31st July 2020

The Hand of God 

“…your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:10 (NIV)

In his 1939 Christmas address, King George VI spoke of his faith in God’s leading. World War 2 had begun and with all the concern that lay ahead the king concluded his message with lines written by Minnie Louise Haskins some 30 years earlier:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’ 

Like Britain back in 1939, Britain in 2020 faces a future with foreboding circumstances. A different kind of enemy confronts us, but an enemy, nevertheless. Yet we need not fear. We have someone to guide us in the darkest night. That’s why the psalmist could say, “your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” God’s presence enables the Christian to face tomorrow with complete confidence.

Life holds no surprises for God. No path is unknown to him, no circumstances are unsettling. Because the future is perfectly clear to our Father, Christians have the full assurance that we can follow him wherever he leads, whether the way ahead has a storm coming or a period of calm.

We can confidently put our hand in God’s, for he forgives our past, controls our present and holds our future. There is no safer place than to be held securely by him.

Prayer
Father, as we walk through life may we do so hand-in-hand with you as you guide us and hold us safe. We commit our lives, our country and this world into your hands now and forever.
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

30th July 2020

Coronavirus: Love Not Dates

“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’”
Acts 1:6-7 (NIV)

Millions of people around the world were dying. It was on the front page of every newspaper. Everyone had either been personally affected or knew someone who had. The virus was turning people’s lives upside down. Christians could be forgiven for thinking the events of the previous few years must surely indicate the return of Jesus Christ and the fulfilment of his kingdom were imminent. This could be today’s news, but it was in fact 1918, when the Spanish ’flu epidemic was killing far more people than the First World War that preceded it.

102 years later the world is again faced with a deadly virus and a global pandemic. For most of us there’s been nothing like it in living memory. Coupled with political changes in Europe and around the world, it can be all too easy to draw the conclusion that events we experience are fulfilments of Biblical prophecy and even that ‘the end of the world is nigh.’ Perhaps. But people throughout history have wrongly assumed that the major events of their time prefaced the final stages of this age on earth; from those in the early church who thought Christ would return in their own lifetime or lived through the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD; through outbreaks of the Black Death or Plague in the 14th to 19th Centuries; to wars and terrorist attacks in recent decades. Christians living around both 1000 and 2000 AD thought theirs would be the final generation. Those who witnessed the rise and fall of empires, or the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, or recent outbreaks of Ebola in Africa, have all seriously considered this might be the time. Yet, as we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Jesus had a very clear answer to this: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains…But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:6-8, 36). Even when we experience these events first hand we cannot presume to know when Christ will return.

Of course we hope that day will come quickly, and can pray fervently, “Thy kingdom come.” But in the time we have now where should our focus be? Jesus’ instruction immediately after the header scripture was to witness of Jesus to all the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). In John 9:4 he said as long as it is day, we must do the works of God who sent him. Until Jesus comes again we are to bring the good news of his love, compassion and salvation to others, allowing him to meet their needs as he dwells in us.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help us not to be unduly concerned by current events or preoccupied with times and dates, but rather guide us through your Spirit to witness and serve others in the love of Jesus. In his name we pray.
Amen

Study by Simon Williams

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About the Author:
Simon Williams is active in the Cambridge Congregation of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Church Cambridgeshire
Farcet Village Hall
Main Street
Farcet
Peterborough
PE7 3AN

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2pm

Except on the first Saturday of each month 2:00 pm at Comberton, Cambridge

Comberton Village Hall
Green End
Comberton
CAMBRIDGE
CB23 7DY

Local Congregational Contact:
Richard Dempsey

Email:  richard.dempsey@btinternet.com

Telephone: 01858 437099

Local church website: www.cambridgeshirechurch.org.uk

 

29th July 2020

Primal Response 

All who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
Matthew 26:52 (NIV)
 

Have you ever read William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’?  Sadly, the passage I remember most is ‘Piggy’ being killed by fellow pupils who had turned into a mob.  The book describes a group of schoolboys’ descents into becoming feral, and as a teenager, it was a warning that everyone has it in them to revert to primal responses if sufficiently provoked.

Today we believe democracy includes protecting minorities from the majority.  People believe they are fighting for what is right; but taking a stand against injustice, via mass protest, can quickly turn a crowd into a fearful being, which reacts rather than thinks.  As I write this, racially motivated unlawful deaths continue to fuel demonstrations, some peaceful, but many turning violent and destructive as people deal with grief and feelings of unfairness they are powerless to change.  As protestors and police continue to interact, physical aggression escalates, as both police and protestors ‘up the ante’.  Both parties revert to the primitive response of defending when attacked!

