30th November 2019

Giving—Our Act of Worship

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation, neither shadow of turning.”
James 1:17 (NKJV)

When we give a gift it is to express love, concern, appreciation and thanks. Take a look at a person’s face when you give them a gift, especially children. The gift could be expensive or it could be hand-made and not too expensive but it will still be appreciated. Yet the gifts that we give and receive pale in comparison to God’s greatest gift that He gave to the world—His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, who offered Himself up on the cross, that we might have eternal life (John 3:15). God also gave us redemption from sin (Hebrews 9:12), salvation through Christ (Hebrews 5:9), a kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11), and everlasting Joy ((Isaiah 51:11), just to name a few of God’s gifts to His children.

Giving is important to Christianity. One of the ways we give to God is through our worship. The Israelites gave to God through worship. Let’s take a look at a few examples that should encourage us in our giving. In Exodus 35:21-29 we find that:
verse 21 says their hearts were stirred, their spirits were willing. In verses 22-23, they gave sacrificially, things which they treasured most. The Israelites gave their personal talents for use (verses 22-24). Verses 27-28 tell of Israel’s rulers bringing precious stones, spices and oil as offerings, and in verse 29 it says the children of Israel gave a freewill offering—by choice.

The Israelites gave generously for the building of a physical temple which is no longer in existence. How much more should God’s children give to the spiritual temple that will last for ever in order that others can hear the good news of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus came to this earth in order to sacrifice His life to save sinners and open the way that all may come to Him with repentance and baptism, to have their sins forgiven and receive the promise of eternal life. As God has given to us generously, we are to give cheerfully, not by necessity or grudgingly. For God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

There are many benefits from giving back to God: a deeper love and commitment in serving God will develop through giving; in times of stress our faith will be stronger when we give; God will give us inner peace, joy and grace, a sense of fulfilment as we become like Him, the greatest Giver of all. Our focus will be less on physical provision and more on worship in giving and there will be a greater desire to share what God has freely given when we unselfishly think of others in giving (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Prayer
Eternal God, thank you for the gift of giving, but whatever we give or how much cannot be compared with the greatest gift of all—our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It’s in His name we pray.
Amen

Study by Dennis Payne
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About the Author:
Dennis Payne attends the North London Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International London
Indian YMCA
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
LONDON
W1T 6AQ

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Barry Robinson
Email: london@gracecom.church

29th November 2019

A Sure Promise

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.”’”
Jeremiah 33:14-15 (NIVUK)

Have you ever been the recipient of a broken promise? Perhaps a parent said they would buy you the toy you’ve always wanted but they never did. A classmate at school says they will let you play football with their mates but never does. Maybe you’ve arranged to meet a friend for a date, and they failed to show up.

Have you ever broken a promise you’ve made? ‘I’ll call you next week,’ but you never do. If you’re like me it will be ‘I’ll do the washing up,’ and it’s still waiting to be done in the morning. How about ‘I’ll pray for you’ and then you’ve failed to do it? Some promises are made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them, like ‘I’ll be ready in five minutes.’ Other promises are more serious, such as ‘till death do us part.’ But whether our promises are casual and flippant, or hugely significant, the sad thing about human beings is that we all break promises and have been let down by broken promises. Being the brunt of broken promises can leave us feeling disappointed, frustrated, and deceived. Sometimes we can become cynical or develop significant trust issues with people which can spill over into our relationship with God. Can he be trusted? Will he let us down? Are his promises reliable?

As human beings we might make promises and have promises made to us that are not followed through, but the good news is God will never let us down. As the Psalmist says, “For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does” (Psalm 33:4 NLT). This is the case regarding the promise made in our header scripture that a righteous branch will sprout from David’s line doing what is just and right. This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He came from the lineage of King David, is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) and proclaimed justice for the poor and marginalised.

What God says comes to pass because he is the God of the sure promise not the broken one. We mustn’t allow our negative human experiences to adversely affect our relationship with God. He is willing and able to do what he says he will do, so let’s trust him and live in the belief that his promises are sure and secure. What a blessing that will be when difficult times come our way.

Prayer
Father, thank you for all your promises that have been fulfilled and the ones that are yet to come. May we stand on these sure promises as we walk with you.
Amen

Study by Barry Robinson
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About the Author:
Barry Robinson is an Elder and part of the National Ministry Team directing Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He is also a pastoral worker in the South of England, particularly the Camberwell and North London congregations of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International Central London
Indian YMCA
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
LONDON
W1T 6AQ

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Barry Robinson
Email: london@gracecom.church

28th November 2019

Thanksgiving

“…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Almost four centuries ago (1620, to be precise) a group of serious-minded Christians left Plymouth for the ‘New World’ to escape persecution in England. After two months of battling Atlantic storms, the Pilgrims (as they were much later referred to) landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts—many miles north of where they had intended going. Their first winter saw more than half of them dead due to malnourishment, cold and disease.

