Summer Mission: Foremarke 3

karim-sakhibgareev-1283911-unsplash.jpg

Every year, approximately 60 14-18 year-olds descend upon Foremarke Hall in Repton, just outside of Derby. In 2010, I was one of those teenagers. Little did I know, however, that this decision would have a huge impact upon my faith and life in general.

The summer camp itself is Foremarke 3 (the last of three consecutive weeks, each with a different leadership team) and since my first time, I have returned nearly every year and now help to lead. The camp itself is a mixture of Bible-based teaching, worship and seminars/workshops combined with various outdoor off-site activities. This year, the teaching will cover a Bible overview with the particular talk I am giving covering Amos 5. One verse in particular sticks out as I prepare and write my talk:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

In these turbulent and often troubled times, great comfort can be found in God’s universal justice. But also a warning to all of us, to love and serve the Lord with sincere hearts, for that justice will judge all people. Like the waters, it cannot be tamed or stopped.

I was fortunate to grow up in a supportive and Bible-believing family and wider church family. Particular emphasis was given to the youth group, with roughly 15 of us attending Foremarke 3 each year. As such, I had always believed the Bible to be true and known Jesus had died for me, however, I never fully understood it until I went to Foremarke 3. It was here during that first week, that my eyes were truly opened to God’s majesty and saving grace and I fully understood what it meant to call myself a Christian.

The aim as a leadership team, and especially for me personally, is to replicate this same understanding amongst all of the members. To ignite the same fire and passion for Jesus as I felt that very first time. In recent years, more non-Christians have attended, which is a real blessing for witnessing, but not without its challenges. Each year, a number of people profess faith in Christ for the very first time. Whilst a great joy in itself, it is fulfilling to see often years of persistent, patient, gospel-centred teaching at work and producing fruit.

I owe a great deal to Foremarke 3. Never did I realise the impact it would have upon my faith and life in general (the following year I met my future wife!). Our hope and prayer is always that those non-Christians who attend would ultimately come to know and trust in Christ, and for those that already do to gain a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love. Physically exhausting, I always leave feeling spiritually refreshed.

As with all mission, constant prayer is essential. Please do be praying for us: for physical strength during a very busy and exhausting week; for spiritual strength to continue to preach God’s word faithfully; for new fruit through this work, that more would come to put their ultimate faith and trust in Him who saves.

How Long, O Lord?

matt-hardy-495905-unsplash.jpg

We went on a family trip to Ireland when I was a child, I don’t remember a lot, but I remember the weather getting progressively worse, the boat listing from side to side and crockery smashing - pretty entertaining for a kid! But my main memory is that my parents seemed concerned, which suggested to me that this might be more serious than I realised. The idea that they knew this was something they had no control over, and that they might not be able to protect me from, was the scariest part.

That was the first time I had seen that fallibility in my parents. Now I’m a parent, I realise more and more that there are a lot of things I have simply no control over and I can’t protect our daughter from.

In Chapter 8 of Matthew's Gospel, the disciples were out in a boat with Jesus when a storm arose, and they woke a sleeping Jesus saying “Lord, save us!” Jesus’ response was to ask them “Why are you so afraid?”  he then got up and calmed the storm. They were never in danger, the creator and sustainer of the universe was there with them and was always in control.

The song below, written with this event in mind and the using the words of Psalm 13, cries out to God for help in a situation when it feels like he’s not there; “How long will you hide your face from me?” and when doubt creeps in; “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”. Yet in the song, as in the Psalm, we have words to remind ourselves what to do “I will trust in your unfailing love”.

Even when it feels like everything is falling apart and the waves are crashing over us, God graciously gives us words like this psalm to sing. God is still in control, his love is unfailing and we can rejoice in his salvation.

Summer Mission: Pursue Kenya

javi-lorbada-316408-unsplash.jpg

Imagine a county where almost half of the population is under 14 years of age and half the population live below the poverty line. Imagine if 1 in 5 of these children have no formal education and 80% have no secondary school education. This seems so far from what we can imagine here, but it is the reality for the people of Kakamega in Western Kenya.

