13th July 2020 - Weekly Reflection
It has been interesting looking at the passages for last Sunday Ezekiel 33: 7-11, Romans 13: 8-14 and Matthew 18: 15-20. Do have a read again. When we are Christian family, we have an obligation to help each other on our Journeys. Sometimes we shy away from the responsibility to point out to someone when they are taking the wrong path. If we love them and care about them, we would step out and make that challenge in a sensitive and caring way.
It is important to check out that your challenge is appropriate and is done because you care and not because you are just angry with the person or you have some bias against them, this can grow your relationship and start a two-way support.
I am writing on Wed evening after the announcement last night that there should not be more than 6 people together. We will decide tomorrow if we will open for Worship service on Sunday at 10.30am. If we don’t reopen, we will resume at 2pm on Zoom. Whilst we practice social distancing during church gatherings we do gather and want to socialise for being a community is very much a part of our Christian Journey.
If we cannot come together maybe you could arrange to meet up with just one or two in your local park as we have been doing with walk and talk. To pray together, read a Bible passage and discuss, keeping your social distance. Maybe you could send a paragraph about what you explored together to Mary or myself and it can be included in the next newsletter.
We are trying to sort out the Youth Zoom group. We plan to restart again on 22nd 6 - 7pm. Do let us know if this time is OK and if not suggest another. Do let us know the kind of things you wish us to include.
God Bless your week as you walk together and challenge when friends go down the wrong path.
6th September 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Thank you for your prayers whilst I was away. This time around the weather was a bit wet at times and I slipped over twice, I again did walk and completed two days of 15 miles and one of 20. God is good at walking beside us on our Journeys. It is not the distance we travel or the destination we get to, but the experience on the way is what makes the memories. The conversations you have with people and with God as you walk. The time you take to stop and listen to peoples stories and listening to nature itself.
Sometimes we are just rushing to the destination and do not make time to take in the journey. I used to co-ordinate the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for the Scouts in Eastbourne. There were some young people who did it because their parents wanted them to, and encouragement is always good, but they needed to own the desire to do it. For some of you your Christian Journey may be a bit like that?
Others were doing it to get the piece of paper, the certificate which they could use to progress their career. Sometimes they would cut corners just to get it over with. Others were taking part for the journey, for the skills/experiences they would learn on the way and the people they would meet. Sometimes they would carry on doing the activity and help others out.
I know you are not doing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or walking for miles, but we are all on our own Christian journeys. How do we see that Journey? Are you just racing to get our obligation over with or are you savouring each moment? Where is God on your Journey?
Part of Psalm 23 He leads me beside quiet waters,3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
God Bless your week and may the journey of this week be blessing to you.
30th August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
My Siblings Died
And My Dad Sang this Song
The phone rang and my mum answered. She never imagined the horrific news my grandfather was about to share: My dad’s two children from his first marriage had died in a plane crash. Scottie and Rhonie Rogers (ages 10 and 14) were last seen with their mum and stepdad on July 5, 1981, when they took off in a light airplane en route to Florida for a vacation. The plane never made it there.
The newspaper reported that the plane was flying through a thunderstorm when it plunged from 11,000 feet to 4,000 feet. It dropped off the radar and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving no trace of wreckage. When my mom got off the phone and told my dad, he walked out of the room and found a cassette tape with the old hymn “It is Well with My Soul” on it. He play and sang the song, which was written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, a prominent Chicago lawyer whose four daughters drowned in the Atlantic Ocean when their ship crashed into another vessel. The song starts with a verse that is fitting for a father who has lost his children at sea:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say ,It is well, it is well, with my soul
Spafford actually wrote the lyrics to the song while crossing the Atlantic to meet his grieving wife. He never dreamed that the song would bring comfort to a dad who was grieving a similar loss over 100 years later. Thirteen years after Rhonie and Scottie died, my dad spent a frigid day with my brother Caleb and me in Biloxi, Miss. After eating breakfast at Shoney's, we walked to the beach, stopped, and looked out onto the Gulf of Mexico -- that same, vast space where Dad's children had disappeared. We talked and sang old hymns together until suddenly my dad halted, unable to sing or speak anymore. He then put his short arms around our teenage frames and pulled us close to him, squeezing a little too tightly. And then I heard him gasp for air, with an achy cry coming from somewhere deep within him, like he was dying of a heart attack.
Tears streamed down his face and then they began streaming down ours as well. We somehow understood that we, his two remaining children, were standing next to our siblings' graveside, that we were hearing the sounds of a grown man's broken heart. Looking out onto the Gulf, Dad finally managed to sob the words, "Ain't God good, boys?" and wept some more. We shook our heads up and down and let him hold us tightly. Later on that night, Caleb was driving home with me and suddenly, he blurted out with a sob: "That's screwed up! His kids are dead and he's talking about how good God is." Caleb's outburst is the cry of so many people whose hearts who are breaking over their own losses. It might be the loss of innocence, the shame of unemployment, a devastating diagnosis, rejection by people you love, your failures as a parent, all kinds of open wounds that haven't healed. Whatever your loss may be, it will be a test of faith -- yours and mine -- as we ask ourselves:
Can God really be good if He will allow me to hurt this much?
