The Rectory Bulletin

The Danger of Bare Ritual

Sun 29th Aug 2021

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (Mark 7:1-8) - The problem with the Pharisees was that their faith had become an external matter. Rules had supplanted relating to God. Earning God’s favour had replaced revelling in the grace of a forgiving God. Christianity is a matter of the heart.

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Don’t Settle for Second Best

Sun 22nd Aug 2021

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69, ESV) - God’s grace is not cheap, but it is worth everything. Christianity is not a thin veneer to can apply to your life, but it is your whole life. To try and knock off the bits of Christianity which offend is to lose it all. We end up with a cliche in sandals. Christianity may be radical, it may be costly, but then it should be. It is worth everything.

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Careful How You Walk

Sun 15th Aug 2021

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-16) - True joy is not found in serving yourself, but in serving others. Not selfish, but selfless. This is what it is to be wise, to live in the presence of God.

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More than a Teacher

Sun 08th Aug 2021

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35) - We would do well to allow Jesus to speak for himself, and to acknowledge the vast scope of the claims he makes about himself. As he himself will say much later: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). What words! What teaching.

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Sundays

The Bread that Endures

Sun 01st Aug 2021

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) - In a world which asserts that all religions are the same, and that to have no faith is as valid as having faith, these words of Jesus stand as an offence. They put him at the heart of any approach to God, and put belief in him as the “work” which restores us to God. This a claim to exclusivity. All must come through Christ.

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Sundays

What is the Kingdom of God?

Sun 25th Jul 2021

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:14-15) - Never be satisfied with a merely external or physical form of faith. Embrace the Kingdom of God! Allow God to reign, and be transformed. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but the Kingdom of God lasts forever.

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Sundays

The Shepherd

Sun 18th Jul 2021

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:30-31) - So it is that Jesus the good shepherd is in fact the LORD returning to shepherd his people, those sheep without a shepherd. He is, as Isaiah foresees, the “righteous Branch” of King David. He is the one from the line of David who will reign. He is the one who will bring Salvation to Judah. He is the one who is called “The LORD is our righteousness”.

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Chronological Snobbery

Sat 17th Jul 2021

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you. (Deuteronomy 32:7) - Oh Christian, you stand at the forefront of twenty centuries of the church! The pages of the past are written with tales of our spiritual forebears, and their words still ring clear. The history of the church is our family history, and enriches our experience of the present. Be wary of falling for something simply because it’s new. Often it isn’t, it’s just something which was dismissed in the past and then forgotten.

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Books

Fri 16th Jul 2021

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (1 Timothy 4:13) - So where to start? That is a more difficult question now than it was twenty years ago. By and large Christian bookshops have disappeared, and even a city as large as Bristol has none. Surprisingly, though, there are two near us: one in Newent with a cafe attached, and another in Bromyard. Neither are huge, but they do give an opportunity to flip through some pages before you buy.

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Why Bother with Prayer?

Thu 15th Jul 2021

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) - At its base, prayer is consciously being in the presence of God. It is talking to God. It is an awareness that this is a place where God is, and that makes a difference. Some prayer may be wordless - at times words are hard to find - or a pouring out of the heart. It might be silent, spoken or written. Perhaps the written prayers of others might act as a ‘starter’ to begin prayer, or it might be that your own words flow more easily. Some wrestle in prayer at night, others might speak a single line in the midst of the day.

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Why the Bible?

Wed 14th Jul 2021

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) - In the Scriptures we have a document which spans many centuries, and has stood the test of the passing millennia. The church through the ages has attested to its inspired nature, and is has proved to be the link between us now and the church throughout the ages. Given it is the “Word of the Lord” it has an eternal relevance, and can also serve to challenge our sometimes lazy presuppositions.

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Influence

Tue 13th Jul 2021

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16) - Christianity is not a private affair, but is lived out in the public sphere. As God has done good for us, so we do good for others and thereby win influence for the gospel.

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The Bishop of our Souls

Mon 12th Jul 2021

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25) - Sheep are not the brightest of beasts, and are prone to wander. Any small hole in a hedge poses a challenge, any gap is a call to escape. The thing with sheep is that they thoroughly enjoy wandering off, as if they were browsing the hedges for bargains. And such were we, but now the great shepherd of our souls has rounded us up and brought us to rich pastures. Now we graze under his protective eye. Yet this shepherd is more than simply an external guide, he is also the “overseer of your souls”. He it is who, though our consciences, prods us onto the right paths.

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Sundays

The Sorry Tale of King Herod

Sun 11th Jul 2021

And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. (Mark 6:26) - Herod and John. One who looked around for approval, and the other who only looked up. One who only listened, and the other who also acted. One who held all that he had close to him, and the other who put it all in God’s hands. Two choices as to how to live are clearly laid out in front of us.

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Being Courteous

Sat 10th Jul 2021

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9) - Courtesy is a child of grace, and as Christians we have received extraordinary grace from God. As we receive, so we give. As one much forgiven we forgive much. As one on whom Christ had compassion, we are compassionate to others. As we follow a much mocked and insulted Christ, we endure those insults in good humour.

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Providence

Keep Watch!

Fri 09th Jul 2021

The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. (Ecclesiastes 2:14) - The calling of God is a calling not only to believe certain things, but also to put them into practice. It is as these two aspects align themselves that true satisfaction is found. To walk out your faith is to find a path to contentment. It is also a deep witness to your faith - you are willing to put it into practice.

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Providence

Alone

Wed 07th Jul 2021

“For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10) - The history of the church is long, and often perilous. At times persecutions break out, and great pressure is put on Christians to abandon their faith. At other times, though, the pressure is subtler and far more dangerous for the future of the church.

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Providence

Walking in the Way

Tue 06th Jul 2021

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16) - For many long centuries we have seen ourselves as a Christian nation, and so to walk the Christian path has been straightforward. Now, though, the Christian walk might be different to societies norms. No matter. In the end there is only one path which leads to “peace and mercy”.

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Providence

Living Out Your High Calling

Mon 05th Jul 2021

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1). - William Dobbie was a staunch Christian, and would often surprise dinner guests by calling them to prayer at the end of meals. In Parliament, Churchill once said of him: “That remarkable man, General Dobbie — a Cromwellian figure at a key point, fighting with his Bible in one hand and his sword in the other.” ... You have been called to a task, and to a way of life. God calls you by name, and says follow.

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Sundays

Letting Jesus Be Jesus

Sun 04th Jul 2021

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” - To put it simply, ask yourself this question: who is Jesus to you? Is he someone you’ve created in your own image, a better version of yourself at your best. Have you stripped him of his glory, of his divinity, and made him simply a good teacher? Have you created an imaginary Messiah, or allowed Jesus to speak for himself?

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Providence

Pray for Them

Sat 03rd Jul 2021

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:17-19). - The interesting phrase here is: “he came to himself”. I am sure we all have friends and family who are not Christian, and maybe they have been dismissive of any conversation about the faith for many years. This doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end of the matter: you can still pray. Pray that the person will “come to himself”. The prodigal was not with anyone when this took place, he was simply by himself

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Providence

Oh the Wonderful Grace of God

Fri 02nd Jul 2021

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. (Psalm 152:1-2) - The wonderful thing is that the more you realise the holy vastness of God, the smaller you feel. The smaller you feel, the more you realise how gracious God is in dealing with you. How marvellous it is to be able to rely upon an entirely dependable God! Oh the joy of receiving the grace of God.

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Providence

Afflictions

Thu 01st Jul 2021

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) - At times God uses our afflictions to draw us to him. At other times, we struggle with something or other which reminds us that we are not as perfect we as think. And then we fall upon God’s grace. Afflictions are, as in the case with the Apostle Paul, a means to a greater glory

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Providence

God and Sin

Wed 30th Jun 2021

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death… Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:13-17) - We do bear the consequences for our own actions, but God has also extended to us the offer of forgiveness. Rather than thinking we are good enough, better to see that Christ is entirely good and allow him to bear our sins for us. The cross is, after all, a sign of grace and mercy.

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Providence

Warriors and the Will of God

Tue 29th Jun 2021

Against a godless nation I send [Assyria], and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few … When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (Isaiah 10:6-7, 12) - Just before his death, Moses warned the people that if they turn to other gods, then they will lose the land. The only way to maintain life in the land is to obey the commandments of God.

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Providence

What About Evil Deeds?

Mon 28th Jun 2021

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) - Right at the end of Genesis Joseph is speaking with his brothers, those brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would take revenge, but he assured them: “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Never think God is absent in the face of evil. He is not.

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Sundays

How Do You Approach God?

Sun 27th Jun 2021

hen came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him. (Mark 5:22-24) And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. (Mark 5:25-27 )- Here in this passage we find two starkly contrasting people, but the same result. They both reached out. Will you?

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Providence

Above Nature

Fri 25th Jun 2021

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,” (Romans 4:19–20) - The history of the Church is scattered with unpromising people who were mightily used by God. God is able to act above nature, and that is something which gives great hope. You may feel a small Christian, but you have a great God. And that is plenty.

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Providence

God Does as He Pleases

Thu 24th Jun 2021

“But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7) - To be Creator implies not only a mastery over creation so that it can be used to bring about whatever God wishes, but also the right to act in a way which takes priority over the created order.

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Providence

The Means to an End

Wed 23rd Jun 2021

“And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretence of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”” (Acts 27:30–31) - “He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (Acts 27:43–44) - To have a belief in a God who is sovereign over all should not imply we simply have to sit back and do nothing. Yes God decrees the end of things, but he also decrees the means by which this end will come about. Yes, we are secure in God’s hands but we also have to follow the commands he gives.

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Providence

What is an Act of God?

Tue 22nd Jun 2021

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) - “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name:” (Jeremiah 31:35) - Old insurance policies used to mention “Acts of God”, by which they meant unusual and unforeseen events such as earthquakes, lightning strikes or volcano eruptions. The problem with this language, though, is it relegates God to the realm of the spectacular. It assumes that God can only act in ways which overwhelm and draw attention.

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Providence

Who Killed Jesus?

Mon 21st Jun 2021

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:23–24) - In these couple of verses, then, we see something of the way in which God brings his will into being. He determines something will come to pass, and humans bring it about. They are acting in accordance with their will, but God’s will is deeper. They may even seek to defy God, but that might simply be a means to an end.

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Sundays

Is God Sleeping?

Sun 20th Jun 2021

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:27-39) - Oh Christian you will encounter storms in life, times when life seems to be sinking and hope fades in the darkness. This is when your faith counts, this is when belief has to be put into practice. In all places and at all times remember that Jesus has said to you: “I am with you always” and so he will be. Pray with confidence, and trust in the one who keeps his promises. You may think God is sleeping, but maybe something greater is in mind.

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Providence

To the Praise of God’s Glory

Sat 19th Jun 2021

“Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.” (Isaiah 63:14) - “… so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10) - “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”” (Romans 9:17) - “They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” (Psalm 145:7) - To give God glory is to understand that he is full of a weighty holiness. To give him his due. It is also to recognise God for his goodness, wisdom and power.

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Providence

Advisors and Counsellors

Fri 18th Jun 2021

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Ephesians 1:11) - “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:10–11) - There is a danger in not seeking the wisdom of others, as the book of Proverbs is quick to point out: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Going it alone in the spiritual realm is a hazardous path, and if you are not careful you find that it is not so much God you believe in. It is yourself.

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Providence

The God who Foresees

Thu 17th Jun 2021

After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:13–18) - From his vantage point in eternity God knows all things, and is not trapped as we are in the narrow tunnel of time. To trust in God is not to place your hopes in one who will be surprised by a turn of events. It is to trust in one who already knows. It is to trust in one who writes his great plan of redemption on the fabric of time, and who brings to fruition plans laid centuries before.

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Providence

Wise and Holy

Wed 16th Jun 2021

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24) “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) - Power may corrupt imperfect human beings, but fortunately for us God is not a bigger version of a human. He is good. His is not corruptible.

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Providence

From the Greatest to the Least

Tue 15th Jun 2021

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:29–33) - Never feel too unimportant to raise your voice to heaven, or think something is too trivial to bring before God. God may guide the affairs of the nations, but he also notices the individual. He is concerned with the greatest and the least.

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Providence

The Divine Controller

Mon 14th Jun 2021

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35) - God needs no more from us, than the model railway builder needs from the little tiny model of a dog. To know God as almighty, is to regain a sense of things being under control.

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Sundays

God Given Growth

Sun 13th Jun 2021

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” - So Christian, fret not! We may be weak but God is strong. The Gospel is still good news, and the scriptures still have their power. Mustard plants need mustard seeds, and revivals in the fortune of the church need small starts. Maybe what we are experiencing now is just the beginning of that small start.

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Providence

The Great Upholder

Sat 12th Jun 2021

“He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). - Life not only came from God, but continues to come from God. This is the way in which Christ “upholds” the universe, and This act of upholding serves to underline our entire dependence upon God. We not only owe him our existence, but also our continuing existence. As life flows back into the countryside in Spring, it flows from God. As life ebbs from the body at death, it continues in eternity before God.

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Providence

What is Providence?

Fri 11th Jun 2021

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17) - Providence is not a word much used in Christian speech. Whilst a very common concept in the writings of previous ages, for whatever reason it has faded from much of the modern church. Providence is more than mere foreknowledge. In Christian terms it is the understanding that God continues to care for his creation and his people. And he cares through providing for it and for us.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Gentleness

Thu 10th Jun 2021

It is only when we realise that we, like all others, are flawed individuals that we can gain a true perspective on ourselves. It is as we acknowledge we get things wrong, we are ready to learn and to seek forgiveness. Gentleness is not weakness. It is simply being realistic.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Self-Control

Wed 09th Jun 2021

Self-control is the ability to restrain your emotions. To say no to impulses or desires as they begin to rise. It is putting your head in charge of your heart, and detecting your emotions. Are they legitimate, or something you’ll regret in ten minutes time? Is this really the best way to behave? Shouldn’t this temptation be resisted? It is a product of patience and an abiding joy in life. It is a quality of someone who is kind and good, who is trustworthy and doesn’t think too highly of themself.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Faithfulness

Wed 09th Jun 2021

Faithfulness is about being someone in whom other people can trust. You are reliable and committed, not swept along by whatever fad flits across the screen that particular day. It is, to quote the standard dictionary, “that which evokes trust and faith” or “the state of being someone in whom confidence can be placed”. If we are to be faithful people ourselves, we would be best advised to follow the Christ who is deeply faithful. This is a fruit of the Spirit which gives deep and enduring foundations.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Goodness

Mon 07th Jun 2021

Is there an eternal measure of what is good? Well, yes. If we hold that God is both good and eternal, then goodness is to be found in his character, actions and teachings. To be good is to be upright, just and trustworthy. Christ taught, healed and gave up his life so that others might be reconciled to God. There is goodness. It is a generosity, and a willingness to self-sacrifice. It is an interest in the welfare of others. When it comes to deciding between good and evil, it is vital to do so using a standard which transcends culture and time. No wonder Jesus said: “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

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Sundays

Mad, Bad or God?

