which you are following Jesus?


        

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

 

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.

 
Peter Roe, 23/03/2015

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Follow Part 5: The Fine print

On Sunday 15th March at our morning service, we continued our series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We watched the video 'A Mothers Day Moment' at the start of our service. To watch this, please click here. 

At the start of our talk, we watched the video 'The Worlds Toughest Job'. To watch this, please click here

 

Talk Summary

Today is Mother’s Day. I am a mother and went into it with anticipation and trepidation. There are all sorts of things that people tell you about being a parent but nothing prepares you for the reality.

We think that we go into parenthood with our eyes open, but we never get to see the small print. It is an all-encompassing, all-consuming adventure. That is what this talk is about; “the small print”, not of being a parent, but of being a child; a child of God and a follower of Jesus.

If you are exploring faith it is essential that you know what you are getting yourself into. But like being a parent you won’t know everything until you are part of the adventure. If you are already a follower this is a reminder of what Jesus expects of you. You will have heard over the past few weeks in this series some of the advantages of being a follower. There will be a quality to your life that is unequalled. But just as being a parent is costly so is following Jesus. Jesus made this cost clear to his disciples up front. We can read about this in Mark’s account of Jesus life in Chapter 8 and verses 29-37. Click here to read that passage.

Jesus asked his followers who the people around believed that Jesus was and then he asks them the killer question in verse 29. We should all think about what our answer is. Who do you say that Jesus is?

Peter (a follower) answered, “You are the Messiah.” Messiah was the title given to God’s chosen representative who they have been waiting for, for hundreds of years who would rescue them from their oppressor. They were in need of rescue as they were under the occupation of the Romans. But God’s idea of a messiah was bigger than that… but that’s another story.

Peter recognises Jesus as the Messiah then Jesus goes on to warn them in verses 30 and 31. This was a shock for Peter and his friends. They were followers and followers follow wherever the master goes. This means that they will be rejected, they might be killed, but certainly must be prepared to follow Jesus even if it meant death (see verse 34).

Jesus says that they should deny themselves. Most parents know all about denying themselves. It means putting someone else’s needs in front of your own. This is a measure of true love isn’t it? Is the person who claims to love you prepared to deny themselves for your sake, are you for them? Because denying yourself is at the heart of true love

Jesus life is a demonstration of his love for us. He has denied himself, left heaven, come to earth, lived as a nobody and suffered indignities at the hands of people because he loves us. He is prepared to be beaten and killed on the cross and overcome death because of his great love for us.

Followers of Jesus may claim to love Jesus, but do we mean it? During the course of our following Jesus have we sensed him asking us to do something, or give up something.  I have and found that the experience, the adventure of following outweighed the self-denial.  Like bringing a child into the world the self-denial enriches our relationship. At some point following Jesus will cost. He will ask you to deny yourself and follow him.

This is the fine print: Salvation is free… it costs us nothing, but following Jesus will eventually cost us something. Living in the UK probably means that it won’t cost our liberty or life, but you will be called to die to some things for your faith. Jesus denied himself and took up his cross. To follow we must deny ourselves take up our cross and follow.

We all know what denying ourselves is like. Denying yourself is hard. When I diet I can’t do it on my own but when my husband supports me I can do it. The people who I know that have stopped any addictions have had support. Accountability helps us to deny ourselves. Denying ourselves is hard. We need support/encouragement from others.

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Read  Mark 8:29-37 over a few times
1.    What is it from this story that strikes you? What word phrase or idea?
       Why do you think that is?

2.    What surprises you or shocks you when you read this?

3.    If you put yourself in the place of Jesus disciples what do you think 
       that you would be thinking or feeling?

4.    Think about a time when you have sensed God asking you to do something that was for you a “deny yourself” experience.
       How did that work out for you?

5.    Did you have the support or encouragement of someone else or did you go it alone? Which is best and why?

6.    Does thinking about Jesus denying himself and taking up his cross for you as an expression of his love help you to follow?

7.    What does denying yourself look like for you today? Is there something that you need to do, to stop doing, how will you respond?
        

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.

 
Steph Littlejohn, 16/03/2015

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Follow Part 4: Wear

On Sunday 8th March at our morning service, we continued our series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We watched the video of the song 'With Every Act of Love' by jason Gray. To watch this video, please click here.


 

Talk Summary

What we wear often tells something about us and what we are passionate about and who or what we are following. But what should Christians wear? What should Jesus followers wear? Is there some kind of uniform that distinguishes Jesus followers? If you’re not a Jesus follower this is really important for you, because you need to know before you make a decision about whether or not to follow Jesus, what it is going to mean for your dress sense.

We are going to learn about what followers of Jesus should wear from a guy called Paul. Paul lived 2,000 years ago and he hunted down those people who were following Jesus and had them killed Then he had a radical encounter with God and started following Jesus himself and he addresses this issue of Christian clothing. He wrote it down in a letter he wrote to a group of people in a church in a place called Colossae and that letter is in the New Testament part of the bible and is called Colossians. In chapter 3 verses 12 to 14 we read these instructions. Click here to read them.

In verse 12 Paul says: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” This is what Jesus followers should wear: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. The uniform of the Jesus follower is compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. The word compassion in Greek culture meant feeling love or heartbreak deep down in your bowels, your guts.

Secondly he says clothe yourselves with kindness. Kindness here means when you loan your strength to someone else.

Then Paul says I want you to put on humility. Humility is about seeing myself as I really am in relationship to other people and to God, it’s viewing yourself accurately as you relate to others and the accurate view in relationship to other people is that I am nothing more than a citizen of humanity, just like everyone else. Humility allows me to approach you as a peer, no matter what you do, what you have or don’t have or how much you have accomplished or how much I have accomplished.

He goes on to gentleness: and gentleness is the decision to respond to another person in light of their strengths and weaknesses rather than out of my strength.

Then finally Paul says clothe yourself with patience and patience is a decision to go at the speed of the other person.

Then Paul goes on in verses 13 and 14 and says bear with each other, forgive each other, and over all of these virtues put on love, literally clothe yourself with love. Paul is just expounding here what Jesus himself taught his first followers. Jesus said to them “a new command I give to you, love one another as I have loved you, this is how people will know that you are my disciples” – which is just a posh word for followers…”this is how people will know that you are my followers, that you love people.”

The uniform of the Jesus follower is compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love. Jesus and Paul tell us that if we are serious about following Jesus it isn’t about rules and rituals, it is about clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience, forgiveness and love.

Paul then tells us how to do it:

In chapter 3 verse 1 he says set your hearts on things above. In verse 13 he says forgive as the Lord forgave you. In verse 14 he says be thankful. In verse 16 he says let the message of Jesus dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another.

So which is it for you? Which do you need to do?

Imagine what it would be like to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience. Imagine what a difference that would make to your relationships at work, at home, at school, with your family. When you wake up tomorrow before you even get out of bed, or maybe as you get dressed imagine clothing yourself with those things and ask God to help you. It will change you and it will change your life.

The uniform of the Jesus follower is compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.

 
Chris Porter, 09/03/2015

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Follow Part 3: Fearless

On Sunday 1st March at our morning service, we continued our series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

At the start of our service we interviewed Nigel Hyde about Home Leone. We watched this video as part of our interview. To listen to the interview, please click here.

 

Talk Summary

If you are asked the question, why should people follow Jesus, what’s the reward, what’s the benefit, how would you answer?  It may not be what you think it might be. 

Did Jesus say that people should follow him -

So that they can be a better person? Well, I think that if you follow Jesus, you may well be a better person; more loving, more forgiving, more compassionate, and many followers of Jesus that I know have indeed become better people. However, if you read the accounts of Jesus life in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you will soon realize that Jesus didn’t go around saying, “Follow me and you will be a better person”.

So that they will go to heaven? I absolutely believe that authentic followers of Jesus will go to heaven. However, if you read the accounts of Jesus life, you will discover that Jesus rarely spoke about heaven. And if you read Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, the criminal, that Jesus promises will be with him in paradise that day, could hardly be called a “follower”.

So that they will get pain free and problem free living? Many people think that this is the case; a type of insurance policy. However, Jesus never said, or even hinted that this would be the case. In fact, he said that his followers should expect trouble!
If it isn’t any of these, then why should people follow Jesus? What was his often repeated and consistent message?

This message can be found in all 4 accounts of Jesus’ life, and is often repeated. However, reading Matthew’s account in Chapter 10 and verses 1-31 is very helpful. You can read that by clicking here.

Jesus is briefing his 12 disciples on where to go, where not to go, what to say, what not to say and so on. However, when he gets to verse 16 the mood changes, and he warns them of serious conflict ahead. Then, in verse 28 he tells them that in the midst of all that will happen, they should not be afraid. Sensing that they “don’t get it”, he reinforces the message in verses 29 to 31. We know that they didn’t really understand this message until after Jesus was crucified because when Jesus was arrested, they were so afraid that they ran away and denied even knowing him.

At this time, the disciples had failed to learn that Jesus was not saying:
“Don’t be afraid because I won’t let bad things happen” but,
“Don’t be afraid WHEN bad things happen” 

Jesus was talking about a faith that overwhelms fear – a fearless faith!

Most of us have fears about something. They could be - Financial; Joblessness; Prodigal Children; Diminishing Health; Unfaithful Spouse; Dishonest Boss; Speaking about Jesus……..

Perhaps you know that Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid”, but you want to reply to him, “But Jesus, do you know what’s going on in my life, or this town, this country, in Europe, in the world?”  Jesus would reply, ‘Yes, of course I do, I’m Jesus – don’t be afraid, follow me!”. 
Imagine not “worrying about tomorrow” because you really believed that God was in control. I guess that you might say, ‘I’m not there yet’. Of course not! Neither were the twelve disciples at the beginning. They ran away!

That’s why we are following. Jesus basically says, “Follow me and your faith will get bigger and your fears will grow smaller”. 
So, back to the original question, why should we follow Jesus? The answer is that if we follow Jesus, there will grow in us a trust and a faith that will overwhelm our fears no matter what they are. If you want a fearless faith, follow Jesus! 

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.

 
Rob Lea, 03/03/2015

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Follow Part 2: Next Steps

On Sunday 22nd February at our morning service, we continued our series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We watched this video from the Skitguys about Following as an introduction to our service.

 

Talk Summary

On my Twitter I “follow” 192 people and am “followed” by 162. My twitter is filled primarily with youth workers, there are a few celebrities who write a funny comment or two, a number of people who enjoy making or selling pretty objects that in reality nobody needs,  but everybody likes and then there are the cake bakers…  I follow endless amounts of people who bake, decorate, eat, like or sell cake! Those of you who don’t know me might guess from this that I enjoy a cake or two. Those of you who know me a little better might know that I love to bake and decorate cakes and those of you who have ever had the opportunity to be in a meeting I’m hosting will know that by rule they have to involve cake; if it can be homemade then the day is complete! 

Twitter makes it so simple for me to follow these people, to be metaphorically ‘at their side’, hearing what they have to say, learning from their knowledge, hearing a little bit about their life or even to laugh at their jokes. Now some of you won’t have twitter, but I can almost guarantee you follow something or someone, even if you don’t think you do!

Some of you will follow your favourite football or sports team. Some of you follow what’s happening in the latest soap, or are all ready for the next episode of call the midwife or top gear. Some of you will follow the every move of your favourite band, or follow what the next must have gadget item is. 

But what does this kind of following really look like? 

We’re invited to follow all of these things, the adverts invite you to follow the latest TV program, or follow the latest movie in the series. They invite you to try out the newest car on the block, or to buy that latest gadget. The sports teams invite you to wear their kits, to buy a season ticket to see their games or to spend your Saturday afternoons watching them play. On Twitter people can request to follow you, normally in return they invite you to follow them. 

But is all of this really following? Do you really have a relationship with them? 

You might follow that football team, but you’re not on the pitch playing with them, you might watch call the midwife but you’re not there learning the words beside them, I might follow that cake baker on twitter, but I’m not their weighing out their ingredients for them. 

So what then does this mean when Jesus asks us to follow him? 

If you’re not a Christian I want you to know that this all still applies to you, Jesus is still asking you to follow him. You might see the people around you who call themselves Christians appearing to know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it. But let me tell you a little secret – we are all on a journey too.
 
Following Jesus is about putting one foot in front of the other.

Following Jesus can sometimes seem like it should be an instant decision which leads to you becoming the perfect person instantly:  it’s not. If you’re a Christian this is probably something you struggle with, sometimes it can feel that the people around you came to an instant decision and are instantly surrendering all and you might just not feel that way. Most people don’t feel that way! 

Jesus’ invitation to follow is different from the invitation of a football team, or an advert, it’s different from following someone on twitter. Jesus’ invitation is all about the relationship; it’s all about getting on the pitch, all about learning those lines, helping weigh out the ingredients. 

In the New Testaement part of the Bible we find a story about following. It is in Luke's account of Jesus' life chapter 5 verses 1 to 11. You can read that story by clicking here. The story we’re looking at didn’t start with Simon leaving everything and following Jesus. We heard all about the journey the men went on before they decided to leave with Jesus. They followed four steps… 

They started with finding out who Jesus was and what he had to say. They sat and listened to him (see verses 1 to 2). You might be sat here thinking, I’ve done that step, I know who Jesus is… but what’s the next step for me? Once they had sat and listened they felt comfortable enough to follow Jesus’ next step, to loan him their boat - see verse 3.

Now the first step they took required them to only need a little bit of courage, they were in their safe place, on their ground, just listening to Jesus whilst they cleaned their nets. But this next step required great trust in Jesus, it required them to loan Him things that belonged to them. It required them to let Jesus a little closer to them, to allow him to be a part of their lives. But once Jesus was out in the boat, they kept listening to him, they continued to do step one. But when Jesus had finished speaking he did something none of them would have been expecting… see verses 4 and 5. They had been working all evening and had caught nothing, but they chose to take that next step, put one foot in front of the other and trust that Jesus had asked them to take this next step for a reason.

And what happened next was incredible… see verses 6 and 7. Jesus rewarded them for their trust, for taking the next step, for putting one foot in front of the other. Jesus then challenges them to leave everything and follow him - see verses 8 to 11.

So which step are you on? Which foot do you need to put in front of the other to move forward in following Jesus? What do you need to trust him with? 
Do you need to just sit and listen to him, accept that he is speaking to you and not just the others around you?  Do you need to give him a little more trust and let him step on to your boat; do you need to tell the people around you that you come to Church? Or that you believe in Jesus?  Perhaps for some of you it’s about taking Jesus fishing, it’s about beginning to give him parts of your life, your finances or your time to serve at church. Or maybe for you it’s about remembering to surrender everything daily, to remember to leave everything behind and follow him. For us all though, following Jesus is about putting one foot in front of the other.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.

In her talk Amy mentioned four steps: 
i.    Sitting and Listening 
ii.    Loaning Jesus the boat
iii.    Taking Jesus fishing 
iv.    Leave your nets and follow

1.    Do you find these four steps helpful? Why/Why not? 
2.    Which step would you currently put yourself on? 
3.    If you’d put yourself on step two, three or four can you remember an example of what moved you along on your journey?
4.    Can you think of a situation or time in your life when you felt like something was holding you back from moving forward on your journey, or putting one foot in front of the other? 
5.    Are there fears or emotions now which are stopping you from moving on to the next step now? 
6.    Who are the people who can support you in moving forward? What can they do to help you? 
Chris Porter, 24/02/2015

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Follow Part 1: Jesus Says

On Sunday 15th February at our morning services, we started a series called Follow. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here
 


Talk Summary

As a teenager I remember my Dad saying “if you don’t like the rule then you can leave” Those words stuck with me. It felt like my Dads love was conditional ; to disobey was to lose his love. A bit like the game of “Simon Says”. Get it wrong and you are out of the game. I carried this idea of conditional love into my relationship with God because he was my father now. If I didn’t obey the rules he wouldn’t love me anymore and I would be out. It took me years to realise this is wrong. 

We hear about different faiths second or third hand. Much of what we pick up is misleading. What we believe about Christianity is the same. We need to come to Christianity without the rubbish. We need a “factory reset button”, to go back to the source material in the New Testament accounts of Jesus life written by Matthew Mark Luke and John to find out what Jesus was trying to show people about God? 
Jesus said “if you have seen me you have seen the father”

The pictures Jesus used to describe our relationship with God are about closeness, connectedness, and dependence; a Father /Child, Shepherd and sheep, a Vine and branches relationship. This is not about rules it is about relationship. Jesus comes with an invitation to a close relationship with God; an invitation for everyone; the good the bad and the ugly.

There is a story of Matthew first meeting with Jesus that can be found in chapter nine verses 9 to 13 of Matthew's account of Jesus life that exemplifies this. You can read that passage by clicking here.

Verse 9 …Jesus … saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Jesus was a Rabbi calling disciples to follow him. It was usual for disciples to be young men who were extremely well educated in the Scriptures and of excellent character. Mathew was a tax collector, working for the occupying Roman force; a collaborator, morally bankrupt. He was a social and religious outcast. But Jesus says to Matthew “follow me”. Jesus has been giving the same invitation ever since. This invitation is the most accurate picture of Christianity. The only qualification is willingness to follow and the invitation is for everyone.
Next we read:
Verse 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 
Jesus is in Matthews’s house with his disciples disciples who must be feeling very uncomfortable, something they would have to get used to. Jesus was extremely comfortable with people who were not like him and they were comfortable with him! The Pharisees, who were the religious people, were outraged.
Verse 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Their attitude was: Change and you can join us!
Jesus says : Join us and you will change!
Jesus says to everyone follow me. 
Then we read 
Verse 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 
Jesus is calling Matthew and his friends sick. Matthew knows he is sick and needs help. These are the sorts of people that Jesus has time for. It is those who think that they are perfect that Jesus has issues with. If we are honest we all know we are sick. We are incapable of keeping our own rules let alone God’s. But thankfully it is not about keeping the rules. Jesus calls people who are willing to look into the mirror and see themselves for what they are; people who need help. These are the prime candidates for following Jesus. Then Jesus tells these experts in the Holy Scriptures to…
Verse 13 …go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ 
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
They don’t get that it is not a game of “Simon Says” it is a relationship.

If we call ourselves Christians we must never be content to just be people who believe all the right things and behave the right way. We must not stop there. We must strive to be people who believe all the right things and behave the right way in order to call the people who don’t believe the right things or behave the right way, but have a sneaking suspicion that they need something. Otherwise we become the modern day Pharisees. 
We must follow Jesus in saying join us. Being a sinner does not disqualify you from following, it is the starting point. There is no sin, habit or addiction that excludes you from Jesus invitation to follow. Being an unbeliever does not disqualify you either. Jesus disciples struggled to believe. It doesn’t matter how little faith you have you are still invited to follow.

Following should make me look at where I am, not where you are. The more conscious I am of the work God has to do in me the less critical I should be of what God has to do in you.

The question is not: “How far along are you in the journey”. The question is “are you following?” actively engaged in following Jesus.
Matthew had no idea what Jesus had in store for him and nor do we.

But will we follow anyway? And will we invite others to follow?

Because the invitation to follow is for everyone.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
Steph Littlejohn, 17/02/2015

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Sunday 8th February 

Please note that there will be no Talks blog on this date as we had a special joint service with Finchampstead Baptist Church.

The blog will resume on Sunday 15th February when we start a new series called Follow. 


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Life Apps Part 5: The Trust App

On Sunday 2nd February at our morning services, we continued a series called Life Apps. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We watched two short videos as part of our service.

This one is a video about trust from the Skitguys
This one is a video about stepping out in faith from Simon Guillebaud (we used a short section of this video)

 

Talk Summary

The part of the bible that we are going to use today to explore this whole area of trust and its importance for good relationships may be familiar even if you aren’t a regular church goer, because it is often read at weddings. It is taken from a letter that a guy called Paul wrote. Paul was one of Jesus’ first followers.

