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Thought for the Month -  July


Wimbledon!


It’s here – the fortnight that tennis lovers enjoy!


For some it means a grandstand seat and strawberries and cream. For others it means queuing outside all night in the hopes of buying a ticket for just one match on Centre Court. For yet others it’s about watching the telly and later blowing the dust off the tennis racquet and having a knock about on the local courts.


But for the players it means the culmination of weeks, months and years of training, practice and hard slog. It means injuries, big dreams and crushing disappointments. In some ways the Christian life is similar. Some seem to sail through with enjoyment and little hardship whereas others struggle. Some come to worship God only once or twice a year whereas others come almost every week. Some make a supreme effort now and again and some faithfully try to live out God’s wishes all life through. The Christian life isn’t just a supreme effort now and again…it’s about a life-long struggle to be faithful. It’s not a one-off event – but life-long training, with our training manual – The Bible!


I’m sure many of us will remember the tears of those who lose out in the Wimbledon final. But it reminds me, that sometimes our best efforts can leave us in tears, wishing that life had turned out differently. But God is ALWAYS faithful and is always here for us and will not let us down. Let’s praise him for all that is past and trust him for all that’s to come!


Every blessing,
Tanya



Thought for the Month -  June


Lifting up our eyes …



On a trip to Madeira earlier this year, we were shown a beautiful valley, completely encircled by extinct volcanoes. These steep and beautiful mountains surrounded a place now known as Curral das Freiras or ‘The Nuns Valley’. It got its name because this is the secret, hidden place where centuries ago, nuns took sanctuary and hid from rampaging pirates. Here they were safe in this amazing place of peace, beauty and serenity. This brought to mind the words of Psalm 121 which will be familiar to some, and begins: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills…”. Like the psalmist centuries earlier, we felt drawn to lift our eyes to the hills, and to know that our help comes from God. The towering mountains reminded us of the enormity and majesty of God, with his enormous and majestic love to match! Back at home, I pondered how we can all experience that feeling of safety and of being held as we ‘lift our eyes’ from the immediate, obvious, sometimes painful situations we may find ourselves in, and try to see life from another perspective- appreciating those who love us, those who look after us and minister to us daily in our various settings, and not forgetting the God who created us and loves us completely and eternally. What a comfort and relief that knowledge gives us!

Life is constantly changing, (like the circuit staff and ministers!) and from our limited perspective, this has the potential to raise feelings of anxiety or apprehension in us – but the truth is God is constant, and is lovingly present with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and we can always ask for God’s comfort and peace, even in the darkest and most difficult times. May we be able to experience this truth and then affirm confidently with the psalmist:




The Lord keeps you from all harm
  and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
  both now and forever.
(Psalm 121: verses 7 and 8)

Love and peace,
Deacon Fiona



Thought for the Month -  May


As a child I wasn’t good at waiting.

· The days before Christmas barely limped by, not just dragging their feet, but the days, hours and minutes with them! (It’s unlikely
Mum and Dad agreed).
· The countdown to the freedom of school holidays felt interminable, while the holidays themselves sprinted by (my parents probably felt the opposite).

We’ve just celebrated Easter - contemplating that rollercoaster of emotions Jesus’ family and followers experienced. Those broken dreams, shattered expectations, the trauma, their fear, guilt and grief, and then,
suddenly, the wonder… “He is not here – He is risen” Luke 24:6a NIV

    During May we share, with those who love Jesus, the accounts of how He meets them and meets their needs: revealing, restoring and reviving.

On Thursday 30th May we’ll celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus leaves his dismayed disciples with a promise and a command: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49 NIV

“Wait” He bids - there will be gifts!
“Wait” He says – you will receive the Spirit of God - freedom from fear, power from above, and equipping to be witnesses to God’s grace and favour.

  As the disciples return to the city to watch and pray… to wait for the gift, for freedom from fear, did the time drag? Probably, expectation and longing have a way of slowing time.