Research into 50 years of riot control in the US concluded when police escalate force-using weapons, tear gas, mass arrests and other tools to make protesters do what the police want—those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that the force was meant to prevent.”  Violence stimulates further violence, but we knew this already, as 2,000 years ago Hosea wrote “Bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:2), echoed later by Jesus Christ, as per the header scripture.  Mob mentality has been around for millennia, eg, Lots’s house was besieged by a mob in Genesis 19:4, and Stephen was stoned to death by a ‘lynch mob’ in Acts 6:12 & 7:57-58.

There is no single or simple solution to manage a peaceful crowd exercising their right to free speech and crossing the fine line to a seething, frightening mob, out of control.  Police are people and need protection from physical harm too.  However, this same research shows that ‘education, facilitation, communication, and differentiation’ are principles that ‘protest policing’ needs to be based upon going forward, to prevent a protest becoming violent, and everyone lashing out.

What can we do?  Be peacemakers said Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:9).  Mobs are made up of individuals; people influenced by us – whether we know them, or not. Protestors ultimately seek justice for a cause.  James, brother of Jesus wrote “When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice”, (James 3:18, Contemporary English Version). So, let’s plant seeds of peace wherever we can.

Prayer
Lord God, help us to be peacemakers within a climate of injustice and prejudice in this world.
Amen
 

Study by Irene Tibbenham

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About the Author:
Irene Tibbenham is a Deaconess and serves on the Pastoral Council in the Norwich Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
GCI Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
Martineau Lane
NORWICH
NR1 2HX

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Tony Goudie
Phone: 01508 498165
Mobile: 07931 580409
Email:  tony_goudie@wcg.org.uk

norwich@gracecom.church

 

28th July 2020

Keep Learning

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

The scripture above highlights four things which help us to be complete and equipped for every good work. They are doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction, so let’s briefly look at what each one means.

For doctrine – a set of beliefs based on the Bible, which we believe to be true, but it is our responsibility to make sure we study to understand them correctly. Some other translations render this word as ‘teach’.

For reproof – this word can mean ignominy, personal shame or scorn and it is a re-minder that when we sin the Bible reproves us. We need to be as knowledgable about scriptures as possible so we order our lives accordingly.

For correction – the action or process of correcting ourselves by being sensitive to what the Bible teaches us, but sometimes also being prepared to accept correction from others willingly, which is not easy!

For instruction – something as Christians we should always be open to and seeking both from the Bible, but also our from daily experiences of life, and our interaction with other people, both Christians and non-Christians.

All four things point to the Word of God, the Bible, as being the cornerstone of our lives. They also point to a constant and continuous willingness to learn: both by being sensitive to ourselves and the impact we have on others, but equally, though more difficult, being sensitive to what other people say, even when it can be painful to listen.

In summary, we need to have an open, teachable mind, always ready to learn, be alert mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to keep us growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)! Let’s love learning and see our mistakes, our sins, as stepping stones to success, not stumbling blocks to failure.

Prayer
Father, if only we can see it, the Bible teaches us constantly, provided we have hearts and minds open to learning. Even when we feel we are failing, You can use those experiences to teach and develop us. With You, we can never fail! Thank you. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Study by Keith Hartrick

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About the Author:
Keith Hartrick is an Elder in Grace Communion Church – Leeds.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association Community Centre
Pendas Way
LEEDS
LS15 8LE

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2PM

Local Congregational Contact:
Malcolm Arnold
Phone:  01484-312347
Email: leeds@gracecom.church

 

27th July 2020

Two Ways:  One World

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Recently we have seen the ugly face of racism come to the fore again. We saw the indifference shown by some as a 74-year-old man was pushed to the ground by a policeman.  The man suffered head injuries as other police walked past him on the ground.  This is a sad reflection of just one section of society, where what is unacceptable is tolerated and becomes the norm.

This is not the way it should be!  We have all been given by our God who loves us, freedom to choose, even the decision not to act or choose, is a choice we make.  God, however, tells us not to be lukewarm and indifferent.  There is a poem called ‘Half way down the stairs’ written by A. A.Milne in 1924; that goes:
Half way down the stairs
Is a stair where I sit.
There isn’t any other stair
Quite like it,
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top,
So this is the stair
Where I always stop.”

We are not called to sit on the stair/fence, but to be in this world—but not of it.  Good news!  There is a better way: God offers it to us through His Son, Jesus, who shows us that way, for He is the Way, the Truth and Life.  Through the Holy Spirit He leads and guides us in the way that we should go. Stumble or fail, Jesus is always there, wherever we are, to help us up, dust us off and walk with us.  He makes a way for us and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to do all that He asks of us.  His purpose will be fulfilled, for Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”( Matthew 28:18).

Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank you, for you are always with us, leading us in witnessing of you in our daily lives.
Amen

Study by Reg Newton

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About the Author:
Reg Newton attends the Watford Congregation of Grace Communion International in the UK.  He and his wife, Pat, provide a prayer table for the community outside the Church each Saturday.

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

 

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