On Sunday we begin a new series looking at the book of Jonah, can you guess what the sound is? Have a read of Jonah chapter 1, listen carefully to the sound above (warning - it's quite loud so turn your volume down first!) and see if you can work it out. The first child to tell Nick the right answer on Sunday morning during the sermon will get a prize! There's no Sunday School over the summer so it will be all-age services every week, this week we're in Ballyhaise Church at 9:45am and Killoughter Church at 11:30am. Hopefully see you then!
Can you believe that we are just about half way through the year?! The first cut is done, the children have got (or are about to get!) their holidays. Perhaps you feel that the year has flown by, for others it may have dragged. Well, however the first half has been, the second half lies open before us. It's a great time to reconsider any new years resolutions we made! At the start of the year I encouraged people to take on the Bible in the Year Reading Plan, if this has slipped, now is a good time to start something else, if you didn't manage to start, now's a good time to start!
Here's a link to some great ideas for reading plans for the last 6 months of the year - click here.
Or you could just start the 12 month plan now and work through to next July. See here for more info.
"Blessed is the person...whose delight is in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 1)
We're looking forward to our songs of praise over the summer, we'd love to sing some old favourites and perhaps learn some new ones too! Thank-you to those who filled out cards on Sunday, if you didn't manage to, please let us know what you would like to sing by clicking here
Following on from our recent Vision Service and Dinner we have a focus group meeting this Thursday to try and process all the good ideas. Two representatives from each church in the group will help us to work through all the suggestions. We look forward to better serving God, our churches and wider community as a result.
Our holiday club will be taking place in Burrowes Hall from 6-8 July, with a special United Service in Larah Church at 11am on 9th July with a chance for the children to show parents and carers what they've been up to! We'll enjoy a picnic together afterwards. Please book here and you have any questions feel free to email Nick (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This morning I came across these great words whilst reading a book "Invest in your Suffering" by Paul Mallard and thought I'd share them with you:
"The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied, and sore depressed, when swiftly, and suddenly as a lightning flash, that text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way, “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. I never fully understood what the holy laughter of Abraham was until then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.” Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine; and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in a lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for thee.” Oh, brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to Heaven, but great faith will bring Heaven to your souls."
May we all know that God's grace is sufficient.
You can buy "Invest in your Suffering" by Paul Mallard here
The Manchester attacks this week have been deeply distressing, how should we respond? Keep calm and carry on? Does Psalm 5 offer something better?
You're invited! All welcome:
There's lots happening this week, our last session of "6 steps to loving your church" is tonight (Wednesday), and then here's what's on the rest of the week, all very welcome:
Here are two great looking free ebooks available this week to help us reflect on Easter:
In the chaos of our increasingly fast-paced and hectic society, the annual coming of Holy Week each spring is a reminder to pause and ponder, to carefully mark each day, and not let this greatest of all weeks fly like every other.
It is a chance to walk with the church throughout the world and throughout time as she accompanies her Bridegroom through the eight most important days in history. And it is an opportunity to focus our minds on, and seek to intensify our affections for, the highest and most timeless realities in the universe. Click on the link above to download it for free.
In this book, Dr. R.C. Sproul surveys the great work accomplished by Jesus Christ through His crucifixion—the redemption of God’s people. Dr. Sproul considers the atonement from numerous angles and shows conclusively that the cross was absolutely necessary if anyone was to be saved.
Opening the Scriptures, Dr. Sproul shows that God Himself provided salvation by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross, and the cross was always God’s intended method by which to bring salvation. The Truth of the Cross is an uncompromising reminder that the atonement of Christ is an absolutely essential doctrine of the Christian faith, one that should be studied and understood by all believers. Click on the link above to download it for free.
After the high of Joshua, we enter a downward spiral in the book of Judges. For those following the Bible Reading Plan there are some dark days ahead in in the book of Judges. In the first chapter the phrase "did not drive out" is repeated time and again and Israel failed to drive out their enemies, their obedience and trust of the Lord was slipping. They started looking at the might of their enemies and stopped looking at the power of God. As Tim Keller puts it "God sees any failure to obey is a failure to remember." At the beginning of chapter 2 God reminds them of his power and might - he brought them out of Egypt - remember the plagues and the crossing of the Re Sea - pretty powerful stuff - so what are a few iron chariots to God? But like us, they got easily troubled because they were looking down rather than up.
So then God hands them over to their enemies, and then they cry out to the Lord and he raises up a judge (a leader/rescuer). There is deliverance and peace for a time, until the cycle continues like this:
The book of Judges contains a number of these cycles getting worse and worse each time - but there's also some great and very exciting rescues!
The book ends with a very depressing summary - "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
We're left longing for the perfect king who can bring perfect deliverance. Each of the judges is a type of Christ - rescuing God's people using unusual means, but each of them fall short and the deliverance is only temporary. We're left longing for the king of kings. This week (Easter) is a great week to reflect on our need for him and rejoice in how he brought deliverance for us.