  So this year, let we who would be His disciples, allow the Risen Christ meet with us (and our needs) revealing, restoring and reviving.

  Then, from Ascension, might we set aside some time each day to wait, watch and pray? Perhaps we can recover something of that expectation and longing - even if it does mean the days drag until Pentecost.
Because, trust God, there is always more – so much more.

Shalom Tony

PS.  For those of us that like  a "spring board" into prayer - there are some "Thy Kingdom come" resources produced for the period between Ascension and Pentecost - "I hear you differently" and a separate small prayer journal. These should be appearing in your churches after Easter - first come, first served!!!


 

Thought for the Month -  April


When Spring comes, we delight in seeing gardens burst into life. We have had snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils and the leaves on trees and hedgerows, bright with new life. This is perfect for Christians contemplating the miracle of Easter; everything seems dark and dead before surprizing us with new life, brighter than we could ever imagine.
It also serves to remind us that things can seem dead and lifeless before they spring into life with new vigour. Not just our gardens do this, with long forgotten bulbs and seeds sending up new shoots, people and situations can seem like a lost cause sometimes, but God often has plans which we do not know about. Under the surface of a church which often seems to be out of touch and old fashioned is a vibrant and life-giving God just waiting for people to respond to his word and cultivate the garden he has planted.
We must not be discouraged if things go through a dormant phase but should press on with the work of loving and serving our neighbours for Christ’s sake, to show them the love and forgiveness of God, freely given, so they may have life, bright green and full of vigour, Spring life in all its fullness.

Karen Pattison



Thought for the Month  - March


What’s it worth?

A frequently asked question on TV Antiques programmes or in a household of teenagers when they are asked to perform a small task! Sometimes it is difficult to put a value on ‘it’ – whether that be an object, a task, a skill or a person’s life. Insurance, including “life insurance” is big business.

So what is our life worth? The Bible encourages us to see ourselves as God sees us. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is speaking to His disciples when he says “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) He takes it a step further in chapter 10 when in sending out his disciples to preach the message of the coming kingdom, he tells them that even the hairs of their heads are numbered. In the light of the opposition that they would face he speaks words of reassurance: “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (verse 31).

As we approach and live through Lent, let us receive the assurance of God’s grace: The God who knows all about us – and still loves us – this is grace at its fullest. A priceless, but costly love that Paul speaks of in Romans 5:6. “….God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God says to each one of us: ”You are worth it – because I love you.” How much do we value what God has done for us in Christ? May we respond with Isaac Watts in his famous hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross…”

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all!

May Christ’s Love and Peace fill you anew this Lent

Ruth


Thought for the Month  - February


Dear Friends,
February has arrived dark, miserable,  snowy and we can feel a bit down. As I thought of this I remember a time many years ago when I was 16 years old. I lived in Liverpool at the time and we were experiencing a terrible smog much deeper than a fog, you couldn't see all around you. I was on my way home from work, all buses and trams had stopped running and I was all alone. I was very frightened and had no sense of direction, I didn't know what dangers were out there waiting for me,  whether I would fall over or somebody would attack me. I prayed "Please help me" and suddenly a powerful light came out of the darkness and a voice asked if I was alright and where did I live. It was a policeman and he led me right to my door, to the light and warmth and love of my home. As I remember this,  I also remember how Jesus has always been beside me even in the darkest smog. Even when I was too lost to really know it, he was leading me onwards to light., warmth and safety and doing it with love. He is doing the same for you. Just breath "Please help me" and he will.
Blessings and peace to you all.

Linda




Thought for the Month  - December


Dear Friends,

Christmas time will soon be upon us again – an important time it seems for the commercial world. Decorations and advertising are already well under way in the shops; I have heard some carols being played. It’s an important time too for families; family reunions and giving of gifts are so much part of the season. Christmas cards are also important; they are a means of keeping in contact with friends we rarely see.

