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 daily. Click to read thoughts and readings which were shared during April, May and July.
On 29th June Cathy wrote: 'Today I lost a scarf - yes and so what? It's true I often lose things, but losing this scarf felt serious. It had been a present from my sister and so not any old scarf, it was tied up with my affection for her, so the loss of it, and I looked in all conceivable and inconceivable places for it, left me bereft. In the end I had to leave it with the Lord; perhaps I wouldn't find it and would have to let it go and get on with my day. Deep down I knew I still wanted to find it and later in the afternoon retraced a few places where it might be hidden. No, not there and then suddenly 'Yes' it had been tucked up a sleeve all the time. Surprised and delighted joy! We sang the lovely song whilst church zooming on Sunday, the 'Goodness of God' by Bethel music, which delights in the goodness of God throughout life. There's one line that I couldn't stop thinking about 'your goodness is running after, its running after me ...' That speaks of an energetic, eager pursuing us to bless, It speaks of an abandoned love that won't give up, that longs to bless. May we always let ourselves be found and blessed by God.'
John suggested that we read Galatians before the Bible study on Wednesday night. Having studied Acts, he encouraged us to go on and read Paul's letters that tie in with his missionary journeys in Acts, starting with Galatians.
On Sunday 28th June the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: David read Psalm 106:43-48, 'Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented. He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy. Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.' Psalm 106 recounts a catalogue of Israel's rebellions against God, yet he never gave up on them. For us, we all have times when we mess up but the Lord still loves us and never gives up - he is faithful. John read Galatians 2:11-14, 'When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?' Peter, who had been used amazingly by the Lord had slipped back into compromise, and Paul stood against him. As far as we know Peter was prepared to listen - the key lay in his response, as with us. We can't live in yesterday's grace and resources today, nor can we expect that today's resources will suffice for tomorrow. Rather we need fresh grace and fresh resources for each day - God's grace and provision is sufficient for each day and we need to draw on the grace that is available for that day. Phil commented that, just as Paul and Peter were different characters and needed each other, so within the body of Christ we are all different and need one another to highlight areas for change. Stephen read the following from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, 'The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favour of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed.' Claire also spoke about leaning on God's grace. She recounted an incident of going to a cattle auction with David where he was selling cows when she first knew him and had been trying to work out who was bidding. In her excitement of realisation she raised her hand and pointed, and nearly bought back the cows. David had to strongly remind her to refrain from bidding! The lesson from this is not to go back to square one. Even when we need to relearn something we can keep moving forward, we don't need to look back. Julie has been listening to the hymn 'Be thou my vision' this week and reflected on the words of the second verse, 'Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word'. We need to rely on God's wisdom and on his word, especially as times are changing, as lockdown eases and some go back to work or start new jobs and we all make adjustments to the way we live. When our lives are intertwined with God's, as expressed in this hymn, we will base our choices and decisions on God's wisdom rather than our own. Richard spoke about our anchor. When he had been in the Boys Brigade the motto was 'Steadfast and Sure' and the symbol was a metal anchor. However, when ships were in very deep water they couldn't use their metal anchor. Instead they used a sea anchor which was made of canvas and stopped the boat from spinning in the wind and waves. We have an anchor in the Lord which stops us spiralling when circumstances are tough. 'We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.' (Hebrews 6:19) In his talk this week Tim shares his final thoughts on Acts and talks about submitting ourselves totally to God and living life from his perspective. Phil commented that there are two important factors in submitting to God - firstly trusting who God is, the majesty of our Creator God, and secondly to recognise the goodness of God and what a wonderful Father he is. If we struggle with the Fatherhood of God, as many do who have not had good examples in their earthly fathers, Susan suggested that we look to Jesus as he reveals the goodness of God to us.
On 27th June Merle wrote about 'Reaching for the sky': 'One of the ornamental poppies in my garden grew to 5+ feet high. The flower would sit comfortably in the palm of my hand, each petal a soft red on the outside and a deep indigo in the centre. The problem with it was that no one could see the beauty of the flowers because it was so tall and today, with all the petals blown away, it looks out of place because of its height amongst the other flowers at its base.' Click here to read Merle's blog.
On 24th June Merle wrote about the expressions of love and care that have meant so much during these challenging times: 'A blanket on the lawn, the lego and toy box and a picnic brought by their mummy turned out to be a good substitute for grandma's out-of-bounds house (except for the loo!). It wasn't long though before a little five year-old was desperate for the loo and politely asked if she could go inside to use the toilet facilities.' Click here to read Merle's blog.
