Newsletter Sunday 5th September

Message from our Minister

It is always important to thank God for all that we have received and to give him the glory. However, we must not forever be looking back and become locked in the past. God wants us to listen up and to seek him for what he has for us in the here and now; to be attentive to what he wants us to be and to do; and eager to step forward confidently in faith and see how he continues to provide for the journey.

It is a reminder that our faith is not based on a set of rules and regulations, expectations that we could never attain, but one of a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is so important that we remain open to what he is saying to us individually and as a fellowship. 

We need to be persistent in prayer and consistent in our reading the Bible; to maintain the preciousness of our fellowship together and to see as central our worship. Very importantly, we must, at all times and in all situations be open to the Holy Spirit.

This need to dig deep in our faith, be rooted and grounded in our relationship with Jesus, is the main focus of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. Everything else stems from this and must have central place. However, Paul doesn’t end his prayer at that point. He powerfully reminds the Ephesians that, ‘He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.’ Let us therefore move forward together in faith and with renewed confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

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

Prayer Diary – September

Please contact anne.p@btinternet.com if you would like the Prayer Diary emailed to you.
The complete Prayer diary will be available shortly

This Month 

We will be starting a new series ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Incidents from the life of David’. The first incident we look at will be the occasion when David was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16.) which Rev John will preach about next week. (after which he will lead us in communion). To help us understand more of what David had to deal with in his life, today we will be hearing about forgiveness, then, at the end of the month, patience and long suffering ( both with teaching from Andy Croft). The ‘filling in the middle of the sandwich’ will be the Harvest Celebration on the 19th September, led by Alison Geddes.

Family News

It’s Fran’s EIGHTEENTH  birthday on Wednesday (8th September) Let’s pray for a great day for her  and that she will know God’s blessing in a special way this year and in the future

Please remember Bethan in your prayers – she continues to suffer much from the problem with her legs and has recently received hospital treatment for them. 

Food Bank 

If you want to bring items for the food bank to our Harvest Festival on September 19th, here is a list of most needed items for September:  rice pudding, tinned spaghetti, sponge puddings, tinned potatoes and part baked bread. 

HELP PLEASE  

On the morning of Tuesday September 7th. we will be cleaning the toys for The Ark (parent and toddler group) to make sure that there are no ‘sinister bugs’ on them before we reopen on the 14th September. This is a mammoth task so if you can help, we would be most grateful. (A case of ‘Many Hands make Light Work’!!)

EMOJI SOUP

Do you use emojis in your correspondence?  (Do you know what they are?)  Whether yes or no, can you pair up these little pictures with the Bible verses below?  (Answers at the end)        

FED UP?

Everyone gets fed up or lonely or frustrated at times, and everyone has a different way of doing something about it.  Some phone a friend and have a good moan.  Others go jogging, digging in the garden, or playing loudly on the piano.

I usually go into the kitchen and bake a cake or make bread – you can give the dough a good going over.

The disciples (John 21) went fishing, and there they met their risen Jesus.  Jesus loved them and he loves and cares for us today.

 Passing the Test

This new Christian had already passed one test. (Remember the ‘table tennis test’ from last time?) Another one arrived about a week later! I think the second test also came up because of his new found faith. 

It was winter. Snow covered the ground and it was freezing. In the work shop he had exchanged shoes for safety boots and placed his socks on the radiator. At the end of the working day, he went to collect his “warm” socks – only to discover that both his shoes and socks had been stuffed with ice! So, through the snow he slopped back to his wing. He was freezing and furious! As soon as I heard about it, I knew there was no way provocation of this sort would go unpunished. And consequently, as soon as I could I nipped round to his wing. Arriving at his cell I saw him calmly sitting on his bed. 

“I just heard what happened!  How are you?” I asked. 
“No probs guv – I know who it was. All sorted!” he assured me. 
“Oh no!”, I replied, “You didn’t smack him one?”
“Nah, I did something much better!”
“What did you do?” I asked, by now fearing the worst.
“I prayed for him!!”
“Oh!”  (One of the very few times I was lost for words!)
Of all the responses I thought of, that was not what I expected!!!
Men’s lives were changing and so indeed were their attitudes. 

Months later I had a rather delicate situation to deal with. With his “position” of gang leader he was able to help me with it. It was a sensitive matter and although he would rather not have been involved, he still did help me out.    Baffling Brian

Help put hope at the centre in the Middle East.   

 Anwar in Syria was thrown out when he became a Christian – he didn’t have a home or family, but he had the incredible hope of life lived with Jesus. Thanks to Open Doors supporters, a Centre of Hope was able to give him somewhere to live, and the chance to teach the next generation of believers. Here’s his story of courage and hope.

