A time for every Season

Although we are still in the winter months, there is hope of a new season around the corner. As we walk in our gardens, on country lanes, or paths and roads where we live, we are likely to see Snowdrops now appearing in garden borders and under hedgerows. They are nearly always the first sign of spring. They will be followed within the next few weeks by Crocus, daffodils, wood anemones and much more. The days are lengthening and we should be cheered by the brighter days to come, with warmer sunshine, leaving those darker days of winter behind us.

There is beauty in all four of the seasons that God created, more unseen in the winter months because that’s the dormant season. Winter is natures support mechanism so that it can rest, ensuring that life can continue through the following year.

The Bible tells us of seasons not just of those concerning nature, but those concerning man and woman and our lives too.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3 v 1-8

It tells us that there is a time for every season and every matter under heaven. God’s intention was to allow mankind all aspects of life’s experiences to come into their lives. These same experiences will come to everyone, but perhaps in different ways. There will be sorrow, joy, love, hate, anguish, weeping, laughter, work, toil, happiness. We are told that these things and feelings will happen in our lives. We must remember that with this inevitability of life as we live each day, week, month, year, these are like the natural seasons, they will come and go.

There is a hope which we can all share in. It’s called the call of the gospel. We can reach out to God the Creator of all things to help us through the difficult times. Just like God controls nature, if we come near to Him in hope and faith (which is trust), we will then start to see His love and guidance in our lives.

If we have faith and hope, and we pray for guidance, we can trust that things will work out at some point for us, however hard a situation we may find ourselves in. The disciple Peter tells us to “…..Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you.” I Peter 5 v 6

Jesus told his disciples “Therefore I say unto you do not worry about your life, what you shall eat nor about your body, what you will put on………. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than birds?……Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil or spin…….If then God so clothe the grass……how much more will He clothe you.” Luke 12 v 22 – 24

Although nature is so important to God and we see His hand at work within the natural seasons. Our lives mean more to Him. We can take comfort from these thoughts. In all the seasons of our lives, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter God is always there for our needs. The snowdrop gives us joy of life emerging from a beautifully created natural world, a life sustained by God.

Quotations taken from New King James Bible

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God’s love letter to the world

Consider these five ‘Valentines’ from God’s Word:

“My love for you is faithful.”

“Know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.”

Deuteronomy 7v 9

“My love for you is forever.”

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, because He is good;

His mercy endures forever.

Oh give thanks to the God of all gods;

His mercy endures forever.

Oh give thanks to the Lord of all lords;

His mercy endures forever.”

Psalm 136 v 1-3

“Nothing can stop us from loving God.”

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come.

Nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”

Romans 8 v 38-39

“My love for you is greater than you could ever imagine.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3 v 16-17

“I want you to share my love with others.”

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all know that you are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 13 v 34-35

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with those you love, let us take time to reflect on God’s enduring love for all, and ask ourselves how we might give God’s love to others in return.

All quotations from New King James Bible.

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A New Year Reflection

It’s that time of year again where we all start making plans for the coming year, we set ourselves goals and make resolutions. But actually it got me thinking about the year which has just passed. Surely if 2020 is anything to go by, we have all learnt that we can make all the plans we want, but in reality none of us know what will happen next month, next week or even tomorrow.

So, here are the five main lessons we can learn from 2020 and help to focus our minds for the coming year:

  1. God is in control

“Yours, O Lord is the greatness, the power, and the glory, the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.

Both riches and honour come from You and You reign over all; In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great, and to give strength to all.”

1 Chronicles 29:11-12

  1. If we are with God, he will be with us and will not forsake us

“Fear not; for I am with you: Be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; Yes, I will help you; I will uphold you with the My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw near to you.”

James 4:8

  1. As believers in Christ, we have each other for comfort and support

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,

For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Philippians 1:3-5

  1. Christ is coming back to set up His kingdom on earth

“And there shall be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

Men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Luke 21:25-27

  1. We’re nearly there

“Now when these things begin to come to happen, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption draws near.”

