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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Waiting is difficult… of course, it’s always been difficult, even though everything is all the more instant now.

 

We might be asked to wait for a day, a week, a year, or longer, for a promise from God. This might be something specific for our lives, or it might be something for someone else, or for our church.

 

It might be waiting for circumstances to change, as we’re all waiting for at the moment.

 

Everyone’s situations are different. We’re all waiting for different things, and will be waiting for different periods of time. While there’s no blueprint for “how long to wait,” there are plenty of examples in the Bible of times that people had to wait to see the promises of God.

 

Which one of these might the closest to your own circumstances?


(Galatians 6:9) Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

 

Abraham

 

 

Abraham is promised in Genesis 12 that God will make him “into a great nation.” (Genesis 12:2) He must have immediately wondered when he would have his first child… yet he went years after this with no children at all.

 

But Abraham waited, and was rewarded with the blessings that God wanted to give him. This is referred to in Hebrews, as an illustration of God’s unshakable faithfulness in giving His promises, and our responsibility to react to these promises in faith.

 

(Hebrews 6:13-15) When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

 

This story also gives us an example of what might happen when we try to take action on our own, and speed things along without God’s direction. Abraham had a child with his wife’s servant Hagar in Genesis 16… but not the child that God had promised.

 

In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah are promised a child. At this point, Sarah has waited so long that she doubts that God can even fulfil this promise, and laughs at the idea. It is three chapters later, in Genesis 21, that Isaac is finally born.

 

There are some uncomfortable opportunities to see ourselves in this story… are we trying to push things along without consulting God? Are we beginning to doubt God’s plan for us?

 
 

Joseph

 

 

We already talked about Joseph in last week’s blog, but his story is certainly one of waiting. He was promised by God that he would become a leader in his family, and it took years of suffering in the lowest circumstances before he came into that promise.

 

It might have seemed unthinkable, to Joseph, as he sat in prison, to consider the dreams that he had had of his bright future. Yet he continued to work and gain the trust of those around him, and when the time came to act, he didn’t hesitate.

 

(Genesis 41:15-16)

 

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

 

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

 

Joseph was ready to operate in the giftings that God had given him, giving God the glory, and it was this act that led him into the promise God had given all those years before. He had spent his time wisely, ready to practise his gifts and abilities, and waiting for the chance that God would give.

 

Job

 

 

The story of Job is such a clear demonstration of immense patience and endurance that is has now become an idiom… someone might be referred to as having “the patience of Job” if they show remarkable resilience in times of difficulty.

 

Job is put through terrible trials, losing his children, his wealth and his health. His friends try to help him, attempting to make sense of what has happened. They speak at length of God’s possible purpose in allowing this to happen, suggesting that Job himself might be to blame… even Job’s wife tells him that it would be better to just “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9) than to continue on in this way.

 

Although Job does speak out about his anguish, he doesn’t agree with what his friends are saying, or do what his wife tells him to. He waits on God – enduring everything he is going through.

 

His endurance is mentioned later in the new testament, as James encourages other believers during a difficult time for the early church, full of persecution and suffering.

 

(James 5:11) As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

While Job’s trials were extreme, we can take comfort in knowing the full story – and in knowing that God is indeed full of compassion and mercy.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

We have all been in an unexpected situation in recent months – perhaps, for some, making it seem unlikely that God would use us for His plans, when there are so many demands on us already. Some of us may be used to God using us in certain ways, which are not possible under current conditions. Others may have had plans for the future that are now uncertain or delayed.

 

However, God can always utilise us, even in a global pandemic! Here, we look at how people in prison, in low social positions, and even a man who heavily persecuted Christians were chosen by God as part of His plans. 

 

Joseph

 

Genesis 37-47: But while Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him….and gave him success in whatever he did (read more

 

At first, Joseph had everything going for him – he was his father’s favourite son and even had dreams from God about becoming a leader. However, his life was not so easy, as his brothers became jealous and sold him, resulting in Joseph working at the home of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. While there, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sleeping with her and sent him to jail.

 

Although from this it may seem that Joseph would no longer become a leader, God continued working His plans. While in jail Joseph still interpreted dreams, including for a cupbearer who later recommended him to Pharaoh. This led to Joseph being appointed second in command and guiding Egypt through a difficult period of famine.

 

From Joseph’s life we can see how, even when things seem bleak, we can trust that God is with us. We can also be confident that he will give us the skills to carry out His plans, just like God’s gift of interpreting dreams to Joseph.

 

 

Moses

 

Exodus 1-4: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (read more

 

Moses had an unusual start to life. To stop him being killed by the orders of an oppressive king, his parents left him in a basket in the Nile. He was soon found by Pharaoh’s daughter who cared for him. God, though, had big plans for Moses, including him asking the King of Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. However, Moses doubted his ability to do this, even though God responded with miraculous signs and encouragement: I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do (Exodus 4:15). As promised, God did help Moses to communicate with the King, eventually leading to the Israelites’ freedom. 

 

From Moses’ experiences we can learn that, even if we feel scared or unequipped to carry out God’s plans, He will prepare you. We also see how we should go forward with confidence, knowing God can help us do what He has planned!

 

 

David

 

1 Samuel 16:4-14: There is still the youngest…he is tending the sheep (read more

 

Here God sends a prophet, Samuel, to find the next king of Israel – as King Saul had displeased God, and was no longer fit to hold his position. God directed Samuel to Jesse, in Bethlehem, as one of Jesse’s sons would be anointed king.

 

The first son Samuel meets is Eliab, of whom he thinks “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here” (1 Samuel 16:6) due to his strong appearance. However, God reminds Samuel that, unlike humans, He examines people’s hearts rather than their outward looks. Even Jesse himself didn’t think that David, his youngest, was important enough to meet Samuel – David had to be called in from his duties tending the sheep to meet the prophet. Yet God thought differently, passing over all the other brothers and choosing David.

 

From this situation we see how we should be open-minded to what God’s plans as well as considering more than outward appearances when we meet other people.

 

 

Gideon

 

Judges 6-7: “Pardon me, my lord…but how can I save Israel?”  (read more)

 

Here we see Gideon, from the weakest clan in his tribe and the least in my family (Judges 6:15) being told that he will defeat the Midianites. His response is similar to Moses’, asking for signs to confirm what God has said. When the time came, God made sure His power was clear to others, ordering Gideon to send many of his soldiers home, leaving just 300 men to face the opposing army.

 

This can’t have been easy for Gideon, especially given the Midianites’ strength. However, Gideon was confident of God’s promises and, with His help, the Midianites were defeated and ran away.