Sun 06th Jun 2021

How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:22-28) - Perhaps you view him as someone who is trustworthy in parts, or a good teacher who was made a messiah by mistake. If so, think on this: Jesus made tremendous claims to be God. He dared to teach on his own authority, and forgive sins. Something which only God has the right to do.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Kindness

Sat 05th Jun 2021

Very often the word “kind” is equated with “nice”, but that does little justice to what the word meant in Greek when Paul wrote Galatians. The word he used - chrēstótēs - primarily means behaving in an upright manner with people. It’s not misleading them, or deceiving them. For Paul, the word “kindness” means being open and honest, and not hiding uncomfortable truths. This is the truly helpful and beneficial thing to do.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Patience

Fri 04th Jun 2021

The present is one of the hardest times in which to live, living entirely in the here and now, not anchored down by past regrets or consumed with yearnings for future promises. Patience is trusting in God for your future and having a deep sense that in the end his timing is probably better than yours. It is living in the present, and not being dominated by a future which might never happen.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Peace

Thu 03rd Jun 2021

Peace is a cousin to joy, and swims in stiller, deeper waters. Rather than simply being the absence of war, or of strife, peace also points to a state of wellbeing. It is a deep calmness which withstands the buffets of waves, and the whirling winds of anxiety. When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul!”

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Fruits of the Spirit

Joy

Wed 02nd Jun 2021

The greek word translated ‘joy’ (chara) has the wonderful definition “the experience of gladness”. In Christian terms this comes from a sense of security in God. You are his, since he gave up his son for you. The Spirit of God resides within you, and you are in his care. This joy can bubble up in difficulty, and sustain in times of struggle. It is the kind of joyful security we see in Deuteronomy 33:27 where we read: “the eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms”.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Love

Tue 01st Jun 2021

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-24) - In the passage, Paul is using the word: “agapē”. It is a kind of love which is not based on self interest, but on a warmth for another. It is not the sort of love that leads to marriage, but rather an affectionate esteem for another person. It’s not limited to intimate relationships, and only very rarely did the Greeks of the day use it to describe anything sexual.

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Fruits of the Spirit

Fruitful Living

Mon 31st May 2021

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-24) - At times you may feel a million miles away from patience and self-control. Joy and peace might feel like far distant hopes. At these times the answer is not positive thinking, or sheer effort. No, times like these are calls to put down roots.

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Sundays

Adopted

Sun 30th May 2021

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:21-17) - Some treat Christianity as being fostered: you can only stay with God as long as you behave yourself; you might be moved on at any moment. That is to misunderstand things. Adoption is permanent. The papers have been signed. You are now a child of God. If have decided to follow Christ, you are a Child of God and the Holy Sprit within you acts as your adoption papers. He bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Spirit of God

Sat 29th May 2021

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26) - And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6) - Here then is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This Spirit is as much God as the Father and the Son are, but we must be careful not to think of him simply as some vague force.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Son of the Father

Fri 28th May 2021

“but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:2–3) - So it is that Jesus is not another God, but simply the God. God made manifest. The God made known. The image of the invisible God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Uncreated Father

Thu 27th May 2021

In the beginning, God... (Genesis 1:1) - God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) - Often when you meet someone, you ask them: “where are you from”. God alone can answer: nowhere. He just is. In the beginning God was already there, and his name is simply “I AM WHO I AM”. He just is. We can describe him, but we cannot define him. Deeper than all my thought, emotions and intuition is God. Who is.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Trinity

Wed 26th May 2021

“And when Jesus was baptised, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:16–17) - As our heads gently swim, perhaps I might put it this way: we believe in the Trinity, because the Father acts like God, Jesus acts like God and the Spirit acts like God. Yet we know that God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). Quite how it works, we leave to God. That it works is clear in the pages of the Bible.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Very Meet, Right, and our Bounden Duty

Tue 25th May 2021

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:12–14) - At times it is easy to live your life with eyes cast down, and shoes shuffling along the pavement. It is at precisely that time that you need to look up and realise the great majesty of God. A God who knows you by name!

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Righteous and Kind

Mon 24th May 2021

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) - God may be the judge, but he is also the one who sent his Son so that we might be forgiven. God is “kind”. To have a God who is both righteous and kind; well that is a most comforting balance. God judges, but God forgives. What a God we have!

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Sundays

Pentecost

Sun 23rd May 2021

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2) - So it is that Pentecost burst onto the world, bringing together word and Spirit as Joel’s words pointed to what was happening. Bringing together Old and New Testaments that selfsame prophet’s prophecies were fulfilled. Bringing all peoples together as they shared in the joyous call of God. We may long for such days again, but don’t simply long. Allow that longing to turn you to prayer, prayer that God’s church might once more be revived.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Infinite, Infallible, and Self-Contained

Fri 21st May 2021

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:33–34) - We unconsciously imagine him to be bound by culture, and time. As if an eternal God knows more than he did back then. As if the God who himself is the definition of truth, makes mistakes. As if our very salvation, and our hopes for eternal life are in the hands of a fallible God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

God Sees

Thu 20th May 2021

"And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) - Some might find this idea that God sees all a threatening one. But then, the realisation that regardless of this Christ still died to gain your forgiveness dawns. What Grace that is! However much you screw up your eyes, you are not out of the sight of God. That, though, should be a comfort!

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Sovereign God

Wed 19th May 2021

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) - “which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” (1 Timothy 6:15) - God can do what he pleases, and we should be very wary of sitting in judgment over him. We know very little in comparison to his all knowing knowledge. Better to trust that God is good, and that he works all things for good for those who love him.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The God of All Things

Tue 18th May 2021

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) - For anyone to be able to say that they fully understand God is to claim that they are in fact greater than he is. That their finite mind can contain the infinite! In the end, we owe all that we are to the eternal God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

God Derives No Glory From Us

Mon 17th May 2021

“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) - We must be wary of thinking that we are doing God a favour with our devotion and energies. He needs no favours, but rather our actions are a rich response to his grace. A joyful echo of what we have received from him. The glory is not in the thing that is produced, but in the majestic God which prompted all of this in the first place.

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Sundays

In the World, but not of the World

Sun 16th May 2021

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6) - Christian! The Father has taken you from the world and placed you in the secure hands of Christ. You will find no safer, or more secure place in which to dwell.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The All Sufficient God

Sat 15th May 2021

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25) - Perhaps rather than helping God out we would let him help us out. Rather than making him ‘up to date’ we should realise he is timeless. If God is God, perhaps we would do better to trust him, his message and his methods.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Sure and Certain

Sat 15th May 2021

“After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:16–18) - And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind.” (Ezekiel 11:5) - Whereas our plans are often contingent on other things, and less than certain, not so with the Almighty. What God says will occur, will occur

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Blessedness

Fri 14th May 2021

he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16) - To be blessed is to be the recipient of something which brings joy and is undeserved. It is to live in a state of thankfulness, knowing that someone else has favoured you. Treat all things like a blessing, and it’s like living as if everyday were your birthday!

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Goodness

Thu 13th May 2021

“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:68) - It is only as we live in accordance with God’s statutes that we can be a reliable judge of “good”, and experience the fullness of goodness. Let God, not anyone else, be the arbiter of “good”.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The God of Glory

Wed 12th May 2021

And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,” (Acts 7:2) - It is easy to acknowledge that we rely upon God for life, but not often easy to depend on him for glory or worth. Better to seek the Lord in whom all wisdom is to be found, and who alone can give you a meaning which endures.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

God Has All Life

Tue 11th May 2021

“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jeremiah 10:10) - “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:25–26) - I AM. God just is. God has no beginning or end because he is simply ‘being’. God has “life in himself” and so all life is a gift from God. I wonder, how do you use it?

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Westminster Confession of Faith

He Will by No Means Clear the Guilty

Mon 10th May 2021

The LORD ... keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty. (Exodus 34:7) - The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. (Nahum 1:3) - The move from iniquity to repentance is a move from guilt to forgiveness. It is a humbling thing, but also a liberating thing. It might not be natural to us, it might even take years, but the Lord is patient.

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Sundays

As Christ Loved You

Sun 09th May 2021

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:9) - That is the church - the living body of Christ. Not simply a charity or a building, but a people called together by God himself. What an awe inspiring vision, what a wonderful prospect. So, go and love each other as Christ loved you.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

God and Sin

Sat 08th May 2021

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18) - Christ’s righteousness covers over the unrighteousness of all who turn to him. In Christ, God provides us with a solution.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Justice of God

Fri 07th May 2021

Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. (Nehemiah 9:32–33) - It is as we come to terms with the justice of God that we begin to grasp the wonderful, deep grace of his forgiveness. As we realise how far short we have fallen, the bloody, reconciling sacrifice of Christ on the cross becomes more precious

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Rewarder of Those Who Seek Him

Thu 06th May 2021

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) - The best way to seek God then, is to read this revelation. It is to pray and live in the knowledge that God exists. It is to realise that the world revolves around him, and not around you! It is a revolution in the way you view the world.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

A God All-Gracious

Wed 05th May 2021

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6–7) - The fact that he sent his only Son so that we might be reconciled back to him is sheer grace. The fact that Jesus’s death has washed away those sins which we commit is abundant mercy. The fact that he sticks with us is great patience indeed. That he forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin” is something to be cherished.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

A Most Loving God

Tue 04th May 2021

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:8–9) - So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16) - This is what love truly looks like, it is not simply an emotion or a feeling but active and reconciling. It is the means by which God brings forgiveness, and restores sinful humans to a holy God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Glory of God

Mon 03rd May 2021

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36) - Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11) - When we give glory to God, we are giving him the weighty seriousness he deserves. God’s glory means he shouldn’t be taken lightly, or dismissed with a brief “I’m sure God wouldn’t mind”. People get nervous when the Queen enters the room. How much more the King of Kings!

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Sundays

Abiding in God

Sun 02nd May 2021

This is how the Christian bears fruit which glorify God. As Jesus I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1) - The practice of abiding in Christ is a lifelong task, something which deepens and becomes more rich over time. This is how the Christian bears fruit which glorify God. As Jesus says: “apart from me you can do nothing”. As Jesus warns: “if anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned”. The soil of Christ is rich indeed. Christian - put down your roots!

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Prevailing Will of God

Sat 01st May 2021

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) - To have this confidence in God’s will is something which will keep you going through the darker turns of life. Rather than just fatalism, it is knowing that you are being shepherded by a God who both loves you and sent his son to die for you. The prevailing will of God is the most wonderful thing.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Most Absolute God

Fri 30th Apr 2021

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me (Isaiah 45:5) - “Besides me there is no God”. In a world which is skeptical about absolute truth, here is one absolute which we cannot avoid. We may not be aware of the existence of God, or reject his existence outright, but neither of these things affect the fact that he does exist. Absolute truths might be rejected, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means you don’t like them.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Entirely Free

Thu 29th Apr 2021

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3) - The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,” (Isaiah 14:24) - Unlike us, God’s freedom is not limited in any way. He is not subject to anyone else’s rules and regulations, not does he change or age. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and so his will cannot be defeated by another. He is entirely free, whereas our freedom is limited.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Holy, Holy, Holy

Wed 28th Apr 2021

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) - And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8) - One of the great themes of the Bible is: God is holy, and we are not. When Moses approaches the burning bush, he has to remove his shoes since he is on holy ground. He is to come no closer. When the law is given on the mountaintop, the Israelites are warned not even to touch the mountain.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

God Most Wise

Tue 27th Apr 2021

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:27) - To understand that God is wise, means that he is timeless and trustworthy in all that he says. A wisdom which takes a wider view, and transcends modern fads, fashions and trends.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Almighty God

Mon 26th Apr 2021

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,” (Genesis 17:1) - And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8) - All creation is of his making, and he has power over it all. God cannot be resisted or overcome. He is All-Mighty.

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Sundays

The Good Shepherd

Sun 25th Apr 2021

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11–18) - Oh sheep, as you wander Jesus seeks you out! Can you hear his voice, calling you home in accent clear and urgent? As you stray, look up and see the shepherd coming to you. Here is one who alone can safely lead you though death, and bring you to the heavenly fold. Listen to no other voices, and follow no other paths. There is but one good shepherd. And he seeks you out.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Is God Incomprehensible?

Sat 24th Apr 2021

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3) - To try and reinvent God, perhaps through attempting to make him more palatable to the present age, is simply to invent an idol. No, we need to allow God to be God, and to trust that all that we need to know about him he has revealed to us.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Eternal God

Fri 23rd Apr 2021

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2) - “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) - We needn’t look back to the events recorded in Scripture and think that they deal with a different God from whom we are separated by millennia. God is as present to us as he was to them. He is much “I AM” now as he was then. For God, forever is simply now.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The God who is Immense

Thu 22nd Apr 2021

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27) - God’s immensity doesn’t mean that he is simply a very big being, bigger than anything else. It means that he is present everywhere. There is nowhere where he is not: as the old prayer has it, he is “everywhere present and fillest all things”. He is omnipresent

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Does God Change?

Wed 21st Apr 2021

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) - “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) - As we age, the aches begin to dog our joints and names seem to evaporate from the tip of the tongue. Things which our twenty-year old selves thought were dull and boring, become familiar and comforting. Joy turns to sorrow, anger flares up and then ebbs into regret. Compassion pricks our conscience, and sympathy brings tears. God’s love for us does not wane or change, and it is already pure and total. God’s goodness is entire and eternal. He is a firm foundation for our faith. He is utterly reliable, and a safe haven for all our hope.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

A Bodiless God

Tue 20th Apr 2021

“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.” (Deuteronomy 4:15–18) - The Israelites were warned not to imagine God as having any form, as being like anything which he has created. What nonsense it is to imagine God as being simply a larger version of something he has created. That would be like imagining Mary Berry is in fact a large Victoria Sponge!

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Westminster Confession of Faith

A Most Pure Spirit

Mon 19th Apr 2021

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”. (John 4:24) - “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) - God is spirit, and yet we are material. God is infinite, and we are not. God is spirit. He is not simply a bigger and better version of human beings. He is other. He is spirit.

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Sundays

The World Changed

Sun 18th Apr 2021

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:45–48) - Here then is the resurrection. A physical resurrection, long foretold in the Scriptures. An event which enables those selfsame Scriptures to be truly understood. An event which then puts Jesus - his name - at the core of the unfolding revelation of God, and which sends out the disciples to bear witness to these events. Every church, every Christian that you see today is but an after-echo of that event. The world was changed that day. Will you be changed too?

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Infinite in Being and Perfection

Sat 17th Apr 2021

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. (Job 11:7–9) - The idea of the infinity of God is rich. It demonstrates his perfection, as he is not limited by anything. There is no lack in his holiness, or possibility that it can be greater. An infinite God is always at hand, and always present to us.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

Living and True

Fri 16th Apr 2021

“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jeremiah 10:10) - “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10) - God is truth, and since he created the heavens and the earth he alone has the power and authority to define what truth actually is. He is the measure by which we discern what is, and what is not, true.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The One and Only God

Thu 15th Apr 2021

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–6) - In the ancient world, there was an assumption that each group of people had their own god. Against this background Judaism stood alone, with its insistence that there is in fact only one God.

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Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Assembly

Wed 14th Apr 2021

“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” (Joel 1:14) - On 15th October 1642 Parliament passed a bill which called for a gathering of “divines” in London to revise the Thirty-Nine Articles, which stand as the statement of faith for the Church of England. These divines were to be people who were learned in the faith, and among their number were theologians, bishops and ministers of other denominations.

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Understanding and Knowing God

Tue 13th Apr 2021

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23–24. - The key is to seek God humbly. To allow him to speak on his own terms. That is something worth more than human riches, strength or wisdom. That is something eternal.

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Understanding and Knowing God

Tue 13th Apr 2021

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23–24. - The key is to seek God humbly. To allow him to speak on his own terms. That is something worth more than human riches, strength or wisdom. That is something eternal.

