24 Years Ago Today

Another year has passed since my mum lost her battle with cancer. I recently found the order of service at my dad’s house in my mum’s old Bible:

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I remember not long after my mum had died speaking to an old retired missionary who had lost his mum when he was only 9. He told me that he still missed his mother! I found that hard to hear, I was hoping that things would get easier. He did continue to say that whilst he still misses her, it’s not as hard as it was. After 24 years, I would echo his words, I used to not be able to bear to see anything to do with my mum and would have been upset to discover the funeral order of service. Now I still miss her, but was pleased to discover the order of service and see all the hymns and readings that she had chosen.

I know there are many grieving at the moment and so have copied below my post from last year which I hope and pray is helpful:

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23 years ago today my mum lost her battle with cancer.  This photo was taken not long before she got ill. I remember the happy family walk through the woodland in Kent and have often wanted to be back there to the time before the cancer took hold.  Almost all will know what a horrible disease cancer is, many have painful memories of what it has done to them or someone they love.  Just yesterday the former tennis champion Jana Novotna lost her battle with cancer at just 49.  Cancer is miserable. Today I continue to grieve the loss of my dear mother who I only knew for 14 years, but I don't grieve as one without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), though I once did.  For about 8 years after she died I was angry with God for allowing this cruel disease to take my mum at such a young age. I'm no longer angry with God, here's 4 reasons from John 11 why I'm no longer angry and why I do grieve, but not without hope. 

1. Jesus is angry at the cause of suffering

We don't often think of Jesus as angry, but in John 11 we see something that angers him.  We may miss it on a first reading of the chapter, we're told twice that Jesus was "deeply moved" (v33, 38). 

This word could be translated as "indignant" (see ESV footnote) or as "bellowed with anger".  What is making Jesus angry? As he looks around and sees people grieving over the loss of a man who died at a young age, he is angry at suffering in the world, he's angry at death and the pain it causes, and he's angry at sin and Satan for devastating God's perfect world. 

As I see this, I am encouraged, it is good that Jesus is not indifferent to the pain and suffering in the world.  He is deeply moved, he is angry, but his is not a powerless anger, he approaches his enemy of death with the power of life as we'll see...

2. You will be raised

The reality of the resurrection does not take away the pain of losing a loved one, but it does surely help to know that there is certain hope beyond the grave.  Jesus approaches the tomb like a boxer about to get into the ring, but there is no contest, death is no match for him. With just 3 words, a man who is rotting in the tomb is called out: "Lazarus come out"! Such power over the cruellest of enemies.  But that is not the most amazing thing, because as amazing as it was, Lazarus went on to die again.  The most amazing thing is Jesus' words in v25 "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."  Jesus promises ultimate victory over death - He will call each one who has trusted Him from their graves when He returns.  How do we know that He has that sort of power?  Through his own resurrection from the dead, and as far as I'm aware, they still haven't found His body! The only explanation is that he really did rise physically from the dead!

Tim Keller very helpfully says what the resurrection to new life means for us:

"We must realise that the most rapturous delights you have ever had – in the beauty of a landscape, or in the pleasure of food, or in the fulfilment of a loving embrace – are like dew drops compared to the bottomless ocean of joy that it will be to see God face-to-face." (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller)

The future is wonderful for those who trust Jesus, but what about while we wait? Should we just grin and bear it? 

 

3. It's ok to weep while you wait

The shortest verse in the Bible - John 11:35 "Jesus wept". But why did He weep? Surely he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and this would put an end to all of the suffering.  Why did He weep? Well, have you ever shared some sad news with someone, and as you have shared it, they have shed tears for what you are facing?  I've had a friend like this, and what it tells me is that he understands the heartache.  It's no less with Jesus, he understands the pain, and he wants them to know this. This verse has been written in our Bibles to show us Jesus isn't just angry at the cause of suffering, he weeps with those facing it and he gives us permission to do the same. 

There's something healthy about weeping as Christians, it shows that we are homesick for our true home of heaven, a place where there will be no more tears, Don Carson puts it like this:

"Is not some of the pain and sorrow in this life used in God's providential hand to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, to draw our attention to himself, and away from the world of merely physical things"                        (Carson, 'How Long O Lord.')

Sometimes we need to give each other space to grieve, it's ok to weep, but even when we are weeping, there's something very comforting we can know....