Luke 21:28

So as 2020 comes to an end and we stand on the precipice of a new year in these uncertain and sometimes frightening times, let us always remember,

“Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

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God’s Amazing Gift to You and Me

As we head into the festive season this year things feels a little different than usual. We all have had a very strange year and even now so close to the Christmas holidays everything still feels very unsure.

Nevertheless, our families and friends, are a special part of our celebrations at this time of year. We look forward to gathering together to catch up with those we don’t see often (now more than ever). We enjoy our time together and look forward to giving and receiving gifts.

It’s a time when we can all get caught up in the excitement of the season and lose ourselves in the festivity of it all. Our supermarkets tempt us with cut price offers of boxes of sweets, biscuits and chocolates. Christmas puddings, cakes and mince pies, which make their appearance by early October!

I wonder how many people in our increasingly materialistic world will think about the birth of Jesus Christ?  Almighty God, in His love for mankind, sent us all a marvellous gift – the gift of His Only Son, the pathway to salvation for those who trust in Jesus and in God, his Father.

The story is simple. God chose Mary, a virgin, to be the mother of His beloved Son. The angel Gabriel was sent to tell Mary.

“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:30-33, 35)

So Jesus was born in a stable Bethlehem, the city of his ancestor King David.

“…it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caeser Augustus that all the world should be registered.…Joseph also went up from Galilee…… to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…..with Mary……she brought forth her firstborn Son…. laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the Inn” (Luke 2:1-7)

This had been foretold many years before by the prophet Micah. 

“….. O Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel.” (Micah 5:2)

This humble birth sends an amazing message to us all. The All Powerful God chose to give us the gift of His Only Beloved Son Jesus, our Saviour and King, born as one of us, to reveal God’s character and His plan of salvation.

 Jesus told his disciple Philip

“… He who has seen Me has seen the Father …” (John 14:9)

Jesus born in Bethlehem lived a perfect sinless life. Jesus is our Saviour and High Priest who, by his death, is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who would try to follow his example.

 The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

So, as we look forward to Christmas, we must always remember why Jesus was born and give our grateful thanks to God for His Gift, Jesus the Saviour, who is described by the apostle Paul as,

“……. God’s indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Quotations from New King James Bible

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Exercise Your Faith

It has been said that faith is like a muscle. The positive and negative sides of the similarity are both true: it’s possible for faith to become stronger when regularly used and weaker over time if it’s neglected. 

So, how do you hold onto your faith in lockdown?

We all have days where our faith is weak, it doesn’t mean we don’t believe, we are just finding the way a little hard, as with exercise we don’t give up just because things get tough. It is in those moments that we persevere in order to improve. 

In Luke 22 when Simon Peter one of Jesus’ disciples was approaching his weakest moment (although Peter didn’t know it) Christ had already prayed for him.

Jesus foretold in verse 34 that Peter would deny him. Although before that Jesus had said to Simon Peter in verse 32 “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

That is the wonderful thing about being a follower of Christ, before we even realise we need help, Jesus has already helped us. 

Furthermore, once Simon Peter had come through his own trial of faith (and emerged stronger for it) he was able to strengthen his fellow believers as Jesus had instructed him to do. He used his own experience to build up their faith.

That is not to say that because we are believers of Christ that the things which lie ahead will be easy, but if we flex our muscles of faith in prayer, exercise our minds and take comfort from the reading of our Bibles, also turning to those around us for support and encouragement, things will get easier.

“For I the LORD your God, will hold your right hand and saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’.” Isaiah 41:13 

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What is Armageddon?

Most people are unaware that a number of words and phrases in the English language are derived from the Bible.

Such is the word Armageddon. When this word is used in the world it is more often than not linked to some form of disaster.

In recent times it has been used in national newspapers for the closing down of businesses due to the pandemic. The financial crisis which now looms on the horizon has been termed ‘Armageddon’ in the press.

