Wednesday 29th July Reflections


Some years ago, an apprentice where I was working, bought his first car. A bit of a 'banger' but he was so proud of it. After a few weeks the engine developed a worrying noise, several 'experts' offered advice. A few days later he announced that he had sorted the noise and it was no longer a problem. He had turned up the radio so he couldn't hear the noise. This was not the right solution as the car did not run for much longer.

You are probably thinking how stupid of him, surely, he should have taken the car to a garage and had a trained mechanic carry out the necessary repair. So true, but are we like that sometimes with our lives? We learn to carry pain and stress, worry and anxiety and to cope with life's difficulties just turn to other things to drown them out, or keep ourselves busy so we have no time to let them affect us. But these other things only cover the hurt and turmoil inside, for a time at least.

However, our maker has a different solution He says to us, "Be still, and know that I am God!"" Psalm 46: 10. He knows that to find real peace we need to draw close to Him and rest in His loving arms.

Jesus shared God's heart when he said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."" Matthew 11: 28.

Peter was able to write, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5: 7

Let us take a lesson from the apprentice and not just 'turn up the radio' to drown out our cares and worries, let us be still in God's presence, "Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 7

Graham

Monday 20th July Reflection


When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary When troubles come and my heart burdened be Then, I am still and wait here in the silence Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas I am strong, when I am on your shoulders You raise me up: To more than I can be.

This song has been sung by many artists and is popular probably because it identifies with how many feel, weary, troubled, burdened and the longing that somewhere there is relief. It also offers hope to be raised up to so much more. The key to this Hope, is expressed in Psalm 46: 10, "Be still and know that I am God."

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11: 28.

Through all the stresses of life, in the midst of all the troubles and pressures that seem to weigh us down and are sometimes too much to cope with, God is still giving us the invitation to come to Him, to find rest in Him, to be still in Him, because he is God and He loves us. It is only in Him we can find the help we need as He walks with us through life.

As God's children we can know the assurance of His presence with us. We are not on our own, with His presence within us we can stand on the mountain of difficulty, we can walk with confidence on the stormy water, we can know we are being carried when we are too weary to carry on.

"He has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2: 6-7.

Let us learn to be still in God's presence and sit with Jesus. He has raised us up to be more than we can be. Praise Him.

Graham

Thursday 16th July Reflection


After a few months of watering, weeding, staking and tying, and a few disappointments, tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, courgettes, runner beans are being fruitful, the sweet peas, dahlias, geraniums and many other flowers are in full bloom and filling the garden with colour and scent. It is now the time and effort put in is rewarded.

There is still the need for regular watering in the greenhouse and the pots, weeds seem to thrive whatever the weather and need to be dealt with. Since the rain the grass needs cutting, but at least it has turned green again!

The question is, do I spend as much time and effort looking after my heart garden? This morning I read this from Jeremiah 17: 7-8 "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

In Ezekiel 47 there is the vision of water flowing from the temple, which became a river which brought life. V 9 "Where the river flows everything will live." V 12 "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing." There is a similar passage recorded in Revelation 22: 1-2. Where the river of God flows there is abundant life and fruitfulness.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit is living water flowing from within us John 7: 37-38.

So the questions are, how close to the river of life is my life planted? Am I immersed in worship, the word and prayer each day? Am I keeping my heart weed free? How fruitful is my life? Jesus said, "My Father is the gardener." John 15: 1 Plants produce fruit for our benefit; Lord may my life be fruitful for the blessing of others. Holy Spirit flow through me.

Graham

Thursday 9th July Reflection


Priorities. What are our priorities? Yesterday we heard how the Government was supporting various sectors of the economy, making job retention and training one of their priorities.

I have had on my mind for a few days a conversation Jesus had with a ruler who was asking about inheriting eternal life. Luke 18: 18-30. It appears the ruler asking the question was a Godly person seeking to live the right way but had a sense that following religious rules was not enough. Jesus put his finger on where this person's priority really was, wealth and possessions.

So, what are my priorities? This can be seen on what I give my time and attention to, what I spend my money on, what I talk about with enthusiasm. Reading the Bible, praying, singing worship songs are all very good, really essential, but has this become a religious ritual, or does it have real life-changing effect?

Jesus challenged the ruler to change his priority in life from observing ritual and living for self, to showing compassion for those in need; not self but others, were to be his priority. Jesus said this, Luke 9:23 (NIV) "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."" Following Jesus is not an add on to our lives but must be the sole priority we live for.