 

4. God is working his purposes out

Have you ever had an injection? Sometimes they can be a bit painful. I remember the BCG, and of course getting it done as a teenage boy meant that you had the added pain of your 'friends' thumping you on it!  But we all had the injection, partly because there was no choice, but also because we knew it did us some good - namely, preventing TB.  If we with our finite minds can understand that, how much more can God with his infinite mind bring good out of suffering? It may be hard for us to understand when we are in the midst of the trials, and I have found the best place to turn for reassurance is the cross of Christ and His resurrection.  

 

When my mum died I struggled with the question "how can a loving God allow this"? Years later when I understood that God had loved us so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross for all the times that we had rejected His rule over us, I could no longer question His love.  And, when I understood that Jesus had really risen physically from the dead, I could no longer question his power. So I had to reinterpret my circumstances in the light of the cross. Again, Tim Keller puts it helpfully: 

"I am going to judge my circumstances by Jesus' love...not Jesus' love by my circumstances."

For Lazarus and his sisters, they must have been wondering, how can Jesus love us? Surely if he loved us he would have come straight away when we called him? Have you ever thought the same thing: why God have you not answered my prayer straight away?! Thankfully John 11 tells us that the reason why Jesus didn't come straight away wasn't because He didn't love them, we are told in v3 and v5 that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  In fact we are told in v6 that the very reason for His delay was because he loved them!

How can his delay show his love? What can have been more important? This was life and death!

It seems that the something more important was because Jesus wanted others to believe (v15) and this seemingly was the result (v45). Well that was for the benefit of others, what about Lazarus, Mary, Martha? Well, I imagine that the three of them had their faith in the life giving Son of God strengthened by the whole experience! Perhaps Jesus allowed them to go through the pain of death, so that they could have a stronger faith and greater confidence in Him?  What about us? Well if Jesus had healed Lazarus straight away, we wouldn't have John 11v25 in our Bibles! A verse that has brought comfort to countless numbers at Christian funerals. And we can know that God is working His loving purposes out even when we don't fully understand. 

As I remember 23 years ago, I am still saddened at my mum losing her fight with cancer, over those years I have come to understand some of God's purposes, I may not know all the answers, but I trust Him as I wait.

Resisting Gossip - a book review by Tim Challies

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I came across this review by Tim Challies of this book and thought the book would be a helpful follow up to Sunday’s sermon on the 9th Commandment. You can find the sermon here, And here’s the book review taken from: https://www.challies.com/book-reviews/resisting-gossip/

Don’t you just love a good bit of gossip? There is nothing quite like it, though perhaps a good comparison is to a juicy and succulent bit of food. The last mouthful of steak perhaps. You put it in your mouth. You let it sit there for a few moments. You celebrate the flavor. You savor it. You chew it slowly. You enjoy it to the very last chew. Then you swallow it and go your way, content and satisfied.

Gossip is like that. Gossip is every bit as enjoyable, at least in the immediate. It is only later you find that gossip bites back in feelings hurt, relationships wrecked, churches undermined.

Gossip has always been a problem (didn’t that serpent in the garden gossip about God?) so it is no surprise that the Bible has a lot to say about it. Solomon warned against it, James compared it to a raging forest fire, Paul admonished those who engage in it. Today we face all kinds of new ways to encounter and to spread gossip. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and endless electronic media simply add to the many ways we can speak wisely or speak foolishly, the ways we can relate to others in love or in spite.

Gossip is the subject of Matthew Mitchell’s new book Resisting Gossip. It is a subject that has been begging a book and Mitchell covers the subject well. He says, “This book is an attempt to arm followers of Christ with the biblical weapons we need to resist gossip in all its forms.” Yes, all its forms. Gossip is a wider and trickier problem than we may suspect as indicated by the definition he provides: “the sin of gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” A bad heart takes bad news and spreads it behind another person’s back: it is a familiar story, isn’t it?

The author goes about his task in a helpful way. After a chapter explaining why we are so drawn to gossip, he lays out five different types of gossip and gossip-er, each of which stems from a slightly different sinful heart desire. Over three chapters he offers Bible-based strategies for resisting gossip, overcoming the desire to gossip, and replacing it with something so much better. As the book works toward its conclusion, he offers help on how to respond when you have been the victim of gossip and how to respond when you have been the offender and have sinfully gossiped about someone else. An excellent appendix suggests ten ways pastors can cultivate gossip-resistance in the local church.

Through it all he remains firmly grounded in Scripture and rigidly opposed to easy or moralistic or legalistic solutions. The fact is that gossip has no easy solution–it took the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive it and it takes continually returning to the death and resurrection of Jesus to overcome it.

