While we are not all able to meet at St Christopher’s as we normally do due to the Coronavirus, we will be publishing Midweek Messages as part of The Bridge.

The Midweek Bridge 17 February 2021

Called to be Holy

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.      Ephesians 1 v.4


We thank you Father, it amazes us that you chose us in Christ to be holy, to be separate unto you, and blameless in your sight; – to be ever assured of your presence in love – thank you Father. Help us to understand and to enjoy the richness of your word to us at this time.    Amen

Reading: 1 Peter ch1 v.13 – 25

Last week John wrote of the wonder of the – “Hope – Salvation – and Joy” – we share in Christ Jesus. The question now is – how do we retain and experience the benefits of that joy in a suffering world?

Peter takes us back to the book of Leviticus to teach two key principles for Christian survival. The first in v.15 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – Israel had been delivered from slavery in Egypt and was heading for the promised land. That land was occupied by people of unclean living – it was full of many forms of pollution – spiritual and physical. The nation of Israel needed to be prepared – they needed physical, spiritual and emotional protection for survival. Leviticus ch.20 v.7 provides the key elements –

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” – (who sanctifies you – – who sets you apart as holy)

In simpler terms: It’s a two-way action – you consecrate yourself unto God and he will sanctify you as his treasured people – but – in order to survive you need to take up your – Personal Protection Equipment – PPE. For Israel that was the decrees, the laws of cleanliness and worship, that were laid out in Leviticus. They were there to equip them for living in a polluted world and to protect them – physically – spiritually – mentally and emotionally.

We today are also living in a polluted world and the principles remain the same – consecrate yourself to God and he will sanctify you – then take up your PPE. – We see an example of this in Eph.6 where Paul writes of the PPE for the Lord’s people only then it was called “The Armour of God”; it was recommended to protect his church from the unseen enemy and from the pollution of the world.

  •  the belt of truth
  •  the breastplate of righteousness
  •  feet ready with the good news
  •  the shield of faith
  •  the helmet of salvation
  •  the sword of the Spirit.

In the reading – v.13 – Prepare your minds for action – be self-controlled – set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. –  tells us to indeed to consecrate ourselves – it is an action on our part. “Be holy” is not a static – one off – state but is an action that requires refreshing frequently; hence Peter uses the words – prepare – be – set, there is responsibility on our part. Self-control is listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5 v.22) in 1 Peter 1 v.2 we find the phrase – “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” – are those verses in Gal.5 presenting us with yet another picture of the teaching – consecrate yourself to God (live to the Spirit) – take up your PPE and enjoy the fruit, the benefits, of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit?

Basically – Don’t go with the flow of a polluted river – ‘it takes a live fish to swim against the current’ – but you won’t survive if you don’t take up your PPE.

The phrase – “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” leads us to the second key principle that Peter has taken from Leviticus, it is found in v.17 – “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Again, as Israel was about to enter the promised land, a warning is given in Lev.25 v.23 –

“The land must not be sold permanently because the land is mine and you are but aliens and tenants.”

They were told to settle in the land and build villages but to always remember that they were God’s people in God’s land; they were tenants, they were passing through. In Hebrews 11 v.13, we read that the great people of faith – “admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.” – In Hebrews 11 v.9, we read that Abraham – “By faith made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents.” – Hebrews 11 v.10, explains why – “For he was looking forward to the city with foundation, whose architect and builder is God.” – and again in Hebrews 11 v.16, we learn the people of faith, who admitted they were but aliens and strangers on earth – “were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.” – On what have we set our hope – where are we looking to and what are we longing for?

It is worth noting that Peter addresses this letter to “God’s elect, strangers in the world.” Perhaps we can understand what Peter is telling us if we look at the prayer of Jesus in John 17. He is praying for those who have consecrated themselves to follow Jesus – in v.14 – 19 we read:

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

In Christ we are indeed strangers in the world – ‘in it but not of it’. Jesus continues his prayer –

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

Sanctify – make them holy – by the truth and the word – are these, yet again, key elements in our PPE such that we can survive in the world?

Then Jesus says the following wonderful words –

“For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

He made himself holy so that we can become truly holy. Is this what Peter is thinking when in 1 Peter 1 v.18/19 he says that we weren’t redeemed by any of the perishable things of this world but – “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”? Peter tells us in v.15 – Just as he called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” This, because we are so often drawn into the ways of thinking in this world, is a daily need for us – to consecrate our life to God with the assurance that he will indeed sanctify us, then to take up the PPE provided by the Holy Spirit and continue to follow Jesus through the land as strangers heading to the eternal city of God.

Basically – Keep your feet firmly on the ground but continue walking humbly with your God protected by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and looking forward to the heavenly kingdom.

1 Peter 1 v.21/22 – “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  – Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart.” –

“Love one another” – Over the last few months we have seen so many frontline people, medical staff and so on, setting their own lives aside then taking up their PPE to protect themselves so that they can serve others. Again, in the prayer of John 17 Jesus says – “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” –  We are not of the world but we are asked to serve the Lord in it; the church is on the frontline in a polluted world. Is this another reason why we should daily consecrate ourselves to God – take up the PPE provided through the Holy Spirit – and assured that we are sanctified in Christ – reach out to serve in love?

In Christ, when in your heart you lay yourself aside, God fills the empty space that is left. 

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God” – and so – retain the hope and joy of your salvation.

“the word of the Lord stands for ever and this is the word that was preached to you.”


Lord we can only praise you – – you sanctified yourself so that we can be sanctified; – indeed Lord, through your grace, we can look forward in eager anticipation to your return to eventually lead us to that heavenly city. Help us Lord to take up our PPE daily and serve you in holiness, enjoying your presence in all that we do.  Amen

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.          1 Thessalonians 5 v.23/24

The Bridge Midweek Message 10 February 2021

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Introduction to 1 Peter
Our mid-week messages from now until the end of April are based on the two New Testament letters of Peter.
From the earliest days of the church, 1 Peter was regarded as authoritative, the work of the apostle Peter. He wrote it, probably from Rome in the early 60s A.D., with secretarial help from Silvanus (or Silas) (chapter 5:12-13). The letter is addressed to Christians scattered (by persecution) across the area now known as Asia Minor (chapter 1:1). Peter wrote to instruct, comfort and encourage them to stand firm in the face of suffering (chapter 5:12). Within a few years of writing, Peter himself was executed as a martyr, fulfilling Jesus’ words to him recorded in John 21:18-19.
If possible, please do take a few minutes to enjoy reading through the whole of 1 Peter.

Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-12

What do you say to someone who is going through really tough times because she or he is a Christian? You don’t want to mouth platitudes or to speak baseless generalities such as “Tomorrow will be better”.
Many of Peter’s first readers were being stressed and distressed by “all kinds of trials” (v.6); so at the start of his letter he writes of vital foundational truths, to encourage and strengthen them – and us! These truths are summarised in three wonderful words: HOPE, SALVATION, JOY.

“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of life.” Those words of Emil Brunner are especially meaningful to us now, as we see and hear of hospital patients with Covid-19 needing life-support ventilation for their lungs.
The word hope in Scripture is a term of certainty. To hope means to anticipate with confident expectation. In verses 3-4 Peter describes the source of Christian hope, the nature of hope, and the foundation of hope.

a) The Source of Hope
“In God’s great mercy…..a living hope” (v3). Later in his letter Peter says to his readers “you have received mercy” (2:10). That is a good description of a Christian. God’s mercy means his kindness in bringing in the outsider and the unworthy, to share in his salvation and in the glorious riches of Christ. That is the source of Christian hope.

b) The Nature of Hope
Christian hope is living hope, because it is in the living Lord, and it means sharing in the life of God himself – eternal life. We receive that life not by our own merits or efforts, but by being given new birth through the grace of God. Peter’s words here remind us of Jesus’ saying “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
In verse 4 Peter describes this living hope as the “inheritance” of every believer. Unlike any inheritance which this world offers, it is imperishable, future-proof, absolutely secure, rock solid. And, Peter says, it’s got your name on it!
What is it? Nothing less than “God’s eternal glory in Christ”! (1 Peter 5:10)

c) The Foundation of Hope
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead“. Christian hope is not a vague optimism that “things will get better”, or that “everything will be OK in the end”. No – our hope is anchored in the glorious reality of God’s victory through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. If Christ was not raised from the dead, our hope is totally baseless, and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). But Jesus’ resurrection changes our prospects radically, from a hopeless end to an endless hope.
            My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
            No merit of my own I claim, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.
            On Christ, the solid rock I stand – all other ground is sinking sand.

Like the word “hope”, salvation is a key New Testament word. Commenting on the wonderful Psalm 103, Eugene Peterson writes “Salvation is not a step-by-step procedure to go through, but a vast country to explore”. Andy M reminded us in his sermon last Sunday that the Bible shows us that salvation is linked with healing/wholeness.
Peter in his letter expounds some of the dimensions of salvation. I find it helpful to think of salvation in three tenses – past, present and future.

a) Past
By God’s grace, his undeserved love, we have been saved through trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.   “God has given us new birth…” (v3). “You were redeemed…” (v18). “You have received mercy” (2:10). “You have been healed” (2:24).
We have been saved from the penalty of sin.

b) Present
In verse 9 Peter refers to our present experience: “you are receiving the salvation of your souls”. (“Soul” means the whole living person.) Despite all that we have received from God in salvation, we continue to struggle “against sin, the world and the devil” (as the baptism service reminds us). The Christian life is an unceasing battle, in which we need to be “shielded by God’s power” (v5). Ultimate victory is absolutely certain, but salvation is a work-in-progress.
We are being saved from the power of sin.

c) Future
The full extent of salvation is yet to come, still “to be revealed in the last time” (v5), when the Lord Jesus is revealed in all his glory (v7). That full salvation will encompass not just us humans but the whole of creation (Romans 8:18-25). Peter reminds us that centuries before Jesus came, the Old Testament prophets glimpsed the salvation which came through him (vv10-12). Some of their prophecies have already been accomplished, but some are still to be fulfilled (e.g. Isaiah 65:17-25). Salvation is now and not yet.
We shall be saved from the presence of sin.

Because of the living hope and the wonderful salvation that is in and through Jesus Christ, Peter writes “You greatly rejoice” (v6). And in verse 8 he says that by faith in Christ “you greatly rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy”. Remember, he is addressing Christians who are going through very difficult times.
Our natural tendency is to be joyful when things go well for us, and not to rejoice when life is tough. But Christian joy, of which Peter writes, does not depend on pleasant circumstances. In fact, later in his letter Peter calls his readers to rejoice specifically if they suffer for the sake of Christ (4:12-14). This is extraordinary! Only by God’s grace and power can it happen. Down the centuries, countless believers have experienced this joy in suffering for Christ’s sake. And today, many of our fellow-Christians know what it is to “greatly rejoice” in spite of what they are going through.
So may we!


God, our judge and saviour, teach us to be open to your truth and to trust in your love, that we may live each day with confidence in the salvation which is given through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 3 February 2021

MARK 1: 40-45


Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Let’s pray

Father God – we thank you so much for the Bible, the written word of God – and for the Holy Spirit who inspired the writer to write these words. We now ask, Lord God, that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writer would now come and apply the great truth of scripture to our hearts. That through this written word we would meet the living Word; Jesus himself. And it is in his wonderful name we pray. Amen

How you getting on with social distancing? You go for a walk and up ahead as you walk along your road, there’s a family coming down the road, filling the pavement. A year ago that was a social manoeuvre we could easily resolve. Now we find ourselves marching across the road to avoid getting close.

2,000 years ago they had social distancing down to a fine art. If a leper was anywhere near anyone he would have to wear a cloth over his mouth and shout: “unclean – unclean.” With the warning made that would give you time to avoid the leper.

What made it worse for the sufferer then was not only the physical effect of leprosy but the strict isolation laws. The leper would feel like an outcast in their own society. Leprosy was feared because of this and in Biblical times it was largely believed that only God could cure leprosy.

So what about this man here? Here he is – a leper (and according to Luke’s account – in the latter stages of this disease) – and somehow he had heard about Jesus. Imagine the misery he was in – both physical and mental, the self-loathing and heartache. As he went around, people either avoiding him or pointing at him. Commenting cruelly. So he approaches Jesus and falls at Jesus’s feet.

At this point – what would you ask? David talked on Sunday about when he was in Pakistan and the healing ministry team he was part of. If you have been on one of David’s prayer ministry courses, he will tell you that as part of the team – you should ask the person who wants prayer – what they want prayer for. So what would you say? I think if I had back ache – I would ask that my back is healed. If I had a broken leg – I would ask that my leg is healed. If I had heart problems – I would ask for my heart to be healed. So it is interesting what this man with leprosy asks: “If you are willing, you can make me clean” he says.

Now the reason for this is clear – for many years when he came near to anyone – he would have had to shout: “Unclean, unclean.” This would have been a complete humiliation. But notice the rather interesting statement: “if you are willing”.

I was talking to a Christian colleague at work and we were saying that deep inside us is this gnawing doubt that we are somehow not good enough. God might accept this person or that person – but us? And if God does accept us – it is only through gritted teeth.

Do you ever feel like that? There’s that nagging doubt that you will never quite make the mark as far as God is concerned?

Let me tell you the truth. You’re half right – you are not good enough. You could never be good enough. How could anyone be good enough for an utterly holy, perfect God? His nature is perfect. He is utterly spotless. There is not the hint of compromise in all his dealings. What he thinks, plans and performs are without blemish. He is gloriously perfect, whiter than the whitest of whites.

But look at our Lord Jesus in his dealings with this man who is utterly loathed by all. What I find so wonderful in Jesus – is that there is simply not the slightest hesitation. If I had been Jesus I would have been tempted to say a long distance prayer – keeping the social distancing going. But Jesus is God in skin. He is filled with compassion as he sees this disfigured man at his feet, begging him. He accepts this poor man saying: “I am willing.”

Maybe you are filled with doubt as to your acceptability to God. Then look at this man! He had faith that Jesus would heal him (as he went to Jesus) – but his doubt was not whether Jesus was able – but whether Jesus was willing. What a saviour we have that he will accept us – if we just come to him – with all the baggage we carry. This man – no doubt – was dressed in filthy rags, disfigured, a write off. A mess. But Jesus – JESUS – says: “I am willing.”

If Jesus says yes to him – be very sure that he will say yes to you. Come to him in all your mess – in all your doubt and confusion. With all the weight of the world you carry. With the concerns you have; the thoughts of what people might be saying about you. The mistakes that haunt you. Jesus will take all of this. And so that you – like this poor man – would be made clean. Because Jesus is willing. And as a Christian you are his.

And as he mends you – you can now go out into the world and look the world straight in the face. And it’s because of Jesus. The world may reject you – but Jesus won’t.

What a saviour.

Let’s pray

Lord – we offer ourselves to you today in all our weakness. Would we know your words: I am willing – be clean.

And may we see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.


The Bridge Midweek Message 27 January 2021

Prayer of the week: Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence; renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Reading: John 3:16-21

If someone knows only one verse of Scripture, it may well be John 3:16. This is the best-known and most-preached text in the whole Bible – and for a very good reason. There is no better summary of the gospel, the good news of God’s love.
But, like all Bible verses, v16 needs to be read in context. Verses 16-21 may have been spoken by Jesus, continuing his night-time conversation with Nicodemus; or they may be the words of John the gospel-writer. The original Greek has no quotation marks (or other punctuation), so it’s not clear where Jesus’ words end.
Every part of this passage is rich in wonderful truth. We will focus on verse 16, but refer also to verses 17-21. Clearly the main subject, from which everything else follows, is the love of God. In this verse we see the depth of God’s love, the scope of that love, and the response to his love.

“God so loved… that he gave his one and only Son“. That is underlined in verse 18, and in the prologue to John’s gospel (Ch.1 verses 14 & 18). Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah had prophesied “to us a son is given” (Is.9:6). We often hear or read those words at Christmas-time, as they speak of the incarnation – the eternal Word becoming human. But the depth of God’s love is revealed most wonderfully in the fact that God the Son “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). God “did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). The depth of God’s love is measured by the value of his love-gift – his only, eternally beloved Son. He could not love more.

But we all, at times, are tempted to doubt God’s love. Perhaps even now you are going through a very tough time. “How can God love me when ….. has happened?” When we experience such feelings, what should we do?
John Calvin wrote, “The true looking of faith is placing Christ before one’s eyes and beholding in him the heart of God poured out in love.” Or, in the words of a simple Biblical chorus, “When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus”.

“God so loved the world….”. The first (Jewish) readers of John’s gospel knew of God’s special love for Israel, his chosen people. Moses had told the Israelites “The Lord your God has chosen you … to be his people, his treasured possession…It was because the Lord loved you… He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9).
But here in v16 God’s love is for “the world”. That is underlined in verse 17 (3 times), and in verse 19. “The world” is a very common expression in John’s gospel. It occurs 78 times, and ofen refers to rebellious human beings, as in John 1:10 “Though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him”. So not only does God’s love extend to every human being, and indeed to all his creation: his loving embrace is for foolish, sinful, selfish people (just like us)!! What amazing grace!

“…that whoever believes in him…”. “Believe” is a favourite verb in John’s gospel, occurring 98 times (compared to an average 10 times in each of the other gospels). This is not surprising when we discover the purpose of John’s writing – “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). (In that verse, “believe” may mean “come to believe for the first time”, and/or “continue to believe”.)

These verses emphasise that believing is:
a) More than merely intellectual assent
“I believe the Queen was born in 1926” – but so what? What difference does that make to my life? We do need creeds, otherwise belief lacks backbone, but faith involves much more than “ticking off” what I believe is true. As James cuttingly writes “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (James 2:19)
b) Active, not passive
Verses 16 & 18 refer to believing in, or into God’s Son. This implies that real faith means action. For example, “I believe in aspirin for headaches” means that when I have a headache I will actually take (swallow) aspirin, not just admire the packet!
c) Into a Person
“Believing in him / in his name” is not the same as believing in the church, or believing in the Bible, or believing in Christianity. John’s prologue makes clear that believing in Jesus Christ’s name means receiving him (John 1:12).

God’s loving purpose for the world is that everyone believing into his Son does not perish, but receives eternal life. But sadly there is another possible response to this good news – not believing into Jesus Christ (v18). The possibility of condemnation is a terrible reality. People can choose to turn away, to ignore or even to refuse God’s wonderful gift.
The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a world-wide crisis. But v19 speaks of a far more dangerous situation: “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God.” (v19 in “The Message“)

But to respond to God’s self-giving love by continuing to trust into the Lord Jesus Christ means to live in the light, to live by the truth (v21). That is eternal life, life to the full, God’s purpose for us. Let’s live it and proclaim it!

Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world: lead us to ponder this wonderful truth, and at all times to trust wholly in him, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 20 January 2021

JOHN 1: 43-51


How did you become a Christian? Some can say precisely where and when they became a Christian. For some it is like being on a train – maybe travelling from England to Scotland. You don’t know precisely when you crossed the border but as you approach Glasgow, you realise that you had at some point. Or maybe, as a friend of mine has said, you became a Christian after a number of stages.

But however it happened – whether you can remember or not – what is common for all is that someone was critical in all of this. And probably in all reality a number of people were involved.

Maybe you can recall the person who was so influential in you becoming a Christian. Maybe as you recall that person – you give thanks to Lord now for their witness to you. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know who the key person that brought them to the Lord? And then the person before that. And that. And what if we had a time machine we could go back in time to see each link in the chain. I think I am right in saying that if we followed each link in the chain, we would come back to the disciples of Jesus. And maybe for you, what was key was this exchange between Philip, Nathanael and our Lord Jesus. The start of the chain.

So what is happening here? Hopefully you have your Bible to hand and you can read this passage.

Firstly Philip has been found by Jesus. So Philip, no doubt in joy and amazement, starts the first link in the chain. He speaks to Nathanael. Now Nathanael’s response in verse 46 is not quite as harsh or cynical as it sounds. He, being a faithful Jew, simply is saying that the Messiah was not expected to come from Nazareth.

Now notice Philip’s response; the sheer economy of it. He simply says: “come and see.” Sometimes we like to have all the answers to every question that someone may ask. Or maybe we are so fearful that we don’t have the answers that we don’t mention Jesus at all? We don’t need every theological “T” crossed or “I” dotted. What we do need to be able to do is to say – “come and see”. Now what would that look like in the 21st century? Maybe it is about inviting someone to your home group? Maybe it is about making our home groups about being invitational? Maybe it is about running an Alpha Course or Christianity Explored? Maybe it is about inviting someone into a discussion on line about faith. The list is probably endless. So – how would you do: “Come and see?” The bottom line is being invitational. I wonder how we can do that?

So Nathanael takes up Philip’s invitation and Jesus seeing Nathanael approach him, commends him (verse 47). I suspect that most people are afraid of approaching Jesus because deep down we are afraid. Afraid of what Jesus might know. And in verse 48 Nathanael asks that very question: “How do you know me?” I have this hunch that deep down all people have a sense that there is a right and wrong and that when everything is revealed – they will be on the wrong side of the line. And that God knows. But Jesus’s words here are warm and welcoming. In fact Jesus reveals something of Nathanael that only he would know when, in verse 48, he says that he saw Nathanael under a fig tree. Clearly whilst that means little to us – it meant a great deal to Nathanael.

So Jesus speaks into Nathanael’s life. So what is Nathanael’s response to Jesus? And I wonder what was held in the balance at that moment? At this fork in the road – would Nathanael say “yes” to Jesus? Or “no”?

Thankfully he says yes. I wonder whether in the years to come, Nathanael reflected on this encounter. Did he consider the “what if” question? “What if I had said no?” he may have thought. He must have been so utterly grateful to Philip for bringing him to Jesus. And I wonder from this yes, how many lives did Nathanael impact through his “come and see” work? And all because Philip spoke to Nathanael and said “come and see”.

So how about you? If you are Christian, simply consider that you are a link in the chain going all the way back 2,000 years. You are part of a family with Jesus as the head. And there’s great news to share. So what about now. If you are a Philip – who and where are your Nathanael’s? And when you find them – what will you do? Maybe reflect on how the Lord is speaking to you about this and your response.

Let’s pray

Lord, sometimes we get so bogged down in the detail of life we miss that we are part of your family and we simply have the best news. Jesus – would you work in us that we would love you more than anything or anyone else. And may we simply want to share you so we could say to people; “come and see”.

