2nd carol service – fun and games

The second carol service was held on Sunday 19th December and was a fun-packed service.

To cater for those with savoury tastes, we had a Pringles competition. Round 1 was for those who like salt and vinegar flavoured Pringles:

won by Gary…

Round 2 was for those who like cheese and onion flavoured Pringles:

won by Debbie, who was so quick off the mark, I failed to get a photo of the empty bowl!

The final was also won by Debbie:

We also had the traditional birthday songs, although someone clearly doesn’t like the birthday hat!

We played ‘Pass the Parcel’ with a difference… each layer revealed a charade to be acted out!

Psalm 40

On Sunday morning, we looked at Psalm 40, verse by verse.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Ps 40:1)

Waiting patiently is not something that impatient people find easy, but the Bible teaches us that we need to wait for God with expectancy, hope and faith (Ps 33:20, Ps 27:14, Ps 5:3). The attitude with which we wait is important and the lessons we learn in these times vital, especially if we use the time to build our knowledge of God (Lam 3:21-27). Our part is waiting patiently; God’s part is to turn and hear us.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Ps 40:2)
The recent bad weather with snow and ice has made walking very difficult! It’s hard also to walk through mud. God is the one who lifts us out of those difficult walking conditions and places us on the rock that is Christ Jesus. He is the one who enables us to stand firm (Eph 6:13), never letting us face more than we can bear (1 Cor 10:13)

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” (Ps 40:3)
Singing and praising are vital to our daily walk. 2 Chronicles 20 reminds us that victory can be won through singing and praising. The Psalms are full of exhortations to sing (Ps 33:1-3, Ps 47:6, Ps 59:17, Ps 63:7, to name a few examples) and we need to sing at all times, not just when we feel like it or when things are going well. In face, we don’t sing because we feel like it, because we are musical, because we like the sound of our voices or any other reason that we can think of. We sing because God is worthy of our praise and because we are commanded to do so by the One who knows best.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (Ps 40:4)
Walking by faith and not by sight in effect means walking blind. That means learning dependence on God – which in turns means accepting that we are never supposed to ‘grow up’ if that means being so independent that we think we have no further need of God. We have to reject the world’s ‘sure thing’ and learn to trust in God always, beyond the outward, visible appearance of things. Jesus modelled for us the kind of trust we need to have.

“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” (Ps 40:5)
The Message version says “The world’s a huge stockpile of GOD-wonders and God-thoughts.” As we reach the end of another year, it’s good to meditate on all that God has done throughout the year and reflect on the wonders He has done. This time last year, we were not in St Mark’s… God truly has done amazing things in the church this year!

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened/pierced — burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” (Ps 40: 6-8)

As we read Hebrews 10, we see how these verses are applied to Jesus and we understand that God requires more than outward obedience. He’s searching much deeper within, as Matt Redman says. Desiring to do God’s will is the first step, but then we need to move on to actually do the commands of God. Whilst we may not understand all there is to know about God’s will, we know enough to be getting on with! – that He requires us to love people, to forgive them freely, to accept them as they are and that we need to build people up through our speech and actions. As we obey God in the things we can do, He will reveal more of His will to us.

“I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.” (Ps 40: 9-10)

Testimony is vital and we need to be unafraid and unashamed to speak of all God has done.

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.”(Ps 40: 11-15)
Even when we are still troubled by our own sins and our own problems, we are reassured by the fact that God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps 103:10) and that His love and faithfulness protect us.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!” But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” (Ps 40: 16-17)
As we continue to wait during Advent for Christmas, as we continue to wait patiently for the return of our Lord, those people who seek God can rejoice and know ‘joy, unspeakable joy, an overflowing well’ (Chris Tomlin) because we have a Saviour and a Deliverer.

Fun and games at the carol service (2)

At family services, we usually have a quiz or game. In true Christmas-party style, Mark Burgin organised a dancing game where, when the music stopped, we had to become either a Christmas tree or Santa carrying a sack of presents or a reindeer. It was a game of elimination, since you were ‘out’ if you were caught in the pose Mark shouted out.

As people were eliminated, the remaining competitors came to the front to dance…

and to pose…

and to win…

As always, there were prizes to win:

As you can see, this carol service was a relaxed affair and we had lots of fun:

But along with the sermon, there were serious moments too. A dialogue read out by Dave and Julie reminded us of the incredible plan of salvation God imagined for us. Entitled, “He’s going to do what?”, this looked at how two angels received the news of God’s plan of salvation.

If you’d like to join in more entertaining games and quizzes and sing carols proclaiming the wonders of Christ’s birth, then please feel free to join us on Market Street at 6 p.m. tonight, Sunday 19th December, for the second of our carol services with a smile!