I do not consider myself particularly prone to gossip. At least, I didn’t. But this book showed me that I may be more susceptible than I like to think. I tend to be comfortably legalistic by keeping my definitions so narrow that they exclude me. But by widening the definition of gossip–and doing so biblically, I believe–Mitchell showed me that I may be more of a gossip than I care to admit. And isn’t it interesting that I kept trying to rewrite that sentence to keep from labelling myself a gossip. I will own being drawn to it or prone to it, but I resist owning it.

I enjoyed Resisting Gossip in the most lasting sense, because there were several areas in which it challenged and criticized me and then offered me hope. I was sorry to have to come face-to-face with my proneness to gossip, but in the end, grateful for the rebuke. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”

Marriage enrichment notes

Back in February we had our first Marriage Enrichment morning, we were joined by pastor Colin Creighton from Carrickmacross as he helped us consider how to strengthen our marriages.  And as we've just looked at the commandment "do not commit adultery" it seemed like a good time to share my notes The command not to commit adultery has a positive element - do all that you can to strengthen your marriage.  So, here are my notes, I didn't manage to get everything down, but hopefully it makes sense, please don't hesitate to ask if anything is unclear.

We started with the assumption that every marriage needs strengthening, and Colin assured us that we weren't going to have to share anything with anyone else! 

We began the day by thinking about what men and women mean when they say the following:

     "I have nothing to wear" - 

What does he mean, what does she mean? He means, I've got nothing clean to wear, she means, I'm fed up with my wardrobe and want some new clothes. 

"I'll do it later" 
"I'll be ready in 5 minutes"

And a few other phrases, these were just amusing examples that showed men and women are different! Colin stressed that we are equal but different.   

“It is the difference between men and women, not the sameness, that creates the tension and delight.”

We need to think about how we're different and how we can best communicate to one another. 

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The following differences come from a helpful book "Love and Respect" by Dr Eggerichs, they are general observations, there will always be exceptions, but these are arguably common differences between men and women:

Different wiring

Colin shared an example he'd seen at a school recently, he'd seen some girls skipping and one of them fell over and hurt herself, the girls stopped skipping immediately and all made sure that she was all right.  

He then saw a boy go down in a game of football, what did the boys do? Carry him off to the sideline so that they could carry on their game! 

We're wired differently, it's not to say that men are never caring, or women are never tough, but men tend to minimize vulnerability and women will maximize connection. 

Different skills  

Men tend to minimize emotions and women tend to be better at processing emotions.  

Different struggles. 

What makes a man defensive and likely to want to run away is criticism and contempt.  Because men feel love through being respected, when we are criticized or treated with contempt it makes us withdraw.  And the trouble is that withdrawal and being defensive is exactly what tends to drive women crazy.  When their husband won't engage or shuts down, the wife is hurt, because the way that she feels loved is by her husband being close to her and opening up to her. And this can lead to what is called the crazy cycle:

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What can we do about this? In his book "Love and Respect" Dr Eggerichs suggested a love code to help men love women in a way that they feel loved, and women to love men in a way that they feel loved, again these are generalisations, and there will be some overlap and differences, but they might just fit! 

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How can the husband show her that he loves her:

  1. Closeness - "she wants you to be close" 

Affection and time - men will often find things to do, but does she know that she is top of the list when you get some spare time or do you always fill it with other things?  Do you show affection - not just in the bedroom, but before heading out the door - kiss before leaving.  We get into business relationship too quickly.

2. Openness - "she wants you to open up"

Men do want to be close, but we're not very good at being 'vulnerable' being open. 

Tell her what happened! She wants to know the details of your day! The trivial details aren't trivial. She wants to know what she's afraid of, who her friends are, what her worries are, and she wants you to tell her the same. 

One of the biggest killers of openness is the smartphone!  Leave it somewhere!

3. Understanding - "Don't try to FIX here, just listen"

They are not looking for a solution, she just wants to talk! 

4. Peacemaking "she wants you to say "I'm Sorry" 

She needs things resolved! Men are able to put things to one side and think, now it's ok...

5. Loyalty - she needs to know that you committed

Husband saying publicly how great his wife is.  He's loyal. He's not looking at porn. Wherever he is, he's got my back.

6. Esteem - "she wants you to honour and cherish her."

Does she feel cherished, that she is my delight, that she's thought about when I'm not around. Buying her flowers shows you were thinking about her.