This summer we (Vicky and Rachel) will have the privilege of visiting Kakamega in order to volunteer with Pursue, a charity that provides funding and support to facilitate projects in rural communities in Kakamega county. It is a Christian charity that seeks to live out God's call to love our brothers and sisters in need. We cannot wait to go and support this ministry and use the gifts that God has given us.

Our trip will involve running a range of education training sessions for teachers from rural schools across the region and physio training for staff from the local school for disabled children. We will also be doing home visits to help support the parents of disabled children and equipping schools with more teaching and learning resources. 

To help raise funds for the training courses and to purchase resources, we have planned two fundraising events that we would love you to come to. 

The first one is a Women's Clothes Swap on Saturday 15th June (flyer here). It is the perfect way to get a brand new wardrobe for the summer whilst raising money for a good cause.

Secondly, come and test your taste buds with a Wine and Cheese Tasting evening on Saturday 6th July (flyer here).  Recruit a table of 6-8 friends and enjoy an evening of drinking fine wine from around the world, listening to great music, and eating the best cheese that Beeches has to offer! Tickets are £20 each and need to be purchased before the event. 

All proceeds will go to funding the training courses we will deliver, providing food and transport for the Kenyan staff who attend, and buying resources and toys to take out with us.

Most importantly we would also really value your prayers as we prepare for the trip.

Introducing Toddle Time @ Forbes Road

Toddle Time A6 with date.png

The coffee machine is set up. The mini tables and chairs are stacked. The toys have been disinfected... We are ready to launch Toddle Time @ Forbes Road!

Starting on Friday 17th May at 10am, this new baby and toddler group will be held at the Memorial Hall on Forbes Road and is open to those 0-3 years old accompanied by their parent, grandparent or carer. Our prayer for Toddle Time is that it would be a safe, welcoming environment for your little ones. We hope that they will enjoy using our space to play, to enjoy bible stories, to join in singing and crafts and make new friends.

Six years ago, I became a mum for the first time. It was a joyful and amazing experience! But it could also be a worrying, anxious and often lonely time. I found going to baby groups a real lifeline in those early days. As well as a chance to get out of the house, someone else to make the coffee and a safe space for my baby to play, baby and toddler groups offered me the chance to chat to other mums, dads and carers. Many of those friendships continue to this day. As Christ Church Walkley, we are delighted to be able to use our building to support others in the community.

We want Toddle Time to be a place for carers as well as their children. Whether you’re coming alone or with friends; whether you’re loving looking after your little ones or finding it all a challenge; whether you’re the first-time mum of a new-born or an experienced grandparent of ten; our aim is to make you feel welcome and valued. And we promise there’ll be decent coffee.

If you want to find out more about Toddle Time @ Forbes Road then why not email us at info@christchurchwalkley.co.uk or just turn up!

Great is thy faithfulness

tomoko-uji-616239-unsplash.jpg

Those who are regular attendees at Christ Church Walkley weekly services may have noticed we sang a couple of different verses to the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness a few weeks ago, including this one:

I have no merit to woo or delight Thee,

I have no wisdom or pow’rs to employ;

Yet in thy mercy, how pleasing thou find’st me,

This is Thy pleasure: that Thou art my joy.

The additional verses were penned by John Piper, who sums up his teaching with the phrase “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him”, this is an idea that he pieces together from many places throughout the bible and an idea that shines through this song. You can read more about the extra verses here.

The song is an affirmation of God’s faithfulness throughout every situation and reminds us that the most important thing we have to cling onto is our salvation, which only comes by grace, an undeserved gift.

Money in the light of eternity

plush-design-studio-577225-unsplash.jpg

It was about 10 years ago when I got the inkling that money might be an idol for me. I was reading “Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller and realised that there were different ways you could idolise money. I always thought someone who idolised money would work every hour of the day, to earn loads of money, so they could buy lots of really expensive things. But I learnt that I was the type of person who liked to store up money in the bank and idolised the security that it gave me.  

 My fears and anxieties about money have gone up and down over the years.  When I first got married my anxiety was quite high. There was someone else involved in decision making about how money was spent which I found very challenging. Things settled down again whilst we saved to buy a house, there was money in the bank, I was happy! Then we had a baby and bought a house and the fears began to grow, yet as God continued to provide for us, they settled again. Then another baby was on the way and the fears grew again. The discontent set in and affected other areas of my life. Yet again, God continued to provide for us and the fear subsided. 

