Message for December and January…
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
As we approach Christmas and the New Year we are filled with Hope. At the time when Jesus was born, he came to an ordinary couple who, from an earthly perspective, looked like they didn’t have a very bright future. To a large extent, that was due to the fact that God was a major factor in their lives! But now we remember Mary and Joseph every year. We celebrate their faithfulness and obedience and their journey with God. They were a significant part of God’s amazing plan for humanity.
The birth of Jesus also brought unsurpassed hope. This baby, born to Mary and Joseph, vulnerable and born in squalor, was a gift of hope to the people of God under oppressive rule. But more than that, he would become the anointed messiah who would reconcile us eternally to God. He would bring an offer of eternal, spiritual freedom rather than simply political, earthly freedom. Jesus would make a way for all people to become the people of God. That is a story of great hope for us all.
And the desire of God is to continue bringing salvation and new life. To continue to bind up the broken hearted. To continue bringing freedom to captives. With God there is great hope for the New Year.
Message for November
Dealing with Anxiety
Have you bled your radiators recently? Spiritually I mean. God gave me a picture of hot air in the top of a radiator as I was preparing for this newsletter piece. This is what I think it is about…
We all get anxious about things. Particularly things that we can’t control to the extent that we would like. Whilst anxiety can be the body’s natural response to engage us – a catalyst to move us to useful action, many times it just remains as a pressure building mechanism which doesn’t serve any useful function. It can be like hot air trapped in the top of a radiator. It doesn’t make the radiator hot, and it can actually prevent the hot water moving well through the radiator, or even sometimes, through the whole of the central heating system. Instead, the radiators need to spread the warmth from the boiler all the way through the house.
We have responsibilities, but these shouldn’t turn into anxieties – hot air blockages. We ask God for his help, and may need to review our responsibilities periodically to see if there’s anything we can do or try the things God suggests, but we often need to place them again at the foot of the cross.
1 Peter 5v7 says, “cast your cares upon him because he cares for you.” And when we pray, in the book of Philippians we find that prayer can let the hot air out of our spiritual radiators. Philippians 4v6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This is then followed by a promise… “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Praying for God’s peace. And for the warmth of God’s love to fill you!
Message for October
Would you like a stronger inner being?
As I write this, the Rugby World Cup has begun. Rugby players need power individually and as a team to drive through the opposition. They will also certainly need strength individually – physically, mentally and emotionally to carry them through the gruelling challenges of the games. In challenging times we also need to be spiritually strong. We are whole beings – body, mind and soul and we need inner strength as well to face the challenges of life. The country is in political turmoil (continue to pray for Britain!), and this often leads to opportunities. During these times we need inner strength to remain true to our calling as Christians. Inner strength to reach out and share the certain hope we have in Jesus. Inner strength to live lives of grace, truth and love. Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus was this:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16
God resources us with power through His Spirit. This is not simply a hopeful aspiration. His power actually makes a difference and gives us strength. His power enables us to stand strong in faith and to continue pouring out His love as an act of grace. His Holy Spirit also assures us of His love irrespective of our circumstances, and assures us of our eternal future. Let’s pray for inner strength to give us power through his Holy Spirit. For ourselves and for one-another too.
Message for September
Discipleship for a New Term
I remember thinking at one stage in my early teens that I didn’t want to be ‘too into Christianity’. I was worried that I’d become homogenized and boring and would lose my personality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Karl Martin writes in his book, “Stand”,
…“Yes, he wants to change you. He wants to make you more like Jesus. But in doing this, he’s making you more like …’you’. It is almost as if inside you there is another you. The real you, the true you, the person you were called to be and created to be is in you. And that person, although it may sound ridiculous, because your experience is not this, but that person is fearless, that person is joyful, that person is supremely loving, that person is truthful, that person is life-bringing, that person is significantly encouraging. That’s who you are. That’s the true you. That’s who you are created to be and that’s what God wants for you.”