For the wife trying to understand the creature God has put you with:

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  1. Conquest - "he wants you to appreciate his desire to work and achieve.

Wives and work are not meant to be rivals. Wife can resent husbands work because he seems to spend all his time there. But if he's not respected at home, he'll spend more time there. He gets respect at work, so if no respect at home, he'll spend more time at work!  Imagine, he has a wife who admires him, and she sends him out. What will happen? He'll come back to the source of his strength, the place where he is cherished most is his home. But if not respected, then he will just go out and not want to come back. 

Worst thing - if he tries to talk about work and you show no interest. 

2. Headship - "his desire to protect and provide"

Providing & protecting. Give him space to lead. Won't want to try something and then be told he didn't do it right. Too often he is criticized when he tries to lead, so for example a man says to his wife, I don't want you to drive tonight because it's icy" she says "I'll go where I want" - he won't try again. Or when it comes to parenting, if the wife criticizes every attempt that the husband makes in parenting, then he'll not try again, he'll withdraw, it's too risky to be humiliated. 

If he loses his job and you say - "there's bills to be paid, you'll never get another job..." if he feels that she is treating him with contempt - he withdraws. But if she says "You have provided every day and I can't ask for more, we'll get through this" then he is empowered.  

3. Authority - "appreciate his desire to serve and to lead."

If he's not allowed to make decisions, he'll withdraw.  Imagine you're struggling for money, he said I'd like to take you out for dinner. To say no, we're not going out, when he tries to take the lead. Often he won't ask twice.

4. Insight - "appreciate his desire to analyse and counsel"

Ask for his opinion, she respects his thoughts. If he starts talking and she shuts him down, then he won't try again. If she wants to know his advice = respect

5. Relationship - "his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship"

She likes face to face... He likes doing stuff together...

6. Sexuality - "appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy"

For ladies, intimacy leads to sex. For men, other way round "sex leads to intimacy" 

We ended by considering how we can a make steps towards what we'd like our marraiges to be like in 20 years. Colin recommended the "Love and respect" book and Kevin Leman "Sheet Music" - you can find links to these and other resources on our website herehttps://www.drungchurches.com/familymarriage/

Please get in contact https://www.drungchurches.com/get-in-contact/ if you have any questions or would like to sign up for our next marriage enrichment course. 

What are your tough questions?

After harvest we're going to be looking at some of the tough questions that we sometimes get as Christians.  You know when someone says, "you can't believe in God because..."

I'm thinking we might cover:

  • Isn't the Bible just myth? 
  • You can't believe in a loving God because of suffering?
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?
  • Why is God anti-sex? 
  • If God forgives freely, can't I just live how I want?

Maybe they are the sort of questions you have or that people ask you? Or maybe there's other ones? Please use the comments on the blog or on Facebook or use the GET IN CONTACT page to let me know what people ask you, or what your objections/questions are and we'll have a go at answering them in our Sunday services after harvest.  

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Don't waste your cancer?

 Gervase Markham

Gervase Markham

"Don't waste your cancer" - it's a very strange expression, surely nothing good can come out of cancer?

I first came across this statement from John Piper when he wrote an article on the night before his surgery for cancer.

More recently my old housemate (Gervase Markham) spoke about what it meant for him as he fought cancer, he wrote:

"one major thing it has done is that it has given me a closer, more real and more certain hope of heaven. The possibility that in ten years one might be dead concentrates the mind wonderfully – both on not wasting a minute of any day, but also on looking forward to the wonderful eternity that awaits." 

He also made an incredible and very moving video which you can watch here,  and you can read an obituary here. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ruth and their three young sons.  

I wrote about my own experience of losing my mum to cancer here. 

If you're affected by cancer, please don't hesitate to get in contact here

Look Down That Lonesome Road: Overcoming Substance Abuse

Here is a guest blog from Adam Cook at Addictionhub.org

Adam lost his best friend to addiction and now wants to help others who are struggling with addiction.  Please check out his website for more, and please get in contact with Nick if you’d like to talk about any of the issues raised about addiction and substance abuse. 

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There’s an old song called “The Lonesome Road” that could properly describe overcoming substance abuse. The journey toward sobriety definitely feels lonesome since it is so personal, and you grow weary of bearing the heavy load of your past as you travel. Yet there are ways to make that road seem a lot less lonely and to make that load much more manageable. If you’ve hit rock bottom and have already taken that first step of admitting that you need help for your addiction, then you know how lonely it can feel.