In your lovely name


The Midweek Bridge 13 January 2021

By Grace through Faith

Jesus said: “I tell you the truth; whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed from death to life.”  – John 5 v.24                             

Reading: Ephesians 2 v.1 – 10 – The verses are included in the text but it is always good to have your Bibles open.

Prayer: – – As we look again at these wonderful words of the apostle Paul, please Lord give to us that special insight of your Holy Spirit that we might be encouraged today by your words to us and continue in your purposes for us at this time.                                                      Amen

The apostle Paul was brought up in an – Us and Them – environment.

  • The – “Us” – the people of the covenant, the holy people of God, the guardians of God’s Law, – the Jews.
  • The – “Them” – the gentile nations.

Deeply embedded in Paul’s person was the history of Israel – slavery in Egypt, the exodus, the kings and the prophets, the exile, the rebuilding of the temple and all those, almost continuous, wars with the gentile nations. Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ revealed that throughout this poisonous stewing-pot mess of history which simmered angrily in Paul’s heart God’s grace had been present. Grace threw into the pot the healing herbs of compassion, forgiveness and mercy; Paul discovered the righteousness which comes from God. Paul explains this revelation of God’s love in Romans ch.3 v.21 – 24 – “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” The revelation grows as he realises that – “There is no difference” Jew – Gentile – Us – Them- “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – and the all – the whosoever – “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  It is this revelation the Paul is expanding in Ephesians – there is a new Us – those that are in Christ Jesus.

If I was to give an alternative title to these verses in Ephesians ch.2 it would be – “There is no difference” – that is a key element in this chapter.

He starts off with –  As for you, ‘You’, the Ephesian gentiles –  you were dead in your transgressions and sins, – the ‘You’ is repeated again –  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient. But then he changes to – ‘Us’ – the Jews – All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. – Again the ‘We’ is the Jewish people; we were just the same – Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. There is and there was no difference – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

But then Paul introduces a new ‘Us’ and ‘We’ – this amazing revelation of grace – But because of his great love for us, the pivot point of grace; all is balanced on God’s love, God’s mercy, forgiveness and compassion. Paul continues – God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. You were dead in your sins – we were dead in our sins – but we have been made alive with Christ. The new ‘Us’ and ‘We’ – those who are in Christ Jesus; the – “whoever believes” – in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.

 – it is by grace you have been saved. Paul could have added here – and by grace we have been saved – there is no difference; it is the all who believe, so we see the new ‘Us’ in the next phrases – And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  – all of us in Christ Jesus. But why – in the heavenly realms – why – in Christ Jesus, – what is going on in the heavenly realms?

UK law contains many Biblical principles one being that every person has a right to a hearing. In court, when we stand before the judge, there is the prosecution, the one who accuses us, and we have the right to a defence, one who speaks on our behalf. In 1 John ch.2 v.1 we read – “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” – Revelation ch.12 v.10&11 gives a glimpse of a scene in those heavenly realms –

“Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Let’s stretch our imaginations a little; let’s create a picture in our minds:

On one side – the accuser hurling twisted truths – “All have sinned.” – On the other side – the accused – guilty! – but! – They are standing so calmly, confident and at peace – how can this be? – They have put their faith in the Cross and the blood Jesus shed there for them – their testimony is about God’s love and faithfulness – they have turned their lives around to follow Jesus – they are in Christ and, as Paul says in Rom.8 v.1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Can you see yourself in this group of people – saved by grace?

Paul continues in Ephesians ch.2 – in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. – Paul takes this up again in ch.3 v.10&11 – “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – No matter what the accuser whispers in our ears, we are in Christ and, as Paul continues in ch.3 v.12 – “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” We, the church, are the celebration of Christ’s victory; the accuser has been defeated and we are in Christ in the heavenly realms. Oh – “the incomparable riches of his grace,”

Paul then gives us that great verse – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast. – There is no difference, we are all saved by grace. None of us can boast, it is a gift of God not because of any actions on our part but because of his faithful love.

A problem highlighted by this time of Covid 19 has been loneliness. A factor in loneliness is the sense of having no purpose but we see in this next verse something most precious for those who are in ChristFor we – Paul’s new ‘We’ – are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus – we belong to each other, we are part of each other – to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Those works of love in which we build one another up according to our gifts and abilities. We see this in Ephesians 4 v.16 – “As each part does its work, from him (Christ Jesus) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself in love.” – “we are a new creation in Christ Jesus,” built on a foundation of God’s love and faithfulness.

There is no difference, – ‘We’ – who have believed have been saved by grace and in Christ Jesus we are raised up with him in the heavenly places. The accuser, the father of lies, might whisper in our ears unpleasant truths about our failings but he is defeated by the blood Jesus shed on the cross – ‘We’ – are saved by grace through faith. No such power – “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” – As Paul writes in Ephesians 1 v.3 – “Praise be to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Prayer: – – We praise you Father that we can present ourselves before you in full assurance of your grace and salvation. We confess Lord that there are times when we have allowed the accuser to cause us to doubt, forgive us Lord, but we know that no force or power can separate us from your love that is in Christ Jesus. There is no difference, we are saved by your grace. Lord, help us to continue in those works of love which you have prepared for us and so serve you and one another. –             


Ephesians 3 v.20/21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever!”                          


The Midweek Bridge 5 January 2021


Heavenly Father,

In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and in the power of the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to your word. We thank you for those who have gone before us in this walk of faith, may we benefit from their example and experience, in the name of Jesus Amen

Reading:                    Ephesians 1 verse 1 – 14


Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,  To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul clearly states his qualification to be writing this letter. He is an apostle called personally by God to minister to this group of Churches who were close to his heart. He had spent almost 3 years preaching and teaching them about Jesus.

The letter is impersonal, no personal greetings at the end, no reference to specific issues or problems. It is a letter written to be shared among a group of churches.

Eph 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are two great themes of the letter – The saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and peace that comes from having a personal relationship with our Father God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Praise be to God!

Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

A Trinitarian prayer stating that our blessings unlike the Old Testament promises to Israel were Spiritual in nature, not material, given through the person of the Holy Spirit. The “Heavenlies” is where Jesus reigns supreme.

In the Beginning – Chosen by God!

Eph 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

In love  Eph 1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Paul explains that God’s love for his people extends backbefore creation. The mystery of election or predestination has been a difficult doctrine to fully understand. Could it be possible that in choosing those who would become children of God before creation that everybody else is condemned to eternal damnation without being given the opportunity exercise their free will, (this is  known as reprobation)?

We know that God is sovereign, He is eternal, He is Omniscient, Omnipotent, Independent, Infinite, Timeless, Omnipresent, God is Love, Righteous and Holy. Given that God knows everything he obviously knows who will and who will not accept his offer of eternal life through Jesus, but it is his expressed desire that he wants everyone to be saved.

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

1Ti 2:3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 

1Ti 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

1Ti 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

1Ti 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

What does scripture tell us about ourselves?

  • We were created with the ability to choose between obedience and disobedience.
  • Because our first parents chose the path of disobedience we have a bias towards selfishness and disobedience and this sin separates us from God.
  • Scripture tells us that we can frustrate God’s will by rejecting his love.

Many rejected Jesus himself:

Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

Jn 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,  Jn 5:40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Do we have a choice? Did God choose us? Did we choose God?

Jn 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Jn 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.

Football lessons at school were a trial for me as everyone had to line up and the two best footballers were made captains. They chose their teams, taking it in turn from the lineup. I was notoriously hopeless at football (chasing a ball from one end of the pitch to the other seemed such a waste of time and energy), so I was invariably last to be chosen. But I was chosen, because reluctant as I was, I turned up ready to play and be inspired by my captain.

In the same way God chooses those who make themselves available by accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord and allowing the Holy Spirit to empower to do God’s will

It is important to remember:

  • God loves us.
  • It was and is his will that we respond to that love.
  • God’s aim is that we be holy – set apart for him, and blameless – forgiven of our sins
  • Then God wants to adopt us as his children through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ his Son thus fulfilling the destiny that God planned for us from the beginning.
  • All this to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves Jesus Christ.

Redemption through Jesus Christ

 Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  Eph 1:8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Jesus paid the price of our redemption and released us from the bondage of sin. We can never measure the depth of God’s grace which is always and in every case much more abundant than the depths of our sinfulness.

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow 

Eph 1:9 And he made known to us the mystery(Something once hidden but now revealed) of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  Eph 1:10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Eventually when Jesus comes again the whole of creation will be subject to Jesus as Lord!

Phil 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, Phil 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Phil 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Eph 1:11 In him we (The Jewish believers) were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  Eph 1:12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Paul firstly addresses his Jewish readers saying that their acceptance of the gospel and belief in Jesus are a demonstration of God’s grace and glory which deserves universal praise.

The whole purpose of creation, the garden, the fall of mankind and the redemptive love expressed in Jesus Christ is that God might be praised in his full glory!

Eph 1:13 And you (Gentile believers) also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,   Eph 1:14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Paul then turns to the gentile believers telling them that in responding to the gospel, believing in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their filling with the Holy Spirit, was the determining factor in being identified as Christians:

The Holy Spirit is a seal – the identifying mark of God in the believer’s life.

The Holy Spirit is a deposit – a small down payment given to secure the full gift of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that God’s word and promises for the future are true.


Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the love and grace you have for us that sent Jesus to be our Saviour and Lord. Fill us again with your Holy Spirit that we may serve you more effectively in these coming Days. Amen.

The Bridge Midweek Message 23 December 2020

Prayer:  Almighty God, by your providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour by the preaching of repentance. Please lead us to repent every day and to trust in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chapter 1 of Luke’s gospel is extraordinary and wonderful. After 400 years of apparent silence, God’s voice is again heard by his people Israel. Luke recounts two momentous birth announcements. In last week’s midweek message Ian wrote about the annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus (verses 26-38). Today we consider the birth of John the Baptizer, but before we do, please read the story of how his birth was foretold, in Luke 1:5-25.

Poor old Zechariah! Such important and wonderful news – but wasn’t it far too good to be true? He was dumbstruck.
About 9 months later…

Reading: Luke 1:57-66


1. WHAT JOY! (vv 57-58)
Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, and like Hannah (who became Samuel’s mother), Elizabeth had known the sadness of childlessness for years. And not only sadness, but stigma: she described it as “disgrace among the people” (v25). So now, with the baby’s birth, what joyful celebration, shared with relatives and neighbours!
From disgrace to grace – praise the Lord!

2. WHAT A NAME! (vv 59-65) 
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
(says Shakespeare’s heroine in “Romeo and Juliet”.)
So why such a fuss about a name for Elizabeth and Zechariah’s baby? In a Jewish home the circumcision and naming of a boy child was (and is) a very important and joyous occasion. The first-born son of a Jewish family often was named after the father or grandfather. The child received his name in a prayer: “Our God, and the God of our fathers, raise up this child to his father and mother, and let his name be called in Israel Z…..”.
Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s relatives and friends assumed they’d call the baby Zechariah, but Elizabeth spoke up, “Certainly not! He shall be called Jehohanan (John).” That Hebrew word means “The Lord is gracious”. (Clearly Elizabeth had learned from Zechariah the instruction he’d been given by Gabriel in that temple encounter, “you are to give him the name John”.) Despite Elizabeth’s words, the relatives and friends check with Zechariah by sign-language: he was probably deaf as well as dumb. He writes “His name is John”. They are amazed. They are even more astonished when Zechariah’s tongue is freed and he begins to speak after 9 months of silence “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…!”
From dumbstruck to awestruck – praise the Lord!

Every parent has hopes and dreams, perhaps unspoken, for their child. But “what will this child be, if he isn’t going to have his father’s name and be a priest like him?” That is the big question. So Zechariah tells the world what God had told him through Gabriel (vv 13-17).
In prophetic words which we call the “Benedictus”, the Spirit-filled Zechariah speaks the praise of God and the promises of God (vv 67-79). Perhaps holding his baby son in his arms, he calls him a prophet of the Most High, and says “you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him”. John will fulfil the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord”; and God’s promises through Malachi “I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me…See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 3:1 & 4:5).
So John becomes the prophet to end all prophecy before the Lord Jesus Christ comes. He is the prophet of salvation (vv 69, 71, 74, 77), preparing people for the Saviour himself.

Advent is a kind of “John the Baptist season” – a time of expectation and preparation, as we look forward to celebrating Christ’s first coming and anticipate his second.
But what does it mean for us, to be “a people prepared for the Lord”? Zechariah’s Spirit-inspired words in verses 74-75 make it wonderfully clear – we are saved to serve!
Chris Wright (in his book “Rejoice!”) writes “our salvation is not an insurance plan in the face of death, or an exit strategy from a doomed planet. God saved us in order to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

This Advent, this Christmas, when we go back to work or “normal life”, in 2021, whenever, wherever…. Whatever lies ahead…what joy to know this as the purpose of our life!


O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful, as we await the coming of your Son our Saviour; that when he shall appear, he may not find us sleeping in sin, but active in serving him and joyful in praising him; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Bridge Midweek Message 16 December 2020

Luke 1 v.26 -38 The birth of Jesus foretold

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9 v.6

I have endeavoured to present this event as Mary’s story unfolds in the scriptures so the verses from the reading are included within.


Lord, as we look again at this wonderful story, help us to hear what your Spirit is saying to us today and to offer ourselves as your servants for your purposes. 

The title given to the first 7 verses of Isaiah ch.9 is – “To Us a Child is Born” – and in v.1 we are told – “in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles,” – – – Galilee with its fresh water sea, very much influenced by its Gentile neighbours, in the extreme north of Israel; far away from the treacherous light of Jerusalem’s temple. V.2 then says – “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” – The people walking in darkness, those not carrying the flickering torches of self-sufficiency; – those in the valley of the shadow of death – the ones who feared no evil; the people who had put their trust in the LORD; the people of faith. As with the stars at night, in order to see God’s light, – the light that the darkness cannot overcome, – we have to put out our own, artificial light. Thus, we see in Luke ch.1 v.26 the angel Gabriel was sent – “up North” – to where such people of faith lived, to those who trusted in the LORD.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

We don’t know the time of day that this visit took place; possibly it was during one of Mary’s daily times of prayer. As with many of the Bible stories, we have the bones of the story; the essential details – Nazareth, a town in Galilee – Then we have – A virgin – Pledged to be married to a descendant of David. – We have her first name, Mary. From those details we can trace back through centuries of history and Jewish teaching to gain a deeper understanding of this momentous event.  

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

The person, status and authority of the angel are not put in question by Mary but we read: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”

Why was Mary troubled by this greeting? “Greetings, you who are highly favoured!” Mary was brought up to know the history of Israel and the many great people, people of faith, who had gone before her. Abraham had found favour with God through his faith but he was very much a flawed man. The same could be said of Noah and again of Moses, even of king David. It was not their goodness that had won them favour with God but their faith and ultimately their obedience to God’s call. Mary knew she could not make claim on her own goodness but she believed and was truly a daughter of Abraham, a daughter of faith – Ah but! – Could she and would she obey whatever the Lord was going to ask of her?

What also struck Mary was, the second part of the angel’s greeting: “The Lord is with you?” This was the key to all those great names she had been taught as a child – God was with them in all that they did. Moses actually cried out to God – “If your presence does not go up with us, do not send us up from here” and then had gone on to say that it was only the presence of God that set them apart from all the other people on the earth; in fact wasn’t it meant in the blessing – “The LORD make his face shine upon you?” The presence of God with all those people of faith in Israel; the presence of God that set them apart.

She did not know at that first moment what God was going to ask of her but she had been taught that in all conversations with the LORD listening was essential so she waited, albeit rather fearfully, and with the memories of her years of teaching churning around in her mind. “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”  Mary’s thoughts raced – “Jesus! – but that means – ‘Jehovah is Salvation’ or ‘God is our Saviour.’” She was to have a child, a son, “yes but who is this child to be?”

The angel continued: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his Father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.” Mary’s childhood memories again came into her mind. Was this possibly the child that Isaiah, the prophet of hope, had talked about – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given?” Indeed, was this child to be the “Wonderful Counsellor” the “Prince of Peace? And again, was this child who was to be born to Mary, Isaiah’s “shoot from Jesse’s stump or Jeremiah’s “Righteous Branch” sprouting from David’s line; was he to be “The LORD Our Righteousness?” Surely by mentioning “Jacob” the angel had been saying that this child was not just to be a prince in Judah but all the 12 tribes of Israel, even those lost tribes, were to be included. “Who is this child to be?”

There was one last test. Was Mary to be like those other great women of Israel – Sarah and Hanna – and to have this wonderful child after her marriage to Joseph? Mary’s upbringing had also taught her that God wants his people to ask, to question, even to challenge him so we read: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel. “since I am a virgin?” Was this to be the fulfilment of Isaiah’s words: – “Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Then of course the name Immanuel – God with us – was that not the promise of God? – Was Mary to be that virgin? The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – – – The Son of God – – then Mary, this young woman of faith, knew.

God in his compassion knows that we need to have that human confirmation; something and someone to share with and to encourage us. So, the angel continued: Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary’s thoughts again churned within her – “I am the Lord’s servant,no more, no less.”A commitment she had made some time before in her humble desire to be obedient to her God, her heavenly Father; she was a daughter of faith, a servant of the LORD. – But, – she knew as a young woman what would happen to her and her young body; – – – to have a child!! – – Mary had also been taught that God wants his people to choose to obey, that is the freedom the Lord has given, and that is the way of all those who serve him. What would her choice be? – “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”   That was what the Lord had wanted of her, this highly favoured child of faith had offered herself as a living sacrifice. And thus, we read “Then the angel left her”.

We cannot truly imagine the conversations Mary had with Elizabeth, also carrying a miracle baby, and with Zechariah who had also been visited by the angel. We echo the words in Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary – “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished”. Those three months spent with them in that house of faith must have been most precious.

Again, on that divine principle that it is not good for a person to be on their own, God had provided Mary with a helper suitable for her needs. Once Joseph had been visited by the angel in a dream, what wonderful yet fearful discussions they must have had. Those two humble servants of God could not share these events or the responsibility of their calling with others; they had to remain a couple alone; walking in the darkness, trusting their LORD.  Together they chose to set out on the pathway that God had prepared for them not knowing where it would lead them – the pathway of faith and obedience.

For both these humble servants of the Lord as they set out on this journey we see:

  • Righteousness though faith
  • Obedience as humble servants
  • The offering of their lives as living sacrifices of love
  • The anointing of the Holy Spirit
  • The assurance of the presence of God

Like their father, Abraham, they didn’t know where the journey would lead them. They knew the road would be hard but, above all, they had the assurance of the constant presence of their compassionate and faithful God and Father in all the days that would follow.

Isaiah 50 v.10 reads – “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” – Mary and Joseph obeyed the Lord and walked into the darkness and uncertainty of their times in total trust in the Lord. Let us, in the uncertainty of our times, also move forward trusting in the Lord for our future knowing his presence in all that we do.


Lord, as we, your church here at St Christopher’s, continue on the pathway you have chosen for us, help us to enjoy that rich peace that comes through the assurance of your presence and purpose along the way. We thank you Lord for the grace you have poured upon us.


“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.”                                                                           Num.6 v.24 – 26

The Midweek Bridge 9 December 2020

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger John the Baptist to prepare the way for you, grant that the ministers and stewards of your truth may so make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“If it’s true that Jesus really is who he claims to be – why am I going through this? Why doesn’t he do something? Why doesn’t he get me out of this hellhole?”
If you have ever asked similar questions, or perhaps are asking them now – you are in good company! John the Baptizer had such thoughts.

Reading: Matthew 11:2-15

John B. had been sent by God to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. He had publicly and faithfully preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. Many people had listened and responded. He had boldly denounced the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Even more courageously, he had rebuked Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, for his marital affairs. Herod had seduced his brother’s wife, divorced his own wife and then lured his sister-in-law to leave her husband and marry him. John had denounced this behaviour, and now he was paying the penalty – imprisonment in the fortress of Machaerus, in the burning desert mountains near the Dead Sea (Mark 6:17-20).
The conditions in prison were terrible. John must have wondered “Why doesn’t Jesus do something?

Imprisoned, alone, disappointed, puzzled; it’s not surprising that John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus the 64,000 dollar question “Are you the long-expected one, or should we look for someone else?” We can hear the anguish behind that question.
Before his incarceration, John had been proclaiming the imminent coming of Messiah, to bring in the kingdom of heaven and to execute God’s righteous judgment: “He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Using a familiar agricultural analogy, John said “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:7-12)
But this hadn’t happened, had it?
a) John’s vicious and immoral captors (Herod & Co.) had not been judged.
b) John had not been freed from prison. According to the prophets, Messiah was supposed to set captives free….
c) There was still wickedness, pride, hypocrisy, even amongst the Jewish religious leaders.

So John thought “Have I made a terrible mistake? Can Jesus really be the Messiah?”
John knew the lonely pain of doubt.

When John’s disciples ask Jesus “Are you the long-expected one…?”, he does not give a straight “Yes, I am the Messiah”. (If he had, would John have been reassured, or could Jesus be making a false claim, like other so-called messiahs?) Nor does Jesus say “Tell John to pull his socks up and stop doubting!”
Instead, Jesus replies “Consider the evidence – tell John what you are hearing and seeing.” Jesus has been teaching, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35). His reply to John points to the fact that God himself is bearing witness to Jesus, in two ways.
a) God’s word is being fulfilled by Jesus.
John B. knew the Scriptures, including Isaiah 35:4-6 “Your God will come…to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer…”. Also Isaiah 61:1 “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor”. Jesus simply says “This is happening now, through me.”
b) God’s power is being shown through Jesus.
Teaching, preaching, healing, raising the dead, casting out evil spirits: these are signs of God’s power at work, though they do not compel people to believe in Jesus as Messiah (v6).

We may not be in prison, but like John B. we may well (sometimes) have serious questions about what is happening in the world, or in the church, or in our own lives. We may be disappointed or downhearted. What are we expecting of Jesus?
a) Zero Expectations? It’s possible to have our sights set so low (for whatever reason), that we live as if Jesus were a dead figure of history, not alive and active today.
b) Unrealistic Expectations? Do we expect instant, miraculous answers to our problems, to the problems in the world or in the church? Last Saturday, in “Encounter With God” Bible notes, I read these words from Mary Evans: “I have known….people who have lost their faith because the unrealistic expectations they were given were not met, and they therefore concluded that God was not faithful after all. We must be honest and open, both about the troubles that life is likely to bring, and also the wonderful truths of the hope that we do have, both in this life and in the next. God is faithful!”
c) Frustrated Expectations? Like John B., we may be disappointed that events have apparently not turned out as we wanted or expected.
You may know the wonderful story of two of Jesus’ disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Please (re-)read it now: Luke 24:13-35.
Notice v21: “…but we had hoped…”. Disappointment. Frustrated expectation.
How did Jesus respond? He led those two disciples to the Scriptures (v27). What a Bible study that must have been! (v32).