In the first letter he wrote to a group of people in Corinth, chapter 13 verses 4 to 9 we find him trying his best to explain what love is. You can read that passage by clicking here.

Read verses 4 to 7. Some of you are in a relationship with people who keep a filing cabinet. Could be in your marriage or in a work relationship or with a parent. They have a filing cabinet of stuff that you have done wrong and when an argument or a disagreement starts they start pulling stuff out of that filing cabinet and shooting it at you. And it may be that you do that to others too, but that isn’t love. Real love keeps no record of wrongs.

Read verse 6. Paul says love isn’t trying to catch someone out, it isn’t trying to catch someone doing something wrong. That’s not love.

Having told us what love isn’t, Paul now turns to tell us what love is look at verse 7. Paul says always a lot here - always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is always looking for an opportunity to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Love is always trying to protect the integrity of the relationship. Love is always trying to find ways to think the best of a person and the relationship. Love bends.

Love gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. Love looks for the most generous explanation for the other person’s behaviour. love chooses trust over suspicion.

In every relationship there are gaps between what we expect people to do and what they actually do. There is a gap sometimes between what we hope God will do and what actually happens. And that has the capacity to erode trust and remember we said that healthy relationships need trust so eroding trust is bad news. 

You decide what goes in that gap you can choose to believe the best or assume the worst. We choose – and in healthy relationships both parties goes to ridiculous lengths to believe the best…going negative undermines relationships…hence Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul says love bends

Sometimes though, despite all of our desires to believe the best, to choose to trust there may be times when that gap is just too wide because the stuff that has happened in a relationship is so awful or repeated so frequently that trust is just not an option. What are we supposed to do then?

Well the answer is this: when you can’t choose to trust you must choose to confront. We have to choose to confront the other person or the situation.

And Jesus has some very important things to say about confrontation – you can read it in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life chapter 18. 

But our problem so often is that we don’t confront when that gap occurs. We don’t confront we gossip. We don’t talk to, we talk about.

What Jesus taught was that the moment there is a gap that you can’t overcome with trust you have to confront, you have to have a conversation. Most people hate confrontation. But the good news is that if you don’t love confrontation you’re going to be better at it. The good news is that if you’re not a confronter you will probably handle this really well.

To sum it up. In every relationship of whatever kind something happens that means a gap forms, and you and I choose what goes into that gap. Paul says that the best thing for healthy relationships is to choose trust. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love bends, love believes the best and yes sometimes love confronts.

Without trust healthy relationships are impossible and love always trusts.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
Chris Porter, 03/02/2015

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Life Apps Part 4: Rest

On Sunday 25th January at our morning service, we continued our series called Life Apps. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We watched two short videos as a part of our service to illustrate the theme.

This one is a video about sleep.
We used this one in a section about the sleep patterns of some famous people.

 

Talk Summary

This ‘Life App’ might be the secret to being a better husband/wife, a better parent, or a better friend. It could be the secret to performing better at work. And by the way, the benefits of this app apply whether you’re a Christian or not, but it is a spiritual thing too! Although it may seem the easiest of all the apps in the series to apply, for many of us it will be the most difficult!

We all know the truth that a lack of adequate rest causes relationships to become strained (tetchy/argumentative!), relatively simple tasks become difficult, and difficult tasks turn in to a crisis. Without a doubt the value of proper rest is under estimated. And the fact that we under value rest is a puzzle because God made its importance clear right from the beginning. (Genesis 2:2) He worked for 6 days on creation and then rested on the 7th day. He didn’t need to obviously – He’s God! This was a model for us to follow, and in the rest of God’s story in the bible there are many other examples of the importance of rest.

One of the best examples is the amazing Old Testament prophet, Elijah. His story is found in 1 Kings, chapters 17 to 19. In particular, the verses in chapter 19: 1-9 are very instructive when considering “rest”. You can read them by clicking here.
Read 19:1-2: Elijah has just witnessed God’s awesome power, when Jezebel threatens him. The expected reaction to that is, “are you joking, just ask your husband Ahab what God can do!” But that’s not his reaction …..
Read 19:3- 4 :Elijah was afraid! He runs away and when he says, “I have had enough” and “take my life”, we realize that he’s disillusioned, discouraged and depressed. He’s lost his perspective of who God is and his defenses are down. (Many of us can relate to this!). Elijah is obviously ‘worn out’; he’s exhausted, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. At this point, surely God will give him a “pep-talk”. But no……..
Read 19:5-9a: Notice the pattern here. Elijah: sleeps, eats, sleeps, eats, exercises (walks), sleeps again. He is getting re-charged and replenished: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Then, and only then…….
Read 19: 9b: God speaks to him, but only after he has properly rested!

The truth is that most of us already know that we are a much better person when we’re rested and replenished. And we already know that our life moves to a better place when we move at a sustainable pace. So why don’t we rest and replenish ourselves properly? Remember, application is everything! So how can we ensure proper replenishment and apply adequate rest to our life? Some practical tips:

  • Take a regular 24 hour Sabbath: No email, Facebook, Twitter, or work. Take time to ENJOY life. Go for a walk (enjoy nature) Completely ds-engage! Rest is connected to trust, and choosing to rest is an indication of where your trust is. There will be times when you can’t get it all done in 6 days, but if you choose to rest on the 7th day, you demonstrate trust in God rather than trust in yourself; it really is a spiritual thing. 
  • Go to bed at a time when you can get (potentially) 7/8 hours sleep. DON”T check email/Facebook just before you go to bed, it will still there in the morning when you are better able to deal with it. When you wake, reboot your mind with the bible - NOT email, Facebook etc.
  • Build in quarterly (every 90 days) 2/3 days rest for recharging, especially during intense periods of activity.

A fully rested and replenished us, is the most important thing that we can give our husband/wife, children, grand children, work colleagues, friends, and our heavenly father. (As we saw clearly in Elijah’s story). Ask this question to someone who is very close to you and who will give you an honest answer, “Is my current pace and rest pattern sustainable”? If the answer is, “Yes”, then your challenge is to ensure that you maintain your pace and keep your rest pattern. If the answer is ‘No”, then frankly you need to change or suffer the consequences!

Rest isn’t a nice thing to do, rest is a must do! Your life will move to a better place when you move at a sustainable pace. And that’s why God modeled this at the beginning of creation and why Jesus always ensured that he had proper rest.
                                                                                       
You know it, but will you apply it? Application is everything!

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
Rob Lea, 29/01/2015

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Life Apps Part 3: The Confession App

On Sunday 18th January at our morning service, we continued a series called Life Apps. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here
 

Talk Summary

What do we mean when we talk about confession? Three common understandings:
•    Confession as a get out of jail free card
•    A Catholic view of confession - tell the priest all the wrong things we have done
•    A Protestant view of confession - going to God whenever we want and ask him to let us off

All of these have an element of truth but may not be the complete picture. The bible speaks of confession as a way of being not just about feeling better but living better.

John was one of Jesus’ closest friends and in one of the letters he wrote he spoke about confession. You can read those words in John’s first letter chapter 1 and verses 8 and 9. You can read that by clicking here.

First thing to notice comes from verse 8, John says that we are all sinners, we all have things we need to confess. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we aren't that bad and there isn't much to confess, certainly compared to other people and the evil things we see in our world. We need to see ourselves as God sees us and to him there is stuff in our lives that needs changing and confessing.

Sometimes we go to the other extreme and maybe we think the stuff we have done wrong is beyond forgiveness, it is so bad. In the Old Testament part of the Bible there is a story about a King named David. David is the greatest of the Old Testament Kings and does some amazing things with and for God. And yet he also committed some awful sins. One day he saw a beautiful woman bathing on a roof top and he was overcome with lust for her. He ended up sleeping with her and she became pregnant. Her husband was away fighting and David decided he should be brought back from the war so he could sleep with his wife so that David’s sin could be covered up. But her husband refused to sleep with her because of his loyalty to the war effort. So instead David sent him back to the front line, the fiercest fighting so that he would be killed.

David committed some awful sins: adultery, lying and murder. But David realised what he had done and turned back to God. David got real before God and confessed and God forgave him and went on to do amazing things with and through him. Nothing we can do puts us beyond the love of God or the forgiveness of God if we turn back to God in genuine repentance and confession.

But true confession isn't just about keeping stuff between us and God. David seeks out his friend Nathan and admits to him what had gone on. To bring lasting change and not just to feel better but to live better we need each other and we need to confess not just to God but to each other.

James, the brother of Jesus talks about confession in his letter in the Bible and he says “confess your sins to each other”. (James chapter 5 verse 16). Confession works best when it is done with others as well as with God.

In summary, true confession involves:
•    Seeing ourselves as God sees us
•    Recognising nothing is too shocking for God
•    Others helping us
We need true confession so that we don't just feel better but we live better.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
 
Simon Mattholie, 19/01/2015

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Life Apps Part 2: The Forgiveness App

On Sunday 11th January at our morning service, we continued a series called Life Apps. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We used this video to start off our service: I Once Was Lost by Worshiphouse Media

 

Talk Summary

What I am going to say about the subject of forgiveness it is as applicable whether you are a person of faith or not. But if you call yourself a Christian this advice is not optional. You need to apply this to your life.

I don’t know what you have suffered but I have known personally how hard forgiveness can be. I have suffered sexual abuse in my mid-teens, later abandonment and betrayal. These have been huge, painful and frightening things that have affected me for many years. I am sure that each of you would have a story of how someone has hurt you. You may have been let down, betrayed, deserted or abused, lied about or had a confidence used against you. We have all been affected by these sorts of experiences that to some extent have affected our lives and shaped who we are. 

How we respond to these incidents affects us. If we respond with revenge or holding a grudge that shapes us. Holding a grudge can be a guilty pleasure.
I have found myself fantasising about a conversation I would have with the person who has wronged me, or constructing a letter that would make them realise how awful they have been and make them sorry. We may fantasise about other ways of getting even. Grudges can last for years; we still toss and turn and make present day decisions because of something that happened years ago. Writing a letter might help to get it out of your system but don’t post it destroy it. . Use it to let it go because grudges imprison us, forgiveness sets us free. The longer that you hold a grudge the longer it holds you. The deeper that you hold the grudge the deeper that grudge is lodged within you. If you keep carrying this grudge it will get bigger and bigger until you emotionally collapse under the weight of it. You have to release the grip of the grudge. 

For some of you the wound is still too fresh. It takes time, the hurt runs deep. But at some time you will have to let go of it and get free. Remember that the person a grudge hurts most is the person holding it. You don’t have to live a life that is defined and confined by your past. One of Jesus followers, a man named Paul wrote this to a group of Christians in Rome, giving a clear way through this. It is in Romans 12:17-21 and you can read that passage by clicking here.

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone." (verse 17) Revenge just makes things worse. 

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (verse 18) Forgiveness is not about minimising the depth of the offence.
When someone has betrayed you it would be foolish to trust them again. Trust has to be earned. Some relationships are toxic and you will need to avoid contact with them. But you need to get to a place of being civil. You need to be able to wish them well. That may have to be from a distance.
Because grudges imprison us, forgiveness sets us free.

"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord." (verse 19) It is God’s job to avenge.  When we play God it never ends well. We have to let go and trust that God will bring his justice.

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (verse 21) This is saying we can be overcome with evil. We need to overcome evil with good.

Forgiving is hard. Jesus knows how hard this is. He cried out for God to forgive at a time when he was experiencing the agony of physical abuse, pain of humiliation, betrayal, and lies. He knows it is hard to forgive and yet he does it and asks us to do the same, because he knows that grudges imprison us, forgiveness sets us free.

Here are 4 steps to forgiveness:

  • Step 1: Embrace the forgiveness that God gives to us. We are not innocent of hurting others. We need forgiveness. Some of us need to forgive ourselves and embrace God’s forgiveness. Perhaps you need to recognise again that you are a precious son or daughter of God. This is because Forgiven people forgive. This is step 2.
  • Step 2: Forgiven people forgive. We know that we offend and hurt and when we experience forgiveness it is somehow easier to release it.
  • Step 3. Trust God to avenge you. 
  • Step 4. Overcome evil with Good.

Remember: Grudges imprison us, forgiveness sets us free. 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
 
Steph Littlejohn, 13/01/2015

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Life Apps Part 1: Application is Everything

On Sunday 4th  January at our morning service, we started a new series called Life Apps. We are basing this series on some material from North Point Community Church and we are grateful to them for providing us with lots of great stuff to get us started on this theme. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We used this video to start off our service: This Year Will Be Different by the Skitguys
We used this video just before the talk to lead us into talking about children's behaviour: Matteo

 

Talk Summary

Why do parents keep correcting their children’s behaviour and the things that they do? Well it is because we know that what our children DO makes a big difference to the direction and the quality of their lives.

We know this as parents, but do you know what, what we value for our children we often forget for ourselves. You may have made a New Years resolution. The thing with new years resolutions is that our intentions are good. We intend to make some changes, to lose some weight, get our finances in check, do that things we have always wanted to do. But intention on its own achieves nothing. Intention on its own is not good enough. We can intend to do all these great things but never actually DO anything.

Intention alone doesn’t change the direction or quality of our lives. What we DO is what matters. Application is everything. Application makes all the difference. Application is what determines the direction and quality of our lives.

2,000 years ago there were a couple of people who really understood this and who really went out of their way to challenge people who intended to live well but didn’t actually do it. One was Jesus the other was a guy named James. James was the brother of Jesus. And James wrote a letter to some of the first Christians, and all through it you can see his passion that followers of Jesus would be doers, people of action, people who didn’t just say that they followed Jesus with their words but also with their actions.

We can read what James says about intention and application and the difference between the two in the first chapter of his letter. (You can read that chapter by clicking here).

In chapter 1 verse 22 he says: do not merely listen to the word. Don’t just listen to what God says, do what it says. Now if you’re not a Christian I want you to hear me on this. One of the things Christians have got really confused about over the years is who God’s word is for. God’s word is a posh way of saying the Bible. The things that God says people should do in the Bible is for people who already have a relationship with God. Christians have made this incredible mistake of thinking that the commands God gives in the Bible, the way that he says people should live is for everyone regardless of whether or not they have a relationship with God.

The Bible is split into two parts the old and new – testaments. Testament means covenant or agreement or contract. A contract between two people and in the case of the Bible a contract between God and those who have a relationship with him. If you’re not a Christian then there is not contract with God yet, you don’t know if you even believe there is a God! However I would really encourage you to read the Bible but you don’t have to do what it says and don’t let Christians try and tell you that you have to do what is commanded in this book. If you’re not a Christian I still believe that the things written in this book will do you a huge amount of good. Living in the way God lays out in the Bible is just a great way to live, the wisdom in this book is priceless and will help you live a great life regardless of what you believe. But the great news is that you don’t have to do what it says

But if you’re a Christian, oh wow, James’ challenge here is really powerful. Don’t just listen to what God says, do it. James is saying: It’s not enough to read the Bible, it’s not enough to pitch up to a service and sit a listen, say well that was good and then leave and not do anything. James is saying application is everything

Just in case James’ readers haven’t got this from this verse he carries on and drills this point home in verses 23 and 24.

He says that anyone who listens to the word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks in the mirror and after looking goes away and forgets what they look like. We don’t just look in the mirror and say oh wow and then forget all about it, we do something.

If you pitch up at church services week in week out, if you read God’s word in the Bible but you never DO anything then you are just like the person who looks in the mirror says oh wow and then just walks away and doesn’t do anything about it and so you look unshaven or dishevelled with bed hair all day long.

In verse 25 there is some really good news. James says: whoever looks intently into the perfect law – talking about God’s word in the Bible again, whoever looks intently into the perfect law and continues in it, another way of saying does what it says, not forgetting, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do. Whoever uses the word of God like the perfect mirror and stares into it, just like you stare into a mirror, whoever uses the word of God like that and uses it as a mirror to reflect back guidance and wisdom and instruction for life, whoever does that will find freedom and blessing.

Do you see God’s law and his wisdom and his word are not given to destroy freedom it’s given to bring freedom. If we use God’s wisdom as a mirror to show us where our lives need to change, where we need to do things differently, if we allow it to point us in the right direction and if we allow it to show us how to live then we will experience real freedom and blessing. Because the word of God, God’s wisdom is freedom giving if we trust it and do it. But we have to apply it, not forget it as soon as we stop reading or as soon as the service has finished and the speaker has stopped speaking. Because listening is not enough, intention is not enough, believing is not enough, application is everything. And in the application there is freedom and you might not know it initially but you experience it eventually

So our bottom line for today is this: application is everything, doing makes all the difference, application is what determines the direction and quality of our lives

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Click here for a document with questions and reflections.
Chris Porter, 09/01/2015

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Waiting Here For You Part 1: God Works While We Wait

On Sunday 7th December at our morning service, we started our Christmas series. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here

We used this song to start off our service and to launch the theme of the series: Waiting Here For You
We used this video to respond to the message of the talk: Come Thou Long Expected by the Skit Guys

 

Talk Summary

We have entered the period called Advent; a time of waiting, anticipation. Perhaps of presents, seeing friends or family, waiting for a break from work. Waiting can be difficult for all of us.

You may be waiting for a parcel, an appointment from the doctor. How are you at waiting;patient or impatient?

Do you long for something particular to happen and it doesn’t seem to be? A partner, family, a prayer to be answered or a sense of God being with you. Waiting is not wasting when we are waiting on God. What we do while waiting is really important.

Just over 2000 years ago the nation of Israel was waiting for a Messiah. The last book in the Old Testament was written by a Man called Malachi. This is what he writes in Chapter 3:
‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.'

We now know that this messenger was John the Baptist and then Jesus was to come. But they had to wait. What came next was silence for 400 years. That is a long time to wait…

If we are not careful the waiting can bring impatience. We may feel like giving up. We may look for an alternative. We may lose hope. But God’s timing is Perfect. This is what Paul, a follower of Jesus writes to a group of Christians in a place called Galatia: 
"We were slaves to Jewish laws and rituals, for we thought they could save us. 4 But when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, 5 to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own sons. 6 And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father. 7 Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned." Galatians Chapter 4 verses 3 to 7 (The Living Bible).

God has perfect timing and when the time had fully come he sent his son. Jesus came when the nation was in the grip of the Roman Empire. It was an occupied country so his message of loving your enemies and forgiving held particular meaning to these people at this time. The timing  also helped the spread of the Christian faith because of the opening up of communication. It was a relatively peaceful time, so travel was safe. Greek was the universal trade language so communication was relatively easy. God’s timing is perfect 

While they were waiting they had given up asking Idols to solve their problems, it hadn’t worked and were hungry for God. There was a growing anticipation. At the same time, in the more “cultured” cities, the Greek philosophy and science of the time left others spiritually empty in the same way that there is a spiritual void today.

So Jesus came so that human beings can be adopted as sons and daughters of God…it was worth waiting for. And then, God sent his spirit, but again it required waiting for. It was worth the wait; they were transformed and empowered. Sometimes we feel like our whole lives are a waiting game. We feel like we are waiting too long for God to intervene and change our circumstances. But God’s timing is perfect, don’t give up hope. Sometimes it means waiting until heaven. But sometimes we catch a glimpse of heaven breaking in now, just as we do when Jesus came.

The best things come to those who wait. Waiting enables us to fully appreciate things. But what we do in the waiting is important. Allow him to transform you and grow in anticipation and your hunger for him in the waiting. God’s timing is perfect, don’t give up hope.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


How difficult or easy is it for you to believe that God’s timing is perfect? Why is that?
Do you find it easy or difficult to trust God?
Why is that?

What do you do while you are waiting?
What is going through your mind and emotions as you wait?

Can you think of examples of God’s perfect timing in the Bible?

Is there something that you are struggling to wait for right now?

