To see someone with a white stick, a hearing aid or a wheelchair is a clear sign that the person may need some extra help or consideration as we meet them, but other problems may not be so obvious. We’re told that eventually one in three people over sixty five will be suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Severe memory loss may not show outwardly like some other features associated with old age, but it can cause major problems both for the one who is affected and for the family or others who are caring for them.
Confusion, frustration, difficulty in thinking and speaking clearly, mood swings and loss of confidence are some of the results of dementia which can lead to isolation and fear, especially for someone who lives alone.
If there is a carer – often a spouse – they can face frustrations of their own as well; loneliness, disturbed sleep, a feeling of being trapped, and worries about the future. These problems may not be visible to an outsider, but are very real nonetheless.
The Alzheimer’s Society, one of the charities trying to help dementia patients and their families, wants to encourage ‘Dementia-Friendly Communities’ where people are more aware of such problems and better prepared to offer help and support where they can. Some professional support for dementia sufferers is available as well as that from charities, but we all ought to be ‘dementia-friendly’ and churches in particular are called to be good neighbours to those affected by dementia just as to anyone else.
How can we each at All Saints show our love and support in these situations, be good friends and neighbours, and demonstrate the value God puts on each person? How can we encourage every one, whatever their situation, to contribute to His worship and service?
Telling people about Jesus is an enormous privilege. In running Christianity Explored courses (CE) from home, I have found it a great joy and blessing. Monday mornings have seen different groups of mummies coming for coffee, croissants, chat and more croissants whilst exploring the wonderful news of Jesus Christ. CE is a seven week journey through Mark’s Gospel to discover who Jesus is, why He came and what it means to follow Him. It has been such a joy to see some hear and believe in Jesus, for the first time.
The last session of CE is entitled ‘Come and Die’, and considers what it means to follow Jesus. In Mark 8:36, Jesus asks, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’ As a group, we discuss this question and then go on to evaluate our personal understanding of the Gospel, scoring our conviction against the following statements:
1) Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
2) Jesus came to rescue me from my sin.
3) Following Jesus means denying myself and putting Jesus first, whatever the cost.
Some quite happily put a score of 10 (totally convinced) to the first two statements, however, scores between 0-5 (0 being completely unconvinced) are often given to the final statement. How would you score?
Interestingly, (and unsurprisingly), we find it hard to put Jesus first. We might want to, we might say He is important to us, we might acknowledge what He did on the cross for us, but a struggle to prioritise him in our lives highlights our utter sinfulness and weakness to do so. We’ll have Him as Saviour, but Lord as well? I have been challenged by this greatly. Does my life look different? Is Jesus my first in all I do? Not often enough. However, I am comforted by Mark 10:27 ‘all things are possible with God.’
My prayer is, that as we at ASL seek to tell others of Jesus, our lives would also reflect our love and trust of Him who has saved us, and people would want to know more.
We had a wonderful week in Dorset over half term, and enjoyed attending the Dorchester Community Church: a small community of believers, who love Jesus and want others to know Him too. Hats off to the senior pastor, he led the service, played the drums and preached - all brilliantly!
They too are spending time in the Letter of James, in a series called ‘Becoming Like Jesus...’ That Sunday, the focus was ‘...in the way we treat people’ looking at James 2.1-13.
The pastor shared a brilliant true story about how to welcome people, and one we’d like to adopt at All Saints’:
‘One Sunday morning in a small, market town church, a burly, leather clad, hairy biker arrived for the service. He was alone. He was intimidating. He took a service sheet, and found a seat on his own. After a few minutes, Gladys got up from her seat, and shuffled over. Gladys was elderly, frail and quite ‘proper.’ She sat down next to the visitor, and remained there for the service, before taking him for coffee afterwards and introducing him to others.
The vicar had noticed all this, and that evening spoke to Gladys, ‘thank you so much for being so welcoming to our visitor this morning Gladys, you made a beeline when others didn’t.’ ‘But vicar,’ she replied, ‘he was in my section! It was my job to go and say ‘hello!’’
