12th November 2018

November 12, 2018

God Knows 

“And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Romans 6:13 (NKJV UK)

I have a friend who, despite having a sat-nav device, won’t use it because he doesn’t want ‘them’ to know where he’s been or where he’s going. Vainly I have hinted that it is most unlikely ‘they’ would be interested in his activities.  If ‘they’ are officialdom of our nation, it’s true ‘they’ do have all sorts of information about our activities.

The man who bought a large amount of fertiliser over the internet found himself explaining to the anti-terrorist police that, no, he wasn’t making bombs, merely preparing for next year’s crop on his allotment. And you might think that your bank account or medical records are private and belong exclusively to you. As someone who’s lived with diabetes for a decade, I am acutely aware that if just one of the trail of specialists I see in a year decides I shouldn’t be driving anymore, they have a duty to signal that to the authorities, and my driving would be stopped pretty much immediately.

And if you work in any area that’s a bit sensitive, as I did, you may be sure that ‘they’ know as much about you as they want, including social activities, friends and family, regular habits and your religion. Is this a bad thing? My friend would say it was. But I wonder. If you have nothing to hide, what harm does it do? I think that at times it might be a good thing that we are monitored as necessary. I want terrorists to be caught—preferably before they inflict something nasty on innocent people. I want those who traffic in human misery of whatever kind, to be stopped as soon as possible and as completely as possible.

Rather than evading being monitored, it might be better to limit ourselves to laudable activities. That’s certainly true for the Christian. Given that our God is omnipresent and omniscient, he knows what we get up to—why, he even knows what we think! No human monitoring service can yet do that. Where I might be tempted to steal something accessible to my sticky fingers, the thought that God knows might be enough to deter me.

And if that seems too negative, there is a positive side. God’s intimate knowledge about each one of us is actually very encouraging because he understands what makes us ‘tick’, as ‘they’ say. Christians have been given promises that, for example, God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure and outlast. With temptation, we are told, there is always a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Now that’s encouraging and positive. And I’m more than content to live knowing that God monitors me. 

Prayer
Thank you, heavenly Father, for knowing me, monitoring me, caring for me and loving me. I have no fear of that; I know that you probably know me better than myself. Please don’t stop, but please bring to my attention anything that I need to change. In Jesus’ name we pray.
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

3rd November 2018

November 3, 2018

Where Were They Going?

“And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’”
John 2:3 (NKJV)

Shortly after his baptism in the Jordan River; his temptation and victory in the wilderness over Satan—Jesus began calling his disciples. All this happened in an area close to Jericho near to the town of Bethabara, (House of the ford), a place on the east bank of the Jordan where John baptised (John 1:28). After he had chosen his friends he told them, “I want to go to Galilee!” (Verse 43). From Jericho to the town of Cana where they were headed is about 90 miles and the question is, was he going to teach, or preach or heal the suffering in that area?

No! The answer is found in John 2:1- 2 which tells us “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding.” Just to quote the Bishop who spoke at the Royal Wedding in May, ”Two young people fell in love and Jesus turned up!” Obviously the bride and groom while making their list of guests had decided that Jesus and his followers should be on the guest list. It’s interesting that Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and Cana are only 10 miles apart, so chances are they knew him well. This couple and Jesus had probably grown up together or maybe they were related. We can only speculate but—they liked him. They knew that he wasn’t a killjoy—just the opposite actually; he loved people and enjoyed parties! And obviously people loved him.

He wasn’t invited because he was celebrity. He wasn’t one yet. The invitation wasn’t motivated because of his miracles either because he hadn’t performed any. In fact at this wedding he actually performed his first—turning water into wine to save his friends who were being married the embarrassment because they had run out of wine! Isn’t that a beautiful thought? That’s how Jesus was and this wine was the best that the master of the feast had ever tasted (Verse 9-10). So this was a time for a good meal, good wine and good friends and an added benefit on top of that—his mother Mary was there. A time to honour her!

This is a great lesson for us: there are times when we just need to chill out and enjoy friends and laughter, does that sound good to you?

Prayer
Lord, what a Saviour and what a friend! Thank you for being willing to take time to enjoy people and party with them. This wedding must have been a welcome break before you began your ministry and of course brought about your first miracle in order to help others.
Amen

Study by Cliff Neill
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About the Author:
Cliff Neill is an Elder in Grace Communion Church Luton.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion Church Luton
Farley Hill Methodist Church
North Drift Way
Farley Hill
LUTON
LU1 5JE

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Harry Sullivan
Phone: 01908-582222
Email: harry_sullivan@wcg.org.uk

1st November 2018

November 1, 2018

The Wait

“The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.’”
Luke 1:13-14 (NRSVA)

I feel for Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He is most famous for not believing the angel Gabriel’s announcement that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant. However, the words of the angel tell us that Zechariah was a man of prayer; he had an active faith. Somewhere in the past, Zechariah had asked God for the blessing of children, but his prayer remained unanswered. Luke tells us that both Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth “were getting on in years.” (Luke 1:7, see also Luke 1:18). To keep praying for children must have felt more like testing rather than trusting God, so he stopped.

I guess there comes a point when we all have to decide whether our prayer has become an act of testing God rather than trusting God. The temptation to test God is always there in the background. About 30 years after Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah, Satan tried to push Jesus into testing God. The Devil suggested that Jesus should throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple – to prove God’s love for Him. If God really loved Jesus, then He would send angels to catch Him. Our Lord rebuked Satan for such an idea; Jesus would have none of that subtle deception (Luke 4:9-12).

