Newsletter 21st Feb 2021

Message from our Minister

With the excitement of Shrove Tuesday and pancakes behind us we are now into the period we call Lent.    Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of forty days leading up to Easter. This is a time in the church calendar when we are challenged to focus on the path that Jesus took when he, ‘turned his face towards Jerusalem’. It enables us to look at our own walk with Jesus and to see ourselves in the light of his challenging selfless love.The idea that the only thing Lent requires us to do is to give up something such as chocolates, cakes or perhaps social media for a time falls way below what this opportunity affords. That is not to say that giving up something for this short time is a bad thing.   It is often healthy to give up or fast from certain things for a while that have become a dependency.

As Christians our only dependency must be on God and anything else simply usurps his place as Lord in our lives. Lent gives us a fresh opportunity to refocus our faith in Jesus so that our lives are not out of kilter with what we believe.

When Jesus outlined to the disciples what was in store for him in Jerusalem, Peter just couldn’t take it in and rebuked him. Jesus’ words of resolute response must have shaken them all to their sandals: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.  Self-denial is much more than a superficial abstinence. In fact it’s not about giving up at all but rather taking on the tough and risky challenge of unconditional love. These wonderful words written by Isaac Watts encapsulate our response. 
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.   
Anything less than total commitment seriously short-changes God. Lent is a good opportunity for us all to reassess our faith in the light of Jesus’ supreme act of love on the cross at Calvary and what our response surely must be. 
God’s richest blessing to you all, Rev John Izzard

Lesley’s Happy Book

Happiness  The essentials to happiness in this lockdown are: something to do, something or someone to love, and something to hope for.

Whole nations look for it (US Declaration of Independence), fairy tales end with it (ever after), people sing about it.

Can we seek happiness in God?  Is it different from joy?   (Source unknown)

Tuesday Fellowship on Zoom.

This week we shared what we are taking or giving up for lent. Then Angus, Sue, Paul and Linda shared verses about God’s power and His care for us, which we prayed about. Martin then led us through Ephesians 4 v 17 -32 during which SIMON MADE A SURPRISE APPEARANCE FROM GERMANY!! He shared about how God was with him helping him sort out everything after his father’s death. He is likely to be in Germany about another 2 weeks and will then have to quarantine at home for 10 days on returning. We finished by praying for him, others in the church and relevant Covid issue.
Attention All You Zoomers!!
Following on from last zoom time on 9th February Brian described a trick he would like to teach us. It can be a great tool for witnessing. The moves are simple and Brian will take you through it step by step. If you would like to join in please have ready three pieces of card. The backs to be similar. On one card is written the word SIN. The other two cards have the words GOOD DEEDS.     See you there,   Bafflin Brian
If you are on line, why not join us. It’s quite easy to download ‘Zoom’.  Just google ‘Zoom’ and ‘download Zoom’ and follow the instructions! If you run into problems about this, ask Paul for help.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury discusses the work of the Spirit during the pandemic.

Interview by Rev David Senior:
Covid has transformed the context in which the church operates. How can we best share our faith both in the difficult period ahead and as we finally emerge from the pandemic?
I think there are two key things here and neither of them are original. First of all, we have to demonstrate the faith, and that means loving one another and loving those in the world with the love of Christ.  It’s about love. It doesn’t matter how good we are at communication, or how skilled we are in Zoom or YouTube or Twitter. If there isn’t love, dream on, sunshine – nothing’s gonna happen!!
Second, be ready at all times to give a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15) Know what you believe and why. One of the things I often do at the end of a sermon is say: “OK, I want you to talk to the nearest people to you, and in two minutes explain why you are a Christian without any use of religious jargon.” And everybody goes slightly pale. But they do it. You need to know why you believe and communicate it without jargon, because : “I am washed in the blood of the Lamb” is entirely accurate, but totally meaningless to those who have not grown up in the church.
I like your two – minute challenge. If I allowed you two minutes now, how would you express your journey to faith without recourse to Christian jargon? 
“I grew up in a household where church going was at best infrequent, and then non-existent. And a friend explained to me who Jesus was and what he had given me. I opened my heart to him, opened my life to him, put my life in his hands, and my life’s never been the same. A presence came in and everything was transformed.”That’s what I’d say. And of course there are so many things missing – there is no clear theology of the cross or whatever. But evangelists and witnesses are different things. The witness testifies to their own experience of Jesus Christ. Our job on any occasion may just be to be one of the middle links, which prompts people to think: I’m glad I asked that….I probably need to find out a bit more.    (part of an article from Premier Christianity Magazine)Challenge  What would you say for the 2 minute challenge? Why not write it out so that you are prepared should the opportunity to share arise? If you wanted, we could print your answer here.

