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9th August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Why True Beauty Does Not Come
From Within

“Where does true beauty actually come from?” Does it come from inside of us? How can that be true knowing we are sinful and broken on the inside?

After searching through my Bible it hit me-I don’t know why I never thought of it this way before. All true beauty comes from God. As James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” And, of course, Genesis 1:26-27 reveals, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. “So God created mankind in his own image.”

Genesis helps us understand that every human being inherently possesses beauty not because of our own nature, but because of God’s perfect nature and the love He imprinted on us from the beginning of time. Psalm 139 celebrates the delicate care God takes to create each of one of us, saying, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

God’s love for us is what gives us our unique and irreplaceable value. In some ways, humans are like God’s precious gems, distinctive to the rest of nature because we are the only creatures made in His image. Unfortunately, we strayed from God’s perfect nature when Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation to sin. Theologians tell us that the Fall distorted God’s image in us but did not completely destroy it. Though the devil tried to strip it away, humans still bear God’s likeness and hold glimpses of His image. These remaining, precious glimmers are what give us the potential to be reformed through His Son Jesus.

Although we often think of God’s redemption plan simply as His means to save us from sin and death, it was more than that. God also sent Jesus for the purpose of restoration. By accepting Christ, mankind can get back to God’s original, beautiful design through the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. Like uncut, precious stones, humans are born with potential to become breathtakingly beautiful; but it’s up to each of us to accept our Maker’s plans to cut and shape us into the stunning gems He designed us to be--to allow Him to make us look more like His perfect Son. This beautification process begins the day we accept Jesus into our hearts, but is not fully completed until we reach Heaven. So the point that brought me to the end of my search is that while true beauty does EXIST on the inside of us, it is not in the sense we tend to think about it.

As God says in 1 Samuel 16:7: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Beauty is not something we can claim as our own. True beauty comes from God and is developed through God. We will become utterly radiant when God’s perfect nature is increased in our hearts through our dependence on Jesus. This is humbling, but beautiful.

Article posted with permission from Christen Limbaugh Bloom website

2nd August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Carrying Burdens  
3 Ways to Carry Each Other's Burdens

How can we help “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) even when we are stuck at home ourselves? Here are some ways:

1. The Ministry of Consolation: The path of life is littered with losses. Job cried out in his agony, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart” (Job 1:21). This implies that life’s journey is about losing everything we have picked up! The things we shall lose include our health, our wealth and our loved ones. Suffering together means whenever any community member suffers a loss, we do not make light of their season of pain. We give our brothers and sisters ample time for grieving. We do not tell them to move on while they are still grappling with their losses. Instead we stay by them, offering a ready, listening ear and a virtual shoulder to cry on. Just as God comforted us, we extend His comfort to one another (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

2. The Ministry of Sharing Burdens: Burdens are the constants in life. Either we pick them up or they will be dropped upon us. The approach to handling all these burdens is the same: we carry them together. In situations where our brothers or sisters are laden with emotional burdens, we invite them to unload their burdens by offering our listening ears. There are also other burdens like relational strains, health problems and financial difficulties. We ought to share in these burdens too. The community may be roped in to reconcile members in conflict, look after the sick and offer financial assistance to the poor. It is always a great comfort to those who are suffering when the community does not shun them and their troubles, but comes alongside them instead. In fact, hardened members have been known to soften their hearts after encountering the love of the community, when they have experienced unconditional care from their brothers and sisters in the days of their troubles.

3. The Ministry of Travailing in Prayer: Travailing in prayer as a community is also a way of facing hardships together. We carry each other’s burdens by petitioning to God with those in need. We conduct prayer chains, we synchronise our prayers and we fast together, in order to maintain solidarity with those who desperately need a breakthrough in their lives. Corporately, we take on a posture of waiting upon the Lord until He comes to our brother or sister’s aid. There has never been another time in human history when the world is so fearful of suffering. Just as our Lord entered the gateway of resurrection through suffering, may we follow in His footsteps, embracing hardship as a community, knowing that the glory of God lies beyond our afflictions. May the world discover hope from heaven as it witnesses the people in our faith communities drawing near to one another and loving even more deeply during times of adversity.

Adapted from: Living in God’s Family.
Used by permission of Lam K. Yung.

God bless your week - Nigel

26th July 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Loving Relationships – Love

Love according to Biblical teaching is not just warm feelings, but something that manifest itself in action. It’s not so easy.

This is my final week looking at the 8 Characteristics of a Healthy Church. Love nowadays has mixed meanings as we watch things like Love Island, Big Brother and other shows on TV. It has become more about short term attraction and people are judged today by the outer appearance more than inner hence we photoshop to look better. But God looks on the inside and the actions that come from the person and the love they show to God and the neighbour. 

The Bible is full of Quotes and teaching about Love. 1 Corinthians 13 is used at wedding so much, do check it out. 1 John 4: 7- 12 is good to read, study and digest. But loving others in Church can be difficult, loving some in our Families can also be a challenge. Sometimes it is easier to love someone you don’t have much to do with as you can easily walk away and choose to join a different group.

Love does not come easy and we need to pray and work at it. Forgiveness and grace have a vital part to play.

I wonder what loving relationships means to you in the Church context? Send your answers on a postcard please.