 A few weeks ago, I attended the ReNew South Yorkshire conference and there was a seminar called “Money in the light of eternity”. I signed up, knowing that even though I wasn’t going through a “bad patch” at the moment, money has been an issue for me, so I thought it may be useful. 

 The speaker took us to Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Idolatry of money can be a subtle sin which can look very much like being sensible, careful and a good steward of what God has given us. When in fact we are building up treasures for ourselves on earth which will not last, because they make us feel safe, good about ourselves and wealthy. We were challenged during the seminar to think about treasures in heaven, where will we invest in our money?  Will we spend our money on ourselves to live a comfortable life?  Will we save it up for our retirement or to give to our children as inheritance? Will that make us feel safe? Or will be build up treasures in heaven? Will we support those in pastoral ministry locally and around the world? Will we invest in our time and resources in evangelism and mission?  

Following the seminar my husband and I had a long chat about how we could be investing in gospel ministry rather than storing up treasures for ourselves. It’s always been something we’ve been keen to do but following the seminar we’ve decided to continue giving to our church and also give to another local Christian charity which is close to our hearts. We’ve also started a savings pot specifically to be used towards funding a future apprenticeship scheme for someone who wants to pursue full time ministry.  

Idolatry of money continues to be an area that for both myself and my husband we need to keep in check.  Money is a good gift from God and it is important to use it wisely, it’s important for me to remember it’s a gift and how important it is to be generous with what I’ve been given, rather than storing it up for myself to make me feel safe.

Living in the light of eternity

casey-horner-1168115-unsplash.jpg

Are we ready? We know Christ will return but do we think about it? Are we excited? Do we live in the light of eternity? 

At the Renew South Yorkshire conference, it was great to meet together with hundreds of other Christians from sister churches in South Yorkshire to hear from God’s word, ponder, pray & praise God. We spent a large proportion of the day looking at the 2nd letter of Peter. 

When talking about the return of Christ, it struck me how ‘the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’, 2 Peter 3:9. 

We don’t know the day when Christ will return but the delay that God gives is a time of Him patiently waiting for all people to love him and return to his loving goodness because he wishes that no one perishes and lives without Him in their lives. 

As God longs for this, we should also long for it. We should not be complacent in our telling of the gospel because we don't want our family and friends to perish without him. The knowledge that Jesus is coming back should fire us up to share the good news of Christ for He is coming. Are you ready? 

During the day, we had the opportunity to listen to different people from across the churches in Sheffield as they reflected on how we can make the most of our lives as we live in the light of eternity. 

One way that we can do this is by knowing that God is using all of our circumstances in the past and the present to bring him glory. The good times that we've enjoyed but also the rough times that we often endure. God uses both to bring us closer to him. We aren't to waste our past and our sorrows because God is in control of them. We are to remember them and give thanks that God uses them for our good and ultimately His good.

As the day closed, a story was shared where following a huge meteor storm in the 19th century, a boy turned to his mother and stated “that the sky is falling down” to which the mother replied “Thank God that I am ready.”  As we seek to live our lives in the light of eternity, can you say “Thank God that I am ready”?

Standing Strong: Supporting our persecuted family

dxl-571732-unsplash.jpg

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient , but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

In November a bunch of us went down to Birmingham to join two thousand others  for the Open Doors Celebration. Open Doors is an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the world.  Hearing about the persecution of Christians - how can that be a celebration? It will be depressing won't it? 

Tears filled my eyes as I heard of the torture of Christians but the tears were of joy too as I heard testimonies of the Lord’s sustaining power in the midst of suffering as believers put their trust in God not the leader of their country. A beautiful little old lady who had escaped North Korea (the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian),  shared with us the prayer her mother taught her: "Lord, Lord please help us". I was humbled by this simple prayer - dependence on Him. 

We heard that globally the persecution of Christians is the highest it's ever been. It could be assumed that the number of people turning to Christ would therefore decrease but the opposite is the case. We heard that in the face of persecution the gospel grows. Who wants a faith that you could live without and won't affect your life? Christ claims he is the way, the truth and the life. 