The church had a brilliant ‘welcome policy’. In short, they had decided that it was the responsibility of all the regulars.
So, at every service, they were to look around: a few seats to the right and left, front and behind - that was their ‘section.’ Should there be anyone there whom they didn’t know, they had to say ‘hello’ and introduce themselves.
The gospel welcomes everyone; Jesus on earth welcomed everyone, and now asks us to do likewise.
So from now on, let’s try it. Make sure you know all the faces within a few seats around you, and let’s ensure that absolutely anyone who comes along, regular or new, feels utterly welcome.
People often talk about being on a Christian journey.
I wonder where you think you are on that walk? Just set off? Having a rest? Near the end?
Well the letter to the Ephesians says that the good news of the gospel, isn’t that we know the ending, but that we’re already safely over the line and having a comfy sit down!
Paul begins the letter saying ‘The Christian has died and gone to heaven.’
In chapter 2:1 :
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...
that's what we used to be before we let Jesus be our travel companion. But from verse 4 - we’re told what God has done about it...
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
The Christian has died and gone to heaven! The Apostle Paul pictures us in a pit of death - Jesus dives in, takes us to Himself, takes our sins to Himself - puts the whole sorry mess to death on the cross. And then Jesus bursts up out of the grave, ascends to heaven and He takes us with Him.
So how does Paul picture the Christian journey? We’ve died and gone to heaven and now we are seated. We’re sat down with Christ in heaven.
Christians are there because Jesus is, and by faith we are connected to Him. And we’re seated, because there's nothing else for us to do. We don't need to move an inch to the left, an inch to the right, we don't have to move an inch forwards or raise ourselves an inch higher: we’ve arrived. The Christian journey means never having to worry ‘Am I going to heaven?’ We're already there!
In the dying years of the Millennium I was touring the country with an ecumenical team of people who were enthusiastic about securing the person of Jesus Christ into the celebrations to mark the turn of the Millennium.
Most of the nation saw the Millennium as a ‘chronos’ moment, as just ‘the passing of time’.
Whereas we were endeavouring to enthuse those who would listen that the turn of the Millennium was a ‘kairos’ moment,
a really important occasion, a defining moment.
Whether we see time in terms of the clock ticking or whether we see time as a series of significant moments,
will determine how we see our lives in relation to God’s purposes for us.
God gives us ‘kairos’ moments or events to help our understanding about Him, aid our works and challenge our attitudes.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and for ever, He is the Lord of time. He is the beginning and the end of time.
‘Kairos’ moments do not come once every 1000 years but whenever God chooses but not when we choose.
‘Kairos’ moments can be just that, ‘moments’, when we suddenly become aware of God and His purposes.
It is for the Holy Spirit and ourselves to take those moments and to apply them.
Too often we let these ‘kairos’ moments slip through our fingers. As a result we do not move forward with God.
Today there could be a ‘kairos’ moment for us and for All Saints, as we consider our response to God’s purposes for us in His mission. How we respond today to God’s call, to be part of his mission to the world, will be a defining moment.
It will either end up being simply the passing of another day or it can shape our part in God’s mission of love to a needy world.
We need to ask ourselves, ‘What are the ‘kairos’ moments the Lord is giving to us individually and to All Saints as His body of people’ Are we always alert to His purposes?
We have a choice, we can allow our time to fritter away or to receive a ‘kairos moment and grasp it today and seek from the Lord how he wants us to develop and cherish this special moment.
We have had a sermon theme during last year called ‘Going for Gold’; and, of course we have had the Olympics with hundreds of athletes seeking gold medals. Kairos moments are pure gold. Can we afford for pure gold to slip through our fingers,
what a waste of time, energy and opportunity. Tragically the Lord may despair and move on to greener fields,
and can leave us standing still, dry and lifeless.
Hot on the heels of the wonderful things we heard at ‘All Saints Together’ I stumbled across a brilliant article which echoes some of what we heard....
“My earliest memories revolve around fishing trips with my father. He taught me how to bait a hook, cast a line, and land a catfish without getting stabbed to death. But above all I learned about my father: how he walked, talked, joked, prayed, spoke to others, and how he always thought about my mother on the drive home.