That reminds me I will be on holiday from 28th July – 12th August and then back and away again from 24th August – 2nd Sept. This means some of you will not be receiving newsletters for a few weeks. I plan to do a 15+ Miles Sponsored walk to support the Lift Fund and your sponsorship will be greatly appreciated. Do phone or email me with your donation amounts or you can donate after the Walk. 

Have a great God inspired few weeks - Nigel

19th July 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Need-Orientated Evangelism  
Needs relief

Committed to meeting the needs of non-Christians in order to help them experience the love of God. Over the years there has been much discussion about how we serve our local community. In the early Church they would look after the needy in their own community people who were following the Way (later to be called Christians). It is important that we look after our fellow church members, but Jesus also want us to have an impact on those around us. Showing Jesus’ love in different ways. Acts 4: 32- 37 

The question for me and many around is; are you doing it to show love to people regardless of the outcome or are you doing it to get them to follow Jesus or come to your Church? What is your motivation? I know that in Kenya people would join the Church and come regularly to the Church that Pastor Jack ran because he had access to an Education project that could fund their children’s schooling. Yet the project was there to serve the whole community for families who were poor. 
Traditional can be fine but does the Spirit flow into you? People connect both to God and fellow believers in an intimate way. 

Before the Welfare State in the UK, Churches provided education, healthcare, welfare support and people sometimes felt an obligation to attend Church and therefore hear the Christian teaching. In the UK some parents will attend a certain church and get their child baptised in order to access a church school with a good reputation.

As Christians, I am sure we want to share the relationship we have with Jesus with those who do not know Him yet. We know the benefit of that relationship ourselves. We also live in a needy world and Maslow’s hierarchy of need show us that food, shelter, warmth and health are basicity needed, before people can interact with belonging and possibly spiritual connection. Showing we care and demonstrating love to those around us to meet their needs can open a door for them to have a relationship with Jesus. But we have to allow God to work through our partnership with him. We should not take advantage of a person’s vulnerability.

In our East Ham community there are many needs, loneliness, poverty, understanding language, relationship breakdown, mental health Challenges, family issues etc. and we need to work out how we engage with these. It is important that we are open and honest about our motivations and that will impact on how we engage.

Pilgrims Way are in discussion with a Community organisation which will open our doors to opportunity to show love to some in East Ham. How do we do this and what will be the impact?

Just one more week of the 8 Characteristics of a Healthy Church to go. Do give me some feedback about what you think. Maybe we should have an Away Day to look at what we do well and what we can do about it. 

God bless your week - Nigel

12th July 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Holistic Small Groups – Community

Holistic small groups impact your Heart (Emotions and Spirit), Head (intellect) and Hands (action) Different focus: - Choir, Youth Group, Decorating, Mechanics and New Mums. 

As already mentioned, we are all different and connect in different ways with different spiritual and practical gifts. It is good to build on this and having small groups for people to feel at home and cared for is important. It is my understanding that John Wesley encouraged this and was part of a small group himself. 

Some Churches run Bible studies and have different activities like Knitting groups, Craft clubs, Scale electric cars racing groups. You name it, you could have group. The Holistic part of it is about not being just spiritual like a prayer group and Bible study. Not being just practical like a Craft club, but integrating the different elements of life. Sometimes this happens informally, but some other times it gets missed. 

So, when we come together you may have an interest to focus, but you include prayer, a chance for people to talk about their week, opportunity to refer to a Bible passage, check out how we can support someone in need in our group. Perhaps they are unwell and would benefit from shopping or a hot meal. How we provide pastoral care could work around these groups. 

During the upcoming months we will be looking at how we do Pastoral care and groups for people to grow in. There will be question sheet for you to give your views. Do we do it by interests, by location or by availability. At the Methodist Conference, they spoke about the new normal as we go forward and the use of small groups maybe the way forward given restrictions on larger gatherings. Let’s pray about how we do this.

Jesus had a small Holistic group of 12 

God bless your week - Nigel

5th July 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Inspiring Worship Services – Inspiration

The Natural Church Development organisation reckons that there are 8 characteristics of a Healthy Church. They need a mix of people to allow them to work Loving Relationships, Need- Orientated Evangelism, Holistic Small Groups, Inspiring Worship Services, Effective, Passionate Spirituality, Gift-Based Ministry and Empowering Leadership. 

This week we look at: Inspiring Worship Services – Inspiration

Traditional can be fine but does the Spirit flow into you? People connect both to God and fellow believers in an intimate way. 

There are so many Churches out there worshiping in different ways. I know in all the three ministerial posts I have been in the expectation has been different. Together those leading worship have met to evaluate, to challenge each other and help all of us to grow. It is clear that for some they will leave disappointed, you cannot please everyone all the time. 

It is however important to try to meet the needs of those who come, both young, young adults and older people and age will not dictate the style of worship they like. Culture and nationality will have an impact, and sometimes what you remember from your place of birth when you return may have also moved on in style. Those who have come for some time, years and years may be like things as they have always been, but that may not help if your trying to grow the congregation. Feedback is important and will help people feel part of how we move forward in worship.

I think having different preachers each week brings in variety, but is difficult when those people are not part of your church reflection on how you want to worship and structure worship. 

Psalm 150 1 Praise the LORD.[a] Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. 

People should leave more connected with their God, inspired to get on with task God has given them this week, filled up and comforted, challenged and energised. If that is not you then talk to me about what needs to be different.

God bless your week - Nigel