As we cannot meet together as church at this time we have provided a place where we can share our thoughts and readings, as we normally do in our Sunday morning meetings. Please click hereto submit your own thoughts and they will be added to this page.
On Thursday 16th July Merle wrote Merle wrote about the joy of a surprise phone call: 'The limitations of lockdown might become a distant memory for many people. For others, the aftermath of lockdown could well remain with them for many years to come, possibly for the rest of their lives. Some coped in order to survive and are beginning to pick up the pieces to make life work for them.' Click here to read Merle's latest reflection.
On Thursday 16th July Cathy wrote: 'There was a really good unpacking of anxiety and its associated feelings of fear, false guilt and excessive sense of obligation at the Bible Study on Wednesday. We thought about where the feelings come from, how they can be resolved, even that it’s an appropriate response in the right circumstances and where not disproportionate. Well worth a listen. During the time, the question popped into my head ‘I wonder whether God gets anxious?’ Assured that it was a reasonable question, I’ve since been unable to get it out of my mind. Of course God is a consuming passionate being ‘the Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness' ….Exodus 34;6 - how could I not be aware of that? He knows when two little birds flutter to the ground and even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10;29,30). I also remembered that hushed scene in heaven in Revelations 5 when ‘the one on the throne’ is holding a sealed scroll containing his will of justice for the future, but there appears no one having the authority to break the seals. Then the Lion of the tribe of Judah comes into focus, appearing as a sacrificial lamb who is found worthy to break the seals because ‘he was slain and with his blood he has purchased men for God'. How could God not be the most caring, the most desiring to know and be known by us intimately, and the most anxious for our wellbeing, when he was prepared to die on our behalf and free us from the things that would separate us from him and each other? As God, our creator how could he not have the strength of love to do just that? May we respond to his passion for us.'
On Sunday 12th July the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: Stephen read Jeremiah 20:9, 'But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.' God's grace is sufficient for each one of us, regardless of where we're at, whether we are out of step with the Lord or confident of our call, God will release the fire in our bones. We had opened the meeting with the song 'What a beautiful name' by Hillsong Worship and David commented that the song reminds him how much God wants to have that relationship with him. Julie read Psalm 27:4-5, 'One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.' Even though this may be the desire of our hearts we need to be intentional in seeking the Lord and spending time with him. Mary spoke about the honeysuckle in her garden. It has been there for 16 years but hasn't done very well. This spring her neighbour helped Mary to cut it back and it has flowered and been the best it has ever been this summer. The Lord sees the full beauty in our lives and brings it to fruition through pruning and discipline. Hebrews 12:6-11 reads, 'My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.' (The Message) God is working his purposes out in each of us so we can flower beautifully. John added that the same word is used in the Bible for 'prune' and 'make clean'. When we're pruned it's getting rid of what prevents us from operating at maximum fruitfulness. John read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, 'So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.' and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, 'As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.' God's desire is to strengthen and encourage us, sometimes directly and sometimes through others. He asked are we prepared to be the one who is so sensitive to the Lord and his people and their needs that we bring that message of encouragement and love and thereby uphold one another in love. Tim spoke about being solid and used an illustration of topping a meadow to get rid of the thistles and dock leaves to enable the cattle to graze. He was in the tractor and there were cattle in the field, cows, calves and a large bull. The calves ran away when he approached and the cows were no problem but the bull, after initially headbutting the tractor, sat in the middle of the field and refused to move, despite some gentle prodding from the tractor! There remains a patch in the middle of the field which wasn't cut. The Lord has brought us out of the miry clay and set our feet on solid ground. We can be solid in the Lord, in the way that bull was solid in his refusal to move, we can be still in the face of a storm. Andy added that it's important not to be stubborn in our own strength, but to be solid and stubborn in the Lord. Rachel shared the important principle of not trying to make something work which isn't right, to go with what the Lord is saying rather than what we want and then try to make it work. Merle asked 'Where is your vision at the moment?' We can go back to our original vision and previous visions but, as we come out of lockdown, maybe it's time to have a new vision and to ask the Lord how to plan and go forward. There might be a storm around us, but we can wait and know God's peace. If we wait for the Lord we'll go forward individually and collectively in God's will. Sometimes we have to go back to the original and sort it out to allow God to build something new and unhindered by the old, as illustrated by two yew trees in Merle's garden which had become overgrown in a very full garden. Pruning has enabled the trees to blossom again uncluttered. Merle encouraged us not to lose the original vision but to clear out any rubbish and build something new based on the old. Laura read Philippians 1:9-10, 'So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.' (The Message)
