29th February 2020

First Things First

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
James 4:17 (NKJV)

I suppose for me, it’s the winter light which gets to me. I can find the low levels a trial. But have you noticed it’s a bit that way with our Christian lives? Certain days are full of sunny uplands and we sail through them with nary a Christian twinge of conscience or doubt. Faith runs high and we skimper along in a close walk with our God. Then another day, Christianity is somehow defused, almost like a fog shrouding our Christian light. Those days can be difficult.

The command is to let our light shine, but if our light is dim or fitful that can be a task too far. And what do we do then? The best advice I can give is that given by a seasoned writer to a new, aspiring journalist—me! “When inspiration runs out then let perspiration rip.” In other words, just get on with it! That’s the professional way, and let’s face it we’re all professional Christians.

Unfortunately, we are not naturally inclined to the Christian way. We often twist and turn to avoid doing what we know we should do. Mr. Johnson’s winning election motto was: “Let’s get Brexit done!” Maybe our adaptation should be, “Let’s get prayer/study/whatever done first, to set the day off on to a good start.” Then again, there’s the tendency to “get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible.” My next book to read is the Geneva translation of the Bible of 1577. Not to read quickly but to savour how familiar texts are worded differently. I want to dig into the 16th-century thinking and understanding of Biblical principles. Did they understand then what we understand now? And if not how did that colour how they lived their Christian lives?

Theologians of today tell us that we have never had as much clear understanding of Biblical texts. But that also means we have greater responsibility to act on what we know. Which brings us back to where we started: to get done first, the priorities.

Prayer
Gracious Father, we always want to put Christian principles first, but often we don’t. We need daily help, Father. This we ask in Jesus’ name.
Amen

Study by John Stettaford
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About the Author:
John Stettaford is an Elder in the Reading Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Reading
Prospect School, Room A1 (Main Building)
Honey End Lane
READING
RG30 4EL

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
John Stettaford
Phone: 01923-241426
Email: pastor@wcg-reading.org.uk

28th February 2020

Undeserved

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”
Mark 10:21 (NIVUK)

This morning I came down the stairs to make a coffee and there was a dark stain on the hall floor. Not to put too fine a point on it, the dog had peed on our carpet!

Our dog is getting older, so these little ‘accidents’ are becoming more frequent. But they are far more likely to happen if he isn’t taken out for a final ‘comfort break’ before retiring for the night. And since I had been out with a friend that same evening, I figured I was off the hook as the dog (his name is Jake) had already gone to bed when I got home.

Unfortunately, I was also the first person up the next morning. What was I to do? I couldn’t really leave the stain for someone else to clear up (I was tempted, believe me) yet in my heart of hearts I felt it wasn’t my mess to rectify. And so, as I blotted and sponged, I also mumped and moaned. “Why am I clearing up this mess that is nothing to do with me?! If ‘people’ had taken the care to walk the dog last night, I wouldn’t be scrubbing the floor this morning!” And so on.

I may not be young and I’m certainly not rich, but some aspects of this sorry tale remind me of the man in the header scripture. He thought he was blameless, having done the ‘right thing’ all his life, yet he ended up going away sad because, surely he didn’t deserve what Jesus was asking of him!

We all experience things we don’t deserve, yet none of us is blameless, no matter how hard we try. Thank God that Jesus was able to keep all the commandments for us, then become our perfect sacrifice, the most undeserved event in history. Why did he die for us? Simply because he loved us. This is what he was trying to tell the young man. He looked at him and he loved him. Then he spoke to him, “One thing you lack…come, follow me.”

I hope you didn’t have to start your day like I did, clearing up your dog’s mess – nobody deserves that. But it taught me an important lesson. Sometimes, like the rich young man, it’s good to be reminded that Jesus is all we need.

Prayer
Loving Father, we’ve all made a mess of our lives in one way or another; and we do it again and again. Thank you for loving us enough to take care of it, not once but for ever. In Jesus’ name.
Amen

Study by Peter Mill
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About the Author:
Peter Mill is an Elder and the Missions Developer of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He and his wife, Jackie, are Pastoral Workers for Grace Communion International in Scotland and Ireland.

Local Congregation:
GCI, Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
EDINBURGH
EH17 8QJ

Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church

27th February 2020

Deception

“Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’”
Genesis 27:19 (NIV)

Sadly deception is a common feature in everyday life. Some MPs have been caught cheating on expenses, lying about speeding tickets, or misleading parliament with their statements. Top executives have been found out embezzling funds from their company, and students have been discovered cheating on their exams. ‘Twas ever thus.’ In Genesis chapter 27, we see how Jacob took advantage of his father’s blindness, to deceive him into believing he was his older brother Esau, in order to acquire the birthright. Jacob conspired with his mother, and through treachery and deceit fooled Isaac into blessing him.

But ‘what goes round comes round.’ Jacob was sent to his uncle Laban to find a wife, and as in a romantic novel he met his cousin Rachel and fell in love at first sight. A marriage agreement was brokered with Laban: Jacob was to work for his uncle for seven years. I wonder how many men would be prepared to work for that long before they could marry the woman they fell in love with when they first saw her?