Hope hasn’t always been easy for Anwar* – not until he found a Centre of Hope in Syria. Growing up in that country, he was immersed in the life of a strict and secretive Islamic sect where his father was a sheikh – a Muslim leader. As a teenager, Anwar started to doubt the religion he’d been raised in: “I was very curious about who Allah really was – does he love me? What should I do to please him?” But Anwar’s father wouldn’t – or couldn’t – answer his questions. 

There was one thing that Anwar did feel certain about: that he shouldn’t be friends with Christians. “I was sure that Christianity is a lie – to us, Christians were deluded; they worship a human not a God, they are infidels. I wasn’t supposed to let any Christian enter my life.”

But when Anwar went to college, he met a Christian girl who shared her faith in Jesus with him. He responded by mocking her. “I didn’t believe a word she said, especially when she told me that He is alive now and I can speak to Him myself.”

Life got really hard for Anwar, and he stopped seeing the possibility of hope. “I went through deep depression. At that point, I believed that Allah hated me, and I hated him for allowing all this to happen to me.”

Despite being mocked, the Christian girl kept telling Anwar the gospel, and encouraged him to try talking to Jesus.

“I thought to myself – why not try this?” The girl explained to Anwar how to pray to Jesus, and he went to his room and tried. “At first, nothing changed – but after a while, I became addicted to knowing Jesus. I poured my heart out to Him, and suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore.”

That was the turning point for Anwar’s life. The moment that hopelessness turned into hope. “I fell in love with Jesus – He is my best friend,” says Anwar.

Amazingly, many Muslims are having the same encounter with Jesus in the Middle East – thanks largely to the courageous witness of the church, like Anwar’s friend. That’s despite a decade of war and persecution significantly depleting the number of believers in the Middle East. Praise God, the remaining believers, and those who are returning to rebuild their lives, are spreading the good news of Jesus with extraordinary courage.

But believers from a Muslim background, like Anwar, are the most vulnerable to persecution. They face rejection, violence and social isolation. Some lose their inheritance and property. When difficult periods come, like the pandemic, these believers do not have any support from their families and the communities they grew up in.

Sadly, that was Anwar’s experience. At first, he hid his faith, knowing the danger that would come if his family found out – he’d grown up hearing about people who converted and then were imprisoned, attacked or even murdered. 

“I remember when my friend took me to the church for the first time in the city, I didn’t hear the sermon or the songs,” says Anwar. “I was preoccupied by the fear of someone recognising me and telling my family.”

Anwar was well-known in his community, and it wasn’t long before news did indeed get back to his family. They rejected him and threw him out. One of his sisters told him, “Have you no honour? Don’t ever come back here. You are no longer my brother

Thankfully, a friend put Anwar in touch with Open Doors partners who run a Centre of Hope near him. This church supports believers from a Muslim background who’ve been rejected by their families or lost their livelihoods, and was able to provide Anwar with fellowship and money for rent.

It’s one of 40 designated Centres of Hope in Syria, with dozens more in Iraq, which provide emergency aid and trauma care, as well as income-generating projects to help people rebuild their lives for the long-term. Open Doors partners also work with 90 other churches in Syria and, with your help, this number is increasing – the aim is to work with an additional 12 new churches each year.

“We work with churches because churches are the most sustainable institution in history,” says Mourad*, a local partner who coordinates Open Doors work in Syria. “Governments come and go, organisations come and go, but the churches stay. You can reach everyone through the church. We give them hope.”

Anwar certainly received that hope: “They helped me in my hardest conditions. This was a new hope for me, a new start,” he says. In Anwar’s most desperate moment, the Centre of Hope was there for him – and now he teaches there. He teaches English to children aged 11-14, and talks to them about Jesus. “Children don’t just need a teacher; they need someone who has a relationship with God and can influence them positively,” he says.

“The Centre of Hope gave me a new beginning in my life, after my old family became like strangers. I was alone. Now I’ve met a new family in the church, and I belong to this family. If it weren’t for the Centre of Hope, I don’t know what I would have done. I would be homeless, hungry and alone.”

And, of course, it was the encounter with Jesus that really changed Anwar’s life: “Jesus is everything to me. When I had no one, He was with me. He’s my brother, my companion, my best friend. I don’t talk to my family, I just talk to Him about everything. Jesus truly saved my life.

“I say to all the people going through the same circumstances I did: ‘Have courage and trust the Lord because it’s worth it, it’s really worth everything’.”

Sadly, there are many believers who are experiencing the same rejection and persecution that Anwar faced. Open Doors is in the sixth year of the seven-year Hope for the Middle East campaign, which supports and strengthens the church in Syria and Iraq to offer hope to displaced and persecuted believers and to the wider community. Open Doors partners have been in the region for many years, and are uniquely well-placed to stand alongside the persecuted church in times of crisis and for the long-term.

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