On Friday 10th July Phil shared his Bible reading from WiRE, entitled 'Heard God through others': '"The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His Word is on my tongue." 2 Samuel 23:2 God speaks through his people. He empowers us as agents to carry his messages - as Ananias did to Saul, as Cornelius did to Peter (and Peter did back to Cornelius). This method, human agency, is the second of God’s two preferred methods of communicating with us. Examples of it abound in Scripture. And, of course, Scripture itself is an example: the Biblical authors were his agents in communicating his precious words to us. How does it work? Well, while God uses his still, small voice to reach us directly, speaking into our minds, originating thoughts there instantly, he uses that very same voice to also reach us indirectly - that is, by speaking directly into the minds of others, directing a few of their thoughts, and then allowing them to use their spoken or written words to take his messages the rest of the way, to us. It may be that one of us, one in need of hearing from God, isn’t used to hearing from him, or doesn’t recognize his voice or just isn’t listening . . . or maybe doesn’t want to listen. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that God uses people who are listening and do want to hear to reach others who need to hear. It could be the inspired words of a pastor in the pulpit or the encouraging words of a friend at a coffee shop or the challenging words of brothers in a men’s group . . . or any one of many, many other possibilities. Okay, so what do we do? Do you want to hear God’s voice? Does your busy calendar allow for it? Have you committed yourself to a group of men who are willing to speak his truth into your life? Think about these questions, brother - and commit today to figuring out how to begin to answer them affirmatively.'
On Thursday 9th July Cathy wrote: 'Zooming has been a wonderful provision for us to keep in touch. However I couldn’t cope with saying ‘goodbye’ on the last occasion, frantically waving and then pressing the button ‘leave meeting’ and everyone vanishing, leaving me looking at an empty screen, alone. It struck me more forcibly than before that I was without nearby related family and well on in age and needing to self isolate. It felt overwhelming. I texted a friend who understood my feelings and later I spent the afternoon with another friend, so I was assured that it was quite natural to have such feelings, I was normal. However I also knew that it wouldn’t be helpful either for myself or anyone else, to live with these feelings going on inside, so spent some time asking the Lord for guidance. What transpired was the conviction of three things. First that yes, it was quite normal to want to be part of a related family, secondly that I really didn’t want to be a ‘wet blanket’ to those who had relatives around them, I could cope and enjoy the families around who were very good at opening their hearts to me, and finally that God was more precious to me than all my natural human desires. He was in effect the one I had been searching after and responding to nearly all of my life. The one in whom lay all the satisfaction of my soul. I thought about the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45). The merchant recognised the priceless pearl when he found it and sold everything to buy it. I think the Lord lets us recognise his value in a very personal way. That perhaps through trial, tragedy, deep joy etc we can sing with the hymn writer, in spite of or perhaps because of everything, ‘all is well with my soul’. I’ve always wondered about the two greatest commandments Jesus outlined in Matthew 22:37-39. How you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and how you love your neighbour as yourself. I just wonder if the answer is something to do with giving up all our treasures for the supreme treasure of treasuring God in our heart, soul and mind. And whether, with such a treasure, we are able to love ourselves and in loving ourselves are able to love the person next to us.'
On Thursday 9th July Merle wrote about the beginning of freedom from lockdown: 'At last the welcome beginning of freedom from lockdown. There were two things I most looked forward to, an early morning walk by the sea at Southwold and a walk at Dunwich Heath. The walk by the sea was free and it lived up to all expectations. The walk at Dunwich Heath, which is owned by the National trust, had to be booked in advance – that was a new experience.' Click here to read Merle's latest blog.
On Wednesday 8th July Julie wrote: 'On Sunday morning Tim read sections from Colossians 2 and 3 and spoke about the importance of our perspective on life being different from the world around us. Psalm 1, which I had read that morning, echoes those thoughts, 'Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.' I love the imagery of being like a tree, which is solid and with deep roots, being planted by streams of water, we do not have to be carried along by the world around us but can stand solid in the Lord, as Stephen writes below.'
