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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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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Our Plans – God’s Plans

Did you make plans for 2020? I did.

Because of Covid 19 and the subsequent lockdown the careful plans I made have all come to nothing. It has made me really aware that we can make plans but they can vanish in a moment.
We all like to look forward to happy times, perhaps visiting friends and relations or enjoying a holiday in the sun. Some plan for a wedding, a special birthday or the birth of a child. If we own a business we have to forecast for the future.

The truth is that we can never be sure that our plans will happen. Life is uncertain. We can be here today and gone tomorrow.
The Word of God, the Bible, has a lot to say about our approach to making plans and the Plan that God has made.

Jesus told this parable about a man who thought he would plan his retirement, thinking he would be able to enjoy himself for many years.

” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.  (Luke 12: 16-21)

The apostle James reminds us that all we plan is if God wills, “God willing.” We should always bear this in mind when we are making our plans.We don’t know what God has in store for us in our lives now.
James writes, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

“And he (Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon (King of Israel) in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith. And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12: 22-32)

In the passage above Jesus is telling us not to be anxious about our day to day lives because God cares for all His creation. But for those who truly believe in God and the Saviour, Jesus, His Son, God, from the beginning of creation, has a wonderful Plan of everlasting life in His Kingdom when Jesus returns to the earth.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”(John 3:16-17)

We believe what the Bible says, that God will send Jesus back to this earth soon to put an end to sorrow and pain. Peace, truth and righteousness will reign.

Isaiah 51:11 “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
…..”Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Quotes NKJV and ESV

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5 Reasons to be Hopeful

It is all too easy for all of us to follow the example of some in our world, to panic buy, stock pile and look only to our own needs. But when we read God’s word, the Bible, we realise that God is with those who believe in His promises to them. We have a protector like no other and a very real hope of eternal life in the kingdom of God on earth.
Here are 5 messages from God that we can focus on every day – I hope that they will help and comfort you.

  1. God is in control 

“Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”
1 Chronicles 29:11-12

  1. God is with us and will not forsake us.

    “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
    Isaiah 41:10
    “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
    James 4:8
  2. We have each other.

    “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”
    Philippians 1:3-5
  1. Jesus Christ  has told us that he is coming back.

    “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
    Luke 21: 25-27
  2. We’re nearly there!

    “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
    Luke 21:28

And finally, as frightening as these uncertain times may be, let us remember what God tells us,”Be anxious for nothing, but in every thing 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  

(Quotes KJV)

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Life is a Gift from God

As I write this, around 210,000 people have died worldwide as a result of the coronavirus. Many people find it difficult or impossible to believe that a loving God can exist when something like this happens. Why wouldn’t he do something about it?


As a Christian I see life as a gift from God.
Today we tend to think that life is a right, something which we are entitled to simply by virtue of being human and which nobody has the right to take away from us.
This can lead us to believe, even if only subconsciously, that God is somehow obliged to preserve our lives and keep pain and death away from us.


As I see it, he isn’t obliged to do any of those things. He gave us life as a gift, one which we do not deserve and which is given on his terms, not ours.
Nowhere in the Bible does God promise that human life will be easy or free from pain and suffering. Not even to Christians does he promise that. In fact, he warns that becoming a Christian may actually lead to life becoming more difficult than it was before.


“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have
become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:12–17)

Here Paul describes the two priorities for a Christian’s life.
First, to receive “training in righteousness” by learning from God’s message and from the example of Jesus and other Christians how we ought to live, so we can be ready for “every good work”.
Second, to accept that happiness and comfort in this life is not our goal. What is? “Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.


What does that mean? It means that a Christian’s hope lies in the world to come after Jesus returns from heaven, not this one.
For a Christian, this life is really a time of preparation for the day when they meet Jesus. How we respond to the pain and suffering in our lives, and in the lives of others, will shape our character and determine the person Jesus sees in
us when that day comes.


At a time in his life when it looked likely that he might die, Paul wrote:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:21–24)


For a Christian, life is an opportunity to prepare oneself to meet Jesus and to help others do the same, and death is simply the last waking moment before we meet him.
Suppose you were to be given a trial or probationary period by an employer with the promise that after a certain period of time your performance would be reviewed to determine if you were to be offered a permanent position within the organisation. While this isn’t a perfect analogy (Christians don’t earn eternal life from Jesus through good performance!) it does illustrate that the life we have now is only a temporary time of testing which will (and should) inevitably come to an end.

God gives us this life as a gift, but that gift comes with certain responsibilities and instructions on how it ought to be lived. It isn’t for us to do whatever we like with and indulge ourselves. God is perfectly entitled to take it away again if we haven’t used it responsibly or if we’ve ignored his instructions.
Moreover, God isn’t being unjust or unkind to take away this life if he has an even better one to offer.


But where do our priorities lie?

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