 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. According to The New York Times, as of last year, about 21 million Americans suffer from substance abuse, so you’re definitely not alone. Taking that first step helps keep you from becoming a permanent part of that statistic. And there are plenty of people - from recovering addicts to their friends and family to mental health professionals - who can help you down that lonesome road. In addition, there are a number of things that you can do for yourself.

 

1. Get Healthy and Get Fit

Your addiction has probably harmed your body to the point that you are not sure how anything feels or tastes anymore. You are most likely malnourished and should immediately change your diet by focusing on eating healthy foods. Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, can improve your digestive health, boost energy levels naturally, balance blood pressure, and so much more. Supplement your veggies with proteins, such as fish, poultry, and eggs, which also boost your energy levels.

 

Not only should you change your diet, you should also begin to exercise. You can do anything from running to fast walking, or get started with weight training exercises, including lifting weights in a gym and simple bodyweight exercises you can do right at home. Exercise releases endorphins that give you the same effect that you used to get while high or drunk. The difference? This is done naturally and contributes to your overall health. Plus, it feels a lot better. Both healthy eating and exercise must be part of your daily life while in recovery.

 

2. Get Professional Help

Do you know what comorbidity is? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is two or more disorders occurring in the same person. There is a good chance that someone who has an addiction also has a corresponding physical or mental health disorder. For example, some alcoholics drink because they are depressed, and vice versa. Having regular appointments with a professional, whether it’s a licensed clinical social worker, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, not only helps with other issues you’re dealing with, but it could also uncover another disorder. There is absolutely no shame if something else is uncovered. It becomes part of your healing journey.

 

3. Take a Whole, Soulful View of Your Recovery

While you’re in recovery, you are doing more than overcoming addiction. You are healing your entire life: your body (with healthy eating and exercise), your mind (with some professional help), and your soul. Getting into healthy eating and exercise habits and getting help from a professional are important, to be sure, but there should also be some healing of the soul. While addicted, you harmed yourself - and most likely, others as well. You probably often felt numb, as if some part of you was missing. It is time for you to now feel joy in your life. Theologian and poet C.S. Lewis famously said, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

 

While the road seems lonesome and the burden tiring, always look for joy as you go. This happiness, along with healthy living and help from those who care about you, will greatly help your recovery.

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

 

Free Audio Book (a great one this month!)

I've mentioned Christian Audio before, if you sign up for the mailing list you get a free audio book every month, some months are better than others, and this month is a great book called "reading the Bible supernaturally" - it's a book that offers anyone to help encounter the living God through His Word. If you ever struggle with reading your Bible - and most of us do, then this is a book for you! Get it for free in July at this link.

Christian Audio also have monthly memberships and books you can buy, but you don't have to pay anything to sign up for the monthly free book. 

https://christianaudio.com/free/

Service Time Changes

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Here's the recent letter that went out with our most recent term card:

As I’m sure you all know, one of the challenges in our group of parishes is for the Rector to try and be with all the parishes every week.  I’ve been trying to come up with a way for me to be at every service every week since I arrived as I really want to see you all every week.  The obvious way was to move one service to the evening, but after talking with the vision group and asking you via the questionnaire I discovered that was not really an option.

The last two summers I’ve tried putting churches together and alternating the location of the service, but as a group of 5 we’re just slightly too big for that, and I know that most of you would like to have a service every week in your own building.

After further discussion and review of the questionnaires, I’m delighted to announce that with a small change to everyone’s service time I will be able to be almost everywhere every week!  There will be teething problems, especially as I’m on leave in August and then the harvest services, and that’s why we need to give it a decent length of time to get into the new pattern.  I would suggest that we try these times for a year and see how we get on. You may well spot something I’ve missed, please do come and talk to me if there are any issues.  Over the summer holiday there will be no Sunday School so I will do my best to make the service child friendly, and once the children are back at school, there will have an all-age service every 3rd Sunday in Lavey and in Drung  to give the Sunday School leaders a week where they don’t need to prepare.

The advantage of this service time change is no more sermon recordings, services in most buildings most weeks, I get to be with almost all of you every week and Sunday School leaders get a rest.  If a particular Sunday the service time doesn’t suit you, please make the most of the fact that we’re a group of churches and enjoy visiting one of the other churches that week.

As I said, I’m sure there will be some teething problems,  but I hope in time we’ll soon get used to the new routine.  Please be assured this is not something  I’ve undertaken lightly, but after much prayer, discussion and consultation and I hope that it’s a really positive step forward  for us as a group of churches. You can find the new service times on our Find Us page here and also on the coming up page here

Every blessing,

Nick

 

What do you actually do in a "Bible Study"?!