As murdered missionary Jim Elliot had said "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Fasting

masaaki-komori-597700-unsplash.jpg

[This post is a revised version of one that was published last year for our March week of prayer]

Christians need to cultivate what might be called ‘godly dissatisfaction’. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for costly change to occur. Such ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting. 

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer. 

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18. 

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning ‘God-points’ by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting. 

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do too when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have a medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, for example by fasting from something else. 

His Mercy is More

shane-rounce-499673-unsplash.jpg

Every week at Christ Church Walkley we say prayers together which are based on passages taken straight from the Bible. One of the prayers of confession we regularly use is the one below, based on Psalm 51 written by King David after he sinned grievously (you can read about it in chapters 11 & 12 of 2 Samuel). We use some of his words of repentance and this is what we pray:

Lord God, we have sinned against you; 

we have done evil in your sight. 

We are sorry and repent. 

Have mercy on us according to your love. 

Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin. 

Renew a right spirit within us and restore us to the joy of your salvation; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The last couple of weeks we’ve followed the prayer of confession with a song called “His Mercy is More” by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell. We may sometimes come to a church feeling rotten, and a pretty massive sinner yet again, but the confession and this song remind us that though our sins are many, our confidence is that God’s mercy on us is far, far greater!

You can listen to the song and read the lyrics here

Actions speak louder than words?

dmitry-bayer-420970-unsplash.jpg

What matters more: what we do or what we say? Is it the case that “actions speak louder than words” or “do as I say, not as I do”?

Often, we oscillate between the two depending on what suits as best at the time. When we feel that someone’s words to us aren’t stacking up, we point to their lack of actions; when we know that our actions don’t match up to our words, we declare out that our words matter more. In reality we know that ideally the two would go together, that our actions and words would agree with one another. One of the things that we’ve seen in the early chapters of Acts is that the same is true of our evangelism. Our actions and our words in evangelism need to go together. It’s an error to think that our actions alone are enough for people to come to know Jesus, but without our actions our words either won’t be heard or will tend not to carry any weight.

Acts 3 is a good example of this, Peter does a remarkably good deed to a man who had crippled from birth. Through the name of Jesus, he heals him and has given him his life back. If there was ever a good deed that might turn people to Jesus without any words, then this might be it. But the people who witness it just stare in wonder and amazement. They’re astounded, but they don’t praise God and turn to Jesus in response. Yet, the good deed gives Peter and John hearing, so that their words might be heard. Then they speak of Jesus and the people’s need for him and in response many, many people are saved that afternoon.

Without the good deed Peter and John probably wouldn’t have got the hearing that they did, without their words the crowd wouldn’t have turned and believed in Jesus. Peter and John’s actions and words went together. Their actions gave the people watching a picture of what Jesus could offer and their words helped people to understand what they were seeing.

I wonder if our lives and evangelism bring our actions and words together in quite the same way? Do we elevate what we say above what we do, risking nobody actually hearing us? Or do we elevate what we do above what we say such that no one ever actually hears the good news of Jesus? What would it look like to bring the two back together so that our actions give us an opportunity to speak about Jesus?

Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

rawpixel-741656-unsplash.jpg

Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

In the recent sermon on Acts 2v42-47 we saw the striking devotion of the believers in Jerusalem to the teaching and life of the church, sharing their lives in daily generous joyful community.

Our temptation would be to feel burdened by their example with yet more things I need to add to my to-do list. But that just perpetuates the same problem, whereas the believers in Jerusalem saw the community of Christ’s disciples as their primary community - in which they found their identity, belonging and purpose in life. They shared normal life, their homes, mealtimes, as well as committing themselves to more ‘formal’ gatherings for instruction and prayer.

Therefore, a better place to start growing here is to think about what we already do in our lives that we can readily include others in. This is something that can aid christian discipleship but also (as it evidently did for the Jerusalem church too v47) forms an important part of everyday evangelism.

As part of this, I think we could do with re-visiting the practice of hospitality. It was a feature of the church as it spread out from the community described in Acts 2, and a number of places encourage hospitality (Romans 12v13 & 1Peter 4v9 or example) or make it a key aspect of the lifestyle expected of Elders (Titus 1v8).

