Some Ancient Words to reflect on this Easter

He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God;

He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.

He hungered—but He fed thousands;

Indeed, He is the Bread that gives life, the bread of heaven.

He thirsted—but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.

Indeed, He promised that fountains should flow from them who believe.

 

He was wearied, but He is the Rest of those who are weary and heavy laden.

He prays, but He hears prayer.

He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.

He is sold, and very cheaply, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver;

but He redeems the world,

and that at a great price, for the price was His own blood.

 

As a sheep He is led to the slaughter,

but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.

He is bruised and wounded,

but He heals every disease and every infirmity.

He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree,

but by the Tree of Life He restores us;

He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.

Who? He who turned the water into wine,

who is the destroyer of the bitter taste,

who is Sweetness and the altogether lovely one.

 

He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again;

and the curtain is torn,

for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened;

the rocks are cleft, the dead arise.

He dies, but He gives life,

and by His death destroys death.

He is buried, but He rises again;

Gregory Nazianzen [c330-c390]

 

Good Friday Readings and Prayer

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

 

A. Success through Suffering

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
    he shall be high and lifted up,     and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
    his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
    Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
    and that which they have not heard they understand.

 

B. Facts of his life

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

C. His suffering explained

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

  

B’. Facts of his death

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

 

A’. Success through Suffering

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

  

1 Peter 2:21-25

 

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

Martin Luther:

 

Here’s what you should do when you feel your sins weighing on your conscience. Don’t be afraid. Instead, by faith, take them off yourself and place them on Christ. For this text says, ‘He has borne our iniquities.’ It’s clear that we need to entrust our sins to Christ. If you think your sins still belong to you, then this thought doesn’t come from God but from Satan because it is contrary to God’s word.  For in God’s word, God places your sins on Christ. So here’s what you should say to yourself. “I see my sins on Christ.  So my sin is no longer mine. It belongs to another. For I see it there on Christ.” It is a great thing to be able to say, “My sin is not my own any more….My sins have been transferred to Christ and now they are his responsibility.”

 

Jesus was pierced for my transgressions;
Jesus was crushed for my iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought me peace,
and with his wounds I am healed.

A Prayer to pray to return

 

Lord Jesus Christ, I admit I’ve been like a sheep that has wandered away from you. I’ve gone my own way and I’m sorry. I want to return to you. Thank-you that you went willingly to your death for me, taking the punishment I deserved. Please help me to die to sin and live to righteousness. Amen.

 

 

Maundy Thursday Readings

Sorry these weren’t on the term card, if you’d like to read ahead of tonight’s service you can read Psalm 88 and Luke 22 below. As you read Psalm 88 it would be good to think about how Jesus might have used these words in the Garden of Gethsemene:

1 Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

 

Luke 22:

 39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed,42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

 47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

 



The true Vine


As encouraged by “6 steps to loving your church” - here’s the reading for this Sunday! It’s from John 15:

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You might also like to read Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5 to see the history of the Vine.

Who was St Patrick and why celebrate his life?

St Patrick

Patrick was born in Britain during the reign of the emperor Theodosius (347-395AD). His father was Calpornius and grandfather Potius.  Both of them were involved in the local church, but Patrick confessed that he paid very little attention to the Word of God as he was growing up.

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When Patrick was 16 something happened that would change his life forever.  His father was an important man in the town and had left Patrick in charge for the day. There were had plenty of servants to take care of things and so Patrick himself went for a walk up on the hill.  He was enjoying the view out to sea, he could just about make out a couple of boats being blown along by the wind. He assumed they were fishing boats. But something in him made him concerned.  His father had often told stories around the fire of Irish raiders, but surely those days were long gone. He thought about running to warn those in the town, but then said to himself that he shouldn’t be so jumpy.  As they got closer, to his horror he realised they were not fishing boats, he saw rough looking men, and weapons! He ran to warn the villagers, catching his breath as he entered his home, he said to a servant girl – “Raiders…quick, raise the alarm.”

The servant girl dropped the pot she was carrying and screamed, Patrick wasn’t sure why she reacted so strongly until he felt a knife pressing at his throat and a gruff voice in broken Latin saying “come with me, don’t get hurt.”

Patrick wanted to fight back, but it was pointless. He went with the brute down to the boat. All around him, people were being grabbed, and his beloved home was being set alight. He fought back the tears and demanded to be released “I’m a Roman citizen, my father is an important man, you mist release me!” But the sailors simply laughed at him.

