Pete's Blog

Psalm 23: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death....(posted 31st March)

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN4tPkX0MG0   Worship Song by Stuart Townend to reflect on with this blog.

 

I'm reading through the Psalms at the moment. They are particularly relevant for this time, lots of laments at struggles/challenges yet looking to God for strength and salvation at many levels.

Some lines in Psalm 23 stood out to me today:

 

"The Lord is my shepherd" - regardless of what wolfs are at the gates of the sheep enclosure, regardless of what diseases plague the sheep, the shepherd remains looking after them and Jesus look after us.

 

"though I walk through the valley of the shadow death" - need no elaboration at this time!

 

"I will fear no evil" - We are people of faith, not fear. Our eternal destiny is secure, God's plans and purposes cannot be thwarted, Jesus has beaten the power of sin, death and evil on the cross.

 

"for you are with me" Jesus is called "Emmanuel," God with us. He was with us physically, but he remains with us spiritually through the presence of his Holy Spirit. He really is with us in this!

 

"you anoint my head with oil...my cup overflows..." Even though David feels he is the valley of the shadow of death, he recognises that God has blessed him in his life and that God still desires to bless him. Where the Kingdom comes we see "the year of the Lord's favour" and we are called to pray for the peace, prosperity and God's "favour" for the places God has called us to.

 

"he makes me lie down in green pastures, he restores my soul."- we may not all be able to get out to green pastures at the moment, but Coronavirus is a temporary thing (we just don't know how long). The time will come again where we can physically, as well as spiritually, lie down in green pastures beside quiet waters.

 

Wherever we are today, whether we can go out for walks or not, God is our shepherd, he wants to restore our souls. Let's look to him for this when we need it.

 




Faith v fear: Further Reflections (28/03/20)

 

As we all get used to this strange new world it will affect all of us differently. Some of us may be strong in faith, some of us may not and I touched on this in a blog a week or so ago. But it’s clear that many are fearful for themselves, their loved ones and friends. Conversations I am having are often around concern for elderly parents, concern for the families of NHS workers who are busy serving our country and not self-isolating like the rest of us.

 

We all like to think we are in control of our lives, relying on our income, our savings, our pensions. Our culture is one where we are taught to be independent, self-determining and self-reliant. We all like to think that we have a “right” to live at least 70 years, and probably 80. However as Christians, we know that ultimately we are not in control of our lives or our future, that every day given by God is a gift not to be wasted. Only God is in control of our lives; good job that we know His love, his promises and the hope that brings. But this does not make us immune from worry and anxiety.

 

So what does it look like to be people of faith and not fear at this time? It’s as much about reminding ourselves who we are despite our circumstances. Having faith and trust in Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family - we are God’s children, dearly loved and cherished. We may be in the world, but we are not of it. We are citizens of heaven, where our name is written in the book of life and where there is a mansion with a room with our name on it. Through our faith in Jesus our eternal future is secure. We can forget where we live; if we follow the teachings of Jesus in all that we do we live in an old, strong, stone built house built on the firm foundations; foundations strong enough to take any storm or virus. At the moment we may feel like we live in cheap modern house built on sand- but that is not where we live if we follow Jesus.

 

At my recent retreat with friends from London Bible College we felt God speak over us that we would be people who lived on the mountain-tops, not in the valleys. We all want mountain top experiences in life, we don’t want to walk though the valley of the shadow of death. However God was not speaking to us of living on the mountaintops so that we could feel good about ourselves, but so that we could gain right perspective, that we could see things as He sees them.

 

When we remind ourselves of, and experience God’s love, it is easier for us to cope with life’s challenges. As 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” When we remember our identity, when we see life’s challenges from God’s perspective we can deal with life’s challenges so much better. It’s then easier to be people of faith not fear.

 

In the next few weeks on my blog I’ll be exploring more what is going on spiritually and how we engage with those who do put their faith and trust in Jesus. I’ll be exploring how we cope with pain and loss should it come to our door.

We need to hold fast to God at this time. Hold on to His love for us, hold on to His word that feeds us, hold on to His Spirit that empowers us. As Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

* That kind of faith prays for others not just ourselves.