This new academic year, I want to become more of the ‘me’ that I was created to be, the ‘me’ that God wants for me. I want to learn and grow in faith. I want to fulfil his plans and purposes in my life, family and work. This means living God’s way, listening to him and trusting him with my life and the decisions that I need to make. It’s not always easy, but I’m going to ask for his Holy Spirit to help me and I’m going to try.
Let’s prayerfully support and encourage one-another in our Christian discipleship individually and corporately as we start a new term together.
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. ” 2 Corinthians 1v21-22
Message for July and August
“Jesus is beautiful. He’s not just useful.”
(Quote from Karl Martin from the Fresh Streams day of prayer and fasting in Stafford this year).
There’s no denying that Jesus is useful. So often when I’ve met with Jesus my head is clearer, my priorities are more focused, I am more confident to step out into God’s plans and purposes. We often pray that Jesus will be useful to us and others too. We pray for specific things that people ask for. That he will heal hearts and minds – even bodies. We pray for protection, for blessing, for peace, and for salvation too. This is all good. We need to keep doing this and to do it more and more. God wants to be involved in all of our lives.
We also need to set aside time for personal worship. Time to reflect on who Jesus is as we read about him in the Bible. Time to reflect on his love shown for us, particularly on the cross. Time to reflect on the hope he gives us through his Holy Spirit now and for eternity.
We talk about seeing beauty in a sunset or a view. Beauty in a rose, beauty in mathematics. Beauty in a child’s smile, beauty in laughter. Beauty in music, beauty in art. Beauty shown in people loving one-another. All of that kind of beauty is in Jesus too.
Worship is turning beauty into praise. Let the beauty of Jesus inspire you, and let your appreciation of what Jesus has done rejuvenate your heart.
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” Psalm 27v4
Message for June
How many people have you heard say, “if God actually showed himself to me, I’d believe in Him.”
The apostle John writes in his letter to the churches: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us”. 1 John 4v12
This is an astounding statement. It is actually saying three things happen as we, the Church, love one another with a godly, grace-filled, Christ-like love.
Firstly, God lives in us. The people of God have always strongly desired the presence of God – seeking to be known by God and identified as His. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was the sign of the presence of God for the people of God as a nation. In the New Testament too, the presence of God is accompanied by the blessing of God.
Secondly, his love is made complete in us. God is to be understood in relationship with us as individuals, and in relationship with us as the corporate body of God – the Church, whom He loves.
Thirdly, the Church has the capacity to bring the invisible God into the visible realm. “No-one has ever seen God… BUT…!!!” It’s implied here that the church actually has the capacity to change that. When we, the Church, love one another, Jesus is actually seen. The invisible God is brought into the visible realm. An awesome thought really – and on a practical level, it is amazing that people are able to see God because of our love. And all because God pours out His love for us.
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4v19
Message for May
Water for Living and Living Water
Clean, flowing water is pure, crystal-clear, beautiful, refreshing, cleansing and therapeutic. We have a thirst in our bodies which can only be quenched by water. We have a thirst in our hearts and souls which can only be quenched by Jesus.
LlCC and the wider community of St Asaph have raised the target of £2,000 which is required to put a well into a village in the developing world. This source of clean water will be used by BMS World Mission to transform that poor community. Not only the health and life expectancy of those who use it, but also the opportunities for education and further involvement in society for those who otherwise would walk miles for hours to get the water. This will bring healing, opportunity, prosperity and more. A sign of the coming Kingdom of God.
But the living water that Jesus brings to our hearts and souls surpasses even this. Jesus was in a conversation at a well with a woman. He knew that her heart was unsatisfied, parched and dry. He invited her to choose life through him and to receive ‘living water’ instead. Using the well as an illustration, Jesus said,
‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ John 4:13-14
Our hearts are thirsty for relationship with God, and will not be properly quenched with anything else. Our souls yearn for an assurance of eternity which only Jesus can give. This month we celebrate giving clean water. Let’s ensure that we also receive ‘living water’ and offer that to others too. The life-giving presence of Jesus in our hearts and the deposit of his Holy Spirit welling up to eternal life.