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“I know whom I have believed”

Mon 12th Apr 2021

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) - Over the years I have from time to time leant over the pulpit and urged you to go home and pick up your Bible. And then read it. Once more I urge you: pick up and read! To read the Bible is to come face to face with God. And then draw strength from what you discover. It is to be able to say that you know God, and not simply know about God. That is why I urge you to look to your Bibles.

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Sundays

Chrysostom: “Let no one grieve”

Sun 11th Apr 2021

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen! (Chrysostom) - The use of this ancient sermon serves to remind us that at the core of the faith are timeless truths, which are reverently handed down from generation to generation, so sermons from the fourth century still ring out in the twenty-first century.

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Resurrection

Spurgeon: The Apostle’s Ardour

Sat 10th Apr 2021

What, then, was the great object of the apostle’s ardour? It was “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.” (C.H. Spurgeon) - Ah, Charles Haddon Spurgeon! Man of Essex, “Prince of Preachers” and defender of the faith. Such was his prowess, and the depth of his theology, that aged only 19 he was called to be minister of the then famous New Park Street Chapel. Within years congregations could no longer fit in, so the much larger Metropolitan Tabernacle was built which would be filled with six thousand people on both a Sunday morning and evening.

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Resurrection

The Venerable Bede: The Gradual Revelation

Fri 09th Apr 2021

Our Lord and redeemer revealed the glory of his resurrection to his disciples gradually and over a period of time, undoubtedly because so great was the virtue of the miracle that the weak hearts of mortals could not grasp the significance of this all at once. (Exposition on the Gospel of Mark 2.9) - Amongst all the scholars of Anglo-Saxon England, none come close to the influence which was born by the Venerable Bede. This monk of Jarrow had the great - and rare - benefit of a peaceful life and was able to not only write commentaries on the Bible but also compile a great history of the nation.

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Resurrection

Martin Luther: The Two Commands

Thu 08th Apr 2021

For the angels come with two commands: the first is to the women, that they should not be frightened by their appearance, but they should rejoice that Christ is risen; the other command is that they should not keep the resurrection a secret, but they should quickly go forth and announce it to the disciples. (Martin Luther) - Martin Luther is a name familiar to most, and his writings and preaching were the fuel which powered the great engines of the Reformation. His translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God into the hands of the people, and his hymns put words of praise into their mouths.

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Resurrection

John Boys: “Evening Repenters”

Wed 07th Apr 2021

Mary and the other women sought Christ on the first day of the week, and in the first hour of the day, but many put off seeking the Lord until the last week of their life, the last day of the week, the last hour of the day, the last minute of the hour. (John Boys) - John Boys ministered at a time when our nation was in great need of preaching, something which caused concern to the then Archbishop. Boys proved a popular author, and in 1619 was made Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a post he held until 1625 when he was found dead amongst his books.

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Resurrection

Hesychius of Jerusalem: “We are Saved and Christ is Adored”

Tue 06th Apr 2021

"On this day, when he had trampled death under foot, made the tyrant a prisoner and despoiled the underworld, Christ ascended into heaven as a king in victory, as a ruler in glory, as an invincible charioteer. " (Easter Homily 5–6.5) - Born in the late fourth century, Hesychius was a priest in Jerusalem at about AD412, wrote many works on various books of the Old and New Testaments, and was held in high esteem.

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Resurrection

Chrysostom: “These Hidden Realities”

Mon 05th Apr 2021

"How can I recount for you these hidden realities or proclaim what goes beyond any word or concept? How can I lay open before you the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection, the saving sign of his cross and of his three days’ death? For each and every event that happened to our Saviour is an outward sign of the mystery of our redemption." (Homily on Holy Saturday 10.3) - John Chrysostom stands as one of the greats of the ancient church, and as a preacher he is in the first rank of all who have dared to climb the pulpit steps.

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Easter

He is Going Before You

Sun 04th Apr 2021

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:6-7) - Here is the great challenge of Easter, the great fact which rings down the ages. Christ is alive, and calls us to relate to him as the living God. Through his death he gave us the way to have our sins forgiven, and though his resurrection he calls us to a living relationship. Will you follow that same path? Place your trust in him, have him earn forgiveness of your sins and then follow him as your living saviour? He has gone ahead - so go and join him!

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Easter

No Way to Prove

Sat 03rd Apr 2021

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) - The final of the ten objections to the resurrection we have been considering over the past couple of weeks is a simple one. It’s the assertion that there’s simply no way to prove all this, and that miracles simply don’t happen. Miracles are not possible which, of course, is what makes them miracles in the first place! It is the very fact that they jar against the natural order which attracts attention, and then points that attention beyond natural causes.

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Easter

Biased Sources

Fri 02nd Apr 2021

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30–31) - As with some of the other theories, the objection that we should not believe in the resurrection as the authors of the New Testament were biased fails to deal adequately with the fact that they were willing to die for this ‘bias’. It doesn’t account for the empty tomb. No, this ‘bias’ is no reason not to listen. We are all, in the end, biased.

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Easter

Work of Fiction

Thu 01st Apr 2021

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back (Mark 16:1-4) - The early spread of Christianity amongst those who witnessed the events, and were willing to be martyred for their faith, undermines the fiction theory.

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Easter

The Legend of Jesus

Wed 31st Mar 2021

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive (1 Corinthains 15:6) - A popular theory about Christianity is that the whole thing is rather a mistake! Yes, Jesus was a great teacher but he was no messiah, let alone God. The truth is that we have very early written evidence for the claims of Christianity, evidence backed up by the names of eyewitnesses. The claim that this is all a later legend simply does not hold water.

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Easter

"Spiritual" Resurrection

Tue 30th Mar 2021

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (John 21:12) - In the 1980s there was a great furore surrounding David Jenkins, one time Bishop in the Church of England. One of his statements which attracted attention was that the resurrection was “spiritual rather than physical”. He remains a force within the world, a force which is distinctively “Jesus”, but the physical resurrection is denied. And then we come back to the tricky issue of the empty tomb. Why would a spiritual resurrection result in the body disappearing? No, this theory may fit in with modern ideas which seek to deny any supernaturalism but it doesn’t fit with the evidence of the New Testament.

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Easter

Mass Hallucination

Mon 29th Mar 2021

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3–8) - It is hard to square this view with the facts on the ground. The disciples were not expecting a resurrection and Mary Magdalene, for instance, failed to recognise Jesus when he stood by her. It is hard to think that Thomas, skeptical as he was, would share in this delusion. It is harder still to believe that Paul, when he was determined to wipe out the earliest church, would have had a vision of Christ which can be put down to wishful thinking.

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Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Sun 28th Mar 2021

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) - As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd see the wrong sort of king. They are concerned with the kingdom of David and he with the kingdom of God. How often we limit our horizons to the physical! How saturated out consumer culture is with ‘stuff’! The joy of the Christian is to have his or her gaze fixed on a far horizon, and to have a sure destination. Don’t share in the mistake of the Jerusalem crowd. Let the kingdom of God be your goal, and you will not be disappointed.

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Easter

The Misplaced Body

Sat 27th Mar 2021

“They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” (John 20:13–16) - This body of soldiers was placed at the tomb on Good Friday with the express commandments to guard Jesus’s body. For the misplaced body theory to be credible, we have to believe that the two Marys both forgot where their beloved Jesus was buried, and that the Temple Guard managed to guard the wrong tomb. No, the misplaced body theory does not work.

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Easter

The Stolen Body

Fri 26th Mar 2021

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Matthew 28:11–14) - There was a guard of Roman soldiers placed at the tomb and the tomb itself was sealed by a large stone. It is not credible to believe that the disciples either crept past the guard and rolled back the stone without being noticed, or that they could have overpowered the guard.

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Easter

The Swoon Theory

Thu 25th Mar 2021

“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50–53) - As we continue to look at the theories which seek to disprove the resurrection, we come to one which is quite common: Jesus did not actually die on cross, but simply fell into coma and later recovered in the tomb. Given the flogging, the crucifixion itself and the thrusting of a spear into Jesus side it is simply not feasible that he would have survived. The Roman soldiers were professional executioners.

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Easter

The Twin or the Lookalike

Wed 24th Mar 2021

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:27–28) - As early as the third century we find claims that another was crucified in Jesus’ place. Others have speculated that Jesus had a twin, or that a lookalike was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’s place. However, if a lookalike was crucified and laid in the tomb, then why wasn’t he there on Easter morning?

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Church History

The Resurrection

Tue 23rd Mar 2021

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:13) - Christianity is unique in that it insists upon historical, witnessed events as proof of its teachings. It presents us with a figure whose teaching was heard by thousands, and whose claims were recorded by the four gospel writers. Jesus is mentioned in many Roman sources outside of Christianity and his existence is not in doubt.

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Where is your Heart?

Mon 22nd Mar 2021

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2) - The timescale of Christianity is eternal, and its scope is cosmic. Rather than simply dealing with the present, it puts today into the context of eternity. It raises us up so as to give a better perspective and a broader view. The chapter of our life is set into a larger book, and as a result takes on a richer meaning.

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Sundays

The Order of Melchizedek

Sun 21st Mar 2021

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him. “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:5-6) - If God is sovereign, then you are not. If God is a creator, then you are a creature. If God is infinite, then you are finite. He creates life, and your entire life is heading towards death. He is limitless, and you are limited. He is all-knowing, and your knowledge is small indeed. That is what is at the heart of the fear of God. It is that a great God makes us feel small indeed.

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“And I Did Not Know It”

Sat 20th Mar 2021

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16) - You are never beyond his gaze and his guiding hand. Your prayers are never so distant that they don’t reach the ears of God, his concern is not bounded by geography. Remember that the Lord is where you are right now. And let that be a comfort.

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Hymn Stories

Before the Ending of the Day

Fri 19th Mar 2021

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray, that with thy wonted favour thou, wouldst be our guard and keeper now - Ambrose of Milan (340-397) is one of those greats of the church who makes you long for days of steadfastness, intellect and purpose. He was a defender of the faith, who spent many years battling those who denied the full divinity of Christ. When made bishop, he lived a life of simplicity and gave his money to the poor. The hymn, which takes the form of a prayer, asks for God’s protection through the night - a protection of both body and soul - before finishing with a verse calling upon the Trinity

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Holy Musing

Thu 18th Mar 2021

“My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned…” (Psalm 39:3) - One of the great losses of our increasingly instant and distracted culture is the gift of musing. How many hours of musing have been sacrificed to scrolling on Facebook, or have been lost as the phone rings, the email pings and the doorbell tings? These days musing has had to become an art form, something which is repackaged and sold to us under the brand of Mindfulness. These days it seems that only men of a certain age lean on a gate and stare.

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The Prayer of the Morning

Wed 17th Mar 2021

“O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3) - Over time a rich pattern of prayer formed within the monasteries, but it would be foolish to think that regular daily prayer is simply the preserve of the monk or nun. When Cranmer put together the Book of Common prayer it was his intention that all in the parish would join in raising voices of praise twice a day. As Spurgeon put it: “The morning is the gate of the day, and should be well guarded with prayer. It is one end of the thread on which the day’s actions are strung, and should be well knotted with devotion”.

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Church History

St Julian of Cilicia

Tue 16th Mar 2021

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4) - Born in Cilicia (southern Turkey) in the second half of the third century, Julian was a man of rank. His father was a senator, and his mother - crucially - was a Christian. When he reached eighteen a great persecution of Christians broke out under Emperor Diocletian who ruled from 284-305. Julian soon found himself in the hands of Marcian, who proved to be a brutal magistrate and wanted to break the young man’s resolve.

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The Little Things

Mon 15th Mar 2021

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10) - It is the way of God to begin great works from small beginnings. Daylight begins tentatively, and the small buds appear on the trees. The oak hides in the small acorn, and the lofty pine has its cone.

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Sundays

What is the Love of God?

Sun 14th Mar 2021

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17) - For here is the love of God: Jesus comes alongside us in our danger. Here is the love of God: an action and not simply an emotion. This is the way in which God loved the word. He sent his only son. We face death, and Jesus comes to offer us a way to life.

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The Tyranny of Tomorrow

Sat 13th Mar 2021

“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.“ (James 4:14) - When worry nags, turn your concerns to prayer. Seek good things not by effort, but by following God’s commands. In the end, only God knows what will happen tomorrow, and if we trust in a God who loves us surely we can trust him with our futures. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

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Hymn Story

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Fri 12th Mar 2021

In 1824, Aberdeen (which I am told is the sunniest city in Scotland) witnessed the birth of one Walter Chalmers Smith. A great figure in the church, he was famed more widely for his poetry. Unsurprisingly his love of poetry lead him to write hymns, and today’s is a meditation on the glorious nature of God. His starting point is a wise one: we must acknowledge that God is beyond our knowledge. Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

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“They had been with Jesus”

Thu 11th Mar 2021

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognised that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) - They may have been uneducated, common men but they had been marked by their presence with Christ. The history of the church is littered with such men and women, people whose lives have been transformed by being with Jesus. Being with Jesus in prayer, in the reading of scripture and in worship. This is the engine which drives the church.

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Christ-ians.

Wed 10th Mar 2021

“The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26) - Here, then, is a challenging thought: if you moved into a new village, and no-one knew you or your background, would they come to the same conclusion? Would you be more noted for being a follower of Christ, than someone who has (or had) a particular job or a distinct hobby. Would you be nicknamed “Christian” because it is clear that he is the central guide and impulse of your life?

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Church History

Gregory of Nyssa

Tue 09th Mar 2021

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Acts 16:30–34) - On this day in AD395 Gregory of Nyssa breathed his last, aged around sixty. He was the son of aristocratic, Christian parents and his father’s mother was venerated as a saint: St Macrina the Elder. His mother’s mother had been martyred for her faith by the Romans.

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Fishing in the Sea of Galilee

Mon 08th Mar 2021

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.” (Matthew 13:47–48) - There was money to be made from fishing, but it was hard-earned. The work was heavy, difficult and tiring. It took time and preparation. When Jesus promised the disciples they would be fishers of men, he didn’t have in mind a pleasant day casting a line into the Wye. This was work.

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Sundays

We Preach Christ Crucified

Sun 07th Mar 2021

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19) - May I beg you to put the cross back into its rightful place. Will you place the cross at the centre of all that you do and believe? Because the cross is where you were put right with God. The cross is where you find comfort and strength.

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To Work and to Will

Sat 06th Mar 2021

“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13) - This should be a great encouragement. God produces within us all that we need. It should also be a prompt to prayer.

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Hymn Story

And Can it Be?

Fri 05th Mar 2021

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? - “At midnight I gave myself up to Christ: assured I was safe, sleeping or waking. Had continued experience of his power to overcome all temptations; and confessed, with joy and surprise, that he was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me, above what I can ask or think.” As you read the words of the hymn, you can sense the wondering joy of Wesley and he contemplates what Christ has done, and the liberation this brings.

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Those who wait…

Thu 04th Mar 2021

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23) - As life speeds up, patience withers. Time becomes something that we “spend”, and we hanker after results which are instant. Yet eternity has a way of putting things into perspective. The economy of God is founded on patience. And waiting. He acts in his own good time, and the wise person is one who waits for that good time. Patience is an engine of faith, and the accomplice of wisdom. Waiting is deeply counter-cultural, but God has his own timing. We would do well to fall in step.

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Shine Bright!

