The Midweek Bridge 6 April 2022

Thank you to John for this message

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.

You may know the French phrase “Noblesse oblige”. Roughly translated, it means “Privilege entails responsibility”. That is a principle which many people, whether Christians or not, would agree with. The Lord Jesus said “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

In today’s verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he reminds his readers of their privilege and their responsibility as a Christian community. These truths apply to any church, at any time. They are relevant for us at St Christopher’s, in 2022 and every year. This Saturday (9 April) we gather for our Annual Church Meetings and to consider “The Way Ahead”. The principles in these verses provide vital guidelines for our life as a church, now and into the future.

Reading: Philippians 1:27-30

In this passage the apostle Paul urges and exhorts the Philippian Christians to be united and courageous in the face of a hostile world. He reminds them firstly of their

Neither Paul nor the Philippians, (nor we), know precisely what lies ahead. Life is uncertain (v20). BUT “whatever happens”, they are to live in a way which is worthy of the gospel – the good news of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. That involves having gospel unity and gospel courage.

a) Gospel Unity
Paul emphasises this in v27: “…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind fighting side by side for the faith of the gospel”. The gospel is about reconciliation – breaking down barriers; fundamentally the barrier between us sinful humans and the holy God; but also the barriers between people, whether based on class or gender or race. So “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
So God intends his church to be a living demonstration of unity in Christ – gospel unity. But that is not always easy: so Paul writes “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

b) Gospel Courage
The church is in a battle, and always will be until Christ returns. (That is why the old Prayer Book refers to “Christ’s Church militant”.) The struggle is not against people, but “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12) So the Philippians need to be resolute in “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (v27). There was then, there is now, and there will be, opposition to the gospel. The gospel is wonderful good news – but it is bad news for arrogant human pride which thinks highly of itself and tries to ignore or discredit God.
So the church is to be bold in proclaiming the gospel and living it. That is gospel courage.

For the Philippian church (or for any church) to be united and courageous in the face of opposition is a challenging responsibility. So now Paul writes of their

PRIVILEGE (vv29-30)
“God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.” What an extraordinary statement!
Paul and his companions had experienced hostility when they brought the gospel to Philippi (Acts 16:19-24), and he knows that the Philippians are now facing similar opposition. But he asserts that to suffer for Christ’s sake (“for the faith of the gospel”) is actually a God-given privilege! How different from our western culture, which seeks easy and comfortable living. And that culture infiltrates the church also.
Many of our Christian sisters and brothers, in places such as North Korea, Afghanistan and Eritrea experience terrible suffering for the sake of Christ – yet they testify to God’s grace and goodness to them. They see suffering for Christ as a badge of honour, a privilege. We in the 21st century U.K. may not undergo any such horrendous experiences, but we may well have to endure hardship or social ostracism if we follow Christ faithfully. In some circles, Bible-believing Christians are criticised, despised, even vilified for our convictions and our proclamation of the gospel.
May God grant us the grace to see suffering for Christ as a privilege.

Privilege brings responsibility. As we in the St Christopher’s church family consider “The Way Ahead”, may we discover afresh
a) the wonderful privilege of knowing God’s grace to us as a church, and
b) the awesome, joyful responsibility of faithfully proclaiming and living out the gospel…. WHATEVER HAPPENS!

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

The Midweek Bridge 30 March 2022

Thank you to David for this message

Philippians 1 : 20 – 26

20:  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

21:  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

22:  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!

23:  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

24:  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

25:  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

26:  so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

My mother, who passed away last year, lived to be 100 but towards the end of her life she suffered ill health and the constant theme of her conversation was her wish to be with her Saviour. Being a life-long Salvationist she keenly anticipated her “Promotion to Glory.”

Paul, in house arrest in Rome, felt under constant threat of violence and death. He explained that his hope was that he would have sufficient courage in the face of this persecution that the Name of Jesus would be glorified whether he lived or was executed.

Life would mean a continuation of his ministry to all the churches he corresponded with, and the people he was able to speak to, about the Gospel. Death would see him in the arms of his Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. Paul expresses this in his famous words:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

In Paul’s mind the choice to live or die rests with him in his precarious position. One inflammatory word or action could easily elicit a violent response. Paul, however, chose to continue living, even given his restricted liberty, because he could continue his ministry of encouraging people in their faith and joy in Jesus Christ.

As Christians, born into eternal life, we have no fear as to our eternal destination. We are called by God, filled with the Holy Spirit and gifted for ministry. We work for him until, in his time, he calls us home. As we get older we can feel that our usefulness declines but as my mother realised intercessory prayer and encouragement can become immensely powerful ministries to the church.


Heavenly Father empower us by the Holy Spirit to be sure of our hope in Jesus Christ and to live for him every day until he calls us home. In the Name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 23 March 2022

Thank you to Richard for this message


Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Now last week John dealt with what could be called a little branch line which was important for Paul to deal with (about mixed motives in serving Jesus). Now he returns to the theme. In verses 12-14 Paul had explained that his imprisonment (or house arrest) because of Jesus was something that although awful for him was actually advancing the good news of Jesus and that others who maybe have been a timid were now speaking the word of God.

So there is something here about suffering and somehow being able to rejoice through it. This is of course – to our 21st century western ears – complete nonsense. How can anyone rejoice in hardship or misery? Our culture says (for instance): “you deserve a break” – “you’ve worked hard – so you should have comfort” or “if misfortune comes upon you – it must be someone’s fault – so claim on your insurance.” Suffering is something to be avoided – to extricate yourself from as soon as possible – to put behind you.

In an atheistic culture, suffering has no point. It is, of course, unfortunate. But it has no use as such, except maybe as something to learn from. But Paul seems here to be indicating that the very thing we would want to avoid, the very thing that we may fear, the very thing that is so awful is the very thing that somehow God uses to carry out his purposes. It is interesting to note that in Mark’s gospel (that we are working our way through on Sunday mornings) the writer records Jesus as saying:

“that the Son of Man must suffer many things…be rejected…and must be killed…and after three days rise again” (Mark 8: 31-32) and variations on a theme in Mark 9: 31 and Mark 10: 33-34.

What is almost disturbing to our western ears is that Jesus is saying here that he MUST suffer.

Have you suffered because of Jesus? Maybe mockery. Maybe a response that has caused you hurt? Maybe hostility. Or hardship. Maybe wrongful accusations. Or a relentless battering of “stuff” that has happened that has caused you misery. Or a myriad of other ways. Or maybe you have suffered in the sense that had you not been a Christian the suffering you have encountered would not have happened. It was only because you were a Christian you have suffered.

Let me put this as gently as lovingly as I can: I have tasted in some way this pain. I know the tears and the heartache. The tears maybe for different reasons and different depths of pain; but they are tears nonetheless. What I would dearly love you to know is this: is that this Jesus of ours, who has experienced suffering that we couldn’t dare to imagine, would never leave you alone to suffer alone; because he has done that for you.

Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews says: God is not unjust: he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6: 10). So don’t give up.

You see it is possible that there is a place to get to where the wounds we carry from the suffering (whatever the depth or breadth or width) are almost something precious. And it is because the wounds we have are wounds that we share with Jesus. They almost become battle scars of honour. That somehow we suffer with Jesus.

You see, although Paul doesn’t say this explicitly, he is saying that despite these misfortunes that have befallen him; these are the very tools of God’s trade. God is the great recycler. Because, to use theological language, God is sovereign, He’s in control. Because he can use the very thing that you are struggling with.

So when you are going through the mill, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Give that pain and struggle and awfulness to him. You don’t know how things will turn out. But in the same way that after a while, it became apparent to Paul that God was using the fact that he was in chains as a way to further Christ’s kingdom, then it can be apparent to you too. You see, it is almost as if God has pulled back the curtain of the divine plan and shown Paul a quick glimpse of what he (God) is up to. So this is about turning to God and pausing and giving him the situation and maybe asking: “Lord, what are you doing here?“ or “Help me understand”. And as my Mum often says: “these things will become clear.”

And this is how Paul can rejoice – he somehow sees God’s plan – however dimly – and that God has deemed it appropriate to use Paul. And almighty God can deem it appropriate to use you too. What a lovely thought: God would use foolish, error-prone, sinful people like you and me.

May God add his blessing to this portion of scripture.

In Jesus’ name


The Midweek Bridge 16 March 2022

Thank you to John for this message

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. Amen.

Please spend a few moments considering these questions:
1) Have you ever done the right thing for the wrong reasons?
2) Are you aware of sometimes having mixed motives for the good things that you do?
3) What really matters to you?

Those questions challenge us as we read the next 4 verses in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.

Reading: Philippians 1:15-18

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of warmth and gratitude and encouragement, as we have already seen in the opening 14 verses. He writes from prison (or at least house-arrest), but the keynote of his epistle is joy. In fact, he uses the words “joy” or “rejoice” no less than 14 times in this short letter.

But not all is sweetness and light. 

1) REAL MOTIVES? (vv15-17)
These words should jolt us! Envy, rivalry, selfish ambition – how is it possible to preach the good news of Jesus Christ with such attitudes? How can the gospel be proclaimed with such wrong motives?

We don’t know exactly who these people were, but Paul seems to include them in the category of “brothers in the Lord…who speak the word of God” (v14). So they are not false teachers or preaching heresy: they are apparently proclaiming the gospel faithfully.
There may be a clue in the word Paul uses in v17 – the word translated “selfish ambition” can mean “party spirit”, i.e. with a divisive or sectarian attitude. The same word is used in chapter 2 verse 3, where Paul urges the Philippians to “do nothing out of selfish ambition”: rather, they are to live in unity of spirit and purpose, with loving humility (vv1-4).

A divisive attitude was in evidence also in the church at Corinth. Paul writes to them about divisions among them: “Some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ”. (1 Corinthians 1:11-12) So Paul appeals to them “that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”.
As at Corinth, so at Philippi, there were evidently some believers who did not like Paul. (That is true today, when some people seek to discredit clear New Testament teaching by saying it is “only Paul’s words”.) Perhaps they were jealous of Paul’s “success”. Maybe they had a wrongly competitive spirit in preaching the gospel.

Whether we are preachers or not, what are our motives in proclaiming the good news of Christ? We are not “Televangelists”, whose motives may be tinged by a desire for popularity or money. But are we motivated purely by love – love for God and love for people (v16)? Or do we want (secretly) to be approved by others, or to be seen as “successful”?

“Man sees your actions, but God your motives”, wrote Thomas a Kempis.
How are your motives? Mine are often mixed (at best). I pray in the words of Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…. you perceive my thoughts from afar….Search me, O God, and know my heart…See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:1-2, 23-24)

How does Paul react, in view of the motives of those who wished him ill? We might expect a fierce denunciation of their hypocrisy, and a warning of God’s judgment. But instead, Paul rejoices that “Christ is preached”, whatever the motives!
What really matters to Paul is that the gospel is proclaimed as widely as possible, by as many people as possible. He knows that the good news of Christ crucified and risen “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16); and that this is true even if those who proclaim it have dubious motives. Paul recognises an objective power in the message of the gospel, which is independent of the messenger.

This is like Jesus’ attitude recorded in Luke 9:49-50: the disciple John tells Jesus “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” Jesus responds “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

The apostle Paul clearly “does not mind if people have impure motives or are trying to damage him and his case. His only concern is that Christ is preached.” (W.Henry and M.Penny)
And that gives Paul great joy!

What really matters to me? to us? to St Christopher’s people?
What are our real motives?
In his grace and power, the Lord is prepared to use us, in spite of our mixed motives, to share what really matters – the wonderful good news of Christ. Hallelujah!

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.

The Midweek Bridge 9 March 2022

Thank you to David for this message

Philippians 1 verse 12 – 14

12:  Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

13:  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

14:  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

After greeting the church members in Philippi and expressing his thanks to God for them Paul writes about his hopes for them. He then writes about his own circumstances as he knows that they would have concerns about his wellbeing.

The events which caused him to be imprisoned in Rome consisted of one difficult situation after another. In Jerusalem Paul was wrongly accused by the Jews and nearly lynched by a mob and only escaped a flogging by claiming his Roman citizenship. He was kept in prison and became a subject of mockery and injustice until in the end he appealed to Caesar and was shipped off to Rome. A long sea journey was a hazardous enterprise and he suffered a life-threatening shipwreck. When he eventually got to Rome justice was very slow and he was imprisoned in chains, uncertain of his future for two years and yet he could write, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

These events are detailed in Acts chapters 21 to 27 and in the narrative Paul is continually guided and comforted by God the Holy Spirit and a series of Christian friends helped him along the way.

Paul wrote in Romans 8 : 28:  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

It must have been frustrating for Paul to be at the centre of the empire but restricted under house arrest, yet it appears that he had been able to witness to the soldiers who have been appointed to guard him day and night. In their own way they were a captured audience and Paul could claim that over time the whole of the palace guard were aware of the Gospel.

Although physically restricted Paul obviously exercised a great deal of freedom in teaching and preaching the Gospel as well as corresponding with churches. If the local Christians had feared opposition and arrest Paul demonstrated that despite his chains he was bold in speaking for Christ. Following his example Roman Christians obviously felt encouraged to witness to Jesus Christ with greater boldness.

The lesson for us is that wherever we are and whatever our circumstances we should always be willing to declare Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord in the knowledge that the Gospel is powerful and effective in changing peoples’ lives. We may never know the results of our witness but be assured that God is able use us in the most unexpected ways.


Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of the pioneer Christians who took your Gospel to the ends of the known world witnessing for you in the most difficult of circumstances. Help us, by your Holy Spirit, to follow in their footsteps wherever you may call us.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen

The Midweek Bridge 2 March 2022

Thank you to Ian for this message

Philippians Ch.1 v.9 – 11

The text is below – Please read it as a prayer for St Christopher’s.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ –

to the glory and praise of God.

Paul knew that it was highly probable that the folk in the many churches in which he had taught; people with whom he had served, people with whom he had enjoyed deep fellowship, he would never see again . As a shepherd of the flock he carried in his heart a deep concern that each member of those churches would grow in ever deeper knowledge and understanding of God the Father; he knew that all that and more came through love. In the prayers he wrote to each church can be found the spiritual secrets that keep us firm and confident in our walk with God; this prayer in Philippians reveals essential keys to those spiritual secrets.

The – so that – that starts verse 10 indicates that the essential prayer is verse 9 and verses 10 and 11 are the desired outcomes of that prayer. Thus – so that you may be able to discern what is best – as a result of your response to the prayer in verse 9, you are able to understand the right way for you – and – in obedience to that discernment – so that – you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ – you are able to present yourself before the Lord, today, in his righteousness and his grace.

To understand Paul’s prayers we should remember that Paul’s place of reference was the Old Testament and therefore it is to the Old Testament we need to turn. For example, for the phrase – so that you may be – – filled with the fruit of righteousness – we can turn to Isaiah ch.32 v.17: – The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

Imagine – walking with God in peace, quietness and confidence – facing life calmly and without stress – at peace within. Hosea 10 v.12 does indicate an effort on our part in order to enjoy the fruit of righteousness: – Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Paul’s prayer that we might be – filled with the fruit of righteousness – now opens up with – filled with peace, quietness, confidence and the fruit of unfailing love. But, Jesus said in Matt. 5 v.6: – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Hosea tells us to break up our unploughed ground and Jesus talks of us hungering and thirsting for righteousness; there is something we have to do to enjoy the fruit of righteousness. There is a danger when we just claim – as Paul taught in 1 Cor.1 v.30 – that Christ is our righteousness and then we fall into a self satisfied, spiritual apathy. Are there areas within our lives that need a bit of ploughing? Are there deep rooted brambles and weeds that need tearing out? Have we stopped hungering and thirsting for righteousness? When is it time to seek the Lord?

Does the first part of Paul’s prayer provide the key to a fruitful relationship with God? – V.9 – And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

Again, by referring to the Old Testament we might obtain a clearer understanding of Paul’s prayer. Jesus tells us that the first commandment is to “love the Lord your God”  If I insert those words into Paul’s prayer – that your love – for the Lord your God – may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, – do we see a little more clearly what Paul is praying?

Let’s rewrite the prayer and then read it as a prayer for St Christopher’s at this time:

Heavenly Father – We ask that the Holy Spirit help us to grow ever deeper in our love for you – our heavenly Father  – and that in our love for you we will find ever increasing knowledge of you and a richer understanding of your purposes and the direction you would lead us at this time such that the love you pour into our hearts by the Holy Spirit will fill us with abundant love for one another, binding us ever closer together in our service for you, and overflowing into the community around us. We ask, Lord, that in that love we may enjoy the fruit of your righteousness and so walk humbly with you in peace and quietness, confident of your unfailing love. – All this – to the glory and praise of – you, our – God.

Isaiah 32 v.15 – till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.

Time to go ploughing and sowing?

The Midweek Bridge 23 February 2022

Thank you to Mark R for this message

Prayer : Thank You Lord for Your amazing love for us. Please help us to see that love today as we come to Your Word, and help us to love as You have loved us. Amen.

Philippians 1 : 7 – 8

‘It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.’

When I opened my Bible to look at today’s verses in Philippians, I was immediately struck by that little phrase at the end: ‘I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus’

What sort of thoughts come to mind when we think about Jesus?

We might picture Him in the Gospels, walking on water, feeding the 5000 with a few loaves and fish, maybe raising Lazarus from the dead.

Or we might think about His birth, His life, His death, and Resurrection.

But have we ever thought about His AFFECTION?

If ever there was a letter in the New Testament that could be described as ‘affectionate’, it’s this letter of Paul’s to the Philippians. It’s full of warmth and encouragement, despite Paul’s circumstances, being in house arrest in Rome, and awaiting possible death through execution.

What is it that enables Paul to write this letter, brimming over with affection for the Church in Philippi?

2 things:

  1. The affection of Christ, seen in the Gospel
  2. The affection of Paul for those he writes to, coming from the Gospel which saved him.

Let’s look at these in turn.

  1. The affection of Christ, seen in the Gospel.

Affection is a wonderful word. In the Hebrew it refers to ‘a person’s inward parts’, or the seat of the emotions. It’s when a person ‘loves with all their heart’.

The actual Greek word comes from ‘spleen’ or in the Hebrew, it refers to ‘bowels’, and the thought behind it is that the affection is not skin deep, or on the surface; it comes from the inward parts. It is deep inside.

It’s the affection that existed before time began; that love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It’s the deep love that compelled the Son to leave Heaven and come to earth, to lay down His life for us, so that we could experience His grace and mercy, and know His love for us.

I recently read these words: ‘The affections of Christ are the way He sees His people and feels towards them. It is one of the highest joys of the Christian to encounter the affection of Christ.’

In John 15:9 we read these words of Jesus: ‘As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you’

And in John 17:23, He says ‘Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me’

Christ’s heart overflows with love and affection. John’s Gospel and John’s letters bear continual witness to this. And it’s His love that calls Jesus to go to the cross for us, to reconcile us to God.

Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:8: ‘But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’

Those words remind me of that scene in Genesis, where Abraham takes his beloved son Isaac up the mountain, in obedience to God, to sacrifice him.

Isaac asked the question: ‘Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’.

Abraham replied: ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’

But the part that always gets me is the next phrase: ‘And the two of them went on together’.

A substitute was provided for Isaac; a lamb was provided in his place.

But there was no substitute for Jesus. As the hymn says: ‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in’

Father and Son went on together to the place where the Son would lay down His life for us.

It’s this love, the grace of God in the Gospel, which has captured Paul’s heart, and set it on fire with love for Jesus and those he came to share the Gospel with in Philippi.

Which leads to our second point: The affection of Paul for those he writes to, coming from the Gospel which saved him.

Remember the meaning of the word ‘affection’? Kindness, compassion, mercy, coming from the inward parts. It’s not a ‘skin deep’ love. It’s a supernatural love that comes from God, and transforms us. Transforms us to love with the same love and affection that Jesus has for us.

This is what lead Paul to Philippi in the first place. As he shared the Gospel in that place, a small group of believers came together: Lydia, the Philippian jailer, a slave girl, and many others were born again and transformed by the Gospel.

How do we know? One of them, Epaphroditus,(Phil 4:18) comes to Paul, bearing gifts from all the church members at Philippi.

The affection of Christ that had been planted inside Paul has now also been planted inside the Philippians!

The Gospel has changed them, and here we see the Gospel in action!

Despite the trials and tribulations, the Philippians and Paul have found a joy in the Gospel, in the affection, love, mercy and grace of Jesus that unites them and brings them together. In fact their suffering in the Gospel deepens their love for each other as suffering often does.  And they are mindful of each other’s needs.

And the message for us from these 2 verses?

Let’s pray that the grace of God in the Gospel, the affection of Jesus, will transform our affections for Him. Remember the words of John to the angel of the church in Ephesus? ‘You have lost your first love’ (Rev 2:4).

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would freshly reveal to us the affection of Jesus – that incredible love that Paul speaks about to those same Ephesians, ‘to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’(Eph 3:18).

And may we share the same heartbeat of Paul, his affection, through our unity, and through our love for each other. It’s that love that the world desperately needs right now.

The Midweek Bridge 16 February 2022

Thank you to John for providing this message

Almighty God, you alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity.
Give your people grace to love what you command, and to desire what you promise,
that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

We have just started a new series of midweek messages, based on the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In last week’s message, David described the city of Philippi and the beginnings of the Christian community there (which we can read about in Acts 16). Paul’s letter reveals a wonderfully warm and affectionate relationship between him and the Philippian church – “the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi” (v1). That warmth is evident from the opening verses.
Although midweek messages may cover only a few verses at a time, there is great value in having an overview of the letter. So please try to read through the whole of Philippians in one sitting: it will take only 10-15 minutes.

Reading: Philippians 1:3-6

How would you describe the prayer-life of St Christopher’s church? And what about your praying?Regular?  Sporadic?  Faithful?  Difficult?  Exciting?  Dull?  Disciplined?  Easy?  Wearisome?
Maybe a mixture of all of these!

Paul starts his letter to the Philippians, as he starts many of his letters to churches, by assuring them of his ongoing prayers for them. In verses 3-6 we can see three hallmarks of his praying: these can and should be characteristics of our praying, too.

1. THANKFUL (v3)
“I thank my God at every remembrance of you”. The first Greek word Paul uses in v3 is “eucharisto”, meaning “I thank”; so his prayer for them is “eucharistic”. In nearly all of Paul’s letters to churches, he expresses thanks to God for those to whom he writes (e.g. Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Colossians 1:3).

Thankfulness to God should be a hallmark of every Christian. The faithful German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “In ordinary life we hardly realise that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” And the poet-priest George Herbert wrote this prayer: “Thou hast given so much to me….Give one thing more – a grateful heart.”

Not only does Paul pray with thankfulness; he urges the Philippians (and us) to be full of gratitude in our prayer-life: “in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). We are to be thankful, not just for our own situation, (such as the blessings of food, shelter, health and families), but also for others, especially for God’s grace in their lives, for their faith and love.

Our praying is to be thankful.

2. JOYFUL (vv4-5)
“ every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy”.
Philippians has been described as “the epistle of joy”. The words “joy” or “rejoice” occur 14 times in this short letter. Paul is in chains, yet he rejoices in the Lord, and urges his readers to do so too (Phil.3:1 & 4:4). God intends every one of his children to live a life of joy, whatever their situation. That joy does not depend on outward circumstances, but is fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

But why does Paul pray joyfully for the Philippians? He tells them in v5: “because of your partnership (fellowship, sharing) in the gospel…” The Philippians had received the gospel (the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ) through Paul and others, and now they are involved in spreading the gospel. Paul reminds them that they “shared with [him] in the matter of giving and receiving” (Phil.4:15). Their practical support and help he describes as “partnership”.

We at St Christophers have a great privilege and opportunity in sharing gospel ministry with our “Mission Partners”, by praying and by practical or financial support.
It is a joy to pray with and for our partners in serving the Lord, whether in Southbourne or London or Burkina Faso or southern Russia!

Our praying is to be joyful.

“…being confident of precisely this, that the One who began a good work among you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul trusts in God’s power and faithfulness to keep his promises to the Philippians today, and tomorrow, and the next day…until the Lord Jesus returns in glory.
Paul is NOT confident in his own upbringing or ability or experience. Later he writes that he puts “no confidence in the flesh”, even though he has reasons to do just that! (Phil. 3:3-4). Paul is not like Maria in “The Sound of Music”, who is very happy to sing “I’ve got con- fi- dence in ME!”

When we pray, we are to be confident, not in ourselves or our eloquence or our prayers, but in God’s promises, his word. For example, think of the promises Jesus makes: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” “Keep on asking and it will be given you.” (John 15:7,16; Matt.7:7).
And think of the wonderful promise in Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

But what if nothing seems to happen when we pray? Even the apostle Paul experienced apparent disappointment in prayer (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We can trust God and rely on his loving wisdom and faithfulness, whatever happens or does not happen.

Our praying is to be confident.

Concluding Prayer
Gracious Father, we praise you that you hear and answer prayer. Please grant that our praying, and the prayer-life of St Christopher’s, may become more and more thankful, joyful, and confident. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 9 February 2022

Thank you to David for this message

Philippians 1 verse 1 – 6 (NIV 1984)


The ancient city of Philippi in Macedonia, northern Greece was a Roman city with a large population of Greeks and a small Jewish community. Whilst at Troas Paul had a vision in which a man of Macedonia  spoke to him saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately Paul and his followers made their way to Philippi the main city of that region, (Acts 16 ).

The first convert to Christianity in Philippi was Lydia a wealthy Jewish businesswoman. She invited Paul and his team to lodge within her household while in Philippi. Unfortunately their stay was cut short by Paul and Silas being arrested for disturbing the peace after healing a young slave girl who had a gift of divination. Her owners were angry as they had been making a great deal of money out of her.

As a result of a miraculous escape the jailor and his whole family were converted and when Paul and Silas declared that they were Roman Citizens the authorities panicked and quickly released them, and after visiting Lydia they were encouraged to leave the city.

Although their stay was cut short Paul and his followers had planted the seed of the Gospel as well as making some cherished friends in Lydia and the jailor and his family.

1:  Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

This letter was written by Paul, it is thought, while he was in prison in Caesarea, in about 58 – 60 AD. In the greeting Paul does not think it necessary to address himself as an apostle, just a servant of Christ, indicating that he was confident in the love and respect he and the Philippian Christians had for one another. This letter is the only time that Paul mentions overseers and deacons although we are not given any information what their function was.

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

3:  I thank my God every time I remember you.

4:  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

5:  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

6:  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

After his greeting Paul recalls the love he had and indeed still had for the church members of Philippi who made him so welcome and supported him even in difficult circumstances. He writes not as an overseer but as a partner in the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. His confidence in them stems from the time he spent teaching them personally, setting them on the Christian path of faith, day by day, until God was to call them home or Jesus come in glory.