 

From these two chapters we see what God can do with a little, whether in number or someone’s self-belief. Remember too that God promises to be with us, no matter how few: where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20)

 

The Shepherds

 

Luke 2:8-20: There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby….An angel of the Lord appeared to them (read more)  

 

The role of the shepherds in Jesus’ birth is familiar to many of us, but have we ever properly reflected on it? This was a group of shepherds in their normal, everyday jobs, never expecting God to personally come before them, choosing them to be the first to hear the good news. Seeing angels in the sky must have been wonderful, if not a little scary, and it’s no surprise that the first words were Do not be afraid (Luke 2:10).

 

It is encouraging to see that God can, and does, choose people who consider themselves most ordinary. Just because you don’t consider yourself skilled or influential doesn’t mean you can’t be part of big things for God.

 

 

Paul (previously Saul)

 

Acts 7:54-8:3 & 9:1-19: “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting…Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do” (read more here and here)   

 

When we looked at Paul’s experiences of lockdown in a previous blog, we did not mention how he actually became a Christian. We can be inspired by Paul’s writings today thanks to God choosing him, even while he was brutally persecuting the church: going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison (Acts 8:3).

 

Yet God chose to come to Saul (his previous name) even during his journey towards Damascus to take Christians as prisoners. He came to face to face with the God he was persecuting and, after becoming blind, was suddenly reliant on those around him. This included a disciple, Ananias, who, although doubtful of God’s plan for Saul, learned that This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel (Acts 9:15)

 

From Paul we see how God can change people’s hearts, and so can trust that it is possible. We can also learn to seek opportunities to help others through this process as Ananias did. Even if you’re doubtful of what God has planned, trust that His plans will work out for the best!

 

Are there any other situations that you are inspired by in the Bible? Let us know!


Monday, July 20, 2020

This week we’re continuing with a series of creative worship. This selection of poems and photographs is from Andrea, who has also written about her experience of creative things with God.

 

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Sometimes when reading the Bible or meditating on a small part of it, ideas start to form in my mind for a poem, and as I pray asking God to give me His words, then often the poem seems to write itself!  As I search for the right word or phrase, I can be surprised by what comes to mind as the Holy Spirit leads me to something poetic and beautiful.

 

So some of my writing is sparked off by spending time with God, but other times I sit down to intentionally write a poem by inviting the Holy Spirit to co-author something on a particular theme and I am often amazed at what comes!

 

At other times, my writing is therapy as I partner with God to work through a hurt, problem or grief and the process brings healing and comfort.

 

God is the Creator and we are made in his image, so are all able to create something in our everyday lives be that a solution to a work problem, a design, drawing, recipe, gardening , photography, painting etc. – all can be enhanced and inspired when we intentionally partner with the Holy Spirit to bring a bit of heaven down to earth!

 

 

Meditation on Psalm 121

 

Look up eyes that are cast down

Look up to heaven

See life from a heavenly perspective

 

Big picture

Eternal timeframe

 

The Maker of heaven and earth designed you

 

Formed you

Crafted you

 

And is with you to help and guide

Look up to the skies

Look up to the hills

Pour out your feelings

Cry for the Lord’s help

For He watches over you day and night

And will protect you

His timing is perfect

Entrust every aspect of your life to Him

 

For He sees it all

Always has

And always will

This too will pass

Draw close to the Lord

Share life with Him

 

And see circumstances through His eyes

 

Lift up your eyes

For all help comes from the Lord

 

© Andrea Mill 2019

 

What’s in a name?

 

Given by parents but inspired by God

Names are passed down through the generations

Carrying with them blessings and curses

That shape each life for good or ill

Family pet names, nicknames, banter

 

Even names spoken in jest but with negative connotations

 

Feed identity

Create wounds

 

And become labels that stifle potential

Yet terms of endearment breathe life

The name of womanly strength given to me

Rarely used within my family

 

Became weakened by shortening and replacing with pet names

 

Critical names

Names overheard

Even spoken by teachers

Pierced like arrows into my very soul

Stole my confidence

Smothered my potential

Until God called me by my name

And I became born again

Adopted into God’s family

One by one the arrows were removed

Words of love and encouragement broke my shackles

 

Healed my wounds

Restored my God-given personality

The pet names whispered by my heavenly father are:

 

Adored one

Beloved child

Beautiful woman

Darling

Intimate and life-giving

 

He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing

 

In His love I am secure

I am strong

My identity is in Christ

My name is child of God

 

© 2018 Andrea Mill

 

 

From a rosebud to a rose

 

Song of Songs 2:1-3 The Passion Translation (TPT)

 

 I am truly his rose, the very theme of his song.

 I’m overshadowed by his love, growing in the valley!

 

Rosebud potential

Delicately formed

Fragrant promise

Like a tightly wound spring

About to burst into bloom

 

This was me

Until I met Jesus

Unable to see who I was

But Jesus gently opened me up

His love released the tightness in my heart

Removed my thorns

And taught me how to love

 

I began to bend in the wind of the Holy Spirit

To turn my face towards the warmth of his love

And as my tears watered the soil

I put down roots ever deeper into him

Receiving his nourishment surging through my veins

Passion rising in my heart

 

Fresh vision

Revealing talents I was unaware of

But in partnership with heaven

Creativity blossomed

And I began to open up

To bloom as God designed

No longer a bud

But flourishing as a rose

 

© Andrea Mill 2018

 

 

Alternative Ending

 

As I walk, my feet begin to follow a depression in the ground, like a hollow scooped out

before me and I continue down

Down until the sides are higher than me,

Down, down, till I’m walking through a valley

All around there is colour, flowers, trees with healing in their leaves, humming of insects,

joyous birdsong, yet nothing penetrates me

My eyes are downcast as I walk down, down ever lower into this valley of darkness and

despair

As I focus on my life, my circumstances, the problems that surround me

My mood descends

I see no way out

But suddenly I remember that when I lift my eyes to heaven, there I can find hope, infinite

help, lightness of being, healing

As I look to heaven, I begin to feel the infilling of the Holy spirit, connecting me, connecting

with my spirit

I feel flooded by love, such power, powerful love of God that I do not understand,

Deeper, wider, higher than this valley that I’m going through

I feel warmth

I feel like crying, touched by the love of God

Hope begins to rise in my breast

I begin to see light in the distance

I begin to notice the colours around me

I begin to hear the voice of the one who loves me, saying “Come follow me

Look into the skies, see the chariots of fire, see the angels ministering to you, see your

guardian angel

All of heaven is on your side

Look to heaven not at your circumstances

Look to me

Look to my love

And I will lift you

I will provide for you

I will heal you

I will strengthen you and guide you out of this valley

For perfect love overcomes fear

In heaven there is infinite creativity, a solution for all problems

Not what you see, not what you might think, for my ways are not your ways

So come to heaven

Let me lift you

Seek my face

Seek my face

Because when you do seek me, when you knock at my door

I am there waiting to answer you

You need not walk through this Valley alone for I am with you

I will always be with you.”