What can we learn from Jesus’ responses to John B’s question, and to the two down-hearted disciples? In both cases, Jesus referred them to the Scriptures and to their fulfilment by him.
So we should bring our expectations, hopes, disappointments, to the Lord, and let him bring us back to the Bible.
Then our expectations will be based, not on our own experiences or preferences, but on the word of God and the power of God. Therefore they will be truly great expectations.

Blessed Lord, you caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, so that through endurance and the encouragement of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 1 December 2020

Luke 12 verse 35 – 48

The universal church has been in waiting mode now for almost two thousand years for the return in glory of Jesus our Lord and Saviour. During that time there has been periods of persecution when the church has thrived despite the opposition, there have been times when the church did not need outside persecution, it had enough internal disputes and arguments to disrupt the lives and faith of its members with factions killing one another in the name of God. There have also been times, as now, when the church is totally ignored and side-lined in society and as a result Christians become apathetic and lacking in zeal for the Gospel.

The church, however, has survived and its central message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ has continued in one form or another. The commandment that Jesus gave the disciples to love one another remains a challenge but we seem to be in an age now when that is more likely to be possible as we face an uncertain future together.

One thing we can be sure about is that Jesus will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. The second coming is a constant theme throughout the New Testament and in our reading Jesus gives some advice to his disciples

Be Prepared

As Richard reminded us last week our job as disciples is not to sit around waiting for Jesus to come but use that time to go out into all the word and make disciples. Obedience to this challenge and to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in our daily lives is what Jesus meant when he said, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning”.

 I was reminded of the parable of the ten virgins recorded in Matthew 25 when half of them were not ready when the bridegroom turned up as they had not brought extra fuel. There are two aspects to this saying of Jesus:

Firstly we should always be ready and willing to take on acts of service according to the gifts that God provides through his Holy Spirit. Too often in the past I have observed congregations sit back and watch the leadership run around like headless chickens only willing to do things when instructed. I have also seen leaders who seem unable to delegate, believing that they are the only ones with spiritual gifts. This is not the Biblical pattern. Peter writes,

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4 : 10

The early church leaders were not advocating spiritual anarchy (read 1 Corinthians 14) but a fulsome working together to further the Kingdom of God. The role of leadership is not just to set an example, to teach and pastor but to co-ordinate, encourage and sometimes set boundaries for the united effort of the church community, bound together by their love for God and one another.

Secondly, as Evangelicals we can get carried away by the activity of the great commission, forgetting the importance of keeping our lamps burning, making sure that we take time to rest in God’s loving care and restore our spiritual resources.

To quote a song from my Salvation Army days:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labours increase,
To added afflictions he addeth his mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Fathers full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, his grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

                                                                                                       Annie Johnson Flint

The secret of readiness therefore, is to be the disciples Jesus wants, living in obedience to his word, reading it regularly, and keeping in touch with him in prayer, at the same time serving in the community of the church to build each other up and extend the Kingdom by bringing others into a relationship with Jesus.

Rewards and Consequences

The reward for being prepared and ready for the return of the master is that when he does return and the servants are ready , the roles will be reversed and the servants will be waited on by the master. Maybe Jesus had in mind verses from Psalm 23:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Jesus continues with another question in response to Peter’s question in verse 41 as to who Jesus is referring to. It becomes obvious that, as Jesus continues, he is referring to the future leaders in the church starting with the disciples themselves.

A conscientious leader who looks after his flock and is ready for the return of his master will be rewarded by greater responsibility and prestige in the kingdom to come. On the other hand the leader who neglects, exploits, or even mistreats his flock, having lost his faith, will be severely punished and be assigned a place with unbelievers to face judgement. Some would conclude that a leader like that had never been in a relationship with Jesus, which would call into question how he or she were chosen for that role in the first place. Jesus warns us about these people in Matthew 7 : 15:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Being human, leaders can and do make mistakes, unintentionally upset people, and sometimes seem thoughtless in relationships, and not being able to discern God’s will they are not ready for when Jesus comes again. Jesus said that they will be held responsible for their actions but their punishment will light.

What can we learn from Jesus in this conversation with the disciples?

  • We don’t know when Jesus will come again in glory
  • In anticipation of that moment we should continually be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • We should use the gifts that God has given us to build each other up and make disciples.

A Prayer

Heavenly Father, help us by your Spirit to be the disciples you want us to be, to fulfil the tasks that you have called and equipped us to do, so that you will be glorified by a growing and dynamic community at St. Christopher’s who will be ready when Jesus comes again. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen

The Midweek Bridge 25 November 2020

The Great Commission – Matthew 28: 16-20

Last words are really important. Stan Laurel on his death bed said to his nurse: “I’d rather be skiing than doing this.” The nurse responded: “Do you ski Mr Laurel?” “No” he replied “but I’d rather be skiing than doing this!”

When we get to the end of something, often what is really important gets said. Maybe someone comes to speak to you and chats about all sorts of things, then finally says: “just one more thing”. And it is that, those last words, which they really wanted to come and talk to you about.

So we have some of Jesus’s last words of his ministry 2,000 years ago. Here, Jesus tells his disciples (and that’s you and me as well) – what we should do.

You might say at this point – “how can what Jesus said to his disciple 2,000 years ago apply to me now?” Well, we could spend a long time talking about that but just note that he was speaking to his disciples who are being instructed in verse 19 to go and make disciples. And would those disciples do? Make disciples – who would then go on and make more disciples. And so on. So the reason you are a disciple of Jesus is that someone discipled you. Isn’t it amazing to think that you are a disciple of Jesus as a result of these disciples doing what Jesus said! You are a great-great-great (and so on) disciple of one of the disciples! So we have a legacy – indeed a responsibility – a privilege – to carry this forward. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know every link (every person) who discipled us all the way back to the first disciples?

So these words from Jesus are to all disciples everywhere and at every time. And that includes us.

If I had unlimited time, I could write and write and write about this passage and even then we would barely scratch the surface. But there’s a few reflections that I’d like to share.

The first is the form of a question? And the question is this: How do you make disciples (see verse 19)? How do we do that? Have you done that? What does it mean?

I heard a story once of a man walking past a church which was having its mid-week coffee morning. He popped in and went up to a church member and asked said: “I’d like to become a Christian – how do I do that?” The church member responded: “Come back on Sunday when the vicar is here!”

How would you feel if someone asked that question? I hope we would not answer as above but our hearts overjoyed pray and lead the person to Jesus. We don’t need vicars or ministers or pastors to do this. There is no special paperwork to complete or specific words to say – but if you are a Christian and are breathing oxygen – you can do this.

But being a disciple-maker is not just about someone becoming a Christian – it is carrying on the work so that each of us is mature and complete, not lacking anything in our Christian lives (James 1: 4). And Jesus says in verse 20 that the way to do this is to: teach them to obey everything I have commanded.

Now if we are to teach others to obey everything Jesus has commanded – that has two implications:

  1. Knowing what Jesus has commanded; and
  2. Obeying ourselves what Jesus has commanded.

So maybe this is a good time to ask the question. How are you doing when it comes to obeying what Jesus commands? Are you doing better now than this time last year? Or maybe things have slipped?

Let’s be blunt: you will never really be able to teach what Jesus commanded if you haven’t experienced what it is to obey what Jesus commands himself. There is something about obeying Jesus that breaks our stubborn hearts and makes us more like Jesus himself; somehow we become less full of ourselves and more full of Jesus. We become weaker ourselves but stronger in Jesus. We become less reliant on self and more reliant on Jesus.

The lovely thing about obeying Jesus is this: he doesn’t say – “obey me” and then leave you to it, occasionally glancing over your shoulder like an independent examiner, checking up on a student in an exam. Look at verse 20 where Jesus says:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus isn’t vaguely interested in whether we succeed in obeying him – he is not waiting for us to fail – or even like an impartial judge, above the fray, weighing up the evidence as to whether we have obeyed him or not. No – Jesus is biased – for us! To be with someone is to be rooting for that person. It is to be as close as close can be. It is to encourage; to be deeply bonded to. Indeed, Hebrews 7: 25 says that Jesus is praying for us.  

Just let that soak in. Jesus is praying for you. Jesus himself. What a saviour!

Recently I have listened to sermons on line and heard one preacher say how he had missed the command of Jesus in Luke 10: 5 where Jesus says that whenever we enter a house we should first say: “May God’s peace be on this house.” The preacher said how he read this and it dawned on him that he had not done this and so he said to God – “Lord, I’m so sorry. I have somehow completely missed this. Would you help me to remember this?”  Well – when the preacher said this – I have to confess I was in the same position. And now I am trying to remember to do this each time I enter any building. When we next meet – you can ask me how I am doing – as I need constant reminding.

But do you see how this is. It’s about realising we are not the full package and coming to God who is for us – not against us – not cravenly out of blind fear or grudgingly saying sorry (because we aren’t really and just feel we should say sorry as it is the right thing to do) – but to come to the Lord knowing that he loves to help us as we obey him. He’s not going to refuse us. Why? Because he has promised that he would be with us. And that is underlined by Jesus himself who went to the cross so that (amongst many other things) he could speak those words.

Obeying Jesus isn’t about doing a load of things we don’t want to do and then do out of sulky, hard hearted, sullen duty – but about hearts that are melted as we draw close to him because he has promised he is close to us. And so we choose obedience because of him. It’s worth obeying because it’s Jesus. And through that our lives will change more into the likeness of him. And do you know who the greatest disciplers are? They are those who just seem to be like Jesus. Why? Because they are being moulded into the likeness of Jesus because they obey him.

So if we want to be disciplers (and I hope we all do) – then let’s make it our business to be great disciples who do what Jesus says.

I would like just to leave you now with a lovely old hymn. As you read it – do take your time – the last line in each verse progresses in each verse. And maybe you might want to ask: which last line are you? And maybe the Lord is saying: “come on – let’s move on so you can say: “Lord – none of self and all of thee.”

O the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour’s pity
plead in vain; and I proudly answered,
All of self, and none of Thee!

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on th’accursèd tree,
Heard Him pray, Forgive them, Father!
And my wistful heart said faintly,
Some of self, and some of Thee!

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
Less of self, and more of Thee!

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Your love at last has conquered:
Grant me now my supplication,
None of self, and all of Thee!

Let’s pray

Lord – may it be our business to turn to you each day and give ourselves to you – every part of us – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that there is room for you to fill us with you and we could say to you: Lord, none of self and all of you.

For your glory’s sake


The Bridge Midweek Message 17 November 2020

Prayer: God of peace, whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom and restored the broken to wholeness of life; look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your healing power make whole both people and nations; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Introduction: D.I.Y. Mission?
The Lord Jesus Christ did wonderful, amazing things – healing people, bringing the dead back to life, forgiving people their sins, calming wild storms, delivering people from oppression by evil spirits. The twelve disciples of Jesus had the joy and privilege of being with him and seeing this happening before their eyes. They also heard the wonderful, life-giving words of Jesus as he taught and preached.
But now Jesus tells the Twelve that it’s D.I.Y. time!

Reading: Luke 9:1-6

Are you any good at D.I.Y. (in the widest sense)? It depends on the job. Can you make Christmas cards? Mend a dripping tap? Bake a cake? Fix a faulty computer?
If we are to be any good at a D.I.Y. job, we need (a) the right equipment, and (b) clear instruction from an expert. That’s exactly what Jesus provided as he sent the twelve disciples out on “D.I.Y. Mission”. So first

1. Jesus Called Them Together (v.1)Jesus had chosen those twelve as individuals (Luke 6:13-16). They were a mixed bunch, including Judas Iscariot. Now Jesus calls them all together, for a particular purpose. Just as Israel had consisted of 12 tribes, these 12 represent the “New Israel”, i.e. they represent all God’s people.
In the Bible all Christians are described as “called” by God (e.g. Acts 2:39; Romans 1:6-7). The Greek word for church is “ecclesia”, which literally means “called out” people. So the church consists of those who have responded to God’s call, and are brought together.
Jesus called the Twelve together, and then

2. Jesus Equipped Them (v.1)
He gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. Power means the ability to do something. Authority means the right to do it. Jesus had both (Luke 4:36). The twelve disciples, in themselves, had neither. So they needed to receive power and authority from Jesus as his representatives. They were to preach, heal, deliver people in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Think of ambassadors, who have power and authority to represent their country.)
Jesus gave the Twelve what they needed for “D.I.Y.Mission”, and then

3. Jesus Instructed Them (vv.2-5)
He told them what were to be their priorities in mission, and what was to be their lifestyle.
(a) Priorities (v.2)
They were to proclaim the kingdom of God – the reign of God in every part of life, through Jesus the King. That reign included healing of mind and body – Dr Luke’s special interest.
(b) Lifestyle (vv.3-5)
Jesus gave three specific instructions about their mission:-
i) “Travel light!” (Why? They must depend on God, and have no “clutter” to worry about.)
ii) “Stay in one house, in each town!” (Why? Mission was urgent: there was to be a limit on the length of their stay.)
iii) “If people don’t welcome you, shake the dust from your feet and move on!” (Why? Rabbis taught that the dust of Gentile lands carried defilement. So this action implied that Israelites who rejected the kingdom of God were no better than Gentiles.)
Having given the Twelve these instructions

4. Jesus Sent Them Out (v.6)
Jesus himself had been sent into the world by the Father (Luke 4:18). Now the disciples are sent, as an extension of Jesus’ mission. They must have wondered “Why has Jesus sent us. Couldn’t he do it himself?” Good question! Any answers?
(a) Jesus was preparing them for the time (soon to come) when he would leave them physically and return to heaven.
(b) Jesus wanted them, and all his followers down the centuries, to know that mission is the task of all God’s people.

Conclusion: Us – D.I.O. Mission?
Like the Twelve, all of us who are Christ’s disciples are called together, given power and authority in the name of Jesus, instructed by his word, and sent out as his representatives. Unlike the Twelve in Luke 9, we have the assurance of Jesus’ presence by his Spirit, as we go. (Next week’s midweek message focuses on that “Great Commission”.)

“The Church exists by mission, as fire exists by burning.” (Emil Brunner)

The world today desperately needs the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Where do we start? Right where we are! As John H reminded us last Sunday, we do not know what’s going to happen next. But we are to be ready for the Day of the Lord, by faithfully getting on with the task God has given us.
Mission is our task. No one is going to come and do it for us. We depend NOT on our own abilities or experience, NOT on clergy, NOT on any leader.

Prayers:         We trust in you, our Shield and our Defender;
we do not fight alone against the foe:
strong in your strength, safe in your keeping tender,
we trust in you, and in your name we go.

Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to proclaim the gospel of his kingdom: confirm and strengthen us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Bridge Midweek Message – 10 November 2020

John 15 v.9 – 17

“Abide in my love”

Dear Friends,

Yes, Jesus said – “You are my friends” – which is one of those precious phrases that have been so helpful to us in our lives as Christians. I write this as a letter because the words of John 15 are so well known to you that I don’t wish to try to be clever and theological but to write from my heart; a very human heart that can list many failings and weaknesses but a heart that can take hold of those words – “Abide in my love” – and rejoice in the wonder of God’s grace.

At this time, we are remembering those who have given themselves for us; who have paid the ultimate price so that we can live. I was a child of the second world war but I can look back in amazement at those who reached out in countless ways to give me a childhood with a hope into the future. Today we are also concerned for all those still putting themselves in danger as Covid 19 is still causing so much pain and suffering. We also remember those who have lost loved ones at this time – we all share in their pain; the pain that is born of love. There are also those among us who are suffering from various physical and emotional health trials; these also we remember at this time and share in their burden. Jesus said – “Abide in my love” – a love which holds everything together.

I wasn’t brought up in a Christian family and was rather an arrogant and foolish young man when the Lord intervened in my life and revealed his love to me. Now, some 60 years later, I look back and see how the Lord has held me in his love through all the, often dark, pathways I have trodden; fortunately, he also gave me as a companion Janet nearly 60 years ago. Together we have stumbled along, making many mistakes but always being brought back to those words of Jesus – “Abide in my love” We look back along the pathway and see so many lovely folk that the Lord has given to us as friends, as encouragers, as helpers – a pathway strewn with the flowers and fruits of love – His Love.

So, I write to you in these very difficult times – to first say thankyou for travelling this recent part of our journey together with us and then to ask you – as Jesus did – to “Abide in his love”. Actually, whilst writing this (Tuesday) Janet and I have been to a zoom funeral. She was the first person who spoke to us when we newly arrived at our previous church; her welcome encouraged us to stay. This is a time of remembrance – please take your bibles and read those verses from John 15 (v.9 – v.17) and look back along the pathway that the Lord has led you and sometimes carried you. Remember those who have helped you along the way and give thanks for their love. There are probably some who have also hurt you, remember them with forgiveness for they were all people that the Lord used to teach you along the way. “Abide in his love” by lovingfor it is love that remains along with faith and hope.

Above all, remember the one who chose you – the one who appointed you to bear fruit that will last – fruit that comes from love – the one who asks you to – “Abide in his love”.


We can only thank you, our Lord and Saviour, for all those who have given themselves in love for us. Help us to abide in your love by reaching out in love to all you place along our pathway. – Amen

Midweek Bridge 3 November 2020

Matthew 24 verse 1 – 14

1:  Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

2:  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3:  As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4:  Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.

5:  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many.

6:  You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

7:  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

The destruction of the Temple:

Jesus gathered his disciples around him on the Mount of Olives and prophesied that the beautiful Temple, that Herod had planned and started, and which was barely completed, would be totally destroyed. The disciples were intrigued  and asked Jesus to elaborate. He told them of a tempestuous time to come but that would not be end.

In 66 AD the Jews revolted against the occupying Romans and a bitter and violent four years followed. The Jews suffered terrible deprivations and in the end were reduced to eating their own children. By Passover in 70 AD the Jews had all retreated into Jerusalem itself and Titus the Roman general laid siege to the city.

The Romans themselves had experienced a great upheaval and a bitter civil war. On the suicide of Nero late in 68 AD there followed a year where no less than four emperors claimed the purple one after another involving great bloodshed. Vespasian, father to Titus had been pursuing the war against the Jews but had to leave Palestine to return to Rome to make his claim as Emperor.

The Romans were therefore desperate to bring the Jewish revolt to an end. After a four-month siege during which various Jewish factions within the city constantly fell out over various issues, the Romans took Jerusalem one district after another. It was never the Roman’s plan to destroy the Temple, but the Jews set fire to neighbouring buildings to dislodge the Romans and unfortunately the fire quickly spread to the Temple.

Eventually the Romans overran the Jews, and the Temple and City were laid waste. Josephus the Jewish historian who was present estimated that over a million Jews were killed and 97,000 taken into captivity.

There is a reasonably good tradition that many Christians abandoned the city in 68AD about halfway through the revolt. Indeed in Matthew 24 : 16 Jesus tells them, “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”.

The Church, the temple of the living God

For us Christians the destruction of the Temple, and the violence and persecution that followed, represent the moment when the Old Covenant with its sacrificial cultus was finally replaced by the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. The Church, since Pentecost, had become the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit making the Temple redundant. Jesus told the disciples in verse 8 that this vast upheaval of violence and destruction in the whole of the known world and particularly in the destruction of Jerusalem was indeed the birth pains of a new age. In the latter part of this chapter it is apparent that these events, in Jesus’ mind, the birth of a new age and covenant, were linked closely with the time when he would return in glory to judge the world and there would be a new heaven and a new earth.

He prophesied that in verses 8 – 14,

8:  All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9:  “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

10:  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,

11:  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

12:  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,

13:  but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

14:  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

  • The early church did indeed experience persecution resulting in people denying their faith in Jesus to avoid execution.
  • Over the centuries, from time to time leaders have emerged preaching false doctrine and still do.
  • When not being persecuted the greatest danger to the church is apathy and neglect of God’s word leading to decline in moral values.
  • However those who remain faithful,  who listen to the call of God through the Holy Spirit, will inherit the reward that has been promised, eternal life with Jesus.
  • There has never been a time when the Gospel has not been preached somewhere in the world and the calling of the church is to ensure that the gospel continues to be preached far and wide.

Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that there will be a time, known only to his Father God, when he will return in glory. Our calling is to ensure that we are constantly ready for that momentous time.


Heavenly Father, as your chosen people help us to live our lives, in these difficult days, in response to the call of your Holy Spirit. In the name of your Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 14 October 2020

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you    Is.26 v.3

Continuation from last week of Luke ch.6 v.20 to 26 – – specific references: Luke 6 v.21 & 25

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. – – – – –

– – Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

A promise and a warning

To whom was Jesus speaking? Looking back at verses 17 – 20 we find: v.17 – – A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea – – v.18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.

All had come to hear Jesus and witness the healing miracles; some were followers of Jesus – disciples – others – people from all over Judea – would be mostly of Jewish descent but not followers of Jesus. The promise would be to those who followed him and so in v.20 we read – Looking at his disciples,  he said: – – “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” And, of course, the warning was for those who rejected him – “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Hunger – that deep inner, often painful, longing in the darkness.

Well fed – self-satisfied, I am self-sufficient, I have all I need.

A key word in both statements is “now”. It indicates future fulfilment of what Jesus was saying; Jesus, as with the Old Testament teachings, was pointing to a future day, “The Day of the LORD”. Jesus knew full well that during the next few months leading up to the cross things were going to get worse and even after the resurrection more suffering would come. Jesus was not offering them ready meals for the rest of their life. He was reaffirming the promises and warnings of the Old Testament – Jewish scriptures that those present that day would have been taught from childhood. So, to expand on the words of Jesus, I wish to take you back to those Old Testament teachings. Let’s start in Isaiah ch.50 v.10 & 11. Let us imagine Jesus using these words on that day.

v.10a “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant?” – Who among you is a disciple of the LORD?

And then comes the promise: “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” We all at times pass through valleys of darkness – times when we can’t see the way ahead – times when we cry out to God to help us in our darkness – times when we are hungry. It is in those moments when we are walking in the dark that we need to trust in the Lord; trust in his faithfulness – even in all the uncertainties of Covid 19.

