David's Blog

Father I know that all my life - A prayer for contentment

 

On Sunday evening, 5th March we looked at Psalm 131 which I descried as a picture of contentment - spiritual contentment in God. During the sermon I quoted at length the hymn 'Be still my soul' as an example of someone seeking for the calm the contentment  that David speaks of in the Psalm. I also had in my notes the words of another hymn by Anna Laetitia Waring which could also be called 'A prayer for contentment. I quote below the fullest version of it I can find. I am most familiar with the first  5 verses which were in the Revised Church Hymnary (548) on which I was raised but the whole hymn/poem is worth quoting at length.. I hope it may be of help especially where we find ourselves wrestling with God's providence or will for our lives

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Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come,
I do not fear to see;
But I ask Thee for a present mind
Intent on pleasing Thee.

I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And to wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do,
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child,
And guided where I go.

Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoe'er estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate;
And a work of lowly love to do
For the Lord on whom I wait.

So I ask Thee for the daily strength,
To none that ask denied,
And a mind to blend with outward life
While keeping at Thy side;
Content to fill a little space,
If Thou be glorified.

And if some things I do not ask,
In my cup of blessing be,
I would have my spirit filled the more
With grateful love to Thee —
More careful — not to serve Thee much,
But to please Thee perfectly.

There are briers besetting every path,
That call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot,
And an earnest need for prayer;
But a lowly heart that leans on Thee
Is happy anywhere.

In a service which Thy will appoints,
There are no bonds for me;
For my inmost heart is taught “the truth”
That makes Thy children “free;”
And a life of self–renouncing love,
Is a life of liberty.

Anna Laetitia Waring (1820 - 1910)

 


7 things to say to a hurting love one

 Here is a helpful article that appeared recently on the Gospel Coalition website and is relevant to some of the things we were thinking about  in the recent morning series on John 11 and Jesus interaction with Martha and Mary following the death of their brother Lazarus. You can find the original article here

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7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One

Blake Glosson

Arguably no moment is more formative than immediately after a loved one shares her pain with you. Relationships are defined by what happens in these sacred seconds. Your words can bring healing or harm, communicate love or judgment, build or destroy trust.

Listening is almost always the surest way to care for a hurting friend, as it establishes trust, facilitates understanding, opens the door to self-discovery and growth, and powerfully communicates the heart and love of Christ. Jesus excelled in the ministry of listening, and he wants us to follow in his footsteps.

Yet Jesus did more than listen to sufferers; he also spoke life-giving words to them. While we should always take a listen-first approach, we should also look for opportunities to speak words of hope and encouragement. A timely word can bring blessing and even healing: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” ( Prov 16:24 see also 12:18; 25:11).

Unfortunately, we often find ourselves ill-equipped to speak words of life to hurting loved ones. Consider seven helpful phrases to keep near.

1. ‘Thank you for sharing this with me.’

When someone reveals her heart to you, she entrusts you with a priceless possession, saying, I trust you enough to handle this with care. Recognise the privilege of this moment. It’s an honour that she trusts you enough to make herself vulnerable. Dignify her by vocalizing your appreciation.

Expressing gratitude communicates, You’re valuable to me, and I’m grateful you’d entrust me with something as precious as your heart. Acknowledging the value of a sufferer’s heart and feelings is one of the easiest and most effective ways to honour her.

2. ‘This is a difficult situation.’

Suffering can be a breeding ground for accusation. Sometimes this accusation is self-inflicted, but often it’s perpetuated by a misguided (or abusive) authority figure or peer—or even the Accuser who says to sufferers,

  • “Toughen up. What kind of Christian are you?”
  • “You shouldn’t still be grieving about this.”
  • “Why are you hurting? You must not trust God.”
  • “Why are you confused? You must not have genuine faith.”
  • “Why are you anxious ? You must be sinning.”

When you acknowledge the difficulty of a situation, you remind the sufferer he’s not crazy, stupid, or sinful for feeling hurt or confused. As limited people walking alongside limited people in a broken and complex world, often the most fitting thing we can say is simply “This is hard.”

Another useful phrase is “This is wrong.” This sentiment is especially appropriate when the sufferer has been mistreated or abused. Acknowledging the wrongness of injustice is right; Christ hears your words and says, “Amen.” Jesus sees and hates the ravaging effects of sin (Prov 8:13; Isa 59:13), mourns with his people (Isa. 53:4; 63:8–9John 11:33–35), and will one day return to bring judgment and make all things right (Rev. 21:1–8; 22:1–7).

3. ‘My heart hurts for you.’

I still remember the first time someone (a long-time family friend) spoke these exact words to me. I remember reflecting, I don’t think five words have ever made me feel so loved. Not only did this person see and acknowledge my suffering, but she cared enough to enter into it.