 

© Andrea Mill 2018

 

 

Solitude

 

Walking barefoot alone along a golden, Hebridean beach

 

Emptiness stretching out before me

 

No people

 

Just the cries of swooping seabirds

 

The noise of wind in my hair and waves crashing upon the shore

 

My thoughts drift as my feet dip into the edge of the icy sea

 

Here, at last, is the solitude I crave away from the demands of people and things

Warm sun breaking through the grey and white clouds, sparkling upon the sea

Now and then I am jolted back to reality by the reach, force and depth of an incoming wave

 

And I am reminded that the glory of God is all around, everywhere

Shining down from heaven and reflected in the waves

Cool, refreshing water for my soul

Invigorating wind reviving my spirit

The seabirds’ call drawing me towards the voice of God

 

Although it is solitude that I seek

 

God is here

 

As my head is cleared of the clutter of daily life

I begin to hear His voice and feel His presence

 

He is always with me

He supplies my every need

 

And I realise that my longing for solitude is actually a longing for God

 

© Andrea Mill 2017


Sunday, July 12, 2020

This week we take our inspiration from the Day by Day Bible notes which, earlier this year, focussed on some of the encounters with God in the Bible.

God is always at work. Sometimes, however, He breaks into our lives in a more obvious way than usual... although we may not have seen a burning bush or encountered an angel, we can still learn about how God meets with us today by looking at examples from scripture.

Here are 7 encounters with God, one for each day in the coming week…

Sought out by God

Genesis 3:1-13: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (read more

Here we see humans sinning against God for the first time, after being tempted by the devil. The devil wanted to alienate Adam and Eve from God, and so made them doubt by twisting His words, leading them to disobey God’s rules. This event changed humanity’s relationship with God forever.

After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve felt guilt and shame when they realised they were naked and so hid from God. He, however, still searched for them, seeking to have a relationship with them. In verse 21  He even fashioned clothes for them to wear.

From this we see that God asks “Where are you?” even when we’re distant from Him. He wants to have a relationship with us and so we can be confident approaching and talking to Him.

 

 

God speaks in a dream

Genesis 28:10-22: There above it stood the Lord and He said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham” (read more

This passage takes place as Jacob was fleeing from his family after cheating his twin brother, Esau, out of his inheritance.  (Read more in Genesis 27). Despite perhaps feeling lonely, and probably guilty, Jacob met God in a dream and was shown tremendous promises for his future; including having as many descendants as the dust of the earth. God also promised that He would always be with Jacob.  

From this, we can learn to tune in to what God is telling us, regardless of how far we may seem from Him, or what we have done to distance ourselves from Him and others. This may not necessarily be in dreams, but perhaps through prompts to read a Bible verse, advice from a friend, or even missing a bus home which leads to an exciting conversation! Also know from this that God will still be with you when you make mistakes; He will always have a plan for you.

 

 

A personal encounter with God

Exodus 3:1-15: God called to him from within the bush, “Moses, Moses!” (read more

Here we see Moses being called personally by name while he was shepherding, at a moment when God knew he would be alone. This was an encounter made specifically for him – though he still had to see and follow the invitation God set out. Moses was willing to leave his daily tasks and listen to God, and what resulted was an amazing, intimate, conversation in which he heard the many plans for his life.

We perhaps need to open our eyes more to encounters with God, for example through conversations with others. There may also be moments when God will speak with you when you are alone, requiring you to see His invitation and step aside from what you had planned to do. He knows you, and knows which situations to speak with you in. How might he call you by name?

Being open to these personal encounters can lead to discovering the exciting opportunities that God has planned for us individually, as it did for Moses.

 

 

An encounter with God’s power

1 Kings 19:11-18: “Go and stand on the mountain… for the LORD is about to pass by” (read more

Here we see only a small portion of God’s power, yet Elijah had to hide himself from it.

Elijah witnessed God’s ability to control the weather and even the very earth, but after these powerful events he hears God in a quiet, calm whisper. As mentioned in our article on how to pray, how much more will God be capable of if this is only a small part of his power?

It seems Elijah wasn’t fully aware of what He’d just witnessed, just as we may not always be aware of when God is appearing to us. We might also be looking for the wrong sign – we might be waiting for the fire or rushing wind. Sometimes His presence is not always obvious and we may have to listen closely to hear what He is saying, like listening to a quiet whisper.

 

 

A life changing encounter

Luke 1:26-38: the angel said to [Mary] “Do not be afraid…you have found favour with God” (read more

When Gabriel first greeted Mary she was greatly troubled, as I imagine we all would be! Despite this, she was very rational in the conversation she had with the angel; she asked questions to help her understand what was happening.

Mary knew she could trust what Gabriel said, as he promised for no word from God will ever fail. This promise ultimately led to God’s Son breaking into our world in the biggest way imaginable, just as it had been promised throughout the Old Testament.

Let’s echo Mary’s words, may Your word to me be fulfilled and be willing to let God shape our lives, knowing that His word will never fail. How about the job He’s pushing you towards, the charity work He’s given you a passion for, or the person He’s prompting you to share your faith with?

 

Clarity from confusion

Luke 24:13-27: He explained to them all that was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself (read more

In the Bible we read plenty of encounters during Jesus’ time on Earth, from His birth through to this passage, after His resurrection. Here we see the disciples oblivious to who they were talking with and even reluctant to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, despite the prophecies about Him.  Jesus had to walk them through all that had been said and come true about Him to help clarify their confusion.

Sometimes we doubt and don’t see the bigger picture of how God is at work, and that’s ok. There are some fantastic ways to remind yourself of, or learn about, the basics of our faith, including attending an Alpha course  https://alpha.org.uk/which Bristo are hoping to run very soon.

You may have an encounter with God that isn’t about showing you the next step of your own life, but rather revealing something about Him.

Reading the Bible in a regular and committed way can help with this; Jesus in this example was speaking to people who knew the scriptures intimately. He used their existing knowledge to enlighten them and show them the deeper truths behind their knowledge.

 

 

Encountering God through others

Acts 8:26-40: Then Philip…told him the good news about Jesus (read more

In this passage we see how God both sends assistance in times of need and sends us to others facing difficult times. Philip and the Ethiopian were brought together because God knew that one was able to increase the understanding of the other – and through this human encounter, both men experienced God. For the Ethiopian this experience was very fleeting, and he was probably left a little bewildered when Philip vanished! However, we see how he was changed forever through being saved by Jesus: he went on his way rejoicing.

