This Christmas, someone is going to get it. Someone is going to meet Jesus for the first time. The Light of the World is going to illuminate their world. The Saviour that was born in a stable will be birthed in their circumstances.
That’s what excites me about Christmas, every year! There is something about the Light. And I guess, here in the UK, in these dark and shortern days – that Light can shine more brightly. It’s shine more penetrating!
So each year, we can be tempted to be caught in the waste, the commercialism, the sales, and we could miss the CHRIST of Christmas.
But as in all relationships, it takes time. It takes effort!
And so again, 2020, we will do what it takes to show the Saviour to people. Our church in Bletchley, are putting up a really big star on top of our church. The star is pretty big! 2m by 2m in dimension. My hope and pray is that the light attracts attention to the Reason for the Season (Yes, I just through in that cliche’!) With my young people, my team of leaders and I thinking of some creative ways to engage the young people and get them thinking about who Jesus is. Will you put weight on each of your Christmas actions, this year?
So as you write your Christmas cards, will you pray and think about each person you are addressing that card too? When you are putting up the tree and decor, will you look at the family around you. And be grateful for them? Offer a prayer for them. And perhaps even reach out to someone who will be lonely this Christmas?
This is the idea I had – initially, I thought it may be for Christian leaders, but in fact, it can be for everyone.
What’s happening in Nehemiah is that the people of God are rebuilding a wall. But as they rebuild, they are holding a plough (building tool) in their one hand and a sword in the other (a defense tool).
You and I, will do the same, going into the second lockdown. Well, we can? The invitation is there for us. Will you accept it?
We each are creating or building something. In the context of ministry – we are building community, introducing people to the reality of Jesus. We are creating hope and care for others.
But, by God, we will have to defend too!
But we WILL NOT BE OVERCOME.
We can be prepared. We have the sword in our hand. And yes, we will be tempted to despair, give in to negative thoughts, allow boredom to wrap our lives, or harbour anxiety and let our joy and peace be sapped…
BUT I REFUSE to go there!
How about you?
May you find courage with this new song by Jeremy Camp:
I wrote this for a church service that we did tonight, called HUSH. It’s a reflective, quiet, meditative type of service. I wrote about the phrase SELAH and led the church into an examen prayer:
We moved to a time of Examen Prayer… For those who don’t know what that is: It’s a form of prayer that invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day.
In Acts 17: 28 we are told that we each live in a rhythm and a cadence with God. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
And in the Psalms, there is a wonderful word that most of us gloss over – and that is the word: Selah. (pronounced: see-laa)
The word SELAH – is found between the stanzas in the Psalms.
It was meant for the reader of the psalm to take a pause, a sort of refrain in the music. (After all, some Psalms were hymns that were sung.) But without the SELAH, the psalm or song would be too busy! The reader / musician would run out of breath.
So tonight, as we gather here: How is the rhythm with you and God? Are you feeling tired? Are you feeling out of step with Him?
Tonight, we take back that SELAH in our lives.
Let us immerse ourselves in Psalm 66 and find our rhythm with God.
As I read through the lines of Psalms, follow what they mention.
In your mind- take part in the lines….
And where I mention the word SELAH – will you inhale and exhale…and pause.
(The Message) Psalm 661-4
All together now—applause for God! Sing songs to the tune of his glory, set glory to the rhythms of his praise. Say of God, “We’ve never seen anything like him!” When your enemies see you in action, they slink off like scolded dogs. The whole earth falls to its knees— it worships you, sings to you, can’t stop enjoying your name and fame.
Inhale / exhale
5-6 Take a good look at God’s wonders— they’ll take your breath away. He converted sea to dry land; travelers crossed the river on foot. Now isn’t that cause for a song?
7 Ever sovereign in his high tower, he keeps his eye on the godless nations. Rebels don’t dare raise a finger against him.
8-12 Bless our God, O peoples! Give him a thunderous welcome! Didn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well-watered place.
13-15 I’m bringing my prizes and presents to your house. I’m doing what I said I’d do, What I solemnly swore I’d do that day when I was in so much trouble: The choicest cuts of meat for the sacrificial meal; Even the fragrance of roasted lamb is like a meal! Or make it an ox garnished with goat meat!
16-20 All believers, come here and listen, let me tell you what God did for me. I called out to him with my mouth, my tongue shaped the sounds of music. If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened. But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer. Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love.
Now let’s leave the Psalms and look at our own lives. How can we add the Selah to our own lives? God it’s taken me a long time to still my spirit today. My mind is racing with anxiety. What is to become of this pandemic? Will we get through it? Is there another lockdown on the horizon? I feel tired. A mental and spiritual and physical tiredness envelops me.
I am not always present. Right now, I am thinking of my “to do list”. And what I shall make for supper? What do I need to buy from the shops, tomorrow? What does my week at work look like? My head is often so busy… With things that distract me from You…
We have been fighting a lot lately. There seems to be no peace. Our love is taking strain. Do you see and hear me, dear God?
I often compartmentalize my life. Being selective of where I think You should be. Forgive me…
Your Spirit is likened to the Wind. A sort of Holy Draught, if you will I open the house of my life to You. As the door opens, I allow Your Holy Draught to blow through all the rooms of my life. Fill them to the brim, Lord Jesus. I don’t want to exclude You anymore.
Lastly, as I sit here in the ancient building. I am aware of my feet planted on the floor. I listen to my breathing. I feel the temperature of the room.
On this day, Sunday 25 October
In the most difficult part of my day – show me where You were.
In the best part of my day – Show me, You standing there.
Who did you meet with today, see God there too? Go back to when you entered this church – see Jesus walking in with You, leading you to your seat.
