There's a WORSHIP ART WORKSHOP on
8th September 2018 from 10.00-2.00
at THE HOUSE OF BREAD,
Bring a Bible and a packed lunch.
Cost is £10.00. To book your place email firstname.lastname@example.org See you there!
The caption for the picture reads,
'If Creation sings your praises, so will I!'
Our raspberry plants have raspberry sawfly caterpillars that have munched their way through the leaves and left them looking like fine lace. The squashes are only producing male flowers. The string beans have black fly and so does the rhubarb. It has been so hot some plants look like a blow torch has been put over them. To cap it all, it hasn't rained for eight weeks.
So I could carry on complaining and seeing everything through a grey lens.
But let's look again at the same garden in a different way and take off those grey lenses.
The sawfly caterpillars don't eat the raspberries and we've had a good crop. Black fly? Well, that can be squished or washed away and I've already made twelve jars of rhubarb and ginger jam - yum! To date, the beans are beginning to produce and the squash? Well, I was advised to try feeding them and two little squashlets have appeared! Thank God for our beautiful garden. We can share its pleasures and produce with everyone else.
O how we can complain, looking downwards instead of looking upwards and counting our blessings.
About five years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the apostle Paul had an amazing conversion experience to Christianity and so began his own Christian journey (AD 35). During his ministry he wrote many letters to the various churches he and others started. Some of these letters have survived the centuries and we have them in our Bible. In one letter, to the Corinthian church, he wrote this:
'I've worked harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' 39 lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummelled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard travelling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends and with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labour, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
And that's not the half if it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.' (2 Corinthians 11:23-29 The Message)
And we thought we had problems! If you've just read those words for the first time, you're probably thinking as I did when I first read it, 'What's with this guy? Why didn't he just quit? Walk away for an easier life - surely there was a better way!'
The apostle Paul was an incredible man. For Paul, the difference between giving up or not lay in his heart and in his vision. He wrote this to the church in Thessalonica:
'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
Paul knew who he was. His identity was in Christ. He kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, giving thanks even when the going was tough. He knew that Jesus would keep His promise, 'Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' (Matthew 28:20 NIV) Jesus would be with Paul in his shipwrecks, struggles with friends and enemies, and through all the dreadful beatings. With that sure knowledge, Paul was able to find the blessings, to give thanks and out of it all, find joy.
This isn't easy is it? But finding the blessings, however small, even in the most difficult 'shipwrecks' of our lives stops us in our tracks and forces us to pause even for a moment. We move our eyes from downwards to upwards, causing us to praise and give thanks. Recognising our blessings will also cause us to look outward as our blessings will bless and help others. Blessings are contagious! Not only that, giving thanks will draw us closer to Jesus, as we become surer that he really is with us too. And note - the 'very end of the age' hasn't arrived yet.................................
Introducing young artist Becky Addenbrooke who had her exhibition here 15th-16th June. It was a great success! Praise the Lord!
The June blog was almost ready - written and ready to go. But then, a crisis hit. My man had to go to hospital. The diary was cleared. All normal routine dropped, and a new routine pushed its way in like an unwelcome guest.....Personally, I went into autopilot and physically became very tired. My hospital-buzzing brain couldn't pray - it just wanted to rest.
And here's the big 'However'! However, friends were praying for us - and if you're one of those friends reading this right now, thank-you! It made a big difference as I felt we were being 'carried' like small children through the drama the whole time. Roger is home now and recovering well.
The whole incident had me thinking about prayer and the wonder of it all. One particular story came to mind. It comes from the book of Acts, chapter 12.
The fledgling Christian church had begun to grow beyond the confines of Jerusalem, as Jesus said it would. However, King Herod Agrippa of Palestine had John's brother, James, killed and Peter arrested.
'After his arrest, Peter was put in jail where he was handed over to be guarded by four groups of four soldiers each. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after Passover. So Peter was kept in jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him. The night before Herod was going to bring him out to the people, Peter was sleeping between two guards. He was tied with two chains and there were guards on duty at the prison gate.' (Acts 12:4-6 Good News Bible)
What an incredible picture. Herod seems desperate to have his show trial using so many guards for one man. News of Peter's arrest must have been circulated quickly and several met together to pray. This wasn't a polite prayer meeting.The writer of Acts, Luke, used the word 'ektenos' to describe the intensity of the prayer. These were cries from the depths of their hearts. Perhaps their minds went back to previous times when Peter had been arrested and miraculously released - surely the Lord could do it again? What a prayer! And what was Peter doing while all this was going on? He was sleeping! Some would say, sensible man! Chained to two guards and with guards at every entrance there wasn't much else he could do! But it also shows a deep inner peace, perhaps trusting that the Lord had everything in control, although on the face of everything, the outlook looked very bleak.
But then.......the miracle happened that the group prayed for! Peter was released (you'll have to read that part of the story yourselves!) and next we read this:
'Then Peter realised what had happened to him and said, 'Now I know that it is really true. The Lord sent His angel to rescue me from Herod's power.......'
Aware of his situation, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outside door and a servant named Rhodda came to answer it. She recognised Peter's voice and was so happy she ran back in without opening the door and announced Peter was standing outside. 'You're mad!' they told her. But she insisted it was true.....
Meanwhile, Peter kept on knocking.
At last, they opened the door and when they saw him they were amazed. He motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and he explained how the Lord had brought him out of prison. 'Tell this to James (Jesus' brother) and the rest of the believers.' he said, then he left and went somewhere else.' (Acts 12:11-17 GNB)
I just love the human-ness of this story. One moment the group are crying out in prayer for Peter's release, and when they're told by Rhodda their prayer has been answered, they tell her she's mad! Meanwhile, poor Peter was desperately trying to get inside....
How often do we pray like this? Our head knowledge tells us 'Expect our loving Father God to listen to us and provide as we need.' Yet our hearts say, 'I'm only human. Miracles happen somewhere else - not here.' It's that step of belief isn't it? It can be so difficult to take sometimes. We're always so surprised when something happens that cannot be explained. We take a step back to remember, 'Yeah, I've been praying about that,' and gaze in awe at the wonder of it all - an Almighty Creator God who listens to our prayers!