The Rectory Bulletin
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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