On Sunday 21st June the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: The overall theme of the sharing was the importance of being one body, 'There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.' (Ephesians 4:4-6). It is good to be able to see one another on a Sunday morning, in whatever way is available to us. We were reminded of the beauty of God's creation all around us, but that man is the pinnacle of creation and we see the reflection of God in each other. (Psalm 8:4-5) When we pray The Lord's prayer we speak as a body - 'our' Father. We are meant to operate as a body and, when we do, we demonstrate the body of Christ. Tim spoke about our call. We see the story of God's call and purpose in characters such as Joseph, Moses and Peter - they were the best people for the jobs God called them to do and nothing in their background had been wasted. So it is with us - God takes and uses who we are and everything we do in our lives, even when we make mistakes, and uses it for his good. 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28) When the church is operating as a body we are able to help each other to fulfil that purpose and call on our lives. John spoke about Paul's single-minded commitment and devotion. Paul didn't settle for a quiet life, he embraced conflict and, although he knew he would be imprisoned, he persisted in going to Jerusalem because he knew what God had called him to. It is important that we have that sense of God's call on our lives, both in terms of our roles in life and our role as part of the body of Christ. Joseph did his best in every situation that he found himself in - whatever our calling is we should do it to the best of our ability and as if we are serving the Lord. 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.' (Colossians 3:23-24)
On 18th June Mary wrote: 'Yesterday morning, having had to call in at work, I decided to take the opportunity to go to the harbour at Southwold and get a coffee. Instead of sitting in the car I thought I'd go and sit on a bench looking across to Walberswick. As I sat there I thought 'Brian (my late husband) should have been sitting next to me and us enjoying the time together'. I quickly told myself there's no point going down that route and told myself I wasn't sitting there alone because God was sitting next to me. My immediate thought was to ask God what he thought about me, but didn't and rather asked him how he felt about the state of his world. I was reminded of John's Bible insight that I'd read that morning entitled 'When it all goes wrong' and how it had all started off so well for the early church with thousands saved and many miracles and then it took a turn for the worse as Stephen was stoned and Saul began to destroy the church and terrible persecution followed. But that was the beginning of the fulfilment that the good news about Jesus would be spread across the world. As I sat there I had a real sense that God is with us in all our suffering and knows and feels our pain, but he has the bigger picture which is so beyond anything we could even begin to comprehend and it was alright, we just need to have that quiet confidence and trust in him. We were reminded on Sunday that "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well" (Julian of Norwich). I got up and walked to the end of the harbour and remembered the time when I stood there on a beautiful sunny day with my mum and we sang her favourite hymn together 'How great thou art'. I thought of the second verse which is: And when I think of God, His Son not sparing Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing He bled and died to take away my sin I thought of how much it must have hurt God to send his Son to suffer on the cross and be separated from him and the pain and suffering that Jesus took upon himself because they had the bigger picture - our redemption. We have been bought with the highest price possible. No matter what comes our way we are safe with him and his love is everlasting. "So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; and he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace - for how well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times. God has told us his secret reason for sending Christ, a plan he decided on in mercy long ago; and this was his purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are - in heaven or on earth - to be with him in Christ forever." Ephesians 1:7-10 (TLB)'
On 15th June Merle wrote about the lack of background noise during lock-down: 'Blue sky, white clouds, sunshine, a warm breeze and, at long last, sitting in a friend's garden - my bubble with somebody who lives alone. The silence, which I must admit I enjoyed during lock-down, has been broken today by a helicopter going overhead at 8.30am and the drone of the council workers' machines cutting all the verges and green areas on our side of the town.' Click here to read the rest of Merle's article.
On Sunday 14th June the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: The overall theme of the sharing was moving forward out of lock-down with God's strength and God's peace. During lock-down we have been able to hear the silence and notice the bird song in the stillness. As we move forward it will be important to carry that ability to hear and savour peace and appreciate the wonder of creation that is all around us. We are made to enjoy creation, made for God's glory. It has been difficult watching the news this week with the pandemic combined with civil and political unrest and the fall-out in homes and society. The Lord is especially precious in these times, and his gift to us. The vessel is earthen but the treasure inside is valuable, it's the voice of the Lord. 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.' (1 Corinthians 4:7) It is our responsibility to look after ourselves and keep that earthen vessel intact, so we can face the challenges that life brings as we move out of lock-down. Don't underestimate the Lord - be ready to be there for people, preserve what you've got yourself and be prepared to share it. "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well" (Julian of Norwich) There is much suffering in the world and sometimes it can be difficult to hold on to our hope. God is our ultimate hope. Psalm 72:1-4, 'Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.' It is important to choose to give over to the Lord those things that are his and be aware of what might take away our peace. When we are at peace within ourselves we see the beauty of creation around us. John reminded us that we live in a messed up world and we need Biblical patterns in our minds to help us deal with what we see in the world around us. In Revelation 4-6 we are reminded that God is the God of creation, of salvation and of history. We see this worked out in the Acts of the Apostles as God directs his people to be in the right place at the right time. Christianity was beginning to grow and spread and god organised it, even in the turmoil of society. God still has his people in the right place at the right time. When we do what God has called us to do where he's called us to be, then we bring salt and light to those around us. The Lord is in control when we submit our lives to him.