Wed 03rd Mar 2021

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) - Whatever the weather the light would flash around the room, starting on one wall and quickly racing across to the other side. The lighthouse (or was it a lightship?) was sending out its silent warning. You could screw up your eyes, but still it pulsed. Oh that our Christian conduct would shine so bright! The city on the hill can be seen for miles around, as it light twinkles on the horizon. “In the same way” urges Jesus “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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Church History

Henry Venn

Tue 02nd Mar 2021

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4) - On the 2nd March 1725, one Henry Venn was born in the Surrey town of Barnes. As a son, nephew, grandson, great-grandson and great-grandson of Anglican clergy his future looked pretty pre-determined.

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Places in the Bible

The Sea of Galilee

Mon 01st Mar 2021

“but in the latter time [God] has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone …. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6) - In ancient times, the sea was known by a number of names. In the New Testament you might find it referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Gennesaret or even the Sea of Tiberias. Many of the early disciples made their living on the sea, and next week we’ll look at the life of the fisherman. For now, we’ll simply note that centuries before Christ this area was earmaked for great things.

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Sunday

The Soul

Sun 28th Feb 2021

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:35–38) - To whom will you auction your soul?

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Isaiah 6

The God who is Seen

Sat 27th Feb 2021

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) - At the beginning of this passage is the phrase “I saw the Lord”. Now, this is a curious thing! There is a long tradition in the Old Testament that God cannot be seen. In fact, in Exodus 33:20 we read “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live”! And yet, Isaiah writes that he saw God. And lived.

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Hymn Story

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty

Fri 26th Feb 2021

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8) - Reginald Heber (1783-1826) was a son of Cheshire and gained a reputation as a poet when he studied in Oxford. On graduation he made a grand tour of Russia, Scandinavia and central Europe but young Heber soon returned to Hodnet, Shropshire where he took on the parish from his father. It was here that Heber penned ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, which was first sung on a Trinity Sunday. It speaks of John’s vision in Revelation and presents us with God, magnificent in his three-fold glory.

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Isaiah 6

Woe is me!

Thu 25th Feb 2021

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) - To see ourselves in the light of God is humbling, but it is also glorious when we then realise that nonetheless God loves us, calls us and forgives us. This is the “Amazing Grace” of which Newton wrote, the grace which God shows even when we are shabby

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Isaiah 6

Holy, Holy, Holy

Wed 24th Feb 2021

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1–5) - The essence of God is holiness. We might seek God’s blessing or his comfort. We might seek God’s guidance, or praise his mighty acts. All this is well and good, but we must remember that above all God is holy. And that is humbling.

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Church History

Thomas Goodwin

Tue 23rd Feb 2021

On this day in 1680 one Thomas Goodwin breathed his last. Here, in the life of this one man, is a snapshot of England in the 1600s. A period of great religious turmoil, where many good and great preachers were marginalised. However, Goodwin’s works remain available today in twelve volumes, so perhaps you can’t keep a good man down!

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Places in the Bible

Capernaum

Mon 22nd Feb 2021

“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home”. (Mark 2:1) - The village saw Jesus teach and also work many miracles. It was here that Jairus’ daughter was healed, as was Peter’s mother-in-law. A paralysed man was let down through the roof of a house in Capernaum, and walked out a healed man. In such a small place all this, along with other miracles, surely would have set tongues wagging away but ultimately they too rejected Jesus.

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Sundays

A Gentle Word about Satan

Sun 21st Feb 2021

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (Mark 1:12-13) - Whatever you do, though, do not fall into the trap of thinking that temptation separates you from God. Don’t worry about your status as a Christian. Christ was tempted, and you will be too. Remember that these things come from outside, and then they are easier to deal with.

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Mark

And they came…

Sat 20th Feb 2021

“And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men”. (Mark 2:3) - In our day and age self-reliance is trumpeted, and self-help abounds. There is a danger in this, since the point of the Christian faith is a reliance upon God. To acknowledge your need of God is not to be weak. It is simply to be honest.

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Hymn Stories

How Great Thou Art

Fri 19th Feb 2021

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin. Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. How great Thou art, how great Thou art! - So from Sweden - via Estonia, Russia, Ukraine and America - the hymns has passed through four languages. The praise of God is truly an international affair, as the first verse of the shortest Psalm bears witness: “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1)

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O Lord GOD, you know

Thu 18th Feb 2021

And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3) - Our darkest moments are often produced by the sense that we are alone, that no-one else quite understands. Our deepest frustrations can be caused by an inability to express ourselves clearly. The sense is there in our hearts, but it just will not come out coherently. It is in those moments that the knowledge that God already knows the contents of our hearts can be a consolation.

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The Sure Foundation

Wed 17th Feb 2021

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10–11) - The most important bit of a building is the bit you can’t see: the foundation. If these are poorly laid then it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the building is, it will fail.

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Church History

The Countess of Huntingdon

Tue 16th Feb 2021

On 13th October 1746 Theophilus Hastings, ninth Earl of Huntingdon, breathed his last. His widow, the Countess Selina, faced a choice and she turned to the Methodist preacher Howell Harris. He later wrote: “She consulted me about which was it best, to live retired and give up all, or fill her place, and I said the latter I thought was right”. The Countess heeded his advice, and thus a great influence on the evangelical revival of the eighteenth century was begun.

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Places in the Bible

Nazareth

Mon 15th Feb 2021

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) - This was the region which produced the Son of God. A rebellious backwater with deep gentile roots. A place of battles against the surrounding nations, and a place which eventually rejected Jesus. A place he left as he moved to Capernaum, and we will join him there next week.

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Sundays

The Transfiguration

Sun 14th Feb 2021

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3) - The Transfiguration helps you to set “your mind on the things of God”. It gives us a brief glimpse of the unveiled nature of Christ, and demonstrates his divinity. It stops us having a merely human Jesus, but demonstrates a Christ who is both human and divine. It’s full of Old Testament imagery, but the conclusion is clear: behold your God!

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Looking back…

Sat 13th Feb 2021

“Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24) - What wisdom there is in building your own Ebenezers, reminders of God’s help to you in the past. These monuments not only demonstrate God’s blessings to you, but also give you courage when the skies darken.

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Psalms

Psalm 34

Fri 12th Feb 2021

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD;let the humble hear and be glad.Oh, magnify the LORD with me,and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 34) - This is another of David’s ‘psalms on the run’, composed when he was on the run from King Saul. He had arrived in Gath, but his military fame had gone before him.

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Look up!

Thu 11th Feb 2021

“And looking up to heaven, he sighed …” (Mark 7:34) - There are many different things which might prompt a person to pray. Some give thanks, others ask for help in danger. Extremes of emotion, or abnormal situations, can cause prayer to form in the mind. Sighing, though, is rather more mundane. Sighs are the small drops which puddle into gloom. Let them also be a prompt for your prayer, and you will discover that sighs soon evaporate in the radiance of God. When you sigh, make sure to look up to heaven.

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Genesis

I am with you

Wed 10th Feb 2021

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land” (Genesis 28:15) - The path may be tough at times, we may even go through “the valley of the shadow of death”, but the Shepherd will ensure we get to our destination.

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Church History

The Martyred Bishop of Gloucester

Tue 09th Feb 2021

On February 9th 1555 John Hooper, went through the streets of Gloucester. It was early - eight in the morning - but already crowds had gathered to see him. They knew him of course, he had been bishop of that city, but now he was being led as a prisoner towards to the stake in what would be his final journey.

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Lockdown Tour of the Holy Land

Bethlehem

Mon 08th Feb 2021

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2) - All these facts converge on Jesus in a remarkable way. He is the “bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41) and the “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He is the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14), one from the line of David. Bethlehem, then, is the perfect place for Jesus’ birth. A small village with a rich legacy.

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Sundays

Who Is Jesus?

Sun 07th Feb 2021

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16) - Who do you think Jesus is? Think carefully. Don’t be satisfied with anything less than “God” as the answer. Anything less cannot save you.

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Jesus’ Prayer for You

Sat 06th Feb 2021

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,” (John 17:20–22) - In this phrase Jesus reaches across the centuries and speaks of you. He brings you before his Heavenly Father and prays for you. What a thought! The Son brings you before the Father.

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Psalms

The Cave (Psalm 142)

Fri 05th Feb 2021

A Maskil of David, When He Was in the Cave. A Prayer. With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him;I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142) - This psalm speaks to the despair of being alone and of being in trouble. Abandoned, David has been thrown onto the mercy of God and he pours out his heart before him.

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Timing

Thu 04th Feb 2021

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18) - Patience may be a hard lesson, but a trust in God’s timing is a fine remedy and in God’s good time you will be able to testify with David: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

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Walking with Christ

Wed 03rd Feb 2021

And by this we know that we have come to know [Jesus], if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:3–6) - The Christian life can be a struggle, but when you are struggling with something, when you find a commandment of Jesus hard to keep the answer is not sheer hard work. In those cases it is good to turn back to basics and ask yourself if you are abiding in Christ.

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Church History

From Gloucester to Georgia

Tue 02nd Feb 2021

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) - On this day in 1738, a man in his early twenties wrote in his journal: “About Ten o’Clock there sprang up a pleasant fair Gale, which carried us from the Downsnear forty Miles that Day”. So it is that young George Whitefield set sail for his first trip to Georgia, keen to be missionary in the American colonies.

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Proverbs

Shhhh!

Mon 01st Feb 2021

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19) - To be slow to speech is to be free of the tyranny of always having an opinion. The danger of many words, is that they can lead to transgression.

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Sundays

One with Authority

Sun 31st Jan 2021

And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21–28) - At simply a word, the unclean spirit is dismissed. No wonder all were amazed! They had heard the authority in Jesus teaching, and then had it demonstrated to them in the casting out of the spirit. Here was something new.

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The Advocate

Sat 30th Jan 2021

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. (1 St. John 2.1) - The great act of faith which lies at the beginning of each Christian life to throw yourself upon Christ, and allow him to deal with your sin. To think that you can do it yourself, is simply a great act of folly.

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Psalms

The Wilderness (Psalm 63)

Fri 29th Jan 2021

“A Psalm of David, When He Was in the Wilderness of Judah” (Psalm 63) - Many of you will be shielding at home, and facing Sundays separated from the church building and its congregation. Perhaps you might use this Psalm as a guide for your prayers, as you long to be back.

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Should We Still Use the Word “Sinners”?

Thu 28th Jan 2021

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 St. Timothy 1.15) - So, sinner: rejoice! God does not insist you have to be perfect before you come to him, all he desires is that you acknowledge you are not perfect. Christ was sent to deal with your sin, so cast it onto his shoulders. And leave it there.

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So God Loved

Wed 27th Jan 2021

So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (St. John 3.16) - These words strengthen as we realise the great activity of God, motivated by his love. As you receive the offer of Christ to come aboard, you are heartened by the assurance that he can pull you from the water. The hand is outstretched - grab hold!

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Church History

The Voices Which Will Not Be Silenced

Tue 26th Jan 2021

“The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) - Today is the anniversary of three events which shine a light into the corners of the Reformation, and illuminate the effect that this pivotal event had on different areas of life. When politics and the Christian faith clash, the authority of Christ wins out.

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Come unto me

Mon 25th Jan 2021

Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. (Matthew 11.28) - These words strengthen us as we realise that there is a better way, and an offer of rest. Christ says come to those who are heavy-laden. Will you respond?

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Sundays

Water into Wine

Sun 24th Jan 2021

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew) (John 2:7-8) - What a sign, pointing all the way from Cana to Golgotha! An abundance of purifying, blood-red wine replacing the old purification rituals. Will you not drink?

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Proverbs

The Fear of the Lord

Sat 23rd Jan 2021

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) - It is a reverence and humility before the one who made you, and holds your future in his hands. It is walking though life aware of his presence within you, and seeking to live in accordance with his will for you. It is honouring God, and approaching him with awe. It is knowing that he is the one who will judge, and who cannot be ignored. It is more, though. It is knowing that this one who is to be feared is the one who sent his Son to save you. The one who, when he draws near, says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

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Psalm Friday

Betrayed

Fri 22nd Jan 2021

"O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth" (Psalm 54) - This Psalm was sung at a time of great danger, yet is speaks of a great trust in God. Even in times of great distress, God can be trusted to hear and help. He is the “upholder of my life”. When trouble strikes often your focus narrows on the issue at hand. Better to follow David’s example and lift your eyes to heaven.

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Proverbs

Truly Wise

Thu 21st Jan 2021

... to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:6) - To be truly wise is to keep on learning. When you threw your satchel into the corner, and took off your school uniform that was not the end. The knowledge of God is joyous, and without end. Be wise, and be hearers of the Word of God!

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Proverbs

Wisdom in a Changing World

Wed 20th Jan 2021

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:5-6) - I suspect the Book of Proverbs is one of the lesser read books of the Bible, and yet it is rich in its wisdom. iI is a book which rewards gentle reading accompanied by much pondering. So pick up, and read.

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Church History

Amy Carmichael

Tue 19th Jan 2021

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) - Amy Carmichael was born in a small, coastal village on the east coast of Northern Ireland in 1867. The eldest of seven children, she was reputed to have been full of life and the happy child of devout parents. She once wrote of God that “it is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfil the desires which He creates”. Her life bore testimony to the truth of that statement.

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The Crushed and the Brokenhearted

Mon 18th Jan 2021

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) - If you are reading this, feeling crushed by ongoing restriction and loneliness then please do be assured of this: the LORD is near.

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Sundays

Come and See

Sun 17th Jan 2021

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46) - It is our task to point people to Christ and give the indication “come and see”, but in the end it is Jesus who converts people. The task is in fact a straightforward one. Just say “come and see”. And then leave the rest to Jesus.

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Psalm 1

Like a Tree Planted

Sat 16th Jan 2021

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:3) - If you meditate on the scripture, and are carefully planted, you too will bear fruit “in season”. Perhaps that will be in a time of suffering, or in a time of great joy, but there is the confidence that the fruit will be there at the right time.

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Psalms

The Slaughter of the Priests

Fri 15th Jan 2021

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. (Psalm 52:1-2) - We are back in the time of King Saul, when David was emerging as a very popular military figure. Even though he was a close friend of the king’s son, David could not escape the jealous wrath of Saul and so he went on the run. He doesn’t seek to put on a polite front before God, but rather pours out his heart. God does not require our politeness, rather he hears the cries of our hearts.

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Psalms

Delighting in the Law

Thu 14th Jan 2021

... but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) - As you lie awake worrying, you hear the call of Jesus: “Come to me…”. As the issues crowd in, you can cast your burden onto Christ. This truly is the blessed life.

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Walk Not!

Wed 13th Jan 2021

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1) - So much of our life is seen through screens, especially as we are told to stay at home. This Psalm reminds us that these screens (or the radio speakers) are not neutral and that we would do well to be discerning about what we watch or listen to. - whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

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Church History

George Müller

Tue 12th Jan 2021

If you were to drive through Bristol you might notice some large buildings at the top of a hill in Ashley Down. The buildings provided accommodation for just over two thousand orphans, which was forty per cent of the entire orphanage capacity in the country. All he did was pray for the money he needed. He never made requests for any financial support, and he never went into debt. When he died, he had received £1.5m (£150m today) and had provided for over 10,000 children. Such is the God who answers prayer.

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Psalms

Be Blessed

Mon 11th Jan 2021

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2) - Yes, there are commands of God but their aim is bring blessing and a deepness of joy. They are there to enable the individual to grow in an ever-deepening relationship with God. They are the signposts on the road to glory, guides to lead us safely home. The aim is blessedness, not joyless obedience. In the end true, enduring joy and fulfilment is only to be found in the one who created you in the first place.

