31st October 2020

To Go or Not Go?

“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10.24-25 (CRB)

For 6 months most of us have not been able to go to church. Now our churches are re-opening, but under guidelines from the government, we will meet in different circumstances. We will have to wear face masks, we won’t be able to shake hands or hug one another, we won’t be able to have our post church coffee and chat. We will not be able to sing or move around to greet our Christian brothers and sisters. We will have to maintain social distancing and be careful going into and coming out of the building. It will not be church as we have known and loved it in the past, so we are faced with a decision, do we go or not go in the new normal? Each of us must make a decision based on our circumstances, our age, our health, and personal situation.

Under the constraints it will be harder for a family with small children, who are used to moving around at church, than perhaps for a single person. For a while it will be different and difficult, but even smiling, waving and talking to people from a distance is good for them and us. No one wants to force anyone to come to church in the new circumstances if they have real fears and worries about Covid-19. No one will be criticised if they are cautious and decide not to come for a while. But as the scripture above makes clear we should go to church if we can because it is part of looking out for each other, demonstrating love for each other and encouraging each other.

If we can, just by being there we also encourage not only our fellow Christians but the ministers, deacons and members who have worked very hard to enable church meetings to start again. While the internet has provided the benefit of online services and spiritual food for us, there is no substitute for being in church with our fellow believers. Going to church is an important habit and has real benefits for us in the here and now, while we should remember that every day brings us one day closer to the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Prayer
Loving Father, bless the entire UK with a dramatic drop in cases of Covid-19, and help us to return to church meetings joyfully, despite having to accept new restrictions in the short term. In Jesus’ name.
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

30th October 2020

God of the Outsider 

“Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food.”
1 Kings 17:9 (NIVUK)

There was a famine in Israel and God tells Elijah that he is going to save his life through a widow at Zarephath. To understand how shocking this would have been to Elijah, when Jesus referred to this incident in his first sermon (Luke 4:24-29) the religious people tried to kill him. What was so shocking about this incident? Simply that God was going to save his prophet through a pagan gentile. They were heretics, racial outsiders, and to add salt to the wound it was a woman, who had no status or rights, who would save him. Elijah must have wished that he could have been saved by manna from heaven, but God was shattering every barrier religion and society puts between people. Here is God is using a poor, racially excluded, unbelieving, idol-worshipping woman and says to Elijah, “I’m going to save you through her, and I’m going to save her through you. Go and build a relationship with her. I refuse to save you any other way.” And when Jesus draws attention to this incident the religious people want to kill him.

Why were the religious people so upset? They thought that God was just the God of the upright, the moral, the Israelites, the insiders, and Jesus offended their sensibilities. He was using this example to show that God is a God of outsiders, a God of those on the margins of society, a God of grace, a God who offers his salvation regardless of merit, regardless of pedigree, regardless of gender, regardless of status. The gospel message of salvation in Jesus is good news for all people – all are included.

This has an important application for us. Elijah went to this widow and embraced the outsider. He got involved with a poor, needy widow, someone from another culture, and while he was saved physically the widow came to see God’s work of grace (verse 24). Jesus was concerned for the hurting, the downtrodden, those who society marginalized and he brought them grace and salvation. Can we do any less as followers of Jesus? Can we open ourselves to people who are different, who the world considers outsiders, and share God’s love for them so they can see the gospel of grace? The strange thing is, like Elijah, we too will find the gospel of grace if we do.

Prayer
Father help us to stand with the poor, the excluded, the hurting, the despised, and the rejected in our society. Forgive us when we do not reach out to them as Jesus would. May we value each life as a priceless gift from you and share your grace with everyone.
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 Camberwell
The Salvation Army Hall
105 Lomond Grove
Camberwell
LONDON
SE5 7HN

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11 am

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

29th October 2020

Follow Me

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”
Matthew 16:24 (ESV)

Jesus is clearly a leader. There are no examples of Jesus following anyone during his time here on earth. There are several instructions from him to us and to the disciples to follow him. Why should we seek to follow Jesus? The answer is found in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” We do not have access to the Father apart from Jesus Christ. He warned that in order to follow him, we must be prepared to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. In other words, following Jesus is not an easy option.