* That kind of faith attacks this pestilence through the weapons of prayer wielding the sword of the Spirit, not seeking to spiritually withdraw.

* That kind of faith does not accept social isolation, but lives with spatial isolation whilst seeking to connect with others in different ways.

* That kind of faith does not say “God save me from this!” but “God what are you asking of me in this?”

 

That might not be where you are right now, and that’s OK. Remember that Jesus said that even the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains. Remember the words of Romans 8:38 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. With right perspective, we can approach the next few difficult months knowing that God, Emmanuel, is with us.

 




 

 CORONOVIRUS: NOTHING NEW (26/03/20)
We hear in the press that this is the biggest threat and challenge we have faced since the second world war. This may be true, but we forget that the church and God's people have faced such challenges before.

At school we will all have learnt about the "black death," the bubonic plague that swept across Europe in 1347-1351. At the time, Martin Luther, one of the "fathers" of the Reformation and the birth of the Protestant church (that includes us Baptists) had this to say:




 

CORONOVIRUS: SOME REFLECTIONS (17/03/20)

As we all know we live in uncertain times. How far will this go? How many people will be affected? How many people will die? Will I die?

Coronavirus raises difficult questions for all of us. Most of us (me included) have been struggling to even keep up with the change of events, the exponential growth of cases world-wide and now the growth of case in the UK.  So far there have been no cases on Northumberland, but  I wonder how long that will remain the case. As we struggle to come to terms with this ever changing picture we must ask ourselves what is going on? How should we respond?  I have some reflections that I hope are helpful for us as we grapple with this awful virus.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

This is not the place for a long theological discussion, but suffice it to say we live in a fallen world that does not operate as God designed/intended. In a fallen world things go wrong, there is sickness, disease and death. As Christians we are not protected from this - we may not be “of the world” but we are “in the world.”

FEAR /FAITH

Our country is understandably experiencing worry and anxiety, and some are living with extremes of fear and panic, as seen in the empty shelves of toilet rolls and painkillers. As people of faith, does our faith protect us from feeling fearful? It’s a normal human reaction to be worried and anxious about things and faith does prevent that; but faith does mean there’s a bigger picture, a different perspective. There is bigger spiritual reality than what we see in front of us. God’s plans and purposes from the past, present and future remain unchanged. Coronavirus does not knock God off course, does not change the plans he has and is working out. The great “I am,” the Alpha and Omega, is bigger than Coronavirus.

If we put our faith and trust in God, we put our faith and trust in the only  person who is faithful and trustworthy. God remains sovereign. Does that mean that we will all be protected? No. But it does mean that God remains the one who is in charge. When we say Jesus is Lord we submit our lives to God, they are no longer our own property. Job learns this lesson in the Old Testament; he wisely ignores his wife’s encouragement to curse God and despite some understandable winging and moaning, chooses to submit to God.

Worry is understandable but doesn’t actually achieve anything. As Jesus says in Mat 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear..... Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?......Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So we follow Coronavirus one day at a time. If we put our faith and trust in God it becomes easier to cope with the uncertainty, the worry, the fear. As Jesus says in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

WHERE IS THE HOPE?

Our media is full of doom and gloom , and very little hope. But as Christians we are a people of hope. How can we be hopeful in the light of this spreading disease?

Short term: God is with us, will never leave or forsake us regardless of our circumstances. Also prayer changes things (see below)!

Longer term: whilst there will be earthquakes, wars and all kinds of stuff in the end times, our future hope is of a new heaven and earth. Rev 21:3-4 makes clear that one day:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

As we seek to love our neighbour as ourselves we are called to support those who are struggling emotionally or mentally with this. We are called to care for those who are sick, isolated, vulnerable. We can do that practically by staying in touch with folks who are self-isolating, maybe offering to do their shopping or ringing to chat and see how they are. Most obviously we can support people spiritually by praying for them.

WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY?

We may struggle to know where to start to pray (this makes Brexit look easy) but here are some suggestions!

-Father God we seek first your kingdom, a kingdom of healing and wholeness.