Tribute  Mary Wilson (1944-2021): Motown legend, committed Christian
The co-founder of the Supremes, Mary Wilson, has passed away aged 76. Andy Scarcliffe looks back at her life and faith

The Supremes, along with other Motown artists were the soundtrack to the lives of many of us growing up in the sixties.  They began as The Primettes, performing covers of songs by Ray Charles and The Drifters at social clubs and talent shows around Detroit.  Diana Ross (the lead singer) asked an old neighbour, Smokey Robinson, to help the group land an audition with Berry Gordy, the owner of Motown Records.  Gordy auditioned and signed them, on the condition they changed their name. They became The Supremes.      From 1961 to 1963, they released eight singles, with little success. This earned them the title “no-hit Supremes” at Motown. But in August 1964 their single ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ reached number one in the US and number three in the UK. Four more number one hits soon followed, including: ‘Baby Love,’ ‘Come See About Me,’ ‘Stop! In the Name of Love,’ and ‘Back in My Arms Again,’ making the Supremes the only group to have five consecutive number one hits.
Although it has not been widely reported, Mary Wilson was herself a committed Christian. She worked tirelessly for many causes including, HIV/AIDS, Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The Po Leung Kuk schools of Hong Kong, UNICEF and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Possibly the cause closest to her heart was landmine clearance, working in Sri Lanka, Laos and Vietnam.
Mary saw no divide between her music and her faith. She was shaped by the gospel music of the Detroit churches in which she grew up.       Wilson was born in Greenville, Mississippi. Her parents separated when she was young and she was raised by family members until she was 10 years old. The family moved to Chicago then Detroit, where they attended a Baptist church led by the father of Aretha Franklin. Wilson formed her first group with Aretha’s sister, when she was still at school.
By the mid-sixties The Supremes’ success started to wane. The other members, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, moved on, leaving Wilson as the only original member still in the group. She was determined to keep The Supremes going, and recruited new members. They had a measure of success in the early 70s but never recovered from the loss of Diana Ross.
As the band became less successful, Wilson’s private life also started to fall apart. Her husband had a violent temper and Wilson became the victim of physical abuse. They divorced in 1981.
They had three children, one of whom was killed when Wilson’s jeep overturned on a Los Angeles motorway. She later said it was her faith in God that helped her come to terms with the trauma. “Physically I have healed. Emotionally it’s ongoing…[But] I was probably as strong the first day as I am now because of my belief…We’re never taught about how to handle death. Death to me is a wonderful part of the living experience, so when my son passed I pretty much understood and said goodbye at that time. I cry every day, but then I get right back, do what I have to do.”

The Supremes, along with the other Motown artists, helped pave the way for mainstream success by black artists across all genres. In an era when venues and audiences were segregated, they were part of the bringing together of a racially divided country.
In recent years we have lost many of the icons of modern music. Mary may be less of a household name than David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, or Lou Reed, but she was an integral part of that wonderful rebellious, iconoclastic, music culture that has shaped our lives and world in recent decades. She will be sadly missed.  (from Premier Christianity)

Matt Redman: We need more worship songs about the holiness of God
In looking at the Church’s music, Matt Redman wonders if we’re in danger of overlooking an integral part of God’s character 

Everybody worships. Whether Christian or atheist, you will find someone or something upon which to spend your heart, mind and soul. The question has never been if we will worship. Instead, we must ask who we will worship. 
Human beings have been created to worship the living God – as Psalm 150:6 says: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism says a person’s “chief end” is to “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. Augustine noted that our hearts are restless until they find their home in God, and CS Lewis warned us of the dangers of any other approach – “idols always break the hearts of their worshippers”. 
Whenever the biblical writers have a vision of the heavenly throne room, God is always at the centre, and everything else arranges itself around him. The angels encircle him, and every creature present takes their cue from his greatness and glory. When we say: “Let it be ‘on earth as it is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:10), this is essentially what we are asking for. We are asking that Christ would be at the centre, and everything else – our lives, homes, towns and even nations – would be arranged around him and his majesty. True worship, then, is a life that prioritises the worth of God above all else, and then demonstrates that worth through all of our thoughts, words and actions (see Romans 12). 
One of the most striking aspects of our worship is that we worship a God of self-revelation. Imagine how complicated it would be to worship a god who hasn’t already revealed themselves. 