On Monday 6th July Stephen wrote: 'At certain points in life, for some people, things can get tough on every front at the same time. Within the life of family, the challenges of work, and in health. We can be shaken as if we are, in the moment, within the tumult of an unabating storm. Trees have long been an interest of mine and the impact of a storm on a tree can uproot and flatten it or it can produce greater strength in the roots that anchor it in the depths of the soil that feeds it. For those who know God, know that no storm will uproot and flatten them, that each successive storm though it may come with increased ferocity, will be met in the strength gained from withstanding the storms that preceded it. Like the tree, our roots are buried beneath the surface of what the world sees, these roots are fed and watered by the grace of God. When a strong wind bends a tree, the roots are loosened in the soil and the total contact with the soil is reduced significantly, and with it the source of much nutrition. The tree experiences serious thirst because it draws all its goodness up through water. It is this thirst that causes the roots to search to strengthen the bond with the soil plate around the tree. It can take up to four years before there is any residual evidence of growth in the tree above ground, indeed there can be seen some damage in branches dying back. The ‘rings’ that we all learn signify another year of growth or existence are paper thin, denoting a drought specific to the tree that suffered a battering and had its roots brutally disturbed, in a geography where all the archeological evidence suggests a year, or more, of plenty for the other trees. This same characteristic of root structure that has strengthened the soil plate can be found on the leeward side of trees that stand in consistently strong prevailing winds. Tim spoke on Sunday of the tree roots strengthening, and what we must hold onto in Paul’s teaching in order to ensure that our shaken roots strengthen in the ground God has planted us in, to grow in all seasons of our lives, and through all moments of each day.'
On Sunday 5th July the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: Tim read the following from chapter 2 of Colossians: 'So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him' (verse 6), 'See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.' (verse 8), 'and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.' (verse 10) and Colossians 3:1-4, 'Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.' We look at the world around us and see what's going on, but our perspective is different because we walk with God. Tim encouraged us to listen to this Sunday's talk to explore these thoughts further. Andy read John 10:10 'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.' and asked where do we look for our satisfaction is life? He quoted from his daily devotional ' Metal Devo: Daily devotions for metalheads' by Pastor Bob Beeman, 'What is stopping you? What is holding you back? Is there something that keeps you from following your passions? Do you dare to dream big? It is so easy to talk ourselves out of doing things. We let people and situations dictate our lives, and stifle our heart's desires. We need to be better at leting things go. God asks us to forgive the person that hurt us. We need to focus on opportunities instead of letting our problems get in the way. Christ calls us to freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law." In standing firm in our freedom, we break free of the things that restrain us. We need to forgive where we have been hurt. We need to realise that we are forgiven for the horrible things we have done. Get back up when you have experienced defeat. Break the yoke of bondage in your life. Remember, Christ paid a huge price for your freedom! Have you hesitated in following your dreams? Do you live in freedom? God is always dreaming bigger than you are. And he wants you to experience true freedom. Stand firm in your freedom and lay those things that bind you behind you.' Anne read a passage from 'The imitation of Christ' by Thomas a Kempis entitled 'Follow me' - 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without the Way there is no going, without the Truth there is no knowing, without the Life there is no living. I am the Way you must follow, the Truth you must believe, the Life that you must hope for.' Mary spoke about being able to meet up with her family yesterday and how thrilled they had been to see her and how special they had made her feel. Driving home she had thought about the Lord's love and kindness to each one of us, whether we have family or not and Psalm 23 had come to mind, 'You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.' (The Living Bible, verses 5-6) Jesus has prepared a place for us 'There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.' (Verses 2-3 TLB) We all have a heavenly home but also a home within our church families here on earth. Our challenge is to make one another feel special and to lavish love on our brothers and sisters. John read 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 'We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.' Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians in this letter as they were a foundling church who were facing challenges. He was encouraged after his second visit to Thessalonica and writes to encourage them to continue to grow. What would someone say to us, as a church and as individuals, if they were to come to us and review our progress? Would they be encouraged? If we live now with God's life within us we will glorify God, whatever our circumstances. Cathy reminded us that we have been crucified with Christ and we can relax in that and live in God's grace; we don't have to strain and struggle because Jesus has been crucified for our freedom. Focusing upon the words of the song 'Just be held', Jen spoke about focusing our eyes on the cross when the circumstances around us or the situations we find ourselves in threaten to overwhelm us. Stephen reminded us to give our hearts to the Lord at the beginning of each day, to walk with the Lord and share our hearts with him. Susan has been thinking about the phrase 'resting, not rowing' this week, of resting with God and letting him lead us, rather than trying to work things out in our own strength. Rachel spoke about the importance of connection and quoted from two Insights from John's book 'Insights from the Bible' - 'Wholeness' based on 1 John 4:12 (page 23) and 'Disconnection' based on 1 Peter 1:22 (page 22). Quoting from 'Disconnection', 'Jesus puts it clearly when he says, 'Love each other as I have loved you' (John 15:12). That is impossible unless we rest in his love for us, allowing that love to cleanse away everything in us that prevents his love from reaching out through us to connect at the deepest level with those around us.' Kelly read Romans 8:28-31, 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?' and Di quoted Jeremiah 29:11, 'For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'