-Father God we seek healing for our world and this growing curse. May the power of light banish darkness, may the power of your Spirit roll back the powers of darkness.

-Father God we seek healing for (name) in Jesus name.

-Father God, we pray for medical staff on the front-line of care, that they may be sustained physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in coming weeks.

-Father God bring your peace where there is fear and anxiety.

-Father God we pray for those who are vulnerable and isolated in our communities, that they will know your presence, your love, your peace and your hope.

-Father God we pray that Coronavirus will make people question what they put their faith and trust in and turn to you.

THE WAY FORWARD?

We don’t know where Coronavirus will take us. However, we do know where we are going, where our final destinations is, our future is safe and secure. But the road may be rocky and bumpy. Jesus says in Mathew 7:24:

“...everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

My final prayer for all of us is based on Numbers 6:24-26. May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

BE BOLD AND COURAGEOUS! (13/02/20)
At the Fresh Streams conference last month the theme was courage. Courage to persevere and overcome obstacles in our lives; courage to keep believing that the church has a future and that God is at work. Courage is a good theme in days where faith seems increasingly peripheral or irrelevant in our culture. Back in 1983 66% of Brits classed themselves as Christians, that figure had nearly halved in 2010 to 38%. Regular church-going Christians in the UK have now shrunk to 4.7% of the population.


For some the challenges and struggles in life are so great that they give up on faith, give up on church. For some the struggles in connecting with our culture are so great that they give up on mission and evangelism, because the trend seems irreversible. Sometimes it can all feel too hard.


My thoughts are not that this is totally wrong thinking, not that we simply have to buck up and persevere. But whether it’s hard or not, we are still called to grow as disciples of Jesus, we are still called to make new disciples.
Part of the issue is the direction we are facing. Do we focus too much on ourselves and our issues? In doing so do we turn away from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth? Hebrews 12:2“let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.”If we look at our faith in the light of our problems it simply becomes our crutch, what God can do for us. However if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the awesome power of God and seek the presence of the Holy Spirit, we start to see our problems from God’s perspective. The problems are still there, but they look very different.


Take the issue of Christianity in the UK today. Gavin Calver (Evangelical Alliance) spoke at Fresh Streams and reminded us that over the world Christianity is growing exponentially, it is the fastest growing faith. God is at work and Christianity is very much alive. This puts our faith in a different perspective! We need to remember this fact and not just focus on our own little patch of England.
Whether it’s hard or not we are called to follow Jesus in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, so we do it in his strength not our own. When times get tough the question is not “should I give up” but how do I walk in the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit?” A good place to start is asking God to help us:
-Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
-Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD”


The conference encouraged us to be “bold and courageous” with many stories and testimonies of the amazing things that God is doing up and down the country. Being bold and courageous is hard. But God is with us, and if he is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31). My prayer for us at this time is Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 1:17-20:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms..” AMEN!

MARTHA AND MARY (LUKE 10:38-42) 09/10/19

Last week we had the privilege of hosting the Fresh Streams regional day of prayer and fasting. As part of this we explored together the story of Martha and Mary, which raises questions such as “are you a Martha or a Mary?” Some of us are more naturally outgoing, task orientated, like to get things done. Some of us are more reserved, reflective, like to weigh things fully before investing time and energy into things.

This passage is a preacher’s favourite, but sometimes we can get an unbalanced view. We know that Martha was too busy and that Mary dropped everything to focus on Jesus; that Jesus said that she’d made the best choice. Often we are told that this is model for Christians to be predominantly reflective/contemplative and not to join in the busyness of “the world.”

I think a better approach is recognising that each of us is meant to be both a Martha and Mary. Not that we have split personalities (no Nestorian horse for the theologians amongst you) but that we are designed to be both. The real question is are we being Martha when God calls us to be Martha and Mary when he calls us to be Mary. More simply, there are times we are to be busy, work hard and conscientiously and other times we are to rest, reflect, and contemplate on God and scripture. We are called to work at stewarding  the earth, but we are also called to Sabbath rest.

God needs Martha’s. Without them the kingdom will never grow. God needs Mary’s, without them we will never hear what God is saying and run around doing the wrong thing rather than the right thing. The question is what are you called to be at any one time?