In Isaiah 50 v.11 we also find the warning: “But now, all you who light fires and provide for yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” Those who rely on their own sufficiency – the well-fed of Luke 6. for you will go hungry.

 In Luke ch.6 v.21 the words of Jesus to the hungry were not – things are going to get better soon, don’t worry – but trust in the Lord in the times of darkness which were sure to follow.

Don’t let’s confuse the words trust and faith. Treated lightly they may seem to mean much the same thing but I often see them as two fellow yoke bearers, each balancing the other as they share the load. In my mind, faith is demonstrative whereas trust is more passive, the more mature of the two. Faith doesn’t demand proof or evidence but trust speaks of a personal, closer relationship; of confidence developed through experience. Does the small seed of faith, when placed in the soil, produce a shade giving tree called trust that in turn produces new seeds of faith?

For an example of my thinking: whilst the storm was raging Jesus was fast asleep in the boat. He had absolute confidence in his Father so he slept in the peace of perfect trust. The disciples were panicking so they woke him up. Jesus demonstrated his faith in the power of the Holy Spirit within him by calming the storm. The disciples had not yet entered into the promised rest that trust gives. The man Jesus, who spent his time talking in communion with the Father, trusted him in the storm but trust had to give way to actions of faith to calm the disciples.

Trust provides the wisdom and direction for faith because trust grows through a living relationship with the Father. Trust, confident in the Father, allows him to fulfil his purposes, misdirected faith, faith without communion with the Father, creates turbulence and stress.

Throughout his life Jesus demonstrated the active power of faith in healings and miracles but it was his total trust in his Father that led him to turn from the mount of transfiguration to follow the road to Jerusalem. When he was arrested, faith said he had the power to call down the angels to rescue him but faith had to give way to trust and he allowed himself to be taken. When on the cross, hope and trust combined to give him the strength to say, “Father forgive them”, and again to say to the repentant criminal at his side, “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  Did faith suffer a desperate moment when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But trust re- established itself when he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” It was that trust that ensured his resurrection. Love always trusts in Love, the Son trusted in the eternal love of his Father.

The Father demonstrated in Jesus the depth of his desire for us to grow in a living relationship with him. Our prayer should be to enjoy the Lord’s presence constantly; to allow faith to give way to trust even in the darkest valleys or the happiest of sun blessed hills of our life. Our desire should be to bear fruit in the peace that trusting in his unfailing love and grace brings. As we walk by faith and rest in trust we learn when to be still and know our God.

But what of the warning? In Luke 6 v.20 we see the promise was spoken to his disciples. But – if we turn to Is.65 v.11 – 13 we find – v.11 – “But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain – – – v.12 I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. – – – v.13 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty.”  In Luke 6 the hearers were Jewish people who had been brought up on such scriptures. Jesus was speaking to them but were they listening? They would also know Isaiah 1 v.18 – 20 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be wool. If you are willing and obedient you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” The “well fed” would know that with the warning there was also an offering of forgiveness; if they repented, they could receive the promise that was given to the disciples of Jesus – “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”

On that day of Luke ch.6 Jesus was not offering to his disciples a quick and easy solution to those who hungered for God but was asking them to continue in trust even in the dark moments. Trust turns on the inner light of peace with God and switches off the flickering torch of self-reliance and self-satisfaction.

Prayer: Please Father, forgive us for those times when we allow our hearts to be troubled; when we fear in the darkness. Help us Lord to walk in the light that you give as we put our trust in your unfailing love.

Affirmation of faith:

I believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist. I Believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again. I believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world This is the faith of the church. This is my faith. I believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace 
as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.      
Rom.15 v.13

Midweek Bridge 7 October 2020

Luke 6 verse 20 – 26

20:  Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21:  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

22:  Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23:  “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

24:  “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

25:  Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

26:  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.  

If you have been following these Midweek talks you will realize that we have only just completed Matthew’s record of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. So, you may ask, why are we turning to the beatitudes once again, this time as recorded by Luke who records the words of Jesus as the sermon on the plain?

It would appear that this teaching was at the very heart of Jesus’ ministry and he frequently spoke to all those who would listen about the imminent kingdom of God and the changes that it would bring into the lives of those who would believe in him.

Luke records that Jesus, after spending a night of prayer at the mountain, called his disciples together and chose the twelve who would be his apostles. As they descended the mountain they were met by a large crowd from all over Palestine who sought Jesus for healing and deliverance. After ministering to the crowd he turned to the disciples and began to teach them about the kingdom of God. He would have been aware that there were also many other people crowding around to listen to him.

 20:  Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

On this occasion, as recorded by Luke, Jesus teaches that we experience divine contentment when we are poor. Unlike Matthew’s gospel he does not qualify the state of poverty by making it a spiritual experience. True happiness is found when all worldly and material wealth becomes irrelevant to a believer. For those who actually live in poverty and are destitute, faith in God to provide for them becomes all consuming and when that provision proves adequate for their earthly needs then faith is multiplied.

In Luke 12 verses 22 to 34 Jesus promises that God will provide for his people and our priority is to seek his kingdom and the rest will be provided.

For those who are comfortably placed  the challenge is not to rest in the comfort of our possessions but to see our wealth as a gift from God to be used responsibly and wisely in the furtherance of God’s kingdom and to alleviate the poverty of those we know are in need. We are God’s answer to the prayers of the poor.

In a world where greed and the accumulation of wealth is the accepted attitude and creed we are called to seek contentment and happiness in our worship and love of God in the knowledge that we are citizens of his kingdom which will find its fulfillment in eternity.

24:  “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Uniquely Luke records Jesus giving us the opposing statement that people who are rich and put their faith, hope and dependance on their wealth are actually in a woeful state  and will not experience the joy of the kingdom of God as they have already received their reward.

In the gospel of Mark chapter 10 commencing with verse 17 we read the account of the rich young man who approached Jesus asking him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell everything he had, give the proceeds to the poor, follow him and he would build up treasure in heaven. This was too much for the young man who had great wealth. Jesus concluded his teaching to the disciples by saying:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

If we have a right attitude to the many blessings that God has given us  Jesus states that we will have treasure in heaven. Last week John told us about the bank manager returning a cheque marked, “Words and figures differ”. As a former bank manager I regret that I frequently had to return cheques marked, “refer to drawer”, which was a euphemism for “there is not enough money in the account to pay this cheque!”  Wouldn’t it be awful to stand before our Lord and Saviour and be told we had no treasure stored in heaven, that we may have said all the right things but we had not been obedient when Jesus called us to do his will.

A Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We praise you for all the many blessings you have showered upon us , not least our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us by your Spirit to seek first your kingdom and give us wisdom in the use of our resources to the furtherance of your kingdom. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 30 September 2020

O Lord, in your mercy please hear the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that we may know what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

It’s dangerous to belong to the Church. It’s dangerous to read the Bible.
For the past 5 months, our “Midweek Messages” have focused on the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7. I wonder what your reaction has been to these words of Jesus, some of them very well-known? Have you been challenged, startled, shocked? I have.
Today we come to the final section. However well you know it, please read it unhurriedly.

Reading: Matthew 7:21-29

In vv15-20 Jesus warned his disciples about “false prophets” (i.e. those who claim to be giving messages from God). He said that leaders/preachers/teachers should be assessed by their “fruit” – the sort of lives they live.
Now in vv21-27 Jesus speaks about all (including leaders) who claim to follow him. He winds up his Sermon on the Mount by “a passage of heart-piercing application” (Bishop J.C.Ryle). Jesus warns his followers, warns us, of two grave dangers.

1) The Danger of Just Saying the Right Things (vv21-23)

“Lord, Lord”. These words are right and good: Jesus is Lord. No-one can affirm “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). In church we say “The Lord is here”, “The Lord be with you”, “This is the word of the Lord”.
Moreover, the ministry described in v22 is what Jesus commanded his disciples and gave them authority to do (Matthew 10:7-8). He said that those who trust in him will do, in his name, even greater things than he did (John 14:12-13).
N.B. Words do matter. “If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

BUT, Jesus says, mere words are not enough: obedience, doing what God wants, is crucial. Jesus’ heart-piercing question is “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). If words are genuine, they always lead to action.
A former bank employee said that the most common reason for returning a cheque unpaid would be stamped across it “Words and figures differ”. Can similar words be stamped across my life, across your life, “Words and actions differ”?
Jesus’ statement in v23 is a very solemn warning for all of us. Are there any more terrible words than these?

It is wonderful but dangerous to belong to the church, for in joining the church we say we believe in Christ.

2) The Danger of Just Hearing the Right Things (vv24-27)

Perhaps you have heard or read this parable of the house-builders many times, as I have. (With my civil engineering background, I know the vital importance of good foundations!) But these words of Jesus still challenge us deeply.
N.B. Hearing does matter. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It’s essential to hear the words of Jesus, the word of God, the gospel. Bible study & teaching is fundamental. Christian life & growth, for the church and for the individual believer, comes through the word of God.

BUT, Jesus says, mere hearing is not enough: obedience, doing what he says, is crucial. I know how easily I can deceive myself in these matters. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
Jesus asserts that there are only two ways to build; on rock, or on sand. The foundations of a building are usually not seen: only when the storm hits will the difference be revealed. Professing Christians often look alike, but the storms of crisis or calamity show the reality of faith: if not now, the storm of the day of judgment certainly will.

It is wonderful but dangerous to read the Bible, for in the Bible we hear the words of Christ.

Conclusion (vv28-29)

Are we astonished at these words of Jesus? We should be. The crowds who heard him certainly were. Who is this man? “He expects people to build the house of their lives on his word, and adds that only those who do so are wise and will be safe…He is the Lord to be obeyed and the Saviour to bestow blessing” (J.Stott).


Almighty God, in whose service lies perfect freedom;
teach us to obey you with loving hearts and steadfast wills,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merciful God, teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word and obeying your will,
we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 23 September 2020

Matthew 7 : 12 – 20

The Golden Rule

12:  So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

In verse 12 we have arguably the most famous teaching of Jesus. In this instruction to his followers Jesus embodies all the virtues of a life committed to God and empowered by his Holy Spirit. The best thing that our civil laws can do is to stop people doing nasty things to each other, but no legislation can implement or impose this positive, gentle, kindly and loving attitude in society. It is our responsibility as Christians to demonstrate this Christlike lifestyle in our day to day living.

The first century church cared for the widows and orphans and over the centuries the church has led the way in caring for the needy including the monastic orders with their hospitals and poor funds, and there are today many organisations whose roots are firmly rooted in Christian ethics alleviating suffering and homelessness,  Tearfund, Barnardo’s, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to name just a few.

The road that leads to life

13:  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14:  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Jesus now challenges his disciples to make a choice. There are only two options to choose from, the narrow gate or the wide gate. Jesus commands us to enter the narrow gate and road, notwithstanding that it may be less popular, but it leads to the presence of our heavenly Father where the rewards are tremendous, eternal life in his presence.

John records another of Jesus’ famous sayings:

John 10 : 9  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.

In talking about the good shepherd Jesus states that he is the gate to the sheep fold wherein lies security and safety from the evil one and the consequences of judgement. In addition, through him we have freedom to be nourished in body, soul and spirit.  

John 14 : 6  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus now tells his listeners that he is the exclusive way to know our Father God and through him we are forgiven of all our sins and able to live in the great hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, the wide gate and broad road may be attractive and easy going with lots of jovial company but it is heading in the opposite direction, to final destruction.

What a choice! When we read the words of Jesus it seems obvious that the narrow way is the path to tread but sadly so many people choose the broad path to destruction. Which path are you on?

By their fruit you will recognise them.

15:  “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16:  By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

17:  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18:  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19:  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20:  Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.

When we make our choice to follow Jesus there ought to be clear indications in the lives that we live. Sadly, the church has always attracted needy people who put themselves forward in leadership but are woefully lacking in true faith in Jesus and it is important that these people are recognised and challenged.

It is by the fruit of our lives that we will ultimately be judged, and in the same way we can discern how genuine our brothers and sisters are in their faith. We have already been told that we must not judge one another but it is important that we are able to maintain the purity of the gospel in our community, as Paul wrote to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 3 verse 16:  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

If we are to teach and admonish one another we must share our ups and downs allowing an openness and honesty so that together we bear in our lives the fruit of the gospel, a Christlikeness that cannot be hidden.

A Prayer:

Heavenly Father as we have chosen to take the narrow road to eternal life, fill us again with your Holy Spirit so that we will indeed bear much fruit and be salt and light in the world. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.

The Midweek Bridge Wednesday 16th September 2020

MATTHEW 7: 1-6


Some years ago I was watching a reality TV show and a conversation started between two contestants about a subject I have long forgotten about. The first contestant queried the other contestant’s behaviour to which the angry response was: “Don’t judge me!”

Our culture fears judgement. Underneath everything it seems that there is this fear that somehow we will be caught out. A story was told of Arthur Conan Doyle, who, as a joke once sent five letters to five friends that read, “We are discovered, flee immediately”, to see what they would do. One of them disappeared and Conan Doyle never saw him again.

So, what is our response when we hear Jesus’ words: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged?” How does that tally with Jesus’s words in John 7: 24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly?” And when Jesus says in verse 6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” – doesn’t that sound quite judging?

So, let’s take a deep breath and look at this sensibly. I want to introduce you to two people: Larry the Legalist and Libby the Live and Let Live-ist (snappy names don’t you think!)

Larry the Legalist looks at the law of God. He then takes the measuring line of the law and will quite happily judge how someone does against it and not fail in telling them where they don’t measure up. In other words he criticises when someone falls short. In fact this word judge has its root in the word criticise.

We may know someone like this! Of course, what Larry may do, is to recognise that going round criticising people doesn’t make him universally popular, so he still critical of people – but doesn’t tell them – as he thinks he is better. Or he tells others instead.

So, let’s be blunt about Larry. He’s a hypocrite because there is no way he can do the law in his own strength. The law he thinks he is doing is a watered-down version of the law that he can actually do. If he bothered to read the Sermon on the Mount (especially chapter 5 and how Jesus explains the law more deeply) – he would quickly find out he is way short of what is acceptable God.

Now such a person is hardly popular – and we could be forgiven when we read Jesus’s words instructing us not to judge, that our response should therefore be (when it comes to the law) – that of “Live and let live” Libby. So, let’s look at her:

Libby is easy going. She looks at the law and says: “Well – to sin is to err – and we’re all human. Who am I to judge? If those laws work for you – fine. But if another set of laws suit you – well that’s fine too. Each to their own. Live and let live is what I say.”

But Libby is simply an equal and opposite response to Larry – who is probably an equal and opposite response to Libby. The problem with Libby’s point of view is that it assumes God either has differing laws for different people or ultimately that the law doesn’t matter – it’s a matter of individual choice. But Paul says in Romans 7 that the law is holy and the law is good. So how can the law not matter?

And what is our response to all this? Do we say something to someone when they fall short or say nothing?

So, Jesus helps us out with an illustration about eyes and planks and specks. Note though, that Jesus uses the word “brother” in verse 3. What this simply means is that this illustration is about how Christians are to act when dealing with sin in each other’s lives. Let’s just read that part again:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

What are we to make of this illustration? How are we to deal with sin in another Christian’s life?

  1. Don’t go in all guns blazing

Jesus has already told us not to judge – so don’t. Stop criticising. My grandfather, a minister in the church, told my father that one of the problems of the church at times was “the critical spirit.” Sadly, this is the person in the church whose first response is to criticise. Is that you? Is your first response to criticise or nit-pick? David Hoyle once told me that he had a member of a previous church who, after each sermon David preached, would take David to one side and tell him what was wrong about it. If your first response is to criticise, let me be as blunt as possible. You simply need to stop. You’re doing no one any favours.

  • Look at yourself first

Notice in this illustration Jesus describes how the criticising person is looking at the faults of others and not dealing with the faults in their own life. That’s why in verse 5 he calls such a person a hypocrite. So, Jesus instructs us to take the plank out of our own eye first. This is about coming to God, warts and all, and knowing that you have fallen short and being aware that we can only be put right by God himself. It is God who forgives us, and this has nothing to do with our own rightness but his kindness and mercy.

The wonder of almighty God, who is perfect in every way, who does not need us, is that he looks at the fallen human race and despite all our faults whether large or small, still wants you and I to come back to him. Let the beautiful truth of that melt your heart; as Paul says in Romans 5 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  • We have a responsibility to say something

Now when it comes to saying something to someone where we do need to say something, some of us would prefer to live and let live and not have to deal with this potentially awkward situation. But Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook that easily. He clearly says that once our plank has been removed, we are then in the position to help others with their sin (that is to remove the speck from someone else’s eye). And this is the essence of what Jesus is saying. We’re not there to judge when it comes to other Christian’s failings nor to leave people where they are but to help them.

James 5: 20 says: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

  • So how do we help other Christians?

Jesus has been talking about removing a speck from someone’s eye. Have you ever tried to do that? Or have you ever asked someone to do that for you? What qualities would you want from someone removing a speck from your eye? Certainly not someone who is aggressive or impatient. No – we would want someone who is patient, precise, careful, gentle, controlled. It implies someone being close. It implies that there is mutual trust and that the person carrying out this operation wants to help in a way that will help the other. It also implies close relationship. We would want someone exactly like Jesus. And that is why we need that plank removing by Jesus – so we can be more like him when it comes to dealing with other’s failings.

So, this is how it is for us. So, before you go in to mention someone’s sins or deal with some issue that someone has that requires a word: stop. Pause. Ask yourself – what am I trying to do here? How is the best way to do this knowing this person? How can I be Jesus to them? Pray and pray again. Ask and seek God’s wisdom (James 1: 5). Maybe ask yourself: Do I love this person? Is what I am going to say be helpful to them? Is it wise? Is it winsome? And what is my motive here?

The danger is that we go in thinking we know better. Or that they need to be told. Or that we are angry about them. Or irritated. Or fed up that they have failed again. But using the eye analogy, would such attitudes help in removing a speck from someone’s eye? So, it maybe we are not ready. Maybe we need to spend more time with the Lord removing the log in our eye. Like a surgeon about to do an operation who needs to prepare, so do we.

So, the attitude when we are dealing with each other is this: we are no better than the other person. Whilst our sins and faults are not theirs – we too have our own sins and faults. So, it is about saying as we see our fellow Christians is: “there by the grace of God go I”. But we don’t leave them to it. We attend to each other to build each other up so we are all more like Jesus.

A Prayer:

May God himself speak to us deeply about how we are to engage with each other as brothers and sisters and that the love of Jesus be our motive as we live with each other, so that we would become more like him.

In Jesus’ name


St. Christopher’s Midweek Bridge

8 September 2020

A Prayer:

Most powerful Holy Spirit
come down upon us now and inspire us.
From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious and glory seems but ordinary,
bathe us with the brilliance of your light.

Reading:                     Matthew 6 verse 25 – 34

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35 : 3 – 5)

Fear not

Jesus knows that in our humanity we are prone to anxiety and uncertainty about the future. We may face financial problems, redundancy, family concerns and health issues . Scripture has many instances when God or his representative starts the communication with the words, “Fear not”. Certainly, when the Covid 19 pandemic first threatened both Shirley and I were anxious for our health and that of our family as I am sure many of us were. Jesus knows and understands, and through his word and people he gives us comfort and encouragement as well as reproof as we read in 1 John 4 : 18,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

The challenge, as we face the everyday fears of life is how much do we love and trust in God and his Son Jesus Christ to care for us, to protect us and save us.

Money, money, money

The main focus for Jesus in our scripture is about Christian priorities when it comes to wealth. Our society seems to thrive on the endless accumulation and display of wealth, and this is an area where the values of the world around us can easily creep into the life of the church.

 25:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Jesus knows that food and clothing, particularly in our climate, together with shelter and warmth are the basic necessities of life and yet he tells us that we should not be anxious about them. As our creator God he points to the plants around him which flourish under his care and says,

30: “ If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

So what is the solution that Jesus proposes to ensure our health and protection?

31:  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This must be one of Andy MacPherson’s “WOW” moments. Our first and really only priority is to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything else will fall into place. It does not mean an end to troubles, but these can be faced and overcome on a daily basis.

So how do we get to this sublime state of love and trust?

  • Firstly, we have to recognize the God-shaped emptiness within ourselves that can only be satisfied by getting to know him personally. We also have to understand that the only thing that separates from God is our sinful nature.
  • We then have to turn to Jesus who loved us so much that he became a human being, had a thorough experience of what it was like to live on the bread line, trusting others to provide for him, suffer pain, grief and humiliation and die an horrific death on our behalf. Although he was tempted, just as we are, he never sinned which made him the perfect sacrifice to do away with our sin that has been the barrier between people and God.
  • Then with our whole heart, mind and soul we accept Jesus as our Saviour and put our faith in him, telling others what has happened to us because we just can’t help it!
  • The faith that we experience is given to us through God’s Holy Spirit and as we move forward in faith we learn to pray for an ever increasing filling of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling power changes us to be more like Jesus, helps in our daily relationship with God and equips us to take our place within the community of fellow believers, the church.
  • The church is God’s kingdom here on earth and although it is only a shadow of what it will be when Jesus comes again it is the means by which God expresses his love and care for his children because that is what we are. Our purpose is to show the world around us what God’s love can achieve in normal people who can have an impact on society.

How does God provide for us?

When teaching about the final judgement Jesus told us what his people should have been doing:

Matthew 25 verse 34 – 36

34:  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

35:  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36:  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

When we are totally committed to God in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit then we are also committed in love and trust to our brothers and sisters in Christ as one community. We are God’s solution and that love, care and compassion that Jesus demonstrated when he walked this earth not only extends to one another as Jesus intended when giving us the New Commandment, but overflows into the society around us. Praise God our present national challenges have given the churches opportunity to demonstrate that love in many ways not least in the clothes and food banks.

33:  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for all the blessings you have given us. Help us to be willing to share what you have given us to the benefit of others and help us by your Holy Spirit to get our priorities in accordance with your word and seek first your kingdom and righteousness. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

The Blessing:

Let nothing disturb you,nothing frighten you
All things are passing,but God never changes!
Patient endurance achieves all things;
Those who belong to Godwant for nothing,alone God is sufficient.

The blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always.