When you look back can you recall times when you were struggling to    wait for something and then you see that God’s timing was better than your own?

How can it help you to recall these times or the timing of God in stories in the Bible?
Steph Littlejohn, 15/12/2014

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World Mission Part 2: Toybox

On Sunday 30th November at our morning service, we finished our series on world mission. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 

We watched a short video as part of our service prior to the talk. This one is a video called One In a Million.

 

Talk Summary

At the age of nineteen I took a step that many people thought was more like a crazy leap. I moved to Guatemala for six months, at the time Guatemala was the country (apart from those at war) with the 2nd highest murder rate in the world. As you can imagine my parents were thrilled! I moved there to work alongside Toybox and live with ten boys (aged six to thirteen) who had previously lived or worked on the street. During this time I also got the opportunity to support the older boy’s home (fourteen to eighteen year olds). I guess you could say not your average gap year choice!

Although the homes in which I worked have now closed and many of these boys have moved on and grown up I still have the opportunity to chat with many of the older boys. George is one of these boys, he got minimal education when he was young, he struggled with having no parents and he raised his younger siblings almost completely alone. These things just made George, George. I always knew that George would go far, from the moment he saved me from the giant rat (which at the time felt almost cat size) that was running around my kitchen floor! Never did I imagine that being able to support George alongside many other people would enable him to be where he is today. George is now married, has a beautiful daughter and is mentoring young people in gangs who are living and working on the streets. Someone opened a single door for George and because of that door he has made multiple doors open for many others. 
Although I sing of success stories this period of my life was still challenging and difficult at times. But at the same time I had never felt closer to God or to the people around me. My heart still breaks daily when I think about those children, I get a lump in my throat and a tear to my eye. 

But before I move on let me take you back to before I went, nearly everybody’s reaction to my soon impending move was an aged based response. “Wow that’s a brave thing to do at your age”, “oh they’ll let you do that when you’re so young will they?” As humans we always focus on physical characteristics, on age and ability, both young and old get penalised. Your age and ability shouldn’t stop you from changing the world.

Perhaps you’ve been in a job which everyone has thought you were too young for, or you have children or grandchildren that are struggling to find jobs because of their age. Maybe for you it’s the other end of the age spectrum, people have told you that you’re too old to still be working, looking after your loved ones, living on your own? For some age won’t be the thing stopping you from changing the world. Maybe you’ve been penalised because of your lack of education, your physical ability or maybe even your financial situation? 

Your age and ability shouldn’t stop you from changing the world.

I’m a strong believer of supporting our next generations, regardless of our age or ability. You might say that as a youth worker I’m biased but I really believe we need to be encouraging our children and young people to be stepping out – taking risks, leading the way. 

We find in the Bible endless examples of young people who stepped out and changed the world. But I want to focus on one young person in particular who nearly 2000 years ago became a part of changing the world and the man who supported him in doing so.

Timothy was that young man and the man who supported him was called Paul. Paul (one of the first followers of Jesus) who established many of the first churches mentored Timothy. It is believed that it was during a visit from Paul to Timothy’s home town Lystra when Timothy first converted to Christianity and that when Paul returned again later to Lystra that Timothy chose to join Paul on his further journeys, spreading the news of Jesus.   Although we don’t hear a lot about Timothy’s personal characters in the Bible we do hear that he was naturally shy and timid, some might say not your average choice of church leader. We hear however that despite these characteristics and Timothy’s age Paul chose him to change the city of Corinth and to oversee the church in a place called Ephesus.

We pick up the story in a letter that Paul has written to Timothy where Paul commands and authorises Timothy to go out and teach. 11Command and teach these things. 12 Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young. Instead, be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your pure life. 13 Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. 1 Timothy 4:11-13

We don’t know how old Timothy would have been when communicating with Paul, but the number itself is not relevant, society thought he was too young to change the world. That his age should stop him from changing the world. But we see from these verses that Paul gave Timothy great trust and told him to go out and teach. Paul talks first about going out and teaching. He doesn’t speak only about teaching easy and simple things but he speaks about going out and teaching against false teachings. Paul wants Timothy instead to teach the things that God has called His people to teach. Only then does Paul talk about not letting other people put him down because of his age. Did you notice the main focus isn’t on his age but his gifts; there is no mention of his physical ability or his level of education? He simply commands his to teach. Why then do we focus so much on age and ability in today’s society? 

You could stop so easily at verse twelve and move on, focus purely on Timothy not being too young, but I believe verse thirteen is so important here.  It tells us so clearly that Paul has intention of visiting Timothy, that he is a support network for him not just instructing him but walking alongside him and supporting him in all that he does. Paul taught Timothy, mentored him and encouraged him continuously. 

I was nineteen years old, I may have changed those young boys’ lives, been a mentor for them, but in all honesty they changed mine so much more. I imagine Paul affected Timothy’s life, but equally or greater Paul will have been affected by Timothy. Paul wasn’t the perfect man; he had made many mistakes and caused many issues in his time. He himself had had a mentor who had worked alongside him to help move him to a new place in life. 

Who are you able to support and encourage to go out and change the world regardless of their age or ability, or yours? 
Are you Timothy? Do you need to go out and change the world regardless of how young you are, or your current situation or ability?

Or perhaps you could be Paul? Not letting your age or ability stop you from changing the world? Supporting the next generation? Not looking down on the young people as they lead services, preach, teach and become the next generation.

Who could you smile at? Who could you pray for? Who could you mentor and encourage? That single smile, prayer, or word of encouragement could lead to your Timothy, becoming my George. 

I want to send you away to be encouraged to be Timothy or to be Paul, to seek your Timothy, or to seek your Paul. For many of us we could be both Timothy and Paul, seeking someone to support and mentor us as we support and mentor another. Doing all of this without concentrating on our age or ability. 

Your age and ability shouldn’t stop you from changing the world. 

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Can you think of a time when you’ve broken the barrier of age and ability and done something that everybody thought you’d never achieve? How did that make you feel? 

Have you ever let your age or your ability stop you from changing the world? Can you think of a situation or example?
 
How do you think having a Paul in that situation would have helped?

Talk about a time when somebody mentored or supported you in the past. How did that mentoring/support help you become who you are today? 

Could you be Paul (the mentor) to a Timothy? Or  are you Timothy in need of a Paul? 

Spend some time praying and asking God for the name of your Timothy or Paul. 
 
Amy O'Melia, 02/12/2014

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World Mission Part 1: Sierra Leone

On Sunday 23rd November at our morning service, we started our series on world mission. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.


To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 

We watched two short films as part of our service prior to the talk. This one is an amazing timelapse view of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. This one is a song and video called "Do Something" by Matthew West.

 

Talk Summary

One of my most treasured possessions is a bible but the language it is written in is Krio which is the language of Sierra Leone – a tiny and very poor country on the West Coast of Africa. It is one of my most treasured possessions because it reminds me of a group of people who I have come to love and respect very much and am honoured to call friends. Our visit to Sierra Leone was a few years ago when we went to visit Abs Dumbuya who is a member of our church family here at EBC and who is now living in Sierra Leone working with the charity he founded called the Dorothy Springer Trust helping young people with disabilities get high quality education and jobs. Abs was attending Regent Road Baptist Church and took us there on that first visit and we instantly recognised a church with vision and passion, a church which had a similar mission and purpose to us here at EBC. And over the years since and a number of visits we have become great friends. And I have become a great admirer of Pastor Tannie (who leads RRBC) and an even greater admirer of Abs.

Regent Road Baptist Church had its building burnt down and destroyed in the late 1990s during the horrific rebel war that raged in Sierra Leone. But under Tannie’s leadership and compelled by his vision they have rebuilt that church building and not just that, they have built a school right next to their building in which they provide primary school education for hundreds of children every day and for which the government of Sierra Leone give them just one dollar per pupil per term. And not satisfied with that, the church have started five other churches in rural areas around Freetown. They have built buildings and started schools and they have continually gone out into rural areas to help people, serve them and introduce them to the love of God. 
Tannie and Abs and their friends are simply amazing and a massive inspiration
Where do they find the energy and the drive to keep going in the face of such tough odds? In the midst of the poverty and the heat and the dirt and the grime and the sickness and the disease and the difficulty of just getting around, where do they find the strength to keep sacrificing and persevering. What is their secret and where do we get some of it?

I think that I know where it comes from in Pastor Tannie, in Abs, in other great people who inspire and challenge me and us. 2,000 years ago there was a man who made a huge difference in his short life. His name was Paul and he was one of the first followers of Jesus. He experienced suffering and trial and hardship, but moved through all of that to leave a legacy that we still benefit from today. Here’s his secret - are you ready? He wrote it down in a letter to a bunch of people living in Rome and he tells them the secret…here it is. Paul said this “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans chapter 12 verse 1 - to read the whole chapter please click here).

What’s the secret to living a life that inspires others and changes things? It is right here, Paul tells us… “in view of God’s mercy…”

This is what I see in Pastor Tannie, in Abs, in Paul. They have fully grasped the mercy of God and that is what enables them to give of themselves to others. They get the extent of what God has done for them and you see when you grasp that you can’t help it, you can’t help but pour yourself out sacrificially to God and to others. Five words, that’s all it takes, that’s the secret: “in view of God’s mercy”.

That’s what I love about Pastor Tannie and Abs and what I read about Paul and others in the bible, that they live in view of God’s mercy. They get it, they understand what God has done for them, they have an unshakeable confidence in that and that leads to everything else. If fact I think that is an amazing gift that Christians from the non western world, from the developing world can give to us here in the west. Perhaps there is something about having so much here in the west that makes us more self-reliant and less aware of the mercy of God. But I notice it when I go to Africa, there is a sureness about faith in the Christians that I meet there, a great dependence on the mercy of God. And I hear others tell me about the same thing when they travel to India or China or South America.

Paul says, in view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as living sacrifices. And offering ourselves as living sacrifices is our true and proper worship. It wasn’t just Paul amongst Jesus’ first followers who got this. Another of this followers discovered this secret too, it was Peter. In the first of the letters he wrote he says this: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Do you see it? The same secret again – “as you come to him”. As you come back to Jesus and what he has done as the demonstration of God’s mercy, you will be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. In view of God’s mercy we are God’s representation on earth and that is why we need to respond with a life of sacrifice to God and service to him so the lost are set free, the poor are fed and the humble lifted up. We are made into a spiritual house, with Jesus as the foundation stone, made to be Jesus to the world, the whole world, not just our little bit of it.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Have you any experience of people like Pastor Tannie and Abs? What struck you about their motivation and passion?

What do you think God's mercy means?

Do you ever take God's mercy for granted?

As you reflect again on the mercy of God, how does it make you feel? What does it stir inside of you?

What does the mercy of God inspire you to do?

What does it mean to be made into a spiritual house as Peter describes?

How can you ensure you take the opportunity to be reminded of the mercy of God and ensure you come back to Jesus?

What are you going to do as a result to help those around the world?

 
Chris Porter, 24/11/2014

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Sunday 16th November

Please note that there will be no Talks blog on this date as we were making up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and there was no talk during our morning service.

The blog will resume on Sunday 23rd November when we start a new, two part series on world mission. 

Chris Porter, 19/11/2014

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Climate Change Part 3: Storm Clouds

Climate-Change-Logo-web

On Sunday 9th November at our morning services, we finsihed off our series called "Climate Change". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.



To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

We’ve all had dreams, aspirations and expectations, and we also know what it’s like when reality and real life collide with our dreams and aspirations. For example; when a relationship that we thought would grow and develop comes to an abrupt end, or the job application or promotion didn’t happen, or our marriage is not what we hoped it would be, or our children don’t grow up to be the people that we thought and prayed they would be, or perhaps our health means that we can’t now do all that we had planned.  

When reality collides and crushes our dreams and aspirations, our emotional climate changes and dark clouds arrive. And the impact of that is damaging not only to us but also to our relationships.  Therefore, when your dreams meet reality, choose hope.

How do you do that? How do you choose hope? Paul writes this in Romans chapter 5 verses 2 to 5: "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us……"

This is the pattern that God uses to build hope into our lives: Suffering, Perseverance, Character, Hope. There are many illustrations of this in the bible, but perhaps the best is found in Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism in Mark chapter 1 verses 10 to 15. You can read that by clicking here.

Jesus is baptised and God speaks – massive expectations! Then, Jesus suffers for 40 days in the desert, in the wilderness. However, he doesn’t complain, he follows God’s leading and he perseveres. God’s character grows and build in Jesus and a deep hope is forged in him through this experience……

Is it possible that a time of suffering that you have been through, or are going through, or will go through in the future, could be by design? Is it possible that the same God who led his Son into the wilderness for a period of suffering is the same God that might do the same with you?  You might not like this thought, but there is strong biblical support for this idea, and it actually reveals God’s love, care and concern for you because it can produce a hope that is rock solid and isn’t swayed by changing circumstances.

When your reality meets with God’s vision, choose hope, and here’s how you do that; When you’re in a period of suffering, each day, though you don’t feel like it and you’re hurting, trust God. And the next day, do the same. Persevere and do the next right thing; and the next day and the next. In this way, God will build his character in you, and a hope will be forged that storm clouds cannot shake.

So, when life knocks us down and we’re suffering, what should we do? We have two choices: Stay on the ground and allow dark clouds to determine our climate, or get up and fight back. Trust God, persevere, and do next right thing, and the next day…. If we do that, we will discover that we’re not fighting alone, and when we come out of the suffering, AND WE WILL, then forged in us will be a deep unshakable hope built on rock.

When your dreams meet reality, choose hope!


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Talk about a time when you realized a dream, large or small. How did that affect your emotional climate?

Have you ever had to let go of a dream, large or small? If so, what did you do to come to grips with reality?

Think about a time in your life when you felt close to God. Were your circumstances good or bad? If they were bad, why did you feel close to God?

What do you find challenging about the idea that God uses suffering to increase our trust in him? What’s comforting about that idea?

In what area of your life do you need to declare your trust in God? What’s the next right thing for you to do in that area?
Chris Porter, 05/11/2014

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Climate Change Part 1: The Forecast

Climate-Change-Logo-web

On Sunday 26th October at our morning service, we started our series called "Climate Change". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.



To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

This week we are beginning our series called Climate change. This is nothing to do with the weather out there it is to do with the sort of climate that we all generate in our relationships. Are you are little ray of sunshine? When you walk into a room do you light it up? Perhaps you walk into a room and bring a little thundercloud with you, or maybe a light drizzle or are you a breath of fresh air? We are often unaware of what happens to the climate of the room when we arrive. Everyone represents a collection of relationships. In each of those relationships there is a climate—at work, home, friends and The climate dictates the forecast in those relationships. Jesus tells us that the 2 most important things are to love God and to love others. This is all about relationships; our relationship with God and relationships with people. Sometimes our climates are not very loving.
Not only is there a climate in each relationship, there’s a climate you carry into every interaction.
The big question is; “What is it like to be on the other side of me?”

If you are a driver you will know that your car has blind spots. We all have blind spots when it comes to how we seem to others.
Years ago I dated a colleague and he told me that everyone found me really scary. I was shocked because I felt more scared than scary, but my insecurity must have made me exude “scary” to protect myself. I didn’t want to be scary. I had a blind spot. What about you, are you aware of your climate?
Do you know what it is like to be on the other side of you? We need to be more aware of who we really are because if we don’t change the climate the forecast for our relationships stays the same. 
There is a story in the Bible where God tries to make someone aware of his feelings, his climate. It comes from the Old Testament part of the Bible and tells that story of 2 brother Genesis 4:2-9.
God says to one of the brothers; Cain ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?’” In other words, Can I reflect something back to you? There is a lot of anger in you. Are you aware of this? Why are you like this?
God reflects back Cain’s dominant moods. This is very important for us too because we need to know the dominant moods of our marriage? At work? At school, At home?
This is important because the dominant moods combine to form the climate of our relationships and the climate dictates the forecast.
Cain ignores the feedback and it ends in tragedy. God tries to help him to see what it is like on the other side of Cain.
He gives him an opportunity to change the climate and the forecast. But Cain refuses.
We need to become aware of our emotions and not become our emotions. This story shows us that we have a choice either we master our emotions or our emotions master us. This is not about ignoring or suppressing what we feel. It is about acknowledging and choosing to take control. Emotions can kill or heal. God may point things out to us that may hurt our feelings, but he will deal with us with his strength and his love. He does this for our own good, for the sake of healthy relationships. We need to be aware of our emotional blind spots. He will help us through this if we trust him.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Have you ever been surprised by how another person sees you?
 
What do you think your predominant mood is?
 
Is this different in different circumstances?
 
Do you think that others may see you differently, if so how?
 
Are you happy to ask other people for feedback on what it is like to be on the other side of you? If not why is that?
 
Are you able to master you emotions or do they master you?

 
Chris Porter, 05/11/2014

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The Story Blog 

From Sunday 7th September 2014 we pick up a series called 'The Story' that we have been doing parts of over the last few years in the autumn term. This series has its own blog, so between September and October our Sunday Talks reflections and thoughts can be found on The Story blog.
Chris Porter, 09/09/2014

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Summer 2014 

Please note that during the summer holidays (27th July to 31st August) we won't be doing our Sunday talks blog. We shall pick it back up again for Sunday 7th September and our new series called The Story.

Have a great summer!
Chris Porter, 24/07/2014

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A Matter of Life and Death Part 2 - Penalty Shoot Out

On Sunday 20th July at our morning services, we continued our series called "A Matter of Life and Death". The theme was "Penalty Shoot Outs - Despair!". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Steph Littlejohn. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the bottom of this blog are some extra resources and questions for you to use to reflect further.

 

Talk Summary

The anticipation, excitement and hope of England’s World Cup ended in despair. Back in 1990 the world cup in Italy came down to penalties for England. They were playing in the Semi-final. Everything hinged on that moment. The West Germany side had scored then it was up to Stuart Pearce. Would it be victory and elation or defeat and despair? His penalty was saved. The match was lost and Pearce had to deal with the despair. Life can be like that.

A job you have been banking on, a relationship that collapses, something that we pin so much hope on goes wrong. We are disappointed, disillusioned or in despair. Sometimes life seems to be such a struggle.

Can God help us through times like these?

The Bible has stories of people just like us who go through significant trials. One of these is a man name Paul. He knew following Jesus would be hard, persecution was severe. He writes to a church in Corinth, trying to encourage them as they hit difficult times. He wants them to know that God knows, he is at their side, his life is in them.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 7 to 18 he address this issue. (You can read that passage by clicking here)

In verse 7 he writes: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. The jars are us, our frail bodies. The treasure is God’s Spirit and the message of God’s love and grace.  We are carriers of God so that he can be seen and heard through us, whatever our circumstances. We are hope bearers."

How we deal with despair and disappointment can point people to God. 

He continues;

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

At times we can all feel surrounded and battered by troubles and not sure what to do. As we deal with disappointments, oppositions, illness, family troubles,  addictions, debt, or life changes. Things that wear us down. God knows what we are going through.  He knows what to do even if you don’t. He is by our side. It may not feel like it, but he is. So don’t get demoralised, you may get knocked but you won’t be knocked down, knocked out or destroyed. He is with us. Life does not have to break us.

And no matter how we feel the life of Jesus is always at work in us. Paul says: "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you...Therefore we do not lose heart."

Although destructive elements are at work in us, the life of Jesus is in us. His life is more powerful than death. Our lives can speak of God’s his love and presence whatever our circumstances. This causes thanksgiving to overflow. When we give thanks God opens our eyes to see what he is doing despite or through our circumstances.

If you are older the next verse is really encouraging: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Even Christians often live as if this is all that there is. But this is an incomplete reality. What we see is temporary, a moment in eternity. There is a hope that goes way beyond this reality.

So what helps us to overcome despair?