Yes, we have to work, look after our family, and enjoy life to the full. God commissioned us to do that, see Genesis 1: 28. However God was wanting a meaningful relationship with mankind, when we spoilt that, God sent Jesus to make this relationship possible again. Praise him.

So, what are my priorities? What are your priorities? An inheritance comes after death. If we want to inherit eternal life, as the ruler did, let us take up our cross each day, die to self, and make following Jesus our priority. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6: 33. We do not lose out but find life in all its fulness.

Graham

Monday 6th July Reflection


Yesterday me and Mary celebrated fifty-one years of marriage, you may ask "how has she put up with you for so long?"" Well it might have something to do with love. Not just the romantic, fluffy feeling which can change with our emotions; but the love which is a decision of both heart and mind.

I cannot remember a day going by without us saying to each other, "I love you." Not just once but many times throughout the day. This is not a sloppy, trite, meaningless phrase but a statement of fact and intent.

On our wedding day we vowed before God and to each other, "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts us." We have experienced all of these, apart from death. Whatever our lives are going through, good or bad, easy or difficult, the words "I love you," look back to those vows, stir a heart emotion, and declare whatever happens we are together in this.

Thankfully, we have God right at the centre of our lives. This verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12 "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken," confirms that God, who is that extra strand, keeps us strong and together.

However, it is not just saying the words which are important for words are meaningless if not back up with action. Showing love for each other in the little things of life together back up the words. The cup of tea in bed, hanging out the washing, putting up the ironing board, I am just so helpful! Everyday acts of kindness are an expression of "I love you".

Our commitment to following Jesus is also more than just words. It is in the everyday acts of trust and expression of his love to others that we show him and others that our love for Jesus is real and meaningful

John 13:34-35 (NLT) Jesus said "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

Let us continue to live out love not just say the words.

Graham

June 2020 Reflections


Saturday 27th June Reflection


I woke up around 05.45 this morning, made a cuppa and sat up in bed drinking the tea and listening to the song "The goodness of God". By the way, I made Mary one too, aren't I a good husband!

V1 "I love You, Lord For Your mercy never failed me All my days, I've been held in Your hands From the moment that I wake up Until I lay my head Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God."

What a great way to start the day thinking of God's faithfulness to me, that I am held in His hands, I am safe and secure; but do I acknowledge this all day, from waking up until I go to sleep? Easy to sing not easy to do.

V2 "I love Your voice You have led me through the fire And in darkest night You are close like no other I've known You as a Father I've known You as a Friend And I have lived in the goodness of God."

How reassuring that God has been with me through the difficult times of life both as a Father and a Friend. How good is God? So, so good.

I have been reading Jeremiah which has made to think about Israel and Judah, they experienced God's goodness and love, His protection and deliverance, yet God declared them faithless and unfaithful. Jeremiah 3:6

Having seen God mightily at work they 'hedged their bets' and added other gods to their worship, just in case the Lord needed help, or was not as all powerful as he had been. Yet God still pursued them with His love and mercy, He was prepared to forgive and welcome them back.

How easy it is to compromise our love and trust in God with other things. Even in these times when life is so different, we can substitute faith in God with the good ideas of this world, even when we know they do not offer lasting hope or joy.

Chorus "And all my life You have been faithful, And all my life You have been so, so good, With every breath that I am able Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God."

"Because your goodness is running after me ... With my life laid down, I'm surrendered now, I give You everything."

My desire is that, with God's help, I will continue to sing of the goodness of God, from the moment I wake up, until I lay my head.

Graham

Monday 22nd June Reflection


Decisions, decisions, decisions. Sometime this week we will hear whether we stay safe at 2 metres or move to 1 metre with or without face covering. When will it be safe to open pubs and restaurants? What about holidays this year? Should I go abroad or have a staycation? Whatever that means!

How thankful I am that I do not have to make some of these decisions. There are often no right or wrong answers, just a matter of best judgement at the time, then get criticised for making the decision, whatever it is.

All I have to decide is when to look for a home delivery slot for the groceries or is it warm enough for shorts! How long should I sit outside taking in the rays or get on with other stuff around the home. Life is full of decisions we all have to take, some trivial, some life affecting.

I have been reflecting on Jeremiah 6: 16 'This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it."

God's people had turned away from loving God "with all their heart, with all their mind, and with all their strength." So, God was asking his people to decide, what is the direction for your lives that you choose? Moses was given the law from God, instructing his people to worship their miracle working God, to keep their lives pure and holy, to look out for the poor and needy, to care for the foreigners among them etc.