God will also find ways of helping us understand His word with the help of others, whether through shared Bible resources, study groups, and other encounters. Like Phillip we can help others understand His word too, through sharing blogs like this or chatting to those around us. God might want to use us to create an encounter between Him and someone else. Keep an eye out for opportunities from God to do this!

 

What other encounters with God in the Bible inspire you? What encounters have you had yourself with Him? Let us know!


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Last week, we looked at how to pray. This week, we’re looking at different types of prayer mentioned in the Bible.

 

This isn’t an exhaustive list, as there are countless ways of praying – but a lot of prayers can be broadly defined by the categories below.

 

When looking at your prayer life, it can be useful to consider which types of prayers you go to most frequently, and if there are any prayers you could be working to include in your day to day communication with God.

 

 

Adoration

 

Prayers of adoration are prayers of praise, acknowledging God’s goodness, power and love for us. This is the same mindset we have when we worship, and a prayer of adoration is considered to be an act of worship itself.

 

This is a chance to consider the wonderous nature of God. It might not mean thanking Him for anything specific, just recognising who He is.

 

Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11

 

I love you, LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2

 

“Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4

 

Confession

 

Part of coming before God with a desire for communication is admitting where we have fallen short of him. Confession is a key part of our relationship with Jesus, as it’s the forgiveness of these sins that is our salvation.

 

A confessing prayer involves searching our hearts for anything we need forgiveness for. Sometimes our actions have been obviously sinful, but other times it might be pattern of thought or a bad habit that we haven’t noticed. Part of the prayer might be asking God to reveal these issues to us.

 

Prayers of confession should also be prayers of repentance: literally, a turning point. In confessing the sin you state an intention to stop.

 

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

 

 

Thanksgiving

 

Thanking God for specific blessings in our lives is a vital part of prayer. It can also be very helpful to include this before asking God for anything, even if the request is uppermost in your mind. A prayer of thanksgiving means looking at your life and circumstances with open eyes. Even in difficulties, struggles or tragedy, we can give thanks.

 

We can also thank God for the privilege of being able to come to him with our requests, and for listening to us. We might thank him in advance for whatever the answer to our prayer is, knowing that He always has our best interests at heart.

 

With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phillipians 4.6

 

Petition/supplication

 

Petition and supplication are names given to a prayer of request – asking God for something we want. This is a very common type of prayer, and is likely to be tried even by those who have never prayed before.

While it’s important to balance out this type of prayer with the prayers mentioned above, a prayer of petition isn’t a selfish action. God encourages us to come to Him with our needs, wants and desires, as He knows how to fulfil them.

 

This is also an expression of our faith, as asking for something in prayer means you believe God will answer the prayer. Of course, this type of prayer should also be accompanied by an active attitude of listening, and a willingness to take action as God instructs you.

 

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

 

 

Intercession
 

This is the name usually given to praying on behalf of someone else – a type of prayer of supplication. Interceding means to intervene, or stand in the gap for someone.

 

This might be for someone in particular, who is going through something you want to pray into. It might be more general – for those in your community, for your leaders, for those in another part of the world.

 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1

 

Sometimes, we’re called to intercede for those who have been fighting by themselves for a long time, and need someone to support them through prayer. We might also be called to intercede for our church or for other believers. Jesus gave us an example of this when he prayed for His followers: Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11

Consecration

 

This is a prayer of dedication something to God. It might mean dedicating something to the will of God, or to his honour. There are several instances of people in the Bible dedicating something to God – for example, Hannah in 1 Samuel, dedicating her son to God’s service ("For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord," 1 Samuel 1:28)

 

Another example is found in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gesthemane, as he asked if he could be spared the suffering that was to come – yet also dedicating his life to God. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

 

Prayer of lamentation

 

This is a prayer that comes from a place of pain, in which we cry out to God. This can simply by expressing what you’re going through to Him, and doesn’t always mean we’re asking for anything in particular. Sometimes, in moments of deep hurt or crisis, we don’t know what to ask for, but can only bring our pain to God.

 

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2)

 

Like a prayer of petition, this is an act of faith. We trust God with our hearts, and our pain, and believe that He will help us in our need. It’s also an act of worship – acknowledging God’s nature and His ever-present, deep and unshakeable love for us.

 

 

Praying in tongues

 

This is a different type of prayer, as it’s not so much about the content of the prayer as the action itself. Praying in tongues is a gift of the Spirit – it means praying in words you don’t understand. Sometimes, the words will be understood by those around you, either because you’re praying in a language they recognise, or because the Spirit has given them an interpretation.

 

This type of prayer comes from the Spirit – it’s first noted in the Bible in Acts, when the Spirit descends on the believers at Pentecost. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4

 

It’s sometimes mentioned in the New Testament, as a result of a new believer being baptised in the Spirit.

 

Praying in tongues is a way to communicate to God without needing to put anything into words. While we can be given interpretations, this is mainly about speaking with God himself. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. 1 Corinthians 14:2

 

There are many other types of prayer mentioned in the Bible. As prayer is act of communication, there as many types of prayer as there are ways of communicating with someone. Knowing different types of prayer can help you structure your prayer time, or pay attention to what you’re saying to God and why.

 

The most important thing to know is that He is always listening.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Lockdown has been a time of trying new things, and in the past weeks many people have been joining online church services. For some, it will be the first service they have been to in a while.

Prayer is a key part of any meeting of believers – but it can sometimes feel strange when other people seem to pray effortlessly but you have no idea where to start.

God cares about you and longs to hear from you, and the reopening of churches for private prayer may be a good opportunity to try praying yourself, if you haven’t before. Here are some useful pointers to help you talk to Him.

The Lord’s Prayer

 

A good starting point for structuring your prayers is the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name – addressing God and praising Him for all He has done

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – acknowledging He is in control and not us

Give us today our daily bread – ask God for what we need

And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors – confessing and repenting of our sins, as well as forgiving those who have hurt you

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – asking for help in overcoming sin and for protection from Satan’s attacks

(Matthew 6:9-13)

While Jesus Himself taught this prayer, He does not say that this is the only way to pray…

When should I pray?