The Bridge Midweek Message 2 September 2020


Help us Lord to let your light shine in our hearts so that we can fully understand what you are saying to us at this time; we want, Lord, to be full of your light and our hearts to be where our heavenly treasure is.

Reading: Matthew 6 v.19 – 24

v.19 – 21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

v.22 – 23 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light but if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness?

v.24 – No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Wow – I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions and pray.

When Janet and I open the doors of the large dresser in our living room, we see happy memories of places and times which have enriched us and of people who have been precious to us. Another person opening the same doors would see a mixture of charity shop junk and council tip rubbish. Yet another person, perhaps after an overdose of The Antiques Roadshow, would be looking for items of possible value (there aren’t any). It is not what we see but how we see.

The eye is the lamp of the body. –  How do we see Lord?

How do we see our possessions in this culture of – Aspire and Acquire – (which can be traced back to the garden of Eden)?

  • Are they the symbols of our own importance; do they define our status and achievements?
  • Are they there to enjoy and to share with others as gifts from the Lord?
  • Does a lack of possessions leave us with a self-pitying sense of inferiority and bitterness?

How do we see people?

  • Do we even notice them?
  • Are they here to serve us or are we here to serve them? 

I remember a woman who told me that she only had her children so that they could provide for her later in life.

How do we see ourselves?

  • Are we here to be served or are we here to serve?
  • Is it all somebody else’s fault or do we share the blame?
  • Are we just oblivious – let’s enjoy it while we can?

How do we see God?

  • Do we see him as occasionally necessary but an irrelevant element of our culture?
  • Do we see him as the source of all wisdom, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort?
  • Are we so self-sufficient that we never really think about him.

If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness?

No-one can serve two masters

How solid is the light in us? The true beauty of a diamond is only seen when it reflects the light. Our definition of treasure will depend upon whom or what we serve but – where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – money offers status and power – God offers a heart filled with love and peace; which do we serve and where is our heart? What do we treasure, how do we obtain it and how do we store it?

where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So – are we busy storing earthly treasures on the rickety shelves of self-achievement or are we storing up treasures in heaven? Now there is another question: how do we store up treasures in heaven?  – – – But of course – – – – By giving them away. Just take one heavenly treasure that we have received from God – love. The more you give away the more you receive; it is a heavenly principle.

The following story is built on a real incident of several years ago:

There was living in a select area of a large city an elderly Jewish lady who had become so infirm that she couldn’t cut her own toe nails. Not one member of her family would help her, not even her daughter.  An elderly Christian neighbour came to hear of the Jewish lady’s plight and so every week would go to bathe her feet and trim her nails. Time passed and friendship grew but, as is the way with many Jewish ladies, the day came when she knew she was going to pass away so she gathered her family around her.

They started to discuss the funeral arrangements at which the old Jewish lady said that she was going to have a Christian funeral. Shocked, her daughter said that it would offend the whole community; she would never live it down. “Why do you want a Christian funeral?” – “Because every week Jesus has been to cleanse my feet”

The Christian neighbour was asked why she had visited the Jewish lady – “Because every week I went to wash the feet of Jesus.”

How do we see, whom do we serve and where is our heart?

 Prayer: – – – Please help us, Lord, as we tread this path to see as you see, whether it be the wonders of your creation or those with whom we travel. Help us, Lord, to embrace all that you give to us with the humble assurance of your grace and to then freely share those treasures with all those whom we meet on the way.


Our Father in heaven, – hallowed be your name. – your kingdom come, – your will be done, – on earth as in heaven. – Give us today our daily bread. – Forgive us our sins – as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation – but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours – now and for ever.                                                                                   Amen

May the constant presence of the Lord fill our hearts with his light as he gently leads us.

The Midweek Bridge for Wednesday 26 August 2020

MATTHEW 6: 5-15


In the 1950’s a song was recorded by The Platters called The Great Pretender and was covered by Freddie Mercury in the 1980’s. It’s a song all about someone who is living a life of pretence – pretending that they are doing well – but in fact they admit that their pretence is just a game.

In our passage today, Jesus now deals with the person who hears what a Christian should be like. They may even agree with Jesus and what he says. But what they do, rather than draw close to God, they fake it. They give an impression of someone who looks like a person of faith. Or even – they are a person of faith but in certain circumstances they are more intent on making a good impression. They become, therefore, the Great Pretender.

So, what has Jesus got to say about this? We have three points.

1. When it comes to prayer – don’t be a player

Look at verses 5 and 6:

‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

Note in verse 5 it says “on the street corners…..to be seen.” These words literally mean phantom – that is a play actor. The people that Jesus is describing, are not praying to God. No – they are praying to themselves because they saying things in such a way so as to gain the applause of others. So in other words don’t “pray” to the gallery! Jesus says that these people will get their reward…which is the applause from the people watching. And that’s all they will get.

There’s another reason why people pray like this. Think of an actor. We would say that they put on a show for the benefit of the audience. So that is what they reveal. But in putting on a show, there’s someone they don’t reveal – and that is themselves.

So Jesus says we need to cut it out. In other words – get real. So how do we do this?

The practical advice Jesus gives when we pray is this: be alone with God. No audience here. It’s you and God. So Jesus is saying we need to take time out to be alone with God. And this takes time. But time alone with God is the engine room of the Christian.

There was the annual log felling championship and the two finalists were pitted against each other. They had one hour to chop as many logs as they could. They stood next to piles of logs, axes ready and the referee counted down: “3, 2, 1….” And he blew his whistle. One of the finalists started chopping logs furiously, slicing through logs at a terrific rate. As he worked his way through the pile of logs – he noted that his opponent hadn’t even started. Instead he was sat down. But he sat down sharpening his axe. The first finalist kept chopping but grew more and more tired, occasionally summoning up some extra energy but gradually becoming more and more worn out. The second finalist, though, stood up and starting chopping. He sliced through each log with ease and almost effortlessly. And of course, he won.

I just wonder in these enforced lockdown times, have we learned to use this time to sharpen our Christian lives. And this comes in time in prayer – constantly going back to the Lord in prayer. As we wake up. As we wash or shower. In the car, in those seconds as we go into a meeting, in between one activity and another. As we enter a room. As we approach someone we know. As we go into a situation we might dread. As we have time alone. As we pick up the Bible and read just before we fall asleep.

Let those quiet times be the engine room or our lives as we spend that time with the Lord. And Jesus says that the Father sees this and will reward you.

2. When it comes to prayer – don’t try and impress God

One problem of being alone with God may be that we don’t know what to say – so we kind of invent a “prayer language” where we barely pause for breath as we speak at God. This is what Jesus says about this in verse 7:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Hands up who’s been there! But you don’t need to do this. God isn’t going to say yes to you because you are eloquent. Or in the absence of eloquence – a wall of words. No – just don’t rabbit on. God is not impressed with this. But what he does want is you. And that means we need to stop – take time out. Almost a bit like pressing the restart button on the computer.

One of the things that I have learned over this Covid time – is waiting on the Lord. I’m far too much into telling God what he should be doing. Rather I am learning to wait on the Lord. But what does “waiting on the Lord” mean? It means to rest in his presence, to gain perspective from his point of view (rather than ours) and it means to trust that what he will do is better than what we could wish or imagine. It means less talking and more listening.

To wait on the Lord is to wait patiently but with anticipation.

I used to play for Wareham Cricket Club and one day the skipper asked if I would field in the slips (next to the wicketkeeper). Now in the slips when the batsman edges the ball, it comes at you like lightening. So you have to be ready because that cricket ball can hurt! But I found out something very interesting whilst fielding in the slips. When you are afraid of that ball (because it can hurt) or you are not anticipating the ball coming to you, when the batsmen edges it and it comes to you, you were very likely to drop the ball. But when you were anticipating the ball coming to you and wanting it to, alert and ready – more often than not – you’d catch it.

Well – this is like waiting on the Lord. So when waiting on the Lord, we wait with anticipation – and as the psalmist says: “strength will rise, as we wait upon the Lord.”

3. What should we do then?

And then Jesus sets out what we now call the Lord’s Prayer. It is probably more accurately described as a “model for prayer.” The point is not that we would learn it to repeat it (although there is nothing wrong in that itself) – but rather that it is a structure that Jesus himself advises – so it is probably quite good!

People will often come up with all sorts of techniques about prayer – all sorts of advice – but Jesus just says – be yourself and come to God. Let those times with God be the engine room of your life – constantly going into prayer and seeking time with God – his wisdom and his power. And primarily to be with God. To be in his presence; to know his presence and his power in your life. And if that is not a pattern in your life; why not make it so.

You might want to use The Lord’s Prayer as a model for prayer. It reminds us who God is, what he is like and our relationship to him. It reminds us to desire God and seek his way first so that the goodness and greatness of God will be experienced today wherever we go. Jesus encourages us to ask for what we need and also to seek God’s forgiveness in the same way that we forgive others. We shouldn’t be naive about the battle we are in so we should ask for protection from the power of Satan.

So, however we do this – let’s make this a pattern of our day. Let me put this as bluntly as I possibly can. We are in a battle. And the battle is to continue to trust in God himself and his goodness. If we choose to do this without God – we haven’t got a chance. And this prayer life is difficult. It’s amazing how when you decide to pray, all sorts of other things become really important. It’s not sin that primarily keeps us away from prayer – its neutral stuff. “Yes – I should pray – but that dusting really needs doing!” Or “Ok – I’ll pray now – Oh – hang on, I said I would give such and such person a call.”

I once heard a preacher say that someone came up to him once and said that they were too busy to pray. Paul (the preacher) said in response: “If you’re too busy to pray – you’re just too busy.”

I have this quote on my computer: “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.”

So – we need to be deliberate when it comes to prayer. But we also need to encourage each other – because we probably all find it tricky at times.

My experience has been that it’s only when we pray that somehow things start to happen – and more often than not it is not as we envisaged. An evangelist of the 18th century said: “God does nothing apart from prayer and everything through it.”

I spoke with a colleague at work just this week whose brother-in-law has just become a Christian. They said to Julie – “I’m just praying all the time. Is it normal to be constantly praying?” St Paul answers this in 1 Thessalonians 5: 17 when he writes – “Pray without ceasing.”

So, prayer. It’s not a game so let’s stop playing at it but recognise prayer for what it is. It’s the place where we meet God and seek and enjoy his presence and wait upon him. It’s the place where God does his work in us. It’s the place where we can set that restart button. It’s the place of God’s power.

Let’s encourage each other to continue to pray and be constant in prayer too.

Midweek Bridge 18 August 2020

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1 verse 7 – 10)

The Lord be with you


Heavenly Father we come to you with thanksgiving and paise for all that you have given us in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Saviour. In your generosity you have lavished your love upon us and we pray that through the Holy Spirit you will lead us to be generous in love and grace with our material wealth to all those more needy than ourselves. Amen

Reading:                             Matthew 6 verse 1 – 4 (NIV)

1:  “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2:  “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Jesus had started his sermon describing the essential elements of a Christian character. He then explained what effect we would have in the world if indeed we lived out our new counter- culture. We would be salt and light to the society around us. Jesus went on to state that our relationship with God must be more righteous than the Pharisees who tried to limit or even avoid the requirements of God’s moral laws. For Christians obedience to God must always be a matter of the heart, with the sin that can separate us from God being dealt with in its embryonic stage before temptation turns into action.

Now Jesus turns to Christian attitudes to religious practice. How we worship and serve God both as individuals and when we gather together. The first of these religious obligations and joys is giving to the needy either directly or via the church or other charities.

Our generosity must be in response to what God has done for us: 

The presumption made by Jesus was that we would naturally be generous to those worse off than ourselves because he says “when you give to the needy”, not if you give to the needy, but we are to be careful that we don’t make a song and dance about it in full view of everybody.

In order to distribute alms to as many people as possible the Pharisees announced their arrival with trumpets which would give them an air of superiority, obviously Jesus calling them hypocrites was questioning their motives. On the contrary Christians should give to the needy in humility and in secret.

This seems to contradict the instruction that we should be salt and light in society. In the first case it is our renewed characters bringing changed values, being merciful and seeking peace, that should be openly demonstrated to the world reflecting the love, grace and mercy of God working in our lives.

In the second case our works of kindness should be done in humility and secret, always being grateful to God for his generosity towards us and the understanding that those in need are loved and cherished by God who wants them to respond to his love for them in Jesus Christ. Also, there is always the danger of rivalry and envy creeping in even among Christians. We each must give according to our means and conscience before God who is the only judge of our lives.

3:  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4:  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Although we may keep our giving secret from others, Jesus says that we, in a strange kind of way, should also keep our giving a secret from ourselves. There should be no self-congratulation or vanity in the way that we give. We should not be self- conscious as that can so easily lead to self-righteousness.

We give, in response to God’s generosity to us, as an act of love and mercy to those who are in need, not with the motivation of a reward, but If we retain our anonymity and integrity our reward from God is an affirmation that we have been obedient to his call and guiding, and knowing that somebody has benefitted from our generosity.

After all we live our lives in the great hope that we have eternal life through faith in Christ, and when Jesus comes again we will be judged righteous before God and be rewarded with everlasting life in his presence.

We must always remember the words of Jesus at the Temple in Luke 21 verse 1 – 4

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

A Prayer:

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. Amen
(1 Chronicles 29 verse 13 – 14)

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

The Blessing:

The love of the faithful Creator.
The peace of the wounded Healer
The joy of the challenging Spirit
The hope of the Three in One
Surround and encourage you
This day and forever.

Midweek Bridge 12 August 2020

The Lord be with you.

A Prayer:

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the light and life of your Church:
Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
In love and joy and peace.
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.

Reading:                     Matthew 5 verse 38 – 48

  • Aggressive non retaliation

Jesus ends his instructions on how our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees by telling us how we should deal with injustice and what kind of relationships we should have with the people around us in society.

38:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
39:  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40:  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41:  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42:  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

This instruction found in Exodus 21 was designed to provide a reasonable response when an injustice or crime has been committed. It limits the natural response for retaliation or revenge, which generally means returning the injury with interest, resulting in family feuds and vendettas. The principal dictated that the punishment should fit the crime and no more. In fact, it was not to be taken literally as Moses also gave the people the idea of compensation for the injured party as well as punishment for the guilty. Instead of having to lose an eye the perpetrator could recompense the injured party, if he accidentally knocked out the tooth of a slave rather than lose a tooth himself, he was to give the slave his freedom.

Jesus tells us that our response to being abused and treated unjustly must demonstrate to the world a greater generosity of spirit reflecting God’s generosity of grace and love towards us. Jesus demonstrated this when he was subjected to the terrible acts of abuse he suffered in his passion.

Michael Green writes: “When a wronged party shows generosity to the one who has committed the wrong it is immensely powerful. I was speaking about this once to a black Christian leader in South Africa. I asked him how he responded to the many occasions he had been humiliated and pushed around by whites under apartheid. He replied, ‘When I have been unjustly forced into some menial action, I complete it, and then turn and ask my “boss” if there is anything else that he would like me to do to help him. This totally takes the wind out of his sails, he can hardly believe any wronged party would respond like that.’”

Jesus was advocating a personal response to abuse not universal pacifism, indeed our generosity of spirit is demonstrated best against a background of law, order and justice applied in God’s authority by the state. See Paul’s letter to the Roman’s chapter 13.

  • Aggressive loving

43:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
44:  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45:  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46:  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47:  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Jesus starts by quoting the Pharisees’ amended version of the law concerning a person’s relationship with society generally. In fact, there is no mention in the Ten Commandments about hating your enemy. This was added by the Scribes to limit the commandment to love your neighbour because to love someone is to obligate yourself to them and allow them to make demands on you. A point of debate among the Pharisees was how to define a neighbour. Jesus’ answer came in the parable of the good Samaritan in which a hated enemy was clearly defined as a good neighbour.

In order to pass the Pharisees in righteousness Jesus said that we should love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. The word Jesus uses for love is “Agape” meaning the kind of love that God demonstrated in Jesus Christ. It is a love that springs from the nature of the donor and has nothing to do with the worthiness of the recipient. We are thus able to love the unlovable, not an emotional response but a natural outpouring of the love that we have experienced from God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our human nature demands that we retaliate if we are wronged and if someone helps us, we feel obligated to return the favour. I owe you one, we say. In both cases there is an obligation to act. This is not how we as Christians ought to live our lives. We are not to be door mats but in Spurgeon’s words, “We are to be the anvil when bad men are the hammers”. That solid, unwavering response in our Christian counterculture is the love of God that flows through us to the world around us. Our only obligation is to love as God has loved us. Love that absorbs the hatred directed in our direction and love that allows us to serve others with acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.

  • Perfect Love

48:  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Finally, Jesus was not expecting us to be morally perfect as he created us and knew our nature. Indeed, in this same sermon he gave us the prayer in which we ask for forgiveness for our sins. No, Jesus tells us that we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect in love. In this context Jesus is referring to our lives of love for God in Jesus Christ, to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to our neighbours. Despite our imperfections and failings God has made it possible, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, for us to live a life of love in relation to the society around us. As Jesus said referring to our love for one another, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.

A Prayer:

Heavenly Father, so fill us with your Holy Spirit that we demonstrate to the world in our daily living, the love that you have shown for us in Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection. Amen.

 The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

The Blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,
The Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.

The Bridge Midweek Message 5 August 2020

MATTHEW 5: 27-37


The Lord be with you.

A Prayer:

Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
We ask you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies
In the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments;
That through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
We may be preserved in body and soul;
Through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen

Reading:                            Matthew 5 : 27 – 37

We are going to concentrate on the first part of this reading in relation to Jesus’ teaching on adultery. Now in doing so we need to recognise that our culture is obsessed with sexual behaviour, The internet, magazines, TV are full of images, stories and films which include sexual references. We live in a sexualised culture. On the internet, sexualised images are often referred to as click bait – to reel people in.

Needless to say, if our culture has an obsession with sexual behaviour then, as with any obsession, people get impacted and damaged and reeled in and find it difficult to extricate themselves from the situation they find themselves in.

In looking at this passage we need to be aware that because of the way our culture is, we need to tread carefully – decisively yet with tenderness.

  1. The law is more difficult than you think

So let’s look firstly at the law in relation to adultery. Jesus, in verse 27, sets it out saying:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’”

Now it is interesting that Jesus says “it was said”. If we went back to the giving of the Ten Commandments we would conclude not that they were said (although they were) – but rather they were written. So why does Jesus say “it was said?” What he is doing is dealing with the problem of the Pharisees. In verse 20 (just before our reading) Jesus says this:

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Pharisees knew the law; they knew it back to front and not only that – they could do it. More importantly they would be the quickest off the mark if you didn’t keep to the law – or more precisely, keep to the law as they interpreted it. What they did is ensure that they kept to the letter of the law – which ultimately meant that they did not have sexual intercourse outside what we would describe as marriage (that is a marriage between a man and a woman).

So what Jesus now does is to take the law (as the Pharisees defined it) – but adds the following in verse 28:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So Jesus has now taken the law which had been applied to the act of adultery and now applies it to the thought life of people. It is as if Jesus takes the law – which was difficult enough – and now makes it even more difficult. In fact, being a Christian is not difficult – it’s impossible.

So why does Jesus say what he says? Surely our thought life is just that; our thought life?

Why do people commit adultery? It just doesn’t happen. It happens because it has already been played out in the minds of those committing it. The thought is planted; it grows through the attention of the mind to each detail; then bit by bit it is played out and moves from the thoughts of the mind to it actually happening. Our thought life reveals the true nature of our hearts. Our hearts are the engine room of our actions. So this is why Jesus applies the law to the heart.

2. The devil is more cunning than you think

To make matters worse, we have an adversary in the devil and we need to understand his strategy.

Before the law is broken, he will attack your thought life. Typically he may say lies such as – “it’s harmless” or “you’re not actually committing adultery – just thoughts” or “you’re missing out” or even “God will forgive you anyway.” Or even “if you are a strong Christian, you should be able to resist this.” And many more distortions. But notice the attack is your thought life first. It is the land he will seek to occupy first. Ultimately we may find ourselves convincing ourselves that God doesn’t exist. Once he has distorted, confused and muddied the waters – he can then go into phase 2 of his plan.

Phase 2 is once he has you thinking – once the thought has been thought – the action acted out – he runs round the other side and now accuses: “You can’t admit that to anyone” or “Christians don’t do that type of thing – so you aren’t really a Christian” or “God won’t forgive this time.” Note the last one directly contradicts the previous comforting words that God will forgive. So now what you have done or thought becomes something of shame and from this flows hypocrisy, a feeling of failure and loneliness as this is something that cannot easily be shared.

I have a friend of mine who said to me earlier this year: “the devil is a swine – he does not play by the rules.” This is right.

So this sounds impossible. We have an impossible law and an enemy doing his devious work. How on earth do we deal with this

3. God is more gracious and understanding than you dared believe

Let’s look at Jesus’s advice? He says this in verse 29:

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 

Now on the face of it – this is rather confusing. Clearly Jesus is not saying we should actually gouge eyes out. But what is odd is why does Jesus suggest we should gouge out our right eye? As we would still have a left eye to look at whatever we shouldn’t be looking at.

Firstly – who is Jesus talking to? Christians. But note what Jesus says: “If your right eye causes you to stumble.” Jesus is talking to a Christian who knows (or should know) that he or she has a problem here. The word stumble is (in the Greek) linked to the word “trap”. So Jesus is saying that our looking at someone lustfully (maybe someone we have seen or know or maybe through pornography in all its forms) is actually a trap.

Some years ago I knew a young man who was in a relationship which was potentially damaging. I said to him that he was in a trap.

So be careful about what you watch – who you are seeing – if it is related to adultery, it’s a trap. Maybe you have found yourself in exactly that position. And somehow you can’t extricate yourself from this trap.

So in advising us to gouge out our right eye – what is Jesus saying?

He is saying we should take decisive action. (The danger is that our minds drift onto these things – and it is then we need to take the decisive action.) I think there are two ways we need to take action

  • Take pre-emptive decisive action

Is adultery (in all its forms) something you struggle with? Then take it to the Lord. Maybe if you know you have a problem in the evening – in the morning, pray for help from the Lord. Isn’t it interesting that the Lord’s Prayer says – “lead us not into temptation”. It is to nail our colours to the mast and specifically recognise our weakness in this area and to seek his strength against this temptation early in the day

  • Take decisive imminent action

It maybe that you are being tempted immediately and it is at this point the decisive action is to say “no” (literally say the word “no”) – and ask the Lord to help. Don’t be embarrassed – just ask. He wants you to. Speaking the law – literally saying – “You shall not commit adultery” – helps to clarify what is right and wrong in the fog of confusion our feelings can make.