The knowledge that God knows and understands what we are going through.                                                                                                         

  • A heart of gratitude 
  • Reflecting on God’s grace 
  • Realisation that this is not all there is.
  • Courage to move on

This letter was written to encourage; give courage. We shouldn’t go it alone. We need others around us. We also need to be aware of when others need our support. God knows, he is at your side, his life is in you. you are a hope bearer

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Read the passage through 2 or 3 times. What words or phrases stand out for you? Why do you think that is?

Have you tried reflecting on God’s grace and giving thanks in hard circumstances, how did it affect you?

How do you think that it would help you to fix your eyes on the eternal?

Do you see yourself as a hope bearer, if not why not? What needs to change?

Who do you know that needs encouragement from you, how can you do that?

Steph Littlejohn, 22/07/2014

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A Matter of Life and Death Part 1 - Come On Ref!

On Sunday 13th July at our morning services, we started a new series called "A Matter of Life and Death". The theme was "Come on Ref". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the bottom of this blog are some extra resources and questions for you to use to reflect further.

 

Talk Summary

Who’d be a referee? It’s a thankless task really. They cop all the abuse and all the blame from managers, coaches, players. Have you ever thought about God that way? God as a ref? What kind of ref would come to your mind when you think of God?

One of the things that non Christians often say that they don’t like about the idea of a God is that of judgement. They resent the idea of some supernatural being passing judgement on them. But let’s just think about that for a moment…Imagine for a moment a game without a referee. Think what would happen if there weren’t any refs: chaos, cheating, disputes, fights. 

Human nature requires referees to ensure some semblance of order. And that isn’t just true for sport, it’s true for every aspect of life. We might not always like it, but it is necessary. Without some kind of moral referee the world would be in chaos and anarchy. Think about a world without some kind of moral standards, without some kind of judgement. People could kill with impunity, steal, loot, rape, destroy. The world needs moral judgement, and where do we get that, who decides?

One of the great questions for the atheism of our day is who decides on the moral framework. If there is no God, who gets to decide what is right and wrong, who gets to judge? It is evidence for the existence of God that we have a moral compass. We need a judge, because without it there is chaos. So we shouldn’t complain that God is a judge, we should embrace it.

What does that judgement look like? What kind of referee/judge is God? Well fortunately we have some very wise people who have reflected on this very question. One of them was one of Jesus’ first followers – Paul and he reflects on this judgement in a letter he writes to a great friend of his – Timothy. In 2 Timothy chapter 4 verses 1 to 8, we find this reflection (you can read that by clicking here).

First thing to notice – in the presence of God verse 1. Paul is living his life in the presence of God – a God who is holy and just and perfect and Paul recognises the joy and privilege of living in the presence of a God who is like that. But not just in the presence of God, but of Jesus too. Judgement will happen, not just by God the Father, with Jesus, God’s son too. And this is so important, judgement is necessary but it happens in the presence of God the Father and Jesus his son. Because Jesus has made a way for us to pass the judgement test. God is holy and pure and perfect (otherwise what kind of God would he be?) we are not, we fall well short. But we have an advocate in the form of Jesus who has died and risen again to help us pass the judgement test. God will judge, but because of Jesus it is to be embraced not feared.

Second thing: Paul says to Timothy tell people, preach it. People will turn away to other ideas, other myths, but keep telling people, through word and deed that God is good, God is a righteous judge and we have a way to pass the judgement test.

Final thing to notice look what Paul says in verse 8 "now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which God the righteous judge will award to me." How good is this, when God judges he gives out prizes. The prize of everlasting life, the prize of an eternal destiny, and if Paul can have this we can too. Paul had a very chequered background, he spent much of his early life killing Christians, torturing them. But God was for him and he learnt that and came to faith and was redeemed. If Paul can relish the judgement of God and come through it to the prize of righteousness anyone can!

So what do we learn?

  • We need a judge
  • Judgement is good, without it there is no moral compass, life is chaos, people get hurt and abused
  • God is biased referee, God is for us, he wants us to succeed, he wants us to live in the presence of him and of his Son.

God has made a way for us to pass the judgement test. God is not an angry or vengeful referee. God is a biased one, biased towards the love of his life...human beings. If you’re not a Christian then I urge you, don’t see God as a vengeful spiteful judge. That isn’t the truth at all. See God as a loving, biased father like judge who wants to embrace you.


Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

When you think of God what kind of referee do you think he is?

Do you agree that human beings need some kind of moral referee?

How have you seen judgement in the past? Do you agree that when we see it this way, it can be a good thing?

How does it make you feel to know that God has given his son so that you can pass the judgement test?

Are you ready to preach in word and action, this good news?

What will you say to someone next time they make the comment that God as a judge is a bad thing?

Chris Porter, 15/07/2014

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June 29th and July 6th 

Please note that there are no talk blogs for June 29th or July 6th because of special events that we were holding on those days.

June 29th was our beach trip.

July 6th was a special talk given by Jamie Fyleman from Tearfund. Click here to listen to his talk. 
Chris Porter, 08/07/2014

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Great Prayers Part 3 - Paul's Prayer

On Sunday 22nd June at our morning services, we finished our series called "Great Prayers". The theme was "Paul's Prayer". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Peter Roe. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the bottom of this blog are some extra resources and suggestions to help you with your prayers.

 

Talk Summary

Last June I had the opportunity to sing with Bracknell Choral Society at the Last Post ceremony at Ypres. It was unbelievably moving, recognising the thousands of men who died in the Paschendaele Salient whose names were carved in the walls around us. This year marks 100 years since start of the Great War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944. You may well have seen or heard programmes about these events, with poignant examples of letters that soldiers wrote to be sent to their loved ones if they were killed.

One of Jesus' first followers - Paul was under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial and expecting the inevitable outcome of a death sentence. From this situation he wrote a number of letters, knowing his words might be the last he could say to them. One letter was to churches in and around Ephesus. A significant section is a prayer - for all Christians - in Ephesians chapter 3, verses 14-21. (You can read that by clicking here). Paul asks God to do a number things for his hearers. First, he asks God to strengthen them by sending his Spirit so that Jesus would  live in them (v. 16 and 17a). This is an amazing aspect of Christianity. God is not some remote deity but one who wants to be fully part of those who love Him - have faith in Him.  Secondly, Paul prays that his readers would be “rooted and established in love” (v 17b). Gardeners know that new plants have to develop roots that spread from their cosy initial pots to become established in the soil around. The love of God is the medium in which we grow – it nourishes us, helps us to develop. So the next thing Paul prays is that we would truly know what it means to be loved by Him. This is big stuff, so long, wide, high and deep that we need God’s help to grasp it (vv18-19).

The film Notting Hill has a scene where the hero William is standing in front of a famous film star who is in love with him. She offers to hang around but he says no, afraid of being rejected again. She then says that she is "Just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking her to love him". William fails to grasp how much he is loved (he does later in the film!). Paul is talking about a far greater love than this. Imagine (as happened to Mary Magdalene, Peter and Thomas), the risen Jesus standing in front of you, holding out his scarred hands and saying “I am just your God, standing before my child, asking you to love me”. But this is no film star searching for someone to love her for herself. This is love that was willing to die for you, love that longs for the best for you, to support and help you, if only you will accept.

Finally, Paul prays that not only will the Ephesians grasp and be filled by the great love of God, but also that they will realise that through his power they can do immeasurably more than they can ask or imagine.  That is what it means to be filled with the power and love of God. Throughout the prayer you can sense that Paul longs for his hearers to know just how much God loves them, what that means for their lives and for them to have purpose.

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What might you want to say to someone you loved if you knew it was the last opportunity you had?

Think about how much God loves you. How does that make you feel? What does it mean for you to be "rooted and established" in God's love?

Maybe your life, like Paul's has had moments when the going was tough and painful. How might knowing that God's love is so long, wide, high and deep help?

What does it mean to you to know that God longs to work through you, to do more than we can possibly imagine,?

In what ways might grasping the greatness of the love of God help us to live more effectively?

Chris Porter, 08/07/2014

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Great Prayers Part 2 - Jesus' Prayer

On Sunday 15th June at our morning services, we continued our series called "Great Prayers". The theme was "Jesus' Prayer". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the bottom of this blog are some extra resources and suggestions to help you with your prayers.

 

Talk Summary

On this Father’s Day I have been reflecting on what it means to be a Dad and more significantly on what I want for my children. I want all the usual things: for them to do well at school, for them to be happy, for them to be well rounded individuals, polite, well mannered, find love etc. But I think if you really pushed me and said just one thing, what is the most important thing, I think it would be that they reach their potential and that their lives have an impact.

Think about someone close to you, could be your kids, could be your parents, could be friends, what do you want for them? Really?

What would Jesus' response be if we could ask him that question? "Jesus, what is it that you want for me...what is the one thing above all else that you want for me?"
 
The night before Jesus is arrested and then killed he prays. This is one of his final prayers and we can find it in John's account of Jesus' life chapter 17. It is a longer prayer and for this talk we are going to focus on verses 20 to 23. You can read that by clicking here.

in verse 20 we see that the night before he dies Jesus is thinking about you, can you get that? The night before he is arrested and killed, Jesus is praying for you, with everything else that would have been on his mind, the suffering he is about to endure, the pain and the agony, he is thinking about you.

What is it then that he prays, what is it that he wants for us? Look at verse 21. Jesus prays that those who would believe in him would be one. Second thing is that we would be one with God, Jesus says may they be one in us. So two things Jesus is praying, that followers of Jesus should be united with each other and united with God.

What does that really mean? Well Jesus is praying that his followers that are to come would experience the unity that his current followers were experiencing. We know that his disciples fell out sometimes, had disagreements, messed up. So being one with each other doesn’t mean that our relationships are always perfect, which is good news, it is something different. This unity and love is not a moral effort powered by human energy and will. It is something different, it is a supernatural unity powered by a common belief, common purpose, common understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done and a common indwelling of the holy spirit, the presence of Jesus with us.

If we live in unity with God, we find unity of purpose with each other and our story will astonish the world. Why all of this? Look at verse 23b – so that the world would know that Jesus has come and that God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

So what does Jesus really want for you? He wants two things, that you would be united with God and united with each other. And he has demonstrated that this is his priority by making a way for it to be possible. The day after he prayed this prayer, he was arrested, then crucified to make a way. To demonstrate his love and the strength of his desire to be united with you and make a way for you to be united with God. And all you have to do is accept it and believe it.

Then there are some really important lessons, not least about how we should pray. As we said two weeks ago the very first thing we should do when we pray is to thank God. Thank him for this. But it also shows us that Jesus prayed and it shows us what Jesus’ priorities were when he prayed. He was concerned for his relationship with his father, and he was concerned for others, for us. So when we pray we need to make sure that those themes are replicated in our prayers, as we said last week we learn from the expert.

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What is it that you want for the people closest to you? If you were pushed into saying one thing that was the priority that you would want for them, what would it be?

What you are doing with your time, resources and energy to make that priority become a reality?

How does it make you feel to think that the night before Jesus was arrested and then killed, that he was thinking about you?

What does that say about Jesus' priorities?

What do you think being one with God means? What does it mean to be one with other people?

What does Unity mean to you?

What are you doing to prioritise unity with God and unity with others in your life?

How will this affect how you pray?


 


 

Chris Porter, 17/06/2014

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Sunday 8th June 

Please note that because of our joint event with Finchampstead Baptist Church on Sunday 8th June, there is no Sunday talks blog for this week. We will return next week! 
Chris Porter, 11/06/2014

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Great Prayers Part 1 - The Lord's Prayer

On Sunday 1st June at our morning services, we start a new series called "Great Prayers". The theme was "The Lord's Prayer". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

At the bottom of this blog are some extra resources and suggestions to help you with your prayers.

 

Talk Summary

Have you ever employed an expert to help you learn something? There is no better way to learn something than to have an expert teach you. Nobody really teaches us how to pray, there is just an expectation that we will know how to do it. Maybe you think everyone else is great at it, but you don’t feel very good at it. Maybe it feels uncomfortable, or you feel guilty you’re not doing enough, or you wonder why your prayers don’t seem as good as everyone elses.

What if we could find someone who really knew how to pray, who really knew how God wants us to pray and ask him? What if the ACTS of that expert could teach us how to pray?
 
If anyone would know how to pray, surely it’s the Son of God? He would know how we are supposed to pray. Here is our expert! And it Luke's account of Jesus' life we find the Son of God teaching people how to pray. You can read that account here in Luke Chapter 11 verses 1 to 4.

His first followers – disciples saw something in him, they had obviously observed him praying (verse 1) and they wanted to pray like him. So they say to Jesus “teach us to pray". They want to employ the expert to show them what to do and because they told others about it and wrote it down, we can employ him too. We can learn how to pray from the Son of God – the original expert on prayer.

So what did Jesus tell them about how to pray? Jesus wasn’t telling them that they had to say these exact words every time. We know that because in other places in the accounts of Jesus’ life, he prays other prayers. Jesus is telling them how to pray, not what to pray. He was giving them a model, a pattern, a framework for their prayers.

He starts with "Father, hallowed be your name" (verse 2). This would have been quite a shock... Father is an intimate term and in Jesus’ day people didn’t refer to God that way. But Jesus is saying that we can approach God as one might approach a loving, gracious and merciful father. "Hallowed be your name" is an old fashioned way of giving respect and awe, of praising God for who he is, his nature and his character. This is about context, the context of who God is. Jesus is saying that the very first thing we should do when we pray is to remember who God is and let everything else flow from that. This is about syncing our hearts and our wills with that of God’s.

Skip forward a couple of sentences and we find an act of confession (verse 4). If the first bit was about context, and syncing our will with that of God’s, this is about putting syncing our relationship with God. You see God is perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, and we are not, we fall short, we are sinful, we are not perfectly holy. Unless we confess those shortfalls and receive God’s forgiveness then there is a break in the relationship between us and God. Asking for and receiving forgiveness sets that relationship right.

Once our wills our synced with God, once our relationship is right with God, then we can present our requests (verses 3 and 4). Give us this day our daily bread. This isn’t some kind of super spiritual thing. This is intensely practical – God is interested in the minute details of our lives, including where we get our daily provision. We can present our requests to God in full confidence that he hears

Let me suggest how we might remember that framework:
•    Adoration
•    Confession
•    Thanksgiving (I’ve added this in as an extension of adoration, adoration is thanking God for who he is, thanksgiving is thanking him for what he has done)
•    Supplication (posh way of saying requests!)

The ACTS of the expert teach us how to pray
 
Using this framework comes straight from the expert – Jesus. When you come to pray – start with adoration – just start by praising God for who he is – don’t have to use big words, if you can’t think of anything open Psalm 8 – that gives you lots of ideas. You don’t have to use big words, you don’t even have to say long prayers, just words, short sentences.    But stay on this for a while – please – Christians we are so bad at this, which is why I think so many of our prayers go unanswered, because we haven’t synced our will with that of God, because we have rushed over this bit. Then confess. Be specific, say sorry for the things you have messed up, the opportunities you have missed, the times you have sinned. Then thank God – thank him for forgiveness, thank him for the simple things.    No matter how tough life is there are still things to thank God for. Then present your requests, remembering God is interested in everything in your life. But don’t just make your requests about you, ask for others.

Try it and see what God does, because the ACTS of the expert teach us how to pray.

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What have you learned from an expert? How did having an expert to teach you help?

Do you find it easy to pray? Do you ever look at other people and think "I wish I could pray like that?"

Why do you think the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray?

Do you agree that Jesus was giving them a framework not the specific words to pray?

Do you think you would find the ACTS framework helpful?

Given that this is the response of the Son of God when asked "teach us to pray" what do you think that says to us about how seriously we should take it?

Which part of the A C T S framework do you think you will find easiest and which part hardest?

What could you do to implement this framework in your prayer life?

 

Extra Resources to Help with Prayer


Adoration: if you are struggling with the adoration part of the framework use a Psalm from the Old Testament part of the Bible to help you. Psalms 8,19,46,47,66,95,96,100,148,149 and 150 are particularly helpful

Confession: to help with confession Psalm 51 is really useful and is a heartfelt cry to God for mercy and forgiveness.

Thanksgiving: to help with thanksgiving Psalm 103 is a great psalm praising God for all the wondrous deeds that he does for people

Other great resourcces:
  • "Christian Prayer for Dummies" by Richard Wagner is a great book that has loads of helpful hints and tips about prayer and points you to lots of other resources
  • Prayercentral.net is a website that has some fantastic resources to help you pray
  • The website pray-as-you-go.org has daily prayers and Bible readings available in mp3 format for download or listening to on line


 

Chris Porter, 03/06/2014

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Not Just Sundays Part 4 - Accountability

On Sunday 25th May at our morning service, we finished our series called "Not Just Sundays". The theme was "Accountability". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Rob Lea. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

If we’re honest, all of us have things about our lives that we would like to change. It might be the way we behave, things we say or do, or the way we think? There might be things that we are struggling with right now?

For example, it could be a particular pattern of sin; something that we’re doing that we know goes against God’s will. Or it could be in areas of discipline; finance, health, fitness, addiction, or some other behaviour?

We really do want to grow more like Jesus, but the words written by the apostle Paul to a group of Christians in Rome seem to apply exactly to us; 
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans Chapter 7 verse 15) So, how can we see our lives change in the way that we desire?

Around the middle of the bible, in the Old Testament, there is a book called Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon. The book has been written to counter the human propensity to go off on our own (“to do our own thing”) rather than give our full attention to God.

In Chapter 4 verses 8-12 we find an answer to the question, “how can we see our lives change?” Click here to read that passage.
To paraphrase, Solomon writes that it’s futile trying to grow richer and improve alone. The answer, is to work with someone else, because:
1.    There is a much better return for the effort involved. You are more likely to achieve your goal. (verse 9)
2.    Two people can help one another; care for each other. They have a stake in each other’s success. (verse 10)
3.    They can support and encourage each other (verse 11)
4.    They can better defend themselves in life’s battles (verse 12)
The conclusion is that trying to grow and develop each day on your own is very difficult if not impossible. Working in an accountable relationship with another is so much more likely to bring positive results. Working with two others is even better! (vserse 12)

The truth of this is evident when you consider organisations like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. The individuals already know what to do (eat less/exercise more and stop drinking alcohol) and yet they are unable or unwilling to do it. However, when they join an “accountability group”, goals are achieved. Being accountable to one or two others is the key to life change; spiritual or behavioural. 

If we don’t want to be constantly repeating Paul’s words (Romans 7:15 above), and we are really serious about life changes, then we need to find one or two people that we know and trust to share life with – to be accountable to. A small group or mid sized community is a very good place to start.


Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Do you agree that most people have things in their life that they would like to change?

Do you have something that you would like to change?

If there is something, what are the reasons that change hasn’t happened yet?

Do you agree with King Solomon when he writes, “two are better than one”? Are there any circumstances when that might not be true?

Can you relate to Paul’s words in Romans 7:15?

Are you currently part of a “cell group”? (Two or three people that are accountable to each other) If no, would you like to be? If you would, what steps will you take to make it a reality?
?

Chris Porter, 23/05/2014

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Not Just Sundays Part 3 - Community

On Sunday 18th May at our morning services, we continued our series called "Not Just Sundays". The theme was "Community". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter(our Senior Minister). To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

In the movie Defiance, we are told the amazing true story of a group of Jews who lived in the forests of Belarus during the second world war to escape capture by the Nazis. They had to work together as a community to survive. Community was literally a matter of life and death for them.

Whilst community may not be a matter of literal life and death for us, it is still really important. When life is good to celebrate with others brings greater joy. When life is tough to be supported by others brings hope and comfort. When we need to change things in our lives (habits, behaviours etc.) it is great to be accountable to others. We all need this.

What does God think about community? How does God say community should look and how does he intend for us to find it?