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Sundays

The God who Smiles

Sun 10th Jan 2021

And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10–11) - If you have not yet taken that step, that first step of following Jesus, then resolve to do it now and feel the radiant smile of God. If you are living as a Christian in a sort of twilight. If you have a life of compromises and just not really going for it. Well, recommit yourself and bask in God's smile. If you are doggedly going on with Jesus, and it is causing you trouble at work, at home, well look up! See the smile of your God as you seek to follow him. My friend, you need to experience the smile of God.

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Empty Phrases

Sat 09th Jan 2021

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (Matthew 6:5) - The prayers of others may be of great value in stirring our own hearts to prayer, but we shouldn’t judge ourselves by the edited words of others. We are not praying to be overheard by anyone else, but to come before our heavenly father. A brief prayer is a prayer that is heard if it comes from your heart.

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Psalms

The Son who Wishes to Kill

Fri 08th Jan 2021

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:1-4) - Absalom was popular, and had the men of Israel with him, so David fled Jerusalem. And that’s when he wrote this Psalm, declaring his reliance upon God in the midst of his trouble.

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Prayer

In Secret

Thu 07th Jan 2021

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6) - Your tears or your joy don’t go unnoticed, or unheard. Even at your loneliest you are not alone, even at your worst you are not unloved. Your Father in heaven sees, and hears.

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Prayer

Who are You Speaking To?

Wed 06th Jan 2021

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (Matthew 6:5) - At its most profound prayer is a pouring out of your heart before God, and that can be untidy. Yet God hears, and delights. When you pray don’t worry about anyone else, or even yourself. Simply focus on God and pour forth.

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Church History

Stirrings in Wales

Tue 05th Jan 2021

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25) - On this day in 1743 eight men met in a house in what is now the outskirts of Caerphilly. As the eight men met - half ordained, half lay - at the home of Thomas Price a system of rules and regulations was drawn up. ‘Overseers’ were appointed to districts of Wales. ‘Exhorters’ were set in place to encourage the faithful.

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Prayer

When you Pray

Mon 04th Jan 2021

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6) - So as we begin to look at how we pray, perhaps a good start is to turn “if you pray” into “when you pray”. You may feel your prayers are wandering, weak and wobbly but you can be confident that your Father hears them.

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Sundays

True Wisdom

Sun 03rd Jan 2021

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1) - The problem is that when you rely on your own understanding you don’t end up at the stable with Jesus. You end up face to face with Herod.

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Christmas

The Stable and the Tomb

Sat 02nd Jan 2021

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7) - At both ends of his earthly life we are invited to wonder that one so majestic should lain in something so humble, and so it is today. It is to humble hearts that Jesus comes, to those who trust him for who he is.

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Hymn Stories

O God, Our Hope in Ages Past

Fri 01st Jan 2021

O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home; "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2) - God was their hope in ages past, and once more had brought them relief. We too worship that same God, and so we to shouldn’t be shy in allowing his faithfulness in the past to give us confidence in our future.

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Christmas

Pondering

Thu 31st Dec 2020

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) - Here is a good model of what to do when we are faced with some act of God, some words of God which make little sense. We chew it over in the secret of our heart, and pray for understanding. How quick we can be to dismiss things which initially make little sense! Better to follow Mary and slowly ponder.

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Christmas

To You

Wed 30th Dec 2020

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10–12) - The birth at Bethlehem was not simply a remote event, a quirk of history. Its consequences extended to shepherds on a remote hillside and wise men in a far away country. It was a fulfilment of prophecies a millennium old, and affects us two millennia on.

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Church History

Nicholas Hereford

Tue 29th Dec 2020

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13) - We don’t know precisely when he was born, but he was ordained in 1370 after the death of his wife, and soon became a Fellow of Queen’s College in Oxford. There he became a friend of Wycliffe, the great rebellious translator of the Bible into English, whose words lie behind so much of the King James Version.

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Christmas

Emptied Himself

Mon 28th Dec 2020

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5) - God’s work of salvation is not one which is cheap, and the price falls squarely upon Christ. That is why we bow at his name.

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Sundays

Why Christmas?

Sun 27th Dec 2020

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4–7) - As you lift up your heart to rejoice at the birth of Jesus, lift up your voice and cry out “Abba! Father!”. Mary may have given birth to a single son, but through that one son heaven is populated with millions more.

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The Forgotten Witness

Sat 26th Dec 2020

“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. (Acts 7:56) - The first martyr was not an apostle. They may have had the formal preaching role, but it was Stephen whose witness to the faith cost the first Christian life. Never leave Christianity to church leaders. God delights to use all his children.

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Christmas

Cancelled?

Fri 25th Dec 2020

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6–7) - Christmas has not been cancelled. It might be subdued or even chaotic, but the Bethlehem outhouse reminds us that Jesus came into the midst of frustrated plans and family turmoil. The name of Christ - Immanuel - reminds us that God is with us, whatever the circumstances.

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Advent

Immanuel

Thu 24th Dec 2020

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) - Here we have one who will be born of a virgin, a sign which “the Lord himself” will give. This son will bear the name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. A rich prophecy indeed.

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Advent

Unto us a Child is Born

Wed 23rd Dec 2020

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder (Isaiah 9:6) - From the eight century BC, Isaiah speaks forth a great prophecy of the hope to come. The kingdom of Judah is under great stress, neighbouring nations are laying siege, and in the midst of all this turmoil the great prophet speaks of a future. A future which, for those who heard him, would sound entirely counter to their expectations.

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Church History

Francis and the Crib

Tue 22nd Dec 2020

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) - On Christmas Eve 1223, the villagers of Greccio were invited to a service by Francis of Assisi. He had settled in the area with some of his followers, and had planned something for the locals. As the villagers climbed up the snaking paths, they came to one of the many caves which dotted the hills and discovered what Francis had planned.

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O Bethlehem

Mon 21st Dec 2020

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2) - Then there is an intriguing twist. The coming forth of this ruler is “from of old, from ancient days”. In other words, this will be the fulfilment of a plan long in the making. Something set in motion in “ancient day”, from time immemorial.

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Sundays

Why Bother with the Virgin Birth?

Sun 20th Dec 2020

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:30-34) - If, however, the Gospels are correct and Jesus was born of a virgin. If the New Testament is right, and Jesus is fully divine as well as fully human. Well, everything changes. We truly have “God with us”.

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Acts 8

The Unexpected Mission

Sat 19th Dec 2020

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:3–4) - In today’s church there is a desire for project managers, budgets and projections. It is good to be reminded that what might look like unexpected consequences to us are, in fact, the very plans of God. We might be surprised - he isn’t.

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Carol Story

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Fri 18th Dec 2020

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14) - In 1739, Charles Wesley would have had the satisfaction of seeing his Christmas hymn published in Hymns and Sacred Poems. That year had also seen a thirty-two year old Charles and his brother John take to preaching in the fields to great numbers. Hymns were a great way of teaching the masses, and so Charles had taken to the task with great vigour.

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Acts 8

Ravaging and Lamentation

Thu 17th Dec 2020

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:2–3) - The pages of Christian history are filled with those who once opposed God. The grace of God is that these very people often become the church’s greatest leaders. In the economy of God, your past needn’t dictate your future.

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Acts 8

The Apostles Stayed

Wed 16th Dec 2020

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1) - As the temperature rose in Jerusalem, two things happened: the church scattered; and the apostles stayed put.

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Church History

Sir John Oldcastle

Tue 15th Dec 2020

On 15th December 1417 Sir John Oldcastle was executed in a predictably brutal manner, burnt as he hung on the gallows. His crime? He was a Lollard. The Bible is, you see, a dangerous book. Those who read it well end up giving their allegiance to a higher King.

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Acts 8

Persecution and Growth

Mon 14th Dec 2020

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:1–5) - Martyrs don’t only bear witness to the persecuting crowds, but also to the church. Their faith can be a great challenge and a great encouragement. It is the ultimate example of steadfastness. It makes you think. Would I be willing …?

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Sundays

The Joyful Christian Life

Sun 13th Dec 2020

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) - Here then is Paul’s recipe for a Christian life. We are to pray, to fan the flame of the Spirit within us, to listen for God’s voice, to abstain from evil and let God work in us.

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Exodus 34

Sin, Guilt and Forgiveness

Sat 12th Dec 2020

"abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7) - Yes, we may be guilty of sin but God himself has given us a way of dealing with it. You can try and minimise it, ignore it or explain it away. Or you can transfer it to Christ. That is the glory of the Gospel.

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Carol Story

Silent Night

Fri 11th Dec 2020

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace! - Fame brings familiarity, and familiarity makes things flat. The words of the carol speak of the great intake of breath before the proclamation of the Gospel in the person of Christ. They are worth re-reading for the sense of calmness before Christ came to turn the world upside-down.

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Exodus 34

… and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …

Thu 10th Dec 2020

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands" - (Exodus 34:6-7) - The still pools of God’s steadfast love await you, the ear of one who is faithful awaits. Reluctance might be in our hearts, but never in God’s.

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Exodus 34

… slow to anger …

Wed 09th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6) - That is the purpose of the patience, it is a merciful slowness to anger. Judgment is coming, but there is time to seek God’s mercy. Judgement is coming, but the judge has provided a way through. Christ awaits, arms outstretched. Will you repent?

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Church History

Richard Baxter

Tue 08th Dec 2020

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12) - If you queue around the Kidderminster ring road, you eventually come across a church with a large statue at the front. This figure, finger pointing to the heavens, is Richard Baxter who died on this day in 1691.

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Exodus 34

a God merciful and gracious

Mon 07th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:5–6) - If you see God as gracious and merciful, you necessarily see yourself as one who is in need of grace and mercy. Grace is undeserved, and so is mercy. That’s what makes them such a magnificently overwhelming gift.

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Sundays

Zoom Out!

Sun 06th Dec 2020

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” (Mark 2-4) - Let me make a plea this Christmas. It’s not the first time I’ve made it, and I’m sure you’ll grow weary of it over the years. Nevertheless, here it is: please zoom out this Christmas! Here is the day to gladden the hearts of those Prophets, Priests and Kings of the Old Testament, the day when there hopes are fulfilled and their words come to pass!

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Exodus 34

The LORD

Sat 05th Dec 2020

“The LORD, the LORD” (Exodus 34:5) - When God proclaims his name to Moses, he begins by repeating what Moses heard at the Burning Bush: “the LORD”. He underlines the fact by repeating the name once again.

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Carol Stories

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Fri 04th Dec 2020

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) - O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel ,that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. - All this, in Advent, reminds us that the story didn’t begin at Bethlehem, but was set in motion long before.

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Exodus 34

The Name of God Proclaimed

Thu 03rd Dec 2020

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:5–7) - As he passes by Moses in glory, he proclaims a name which is longer than that given at the Burning Bush. In proclaiming his name, God is giving us an extended meditation on his name, a longer form of his name.

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Philemon

The Band of Missionaries

Wed 02nd Dec 2020

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philemon 23–25) - As we find again and again, the gospel progresses when there are groups of people who come together to proclaim the glorious message. Some may desert the cause, and some may then be reconciled, but together God will use those who work for the sake of the gospel.

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Church History

Advent

Tue 01st Dec 2020

… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ … (Titus 2:13) - It is the season which prepares us for the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, but also has an eye on his second coming. It’s therefore a time of preparation and, traditionally, fasting.

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Philemon

Whose Plans?

Mon 30th Nov 2020

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. (Philemon 21–22) - We might pray, but God might not have the answer to our prayers which we wish. Peace is to be found when we accept that God is God, and so trust in his purposes.

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Sundays

Keep Watch!

Sun 29th Nov 2020

Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. (Mark 13:35–37) - The more we are aware of the reality of God, the more we consciously live in his presence, the more we meet with God. Jesus urges us to “stay awake”. Don’t sleepwalk through life.

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Philemon

How Important is Faith?

Sat 28th Nov 2020

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 17–20) - How important is faith? It is worth everything. Even “your own self”.

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Hymn Stories

Blest be the Tie that Binds

Fri 27th Nov 2020

Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love: The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above. - In 1765 John Fawcett (1740-1817) took up the post as minister of a Baptist Church in Wainsgate, which is in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. It was not a wealthy, prosperous or prominent place but Fawcett wasn't much concerned. He had a great love for his people, and they had a great love for him too.

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Philemon

“Sending my Very Heart”

Thu 26th Nov 2020

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. (Philemon 12-14) - Paul understands that Christianity has a radical message at its heart: as we are united to Christ we are united to one another.

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Philemon

Paul’s Example of Prayer

Wed 25th Nov 2020

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 4–7) - Faith is not static, but is something which grows. Perhaps when you pray for someone, you might also pray for their faith.

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Church History

John Knox and the Book of Common Prayer

Tue 24th Nov 2020

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6) - On this day in 1572 John Knox, the foremost leader of the Scottish Reformation, died in Edinburgh. Whether it was turning down the role as bishop, or taking on the Privy Council, Knox was a man who stood by his convictions. A man with a spine!

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Philemon

Philemon

Mon 23rd Nov 2020

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1–3) - To be a Christian is not something to do on a Sunday morning, but it is to be part of a new reality: the family of God.

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Leaping like a Deer

Sat 21st Nov 2020

GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:19) - Christianity is not just hope after you die, or even simply the moral courage to keep on going. It is knowing the indwelling presence of God in times of real stress and struggle. It is being able to leap like a deer, and experience the high places of closeness with God even in the midst of toil.

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Hymn Stories

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Fri 20th Nov 2020

the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,to receive glory and honour and power,for you created all things,and by your will they existed and were created.”(Revelation 4:10-11) - All hail the power of Jesu's name; let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem to crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

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The Hesitant Woman

Thu 19th Nov 2020

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. (Luke 8:42) - She wasn’t bold like Jairus, she didn’t fall at Jesus’ feet and implore him to help. She just came up behind him, and reached out to touch “the fringe of his garment”. And was healed.

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A Very Present Help

Wed 18th Nov 2020

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) - Prayer is not connecting with someone “out there”, but someone who was here all along. It is speaking to someone who already knows, and who is at hand. Someone who is “very present” as you chunter out your problems.

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Church History

The Reek of Master Patrick Hamilton

Tue 17th Nov 2020

If you go to St Andrews and make your way to the University chapel you will find in the pavement just outside some letters made out in brick. They read “PH” and mark the spot on which a young man was burnt for his faith.

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Water on a Thirsty Land

Mon 16th Nov 2020

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. (Isaiah 44:3-4) - Oh those times when you feel spiritually dry! You have no enthusiasm, and you cannot bring yourself to pray. If you find yourself athirst for the living God, then the answer does not lie in looking inward. It lies in looking up.

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The One Who Made Us

Sat 14th Nov 2020

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3) - You owe your very existence to God. Surely that stirs within you both gratitude and duty!

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Hymn Stories

Peace, Perfect Peace

Fri 13th Nov 2020

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) - Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within. Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed? To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

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Love the Lord Your God

Thu 12th Nov 2020

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) - In Christianity there are no more sacrifices to offer, as Jesus has made the only sacrifice necessary on the cross. All that is left to do is love God, and allow that love of God to flow through into love of neighbour.

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Exalted by being Humble

Wed 11th Nov 2020

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14) - To be clothed in humility before God is to allow yourself to be exalted by him. To exalt yourself is simply a path to disappointment.

