Online services have led to a few technical problems in recent months, but communication problems aren’t limited to the Internet! Dave’s sermon this morning looked at the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13), where Jesus, in response to the disciples’ question on how to pray, gave us a framework for prayer which enables effective communication between us and God.
Life has many problems, but they basically fall into seven categories (Inferiority, confusion, worry, guilt, strained relationships, temptations, and fears), and the Lord’s Prayer gives us answers to all seven of these problems.
1. Inferiority. Many of us feel insecure and inferior, not really secure in our identity. The Lord’s Prayer says that our identity is in His person, in our relationship with God as ‘our Father.’ Once we know that He is our Father, we have a security that is not dependent on achievement but on the fact that we are valued and loved by God.
2. Confusion. So often, we feel confused in life, wondering what is the meaning or purpose of life and how we fit into that purpose. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that He is in control and has plans and purposes for our lives, where His kingdom and His will are bigger things than our own agenda or ideas. Confusion is dispelled as we align ourselves with this ‘bigger picture.’
3. Worry. God’s answer for worry is His provision. We need to pray, ‘Give us today our daily bread’, secure in the fact that God loves to provide for His children and has no lack! We worry about everything: our health, our finances, our future, and our schedule. But God says, “relax.”
4. Guilt. God’s answer to guilt is His pardon. We all make mistakes and mess up in life, and this causes regrets. Sometimes we find it impossible to lay these aside, but God offers us His forgiveness so we can live with a clean slate.
5. Strained relationships. Our biggest problems are really people problems, getting along with other people. When I do things that hurt other people, it causes guilt within me. When other people do things that hurt me, it causes resentment within me. These are the Siamese twins of misery — guilt and resentment, what I’ve done to others and what they’ve done to me. The only answer lies in forgiveness. So many people cannot let go of the past and cannot get on with the present because they’re hanging on to grudges, just like they hang on to guilt. Only God can give us the power to let go and forgive others as He works in us.
6. Temptation. The only answer to temptation is God’s protection. 1 Cor 10:13 gives us the promise that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and will provide a way out for us. We need to cry out to God for His help.
7. Fear. There’s a lot of evil in the world and we can feel overwhelmed by fear at times, but God’s answer is to deliver us from evil. He helps us because He is all-powerful and has conquered evil. Some of us need to be delivered from some hurtful memories in the past.Some of us need to be delivered from some scars that we’ve carried from childhood. Some of us need to be delivered from some present evil in our life right now that is pulling us down. The good news is God can deliver us!
Some people find it relatively easy to make decisions, to weigh up pros and cons and to come to a decision about what to do. I personally find it almost impossible to make decisions. I spend so much time considering every point of view and possible outcome that I am left in a state often referred to as ‘analysis paralysis‘. Coupled with a fear of failure and a desperate desire to please everyone with every decision I make, I find it difficult to make decisions. God tends to have to push me through open doors before I even recognise they are there!
Christians believe that God is our shepherd, leading us beside quiet waters (Ps 23:2), that He is the good shepherd who leads His sheep into fulness of life (John 10:1-10) and that ‘whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”‘ (Is 30:21) Nonetheless, this does not absolve us from making decisions, for God has given us free will, and rational thought can play an important part in making decisions.
Proverbs 16 has interesting advice for us about making decisions. It tells us to commit to the Lord whatever we do, secure in the knowledge that He will establish our plans. (Prov 16:3) It reminds us to consider motives and weigh options. (Prov 16:1-2) It urges us to give heed to instruction and to trust God in everything. (Prov 16:20) It reminds us that something can look good but lead to death. (Prov 16:25) Ultimately, it also refers to the ‘lot’, saying, ‘The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.‘ (Prov 16:33) We have to have a confidence in God’s ability to guide us and to both open and close doors. (Rev 3:7)
A fear of making mistakes can be a crippling thing. A fear of failure can inhibit us from doing anything good. We need to have confidence in God’s ability to lead and guides us, and also in His ability to redeem our mistakes and bring good from every situation. Paul and his companions faced many setbacks as they went to preach the gospel (Acts 16:6-10), but ultimately, they were led to Macedonia where several churches were established. Circumstances and supernatural messages were all ways God directed them. He leads us in many ways, and whilst we may wish for the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire to lead us as it did the Israelites in the wilderness (it’s always good to have visible signs, we feel!), we are called to live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7) Please pray for us as we have important decisions to make about re-opening the building for services, how to keep people as safe as possible and how to lead services in these strange times when restrictions and prohibitions seem to abound.
Thanks to the wonders of Zoom, we had guest speaker Yan Hadley join with us tonight to give us a message entitled ‘The Power Of A Personal Testimony.’ 1 Pet 3:15 urges us to be prepared always to give a reason for the hope we have and we all have a story to tell and a testimony to share of who God is and what He has done for us. We are living in challenging times, but we need to embrace the challenges of life, because the purpose of God is to change us – and change often only comes through times of testing. We are changed primarily by two things: uncomfortable circumstances (which James urges us to treat as friends – see James 1:2-4) and the uncompromising word of God (which is living and active – see Heb 4:12).
As we face the challenge of a global pandemic, we have many questions and uncertainties, but need to have an unshakeable confidence that God can deliver us. In the Bible, we see three examples of this:
1. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated confidence in God’s ability to deliver them from the fiery furnace (Dan 3:17-18). The king did not believe God could deliver them (Dan 3:15), but they were uncompromising in their refusal to bow down to him. They saw God’s miraculous deliverance from harm and as a result had a powerful testimony.