Right at the beginning of God’s story we are told that God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in relationship. God exists as community and if human beings are made in his image we are built for community. At the end of God's story we are told that in heaven there will be a perfect community of people, together, in the presence of God.

In the middle of God’s story we find Jesus and Jesus gathered with others in community. He had groups that he was a part of. There were the 782 that he sent out to tell people about God, there were the 12 disciples and then within that his 3 closest friends. Even the Son of God needed community.

Jesus’ first followers followed his example and gathered in community. In the New Testament book of Acts they are gathered together. When God's presence - his spirit, comes onto them they spill out onto the streets of Jerusalem and all of those gathered there hear them speaking in their own languages. The spirit made it possible for everyone to be included. Then one of those followers - Peter, tells them what is happening, and tells them the story of Jesus and thousands of them become followers of Jesus. Then in Acts chapter 2 verses 42 to 47 we read about what happens to them. You can read that story by clicking here.

They start gathering together (we talked about that last week), but something else happens as well, they start building community. They started having authentic relationships (see verses 44). They start sharing and caring (see verse 45) and they are attractive (see verse 47).

We learn that God community is supposed to be:

  • inclusive
  • a place of authentic relationships
  • a place to care and be cared for
  • attractive


To do these things It will require devotion (see verse 42). In the original Greek that his book was written in, the word we translate devotion means "giving unremitting care to..." Authentic Acts 2 community requires sacrifice and giving, it requires time and energy, it requires all of us to be doing our bit, if requires each of us to watch out for others and seek to support and care, it requires all of us to adopt an attitude of inclusivity, humility and generosity. It requires us to give unremitting care to community.

Why do we need community? We need it to include people, to be able to be real and authentic (don’t you crave that?), to care for one another, to be attractive. But if it is to happen we need to devote ourselves to it.

How can we do that? Some practical suggestions...
Be a part of an EBC community group...a small groups or a mid sized community group. Click here for details of small groups, click here for details of our new mid sized community group. Get someone to pray with, be accountable to. Finally place yourself at the centre of this community by becoming involved.

If you are a Non Christian – this will be good for you. If you are a Christian this is essential for you. Last week we asked the question can I be a Christian and not go to church? We said yes but you will be a rubbish and selfish one, the same is true of community. Without community you will struggle to grow and develop , when life is hard there won’t be anyone around for you, when you are trying to change habits or do things differently or live in a more God honouring way you will struggle. Community is at the heart of God and it ought to be at our heart too.


Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Why do you think God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in relationship?

What does that tell us about God?

Can you think of a time when the support of a community group has been really significant for you?

What are the hallmarks of community?

What do you make of the hallmarks of God community? Are there any others?

What can you contribute to a community? What can you gain?

Are you a part of a community group? If yes, how can it display the hallmarks of God community even better than it is already doing? If no how could you be a part of one?


 

Chris Porter, 20/05/2014

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Not Just Sundays Part 2 - Congregation

On Sunday 11th May at our morning services, we continued our series called "Not Just Sundays". The theme was "Congregation". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter(our Senior Minister). To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

There’s something attractive about people gathering. Have you ever had one of those kinds of experiences - maybe at a gig, concert or event? There is something attractive about a shared experience. Why is that? Why do churches do that - gather together? What are they doing when the get together for services? Can you be a Christian without going to church? It is those questions we are going to try to answer.

We need to start with the very beginning of God’s story. God creates a special group of people, called the people of Israel and he creates them to be a light to the world. He gives them a system to live by and part of that is that they are to gather to be provoked to service and to their purpose. When they stop doing that the prophets condemn them.

At the end God's story we are given a picture of heaven in the last book of the Bible - Revelation. In that picture we are told that there will be a gather of people in the presence of God.

In the middle of God's story we find Jesus and he said that when 2 or 3 or more gather in his name he will be present. Jesus attends congregations in synagogue. The first followers of Jesus in the first church met together in congregation. Groups of them met every day, the significance was not in when they gathered, but that they did, they felt something, they felt the need to gather together, and they were attractive, people joined their gatherings and the message of Jesus spread.

One group of people who encountered the message of Jesus was the Hebrews and the New Testament contains a letter written to them. In chapter 10 verse 19 and following of that letter is says some interesting things about gathering/congregating. You can read those verses by clicking here.

In verses 19-20 they are told that they can have confidence to enter the presence of God. In verses 21-23 they are told that Jesus is the High Priest Let who helps them draw near to God in full assurance of faith. They are told that they can be cleansed from our sin and have hope.

In verse 24 they are encouraged to spur each other on to love and good deeds.

How do they do these things? In verse 25 they are told how to do those things...they are to make sure that gathering together is a priority.

So what do we learn (not just from Hebrews) but from all of God's story?

We learn why we gather together:

  • To demonstrate the love of God
  • To include those who don’t yet know God
  • To be a light to the world, non-Christians are welcome
  • To build hope in us
  • To exort, encourage, challenge us to serve, to the purpose God has called us

But what should they be like? We have learned...

  • They are not supposed to be comfortable!
  • They can be at any time and place
  • No ritual is prescribed
  • Jesus is now the only priest that we need


All of this is why at EBC we have multiple congregations, multiple gatherings. We are not supposed to be just about Sundays. All congregations are are just as important as Sunday mornings. The important thing is not when we meet but that we do and we do so regularly.

We need to gather, we need a congregation. It doesn’t matter which one we attend, when it is, the significance is that we gather.

Can you be a Christian without a congregation? – yes you can, but if I may speak candidly you will be a rubbish and selfish one. We need each other, we need this, and God knows that we do. So we need to make it a priority.


Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Why do you think churches gather together in congregations?

What struck you particularly about what God has to say about gatherings?

Have any of your pre existing thoughts about gathering been challenged or changed as a result of this talk?

How does it make you feel to think that Christians have been gathering like this for thousands of years?

Think for a moment about all the elements of a gathering/congregation at EBC...how do you think they help with the purpose of gatherings that we have been learning about?

How can you ensure that gathering in a congregation is a priority or remains a priority for you?

Why do you think it is important that you attend a congregation regularly?

Chris Porter, 13/05/2014

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Not Just Sundays Part 1 - Baptism 

On Sunday 4th May at our morning service, we started a new series called "Not Just Sundays". The theme was "Baptism". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Steph Littlejohn (our Assistant Minister). To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.


To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

When we think about baptism we bring a couple of things to the table:

  • Our background and tradition
  • Our own preconceptions
Rarely do we think about this in detail and really study it and use that to shape what we do and believe about baptism. At EBC we believe that if you are a Christian and you haven't been baptised since you made that decision then you should be and this talk will explain why.

Jesus saw baptism as important. Right at the end of Matthew's account of Jesus' life we find Jesus sharing some final instructions wiht his first followers. He said "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28 v18-10). Not just going and making disciples, not just teaching... but baptising too.

We believe that people should be baptised because Jesus said so!

Baptise was not seen in the English language until our English translations of the Bible. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word that we translate baptism in the original Greek meant wash, soak, plunge, dip, sink, submerge.

In the Old Testament the same word is used to describe ceremonial washing. Gentiles (non Jews) could start following the Jewish religion but to do so they had to do various things including ceremonial washing but it was done in private.

Then in the New Testament a man appears who tells people to repent because a new thing is about to happen which they need to be ready for. He tells people who are ready to do this that they should be washed in the river in public as a sign of their repentance. This is very new and very different. The man was called John and he became known as John the baptiser.

One day Jesus comes and asks John to baptise him. Jesus' disciples started to baptise people as they became followers of Jesus. John started this public washing, Jesus took part in it, Jesus' disciples carried it on and Jesus commanded it.

Baptism is a public declaration of a new association. A personal declaration of a new association. Baptism is not a condition of salvation, it is evidence of it.

At EBC we are not hung up about form but we are about timing. We are not too worried about method but we are about when. We believe that because baptism is a public declaration of a new association it should happen once someone has made a decision for themselves to be a follower of Jesus. That is why we don't baptise babies.


Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Have you been baptised since you made the decision for yourself to be a follower of Jesus (a Christian)?

If there are others in your group, tell your baptism stories

Why do you think we often focus on Jesus' commands to make disciples and teach people and not so much on baptism?

Have you formed some thoughts about baptism - maybe from the tradition of churches you have experienced in the past?

In what way has this talk challenged your thoughts? What do you believe about baptism?

If you have been baptised what did that mean for you? Are you still living up to the promises you made at your baptism?

If you haven't been baptised what is stopping you from doing it? How might you get past those things?

If you would like to talk to someone about being baptised at EBC, please contact Chris Porter via this email
chrisp@ebc-bracknell.org or by phone on 01344 487744.

Chris Porter, 06/05/2014

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Action Sunday 

Please note that because Sunday 27th April was our Action Sunday, there is no Sunday Talks blog for this week because we were out and about doing action projects and there was no talk this week.

We start a new series entitled Not Just Sundays on Sunday 4th May, when the Sunday talks blog will return!
Chris Porter, 28/04/2014

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iheart Part 4 - Easter Sunday 

On Sunday 20th April at our morning service, we continued our series called "iheart". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter - our Senior Minister. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

We have read or seen in the news recently desperate stories of people searching. For the missing Malaysia airlines plane, for survivors from teh South Korean ferry disaster. People desperately searching for loved ones, sadly with a tragic ending.

Are you searching? Maybe not quite like that, but I bet you are searching for something, because most of us are. Searching for: meaning, family, relevance, financial security, relationships, purpose, career, exam results, God. But often times we search in the wrong places. Filling our lives with things that aren’t actually answering that internal desire. Are you searching in the right places? Is life short of something?
 
In the days after Jesus had died on the cross, his first followers were searching for something. For meaning and relevance to all that they had seen
They were searching for a cause, for what would happen next. All seemed lost. Some searched for that meaning by gathering together, others searched by heading back to their old lives. Some searched by doing what they thought they could for Jesus, going to spice his body. They went to the tomb where they were certain he would be. We can read their story in Luke's account of Jesus' life in chapter 24 verses 1 to 8. You can read that by clicking here.

They didn’t find him. They were searching for him.  They were searching for the living among the dead. Jesus had risen. Proof of God’s promises and his heart towards them. They need no longer search, they could find the answer to life. Then look at verse 8 - they remembered his words. They remembered what Jesus had said and who he was, and as they remembered they were set free from their searching, they were able to rejoice.
 
Are you searching? Have you been looking in the right places? Remember. Remember this Easter that Jesus died and rose again so we don’t have to search. In him we find meaning and purpose and we find the ultimate relationship. Don’t search for meaning in the wrong places. It is here, here is where we find all we need. God is waiting for us to come home. Remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and find what you are looking for this Easter. Jesus is alive and his resurrection is proof that we can find all that we are searching for in God.

 

Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What are you searching for in your life?

Where have you been searching for the answers?

Has that been helpful? Have you found what you have been looking for?

Imagine yourself as one of Jesus' first followers...how would you have felt in the days between his death and resurrection?

Now imagine yourself as one of the women who went to the tomb...how would that have left you feeling?

Why do you think remembering helped the women in the story of Jesus' resurrection?

What can you do to ensure you continually remember the Easter story and use that to help you find the real answers to your searching?

Chris Porter, 22/04/2014

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Iheart Part 3 - For the Lost

On Sunday 13th April at our morning service, we continued our series called "iheart". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Peter Roe. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

Have you ever lost something significant and had to hunt for it? Maybe you lost a child in a big shop and felt that gut-wrenching feeling wondering where they are. Or maybe you have been lost somewhere and wondered how you were going to find your way?

People who don't know God are lost - they are a long way from Him. But do you realise that you, too might be lost, a long way from God? Does he care? What is His heart?

Jesus was often found in the company of people who might have been "lost" - who were rejected by society, especially religious leaders. On one occasion he told a story about a shepherd who lost a sheep, left the rest of the flock to hunt for it and was so full of happiness when he found it that he threw a party! Sheep were a vital component of economic life in Jesus' time so his hearers understood exactly what he was talking about.
This Sunday was Palm Sunday, a day when the church especially remembers the occasion when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Amidst all the shouting and praising of the crowd he stopped and wept. He had seen the city and was thinking about all the lost people in it.
On a previous occasions he had explained that he had come "to seek and to save that which was lost". Jesus heart - God's heart - was for the lost, those far away from God and those who need Him - which is all of us.

Being a Christian is not just about being found, being loved by God and looking forward to a future with Him. It brings a responsibility for us to play our part in God's work of seeking the lost to bring them to Him. There are a lot of lost people out there. 

Questions and reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Think of a time when you were lost or had lost something important. How did you feel? 

What did you feel like when you found it again?

Are there ways in which you still feel lost?

How does it make you feel to know that God cares and is actively searching for the lost?

What is your attitude to "lost" people - do you weep like Jesus did?

How important is it that we should be part of the search? Why?

Can you think of ways in which we can help in the search for the lost?

 
Chris Porter, 08/04/2014

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Iheart Part 2 - Compassion 

On Sunday 6th April at our morning service, we continued our series called "iheart". In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Rob Lea. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

When our heart is set on something, or someone, the truth is that we resist any attempt to change it. It could be our boss, co-worker, a neighbor, a political party. However, not everything that our heart believes can be right can it? We can’t be perfect in our beliefs. 

In particular, our belief about God and our beliefs about other people. 

Jesus came to clarify how we should relate to God and how we should relate to others. One of the great examples of how to do this is found in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, when Jesus meets a man who needs a change of heart. It is a very well know story, even by people who are not Christians – The Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

When Jesus is asked by an “expert in the law” what he needs to do to gain eternal life, Jesus realizes that the man needs a change of heart. It is at this point that he tells him the now well know story of the man who gets attacked, beaten up, robbed and left half dead. After being ignored by two religious types, he is saved by a hated (by the Jews) Samaritan. The robbed man could do nothing to save himself, but the grace of the Samaritan rescues him. He saw the man and had pity on him.

Along with the ‘expert in the law’, we learn that our neighbor is everyone and anyone who needs help, and that we don’t have to do anything to be rescued by God; just accept his grace.

The lesson? When you change what you see it will change your heart.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Do you accept the notion that all of your beliefs can’t be right; they’re not all perfect?

Can you think of a time when you’ve had a real change of heart?

Who are you currently avoiding/ignoring or whom have you categorized in a particular way?

Do you feel that it’s only when you DO certain things that God will love you?  

Can you think of a time when life has “beaten you up”, and Jesus came by?

Do you believe that when you change what you see it will change your heart?
Chris Porter, 08/04/2014

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iheart Part 1 - Heart Condition 

On Sunday 30th March at our morning service, we started a new series called "iheart". It was also our Mother's Day celebration. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

It's a tough job being a mother. Just in case you needed reminding of how tough it is check out this little boy! To be a great mother you need a great heart. One full of courage, conviction, passion, care and love...actually we all need that.

In our lives there are things that crowd in and mean our hearts can't function in the way that we would like them to. Through life circumstances, upbringing, culture, relationships breaking down, failing, harsh words...we develop scars that act like callouses on our hearts. These callouses mean we can't experience life in all its fullness.

If someone has a physical heart condition we know that it makes life hard, but the same is true if someone has an emotional heart condition caused by these callouses.

God's story is full of people and groups of people who developed emotional heart conditnios. We can learn from how God deals with them about how we can finding healing for the callouses on our hearts. One such story comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. God's people are on the verge of defeat and Moses, their leader, looks forward to a time when they will be free again. He says this to them "God, your God, will cut away the thick callouses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God with all your heart and soul and really live." (Deuteronomy Chapter 30 verse 6 - The Message translation).

They have callouses on their hearts, but God promises to cut those away and free them to really live. God wants his people to have emotionally healthy hearts so that they can really live. He wants that for us too. As we draw closer to God he cuts away those callouses. As we draw closer to God the things that have scarred our hearts get placed into perspective in the light of God's love for us.
 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What are the things that have caused callouses or scars on your heart in the past?

Why do you think that they have caused the damage to the emotional condition of your heart?

How does it make you feel when you hear that God wants you to be free of those things?

Can you think of a time when you felt particuarly close to God and that enabled you to feel free?

In what ways did God heal his people in the Old Testament over and over again?

What do those teach us?

How can you draw closer to God so that he can restore the emotional condition of your heart? What are you going to do to make that happen?

Chris Porter, 31/03/2014

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Why Pray? Part 4 - No Reply? 

On Sunday 23rd March, we finished our series called Why Pray? In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Assistant Minister - Steph Littlejohn. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here. 
 

Talk Summary

Have you ever tried to call someone on your mobile and it has rung and rung with no reply? Or even worse you have heard that beep that means the person on the other end has rejected your call? It can leave us feeling confused and hurt even.

Sometimes it can feel like that with prayer when we don't seem to get the answer we are looking for from God or even any answer at all.

How big a problem unanswered prayer been in your relationship with God? If you are a Christian maybe it has hit your faith hard. Maybe if you aren't a Christian this is the reason why - unanswered prayer or disappointment with God.

In Matthew chapter 26 verses 38 to 44 we find that even Jesus (God's son) struggled with unanswered prayer. You can read that passage by clicking here.

Jesus is facing a tortuous death and is asking God to take that from him. But he doesn't get the answer he desires. But he still finds the grace to submit himself to his Father's will. In verse 39 he says "if it is possible..."

But even in that moment he says not as I will but as you will. He prays three times for the same thing. But ultimately Jesus surrenders himself to God's will.

There no pat or trite answer to give to the question of unanswered prayer but know this: Jesus knows how we feel.

Jesus could see the bigger picture, but he still suffered. God has a plan for us. He may not take away our suffering, he may not take away the pain. We have to turn our eyes from the bits of God we don't understand to the bits we do: He loves us, he has a plan for us and we are his children.

Don't edit your prayers, don't hide your feelings from God, keep going, keep asking, keep it short, keept honest, keep it going.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Can you think of a time when you prayed and either didn't get the answer you wanted or any answer at all.

How did that make you feel? Did it make you question God? What impact did that have on your faith?

Do you think that you spend more time thinking about the times God has seemed not to answer your prayers than the times when he has? Why is that?

How do you think Jesus was feeling that night in the garden of Gethsemane?

Where do you think he found the strength to submit himself to God's will? Do you think he understood it?

What can we learn from Jesus' experiences for our own experience?

How can you find the courage to keep going with prayer?

Chris Porter, 24/03/2014

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Why Pray Part 3 - Is Prayer a Two Way Conversation? 

On Sunday 16th March, we continued our series called Why Pray? In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter. To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

Have you ever had a sense that something was the right thing to do or an impression that popped into your head and you couldn't figure out where it had come from? Do you believe that it could have been God speaking to you? Do you think God can speak or do you think that is just for super spiritual people or if you aren't a religious person, do you think that just sounds weird?

In this third part of our Why Pray? series we are going to try to demystify if and how God can speak to us. We are going to try to move beyond weird into natural!

In a book of the Bible called Acts there is an account of some of Jesus' first followers hearing God speaking to them. It is in Acts chapter 13 verses 1 to 3 and you can read it by clicking here.

At this point in the story, Jesus has left his first followers to go back to be with his father in heaven. He has left his followers with his presence...the presence of God - the Holy Spirit. And some of those first followers have been out around the country telling people the story of Jesus. They arrive back in Antioch and they are wondering what to do next. In verse 2 we are told "The Holy Spirit said..."

What strikes me about this is how matter of fact it was. This was the presence of God - the creator and sustainer of all things, speaking to them. And it is just recorded as "The Holy Spirit said..." This must mean that this was normal for them...a natural thing. Not weird or unusual.

The second thing that strikes me is that we are not told how the Holy Spirit spoke, which is pretty frustrating. However we are given a bit of a clue as to how it happened. We are told it was while they were worshipping and fasting. This means that they were spending time with God, free from distractions. This is the first step in how we hear God's voice...setting aside time, to spend with him, free from distractions.