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Church History

Martin of Tours

Tue 10th Nov 2020

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. (Luke 6:30) - Martin of Tours is an important figure in the history of the church, rising to become Bishop of Tours where he founded a monastery and set up a basic parish system for the area. His most famous act does not come from this time, though, but rather from when he was a teenaged soldier.

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Gaining Your Desires

Mon 09th Nov 2020

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) - The more you find delight in God, the more you desire to follow him and the more he gives you those desires. You come to desire the same thing as God.

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Sundays

The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Sun 08th Nov 2020

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ (Matthew 25:6-10) - Don’t put off getting the oil to another day, or thinking that someone else’s oil will do for you too. You cannot cash in a future promise of faith, or rely on someone else’s faith. When the bridegroom comes, the question is a simple one. Where is your oil?

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Call on the Name of the Lord

Sat 07th Nov 2020

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. (Joel 2:32) - Christianity really is that simple, but how often we find it the hardest thing in the world! How often do you hunt for salvation in family, friends, money, health or causes? Sometimes the easiest thing can be the hardest: simple trust.

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Hymn Stories

The Dangers of Promiscuous Singing

Fri 06th Nov 2020

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16) - Do we sing hymns without paying much attention to the words? Do we accept the words, but not ask ourselves if they a right? Oh! Dear reader! Beware “promiscuous singing”!

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Emotions and God

Thu 05th Nov 2020

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37).- There are times, many times, when we feel spiritually low but we mustn’t ever believe that is a result of God changing his relationship to us. Rather, like the sun on a cloudy day, we just can’t feel his warmth at the moment. Keep praying, keep following and the cloud will dissipate

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Can you Flee God’s Presence?

Wed 04th Nov 2020

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (Psalm 139:7–8) - As we face the prospect of church services once again being stopped, we should take comfort from Psalm 139. It is not possible to be absent from God. Or, to put it another way, it is not possible for God to be absent from you!

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Church History

Charles Simeon

Tue 03rd Nov 2020

Aged only twenty-three, a young Charles Simeon (1759-1836) found himself an unpopular figure. Worse, his unpopularity sprang from his own church. Services were disrupted, and abuse was thrown at young Simeon as he walked through the streets.

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Anxiety

Mon 02nd Nov 2020

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25) - Perhaps the “good word” you can cling to at this time is that God “cares for you”. As we consciously place ourselves under the “mighty hand of God” we can be confident that he will see us through. The life of the Christian is often not easy, and Jesus never promised it would be. What he did promise, though, was that it is not lonely. “I am with you always”, he said.

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Sundays

The Poor in Spirit

Sun 01st Nov 2020

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3-5) - If you are poor, and lack food, your hunger keeps reinforcing the fact that you need help. If you are poor in spirit, then you recognise your need of God. You are not reliant upon your own spiritual prowess, or goodness. You know you are dependant on another. And then the kingdom of heaven is yours. You can only enter empty-handed.

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Sin

Sat 31st Oct 2020

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15) - Sin is not something which the church should be ashamed of. It is not a word or concept we should hide. Rather, to acknowledge sin is to be honest about yourself, and then to glory in God’s forgiveness. That’s why a loss of an understanding of sin is so costly.

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Hymn Stories

Onward Christian Soldiers

Fri 30th Oct 2020

“May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfil all your petitions!” (Psalm 20:5) - Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus Going on before. Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe, forward into battle, see, His banners go

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Romans

Who Can Condemn?

Thu 29th Oct 2020

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34) - It is this ‘givenness’ which gives Paul such a strong assurance and hope. Rather than relying on his own frailties, he is relying God. The more we acknowledge God is sovereign, the more peace we will find.

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Romans

God’s Hand in Salvation

Wed 28th Oct 2020

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) - Our emotions, our moods are not an indicator of how we are with God, simply an indicator of how we are with ourselves. The more we realise our reliance upon God, the more we can trust out futures to him.

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Church History

The Vision at the Bridge

Tue 27th Oct 2020

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1) - 1,708 ago, to this day, a young man had a vision. He was leading a great army, one of the greatest assembled at that time, and was awaiting the battle which would surely take place the next day.

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Romans

Groanings

Mon 26th Oct 2020

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18) - We “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”. Whilst those around us might count their lives in decades, we count ours in eternity.

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Sundays

One Bible

Sun 25th Oct 2020

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? - And in the glorious sweep of the history of Israel, and the ever widening sweep of the history of God saving his people, it is always the same person ‘whodunnit’. Which is why we are called Christians.

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Romans

Adopted

Sat 24th Oct 2020

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8: 14 -15) - Our standing before God is not dependant on where we come from, or who we are, but simply on adoption. Adopted by God! What an image!

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Hymn Stories

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed

Fri 23rd Oct 2020

Hail to the Lord's Anointed! Great David's greater Son; Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun! He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free; To take away transgression, and rule in equity. - James Montgomery was a prolific poet and hymn writer, with over four-hundred hymns to his name. He ended up as an editor of a newspaper in Sheffield, and was twice imprisoned for publishing poems which offended the authorities.

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Romans

Flesh and Spirit

Thu 22nd Oct 2020

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9–11)

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Romans

No Condemnation

Wed 21st Oct 2020

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1) - Christ was sent in the “likeness of sinful flesh” and lived a perfect life. He fulfilled the Old Testament Law, and his perfection “condemned sin in the flesh”

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Church History

Annie Warfield

Tue 20th Oct 2020

In the late nineteenth century there was no-one quite like Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. A great scholar based at the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary he was such a staunch defender of traditional, orthodox Christianity that he was given the nickname “Lion of Princeton”.

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Romans

The Riches of Romans 8

Mon 19th Oct 2020

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-8)

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Sundays

Render

Sun 18th Oct 2020

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marvelled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:22) - We are living rather like ex-pats on the Algarve, citizens of heaven living in the midst of earth. We may walk the same streets and eat the same food, but ultimately our loyalty lies elsewhere.

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The Rock

Sat 17th Oct 2020

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3–4) - In the midst of the swirls of history, God stands as an “everlasting rock”. If you place your trust in him, then you find you have “perfect peace”.

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Hymn Stories

A Mighty Fortress is our God

Fri 16th Oct 2020

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,” (Psalm 46:1–2) - A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing: Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work his woe; His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

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Breakfast Time

Thu 15th Oct 2020

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12) - There is something comforting about the way in which Jesus dealt with his disciples after the resurrection. There they are, seven of them, bobbing away on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, fishing. A figure calls out from the shore, asking if they have any fish, and they call back: “no”. He calls back, telling them to cast out the net on the other side, and they do just that. The result is a net so full of fish they could not haul it in. That’s when one of them recognises that it is Jesus.

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Be Doers

Wed 14th Oct 2020

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22–24) - Around me lie the broken scraps of many good intentions. They litter the carpet like straw on a stable floor, thickly piling up in the corners. Our beliefs should result in actions as we put what he have heard from Jesus into action. He will strengthen us as we seek to live out the Christian life.

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Church History

Latimer and Ridley

Tue 13th Oct 2020

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39) - If you wander down Broad Street in Oxford you will see a cross in the road, marked out in pale bricks. This Friday marks the 465th anniversary of the Martydom of Nicholas Ridley (bishop of London) and Hugh Latimer (one time bishop of Worcester).

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Being Found

Mon 12th Oct 2020

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) - There is a wonderful hope contained in this verse: it is Christ who seeks us out. It is not a case of finding Christ, but being found by him. It is impossible to be lost when you are in the flock of the good shepherd, so when you do feel spiritually alone then pray and hope.

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Sundays

Peace

Sun 11th Oct 2020

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) - When you are anxious, do follow Paul’s advice: restore your horizontal relationships with others; trust in your vertical relationship with God; and spend your time dwelling on what is good.

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A Soft Answer

Sat 10th Oct 2020

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) - In an increasingly strident world, some soft answers might be change we all need.

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Hymn Stories

Come Ye Thankful People Come

Fri 09th Oct 2020

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest-home: all be safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin; God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied; come to God's own temple, come; raise the song of harvest-home!

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True Worship

Thu 08th Oct 2020

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Psalm 51:16-19) - There remains a danger that worship can become mechanical. We say the right words, turn up at the right time and go home again. We run on auto-pilot, and the all too familiar words simply wash over us.

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Bearing Witness

Wed 07th Oct 2020

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:13-15) - Many people are, I know, anxious about talking to people about their faith as they fear they will not have all the answers. The point is that you don’t need all the answers in order to simply say why Christianity is important to you.

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Church History Tuesday

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

Tue 06th Oct 2020

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was… (1 Chronicles 25:1) - Amongst the many books in his library is an edition of the Bible which contains his own handwritten annotations, and one of these can be found alongside 1 Chronicles 25, a chapter which describes King David organising the musicians. Bach wrote: “NB, This chapter is the true foundation for all church music that is pleasing to God.”

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Creating a New Heart

Mon 05th Oct 2020

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:9-12) - In the end, sin places a cloud between us and the glory of God. David wishes to experience once more the full warmth and brilliance of God. He wishes once again to know the presence of God’s spirit. We have a God who is merciful, and when we acknowledge our faults to him in prayer, he works in us to overcome these shortcomings.

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Sundays

The Landlord

Sun 04th Oct 2020

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?‘" (Matthew 21:42) - If we can begin to live our lives as tenants, then it will transform the way we view the world. Rather than a spirit of entitlement, we will glory that we have been allowed to live in such a glorious place, and received the gift of life at all!

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The Cry of the Heart

Sat 03rd Oct 2020

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” (Psalm 51:7–8) - It is to these deepest levels of human nature that Christianity speaks. It is not abstract. It is deeply real

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Hymn Stories

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Fri 02nd Oct 2020

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) - When I survey the wond'rous Cross on which the Prince of Glory dy'd, my richest Gain I count but Loss, and pour Contempt on all my Pride.

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Being Human

Thu 01st Oct 2020

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:5-6) - We are not alone in struggling with God, and that is simply what it is to be human.

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The Sin against God

Wed 30th Sep 2020

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:3–4) - A guilty conscience needn’t stay guilty if it leads to repentance and seeking mercy from God.

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Church History

Dirk Willems

Tue 29th Sep 2020

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30) - In the spring of 1596, Dirk Willems was fleeing from prison. He’d knotted rags together to make a makeshift rope and lowered himself down onto the moat of the prison. The temperature was low, and the water was capped with ice, so the prisoner raced off. A “thief-catcher” was in pursuit.

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The Prayer of the Guilty

Mon 28th Sep 2020

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1–2) - There is a lesson in this for us all. Guilt is only dealt with on your knees.

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Sundays

Justice

Sun 27th Sep 2020

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! (Ezekiel 18:30 - 31) - God is neither unjust nor unmerciful. We are fairly judged according to our deeds, and against the standards he has clearly set out in the scriptures. Yet we always, always have the chance to “turn and live”. God desires the death of no-one, but rather to be reconciled.

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The Guilt of King David

Sat 26th Sep 2020

To the choirmaster. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. (Psalm 51, Title) - Then the guilt rushed in. Nathan’s parable had brought home to David what he had done. He turned to prayer, not afraid to bring his guilt to the God who already knew of it.

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Hymn Stories

Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun

Fri 25th Sep 2020

It is Pentecost in 1862, some one hundred and twenty years after Watts’ death, and a great open air service is in play. Missionaries have brought the gospel to the Island of Tonga, and it now considers itself Christian. As the singing begins, those who can understand the local language would have been able to discern the words of Watts’ setting of Psalm 72 coming through: Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth its successive journeys run; His Kingdoms stretch from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

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I Will Be With You

Thu 24th Sep 2020

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. (Isaiah 43:2–3) - There isn’t a path round the fire, we just have to go on through. We go on though, but we don’t go on through alone. “I will be with you” says God. We don’t escape, but we do have help. Allow the presence of God to give you courage. You are not alone, for “I will be with you” says the Lord.

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Praying to a Father

Wed 23rd Sep 2020

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8) - God is always ahead of us, and our worrying (“carking” as Manton puts it) is needless.

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Church History

The Swiss Sausage

Tue 22nd Sep 2020

And [Jesus] said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” Thus he declared all foods clean. (Mark 7:18-20) - It was Lent in Zurich in the year 1522. The printer, Christoph Froschauer, decided to give them a meal and so they tucked into some dried smoked sausage. Two of the three priests joined in too.

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The Heart in Prayer

Mon 21st Sep 2020

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) - When you find yourself lost for words in prayer, do not be dismayed. Your heart can pray when your tongue cannot. Simply sit before God, and allow your feelings to speak for you.

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Sundays

Is it Fair?

Sun 20th Sep 2020

Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:16) - God doesn’t give up on us in our younger years but he can issue his call at any time, even the eleventh hour. To be called late is not disgrace, to be called early is no hard work. The main thing is this: are you a citizen or not?

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Let God be God

Sat 19th Sep 2020

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7) - Eccles. 5:2, ‘Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.’ Remember, you have to do with a great God, and do not babble things over impertinently in his ears. (Thomas Manton)

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Hymn Stories

The God of Abraham Praise

Fri 18th Sep 2020

The God of Abraham praise, Who reigns enthroned above; Ancient of everlasting days, and God of love; Jehovah, Great I AM - Orphaned when only four, Thomas Olivers was an apprentice shoemaker in that small village. He was also a youth with a bad reputation. In fact, his reputation was so bad that in his late teens he had to leave the village, and so he made his way to Bristol. There he came across George Whitefield.

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Chattering Prayers

Thu 17th Sep 2020

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8). - “Go, chatter out thy requests to thy Father”. Just speak to God, just lay it all out before him.

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The Prayers that are Noticed

Wed 16th Sep 2020

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6) - No prayer is overlooked. No cry is unheard. The room with a shut door is as much a house of prayer as the grandest cathedral. God hears.

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Church History

Dr & Mrs Luther

Tue 15th Sep 2020

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. (Proverbs 24:3-4) - The life of the Luthers reminds us of the great truth that the home is a little church. God does not simply reside in old stone buildings, but lives in our homes. A great comfort that can be.

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The Soil the Nourishes

Mon 14th Sep 2020

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you. (Deuteronomy 32:7) - There is great benefit from reading older authors as they can help you question your assumptions.

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Sundays

Guilt, Grace and Forgiveness

Sun 13th Sep 2020

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21) - “We are beggars: that’s the truth”. As he lay dying, Luther's final words reflected on this truth which had lay at the heart of the entire Reformation project: “we are beggars: that’s the truth”.

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Assurance

Sat 12th Sep 2020

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:13) - And so to the end of 1 John, and the apostle gives us the reason why he put pen to paper. The believers in the church had been shaken by the presence of some false teachers. They were doubting that they had eternal life. They had lost confidence.

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Hymn Stories

William Cowper

Fri 11th Sep 2020

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” (John 13:7) - William Cowper (1731-1800) was not a man who had an easy life, and was prone to what might be today called manic depression. Yet he found solace in his hymn writing. Such is the testimony of a man who struggled his entire life, and yet found solace in the providence of God.

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God and Man

Thu 10th Sep 2020

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. (1 John 5:9-10) - John was adamant that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He really was fully human and fully divine.

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What does ‘Believe in Jesus” mean?

Wed 09th Sep 2020

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:1-2) - Believing in Jesus is to see him as the fulfilment of the Old Testament, anointed by God and of divine origin.

