News letter for 14th Mar

Message from our Minister

One of the programmes that we occasionally watch on a Sunday evening is, ‘The Antiques Road Show’. Here, ordinary folk are invited to bring their ornaments, paintings and heirlooms and have them viewed by the experts. Everything builds to a climax when viewer and participant wait for the inevitable unanswered question to be put: “How much do you think it is worth?” and “What is its real value?” We all wait on tenterhooks as the expert reveals the true value.I wonder if we realise how much we are valued by God. It is worth reminding ourselves that Jesus in his ministry regarded allthose he met to be of immense value, especially those who felt that they were worth nothing. He gave them an assurance of God’s love and offered them forgiveness, a new identity, a purpose and a future. Jesus reached out and made them welcome into God’s Kingdom.My prayer is that we will listen again to the voice of Jesus and be re-assured that God so loved us that he was prepared to die for us in order that we might receive abundant life and life everlasting. Now that is a truth worth revealing!

God’s richest blessing to you all.          Rev John Izzard   

Tuesday Fellowship on Zoom.
This week we looked at Ephesians 6 v 10 – 19 and thought about spiritual warfare. It was pointed out that we need to be aware of the devil’s schemes (v11) but ultimately Jesus has defeated him on the cross (Collosians 2 v 13 to 15, Eph 1 v18 to 23). We thought about what it means to ‘stand’ (v 11, 13, 14) and the armour that God provides for us to do that. As we wanted time to pray (v 18) we curtailed our discussion to be continued next week

Lesley’s book yet again

Lesley says: “During lockdown I have been making chicks cut out of felt for family to hang on their Easter trees (a German custom).  Members of the family will choose.  In my Happy Book I found this prayer about making clothes and the people we make them for.”

Making Clothes
May the one who wears this clothing
Never be wounded.
May she (he) never be torn or bruised;
May the saving shield of God be hers (his).

If you make things for other people (clothes, meals…) or send something (a letter or card, food bank supplies…), say a prayer for the recipient.

What happened next?  ( Bafflin’ Brian continues from a previous week)  

The next day I was assisting the supervision of inmates on exercise. Walking round was this new Christian. He looked utterly miserable and dejected. I called him over and asked him “what’s up?”
“I just cannot believe Jesus has forgiven me so easily.”

“But Jesus has said he will not turn away anyone. It is even written down. In  the Bible. So there can be no argument about it.”

“Guv, I insulted Jesus in doing what I did. I do not see how he can forgive me.” (The problem is the world he comes from “forgiveness” is a dirty word)

“OK say after me, Jesus is a Liar.”
“I can’t say that!”
“But that is exactly what you ARE saying.”

There was a Silence as he digested it. I waited. Suddenly he said, “I get it! I really get it! He has forgiven me!” He smiled. A burden had been lifted. He turned away and resumed his exercise. I noticed a new lightness in his step.

The next day he came up to me saying, “I have something for you.”  He handed me a slip of paper saying, “I have written a poem to God.”              This is the poem.
Dad I love you                                                                         
How are you doing?
Thank you for son Jesus
And what you’re doing through him

Dad I know you love me
Dad I’m feeling great
Drawing close day by day
Till there is just love
And smiles! Hooray!
See you soon – can’t wait!

Not the most eloquent of verse I know but it came straight from the heart. I sometimes wonder where he is now.

The God Flavours (from 24/7 Prayer’s daily devotional app, Lectio365)

Today I am reflecting on Jesus’s words right after the Beatitudes, which seems to be a summary of His invitation to us:
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth.

If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Matt: 5:13 MSG
For the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on the life of Jesus and the way of Blessing. It’s become very clear that God’s ways are not my ways – they are higher, brighter and better.
One day I wrote on my mirror, ‘Am I living a life worth imitating?’. It reminds me every day that people are watching. My friends, my family, even my instagram followers! I want to be able to say with confidence, like Paul did ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

How salty is my life? Am I bringing out the God-flavours of this earth? Lord, in the quiet I ask You to show me where I have lost some of my zing, where my life has lost its Holy Spirit zip and sizzle. Lord, I repent, and I ask that You would infuse me with Your flavour again so that those around me can taste and see that You are good?
Pause and pray:    God, I pray for the church. Forgive us for all the ways we taste like, look like, sound like and act like the world around us.