Thankfully some native Indians came to their aid and taught them to hunt forest animals, and grow crops such as corn, squash (pumpkin), vegetables and wheat. They had a bumper crop that first summer of 1621 and, subsequently, set aside 3 days of thanksgiving to God for his blessings. Instead of being angry and bitter with God for a horrible sea-crossing where most of them suffered terrible sea-sickness, and many died of cold and hunger, the survivors praised and thanked God for his love and providence. We can learn from this too, to patiently endure the sad times while, like the Pilgrim Father, echoing the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 92:1 “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”

In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday. He called it a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens”, to be celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday in November. Although not a commanded biblical festival per se, Thanksgiving is a worthy celebration of God’s abundant material provision for us. For Christians, however, every day is a day of thanksgiving—not only for our physical necessities, but also for God’s abundant grace in giving us his Son, Jesus, as our Saviour and King!

Prayer
Thank you, Father in heaven, for blessing us abundantly in so many physical ways—but especially for giving us your precious Son who has made our salvation possible.
Amen

Study by John Magowan
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About the Author:
John Magowan is a member of the Pastoral Council at Grace Community Church, Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Lisburn
(www.grace-ni.org)
Ballymacbrennan School Hall
129A Saintfield Road
LISBURN
BT27 5PG

Meeting Time:
Sunday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
lisburngracecom@gmail.com
Phone: 07764336760
Email: bobbeggs@hotmail.com

27th November 2019

My Angel’s Name Is Jenny!

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 18:10 (NKJV)

I was driving up the M1 on the way to our annual GCI Denominational Conference for the UK and Europe. It happened in such a flash as I pulled even with a lorry. It was a left-hand drive lorry and he didn’t see my little silver car on the silvery road in the rain. So easy to do. He moved over into my lane and I ended up hurtling into the central reservation, bouncing off and in a flash was across the four lanes into the barrier on the other side before coming to a stop.

I can only believe that God protected me and my two passengers, because we survived with no broken bones, no one paralyzed or blinded, no blood shed and, although we are severely bruised and sore, are recovering well. I wonder how many times God has protected me without my even knowing? When I go on a plane I pray on take-off for blessing and protection, and I pray on landing with thanksgiving, but I admit I do not say a prayer every time I get into a car!

In Psalm 91 King David says “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place…He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways, in their hands they shall bear you up…” (verses 9-11). In my case on that traumatic occasion, as my car came to a halt, the car door opened and my angel, Jenny, appeared in front of me saying, “Don’t move, I am an A & E nurse!” What are the chances of that? Jenny assessed our situation while the Emergency Services arrived. She was wonderful and I thank God and bless her.

The Emergency Services were also wonderful, kind and efficient. How many of us remember to thank God for them and ask God to bless and protect them in their crucial service? They cut the doors and roof off of my car (it is now a convertible!) to get us out safely. Two of us were strapped onto stretchers and sent by ambulance to hospital where within half an hour I was in a CT Scanner and then released when they saw no broken bones or significant injuries. How many of us remember to thank God and pray for our caring and overworked NHS?!

The words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 came to me as I walked out of the hospital: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…struck down, but not destroyed,” thanks be to God!

Prayer
O God, our protector, our Saviour, our healer, thank you so much for your mercy and the angels you send to protect us. In Jesus’ name.
Amen

Study by Nancy Silcox
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About the Author:
Nancy Silcox attends the Watford Congregation of Grace Communion International in the UK. Nancy prepares and uploads the Day by Day studies submitted by members of the Worldwide Church of God UK/Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Gracecom Watford
St. Peter’s Church
61 Westfield Avenue
Watford, Herts.
WD24 7HF

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11AM

Local Congregational Contact:
George Henderson
Phone: 01923-855570
Email: george.sueann.henderson49@gmail.com

26th November 2019

The God of the Hills, Valleys and Plains

“Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, ‘Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they…You must also raise an army…so we can fight Israel on the plains. Then surely we will be stronger than they.’…‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”
1 Kings 20:23, 25, 28 (NIVUK)

As the above scripture indicates, the range of a local deity was believed to have been confined to a certain geographical area. It was natural for the pagan nations to assume that the God of Israel had limited power just like their perceived gods.

Life is messy and the landscape of our physical and spiritual lives is more like that described in the above scriptures. Figuratively speaking, life’s landscape has its hills valleys and gently undulating plains. It is when we experience the extremes—the troughs and peaks—that we experience the agonies and ecstasies of life.

It’s easy to feel close to God in mountain-top moments; when life goes through plainer smoother periods we can get tied up with the ordinary day to day routines of life and become complacent and take God for granted. But it is at low points, in the valleys where long shadows are cast, that we are tempted to feel that God is no longer with us. We can only know what it really feels like to go through difficult and challenging times when we experience them for ourselves. These are times of transformation, as the bible states about Jesus, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

It is in the valleys that empathy for others who go through similar experiences is forged. It is in these situations that we need to turn to, rather than away from, God as David recognised when he wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4).

The proportion of hills, valleys and plains will vary with each individual but God is always with us and will see us through the problems of this life’s landscape, and ultimately through to his heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16). In circumstances where we think that God is NOWHERE, it is time to reflect on the true reality that he is NOW-HERE with us in this messy life.

Prayer
Father, we thank you that we can come to your throne with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Amen

Study by Eddie Marsh
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About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Sheffield
Regus Meeting Rooms (Management Suite)
1 The Oasis
Meadowhall Centre
SHEFFIELD
S9 1EP

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.church

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