The Bible also makes it clear how else God speaks. God speaks to us through the Bible. This is his primary way of communicating with us. He also speaks to us in other ways. It might be an audible voice, but this is rare. More common is for God to speak through an impression or a sense or a feeling or a Bible passage or story that comes into our minds.

So the second and third steps in hearing God speak are to read the Bible and then ask him to speak with a thought, impression or feeling. When we do that we can trust that what comes into our minds could be from God.

The question always comes at this point, how do I know that it is God and not my mind making it up! Well God will never contradict what he has said in the Bible, so if the thought or feeling or impression contradicts God's word in the Bible it will not be from him. Given that it doesn't contradict the Bible, the best way to find out if something is from God is to act on it and see what happens.

God wants to speak to us, of course he does, he loves us and just like we want to have a conversation with the ones that we love, so God wants to have a conversation with us.

How do we do that?

1. Set aside time, free from distractions to be with God
2. Read the Bible
3. Ask him and trust the thought, impression, feeling or prompt that comes into your mind
4. Act on it

God longs to speak to us, we just have to be available.


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Can you think of a time when you have heard God speaking to you?

What was that like? How did it happen?

Is it a normal and natural thing for you to hear God speak?

If not, why not?

What do you think it was like for those first followers of Jesus to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them?

How does it make you feel that God (the creator and sustainer of everything) would want to speak to you?

What are you going to do to make it more of a normal occurance for God to speak to you?
 

Chris Porter, 17/03/2014

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Why Pray Part 2 - How Do I Pray? 

On Sunday 9th March, we continue our series called Why Pray? In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by a visiting speaker - Chris Simpkins, who is the minister at Finchampstead Baptist Church. To listen to the talk on line please click here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

Have you ever asked someone to show you how to do something? Prayer wasn't new to the first followers of Jesus 2,000 years ago, but they saw something in him and in the way that he prayed that made them ask him to teach them how to pray. They clearly saw something in Jesus that made them realise that they had been praying all wrong.

What stage are you at with prayer? Maybe you don't pray very much, maybe you don't really know where to start, maybe you pray, maybe you even pray a lot...but are you doing it right?

Do we sometimes ask ourselves why our prayers seem to go unanswered? Or maybe answered in a different way than we were expecting? Surely if we pray as Jesus taught us to then we can expect it to work 100% of the time. The question then is how does Jesus teach us to pray?

In Matthew's account of Jesus' life we find Jesus' response to his followers when they asked him to show them how to pray. It is in Matthew chapter 6 verses 5 to 13 which you can read by clicking here.

Verse 5 says "when you pray". Jesus assumes that we will be praying. It also tell us that there will be a reward to our praying. And we find out about that reward in verse 6 where it tells us that God sees us. This is part of the reward...being seen by God the creator and sustainer of the universe.

Verses 7 and 8 tell us not to try and convince God to do what we want. What kind of God would that make him if we could bend him to our will?

Verses 9 and following show us how to pray and it starts with recognising who God is and the intimate relationship we can have with him as our father. Then we go on to surrender ourselves to God's will - "Your will be done..." There is no point moving on beyond this until our will is surrendered to God's will.

The purpose of prayer is to surrender our will to God's not to bend his will to ours. The purpose of prayer is not to change God but to be changed. The purpose of prayer is to surrender our will, not to impose it.

Once we have done that we can go on to talk to God about provision (daily bread), pardon (our need for forgiveness) and protection from evil.

When we pray and surrender ourselves to God's will in prayer then we find it works 100% of the time!

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

If you pray regularly how do you do it? Be honest, do you just come before God with a list of your requests?

How does it make you feel to see prayer as an opportunity to surrender your will to God's will? Have you ever thought about that before?

What does that mean? How would that change your prayers?

How easy do you find it to surrender yourself to God's will?

Can you think of a time when Jesus struggled to surrender himself to God's will? What happened?

What does this model of prayer have to teach us about how we pray?

Chris Porter, 10/03/2014

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Why Pray? Part 1 - introduction 

On Sunday 2nd March, we started a new series called Why Pray? Over the next four weeks we are going to look at why and how to pray and answer some of the tough questions that we often encounter when we pray. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by a visiting speaker - James Henley, who together with is wife Julia and daughter Katie have been living and working in Peru for the last three years. You can listen to James' talk online by clicking here. (please note that the first 14 minutes of this recording are an interview we did earlier in the service with James and Julia)

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

Why bother to pray? In the UK nearly half of the population say that they pray regularly. And even among those who say that they don't believe in God at all, 12% pray. Why do we do that?

Where are you with praying? Do you find it easy and just live to pray? Do you find it hard and are you unsure where to start? Or are you somewhere in between? Pray often gets pushed out by the rest of our to do lists.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus in the Bible we fine the people of Israel in the wilderness. God commands them to put up a tent where everyone and anyone can come and meet with him face to face. (See Exodus chapter 33 verses 7 to 11 which you can read by clicking here).

God comes down to dwell with the people. God wants to be in a relationship with them and to dwell among them so that they can be a blessing to the nations. What was true for them is true for us. God wants to have a relationship with us and journey through life with us and to use us to be a blessing to others. Anyone could go to the tent and meet with God and speak to him face to face as one would with a friend. It is that relationship with God that sustains the people through life and equips them for the tough times.

For Jesus it was the same, it is his relationship with God that sustains him. Jesus made it clear that everything flowed out of his relationship with God. It is because of prayer that he is sustained, fruitful, keeps going and is able to face the cross. Spending time with God puts other things into perspective.

What was true for Jesus is true for us, we need that relationship and prayer is the way that is built up. We have the opportunity to build a relationship with God and prayer is how we get to know him face to face. It is the way that he dwells with us and us with him.


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

How are you doing with prayer? Do you find it easy or hard?

If you pray, why? Why do you do it?

What are you expecting to happen?

Why do you think so many people in the UK pray and yet so few go to church?

How do you think it made the people of Israel feel to hear God saying that he wanted to dwell with them and that anyone could meet him and speak to him as one would a friend?

How does that make you feel to know that God is still saying the same thing today?

Why do you think Jesus spent so much time in prayer with his father?

How can you follow his example?

Chris Porter, 03/03/2014

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Unleashing the Power of Compassion Part 4 - Caring Locally 

On Sunday 23rd February 2014 at our morning services, we looked at the fourth and final part of our four week series called "Unleashing the Power of Compassion". The theme was "Caring Locally".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter - our Senior Minister, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary

Compassion is a Godly trait. If you are a Christian and your compassion quotient is not growing then you aren't growing spiritually. God tells us that the fruit of his presence (Spirit) within us includes kindness, graciousness, goodness, love and gentleness which are the hallmarks of compassion. Jesus was full of compassion and if we want to be more like him we need to be more compassionate.

Compassion is not about warm and fuzzy feelings, it is about being motivated to action and compassion is good for us (see part 1 of this series).

We started this series looking at some words Jesus spoke to a group of people that contained people from all kinds of backgrounds. And he told them "you are the light of the world", you should be a city on a hill that can't be hidden, that people should see your good deeds and be pointed to God.

Jesus is still saying that to his followers today..."you are the light of the world", it is your good deeds that will point people to God. Demonstrating compassion shows us to be the light of the world and we can do that globally in places like Sierra Leone, but we can also do that locally, wherever we find ourselves. It is not an accident that we work where we work, go to school where we go to school, live where we live. God has things for us to do right where we are to demonstrate compassoin.

What if we as a church became known as the most compassionate place in our town? What if individually we became known as the most compassionate people in our office, school, workplace, street?

What if our children became known as the most compassionate group of children people have ever met? What if we were to become known as having the most socially concious and engaged young people in Bracknell?

It would overwhelm our town, impact our community and point people to God. But it has to start with us.

Some practical ways we can demonstrate compassion right where we are:

In our street, work and school:

  • use the things we have as a church to help those in need or demonstrate compassion including food boxes, meals, flowers, moving in parcels

In our town:

  • get involved with Storehouse that is a ministry we run to provide good quality clothes, household items and furniture to people in need

  • food bank

  • schools

  • local council

  • street pastors

In our church when we are together for services etc:

  • welcome newcomers

  • ensure that visitors can find a seat easily

  • invite people to events and activities

We are supposed to be the light of the world, so the question is what are we going to do?

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What do you think of when you think about compassion? Does it involve action?

Look again at Matthew Chapter 5 verses 14 to 16. Click here to read that passage. What strikes you? How does it make you feel to think that Jesus is saying to you "you are the light of the world?"

Do you think that you are ever hidden? That your light isn't shining brightly for people to see?

When it comes to demonstrating compassion  locally what could you do to make a difference?

Who could you show compassion to?

How could you become the most compassionate person in your office, street, school or workplace?

How could we become the most compassionate church in our town?

 

Chris Porter, 24/02/2014

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Unleashing the Power of Compassion Part 3 - Caring Globally

We are sorry but there is no blog for this talk this week, however you can listen to it by clicking here. We will be back with the regular blog next week.
Chris Porter, 14/02/2014

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Unleashing The Power of Compassion Part 2 - For The Persecuted

 
compassion web image
On Sunday 9th February 2014 at our morning services, we looked at the second part of our four week series called "Unleashing the Power of Compassion". The theme was "Compassion for the Persecuted".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Steph Littlejohn - our Assistant Minister, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary


People all around the world are suffering persecution because of their faith. What is persecution? Definition: A systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. Inflicting suffering, harassment, isolation, imprisonment, fear or pain. It must be sufficiently severe to deem the word persecution.

This is a significant human rights issue. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes this clear. Click here to read that article:
 
But persecution is happening worldwide. Sometimes when we are faced with a huge need we are paralysed into inaction. But for evil to prosper it just needs good people to do nothing. We need to unleash the power of compassion, because when we unleash the power of compassion change happens.
 
God speaks to this issue through the Bible. One example can be found in a letter in the New Testament - Hebrews Chapter 13 verse 3. Click here to read that passage.
 
Imagine if Chris our Senior Minister and his wife Ruth were in prison for enthusiastically living out their faith and leading this church. What if it was you or someone close to you? Can you imagine how you would feel? Or perhaps we hear that our church building has been burnt down. 

How can we remember these people and situations as if it was us?
  • Be informed
  • Pray 
  • Give financially to organisations like Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) or Open Doors 
  • Send cards of encouragement to prisoners.
  • Add your names to the operation 18 campaign petition http://www.csw.org.uk/operation18 

Each of us can do something. Each of us should do something. When we unleash the power of compassion change happens. Don’t allow evil to prosper because you do nothing, be part of the solution act as if it was you.
                           

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

What is it that has the potential to make you do nothing about persecution and its effects on people around the world?

If it was Chris or Ruth affected by persecution how would that impact you personally?

What sort of impact do you think it would have on the church?

If it was you or someone you know and love what would you want others to do?

What is the least that you could do?

What is the most that you are able to do?
 
Chris Porter, 04/02/2014

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Unleashing The Power of Compassion Part 1 - Introduction

 
compassion web imageOn Sunday 2nd February 2014 at our morning services, we looked at the first part of our four week series called "Unleashing the Power of Compassion".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter - our Senior Minister, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary


Demonstrating compassion changes things and not just for the people we are showing compassion to. It changes us as well. Sometimes we can be pretty cynical, ungrateful and judgemental. When we show compassion it changes those attitudes. Cynicism turns to hope, ingratitude to thankfulness and judgement to love. And study after study shows that we are happier when we turn from those negative attitudes and compassion helps us to do just that.

Unleashing the power of compassion changes things and it changes us.

This is why God speaks about compassion so often in the Bible. One day Jesus was talking to a very mixed group of people...young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. And he said something amazing to them. You can read it in Matthew's account of Jesus' life chapter 5 verses 14 to 16. Click here to read that passage.

Jesus said to them, "you". "You are the light of the world." Not someone else, not even him...you. No matter whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, religious or non religious...you are the light of the world and you are not to be hidden like a light under a bowl. And they did it. When Jesus left his first followers, they had nothing and yet they change the world...through the power of compassion their light shone.

Compasion change us and it changes things for other people and it changes the heart of God.

Our challenge is to be the you Jesus was talking about. To unleash the power of compassion in our lives and as we do so it will change things and it will change us too.

 

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Are you cynical, judgemental or ungrateful?

Do you agree that when you demonstrate compassion it changes these attitudes? Can you think of a time when that has been true for you?

When was the last time you demonstrated compassion to someone else?

Why do you think God commands us to be compassionate?

How do you think those people felt when Jesus told them that they were the light of the world? How does it make you feel to think that Jesus says that to you too?

What could you do this week to demonstrate compassion?

Chris Porter, 03/02/2014

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breathing Room Part 4 - Relationships

 
breathing room web mediumOn Sunday 26th January 2014 at our morning services, we looked at the fourth and final part of our four week series called "Breathing Room". The title of this third talk was "Relationships".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Rob Lea - one of our Leadership Team, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

Talk Summary


In this series, we are defining breathing room as the space between our current pace and our limits. When it comes to relationships we have to be really careful that we don't crowd out the breathing room for them by filling our lives with other, less important things. Why is that so often we live as if our time is unlimited, and we have all the time we need to build relationships with those important to us?

The main reasons are fear...fear of what others will think of us, fear of losing our jobs, fear of the perceptions we might be subject to.

The most often given command in the Bible is "fear not". Fear drives the breathing room out of our lives. In Luke's account of Jesus life, Jesus tells us not to worry. In Luke chapter 12 verses 22 to 34 we are told not to worry and not to be afraid. You can read that passage by clicking here.

Jesus tells us not to worry and not to be afraid but instead to focus on God, because what we focus on is where our heart will be.

We each have unique roles when it comes to our relationships. Our jobs and other things that take up our time can be done by someone else and will ultimately be done by someone else. However in our relationships our unique roles can't be done by anyone else. Why would we trade in what is unique to us for something someone else can do?


Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

Are you a homebody or do you like to get out and do something whenever possible?

How much do you tend to be at ease at work but restless at home because work gives you a sense of progress and accomplishment?

What are some things that make it difficult for us to submit to the needs of the people in our lives?

Think about the way you balance your work and homelife. To what extent do you find yourself absent 
from important family events and promising to do better by pointing to a future that will make up for the past?

What are some challenges you would face in choosing to spend less time at work and more time with the key relationships in your life?

What is one thing you can do this week to begin to create breathing room at home? What can this group do to support you?

There may not be enough time to get everything done that you want to get done, that culture tells you you need to get done. You may have to cheat. But where are you going to cheat? Who are you going to cheat? In your desire to get the most out of life, don’t lose control of your life. Create breathing room.

Chris Porter, 27/01/2014

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Breathing Room Part 3 - Money

 
breathing room web mediumOn Sunday 19th January 2014 at our morning services, we looked at the third part of our four week series called "Breathing Room". The title of this third talk was "Money".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by Chris Porter - our Senior Minister, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

Talk Summary


In this series, we are defining breathing room as the space between our current pace and our limits. When it comes to money we can not only live up to our limits, we can live beyond them too using debt.

In this talk we said that we don't want anything from you - this is not a talk about giving money to the church. But we did say that we want something for you...and that is breathing room in your finances and freedom from financial worries and debt.

There is a big difference between standard of living and quality of life. We have bought into the lie that our standard of living equals our quality of life. But this is simply not true. It is possible to have a very high standard of living and to have got that through debt and living without financial breathing room, and therefore to be utterly miserable and constantly worried about money.

We know this to be true and yet we still get into financial difficulties, why is that? Well often times because we are jealous of other people, or we are afraid that others will judge us or because somehow we think it is our right to have all the stuff we want.

We raise our standard of living with debt, but we raise our quality of life with discipline...and we prefer debt to discipline.

God is much more concerned with our quality of life than our standard of living, because he love us.

Creating breathing room with your finances may lower your standard of living, but it will raise your quality of life.

God talks more about money than almost any other subject. And the Bible is full of wisdom about money. If you aren't a Christian, this wisdom is just good advice, but if you are a Christian then living with financial breathing room is a command of God.

Jesus said "you cannot serve both God and money". (Luke chapter 16). You cannot be a slave to money and still serve God effectively. Having no breathing room with your finances makes you a slave to money.

How do we gain financial breathing room? How do we get the discipline to raise our quality of life? 

We suggest five steps:
  1. Decide - discipline begins with a decision
  2. Set a breathing room goal
  3. Spy on your money - know where it is all going
  4. Cut spending - look at your mobile phone contract, your energy bills, broadband, phone etc. ask do I really need this
  5. Get out of debt - remember I want is better than I owe
We teach all of this on a course we run called CAP Money - which is a fantastic 3 week course that helps us manage our money and create financial breathing room. For more details please contact Kat Morling through the church office on 01344 487744 or email officestaff@ebc-bracknell.org.

Breathing room in your finances leads to improved quality of life. Remember creating breathing room financially may lower your standard of living, but it will raise your quality of life.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Talk about one of the happiest times in your life. What were your finances like during that period?

Think about how you managed your money last year. What would you like to do differently this year?

How well do you document your expenses so that you know where your money is going? What 
influenced you to document your expenses the way you do?

In the talk Chris said, “You can raise your standard of living with debt, but you can only raise your quality of life with discipline.” How accurately does that statement align with what you’ve eperienced?

What is one challenge you would face in developing a lifestyle reduction plan?

What is one thing you can do this week to begin to create breathing room in your finances? What can this group do to support you?

 
Money doesn’t raise your quality of life, financial breathing room does. In fact, you may need a lower standard of living in order to improve your quality of life. You can’t obey the teachings of Jesus without financial breathing room because he said not to worry and you’ll worry a lot if you have no financial margin. Don’t let your finances be your master.

Chris Porter, 17/01/2014

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Breathing Room part 2 - Time

 
breathing room web mediumOn Sunday 12th January 2014 we looked at the second part of our four week series at our morning services called "Breathing Room". The title of this second talk was "Time".

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Assistant Minister - Steph Littlejohn, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

Talk Summary

In this series, we are defining breathing room as the space between our current pace and our limits. When it comes to time, we are asking "is our time stuffed full and lived right up to the limits or is there some space?"

The signs that we are up to the limit of our time include: eating fast, driving fast, not having time to talk, always late, don't have time for family and friends. We need space between our current space and our capacity and we should have rhythms to our lives. We are built that way. We live our lives better with breathing space.

If we want our days to count we need to count our days.

In the Old Testament part of the Bible there are various books of poetry. One of them is called Psalms and in Psalm 90 it says some very interesting things about time. You can read that Psalm by clicking here.

In verses 1 and 2, we are told that from everlasting to everlasting, God has all of eternity. In verse 3 we are told that time is different to God. In verse 5 we see that fife is short and that if we could really see God and his eternal reality we would understand that our lives are limited and they pass in the blink of an eye. Fast forwarding to verse 11 we are told that God is due respect and a critical help to us in creating breathing room in our time is found in verse 12.

It says "T
each us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Our days are numbered. To live them well we need that heart of wisdom to prioritise. People who have terminal illnesses really think about their priorities. Makes you make decisions about what you are going to do. When we understand that our time is limited we being to limit what we do with our time.

The problem is that we live as if we will have forever. Forrever with our children at home, forever to see our dreams fulfilled, forever to spend quality time with friends, forever with our grandchildren. But we don't have forever, time is limited.

What do people regret at the end of their lives? That they worked too much, that they didn't spend time with their friends and family. That they allowed others expectations to drive how they lived.

God brought his people out of slavery into freedom. We are in so much danger of selling ourselves back into slavery. 

What needs to be weeded out of your cluttered time wardrobe? What needs to be in and what needs to be out?

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Why is life better when we have breathing room?

Talk about one of the happiest times in your life. What was your schedule like during that period?


Think about how you managed your time last year. What would you like to do differently this year?

Read Psalm 90:10–12. Do you tend to think of your days as endless? Why is it difficult for us to number our days?