Where we have allowed the dominant culture of our day and time to dilute and diminish the glory of God and the good news of the Kingdom. God in Your mercy cleanse us, set us apart to Yourself.  Let holiness adorn Your house  (Psalm 93:5).

Start with me and my church. I pray for them now.                        
Thanks to Linda for this article

In Conversation with Justin Welby: Interview by Rev David Senior (continued from a previous week)

What has the Church gained during the pandemic that we should retain and build upon?
I think that the whole Church has to emerge from this simpler, humbler and bolder.   I think that we’ve gained a sense that quite simple but bold and humble service introduces people to Christ in a powerful way. I think of stories of Christian leaders who have wept with people, they’ve given food, they’ve communicated the gospel by praying with people. And that is so Jesus-shaped. 

We’ve gained internet skills and technological skills. Let’s keep it up. Let’s reach out to people. The Dean of Canterbury, who runs Canterbury cathedral, started doing Morning Prayer in his garden everyday online. He would get 20 attendants when he does it in chapel on a good day. Online he had 40,000 people. His cats and other animals kept on making uninvited guest appearances. And it’s just hilarious….It was very simple, very straightforward. But he is superb.

The Church will emerge from the pandemic with a greatly enhanced social action role. This presents an opportunity to tell those whom we are helping about Jesus. What is your response to those who say Christians should keep social action and evangelism separate?

It’s rubbish! We start with grace. Isn’t ‘grace’ the most beautiful word in the English language? Everything we do, we do in grace. So we never say to people: “You can use this foodbank if you do an Alpha Course.”
No! We say to people: “We love you, here is this,” and then we pray that, as we love people with the genuine, transparent, truthful love of God in Jesus Christ, people will be prompted by the Holy Spirit. That’s our responsibility.

I’ve been visiting people in hospitals, and I pray with people. I have no idea what God is doing in their hearts , but I trust him.
God’s job is to convert. It’s not our job. It’s above your paygrade. So never separate evangelism and action. Be full of grace and kindness and love. And never be conditional.

You have carried a heavy load, particularly over the past year. What gives you hope?
I’m feeling very hope filled and hopeful. And I suppose if you had a microphone on over the last few years in my private prayers, you’d hear a lot about more confidence in the steadfast love of the Lord. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” (Lamentations 3:22). And that’s something that’s come closer and closer to me.

I’m also realising afresh the signs of the Spirit outside the Church. The signs of the kingdom, in which God in his creative and extraordinary grace is filling human hearts with wisdom and love and power. I mean, take vaccines. Let’s not get into science versus God stuff, because it’s such rubbish. If you ever want a sign of the work of the creator, of the Spirit of God, of Jesus’s Spirit in the world, it’s that we’ve produced vaccines in one year instead of ten. Is that not a gift of grace? Are we not to say: “Praise you, Father, that you, in your love for your children, pour out your grace”?
How can we pray for you?
I have a stock answer that is always true, which is: wisdom, courage and patience. Wisdom to know what to do, courage to do it and patience to know when to do it. But I think I want to go  a bit further. Can you pray for myself, but particularly leaders in the world, and our politicians, for resilience? Golly, some of them are looking tired. And the weight they bear is beyond all our imaginations. The second thing is for myself: just continually, a fresh filling of God’s Holy Spirit day by day. I look back over the last twelve months, I see so many mistakes about which to kick myself. And then I realise that despite all appearances, I’m probably still human. And certainly, never superhuman. And I just long for that deeper walk with Jesus Christ and for the whole Church to experience that.  (From Premier Christianity)

How Covid-19 is changing the way we worship.