Heavenly Father,

We thank you for all those who have opened the good news of Jesus Christ to us, who have helped us on our spiritual journey and continue to love and cherish us for the kingdom of God. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen

The Midweek Bridge 2 February 2022

Thank you to Ian for this message

Ruth chapter 4

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”             Micah 5 v.2

The text of chapter 4 is included in italics below and, as I have rearranged the order it might be easier to just follow it as I have written.

Prayer: Father, we rejoice in the story of Ruth as we see your divine purposes unfolding. Help us now to fully appreciate the depth of your love and faithfulness experienced daily in our lives.   Amen

In the first 3 chapters of Ruth, we have enjoyed a story of kindness, love, faithfulness, humility and generosity; we have seen the compassionate spirit of God’s law in action on behalf of the widow, the poor and the alien. In chapter 4 we learn the importance of the law of the kinsman-redeemer to God’s plan of redemption and we come to understand why some centuries later a young, heavily pregnant woman and her faithful husband had to make that difficult journey to Bethlehem. We also discover how a sandal became essential to God’s plan of redemption.

The punch line is found in the last verse: – Obed the father of Jesse, And Jesse the father of David. Thus, I have decided to use backward chaining to approach this last chapter. We start with v.18 – 22.

v.18 – 22 – This, then, is the family line of Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.

Hezron the father of Ram

Ram the father of,

Amminadab the father of Boaz,

Boaz the father of Obed,

Obed the father of Jesse,

And Jesse the father of David.

The genealogy of Jesus (recorded in Matt. ch.1) informs us that the mother of Boaz was Rahab. She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the spies sent in by Joshua; (Joshua ch.2) a Canaanite woman who committed herself to serve the God of Israel and later married an Israelite called Salmon.

Perez was the son of Judah. His mother was Tamar; another woman who when widowed was refused the support of a kinsman-redeemer. It is a tragic story to be found in Genesis ch.38 but it confirms that the tradition of the kinsman-redeemer predates Moses; it also indicates how important that tradition was to God’s redemption plan.

In Genesis ch.49 Jacob is giving a blessing to each of his children – the 12 tribes of Israel. In his blessing for Judah, we read in v.10 – “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” – A clear prophesy of a future king coming from Judah and the King of Kings to follow. However, we find in Genesis 38 that the sons of Judah were not behaving as they should and it was through Tamar’s unconventional but understandable behaviour that Perez was born and the family line that produced David began.

It is possible that that family line would have come to an end with Boaz if he hadn’t married Ruth as he doesn’t appear to have any other surviving children than his son through the Moabitess, Ruth; it was her arrival and the law of the kinsman redeemer that enabled David’s family line to continue.

Three strong, forceful and faithful women – Rahab – Tamar – Ruth – are founding mothers in the line of Jesus the Messiah, our Saviour; the last of the strong women in that royal line is Mary the mother of Jesus.

Back in Ruth ch.4 – V.16/17 – Then Naomi took the child, laid him on her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Obed means restorer and here we see the restoration of Naomi as a mother and grandmother and to her place in Bethlehem; Jesus is our restorer.

And again, in ch4 v.14/15 – The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” We see praise for Ruth the Moabitess widow who was faithful to her commitment to follow and serve the God of Israel. (Ch.1 v.16)

V.13 – So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Let’s just pause for a moment and imagine what that wedding day was like and the joy at the birth of a son. Let’s then look forward to our eternal dwelling made possible through the birth of that son – the restorer – and later the birth of the Son of God – Our Saviour and restorer.

What’s more Ruth and Boaz received the blessing of all the important people of the town of Bethlehem – v.11/12 – Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” It really is amazing but one can see God’s redemption plan unfolding in the story of Ruth and Boaz.

But last week we left a situation in which there was another man who was of nearer kinship to Naomi and Ruth; how did Boaz deal with that? Let’s go back now to the beginning of the chapter. – v.1/2 – Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. The town gate was where all legal matters and business were agreed; everything was done and recorded before witnesses.

V.3/4 – Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so that I will know. For no-one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

Boaz had started with the land that had belonged to Elimelech. Of course, the man would be happy to have that but would he accept the responsibility for Ruth and Naomi as kinsman-redeemer? v.5 – Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

Ah! A problem – v.6 – At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” You might have noticed that we are never told the name of this man who has just refused to accept the responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer. To explain the consequences of refusal we need to go to Deut.25 v.7 – 10:

“However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the gate and say my husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to me. Then the elders of the town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her.” His brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s line.” That man’s line shall be known in Israel as the Family of the Unsandalled.”

In this case the man who is refusing to be the kinsman-redeemer is the nearest relative to Naomi and it is Boaz dealing with the situation so there is no spitting before the elders and Boaz dealt with it under the traditions of a business venture – but the man’s name remains unknown. v.7/8 – (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalising transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. He became the unsandalled; we will never know his name.

That removal of the sandal before the elders was sufficient and v.9/10 – Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!” The rights of the widow are secured.

Next time you put on your sandals just remember their importance in God’s redemption plan.

V.13 – So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. We don’t know whether Ruth saw her great-grandson who would start a line of kings which led to the King of Kings – our kinsman-redeemer. v.17 – The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. David’s star is still central on the flag of Israel.

Boaz had respected to the letter the requirements of the law and by so doing he had gained the support of the community of Bethlehem; in those days it was the law of Moses that held Israel together as a nation. The letter of the law applied to the kinsman-redeemer is offensive to our modern culture but in the story of Ruth and Boaz we find the spirit of that law. It was established to protect the widow, the alien and the inheritance of the poor. In Ruth’s story we find love – faithfulness – humility -kindness – sincerity – generosity – wisdom – compassion and many more flavours of the spirit of the law; humility met with humility and love flourished.

Today we are under the royal law of love, forgiveness and grace and those things which offend us in the law of Moses were dealt with on the cross. However, we must always respect that law because it gives us a redeemer – Jesus Christ our Saviour – and it is the disciplines within that law that lead us to repentance, forgiveness and redemption.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for all those, often difficult, stories in the Old Testament. We thank you Lord that the people we meet in those stories are full of the human weaknesses that we experience today. Help us, Lord, to value the lives of all those people who made it possible for us to have a redeemer.                                  Amen

There is a redeemer

Jesus, God’s own Son,

Precious Lamb of God, Messiah

Holy One.

Thank you, oh my Father

For giving us Your Son

And leaving Your Spirit

Till the work on Earth is done.

The Midweek Bridge 26 January 2022

Thank you to Ian for this message

He (God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. –      Deut. 10 v.18/19

Reading – Ruth ch.3 – The text is included in italics

Prayer: Help us Lord in this beautiful story to understand the message you have for our hearts today.                                              Amen

The last verse of the book of Judges (21 v.25) reads – “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” – No central system of government, just a group of tribes held together by the law that God had given to Moses. Yes, many did turn to the gods of the nations around them but there were always those who were faithful to God and faithful to the law of God. In this book of Ruth, we see the spirit of that law applied by faithful people. In Middle English (12th – 15th centuries) the word – ruth – meant kindness; today we still have the word – ruthless – which means, without kindness. Kindness is in the very nature of God and is a clear objective of the law.

Lev. 23 v.22 reads – “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest, leave them for the poor and alien. I am the LORD your God.” – We have already seen this in action with Ruth in the fields of Boaz. – Kindness and generosity, key principles in the laws of God.

Love and kindness are evident in the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. v.1 One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Those two words – “My daughter” – speak of love and the rest of the verse speaks of the sense of responsibility that love had brought to Naomi. She continues – v.2 Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight, he will be winnowing barley on the threshing-floor.

The laws of property and kinsman’s responsibility were God’s protection for the widow, the poor and their inheritance. – Lev.25 v.23/24 read – (God is speaking) “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide redemption of the land.” – So came into being the year of Jubilee. Every 50 years the land had to be returned (redeemed) to its original owners; all land sales were based on that cycle.

The responsibility of the kinsman is shown in Lev.25 v.25 – “If one of your country men becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his country man has sold.” – The kinsman becomes – ‘the Kinsman Redeemer’ – this is an act of kindness. But what if the poor man dies before the year of Jubilee? Then his descendant can re-possess the land. But what if the man dies leaving a childless widow, who then will inherit the land?

Deut. 25 v.5 provides the answer but we must put it into the culture of the times to understand it. Basically, – The Kinsman Redeemer is to marry the widow and their first child will inherit the poor man’s land at the year of Jubilee. The poor man’s widow and his inheritance are protected under the provision of God’s law.

This is the scene we find in the book of Ruth. It can be assumed that Elimelech sold land before going to Moab but he died leaving Naomi a widow. Then both her sons died leaving Ruth a childless, alien widow. Unless a Kinsman Redeemer comes forward then the land is lost and both Naomi and Ruth are left as widows without any means of support; that would be against the spirit of God’s law. Will Boaz take on the responsibilities of the Kinsman Redeemer; a real act of kindness and obedience.

Naomi gives Ruth her instructions – V.3/4 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing-floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.  When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”- That would take a lot of courage for Ruth but she loves and trusts her mother-in-law so she says – v.5/6 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing-floor and did everything here mother-in-law told her to do. – Humble obedience and trust.

Ruth had washed herself after her labours in the fields and put on clean clothes. Boaz had also been working all day in the threshing-floor and needed a meal and rest. – v.7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. Ruth was lying at his feet taking the position of a humble servant. – Love flourishes when humility meets with humility; pride and arrogance cannot understand love. – How will Boaz, the rich landowner, react?

V.8/9 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.  “Who are you?” he asked. Confused in having just been awakened. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer”. A humble but clear request, Boaz knew the law and the responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer

v.10/11 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you have showed earlier. You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

His use of the phrase – “my daughter” – indicates the age difference but also his affection for Ruth. In his answer he shows his respect for her and her kindness to Naomi; Ruth is valued and considered of noble character. I would say that humility met with humility.

But there is another who has a claim on Ruth’s future – v.12/13 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

It wouldn’t be wise for Ruth to walk home in the dark on her own but also it wouldn’t be wise for a woman to be seen there. v.14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognised; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing-floor.”

Boaz wanted to convey his sincerity and intended generosity but also to provide a message that Naomi would understand. v.15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town. Boaz had work to do before he could become the kinsman-redeemer.

v.16/17 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it do my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-it-law empty-handed.” – There is debate about the significance of the – ‘6’ – measures; one possibility lies in the creation story. On the sixth day creation was completed; everything was good. On the 7th day God would enter into the day of rest. 

We don’t know what Naomi understood in the message from Boaz other than her reply indicates her confidence that all would be well and the rest for her and Ruth was just ahead. – v.18 Then Naomi said. “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

Well, the end of the story comes next week but what can we gain today as Christiansfrom this chapter? Let’s return to that request of Ruth’s in v.9 – “I am your servant Ruth,” she said, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer”. The prophet Ezekiel used that phrase in ch.16 v.8 – God was talking to a rebellious Israel in exile – “- – when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.” – God had redeemed Israel from slavery, established a covenant with them and constantly expressed his love and hopes for his people but they broke that covenant of grace.

Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself, taking on human flesh he became a man – a kinsman – as a servant he offered himself as our kinsman-redeemer; on the cross he paid our debts and offers to us redemption and an eternal covenant. Does his humility meet with humility in us or has pride and arrogance robbed us of our kinsman-redeemer? In love he offers to each of us a covenant of grace and eternal dwelling with him.

Don’t continue to hover on the 6th day. When on the cross Jesus cried – “It is finished” – everything was good; the work of redemption was completed. Take that step of faith and accept Jesus as your kinsman-redeemer and so enter into the rest of faith for today and an eternal inheritance with him.

Prayer: Lord we accept your love and pray you will always enable us to meet your humility with humility.                                         Amen  

Ex.15 v.13 – “In your redeeming love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”                        The song of Moses and Miriam

The Midweek Bridge 19 January 2022

Thank you to Mark R for this message

Ruth chapter 2

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the Book of Ruth and all it teaches about Your grace and mercy. Please open our hearts to hear Your Word to us today. Amen.

As we come to the Book of Ruth we discover a family beset by all sorts of trials: famine in the land, a journey to find food in a foreign country (Moab), the death of Naomi’s husband, and the death of her 2 sons-in-law.

It’s no wonder that on her return to Bethlehem, Naomi laments:  “The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune on me” (Ruth1:21).

But we’ve also discovered Naomi has not been left on her own.

Her daughter-in-law Ruth has stuck loyally beside her.

Right at the beginning of this Book, it’s as though we’re being prepared to hear about Ruth’s future Descendant…One who will stick loyally beside us at times of trial and trouble…

Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’s genealogy…and guess who His great great (etc) grandmother is? Ruth!

But there’s more, because as we come to Chapter 2, as we’re introduced to another member of Jesus’s family tree…Boaz.

Chapter 2 opens with Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem at the start of harvest.

God has already started to open the door to reveal to them His grace and mercy, right in the middle of their trials and poverty. Harvest means there is a way for them to find food.

But it’s not food from any old field.

This field is going to be a SAFE field to find food in because it belongs to Boaz, a relative from the family clan of Naomi’s deceased husband Elimelek. (In those days poor people ‘gleaned’ the leftover grain that was left behind in the field after the workers had gathered the harvest.)

As we’re introduced to Boaz in Chapter 2, we immediately get the sense of someone who is going to look after Ruth (and her mother in law Naomi).

In verse 20, Naomi summarises Boaz’s character when she says: “The LORD bless him…he has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead”

Earlier we see his kindness when we read in Ruth 2:8-12:

8.”Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me —a foreigner? ”

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband —how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to find refuge”.

“…under whose wings you have come to find refuge”.

Psalm 91:1 says this:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

And the in v4 we read:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Ruth was about to experience just how true those words were.