It’s probably important to say that hospitality is different from hosting or from having a dinner party. Hospitality is ‘come as you are’ and ‘take us as you find us.’ It’s setting another place at tea time, it’s making the chilli stretch to another portion, it’s ‘do you want to stay for a cuppa?’ when someone pops round to pick something up. Many of us feel we don’t have much time - but however busy we are we need to eat. We might not have much money, but could we include others in our mealtimes once, twice or more times a week?

I recently read Rosaria Butterfield’s book ‘The Gospel comes with a House key’ (you can find it at CCW’s online bookstore at a discount price). It’s an inspiring read, full of stories about hospitality from Rosaria’s own life, including her own conversion to Christ and the life she and her husband (a pastor) now share with their neighbours. While our own contexts and capacities will undoubtedly be different to Rosaria’s, it is striking how ordinary it all is. While it’s not the story of a dramatic revival, we do see church family built up in Christ and the gospel shared with neighbours through walking the dog together, sharing simple meals and talking about the issues of life.

1.jpg

Joining the dots between discipleship and evangelism

Photo by  Sergii Bozhko  on  Unsplash

As a church one of the things we’ve been thinking about recently is the relationship between discipleship and evangelism. Often, we think of discipleship and evangelism as separate entities. Discipleship is about our own growth as Christians, whereas evangelism is about reaching out with the gospel. Yet when we read the Bible, we see that this distinction isn’t as clear as we often think it is.

For example, see what Peter writes to a group of Christians in the New Testament:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)

What is Peter doing here?

He is urging his readers to live godly lives in the culture and society in which they live. He wants their lifestyles to be honourable when they’re amongst those who don’t know Jesus. This is about discipleship. This is Peter calling these Christians to increasingly live out their faith in the world. To grow in their godliness in every area of life, especially when they are around non-Christians.

But this discipleship has a purpose. This living out of the Christian life is seen by those who don’t yet know Jesus and Peter expects it to impact them. They will see the Christians good deeds, their different lifestyle, and come to glorify God.

The Christians Peter is writing to were literally sojourners and exiles, they were different to the people they lived amongst. There would have been the temptation to try and blend in, to fit in, to look like those around them. As Christians today, we can often face the same temptation, we don’t want to stand out at work or amongst our neighbours. Perhaps you fear what Peter says will happen to you, that people will “speak against you as evildoers.” It’s easier to try and just cross the line into Christianity yet to live our lives as closely matched to the world around us as we feel we can get away with. But not only is this damaging for our own relationship with God and our maturity as Christians, it’s devastating for our witness and evangelism.

We should be those who are growing in godliness and Christian maturity and therefore look increasingly like sojourners and exiles in the world we inhabit. The way we live our lives should look different to those around us, and we shouldn’t be surprised when that brings opposition and even claims that we are evil. But in the end, God uses the witness of our lives to give us opportunities for evangelism.

So where in your family life, your work, amongst your friends and neighbours does your life look the same as theirs? Should it look the same as theirs? In those places are you battling to live the most godly and honourable life you can in every aspect? If not, then what is stopping you?

One final thing, notice here that Peter is urging the other Christians on; perhaps we can be doing the same with one another, encouraging, urging, challenging one another to live righteous and honourable lives for the sake of those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Our Daily Bread

luke-palmer-305434-unsplash.jpg

This is the fourth in our series on reading the bible in 2019. This one is from Claire Jackson, who along with some other women in the church family, are reading the bible in an academic year.

What do we need to live? Amongst other essentials we need food and water. We wouldn’t dream of going for days without either of these, so why do we approach God’s word, the Bible, any differently? We are told throughout the Bible that reading it is essential to living as a Christian. Jesus himself says so plainly in Matthew 4v4 “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

To take this seriously and obey God’s command to eat of his word, some of the ladies at Christ Church Walkley embarked on a plan at the start of September to read the whole Bible in an academic year. It’s composed by Christ Kirk, Moscow, Idaho who are really happy for others to join in so we can all pull up a chair each day at God’s table and eat together. 