When some of Jesus' disciples deserted him, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you also want to go away?” To this, Simon Peter responded, “'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:67-68, NKJV). And so we must ask ourselves: If there's no good answer for our pain, will we leave Christ behind? God forbid. Jesus is the only one who can speak authoritatively into our pain. He is "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" -- the one who willingly plunged into suffering, drowning in our sin in order to save us (Isaiah 53:3, ESV). Surely, we can wait with heartbroken anticipation, trusting that Jesus will return to make every sad story come untrue, that resurrection will finally be realized upon His return. Until then, we stand on the shore of our own grief, singing:
And Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul
With permission from Joshua Rogers website
23rd August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
I had a great holiday, it gave me a chance to relax, walk, read and reflect. We all need to do that from time to time when we step out of our familiar actions and environment, we experience something new. Sometimes God pushes us into that as we have had done over the past months and experience new things. Some ask when can we go back to keep doing what we have always done, the safe place we know and love. Others see this as a time for new things.
Revelation 21:5, And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
As I talk about it in the YouTube and our Zoom services this week, we are all on a journey and we should not stop travelling that Christian Journey. At first the Christians were described as following the way. Christianity is a journey and not a destination where we stop and we all have different roles at different times.
In our Church council meeting this week at HSS and PW, we have been talking about returning to our buildings and we want to make sure it is safe for those who will come. We will have done things differently but this time we need to look after each other so now is the time to think out of the box and this may help us reach out to more people in our community and making it more loving.
We all have our roles to play in the number of things that we do, so invite others to be part of that Journey with us. Our activities are for us to grow yes, but we grow as we get out of the boat, ask a friend to come or Zoom in as all we do is also for all.
God bless your week. I will be way from 24th back on 2nd Sept
16th August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask God The Questions Keeping You Up At Night
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a lesson with beloved teacher and author Beth Moore as part of my friend Ainsley Earhardt’s Bible study. Beth centered her lesson on themes from her new book, “Chasing Vines,” which focuses on Jesus’ message of “The Vine and the Branches” in John 15.
While reading through the passage, Moore paused on the fifth verse, where Jesus states, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” She asked our group to stop and truly consider what Jesus was saying and pointed out that if we take His statement that “apart from Him we can do nothing” at face value, it doesn’t fully make sense. “After all,” she said, “there have been many people over the course of history who have achieved great things who were not believers, so how does this make sense?” But, she highlighted, what Jesus is actually talking about here is whether or not someone can produce spiritual fruit. Unless someone has a relationship with Jesus and “abides” in Him, they have no chance of producing anything that God will see as truly good, no matter how talented they are or how hard they work.
I was deeply moved by Beth’s keen insight into this verse, but what struck me, even more, was her direction for us to actively pause and ask this question. As Christians, we are taught that the Bible is the living Word of God, meant to instruct us — but I think it can be tempting for many of us to skim over things in Scripture that don’t quite make sense to us initially. I know I’ve done this before, and part of my hesitation to stop and question these things was guilt. I’d tell myself I was somehow questioning God’s authority if I didn’t fully understand or believe what I was reading. Beth’s lesson was a reassuring reminder of God’s character. He does not easily anger and actually encourages us to seek answers for the things that don’t make sense to us: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
We are all being reminded in this season of confusion and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus that the Bible isn’t the only place where we might question God and His plans. It’s been devastating to see the lives taken, jobs upended and financial chaos caused by this virus. We want to find hope in this seemingly hopeless situation, but it’s hard to make sense of any of it. In the midst of our confusion, let’s not be afraid to go to God and ask Him the questions burning on our hearts and keeping us awake at night. Rather than looking outward, seeking comfort or affirmation from the world and allowing our emotions to be driven by what we see and hear, let’s quietly pull our focus upward to the Creator.
It’s OK if you don’t feel hope. God would much rather you admit that to Him and seek His wisdom than ignore those feelings and miss out on an opportunity for Him to grow your faith. We can look to King David’s conversations with God in the Book of Psalms as an example of this type of prayer. In Chapter 13, David asks God, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (Psalm 13:2-3). Though these lines show David clearly felt anxiety and confusion, just a few verses later he would go on to praise God, saying, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).
David’s prayer is a perfect example of the freedom God gives us in our conversations with Him. God didn’t strike David down for expressing His frustration and fears. In fact, He actually comforted David in real-time, which we can see by David’s expressions of gratitude toward the end of his prayer. Let’s be encouraged to be as honest and real with God as we are with our friends and family. Despite what we may feel, He understands our needs more than anyone else. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Article posted with permission from Christen L. Bloom website
9th August 2020 - Weekly Reflection
Why True Beauty Does Not Come
“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
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
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