Her loyalty to her mother in law had meant leaving her own country, Moab; leaving behind all that she knew including the gods she had been brought up to trust.

But now she had taken the step of sticking by her mother in law who was in great distress.

She had travelled with her to a place and people she did not know.

And yet it was through her decision to leave behind the old and step into the new, that she would discover “the shelter of the most High”, and under HIS WINGS she would find refuge in the middle of disaster and destitution.

Boaz, the owner of the field, and the one who offers her food and protection in that harvest field in Bethlehem, is described as the family’s “kinsman redeemer”

The kinsman redeemer in the Old Testament was a male relative who had the responsibility of acting on behalf of a relative who had encountered hard times.

The term simply means someone who delivers or rescues.

When we come to Chapter 3 next time, we’ll see a beautiful picture of how this deliverance happens as Ruth, unable to rescue herself, asks Boaz to cover her with his protection, redeem her, and to make her his wife.

Chapter 2 not only sets the scene for chapter 3…it also prepares us to look forward to the time many years later, when the ultimate Kinsman Redeemer that Matthew spoke about in his genealogy, steps on to the stage of world history, born in Bethlehem, born to Deliver and to rescue us from sin, to cover us with His own righteousness.

Like the OT figure of Boaz, Jesus comes to our rescue when we call out to Him in faith. He promises never to leave us, or forsake us. Wherever we are, we can call out to Him today, trusting in His promises to us.

Hebrews 4:14-16 says this:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Midweek Bridge 12 January 2022

Thank you to John for this message

We begin a new series of four mid-week messages, based on the Bible story of Ruth. (The books of Ruth and of Esther are the only Bible books with female titles.)

Ruth who?? She was a Moabite woman, not an Israelite. But she was the great-grandmother of King David. And she was an ancestor of great David’s greater Son – the Lord Jesus Christ. Have a look at the genealogy of Jesus as recorded by Matthew (chap.1), in which Ruth is one of only five women mentioned, including Jesus’ mother Mary.
The book of Ruth was probably written during the monarchy in Israel, by an unknown author. It is a simple but profound tale of ordinary life, which reveals God’s intimate concern in humble affairs.

I warmly recommend that you read the whole story at one sitting.
I also recommend that you get hold of an exposition of Ruth which I have found most profound, fresh and helpful. It is called “A Loving Life”, by Paul E. Miller, published by IVP. (

Holy God, faithful and unchanging, enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth, and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The word “love” does not occur in the book of Ruth, apart from a mention near the end (4:15). But Ruth is a real love story. In the actions and words of the characters, particularly Naomi & Ruth & Boaz, real love is revealed. And as we begin to grasp the true nature of love, we begin to see the heart of God. This is a story that points us to the gospel of God’s redeeming love.

The story of Ruth is set “in the days when the judges ruled” (1:1). The previous verse, the last verse of Judges (21:25), grimly summarises that time in Israel: “everyone did as he/she saw fit”. Most of the book of Judges depicts a period of spiritual and moral degeneracy. In many ways, “the glory had departed” from God’s people (1 Samuel 4:21).

Our own 21st century western culture has lost many of its Christian moorings. Secularism and pluralism seem to be the dominant influences. “If it feels right, or if it makes you happy, do it!” is the maxim. We live “in the days when feelings rule”. As a result, our world is full of broken promises and relationships.

The book of Ruth is a bracing antidote to that. It is about love that endures. It is about surviving, even thriving, in a collapsing world. It asks questions about love: What is love? What is the cost of love? What does it mean to love when you get no love in return?
Questions about community: How do we create it? What is the glue that keeps us together?
Questions about gender: What does it mean to be feminine? What does a godly man look like?

As Paul Miller writes in the introduction to his book:
“The story of Ruth can transform you if you allow it to remap your own story and draw you into a life of love. In a world that is losing its capacity to feed our souls, I hope that the book of Ruth fills your soul, and then overflows into your life.”

Reading: Ruth 1

What does real love look like? What are “The Facts of Love”? We can see several of them in this opening chapter of Ruth.

This book on love begins with Naomi’s family going down into a crucible of suffering. Naomi’s hopes and dreams are shattered, first by famine and forced migration. Then she is widowed. Then she loses both her sons. She is left with no means of support, no protector. She is desperately vulnerable. She has no grandchildren, no future, no reason to live.

So WHERE IS GOD? The names of the people and places seem to ridicule him. Bethlehem means “house of bread” – but there is no food. Elimelech means “God is King” – but Elimelech is dead. Naomi means “pleasant” – but losing her husband and sons has made her very bitter (v20). Reality mocks God. And because Naomi hopes in God, her grief is even more intense. BUT in Naomi’s suffering, real love is being formed.

What do we do when God does not meet our expectations? When he does not do what we’d like? We can so easily give in to despair, to cynicism, to shutting our hearts against God. OR – we can let God use the crucible of suffering to form deep, enduring love in us. This is what the apostle Paul writes: “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance….character….hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

There is a glimmer of hope for Naomi (vv6-7). So she sets out to return to her people in Bethlehem. But what about her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth? They are Moabites; they’d be foreigners to the Israelites – and probably very unwelcome, in view of recent history between Israel and Moab (Judges 3:12-14). Naomi is very concerned for them and their future. So she urges them to leave her and return to their family home. She wants them to experience the Lord’s kindness, just as they have shown kindness to her (v8). That word “kindness” translates the wonderful Hebrew word Hesed (pronounced “hessid”). It means love which is steadfast and faithful; love which endures, whatever happens. Hesed is God’s love, celebrated in many of the Psalms – e.g. Psalm 136, which emphasises (26 times!) that hesed – his steadfast love – endures for ever.
Naomi’s love for her daughters-in-law reflects God’s love. It is unconditional. Hesed keeps on loving, whatever the response may be. There is no “escape clause”: (“I’ll love you as long as…”). Feelings and passions come and go. But hesed is unchanging. The spirit of our age so often says “Act on your feelings!” But hesed says “No: act on your commitments. Let the feelings follow.”

Hesed love is at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’ love at the cross. It is to be our love for one another.

Naomi expresses the brutal truth of the situation for her and her daughters-in-law (vv11-13). She refers to the Israelite law known as “Levirate Marriage”, which was designed to protect widows and guarantee continuance of the family line. See Deuteronomy 25:5-6 (and Mark 12:18-23).
Love does not try to run away from reality, however painful.  Love is able and willing to lament, as Naomi does here.

Christians are commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). We need to praise and celebrate together. We need also to lament together. Real love faces reality.

4. LOVE IS NOT GOD (vv14-15)
When Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, Naomi says something which sounds kind and loving (v15). But is it? “Go back with your sister-in-law to her people and her gods.” Why doesn’t Naomi say “to your people and your gods”? That would remind Ruth that Moab is her true home, and that as a Moabite she is by definition (in that world) a follower of the Moabite god Kemosh. But Naomi knows that Ruth is in fact a committed follower of Yahweh, the LORD, the one true and living God.
Naomi seems to be loving Ruth by focussing on her and her needs. But in doing so she is making an idol of love. She tries to detach love from faith and truth. She must learn that love is not God. Her daughter-in-law’s response will show her.

5. GOD IS LOVE (vv16-18)
Ruth’s reply to Naomi is breathtakingly wonderful and powerful. (This is strong language!) Yes, Ruth is a Moabite. But her true identity now is rooted in Yahweh, the living God; so she belongs to his people. Nothing can separate her from the LORD, so nothing but death can separate her from Naomi. Ruth’s love is God-centred. Her commitment is to the LORD. That is what makes her love so strong – in fact, indestructible. It is hesed love.

What is at the centre of our love? I am sure it is not self-centred. But is it family-centred? Is it child-centred? Or is it God-centred?
Ruth knows that the call of the Lord is to worship him as the true centre of her life, her love. May we know that, too. Because God is love.


Faithful Lord, whose steadfast love never ceases, and whose mercies never come to an end; grant us the grace to trust you and to receive the gifts of your love, new every morning, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 15 December 2021

Thank you to Mark R for this message

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your Word which shows us what is real and what is true. Thank you for Jesus.

Please help us to understand Your Word, and bring light to our hearts, as we look at Amos’ prophetic words today.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Amos 9:11-15

I will repair its broken walls

“In that day “
I will restore David’s fallen shelter —
and restore its ruins —
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name, ”
declares the LORD, who will do these things.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills,
and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted.”

Last time, Richard was showing us from Amos 9:1-10 how God’s judgement was coming on His people due to their sin and their complacent attitude represented in those words: ‘You think you know it all’

The people of Israel were facing destruction, ultimately because of turning their backs on the Lord, seen in their worship of other gods and in their injustice towards the needy and their oppression of the poor, and ultimately in them saying to themselves: ‘I’m going to do it my way’

They thought no harm could come to them because they were God’s people, and safe under His Covenant.

But God is not mocked. As the all-seeing God, He knows peoples’ hearts; nothing is hidden from Him.

And the consequences of Israel’s pride and hard-heartedness would bring God’s judgement on Israel.

Destruction would soon overtake them; within in a short space of time, the Northern kingdom of Israel was taken off into captivity by the Assyrians, and later the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile in Babylon.

It’s a reminder to us, when we’re tempted by our pride to ‘think we know it all’ and go our own way, thinking God will turn a blind eye to our sin.

As 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 says:

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

But as we come to the last verses of Amos today, God’s final Word is not a Word of Judgement…it’s a Word of hope, a Word of restoration.

Yes, Israel would experience the consequences of turning their backs on God, but it was not the end of the story. God’s ultimate plan would not be thwarted.

As verse 11 says:

“In that day

“I will restore David’s fallen shelter —
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins —
and will rebuild it as it used to be,“
Now, how would this ‘fallen shelter’ of David be restored?

It would be restored when a new descendant of David would take up His throne…

No doubt in Amos’ time, his contemporaries must have been wondering when this would be.

Who was this descendant of David?

What signs would announce His arrival?

The New Testament tells us that this ‘greater David’  comes to this earth in the humble form of a little baby, born in a manger in Bethlehem.

No flashes of lightning or peals of thunder. Just the sound of a baby crying in a manger.

What signs will announce His arrival?

Amos prophecies: This descendant of David will cause “New wine to drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills”

What could the prophet Amos be seeing in the future, as this new King, this descendant of David, brings ‘new wine’ to a people waiting for God’s promised restoration to arrive?

I wonder if we see a hint in a little village called Cana, where a wedding was taking place 2000 years ago.

A disaster was looming for the wedding guests as the wine was just about to run out.

But at this wedding is the prophesied descendant of David, Jesus, Who was about to begin His Ministry of bringing restoration to those waiting for God’s promise to appear.

The wine has run out. Jesus changes water into wine. Wine so good that the master of the banquet is delighted and says: ‘You have saved the best to now’ (John 2:10)

This Christmas is an opportunity to think once again of the One who comes to us, to bring the offer of new wine to flow into our lives.

Wherever we are, however we are, the Lord promises to restore us, to give us a future and a hope that will never fade away.

And that hope comes to us in the form of this little baby, born in a manger in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

His Name is Jesus.

Jesus was born to give us life. He was born to show us just how much God loves us.

Jesus was born to die, to take God’s judgement for our sin and rebellion, as He hung on the cross.

Jesus was  born to rise again on the third day to show us that He has defeated sin and death.

Jesus was born to show us that He truly is King David’s greater descendent.

And He was born to restore us to a new and living hope.

In Acts 15:16, James quotes the prophecy of Amos 9 to show that that arrival of Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s restoration plan.

“‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’ —
things known from long ago”

The Acts of the early church are a demonstration that God’s eternal restoration plan has found its focus in Jesus…He comes to rebuild, and to restore.

Let’s conclude our time in Amos with these words from Luke 2:10, as a group of terrified shepherds first hear the words of those majestic angelic beings in the skies above Bethlehem on that dark night 2000 years ago:

‘But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”’

A Saviour…born to us…and for us!

The Midweek Bridge 8 December 2021

Thank you to Richard for this message

Amos 9: 1-12

I remember my Grandma (a formidable wife of my grandfather, a Methodist minister) saying to a relative of mine: “You think you know it all!”

Arguably the Israelites thought they “knew it all”. In their view they were trusting in their covenant relationship with the Lord but He rejected their amalgamated religious worship (see Amos 5: 21-24 as an example – and take heed).

Inch by inch they had compromised and compromised so that they weren’t – as Jesus would put it – salt and light to the world they lived in. In compromising God – we are rejecting God as we are effectively saying: “We know it all.” If God is all wise and we take what God says; add in what our culture says and divide by 2 – are we not saying that our wisdom is greater than God and our culture? How can the things of God be compromised?

So this is where the Israelites had got to. And it was a mess. Everything of God had been compromised in their culture and worship. And it’s all because of what the Bible calls: pride. Pride is a terrible thing. Pride is where we place ourselves in the place of God and decide what is right and what is wrong. And the result is – well – what do we see when we see our world today?

So what is the Lord to do? Does he wash His hands of us?

In verse 1 the Lord speaks of the destruction of the altar (the worship site) and the way in which this was to be destroyed was through an earthquake. The end of verse 1 states that no Israelite will escape judgment.

In verses 2-4 our writer sets out all the hiding places that people may attempt to go to. Such is the pride of humankind that we think we can find a place where God will not go and find us. As a writer once said of Adam & Eve when the Lord asked: “where are you?” – the answer was they were hiding and we have been trying to hide ever since.

And this section finishes with verse 4:

Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. “I will keep my eye on them for harm and not for good.” Isn’t this utterly shocking? But these words reflect the consequences of breaking God’s commandments.