A god like the one Paul finds in Acts 17.    In Athens he comes across an inscription to an ‘unknown god’. You wouldn’t know where to start with worshiping a godlike that. You’d have no idea how to address him, her or it. You wouldn’t know how to approach, how to behave or what might possibly be a pleasing offering. But when it comes to worshiping the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it’s a whole different story. We are given an abundance of information about the kind of worship to bring, and how he would have us bring it. God has given us a whole book of self-revelation– the scriptures – where page after page describes in detail his nature, his character, his names, his ways and his story. He tells us what honours him, and what dishonours him. He gives us guidance on worship in the layout and intricate designs of the temple and tabernacle. He unveils glimpses of the heavenly throne – where we’re able to see a pure, untainted example of what holy and heavenly devotion really looks like. In the Bible, there’s an astonishing amount of information to help us. 
Like it or not, we don’t get to make any of this ‘worship thing’ up. We don’t get to go renegade and decide how worship might suit us best, or how it could be adapted to make us more comfortable. We don’t get to ignore the revelation set before us, or pick and choose the parts we like and don’t like. 
It goes without saying that we’ll never be able to fully convey or describe God, and here on earth our worship will always remain a small glimpse of the full force of who it is we are approaching. But it’s essential we endeavour to take a deep-dive, and as best as we know how, to sing worship songs that reflect the God we find described in scripture. Weak revelation ultimately leads to weak response, and dumbed-down songs in the end lead to diluted discipleship. 
One hole in much of our congregational worship today is the holiness of God. Without holiness in the mix, I don’t even know if we can call it ‘worship’. It may be admiration, even adoration of some kind – but can it truly be worship if there is no element of awe and astonishment? An essential ingredient of all biblical worship is an acknowledgement of the ‘set-apartness’ of God – that he is holy through and through, and completely off the charts of anything that we could ever fathom or imagine. As the New York-based pastor Jon Tyson reminds us, in his insight into the worship responses of the angels in heaven: “The angels have been locked in a room with God for thousands of years and they still haven’t gotten past the word holy.”  
Yes, we get to worship our God as father and friend. Yes, we run into his arms of grace, singing of freedom, joy and healing. We live under this new covenant and the beautiful measure of grace that Christ poured upon us – where we not only get to draw near to God, but we can even do so with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). These are all really important parts of our devotion. But they can never be the whole picture. The holiness of God must always be kept in view.  (To be continued)            (From Premier Christianity)

Every day is one long nightmare” – the story of Prisoner 42 in North Korea (continued)

Eventually she was called out of her prison cell and taken to court. 
Going to court was a victory. People sent to labour camps for political ‘crimes’ – crimes like following Jesus – are never sentenced by a judge. They just disappear from the cells. Most Christians go there. My persistent denials have paid off. They have not found me guilty of being a Christian.
In court, there was no lawyer to represent me. I stood in front of the judge with guards behind me. But I wasn’t alone. My husband was there, too. He looked at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. He had clearly been crying. I wanted to say so much, and I know he wanted to talk too, but we couldn’t exchange a single word. The judge asked him if he wanted to divorce me. In a broken voice he said, “Yes”. It broke my heart. But he had to make this decision for the sake of our family – for our children. They would all be punished if he didn’t divorce me. I was then sentenced to four years in a re-education camp, which is where I am now.
Here, I work 12 hours a day, sometimes more. Every day is one long nightmare. But at least I’m not alone in a cell anymore. For an entire year in solitary confinement, my skin didn’t touch a single ray of sunlight. Just to be taken from that cell, to be taken outside and to feel the wind, was amazing.
When I arrived, I saw moving, shapeless forms. It took me a moment to realise these were people. Some were bent over, others missing an arm or a leg. I looked at my own arms and legs – they were so thin they looked like matchsticks. I didn’t look much better than the other inmates.
A month ago, I was sick and allowed to stay in the barracks. I thought I was alone, until I noticed a blanket in the corner which was moving. There was someone underneath. I tiptoed towards them and listened intently. The sounds were barely audible but familiar – a woman was praying. I retreated to my mattress and watched her closely for the next few days.  A week later, we were working outside. Nobody was near and I walked up to her and whispered, “Hello, greetings in Jesus’ name.” Her face turned white in shock. She knew if anyone overheard us, we’d both likely be shot on the spot. But seeing no one around, she raised a silent smile.  
We formed a secret church inside the camp. When safe enough to meet, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and recited Scripture and the Apostles’ Creed together.  She was much braver than I was – she spoke to others about Christ. That’s probably why, one day a car came to pick her up. When I saw her leave, I knew they were taking her to a maximum-security prison, a Kwan-li-so. Nobody survives the Kwan-li-so.” That’s the last time I saw her.
I’m here in my barracks. God has been with me every day, every hour, every minute and every second. Yesterday, it was announced that I will be released. I have served two years. The first thing I’ll do when I get out is find my husband and children. My children are much bigger now. We haven’t seen each other in years. But God has watched over me. He kept me from giving up. I was not a tap running dry – Jesus gave me Living Water to keep me going. He kept me from ending my life. He helped me pray and cry out to Him. 
Prisoner 42’s story takes place every day for thousands of people in North Korea. Open Doors estimates there are 50,000 to 70,000 Christians imprisoned in the country. Through secret networks in China, Open Doors provides spiritual and physical support for Christians who can make it to safe houses. They receive training and aid, and some even return to North Korea – strengthened in their faith. Thank you for supporting your North Korean family and keeping them in your prayers. 

PLEASE PRAY That each imprisoned Christian will, like Prisoner 42, taste afresh the Living Water of Christ Jesus, giving them strength for each moment, for God to speak to imprisoned Christians through dreams and visions

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