The best decision I can make is, as Psalm 128 begins, this week's Psalm, "Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways." So, each day I have the decision whether to honour the Lord and follow him or go my own way. A no brainer really, but still a decision which can at times be difficult. Making the right decision will bring rest for my soul.

"Lord help me make the right decisions through today" This is my prayer.

Graham

Wednesday 17th June Reflection


'God has seated me to be in the place where he is, so that I can do his work where I am.'

What an amazing thought to wake up with this morning. How affirming and reassuring to remember this from Ephesians 2: 6 "For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus."

God loves me so much that he has given me a seat with Jesus. Wow that is so incredible yet so true for each of us who are in Christ Jesus.

As we rest in that assurance, let us also be aware that we are called to "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone." Mark 16: 15

The familiar words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

So as I go through today knowing I am seated with Christ, I have a task here to tell others about the Good News of Jesus, and show them God's love and power as I invite him to touch them at their point of need. That is both scary and exciting.

Faith is spelt RISK. "Jesus help me take that risk (step of faith) as I seek to share your love with those I meet." At a distance of course!

Let us each one do our bit in plundering hell and populating heaven.

Holy Spirit help us we pray.

Graham

Saturday 6th June Reflection


In a small cottage by the roadside in the village of Barvas lived two elderly women, Peggy and Christine Smith. They were eighty-four and eighty-two years old. Peggy was blind and her sister almost bent double with arthritis. Unable to attend public worship, their humble cottage became a sanctuary where they met with God. To them came the promise: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground," they pleaded this day and night in prayer. One night, Peggy had a revelation, revival was coming, and the church of her fathers would be crowded again with young people! So began the Hebridean revival.

Abram at 75 years of age received a promise from God that he would be the father of a great nation through whom the world would be blessed, Genesis 12. When he was 99 years old God met him again and renewed his promise to him and changed his name to Abraham, he still did not have the son of God's promise, Genesis 17.

Moses was around 80 years of age when he received God's call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised land.

David was a young shepherd boy when he was anointed as king. Jeremiah, the prophet, was a youth when God commissioned him to speak to the nation. Jesus called teenagers to follow him, they became followers who would change the world. He also took a child and said we should be like children in our trust in God.

Are you locked down because of age or health? Pray with eyes of faith, as Peggy and Christine did, pray for revival

God uses children and young people to be life changers. All he wants are hearts captured by his love, ready to follow Jesus.

Whatever our age, background, or circumstances, if our hearts are open to God, he can and will use us for his purposes and glory. What is God asking of you? How available are you for him to use you? Let him share his plans with you for your life, then step out in faith.

Graham

Monday 1st June Reflection


During the seven weeks since Easter I have been reading about and reflecting on the early church as recorded in Acts. How I long to see God move through us, his church in Bentley, to see thousands repent and believe in Jesus, and to see the community transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through us.

In Acts this did not happen through programmes and events, it did not happen because the disciples had good ideas and worked hard; it came about through prayer, witness and wonders. After Jesus had ascended to heaven the disciples and other believers "all joined together constantly in prayer." Acts 1:14 There were about one hundred and twenty believers according to Acts 1:15.

The Holy Spirit came when "they were all together in one place." Acts 2:1. Three thousand came to believe in Jesus that day. Such was the desire to learn and celebrate this new life that "The believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:47.

Life was not easy. Peter and John were imprisoned for healing a lame man and proclaiming Jesus, read Acts 3 & 4. On their release the believers "raised their voices together in prayer to God." Acts 4:23-31. They were not praying for safety and protection but for boldness to proclaim God's love through words, works, and wonders. The believers were persecuted and scattered far and wide.

King Herod had James, John's brother killed, and then arrested Peter and put him in prison under armed guard. Read Acts 12:1-17. V8 "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him." An angel miraculously led Peter out of prison, and he went to the house where "many had gathered and were praying." V12.

Paul assured the churches he wrote to that he was constantly and earnestly praying for them to know God better, to grow in their faith, to be bold in their witness, to stand firm under persecution.

What have I been reminded of and challenged about? The church has no power unless it prays, it prays together, it prays passionately, and it prays specifically. Although we cannot meet together to pray at the moment, we can commit to pray, regularly and for the same purpose, to see God's Kingdom come in us and around us.

Who do you want to share your faith story with, so they become disciples of Jesus? Let us together agree to pray that you will have the opportunity and boldness to share your faith story and for the Holy Spirit to convict and convince them about Jesus. May your Kingdom come in power Lord Jesus.