We naturally do not like to deny the self, we prefer to pamper the self, to satisfy our selfish desires. And no one wants to ‘take up his or her cross’ in order to follow Jesus. We know from the biblical record what happened to Jesus when he was forced to carry his own cross! Someone else needed to help him. Taking up one’s cross does not mean a literal cross made of wood, but could be any difficult circumstance that could prevent us from obeying and following Jesus. We have to be willing to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Following Jesus is not the easy way, but it is the very best and only way. He is on a mission to bring us home to the Father. Humanity without Jesus are God’s children led astray by the evil one, and lost in spiritual darkness and deception. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Jesus always succeeds in what he sets out to do. He will succeed in bringing us home to the Father. We can and must confidently follow him. He is leading us into a glorious future. That is why we are to keep our eyes and thoughts fixed on him as it urges us in Hebrews 12:2.

Prayer
Father in heaven, please enable me to keep my eyes and thoughts fixed on Jesus, and to set my affections on the things above where he is at your right hand, as he leads me home to you.

Amen

Study by Sherwin Scott

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About the Author:
Sherwin Scott is a Deacon in the congregation of Grace Communion Church in Lewes. Like us on www.facebook.com/GCLewes

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion in Lewes
The House of Friendship
208 High Street
LEWES
BN7 2NS

Meeting Time:
Sunday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Hilary Buck
Email: lewes@gracecom.church

28th October 2020

Keep Steady and Hold On! 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

The child’s face was a picture of concentration, the bicycle wobbled, the father called out ‘go on, you can do it.  Keep steady and carry on!’  A few more wobbles then balance was restored and the five-year-old became a cyclist, pedalling furiously along the path.  The parents applauded his efforts, calling out ‘well done, you did it!’  I was moved by the spectacle. It reminded me of how much God encourages me every day to ‘keep steady and carry on.’

One of the great ironies of life is that good times seem to fly past with amazing speed, but trials and difficulties feel as though they are with us forever—will it never end?  Patience vanishes, replaced by frustration and fear.  Yet God tells us “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Our Saviour tells us nothing is impossible for God: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26). These scriptures are easy to believe when the going is good but hard to hold on to when the ‘wobbles’ occur.  Yet our Saviour and elder brother is not only on the touch line of our lives encouraging us, He is with us—all the way.

God had to remind Joshua to keep steady and carry on: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Like the little child learning to cycle, we will get there. He trusted his Dad to keep him from falling. We must do the same with our Father in heaven—trust him, he will keep us steady as we hold on.

Prayer
Wonderful, loving Father, thank you for your infinite patience and love for us.  When all seems lost, help us to stay close to You, steady us and grant us courage.
Amen
 

Study by Irene Wilson

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About the Author:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford Congregation of Grace Communion International, where she also serves on the Pastoral Council.

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

 

27th October 2020

Spiritual Treasure 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)

When you were young, did you ever dream of finding some hidden treasure that would instantly make you rich? I did—but alas, my dream was as far as it got!!

The year was 1848, and gold nuggets were discovered in the Sacramento Valley, California. As news of the discovery spread, tens of thousands of prospective gold miners descended on California the following year in their quest for riches. By 1852 the ‘Gold Rush’ peaked, after which a total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted, equating to over 750,000 pounds of gold!

Along came the year 2009, and a young man with a metal detector unearthed a hoard of Saxon gold in a Staffordshire field. This amazing find of around 3,500 items of gold and silver netted 3.3 million pounds! When interviewed he constantly asked the questions, “Why was I allowed to find this treasure and not someone else?” And, “Had I been specially singled out for this?” Those are great questions, especially in light of the fact that Jesus told people that his Kingdom is like treasure buried in a field waiting to be found (Matthew 13:44). This treasure, of course, is of a Spiritual nature, and not material, and is destined to last forever.

One day a rich young man approached Jesus and asked him what good thing he could do that he might have eternal life. Jesus seeing the young man’s problem said, “‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:21-22).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts us all to not lay up temporary treasures on earth, but, rather, to lay up permanent treasures in heaven—“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he said.

Money and riches are not inherently evil if used wisely to help others less fortunate. A problem can arise when a rich person is not willing to share his or her wealth, resulting in it becoming an obsession and/or a god. Let’s follow our Lord’s advice and lay up lots of spiritual treasure in our ultimate destiny—heaven.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you have taught us in your Word not to set our hearts on physical riches and wealth, as these can detract our attention away from worshiping you. Help us, rather, to set our sights on the true riches of heaven which you are preparing us for. In Jesus’ name.
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: 07836 613686
Email:  bobbeggs@hotmail.com

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