Expressing your sympathetic pain models Christ, who enters into our pain (cf. Isa. 53:4; 63:8–9Acts 9:1–5). It also alleviates the sufferer’s loneliness, if only for a moment. These words remind your loved one she doesn’t walk alone. Few assurances are more comforting to a hurting soul.

4. ‘Thank you for modelling Christlikeness.’

Encouragement is a universal medicine for suffering souls. Don’t leave an interaction with a hurting loved one without administering this tonic. Even if you can’t change his circumstances, you can buoy him by speaking a specific word of encouragement.

As your loved one explains his hardship, listen closely for things he’s doing well. Acknowledge these and thank him for his example. Here are some useful phrases:

  • “I admire the way you [insert behaviour].”
  • “Your [insert behaviour] encourages me and glorifies God.”
  • “Your [insert behaviour] is clear evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in you.”

When you acknowledge how a sufferer’s efforts encourage you, reflect Christ, or serve God’s people, it reminds him God is at work and his suffering isn’t pointless.

5. ‘This verse has been meaningful to me.’

No words help a hurting person more than God’s words. Scripture is food for famished ones (Matt. 4:4), comfort for the afflicted (Ps. 119:49–50), life for those walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 119:25, 50, 107John 6:63). When walking with a hurting loved one, remind her of God’s presence and promises:

Praying with a hurting loved one is another effective way to use your words to bless her and point her to God’s presence and promises. One of my favourite passages to pray with hurting loved ones is Psalm 143 (especially vv. 6–12).

We do need to be careful with how we introduce Scripture to someone suffering. God’s Word should never be used to downplay suffering (band-aiding) or to show superiority over the other person (disparaging). You’ve heard the unhelpful advice:

  • You’re depressed? Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice always!”
  • You’re anxious? Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing!”
  • You’re lonely? God’s Word tells us to pursue relationships. Have you tried spending time with people?

Statements like these communicate arrogance (Look at how much wisdom I have that you don’t) and ignorance (Your suffering is an easy problem to fix; you just need to read this verse). Don’t assume a sufferer’s pain is a simple problem to fix or a lesson for him to learn.

6. ‘What can I do to help?’

During the conversation, you might ask, “What would be most helpful for me to do right now? Listen? Pray with you? Share my thoughts?” Asking this question (and honouring his request) will communicate love and direct you how to serve him most effectively.

After the conversation, you can ask, “How can I care for you in the days ahead?” Often it’s useful to offer specific suggestions:

  • “Could I bring you a meal on Thursday?”
  • “Would it be helpful if I picked up your son from school on Friday during your doctor’s appointment?”
  • “Would you like to meet before your interview on Monday to talk through some of your potential responses?”

Don’t assume you know what a sufferer needs (whether in the conversation or afterward). Offer suggestions, but also let him tell you what would serve him most effectively.

7. Nothing.

Silence is, at times, the most appropriate response to someone’s suffering. Immediately after a friend loses a loved one or undergoes a traumatic experience, words can be stifling or even hurtful. The same is true whenever a loved one begins weeping while sharing her pain. In moments like these, the best way to show love and support is nonverbal. Hug her. Weep with her. Hold her hand. Usually, when someone’s suffering is intense, what she needs most from you is simply for you to be there (see Job 2:12–13).

A good habit when a sufferer shares her pain is to say nothing for at least five seconds when it’s your “turn” to talk. This intentional pause gives the other person a chance to breathe and share anything else that’s on her heart or mind. It also communicates, I’m here to listen and understand, not merely to fix you or share my thoughts.

When someone shares her pain, you have a golden opportunity to put the heart of Christ on display. Make the most of it by listening well, praying for the Spirit’s help, and speaking words of grace and love.

 

Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois. He is also an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church. Check out more of his work on his website.

 

Queen Elizabeth II, Beacon of Grace

 What follows is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II from Mark Green of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) who has been involved in the writing of two books about the Queen as author of  The Queen's Way and the co-author of The Servant Queen and the  King she serves. It first appeared  here


Queen Elizabeth II, Beacon of Grace

The first time I ever thought seriously about the Queen was when God told me to.

It was 2015. And Elizabeth was 89. I had asked God a specific question: please show me someone in the public eye who is an outstanding whole-life disciple of Jesus, someone whose faith shapes all they do and say. ‘Elizabeth’ was God’s answer. Swift, clear, weighty. And to be shared.

Since that day it’s become ever clearer to me that Elizabeth was a gift from God to nation, Commonwealth, and indeed the global community, a beacon of humility, grace, astuteness, good humour, generosity, and deep faith – God’s woman, God’s follower, God’s Queen.