Message for April
Making space to know God’s will
Having a focussed, uncluttered mind is one of the most amazing blessings of prayer. Jesus spent regular time in prayer.
We can often feel oppressed and restricted by the things we have to get done. Confused and unsure of where to focus our energy or what to do.
During our ‘church de-cluttering day’ recently, we cleared out the church shed. We were able to get rid of things that we no longer need in order to make room for the things that we need to store. We were able to see into the corners and see where there was damage to the shed and start to repair it. We took a space which was dirty, leaking and becoming increasingly dysfunctional and instead we are now creating a space which will support our plans to flourish and grow and will create new opportunities too.
In a similar way Prayer de-clutters our minds develops our relationship with God. It can restore, refresh and refocus our minds, hearts and souls, but most importantly it helps us to focus on God’s will. At many significant times in his life Jesus prayed and then moved on in God’s plans and purposes for his life. In Luke 4v42, Jesus re-focused on his mission to preach the good news to many towns rather than just staying where he was successful and popular. In Luke 6v12 before he chose his disciples Jesus spent the night in prayer. But perhaps most significantly in Mark 14v32, in Gethsemane, Jesus chose God’s will and path and he then went to the cross to lay down his life. In doing this, Jesus changed history forever. He defeated death and saved any who will turn to him in repentance and faith. This Easter, place your hope in Jesus and your trust in God.
Message for March
Signs of Growth
We are officially entering spring: The cherry blossom is on the trees and the magnolia is budding. There are signs of growth.
The writer to the Hebrews challenged his readers to grow in faith. To move ‘beyond elementary teaching and be taken forward to maturity’ (ch5). To move on to solid food. Not to be content with milk which would be given to infants (ch6).
What are the signs of growth in the Christian life? We’re currently looking at the first letter of John on Sunday mornings. The writer calls us to doctrinal truth, love, obedience and devotion. So what would be some of the signs of growth in each of these areas?
What have we learned recently in terms of Biblical knowledge and understanding? Could we share it with others? What target could we set next? How are we currently showing love for one another as a church community? What could we do to demonstrate more love for one another? And for those outside our church? Family, neighbours, friends, community. Are we putting into practice what we know? If yes – what in our lives has changed? What needs to be changed next? Are we growing in prayer and by the infilling of the Holy Spirit? How can we seek more of His presence and see more of the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?
But this is all God’s work in us. Our job is to allow the Jesus-shaped-me which dwells within each one of us naturally to grow. To focus on Jesus and let the Christ-like buds appear on our branches and to allow God to bring them into blossom.
Message for February
A change of momentum can dominate our whole perspective. In the recent NFC championship game, the LA Rams audaciously got their punter to fake and throw a perfect pass like a quarterback. This not only kept them in possession, it changed the whole momentum of the game and suddenly it seemed like anything was possible. They won and made it to the superbowl.
February is a time where we see changes of momentum. The promise of spring, alongside the majestic but sometimes harsh winter. We see the budding yellow, purple and orange crocuses one day, and storms or dramatic foreboding snow covered mountains the next. But we increasingly see that the onset of spring will overcome the cold winter. The momentum is shifting.
Spiritually, we also see momentum changes. Often, when I read my Bible and pray, the momentum changes in my heart. I remember that the promise of God is stronger than the grave. I remember to be joyful in God, and the joy of the Lord becomes my strength as I realise once again that it doesn’t depend on me, it’s about me depending on Him. Sometimes, I feel nothing in my heart, and I simply have to trust. God is still there.
The ultimate momentum change is surely the cross. Jesus is arrested, and the disciples flee, Jesus is mocked, tortured and crucified. But then on the cross, when He says ‘it is finished’, there is a change of momentum. The earth cracks open, people are spontaneously raised to life, the curtain in the temple splits, and the whole sky goes dark. That was just the beginning. Then came the resurrection, the coming of the Spirit, and the beginning of the era of grace and salvation. This ultimate change of momentum is completely independent of feelings. It is an eternal promise.