I don’t know how you feel about is but as I reflect on this passage I am aware of my own pride – my deep desire to decide for myself what things are right and wrong and do things my way, independent of the Lord. And I become aware of my shoddiness and lackadaisical approach to the things of God. Am I guilty of “thinking I know it all?”

In verse 4 the Lord says that He will fix his eyes upon them and similarly in verse 8.  Often when a parent “keeps an eye” on their child it is about their tender watch and care but in verse 8 it says the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful nation. And here the dilemma of God is revealed. Oh how the Lord longs for his people to return to him – but how it must pain the Lord when He sees us live with the consequences of our choices because we think we know it all.

But there is a glimmer of hope which Mark will unpack more next week, and David has already referred to and it is in the second half of verse 8 where it is written: “yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob declares the Lord.”

It is through this remnant that God’s plan of redemption will work out. In generations to come, a child will be born who will “reconcile God to man”.

Isn’t God’s plan marvellous? What a mess that culture was? Everyone thought they knew it all but the whole thing was a pack of cards puffed up by people’s own ego. And difficult as this passage may be – aren’t you relieved that God acts and doesn’t leave us alone?

The Lord continues to not leave us alone. Through good times and bad – it is through these events that he is calling you to draw back from thinking you know it all and to return to him.

May God add his blessing to this reading today.


The Lord says

The Midweek Bridge 1 December 2021

Thank you to David for this message

Amos 8 verse 1 – 14

Amos was not a trained, professional prophet. He was an ordinary man with an ordinary job called by God to speak his message to the northern kingdom of Israel although his home was in Judah, the southern kingdom. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel had reported Amos to King Jeroboam suggesting that Amos clear off back to Judah and prophesy there. Undeterred Amos continued his prophetic ministry to Israel. God gave him the fourth of five pictures and then gave him an interpretation.

The Vision

1:  This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.

2:  “What do you see, Amos?” he asked. “A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered. Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

3:  “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies–flung everywhere! Silence!”

God told Amos that the time had come for Israel to face up to its covenantal responsibilities or suffer the consequences. The hustle and bustle of Temple life, the singing, the liturgies, the sacrifices, would cease and be replaced with wailing as a result of vicious violence and death, after which there would only be the silence of desolation.

The Judgement

4:  Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land,

5:  saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”–skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6:  buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

Then God reminds them that their worship was insincere and shallow because although they observed the Sabbath they couldn’t wait to get back to making money, their true god, mammon. Added to that they ignored God’s guidance on morality, honesty and integrity by cheating and exploiting those less fortunate than themselves.

The Punishment

7:  The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.

(God could only swear by himself as there is no greater power and authority in the whole universe!)

8:  “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.

9:  “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.

10:  I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.

11:  “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.

12:  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.

13:  “In that day “the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.

14:  They who swear by the shame of Samaria, or say, ‘As surely as your god lives, O Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’–they will fall, never to rise again.”

Nothing gets past God. He remembers everything  and all unconfessed and therefore unforgiven sins will be punished. Every year the Nile floods it’s banks and then sinks back into it’s usual course. In the case of Israel God says that it is the land that will rise up and then sink, the whole of the natural order will be disrupted and the sky darkened, could this be a warning of an earthquake or volcanic eruption?

The regular rhythm of Yahweh worship will therefore be disrupted and people will shave their heads and wear sackcloth, pleading for God to intervene. Despite the nation’s pleading God will turn his face away from them and although they search the entire length and breadth of the land they will find no one to speak for God. Even the young and healthy will wither and die because they had turned to false god’s instead of worshipping their true God, Yahweh.

We, like the people of Israel have experienced a time of relative prosperity and yet the gap between the wealthy and the poor is huge. We live in a pluralist society and the pressure on the Church to conform to the attitudes and beliefs of the world are immense. These pressures should be resisted, a small compromise now can open the door to others and before you know it we become unrecognisable as Bible believing Christians. The warnings that Amos brought to Israel still apply to us today as God never changes and his love for us demands our complete commitment, anything less incurs his divine wrath.


Heavenly Father, help us by your Holy Spirit to live our lives in accordance with your will, being honest and upright in our daily interaction with people. and as far as rests with us love our neighbours as ourselves. Help us to put you first in our lives being grateful for all that you have given us and being good stewards of our wealth, ever mindful of those who are worse off than us. In the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen

The Midweek Bridge 24 November 2021

Thank you to John for this message

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.

A vital question to ask, when we read or hear any part of the Bible, is:
“If God said that, to those people then, what is he saying to us, now?”

In the 8th century BC, God spoke and revealed himself to Amos, a shepherd from the southern kingdom of Judah. God sent Amos to bring his message to the people of the northern kingdom, Israel.
As we have seen from the last two weeks’ readings (Amos 5 & 6), the message for Amos to give to God’s people was blunt: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!…I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies….Away with the noise of your songs! But let justice roll on like a river…” (5:18-24) “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria…” (6:1)

Now in chapter 7 God shows Amos three visions (with one more in chap.8). Then there is a telling confrontation between official ecclesiastical authority and Amos the shepherd-prophet.

Reading: Amos 7

“The Sovereign Lord showed me…” (vv1,4,7). Through these pictures or visions in vv1-9, the Lord reveals to Amos his character – what he is really like. He is:

Amos is appalled by two visions. The first is of a plague of locusts, formed by God (vv1-2). This is a devastating “natural disaster”. Amos’ response is to beg God to forgive his people (v2b). (“Jacob” is Israel). The second vision is of a terrible fire, summoned by God, which destroys the land and even dries up the sea (vv3-4). This must be a “supernatural” judgment. Again Amos responds by crying to God to have mercy and spare his people (v5)

And what happens next? Verses 3 & 6 are two of the most extraordinary statements in the Bible. “So the Lord relented” is rather a weak rendering. Literally “The Lord repented concerning this”. This does not mean that God’s original intention was wrong, but that in mercy he changed his mind. The Bible gives other examples of God changing his mind, e.g. Jeremiah 18:7-10. God is not compelled by other forces or agents to change his mind, but he chooses to do so.

Please note: God’s repentance is in response to prayers! Amos’ praying was not long or eloquent, but it was marked by:
a) Seeing things and people as God does: “How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” This was not how the people of Israel saw themselves (see 6:1), but Amos saw the reality.
b) Looking to God’s mercy and power: “O Lord God, please forgive…please cease”

Amos’ praying is a model for ours. Here we see the mystery of prayer. It is by prayer that God’s will is accomplished on earth. “Prayer is a means by which the Lord of all brings his determined purposes to pass” (Alec Motyer).

The third vision depicts the Lord standing by a wall, holding a plumb-line (used for ensuring that structures are truly vertical). The wall has been built to specification, but is it still truly upright? The plumb-line must be used, to test it.
What is the plumb-line God uses to test his people’s uprightness? The Lord had made Israel a special people of his own, by redeeming them from slavery in Egypt through his grace, his covenant love; and by giving them the gift of his law (Exodus 20:1-3). That was God’s plumb-line – his grace and his law.
So now God uses that same plumb-line to assess the way his people are living. And he finds that they are terribly “out of true” (v9).
a) Their places of worship are characterised by idolatry and immorality They are places where God’s grace is abused and his law is neglected (2:6-8; 5:21-26).
b) Their king (Jeroboam II) has turned away from the Lord and followed evil ways (2 Kings 14:23-24). He has rejected the law of the Lord, and has corrupted God’s grace.

So the righteous God pronounces righteous judgment on his people. The first two visions given to Amos show that God has repented of bringing total destruction (vv3,6), but the third vision shows that God’s justice cannot just “turn a blind eye” to evil.

Verses 1-9 have revealed the character of God. Now follows an example of the plumb-line being used to reveal the character of two men, the priest Amaziah and the shepherd-prophet Amos. Who is truly upright in God’s sight? Who is the real man of God?

3. THE MAN OF GOD (vv10-17)
Amaziah is the priest of Bethel – like a chaplain to the king. Earlier in the book of Amos we have learnt about Bethel (3:14; 4:4; 5:5). It is the main centre of worship for Israel – but their worship is grossly offensive to God (5:21-26). The prediction in v9 must have been the last straw for Amaziah. Amos had warned that the state of Israel would fall – both the national and the ecclesiastical establishments. Most of Amos’ hearers would not believe him: it is not easy for very religious people to accept that their religion itself is offensive to God!
Amaziah has reported to the king what Amos is preaching. But his report distorts the truth, and he alleges that Amos is a traitor to king and country (vv10-11). (“Conspiracy theory”!)
Now Amaziah confronts Amos, belittles him and tries to frighten him. “Don’t you dare carry on prophesying here in Bethel – go back home!” (vv12-13).

Amos’ response is not only honest and courageous: it goes to the heart of true prophecy and preaching (vv14-16). “I’m a farmer-shepherd, not a professional prophet. But the Lord took me… and the Lord said to me…Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say…therefore this is what the Lord says…”

God is using his plumb-line in this encounter between Amos and Amaziah. At the time, it might not be clear who is the genuine “man of God”; but soon the Lord’s words through Amos are fulfilled, and Israel is overwhelmed and taken into exile by the Assyrians.

If God said that to his people in 8th century B.C. Israel through Amos, what is he saying to us, his people now, in 21st century A.D. UK?

a) God is still the repentant God, who longs for people to turn to him for mercy. He wants us to pray without ceasing (Luke 18:1-8). It is by prayer that his will is done on earth. So, as a church and as individuals, let us lay hold of his mercy and his promises.

b) God is still the righteous God. His plumb-line is the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants us to live (as a church and as individuals) “in line with” his grace and his law (Matthew 5:17-20).

c) God still seeks people who will proclaim his word faithfully, without fear or favour. This includes those who are called to preach and teach in public, but it also includes all followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all witnesses in our every-day lives. Like Amos, may we be faithful, bold and true.

Faithful Creator,whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 17 November 2021

Thank you to Ian for this message

Jesus said – “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spice – mint, dill and cumin, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”    Matt. 23 v.23

Prayer: Lord help us to understand your word and learn the lessons of the past and how they speak to us today.

Reading – Amos ch.6 – the verses are included below in italics

In Deuteronomy 28 v.1 – 14 God promises blessing and prosperity for all those who follow in his ways – but – with all the wonderful gifts we receive from the Lord there also comes responsibility; what do we do with all that God has given to us? This chapter of Amos starts with a word that Jesus used several times – “Woe”.  

Verse 1 tells us to whom this warning is addressed: v.1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come.

Zion was the area in Jerusalem which included the temple, Mount Samaria was the centre of worship for the 10 tribes of Israel. This warning is addressed to the religious leaders and the wealthy rulers of the people; those to whom the people of Israel came for justice and leadership wisdom; the poor, the widows, the orphans, the foreigner. There is a powerful description of the women of Sodom in Ezekiel 16 v.9 they were – “Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” This is how those who were – “at ease in Zion” – had become – “complacent”. I’m sure we have all known folk who are – “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”.

Amos in his message tells them – V.2 Go to Calneh and look at it, go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia, Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours? God had blessed the two nations of Israel – God is telling them to look around them – had these other nations fared as richly as them? – But you have become complacent – V.3 You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror – you won’t face up to your responsibility and refuse to heed the warnings of the danger to come.

Look at your lifestyle? – V.4 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. V.5 You strum away on your harps like David, and improvise on musical instruments, v.6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

“Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned.”?

You have become totally self-indulgent – you don’t grieve over the state of your nation – Joseph was the father of Ephraim whose tribe had become the leading tribe of the 10 tribes of Israel. – “Your nation is in great danger but you show no concern for your people but continue to seek pleasure.” V.7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.

This is not a casual warning of human wisdom – this is God speaking – v.8 The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself – the Lord God Almighty declares: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it.” You have become proud and arrogant; you put your faith in your fortresses and in your own strength. – I – The Sovereign Lord – will deliver up the city to your enemies.

V.9 If ten men are left in one house, they too will die. V.10 And if a relative who is to burn the bodies comes to carry them out and asks anyone hiding there, “Is anyone with you?” and he says, “No,” then he will say, “Hush! We must not mention the name of the Lord.”

Keep silent! – You must not provoke the Lord’s wrath; there is no turning back – v.11 For the Lord has given the command and he will smash the great house into pieces and the small house into bits. God has commanded this punishment; the destruction will be complete.

One of the most wonderful promises in the Old Testament is 2 Chronicles ch.7 v.14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – But these proud religious leaders and wealthy rulers wouldn’t humble themselves and pray. What was the cause of God’s anger?

Pivotal to God’s law are those two commandments – Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbour; central to the nature of God are compassion and mercy; essential to the purpose of the law is the care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. Amos appeals to common sense – v.12 Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plough there with oxen? – Of course not. When the people come to you, leaders of religion and wealthy rulers, they find you have twisted the laws to your own advantage – But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness – You have turned justice against the poor people and made righteousness impossible to attain; you have made their pathway stony and baren.

v.13 you who rejoice in the conquest of Lo Debar and say, “Did we not take Karnaim by our own strength?” If those places ever existed the battle to take them was never recorded. This is just idle boasting to convince yourselves that you are invincible – you say it won’t happen to you. Well – v.14 For the Lord Almighty declares, “I will stir up a nation against you, O house of Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah.” The whole length of Israel will be taken.

And indeed, it was and so we have the story of the exile.

Isaiah 26 v.10 reads – “Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD.” – Sadly, the leaders of Israel didn’t listen to Amos and some 800 years later Jesus was giving the same warnings – “Woe unto you” – Are we listening today? Have we still got – arrogant, overfed and unconcerned – leaders? Are those important matters of the law still neglected – justice, mercy and faithfulness? – How about you? – Have you heeded the warnings that God gives in his love for you? What is your life style choice? Is it the way of the “arrogant, overfed and uncaring,” or can you now say – once I was lost but now, I am – “Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven?”