In fact, Christmas is an important time for the entire human race; Jesus came for everyone. His coming is so significant that, for most countries, the years are dated from his birth; His coming is God’s indelible mark on our human history.
As you have read these words, you may well have been nodding in agreement with me. Yet haven’t I forgotten something? What about the build-up to Christmas? What about Advent?

Of course, Advent is of vital importance. During the days of Advent, you will no doubt make many preparations; order a turkey, send out greeting cards, buy presents, put up decorations and lights, prepare special food. But let’s not forget the most important preparation to make for Christmas is to prepare your own heart for God, to be ready for the second coming of Jesus.

Do you remember playing “hide & seek”, and how the ‘seeker’ usually began the hunt with the words “Coming, ready or not!”? Well, that’s just what Jesus says to us with his words: “.... stay awake, because you do not know the day or the hour when your master is coming...”

This Advent, prepare your heart to meet God, because one day you may hear those words: Coming – ready or not!
In love and peace

Rev Tanya




Thought for the Month - November


Remembering, reflecting and re-telling our stories

November is here! Outside, things are changing – evenings are darker now the clocks have gone back, leaves are rapidly changing colour and falling, and our lawn at the manse is covered with windfall apples, with shiny green and red skins, still edible if gathered quickly. Nothing stays the same, but we know that the year’s cycle will turn, and new life will come again.

November is a month for remembering – Remembrance Sunday has an added significance this year with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. November is a special time for Tony and me to remember our fathers – Tony’s dad’s birthday was the 10th and my dad died on the 5th five years ago. I remember the evening of the day he died, driving to a house group about 8 miles away, and seeing the sky filled with fireworks. It felt surreal, and yet somehow fitting, as I believed that my dad was being welcomed into Heaven. It was devastating to lose him, but somehow I knew that God was in it, that God was with me, and that my dad was with God.

November can also be a month for reflection – a time to reflect on the past and give thanks for the people we love, those still with us and those who have gone ahead of us, and also to thank God for the many blessings we’ve received through the years. I find myself looking through photo albums, remembering holidays and family gatherings, special times with friends, and maybe some sad or difficult times too. In all of this, it is really good if we have a chance to share memories and stories with others. We can often find things in common with others, important and profound things, especially in the community of believers. We know that God has been there with us throughout our lives, sharing in our experiences, walking beside us and somehow ahead of us too. He is a constant presence, a faithful friend and a very present help in times of trouble, as the psalmist says (Psalm 46:1).

Each of us has our own stories to tell and it can be a great encouragement in our Christian faith to hear other people’s testimonies! Testimony simply means telling the story of a ‘God-moment’ in your life. The word ‘testimony’ may conjure up a picture of a ‘road to Damascus’ life-changing encounter with the living Christ, (Acts 9) or a ‘road to Emmaus’ realisation that Christ has been walking beside us (Luke 24:13) … but some testimonies can be subtle and non-dramatic, and yet still be life-changing. I’ve always loved hearing people’s stories and enjoyed being a pastoral visitor years before I felt called to diaconal ministry. It is still my privilege to hear lots of people’s stories as I visit them at Mickle Hill, or in their homes elsewhere in the circuit or in hospital. People share their God-encounters - maybe it came as a sense of deep peace, or of unexpected and overwhelming joy, or something that happened which clearly wasn’t a co-incidence but was a God-incidence.

We have just experienced one of these in our own family. Some of you know that a dear relative of mine, Win, recently died aged 96 in an MHA care home in Wolverhampton. As she lay dying, I wasn’t able to go to her, but my brother & his wife who live in Devon ‘just happened’ to be driving through the Midlands that day, on their way to visit their daughter in Manchester. They spent time with Win, reading the Bible and praying with her. I was so grateful that Win had some family with her, and it blessed my brother Mark and his wife Carolyn too. As Mark said, it was a “God appointment”. Wow – thank you God!