Like many I suppose, I’d never been a ‘royal-watcher’. I admired the Queen, appreciated the clarity and warmth with which she spoke, almost every Christmas, of her trust in Christ and the difference he made to her life, but I hadn’t thought deeply about her particular vision or how God might be working in and through her. Yes, she was a remarkable woman, and a remarkable monarch, but what I came to see, and had confirmed by others who knew her better, was that she was first and foremost a remarkable disciple of Christ. As such, she offered us an extraordinary example of consistent godliness in one of the longest and most public global ministries in the history of the world.

Since her death, our screens and papers have been filled with eulogies from family and friends, from former Prime Ministers, commonwealth leaders, world leaders, religious leaders from every major faith, royal correspondents, celebrities, honorees, former staff…

We have heard of her extraordinary dedication to duty, of her dignity, of her diligence, of her capacity to change with the times, of her astute leadership of the Royal Family, of her curiosity and intelligence and her ability to make almost anyone feel comfortable and, more importantly, valued…

We have heard of her contribution to international relations, to trade deals, to tourism, to the Commonwealth, to public morale.

We have heard of her emotional resilience as she dealt with bereavement, and fires, and the divorces of three of her children, and many a scandal along the way, not least around Prince Andrew.

We have heard of her capacity to forgive, not just to shake the hands of people responsible for killing her soldiers and her husband’s mentor Lord Mountbatten, but do so with great grace and a warm smile, like someone who rejoices in peace and reconciliation. But there hasn’t been much about what made her the woman she was. There’s been little attempt in the mainstream media to look at her and her life through the lens of what she said made the difference to her – her faith in Christ.

Indeed, about that, she was crystal clear, and repeatedly so. In her 2014 Christmas broadcast she put it this way:

‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.’

Brilliantly, in an age that is on the one hand increasingly secular, and on the other, fraught by religious conflicts, her approach was winsomely inclusive. She pointed to Jesus and how he expanded her capacity to love people with different beliefs. Her approach was testimonial, not argumentative. She told the world the inspiration that Jesus had been in her own life and left the world to decide if they were interested in being inspired themselves:

‘I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served. We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.’

More broadly, we can see the influence of Christ on her understanding of her job and how she did it. At the heart of this is the extraordinary impact of one particular moment in the Coronation. It was not when the solid gold St Edward’s Crown was laid on her head and she officially became Queen, but the moment that was not televised because it was deemed to be too holy for mass broadcast. It was the moment when, stripped of all her flowing robes, she knelt in a simple white dress and was anointed with holy oil. It was the moment when she dedicated herself to God to serve him by serving her people.

At one level, her Queenship was an accident of birth, an inevitable consequence of her uncle’s abdication, but she saw it as God’s will, as God’s calling, and therefore as something that she would need his help to do. And it was a calling she embraced. Wholly. Royal biographer, William Shawcross, wrote, ‘She found, like her mother before her… an almost sacrificial quality at the heart of the service.’

Of course, sacrifice is at the heart of the gospel – Jesus giving his life for ours. And it is at the heart of our own discipleship – taking up our cross daily to follow him. But sacrifice is intertwined with service. We no longer live for ourselves but for God and others. And that is what characterized Elizabeth’s approach not only to her own work, but to her understanding of citizenship. So, for example, at Christmas 2012 she said:

‘This is the time of the year when we remember that God sent his only Son “to serve, not to be served.” He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.’

We are meant to be there for one another. Indeed, her broadcasts – Christmas and occasional – tended to highlight the particular qualities she valued – resilience, kindness, neighbourliness – qualities she’d seen in the wartime generation. When she spoke to the nation during the COVID pandemic she focused on those qualities, summoning us to live up to our heritage:

‘I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any, that the attributes of self-discipline, quiet, good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are in not a part of our past. It defines our present and our future.’

Intrinsic to that understanding of ‘fellow-feeling’ was her understanding of what it meant to be a good neighbour. Indeed, time and again, in her Christmas addresses, she referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan, summoning us to serve our neighbours and our countries in whatever role we found ourselves. Indeed, in 1980 she offered a comprehensive picture of neighbourly citizenship that is unmatched in contemporary public rhetoric. Even Barack Obama was never so far-reaching in his communication of good citizenship. That address highlighted unselfish service as the key to citizenship… and she cited examples from every sphere. From health care to the armed forces, from central government to voluntary organisations, from hospital staff to neighbours caring for neighbours in need. And then she closed that section of her address with these words:

‘To all of you on this Christmas Day, whatever your conditions of work and life, easy or difficult; whether you feel that you are achieving something or whether you feel frustrated; I want to say a word of thanks.

‘And I include all those who don’t realise that they deserve thanks and are content that what they do is unseen and unrewarded. The very act of living a decent and upright life is in itself a positive factor in maintaining civilised standards.’