 

Nowadays we can send a text anywhere, anytime. Equally, we can pray to God wherever and whenever.  Just like texting, prayer is communication with God – it can be brief or lengthy, and the best bit is that the person you’re talking to loves you unconditionally! Unlike a text though, we don’t even have to use any words: the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself….intercedes for God’s people (Romans 8:26-27)

It can be useful to have a routine of prayer, similar to how you might call relatives at the same time each week. Don’t be afraid, however, to pray spontaneously when something prompts you – such as hearing somebody is ill, or when you see something wonderful in God’s creation. God promises to always listen to you: we know that He hears us – whatever we ask (1 John 5:15)

Prayer should not be regarded as a duty…but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed (E.M. Bounds)

What should I pray for?

 

Firstly, remember how powerful God is. We shouldn’t put limits on His ability to do anything – He parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14), made a blind man see (John 9:1-12) and, ultimately, raised His son Jesus from the dead. God will be listening and working in even the smallest of prayers: if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move (Matthew 17:20)

It is also good to listen to God before you pray. You can do this by reading the Bible, and sermons can help direct you too. After all, reading the Bible helps us know God more and communication is much easier when we know someone well! Let Him shape and inspire your conversation with Him.

Don’t be afraid to be persistent either, especially you are praying for something God has put on your heart. None of your prayers will go unanswered, even if the answer is “wait” or is a different solution to what we expect. God’s plan is perfect and we will understand more once we’re in heaven: You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand (John 13:7)

Who should I pray for?

 

With so many situations to pray for, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a couple of ideas:

You can imagine circles working outwards, beginning with yourself then moving onto your partner or family, then your friends and church. Finally you can consider your nation and then the world. Some of these are very large topic – so try to listen to, or to feel, what God is saying you should pray for in that moment.

Another idea is to use the fingers on your hand starting with your thumb, which is strongest, to represent those who support and sustain you. The pointing index finger reminds us of those who guide and help us while the tallest, middle finger, represents our governments and leaders. The weak ring finger reminds us to pray for the helpless and weak and the final little finger represents yourself.

Remember it is okay to pray simply. As Joyce Meyer says, Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.

Fancy giving it a try?

 

The Try Praying initiative is an excellent 7 day guide to praying and shows it is much easier than you think! A lot of churches, including Bristo, have these booklets outside so pick one up as you’re passing.

Alternatively, Bristo Baptist Church will be reopening for private prayer soon. (You can check the website for announcements.) Members of the congregation will be on hand to answer any questions you may have, and to provide even more ideas on how to pray.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Drawn in by creation: a photo series

 

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at ways to stay creative during lockdown. This is a lovely example of creative worship from Jeanette Holligan, who has been inspired by God’s creation while on walks around the green spaces of Edinburgh.

 

Her photography, or photos shared with her from others, often sparks words as well, and her responses have been included with the series of pictures below.

 

 

(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)

 

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good

New life springing up

Heaven and earth meet

A sound is released an invitation a smile

Created to thrive

To burst forth

 

(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)

 

 

What can you see and feel?

I see movement

God’s glory on display

I see beauty in the clouds

Our creator calling us to join him

as he displays his splendour and majesty for all to see

 

 

(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)

 

Beauty in everyday life. Take time to stop when something catches your eye and ask God to speak to you.

 

The words from a song came to mind – a song based on Amos 9:13, by Kevin Prosch, “So Come”

 

Behold the days are coming

For the Lord has promised

That the plowman will overtake the reaper

And our hearts will be the threshing floor

And the move of God we've cried out for Will come,

It will surely come

For You will shake the heavens

And fill your house with glory

And turn the shame of outcasts into praise

All creation groans and waits

For the Spirit and the bride to say

The words that your heart had longed to hear

So come

So come

So come

Even so come

 

(CREDIT: Kevin Prosch, Even So Come 1991)

 

(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)

 

 

Mighty defender

Our Father never slumbers or sleeps

He is fierce as a lion and gentle as a lamb

The mother looks around proud of her new babies

She has dreams for them

But for now their company and nearness she cherishes.

 

(Photo: Kate Downes)

 

Drawn in drawn upwards

There's a story being told

I'm invited to look linger and contemplate.

Movement in the sky

God is at work displaying his glory for all to see.

The trees giving an invitation.

Romance is in the air.

Our bridegroom king is wooing us setting us apart.

The green speaks of pastures new fresh encounters. Life more abundant.

 

If you’ve felt inspired to write, or create your own artworks, we’d love for you to share them. Let us know what creative ways you’ve found to worship during this time!


Saturday, June 13, 2020

At Bristo Baptist Church we have recently been reading the book of Philippians. Although we began in February, it took on a whole new meaning for us once lockdown began.

Philippians was written by Paul to a church in Philippi (in modern day Greece) which he had established during his second missionary journey. This book is one of the Prison Epistles, which were written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. “Epistle” means letter or message and is often instructional, written by a teacher or leader. As we read, I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:8), Paul was very close to the Philippian church and must have found it challenging to not be allowed to visit those he loved.

We have also had to change our way of life – not meeting loved ones, not sure when we’ll be together again – and so we can find encouragement from Paul’s letter.

Imprisonment

Paul was under house arrest for two years while on his third missionary journey, which involved travelling to Jerusalem with aid during a famine. However, the authorities at the time wanted to halt Christianity’s spread, and so arrested Paul.

Despite this terrible event, God had told Paul you must also testify in Rome (Acts 23:11). From this, Paul was confident God’s plan was for him to minister, whether to the guards around him, or by praying and writing to others. He therefore prayed that God’s plan would be carried out, rather than for his release – I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12).

God knew this current pandemic would come and, even though it has disrupted many plans, be assured that you were meant to live through this period. He has placed you in whatever situation you are in to work for His kingdom. Paul was able to pray and carry out God’s plan at a time when letters took weeks to arrive… how much more easily can we follow His plans nowadays!

 

 

Perseverance

“Perseverance” may imply that we have to ignore bad things that are happening. However, Paul doesn’t tell us not to doubt, but instead that we should hold onto God’s promises.

Times of doubt can come during times of conflict. For the Philippian church, conflict came from outside, through authorities and false preachers, as well as inside, through disagreements. For us, conflict may currently exist in news articles, social media and even within our homes.

Paul’s advice to the Philippian church was to not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). We can do the same, knowing God will listen and relieve anxieties in a practical way – or change our perspective and bring us peace.

Doubt can also appear during times of suffering. Despite his suffering, Paul was excited to share the gospel with new people. At this time, our suffering may be emotional, such as grief, stress or loneliness, or financial difficulties. While we’re not promised that we won’t suffer, God does promise that He will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). Think though of all His love that you’ve already shared during this period, and will continue sharing!