At first Patrick wasn’t sure what they were planning to do but as they approached Ireland it dawned on him that he would be sold as a slave.  They next thing he knew they were at something like the mart, with men holding up fingers to bid, but to Patrick’s horror they weren’t bidding on cattle and sheep but on people! Patrick was sold as a slave.

He worked for the next 6 years tending sheep. He described the place as the Woods of Voclut, near the Western Sea, which could be around the modern town of Killala in Mayo.  Wherever he was, Patrick didn’t know, but one thing he did know, he was far from home, lost and alone.  He began thinking over his life, far from being angry with God, he regretted not having paid more attention at church, he had ignored God’s Word and hadn’t lived God’s way.  Patrick even said that he deserved to be taken into captivity because of the way he had treated God. Patrick couldn’t remember much, but He knew God was merciful and so in the mess, far from home, he cried out to God

Patrick says “it was here in Ireland that God my heart so that I became aware of my failings and began to turn with my whole heart to he Lord.” Patrick used the words of Psalm 40 to describe what happened next. 

“I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry. 

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

 out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

A song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

And put their trust in the Lord.”

 

What happened? Was he set free? He was still a slave in a foreign land, but something more incredible happened. Patrick described a burden being lifted, a burden he didn’t realise he’d been carrying.  He was still a slave in Ireland, but his heart had been set free. He’d been lifted from the pit of destruction, He no longer feared God’s judgment because the Lord Jesus had taken his sin.   Psalm 40 speaks of one who delights to do God’s will (v8), and Patrick knew that wasn’t him, but he trusted in the one who had always delighted to do God’s will (Hebrews 10:5-8), and had done so even to the point of death.  The Lord Jesus Christ had obeyed God perfectly, Patrick had not, but when Patrick cried out for mercy, the Lord Jesus took all of Patrick’s sin, and gave Patrick his perfect record of obedience – what a swap!

From that moment on, Patrick wanted to serve the Lord, he knew he could never repay the Lord for all that he had done, but he desired to live his life declaring God’s praises to others.

For the next 6 years, he became a man of prayer.  In his confession he speaks of how he prayed whilst tending the sheep, up to 100 times a day, and his love for God and faith in Him was strengthened.  He said he would get up early before daylight, whatever the weather, to commit the day to the Lord.

Return to Britain

 

One night, the Lord spoke to Patrick in a dream and told him there was a ship waiting for him to take him back to Britain! Patrick was delighted, and wasn’t afraid to escape and head off in the way he thought God was leading him.  When he got to sea, he found a ship about the set sail and was so thankful, he approached one of the sailors to ask if he could board, the sailor said he didn’t see why not, but he’d check with the captain.  The captain had no time for Patrick, and told him in no uncertain terms that he could not sail with them and to sop bothering his crew! Patrick walked away feeling dejected and prayed to God, thanking Him for leading him this far, apologising for his impatience and asking for him to keep trusting while he waited.  The next thing he heard a voice shouting - the sailors had persuaded the captain to take Patrick on board!

Patrick was so relieved and couldn’t believe he was finally on his way back to Britain.  However, there were still a few obstacles in his way, the first of which was that the sailors invited Patrick to join in a pagan ritual of sucking their breasts to show his allegiance to them.  Patrick didn’t want to offend the sailors, and didn’t want to risk losing his ride back home, but he loved and feared God more than these sailors, God had rescued him out of the miry bog and he was not going to descend back into it.  He politely declined their offer saying that he followed the Lord Jesus Christ and could only give his allegiance to Him.  The sailors were shocked, but let Patrick on anyway. 

You can only imagine Patrick’s relief to be finally on the way home - to see his family again after 6 years, he could hardly wait!  But he’d have to wait a bit longer, there was a furious storm and they were blown off course, after 3 days they landed, expecting to find some people to direct them and to buy provisions, but they found no one and nothing to eat for 28 days! They were famished and near death.  The Captain said to Patrick,

“Well, Christian, what are you going to do? You say this God of yours is so great and powerful – why don’t you pray to him for us? We’re dying of starvation.”

Patrick answered with confidence urging them to turn to the Lord themselves and confirming that nothing is impossible for God and that God would indeed provide for them. Six years of praying to God daily had taught Patrick to trust God, and God answered his prayer with a herd of pigs! The sailors enjoyed BBQ pork for the next two nights.

