Here's a great video from our Crosslinks mission partners Gerald and Louise in Kenya, great to see their holiday club and to see Louise's language skills! Please pray for fruit from this recent trip.
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.
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.
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
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.
Here's a helpful video answering some tough questions:
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:
- The Problem and the Principles: Foundations
- Personal Leadership: The Compass
- Personal Management: The Clock
- 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.
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.
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!”
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:
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/)
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."
This training course starts tomorrow in Carrick-on-Shannon. It's especially aimed at Diocesan Readers and those who would like to teach God's Word to others. Please contact Nick if you'd like to go or would like more information: email@example.com
Here's a link to a site that will send an email to your local TD's to ask them their position on the eight amendment, the text of the email that will be sent is copied below so you can see what you would send: https://prolifecampaign.ie/main/virtualpostcard2018/
Here's a copy of the email that you could send:
Dear Oireachtas Member,
This is a defining moment for our country.
The 8th Amendment has had a hugely positive, humane and life-saving impact on Ireland.
The debate on abortion is exclusively focussed on removing the right to life of unborn babies while continuing to ignore all the amazing stories of thousands of lives saved by the 8th Amendment. As a result of the 8th our abortion rate is a small fraction of that in countries like England, where 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion.
For anyone who questions what repeal would mean, I encourage them to look at the evidence of abortionist Dr Peter Thompson before the Oireachtas committee on abortion where he let the mask slip and described in graphic detail how the baby is first paralysed by the abortionist, who then injects poison into the baby’s heart to stop it beating. If the repeal movement really trusted women they would tell them the truth about what happens to their baby during an abortion.
One undeniable lesson from the Oireachtas committee is that once a society accepts that one unborn baby’s life is undeserving of legal protection, it is effectively means that no unborn baby's life has any value.
No matter how it is dressed up, repeal would mean that for the first time in history, a modern society would be removing a basic human rights protection from its Constitution.
As my elected representative, I call on you to examine the full facts and not simply those recommended by the Oireachtas Committee.
I am asking you to stand up for life and articulate a message building on that life-affirming vision at the heart of the 8th Amendment.
As this debate is moving rapidly, I would appreciate an early response from you on this critical issue.
2017 has passed and 2018 lies open before us. I wonder how that makes you feel? Are you excited about what awaits, or anxious about what is ahead? Or perhaps a bit of both? The New Year is a good time to pause and look back over the last year and perhaps to ask the question, what were we anxious about last year and did God get us through? If you’re anything like me, you’ll find all sorts of things to worry about. I have a wall planner for the year, and as I look ahead to all that is coming up I often think, how will I get through it all. That’s when I need to pause and look back at all that God has helped me through and take confidence that He will continue to help. There is a very helpful Bible verse to remember at this time 1 Samuel 7:12 “Till now the Lord has helped us.” As Samuel remembered God’s past deliverances it gave him confidence of the Lord’s continued help for the future. As you look back over 2017, can you think of all those things you were worried about, can you give thanks for how God helped you through? I hope that give you confidence for the year ahead.
But, perhaps you can’t remember, or there have been times when God has seemed distant, here’s one thing you can take confidence in “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Here’s a couple of things I’m grateful to God for that started in 2017, our new “In Touch” group, a new “book of the bi-month” initiative, a new summer camp “InTents”, a children’s holiday club and 5 aside football on a Thursday night. Some of us have also benefited from the 5 days a week Bible Reading Plan which takes you through the Bible in one year by breaking it down into daily readings and gives you 2 days “grace” each week, for the days when we slip behind! Why not try it for 2018? You can find it here: https://www.drungchurches.com/bible-reading-helps/ or ask Nick for a copy.
Here's how God answered our prayers for Gerald and Louise. Slightly different weather over there!
Here's the latest from our mission partners in Kenya...they give thanks for rain! And please pray for a holiday club happening this week, see below for more:
Yesterday I shared three thoughts from John 11 relating to the grief of losing my mum to cancer 23 years ago (you can read it here), here's the 4th reason...
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.
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....and I 'll write about that tomorrow...
Corrie Ten Boom was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Ravensbruk. When she had been a little girl she had wondered if she would be strong enough to suffer for Jesus’ sake so her dad taught her a lesson, he said to her: ‘when we get on a train, at what point do I give you your ticket?’. Corrie would reply ‘just before we got on the train’. Her father would respond: ‘That’s right, I gave it to you when you needed it and not before. So it is with God….when you are called upon to suffer…He will supply the strength you need just in time.”
It was an important lesson for her to learn and a great one for each of us to learn. The apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh, we don’t know exactly what the thorn was, but it was some form of fairly intense suffering. He pleaded with the Lord to take it away, but was told “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Isn’t it good to know God’s grace is sufficient? The challenge is to trust that it will be sufficient when we need it, and not to worry about tomorrow’s problems today! I wish you all a very happy Christmas and pray that throughout the season you will know his sufficient grace.