However, when we look at the word Armageddon in the Bible we see it has to do with a place in the land of Israel. In the Old Testament it is “Megiddo” where many battles took place.

In the New Testament Armageddon is written in the book of Revelation chapter 16. In verses 13 and 14 we are told that different powers are influencing the whole world for war – “… to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty”.

Then in verse 15 Jesus informs us of his return to the earth “as a thief”. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walked naked, and they see his shame .”.

Jesus will return unexpected, at a time when the nations are preparing for a conflict.

In verse 16 we read: “And they gathered them together to the place called in the Hebrew, Armageddon”. Armageddon is just outside the city of Jerusalem. This place being the centre where God through Jesus confronts the nations of the world who oppose Him .

Putting together the ideas we have gleaned, it is widely believed that:

1. Nations preparing for war, the centre of that will be based in Israel in Armageddon.

2. The Hebrew language is to be used. Today in Israel the Hebrew language is in common use in commerce as well as in the domestic setting.

3. Jesus returns prior to the war.

4. Jesus warns the believer to get ready, for in other Bible verses it can be established that at his return the destiny for the believer will be determined. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus Christ “… will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1).

5. The outcome of this battle in Armageddon will be the subjection of the nations to the will of God, and at long last, the promise by Jesus in His prayer will be fulfilled:

“Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10).

World events indicate that Jesus could come at any time, ”like a thief”.

Are we ready for this awesome event?

All Bible references taken from the New King James Version.

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Learning from Sunflowers

We all love sunflowers. Their flower reminds us of the sun and late summer days. We encourage our children to grow them to compete with each other to see who can grow the tallest! Adults are known to compete too! They make us smile!

Do you know that Sunflowers turn to follow the sun as it moves across the sky?  The French name for sunflower is “tournesol, that means “turn to the sun”. They turn their faces to the light.
Have you ever wondered what they do on cloudy or rainy days when the sun is completely covered?  Do the sunflowers droop, turning their heads towards the ground. No!  This is what happens.  They turn towards each other to share their energy! God’s creation is amazing. 

Now let’s think how we can apply this lesson to our own lives. Many people we meet may be in trouble, sad, low-spirited, lonely or depressed. If we follow Jesus’ teaching and example, we should realise that we must share our energy with those we meet. The words of a verse in one of my favourite hymns come to mind…

“Wherever in the world I am, in whatsoe’r estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts to keep and cultivate
A work of lowly love to do for Him on whom I wait.”  (Love Maria Willis 1824-1908)

Jesus was compassionate. We know that he healed the sick and provided food for the crowds who gathered round him. He listened to problems and offered advice.

Here is just one example of his compassion. Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:11‐15

Jesus tells his followers “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15: 12-14.

Jesus showed his love and compassion towards all humankind when he, the only perfect man, the only begotten Son of his Father, the Almighty God, gave his life willingly to save all who put their trust in God. Jesus has opened for us the path to salvation. All who truly believe in him and in his Heavenly Father and try to follow his example will be granted, by God’s grace, salvation and everlasting life in the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns. 


Quotes English Standard Version Bible.

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Be a light to the world

At this time, when we look through the newspapers, there is a lot of fear, violence, criticism and a real blame culture. It can paint a very dismal picture. 

Jesus tells us in John 8 v 12:

“I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”

Here he talks of the ways of the world as darkness and tells us that he is the True Light. He will always be there to help and guide those who want to follow his way.

Just as Jesus is the Light, we must reflect that Light and follow his example. Matthew 5 v13:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a blanket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give Glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”

Here Jesus is instructing his followers to use the knowledge of his Word to shine and be a beacon of hope for others who may have lost their way and to help guide those who are searching for God in this world. It is the positive attitude we must have. In the same way as a lighthouse guides the ships of the night, so we must shine in this world to help and guide.