On 10th June Cathy wrote: 'Here is a picture of a knitted stegosaurus, made for a young lad’s birthday during toyshop lock-down. As I sewed on the crowning spikes, I became more and more excited until, with all the facial features complete, I was dying to race outside and show it to someone – my creation! It reminded me of the Genesis comment on God’s opinion of what he had made, he was obviously very pleased it was ‘very good’. (Genesis 1:31) We’ve been very aware over the past weeks how wonderful all the creation around us is, but how about ourselves? The creation included mankind, each of us was created to be ‘very good’. We have to admit that we haven’t always lived up to that expectation in the heart of God when he first conceived of us. But, as we’ve been hearing about Pentecost, through forgiveness and the empowering of the Spirit, there is another chance. The people began to learn about the ‘very good’, how to treat themselves and how to treat one another. May we too, find out each day what the Lord is saying to us about being ‘very good’.'
On Sunday 7th June the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: John shared at the start of the meeting that, as we approach this time together, we can choose to ‘come near to God and he will come near to you’ (James 4:8). God hasn’t moved but sometimes we can feel a distance and coming near to God may well involve pushing through anxiety, fear, guilt or lack of confidence. It is significant that the previous verse reminds us to submit ourselves to God, and to resist the devil and 'he will flee from you.’ If we yield to God in trust, refuse to give the devil a toe-hold, then we can take the initiative in coming near to God. A selection of verses were shared to encourage us, should we feel anxious as lock-down restrictions are being lifted:
‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.’ Isaiah 40:6
‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.’ Psalm 103:13
‘In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ Psalm 4:8
********** We were reminded that God knows about today and we can have hope in our God. We must be faithful in sharing that hope. It is important to keep hold of what we have learnt and gained during lock-down as we move forward in life. ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Matthew 5:14-16 The following sums up the need for change well, and was shared from an Instagram post: 'What if 2020 isn’t cancelled? What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw – that it finally forces us to grow. A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Declare change. Work for change. Become the change. A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart. 2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.' Leslie Dwight ********** We were reminded of the importance of hopefulness and expectation. We might be in a difficult place within ourselves but we can still hold on to the Lord in hope. John responded by reminding us of Psalms 42 and 43 in which David is free to express the fact that his soul is downcast and disturbed but goes on to surround those real and powerful emotions with hope – ‘Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.’ The Old Testament often reminds us of the need to ‘wait patiently for the Lord’ (Psalm 27:14). ‘They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength’ (Isaiah 40:31 ESV). Waiting requires trust, and hope, both of which go deeper in the waiting. That is where character is built. ********** At the end of the meeting Tim reminded us that the apostle Paul went through many hardships but was resilient and always pushed on. Even when left for dead after being stoned and dragged outside the city of Lystra, he got up and went back into the city. His trust in God enabled him to push through the difficulties. John pointed out that Paul had a major disagreement with his friend Barnabus over John Mark. Paul didn’t want to take him on the next missionary journey but Barnabus did. The disagreement was so sharp that they parted ways. Two missionary journeys came out of the disagreement – Paul took Silas and Barnabus took John Mark. Over time John Mark proved himself and Paul saw his value. Now Paul could have allowed that dispute to overshadow his spirit but he didn’t. He not only pushed through the external difficulties but had the inner strength to not get hung up on false guilt. We can go into this new week with the strength of Jesus within us enabling us to overcome all the obstacles.
On 7th June Cathy wrote: 'Hi Tim, have just listened to today's talk. I do appreciate the way you put us in Paul's situation and then draw lessons from that and apply them to our own situations, which on the surface are very different. We are not faced with the prospect of being stoned, or hopefully not being put in prison, but all the issues of lives being spoiled and ultimately ruined are still there and once they are challenged the same forces of evil and mischief are at work. So as you say we need to take our calling seriously, be clear what it is and put our lives in it. May I/we do just that.'