Do you currently or have you ever kept a Sabbath day? If so, what were the benefits? If not, what is challenging about the idea of taking a day off from your responsibilities and obligations?


What is one thing you need to add to your schedule? What is one thing you need to subtract?

What is one thing you can do this week to begin to create breathing room in your schedule? What can this group (or other friends) do to support you?



Whether it’s work, family, or other obligations, something is going to control your time. Why not give control to the One who gave it to you? Creating breathing room in your schedule begins when you recognize that time is limited . . . and therefore valuable. Use your time wisely.
Begin by saying this prayer

“Teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Chris Porter, 14/01/2014

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Breathing Room Part 1 - Creating Space

 

breathing room web mediumOn Sunday 5th January 2014 we launched a new four part series at our morning services called "Breathing Room". The first part of the series was called "Creating Space". 

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter, and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.


Talk Summary

Some people like to be very neat a tidy and have everything stored in an immaculate way. Others prefer things slightly less organised! Some have wardrobes that have lots of space in them, others have wardrobes crammed to the brim with no capacity to store anything else in them. Either ways is fine...we are all different. It is fine to have wardrobes that are full to capacity, it is not fine to have lives that are full to capacity. It is not ok for our time, money and relationships to be pushed right up to the limit. Living that way leads to stress, narrow focus and our relationships suffering.

For the sake of this series we are defining breathing room as the space between our current pace and our limits and we are going to find that life is better with breathing room.

We know instinctively that it is better to live with space between our pace and our limits and yet we wo often cram in everything we can right up to our limits. We trade our peace for progress or for prosperity. We do that for a variety of reasons, but a big reason that we do that is because we are afraid. Afraid of falling behind, afraid that we or our children will miss out, afraid of what others will think of us, afraid of our boss.

But living without breathing room is no fun, it steals the enjoyment and fulfillment from our lives. For the non Christian living with breathing room is just a better way to live, for the Christian it is not only a better way to live, but a command from God.

A significant portion of the Old Testament part of the Bible is taken up with the story of the people of Israel and for a large part of their history, they live in slavery. Then God sets them free, but they don't know how to live as free people. So God gives them laws and commands for how to live, now that they are free. And interestingly he gives them laws and commands that build in breathing room.

He tells them that on the first day of the week they are to rest. He calls it a sabbath day and he is building breathing room into their time schedules. This would have been completely foreign to them and they would have been afraid that a day without work would have meant losing money or not having food to eat. But God tells them to do it and to trust him.

Secondly God tells them to set aside 10% of their income for the community. He calls it a tithe. They were to save that money up to give to the community of which they were a part. He is building breathing room into their finances.

Finally God tells them that when they harvest their crops they are not to go right to edge of their fields and if they miss anything when they are harvesting to leave it. Then those that are poor or in need can come and get what they need. He calls this the law of gleaning. They are not to harvest to the limits they are to leave some capacity. Again this would have been foreign to them. They would have asked themselves what if I need that food, what if I need the money that those crops would raise? God is saying "trust me" for the breathing room.

Jesus picks up the same theme hundreds of years later and we can read about it in Luke's account of his life Jesus speaks of trusting God. Click here to read that passage. Jesus says don't worry about what you will eat or what you wear, because life is more than that. He says your heavenly father knows that you need those things, so trust him and seek his kingdom first and the rest will come.


God is inviting us to live with breathing room and over the next few weeks we are going to look at our time, our money and our relationships and about how we can build breathing room into them so that we don't constantly push up to and beyond our limits and so that we can enjoy life and enjoy the peace of knowing we are living with breathing room.

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)


Why is life better when we have breathing room?

Where do you feel that you are operating without any breathing room in your life?

How is that making you feel? What impact is it having on your life?

Why do you think God commanded the people to create space in their time, their money and their relationships?

Which of these areas do you find hardest to have breathing room with?

What can you do to prepare yourself to create more breathing room?

Chris Porter, 06/01/2014

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The Colours of Christmas Part 2 - Gold

 
colours of christmas web mediuOn Sunday 15th December at our morning services we looked together at the second part of a series entitled "The Colours of Christmas" as we build up to Christmas. The first part of the series was called "More Precious - Gold."

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by one of our Leadership Team - Peter Roe and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.

Talk Summary


Do you find present buying stressful? Are you stressed about what to give and whether you will be able to afford to get the presents you want to give?
 
Jesus was brought gifts just after his birth, including gold. Gold is mentioned a lot in the bible. In the Old Testament the Temple was lined with gold - thing of beauty reflecting God. But gold is also mentioned when it was melted down and turned into idols by the people of God which cut through what they were supposed to be doing, destroyed their relationship with God. Gold was a benchmark of the things that were of great value.
 
In the Old Testament it also says that fear of the Lord and the commands of God are more valuable than gold.

In the New Testament, Jesus is talked about as more valuable than gold, because of the impact that he has on people. In a book that tells the story of the first churches - Acts, the Bible gives us the story of a
 beggar at the beautiful gate. You can read that story in Acts chapter 3 by clicking here. Peter says to the beggar "we haven't got silver or gold, but what we have got we give you, get up and walk."
 
This mans life was worth more than any gold and silver. He was given something far more valuable.
 
No matter what are circumstances there is something far more valuable than presents for us this Christmas. Jesus gave himself to us. Jesus is the gold that can brighten your life.

If you have never received him, this Christmas r
eceive for the first time. If you have received Jesus but like the unwanted Christmas present, have moved him to the back of the cupboard of your life take him out this Christmas.

And if you are in an ongoing relationship with him, then give him away this Christmas. Tell someone about him, show love to someone in an act of kindness, invite someone to an EBC event so that they can know more about Jesus.

 

Questions and Reflections


What kinds of presents will you be getting for people this year?

What are you hoping for?

What does this Christmas hold in store for you?

How does it make you feel when you think of that beggar and what Peter gave to him?

How do you think he felt?

Do you agree that the gift of Jesus is more precious than silver or gold?

How can you receive the gift of Jesus afresh this Christmas?

How can you give the gift of Jesus away this Christmas?

 


Chris Porter, 17/12/2013

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The Colours of Christmas Part 1 - Red and Green

 
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On Sunday 8th December at our morning services we looked together at the first part of a series entitled "The Colours of Christmas" as we build up to Christmas. The first part of the series was called "Between the Trees - Red and Green."

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter and you can listen to it online by clicking here.

To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
 

Talk Summary


Do you have a Christmas tree in your house - is it up yet? Do you use holly to decorate your home at Christmas? Many of the decorations that we use have a tradition behind them to do with the Christmas story. For example the red holly berries are to remind us of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

The trees that we decorate at Christmas can remind us of the trees in God's story. God's story starts with a tree. The tree in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve eat the fruit from. Their disobedience is a reminder of the ways we often fall short. All of us (Christian or not) would have to recognise that we do things that fall short of the way we would like to live. We don't do things we should, or we do things we shouldn't. We hurt people.

God's story also finishes with a tree. In the very final book of the Bible - Revelation in the very last chapter - chapter 22 we read about the tree of life. This is the tree of eternal life that God promises to everyone who is in a relationship with him.

We all live between these two trees. The tree of our falling short and the tree of our death and what happens to us after that. Even if we are not a religious person or a church goer, we still live between these two trees.

In Revelation chapter 22 verses 14 to 17 it tells us that God has made a way for us to have a right to the tree of life - eternal life with him and life in all its fulness now. You can read that by clicking here.

God tells us that living in relationship with him (the robes that are washed) is the way to guarantee this right. And in verses 16 and 17 we are told how that is achieved. Through Jesus - the bright morning star who came at that first Christmas.

Our lives are bookended by two trees - Jesus' life is bookended by two trees as well. The tree from which his manger was maid and in which he was laid at his birth and the tree from which the cross was made that he hung on at his death. Through Jesus' birth and death we can have a relationship with God and our falling short can be wiped away.

If we use the trees all around us this Christmas to remind us of the trees in God's story and the trees of Jesus' birth and death it guarantees us a better Christmas, because it reminds us that no matter what our circumstances, Jesus is with us, God loves us and we have the right to the tree of life.

The trees of Jesus' life and death, will bring life to our Christmas.
 

Questions and Reflections


What kind of Christmas are you looking forward to this year? Exciting and joy filled or one which will be a struggle?

Will you be decorating a Christmas tree this year?

Are you away of your falling short? In what kinds of ways do you sin?

How does it make you feel to know that in Jesus you are guaranteed the tree of life?

How can you use this Christmas and the decorations around to remind you of the trees in God's story and Jesus' life and death?

Chris Porter, 10/12/2013

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The Story Series

Our Sunday morning series in October and November 2013 is called The Story and has its own blog where you can pick up a summary of the talk and questions for reflection.

Click here to get to The Story blog.

Chris Porter, 08/10/2013

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All in Part 4 - serving the poor

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On Sunday 22nd September at our morning services we looked together at the fourth and final part of our series entitled "All In". Our theme was serving the poor.

In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter and you can listen to it by clicking here.
 


Talk Summary


How do we feel about the poor and those who are in need? Maybe we feel that we are poor ourselves. Maybe we have a heart for the poor but think that the scale of the problems are so huge that we can't do anything about it. Maybe we feel apathetic about it and don't really think very much about those around the world who are poor.

If you read the Bible you can't fail but see God's heart for the poor. The Bible talks about helping the poor over and over again. Jesus talked about it and did it. One of the wisdom sayings in the Old Testament book of Proverbs says "A kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship".

God calls Christians to care for the poor. It is a mandate from him.

James - the brother of Jesus discusses this topic a lot in his letter in the New Testament. In Chapter 2 and verses 1 to 8 of his letter he talks about helping the poor. You can read those verses by clicking here.

Note three things that James says about serving the poor. Firstly those who are poor are rich in faith and will inherit the kingdom of God. This is great news if we are poor and a challenge to those who aren't to serve the poor and to learn from them how to be rich in faith.

Secondly James challenges people not to dishonour the poor. Very often those who are poor don't want a hand out they want an equal opportunity. This is certainly our experience from working in countries like Sierra Leone. Those who are poor just want an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families - they want honour.

Finally James says that serving the poor - loving your neighbour - is just the right thing to do.

So how do we do it? Well the best way to serve the poor is to do it together. We can do so much more together than we can do on our own. In a church community like ours at EBC we can do it together through our links with organisations like Tearfund, Dorothy Springer Trust and BMS. When we give and pray we are working together to help those in need. We can do it too in our local community through projects like our food ministry and Storehouse.

When we work together we can ensure that we are 'all in' to serve those in need.


Questions and Reflections


How do you feel about the poor?

How does God feel about the poor?

How can we ensure that our hearts are full of compassion for those in need?

Can you think of any stories where Jesus showed compassion to the poor? What might we learn from that?

How can you be involved with others in serving the poor?

 

Chris Porter, 23/09/2013

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All in part 3 - love

 
all in web advertOn Sunday 15th September at our morning services we looked at the third part of our series entitled 'All In'. The theme was Love. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Senior Minister - Chris Porter and you can listen to it by clicking here.

Talk Summary


In the first part of this series, Steve Morris talked about building a church that young people love to be a part of. He talked about three key ingredients: integrity, love and serving the poor. Last week Steph (our Assistant Minister) talked about Integrity. This week we were talking about love.

If there is a God there would probably be two big questions you would have about him. Firstly - what is God like and secondly what does God think is important? Fortunately we can know the answers to these two questions because in Jesus we have access to a man who was fully human but also fully God and so Jesus is able to show us what God is like and what God thinks is important.

There is a story from the of Jesus recorded for us in Matthew's eyewitness account of his life. It is in Matthew chapter 22 verses 34 to 40. You can read that story by clicking here.

Jesus is being tested by the religious leaders of the day (Pharisees) and being asked what is the most important thing to God. And he replies that the most important thing is to "love God and love other people." Jesus says that everything else hangs on this.

Why then do we so often find it difficult to love God and to love others? Well it may be for one or more of these reasons:
  • we don't really accept God loves us
  • real love isn't a feeling it's an action
  • love requires sacrifice
Unless we understand just how much God loves us we don't have a foundation of being loved in our lives when it comes to loving God or loving others. God is love, he doesn't know how not to love us. We need to grasp that no matter who we are, what we have done, God love us.

Then we often confuse love with feelings and we think unless we feel love it isn't real. But real love isn't actually about feelings so much as it is about action.

Finally we find it difficult because love requires sacrifice. God sacrificed his son Jesus to show just how much he loves us. Loving God and loving others requires sacrifice: time, energy, passion, commitment, money.

The most important thing to God is to love him and to love others. But to do that we must first accept that God loves us, we must then ask him to help us turn to action and to be willing to make sacrifices.


Questions and Reflections


How does it feel to be loved? How does it feel to love someone else?

Why do you think the Pharisees were trying to trip Jesus up?

How does it make you feel when you hear Jesus saying that loving God and loving others is the most important thing?

How are you doing at loving God?

What about loving others?

Do you know that God loves you? Have you accepted that?

What do you find difficult in terms of action and sacrifice to demonstrate love?

What is God saying to you about stepping out to grow in your love for him and for others?
Chris Porter, 15/09/2013

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All in part 2 - integrity

all in web advertOn Sunday 8th September at our morning services we looked at the second part of our series entitled 'All In'. The theme was integrity. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

The talk was given by our Assistant Minister - Steph Littlejohn and you can listen to it by clicking here.


Talk Summary


Steph started her talk by recounting a story of her parents telling her and her brother to not do something which they then did themselves. It was a case of "don't do as I do, do as I say".

We would know that as hypocrisy.

When he was on the earth, Jesus condemned hypocrites. He also said do not judge or you will be judged. Why is it then that so often Christians are known as judgemental people. If we want to be different we need to be people of integrity. We need to ask ourselves Are we acting with integrity at work, with friends, at home, with our money, energy, passion. If we are Christians we need to ask are we really all in for Jesus? We need to make sure our lives match our words.

We need people to help us and to be accountable to so that we can ensure we are people of integrity.


Questions and Reflections


Would you call yourself a person of integrity?

Do your words match your actions?

What about in the secret place when no one else sees you?

If you are a Christian do your actions match your words when it comes to following Jesus?

Would you say that you are all in for Jesus, or are there parts of your life that you struggle to give completely to him?

What can you do to make sure that you are all in?

Chris Porter, 08/09/2013

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All in - Part 1

all in web imageWelcome back to our Sunday talks blog after our summer break! We hope that you have been able to find some time for relaxing and refreshing over the summer.

On Sunday 1st September we started a new series at our morning services called All In. We used a talk on DVD to launch our series. It was a talk that we had heard at the New Wine Christian festival that a group from the church were at over the summer. It was an outstanding and very challenging talk given by a guy called Steve Morris. Whilst at New Wine I blogged about the amazing response to the talk and being a part of a miracle. You can see that blog by clicking here.

Steve talked about the three things that we can do to build a church that young people want to be a part of. He talked about being a church full of integrity, full of love and that serves the poor. You can listen to his talk by clicking here.

Although Steve was talking about being a church that young people want to be a part of, these three things: integrity, love and serving the poor are not just attractive to young people. They are things that are attractive for anyone. Over the next three weeks at our Sunday morning services we are going to be exploring these topics in more detail.
 

Questions and Reflections


Are you a person of integrity? If you are a Christian do you actions match up to what you say you believe?

Why do you think so many people who aren't Christians think those who are are hypocrites?

What are the areas of hypocrisy in your life?

If people came to arrest you for being a Christian, would they find enough evidence to convict you?

What can you do to build integrity into your life?

Are you a person of love? Have you really received and understood just how much God loves you?

How can you grow in your love for other people? How can you demonstrate that love?

Think of one thing you could do this week to demonstrate love for another person.

How are you serving the poor? Could you join in with some of the things that go on at EBC to help the poor?

Who are the poor in our community?

God has demonstrated in Jesus that he is 'all in' for you, are you all in for him?

In what areas of your life are you holding something back and what can you do about it?

 

Chris Porter, 02/09/2013

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Not a Fan Club Part 9 - defying gravity

 
not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 21st July at our morning services we looked at the ninth and final part of our series called Not a Fan Club looking at what church is supposed to be about.

Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke on the theme Defying Gravity. You can download or listen to the talk by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.

Talk Summary


I used to love watching baseball when I lived in the US. Baseball is the most traditional sport in the US and the culture and traditions are deeply ingrained. In the late nineties and early naughties (1990s and 2000s) the Oakland Athletics baseball team defied those traditions and started running their baseball club in a very different way. It brought them great success and their story was made into a afilm staring Brad Pitt called Moneyball. The Oakland Athletics had to defy the gravitational pull of the whole of baseball to reach their goals.

The same is true in churches. Very often we are pulled away from our main mission. Jesus told us that the church exists to seek and to save the lost, but often there are invisible gravitational pulls that try to drag us away from that. Very often churches succumb to those pulls and move away from Jesus' mission. It has happened all through church history.

In Acts chapter 15 in the New Testament part of the Bible we find a church struggling with this very issue. You can read their story by clicking here.

In Antioch a debate is raging about whether new Christian converts who weren't Jews before they converted should have to live by Jewish rules. These converts were called gentiles. Some are arguing that the gentile converts should live by Jewish law which included circumcision for the men. Eventually Paul and Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem for a council meeting to see what should happen. Various people speak and then James (the brother of Jesus) gets up to issue the final verdict. He says that all the gentiles need to do is to not sleep around and not eat dodgy food.

What really interests us is that James says "we should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to God." Having to keep all of those laws would have made it difficult.

What was true then should be true for our churches today...we should not make it difficult for people to turn to God. We need to make sure our events and activities are welcoming for unchurched people. We need to welcome people and organise our church life around the needs of people who don't yet know God. We need to pray for people, invite them and make them a priority.

Seeking and saving the lost was Jesus' priority and the church, as his body, should make it our priority too. We need to defy gravity and make it easy for people to turn to God. Because we are not a fan club, we are a movement and the body of Jesus.


Questions and Reflections


If you aren't a Christian or a regular church goer, what has made it difficult for you to turn to God?

If you are a Christian what do you think might make it difficult for your friends or family?

What do you think James meant when he said that we shouldn't make it difficult?

How do you think that the men of Antioch felt when they heard the news that they weren't going to need to be circumcised!!!?

How do churches make it difficult for those who want to turn to God? How can we make it easier?

What can you do to make it easier for people?


Chris Porter, 25/07/2013

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Not a fan club part 8 - going deep

 
not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 14th July at our morning services we looked at the eighth part of our series called Not a Fan Club looking at what church is supposed to be about.

Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke on the theme Going Deep? You can download or listen to the talk by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.

Talk Summary


Suppose we were setting out to lose some weight. We could acquire lots of knowledge about doing that, but unless we act on it that knowledge is useless. Unless we do something about losing weight nothing will change. The same is true if we want to grow in our relationship with God. We can know all there is to know about God, but unless we do something we won't change and grow.

It is great to have faith and knowledge about faith but unless we have action too nothing much changes.

James was the brother of Jesus and he address this subject of spiritual maturity and how to go deeper in our relationship with God. In his letter which is in the New Testament part of the Bible, in Chapter 2 verses 14 to 19  he makes the relationship between faith and action very clear. You can read that part of his letter by clicking here.

James says what good is it to have faith but no deeds. Faith by itself, without action is dead. Then he uses an example. Suppose someone were without food or clothes what use are words to them. Faith and knowledge about faith on its own is useless, faith must result in action. Faith without action is useless, but action leads us into growing faith.

The best way to grow your faith is to take action, do something. James is just reiterating what Jesus said.

Here at EBC we want to be a church that creates mature believers not clever ones. We each have to take responsiblity for our spiritual growth. The church can help us. At EBC we have a toolbox full of actions that we use to equip people to grow spiritually. You can find out all about them by clicking here.