It is as if the Queen had internalised the truth of Colossians 3:17. Yes, we can… ‘do whatever we do for God.’

How refreshing to find a global leader who recognised so clearly the value and beauty of a life lived kindly.

Indeed, Elizabeth’s understanding of her role and our nation’s role in the world were, it seems, similarly shaped by a robust biblical framework. So back in 1957 she said:

‘I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the people of our brotherhood of nations. I believe in our qualities and in our strength. I believe that together we can set an example to the world which will encourage upright people everywhere…’

In the context of Britain’s imperial past this is a remarkable vision. It is not a vision of military superiority, economic dominance, ideological hegemony, creative brilliance, or sporting excellence but of moral example, a vision that would not inspire envy or fear but encourage generosity, justice, kindness, ‘uprightness’. It is similar to God’s original hope for the people of Israel in the Bible, that they would be ‘a light to the nations’. Britain’s military power had diminished but for her size really didn’t matter – even as the granddaughter of a king who had ruled over a quarter of the planet. What mattered was the quality of our example.

We see a similarly robust vision in her commitment to the development of the Commonwealth, arguably one of her greatest achievements. When she became Queen, it consisted of eight nations, primarily ruled by white men. Today, it consists of 54 nations and territories.

How do you turn nations you have conquered, ruled and exploited for decades into friends?

How has it happened that, in our deeply fractured world, 54 nations should choose to meet regularly, not out of military expediency or vital economic self-interest but out of a commitment to a common vision for a different kind of world?

The short answer is through the determination, the warmth, and relational skills of the Queen. When she took the throne she said:

‘The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace. To that new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself heart and soul every day of my life.’

It was another promise she would keep. At the Silver Jubilee, she said that she had witnessed:

‘From a unique position … the last great phase of the Empire into Commonwealth and the transformation of the Crown from an emblem of dominion into a symbol of free and voluntary association. In all history, this has no precedent.’

Where did the Queen get such a vision?

It was an idea that belonged to neither the left nor the right. In reality, it comes straight out of the biblical promise of a day when the tanks will be turned into tractors, or as Isaiah 2:4 puts it, ‘swords into ploughshares’. A day when nation will not fight against nation, when peace will reign across the globe. Elizabeth knew that it would only be fully realised when Christ returned and creation is renewed but that did not stop her working to create a context in which understanding could grow, cooperation flourish, and inequalities be addressed.

And if all that were not enough, she seemed to enjoy life – riding and horses and dogs and family and nice clothes and mimicking people and the occasional gin before lunch. But even here in the way she chose to spend her leisure time we saw her Christian devotion expressing itself. She didn’t have to invite a different pastor every weekend of her six-week Balmoral holiday to spend time with her family but she did. She didn’t have to drive herself to the Sunday service in the church on the Sandringham estate when she was there but she often did. She didn’t have to find out the names of the Sunday School prize winners and choose and present their prizes but she did.

There’s certainly no doubt about the identity of the King our Queen served. Nor is there any doubt that the prayer that her people have so often prayed (perhaps without realising that it was a prayer) was answered. God saved our Queen. Our Queen was ‘gracious’ and ‘noble’ and ‘victorious’ in the things that really matter – hope and faith in Christ, love of God and of the people she’s been empowered to serve.

Indeed, there can be few greater indications of God’s mercy and grace to our nation, despite our idolatrous turning away from him, than to have given us a Queen who loved us so faithfully and pointed us to him so clearly.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of his servant Elizabeth.

And may God grace our King in his reign as he graced his mother’s in hers.

 Mark Greene
Mission Champion, LICC

Thank You, Your Majesty - a tribute to the Queen

 Here is one of many tributes to the Queen - it was written by Carl Laferton who works for the Good Book Company here in the UK. It first appeared here on the Gospel Coalition website


Thank You, Your Majesty

SEPTEMBER 8, 2022  |  CARL LAFERTON

 

As a constitutional monarch, the nature of Queen Elizabeth II’s role dictated she not offer opinions. No one knew which political party she supported, or which was her favourite of the 15 prime ministers who served during her reign, or whether she was pro-Brexit or pro-Remain. So it’s significant that in her 70-year reign, Her Majesty only wrote one foreword. The book was published by the Bible Society for her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, and it was titled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.

There will be many millions of words written about the Queen over the coming days. Many will have been pre-prepared. When I worked for a news agency, the Press Association, 20 years ago, there were dozens of articles kept under the strictest of embargoes, ready for release upon the Queen’s death. The words that follow here were not pre-prepared and are unpolished.