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15v57
Message for January
Imagine you have been given the most amazing toy for Christmas. It is perfect. It dances and sings, it zooms and soars, it glistens and shines, it growls and roars. It brings you joy and laughter, and promises to open whole worlds of amazement and excitement. But after just one day of working, it slows down and then it stops. For a while you enjoy looking at it on the shelf, wistfully remembering the joy and happiness that it brought. You wonder if something could be done to fix it, but you are frightened to prise it open.
Then one day, you see that someone else has one of these toys too. You watch them play with it day after day and see the glee on their face. They explain that the maker has offered any owner to break open the toy for them, to replace the batteries with rechargeable batteries and to charge it up every day.
As Christians, we need the work of His Holy Spirit in us. So invite His Holy Spirit into your life and be re-made and renewed, immersed and filled and refreshed by the Holy Spirit of God. And then go on being filled, and re-filled. Allow the Spirit to overflow – bringing joy and life, light and hope, energy and peace to you and to others. To the glory of God. I hope you are blessed by our next series on the Holy Spirit this New Year.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15v13
Message for December
So a teenager says to me the other day, ‘do you think that Jesus gets two presents on Christmas Day or do you think that people fob him off with a joint one?’ We sometimes forget that it is His birthday we are celebrating! But what can you give Jesus as a present for His Birthday and for Christmas? Surely it is the definitive nightmare of, ‘what to give someone who already has everything’. However, the third verse of ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’ starts “what can I give him”, and concludes “give my heart”.
What does it mean to give your heart to Jesus at Christmas? Recently in our series on Ruth, we saw the love, devotion, faithfulness and kindness that Ruth showed to Naomi. She was humble but determined. She stayed true to God. She gave her heart.
It’s a beautiful thing to give your heart to Jesus, and only you can give him that present. If we give our heart to Jesus, it affects the way that we do things (how we are) as well as who we are and what we do. We’ll have choices to make this Christmas about whether to let others go first (prefer others to ourselves), whether to smile or be grumpy, whether to make time for others in our schedule – remembering that many people find Christmas-time difficult. Giving our heart to Jesus shapes ‘How’ we do Christmas, and how we do Christmas shows people who Jesus is.
Love came down at Christmas – so rejoice, enjoy, celebrate and let it shine.
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1v14b
Message for November: The Big Questions
I’ve been considering some of the big questions of life recently, like “Which phone or laptop or tablet should I get?!?!” So I pore over specs, I read reviews, I make comparison lists, I stay up at night, I pray, I speak to friends and experts. Finally, I make a decision.
But how do we investigate and decide about the deeper and more important questions of life? Questions about purpose and meaning. Questions about the origins of love. These are the questions that we are exploring on our Alpha course.
In his new book, ‘Making sense of God’, Tim Keller maps the shift in today’s society away from thinking that ‘science has all the answers’ to ‘each person making themselves the spiritual authority for their own gathered religion’ without thinking why. He then shows how Jesus meets the needs of today’s society and provides more than enough answers for us to journey into faith and life with him.
We have a wonderful faith that is about the God who reveals himself to us in history and ultimately, reveals himself beautifully and perfectly in the divine person of Jesus Christ. We have a wonderful faith that is firmly grounded in the authoritative, divinely-inspired, life-giving Word of God, the Bible. And we have an amazing God who meets us and others in a real way in our spiritual experience and in the events of our daily lives by his Holy Spirit. He is with us through good or bad.
So let’s humbly, but confidently hold out Jesus in truth and grace and love to a world that is actually yearning for Jesus.