Paul tells his readers to stand firm in the Lord (Philippians 4:1), creating images of the tortoise formation in which Roman soldiers would create a defensive shell with their shields. Even when the battle seemed desperate, the soldiers would still have to listen to their commander’s voice. Paul was certainly feeling desperate – For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! (Philippians 1:21-22). However, he held onto God’s truths and promises, all of which helped him to stand firm. For us standing firm also means listening to Jesus, especially His promises which never change…

His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:5)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7)

 

Joy & optimism

Paul’s letter inspires us to find joy in any circumstances, something which may surprise us – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).

We, who are so much freer than Paul, can surely find plenty of things to be thankful for, even in our current situation. Pretty flowers, sunshine and beautiful sunsets are all given by God to enjoy – the same God about whom Paul writes I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

Paul clearly experienced many feelings during his house arrest, but we can see his genuine joy in God’s blessings. We see this even in his optimism about death - I eagerly expect and hope that I… will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).

So today, know that you can trust God, even if His plans are different to yours. He knew this period was coming and has not abandoned you because of it – I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

Are there any parallels to our current situation you’ve been reading in the Bible recently?

*all Bible verses are taken from the NIV

 

 


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Staying occupied during the long weeks of lockdown have been a struggle for many of us – even if we have work to do from home or household chores, it can be hard to keep fulfilled during our downtime. Movies and tv will only go so far!

 

Everyone has an inner desire to create things. God is the original Creator – and we, in His image, hold that inside of us too. We can see and appreciate all that God has made (The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 91:1)

 

There are many instances in the Bible when God called skilled craftsmen to create for Him. While we’re not all going to get called up to create bronze and gold fittings for a temple, we’ve all tried to create something at some point in our lives, following the desire to create that God has implanted in us.

 

For some people, this desire to create is obvious, if they have a hobby like painting. But a lot of people often feel as though they’re not creative, because they’re not “artistic” or “musical”. You might be surprised at the number of ways you can be creative, using the gifts God has given you to His glory (and for fun!)

 

Here are a few ways you can be creative at home, during the remainder of lockdown and afterwards…

 

 

Playing music

 

If you play an instrument or sing, you might already spend time practising at home. But it can be even more fun to practise with other people! While we’re kept indoors for the lockdown period, this sounds impossible – but there are ways to get together and play. If you have friends who enjoy music, you could meet them outdoors on a nice day to practise safely.

 

There are also digital options. The Bristo worship group has been recording parts of songs using Bandlab, an online platform for musicians, putting the tracks together to make recordings of worship songs. If you have musical friends, this can be a fun option.

 

Something else to consider, for those already skilled at music – have you ever tried writing your own songs? This might be the next step to expand your gift.

 

Theatre

 

Learning lines from a play or movie is its own type of creativity – many people enjoy the social experience of community theatre, as well as the fun of acting itself.

 

This might seem impossible to do from home. But with a few friends, you can organise a read-through of one of your favourite plays or screenplays.

 

This can also be something that kids can enjoy – maybe even with costumes! (Or puppets…)

 

 

Flower arranging

 

Getting up close to flowers and plants can be a big mood booster for many people, and a vase of flowers can make a huge difference to your indoor space.

 

The art of flower arranging goes back hundreds of years, and there are plenty of things to learn if you’ve never tried it before! If you want instructions, there are plenty of Youtube tutorials available.

 

This is also a practical skill to learn, for any event in the future that requires flowers – you can also arrange your own bouquets as unique and personal gifts for friends or family.

 

This hobby can be a little expensive in terms of materials, and might be easier for those who have their own gardens. However, if you want to splash out every week or so, it can be a relaxing and peaceful hobby to enjoy. (Not to mention low-stakes… flowers are always going to look good no matter what we do with them!)

 

Sewing

 

There are many types of sewing, knitting and embroidery to try. If you’re after something potentially calming, a lot of people find cross-stitch to be a contemplative and relaxing activity. Once you know the basics, you can focus on creating your own patterns and pictures, experimenting with new ideas.

 

Knitting can also be calming, once you’ve got the basics down. The physical feeling of making stitch after stitch and watching your creation grow is really enjoyable. And you’ll never be short of scarves!

 

There are endless projects you can make with a few sewing skills. And this is a pretty easy hobby to get started with at home, during the lockdown. There are many books and video tutorials with easy to follow instructions to get you started. 

 

 

Cooking

 

If you ever wanted an incentive to create something, cooking and baking provide the perfect balance between effort and reward.

 

Just by following a recipe, you’re creating something (which you then get to eat…) but with practice, you can start creating your own recipes.  If you’ve never invented a recipe before, it can be fun to find two similar recipes and use them to create your own version of the dish.

 

Other challenges might be to buy an ingredient you’ve never used before, and try to make a dish using it. If you live with someone else who enjoys cooking, you could try your own mini version of Masterchef, with a little friendly competition. Maybe each person could make their own sauce for the same piece of chicken or fish, and the winner can be decided with a taste test!

 

Baking is another way to get creative, as there are usually more decorative options with baked goods. Even a basic batch of biscuits can become a fun project with a few different colours of icing!

 

Letter writing

 

Not all creative endeavours have to have a big audience – sometimes, they can have an audience of one! A nice letter written to someone special can be a creative exercise, and it can also be a great way to set an easy goal for yourself: you know you’ll only have to write a page or two, not a whole novel!

 

A letter can also take other forms. You can include a picture or short poem for the person you’re writing to (if you don’t like writing your own poetry, pick a few lines from a poem you like, and maybe explain why you wanted to share them.)

 

You don’t even have to write the letter. You can record yourself speaking to the other person and send it, maybe as a WhatsApp voice note. You could even film yourself speaking to the camera, and send a video letter!

 

 

Prayer

 

A prayer journal is a great creative activity, and one you can add to daily. Writing down your thoughts, feelings and prayers can be a healthy exercise, as well as a creative one. Taking your inner thoughts and putting them onto the page can help you take a real look at how you’re feeling.

 

While all of the ideas listed in this blog can be done as your own form of worship – appreciating the abilities God has given you, and your capacity to enjoy them – bringing creativity directly into your time with God can be particularly powerful.

 

You don’t have to write in a journal, if you don’t find yourself connecting to writing. You could draw, dance, sing – or listen to the Spirit’s prompting for ways that you can include your unique talents in your worship time.

 

Ask for guidance

 

If you’d love to start creating something but aren’t sure where to start – just ask!

 

Of course, you can ask those around you for help and tips, as they might have noticed something you enjoy doing that you hadn’t thought to pursue before.

 

But this is also something you can bring before God. He was the one who made you and gave you your talents and desires. Even something as seemingly small as a new hobby can make a difference in your life – and He knows what you’re going to love doing!


Friday, May 29, 2020

As we come to the end of our tenth week of lockdown, we've all found it challenging at times to follow Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour” (Mark 12:30-31) especially given that, currently, loving your neighbour realistically means isolating yourself from them.