God made some big promises to Abraham (Genesis 12), they can helpfully be summed up as people, place, blessing. God promised that the old childless Abraham would become a father of many nations, that they would have a place to live and that they would live under God's blessing and be a blessing to the nations.
What happened? God gave Abraham a son in his old age, and eventually they became so numerous that when they were living in Egypt the Egyptians tried to thwart God's plan and oppress God's people, but the more they oppressed them the more they multiplied! (Exodus 1:12). God rescued his people from their slavery and led them in the wilderness for 40 years until they were ready to enter the land that had been promised to them many years earlier. But there was one slight problem - other people were living there! We enter the murky waters of the accusations of ethnic cleansing, and questioning how God could do such a thing. Thankfully God told us a little earlier why he would do such a thing - it wasn't because his people were particularly good (they were described as stubborn!), but rather it was because of the wickedness of the people in the land (Deuteronomy 9:4-7). God had been patient and merciful for a long time with the wicked nations, but as they did not turn from their wickedness they met God's justice. If you're anything like me we sometimes struggle to understand this and think how can God act in such a way. I think that's probably because we forget about the perfect holiness of God. He will not tolerate evil and must punish it. Deep down we know that's right, if there was a mass murder in Cavan and the judge simply said to the perpetrator of the crime - "oh we all make mistakes" - there would be an outcry, and rightly so! God is a good of justice, and that's why we (as those made in his image) should be outraged at injustice.
One day God will perfectly punish all evil, the driving out of the nations in Joshua is a foreshadowing of this. God keeps all his promises, including his promise to punish evil. Nothing can be hidden from him. In Joshua 7 we read about a man called Achan who thought he could hide something from God, but he was found out, and the penalty was death. How can any of us escape from God's perfect justice? Our wrongdoing will be discovered, but Joshua's name gives us some hope - it means "The Lord saves" - the Hebrew version of Jesus. In our reading from Luke 19 we saw the great news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. People like Zacchaeus who had cheated and stolen, people like you and me who similarly face a God of justice aware of our own short fallings. His rescue is the one we remember at Easter - he died in our place and took the punishment we deserve and so God promises forgiveness and blessing to all who take refuge in him (as we'll see in Psalm 2 this Sunday). The more we see the holiness of God and his righteous judgment, the more grateful we'll be for the Lord Jesus.
By the end of Joshua (the book we're just finishing in the Bible Reading Plan) we hear these incredible words "Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." (Joshua 21:45) God keeps all his promises, the question is will God's people chose to live under his blessing? As we begin the book of Judges we'll see...
For now, why not cling to our faithful God and chose to live his way (Joshua 23:8).
How do you walk into church? What sort of things are you thinking? Am I late?! Where will I sit? How long will it go on?
What does God think as we walk into church? In the first week of "6 steps to loving your church" we thought about how God is not taking a roll call as we walk in - nor thinking "I hope their worship is up to scratch" but rather is thinking:
"You're my beloved & adopted children, you are a gathering of people that I have purchased with the blood of my son...you're pure and acceptable in my sight, not because you come to church, nor by anything your do at church, but because of the cross....I'm so glad you're here, you belong here, I want to speak to you, encourage you, rebuke you though my Word so that you can grow. I want to hear your prayers, I want you to love one another."
That's an incredible thing to think as we walk into church. We were encouraged to think about this and to pray as we walk in, pray for God's help and pray that we might be able to encourage someone else.
In week 2 we thought more about building in love. We asked the question is church more like going to the cinema or a backyard blitz and concluded it should be more like a backyard blitz - where everyone is working together for a common cause rather than simply attending as an audience. We were challenged to think about how we might seek the good of others, encourage someone in their faith, and discussed how we might move from the "ministry of the few" to the "ministry of the pew"!
In week 3 we thought about building during the service, by joining in with the responses and singing, looking out for any who haven't got a service sheet or Bible, welcoming any newcomers, and listening actively - the DVD asked us what our screen saver is as we listen to the sermon! Are we actively listening and following along in the Bible, or are we searching for the invisible fairy in the building, or being a "dipping duck" (nodding off)!
Tonight we're thinking about "love over coffee" - all welcome to join us - 8pm in the Rectory.
She'd gone too far this time. No way she could be forgiven. Everyone knew about her, she was the talk of the town. How could she do such a thing?
That's what everyone thought about her, and she had the cheek to crash a dinner party of some very religious people! Everyone was outraged, everyone except one. There was one man who stood up for her, who offered her a fresh start, a new life. We read about her in our Bible Reading Plan this week (Luke 7:36-50). In fact, Jesus had more time for her, than he did for the super religious. He even said that the religious leaders could learn a thing or two from her!