Graham

May 2020 Reflections


    Monday 25th May Reflection


"Say what you do; do what you say." This was a mantra that I used when preparing Quality procedures, Health & Safety instructions, and Environmental guidelines as part of my job. It is so easy to say how a task or responsibility should be done, (by everyone else) then do something different yourself.

The events over the past day or two brought this mantra back to mind. I am not making a political comment here but sensed a challenge regarding my life as a Christian, and a church elder. Am I good at telling others how to live, to speak, to witness; does my life live out what I say?

On Saturday I shared about our lives being fruitful. Jesus said "Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7: 20. If we say we love God but our lives do not show his love in us our words are empty and put people off wanting to know Jesus.

Has our language, attitudes, words, and actions changed, or at least are changing to reflect our new life in Jesus? This is integrity when these things all match up. Paul writes "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5: 17. How are we living this new life? Has the old gone? Have we put on the new clothing of a life in Jesus? Or have we just added Jesus to our life, a new hope, a 'lucky charm' but still live our lives our way?

Let us be people who are "little Christs", who live out the reality of our life in Jesus, who do the things Jesus did, who obey his words to "make disciples", "to be witnesses" where we are and where he leads us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us be Christ's disciples who "say what we do and do what we say."

Graham

    Saturday 23rd May Reflection


The first reflection I wrote after lock-down was Saturday 21st March. In it I reflected on gardening and the need for pruning deadwood and old growth and encouraged us to reflect on John 15 where Jesus talks about the same thing but referring to our lives.

Over the last 10 days or so, God has again brought me back to think more seriously about abiding in Jesus the true vine, the removal of unfruitful branches and his pruning of the fruitful ones, so we become more fruitful.

The nature of all God has made, is to be fruitful. Flowers, trees, vegetables all have seeds to produce more like themselves. Animals, birds, fish, humans etc. reproduce, all are made to be fruitful.

The fruit or new life is like the original. An acorn produces an Oak tree etc. We are grafted into the vine, Jesus. We are expected to bear fruit, to be like Jesus, if not we will be removed, John 15: 2. This sound very harsh but leafy branches take nutrition away from those branches that are fruitful. Jesus cursed a fig tree that was in leaf but had no figs Matthew 21: 18-20.

God, the gardener, like every good gardener, prunes to make the plant better and produce a better crop. Pruning is not a punishment. Pruning ensures the plant is in the best possible condition to bear fruit. We are pruned, purified or cleaned, by the words of Jesus, v3. It is only as we abide, or remain, in Jesus that the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit will flow into us and make us fruitful.

"The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5: 22-23. The seed from this fruit planted in other lives will produce in them new life in Jesus.

So, let us remain in Jesus, be cleansed by his word and be fruitful. Then God will get all the glory and we will prove we are followers of Jesus, v8.

Graham

    Saturday 16th May Reflection


A couple of days ago I dropped the world and it broke! Don't fret, I found all the pieces and have put it back together. The world is now whole again.

Just so you know what happened, last year I was given a 3D jigsaw globe puzzle. Which, when mounted on its stand is something I am quite pleased with. However, I moved it and dropped it. The world broke. What a sad sight it was. Thankfully, I was able to mend the world! It is now safely back in position on its stand.

This morning as I was taking my time with God and His word, I looked at the mended world and a children's hymn came to mind. One I haven't sung or heard for 60ish years or so.

God, who made the earth,
The air, the sky, the sea,
Who gave the light its birth,
He cares for me.


As I thought about those words, what a reassurance and comfort to know the God who made everything cares for me. 1 Peter 5: 7 says "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

We have options, we can look at the broken world and lose hope, or we can look to a God who shows He cares. He sent his son Jesus, so that we can have a relationship with him and have hope.

God has chosen to use you and me to work with him to put the world back together. Are we willing to do our part where we are? Let us share God's love as we go through each day.

God cares for you. Share His caring heart with others.

Graham

    Monday 11th May Reflection


Last night the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, spoke to the nation and changed the government guidance from 'stay at home' to 'stay alert'. I wonder, did he know he was taking a Biblical principle when facing danger, to stay alert.

The passage which immediately came to mind was 1 Peter 5: 8, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." This follows the well known verse 7 "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." As we turn to God with our anxieties, we get the great reassurance that 'God cares for you'. Wow! As we rest in this, we have to stay alert, be on our guard against the schemes of the devil. V9 "Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith."

Mark 13: 33 Jesus tells us "And since you don't know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!" Luke 21: 36 "Keep alert at all times."

Paul encourages us to stay alert in prayer. Ephesians 6: 18 "Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere." Colossians 4: 2 "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart."