Eventually Patrick made it back to Britain, his parents were overjoyed to see him again and understandably they never wanted to lose him again, so you can imagine their shock when not long after returning home Patrick told them that God was calling him back to Ireland! What?! Back to the land of his captivity? Surely not.  But God had spoken to Patrick in a dream, he had a vision of a man named Victoricus pleading for Patrick to come back to Ireland to speak to them about Jesus.  Patrick knew that God was calling him back to Ireland.

At first, those in the church were not persuaded, but eventually they decided that after further study and preparation Patrick should be sent as a Bishop to Ireland so that he could preach the good news and eventually ordain local people to be clergy and he was sent to Ireland in around 430AD.

Return to Ireland

It was very strange for Patrick to get back on a boat heading for Ireland, but this time he wanted to go, he was still sad to leave family and friends behind but he was convinced that God was calling him. As far as Patrick knew, Ireland was the ends of the earth, he knew that there were hardly any Christians in Ireland at the time, almost everyone worshipped pagan gods and he was convinced by Jesus’ words to go and make disciples of all nations.  He longed for people to know Jesus as he knew Jesus, and longed for the Irish people to be rescued from their rebellion against God.

Patrick was accompanied by some other Christians who were persuaded of the need to bring the good news of Jesus to Ireland and to establish churches.  The first people they met didn’t give them the warmest welcome – they accused them of stealing pigs! They were taken to the landowner Dicho who asked them why they had taken his pigs.  

“We haven’t stolen any pigs” Patrick replied, “we have travelled all the way from Britain to teach people about the God we worship, not to steal or cause harm. In fact the God we follow commands us not to steal but to do good to all people and even to love our enemies.  Dicho was amazed at what he heard, and Patrick and his companions seemed like honest men, but he said “I don’t understand what I’m hearing! You’re telling me that you’ve travelled all the way over to Ireland just to tell people about your God – why? What’s so special about him.”

Patrick was delighted to have the opportunity to speak about the Lord Jesus so soon after arriving: “the God we serve is the only God, He made everything, none of us have worshipped him as we should, but instead of demanding we fix the problem, He loved the world so much that He sent his only Son to live among humans and to die in our place so that we can be forgiven and enjoy being with God forever.  I’d be glad to tell you more about Him if you like?”

Dicho responded “And I’d be happy to hear!” The Lord opened Dicho’s heart to see his need of Jesus and transformed him.  Dicho now understood the importance of what Patrick and his companions were doing and since he owned a lot of land he gave Patrick a site for the first church! What an incredible start and great confirmation of the Lord’s call to Ireland! Patrick now had a base.  He helped the new believers to grow by teaching them from God’s Word, but he remained convinced of the need to keep going with the mission God had called him to. 

From his time as a slave Patrick knew that Irish life was rural and tribal, in the 5th Century there were around 150 tribes, each one having its own king. Patrick understood that the way to reach Ireland with the good news of Jesus Christ was to reach the kings, also, practically speaking, the only way he could speak safely to the members of the tribe is if he was there with the king’s permission and so Patrick sought to pay to give him this freedom.  This approach undoubtedly helped him gain a wide audience and over the course of about 30 years Patrick writes in his confession that he baptised thousands of people!  Not only that but he also ordained local Irishmen to continue multiply and continue the work. 

So why do we celebrate St Patricks Day?  The 17th March is thought to be the day that he died, probably around 460AD.  The date was passed on from generation to generation and the stories about Patrick multiplied and exaggerated! Scholars, however are convinced that Patrick wrote two works, His confession and a letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.  These two works give us the record of a man whose life is worth celebrating, a sacrificial life given to spreading the good news of a Saviour who had changed Patrick’s life forever.  We pray for more men and women like Patrick who are committed to spreading this wonderful news.

This St Patrick’s Day, why not celebrate his life by reading his confession? You can read it free online here: https://confessio.ie/etexts/confessio_english#01

 

Further Reading and sources for this blog post:

Patrick’s Confession

Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus

St Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman

Patrick of Ireland, Michael A.G. Haykin

The Boy who forgave, K. C. Murdarsi

Saint Patrick, The Man & His Mission, John Holmes

 

 

M

Latest Prayer Update from our Mission Partners in Kenya

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 Praise God that we have 26 young people in the programme this year, one or two more may still join.

 Give thanks for a good start to TransformD, pray for our young people as they study the bible in-depth, many for the first time—that the Holy Spirit would convict and teach them more. Pray for more understanding. They are looking at Genesis in personal devotion, Mark in teaching sessions and Ephesians in group bible study.