So as you travel through November, reflect on the God-encounters you have had, and thank him for them. If you struggle to remember any, open up your heart and ask God to make his presence known to you. I would love to compile a book of testimonies from across the circuit, so if you want to share yours, please get in touch with me (email: tandfidb@gmail.com)

May God bless us as we remember, reflect and re-tell our stories, and in the words of one of my favourite hymns: We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come.’ (Hymns and Psalms 277 by Joseph Hart)

Peace and love, Deacon Fiona


Thought for the Month  -  October

Temptation

Ive been wrestling with temptation over the last couple of weeks. It all started when I preached from the book of James. I found myself parked in the first chapter of this wonderful letter for the next 4 weeks. Spending time in this passage really took hold of me and finally led me to the issue of temptation.

I doubt there has ever been a person who has not been tempted. For those who yield to temptation after 5 minutes have no idea of the power of temptation and the strength it takes to resist it.

Even Jesus himself was tempted. Only those who resist temptation know how strong it is.

We must never make the mistake of saying, ‘God tempted me’ or that, ‘God made me this way so Im only doing what he has made natural for me to do’. This is a big mistake.

James, clearly tells us God tempts no one. “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after the desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin when it is full- grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).

Have you noticed when we are tempted we start pondering the idea and then we begin talking ourselves into it and finding ways to justify it!

Jeremiah was right when he said,  ‘the heart is deceitful above all things.’ (Jer 17:9).

Temptation however can be a useful teacher when we recognise it for what it is. Temptation pinpoints the weak areas of our moral character and magnifies the fl
aws in our inner nature. If we recognise these weak areas we recognise our propensity to sin and the need for a saviour.

A person’s inner nature (thoughts and secret desires of the heart) determines how they can be tempted in their outer nature. Thus the temptation reveals the possibilities of their true nature. This means temptation will only come to each of us in accordance with the level of our controlling inner nature.

Oh how we need a saviour. What joy there is in knowing we have a saviour who ‘was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin’. (Heb 4:15)

We know temptation is not something we can ever be totally free from in this life. However if we keep our focus on Jesus our Lord and Saviour we begin to see him as a greater worth than the transient desire of the temptation . We have been given the Holy Spirit which makes us conquerors, more than conquerors through him who loves us.

Keep your eye on Jesus and not on the temptation…. Hope this helps

Watch the funny clip below from Francis Chan about temptation

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YtH9pxFDmug God bless.

Rev. Ken


Thought for the Month  -  September


As children start school in September, a new year, a new class and often a new school, they usually have new uniform and bags full of stationery. I remember this start to the new school year as scary and exciting in almost equal measure and one of the things that I loved about it was getting new exercise books. Oh! the promise of those pristine pages! I was always so sure that I would fill this book with neat, lovely work. I was always so hopeful that this book would be the one that was full of correct answers with no mistakes.


 Needless to say, this was not to be. Every book of mine has neat writing for a page or two, then it descends into chaos as I sacrifice legibility to speed. Despite my best efforts, mistakes were made and, helpfully pointed out by the teacher, in red! This happened every year, and it is still the same if I buy a new notebook now (except for it being marked by a teacher)


 It is the same in life. We face new challenges as things change for us; new starts which are a mixture of scary and exciting. We often face these challenges telling ourselves that we will be wonderful and hardworking, and we will not make any mistakes. But in our heart of hearts we know that this is not the case. We all make mistakes and it is never very nice having them pointed out to us.


 But the good news is, Jesus knows this. He knows us all and he knows what we are like. So full of good intentions, so prone to failure in so many ways. But if we acknowledge our mistakes to God, Jesus promised us forgiveness. What a fantastic gift. A fresh start, a new beginning, forgiveness from God. Even better than a new exercise book!


Karen Pattison


Thought for the Month  -  August


I saw a cartoon the other day which made me smile, I t showed an old man and a young child sitting on a bench looking over brown fields and the man said"When i was young lad all these fields were green." At the time of writing we're in the middle of a heat wave, and this is making the world brown and dry our water supply is running out, in some places hose pipe bans are in place we long for rain, we always appreciate things when they've gone, I've also found a great love for drinking water.