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Saturday 18th December 2010 saw the first of two carol services to be held at Goldthorpe Pentecostal Community Church. We like to combine traditional carols with modern songs and lots of silly games and quizzes so as to re-tell the Christmas story in a way that engages all who attend. That’s the aim, anyway!

Stephen spoke about presents, using the present below to illustrate his points:

There was no label on this present bag, so it wasn’t possible to know who this present was from or who it was for. Sometimes we get presesnts like that and don’t know who to thank when we open it up and find a fantastic present inside. God has given us a present like this called Christmas, but sometimes we fail to realise what the present is or who has given it to us. We can believe the Christmas story is just a ‘coincidence’ or an ‘accident’, but, as C.S. Lewis said, “They say that God became man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this or results from this.”

Jesus did not come to the world tagged up and neatly wrapped for one person only. He came for each and every one of us so that we might find forgiveness and peace with God and may come to know Him, God’s own Son.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Wrong attitudes

Yan Handley, a guest speaker, came to visit tonight and spoke challengingly on the freedom God wants to give us from wrong and ungodly attitudes. Our attitudes determine our altitude: wrong attitudes drag us down, but right attitudes lift us up.

Philippians 2 shows us the attitudes that Christ had and therefore acts as a model for the attitudes we should have. Attitudes are a settled way of thinking lying deep down within us. They affect our behaviour and can be conveyed in so many ways (tone of voice, silence, body language etc.) Our sinful nature breeds wrong attitudes and our attitudes are influenced by a whole range of factors, including our upbringing, the cultural influence all around us,and the spirit of the age. The most important influence on our attitudes has to be the Word of God, however. This has the power to mould and shape our attitudes so that we can have the same attitude as Jesus.

We know that if we are in Christ, we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17). We are converted from self-centredness to Christ-centredness. All wrong attitudes are rooted in self-centredness.

Attitudes are worked out in the context of relationships. Yan taught that if our vertical relationship with God is right, then our horizontal relationships with people will have the opportunity to be right; we will be able to love God and people as we should (see Matt 22:37-38).

Vertical relationship
(1) We need to hate sin and flee from temptation.
(2) If we love God, we must obey His commandments (John 14:15) and delight to do His will (Ps 40:8)
(3) We need to grow in our dependence on God (John 15:5)
(4) We need to grow in trust

Horizontal relationships
We need to love unconditionally, sacrificially and unilaterally as Jesus loved us (1 Jn 4:20). This involves:
(1) honouring others, not looking down on them (Rom 12:10, Phil 2:3-4)
(2) encouraging others, not discouraging them (Heb 3:13, 1 Cor 14:12)
(3) accepting others, not making them feel unwelcome (Rom 15:7)
(4) serving others, even as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13, Gal 5:13)
(5) forgiving others, not holding grudges and resentment in our hearts (Eph 4:31-32)

Yan also talked about relationships in the workplace, and how we need to be of a different spirit to those with whom we work, whose attitudes can often be categorised as disrespectful, disloyal and discontented. Instead, we need to follow the principles laid out in Ephesians 6, having a good attitude to work and our employers, understanding ultimately that we are working for the Lord (Eph 6, Dan 6:3, Jn 17:34, 1 Pet 2:18-19)

Our attitude to the world and to evangelism also needs to be right. It needs to be motivated by love. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the ‘religious’ people were too busy to help the injured man; God challenges us to do as the Samaritan did and help those in need.

For our attitudes to change, we need God’s anointing and we need to:
(1) acknowledge that God’s Word is true and is our plumbline, our guide for righteous living.
(2) agree with what God says
(3) ask God for the mind of Christ to be in us

The standard is high – we only have to read 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute our names for the word ‘love’ to see how high! But by God’s grace our attitudes can change.

Birthday girl (a week late, but there’s no escape!):

Generous Giving

Mark preached on the subject of giving yesterday morning, taking his text from Luke 21:1-4:
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””

It’s relatively easy to give out of abundance, but this woman gave out of her poverty. She gave all she had. A gift’s true value is measured by what it costs the person to give it, not by the item’s value.

Giving can be a spiritual gift (Rom 12:6-8).

We tend to judge people’s giving from the outside, looking at the monetary value of what they give, but God sees the heart and judges from the inside. Moreover, giving is about more than money: God wants us to give our love, our praise, our time, our whole lives as an offering to Him as a token of our worship.

The attitude in which we give is also of paramount importance to God. 2 Corinthians 9:5-8 teaches us that God wants us to give cheerfully and willingly, out of a thankful heart. He wants us to be ‘cheerful givers’ – hilarious givers! – because He himself has given so much in that spirit.

Christmas is often associated with gifts. Let’s not give grudgingly or reluctantly, but with gratitude and thankfulness. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)