Most days we read around six chapters, with each Sunday allocated as a rest/catch up day as we will all be eating from God’s word as we gather at church that day. Some days it’s a mixture of Old Testament and New Testament, others it’s all from one book. Basically the aim is to get people reading God’s word for themselves, however that is done! Some people have a cheap, paperback Bible to take along in a handbag or changing bag so you can grab it when you have a few minutes to spare. Others, like I, have downloaded an audio Bible so I’ve been able to listen to chunks of Scripture on my way to work, which sets me up for the day better than the usual drivel on the radio! You can download and print a paper copy, but there are also a few apps you can download to access an interactive version of the reading plan (follow the link above) - it’s exciting to tick the box to say you’ve read each chapter! It’s also been a joy to be encouraged by others to read the daily chapters wherever, whenever and however possible; I’ve read the chapters for the day whilst being with the boys as they played football at the park!

There is also a Facebook group for those joining in the challenge and as part of that, it’s been exhilarating to learn of and from other ladies reading the same portion of the Bible each day, yet are located all around the globe. This group has also answered some questions raised by less well known sections of the Bible, like Leviticus! 

Eating God’s word each day and in bigger chunks than I would normally embark on has been exciting and encouraging. Honestly, the more regularly I manage to read the day’s passages, the more I want to keep on reading. So let’s be humble in our obedience to come and eat at our Father’s table, let’s challenge each other to read his word each day. 

Reading the bible with your children in 2019

Christ Church Walkley-29 (1).jpg

This is the third in our New Year bible reading series. This one is from Paul Jones who has two young sons.

Reading the bible with your children isn't easy - and I think that that's certainly true for me. I find it hard, but it's also fair to say that it is really rewarding. Our boys, 5 and 8, are both beginning to ask some really big and sometimes tough questions, which makes bible time exciting too.

We have 2 main 'slots' in the day where we do things. When we sit down for tea, we pray through the church family using the church prayer diary. We pray too, for the people we have around our table for tea that night. It's also a good time to make it a habit of saying thank you together, for our food. During Advent, we add in prayer and chat about the name of Jesus that is on our advent candle for that day. As the boys have gotten older this has been a good way to start to weave the whole bible narrative together.

The second slot is when we read the bible to the boys before bed. This has become a little more complicated recently. Our eldest has outgrown the Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Bible, so we got him the Holy Bible for Kids (ESV), which is the one he uses in Sunday School as well as the version we use in church. When we are reading the passage together, he will look up the reference in his bible and follow along with us. The Big Picture Story Bible is slightly easier for this as it provides references for each reading. This has helped to show both boys that the stories they are learning about come from the same bible as Daddy and Mummy have, and that we read from on Sunday at church. It has also allowed Sam to start linking things together - only last night he spotted that there were two instances in Matthew's gospel where God says "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased..." and so we were able to chat about that.

We then pray, normally in three ways; thank you prayers where the boys share, we pray about what we have learnt about Jesus from our passage, and sorry prayers which sometimes the boys will pray. From time to time we have to push hard on the thank you and sorry prayers - but as we say to the boys "there is always something we can say Thank You to God for!" and they are quickly learning that even if they've not been told off, there is always the need for God's forgiveness! We also make sure that we talk to the boys about what they've been learning in Sunday School. They don't always follow the sermon series - although when that happens it can make for a great discussion - so talking to them is really interesting. Seeing how their understanding of who Jesus is and what God has done is growing all the time.

Less formally, we have tried to take to heart Deuteronomy 6v4-7:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

To talk about the things of God all the time. Whether they be in relation to school things, or a great view when we are out walking, a rainbow or when the boys ask us questions. One of the things that Jennie is particularly good at is praying with the boys if they are worried about something, or can't sleep, or are having a nightmare. We are conscious that whilst the more formal slots are important, showing the boys that following Jesus is all encompassing and that God is not just interested in, but in charge of, all areas of our lives is really important too.