It’s just worth noting that Jesus says in verse 29 that the “gouged out eye” should be thrown away. I take that as meaning that once you have taken the decisive action – don’t return to the old temptation.

It maybe of course that this is an area you really struggle with. Quite often we may find ourselves asking – how on earth have we got ourselves in this position? And that if we have got ourselves in this position therefore it is up to us to extricate ourselves from this trap. Jesus is far better than that. Jesus can rescue us. You don’t need to wait till you have cleaned yourself up. In any case, you can’t. Jesus does that. It’s what he does. The Lord says in Leviticus 20: 8:

I am the Lord who makes you holy.

It doesn’t says – make yourself holy and I will then do the rest. No. He perfects you. He restores you. He cleanses you. To make you right with God – is a work of God. But it is dependent on you going to him. But he will not condemn you – as Paul says in Romans 8: 1 – “Therefore you are no longer in condemnation.”

1 John 1 8-9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God is so much more kind and gracious than we thought

4. Conclusion

The Lord longs for us to lead lives for him and if we are tangled up with sin (in this case adultery) then we will simply not be wholly his and on another agenda. So the Lord wants us to be free of this and will forgive us as he has promised – so the action – the decisive action – is to go to him. Always. Go to him. What he has for you on his agenda – is so much better than what adultery has to offer.

Just one lovely thought – have you read what it says about adultery in the law. In says: “You shall not commit adultery.” You can read this two ways; one is to think of someone pointing aggressively at you, saying: “you shall not commit adultery.” But there’s a better way. What if this command was a promise? That we would be so filled with God himself that he would say of you and me – you shall not commit adultery. That the law would be written on our hearts in such a way that we would not even want to. It maybe that you are not there at the moment but the Lord does want you there.

So it maybe that the Lord is placing his finger on this matter today and saying to you – “Come to me. Come home and simply give all this to me. Don’t be burdened by it all. Place it all on me. Let me make you holy. But come to me.”

So if that’s you – take that decisive step – and go to the Lord. Don’t struggle alone. He’s waiting for you.

A Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help us to put our trust in you and learn the rhythm of a life spent in your grace and love, empowered by your Holy Spirit to be obedient to your word. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, Amen

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.

The Blessing:

May God, who in Christ gives us a spring of water welling up to eternal life,
perfect in us the image of his glory;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
Be among us and remain with us always.

The Bridge Midweek Message 29 July 2020

As I draw near to You God, please draw near to me. 

A prayer of Richard of Chichester “May I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day.  Amen.”

Here’s a secret for you.  I enjoyed my school days and generally did well but there was one part of the school curriculum that I didn’t enjoy and that was art and crafts.  I was always competing not to be bottom of the class at art, woodwork and metalwork!  I can remember the comments now ‘Andrew tries hard to maintain a mediocre standard.’ 

So imagine my astonishment when a local cultural representative came to our art class to choose a piece of work to be displayed in our local art gallery as an example of children’s art and the piece that was chosen was mine! There must be an ounce of creativity in me somewhere.

Let’s be clear, there is a creative spirit in all of us.  If we are born in the image of God, it follows that we have creativity in us somewhere too and it is the Holy Spirit who brings out this creativity to its full potential. 

Genesis 1 v 1-3 from Revised Version reads:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the Spirit of God moved or brooded upon the face of the waters.”  (Phrase ‘brooded upon’ quite literally means spawning, giving birth or new life to creation.)

In other parts of the Old Testament we get the idea of the Spirit being creative by bringing dead things to life

Ezekiel 37 v 5 ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones:  I will make breath come to you and you will come to life.’ The word for breath is same word for wind or spirit.

In other parts of the Old Testament there are times when the Spirit is given for particular purposes to individuals at a particular time in order to enable creativity e.g. Exodus 31 v 3-5 

It was for the purpose of creating the Ark of the Covenant that individuals were filled with the Spirit to enable them to have ‘skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts’.

The Holy Spirit is creative by nature.  Humans born in the image of God are born with innate creativity, and it is the Spirit within Christians who brings this creativity to its full potential.  There are some people in whom we witness the Spirit working and they very obviously display creativity in their particular skill.  As a local worship leader said to me recently, “I sing because of my gifts and skills, but I can lead worship because I am anointed by God to do so!”  The same is true of people with more practical talents.  Talent alone does not enable us to display our creativity to its full potential.  Our natural talent needs to be guided by the Spirit of God and used for his glory. 

What did Jesus say to Nicodemus in John 3 v 8

“the wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear it’s sound but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going.  So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Sometimes the Spirit’s creative ways can be restricted in our lives.  In his book ‘The Sensitivity of the Spirit’ R. T. Kendell uses the illustration of the turtle dove in comparison with a pigeon, to show how we can restrict the influence of the Spirit in our lives.

It was a turtle dove that alighted upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, the inaugural event in the life of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, at which time there was a loud voice from heaven saying “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, he alights on us and gently guides and steers us through life. 

The significance of the Spirit being represented by a turtle dove is that they are very sensitive creatures.  They are not happy in situations of disharmony, chaos or noise.  They just fly away until the problems are resolved and then when they feel confident that peace has been restored, they return. 

This is true also of the Spirit of God.  Paul writes in Ephesians 4 v 30

‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ 

So, how might we grieve the Spirit?  R.T. Kendell suggests we grieve the Spirit of God when we behave like pigeons rather than turtle doves. Pigeons and doves are in the same family and look much the same.  But it is the turtle dove not the pigeon that is the symbol of peace and it was the dove not a pigeon that alighted on Jesus at his baptism. 

A pigeon may look like a dove, just like Christians may all look alike but a dove is like the Spirit in its sensitivity.  Christians sensitive to the Spirit of God in the same way that doves are sensitive, are free spirits, they encourage innovation, creativity and experimentation.  If we spend time in God’s presence, we begin to listen to God’s gentle whisper and are able to be led by the Spirit of God.

A final prayer from St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 
Where there is injury, pardon; 
Where there is doubt, faith; 
Where there is despair, hope; 
Where there is darkness, light; 
And where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console; 
To be understood, as to understand; 
To be loved, as to love; 
For it is in giving that we receive, 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 

The Bridge Midweek Message 22 July 2020

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 5:21-26

What is righteousness?
The 18th century poet and hymn-writer William Cowper wrote:

What is all righteousness that men devise?
What – but a sordid bargain for the skies?

In last week’s mid-week message we heard Jesus telling his disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v20). Are we shocked? We should be. Jesus says that the “righteousness that men devise” is totally inadequate in God’s sight.

In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus gives six examples of the righteousness that God wants. He reaffirms the principle of the (Old Testament) commands, but rejects the scribal traditions and additions. Six times Jesus says “You have heard that it was said…but I tell you…”. The Jewish rabbis never dared to speak like this. Jesus’ authority is breathtaking.

First, Jesus takes the subject of murder (vv21-26). He gives us a severe warning, and a strong command.

“You shall not murder” is the command (Exodus 20:13). “Whoever murders shall be liable to judgment” is the scribal addition. But Jesus goes to the root. “He traces murder to its dark lair in human hearts: hatred”, (Michael Green writes).
Anger, malice, hatred are to have no place among the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Last Sunday we were reminded “you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language” (Colossians 3:8). Anger and insults are symptoms of a desire “I wish you were dead”. So the apostle John writes “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).
Jesus’ warning in v22 could not be clearer or more solemn – the danger of hell fire. The word he uses is literally “Gehenna” which was the name of the perpetually burning rubbish dump in the valley of Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem. So anger is an attitude for the rubbish dump, not for recycling!
Having given a severe warning, Jesus then gives us a strong positive command.

It is not enough just to avoid anger or insulting language. We are actively to seek reconciliation with others. Jesus says this must take priority even over acts of religious devotion.
Reconciliation with other people flows from reconciliation with God. The apostle Paul implores the Corinthians “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor.5:20). Jesus tells us to pray “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”.
In these verses Jesus emphasises the urgency of reconciliation with others, using two illustrations, one from the temple, the other from the law court. But in both cases immediate, urgent action is needed.
Over the years I have been saddened to encounter some families or relationships where there is estrangement, hostility, bitterness and anger, often caused by refusal to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes this has lasted for years, even decades.
But the wonderful news is that memories and relationships can be healed, by the grace of God. Reconciliation is commanded by Jesus, and made possible through Him.
In the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) Communion service, we are reminded that we cannot expect to be forgiven by God unless we repent and are “in love and charity with (our) neighbours”. We need to become more sensitive to our easily-held attitudes of anger and malice which Jesus warns about.
Never allow a resentment or bitterness to remain. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Don’t delay; whatever the other person does or does not do, take the initiative, apologise, mend, pay the debt.

Be reconciled. That is the righteousness which God wants.


God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life
in Jesus Christ your Son.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Midweek Bridge 14 July 2020


The Lord is my light and my salvation
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Teach me your way O Lord
Lead me in a straight path
The Lord be with you


Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ to break the barrier of sin so that we could be your children, born again into the great family of the church. Thank you that by the power of your indwelling Spirit you have enabled us to be obedient to your word. Help us to resist when temptation threatens to take us away from you and strengthen us in your service. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Reading:                     Matthew 5 verse 17 – 20

Jesus and the Law

Having taught about the character of a Christian and how we should have an impact on the world around us. Jesus goes on to define for his disciples what it means to be righteous before God. How we can live in relation to perfect God.

Jesus said,

17:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.18:  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Jesus firstly explains his relationship with the teachings of the Old Testament. Given the criticism he received over his attitude towards the Sabbath and his own ministry, see Luke 6, Jesus wanted to make clear that God had revealed his love for  his chosen people by his constant care of them, and revealed his heart and mind in the Law that he gave to them through Moses.

He taught them how to deal with the sin that separated them from God, how to worship him on his terms and how to live lives that were acceptable to him. The prophets spoke God’s word to his people often pointing out where they had gone astray and looking forward to the coming of the promised Messiah.

In coming to fulfil the Law and prophets Jesus’ mission was to put a face to the loving but distant and unknown God, by his life and teaching reveal God’s heart for his people, and by his death fulfill all that was necessary to deal with the ever present problem of sin once and for all, making it possible for people to be forgiven of their sin, be born again, and be deemed righteous before God. This rebirth in the Spirit made it possible to obey God’s moral Law.

This is what God promised through the prophet Ezekiel:

26:  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27:  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36)

On the other hand, the Pharisees in opposition to Jesus believed that they were the epitome of righteousness because they obeyed the Law as they interpreted it. They had added to the Law in infinite detail giving prohibitions (you can’t do this, you can’t do that), and permissions (you may do this or that under certain variable circumstances), making it a complex legislation that only they had time to understand. By doing this the true heart of God’s purpose was lost to most people.

Jesus came to fulfil the Law in that he presented a true understanding of God’s purposes in the Law and to provide the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world fulfilling the requirements of the Law and breaking the barrier of sin once and for all.

The Law and Christians

21:  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’

Jesus then gives a first example of God’s heart in the Law. Everybody understands that it is wrong to murder someone and if they do they ought to be punished, but Jesus looks beyond the act of violence to the emotional motivation that may drive a person to murder, violent anger, which in God’s eyes is the root of the issue and worthy in itself of divine judgement and punishment.

Indeed, Jesus goes further to say that even a violent argument using abusive language designed to destroy the self-respect and dignity of a brother or sister, could lead to eternal punishment. It is better to seek a compromise and reconciliation before anything else, as to continue a dispute could lead to dire eternal consequences.

For the Christian, our obedience to God’s law is not just a moral, physical choice but a matter of  the heart, a deep yearning to be obedient to God who loved us so much that he sent his only Son to be our Saviour and Lord.

27:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28:  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus then turns to the seventh commandment and applies the same formula. The seed of the sinful act is in the heart and mind. That is where Satan really gets to us, usually feeding us with some self-justification which makes the act of sin seem acceptable and making us forget the judgement that is to come.

James reminds us:  4 :7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

 Finally, Jesus presents us with a somewhat desperate solution:

29:  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

30:  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

To live in obedience to God may mean making personal sacrifices. We need to be aware of where we are easily prone to temptation and ensure that we protect ourselves. It may mean that we avoid certain programs on the television, be careful on the internet, avoid certain books or magazines, and we should choose our means of entertainment with care being mindful that we are to be salt and light in the world but not at the expense of our own souls.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Jesus to be our Saviour and to teach us the possibilities of a life committed to you empowered by the Holy Spirit. As we journey in faith fill us again so that we can be salt and light in this community, bringing people into the light of Christ, healing their wounds by your love, and increasing your kingdom here in Southbourne.


The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

The Blessing:

Jesus Christ is the light of the world
A light no darkness can quench
Stay with us Lord in our daily living
and bind us together in your love,
let your light scatter the darkness
and fill your church with your glory.
The blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always.

The Bridge Message for 8 July 2020

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: may your people, illumined by your word and sacraments, shine with the radiance of his glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 5:13-16

In Matthew 5:3-12 (the Beatitudes), Jesus spoke of Christian character. Now in verses 13-16 he speaks of Christian influence.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a self-help book by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936. It sold over 30 million copies – one of the best-sellers of all time.
Do you want to influence people? I hope so. (The alternative is to have zero effect on others.) What influence do we have on the people around us, those with whom we have contact?

Jesus uses two simple and familiar metaphors to describe the influence that individual disciples and the church community should have on the world.

In Jesus’ day (and still today) salt had important functions: it was used in agriculture, and it gave flavour to otherwise bland food. But much the most important use of salt was as a preservative for meat and other foods, in an era before refrigeration.
We may be puzzled by Jesus’ words about salt “losing its saltiness”: surely salt is always salty? Jesus was probably referring to a mineral powder containing sodium chloride (NaCl) but also much else. Dead Sea salt has only about 30% NaCl, which can be leached out of the mineral, leaving it insipid and good for nothing.

Like salt, light is vital for human life to flourish. Light dispels the danger of darkness. Light can be a warning – such as a lighthouse flashing “Keep away”. Light is often a guide – such as landing lights for aircraft.
But if light is covered, it is useless for any of these functions. Jesus in verse 15 points out the absurdity of lighting a lamp and then putting it under a bowl, (literally a peck-measure, a 9-litre bowl used for bread).

In his words about salt and light, Jesus is telling us important truths about the world.

1. The World is Deteriorating
In this context, “the world” means human life and community which God loves, but which has turned away from him, rebelled against his laws, and rejected his rule through the Lord Jesus Christ. As the psalmist writes, “Everyone has turned away (from God), they have together become corrupt” (Ps.53:3). Like meat in a warm climate, the world by itself tends to go bad: it needs “salt” to prevent or at least minimise this corruption.

2. The World is Dark
God sees the world as “the people walking in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2). His purpose for his servant was to be “a light for the nations” (Is.42:6): the people of Israel failed in that role, but Jesus Christ fulfilled it perfectly, saying “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). We read in John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”. Despite Jesus’ coming, the world is still dark.

Jesus’ sayings about salt and light are also a challenge to the church, to us as his disciples.

1. The Church is to be Distinct from the World
Jesus emphasises to his disciples “YOU are the salt…..YOU are the light…”. We are called to live differently from the surrounding culture. Paul urges “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
John Stott writes, “Probably the greatest tragedy of the church throughout its long and chequered history has been its constant tendency to conform to the prevailing culture instead of developing a Christian counter-culture”.
As Jesus’ disciples we have a double responsibility to the world around us:- just as salt prevents decay, we are to inhibit the spread of evil; and just as light illuminates darkness, we are to promote truth, beauty, justice and goodness.

2. The Church is NOT to be Distanced from the World
Over the past weeks we have learnt a new phrase – “socially distanced”.
Jesus calls us not to be exclusive or aloof, not to be “distanced” from the world, but to be thoroughly involved in it. To be of any use as a preservative, salt must be rubbed into the meat. We Christians are not to stay in “little ecclesiastical salt cellars, but to be rubbed into the secular community” (John Stott).
A lamp must be taken to a dark place, in order to fulfil its purpose. Christian lights are not just to huddle together, but to shine in the world’s needy places, the difficult relationships, the tough situations.

Jesus told his disciples they were to be “in the world, but not of the world” (John 17:11-18): i.e. distinct, but not distanced. Then others will be blessed and God will be glorified.


Prayer (from Chris Bowater’s song) As salt are we ready to savour?

In darkness are we ready to be light?
God’s seeking out a very special people, to manifest his truth and his might.
Here I am, wholly available;
As for me, I will serve the Lord.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Bridge for Wednesday 1 July 2020

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”      Matthew 5: 10 – 12 


for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Help us Lord to understand, enjoy and share all that we have received through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.   Amen

Suggested reading:              2 Corinthians 6: 3 – 10 – Paul’s Hardships

Who would have said a year ago that the day would come in the United Kingdom in which it would be against the law to gather in churches, to meet in small fellowship or prayer groups or even to invite a fellow Christian in for a coffee and we would live with a background level of fear and insecurity?  Among the lessons learned, have we had just a very gentle taste of what it is like to live under an anti-Christian regime? Have we gained a slightly deeper understanding of life in a permanent church lockdown? Will it help us in our prayers for those in so many parts of the world where Christians are not allowed to meet together, are strictly monitored or have to remain separated from their families; places where even the social media environment is dangerous?

Our 3 missionary couples have experience of life in countries where Christianity does not enjoy the freedom that we have considered normal in the UK. – Jeremy and Rachel with the terrible violence against the church in parts of Burkina Faso – Simon and Becky who meet in London with refugees from persecution and many of their contacts stand to be isolated from their families if they become Christians – Catherine and Julian whose team is working under the strict limitations of a communist regime. Does our present experience help us to have an understanding of their ministry; does it strengthen our prayers for them and for those amongst whom they work?

The verses we are looking at today offer hope and promises to those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus. – “Blessed are those who are persecuted – – theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – – – Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,” What does it mean – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”- the same promise as for the poor in spirit? (Matthew 5: 3)

Some 54 years ago I was privileged to be a member of a team visiting a number of Christian groups in Hungary and Yugoslavia; both countries were communist at that time and therefore the Christians we met were all paying a high price for their refusal to renounce the Lord as their Saviour; they lived in permanent lockdown with a constant background of fear. Their lives demonstrated many of the details recorded by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6: 3 – 10. In v.10 we read “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” I met some of the most wonderful Christians I have ever known; that verse 10 describes their spirit as they shared with us.

The promise – “great is your reward in heaven,” – yes, one of their favourite verses was – Revelations 22: 12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” They looked forward to the second coming of the Lord and had a firm hope in the resurrection. But what of that phrase – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? Do we have access now to this kingdom a kingdom not bound by the limitations of time and geography; a kingdom which “Flesh and blood cannot inherit” and which belongs to those who have “become like little children”? Paul tells us in Romans 14: 17 that – “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The phrase – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”- seems to indicate a present experience and I found, as I visited those persecuted Christians, they echoed v6 of 2 Corinthians 6 “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness in the Holy Spirit”; and of course – “in sincere love” – a love without any hidden falseness or hypocrisy.

In Galatians 5: 19 – 21 we are told that those who live self-indulgent lives “will not inherit the kingdom of God” but Paul goes on to talk of those who live to the Spirit.  On reflection, it seems to me that the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: 22 – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” could also be listed as the fruit of the kingdom of God. Are we experiencing and enjoying the fruit of the kingdom of heaven as we live to the Spirit? In Isaiah 32: 17, we read: The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.” As we have lived these past months, deprived of many of the physical elements of western Christian culture, have we discovered afresh the values and the fruit of the kingdom of heaven working within us – is it well with our soul?

But one might say that we in the UK are not really the persecuted church. Let’s look again at some of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5: 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” I think of many Christians that are having to live and work in environments that have no respect for the values of the kingdom of heaven. My deep concern is for the young folk who desire to lead a Christian life but are frequently mocked and bullied because of their faith. The question I have in my prayers is – how can we encourage and build them up in their confidence and faith so that they can rejoice in the fruit of the kingdom of heaven today? Our prayer should echo the words of Paul in Romans 15: 13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In our gentle experience of the church in lockdown, have we learnt that the kingdom of heaven is never in lockdown; that through the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit in our lives we enjoy the fruit of the kingdom of heaven daily?


Father, we thank you that the doors of heaven are never closed to us; that each day we are able to present ourselves before the King and enjoy all the benefits if his kingdom. Help us Lord to share the blessings and fruit of the kingdom of heaven with those we encounter on our way. Father, many of your children are suffering because of their faith, please, Lord, give them that joy of the presence of your Holy Spirit in all that they do as they reach out to you.                                                                       Amen

May the ever-present Holy Spirit enrich our lives as we serve him who died that we might rejoice in the kingdom of heaven, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

The Bridge for 24 June 2020

Prayer: God of peace, whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom and restored the broken to wholeness of life: look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your healing power make whole both people and nations; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

We come to the seventh of 8 beatitudes. All of them describe the same group of people – the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 v9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”
Every Christian is to be a peacemaker, in the world, in the family, in the church fellowship. We are to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14), to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18), to make every effort to live in peace (Hebrews 12:14).

What is peace? God’s gift of peace is much more than the absence of conflict. It is about relationships being put right – i.e. reconciliation. We live in a world which suffers from broken relationships – primarily our relationship with God, but also our relationships with one another and with all of creation. So the world and everything in it does not have real peace.
Sometimes we talk of peace as if it were just an emotion: “I feel peaceful when I walk in the New Forest”. But peace is not just a feeling; it is a real state of being. In fact, our feelings can deceive us. For a few months after September 1939, life in the U.K. seemed to be quite peaceful. But there was in fact a state of war between Britain and Nazi Germany.

I am sure that you, like me, want to live in peace. But peacemaking is more than living peacefully: it is about creating something.

  • Peacemaking does NOT mean keeping everybody happy. (That is appeasement.)
  • Peacemaking does NOT mean pretending that wrong doesn’t matter. (It is not wise or good to ignore conflict in the home, or the church, or the world.)
  • Peacemaking does NOT mean just ending hostilities.

In the Bible we see that peacemaking is divine work, and is costly work.