Interview with Tim Hughes, (Continued from last week. Questions asked by Sam Hailes, Editor of Premier Christianity Magazine) 
Are you sensing any specific ways in which our churches will look different once the pandemic is over?  No clear answers. But one of the things we look at in the book is what happened in an estate called Knepp in West Sussex. In 2001, after years of intensively farming the land, they were struggling financially, and were at the end of themselves. So they embarked on this project called rewilding, where you just let everything grow; you don’t farm the land.  
What they found was that all of this incredible life reappeared. Extremely rare species like nightingales, peregrine falcons, purple emperor butterflies, and all these beautiful things began to grow. It became incredibly popular and people started visiting. They made more money than they were previously making, and many other farms are now set upon similar rewilding projects.  
I think the Church needs a rewilding project. Sometimes you can try to hold things quite tightly – you’re thinking about who comes on a Sunday, kids’ work, the style of teaching, the kind of worship, keeping everyone happy and working hard to keep bums on seats. We need to let go of some of the fixed parameters.  
I’ve been to so many events where you’re given 17 minutes, 30 seconds to lead worship. Of course, we need to prayerfully plan and consider, and order is extremely important, as Paul talks about in Corinthians [1 Corinthians 14:26-40], but I think we need to kill this obsession with excellence. We shouldn’t do things poorly because we can’t be bothered. But if we’re pushing this elite, professional feel on a stage, then I think we’ve seen what it brings in terms of a worshipping people – we can have these great experiences in church on Sunday, but it’s not affecting the choices we’re making in a pub on Saturday night.  
I think we need to allow more space for the Spirit to speak, more of the prophetic, more space to hear from people in our church. As leaders, we need to be much better at connecting what we’re doing with how we’re living. What does it look like to live your worship as a teacher? What does it look like to live your worship as a student, or running a business, or working in the hospital? We put all this energy into this one hour, 30-minute event and it’s often dislocated and disconnected from the world we’re living in.  
Let’s not say: “Oh, great, Covid is finished, death rates are down, back to normal.” What does it look like for churches to be houses of prayer? Let’s think about way more than a brilliant Sunday service. We’ve got to create space for God to lead us, to listen, to not be afraid of silence and to see how our Sundays are propelling us into the week. When the Spirit of God is poured out, what does the Spirit of God do? He propels us out as he did at Pentecost. I want to see more of that in the Church. 

Why Worship? Insights into the wonder of worship edited by Tim Hughes and Nick Drake with Liza Hoeksma (SPCK) is released next month 

‘I didn’t go to religion to make me happy.

I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want areligion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.’         C.S.Lewis  

Please use us. We are Christ’s Army

and want to bring the gospel to the end of the world. We want to be your witnesses and spread Your blessings. Let me be Your worker for the Glory! Hold my hands until I meet You! Let me be obedient wherever You lead me! Let me be Your joy and a good Christian.      (A prayer from a North Korean Christian)

Often in prison, sharing Jesus in Iran. 

 An angry knock on your door. Strangers ransacking your house. An armed escort to a car. A blindfold. A prison cell. Hours of interrogation.  Psychological – and sometimes physical – torture. Back to solitary confinement. Eventually, a move to a crowded general cell with thieves, murderers, and addicts. “What’s your crime?” they ask. “I am a Christian.”
This has been the experience of hundreds of Christians in countless different cities, towns and villages across Iran. The aim of the arrests is to weaken the church. The opposite has happened.While persecution is deeply painful and wounds often take a long time to heal, many Christians released from prison testify that the Holy Spirit strengthened them and gave supernatural wisdom throughout their ordeal.
Even in prison many have shared the Gospel and led others to Christ. After some weeks or months of detention – usually without being formally charged and with no access to a lawyer – the believer is released, often on an exorbitant bail, to wait for their court hearing. If they flee Iran, their bail  (often the title deed to a home or business licence) is forfeited. If they don’t flee, the sentence can be several years of imprisonment.

Courage for Christians facing arbitrary arrest. • Strength for Christians in prison. • Release for all imprisoned for their faith.

Please send any contributions that might be published by next Tuesday morning to:   andy