We had another birthday to celebrate tonight.
Stephen spoke tonight about the fact that we are called to be soldiers in the Lord’s army. Just as it is very easy for us to only think about soldiers and war on Remembrance Sunday, so too we can relegate God to a Sunday, thinking about Him then but ignoring Him during the rest of the week. We need to be serving Him all the time, understanding that we are called to join with God’s people in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:3)
This is not an easy verse to ponder, for we much prefer a rose-coloured view of the Christian life where it’s all joy and no suffering. Christ wants us to persevere through hardship, pain and strife, however, certain that it is worth it. The old hymn, ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ reminds us of the need to be men and women of faith who take God seriously and are not prepared to stand still but will keep on moving forward.
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Leads against the foe
Forward into battle
See His banners go,
Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers,
on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
loud your anthems raise!
Like a mighty army
moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
where the saints have trod;
We are not divided;
all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine,
one in charity.
Onward, then, ye people,
join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices
in the triumph song;
Glory, laud, and honor,
unto Christ the King;
This thro’ countless ages
men and angels sing.” (‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’, S. Baring-Gould)
This Friday, we are going to be preparing the goody bags for the ‘Job & Jingle’ Christmas show coming up on 26th November. If you are able to come along to the Salvation Army on Friday 16th November between 1 and 3 p.m., we will be getting the goody bags ready and also rounding up all the knitted sheep ready for the ‘Churches Together’ Advent Sheep Trail. If you have knitted a sheep for us, please ensure it’s at the Salvation Army by Friday!
On Monday 26th November, 4FrontTheatre will be performing their ‘Job & Jingle’ Christmas pantivity in Goldthorpe. Please pray for this group and for Goldthorpe Primary School and Sacred Heart Primary School pupils who will be watching the show and for all who will come to the evening performance at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday 1st December, we will be holding a baptismal service at 6 p.m., when James is getting baptised. It’s always a great joy to celebrate the new life that Jesus brings and is an opportunity to witness to friends and family of the change that God makes in our lives. Please pray for this service and come along if you can!
At the end of November, the knitted sheep will be taken out to local shops in Goldthorpe, Bolton-on-Dearne and Thurnscoe. Leaflets will be available to all primary school children and from the shops. The idea is to find the name of 10 sheep in your village and bring the leaflet with your answers to the ‘Churches Together’ Sheep Christmas Celebration on Saturday 15th December between 2 and 4 p.m. at the Salvation Army. There will be the chance to win a beautiful Christmas hamper and some of the knitted sheep. At the service, we’ll be having carols, crafts, bun decorating, stories and a puppet show, all looking at Christmas through the eyes of the sheep…
Dave spoke this morning from Joshua 4:1-7. He reminded us that children have many endearing qualities, but one of the hardest things as a parent is being able to answer their difficult questions (‘how high is up?’, ‘how far is there?‘) Children are naturally inquisitive – and rightly so! Joshua made provision for such questions by commanding each tribe to take a stone from the River Jordan to set up a memorial on the other side of the Jordan, so that when their children asked the meaning of these memorial stones, the people could take that opportunity to teach the next generation of the awesome things God had done for His people in making the river part so they could cross over.
Today is Remembrance Sunday, and 100 years since the signing of the Armistice which ended the First Wolrd War. As we have learned again about the horrors of that war (including the Battle of the Somme, the Battle at Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele) in recent times, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for us and the survivors who suffered emotional and physical trauma from their experiences. In most towns, we have war memorials and there will be many services held around these today. A memorial acts as a sign to remind us of what has gone before, and Rom 6:3-7 reminds us of the new life purchased for each one of us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Death now no longer has any claim over Him and as a result, we can become new creations (2 Cor 5:17), free from the power of sn. We have been crucified with Christ and His life now lives in us. (Gal 2:20)
Jesus gave His disciples their own memorial: Holy Communion. Every time we take the bread and wine, we remember what Jesus has done for us. It is our privilege and duty to pass on this memorial to the next generations, teaching our children out of our own experience of the awesome things Jesus has done for us. We must never forget to remember the sacrifice Jesus has made for us, by which we are reconciled to God, and to ensure we teach the next generation why we do this.
Ps 147:10-11 reminds us that God’s pleasure ‘is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.’ This helps us to see what we have to do to please the Lord (Eph 5:17).
God is not interested in outward appearances, but looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) He is seeking whole-hearted obedience, faithfulness and trust (see Ps 51:6), people who will fear Him and put their hope in His unfailing love, even perhaps when they do not feel loved or have a particular sense of His presence. Even God’s discipline reflects His delight, for He disciplines those He loves as a father disciplines the son he delights in. (Prov 3:12) He delights in people whose ways are blameless (Prov 11:20) and who are trustworthy (Prov 12:22).
It’s difficult for us to grasp the idea that God can actually delight in us. We can bring Him pleasure. We can make Him proud of us in the same way that a parent feels proud of their child’s latest achievements. What pleases God is perhaps much less complicated than we imagine at times. He simply asks us to walk in reverent fear of Him and to walk by faith and not by sight. When we do this, developing an ‘even if’ faith which is not shaken by circumstances, we please God.
Psalm 147 is full of poetic imagery, especially concerning creation. Aside from the mind-boggling fact that God ‘determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.’ (Ps 147:4, see also Is 40:26) – something scientists have not yet managed to do, despite modern technology estimating there are at least 1022 stars (that’s 10 with 22 noughts after it!) – the psalm talks about God as controller of the weather (a relief to know in these days of fears over climate change) and spreading snow like wool and scattering frost like ashes, hurling down hail like pebbles (Ps 147:16-17). Such poetic imagery, a common feature of the Psalms, helps us to see God’s awesome power in new ways.
At the end of this description, we read ‘he sends his word and melts them.’ (Ps 147:18) The Message version of Psalm 19 – another great creation psalm which goes on to talk of God’s word – says ‘That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.’ So often, we face implacable situations: circumstances which are like rock or iron or ice, completely impervious to anything we can do. In those situations, we need to bring the mighty hammer of God’s word (Jer 23:29); we need to allow God’s word to melt our enemies and turn situations around. We cannot do it. But God can. The methods that He chooses are up to Him, but the psalm reminds us that God is able to work sovereignly in all situations.