Sometimes fear of the unknown keeps us away from something.  Tonight we have a Bible Study at the Rectory at 8pm and I wonder if sometimes people are unsure about what happens in a Bible Study.

People start to arrive about 8pm and we have tea and coffee and cake.  After that the leader of the Bible Study will say welcome and a short prayer to ask for God's help as we study His word. 

Then someone reads the Bible passage out loud, or if it's longer passage we often listen to an audio recording of it.  There is no pressure to read out loud if you'd prefer not to. 

Bible Study Cavan, Drung Redhills Stradone LAvey evangelical Larah

We normally just have 5 questions:

1. What strikes you from this passage?

2. What questions do you have about this passage? Is anything unclear?

3. How does this passage point us to Jesus?

4. How would you summarize the passage in a few words?

5. How does this passage apply to us?

We normally study the passage that we have just looked at on Sunday so if you were at church you'll hopefully have some idea about what the passage is about and may even already have questions about it that you would like answered - this is a great time to ask! You may find others have similar questions.  If you missed church you can always listen to the sermon online here, or else just come to Bible Study to catch up on what you missed, you can just listen in if you don't want to say anything.

We normally finish our study about 9pm and then pray about what we've seen in God's Word - giving Him thanks and asking for His help to put it into practice.  There is no pressure to pray out loud, you can just pray quietly if you prefer.  We also have an opportunity to ask for prayer for anything and then commit those things to the Lord.  People are free to stay and chat afterwards but most people normally leave by about 9:30pm.

The great thing about studying the Bible together is that we learn from one another, seeing what struck each other, asking questions.  The only thing missing is you! You're all very welcome, and if 8pm on a Wednesday or the location doesn't suit you, please let me know and we'd love to start more Bible studies at other times and places. 

Prayer for those sitting exams

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Heavenly Father, we pray for those sitting the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, especially those known to us. Please help them to face their exams with peace, confidence, and courage, with wisdom, faithfulness and honesty; that they may do justice both to themselves and their teachers.

We pray especially for those who are leaving school, please may your goodness and mercy follow them throughout their life.  Please guard them from danger and keep them from evil, guide them continually in the right way and assist them in every good work.

Adapted from "Parish Prayers" by Frank Colquhoun 

 

 

Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow - Book Review

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Nancy Gutherie is no stranger to sorrow, she has done what none of us should have to do - bury a child, and she has had to do it twice.  Her daughter Hope lived just 199 days and her son Gabriel lived only 183 days.  I have just finished her book "Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow" it is moving and very helpful, some chapters more than others, in particular the ones on God's purpose in pain, God's sufficient grace and on Jesus soothing our fear of death where she deals with those 'if only questions" that come to mind sometimes.  And in her chapter on God's purpose she helpfully writes:

"To experience and exude peace when life is crashing down around you, to have the lightness of joy when the weight of sorrow is heavy, to be grateful for what God has given you when you've lost what is most precious to you - that is God at work on the interior of your life. It is the light of God piercing the darkness of this world." 

I think my only reservation about the book is that she ends each chapter where she writes as if she were Jesus speaking to you, I find that a bit strange, and whilst she doesn't say anything controversial, I just find it strange! And so I would recommend another book that she has compiled as an even better read, it's called "Be Still My Soul" and you can get it here

On the subject of suffering and pain, I'd also highly recommend Tim Keller "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering" and also "Kiss the Wave" by Dave Furman - though I've not finished this one, but what I've read so far is excellent, and I read his earlier book "Being There" which was another helpful read. 

Please don't hesitate to get in contact if any of this raises things that you would like to talk or pray about. 

Stuck? A book review of "Unstuck"

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We all get stuck in different ways, I confess I’m stuck right now!  Matt Perman’s new book “Unstuck” doesn’t promise that you will never get stuck again, but does offer lots of advice for what to do when you are stuck, and offers ways to avoid getting stuck in the first place.  

I had previously read and benefited from Matt’s book “What’s Best Next” and so was very happy to be sent an advance copy of “Unstuck” to read and review.  I have wanted to do book reviews on this blog for a long time, and the fact that I am now doing one is an example of the benefit of Matt’s book!