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Church History

Luther, the Fish Merchant & the Escaping Nuns

Tue 08th Sep 2020

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33) - As the Reformation swept Germany, the convents began to empty as their nuns decided that life would be better outside their secluded walls. So it was that on the day before Easter, 1523 Leonard Kopp hurried twelve nuns onto his wagon before covering them over.

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Fear Cast Out

Mon 07th Sep 2020

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18) - Here is the joy of Christianity: knowing that when Jesus, on the cross, breathed out the words “It is finished”, it truly was. That is why we “may have confidence for the day of judgment”. Because “it is finished”. No more punishment is due.

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Sundays

Dealing with Conflict

Sun 06th Sep 2020

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:15-16) - There is a pastoral and caring approach here, a chance for repentance in private given first. There is no rushing to public shaming, but even this step might prove ineffective, so a last one is given: excommunication.

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God is Love

Sat 05th Sep 2020

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7) - Love is all the more profound when it is directed at those who might be said to be unlovely.

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Hymn Stories

O Worship the Lord

Fri 04th Sep 2020

Worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:9) - O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; bow down before him, his glory proclaim; with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore him: the Lord is his name.

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Test the Spirits

Thu 03rd Sep 2020

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:1–3) - Christianity is a beautiful tapestry of finely intertwined doctrines. They fit together, and work together. Beware any who seek to remove one cog or another, because the machine will simply then not work. “Test the spirits”!

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The Commandment of God

Wed 02nd Sep 2020

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:21) - It is not because God is some sort of transcendental Santa, but because if we keep his commandments then inevitably our desires will align with his will.

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Church History

Tyndale’s Final Letter

Tue 01st Sep 2020

William Tyndale stands as one of the great men of this country of ours. His burning desire was to put the scriptures into the hands of the people. Whilst imprisoned he wrote a letter, the only one of his which survives, which gives us a fascinating glimpse into the life and cares of this remarkable man. Hero of the faith he may be, but he is also as human as any other. "I shall be patient, abiding the will of God to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit, I pray, may ever direct your heart. Amen."

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Feelings

Mon 31st Aug 2020

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20) - The joy of the faith is that it is founded upon the rock of Christ, and not the shifting sands of emotion.

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Sundays

Get Thee Behind Me Satan!

Sun 30th Aug 2020

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21) - Rather than trying to create a Jesus who reflects earthly concerns, you need to find a Jesus who is concerned with your soul.

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Acting out the Faith

Sat 29th Aug 2020

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:11) - In all of this John is reminding us that our heart is most clearly demonstrated in our actions, and not in our words. To love in ‘word or talk” is not enough. To love in “deed and in truth” is to truly love.

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Hymn Stories

We Love the Place, O God

Fri 28th Aug 2020

We love the place, O God, wherein thine honour dwells; the joy of thine abode all earthly joy excels. - With the help of some of the congregation, William Bullock built a small church. In 1827, as he was preparing for the consecration service, he dwelt on Psalm 26:8 “O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells”. Inspired, he then wrote the hymn “We Love the Place, O God”.

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Practicing…

Thu 27th Aug 2020

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (1 John 3:4) - Perfection is not possible this side of heaven, and we must acknowledge that we mess up from time to time. When it happens, our response should not be to think we are not Christian - or worthy of God’s love - but to pray for forgiveness, and be determined not to fall again.

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God’s Children

Wed 26th Aug 2020

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (1 John 2:28–3:1) - Because of this abiding, we can be confident in front of God and not fear God’s judgment. We can even be called children of God, and practice righteousness, as the Spirit of Christ dwells in us.

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Church History

Jenny Geddes

Tue 25th Aug 2020

As the minister began to intone the collects, one Jenny Geddes - a vegetable seller - picked up her folding stool and hurled it at him. According to tradition she shouted out “deil colic the wame o’ ye, false thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?”. ( “devil cause you colic, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?")

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Antichrist

Mon 24th Aug 2020

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18) - So ground yourself in the Bible- and beware antichrists.

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Sundays

Who is Jesus?

Sun 23rd Aug 2020

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” - Against all this pagan background, Peter gives a very Jewish answer. Here is the Christ - or the Messiah - who is the fulfilment of so much Old Testament prophecy and hope.

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Love One Another

Sat 22nd Aug 2020

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:10) - In the end our attitude to other people is a means of taking our spiritual temperature.

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Hymn Stories

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Fri 21st Aug 2020

The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His And He is mine for ever - Sixteen years after his arrival at Monkland, Baker died, and as he passed he faintly said: Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, But yet in love He sought me, And on His Shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing, brought me.

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Perfect?

Thu 20th Aug 2020

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. (1 John 2:4) - We might stumble, we might be imperfect but we are still seeking to live in the light.

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Light and Dark

Wed 19th Aug 2020

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) - To confess (to God or to another person) is a sign that we recognise that we are not perfect, as God is perfect. It is a sign that we are striving to be more faithful.

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Church History

Susannah’s Story

Tue 18th Aug 2020

She brought up her children in the faith, and would hold family services where psalms were sung, and a sermon was read (either from her husband or her father) ... She was also a woman of prayer, and the story goes that in order to get some peace in the bustling household she would throw her apron up over her head to pray.

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Letter from Jesus’ Friend

Mon 17th Aug 2020

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest (1 John 1:1) - What a privilege John had in being able to spend years with Christ. What a privilege we have in being able to read John’s reflection on his time, and then to be able to relate to the selfsame God!

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Sundays

The Canaanite Woman

Sun 16th Aug 2020

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:25–28) - Peter may have been called to walk on water, but it was this unnamed woman who had the great faith.

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Patience

Sat 15th Aug 2020

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2) - David’s hope is in something concrete, and a power greater than the other nations. David shall not be “greatly shaken” because he has a sure foundation.

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Hymn Stories

Be Thou My Vision

Fri 14th Aug 2020

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art; Be Thou my best thought in the day and the night, Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light. - If we place all our hope, trust and value in God we will never be disappointed.

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Remember my Chains

Thu 13th Aug 2020

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:18) - Even when manacled, he can praise God for his goodness.

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Early Church

Archippus

Wed 12th Aug 2020

And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfil the ministry that you have received in the Lord”. (Colossians 4:17) - At its heart the Christian faith is a relating to God, and like all relationships that takes time and attention. If you ignore a friend for long enough, you lose a friend.

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Church History

The Story of Monica

Tue 11th Aug 2020

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up... (Luke 18:1) - My God has more abundantly satisfied my desire, inasmuch as I see you now, having spurned earthly felicity, become His servant.

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Early Church

Nympha’s House

Mon 10th Aug 2020

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (Colossians 4:15) - We might focus on vicars as the ones leading the church, but it is the faithfulness of the congregations which keep the show on the road.

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Sundays

Which Religion?

Sun 09th Aug 2020

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:5–15) - The vital question is: which understanding we hold? Who is the “who” who will save us?

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Early Church

Doctor Luke

Sat 08th Aug 2020

Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:14) - What a difference we see in the lives of the two men mentioned in one breath at the end of the Letter to the Colossians.

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Hymn Stories

Glory to Thee, my God this Night

Fri 07th Aug 2020

Glory to thee, my God, this night, for all the blessings of the light: keep me, O keep me, King of kings, beneath thine own almighty wings. (Glory to Thee, my God this Night) - He was a man who was aware of his mortality, and it may well be that the knowledge that he would have to answer to God for his conduct gave him this stubborn strength.

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Early Church

Struggling in Prayer

Thu 06th Aug 2020

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12) - In an age of church growth techniques, and flurries of initiatives the example of Epaphras reminds us of what is really needed to revive the fortunes of the church. Prayer.

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Early Church

Greetings!

Wed 05th Aug 2020

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. (Colossians 4:10-11) - From this brief greeting we get a real impression of the tight-knit community which formed the earliest church.

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Church History

Perpetua

Tue 04th Aug 2020

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Matthew 10:34–35) - Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Truly you are called and chosen for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord!

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Early Church

Tychicus and Onesimus

Mon 03rd Aug 2020

Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. (Colossians 4:7-8) - Sometimes we can be also be amazed by those who are doing both: who are thriving whilst being persecuted.

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Sundays

Beware a Trimmed Down Religion

Sun 02nd Aug 2020

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1–3) - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

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Early Church

A Snapshot of the Earliest Church

Sat 01st Aug 2020

Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Colossians 4:15–18) - These verses give us glimpses into our family history.

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Hymn Stories

Ye Servants of the Lord

Fri 31st Jul 2020

Ye servants of the Lord, each in his office wait, observant of his heavenly word, and watchful at his gate. Let all your lamps be bright, and trim the golden flame; gird up your loins as in his sight, for awful is his name.

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Pointing to Christ

Thu 30th Jul 2020

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:9) -They all bear witness to a God who gives growth to his people. Like floodlights, they illuminate Christ and don’t draw attention to themselves.

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Why Do You Ask?

Wed 29th Jul 2020

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20) - They disregarded the God who had led them out of Egypt, and instead hankered for a king so they could be like the Canaanites.

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Church History

Arthur Guinness

Tue 28th Jul 2020

When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. (Luke 19:15) - “Spes Mea in Deo” (“My hope is in God”)

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What is a Childlike Faith?

Mon 27th Jul 2020

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Matthew 19:14) - It is trusting God as a loving parent, and putting to one side the accumulated cynicism of our years which tends to coarsen our receptiveness.

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Sundays

Competence

Sun 26th Jul 2020

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34) - We can be confident that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”, because Christ himself is praying for us. It is not because of what we have done that we can be sure of our position before God, but because of what he does.

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The Prayer of the Tax Collector

Sat 25th Jul 2020

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13) - We might be better than the rotten so-and-so down the road, but in comparison to God we cannot but see our shortcomings.

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Hymn Stories

As With Gladness Men of Old

Fri 24th Jul 2020

As with gladness men of old, Did the guiding star behold. As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright. So, most gracious God, may we evermore be led to Thee

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Badgering the Judge

Thu 23rd Jul 2020

"And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” - Keep on bringing the same names and situations before God. And trust his timing.

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Meditation

Wed 22nd Jul 2020

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97) - Rather than seeking to empty your mind, the idea is to focus it on God.

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Church History

Simeon Stylites

Tue 21st Jul 2020

We are fools for Christ's sake (1 Corinthians 4:10) - From time to time the history of the Church throws up delightfully unusual people who, in their very oddness, become important leaders of the faith. One such is Simeon Stylites (c. 390–459).

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Weak Made Strong

Mon 20th Jul 2020

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:8) - God does not require of us a staunch character and great eloquence. All that he insists is that we keep to his message, and march to his orders.

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Sundays

Hope

Sun 19th Jul 2020

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:12-25) - Our hope is in the action of the eternal God. And it is “in this hope that we were saved”.

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A Limping Faith

Sat 18th Jul 2020

Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. (Zephaniah 3:19) - But there you are, under the gaze of God himself. “And I will save the lame…”!

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Hymn Stories

All Glory, Laud and Honour

Fri 17th Jul 2020

All glory, laud, and honour to Thee, Redeemer, King! To Whom the lips of children made sweet Hosannas ring

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Making Sense of the Bible

Thu 16th Jul 2020

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8) - above all the Spirit who inspired the authors is still active within us today. Pick up and read, and you’ll be astonished at what you might find.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Temptation

Wed 15th Jul 2020

What do we pray for in the sixth petition? In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Matt. 6:13)) we pray, That God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, (Matt. 26:41) or support and deliver us when we are tempted. (2 Cor. 12:7–8)

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Church History

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Tue 14th Jul 2020

A congregation consisting of 10,000 souls, streaming into the hall, mounting the galleries, humming, buzzing, and swarming – a mighty hive of bees – eager to secure at first the best places, and, at last, any place at all.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Forgive us our Sins…

Mon 13th Jul 2020

Q. 105 What do we pray for in the fifth petition? A. In the fifth petition, (which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, (Matt. 6:12)) we pray, That God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; (Ps. 51:1–2,7,9, Dan. 9:17–19) which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. (Luke 11:4, Matt. 18:35)

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Sundays

In Christ

Sun 12th Jul 2020

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) - Trust that we need not do any more, trust that this will be effective, trust that this actually applies to you

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Our Daily Bread

Sat 11th Jul 2020

Q. What do we pray for in the fourth petition? A. In the fourth petition, (which is, Give us this day our daily bread, (Matt. 6:11)) we pray, That of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them. (Prov. 30:8–9, Gen. 28:20, 1 Tim. 4:4–5)

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Hymn Stories

The Church’s One Foundation

Fri 10th Jul 2020

The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven

Thu 09th Jul 2020

Q. What do we pray for in the third petition? A. In the third petition, (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, (Matt. 6:10)) we pray, That God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, (Ps. 67, Ps. 119:36, Matt. 26:39, 2 Sam. 15:25, Job 1:21) as the angels do in heaven. (Ps. 103:20–21)

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Thy Kingdom Come

Wed 08th Jul 2020

Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” (John 12:30-31) - May God reign more fully in me, and drive out the wrong that I do and the temptations which plague me.

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Church History

The Undercover Archbishop

Tue 07th Jul 2020

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2) - “That is the answer the poor man gave me last night. It cannot be possible that this is he!”

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“The Anatomy of a Holy Man”

Mon 06th Jul 2020

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11) - Now - alas - the psalms seemed to have slipped away unnoticed from our corporate worship.

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Sundays

Are You Perfect?

Sun 05th Jul 2020

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15) - The joy of the Christian gospel is that it proclaims that we are able to be judged not on the basis of our own life, but on the basis of Jesus’ life. So

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Strength in Weakness

Sat 04th Jul 2020

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) - So leave God’s business to God.

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Hymn Stories

Amazing Grace

Fri 03rd Jul 2020

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine; But God, who call'd me here below, will be forever mine.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Hallowed be thy name

Thu 02nd Jul 2020

101. What do we pray for in the first petition? In the first petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name, (Matt. 6:9)) we pray, That God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; (Ps. 67:2–3) and that he would dispose all things to his own glory. (Ps. 83)

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Our Father

Wed 01st Jul 2020

What doth the preface of the Lord’ s prayer teach us? The preface of the Lord’ s prayer, (which is, Our Father which art in heaven, (Matt. 6:9)) teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; (Rom. 8:15, Luke 11:13) and that we should pray with and for others. (Acts 12:5, 1 Tim. 2:1–2)

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Church History

P G Wodehouse

Tue 30th Jun 2020

“many a man who has seen the light is apt to switch it off when the Old Adam starts to come to life in him”

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What is Prayer?

Mon 29th Jun 2020

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12) - Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, (Ps. 62:8) for things agreeable to his will, (1 John 5:14) in the name of Christ, (John 16:23) with confession of our sins, (Ps. 32:5–6, Dan. 9:4) and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies. (Phil. 4:6)

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Sundays

Speaking for God

Sun 28th Jun 2020

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me." (Matthew 10:40) - Here is the test of whether someone speak for God or not: do their words echo the other words of God we find recorded in Scripture?

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Spiritual Sailing

Sat 27th Jun 2020

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8). - Keep moving the sail until you catch the wind!

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Hymn Stories

Stand up, stand up for Jesus

Fri 26th Jun 2020

Put on the gospel armour, each piece put on with pray'r. Where duty calls, or danger, be never wanting there.

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Look Up!

Thu 25th Jun 2020

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)" - There is more comfort in the Bible than in the newspaper.

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Enjoying God

Wed 24th Jun 2020

What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

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Church History

St Dubricius

Tue 23rd Jun 2020

The roots are deep, and let’s pray that they endure.