 Please pray for Marylyne who has Type 1 diabetes as well as epilepsy and is having some medical issues.

 Please pray for several members who are more ‘searching’ than they are believers. Pray for their hearts to be opened to the gospel, particularly as they study Mark and explore the life of Jesus and the gospel message.

 Give thanks that we have moved home! We are now settled into a new place considerably closer to church and the iServe office.

A prayer to prepare for taking Communion

Here’s a helpful prayer to pray before taking Holy Communion:

Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly thank you that you did choose bread and wine to be the emblems of your sacred body and blood, given on the cross for the sins of the world and that you did command us to remember you.  As we prepare to take Communion, please deepen our repentance, strengthen our faith, and increase our love for our Christian family in the church so that, eating and drinking in remembrance of your sacrifice, we may truly feed on you in our hearts with thanksgiving, for the sake of your great and worthy name.

(Book of Common Prayer)

No confidence?

As the UK prepare for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May and her government it is good news that we can still have confidence in God and his government! Tonight we’ll be looking at God’s trustworthy Word in our Bible Study at 8pm at the Rectory. All are very welcome to come and find confidence in uncertain times.

School Enrolment for Drung

Just a reminder that our church school is now open for enrolment:

Drung No 2 Central National School will be accepting applications for enrolment from 14th January 2019 until 1st February 2019 for the next academic year (2019 - 2020).  Any parent seeking to enrol their child should contact the school secretary: Drung (No.2) Central N.S., Drung Co. Cavan; Tel (049) 4338317; E-mail drungcent.ias@eircom.net; Website www.drungno2ns.ie

The way to blessing in 2019

blessing cavan

Happy New Year again!

Our Bible Reading plan starts today with some great fresh starts - the creation of the world in Genesis 1 and the way to blessing in Psalm 1. As we enter into 2019 what path will you take? The path of blessing or the path of perishing? It seems an obvious question but then why don’t more chose the way of blessing? The choice is laid before us in the first Psalm, do you want to be strong and stable like a tree planted by steams of water or do you want to be weightless and blown about by the wind like chaff? The way of blessing, the way to be strong and stable according to Psalm 1 is to delight in God’s Word, to meditate on it, that means to chew it over and think about what it means. How can you do that? Can you resolve to read the Bible for 10 minutes every day and think and pray about what it says? You can get the Bible Reading plan here and here’s the readings for the first week of 2019:

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Happy New Year!

Sorry!

I owe an apology - over the Christmas services I said that the 2020 vision Bible reading plan could be done in 5 minutes a day, I was basing this on day one of the plan, but having tested a few more days I think 10 minutes a day would be a better guess! It’s still a small amount of time for each day and will get you through the Bible in 2 years! There are also normally 2 catch up days each month for if you do get behind, but I’m sorry for suggesting 5 minutes a day, I think you’ll need another 5 minutes, and ideally a bot more time to think about what you’ve read and pray about it.

Why are some days longer than others? The plan has broken up the readings where they make sense, so for example in Genesis, the whole Noah account is read together. In the book of Genesis a clue is found whenever the author says “these are the generations of….” that’s like a section break.

Can you spare 10 minutes a day?! Get your 2020 Vision Bible Reading plan here and see here for further details.

2019 Family Devotions - helpful post from Tim Challies

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Here's a helpful article on Ideas for Family Devotions from Tim Challies, you can find it here

A new year is just about upon us, and as it dawns, we have a new opportunity to lead our families in devotions. Whether you’ve been utterly consistent or mightily struggling, here are 10 ideas and 10 tips that may help as you consider the year to come.

Ten Ideas for Family Devotions

Just Read the Bible. This is the simplest suggestion of all: Just read the Bible a book at a time. Younger children tend to do best reading narratives, but as children grow older they need the whole Bible. Consider reading the epistles slowly, a few verses per day, taking time to discuss and apply them. Or read all or some of the Psalms, or whatever else seems interesting and applicable. Don’t overthink it–just commit and read.

Read Big Beliefs!. David Helm’s Big Beliefs! is one of the favorite devotional books we’ve used as a family. It includes a daily reading plus a short devotional and a couple of optional discussion questions. It’s targeted at ages 8-12, but younger kids will be able to stretch up for it while older kids will be able to stoop down. It is framed around the Westminster Confession of Faith and teaches a broad systematic theology. We loved it!