More than fishing, I learned about being a man. It was a form of discipleship. He led and I followed.
Disciples are called to follow Christ, and following him means helping others follow him.
Are you a disciple that makes disciples?
As a friend of mine says, “If you aren’t helping other people follow Jesus, I don’t know what you mean when you say you’re following Jesus.”
First, we’re called to evangelise. God has placed us in our families, workplaces, and circles of friends so that we can proclaim the gospel of grace to those who are destined to hell apart from Christ. We must help people learn how to begin to follow Jesus.
Secondly, we’re to help one another grow in Christ-likeness. Maybe two friends decide to read a chapter from a Gospel and then discuss it on the train to work. Maybe an older Christian reads a biography with a younger believer. Maybe a mother spends time at the park with other mums each week. Regardless of the format, some of our discipleship should involve times of reading, praying, confessing, encouraging, and challenging each other to become more like Christ, whether planned or spontaneous. It’s what being a family is all about - helping one another grow.
But we must always remember that apart from the sustaining and empowering grace of God we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Whether you’re a pastor, a plumber, a policeman, or a stay at home parent, you never graduate from your need for God’s grace. We fail. We sin. We struggle. But thankfully, God’s grace abounds to his children.
May we faithfully follow Christ and help others to do the same until we see his face.
This Thursday is Ascension Day, as the church celebrates that 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus went back to heaven. Given we might often think how great it would be if Jesus was still walking the earth, it’s a good idea to take a childlike stance and ask ‘Jesus ascended? WHY!?!’
Here’s a short answer as to why it’s such good news that Jesus isn’t still walking the earth:
1. It means that Jesus finished his work on earth.
On the cross, he declared ‘it is finished’ (John 19.30)—and it was! The price for our sin had been paid. Our chance to know our heavenly Father personally, was now secured. There was no further work that our Saviour had to do here on earth. We’d been rescued!
2. It means we have a friend in high places—Jesus is now in heaven, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1.3).
The Bible says that those who trust Christ are in Him, so our place in heaven is secure with him. We know where we’re going when we die (John 14.3), in fact, it’s as if we’re already there (Ephesians 2.6). Moreover, Jesus is constantly praying for us and speaking to the Father of his cross and our trust in it. For all the times we sin, Jesus is the one presenting our case to the Father as saved sinners (1 John 2)
3. It means we have the Holy Spirit.
We’re in a really privileged position, to be Christians living after Jesus went back to heaven. It was only once he did that, that he could send his Holy Spirit into the world (John 16.7) And what a work he brings: living in us; assuring us of our eternal hope; convicting people of sin and opening hearts to trust in Christ’s cross.
4. It means Jesus will come again.
It’s next on his to do list! He is waiting for the Father to say ‘go!’ (Mark 13.32)That’s when he’ll return to earth, to gather his people past and present, to live with us forever, ending suffering and those who reject him. We should be eager, but grateful for his patience - enabling more and more to put their trust in him.
So this Thursday, whatever you’re up to, give special thanks to our risen, ASCENDED Saviour!
Wasn’t it such a delight to celebrate Easter as a church family this year?
The truth of Christ crucified for us, risen and majestic as our saviour king!
And the truth of Easter caused many questions from our four young children.
They ranged from the sublime, “so if Jesus has died for us, is there anything we can do to impress God?”
to the ridiculous “does the Easter bunny lay all the chocolate eggs?”
Their questions about Easter are at the heart of the good news of Jesus,
and so we work hard to try and give clear, accurate and child friendly answers - it’s not always easy!
But so too is thinking about how we wait for Jesus’ return.
The book of Revelation tells us that heaven is booming out praises of Christ’s holiness, right now, as we speak.
The Bible calls for Christ’s followers to be holy too.
So often, we’re concerned with morality, but following Christ asks for something much more important - holiness.
It’s something of a jargon word today, so over to C.H. Spurgeon, and his sermon ‘Holiness Demanded.’