Jacob dutifully worked for the required period and expected to receive Rachel as his wife. But the deceiver is deceived. Rachel’s older, less attractive sister, Leah was disguised and Jacob took her as his wife thinking she was Rachel. How ironic: Jacob, had disguised himself to deceive his older brother, was now deceived by an older sister who was disguised. The result was that Jacob had to work for a further seven years before he could marry the woman he loved.

How often do we use deception to get the things we want, even things that are good and that God may want us to have? A ‘white lie’ here, an exaggeration there, followed by a half-truth leading to us disguising ourselves or the surrounding circumstances. If the story of Jacob tells us anything, it is that there is always a price to pay for deception. There are always negative consequences to a deceptive approach; they may be immediate, as with Jacob’s relationship with Esau, or they may come years later as with Jacob’s interaction with Laban. Perhaps that’s why the New Testament advises us to rid ourselves of all deceit in 1 Peter 2:1? Of course that’s easier said than done, which is why Peter points us to Jesus as the one who never practiced deceit (verse 22). With him living in and through us, we can live lives free from deception. Why not check him out and see that that’s no lie?

Prayer
Father, forgive me for being deceitful in my words and in actions. Help me establish truth in my life through Jesus Christ I pray.
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 Greater London area, 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

26th February 2020

Can’t Help Myself…

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do…it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me…for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
Romans 7:15-18 (NKJV)

I read a magazine article recently* that began with the author saying something like “I want a biscuit…I shouldn’t, but I’m going to…no, stop, it’s not good for me, but too late, I ate it!” He goes on to tell of IT technology that intervenes in our lives to stop us doing things we shouldn’t—cars that pull over and stop if you’ve had too much to drink, apps that stop you gambling, or messages on facebook that say ‘Are you sure you want to post that?’ The article goes on to ask what is freedom? Are we slaves to our ill-advised desires and impulses?

What do you think? Can will-power prevent us sinning? There are many people who have developed marvellous will-power but alas, the majority of us struggle to break bad habits, to stop smoking, to lose weight, to stop worrying or to keep fit. Is the answer AI, apps and cars that refuse to go if we have had a drink?

The header scripture goes on in verses 24 & 25 to say the answer is Jesus Christ. Christ in us can guide us to right desires, away from wrong desires and into “the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe,” as it says in Romans 3:22. One of my favourite scriptures is in Philippians 2:13, which assures us that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

But still we will slip as long as we are human, so thank God for his grace, his understanding and forgiveness. Knowing this keeps us picking ourselves up to try again. Each day is a fresh start with slate wiped clean.

Prayer
We know we have a High Priest who understands our weaknesses, a Saviour who died for us while we were sinners, so help us, Father, not to weary of well-doing (Galatians 3:9) but to press toward our goal (Philippians 3:14) with your Spirit leading and guiding us to eternal life.
Amen

Study by Nancy Silcox
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*British Airways Business Life, February 2020, page 12 The New New Thing by David Mattin

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: watford@gracecom.church

25th February 2020

The Good Shepherd

“I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
John 10:11 (NKJV)

When I was about 10 or 11 years old growing up in a village in India, I watched numbers of shepherds with their staffs on their shoulders leading the flocks of sheep and goats through the main road, taking them to good pastures during dry season. I heard the bleating and saw the flock jostling with each other, but I never imagined I would be writing about them. There are so many lessons contained and so much written in the Bible about shepherds for our learning.

A few names vividly come to my mind from the Old Testament: Abraham and Lot had big flocks and large herds of cattle. There is good deal recorded about Jacob, who tended the sheep of his uncle Laban and he worked very hard. Later, he himself had a large flock of his own. After Joseph revealed the dream of Pharaoh, he was set over the people of Egypt and when his father came to Goshen, they settled as shepherds, for they said to the Pharaoh their occupation was to look after the flock. Still later we find Moses playing the role of a shepherd looking after the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. After 40 years, God used Moses to ‘shepherd’ Israel out of the captivity from Egypt. I must not forget King David, who in his youth looked after his father’s sheep. He killed a bear and a lion bare-handed, saving the lives of the sheep.

That brings me to the story of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. He said, I know My sheep, each one by name and they hear My voice and I lay down My life for them (John 10:14-16). Acts 20:28 refers to the church, saying “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Christ was the Shepherd who laid down His life to deliver us from evil and death. One of the best known passages in the Bible is Psalm 23, where King David writes that the Lord is our Shepherd, who leads us into good pastures; and that even when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, He is there with us and that His goodness and mercy follow us. Encouraging words are also found in 1 Peter 5:4, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

One final exhortation, farewell and benediction is recorded in Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd and we are His flock of sheep.

Prayer
Father in heaven, I thank You for the Chief Shepherd, Jesus, who leads us unto good pastures, who laid down His life for His flock. I pray and praise You in His name.
Amen

Study by Natu Moti
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About the Author:
Natu Moti is a Deacon in the Birmingham Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Gracecom Birmingham
All Saints Church
George Road
BIRMINGHAM
B23 7QB

Meeting Time:
Saturday 1pm

Local Congregational Contact:
David Gibbs
Phone: 07777-667635
Email: birmingham@gracecom.church

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