Confused? It’s simple…

With the relaxation of restrictions, things are getting really confusing. What we are allowed to do and what is wise to do, it is so hard to tell? We’ve finally got used to staying 2 meters apart and businesses have invested thousands of pounds in signage only to be told it is now 1 meter plus. Church can open for private prayer but not for services, however pubs and restaurants can open. Totally confusing!

Church can be confusing too
It isn’t just the current regulations that are confusing, church can be a bewildering place too, especially if you are fairly new. But even if you were brought up in the church, joining or visiting a new church can seem very strange! Although one of the blessings of the crisis is that some people can attend or observe from another chair in the room or on youtube and from the privacy of their home. This may take away some of the fear or confusion but people may still be wondering what it is all about?

Simple, consistent and amazing
The good news is that Christianity is simple, the message of the Bible is consistent and truly amazing. The big picture isn’t complicated, even young children can understand what Jesus did, sometimes better than the rest of us. Although simple, Christianity is far from simplistic, as we are introduced to the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons yet one God. An eternal community of three whose overflowing love led to the creation of the universe.

Christianity is an invitation
to join Jesus and share his joy! 

We are not invited to be observers but to join the family, to be adopted as children of God. How is that possible? Because Jesus paid for the things that separate us from God and destroyed death, the consequence of our sin. Why did Jesus die for you, because he loves you! Jesus is the way to eternal life and relationship with God.

Impossible for us
Simple did you say? Yes it’s simple because Jesus has done the impossible work. He alone can free us from the separation we face because of our sin, our rebellion. Without Jesus our hearts remain directed inward, turned away from our creator and incapable of doing what is right or making up for what is past.

The way is simple
So it is as simple as accepting our helplessness and believing  that Jesus is the only solution. Or as Jesus puts it recognising him as the way, the truth and the life. We simply choose to face God not on our own merit, but to face God with Jesus’ perfection in place of our hopelessness. 

Simple but hard
So it is simple but not simplistic and it is certainly not easy. Making the decision to follow Jesus is tough and it is costly and it changes everything. It is simple, but so in theory is climbing a mountain, you just have to keep going up. When it comes to Jesus, all we have to do is put our trust, our lives and our future in his hands. Simple, yes, but something I’m still practicing everyday.

Whoever you are
Whether you’re a decision maker at church, work or in the community, someone who’s fearful about the changes being too quick or too slow, we are praying that you will know the hope that Jesus brings now and over the coming weeks.

Why Black lives matter

George Floyd was killed on the 25th May by a Police officer who accused him of using a fake $20 note. George’s death sparked global protests, with positive and negative outcomes. Positively it has enabled people from different races to stand together against racism, negatively a hand full of people have used the protests to start riots, destroy property and loot businesses.

What does the gospel have to say about Black Lives Matter?
1. The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is an important rebalancing, as the Bible tells us that we are all made in the image of God. Everyone is created with the same worth and dignity; whatever the colour of our skin, age (unborn, young or old), gender, ability, mental health, who we are attracted to, all of us are valued and loved by God.

2. There are no second class people in God’s eyes, which is one of the ways we differ from God as in our sin we constantly judge and put a value on others. By making us unique God is able to display his endless creativity, which is something to marvel at, yet in our sin we fear the difference or use it to discriminate.

3. Racism and sexism are not a thing of the past, until Jesus returns we will have to live with prejudice and injustice. I have loved living in cities full of diversity and it is easy as a privileged white person to think that serious racism is a thing of the past. Yet it is George’s death and seeing it on the bus, at a church and online that remind me it has not gone anywhere.

4. As Christians the gospel gives us confidence that there will be an end to racism and prejudice when Jesus returns. This is not like my wishful thinking, but it is guaranteed. If Jesus is to judge and put right every wrong, then this injustice along with all others will be put right.

How should we respond?

1. Empathy – (yet knowing most of us will never truly understand)  
We have all seen frustrations overflow and certain actions or words trigger a response from us. George Floyd’s death is not the last time that people of colour will encounter prejudice in their day-to-day lives. So we need to try and understand and empathise.

2. PrayerPrayer is powerful and it is one of the most effective things we can do. So pray! Pray for those who face prejudice every day and whose lives will continue to be a battle for survival and a battle to be respected and heard. God will hear our prayers and he will answer them. Although we must be prepared for him to be at work in our own lives too, which may be painful. 

3. Share the message of Jesus, his love and forgiveness
Jesus Christ offers us a new start, he died whilst we were still his enemies. So let us pray for the pain, hurt and frustrations experienced by those who suffer because of the colour of their skin, but let us also hold up to God those who feel justified in abusing and demeaning people because of some difference.

4. Speak out
Because God is a just God we need to stand against injustice, sometimes at great cost. We do not want to be a silent supporter, when we should be a vocal opposition. The silence of the Church in Germany during the Holocaust and the silence of the Church in South Africa during apartheid allowed evil and injustice to thrive. So let us speak to those in power, be ready to speak to our friends, families, in our communities and workplaces.

5. Admit our failure
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the right Reverend Justin Welby earlier this year said “When we look at our church we are still deeply, institutionally racist.” He went on to give a personal apology. He said, “I am ashamed of our history, and I am ashamed of our failure.”

Imagine the effect on institutions and businesses if we spoke like Justin, admitting and confronting racism. This in itself is a significant step in healing and restoring divisions and hatred. So let us pray for political leaders and all those with power that they would help to eradicate racial bias and work to support those affected by it.Thank you to Pastor Agu Irukwu who inspired me to write this piece.