Recently, in Edinburgh, we were on one of those City Bus Tours. Enroute we went past a church with a sign that said: Prayer Changes Everything.
That got me thinking about how true that statement is. I also, wondered, what exactly does it change? And in what way? Here are some of my suggestions:
I first think of a quote by CS Lewis: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” Isn’t that brilliant?
When we pray, we include God in allows. We involve Him. We allow Him space in our lives. Yes, God is there and doesn’t need our “permission” but in “having a prayer life” (a Christianese phrase) we develop our relationship with God.
So when we pray more often, pray as we go – then it’s does something for our own relationship with God.
There is the prayer of thanks. Being more grateful for many things every day – from the bowl of cereal you had this morning, to the cup of coffee you are having, to the giggling of your children, to the ability to feel the warmth of the sun on your arms. To eating a good meal, to see ing butterflies. The sound of the crunching autumn leaves beneath your feet.
There is the prayer of confession – saying sorry. Oh, how we can make mistakes along the way. We lose our cool! We make a nasty remark! We’re harbour bitterness. We consume negativity. We think hateful thoughts. Oh, how we can pause and say sorry. I often ask God, when I lose my patience: Make me better, Jesus.
There is the prayer of asking. Oh I need wisdom and help to get through things. Yes, I can do some things in Darrel’s strength – but how much better it would be, to do all things with Christ. So with youth ministry – I pray for creativity. I pray for wisdom in going through emails and planning.
There is the praying for others. I pray for health and long life for all my family. A I get older, I am so thankful for my fitness and health and I pray that always for my family. That, and provision.
There are lots of prayers. Prayers of healing, prayers of wonder… what could you add to the list?
So, prayer changes everything.
It changes you and I. We begin to see God in our daily happenings. God is here. Right here and right now. Open your eyes. Just talk to Him,
And don’t forget to listen. Sometimes prayers are made, without words.
This morning, I got to run a marathon and one of my leaders (Georgy) and I decided to get them outside. (After all, who doesn’t like church outside?) And plus, it was a bonus to have the young people and their parents cheering me on at the end!
Thank you, Tom, Judi, Richelle, Michelle, Amelia, Georgy, Ashleigh, Connor, Gracie and Sarah for your support today. Much appreciated!
At the end, we distributed some verses to the young people. Verses related to training for a race, etc.
I wanted to expound on those scriptures a bit:
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9: 25)
Running a marathon takes a lot of effort. One needs to put in the hours and mileage of running on a weekly basis for a few months. It requires discipline!
Same with anything else in life. If you want to achieve something, you need to put in the effort.
You need to have discipline to set weekly targets, goals etc.
It works with losing weight.
It works with work goals
It works with studying for example.
See, I love scripture for the practical application for it. Those who say the bible is irrelevant, probably don’t know it too well. We follow a practical Jesus!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4: 13)
During the run, I quoted this verse to myself a few times. Especially during the last 6km (3 miles).
(I know this verse could be one of those that are quoted out of context.)
But it does really motivate me.
When I was training – actually, every time I ride and run, I thank Jesus for my health and for my legs. That I actually can do this fitness stuff!
With Christ as a motivation and source of strength, He gives perspective and direction for our lives. Even in the smallest little goals and tasks.
See, I could say, I did this in Darrel’s strength. But what folly, that would be! My very breath, my created body… is God given! How dare, I forget the creator!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12: 1)
Firstly, to my two friends who supported me along the way. Wayne ran the first 21km (13miles) and Sean ran the second half with me. They were so encouraging. They motivated me when I was struggling. They kept me hydrated and helped me keep my desired pace. Their motivation, their words… were spot on!
Life is like that. We can spur one another on! And our motivation and encouragement need to be realistic. That’s what I appreciated with my friends. They didn’t smother me. They called it as it is! When I was slacking, they told me to pick up the pace. When I was perhaps going too fast and would tire (at a later stage) they told me to slow down.
The support and advice we give, needs to be like that.
Then, right near the end, having some of the youth and their parents cheering me on, really made me happy. Seeing them, gave me a boost in my stride!
You see, encouragement, is never a bad thing! Are you an encourager or a discourager?
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4: 7)
Finishing a race always sound better than saying, I started it, and then just got over it. 😉
In life – if we set out to do something… do we have the stickability!
Same with our faith. Do we keep it to the end!
Sadly, life seems to have knocked the faith of people… and they walk away… ☹
“If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses? (Jeremiah 12: 5)
So, I am definitely not planning on competing against horses! But I dig this verse!
We can, always do better!
In running, I can further the distance or I can pick up the pace. Or I can have weekly distance goals.
In life, the same thing – we have goals. Go for it! Then once you’ve achieved it – can you do it again? Can you do it better?
Oh dear Jesus, thank you for being so practical!! You’re no fairy-tale out of touch God!
The word I was trying to say – where I stuttered in this clip was:
Definition of envelop. transitive verb. 1 : to enclose or enfold completely with or as if with a covering.
I usually would be annoyed by that. But I am changing
The message from today can still be delivered:
DO NOT BE AFRAID!
It’s all over scripture. Over 360 times in the bible. Almost one for every day of the year!
Always when I write or preach or share a thought I am reminded of Isaiah 55:
“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
God will use our stuff! Even if we trip over a words.
With this Hof TV (Sacred Spaces) idea, I don’t want things to be “too polished”
I want it to be natural and human.
The verses I used for today:
Joshua 1: 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!”
AND one of my TOP favourites:
1 John 4: 18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect fear drives out love.”
Now, that’s what I am talking about!
WILL YOU let the PERFECT LOVE of Jesus take away your fear and anxiety?