It’s from 1904, but timeless in its truth:
“Holiness deals with the thoughts and intents, the purposes, the aims, the objects, the motives of men. Morality does but skim the surface, holiness goes into the very caverns of the great deep; holiness requires that the heart shall be set on God, and that it shall beat with love to him. The moral man may be complete in his morality without that. Methinks I might draw such a parallel as this. Morality is a sweet, fair corpse, well washed and robed, and even embalmed with spices; but holiness is the living man, as fair and as lovely as the other, but having life.
These twain are of opposite nature: the one belongs to this world, the other belongs to that world beyond the skies. It is not said in heaven, "Moral, moral, moral art thou, O God!" but "Holy, holy. holy art thou. O Lord!" You note the difference between the two words at once. The one, how icy cold; the other, oh, how animated! Such is mere morality, and such is holiness! Moralist! — I know I speak to many such — remember that your best morality will not save you; you must have more than this, for without holiness — and that not of yourself, it must be given you of the Spirit of God — without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”
Praise the Lord that we have been given Christ’s holiness!
May we encourage one another to live it out, day by day, until he returns (or we go to meet him).
Jesus and Peter:
In this post-resurrection appearance to his disciples, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him three times, ‘Do you love me?’ We all know why Jesus asked Peter this question. At the time of Jesus’ trial before his crucifixion, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Peter was afraid of what might happen to him if he confessed to being one of Jesus’ disciples.
But notice what Jesus asks. He doesn’t mention Peter's fear and denial; he doesn’t remind Peter he had predicted this would happen. Rather, he asks, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Jesus didn't say it, but Peter must have been left thinking, ‘If I love Jesus, how could I deny him three times?’
Jesus is in the business of restoration. He knew that Peter loved him. He knew that Peter would end up being one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church. He knew – as we do from church history – that Peter himself would be crucified, following his Lord even in death. He knew that Peter loved him. It’s as though Jesus is reminding Peter of the true test of love. As Jesus had taught his disciples earlier ‘Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge also before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt 10:32).
It’s still the same today. If I love Jesus then I will confess Him and not deny Him. I will not be ashamed to confess Him before others. The bottom line is this – that the Lord Jesus wants our love. He wants our love, no matter what. He wanted Peter's love despite his denials. He wants our love too, no matter whether we have denied him or professed him, no matter how we may have fallen into sin or tried to do the right thing, no matter how strong or weak our faith may be.
When we can truly answer ‘Yes Lord, I love You’, then Jesus says to us, as he said to Peter, ‘Follow me!’ Let’s re-affirm our love for our risen Lord by following him more closely, whatever challenges may come in the future.
In POD (Place Of Discipleship, 14-18s Bible Study Group) this week we were looking at part of Colossians chapter 1. It's an amazing couple of paragraphs all about who Jesus is and how awesomely supreme he is.
As wonderful as it is, though, we can often come to a passage like that, read it through, agree with everything it says, and yet be completely unmoved by it. Somehow, the fact that Jesus is 'the image of the invisible God,' 'the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,' the one in whom 'God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell' can leave us cold. Though these thing are true facts, what difference do they make to my life at the office tomorrow, or as I do my homework, or spend time with my friends?
In fact, these incredible truths make a huge difference because they describe a person. Here are a couple to consider:
‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God.’ We can know God personally through Jesus. He is with us as we work, and as we relax. He shows us who God is, and we can know him!
'All things were created by him and for him.' Jesus made everything and everyone, including the people we don't get on with, and including us. That means that everyone has value - they are the handiwork of a master craftsman, and they belong to him, so that affects how we see them. Each of us is likewise made by and for Jesus. Whose life are you living? Yours or Jesus's? He made you and you belong to him. You are precious and you matter to him. That’s got to affect your day! (and mine . . . ).
At POD we discovered how knowing who Jesus is can turn your life upside down. It's not just a series of dry facts - it's knowing the supreme Lord of the universe personally, and there's no one more exciting and life changing than him!
And that’s without even mentioning v20-23 . . .