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  – – Micah 6 v.8

Prayer: Father, we stand amazed at the gifts that you, in your grace, have poured out upon us but confess that so often we have become complacent and have neglected the commandments of love which Jesus gave to us. Help us, Lord, to indeed serve you daily in the grace that you give to us. – – Amen

The Midweek Bridge 10 November 2021

Thank you to Mark R for this message


LORD, please open our hearts to reveal Your Word to us. Please help us to turn from our empty ways and to seek You, the Living God. Amen.

As we continue to look at Amos and his challenging message of repentance to Israel, we see in chapter 5 a real-life illustration from this shepherd’s life.

Unlike the light polluted skies of the UK, Amos would have laid down at night to sleep, keeping watch over his flocks, in Israel around 750 BC, and gazed up at the vivid night sky with all its wonders before him.

He knew each constellation of stars in the heavens by name.

In Amos 5:8 we read these words:

“The One who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night, who summons the water of the sea and pours it out over the surface of the earth — the LORD is his name.”

I wonder if we’ve ever had an experience like Amos did?

Gazing up at the night sky, perhaps in another country, and being overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of it all. Seeing those constellations, tiny specks in the dark, whose light has taken thousands of years to reach us.

Yet Behind the vastness, behind the sheer majesty of the heavens is the One who made it all… “The LORD is His Name”

As Proverbs 9:10 says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”

Wisdom begins not by examining constellations in the night sky (however amazing they may be), but by acknowledging the One Who made them…and listening to Him and His Word to us.

What was God’s Word to Israel?

God chose them to be a light to the nations.

However, right from the beginning, Israel contaminated their relationship with the one true God by worshiping other gods.

We see it in Amos 5: 25,26:

V25  Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings

forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?

V26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,

the pedestal of your idols,

the star of your god—

which you made for yourselves.

Commentaries suggest that the idols mentioned here were pagan deities that Israel brought from Egypt into the desert and carried them with them.

We see that more clearly at Mount Sinai in the desert, when Moses goes up the mountain to receive the 10 commandments, and when he returns, what does he find Israel doing?

Worshiping a golden calf!

Israel’s “religion” was not only constantly in danger of being contaminated by other gods and idols. It was also in danger of becoming a ritual that looked good on the outside, but was rotten on the inside.

So the smell of the roast lamb offered of sacrifice might have had a pleasing aroma to the priests and worshippers but to the LORD it stunk in His nostrils.


Because whilst the priests and the people thought they were doing the right thing in their ceremonies, in their hearts was bitter corruption.

So we read in Amos 5:10,11:

V10  “There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court

and detest the one who tells the truth.

V11  “You levy a straw tax on the poor

and impose a tax on their grain.

Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,

you will not live in them;

though you have planted lush vineyards,

you will not drink their wine.”

And Amos continues with this Word from the Lord in v21-23:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;

your assemblies are a stench to me.

Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,

I will not accept them.

Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,

I will have no regard for them.

Away with the noise of your songs!

I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

It wasn’t just the emptiness of their burnt offerings, it was their church services, (assemblies), and even their worship songs that God hated!

How challenging this is for us today.

And reading Amos is challenging because it calls us to examine ourselves and our relationship with the Lord.

One of the hardest hitting words in the NT is the religious folk who come to Jesus and say to Him:

“Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, drive out many demons, and perform many miracles?”

And Jesus says to them: “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!”

On the surface, these religious people seemed very plausible, and did great things, but underneath, they were ‘evildoers’.

One of the continuing refrains in Amos 5 is: ‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live’ (v14). ‘Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts’ (v15).

And how is this to happen?

How can the rot on the inside change?

By turning back in repentance to the LORD.

‘Seek Me and live’ (v4).

The same God who created the stars in the night sky, who formed the universe and everything in it, is the God who is powerful to save us.

‘Seek Me and live’

We don’t change by willing ourselves to try harder, or to psyche ourselves up to be a good (‘religious’) person.

We change when we come to Jesus and recognise that actually we’re more like the people Amos talks about in this chapter than we’d like to admit.

That’s what God calls repentance, and it’s the first step in Seeking the Lord.

But it leads to a wonderful place, to a life of knowing God’s forgiveness and His love.

And it’s that love that changes us from inside out.

‘Seek Me and LIVE’


Lord, we confess that so often our hearts are like the Israelites; distracted by modern day idols; our eyes and ears are blocked to the cries of the poor; and even our worship is so often empty and self centred.

Yet Lord, like Israel, You offer us a new way to live. You promise that if we seek You we WILL live.

Thank You for the amazing promise that through Jesus, the judgement due to us for our sin was taken by Him on the cross, and in exchange He has given  us His righteousness.

What a wonderful exchange, what a wonderful Gift- may His love come and fill our hearts today, that we may live for You.

Lord, we seek You today.

In Jesus Name.


The Midweek Bridge 3 November 2021

Thank you to John for this message

Prayer (especially in the light of COP26):      
Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy, restrain us from excess,
and revive in us new hope that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When we hear or read the Bible, which side do we put ourselves on? Do we assume that the Bible affirms us in our religion and in how we live? Do we suppose that any Scriptures that speak of God’s judgment are for other people, not for us Christians? Do we treat the Bible as a personal “promise box”, picking out only the bits that sound nice and make us feel comfortable?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who stood against Hitler and the Nazis, and was executed by them in 1945, wrote “We no longer read the Bible seriously. We read it no longer against ourselves but only for ourselves.”
I think his words apply as much to us Christians in modern Britain as they did to German Christians in the 1930s and 40s.

As we read the words of Amos from the 8th century BC, may we take them to heart as “against us”.

Reading: Amos 4

Amos continues to bring God’s message to Israel – God’s chosen people. In chapter 4 God makes a solemn oath, speaks of his purpose, and makes a profound appeal to his people.

Amos uses strong language. (Ladies – how do you feel about being addressed as well-fed cows?)
Verse 1 pictures a well-to-do Israelite household. It is characterised by self-concern, self-indulgence, and the desire for self-preservation. The poor and needy must lose what little they have, to satisfy the Lady of the Manor. What gross injustice!
But the holy Lord sees and knows. He swears a terrible oath (vv2-3). There will be destruction of this unjust state of affairs. The status, the comfort, the security so prized by these well-off women and their families will all be lost.

Having addressed the self-indulgent home life, the holy Lord now turns to the self-pleasing religious life.  And he uses biting sarcasm (vv4-5). Bethel and Gilgal were popular places of worship for the Israelites in Amos’ day. The people were diligent in observing their rituals. They were proud of their religious performance. The Lord says to them “This is what makes you happy”.
But in God’s sight their religion was pointless and unreal. It was actually harmful, because it was all based on pleasing themselves, rather than pleasing the holy God. For a New Testament parallel, consider Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).

Self-seeking personal life, and self-pleasing religion – both come under the judgment of the holy God. But God does not just promise judgment: he takes action to bring his people back to him, as we see in verses 6-11.

These verses speak of the troubles of life as being caused by God himself. Everything on earth – even seemingly haphazard disasters – comes from God who rules and reigns in heaven.
How do we feel about that? Our emotions and minds may well recoil: we may feel sick to think of a God like that. We would much rather have a “Father Christmas” God, who brings only nice things.

But the God revealed through Scripture is the God who forms the light and the darkness, who brings prosperity  and creates disaster (Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6). He brings death and makes alive; he sends poverty and wealth (1 Samuel 2:6-7). For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever (Romans 11:36). This is the biblical view of the sovereignty of God over human history and experiences. Alec Motyer writes “Words could not be plainer, and unless we wish to trim him down to the poor limits of a God nice enough to suit our emotions, small enough to fit within our logic and effete enough to leave room for our wills, we shall bow before the Sovereign revealed in this passage and in the rest of the Bible.”

Amos speaks of catastrophes small and great, of things as indiscriminate as the death toll in battle, or from disease (e.g. Covid!). BUT NONE OF THESE THINGS SEPARATE US FROM GOD! His purpose of love reigns “in all these things” (Romans 8:37-39).
And what is God’s purpose in all these things? Amos hammers it out again and again (5 times): “Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.” God longs for his people to come back to him. This is called repentance.
No repentance means no true religion. The Israelites wanted a religion that pleased their own tastes – “a religion that we find helpful”.  God wanted a religion that brought people all the way back to him.
So God appeals to them.

“Prepare to meet your God” sounds ominous. But wherever “meeting God” is found in the Bible, it signifies the grace of God.
In Exodus 19 we read of Moses leading the people to meet with God at Mount Sinai (v17). The awesome phenomena – thunder and lightning, thick cloud, loud trumpet blast, smoke, fire, earthquake – emphasise the immense grace of God in coming down to speak to his people as their Saviour and Redeemer.
“Prepare to meet your God” – not just an impersonal title, but “your God”! The only other time Amos uses this expression is in his final sentence (9:15): it is a word of strong comfort and assurance.

And what is “your God” like? Verse 13 paints a wonderful picture of the glorious power of God. His power is complete. His power is transforming. His power is down to earth.
In that power is total security. And God’s people can come within that power by repentance.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13)

The people of Amos’ day failed to respond in this way. What about God’s people now? What about us?

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: grant us true repentance and your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 20 October 2021

Thank you to David for providing this message

Amos 2 verse 1 – 16

In the eighth century BC the kingdoms of Judah and Israel had experienced an extended period of peace and prosperity in which the rich had got richer and avaricious, neglecting their social responsibility to those not so well off. In trading with the nations around them they had added pagan beliefs and practices to their religious observance forgetting their covenantal relationship with God. Amos was called by God to remind them of their responsibilities both in the worship of God and their moral responsibility to each other.

We have already read in chapter one that Amos starts his prophesies by addressing the nations around Judah and Israel who had once been their enemies but now with whom they had developed a cordial trading relationship causing Judah and Israel to compromise their religion. Having dealt with Damascus, Gaza, Tyre and the Ammonites Amos now turns to the Moabites.

Prophesy about Moab

1:  This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he burned, as if to lime, the bones of Edom’s king,

2:  I will send fire upon Moab that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth. Moab will go down in great tumult amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet.

3:  I will destroy her ruler and kill all her officials with him,” says the LORD.

Amos starts his prophesy with the same formula as before inferring that there are numerous issues that God has against the Moabites. God, however, focusses on one event when the Moabites desecrated the body of the King of Edom by burning his bones as an insult to the King and his people.

God pronounces a terrible fate on Moab, their capital city destroyed by fire and the nation’s leaders all killed in a violent military invasion. Ultimately, Moab was conquered by the Babylonians and disappeared from history.

Although they were a pagan nation their sins offended the moral and social standard that God, the Lord of all nations, expects of his creation, and that their corrupt behaviour influenced God’s chosen people Judah and Israel into error.

Prophesy about Judah

4:  This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, 5:  I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.”

Amos now turns his attention to God’s chosen people. The word of the Lord is the same for Judah as it was for the surrounding pagan nations because although they enjoyed a special relationship with their God they had broken their side of the covenant by disobeying the law given to them through Moses and by worshipping false gods. God’s judgement was duly executed by the Babylonians when they conquered Judah and took many of the people into exile.

The judgement against Judah is bad enough but when God turns to Israel he is scathing in several respects. It is important for us to remember that it was God’s plan that the Messiah would descend from the line of David and therefore it was essential that Judah should survive this time of judgement.

Prophesy about Israel

6:  This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.

7:  They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.

God starts his judgement of Israel using the same formula as before. His first complaint against them is the fact that the rich ruling elite are totally corrupt. Their judgements were based on the bribes of silver they were offered and they would even insist on taking the sandals from a poor man who had no other way to pay. They had no compassion and felt no responsibility for those less off than themselves contrary to God’s law.

Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.

8:  They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.

The Israelites were also morally corrupt, they ignored God’s law regarding incest and sexual relationships and compounded their sin by committing their sexual acts beside the alter using the garments that people had left as a pledge against their debts as a bed. These garments, under the law, should be returned to the owner each evening. Added to that they profaned their God by drinking the wines that had been given as fines.

9:  “I destroyed the Amorite before them, though he was tall as the cedars and strong as the oaks. I destroyed his fruit above and his roots below. 10:  “I brought you up out of Egypt, and I led you forty years in the desert to give you the land of the Amorites.

God reminds the Israelites of the remarkable story of their being led out of Egypt by Moses and how God had given them the Promised Land which had belonged to the Amorites or Canaanites. They were his chosen people!

11:  I also raised up prophets from among your sons and Nazirites from among your young men. Is this not true, people of Israel?” declares the LORD. 12:  “But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

God stressed the fact that he maintained a relationship with Israel by raising up prophets among them who were able to speak his word to them. In addition he placed Nazirites among them who took vows devoting themselves to the worship of Yahweh, abstaining from wine, not cutting their hair and refusing to touch a dead body. Such people were a reminder that God’s covenant was still relevant. These people who were reminders of God’s special relationship with Israel had been silenced on the one hand and forced to break their vows on the other. No one was allowed to remind the Israelites that they had obligations to their God!

13:  “Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.

14:  The swift will not escape, the strong will not muster their strength, and the warrior will not save his life. 15:  The archer will not stand his ground, the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, and the horseman will not save his life. 16:  Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,” declares the LORD.

In order to demonstrate God’s judgement on Israel Amos uses an illustration from his farming experience. The nation will be crushed under the heavy judgement of God. We know from scripture that Israel was conquered by Assyria, the population scattered throughout their empire and Israel ceased to exist as a nation.