The Bible describes God as the God of peace, and his work is peacemaking, reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, the apostle Paul calls the gospel “the ministry of reconciliation” – which starts with God, “who reconciled us to himself through Christ”.
The scope of God’s peacemaking is breathtaking: “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19f). As Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury) wrote, “The idea that God’s reconciliation with us can be contained simply within the Church is ridiculous – God is far too generous for that…”.
Because of this, “when we engage in peacemaking, something of the very character of God rubs off on us”, writes Robert Warren. That is why Jesus says that peacemakers will be called children of God.

Genuine reconciliation is not cheap or easy: it comes at a price. We have seen (in Colossians 1:20) the price which God in Christ paid – nothing less than his own life. Peacemaking is cross-shaped.
Justin Welby has for many years had a passion for reconciliation. He wears a pectoral cross made of nails – a vivid sign of the pain and cost of peacemaking.
I receive news from a wonderful organisation called “Musalaha” (Arabic for reconciliation), which works for peace in the Holy Land, particularly between Jews and Arabs. Last week they asked “help us build up a generation of peacemakers amidst the conflict, through reconciliation”. They know how difficult and costly that work is.

Jesus Christ intends every follower of his to be a peacemaker. To share today in his peacemaking is a great privilege and joy. But it is dangerous: peacemakers are often seen as troublemakers, or meddlers in other people’s lives. Peacemaking may involve the pain of apology or rebuke, of listening, of risking being misunderstood, of ingratitude, of failure. Are we prepared for that?
Only when I am gripped by the utterly wonderful grace of God’s reconciling work in Christ, will I be ready and willing to take part in God’s mission – to bring everything into harmony.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
What greater privilege can there be?


Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
for your mercy and your truth’s sake. Amen.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Bridge for 17 June 2020

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

A Prayer

Heavenly Father we bless you and praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit whose cleansing presence within us enables us to be pure and righteous in your sight. Please continue to flood our lives with your grace and love so that we can be true witnesses for you. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

Reading               Matthew 5 : 1 – 12 and Psalm 24 : 1 – 10

By now we have become used to constant hand washing and purification to the stage where the wrinkles hardly seen to vanish, or maybe I am getting old! In Jesus’ day the Jews were very concerned with physical cleanliness. Facilities for ceremonial washing were provided outside the Temple so that the people could enter God’s house physically cleansed. The Mosaic Law provided instructions on what made people unclean, how long it lasted and what ritual and / or sacrifice had to be undertaken to be cleansed. After giving birth to Jesus, Mary was deemed unclean for forty days at the end of which Joseph and Mary with Jesus attended the Temple to sacrifice a pair of doves.

The Pharisees were very keen to follow these instructions about outward cleansing but in reality, in their hearts and minds, were hypocrites. Jesus took them to task:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23 : 27 – 28)

The Psalmist expresses clearly what God requires is a consistency between our outward living and our personal, private inner life with God:

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour. (Psalm 24 : 3 – 5)

We are to have clean hands, we are not to involve ourselves in physical or material activities that we know are abhorrent to God as far as our knowledge of him and his Word is concerned, and at the same time we are to keep the slate clean as far as our conscience is concerned. We should always confess and repent of our sins before God, depending on his promise of forgiveness, ensuring that our relationship with him is always as close as a child with a Heavenly Father.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1 : 8 – 10)

Our Father God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit should always be the sole object of our devotion and worship. This is where real honesty and integrity shine through, as the children’s song says, “Shine, from the inside out”. How many of us have this total honesty, presenting to the world our true selves, without guile or hypocrisy, our whole lives transparent before both God and people, our thoughts and motives being pure without any deviousness, ulterior or base motives? Jesus alone was perfect in this respect being absolutely pure in heart and entirely guileless.

How can we attain this Christlikeness? By inviting the Holy Spirit to rule in our hearts and lives. Allowing him to constantly challenge us and change us into the likeness of Jesus as we become fruitful in our being.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The blessing that results from this state of being is that we will see God. In the upper room Philip asked Jesus, “ Lord, show us the Father”. Jesus replied, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” As children of God, cleansed of our sin and through our faith in Jesus we have a vision in our hearts and minds of the risen Lord, just a foretaste of our life in eternity when we will stand before the throne of God and see him in all his Glory.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22 verse 1 – 5)

1. Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart, let me be as gold, pure gold.

Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy,
Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your will.

2. Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy.
Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within.

Brian Doerksen

The Blessing
God the Holy Trinity make us strong in faith and love,
defend us on every side, and guide us in truth and peace;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us always.

St Christopher’s Midweek Bridge 10 June 2020

Blessed are the Merciful

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown; His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God’s When mercy seasons justice. (Shakespeare from the Merchant of Venice)

A Prayer:

O Lord, from whom all good things come:
Grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
one God, now and for ever Amen

Reading:              Matthew 5 : 1 – 11 also Psalm 51

Psalm 51 : 17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The blessings that Jesus has given us so far come, as the Psalmist has written, from a broken and contrite heart. A humble person, seeking earnestly after a relationship with their Father God. Now Jesus presents us with an idea which is quite different, blessed are the merciful.

Shakespeare is quite right when he says when referring to mercy “It is an attribute to God himself”.  We are familiar with the idea of God being a God of grace and mercy. His grace is a free gift of forgiveness and eternal life although we of ourselves do not deserve it and there is nothing we can do to earn it. Whereas God’s mercy means that although guilty of sin and deserving of punishment we escape our punishment because Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for sin and died on our behalf.

God was able to do this as he is the great creator of the universe and judge of all we are and do. Even for us it is always important that justice is seen to be done and by sending his Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ to die on Calvary God exercised both grace and mercy to enable us to be born again as his beloved children.

Jesus tells us that as children of God having experienced God’s mercy to a new life in him, we should, in our relationships, always be merciful to others. Even when we are humble in our relationship with God because the difference between us in power and authority is unmeasurable, when we are dealing with our neighbours or even our brothers and sisters in Christ it is far to easy, if we have some measure of authority over them, to try and exploit that situation for our own ends. We are human after all!

We should remember that at all times we are answerable to God and in truth all sin, in what ever form, is ultimately against God and therefore he expects us to treat others as he has treated us, with love and mercy.

Recorded in Matthew 18 and verses 21 Jesus tells the disciples a parable about a king who forgave his servant a huge debt that he was unable to pay. That same servant then threatened a colleague with prison because of a much smaller debt he was owed. Even though the colleague pleaded with him the servant would not relent. When the king got to know about this through a whistleblower he was angry and said to the servant, “You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just I had on you?” In his anger the king handed him over to the jailors to be tortured until he could pay back the debt.

The blessing of being merciful is that we continue to live in the mercy of God. As we live in Christ day by day we often make mistakes, do not follow God’s plan for us, we sometimes willingly do the things that we know displease him and so we need his constant mercy, grace and forgiveness.

We think of the words of the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples regarding forgiveness, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”, and the same principle applies. We are a new creation in Christ, and it should be his character that shines through us in our dealings with each other.

With Psalmist we should pray:

  1. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
  2. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
  3. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
  4. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

A Blessing:

Deep peace of the running wave be ours,
deep peace of the flowing air,
deep peace of the quiet earth,
deep peace of the shining stars,
deep peace of the Son of peace.
And the blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always.

Midweek Bridge 3 June 2020

As I draw near to You God, please draw near to me. 

A prayer of Richard of Chichester “May I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day.  Amen.”

One of the biggest restrictions that has been imposed as part of the lockdown measures has been ‘social distancing’ and ‘social isolating’

Social distancing has created a ‘new normal’ shopping experience with queues of people waiting to enter shops and a new way of taking exercise whilst trying to keep the 2-metre rule.  Our most vulnerable group are ‘shielding’ and has led to people becoming ‘housebound’ before their time and there are strange images of new born grandchildren or great grandchildren being displayed through windows, along with longer than usual stretches of coping without human contact or physical touch.  The new normal method of communication for this group has become, the telephone conversation!

During this time, I have found the most important contact is with God and I have enjoyed quiet in His presence again in a fresh way and in this we are following Jesus’ example.

Mark 1 v 35 ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place.’

Mark 6 v 31-32 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to his disciples “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

And it was on one of these occasions when Jesus was praying that one of the disciples asks him “LORD teach us to pray.”

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.   Amen

My friends, that is what I am encouraging you to do today.  And not only today.  May this practice become part of the new ‘normal’ as we restructure our lives after lock down.

Come aside…be still…quieten your soul…spend time in prayer.

And it seems that this thirst for God has become the new normal for many people.  I heard about a Danish professor in Economics who has just written a paper during the corona virus pandemic entitled “In Crisis we pray.”  She talks about the many fold increase, in views to on-line articles about faith and prayer. 

It’s not only in Europe.  On the ‘Sunday’ radio programme about faith matters, and this story was picked up by the Guardian recently. Mel and I were encouraged to hear that rather than depressing figures about church attendance of about 5% of the population, there had been an increase between 25% of the adult UK population watching or listening to services on-line, and some 45% people have prayed during this pandemic. 

Now I know that there are many people who have suffered greatly at this difficult time and our hearts and prayers go out to the many who have been personally affected but I do think there is going to be an upsurge in faith and a thirst to get involved in prayer and an openness to matters of the soul following this pandemic.

Henri Nouwen, one of my favourite Christian writers said in one of his books: “Solitude is the furnace of transformation”

Solitude for some becomes the great struggle.  The place where we try to put on a mask between us and God and where we present the false self and try to avoid change.  But for others, it is the great encounter.  The chance to meet with the living God who wants us to grow closer to His image each day.  Remember the prayer of Richard of Chichester that we read at the beginning of this reflection.

For many of us Christians, as we spend more time in solitude, in our own homes, there is time to reconstruct our lives of faith.  Have you ever seen the Repair Shop TV programme?  This time of lockdown feels like the Lord has taken us to that repair shop and he is taking everything apart, cleaning bits that need a good clean, repairing bits that need repairing, and making new parts that are beyond repair.

As Dom Bernard Clements puts it:
‘God is the master workman.  He never takes a wrong tool to a human soul.  And he is washing away and cutting away at your soul and mine, until He gets rid at long last of all the rubbish and dross that covers the surface of our lives, and He reaches that pure gold that He has set in each of us, the image of Himself.’

God delights in us coming to him to be put in order.  God longs for us to spend time with him.  Away from the distractions of which there are many even during these times of self-isolation.

In a recent quiet time, I discovered these words in one of the shortest Psalms in the bible Psalm 131:
‘My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quietened my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within in.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and evermore.

A final prayer.
God, of your goodness, give me yourself; for you are sufficient for me.  I cannot properly ask anything less, to be worthy of you.  If I were to ask less, I should always be in want.  In you alone do I have all.                                                                                    Julian of Norwich

Midweek Bridge 27 May 2020

Continuation of Matthew 5: 1 – 12

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne, 
Love and faithfulness go before you.”   Psalm 89: 14

Collect: Be with us Lord, in all our prayers, and direct our way toward the attainment of salvation, that among the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may always be defended by your gracious help; through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen

Text: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5: 6                        

Prayer: Father, we thank you that through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we are able to freely come before the throne of grace. Please Lord help us to receive your word to our hearts at this time.         Amen

Suggested reading: Isaiah 51: 1 – 8: “my righteousness will never fail.”

The first verse of Matthew 5 says“Now when he saw the crowds,” – those who had come to see this man, Jesus. The listeners and the hearers – all types of folk – would be attentive to the words of Jesus that day. How would they react when they heard those words – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled?” – How would they respond?

There would be some Pharisees. They might, at first, be nodding in agreement at those words, after all they knew how to be righteous. But, – then they would perhaps hear the words of Matthew 5: 20 “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Surely that isn’t possible; how can anyone be more righteous than the Pharisees? Perhaps they would understand some time later when Jesus said to them: – “you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”– Matthew 23: 23. Would they stop nodding in agreement?

There would also be those present who firmly believed that doing acts of goodness was the righteous way to live; they also might nod their heads in agreement with the words of Jesus in Matthew5: 6 until, later, in Matthew 5: 16 – Jesus said “Let your light shine before men, that they may see you good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” That’s all very well but, surely, they should get the credit for their righteous acts. But then Jesus added in Matthew 6: 1 – “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” That’s pushing it a bit; I mean, the whole point of doing good deeds is to get noticed. They were perhaps ignorant of the words of Isaiah 64: 6 – “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Those who put their confidence in righteous acts wouldn’t nod in agreement with Jesus for long.

Then there would be the cynics present that day. They would agree with Jesus about the Pharisees being a bunch of hypocrites; they had seen through their false piety. The self-righteous attitude of those who demonstrated their good deeds had sickened them for years. No, to the cynic the whole world is at fault; everybody else is to blame for their ills and the terrible state of the world; all this “hunger and thirst for righteousness” leads to nowhere; we’ve seen it all before – people don’t change- it’s the way it is.

But – there were also present that day those who truly hungered and thirsted for righteousness; they saw a wonderful promise in those words of Jesus – “they will be filled.” Yes, they agreed with the cynics about the Pharisees and those who self-promoted in the acts of righteousness, – but – they had looked inside their own hearts; they had found the falseness and vanity of their own desires. They, perhaps, in their hearts, had echoed the words of David in Psalm 51: 3 – “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”  And then v7 – “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Or even v10 – “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” These were the folk who hungered for a righteousness beyond themselves – untainted and pure, full of truth and faithfulness. They wanted to be clean – they thirsted for inner peace, wholeness and holiness – they sought forgiveness.

As they heard Jesus that day would they be asking – is this the one promised in Jeremiah 23: 5 and 6? Could this man be the “Branch”? is this man from “the line of David”?  Is this man – “The LORD our Righteousness.”?

Perhaps they would remember the words of Isaiah 51: 6 “But my salvation will last for ever, my righteousness will never fail.” Or v10 “But my righteousness will last for ever, my salvation through all generations.” Would they understand the words in Isaiah 51: 1 and 2 – “Look to the rock from which you were cut – – – – look to Abraham, your father”? we are told in Genesis 15: 6 – “Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Could they – by faith – take hold of the promise that Jesus gave that day – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”? Was faith in God the answer? Later, if they heard the words of Jesus in John 3: 14 – 15 – “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” – would they have struggled with their faith? Is it possible for the unrighteous to enter the kingdom of heaven by believing in Jesus?

Was this the revelation that the apostle Paul had when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus? The righteous Pharisee, Paul, who said of himself in Philippians 3: 5 “as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” But then, in Philippians 3: 9, Paul expresses his desire – “To be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness which comes from God and is by faith.”  Had he learned that all his “righteousness is as filthy rags” Do we see this again in Romans 3 where in v.10 he says – “There is no-one righteous, not even one.” And then goes on with several OT references to prove his point. Then we come to Romans 3: 21 – “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”  A righteousness from God? – v22 – “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Is this possible – that we who have – “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” – can be “justified freely by his grace.”?  Later, in Ephesians 2: 8, Paul writes – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

The promise that Jesus gave that day – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” – is parallel to that which Peter quoted in Acts 2: 21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Is this your experience? Peter continues in Acts 2: 38 “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – is this saying – “they will be filled”?

Perhaps following the words of Isaiah 51: 2 – “Look to Abraham, your Father.” – Paul – in Romans 4: 3 quotes Genesis 15: 6 – “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In Romans 5 Paul argues that – “The man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Time and space do not permit me to continue with Paul’s arguments in Romans 4 but I would like to include v16 – Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring.” That is – the people who believe God. I suggest you read Romans 4 v.22 – 25 and ask yourself – do I believe?

In Matthew 5: 6 we have a promise – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, – – for they will be filled.” The questions are: – How hungry and thirsty are we? – and – What are we actually hungry and thirsty for? If the answers are – truly and God’s righteousness – then the promise – “they will be filled.” – is yours. When I first became a Christian, I know how desperate I was for God’s righteousness. Many things changed in my life but I was disappointed to find that I hadn’t become perfect. Eventually I learned that there is a continuous sense to the promise – “they will be filled.” In the Lord’s grace – I find that whenever I return – hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness – the promise of Jesus is fulfilled. The promise continues to this day. I have also found, as stated in Isaiah 32: 17 “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.” – How wonderful it is to have peace with God and to know his presence in love. Don’t you find it amazing that God is offering to us, the unrighteous, his Righteousness as a free gift? He is “The LORD our Righteousness.” (see 1 Corinthians 1:  30)

On a Sunday mornings, we confess our failings before the Lord. How sincere are we and what are we seeking?  Let’s finish by using the traditional words as our prayer of confession and then follow with the Lord’s prayer.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, – we have sinned against thee and against our neighbour, – in thought and word and deed, – through negligence, – through weakness, – through our own deliberate fault. – We are heartily sorry and repent of all our sins. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, – who died for us, – forgive us all that is past, – and grant that we may serve thee in newness of life to the glory of thy name.                                           Amen

For absolution“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, – – for they will be filled.”

Our Father in heaven, – hallowed be your name. – your kingdom come, – your will be done, – on earth as in heaven. – Give us today our daily bread. – Forgive us our sins – as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation – but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours – now and for ever.                                                                                   Amen

May all our hearts be assured of His Righteousness at this time.

“The LORD our Righteousness.”

Midweek Bridge 20 May 2020

Prayer: (based on Colossians 1:9-10)
God our Father, please fill us with the knowledge of your will, with all the wisdom and understanding that your Spirit gives, so that we may be able to live as you want and always do what pleases you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

We continue our series in the Beatitudes, which Jesus gave to teach his disciples how to live as his followers. What does God’s blessing mean?

v5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”
You must be joking! These beatitudes get more and more far-fetched. Meek people get nowhere – they are just door-mats!
In the eyes of the world, meekness is weakness. To be meek is to be a wimp – and who wants that?
But the Bible points us to a totally different view of meekness, through wonderful promises, challenging commands, and radical definition.

1. PROMISES TO THE MEEK (sometimes translated humble, gentle)
Please read Psalm 37:1-11.
This lovely psalm describes the blessings of true meekness, especially in v11, which Jesus was clearly quoting. Other psalms set out God’s promises to guide meek people in what is right and teach them his way (Psalm 25:9), to sustain them (Psalm 147:6), and to crown them with salvation (Ps.149:4). Through Isaiah, God promises that the meek will obtain fresh joy in the Lord (Isaiah 29:19), and that the Messiah is coming to bring justice for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:4).
Wonderful promises to those who are meek.
The Bible also contains:

Through the prophet Zephaniah, God commands his people to “seek meekness” before it is too late (Zephaniah 2:3).
In New Testament letters, Christians are urged to “be completely humble and meek” (Ephesians

4:2), to “clothe yourselves with meekness” (Colossians 3:12), to show true meekness towards all people (Titus 3:2), and to receive meekly God’s saving message (James 1:21).

We need these commands because being truly meek does not come naturally: in fact, meekness is the opposite of our fundamental human problem – self-centredness. (I speak from personal experience!)
But the good news is that meekness is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23). So God gives us the power to be genuinely meek.

But how can we know what being meek means? Nowhere does the Bible define it. So:

The Bible shows us very clearly what true meekness is, not by an abstract definition but by real-life examples.
In fact, there are only two people whom the Bible describes as meek – Moses and Jesus.
Moses was “very meek, more than all people on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Yet he confronted the powerful tyrant Pharaoh of Egypt, and led the Israelites out of slavery to the brink of the Promised Land. At the burning bush, the Lord had called Moses to fulfil God’s good plan for his people.  Moses (eventually) obeyed. He shows us that to be meek means to say “Yes” to God’s loving, wise purpose for ourselves and for others.
As Michael Crosby wrote, “Meekness means committing our lives to fulfil God’s plans”.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as God’s anointed King, “meek and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). His gracious invitation is “Come to me…Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). So we, as his disciples, are to learn from him what true meekness is. Jesus shows us that to be meek is not to be pushed about, but to discern and choose God’s way, whatever the cost.

Moses and supremely Jesus, give us the blueprint for meekness.

But what about “inheriting the earth”?
The promise is to inherit, not to own, the land/earth; i.e. to receive it as gift, not as something to be earned. Writing to the Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul describes himself and his co-workers as “having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10). He reminds them that “All things are yours…all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). That is just as true for Christians in Southbourne (or wherever) in 2020AD.
As John Stott wrote, “The condition on which we enter our spiritual inheritance in Christ is not might, but meekness, for…everything is ours if we are Christ’s”.


Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
in perfect harmony, the man who is God…
Bow down and worship, for this is your God.

Prayer: May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day,
              by his love and power controlling all I do and say.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.


Midweek Bridge 13 May 2020

Lord Jesus Christ we come to you. You are Life, and Health and Peace.
Take from us all that hinders your Spirit. In your mercy, wash away our sin and fear.
In faith we claim your power to forgive, to heal, and to restore.

Reading: Matthew 5 : 1 -12

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

In a time when there is endless news of sickness and death, we can take comfort from the words of Paul written in his second letter to the Corinthians 1: 3 – 7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to be a support and strength to those we know who are suffering one way or another, because we have found that during our own times of darkness God is with us “even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.

As we consider verse 3 of the beatitudes however, we understand that it is part of a sequence of expressions that Jesus gave his disciples. Last week we considered being poor in spirit and now Jesus gives us the response to our spiritual poverty which will bring a blessing. We mourn, not for the loss of a loved one, but the loss of our innocence, the loss of our true relationship with God and the anxiety and misery that follows. Confessing our spiritual poverty is one thing but to be truly happy in Christ we need to repent, we need to turn away from our former lives and live in obedience to God’s Word in Jesus Christ.

Once upon a time a man was given a donkey but unfortunately it would not submit to any instructions no matter what the man did to it. He decided to take the animal to a donkey trainer who had a good reputation for dealing with difficult cases. After a great deal of pulling and pushing the man delivered the donkey to the trainer who put it into a small field. The trainer walked to one corner of the field and straining, picked a large boulder. He staggered over to the donkey, lifted up the rock and smashed onto its head. He then went to another corner, lifted a boulder and repeated the process. The owner, by this time, was concerned that he might end up without a donkey at all. The trainer went to the third corner and lifting another rock walked to the donkey and was about to smash it down onto the head of the somewhat dazed animal when the owner panicked and exclaimed his concern. The trainer looked at the man saying, “look, if I am to teach him anything I have to get his attention!” (This method is not recommended by the RSPCA).

What is God saying to our generation? Will our nation, so damaged and disrupted by this pandemic, return to Christ? We as God’s chosen people, having repented of our own sins,  are called to mourn for the apathy and sins of our nation and pray that there will be repentance and a renewed faith in God through Jesus Christ.