Read Morning and Evening. It’s for good reason that Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening remains a devotional classic. His reflections are deep, timely, and suitable for quick reading. You may have the best success with the edition edited and modernized by Alistair Begg. You may need to put some effort into finding a suitable and significant reading to go with each since Spurgeon’s devotions are typically based on a single verse.

Read the Narratives. We’ve found great value in reading (and re-reading and re-re-reading) the narrative (story) portions of the Bible. Yes, we read other parts, too. But the stories work so well. So why not read through the big picture of the Bible in 2019 by focusing on those parts. In the Old Testament, read Genesis, parts of Exodus (you might skip the building of the tabernacle, for example, and the giving of the ceremonial law), parts of Joshua (perhaps skipping the division of the land), Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Esther, and so on. For the New Testament, focus on a couple of gospels and Acts. Read the passages aloud, one section or one chapter at a time. Ensure that each day you read enough for it to be significant but not so much that you lose the attention of the children. Over the course of a year you should be able to make your way through much of the Bible’s big story.

Read Around the Table. Sometimes it’s best for mom and dad to do the reading from their own Bible, and especially so when children are young. But as children get older and more adept at reading, it may be best to get each child a Bible so they can follow along. When you do this, you can have each person take a turn reading aloud. It may be too clunky to read one verse per person, but perhaps each person can read a few verses at a time. Or perhaps you can have one person read each day’s entire passage. This gets children comfortable with reading (and perhaps praying) in front of others while also pushing for deeper engagement with the text.

Read Long Story Short. Marty Machowski has released a number of excellent books that are ideal for family devotions, but I most-often recommend two of them: Long Story Short and Old Story New. Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school. Old Story New is the sequel and walks children through the great truths of the Christian faith in the New Testament. Both include daily readings, discussion points, and prayer suggestions, and are designed to be completed in about 10 minutes per day. (You might also consider his book Wise Up which focuses on Proverbs.)

Focus on Proverbs. The proverbs contain timeless wisdom and are written specifically for young people. Young Christians need the proverbs! Proverbs are meant to be treated like a lozenge or hard candy, to be savored over time rather than quickly chewed up. Consider reading the proverbs slowly over the course of weeks or months. Read 5 or 6 each day, but pause on 1 or 2 of them, considering what they mean and how they can be practically applied. It’s unlikely you will ever read 5 or 6 without encountering at least 1 that is especially fitting for your family. We recently visited a family and joined their devotions to find they are reading the proverbs, then taking turns attempting to summarize each one in exactly 6 words—an exercise meant to make the children think well.

Read a Catechism. The majority of today’s Christians have forgotten about catechisms, but as believers we have quite a legacy with The Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, and others like them. The Gospel Coalition has combined the best of those two (while making them a bit more Baptist-friendly) with the New City Catechism. Catechisms approach the Christian faith in a question and answer format and invariably include Scripture to go along with them. If you structure your time around a catechism, do ensure you give attention to an associated Scripture passage.

Mix It Up. Consider deliberately mixing up your devotions for 2019. Perhaps spend a month reading a book of the Bible, then follow with a devotional book for a while. Maybe through the summer you can switch to the Proverbs, then head back to reading an epistle as you head into fall and the gospels as you approach the Christmas season. Variety is the spice of life, right? Variety will keep your children engaged and, equally important, keep their parents engaged.

Ten Tips for Family Devotions

Here are ten tips related to family devotions.

  1. More important than how you do family devotions is that you do family devotions.

  2. Keep family devotions simple, especially when starting out. Five engaging minutes are far better than 20 rambling ones.

  3. Family devotions is not only about gaining knowledge but also about establishing patterns and displaying priorities.

  4. The foundation of family devotions is simple: read and pray. Better said: read, teach, and pray.

  5. Family devotions don’t need to be fun, but they must not be drab either. Focus on engagement, not entertainment or the mere transfer of information.

  6. The benefit of family devotions is not only gaining knowledge but also relating to God together as a family.

  7. Do not grow discouraged if your children look bored. Measure long, not short, and expect your kids to behave like kids.

  8. Ask for tips on family devotions from others in your local church. Glean from their successes and false starts.

  9. Expect that God will work through family devotions but do not demand that his work take a certain form.

  10. Dad, take responsibility for family devotions. Lead your family by leading them to the Word and leading them in prayer.

Other Resources

Finally, here are a couple of resources you may find helpful:

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:

Cavan Marriage Enrichment
  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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