Who amongst us hasn’t had to wrestle with seemingly unanswered prayer? We all have suffered the disappointment of times when God appears to be silent; we all can connect to Zechariah’s plight. There are prayers that you and I have stopped asking over the years. We don’t know why God never answered them as we wished. Maybe with tears we ended those prayers.

When Gabriel turns up and declares that Zechariah’s prayer is answered – well, who can criticise his reluctance to believe? That surely was a bolt from the blue! God had made Zechariah wait. In waiting, Zechariah found himself intimately involved in God’s great story of redemption. Not only would Zechariah experience the joy of being a parent – his son John would be the one to prepare the way for Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Yes! God is working to redeem all things. We are intimately involved in His redemptive actions today. Yet, we also wait. We do not see the fullness of God’s redemption today. Like the rest of humanity, we bear times of disappointment, pain and grief. When the answer is ‘wait’ this reminds us that we trust God. We give our frustrations and limitations to Him and wait.

God has promised that there is coming a day when all of our waiting will stop. The fullness of salvation will be revealed to all. On that day, as we sing together in praise of our great God, we will remember the words of Isaiah: “It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:8).

Prayer
Father, we all suffer from disappointments in life and wonder why you did not step in to bring a different ending. Yet, we know you are trustworthy. Through Jesus, you have planned the redemption of the entire universe. Help us in difficult times; times when we are tempted to test rather than trust in you. We thank you that your Spirit abides with us, always pointing us back to your faithfulness. We ask this in our High Priest’s holy name, Jesus Christ.
Amen

Study by Ian Woodley
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About the Author:
Ian Woodley is an Elder and Pastoral Council member of the Edinburgh Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK, a part of Grace Communion International (Gracecom for short).

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

Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Peter Mill
Email: peter.mill@gracecom.church

30th October 2018

October 30, 2018

Love and Power

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,”
Mark 10:42-43 (NIVUK)

There is possibly no starker contrast between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God than in their diametrically opposed views on the exercise of power. The former is often characterised by the love of power, the latter by the power of love. In the world there are different kinds of power, military, political, religious, demonic and economic, that can be exercised in a number of often interconnecting ways. All these powers were utilised by those involved in the death of Jesus; the civil, military, and religious authorities (in the arrest, trial and crucifixion) and Satan (when he entered into Judas). Economics also played a role when Jesus was betrayed for money—30 pieces of silver: the price of a slave. By contrast the power of love was also demonstrated at the crucifixion when God willingly allowed it to happen for the greater good of humanity and to overcome the power of death and sin.

As the opening scripture states, the love of power leads rulers to lord it over others. In his actions and teachings Jesus revealed the chasm that exists between the world’s view of lordship and the Godly form of leadership. Human nature loves lordship, which makes people feel good and important, to be able to lord it over others, and use their power and prestige for personal advantage. Religious leaders are not immune to the temptations associated with power as Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the market-places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely” (Mark 12:38-40). The attraction of power and prestige to human beings was not lost on Satan when he tempted Jesus with rulership over all the earthly kingdoms of this world.

God is even willing to experience disgrace in order to draw men and women into communion with himself and with others, as he seeks to bring humanity into a relationship. The cross is a scene of suffering, dereliction and death, which is foolishness to this world, but reveals God’s unconditional love for humanity. God does not ride roughshod over humanity; his unconditional love means that human beings can freely learn to love God out of a response to his love. It also means that they are free to reject that love and also to reject communion with him.

Prayer
Father, we pray for the wisdom to present your message of love to an unbelieving world.
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
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

19th October 2018

October 19, 2018

Where E’re You Walk

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)

We often see Closed Circuit TV images of “wanted” men and women on our television news. We know video surveillance CCTV relies on strategic placement of cameras with observation of the input sent to monitors somewhere else. Perhaps, do we also wonder whether cameras pick up our moves as well? And yes, of course they do! Google Earth, which some call a ‘spy in the sky’, has been observing every part of our planet since 2001!

Three thousand years ago King David, in a time of peace and plenty, got up one fine late afternoon and, whilst it was still light, took a stroll on the flat roof where he had been resting in his palace on Mount Zion. In doing so he was no doubt following his usual habits. David looked down because some movement had caught his eye from his high vantage point. What he saw overwhelmed him: temptation quickly came, and as so often is the case, unexpectedly. But he fatally lingered at what he saw: a young and very beautiful woman bathing. The rest, as they say, is history—he committed adultery with Bathsheba and plotted for her husband to die in battle. Read the story in 2 Samuel 11.

Surprisingly, it was at least a year before David’s sins of adultery and murder caught up with him. He was unprepared for the verbal missile from the prophet Nathan. It’s a brilliant parable found in 2 Samuel 12:1-10 and it caught David totally off guard. The story of the rich man taking the pet lamb from the poor man outraged him. He was angry, but Nathan’s rapier-like reply told him “YOU are the man” (verse 5). Ouch. David never saw that coming, but verse 13 shows he was overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, and he repented like never before. We have that recorded in Psalm 51.

God is always watching over us for our own good. We may not welcome CCTV but we surely welcome God’s grace, love, and concern for all we do.

Prayer
Father, we thank you so much for the inspiring histories of the Bible which teach us so much about both your love and your justice to all in your beloved Creation, whether King or commoner.
Amen

Study by Tony Goudie
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About the Author:
Tony Goudie is the Pastor of the Great Baddow Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK (near Chelmsford).

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Great Baddow
United Reformed church
High Street
Great Baddow
CHELMSFORD
CM2 7HH

Meeting Time:
Saturday 1pm

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

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