 

 

However, this does offer opportunities to connect with others in new and exciting ways, and the chance to hopefully build relationships that will continue past the end of the pandemic.

Here we offer some suggestions from Bristo, Scotland and beyond, on how to show love to others during this time.

Ideas from Bristo Baptist Church members

 “We’ve been getting to know our immediate neighbours better by baking cakes for each other on alternate weeks and passing them over during the clap on Thursday nights” Christopher

“My next-door neighbours are in their early forties and both working full time from home during the pandemic. They have twp children, one who is able to get on with school work on his laptop. But the other younger child is about to start school after the summer holidays and has had to be left to her own devices a lot of the time while her parents worked – and has been playing up as a result.

Upon hearing their struggles over the garden hedge, I had an idea to put together a surprise “lockdown care package” to leave on their doorstep to cheer them up. I found an unused gift bag and other things I had in the house for my grandson, like chocolates and Jaffa cakes (plus a bottle of wine for the parents) and sneaked it round to their front door.

The next day I received a text asking if the lockdown fairy was me, to which I replied “I couldn’t possibly comment!" So they guessed, and were very appreciative of the kind act. I had also included a printout of “the Father’s Love Letter” but so far have had no comment regarding that - a conversation for another day!” Andrea

 

 

“The Bristo Baptist Church blog has been great to find a way to get involved with church from a distance. Even though the blog is new, I'm hoping it can be something church members can get involved in and enjoy together in our online space.

We're also aiming to create blogs that can be shared with those outside the church, if they're interested in learning more about what we do and believe.” Kate

Ideas from Baptists across Scotland

Every Sunday the Baptist Union of Scotland holds a National Prayer Evening on their Facebook page. On Sunday 17th May, their theme was “Loving your Neighbour.” People around Scotland gave many ideas on how to do this, from donating to food banks and assisting with their deliveries, to creating social media groups for neighbours to keep in touch and help each other out when needed.

 

 

As so many churches have now moved online, it was also suggested that links to Zoom services could be shared with others, or perhaps the Blessing UK video which involves over 65 churches and movements singing God’s blessings over our country.

Other ideas

As restrictions are now being lifted slightly, why not visit a friend who has a garden and have a good catch up, especially if they’ve been on their own during the lockdown? Even a telephone call will be appreciated!

If the good weather continues you could also offer to do gardening for somebody, an ideal activity for maintaining social distancing while having a conversation.

For somebody who still has to self-isolate or shield, a bunch of flowers will brighten up their home, while posting cards offering to help others in your street – with a short Bible verse on them, or an offer for prayer – will also go a long way in showing them God’s love at this difficult time.

If you find out it is somebody’s birthday or anniversary in your street, you could even arrange a socially distant street party to celebrate together!

 

Please let us what else you’ve been doing to show love to others during the lockdown!

 


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Earlier this month, one of our words for the week was “weary.”

 

This is something many of us have experienced during the lockdown time. Objectively, this seems a little strange, as this is a period that is literally defined by the importance of not going anywhere or doing anything.

 

Of course, for a number of people, this time has meant more work than ever – those who are home schooling, for example, or those working on the front lines and in key worker roles.

 

Even those who are not affected by the above, however, have found themselves growing mentally and spiritually weary as time goes on and uncertainty weighs down on us. And as our lives look so different now, it can be hard to find ways to truly rest.

 

We are promised, however, that we will be given rest if we seek it.

 

Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 

So what does the bible say about rest?

 

Rest in nature

Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

 

This is one of the best known passages of the Bible. It’s something that everyone can immediately identity with. Green pastures, quiet waters… later on in the psalm, the author goes on to speak of going through the valley of death, and feeling God’s presence with them instead of fear. Is this because they were first strengthened by a moment of rest with God?

 

While the psalm uses poetical imagery, it can also be taken in a literal sense. Nature can be deeply restful. Of course, not everyone has easy access to actual green pastures and quiet waters – some may not even be going outside of their homes at the moment.

 

But God may well have his own idea for something you will enjoy, whether it be a moment in a park, a garden, or a view from your window.

 

Rest in obedience (and snacks)

Kings 17:2-6 “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah:  “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

 

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

 

When this story takes place, Elijah was actively doing good, obeying God’s commands – he had just warned of a coming drought, the result of God’s displeasure with the idolaters in Israel. But just after this, when God told him to go and hide himself, he did. He didn’t push on with his ministry, or try to find another good work to do.

 

God had prepared the place for the rest, and also a plan to keep Elijah strengthened, by having the ravens bring him food.

 

This is a very practical moment – Elijah needs food for strength, so God sends it to him. How often do our troubles seem so much worse when we haven’t eaten all day? Elijah rests because God has commanded him to, but the rest itself is something that God has designed to benefit Elijah’s human needs.

 

 

Rest after work

Genesis 2:2-3 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

 

God rested.

 

This is something very important to remember, any time we try to convince ourselves that we can get along fine without rest. Do we think we’re going to do better than God?

 

This would later become the Sabbath day, a day only for rest. Of course, Jesus made a point of freeing us from the religious structures of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12, “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.") But the importance of time set aside to rest was built into humanity from the very beginning.

 

The day of rest is listed as the final moment of creation, the seventh part of a seven-part story. It’s included every time we look at these events – we consider it a part of “creation”, even though God wasn’t creating anything on that particular day.

 

Might a time of rest be just as essential to our works as the works themselves?

 

Rest in faith

Mark 4:35-40 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.

 

 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 

 

Jesus knew that he needed to rest. And he slept through some circumstances that would ordinarily have someone’s full attention. Interestingly, the storm didn’t wake him, his disciples did.

 

He reprimanded them for their lack of faith – the faith he had, that they would be safe. Of course, he didn’t just go right back to sleep, he commanded the storm to be still first. It seems he wasn’t telling them that it was wrong to bother him, but rather that they shouldn’t have been panicking.

 

A time of rest will often be interrupted, either by others, or by our circumstances, or both. It doesn’t mean that we should ignore those who need help (“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with the storm, I’m having some me time. You understand.”)

 

It should be noted Jesus did make a point of setting boundaries when necessary – there are many other times in the gospels when he rested, often taking himself away from his active ministry in order to do so.

 

But when our lives feel like unmanageable chaos, taking a moment to rest can seem as nonsensical as having a nap in the stern of a boat during a storm.

 

If we do rest, we do so in faith that Jesus will fulfil his promises to us.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”


Saturday, May 16, 2020

A selection of resources to grow and deepen our faith

In our first blog post we spoke about how Bristo Baptist Church has had to adapt to the lockdown in Scotland. This week, we're looking at how you can continue to grow and deepen in your faith outside of the Zoom and WhatsApp conversations. So, what resources are there to help you?