On 2nd June Merle wrote 'A problem solved' following on from her thoughts about 'The daylight thief' in Lessons from lock-down gardening: 'The problem of the marauding blackbirds and thrush has been solved. Amidst the display of the flower pots on the patio are two windmills.' Click here to read Merle's solution and lessons learnt in the process.
On Sunday 31st May the following thoughts were shared when we met together for church via Zoom: John had listened to an interview with Darlene Zschech, former worship leader with Hillsong Church. In it she spoke of her battle with breast cancer and of taking on an ‘exciting adventure’ in the pastoring of a church. She spoke candidly about the changes that battling with the disease have brought in her journey with the Lord. There is clearly a depth and maturity and she used a phrase that has stuck with me. She said she has learnt to ‘live intentionally’. I liked that. There is the feel that she values her time, makes her choices before the Lord and has a sense of his daily leading. Merle reminded us that it is Pentecost Sunday today and that, if we truly live in God's Spirit, we will live in freedom. Julie read Isaiah 41:13, 'For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.' In the midst of feelings of uncertainty as lock-down starts to ease, some children and teachers return to school next week and shops and other workplaces are looking at how to reopen safely, it is so reassuring to know that we can chose to let God take our hand and lead us each step of the way and we do not need to fear. Stephen read Psalm 119:76-77, 'May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.' Jen shared a lesson she felt God has been teaching her over these last few weeks and months. It was in encouraging a friend that she has come to really know and understand something that she has known at a head level for some time. Jen writes 'As part of the Understanding Yourself courses that the church runs, we learn how our view of ourselves is shaped by both nature and nurture. I'm sure we can all give examples where our upbringing, or circumstances we have faced, have shaped how we view ourselves and what we really think of ourselves. I have always understood this but over the last couple of months have really come to understand and appreciate how this image of ourselves underpins how we approach, and feel, about life. As a Phlegmatic it will come as no surprise to you that changes outside of my control can increase the levels of anxiety that I feel within. It was quite an adjustment going from working full time in a school to suddenly being in a lock-down situation working from home. I adapted quickly to this new way of living and soon settled into my new routine. However, now that restrictions are easing and we begin to experience the new 'normal', anxieties can easily creep in as I face lots of changes outside of my control and have to adapt to new ways of working. It would be so easy to just excuse and accept these feelings as being part of who I am but that simply isn't true. The feelings of anxiety and guilt that I can face come as a result of how I view myself. I could feel anxious about heading back to work because my Phlegmatic would question whether or not I was up to it. I could feel apprehensive about going to meet a group of friends because my Phlegmatic would question whether or not I will fit in. As a Phlegmatic, I am often aware of feeling guilty and bad about things, but again this is often false guilt which comes from a place of doubting the decisions that I have made or the things that I have said. It has become so clear to me that how I feel in a given situation has little to do with the situation, but everything to do with how I feel about my ability to handle it. It would be easy in our extroverts to tell ourselves that we're fine and just as good as everyone else but if we stopped and were really honest, would we say and feel the same when looking at things through the eyes of our introvert. Many of these patterns and ways of thinking have built up over time and without us even being aware of them and so they are not simply going to change overnight. It is a process of recognising where the feelings come from and then making the choice to stand ourselves in the truth of what God says about us and how he views us. Over time, these truths will become our truth and we will begin to see ourselves as God does. A paragraph taken from page 48 of 'Insights from the Bible' entitled 'Little by Little' sums it up well: 'Think of two circles. one filled with the negatives of what we feel about ourselves and the other with the way God sees us and those who know us well see us. As situations arise, we will choose which circle to listen to. You may be filled with anxiety, fear or self-doubt but these are all rooted in what you feel about yourself and are not consistent with how God sees you. Listen to God's truth, choose to believe it when it is challenged, grow into that truth, refuse to give up the ground you gain and, over time, you will begin to know from experience that you are as good as God says you are.' Like I said earlier, our view of ourselves won't suddenly change but each time a situation or feeling arises we can stop and ask ourselves if we're looking at it from our perspective of how we see ourselves, or Gods perspective of how he sees us. Which circle will we stand in? The choice is ours.' John summarises: this linked with ‘live intentionally’. We can choose which circle we live in. Putting all these thoughts together, we can choose to live intentionally which means choosing to live in the positives of who we are and living by the Spirit which always results in freedom. Following the meeting John has written an article on 'Helping Yourself' which outlines the two distinct stages in helping someone to grow, firstly to understand themselves and secondly to make good choices about what to do with who they are.