But however smooth or eloquent, it’s unlikely any eulogy will sum her up better than the title of that book. Though she was herself a queen, Her Majesty always knew she had a sovereign and that he loved her, died for her, had forgiven her, and now called her to live a life of loving service in response. She may have been a queen, but she saw herself first and foremost as the subject of the King. “Billions of people follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives,” she once said. “I am one of them.”

Service, Not Self-Actualisation

That line was from one of the Queen’s Christmas Day speeches, the first of which was given on the radio in 1952. Her addresses are now watched annually by millions on TV throughout the Commonwealth. These were her opportunity to, as far as her constitutional position allowed, talk about her faith and encourage her subjects to consider Christ.

It was striking when we put together a book for children about the Queen’s faith to mark her Platinum Jubilee to see just how often she spoke of Jesus. In 2012, she reminded us that “this is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only Son to serve, not to be served,” both to save us and as an example to us. She followed that example. In our era, when duty has fallen out of fashion and “being true to yourself” has become the lodestar for a generation, she marched resolutely to a different beat. Hers was a life of service, not self-actualisation.

In our era, when duty has fallen out of fashion, she marched resolutely to a different beat. Hers was a life of service, not self-actualisation.

 

Her Majesty met millions of people, but in all the footage we’ll watch on loop over the coming days, notice she always gave her attention to the person in front of her. She never seemed in a hurry to move past him or her. It didn’t seem to matter to her whether the person to whom she was speaking was a president or a pauper. She could have enjoyed the wealth and status her position gave her. Instead, she showed us a life of dutiful service in the interest of others, one that treats each person with dignity regardless of status. In that, she gave us a glimpse of the One who left the riches of heaven and made himself nothing, being born in the form of a servant and giving all he had to serve his people.

Link to the Past, Signpost to Eternity

Throughout the dominions the Queen ruled, no one under the age of 70 has known another monarch. The nature of this world is ever-changing and often uncertain. But she was a fixed point. The Queen was always part of life—rarely front and centre in our consciousness, but always there. She connected us to our past. She’d endured the Blitz of London in the Second World War; her first prime minister had been Winston Churchill; her mother had been born in the Victorian age. Everything changes; but, in many ways, she did not. Until today.

That’s why, though she was 96, her death feels like a shock. We knew she would die one day, and yet perhaps a part of us felt she never would. Something in us craves the constancy, the security, of something that doesn’t change, of a rock you can put your foot on and know it will never move. The Queen couldn’t be unchanging forever, but her feet were on a different Rock.

Who knows what the future of the monarchy will be? Many loved Elizabeth rather than the institution itself. But while to many, monarchy is an anachronism—and they may be right—it’s worth remembering that as Christians, we’re looking forward to living under an absolute monarch.

To the extent that Elizabeth was kind, servant-hearted, and consistent, she showed us the blessing it is to live under a good ruler. She pointed us to the truth that humanity was created to enjoy life under an all-powerful, all-knowing, always-loving ruler, who (like the Queen) isn’t swayed by opinion polls and never needs to run for election and whose authority isn’t dependent on majority opinion. Humans are happiest under a perfect monarch.

The problem, as Queen Elizabeth knew, is that such a leader cannot be found in this world. The wonder, as Queen Elizabeth also knew, is that one day he will arrive, coming on the clouds.

Shared Humanity, Shared Salvation

A commentator on the BBC earlier reminded me of one of the more unlikely friendships of the last half-century: that between Queen Elizabeth and Billy Graham. By background, culture, class, and calling, they couldn’t have been more different. Yet each enjoyed the other’s company, and (despite the raised eyebrows of some in the Anglican establishment) when Graham came to the U.K. for his crusades, the Queen would always invite him to visit her, preach to her, and stay for lunch to discuss the Scripture passage. In his autobiography, Just as I Am, Graham recounted one such lunch, at which he told her he’d not been sure which passage to choose and had toyed with—but then decided against—preaching from the healing of the man by the pool at Bethesda in John 5.

To the extent that Elizabeth was kind, servant-hearted, and consistent, she showed us the blessing it is to live under a good ruler.

 

“Her eyes,” he wrote, “sparkled and she bubbled over with enthusiasm. . . . ‘I wish you had!’ she exclaimed. ‘That is my favourite story.’” Again, it’s hard to imagine two more different people—a cripple for 38 years with no one to help him and a queen for decades with scores of servants. But he needed to hear Jesus’s words of healing and salvation, and so did she.

In these last months of her earthly life, the Queen had suffered with her own “mobility problems.” But not today. Not now. For my monarch was also my sister, and we’ll see her again, standing on steady legs before the throne of the King she knew, loved, and served.

Thank you, Your Majesty, for your years of service. Thank you, Your Majesty, for reminding us that there is a greater Ruler. Thank you, Your Majesty, for the ways you showed us Jesus.