 One day Jesus sat beside a well and asked a lady who was broken and despised for water and he tells her that if she knew who he was she would have asked him for water she then begs him
for a drink that she would never be thirsty again at the present time as we long for water remember the one who is waiting for you to ask not for a physical drink but a spiritual one that refreshes taking away your thirst, that moistens, so that we lose the dryness and aridness of life. That satisfies as we come to know the truth because the lady at the well found that Jesus himself is the water of life.

 Are we ready for a good long drink of this sort of water to refresh moisten and satisfy us, Have a lovely Summer enjoying the sun and being drenched by the water of life which Jesus longs to give to each one of us.
Linda.



Thought for the Month  -  July


Delighted or Disappointed?

Whether it is the outcome of a football or tennis match (World Cup and Wimbledon both underway as I write) – or a birthday present; if we are involved, we are likely to be one of the two…delighted or disappointed! If we are not personally involved, or if we have not invested our emotions, our time or our money – then the result doesn’t matter.

For all of us, however, there may be times when we are disappointed, and this may be a mild “Oh dear – what a shame” to a feeling of total devastation as our hopes and expectations of someone or something are dashed.

It strikes me that there may be 2 causes: either we have been genuinely let down by an event or a person, or our own expectations have been misplaced. People can have bad days: footballers can miss penalties; tennis players can have an injury. We wait for another opportunity – maybe next time. But what about disappointment in our relationships? Do we expect too much of each other? When a couple come for wedding interview, I give them a questionnaire so that they can examine what their expectations are of the marriage. From the small details, of who puts the rubbish out, to if and when they would like children. Verbalising or writing down our expectations, as we do with job descriptions in an employment situation, can be vital to those future relationships.

How about our relationship with God? Is there a mutual delight in our relationship with God, or is there disappointment from either side? God expects much of us: loving commitment, faithfulness, speaking out against injustice and practical working for the good of others. Is God disappointed in us? Without the Holy Spirit there is no way that we can fulfil God’s hopes for us, but with the Holy Spirit, we can grow as disciples of Jesus, and become more like Him. What do we expect of God? Are those expectations too low, not expecting anything including any answers to prayer? That way we will not be disappointed, but neither will we flourish as His people. Alternatively we may expect great things, and sometimes we will be disappointed because we have expected the wrong things – but these are the times when we learn and grow and depend on the God who knows us better than we know ourselves. Romans 5 Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have[a] peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 who through our faith[b] has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. 3 We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. 4 And patience produces character, and character produces hope. 5 And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

May God bless you in your times of delight and disappointment.

Ruth



Thought for the Month  -  June

A Foggy Day

A favourite story in our house when the children were little was ‘Postman Pat’s Foggy Day’. Pat gets lost in a fog, has various mix ups with scarecrows and rabbits, then is led back to the village by the sound of the church bells. We read it countless times, and when I looked at the book again recently, it was still so familiar! Summer may seem an odd time for an article on fog, but it can still surround us, hypothetically, on the brightest of days, and a sea mist at the beach can certainly spoil a day out.
We all have times when we can’t see the way ahead and it bothers us. We feel more comfortable when we can see where we are headed. The demands of daily life can often cloud our ability to see God’s way clearly. Sometimes the fog is a result of our unwillingness to deal with the challenges to faith that life presents.
In the Mark Ch 9, we read of the Transfiguration of Jesus and verse 7 says: Then a cloud overshadowed them and from the cloud there came a voice, “this is my Son, Listen to him!”.
God was in the cloud.
In Luke 8 we read of the disciples being in a boat when a storm blew up and the boat was being swamped. But Jesus was resting in the boat with them. It was when the cried out to him, he calmed the storm.
Jesus was with them in the storm.
We are not alone in our foggy times. Like Postman Pat, we need to listen for God’s guidance and takes steps towards his voice.






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