2. Daniel demonstrated a similar confidence in God when the edict went out banning prayer. He continued to pray, even though this resulted in being thrown into a den of lions, and he was able to answer the question of the king in the affirmative, for God did indeed deliver him. (Daniel 6)
3. David showed similar confidence in God when he came against Goliath (1 Sam 17). Goliath was the biggest bully around and it would have been easy for David to feel intimidated, but instead he had boldness and confidence in God’s ability. He could later speak of God’s ability to deliver from every trouble and affliction he faced. (Ps 34:19)
If we want a powerful personal testimony like these men, we need to:
refuse to compromise what we believe, not allowing fear to lead us into compromise
rest in the security of God’s protection, for God is on our side (Rom 8:31), our refuge and strength and help in trouble (Ps 46:1)
respond to every challenge by speaking out boldly. The enemy seeks to silence us; it’s often easier for us to retreat into our shells, but God wants us to speak out and confess with our lips what we believe in our hearts. We need to embrace challenges with confidence in the truth ‘My God is able to deliver me.’ Circumstances, people and even the devil may be against us, but God is for us.
Garry spoke this morning on the Hebrew words connected with ‘Sabbath’ as we continued to think about the purpose of this God-given rest. Sabbath is a time to change our focus, to recalibrate, to get perspective, to spend time with the One we love (as a bride and groom enjoy being together) and to collectively join together to praise our God. This morning, we looked at how God wants us to be ‘knit together’ (see Is 56:4-8, where God says, ‘The Sovereign Lord declares – he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.“‘) We are a gathered people, a people called out by God (the Greek word ‘ekklesia’, commonly translated ‘church’), gathered by Him with purpose (not like a random gathering of people who gather at an assembly point after a fire alarm goes off.)
The church is a duly summoned assembly, having a common purpose, called by God for a specific purpose. Paul used the analogy of the church as a body in 1 Cor 12:12-14, and the same Hebrew word is used in Ps 139:13 when we read that ‘You knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ The human body is fascinating and intricately formed; even nowadays, so much about the body is not fully understood, such as how blood vessels know where to go or how different joints are formed in different parts of the body (the ball and socket joint in the shoulder being different to the hinge joint in the elbow, for example.) Just a consideration of the human body (and the many discoveries made since 1953 when DNA was first discovered) remind us that we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), but this is as nothing compared to the wonder of the body of Christ!
The body of Christ is made of separate parts which are knit together to form a whole. Unlike in baking where separate ingredients merge to form a new compound, the individual parts (people) still retain their own identity; we are called by name. (John 10:3) We are knitted together by One who is skilled, and though we spend much time apart on our frontlines where God has called us to be witnesses and influences (salt and light), the Sabbath is an opportunity to gather and assemble together.
We are hoping that services at the GPCC building will re-start on Sunday 19th July. We have been busy preparing the building for this as we seek to comply with Government guidelines.
Signs have been put up, including ones about social distancing and using hand sanitiser and washing hands.
We have moved chairs so that social distancing can be maintained in the building. (I forgot to get a photo of this and will update shortly.)
We have put up hand sanitiser dispensers in the worship room and community room for use when people enter the building.
We have put up paper towel dispensers and installed new pedal bins in all toilets, as there has been concern about hand dryers spreading the virus. People will be asked to use the paper towels after washing hands rather than using hand dryers.
We are asking that only one person uses each toilet area at a time and we will also be asking people to bring their own emblems for Holy Communion to avoid cross-contamination. We will have cleaning wipes available for everyone to wipe down chairs after the service and will obviously be cleaning other areas more frequently. We will not be serving refreshments after services at the moment.
Whilst these measures feel very strange in many ways, we hope they will help people to be comfortable and safe during services. We appreciate that not everyone will be able to or will feel able to attend services at first and therefore will continue to livestream Sunday services via Facebook Live for the foreseeable future.
Whilst ‘church’ will look very different at the moment, we are reassured that God does not change (Mal 3:6) and that He continues to have good plans and purposes for His church and for the wider community in Goldthorpe. We will not be re-starting our community groups (youth club and Parent & Toddler group) just yet, but hope by September things may have changed and these groups may be able to re-start then. Watch this space for more details!
I’m missing the thought of Wimbledon this year as I love to watch this tennis tournament. One of the things I really appreciate about tennis is the unexpected triumph, those matches when a player looks completely beaten (two sets to love down and a break against them in the third set) and yet makes a comeback which astounds and astonishes spectators.
As with life, tennis is often fairly predictable. Good players beat the not-so-good players with polished regularity; it’s why there are rankings! But occasionally, the good players have to prove their greatness by defying the odds and coming back from seemingly impossible situations. These matches prove that mental stamina matters as much as physical stamina. Ivan Lendl said of his 1984 French Open Final victory against John McEnroe (which he won 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5), ‘I felt that once I could break him, I could do it again.’ There has to be a self-belief and determination not to give in; as Stefan Edberg put it after his 1988 Wimbledon semi-final victory against Miloslav Mecir (4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4), ‘I wouldn’t have won today if I didn’t have guts.’
How do tennis players turn ‘inevitable’ defeats into ‘impossible’ victory? Andy Murray provides a clue when commenting on his 2013 Wimbledon quarter-final victory over Fernando Verdasco (4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5): ‘When you play more and more matches and gain more experience, you understand how to turn matches around and how to change the momentum of games.’
Experience matters. Tenacity triumphs. Having that positive mental attitude and a determination to recognise that every point is worth fighting for are what turn mediocre players into good players and good players into great ones.
It’s the same in our Christian life, except we have the added bonus that it’s not all down to us! Many times we face situations that truly are impossible, no matter how experienced, tenacious and determined we are. But defeat is not ‘inevitable.’ ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom 8:31) God is the God of the unexpected victory! – and how sweet the victory He brings!