 

Carl Laferton is executive vice president of publishing at The Good Book Company, and bestselling author of The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross (TGBC, 2016). He lives in London with his wife and two children, and serves as an elder at Grace Church, Worcester Park.

 

Church in the Trenches: 6 months of Wartime Ministry in Ukraine

 

It's just over 6 months since Russia invaded Ukraine - this is part of an article which reflects on what it has been like to minister in Ukraine during that time . It is written by Jamie Dean and was originally published on the Gospel Coalition website - see the end for more details

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Church in the Trenches: 6 Months of Wartime Ministry in Ukraine 

The most difficult moment of Sergey Nakul’s life unfolded in a packed Kyiv train station not long after Russia invaded Ukraine. The pastor was sending his wife, his two sons, and a group of members from his local church to safety outside of the nation under attack.

A few weeks earlier, Nakul’s wife insisted on staying with her husband and the church they love, but as Russian assaults grew fiercer and a takeover of Kyiv seemed possible, Nakul gently prevailed: “My beloved, it’s time for you to go.”

He stood on the crowded train platform, holding his wife’s hand and wondering when he would see her, his sons, and his church members again. “It was the most terrible moment for me as the father and pastor responsible for these people,” he says. When news later arrived that the group had reached safety in a bordering country, Nakul felt relief. “Praise the Lord,” he remembers thinking. Now he could serve without fear.

If I am a shepherd in Jesus’s image, how could I leave my people?

 Ukrainian regulations required the 45-year-old pastor to stay, along with most men ages 18 to 60. But Nakul felt compelled to remain regardless of the wartime law. Why? “I’m a pastor, that’s the simple answer,” he said in a recent call from his home in Kyiv. He considered how Jesus is a shepherd who would never leave his sheep: “And then if I am a shepherd in Jesus’s image, how could I leave my people?”

Six months later, Nakul is still serving the church in Ukraine and hoping his loved ones can join him soon. Serving without his family is just one of the ways Nakul and others have adjusted to Christian ministry during half a year of unexpected war. The bombings, the displacement of 12 million people, and the uncertainty about the future require ministry leaders to adapt to a changing situation while holding out the hope of the unchanging gospel.

Nakul says the gospel has kept him anchored. “I’ve experienced the amazing faithfulness of the Lord,” he says. “And this very precious.”

Unexpected Messengers

For Nakul, the faithfulness of the Lord began long before he knew about Jesus. As a child living under Soviet control in Ukraine, he had little exposure to the Bible—but he was curious. He spent time in the library reading atheistic books because they contained portions of Scripture the authors tried to refute. It was the only way Nakul could find what he calls “pieces of the gospel.” When he looks back, he sees his inexplicable interest as “just pure grace in [his] life.”

After Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, the Soviet collapse left former Soviet states in an economic spiral. Times were bleak and often desperate, but one afternoon in 1994, Nakul met two young men on the street who asked him a simple question: “Would you like to talk about Jesus?”

The two men, who attended an evangelical church, explained the basics of the Christian faith. They also gave Nakul a copy of the New Testament. “You can’t even imagine what it meant at that time to get a New Testament for free,” Nakul says.

When he read it, the message he found inside “was like fresh air.” “It was like a light,” he recalls. “It was like a door opened to heaven.” A few months later, Nakul embraced saving faith in Christ and dedicated his life to ministry.

Ministry in Wartime

Nakul’s ministry has included nine years as pastor of Grace Reformed Church in Kyiv. When the Russian invasion began on February 24, Nakul turned the church’s basement into a bomb shelter, where they continued to hold worship services, even when the number of attendees briefly dropped to four.

The pastor adjusted to the fluctuating numbers, as some members evacuated the country and others were called to military service in Ukraine. Nakul reported to a military training base himself, but officials sent him home to serve his congregation. A friend who’s the pastor of a nearby Baptist church recently reported to serve as a soldier.

Meanwhile, Nakul documented the war’s destruction in his role as a senior broadcaster for the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), an international Christian radio network. In the early days of the invasion, he recorded videos of destroyed buildings in his neighbourhood and reported on the harrowing conditions for Kyiv residents remaining in the city.

Your prayers are helping me to not be so afraid. They are giving my heart peace.

 
Other broadcasters at FEBC held online prayer meetings and directed listeners to the ministry’s counselling centre for spiritual help. During a June prayer meeting, a listener wrote in to say the building next door to her had just been hit by a rocket. “I can hear people screaming,” she wrote. The broadcaster prayed for the frightened listener and heard back a few minutes later: “Your prayers are helping me to not be so afraid. They are giving my heart peace.”