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The Heart

Mon 22nd Jun 2020

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:18-20) - So the question is: how is your heart?

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Sundays

Finding Life

Sun 21st Jun 2020

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39) - As we make following God our priority, rather than our own desires and fear, we discover life in all its abundance.

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“He Cried Out All the More”

Sat 20th Jun 2020

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47–48) - In the end, though, it is only Jesus who can give you answers to the questions you have.

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Hymn Stories

Blessed Assurance

Fri 19th Jun 2020

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. - Rather than descend into bitterness as she grew, her faith gave her a solid foundation

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The Sluggard

Thu 18th Jun 2020

"I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. " (Proverbs 24:30-32) - His attention drifted, and he became less alert.

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Kept in Heaven for You

Wed 17th Jun 2020

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5) - We might not be able to look to the trees, but we can look to God.

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Church History

The Birth of Russian Orthodoxy

Tue 16th Jun 2020

Worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:9) - “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Vladimir was convinced, and so was born Russian Orthodoxy.

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Walking by Faith

Mon 15th Jun 2020

for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) - It is a pattern which prepares us for whatever we may meet in our lives since we are always aware of ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23)

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Sundays

For us

Sun 14th Jun 2020

Oh what a thing it is to cast yourself on to the loving mercy of God. What it is to gratefully accept all that Christ has done for you. What a relief to know that you are forgiven. What a joy it is to live in peace with God, to go along with his pattern for living. To go with his grain.

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Church History

What is your only comfort in life and death?

Sat 13th Jun 2020

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

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Hymn Stories

There is a Green Hill

Fri 12th Jun 2020

There is a green hill far away, without a city wall. Where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.

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The Mediator

Thu 11th Jun 2020

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5) - And so you can come before God now - wherever you are - without the need of yew trees, wells and even ancient church buildings. So pray.

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Strength

Wed 10th Jun 2020

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (Isaiah 40:28–29)

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Church History

The Babe of Grace

Tue 09th Jun 2020

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6) - "In short, that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected”

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No Condemnation

Mon 08th Jun 2020

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) - Our sins were cast upon his shoulders at the crucifixion and received their just rewards. And then we are clothed in his righteousness, what is known in the theological trade as “double-imputation”. A wonderful exchange!

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Sundays

In the name…

Sun 07th Jun 2020

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:16–20) - He didn’t simply stand up and say “I’m God” but did the things only God could do: forgave sins, gave life to the dead, restored the blind and lame to wholeness.

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Shall We Be Discontented?

Sat 06th Jun 2020

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) - We are happy to call good things “blessings”, but it is all to natural to fail to see that there can be good in hardship.

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Hymn Stories

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Fri 05th Jun 2020

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3) - O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee

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I am God

Thu 04th Jun 2020

I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man. (Hosea 11:9) - With God there is great forgiveness, an enduring patience and an everlasting call to humans to return to him.

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Remembered

Wed 03rd Jun 2020

The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. (Psalm 115:12-13) - You were not created by him to be forgotten, but your prayers are heard and you sorrow noticed.

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Church History

Thomas Aquinas

Tue 02nd Jun 2020

Some have speculated that perhaps his labours had produced a fresh understanding. Others speculate some sort of breakdown. All that was apparent at the time was that he was silent.

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Drink!

Mon 01st Jun 2020

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37-38) - So go to Christ and drink!

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Sundays

When

Sun 31st May 2020

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting (Acts 2:1) - We do our bit, but we can only do our bit. Let us not kid ourselves that we can achieve anything without God’s Spirit except a lot of rotas and activity.

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Depths, Riches and Wisdom

Sat 30th May 2020

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33) - We are just humans, with all the limitation that brings.

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Hymn Stories

It Is Well With My Soul

Fri 29th May 2020

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul

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So it shall be

Thu 28th May 2020

We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. (2 Samuel 14:14) - the far shore is beautiful indeed

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Children of God

Wed 27th May 2020

But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13) - What it is to be a child of God!

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Church History

Athanasius Contra Mundum

Tue 26th May 2020

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12) - The life of Athanasius is a great example of standing firm.

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Covenant

Mon 25th May 2020

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9)

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Sunday

The Hour Has Come

Sun 24th May 2020

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him (John 17:1) - “The hour has come” and a new dawn has flickered into view.

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Other

Sat 23rd May 2020

you thought that I was one like yourself. (Psalm 50:21) - One of the harder things to grasp about God is his utter otherness.

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Hymn Stories

Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer

Fri 22nd May 2020

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer, pilgrim thru this barren land;I am weak, but Thou art mighty! Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand - Over the next forty years it is estimated he travelled some one hundred thousand miles on horseback in the service of the gospel, and penned over eight hundred hymns. Those around him knew him as the “sweet singer of Wales”.

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Ascension

Thu 21st May 2020

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, the was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9) - It is a mistake to think that Jesus’ ministry ended at the Ascension, rather it began a new phase.

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Witness

Wed 20th May 2020

“for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15) - We are not called to give all the answers to all the questions,. we are simply called to bear witness to what we have experienced

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Church History

David Morgan: Lion

Tue 19th May 2020

And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) - "I went to bed that night as usual, David Morgan. I had felt power in the service but I went to bed at night as David Morgan. But, you know when I woke up the next moment I realized I was a different man. I felt like a lion, I felt great power”.

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A Waiting Confidence

Mon 18th May 2020

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:4

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Sunday

If ye love me…

Sun 17th May 2020

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:51) - Both are needed. Jesus calls us to obey, and then gives us the strength to do so.

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Disbelieving for Joy

Sat 16th May 2020

And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41) - It may be too good, but don’t dismiss it as not true.

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Hymn Stories

Just as I am

Fri 15th May 2020

Just as I am - without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, -O Lamb of God, I come! - In 1821 Charlotte Elliott was stricken with a severe sickness, which would affect her life until she died some five decades later. She sought out Dr Malan in order to apologise and to tell him that she wanted to cleanse her life before she came to Christ and become a Christian. No, the Genevan replied “come just as you are”. And so she did.

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Vocal

Thu 14th May 2020

Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. (1 Samuel 1:13) - if you find it difficult to pray or read the Bible as you mind wanders perhaps you might try again but this time speaking audibly. You may find that this practice makes things easier.

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Be Strong

Wed 13th May 2020

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10) - When God is the source of our strength and our joy, then we have a deep well indeed, filled with the sweetest water.

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Church History

Fire!

Tue 12th May 2020

“I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.” (Acts 7:32) - On the 23rd November 1654, between 10:30 and 12:30 at night, Blaise Pascal had an intense spiritual experience of God. Deeply moved, he quickly wrote what has become known as Pascal’s Memorial and sewed it into the lining of his coat so that it would always be near.

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The Interceder

Mon 11th May 2020

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34) - Here is the great privilege of faith. As we place our trust, faith and future in Christ’s hands he prays for us.

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Sundays

Words to Strengthen

Sun 10th May 2020

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) - Here is the rock which can withstand all the storms of life. Here is the anchor for our souls.

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Knowledge

Sat 09th May 2020

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29) - That’s the basic issue here. We all tend to make God a bigger version of ourselves, or at least a bigger version of all that we think is good in others. This is why the Bible is so important. It records God as he is, not as we wish him to be.

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Hymn Stories

All People that on Earth do Dwell

Fri 08th May 2020

When you read through the words below, and realise they came from the pen of a man who had fled for his life, it gives you some idea of the comfort and confidence that comes from knowing that whatever happens, we are not out of God’s hands.

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Affliction

Thu 07th May 2020

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) - What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it.

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The Terror of the Night

Wed 06th May 2020

“You will not fear the terror of the night.” (Psalm 91:5) - The loneliness of the night is but a phantasm, for God does not close his eyes.

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Church History

Kirk O’Shotts

Tue 05th May 2020

Livingstone carried on for another hour - the words were just coming, and the Holy Spirit was clearly acting in the congregation. Some fell to their knees, others wept.

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The Valley

Mon 04th May 2020

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4 - And then dwell on the fact that this verse exists. Its presence in a Psalm which speaks of God guiding his people must surely remind us that in the Christian life there are plenty of valleys. Yet these valleys are part of the purpose of God, they are the path through which he leads us.

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Sundays

The Door

Sun 03rd May 2020

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out (John 10:3) - Follow the Good Shepherd who leads you to still waters, and beware those who may beguile you down murkier paths.

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Correction

Sat 02nd May 2020

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) - The words are breathed-out, and then caught in the pages of Scripture.

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Hymn Stories

Here is Love, vast as the Ocean

Fri 01st May 2020

Here is love vast as the ocean. Loving kindness as the flood. When the Prince of life, our ransom. Shed for us His precious blood

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And You Shall Call His Name Jesus

Thu 30th Apr 2020

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21

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Wait for the LORD

Wed 29th Apr 2020

Wait for the LORD;  be strong, and let your heart take courage;  wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14) - Knowing when to act - and when not to act - are the twin pillars of faith. To have one without the other is to live the Christian life out of balance.

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Church History

Council of Nicaea & St Nicholas of Myra

Tue 28th Apr 2020

One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth

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Cut to the Heart

Mon 27th Apr 2020

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38) - The law exposes the problem, and the gospel gives the solution.

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Sundays

Heart Warming

Sun 26th Apr 2020

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” - Luke 24:31

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Sufficient

Sat 25th Apr 2020

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) - We might not be the best people, our understanding of God might be patchy, but God can make up what is lacking in us. “My power is made perfect in weakness”.

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Hymn Stories

O for a Thousand Tongues

Fri 24th Apr 2020

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!

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Seek

Thu 23rd Apr 2020

If you seek him, he will be found by you (1 Chronicles 28:9) - The point is we have to seek, but as you do please be assured that in the verse above ‘if’ is quickly followed by ‘he will’.

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I have set the LORD always before me

Wed 22nd Apr 2020

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8) - The feeling of being shaken is a disturbing one: the near miss; a phone call with bad news; life crowding in at four in the morning when you just can’t sleep. The godly King David has determined to keep God in this mind, to walk in the ways laid out by God and to follow God’s prompting.

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Kept in Heaven for You

Tue 21st Apr 2020

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8) - What a great hymn of praise this is from the fisherman! Densely packed phrases crowd together to give an overwhelming sense of the height, width, depth and breadth of the gospel.

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It Was Not Possible

Mon 20th Apr 2020

"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:32) - Here, mere weeks after the resurrection, we find Peter looking into the bright mystery of the divinity and humanity of Christ. And then proclaiming it to the world.

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Sundays

The Dim Embers

Sun 19th Apr 2020

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The flame of faith was flickering, but was still burning.

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The God who Whistles

Sat 18th Apr 2020

“I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.” (Zechariah 10:8) - There are seasons in the Christian life, but we should never fear we will end on a low.

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Hymn Stories

Abide with Me

Fri 17th Apr 2020

I stand up here among you seasonably to-day, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour, which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with, appreciation of, dependence on, the death of Christ.

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Tears Wiped

Thu 16th Apr 2020

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4) - It is a great vision of God himself - God himself! - wiping the tears from the cheeks of the believer.

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Those Who Know

Wed 15th Apr 2020

but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. (Daniel 11:32) - There is a great difference between knowing something, and knowing about something. Head knowledge is useful, but is only half the story. Heart knowledge is needed too.

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Sowing to the Spirit

Tue 14th Apr 2020

The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8) - In the end it is often patience we lack, rather than effort. Stickability is a spiritual discipline to set alongside our daily routines. Foolish indeed would be the farmer who re-ploughs the field after a week because shoots cannot be seen. More foolish the Christian who gives up praying before God answers.

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The Bruised Reed

Mon 13th Apr 2020

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench (Isaiah 42:3) - Whilst we should not seek adversity, we shouldn’t fear it. And when you do feel weak, do remember: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench”.

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Easter

A Tale of Two Gardens

Sun 12th Apr 2020

This is why Easter stands at the hinge of history. It is more than simply a tale about a human coming back to life, it is the account of how God restored the human race so that we might be reconciled to him.

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Holy Week

Silence

Sat 11th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Saturday) - We need have no doubt that as the sun sets on Easter Eve that Jesus lies dead within a sealed and guarded tomb.

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Holy Week

Deserted

Fri 10th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Friday) - “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

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Holy Week

Surely Not I

Thu 09th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Thursday) - And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:21-22)

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Holy Week

Judas

Wed 08th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Wednesday) - But whatever you do, don’t sell your saviour.

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Holy Week

In Memory of Her

Tue 07th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Tuesday) - "And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)

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Holy Week

The Cleansing of the Temple

Mon 06th Apr 2020

Holy Week (Monday) - “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17)

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Sundays

Palm Sunday: The Wrong King

Sun 05th Apr 2020

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 22:1-11)

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The Everlasting Arms

Sat 04th Apr 2020

“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27) - Sometimes it takes the stripping away of the familiar to reveal the care and presence of God.

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Hymn Stories

Now Thank We All Our God

Fri 03rd Apr 2020

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,. Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices - Such was the man who penned this hymn, from a city which was three times over-run by armies and which for decades suffered from plagues. It stands as a testament to the grace of God in the midst of suffering.

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Peace beyond Understanding

Thu 02nd Apr 2020

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6) - When we place our present, and our future, in the hands of Almighty God we can lie content that we are in safe hands indeed.

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The Spirit Within

Wed 01st Apr 2020

He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:6–11) - This Spirit brings life to bodies long deadened by sin. This life is indestructible, and eventually brings each Christian through the grave into eternity of life in the presence of God.

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Out of the Depths

Tue 31st Mar 2020

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! (Psalm 130) - We find hope in the words of Scripture as our souls wait for God. And we wait as people who trust in the goodnesses of God, who will - will - redeem his people.

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Can these Bones Live?

Mon 30th Mar 2020

“Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” - So it is that the Christian looks at life full in the face, but never as a person with no hope. Trouble may be great, but our God is greater.

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Sundays

Called by Name

Sun 29th Mar 2020

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

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Draw Near

Sat 28th Mar 2020

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) - Here is a great truth of the Christian life: it as we seek God that he is revealed to us. As you reach out in prayer, or dive deep in the scriptures, God draws near to you

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Hymn Stories

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Fri 27th Mar 2020

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) - What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

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One thing I do know

Thu 26th Mar 2020

“Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

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The Slumbering Christian

Wed 25th Mar 2020

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:14) - It is possible to fall into a spiritual slumber without realising it. We carry on with our prayers, but they simply become routine. We read our Bibles but don’t really apply the words to ourselves. We say we are Christian, but begin walking in the paths of darkness. Let this passage be a wake up call!

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Yet I will rejoice

Tue 24th Mar 2020

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; (Habakkuk 3:18) - When we grasp that nothing as big as Babylon, or as small as a virus, is outside God’s control we can begin to exercise faith. We may not understand why, but at least we can trust. It is from there that Habakkuk’s praise sprung. Even if everything fails, yet I shall praise God.

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The Shepherd

Mon 23rd Mar 2020

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 32:1) - The Good Shepherd may lead us through perilous and difficult valleys, but if we follow him with one eye on heaven we will walk with more confidence.

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The Heart

Sun 22nd Mar 2020

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

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ACTS of Prayer

Sat 21st Mar 2020

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6) - God our Father also meets us as we pray individually, as we pray with the door shut behind us. Private prayer and public services sit side by side, and both are needed.

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The Cheque Book

Fri 20th Mar 2020

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

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