A prayer:

We thank you heavenly Father that we have a sovereign who is always willing to express her faith in Jesus Christ, bless her we pray. We pray also for our political leaders, may they be guided by your spirit in all their debates and decisions in this unprecedented time. We pray for our nation that they will be open to the gospel and that we as your people will be light and salt for all to see and know. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Last Sunday evening we would have prayed for all those we know who are unwell. Please use the weekly notice sheet and pray for each of our brothers and sisters by name.

Prayers for healing:

Heavenly Father we come in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit and pray for all those of our church community who are unwell in body mind or spirit

Alison who has a functional neurological disorder
Julie who is now in a care home in Southbourne, but she has not settled in too well.  She is lonely with no visitors and still struggles with her many disabilities.
Fleur who is having is having treatment for breast cancer
Dot who has broken her wrist and is suffering with pain in her hip
Andrea who has broken her tibia bone behind her knee
Leanne who has anorexia and is in St Ann’s Hospital

We ask that you bring comfort, peace and healing to each one of them just now.
Jesus, in faith we claim your power to forgive, to heal, and to restore.
There will be those known to you who are not on the list so pray for them in the same way.
Let us now pray for all those who continue to care for our nation:
Heavenly Father, we pray for all those who serve the public health in the NHS,
For those who work in hospitals, hospices and residential homes and those caring for loved ones at home.
For those wounded and damaged in mind and spirit in war,
For those broken by bereavement, for those who bear their burdens alone.
For all in pain in body, mind and spirit.
Jesus, in faith we claim your power to forgive, to heal, and to restore.

The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen

The Blessing:
Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you; all things are passing, but God never changes!
Patient endurance achieves all things; those who belong to God want for nothing, alone God is sufficient.
And the blessing of God Almighty
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

Midweek Message 6th May 2020

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Over the next two months our mid-week messages will be exploring and expounding the Beatitudes – recorded in Matthew 5:1-12. With these words Jesus began his “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7), teaching his disciples. So, this instruction is NOT about how to become a Christian, but how to live as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I frequently say to friends and family (in person or on the phone) “God bless you!” We often pray for God to bless someone in particular need. What do we mean? What does being “blessed by God” involve? The Beatitudes open up the wonderful, extraordinary meaning of God’s blessing.

But these words are among the “hard sayings” of Jesus; not hard to understand, but hard to put into practice. As Mark Twain wrote, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand”.

So I think we should start with a
WARNING: this teaching of Jesus should seriously affect the way we live.

Reading: Matthew 5.1-12

V3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
What a way to run a universe, or to start a religion! To assert that real life is found in being poor! Yet these words have inspired people such as Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa. They have shaped monastic and missionary communities, have given hope to the desperately needy, and have guided many of the most influential people in history.
But these words puzzle us. Their message seems to threaten the foundation of our culture, even our personal hopes and agendas. Robert Warren writes that this beatitude “clashes with the values of a consumer culture; runs counter to our perceptions – endlessly reinforced by the myths of advertising – that happiness lies in having much; and confuses us because we struggle to make sense of what Jesus meant”.

Why did Jesus say this?
In the Old Testament, people of faith acknowledged their poverty before God. Often the Psalmist cries out “I am poor and needy”. In Psalm 34, David describes himself as “this poor man”. As Hannah prays, she knows from personal experience that the Lord “raises the poor from the dust” (1 Samuel 2:8).

Then the Lord Jesus Christ came, bringing “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18; Matt.11:5). The poor are the ones who come to him, seeing in Jesus a source of hope and rescue. The poor are those desperate enough to ignore social rules and cry out for help, as Bartimaeus did (Mark 10:46-52). Simon Tugwell writes, “It is really only the poor who can, actually, have anything, because they are the ones who know how to receive gifts. For them, everything is gift.”

What did Jesus not mean?
Taken by itself, this beatitude might be taken as encouraging an attitude of self-rejection – “I’m useless”, “I’m no good”. Robert Warren describes this as “a great big inner put-down”.
But Jesus cannot have meant this: in Matthew 5:13-14 he describes his followers as “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”. Later he assures them of their value to their Father God (Matthew 6:25-33 and 10:29-31).
So being poor in spirit does not mean having a negative attitude to ourselves.

What did Jesus mean?
To be poor in spirit means to be like Jesus in his humanity.
The apostle Paul wrote “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor…” (2 Cor.8:9).
We can glimpse the poverty of Jesus in his baptism: (please read Matthew 3:13-17). The sinless Son of God submits freely to the Father’s purpose. He chooses to become poor in spirit: he is open to God as the one who defines him (v17).
Far from self-rejection, Jesus shows us that being poor in spirit leads to a strong sense of self-acceptance as a result of divine acceptance.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Self-rejection is the great enemy of the spiritual life, because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us “Beloved”.”

This beatitude (like all the others) is a glorious paradox. To be poor in spirit is to live life to the full, to possess the infinite riches of heaven – of God himself.
“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”.

Prayer:           Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind!
                        Sight, riches, healing of the mind –
                        all that I need, in you to find:
                                    O Lamb of God, I come.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

The Bridge Midweek Message 29th April 2020

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30: 15

Prayer: Help us, Father, as we come before you acknowledging the folly of our lives, help us to enter that glorious rest of faith, to take hold of the joy of our salvation and to offer our lives in your service,  in peaceful assurance of your grace, confident of your mercy and faithfulness in all the circumstances of our days.

Collect: Almighty God, who inspired your apostle, Peter, to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: build up your church upon this rock, that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.                                

Reading:  1 Peter 2: 1 – 12

 “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house”

To support his arguments of the previous chapter Peter turns to many promises from the Old Testament. To help me understand this passage I see it as a multi-layered sandwich the central layer being v6 – 8. In those verses Peter uses three quotations from the Old Testament to strengthen his argument. Let’s go back to those original quotations in the Old Testament.  

First: from v6Isaiah 28: 16 – 17a – So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation: the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb-line;”

We, like Peter, have come to recognise this “tested stone” as the Lord – “a sure foundation”. In most buildings the foundation remains unseen but, as we accept its presence by faith – “the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” – we find God’s justice and righteousness become the reference lines in the building of his “Spiritual House”. – As we go on to 1 Peter 2: 7 – Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. And, indeed, we do find him precious as we believe – But to those who do not believe, – the next two quotations give a warning:

Psalm 118: 22 – 24 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; The LORD has done this and it is marvellous in our eyes.

And then in v8Isaiah 8: 13 – 14 – `The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread and he will be a sanctuary; but for both the houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.

To those who follow the way of the Lord – he will be a sanctuary; – but, for those who reject the Lord, – the capstone – Peter says – “They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they are destined for.” This follows OT teaching (ref Deuteronomy 28) – those who follow God’s way are destined to receive rich blessings but those who reject God’s way are destined for punishment. – But – we must never forget the words spoken to the rebellious in Isaiah 30 v18 – “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.”

Peter has written this letter to those who do believe and follow the way of the Lord – I hope that includes all of us. This brings me to the first middle layer of my sandwich – v4 and 5

v4 – As you come to him, the living stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – v5 – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are fond of saying that the church is not the building but the people and, in our present situation, we are without a building or even the means to physically come together in fellowship but – As you come to him – the living stone – – – – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house. The building of the “Spiritual House” continues and we are seeing this daily in the various ways we have been communicating in love at this time. This brings to my mind Isaiah 56: 7 “these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – – A Spiritual House?

1 Peter 2: 5 continues – to be a holy priesthood – holy unto the Lord and, being priests, accepted at the altar of the Lord – offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Isn’t that wonderful? That we are able, freely, to come before the Lord; as we are being built into his Spiritual House as living stones –through Jesus our Saviour and – yes – our sacrifices are acceptable to God.

Which brings me to the lower, middle layer of my sandwich v9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Do I have to say more? – a chosen people – priests to the King – a holy nation. In Isaiah 26: 2, we read – Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. A, worldwide, holy nation of faith and we are members of that nation – isn’t that amazing? Then in v10 – Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Can we really grasp God’s grace? Once we weren’t a people but, now, we are a people who belong to God – a chosen people – a holy nation – a holy and royal priesthood bringing acceptable sacrifices and praises to God and being built into a spiritual house. – all that and more through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

So now let’s go back to what Peter has been saying to us. As we have been so wonderfully blessed through the grace of our Lord, Peter tells us to examine our lifestyle – first in the top layer of the sandwich. We start with a “Therefore” which refers to chap.1 and the continuation of the discussion in these verses from chap.2

1 Peter 2: 1 Therefore, because of all that we have in Jesus – rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  – – (Repentance and rest??) – – Let us indeed get rid of all those things which hinder our walk with the Lord – and then -2 and 3 Like new born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. Let us seek the spiritual food – – (Quietness and trust??) – – that will cause us to grow in faith and in the knowledge of God for we have certainly tasted that the Lord is good.

Then, lastly – in the bottom layer of the sandwich: v11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Again – let us rid ourselves of all those things which rob us of our peace with God. Jesus said in Matthew 5: 16 “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” And so, Peter finishes this section with v12: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

A holy priesthood – a chosen people – members of a worldwide nation of faith – being built into a spiritual house – our sacrifices of praise being acceptable on the altar of God – Therefore – – let us rid ourselves of all that hinders our walk with the Lord and offer ourselves in service to him, especially in these times.

Many years ago, my wife and I were faced with a real desert experience; we were very young Christians. The Lord spoke to us through the chorus of a hymn:

Channels only, blessed master, but with all thy wondrous power,

Flowing through us, thou canst use us, Every day and every hour.

Over the years that have followed we have passed through many deserts – as I’m sure you have – but we have always found that as we have offered ourselves once more to the Lord we love – yes, often through repentance – we have entered that promised rest of faith and in confidence and trust we have been able to move forward in the Lord’s purposes. We are a holy people – a nation of faith. Let us as a church at this time offer ourselves – as an acceptable sacrifice – to be those channels of the Holy Spirit and to let His wondrous power flow through us, out to this sad world., a world to which he longs to show compassion.

Prayer: Father, we can only stand amazed at all that you have done for us – – once we were not a people but – now – we are your people. Help us Lord to rid ourselves of all that hinders us in our walk with you and to offer ourselves as an acceptable sacrifice in service for your glory.         Amen                                                                                      

As living stones being built into a spiritual house let us join our minds, first in a prayer of reconciliation then in our family prayer:

Prayer: Father, we have sinned against heaven and against you. We are not worthy to be called your children. We turn to you again. Have mercy on us, bring us back to yourself as those who were once dead but now have life through Christ our Lord.          Amen

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.                                                                                   Amen

May the Lord’s peace reign in our hearts.


The Bridge Midweek Message 22nd April 2020

Collect: Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-25

About 30 years after that wonderful barbecue breakfast on the beach with the risen Lord Jesus, Peter wrote to Christian believers who had been scattered (isolated?). He gave them a message of comfort, hope and encouragement to stand firm. He writes “Be holy in all you do” (v15).
I wonder what picture or image comes to your mind when you read that. What does it mean to be holy? What does a holy person look like? Someone with a long face? A grey, colourless life? It is easy to assume that holiness is for some people, but not for us: it is for monks, nuns, missionaries, clergy – but not for ordinary Christians like us.
The Bible gives us a very different picture of holiness. George MacLeod wrote “We should be biblically holy – that means facing up to the totality of life, in the power of the cross”.
Peter writes “Be holy” to ordinary Christians like us. In today’s reading we can see why we are to be holy, and what it means to be holy.

1. Why we are to be holy
Peter gives two basic reasons:
a) Because of Relationship
A Christian is someone who has a new relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can see this indicated in v14 (children), v17 (Father), v23 (born again), v22 (brothers).
God has adopted us into his family by grace: he has brought us into the closest relationship with him. He calls us to be like him (vv15-16). Holiness is simply taking on the family likeness.
I expect you have heard it said “You’re just like your father/mother!”
To be holy is to be like God our Father.

b) Because of Redemption
Peter writes “You were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ” (vv18-19). Jesus is the Lamb of God, sinless and spotless. We have been bought by God: the price has been paid, by Jesus giving his life on the cross for us.
The apostle Paul wrote “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Do you know how much God values you? Therefore, be holy.

2. What it means to be holy
Peter tells us what being holy involves:
a) How we think
“Prepare your minds for action” (v13). Literally “Gird up the loins of your mind”! In Peter’s day people often wore long flowing robes; so, for action, those needed to be hitched up – so they didn’t get in the way. An Olympic athlete does not run a race wearing a long overcoat and Wellington boots!
Holiness involves our mindset. In vv13-14 we are urged to self-discipline. Discipleship means discipline, including our thought-life. What do we spend time thinking about? What are we longing for most? What is our hope fixed on?
Our mind is a battle-ground (2:11): we face strong pressures to think as the non-Christian world does; e.g. adverts tell us we “need this”, we “must have that”, or we will be missing out.
Holiness starts with our thought-life.

b) How we behave
“Be holy in all you do” (v15). At home, at work, on holiday, in shops, behind the wheel…
Picture your life as a house with various rooms: there are to be no rooms where Jesus is not welcome and honoured as Lord.
Do we think of some tasks or jobs as “holy” and others not? God wants holy engineers, holy cleaners, holy business-people, holy teachers, holy carers.

c) How we love
In v22 (and in 4:8) Peter writes about our Christian relationships: “love one another deeply/fervently/earnestly”, (literally “stretched-outedly”). This sort of love is not just a feeling, but is active, hard-working, thoughtful.
Relationships within the Christian community are vital. Being holy includes loving people we may find unattractive or difficult or tiresome! Let us thank God that in these weeks of “lockdown”, we are experiencing more of what it means to love one another.


But perhaps you feel that this biblical holiness is too demanding, impractical for ordinary Christians. If so, please see what Peter writes in chapter 2 verse 9: “You are…a holy nation”. In other words, the call to be holy is simply “Be what you are in God’s sight!”
And God gives us his Holy Spirit, to change us from the inside out.

“As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said “I am holy; you be holy.”” (vv14-15 The Message)


Prayer:            Take my life and let it be
                        all you purpose, Lord, for me;
                        consecrate my passing days,
                        let them flow in ceaseless praise.

                        Take my love – my Lord, I pour
                        at your feet its treasure-store;
                        take myself, and I will be
                        yours for all eternity.

The Family Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.


The Bridge Midweek Message 15th April 2020

They still did not believe for joy’ (Luke 24:41).

I love that translation of verse 41 in Luke chapter 24. On Easter Sunday evening many churches all around the world will listen to Luke’s brilliant description (in Luke 24:36-49) of what happened at the end of the first-ever Easter Day—when the Risen Jesus surprised the disciples, gathered fearfully and secretly in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem, by suddenly appearing in their midst and giving them ample proof and evidence that he was indeed back from the dead and gloriously alive!

In the final episode of my audio-book, The Week that Changed the World, which some of you might want to listen to during this coming week, I try to help listeners to imagine what it must have been like to be in that room: no more than 25 people (Jesus’ young male disciples, plus the two back form Emmaus, plus Jesus’ female followers including his mother, Mary) all wide-eyed with disbelief and then hugging and clasping each other with the unexpected thrill and excitement of having their beloved Master and Teacher back with them again. All the horrors and nightmares of the preceding Friday suddenly fall off their grieving shoulders, and they can start to live again.

So many different emotions will have eddied around that room, as each individual found themselves being swept along by a rapid tide of unexpected wonder, whilst bumping into the stubborn rocks of disbelief and normal reality. “He’s alive!”, they find themselves saying. “But he can’t be!”, they then hear the rational part of their brain objecting in reply. Conflicting emotions—both within each one of them and then between each of them—will have swirled through the room, engulfing them and overwhelming them.

All of this is caught so pithily by Luke in those few words: ‘They still did not believe for joy’. They did believe, but they did not believe. They wanted to give way to the tidings of joy, but they could not fully give themselves over to that joy—for fear it might be an illusion which, once proved false, would send them crashing backs onto the rocks of despair.

I well remember the first time I heard someone preaching on this passage and highlighting the power and brilliance of Luke’s wording here. I was a young man, myself studying in Jerusalem at the time, and I was there in church one evening in the Easter season to hear this godly Anglican bishop unpacking this phrase and helping us all to see its paradox and sense its power: ‘they dis-believed for joy’!

Caught within those few words are two parallel journeys: the disciples are simultaneously being moved from doubt to faith and from despair to joy. Twenty-four hours earlier they had all been in the ‘slough of despond’ (to use an apt phrase from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress). They had been racked by doubt and drenched in despair. Their Master was dead, rejected by their own religious leaders and crucified by the Romans. The powerful effects of his ministry had been snuffed-out, causing his wonderful teachings and powerful miracles to become a sad and fading memory, best-forgotten. As Cleopas succinctly put it, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel!” (Luke 24:21). But by that Saturday evening all those hopes had been dashed to the ground—and indeed buried under the earth. Truly that was a time for doubt and despair.

But now…! But now … the Master seemed to be back from the dead! Could it possibly be true? Were their eyes deceiving them? If it were true, they could rush headlong to the other extreme immediately: from darkest doubt to fullness of faith, from deepest despair to genuine joy.

But could they? Could they really set out on that rapid journey? What if it were indeed an optical illusion? Or what if the figure seemingly before them proved to be only a ghost? What if they were somehow being cruelly tricked and taken on a wild-goose chase? What if the Evil One were playing some cruel, sick joke on them?

We know some such questions must have been surging through them all, because of Jesus’ calm questioning: “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (v. 38) But Jesus goes on to allay those fears and conquer their doubts, as he proceeds to show them the nail marks in his hands and feet and then eat some fish before their eyes (vv. 40-43).

And so they gave in to faith; and they let their hearts give way to joy. Both pathways had been opened up for them by the Risen Jesus: he gave their rational minds the hard evidence they required so that their hearts could be invaded and flooded with love and joy.

And, because the Risen Jesus is alive today, he can open up both pathways for us too. He does this supremely whenever anyone moves from disbelief in Jesus to personal faith in him, whenever someone is ‘converted’ or ‘born again’ and comes to put their own personal trust into the reliability of Jesus. At that moment an individual can rush from one end of the spectrum to the other in an instant: from doubt to faith in a matter of seconds. Yet we all know that, once we are believers, we inevitably ‘come and go’. We wax and wane. “Two steps forward, one step back”. We set out on the journey but there are things which knock us down. Sometimes we seemingly hit brick walls and feel ricocheted by the rebound. We believe, but we find ourselves also saying, “help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Easter is the time in the year when we are given an annual opportunity, by focusing again on the solid rock and reality of Jesus’ Resurrection, to blast through those walls of unbelief; we can blow away the cobwebs of doubt, and open the windows of our hearts to let in a strong breeze of fresh, clean air. We all get troubled and ‘let doubts rise in our minds’—not least by our own fear of death and our worries for those we love in this time of national emergency—but this Easter season we can be those who, invited by Jesus, let our spirits once more rise up in faith and confidence and who let our hearts dare to give way to joy.

Doing that is always risky. There can be fears lurking deep down within us—fears that it might all be untrue, fears that our trust in Jesus’ Resurrection is unfounded and that we will turn out, after all, to be ‘of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). There can also be a real reluctance emotionally to open our wounded hearts up to the possibility of joy, only to be bruised again by cold disillusion and harsh disappointment.

But this Risen Jesus will not let us down. His Resurrection is a Rock of Reality on which we can build with confidence and can cause us to look into an unknown future with hope. For on that first Easter Day he indeed opened up this double pathway—from doubt to faith and from despair to joy. So, in this Easter season, let our minds dare to give in to faith; and let’s dare to let our hearts give way to his joy! AMEN

THE WEEK THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: following the in the steps of Jesus from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. If you would like to listen to Peter’s recording of the events of the first Easter Day, please phone 01202 037375

  • Your call will last 13 minutes and will be charged at normal local rates.
  • For the full 12 instalments, giving you a complete Audio-Guide to Holy Week (albeit one week late!), please visit https://walkwaybooks.com/the-week

The Bridge Midweek Message 8th April 2020

The Bridge Midweek Message 1st April 2020. Thank you to David for this message

The Bridge Midweek Message for 25th March 2020

Prayer: Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

Reading: James 5:1-12

The Covid-19 pandemic raises big questions. How long is this going to last? Who knows? How will we be able to cope if it goes on for months? years?? How should we live?

“Be patient” says James. He writes his letter to first-century Christian believers, to encourage them in difficult times. They had big questions. They faced injustice and oppression because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were tempted to give up. “How long is this going to last?”

Throughout the centuries and today, many Christians face opposition and persecution. In fact, that is the “normal” situation for faithful disciples. Jesus said “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also….In this world you will have trouble” (John 15:20 & 16:33).

James 5:1-12 addresses two different groups of people:
vv1-6 is a warning to wealthy land-owners who were oppressing poor Christians.
vv7-12 is encouragement for Christians who were suffering for their faith, whether because of the land-owners or for some other reason. We’ll focus on this section, particularly on the three exhortations which James gives.

1. Be Patient! (v7)
Four times in vv7-10 James refers to being patient. Christian patience is not just sitting back and waiting for something to happen (like waiting at a bus stop). It is active, joyful, faithful endurance in the face of trials and testing, as James wrote earlier in his letter (ch. 1:2-4, 12). So if we ask God to make us more patient, we should expect more testing!
This patience is a result of God’s gracious work in our lives: it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Be patient! How long? Until Jesus comes again!

2. Stand Firm! (v8)
Literally, “Strengthen your hearts”. Your faith is not based on outward circumstances, whether good or bad. It is not based on your feelings. It is not based on people’s opinions, or the fads and fashions of society. It is not based on your health or wealth.
Your faith is founded on the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4): on the promises of God and their fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. So stand firm in faith, because His coming is near.
Stand firm! How long? Until Jesus comes again!

3. Don’t Grumble Against Each Other! (v9)
Don’t complain against others. We live in a “blame culture”: it is easy to “point the finger” at others, but when we do that, three fingers point back at us! Jesus told his disciples, “Do not judge”, and James echoes his words here. There is only one rightful Judge, to whom all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from whom no secrets are hidden. He is at the door!

James ends this section of his letter in verse 11 with the fundamental reason for us to be patient, stand firm in faith, and refuse to grumble: “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy”. He knows. He understands. He loves. That is the ground of our confidence and security, whatever happens.

Prayer: Merciful God, teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty, that trusting in your word, and obeying your will, we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Thank you to John for writing this for us.

Category: Prayers , The Bridge , Thought for the week