Help for the Wounded

While peace is in especially short supply in some parts of Ukraine, citizens in most places are dealing with the trauma of living in a country torn apart by war. The tensions have created a need for spiritual care that Nakul and other pastors find as urgent as physical needs….

Hope for the Future

Back in Kyiv, pastor Sergey Nakul continues to adapt, and he continues to see the value of remaining a steady presence with his congregation in Kyiv as well as his work at the FEBC radio network. He hopes his family will be able to rejoin him soon, but says he was boosted by a recent visit from his wife—the first time he had seen her since her evacuation. “It was like we had a honeymoon,” he says. “It was six days that were completely refreshing.”

Until the couple is united again, the pastor says he continues to be refreshed by God’s grace that has followed him since his earliest days. “I tell people I don’t know what will happen next,” he says. “But the only assurance you could have as a child of God is trusting in the precious promises of God embodied in Christ.” Nakul says the message he emphasized at the beginning of the war is the one he still proclaims now: “God is with us.”

(This is part of an article by Jamie Dean, International Editor for the Gospel Coalition and recently published on the TGC website. If you would  like to read the whole article you can view it here )

 

Covenant Fellowship Scotland statement following the decision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Monday 23rd May

 

Following the decision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this morning, 23rd May 2022, to turn an Overture into an Act that will permit ministers and deacons to officiate at same sex marriages, Covenant Fellowship Scotland released the following press statement:

Monday 23rd May 2022

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in converting an Overture permitting ministers and deacons to officiate at same-sex marriages into an Act of the Church, has acted in a way which is both unbiblical and sinful.

We all have a deep pastoral care and concern for those who wish to enter into same sex marriages, and we understand the pastoral impulse of ministers and deacons who wish to help people at life’s key moments.

But we must nevertheless point to the complete absence of any compelling or persuasive biblical evidence that might permit ministers and deacons of the Church of Scotland to officiate at same sex marriages.

Many of us in the Church of Scotland are deeply saddened and further alienated by this continuing departure from the biblical, historical and ecumenical Christian understanding of human nature and marriage.

The Church of Scotland has always claimed to be founded upon the teaching of Holy Scripture, but this decision contradicts everything the Bible has to say about the complementary nature of men and women, and of the character and purposes of marriage. Instead of following the clear and unambiguous teaching of God’s written word, the Bible, the Church of Scotland continues to follow popular opinion.

In taking this step, the Church of Scotland reinforces its determination to act contrary to the history and doctrine of the Christian Church, and further separates itself from the majority global Church of Jesus Christ.

We believe that this continuation of an unscriptural trajectory will worsen the numerical decline of the Church of Scotland. It is now obvious and clear that the move towards an acceptance of same sex marriage and relationships within the life of the Church of Scotland has not stemmed numerical decline,  but has accelerated it.

Church ministers, elders, members and adherents have left in recent years, and they will continue to leave for as long as God’s plan concerning marriage is ignored. People are leaving the Church of Scotland and going to Churches which take God and the Bible seriously. The devastation of the Church is before our eyes and this is surely what we should anticipate, since we cannot expect blessing instead of judgement when we abandon God’s written word, the Bible.

We believe the Church of Scotland has made a serious mistake. It needs to repent and turn back to God. Every Christian Church that has abandoned the biblical view of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman is, without exception, in numerical decline, perhaps irrecoverably.

With sadness, we now believe the Church of Scotland permits and encourages immorality and disobedience. Those of us who value God and the revelation of his will concerning marriage must stand together and work for the overturning of a decision that is erroneous and sinful.

(For more information on Covenant Fellowship Scotland see here)

 

Encouragement to read the BIble

Here's some encouragement to commit to reading the Bible on a regular basis:

In the Scriptures God daily comes to his people, not from afar but nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of his truth and grace. Through it he works his miracles of compassion and faithfulness. Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God

(Herman Bavinck - Prologema, edited by John Bolt, translated by John Vriend, vol 1 Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) p385)

Using time well in 2022

 

I'm very conscious I haven't posted anything on here for a good while  but I came across this article today on the Gospel Coalition website under the title Build Spiritual Habits in Just a Few Minutes & thought it was worth sharing as we move into a New Year as a practical help in our response to Paul's injunction in Ephesians 5:15-16  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (ESV). The article was written by Sarah Eekhoff and Megan Hill and although the immediate context is the USA., it's still relevant and relatively easy to translate into our own context. If you want to read the original article you can do so here

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Build Spiritual Habits in Just a Few Minutes

December 31, 2021  Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra & Megan Hill 

I (Sarah) never used to make the bed.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like our bed to be made—I really did. A made-up bed is nicer to slide into at night, creates a level surface for folding clothes, and makes the whole bedroom look more orderly. But I just didn’t have time. Making a bed takes forever.