Why it’s good we miss each other

Or the joy of the Trinity and how it can be yours

You might be finding joy hard to come by at the moment, or you may be feeling guilty because you are enjoying the lockdown more than you think you should. 

However we feel, we all ache at the loss of community life. Whether that is chatting to a friend, holding a loved ones hand or hugging someone close to us. We struggle with not being with the ones we love and that is a good thing! Not the distance or the separation, as it can be painful and incredibly distressing. No, the good thing is the innate longing for community and connection which point us to the fact that we are made in the image of God. A God who is community! Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a tri-unity, three and one, who have been together for eternity. It may be hard to comprehend the idea of the Trinity, but it is not difficult to appreciate. Especially when it means that our faith in Jesus automatically connects and includes us in this joyful, eternal, unbreakable community.

Try to think of the closest relationship you have ever had, now imagine that relationship could last forever. Well even that vision is a shadow of what is to come in the glorious family of God. When we remember that we have a perfect loving Father, a King Jesus who died for us and his Spirit who unites us together.

We have a joy that no one can take away or distance us from!

So as we begin the season know as Trinity, let’s encourage one another as we remember together the special way in which we are connected with one another and with God. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.  

Romans 8 :38-39

I’ll come back to that later (Procrastination)

If like me you sometimes find yourself attending to things that aren’t a priority when you have other things that should be occupying your time, then this might help! Entitled ‘How to Stop Procrastination in its Tracks‘, it’s worth a read even if you only read it to understand others better.

 

The master Gardener – Placed by his grace

Try putting yourself in this reading and and see how it affects your thoughts and understanding of where you find yourself.

The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here. By his grace I grow in this part of the vineyard, and her I will live until the great Master of the vineyard thinks fit to move me.

A slightly updated quote from Samuel Rutherford’s letters in The Loveliness of Christ from the Banner of Truth.

3 ways to make this Easter really special

Easter Sunday is an opportunity to hear the greatest news ever, a reminder of the day that changed the world. The day Jesus rose from the dead, delivering proof that there is life beyond this one and that Jesus is the way to find it. There will never be a day like it, no person or breakthrough will ever over-shadow it. Easter reminds us that this life after death is not only possible but open to everyone who believes in Jesus.

Easter Sunday then should be a glorious celebration, a real event, but maybe it feels like an anti-climax.

So how can you make Easter the glorious, joyful and memorable day it should be? Well here are three easy and practical ways to make it count.

1. Make every effort to be at church for Easter Sunday and invite others to come.



Some of you have holidays booked but you could leave after the service. If you are going to be away why not find a church where you’re staying and spend Easter Sunday with them. Maybe you are already coming and could help someone else get to church. If we have the best news in the world we should make sure we share it, so make sure to  invite your neighbours, friends and family. I think there are lots of people just waiting to be invited. You can do this any week, but some people are even more likely to come to church on Easter Sunday.

2. Help children you know to understand what Easter is really about. 



Bunnies and Eggs are fun but hardly life changing, so why not share the Easter story with your children or grandchildren, read it from the Bible, get them to draw or paint some of the story. Make an Easter garden to help you picture what happened or download the Bible App for Kids on your Tablet or Phone (available for Apple and Android) and explore the story A Happy Sunday together.

3. Take time to prepare yourself for Easter Sunday


Use the longer days to get up a bit earlier or take time to read about the cross and resurrection before the day itself. Why not read Matthew 26-28 or Luke 22-24, there is nothing like hearing first hand what Jesus did for us. 

To celebrate you might like to read Ephesians 1 and give thanks to Jesus for what he has done for us. Better still you could memorise a verse that reminds you of what Jesus has done. How about John 3:16, John 14:2-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Revelation 21:3 or 1 Peter 2:24.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

When we recognise our need for Jesus, nothing can take away our joy. As we are reminded of Jesus’ willingness to die for us, we can see it truly is the best news in the world. So let’s do all we can to make the most of it.

 

Who do you look to for help?

Feeling anxious and about to start my new job, excited and scared in equal measure. I knew I couldn’t rely on my inner strength, as the tension mounted it disappeared, so I tried to keep control of what I could. But that is fruitless and there is so much you just can’t control, including whether you’re toddler sleeps or not. Then there is all the unknown stuff.

I needed someone I could rely on, my wife is a real support and strength, but there are times when no one can help or change the situation. We prayed together just before I set out of the door to start my new job. Rewind to earlier in the day and I had been trying to meditate and force some words into my mind:

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord… Psalm 121:1-2

I had been listening to the verse set to music and when I was aware of my anxiety I repeated the words to myself. I only remembered the first few words ‘From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord’. That in itself was a great comfort and when I later shared with my wife what I had been thinking about she knew those verses and finished them off.

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip

I was blown away as I was reminded why I could trust God, he is the maker of heaven and earth. We all encounter situations where no person however powerful, rich, influential or intelligent could possibly help us, but the creator of the universe can. There is no greater source of help and strength than that. No higher power, no more loving comforter than Jesus. No one who knows us so intimately and can address our hurts and pains, our anxiety and our panic. Jesus faced death and overcame it, so with him we can face any trial.

With Jesus I can survive, I can trust, I can go on. Not because I have it all together, but because Jesus does, he sustains us, showers us with blessings and loves us enough to be there when we are most likely to forget him and yet he stil comforts and encourages us. If only I can keep remembering where my help really comes from. If only we can remember who it is that made us, knows us and loves us.