In these times when we are so uncertain as to when and how we will meet together, and just what the future holds for us, let us stay alert, keep our eyes on Jesus, and pray for each other, our families, our neighbours, our town, our country. Let us be persistent and thankful in our praying. Let us give our worries and cares to our God who cares for us.

Let us stay alert and be thankful.

Graham

    Friday 8th May Reflection


Around the country there will be celebrations, safely at a distance, marking VE day. After six years of war, families separated, loved ones lost a great day of celebration as war was officially ended. There were particular times when the country cried out to God for His mercy and protection. God answered these prayers, as He does when we call to Him for help, with sincere hearts.

Let us remember that Jesus won a greater victory. He defeated Satan and we live in the freedom won for us on the cross. We were oppressed by the effects of sin but now we are alive in Jesus Christ.

Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2: 13-15; "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross."

What a great reason for us to celebrate every day as we are no longer slaves to sin. We have life in all its fulness because of Jesus. So let us celebrate today, the freedom won for us by the sacrifice of those who fought in the second world war, and let us celebrate every day the freedom we have in Jesus. He gave his life so we might live.

Thank you Jesus.

Graham

    Monday 4th May Reflection


We have been watching "The Race Across the World" BBC 2 Sunday evenings. Last night was the reunion of the five couples who were competing. It wasn't quite across the world, but from Mexico down South America to Tierra del Fuego, a long way!

Each couple were given a map, a guidebook with helpful information, and money. The objective was to get to the final check point first to win £20K. The route each couple took was their decision, balancing speed against cost. No, I won't tell you who won, just in case you haven't seen the ending.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 uses the illustration of a race to describe our lives as Jesus' followers. "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."

If we run to win, with discipline and purpose, we will get the prize of eternal life with Jesus in heaven.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way 12: 1-3, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up."

My race is not your race. Your challenges and joys will be different to mine. My starting point in the race will be different from yours, other than we all start with Jesus, and the objective is the same, to win the crown of life we then use to worship with in heaven, for eternity.

Throughout the race we need to get rid of those things that slow us down. As we run, we are to become more like Jesus to whom we look for our direction. Let us keep encouraging one another to not give up, to help each other along the way and so attain the prize kept for us in heaven.

Graham

    Saturday 2nd May Reflection


At the moment there are many frustrations and challenges to learn new things regarding technology and the ability to keep in touch with each other. Zoom seems so easy when others get in touch, but, for me, so difficult to get right in me setting up meetings. This is where we need each other to encourage and support. Thanks to those who have worked this through with me, I think I've got it, well until next time maybe!

Thankfully for life in general, Jesus has identified with our humanity, he has lived and experienced the frustrations and temptations of life. Because of his humanity he is able to help us, get alongside us and walk with us through life.

Hebrew 2: 18 says, "Since he himself (Jesus) has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested."

What a reassurance there is that Jesus is able to help us when things get difficult. Know that God understands what we are experiencing and being tested in and he is there for us to help and encourage through life.

Be assured God is there beside us, let us ask for His help, we are not on our own.

Graham

April 2020 Reflections


    Thursday 30th April Reflection


I woke up this morning to a message from Phil saying "Yet another cancelled flight for 18th May, we are so disappointed. Please continue to pray for us, we want to come home to our family in Christ."

How my heart went out to them, "Lord hear my prayer for them, you see the bigger picture, may they know your peace as they keep their eyes on you."

How we all long to be able to meet together again, but that seems to be a long way off. How then do we obey Jesus command in John 15: 12 "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

The strap line of the church is 'Love God, Love People, Love Life.' The question in my mind is do I "Love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind?" Matthew 22: 37. Jesus says "this is the first and greatest commandment." How do I match up to that? Is my love for God a nice warm emotion as I sing worship songs, read the Bible, listen to comforting words?

Love as Jesus commanded us is a decision of the will, it does not depend on how I feel. This love calls us to be thinking of others, caring for others, looking out for one another. Jesus gave his life for us while we were still his enemies, such is the standard of love we are called to.

Jesus said "The second command is 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" Matthew 22: 39. At this time, as church scattered, we have the opportunity to show the love of God in us as we, safely, reach out to our neighbours. A friendly word over the fence, or a phone call. For those who can, getting essential food or medicines.

Pray for your neighbours and local area. Ask God for the boldness and sensitivity to share the Hope you have in Jesus. In this way you will show your love for God with all your heart, soul and mind and also for your neighbours.

Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, our ears tuned to his voice and our bodies ready for action.

Graham

    Friday 24th April Reflection


What a busy time in the garden and greenhouse. Cucumbers and tomatoes now in grow bags, courgettes and sweet peas planted out, the lawn raked and seeded, what a feast for the pigeons!! Weeding never ends, neither does regular watering of the plants. When the work is done for the day, how lovely to sit outside with a cup of tea and relax, thinking, 'that's the garden sorted', for a while anyway.

Our lives are like gardens, in need of regular attention, weeding and seeding, planting and watering.

Through Hosea God says to his people, 'Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.' Hosea 10: 12 NLT

What attention am I paying to my life? During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, am I planting the right seeds in my life? Is my heart hard ground, or am I asking God to 'dig it over' and make it fertile ground for him to plant into?

As I read Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus used to declare what he had come to do. I take encouragement from what follows. "To all who grieve the Lord will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.

Wow! If we plant the good seeds of a right relationship with God, through Jesus, we will be a blessing and delight to others; we will be dependable giving glory to God.

V4 says "They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations." What an encouragement. "Now is the time to seek the Lord" (Hosea), so that we can 'rebuild, repair and revive our broken communities' (Isaiah). This will happen as we are filled anew with the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, refresh us and sow your desires in us.

Graham

    Wednesday 15th April Reflection


I am sure that the novelty of self-isolation, lockdown and social distancing is wearing a bit thin. Perhaps our thoughts are turning towards the time when things get back to normal. I am hearing comments on the news that when the pandemic is over business and commerce will be approached differently, shopping habits will have changed and so on; nothing will be quite the same.

Over the last six months I have read three books which have challenged me to think about the church and begin to ask God how does he want church to act and function? (The books will be listed at the end.) This week through Spring Harvest Home, streamed on YouTube, the teaching theme, for all ages, is 'Unleashed', which is looking at the church in Acts.

People who were ordinary folk, from all different walks of life and education, fearful and uncertain as to what next, were transformed, by the unleashed power of the Holy Spirit, into a fearless, focussed community that transformed the known world with the message of Jesus Christ. Their own comfort, safety and popularity were not their first consideration. Sharing the Good News of Jesus with demonstrations of the Holy Spirit's power to transform lives was the priority for them.

So, when we can 'get back to normal' what should church look like? What should be the focus of our gatherings? How do we impact the community of Bentley with the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit? As scattered church how are we impacting our local communities, our workplace, our friends with the Gospel of peace? What are the changes we have to make in our lives for the sake of those who are without hope in God?

I am asking God what does he want of me and of church, when we can meet together again. I continue to read Isaiah 58 and see God's heart for the poor and vulnerable, this compassion was lived out in the Acts church. Will you join me in seeking God's way for us as church to satisfy his heart?

Graham


Angels on the Walls - Wallace and Mary Brown

Scattered Servants - Alan Scott

The Cause to Live For - Vineyard Churches

    Easter Day Reflection


How I miss being with everyone and greeting everyone with "Christ is risen" and getting the response "He is risen indeed."

I woke this morning with 2 Corinthians 4: 6-18 on my mind. God has made his light shine in our hearts. We have this treasure in jars of clay to show God's all-surpassing power. He raised Jesus from the dead and therefore he will also raise us with Jesus and present us in his presence. A short summary of verses 6-15, but how encouraging.

Paul then wrote the following. "16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."

Whatever challenges both life and this pandemic bring, let us keep our eyes on Jesus and allow him to renew our spirits day by day, for we have a hope that is eternal.

So, whether we miss the normal routines of life, or getting together with friends and family, or even chocolate eggs. I pray we will know the presence of the risen Jesus today and always.

Happy Easter. Jesus is alive. Hallelujah.

Graham

    Wednesday 8th April Reflection


During this time of social distancing and self-isolation we are all being introduced to new or at least different ways of doing things. Me and Mary are having to cope with on-line food shopping, what a challenge that is, walking round a supermarket with a trolley is so much simpler, now I'm showing my age.

Last Sunday afternoon we decided it was time for a second on-line shopping experience. Having logged in and eventually completed the shop, the next challenge was booking a delivery slot, there were no available delivery times. There was the promise that some were to be released and to keep checking. So, about every hour I checked (not during the night, I like my sleep), nothing available, Monday morning, nothing, Monday afternoon, nothing. How frustrating and time consuming this can be. Mary 'encouraged' me to keep checking.