I sighed over this until I happened to run across some advice to time your everyday tasks—folding a load of laundry, emptying a dishwasher, making your bed. The reasoning was solid: if you know how long it takes to do something, you can better judge if you have time to slide it in before you need to run out the door.

Curious, I gave it a try. I straightened the sheets, spread out the comforter, and stacked the pillows as slowly as possible, ready to confirm there was no way something this time-consuming could fit into my morning routine.

Ninety seconds.

I was floored. My entire mindset shifted. I wasn’t too busy to make the bed. I was just bad at estimating how long it would take to accomplish. I was giving up before I’d even begun.

Maybe you run into the same problem with time estimation. How could I possibly have time to fold the laundry? Read a book? Go for a walk?

We even do this with spiritual disciplines, where the consequences are more serious. Who has time to read a chapter in the Bible? Write in a prayer journal? Memorize a verse?

My friend, we do. If you need proof, grab your phone and measure for yourself. Or if you don’t have time for that, Megan Hill and I have been busy with our stopwatches. While we were at it, we found it helpful to pair one of these spiritual habits with a daily task that takes the same time. While you are putting on your jacket and grabbing your car keys, you could be growing in grace.

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30 Seconds

If you have 30 seconds (the time it takes to put on your shoes or feed a pet), you can

  • Pray for a friend
  • Sing one verse of “Amazing Grace” (or most other hymns)
  • Read a Bible verse aloud
  • Find Shane & Shane on Spotify
  • Sign up to receive daily Bible commentary from TGC’s Read the Bible plan

1 Minute

If you have one minute (the time it takes to start a load of laundry or take out the trash), you can

  • Read the first prayer from The Valley of Vision
  • Sing two verses of most hymns
  • Print out a Bible reading plan (we recommend this one)
  • Write a Bible verse on an index card
  • Give online to a charity
  • Tell your coworker you’re sorry for being impatient
  • Invite someone to church

3 Minutes

If you have three minutes (the time it takes to vacuum a room or make a K-cup of coffee), you can

  • Read (or listen to) Philemon, 2 John, or 3 John
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for
  • Send someone an encouraging message
  • Sign up to serve in the church nursery
  • Text someone to ask if they’d like to have coffee
  • Share the gospel with someone on the subway

5 Minutes

If you have five minutes (the time it takes to fold a load of laundry), you can

10 Minutes

If you have 10 minutes (the time it takes to make a cup of tea or take a shower), you can

 

15 Minutes

If you have 15 minutes (the time it takes to wash dishes after dinner or walk the dog), you can

  • Read (or listen to) Ruth, Joel, Malachi, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, or 2 Timothy
  • Walk a mile, praising God for the creation around you
  • Read a chapter of John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life
  • Buy the person in line behind you a cup of coffee and offer to pray for her
  • Use your church directory to pray for members whose last name begins with a particular letter

30 Minutes

And if you have even more time, in less than 30 minutes, you can

  • Read (or listen to) Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, James, 1 Peter, or 1 John
  • Read a chapter of Augustine’s Confessions
  • Complete a Bible study lesson (some of our favourites have only a few minutes of homework)
  • Make a meal for someone in your neighborhood or church
  • Listen again to Sunday’s sermon online or catch up on a sermon you missed
  • Use your church directory to pray for 50 members by name
  • Do family worship with the people in your home

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer and faith-and-work editor for The Gospel Coalition.


Characteristics of the Church - Midweek Message 25th August 2021

 

(Thinking about the characteristics of the church as presented by the New Testament here are two relevant quotes from the writings of John Stott who once said that if he had had his ministry all over again he would have spent more time teaching about the central importance of the church in the purposes of God)


What unites the church is a common faith in Christ and a common share in the Spirit. Apart from this essential, Christians may have nothing at all in common. We differ from one another in temperament, personality, education, colour, culture, citizenship, language and a host of other ways. Thank God we do. The church is a wonderfully inclusive fellowship in which 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female'.(Galatians 3.28). In other words, in Christ we have equality. (Christ the Controversialist, London IVP p183) 


Love is the first mark of a true and living church and truth is the second, because the Scriptures hold love and truth together in balance. Some Christians are so resolved to make love paramount that they forget the sacredness of revealed truth. 'Let us drown our doctrinal differences,' they urge, 'in the ocean of brotherly love!' Others are equally mistaken in their pursuit of truth at the expense of love. So dogged is their zeal for God's Word that they become harsh, bitter and unloving. Love becomes sentimental if it is not strengthened by truth, and truth becomes hard if it's not softened by love. We need to preserve the balance of the Bible which tells us to hold the truth in love, to love others in truth and to grow not only in love but in discernment (What Christ thinks of the Church, Milton Keynes, Word UK p44)