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. John 14v6
Message for October: A posture of Grace
We’re inviting everyone to find out about Jesus at our Alpha course. In the Bible, we see Jesus transforming the lives of thousands of people across all walks of life. Whoever they were and whatever they’d done, they knew that they could approach Jesus in repentance and faith. That they would be received and renewed, rather than being condemned. The Grace of Jesus says, “There’s something beautiful about you” as well as saying, “There’s something better for you”. Jesus spoke the truth with authority but only ever in the context of a perfect and pure love. He adopted a posture of Grace.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2v7 that we have the ‘riches of God’s Grace’ through the price that Jesus paid for us on the cross. We too have this amazing offer of Jesus who presents to us in this posture of Grace. He gently bids us in truth and in love to come and to know our loving God and to be transformed.
We ourselves also choose a posture in which to present ourselves to others. So in humility, recognising that we have received the Grace of Jesus too, let’s present to all whether inside or outside of the church in a posture of Grace. Let’s present Jesus.
Peace and Blessings, John
Eph 2v7: in him we have redemption … in accordance with the riches of God’s Grace.
1st September 2018
Message for September
SQUAARRK! The start of a new term can make us run around like headless chickens. But we need to be ducks. At this time perhaps the most important thing for us to remember is who we are and why we are doing the things that we were doing. Our identity and our purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in the things that we do. If we’re not careful, these things begin to define us, and before long we are miserable slaves to the relentlessly demanding master of success, achievement and progress.
Jesus offers us a different identity. This identity is not based on what we do, or even on who we are. It is based on who God is, as revealed in scripture, and on what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. God is (i) Perfect Loving Father, (ii) Merciful King, (iii) Eternal God and (iv) Omnipotent Lord. That makes us (i) Dearly loved children and inheritors, (ii) Forgiven subjects of his kingdom, (iii) Mortal – like flowers in a field but also Secure in His eternal future, and (iv) Ambassadors of His gospel of grace, love and truth.
These things don’t change based on what we are doing or on our feelings. So whatever we are doing, we can launch into a new term at peace. Floating serenely in our Spirits like ducks even if still furiously paddling underneath.
Peace and Blessings,
1st July 2018
Message for July
What a relief! I was among the 18 million people watching live on TV. In time-added-on England scored the winner in their opening match of World Cup.
But it was my perception that surprised me the most. I saw half the match live and the other half on iPlayer. While I was watching the match live, I felt frustrated with every attack that failed to bear fruit. I felt disappointed and disillusioned. However, watching highlights later when I knew the result, I was far more positive. I saw encouraging signs and moments of brilliance. People getting into good positions and team coherence even if the end result didn’t come immediately.
At a theology conference recently, I had a session focussing on the end result: God’s certain future plan for the cosmic regeneration of us and our world. But in a similar way to knowing the football result, this radically altered my perception of the present. Confidently focussing on the end result enables us to focus on the difference that we are already making and can make for good and to glorify God. Everything we do together and individually can bring a bit of God’s kingdom today and is a valuable sign of hope even if it doesn’t bear fruit until the heavenly result is realised.
Let’s make sure we don’t only sing when we’re winning. We know the result!
Peace and Blessings, John
1st June 2018
Message for June
When Jesus called people to be transformed He very often called them to be different. When Jesus transforms us into his love, Jesus calls us to a different way of thinking, a different way of being and a different way of living. This can be hard. It’s difficult to be the odd-one-out. It can be isolating. It can affect our self-esteem and sometimes our opportunities.
But Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to empower us and to comfort us. And Jesus also gives us one-another – the Church. In the Church around the world we find role-models of His love throughout history and in contemporary life to inspire us. We find friends who journey with us and genuinely want the best for us. We find people to listen to us, to encourage us, to advise us, to teach us and to mentor us.
In the Baptist Basics pamphlet called ‘Radical Dissent’. Dr Nigel Wright, a Baptist Scholar and former principal of Spurgeon’s college writes:
“The first Christians were being shaped by different forces from those which shaped the surrounding culture. Jesus and His kingdom made them different and it was their very difference from the rest that gave them their potential to transform people and communities. This was what Jesus meant by calling His Church ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13-16)”
So let your light shine in His love!