The book is broken into 4 parts:

  1. The Problem and the Principles: Foundations
  2. Personal Leadership: The Compass
  3. Personal Management: The Clock
  4. Special Obstacles: The Laser

What I loved about Unstuck was the other-person focus.   So often productivity becomes about me getting as much done as possible in as little time as possible, and while Matt has plenty of helpful practical advice, he helpfully helps us think about using our time to serve other people to the glory of God.  It’s not just about getting things done, but getting the right things done.

In part two Matt helps us try and work out what the right things are, the danger in life is that we just drift through without really thinking about what’s important, he writes:

doing things faster and more ‘in control’ will not suffice if you are going the wrong direction.

So Matt encourages his readers to think about what’s really important in life and set a vision, and challenges that if you are lacking motivation and passion in life, it may be that you are lacking vision.

I think I found part three the most helpful part of the book, this is when things got more practical. Here Matt talks about getting in the “zone”, this is the place where you are focussed on what you are doing and not distracted, and he speaks of “doing the work in a way that is relaxed and energizing, not hurried and exasperating.” Sounds great, and since reading the book and putting some of it into practice, I have experienced something of this. Matt speaks not just of managing not just your time but also your energy, the idea is to give your most important work the time of day when you have most energy and are least distracted, for me that’s 6am after a strong coffee! Do your creative work first and your reactive work second.  If you can fit in a few hours of deep work without distractions, you will be amazed at what you can get done. Matt goes into the science of deep work and distractions and it’s very helpful.

The final part of the book is aimed at targeting particular barriers to productivity.

I think my only criticism is that Matt recommends a huge number of books! But perhaps as I apply his principles and thinking over time I will have more time to read! Nevertheless, Matt has done more of the heavy lifting by digesting the books for us and sharing the wisdom.

I would recommend the book for anyone who gets stuck, especially knowledge workers, but there are also very helpful principles for those wanting to study well for their exams – especially the section on deep work.  Unstuck will help you to think through the big picture and serve others to the glory of God. Thanks Matt, I’m now unstuck!

For more see: HowToGetUnstuckBook.com

Order the book from Amazon here.

Darkness in the middle of the day

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This time almost 2000 years ago it went dark in the middle of the day (from 12pm to 3pm). It was as Jesus was dying on the cross.  Why did this happen? Darkness in the Bible often is a sign of God's judgment (e.g. Exodus 10:21-29), but who was God judging at the cross? Who was God punishing? The surprise is that His holy anger was being poured out on his own Son - that's why Jesus cried out "My God, my God why have you forsaken me." 

But why would God be angry at Jesus? Surely he is the beloved Son who never did anything wrong?  That is true, but at the cross Jesus willingly took our place, a bit like Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame swapped places with Julie in the hostage situation last week. Jesus stepped into our place and was punished for every time we've not loved God and neighbour as we should.  What an incredible swap.  You're very welcome to join us to reflect on this at our Good Friday Reflections tonight in Lavey Church at 8pm, our choir will be singing a song about this, here's some of the words:

Now the daylight flees,
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
'Finished!' the victory cry.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath:
We stand forgiven at the cross.

 

How does God answer prayer?

The Pain of Childlessness

Hannah had been childless for years and it was deeply painful, what made matters worse was that her husband had 2 wives and the other wife (Peninnah) was reproducing like a rabbit and was teasing and provoking Hannah.  Hannah was upset, so upset that she couldn’t even eat. (1 Samuel 1)  She knew the pain of hearing others announce their pregnancies, the pain of the nappy aisle, and the pain of seeing push chairs in the park.

 How would Hannah respond to the mocking Peninnah? I guess she had two options, (1) Be mean back or (2) Pray & ask God for help. Hannah went for option 2 and she poured out her heart to the Lord.  We see the freedom we have to give our grief and sorrow to God.  

“Our Lord can handle our tears; it won’t make him nervous or ill at ease if you unload your distress at his feet.”  (Dale Ralph Davies) 

Isn’t it great that we don’t have to pretend everything is all right? God gives us permission to pour our hearts out to Him.  And incredibly God always answers the prayers of his children.  If we’re trusting in Jesus then we are his children whatever our age!  At our Mothering Sunday Service I explained to the children that God answers in one of four ways: NO! SLOW! GO! or OVERFLOW! 

The Painful silence of ‘no’

 For how many years had Hannah cried out to the Lord? The answer had seemed to be ‘No’, and sometimes that is God’s answer and we can be left hurting and wondering why, but not left without hope.  Our mums sometimes said ‘no’ to us because they knew what was best, how much more does God know what is best for his children, we have to trust Him, and we have more reason than Hannah had to do so.