Taking action leads us into growth. Serving, inviting, praying for others, taking faith risks, giving, particiaping in action Sundays, serving the community are all examples of the sorts of things we can do.


Questions and Reflections


What does a mature believer look like? How are you doing at growing more mature?

How have you grown spiritually? What have been the key things that have enabled that growth to happen?

Do you agree with James that faith without action is useless?

In the Spiritual Transformation resources it lists five key catalysts to growing faith. What do you think of these? How might you act in these areas?

What action could you do in the next week to go deeper with God?

Chris Porter, 25/07/2013

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Not a fan Club parts 6 and 7 - going wide

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On Sunday 30th June and Sunday 7th July we looked at the next topic in our Not a Fan Club series. We were talking about 'Going Wide' and how we can create environments that are irresistible.

You can listen to Peter Roe speaking on Sunday 30th June by clicking here. You can listen to Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) continuing the topic on Sunday 7th July by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk from Sunday 7th July and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.


Talk Summary

Have you ever tried to read Lord of the Rings? I have tried to read it many, many times and never got past the first chapter...I just can't get into it. But I loved going to the cinema to see the films. I love the cinema environments - popcorn, dimmed lights, comfy seats, big screen and surround sound. Other people hate the cinema though and would much rather have the book. Environments can pull people in or put people off and church environments are no different.

I have visited churches where the environment says "we haven’t really thought about you”, “we weren’t expecting visitors let alone visitors with children”. If you are a visitor with us at EBC, you are very welcome, we love that you are here, and I really hope that we don’t do that kind of thing to you, if we do tell us! We realise that visiting a church, particularly if you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a Christian or you aren’t a religious person is a pretty daunting experience. We are trying to make you feel welcome, let us know how we are doing with that.

Those who are regular attenders forget what it is like, we stop seeing things as they really are, because we are so used to them. Remember what we have said in this series, who church is for, for those who haven’t yet encountered God – so if you’re a visitor and if you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian the good news is that church is for you! Jesus said that he had come to seek and to save the lost. The church is the body of Jesus – we are to do what he did. His priorities should be our priorities. As we shall see there was something irresistible about Jesus, people were drawn to him. Creating irresistible environments enables people to encounter God.

In Luke's eyewitness account of Jesus' life we find an interesting story. It is in Luke chapter 4 verses 14-19. You can read it by clicking here. This is right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. What has happened to date? Well he was baptised, he was filled with the spirit – the presence of God
He then started talking about God, basically he started teaching. And look what has happened - news about him has spread (see verse 14). People were coming to hear him, and they liked it (see verse 15).

There is something interesting about him, something that draws people, something that makes him irresistible. Is that true of the church in this country? Is that true of us? As the body of Jesus are we irresistible - are people drawn to us? The honest answer in our nation is no. People aren’t drawn to the church, local churches aren’t irresistible places. There are some exceptions, but church attendance has been on the decline for decades now, clearly churches aren’t irresistible. And there are all kinds of reasons for that, but the primary one is that we have got our view of church wrong We have made church into a kind of club, where we meet socially, talk a bit about God, maybe even pray and experience the Holy Spirit, but we don’t expect to be attractive. We don’t expect that other people will want to join or that we should invite people to come and see what God is doing.

It is criminal that we have taken the life changing, soul transforming, eternity altering message of Jesus and made it irrelevant, un engaging and boring. Jesus was irresistible, why aren’t we? How do we do that? What is the answer?

In his book Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley suggests three things that we can ask ourselves when it comes to doing just that.

  • 1. Is the setting appealing?
  • 2. Is the presentation engaging?
  • 3. Is the content helpful?

As we ask ourselves these questions and seek to create an appealing setting, an engaging presentation and helpful content we will find ourselves creating irresistible environments enables people to encounter God. And we all need to be a part of it. And we keep coming back to this throughout this series
For our church to ensure that we are not a fan club, but that we are following Jesus we need to step up. We need to:

  • Leave the best seating and parking for our visitors
  • Welcome new people
  • Serve on teams that create fantastic environments - refreshments, welcome, set up, technical etc.
  • Recognise Jesus' priorities for the church and make them our priorities
  • Love the church not moan about it
  • Invite
And as we do those things we will become irresistible, like Jesus, people will flock to hear about God and lives will be changed and eternities transformed. Because creating irresistible environments enables people to encounter God. And that after all is what we are supposed to be doing.


Questions and Reflections

Have you ever had an experience of an environment that has completely put you off? What about a great experience? What was it about those experiences that was good and bad?

If you are a regular at EBC, what do you think a visitor would make of some of our environments (e.g. Sunday morning services, Messy Church, Refresh Café, Songs of Praise, Remix children's work, Unity youth work etc.)

If you are a visitor what has been your impression of those environments?

What could be done to make them better?

If you are involved in serving on a team in one of those environments do you see your role as important? If not why not?

In what ways might you be involved in creating irresistible environments at EBC?

Chris Porter, 08/07/2013

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Not a fan club part 5 - grace and truth

not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 23rd June at our morning services we looked at the fifth part of our series called Not a Fan Club looking at what church is supposed to be about.

Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke on the theme What is church? You can download or listen to the talk by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.

Talk Summary

Some churches are great at telling people the truth about God, the problem is that they often do it in a graceless manner. Other churches are great at loving people and demonstrating grace, but never engage with the truth of the message of God. What is true of churches is also true of Christians. Some Christians are all about truth, don’t care who they upset. Other Christians are all about the grace, love everybody but never stand for anything, never talk about their faith.

If you aren't a Christian maybe you have been on the receiving end of this, felt judged and condemned by church or by Christians, or wondered if there was anything different about Christians and asked yourself "is there really truth at all"? What kind of church should we be here at EBC?
 
As we have done throughout this series to find the answers we need to look to Jesus. To know what God thinks we go to Jesus, his son, God in human form. If we know what Jesus did then we will find the way through. The church is the body of Jesus so finding out what Jesus did will give us the answers.

To do this we are going to go right back to the very beginning of Jesus’ story. John – one of the only original 12 disciples to make it to old age.
Forty years after Jesus writes down the stories. In John's eyewitness account of Jesus' life chapter 1 verses 14 to 18 we read something that helps us understand this challenge of grace and truth. You can read that by clicking here.

The word here is John’s posh way of saying Jesus. The word – Jesus became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He came to earth, we have seen the glory of God, made flesh in God’s son Jesus. He dwelt with us, literally means, camped out with us, hung out with us.

How, how did he come, how did he demonstrate the love that God has for us? He came full of grace and truth. There was no balance with Jesus, he didn’t strike a balance between the two he was the full embodiment of both. Later the same thing is repeated, Moses gave the law, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus was the full embodiment of grace and truth. Jesus did not try to strike a balance. This is not a spectrum with grace on one end and truth on the other. This is not some kind of line where we have to try to get the consensus position or the conciliatory position, no, the full embodiment of both. Jesus showed that it is possible to be full of grace and truth. And as those following in his footsteps we are to try to do the same. As the church which is the body of Jesus, his presence today on earth, we must do the same.

As the full embodiment of grace Jesus refused to condemn or judge. People wanted him to do that and it landed him in heap loads of trouble, but he refused to condemn or judge. He demonstrated compassion and grace. The only people he ever condemned were the religious people and he got at them because they were condemning others and lacking in grace and he had strong words for them. He welcomed people, fed them, cared for them, healed them, invited them. He welcomed everyone, no matter what their circumstances, attitudes or behaviours.

But he also presented truth. He refused to back down from what he knew and believed, from speaking out about who God is and the best that he has for people. From speaking out about the sin that infects our lives, and the truth that with sin comes consequences, consequences that mean that our lives are not what they should be and what God intended them to be.

He embodied fully grace and truth. Without grace no one listens, without grace everyone is condemned, without grace no one knows that God loves them, without grace people get to judge each other and point the finger. But without truth no one ever knows why we need God and why we need Jesus and why he had to die on a cross. Without truth we never know that Jesus died so that our sin could be forgiven and we could be offered a relationship with God and a better way to live. Without truth Jesus is just another guy dying on a cross.

We need the full measure of both, the full embodiment of both, that is what Jesus did. Never better demonstrated than the story of the woman caught in adultery. This woman was caught in the middle of the act of adultery. And the people who dragged her before Jesus said that the law said that she should be stoned to death. They were trying to trap Jesus, but instead of falling into their trap he suggests that any of them who are without sin should through the first stone. And as they fade away he speaks to the woman, I don’t condemn you, now go and sin no more.

Both things are present here – radical grace in enabling this woman to live, to not be condemned, but telling her the truth as well, she has been sinning and needs to stop. Both things personified to their full extent...grace and truth.

What does this mean, what do we learn? As a church and if we are Jesus followers, we need to follow Jesus’ example. Not try to strike a balance but to be the full embodiment of both. How do we do that?

To be the full embodiment of grace:

  • Never condemn or judge
  • Never speak harsh words (particularly to the non Christian)
  • Start with compassion
  • Love
  • Include
  • Welcome
  • Invite
To be the full embodiment of truth:
  • Be clear
  • Deliver appropriately and in appropriate settings e.g. not on the telephone, in conversation
  • Allow God to convict not us
  • Don’t expect non Christians to conform

If you aren’t a Christian and you’re reading this, hear this from me as the leader of this church: We want to be a church community full of grace: you are welcome here, we will not judge you, we will love you and try our very best to include you, we will not expect you to conform to a way of behaving

But hear this too, we want to be a church community full of truth too and we do believe that there is truth: that we are sinners and there are consequences to our sin, we believe that there is truth to be found in God, his story is true, we believe that it is true that Jesus lived, died and rose again so we could be forgiven of sin and set free into a relationship with God that enables us to live life to all its fullness. We believe that to the core of our being and we will present that and encourage you to discover that for yourself as many have done here.

If you are a Christian hear this today: we want to build a church that unchurched people love to attend and the best way to do that is to be a church full of grace and truth. And that means that each of us here today must commit ourselves to follow the model of Jesus, to be the full embodiment of grace, not to judge or condemn, but to throw our arms open in welcome and to invite people to join us. And we must equally commit ourselves to truth, but not to pronounce it in a judgemental form – that is just lazy Christianity, but to do so in the context of relationship.

Being the full embodiment of grace and truth is what Jesus did and therefore it’s what we must do. And the truth of the message of Jesus is most appealing when grace is most apparent. And the church is most effective when it embodies the full measure of grace and truth.

Questions and Reflections

Have you ever experienced a church or a Christian who was all about truth and there was no grace? How did it make you feel?

If you are a Christian are you better at truth or grace? Are you better at just spouting the truth to anyone who will listen or are you better and just being nice to people, building friendships, but never talking about your faith?

What would it mean for you to be the full embodiment of grace?

What about being the full embodiment of truth?

Which of the things listed as characteristics of grace and truth in Chris' talk do you need to work on? What are you going to do about them?


Chris Porter, 26/06/2013

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Not a Fan club part 4 - action Sunday

On Sunday 16th June instead of our usual morning services we had an Action Sunday. Therefore there was no talk and no talk notes this week. Click here to find out more about the Action Sunday.

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Not a fan club part 3 - who is church for?

not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 9th June at our morning services we looked at the third part of our series called Not a Fan Club looking at what church is supposed to be about.

Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke on the theme what is church? You can download or listen to the talk by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.


Talk Summary


Who is church really for? Is it for those who are already Christians or religious people? Or is it for people who don't usually go to church or who haven't yet encountered and experienced God and his love for them?

If we spoke to church people and their leaders they would probably say that they are there for people who don't normally go to church, that they want to reach out to non church people with the love of God. The problem is our actions and our words often don't match up. Our words may say "we are here for unchurched people" but our actions scream "we are here for people who already come or who already believe". Don't believe me - just take a look at some church websites and see who they are aimed at!

Who does God say the church is for? Well to find out there is no better place to look than to his son - Jesus who embodied the presence and passion of God when he lived and walked on the earth. God tells us that the church is supposed to be the body and bride of Jesus, so if we find out what Jesus' priority was then we find out what the church's priority should be.

In Luke's eyewitness account of Jesus' life in the New Testament we find Jesus explaining in very clear terms what his priority was. It is in Luke Chapter 19 verses 1 to 10, which you can read by clicking here.

Jesus decides to stay at the house of the chief tax collector - Zaccheaus. This was a deeply unpopular move, because the tax collectors were cheats and liars and hated by everyone else. Those who see this interaction taking place start to grumble and moan. But Jesus hears them and responds "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost".

He includes Zacchaeus in the group of people who have encountered God (that's what being a son of Abraham meant), and points out very clearly that his purpose is to seek and to save the lost. The lost here means people who haven't yet found the love of God for themselves.

Jesus is so clear as to his mission and purpose, he has come not for religious people, but for the lost. Churches are supposed to follow in Jesus' footsteps...his priorities should be our priorities and therefore we should be prioritising the lost...those who haven't yet encountered God.

Jesus makes it so clear, why then do our actions so often show us up as falling short of the mark in our prioritisation of unchurched people? Well it is for two main reasons. Firstly we don't like to change, and change is necessary to continue to reach out effectively. And secondly sadly, most Christians are selfish and we want church to be for us, rather than for other people. Therefore our churches turn into clubs for the already convinced.

How do we make sure at EBC that we are a church that unchurched people love to attend? Well firstly if you are an unchurched person we hope that you will try us out and we will do our very best to make you feel very welcome. Whether one of our social events, small groups, courses or services we hope that you will find a home with us and hang out with us for a while and we will do our very best to be a church for people like you.

If you are already a part of EBC and already a Christian then we need to make sure that our actions our prioritising lost people. Some very practical things that we can do include:
  • parking around the back of the building, leaving the best parking spaces for our visitors
  • sitting in the middle of rows towards the front of the building, leaving the easy access seats at the back and the sides available for visitors
  • welcoming and talking to visitors
  • serving and giving of ourselves to put on events and activities that unchurched people will love to come to
  • recognising and supporting the priority we place on unchurched people
  • loving the church, not slagging it off!
  • inviting people to come with you
We need to think not about ourselves but about other people, we need to place the same priority on unchurched people that Jesus did. Who is church for? It is for lost people first and foremost. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and so should we!


Questions and Reflections


Who do you think that the church is for?

Do your actions match your thoughts?

Where do you think we are doing well at EBC in being a church that unchurched people love to attend?

Where are we not doing so well?

How do you feel about the final challenges of things we can do to be a church that unchurched people love to attend (e.g. seating, parking, welcoming, inviting)?

Are you going to do those things?

 

Chris Porter, 11/06/2013

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Not a Fan club part 2 - what is church?

not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 2nd June at our morning services we looked at the second part of our series called Not a Fan Club looking at what church is supposed to be about.

Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke on the theme what is church? You can download or listen to the talk by clicking here.

What follows in this blog is a summary of the talk and some questions for reflection either on your own or in your small group.


Talk Summary
 

When I visit an amazing church building or see some church service and the rituals often contained with it, I can't help but ask myself "is this what God had in mind when he created this thing called church"? Are we what God had in mind when he created church?

What do we think church is? Why do we come?

Maybe if we aren't a Christian we have some preconceived ideas about church - boring, irrelevant, judgemental etc. Maybe if we are a Christian we think of church like a bit of a club, somewhere to come and meet up with friends. Maybe we come to church out of a sense of loyalty.

Is that what church is really supposed to be about. What does God think church is? The best way to find out is to see what Jesus had to say about church. The very first time Jesus mentions church is in Matthew's account of his life. In Matthew chapter 16 verses 13 to 18 we find this first reference to church. Click here to read this story.

Jesus asks his followers "who do you say that I am"? Peter responds "you are the Messiah (the saving one), the son of the living God". Jesus tells Peter that it is on this rock - this statement that the church will be built. This is the foundation of the church...that Jesus is the son of God and everyone should know it.

The word Jesus uses for church in the original Greek is ecclesia. This word was used to mean a gathering with a purpose. So when Jesus says "this is rock on which the ecclesia would be built" his followers would have understood him to mean "I am going to build a gathering of people and the foundation or identify of that gathering will be me and the purpose will be to help others know me".

An eccleisa is a gathering founded on Jesus, with a purpose and a mission to share him with others.

Why do we use the word church then and not gathering. Well when Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire in the fourth century suddenly it changed from being a movement, a gathering to being an institution. Formalities, pagentry and buildings were introduced. In German speaking countries those buildings were known as kirche from which we get our word church. Kirche meant the house of the Lord.

The problem is that you then restrict God to being in a building. You can lock the doors of a kirche you can never shut down the ecclesia of Jesus. We need to rediscover the church as ecclesia not kirche.

An ecclesia is a movement a kirche a meeting. An ecclesia is making a difference a kirche conducts services. An ecclesia is organised to reach out with teh love of God, a kirche is organised to keep ourselves happy. An ecclesia is resourcing as if Jesus is the hope of the world, a kirche is resourced to keep the club going. An ecclesia demands our participation, we just attend a kirche. An ecclesia is a people of purpose not a building.

 



Questions and Reflections


How would you answer the question "what is church"?

How do you think people in our local community would answer that question?

How has your understanding of church as ecclesia changed your view on what church is supposed to be?

Where do you think we still function too much like a kirche and not an ecclesia?

What needs to change in your approach and attitude towards the church in the light of what we have been looking at?
Chris Porter, 07/06/2013

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Not a fan club part 1

not a fan web image mediumOn Sunday 26th May we launched a new series called Not a Fan Club. This series is going to look at what church is supposed to be like and supposed to be doing.

In the first part Chris Porter (our Senior Minister) spoke via video introducing the series. You can watch the video by clicking here.

What follows in this blog a summary of the talk and some questions for you to reflect on either on your own or in your small group.


Talk Summary


Imagine that I am sitting in a coffee shop with my wife. But I get distracted by other people, the surroundings, what food I am going to order etc. I am there in body but not in spirit or passion. I am apathetic towards my relationship with my wife. If I persist in that attitude she is going to get frustrated and our marriage will be neglected and ultimately die.

We often do the same thing with church - which God tells us in the bride of Jesus. We neglect it, we are apathetic towards it, we just go through the motions.

In this series we are going to discover God’s plan and passion for his church. Tthe local church is not a club that we can take or leave, it is not a club that we do a favour to when we deign to get involved. It is not a club that we pay our subs to and take from. The local church is God’s plan for bringing heaven to earth. It is God’s plan for reaching out and saving people. It is God’s plan for correcting injustice, tackling poverty, building community, helping us navigate through life and bringing redemption to the world. It is the body and bride of his son, Jesus and should have top priority in our lives. The local church is not a club it is the body and bride of Jesus and deserves our full commitment.

In the last book of the Bible - Revelation we find 7 letters to local churches. In one of them is something that shocks. There is something going on in one of the churches that makes God sick. It causes God to say "you make me sick, I want nothing to do with you". What is it that has made God so angry. We read in Revelation Chapter 3 verses 14 to 16 exactly what it is.

In the church in Laodicea they are lukewarm. They are apathetic and lack passion for God. They are neither hot nor cold and it makes God sick because the local church is the body and bride of Jesus and deserves their full commitment.

We must wake up to the fact that God does not want people to be half hearted about his church. Why would we take it half heartedly? Why would we make it an optional extra or a bolt on to our lives when God says it is the bride and body of Jesus? If we call ourselves Christians we need to be really careful. We need to give of ourselves completely - our time, our passion, our talents, our energy, our money, our gifts. Because the lcoal church is the body and bride of Jesus and deserves our full commitment.


Questions and Reflections


How does it make you feel to think that being lukewarm or lacking passion for God and his church makes him sick?

What does it mean for a local church to be the body of Jesus?

What does it mean for a local church to be the bride of Jesus?

Where are you lukewarm in your relationship with God?

Where are you lukewarm in your attitude towards our local church?

What might you do to correct that?

 
Chris Porter, 07/06/2013

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