Peace and Blessings, John
1st May 2018
Message for May
Jesus transforms people like me and you. In our Sunday morning services in May we’re looking at accounts of ordinary people who met Jesus and were transformed by him. They had their lives re-ordered into something more beautiful by God’s amazing power. We also remember how the disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit. Where there was despair, they found hope and strength. They responded to God’s call to ‘go out’, seeking to tell others and transform the world together. The church was born and Christians today are also called to respond to that call, together.
Jesus promises to transform our own lives too. If we turn to him, trust in him and live in him, the love of Jesus transforms our hearts. If we walk with him and listen to him we see with his eyes. We see the good and the potential for good. We see the opportunities of life, opportunities to share in his love and truth even through times of difficulty. Opportunities to encourage, forgive, bless and nurture. Today’s partial transformations in us, and most of all the transformational resurrection of Jesus, remind us that one day our transformation will be complete in heaven.
Peace and Blessings,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
1st April 2018
Happy Easter! You cradle your Chocolate egg in your hands with eager anticipation, but you only know it’s the ‘real thing’ when you smell it and eat it. After Jesus rose and he met the disciples they knew Jesus was the ‘real thing’. They ate with him and they felt his hands and feet. He was real! The resurrection (says one writer) is the hinge on which the story of the world pivots. His resurrection is the ultimate authentication. God raised him from death.
So he is the ‘real thing’ for us too: His teaching is the real way, Trusting in His death is the real antidote to our inability to find God. The peace and power of His Spirit is the spiritual source that we need. Chocolate is undeniably helpful, but what we actually need is the reality of His presence to live free and fulfilled lives. Seeking to walk humbly, but adventurously with God, blessing others, forgiving and being forgiven.
Jesus really has conquered death and evil. He provides a way for us to really defeat death too. To any who believe and accept him as Lord He gives eternal hope and certainty for a real future. Good will ultimately prevail.
Do come and join us at LLCC as we celebrate the Easter season and “Taste and see that the Lord is Good!” (Ps 34v8).
22nd Feb 2017
A Picture for our Community
We’re collaborating together as a community of faith to create a picture which we believe is from God for us at this time. This is simply a tool to express a desire, but we’re hoping it will help our reflections and be an opportunity and a springboard for us to draw closer together and build one-another up in love and service. The picture includes an Ark, a Dove and a Cross. The craft will be installed at the Church at the Church meeting and people can participate in a brief slot at that meeting. It will then remain at the church to enable folk who are unable to be there at the meeting to take part in their own time.
It was started by the youngest members of the community at Open House on Tues 7th Feb:
… it was then developed and the Sunday School added some pebbles at the foot of the cross. Here it is on 12th Feb:
Then at the church community on 15th Feb we added squares of colour to the cross, and the dove and the rainbow as we felt led to help with our reflections…
It’s available at the church. Please contact us if you’d like to add to it too.
29th Jan 2017
Who are we?
Final slide from sermon on 1 Peter 2 v 4-10
- A Dynamic Team: A Spiritual House
- A Temple: Where God dwells
- A Holy Priesthood: Offering spiritual sacrifices of love, service and praise
- A Faith Movement built on Jesus: not a religion
- The people of God: His special possession
- God’s means for fulfilling His purposes: a declaration
What is the Church?
It’s great to be working with LLCC – I’ve now been here for a month. As we launch into this new season, we’re looking at the question ‘What is the Church’. Scripture gives us 3 images:
1) The Church is ‘Living Stones made into a Spiritual House where the very presence of God dewlls’ (1 Peter 2, 1 Cor 3, Eph 2).
2) The Church is the Body of Christ – continuing the works that he calls us to and building one another up with Christ as the Head of the Body (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12).
3) The Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ (Eph 5, John 3, Rev 21).
Others are also coming to speak to our community – bringing God’s word on other topics to build us up and commission us for mission and service. If you’ve missed a sermon you can download it from the ‘Sermon audio’ page. It’s an exciting time for the church. We look forward to seeing you on Sundays and other times – see our calendar and events pages for details.
Rev John Thompson, BUGB Minister