The Long wait of ‘slow’

For Hannah, it turned out the answer had been ‘SLOW’! God sometimes says – “you’re asking for a good thing, but the time is not right, keep asking”. God wants us to learn to persevere and keep asking.  Perhaps Hannah would not have been ready to give her son to the Lord if God had answered any earlier and would have missed out on the OVERFLOW answer that was to come.

Hannah begs with God to give her a son, she is so desperate that she promises that she will give him back to the Lord.  Sometimes we can hold onto our children too tightly, but Hannah knows that the best thing for her child is to serve the Lord.  After Hannah has poured out her heart to the Lord, she is no longer sad and is able to eat.  The sceptic would say, of course she is, because she now has a baby, but incredibly this peace is long before any baby is even conceived.  After giving her burden to the Lord, Hannah has peace that passes understanding, she knows that the Almighty God will do what is best. 

The joy of ‘go’ and ‘overflow’

God seems to give a “GO” answer as a baby son is born!  But it’s more than “GO” – it’s OVERFLOW!  Can you imagine how hard it would have been for Hannah to give her baby back to the Lord? She’d waited years for this child, and then when he was weaned, she gave him to serve in the temple.  But God was going to do immeasurably more than she could ask or imagine.  Samuel would grow up speaking God’s Word, and would even anoint the first kings of Israel – Saul and David. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who was born in David’s line? King Jesus! Hannah had asked for an earthly thing, God had given her an eternal thing.  We might say Hannah gave her son to the Lord, but incredibly through her son’s ministry the Lord would eventually give His Son for Hannah! This most wonderful gift would mean that Hannah would be able to enjoy an eternity with her son.

The chapter closes with Hannah saying that she has ‘lent’ her son to the Lord, how long for? Just a lifetime! Hannah knew she would get him back for eternity! Here is a wonderful comfort to God’s children who have lost children – you will see them again and never lose them again.

God always answers prayer, but sometimes he says NO – will we pour out our hearts to Him and trust that he knows what is best?  Living this side of the cross, we can be sure of his love more even more than Hannah.  Sometimes He says ‘SLOW’ will we keep asking? Sometimes he says “GO” – will we rejoice and seek to serve Him? And sometimes out of a desperately hard situation He says “OVERFLOW!”

Mother's Day is hard for some, we want to stand with you

For many years I found Mothering Sunday difficult, and I have to admit, I stayed away from church, how could I go to church and watch people give out flowers to their mums when my mum was not here anymore? For others, it's difficult for different reasons, some have lost children, some have never been able to get married, still others have not been able to have children, and some didn't get on with their mums.

At church this Sunday we have a United Service in Drung at 11am. We aim to give thanks for someone who has mothered us whether they are still around or not.  We also will recognise the worth of every lady by giving out a little gift to all the ladies to say thank-you for all you do for all the children, whether they belong to you or not.

I hope you all feel able to come this Sunday to celebrate someone who has mothered you and hope you will feel included and welcomed because you are. 

You'll see below a whole host of things that we want to do this mothering Sunday - not all of them will be said, but all of them will be intended:

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What we aim to do this Sunday (this list is taken from messymiddle.com - see below for link):

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

(taken from https://www.messymiddle.com/an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day/) 

Broken legs and God's mercy?!

Many of you will have heard that my son broke his leg just over a week ago. It's been a difficult week, in and out of hospital and lots of painful nights (for us all!).  Yesterday at church we sang "All people that on earth do dwell" and the fourth verse reminds us "the Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure." Could I sing that at the end of last week?! Yes, I could! We saw many of God's mercies last week, among them were that my mother-in-law happened to be staying with us that night (the plan had been to give Dorothy time to write a talk for MU...but God had other plans!).  Dorothy's mum being here meant she could look after our eldest while we went to hospital! The roads were not icy for our trips in and out of Cavan and Drogheda, and perhaps the biggest relief was that I didn't have to preach! I had already booked in a visiting speaker (with the intention of allowing me to plan and get ahead!) and so it was a great blessing to be relieved of the pressure of preparing a sermon.  We were greatly blessed by Mark's preaching, you can listen to his 2 sermons here.

 And of course, the Lord our God is good even when we don't see his mercies as clearly as we saw them this week.  We only need to look at the cross, to see God's incredible mercy beyond doubt.  So whatever week you have this week, I hope you can also sing "the Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure."

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