Last week Ian clearly applied God’s judgements through Amos to our present age. We are an affluent country but we still have families in severe need. We see our Christian morals and principles regularly undermined both by law and society. As Christians our prophetic voice is ignored and treated with disdain and yet we must be true to our calling to be a light in the world in both our words and actions, living out the Good News of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world.

14:  “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

15:  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

16:  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt 5).


Heavenly Father, Please help us as your people to be salt and light in the society around us, loving them as our neighbours and boldly living out the truth of the gospel. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour, the way, the truth and the life. Amen

The Midweek Bridge 13 October 2021

Thank you to Ian for providing this message

“For God so loved the world”

Reading: Amos ch.1 – This is a hard passage to read but I would recommend reading it before starting this study and then keeping your Bible open.

Prayer: – Lord, there are many hard words in this passage but please help us to grasp the importance of their message to our hearts at this time. v.1/2 reads – “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through him he made the universe.” 

One wonderful fact of that statement is that – “God spoke.” The message the Son speaks to us today affirms and confirms the words spoken through the prophets. God never abandoned those who were faithful to him but also frequently reached out, in his grace, to a rebellious people. – “God spoke.” – Why does God speak to the nations? Perhaps we can see the answer in God sending Jonah to Nineveh – they repented and God blessed them.  In Luke ch12, Jesus told a story of the “Rich Fool” – to him God said – “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” – Did that man heed that warning given to him in his final hours? – Do we listen to God’s warnings, which are given in love? – Do the words given to the prophets still speak to us today? – Do we need to pay attention to them?

Amos ch1 v.1 tells us a little of the man God chose to deliver his message to Israel – a shepherd from an insignificant village called Tekoa which was a few miles south of Jerusalem. As a shepherd he was likely to have driven flocks several miles – anywhere from Egypt to Damascus thus spending many hours in the wilderness. The period was around 760 to 746BC, a time of a divided nation; the ten tribes under Jeroboam of Israel and the two tribes under Uzziah of Judah; they were often at war with each other. But, this first chapter is addressed to the neighbours of Israel, warring, gentile nations.

Also, in verse 1, there is a reference to a great earthquake and in v.2 we read that the pastures of the shepherds and the top of mount Carmel were drying up at the sound of God’s voice roaring from Zion; so, Amos starts his message in a time of environmental disasters and wars – not too different from modern times.

This first chapter is addressed to five neighbours of Israel – Damascus – Gaza – Tyre – Edom – Ammon – For each one the message starts with – “For three sins – even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.”  This indicates how repeatedly these nations have sinned against God and his people. God is very angry with these neighbours of the land of Israelwho were frequently at war with the two nations of Israel and Judah; God will not withdraw his punishment.

Let’s just summarise the sins of these nations:

I wish to start with Edom because these were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, and therefore were considered a brother nation to Israel. However:

Edom – v.11 – “he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion.”

Gilead was a mountainous region of Israel on the other side of the Jordon; it was a rich, fertile land. However:

Damascus – v.3 – “she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth.”

Gaza had been under the control of the Philistines for many years and was constantly at war with Israel; here she was doing some slave trading with Edom.

Gaza – v.6 – “she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom”

Again, with Tyre – more slave trading with Edom:

Tyre – v.9 – “she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood.”

With Ammon, a descendant of Lot, terrible violence against the innocent:

Ammon – v.3 – “he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend its borders.”

  • Betrayal and unrelenting conflict
  • Violent destruction of villages
  • Removal of whole communities
  • People trafficking
  • Violation of women and children

Do you see any similarities in modern times?

The punishment for each of the five nations begins with – “I will send fire upon the walls of – – – – – and will consume their fortresses.”  For each nation the walls of their security and the fortresses of their defences would be destroyed by fire; fire has no compassion. Then the different systems of government would be destroyed or taken into exile.

God’s punishments include – – Fire – the violence of war – governments overturned – environmental disasters. – Does this have an echo in modern times?

God was not warning the nations of some haphazard disasters. In this chapter, 9 times God says – “I will” bring about the disaster – God is bringing about the punishments upon the people. 5 times God says – “I will not turn back my wrath.” – God is angry, he is not going to change his mind, he will reveal his wrath to the nations.

If we just look at the first 20 years of this century, do we find similar sins as those of the five nations listed here in chapter 1 of the book of “Amos” and, many more, even worse crimes against God, his creation, his people and humanity in general? God was angry in 760BC, do you think he is any less angry now? 

Just as today, in the days of Amos there were people of faith who desired to serve the Lord. Many had witnessed and experienced the terrible sins listed in chapter 1 of Amos. Do you think they would have been encouraged by the words of God’s judgment against the nations; would the people of faith realise that God had heard their cries and hadn’t abandoned them? Is the message of the judgment actually evidence of God’s love, mercy and justice? The prophet Isaiah followed very shortly after Amos. In Is.22 v.4, we read – “Therefore I said, ‘Turn away from me, let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.’” – Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem God weeps over the suffering of his people. Has God not got the right to be angry at what he sees today? Yet he still offers grace and forgiveness.

 Is God angry today? Rom. 1 v.18 reads – “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”  In Amos ch.1 God said – “I will not turn back my wrath.”  But later, in Rom. 5 v.9, Paul writes about Jesus – “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” We have a Saviour. God’s wrath remains but – “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.” Jn.3 v.16

God was speaking to the nations through Amos. He could have just proceeded with the punishments they deserved but – “God spoke” – he offered opportunity to repent. In effect, God was offering a way of forgiveness and salvation. In Hebrews ch.1 we read – “but in these last days he has spoken by his Son,” – God is still speaking; God is still offering a way of forgiveness and salvation but the judgment is still very much a reality for those who don’t repent and accept the eternal salvation won for God’s people on the cross.

Does the message of Amos speak in our times?

Prayer: – Lord, daily we see terrible crimes of evil in the world, often directly against your people. Our prayer is first for the suffering church that you will strengthen them and encourage them. But then, Lord, we ask for forgiveness for our neglect in giving the warning of judgment and offering the forgiveness and salvation won by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Empower your church, Lord, to speak with your voice and authority in this fallen world, a world that you love.


“Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”   Jer.8v.21/22

The Midweek Bridge 6 October 2021

Thank you to John for providing this message

Prayer:  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.

Today we come to the last in our series of mid-week messages, which started in early May, on the book of Ecclesiastes. “At last!” you may say, breathing a sigh of relief! You are not alone in that feeling. Over the centuries Ecclesiastes (“The Teacher”) has provoked some readers to dislike it, resent it, despise it. It has been charged with being aimless, boring, repetitive, even blasphemous.

But I have come to appreciate this book for its honesty, its courage, and its faith. The Teacher perceives the emptiness and absurdity of life apart from God. He exposes hollow ambitions, and the arrogant assumptions of those who try to guarantee and control their future. (How the Covid pandemic has underlined that message for us!) He reminds us that the world is full of injustice and loss. Life is not fair. And The Teacher grapples with the problem of death, which ruthlessly stamps “FUTILE” on human efforts to be in command of our fate.

Yet this apparently grim book ends with a clarion call to a life-changing faith in the living God.

Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

You may know the popular TV game show called “Pointless”, hosted by Richard Osman. The aim is to score as few points as possible.
In this final chapter of Ecclesiastes, The Teacher has ended his words (v8) in the same way he began (chapter 1 v2): “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” – meaningless, empty, pointless. The final verses of the book (vv9-14) are a kind of epilogue. They are not pointless, but pointed.

The Teacher was not a proud academic who didn’t bother with less intelligent people. He aimed to communicate the truth clearly, with skill and integrity (vv9-10).
Verse 11 describes teachings that have a point (or several points). A goad is a stick with a spike on the end, used for driving cattle. We talk about being “goaded into action”. So wise teachings are not just for imparting information – they are aimed to elicit action.

These verses point us to the greatest wisdom teacher of all – the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. He described those who hear his words and act on them as like wise people building on rock; whereas those who hear but do not act are like foolish people building on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Jesus spoke words of authority, grace and truth. “No-one ever spoke the way this man does”, they said (John 7:46).

Here is a challenge to all Christian teachers and preachers – indeed to all of us who have the opportunity to speak of the Christian faith to others, whether one-to-one or in larger numbers. Do we communicate clearly, seeking to express truth with “just the right words”? Do we aim to speak words which will stick in people’s memory and stir them to action?
May our words, like The Teacher’s, have a godly point to them – not be pointless.

Here is the point of our existence: this is the goal we were made for. God has set eternity in our hearts (3:11), so nothing less than the Eternal God will suffice. Verse 13 ends (literally) “This is the whole of man”, i.e. this is all that there is to being human.
In the words of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly (1644):
            Question: What is the chief end (purpose) of man?
            Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.

What a contrast to the vanity, the pointlessness with which Ecclesiastes has confronted us!

“Fear God and keep his commands” puts us in our place, and puts all other fears and hopes in their place.This is an Old Testament instruction. But it has not been superseded or abolished by Christian faith. Rather, it is fulfilled as we love and trust and obey our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17).

The final verse of Ecclesiastes is like a bracing shower of cold water, to wake us up. In Derek Kidner’s words, it is “sharp enough to hurt, but shrewd enough to jolt us out of apathy. It kills complacency to know that nothing goes unnoticed and unassessed, not even the things that we disguise from ourselves. But at the same time it transforms life. If God cares as much as this, nothing can be pointless.

The ultimate answer to the cry of “Vanity” is summed up by the apostle Paul as he writes to the Corinthians: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”….Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 58)


Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly city, where we shall see you face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

The Midweek Bridge 29 September 2021

Thank you to Mark R for this message

Let’s pray:

Lord, Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law. Amen

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

“ The average life span for a human being is about 4000 weeks”

So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”;
2 ¶ before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return afterfn the rain;
3 ¶ on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind grain cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,
4 ¶ the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint.
5 ¶ Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring,fn and the caper berry has no effect; for the mere mortal is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street;
6 ¶ before the silver cord is snapped,fn and the gold bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well;
7 ¶ and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
8 ¶ “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”

I felt stunned when I read that comment a few weeks ago.

It reminded me of that verse in James 4:14 which says:

‘Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring  —  what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes’

And so we begin with those opening words in Ecclesiastes 12:1:

“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”

Having retired last year, I’ve found myself reflecting on what psychologist Erik Erickson calls the ‘8 stages of life’, and particularly the ‘retirement’ stage, what he calls that conflict between ‘integrity and despair’.

Sounds a bit depressing doesn’t it! But his point is that this last stage of life is a time to reflect back on our lives.

Do we look back on our years with a sense of fulfilment, maybe through our families, our work, and contributions to things that will outlast us, for example our children and (great!) grandchildren, or friendships, work, community/ church involvement etc…

Or do we look back over our years with a sense of regret, ruminating over past failures and mistakes, feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness?

We find the writer of Ecclesiastes reflecting in chapter 12 on this last stage of life with a vivid understanding of the ageing process…

Verse 1, ‘the years approaching when you say I find no pleasure in them’

Verse 2, ‘when the sun and the light…grow dark’ ( is he referring to dimming eyesight that will eventually require a cataract?!!)

Verse 3, when ‘strong men stoop’.

I saw my tall brother at my son’s wedding recently and noticed how this 6’3” man was now becoming increasingly stooped…

Verse 4, ‘when people rise up at the sound of the birds(!), but all their songs grow faint’ (how is your hearing these days?!)

Verse 5, ‘then people go to their eternal homes and mourners go about the streets’. There was a time when most of our church celebrations were baptisms and weddings, but now it may well be that friends’ funerals are the most regular occurrence…

And in verse 6 comes that phrase that is repeated from verse 1…”Remember Him…”…”Remember your Creator “…

Of course this is the most important phrase that is omitted in Erikson’s last life stage, and also across the other 7 stages too…

“Remember Him…”

As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139:16:

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be”

Whatever stage we’re at in life, whether we’re looking forward with anticipation, or looking back with regret, the Bible tells us that what matters are these 2 words: ‘Remember Him…’

Remember Him, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (verse 1)…

“Remember Him, before the silver cord is severed…and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (verse 6,7)

And what are we to remember?

The message of Ecclesiastes, that “ everything is meaningless”…

As Augustine said in his famous quote about God:

“You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”

Or as Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, ‘He (God) has set eternity in the human heart’

We were made for more than a life spent in a meaningless search for the futility of what the world seems to offer through its endless enticements.

Even King Solomon himself who had everything a human being could ask for ends his reflections on his life with these words in verse 8:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

But Jesus came that we could discover ‘life in all it’s fullness’

He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’

Jesus came to reveal where real life can be found.

The Invisible God became visible in Jesus Christ.

He came to show us that life doesn’t have to be meaningless, that through His death on the Cross we can know the forgiveness of our sins…

We don’t need to look back on the past with regret or despair, as we look at Him, we can be assured that at the cross all our sins, failures and mistakes have been taken away.

Remember Him, remember His words on the cross: “It is finished”

And through His resurrection, we can know the promise of eternal life.

Whatever age, whatever stage, wherever we are in our 4000 month journey through life, true life, both now and for eternity, are to be found in Him.

“Remember Him…”

The Bridge 22 September 2021

Thank you to Ian for this message

Where is your heart?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3 v.16

Reading – Ecclesiastes 11 v.7 – 10 – the verses are in italics below.

Prayer: – Lord, open our hearts to receive your word and to recognise your love, forgiveness and grace.