Some of these have been around for a while - others have been developed in response to the current situation, such as an online-only church festival.

If there are any other resources that you enjoy using, please share them with us!

Bible Gateway

There are plenty of free resources online, including websites with study Bible options. You’ve probably heard of Bible Gateway, but did you know it offers over 200 Bible translations, including ones in many languages, from Hindi to Twi? Reading different translations is a great way to study as you can see different nuances in what is written. The website also has a verse of the day, which you can receive by email, plus a blog.

Bible Hub

A similar resource is Bible Hub, a site that encourages learning and practical application of the Bible. For example, there is a tool that allows you to search by theme and then cross-reference to other passages on the same topic. Like Bible Gateway, this site has over 40 translations of the Bible, and offers parallel readings of up to 13 different English translations. Bible Hub even provides the opportunity to explore the Hebrew origins of the Bible, breaking down each verse word by word.

Logos

Logos offers upgrades to access more expansive resources - although the free Logos 8 package is perfect for anyone looking to deepen their Bible study. This package provides over 20 digital books, connected to a search function on the site, plus an option to search for the definitions and morphology behind words in the Greek and Hebrew source texts.

Daily Devotional

If prayer is something you would like to develop further there are a couple of great options online. The Daily Devotional from 24-7 prayer uses scripture to help you pray each day, and focuses on the movement’s six core values: prayer, mission, justice, creativity, hospitality and learning. This devotional has a handy app meaning you can access the resources at any time, and you can choose to either read or listen. Content is released each Monday for the week ahead, and you can listen back to 3 months of devotions.

The Prayer Course

Alternatively, if there is a group wanting to look at prayer together, why not try the Prayer Course? Made up of eight sessions, which include a video and pointers for discussion, each one ends with a practical section in which you are invited to pray for each other, worship or reflect on what has been discussed.

Spring Harvest

Although many Christian festivals are sadly unable to go ahead this year, that hasn’t stopped them using technology to reach out to people! Spring Harvest Home was originally started as a substitute for their events - however, they are continuing to publish videos on their YouTube channel for you to enjoy. These videos are perfect for all ages, from Thoughts for the Day to puppet shows from Duggie Dug Dug!

Soul Survivor

Meanwhile, the Soul Survivor website offers a back catalogue of talks from Soul Survivor festivals, aimed at teenagers, between 2017 and 2019, while the recordings from Naturally Supernatural festivals are ideal for the whole family. If you are interested in hearing more from the team at their Watford based church, Andy Croft and Mike Pilavachi have launched a daily podcast, Take Heart, on their YouTube channel. This podcast is based on John 16:33 and aims to encourage people to remain close to Jesus even in tough times.

Online sermons

Alternatively, if you are looking for sermons by famous preachers, Sermons Online offers a fantastic catalogue of talks from people such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren, along with other sections such as music and testimonies.

Joyce Meyer

Joyce Meyer Ministries, established by the American author and speaker, also offers daily devotions, questions and talks. This website also has an app, allowing you access to their resources at any time.

The Bible Project

Finally, if you are looking for something to summarise themes and books of the Bible, take a look at the Bible Project. These short, animated videos are very accessible and perfect for introducing Biblical concepts to a variety of ages.

Additional resources

Alternatively, there are plenty of Bible resources available to purchase, most of which you can subscribe to. These range from Encounter with God  , which provides daily Bible readings and looks at contemporary issues in the world, to Cover to Cover which focuses on one book of the Bible over a 7 week period.

There are also resources for the whole family, such as Exploring the Bible Together. This 52 week family plan is an excellent way to worship together while catering for all ages. If you want to look at other resources like these try websites such as The Good Book, BRF Online, Eden and CWR.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

ipad and computer screen

The Covid-19 lockdown has touched every part of our lives, and church is no exception. Some churchgoers were first made aware of what was to come, when we heard we would no longer be able to meet for services – this was announced before the wider lockdown went into effect.

While we all understand the importance of doing our part and keeping everyone around us safe, we feel the loss of our regular meetings keenly. If there was ever a time we needed the support and love of our church, this is it…

But that support and love is still there. And as the lockdown has progressed, we have found many ways of meeting and sharing from our own homes.

One of Bristo’s first reactions to the lockdown was to start a Whatsapp group, Bristo Connected, which has allowed us to keep in contact on a day to day basis. It has given us a place to share words and testimonies, worship songs, art, prayers, announcements, good news and bad. This isn’t the first group Whatsapp that has been in use at Bristo, but it’s certainly the biggest, and possibly the most active. (And probably has the most emojis, but we’d need to count them to be sure… not that I’m volunteering.)

There has been a strong show of support for the recent use of Zoom for Sunday services and prayer meetings. The app was used before by some of the smaller groups, but we’ve found that even the bigger meetings can work well (with some careful management, screen sharing, and strategic muting.)

Many members of the congregation have commented on how much it means to be able to see everyone’s faces when meeting, which we weren’t able to do when following the written services at home.

Some have also mentioned how much nicer it is when taking communion, as you can be sure that you are eating and drinking at the same time as everyone else. Interestingly, it seems that some churches have questioned whether you can even have communion when you’re not physically together, but at Bristo the agreement has been that if we’re together in the spirit, that is all that’s needed.

In general, the separation we’re experiencing has made for serious reflection. For many, the lockdown has highlighted the importance of staying in contact with our brothers and sisters. The incredible privilege we have enjoyed in being able to meet together in the past has also been mentioned – it might be that none of us knew how blessed we were. Doubtless when we are able to meet in person once more, everyone will be fully aware of how wonderful it is to be together.

Of course, many of us miss meeting physically. It does make a difference, being able to give someone a hug, or lay hands on them while praying. (Although from some testimony shared recently, it has been made apparent that a digital laying of hands can be remarkably effective! We might want to consider writing to Zoom and asking them to add a prayer symbol, along with the thumbs up and applause buttons.) It has also been mentioned that while Zoom gives us the chance to meet face to face, making eye contact becomes tricky…

Everyone has agreed that we are very fortunate to be living in an age where this kind of technology is available. It has prompted a few discussions about how we might be able to incorporate technology into other areas of our church life, such as our outreach programs.

All the discussions around the lockdown might bring Psalm 133 to mind, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Meeting in person is good, and pleasant, and it is missed. Yet, while it may seem like we are more separated than we have ever been before, we are all still unified in Christ – and the amazing experiences we have had, as we work to stay connected, have shown that to us all.