We must reflect upon the way Jesus has shown us and try to walk in it. Sadly, this can be difficult in these times when there is so much hate in the world.

The apostle Paul instructs us further on how to follow Jesus and how to treat each other.

 Ephesians 4 v 29:

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love.”

As we walk through this life, let us remember these words and treat those around us with love. 

 Let us strive to be, as Jesus is – a light in a world of darkness.

All quotes taken from the ESV

Many of us may remember singing this hymn at school or in Sunday School!

Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light,

Like a little candle burning in the night.

In this world is darkness so let us shine–  

You in your small corner and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around

Many kinds of darkness in this world are found –

Sin, and want, and sorrow so we must shine,

You in your small corner and I in mine.

Susan Warner 1819 -1895

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THE BIBLE SAID IT FIRST

It is truly amazing that the Bible has had so much influence on our day to day conversations. There are at least 75 commonly used phrases that have their origins in the Bible. Be sure to look up the passages below, just a sample of these sayings, in your Bible. In some of them there are powerful lessons for us all.

All these quotations can be found in the King James Version of the Bible.

Did you know that in 1947 a collection of the oldest manuscripts of the books of the Bible were discovered in a cave in Wadi Qumran, near the Dead Sea? Among them was a 23ft leather scroll containing the complete book of the prophet Isaiah. This copy is a unique proof of the reliability of the Holy Scriptures. The text agrees exactly with what we have in our Bible today. Many more books of the Bible were discovered in 11 caves nearby. A special museum, The Shrine of The Book, was opened in Jerusalem to house many of the scrolls.

Let us not neglect the Bible for its pages contain a message from God, a message of hope and salvation for all who read His word, believe it and try to follow the example of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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DRIVEN BY PRESSURE

“No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined” Henry Emerson Fosdick. (an American pastor)

This quote teaches us a valuable lesson that is supported by Scripture. We may not like pressure but we have to admit that pressure focusses us to get things done.

The great apostle and preacher of the Gospel, Paul, was fully focussed on God and yet he writes: “for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself, indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Later, in the same letter, he says “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.”(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Of Jesus it is recorded: “although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)

Surely God is teaching us that life has its troubles and that we should accept the trials, the troubles and the chastening that come to everyone whom he loves. We all agree “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

While Paul, having been blinded by the light from heaven when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18) , wondered what was going to happen to him next , Jesus told Ananias, a disciple, when he was sent to find Paul, “For I will show him (Paul) how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:16)

Paul did indeed suffer. Later in life he reflected upon the sufferings he endured for the Lord.

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one……with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings and often near death.” (2 Corinthians 11:23)

He was beaten with whips and rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times and survived many other dangers. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)

Paul surrendered his own will to God, just as the Lord Jesus Christ did.

Paul exclaims, “…. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

As followers of God and of Jesus Christ we must try to adopt Paul’s attitude when we confront our personal problems and sufferings, knowing that God knows every pressure and hardship we will face. Rom 5:3 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings owing that sufferings produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces nope (Romans 5:3)

We are being prepared for our eternal salvation. For this wonderful hope set before us let us endure the pressures and problems that come our way and look forward to the “crown of righteousness” that is laid up for us if we will put God and Jesus first in our minds and in our actions.

The words of this hymn are a prayer encouraging us to trust in God wherever our path may lead.

Give to the winds thy fears;

Hope and be undismayed;

God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears:

God shall lift up thy head.

Put thou thy trust in God,

In duty’s path go on;

Walk in his strength with faith and hope

So shall thy work be done.

Leave to His sovereign sway

To choose and to command:

With wonder filled, thou then shalt own

How wise, how strong His hand!

Through waves and clouds and storms,

He gently clears thy way;

Wait thou his time, so shall the night

Soon end in joyous day.

(Paulus Gerhardt 1607 -76 tr John Wesley

To find out more about our hope and how you can become a part of it, visit our website: www.ammanfordchristadelphians.co.uk.

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