Then just after 5 pm I checked again, some delivery slots became available, from Thursday onwards. What a relief. I booked a slot, confirmed the card payment. I then phoned a friend, who was also in need of a delivery and shared our good news with them. We wanted them to be able to book an available delivery before they had all be taken.

As I have thought about this excitement of sharing my good news of a delivery time, I have been questioning why I, so often, keep the Good News about Jesus to myself. He is after all, the "bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry" says Jesus, John 6: 35 "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, .... streams of living water will flow from within them." John 7: 37. Such great news, far better than an on-line shopping delivery.

As I feast on Jesus day by day, the bread and water of life, I find satisfaction deep in my heart. I have found "life in all its fullness." John 10: 10. Yet I keep this Good News to myself. Am I on my own in this? Let us pray for one another that we may have the boldness and opportunity to share this life-giving Good News with others

Graham

    Friday 3rd April Reflection


I woke this morning with the words of this song in my mind "The sun comes up it's a new day dawning, it's time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship his holy name. Sing like never before O my soul, I'll worship your holy name."

It is good to be able to praise the Lord first thing in the morning, the desire expressed in this song lies in the "whatever". We do not know what the day may bring, knowing God makes all the difference to my ability to still "be singing when the evening comes." I may not know what the future holds, but I do know the one who holds the future, and my trust is in him.

I have just started a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, to pass the time over the next few days/weeks! I am so thankful that I have the finished picture to look at and get an idea of where the pieces go, although the sky is always a challenge. Each piece is important but on their own are quite meaningless. It is only as each piece is put in the right place and joined up to the pieces around it that the picture starts to be revealed.

Thankfully God is the one who sees the big picture. I take comfort and strength is these words God spoke through Isaiah. 43: 1b - 3a "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, your Saviour."

So, in the "whatever" of life today and in the coming days let us trust in our God who is our Lord and Saviour and keep praising Him.

Graham

March 2020 Reflections


    It Is Well with My Soul - Reflection


This is certainly a difficult and uncertain time. I found the following worship hymn by Jimmy Needham featuring John Piper useful in my reflections last week. Have a listen this week in your quiet times and any thoughts and reflections are welcome.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water, so pants my soul for you, O God...

... Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I shall yet praise him, my Saviour and my God...

Ian

    Friday 27th March Reflections


It is only a week of isolation and I nearly forgot today was Friday, all the days seem the same. Familiar patterns of life have changed radically. I have even been for a walk around the estate with Mary and seen things which when driving past we never noticed.

In this different pattern of life, it can be easy to lose our focus and become 'lazy' in our walk with God. In Colossians 3: 1-2 Paul instructs the readers to "Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated." I have been told in the past "if you are too heavenly minded you are of no earthly use." Over the years I have come to understand that if we are not heavenly minded, we cannot bring the presence of God into real life situations. Being heavenly minded should be very practically worked out in our daily lives. Jesus taught us to pray "Your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

We are also encouraged to "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." We are "seated with Christ in the heavenly realms" Ephesians 2: 6. Therefore we need to see things from God's perspective, which is not always easy. When we are bombarded by bad news, the pressures of daily life, work and health issues, an uncertain future, knowing that we are secure in Jesus, having the certainty of being held in God's arms is the what enables us to not fear what tomorrow may bring.

Setting our hearts and minds on things above is a conscious decision we have to make each and every day. As the familiar pattern of daily life has changed let us decide to walk with God and let him show us new things. May our hearts and minds be truly seated with Christ so we can be useful hear on earth. That is my prayer for each one of us.

Graham

    Wednesday 25th March Reflections


Psalm 46: 1 "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." In December 1966 I was in the Cairngorm Mountains 'enjoying' hiking and camping in around three feet of snow, sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds. All part of an Outward-Bound experience, which was supposed to be something to do with my apprenticeship. The instructors decided conditions were so bad we needed to evacuate to a safe place. They guided us to a Bothy, a stone building built to provide safe shelter.

The Psalmist was able to express his experience of finding safe refuge, or shelter in God, in the midst of difficult times. A place of refuge can only benefit us if we get to it. The Bothy was there for refuge, but we had to decide we needed to get to it and then make the effort to find it and use it.

We may repeat the words of this Psalm, or others, and think that is enough. Experiencing God as our refuge is a conscious decision we need to make, then take the time to seek him, to find him in the midst of the storm. He is waiting for us to find him, to feel his strength reviving and comforting us. He is always there as "an ever-present help in trouble"

Do not be disheartened or in despair, press on to find God in the middle of the storm. May you find the reality of him being your refuge and let him strengthen you. May you know his comfort as he holds you close.