It isn't always easy, and sometimes it is the last thing that I want to do after a long day at work - but I never feel that afterwards. It's not just your children who benefit, you do too. I'm sure we could do more and I'm sure others do lots of other exciting and encouraging things; so as parents, godparents and members of God's wider family - let's be better at talking about these things and better at asking for help, so we can all be the better for it.

samantha-sophia-34200-unsplash.jpg



Reading the whole bible in 2019 (Part 2)

luke-palmer-305434-unsplash.jpg

This is the second in our New Year bible reading series. It follows on from Pete Jackson’s first post.

I want to encourage you to try and read the whole bible in a year in 2019. Here are a few follow-up thoughts to the previous post…

First of all, Trevin Wax builds on some of the things I said before in this post here, which also has some suggestions for schemes to use at the bottom.

Secondly, here’s a post arguing that we all have more time to do this than we think. Amongst other things, it shows that if you give only 12 minutes per day to your bible reading, you could read through the whole bible in a year. (And it uses an infographic to show this, which means it must be true.)

Thirdly, there are loads of good schemes or plans to try. Here is the link to the one I did this past year. I liked this scheme for a number of reasons, including

  • There being only 25 readings a month, so if you fall behind it is not a disaster, you can catch up. There were several times when this kept me going during the past year. In the latter part of the year I used this feature to get ahead and finish by the end of November. This means I have been doing something different for my bible reading during December and can return to the same scheme fresh in the new year.

  • Each day has four readings of varied lengths and across different types of bible book. I found it encouraging to be able to make rapid progress in some books, plus the shorter readings for those books makes it easy to achieve quite a lot if you need to catch up. It also made the experience each day less like slogging through heaps of text, which I sometimes found to be the case in the schemes that get you to read chunks of equal size from three books. 

Finally, I think it is worth giving it a go even if you are fearful that you will soon fall woefully behind. Even just trying to do this sort of reading plan and ‘failing’ might well mean you read more of the bible in a year (and more of a variety of the bible) than if you hadn’t bothered. Plus, if you start out and end up so behind that you take a year and a half instead, that will still be so much to your benefit than if you hadn’t even bothered at all. 

Reading the whole bible in 2019

luke-palmer-305434-unsplash.jpg

This is the first post in our series on reading the bible and praying in 2019. This one is written by Pete Jackson - look out for his next one with links to various bible reading resources.

I have failed at reading the whole bible in a year schemes on many occasions. However I am delighted to say that this year I successfully completed the new one I tried - and a month early at that. I don’t say this so that you will congratulate me, but to point out that it can be done. 

As I look back over the year, here are some of the reasons I think reading the whole bible in a year is a worthwhile practice, even though it is hard. 

It means you read the less familiar parts of God’s word…

One danger of sticking to the parts we know well or find ‘easier’ is that we are muting the voice of God and missing perhaps the very parts that will be most stretching or the most challenging to the way we naturally think and live.  

It means reading across a variety of types of writing each day…

God’s communication to us in scripture comes in a rich variety of literary genres, and each affect us in different ways. The bible communicates to us not just by conveying information alone. Most days there’s been some kind of story/history, poetry and song or proverbs, and letters.

It makes sure we are reading the 71% as well as the 29%…

That’s the split between Old and New Testaments. Let’s face it, we often neglect the Old Testament in all sorts of ways, which means we are regularly tuning out of over two thirds of what God has to say to us. 

It trains us in reading the bible for its own sake…

Sometimes we judge the value of our time in scripture from our immediate reactions or emotional responses, or a sense of what we have ‘got out of it’ there and then. At best that’s because we are expecting God to speak through his word, and for that word to be ever relevant. But at worst, this can descend into a search for a ‘blessed thought’ for the day. This is a misunderstanding of how scripture works and of how God’s word changes us. We are mistaken to look for ‘instant gratification,’ we must expect God to form us through constant and regular exposure to his word over the long haul. What’s more, we don’t just need tweet-sized nuggets of God’s word that we can instantly apply, we also need to know the big story arc and the repeated themes that recur page after page, so that gradually over time we learn to place our lives and understand our world from within that story.

It helps us join the dots differently…

Reading passages side by side that you wouldn’t necessarily have put together yourself will help you make connections you would never have made otherwise. This is important because the best tool for understanding the bible is the rest of the bible - God intends us to come to his word as one interconnected and diverse whole which reveals Christ in his many-faceted glory.