The fact is that the religious had not made Jesus feel very welcome, but this woman had. Why? Why would she show love to Jesus and the religious leader didn't?
"Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet." (Thomas Watson)
This lady knew she needed forgiveness, she knew her life was a mess, and she knew Jesus could forgive her, and so she loved Him. The religious leaders didn't think they had anything to be forgiven for (but they were wrong!) and so they didn't love Jesus.
Incredibly, Jesus forgave her completely, as far as the east is from the west. Her sin was forgiven and forgotten. How could he do that? He was on his way to the cross to pay for her sin so that she could go free. That's why she was overjoyed. Here was a man who knew the very worst about her, and yet offered her a fresh start. Amazing Grace!
"The forgetfulness of God’ is a remarkable doctrine. It is a balm for all who are burdened by guilt. When we grasp this truth, we no longer find ourselves asking what must I do, but rather what can I do to serve such a wonderful God.” (Lindsay Brown)
Is it possible to never fail in the wilderness? Yesterday, we thought about how God's people failed in the wilderness, and if we're honest, we'll know that we do to.
The season of lent reminds us of the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, and one of our readings this week from the Bible Reading Plan was from Luke 4. Incredibly, we see Jesus (the second Adam), tempted in the same way as the first Adam, and yet this new Adam stood firm. Adam and Eve were tempted by something that was good for food, Satan also tempted Jesus with food - Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and was hungry! Jesus had the power to turn the stones into bread, and yet he said "No" to Satan. Secondly, Adam and Eve were tempted by something that was a delight to the eyes. Satan tempted Jesus with the delight of all the kingdoms of this world. But where Adam and Eve failed, Jesus didn't. Thirdly, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to want to be like God, and he tempted Jesus to exploit his position as the Son of God and put the Lord to test. Adam and Eve stumbled at each temptation, the Lord Jesus was tempted as we are, yet remained without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The first Adam should have listened to God's Word and said 'No' to Satan, the second Adam did listen to God's Word and said 'No'.
It is possible to never fail in the wilderness - Jesus did it, but he's the only one who ever has and ever will, yet incredibly, to those who trust in him, he gives his right standing before God! He also empowers us by His Spirit to say 'No' to Satan! That's something St Patrick knew, and it's a great thing to think about today!
"The Scriptures tell us, "The first man, Adam, became a living person." But the last Adam--that is, Christ--is a life-giving Spirit.'" (1 Corinthians 15:45)
Does life ever feel dry and barren? I have been meaning to write on the book of Numbers for a while as those following the Bible Reading Plan have been reading through it (and hopefully have just finished it!). It's not an easy read, there's a lot of historical names and places - it's called Numbers because there is a census at the beginning and another at the end, and in between - 40 years in the wilderness! But there are a lot of parallels to today - for the Christian life now can often feel like a wilderness, our true home is in heaven (as we've been seeing in our Sunday series in Philippians). Numbers teaches us about the fight in the wilderness, there are many trials and temptations - will we keep trusting God in the wilderness? The sad truth is that, just like Israel, there will be times that we fail, but the good news is that just as God provided a way of rescue for Israel, he's done it for us.
In Numbers 21, God's people are grumbling again, and God sends serpents among them, but when they cry out to the Lord he provides a way to be rescued. It's a strange way - Moses was to make a bronze serpent and to lift it up on a pole. Anyone that was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze serpent and they would live! How?! They simply took God at his word and trusted the means of rescue provided. As they looked at the bronze serpent they saw what they deserved, but experienced God's mercy. Jesus told Nicodemus that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, so Jesus would be lifted up - not on a pole but on a cross. The way for us to be rescued is the same - take God at his word and believe in the means of rescue. As we look at Jesus lifted on the cross, we see what we deserve for the way we've treated God, and as we trust in the means of rescue we receive God's mercy.
Nothing can stop God's plan to bless his people (as Balak discovered - Numbers 22-24), but we need to take God at his word. The Numbers generation are a warning to us - most of them didn't believe God's word that he would give them the land, and so they failed to enter it, but God remained faithful to his promise, and the next generation entered the land under the leadership of Joshua and Caleb - the two men who trusted God.
If you got lost along the way, or haven't yet started the Bible Reading Plan then now's a good time to join in - today we started Deuteronomy - and it recaps a lot of what has gone on as Moses urges the next generation not to be like their parents but to be faithful to our faithful God.
Last night was the launch of "6 steps to loving your church". This is our lent course for this year, we'll be seeking to grow in our love for one another as a church family. You can listen to the intro here and you're very welcome to join us for the next 6 Wednesday evenings at 8pm in the Rectory. Please pray that this course helps us to grow in our love and service of each other.
Don't forget we're meeting tomorrow (Wed) night at 8pm at the Rectory to discuss the Prodigal God, if you need a refresher this video may help!