Graham

    Monday 23rd March Reflection


I recorded the film Avengers Assemble on Saturday evening and have started to watch it. These Marvel Comic super-heroes are called from their settled way of life to use their super-hero powers to save the world. How we need them to come to our rescue at this time; or do we?

This morning I have remembered a guy we read about in Judges 3: 31, Shamgar. "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel."

Shamgar was no super-hero. He has this one mention in the whole of the Bible, yet he saved Israel. All he had was a cattle prod, he used it effectively and no doubt wisely to save his nation from the Philistines, who were a constant problem for Israel.

Shamgar did what he could, where he was, with what he had.

Today you, may think, "what can I do about Covid-19, this is way beyond anything I can do?"" Let us learn from Shamgar, we can pray, make a phone call, shop sensibly and keep our distance. For many of us we will have to do what we can from our homes, the comfort of an armchair. We have our Bibles to read and draw closer to God, we have prayer to intercede on behalf of our neighbours, our town, our nation You have a phone to ring someone and let them know you are thinking of them, to break up the loneliness of isolation.

Our "super-hero" is God. Let us each keep our eyes on him and stand together in prayer, look out for one another, and see the people of our nation saved. Let us do what we can, where we are, with what we have.

Remember Shamgar.

Graham

    Mother's Day Thoughts


How different today will be from what had been planned. Family gatherings no longer happening, dinner out cancelled, hugs missed. Today will still have memories shared with family over the phone, video calls etc. Love and thankfulness have a way of being expressed, even at a distance.

We all have one thing in common, we all have a mother, none of us would be here unless we had a mother carry us in her womb and bring us into the world. Whether we have happy or sad memories, it is good to be thankful for the one brought us into this world.

Remember this "We love because God loved us first." 1 John 4: 19. Let us find it in our hearts to keep loving one another. We are after all part of God's family. Think, who may be on their own today, can I make a phone call and let them know they are loved.

"If we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?" 1 John 4: 20

Graham

    Saturday Thoughts


No football! No rugby! In fact, no sport to watch! I am having to get used to doing without these, for me at least, relaxing and enjoyable few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

It is good to have routines in our lives, things which we can look forward to, or separate each day into sections. Coffee around 11.00, Lunch, normally at half time, a cup of tea with an apple mid-afternoon and so on; even a phone call or two for a catch up.

Each day I start with reading the Bible and reflecting on God's goodness, chatting with him about his plans and mine, sharing encouragements and concerns with him, listening to his whispers of love and direction. What a great way to start each day, why not set apart 10 minutes, to start with, and begin each day with Jesus.

Later today I will be spending some time in the garden. The weather looks fine and sunny, there is always work to do at this time of year. Weeding, ugh. The weeds always seem to grow so well whatever the weather. Pruning, I enjoy. New shoots are beginning to grow and dead-wood and old growth needs trimming back to let new growth flourish.

It is the same with our lives. The Bible makes different references to our lives as gardens, or vineyards; that our lives should be fruitful and fragrant. In John 15 Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and his Father is the gardener. That for us to be fruitful we need to be pruned.

At this time of change in our lifestyle and routine, let us keep close to Jesus, the true vine, and allow God to prune and prepare our lives, the branches, so that we may be fruitful for him in the coming weeks and months.

Graham

    Reflections on Psalm 114


I thought I would share a few thoughts from the Psalm for this week, Psalm 114.

We are living in a time of wondering what will today bring, how will my life be changed, what new restrictions will I have
to face for the sake of my health and those around me?

This Psalm reflects on the time when the Israelite nation left Egypt and God's power and presence led them safely through
difficult times.

V2 "Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion." The people of God were the place of God's presence,they were
under his rule. We, the church, his people, are now the place where God's presence can be seen, we are under Jesus'
authority; he is head of the church.

V 3-8 are a wonderful summary of forty years in the wilderness and God's powerful presence guiding and protecting his people.

V 8 "who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water." There was no water for the Israelites in this
wilderness place, but God made water flow from a rock, the people were refreshed.

It may seem like we are between 'a rock and a hard place' as the saying goes. God has not changed. As we keep our eyes
on Jesus may we find a place of refreshing in his presence. We have the Holy Spirit, life giving water, to refresh our
lives.

As his precious people may we see God's refreshing presence flow from the rock of isolation, of fear of illness, of anxiety
about providing for the family, of uncertainty about job security. God is faithful, let us walk with the assuranceof his
presence with us.

Graham

Bentley Baptist Church, Askern Road, Bentley, Doncaster DN5 0EW