This year, on September 15th, all faithful Jews celebrated the Day of Atonement – (Yom Kippur). It is a day of fasting and looking back on their sins; a heavy day but necessary preparation for reconciliation. A few days later, on the 20th of September, began the Feast of Tabernacles; another title is the Feast of Ingathering.  During this week of joyful celebration, climate permitting, Jewish families leave their homes and live in flimsy booths (eating and sleeping). This is to remind them of the time of the Exodus, the wandering in the desert, a time when they were totally dependent upon God and his faithfulness in meeting all their needs. During this festival one book they may read and meditate on is the book of Ecclesiastes – the contrast of a life without God and a life in his presence – the shortness of life – the potential vanity of life – but also eternal hope for those who believe.

The interpretation of these verses from Eccl. 11, and how you respond to them, will depend upon your answers to the following questions:

  • What gives you the deepest joy?
  • What gives you the greatest happiness?
  • Where is your treasure? Jesus said – “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • So – where is your heart?

Initially, I am going to assume that you are busy storing treasure in heaven and therefore your joy and happiness are to be found in the Lord; that you have peace with God and, through his grace, know his presence in all that you do.

Let’s look at these beautiful words from the teacher – .7 Light is sweet, it pleases the eyes to see the sun. We do live in a very beautiful creation. the wonder and beauty of the world God has made. – v.8 – However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. Walking with the Lord in our daily life – long or short – we are free to enjoy every day. –  But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Yes, there are difficult and testing times but, as Paul tells us in Rom.5 – “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”  – Everything to come is meaningless. – Indeed, many problems of life will come but, for those who are in Christ Jesus, – Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord; – such problems are just a passing vapour.

The teacher continues – v.9 – Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, – We have to confess to many stupid moments in our young lives but in Jesus we come to understand forgiveness and grace and retain that peace with God – but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. –  But, praise the Lord, we also know that – “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

– v.10 – So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigour are meaningless. Yes, no matter what stage we are in life they are just brief moments – a vapour – for they are all steps to an eternity in Christ in the presence of the Father of compassion. Jesus said – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

But all that depends upon where your heart is which is where your treasure is. What gives you joy and what gives you happiness? Look at those same verses in Ecclesiastes ch.11 but as one who has pushed God out of his life; perhaps, like John Bunyan’s pilgrim, you have met “Mr Wordly-wiseman” and, wishing to sample the benefits of such worldly wisdom, you wandered off the path of redemption. Where is your heart?

Yes, enjoy all that you can under the sun; creation is still beautiful. You can walk along singing “What a Wonderful World” even though worldly wisdom has rather damaged it. – But – But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. – there will be dark days; what will they produce in you in this unfair world under the sun? – Bitterness, jealousy, fear, insecurity? 

v.9 – Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see. – Ah but, – where the heart is following the path of worldly wisdom, is the joy the heart gives the swiftly delivered, ultra-processed, brightly wrapped, low-cost type and what do your eyes see? – but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. – Ah – the judgment. Heb.9 v.27 reads – “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” – that’s a key message given in Ecclesiastes.

At the judgment the question will not be – what riches have you possessed?  It will not be – what have you achieved? –  It will not be – what wonderful places have you visited? – They are just a passing vapour, meaningless. No, the question will involve – Who have you become?

Let me put that another way: Paul tells us that – “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – so, the questions could be – How much love have you got in your treasure trove? – What sort of person have you become in your short life?

Where is your treasure and where is your heart? Without God, no matter how enjoyable, life is short, a passing vapour, meaningless. Yes, there is the judgment but, in his love and mercy, God reaches out to you offering you forgiveness and eternal peace with him. Don’t keep pushing him out of your life. In Christ there is a depth of joy that is beyond measure

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Rom.5 v.8

Prayer: We can only thank you Lord for your great mercy and faithful love. Help us to receive your grace and be filled with the joy of your Holy Spirit.


The Midweek Bridge 15 September 2021

Thank you to Richard for this message


Good morning everyone….we carry on our study of Ecclesiastes and today look at Ecclesiastes 11: 1-6.

Let’s pray – Father would you open our eyes to see you today and desire your wisdom in all we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Ship your grain across the sea;
    after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
    you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

If clouds are full of water,
    they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
    whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the path of the wind,
    or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
    the Maker of all things.

Sow your seed in the morning,
    and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
    whether this or that,
    or whether both will do equally well.

It was said that there was a lady who wouldn’t do anything without talking to some sort of spiritualist; it could be a palm reader or a mind reader or anything. So desperate was she one day about what the future held, she spoke to a friend and blurted out: “I don’t know what to do – should I talk to my mind reader or palm reader?”

The friend thought about it for a while then said: “I’d go for the palm reader. At least you know you’ve got a palm!”

People can be so concerned about what will happen that they are simply paralysed with indecision and doubt. So our writer says in verses 1-4: get on with your life. You don’t know what will happen – whether a tree falls this way or the other; you don’t know. So don’t waste your life wondering – get on with it.

Years ago when I was the guy in charge of the Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Association Camp, we had a tricky situation where two girls had to be put in a tent alongside other girls they didn’t know. They were moaning about it and I started fretting about what I should do and should the girls be moved to another tent and would they get on there; but the 15 year old girl – Becky – who was in charge of the tent simply said: “Well – I’ve just got to get on with it.” That’s the advice our writer would give.

And as Christians, if we are not careful we can start to get in a flap about whether this will happen or that. So our writer says in verse 5:

As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.

Here our writer links the miracle of the body being formed with how God does what he does. How is it possible for a body to be formed? How does life start in a mother’s womb? However it happens – it’s a miracle. And so it is with God – we don’t know why or how He does all he does.

And if you could completely understand the work of God – somehow God would not be God. So Deuteronomy 29: 29 is very helpful here:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

In other words there are things that God will not reveal and things that he will. The danger is that we attempt to know the things that we can’t know; and not know the things we should!

So our writer in saying that God is the “maker of all things” is describing God at work. He is at work. Now. Working away. And things might look a mess. It may look completely confusing. How could God permit this? Why doesn’t God do that? But God will do what He will do.

So we are instructed to not worry about that; nor worry about how things will end up. So at this point – we may conclude we should do nothing (if God has everything under control). The writer emphatically disagrees; we should work – and “get on with it.”

I guess the question is what is it we should we do? When I was younger I think I instinctively thought that God used people to be missionaries. Or vicars. Or something like that. Those were the type of things that God called people to. Well – that’s right of course. But the Lord also speaks to us where we are now. In what we are doing now. And the danger is we can be so “dreamy” of what will come and what we may or may not do for God then – or so desperate to get out of the situation we are in now – that we miss the fact that we can serve our Lord in the here and now. In the ordinary – in the normal – in the work we have to do now.

Acts 17: 26 speaks of God placing you within certain boundaries. So I simply take that as meaning that however I got to where I am today, somehow, by some miracle, God has permitted that. Now if that is the case: if God intended for me to be where I am today – then how can I serve him?

And in that – we need to get on with the task we are doing – with God. So this might mean praying in each situation, seeking his help at all times, being alive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as He guides us, doing each task for God, praying for and being a blessing to those we meet, being an encourager to those who need encouragement, smiling and being gracious to the checkout assistant – when everyone else is being aggressive, and most importantly, being obedient to all the Lord is saying.

So our focus is not about what the future holds in this situation or that situation but on being with the Lord now and serving him in the here and now. And we are to get on with it.

May the Lord add his blessing to this reading.

In Jesus’ name


The Midweek Bridge 8 September 2021

Thank you to Ian for this message

Welcome back after the summer break, we hope you have returned with your vision for the Lord refreshed. We pick up Ecclesiastes again – at first sight a rather strange book but actually a very rich teaching on some of the realities of Christian life in a confused world; hence the title of this next study.

In the world – but not of it – don’t panic

Prayer: Open our hearts Lord to your wisdom as we study your word.

Reading: Ecclesiastes 10 – The text is included in italics below

In order to understand and then to explain this chapter I had to go back to some of the management principles of my earlier days. The Peter Principle – (1969) – demonstrates that people are promoted to the level of their incompetence – where they then remain. When Laurence J. Peter wrote his book, he could well have developed some of his ideas from Ecclesiastes ch.10. One reality we have learnt from the previous chapters is that – “Under the Sun” – the world is a very unfair place; largely because people have rejected the wisdom from heaven and prefer to do their own thing in their own strength. This does make life difficult for those who wish to be obedient to God and follow his ways. We live in a world of bad management and we have to learn how to understand it and to survive as Christians in it.  I hope the following will help and encourage us. We will look at it block by block.

v.1 – As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour. – v.2 – The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. You may recognise verse 1 as a probable source of the phrase – A fly in the ointment. One important lesson for the Christian is that we are human and make mistakes; we are not perfect. – How do we react when things go wrong? – We live in a world where if we get 99 things right and one thing wrong everyone remembers the one thing we got wrong; how does the incompetent manager deal with it? – How do we deal with it if one of our team gets something wrong? – Do we throw the whole jar of ointment away? – Verse 2 Tells us that the wise person will lean to the right – traditionally the side of strength and reliability. A good manager will carefully file the 99 good points in a safe place and reach out to gently restore the one situation that’s gone wrong. The foolish – ‘boss’ – leans to the left – the weaker, unstable, less coordinated side.

V.3 – Even as he walks along the road the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is. – 4 – If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great errors to rest. – V.3 shows that the fool lacks basic common sense and whatever his reaction it will only demonstrate his incompetence. – But then, how should the Christian react when he gets things wrong? – V.4 advises us to keep calm, it echoes the teaching of self-control and patience from the New Testament; to humbly hold on and trust.

Let’s continue following the steps of the unwise boss – v.5 – There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: -v.6 – Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. – v.7 – I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.  – By definition slaves do as they are told whereas princes are independent thinkers. A foolish boss will establish a team of yes-men, those who don’t challenge their leader, so fools will be placed in high positions. The princes – the educated, the forward looking, those who might challenge the leadership, these have to be kept under control so they are placed in roles out of harm’s way.

If foolish team members are not doing the task they were actually trained for there are potential problems; as follows – v.8 – Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. -v.9 – Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them. This does not only apply to practical jobs, there are many pits and walls in business; self-dug pits and walls with snakes that block the pathway of the unwise. There is a price for the raw materials of business, to try to obtain them without basic wisdom and the necessary skills can create terrible consequences.

V.10 warns us of the folly of using a management team that lacks the basic training – v.10 – If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success. Leadership demands confident decision making, hesitation can mean all is lost.  v.11 – If a snake bites before it is charmed, there is no profit for the charmer. To hesitate once the box is opened can be costly; what’s inside can bite; to call yet another meeting is not the answer especially if there are no wise folk in the team, only a foolish boss and a group of dithering yes-men.

Imagine such a meeting; perhaps you have been in a few – v.12 – Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. – v.12 – At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness – v.14 – and the fool multiplies words. A meeting without purposeful leadership goes around in circles and at the end, should the boss ask for the outcome – no-one knows what is coming – who can tell him what will happen after him? Why should this be? – v.15 – A fool’s work wearies him; he does not know the way to town. – we can all get lost in a desert but a fool cannot even find his way in a town.

A team of yes-men, competent as servants, they do exactly as they are told and never challenge the boss but, one day the boss retires. Possibly on the boss’s recommendation, the most competent person at saying yes and doing as told is promoted to the level of incompetence; the new boss. The only way of survival for the newly promoted but incompetent boss is to gather one’s cronies around and feast them all day. Hence – v.16 – Woe to you, O land whose king was a servant and whose princes feast in the morning.

Fortunately, there are some genuinely good managers who have found the keys to good management; they have sufficient common sense and are well trained so – v.17 – Blessed are you, O land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time – for strength and not for drunkenness. – No cronyism and buying of support.

We do often find ourselves in a world of foolish management and unfairness; this can be in any organisation, – business, government, church, college etc. – but how does the Christian survive? In v.4 the teacher warns us to stay calm and hang on in there. Peter, the apostle, tells us to – “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet.5 v.8) In v.18 below the teacher warns us not to be lazy – v.18 – If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks. We must look after our own house, – our own spiritual house.

We know the benefits from fellowship around a table but we live in a world where – v.19 – A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry, but money is the answer for everything. It is a world of partying in which money is the driving force; a world in which the fool rises to his level of incompetence; don’t be drawn into it or drowned by it.

Again, the teacher warns us – v.20 – Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. Do not allow frustration and bitterness to control your thoughts or your private conversations – “a little bird told me” – even our bitter thoughts can be blown on the wind and caught by the birds. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself – remember, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The – “Peter Principle” – is a rather cynical look at management which doesn’t offer much hope; however, a Christian manager, will feel at times stretched beyond their level of competence. There may be moments when you find yourself in a situation in which you haven’t a clue what you are doing then – stop – look around you (with compassion please) and recognise that we live in a world where many of us feel we operate at the level of our incompetence – but – we are not alone. At such times we are made aware of our dependence upon God and his faithfulness in all our daily situations. To walk humbly is the key to good management and, what’s more, to walk humbly enables us to walk with God; that is the beginning of wisdom. To walk humbly also enables a manager to work with sensitivity and compassion within a team.

Next time you find yourself in a meeting of foolish bosses then sing the following chorus to yourself:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in his wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of his glory and grace.

There is always something to learn even if it is what not to do in the future.

In John 17 v.15/16 – Jesus prayed – “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.” – We do live in a confused and often rebellious world but don’t panic; ask the Lord what he is teaching you in your present circumstances for he is with you in whatever situation you are in.

Prayer: Lord help us to be aware of your presence, your purpose and your provision in all the daily circumstances of our life.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present age according to the will of our God and Father, to him be glory for ever and ever.”

Amen – Gal.1 v.3 – 5

Category: The Bridge

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