We all need balance in terms of work and rest. Do we work from a place of rest, or rest when we collapse at the end of the week from work? Our culture is increasingly output orientated and driven by the next thing, fad or fashion; where we are called to look after the ancient ways and walk in them. Do I have a good balance between work and rest? Do you?


EASTER; HERE WE GO AGAIN! 15/04/19

I was struck this week at how we often run through the year at a non-stop pace celebrating key events and key dates in our own lives and key Christian dates like Easter and Christmas. We can all be busy in different ways preparing for different things at Easter and Christmas; church events, community events, family events. Time away, people visiting.  Children at home for holidays. It’s easy for any of us to rush around and go on “automatic pilot.”

It’s easy to do this without pausing to fully reflect on the significance of these events. When I was younger in the faith I recognised how easy it was to lose the real meaning and amongst the busyness and I intentionally took time out on my own with God on Easter day/Christmas day to read scripture, pray and reflect on the profound events and profound truths of the life of Jesus. This is something I have lost somewhat and need to regain! In the words of Matt Redman “And I’ll remember you, I will turn back and do the things I used to do.”

As a church we have spent the last six months going through a preaching series on Discipleship and then on Spiritual Disciplines. As we approach this Easter, it’s a reminder to all of us of the importance and value of taking time out to focus on the core truths and maybe try some of those spiritual disciplines for ourselves e.g. Study, Prayer, Meditation/Contemplation, Solitude, Confession and worship.

As we approach Easter weekend I pray that God reveals more of the depth and wonder of the Easter story to us, so that we see and hear something new, that we grow a little bit in our faith this Easter.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Hallelujah!

PRUDHOE TOWN FAIR 03/06/18

Today I went to the Prudhoe Town Fair, a traditional summer Street Party, very British with bunting, tea/coffee/cakes and drizzle! We also had a Royal Wedding recently which is also very British, Prince Harry and Angela Merkel, or was it Meghan Markle?

Bishop Michael Curry talekd about “Love is the Way” and helped the couple with their wedding vows - “never leave or forsake till death do us part.” Harry and Meghan have good intentions, but often reality is different. Charles and Di divorced, our parents may have divorced, we may have divorced and if we’ve never been married we’ve all had relationships that have broken down and broken up. People let us down.

Bishop Michael Curry said “Love is the Way”-  yet our love is not perfect. The royal family get it wrong at times; we all get it wrong at times, none of us are perfect. I don’t know about you but I could do with someone in my life who loves me, will never let me down, will never leave me, is always there for me, is always rooting for me, someone who helps me be the best I can be. I could do with a perfect friend or a perfect parent.

But only God is perfect and only his love is perfect. He is the perfect parent, the perfect Father. God loves us, God wants to be part of our lives, God wants us to know him, God wants to forgive our sin, God wants us to fulfill our potential.  And God says to those who follow him: “I will never leave you, I will never abandon you.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are not like us, they live in big fancy houses whilst we live in flats, terraces, semis or detached if we are lucky. God is also not like us, he lives in heaven whilst we live in houses. How do we get to know a God who is not like us? 2000 years ago God made it easy for us by sending Jesus to show us who God is, to help us find God, to help us meet God. As God’s son Jesus’ love is perfect and he is the perfect friend. He promises all who believe and follow him: “ I’ll will be with you always, even until the end of the world!”

Love is the way - and Jesus comes to show us God’s love in the way he lived, died and came back to life. Love is the way – and Jesus shows us God’s love by sacrificing his own life for us.

At the Royal wedding Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle held hands saying “I’ll never leave or forsake till death do us part.” Jesus holds his hand out to you today saying “I’ll never leave or forsake you till death do us part.” The only question is will you take his hand?

FIRST BLOG! (11/05/18)

Well here we are, my first ever blog on our new web-site. My last spurt of blogging was whilst working with Moortown Baptist Church, although my blogs have now been deleted from their website. Which either means they were considered heretical, or they just reckoned I'd moved on so time for them to go! I was thinking of being cheeky and copying some of the blogs across to get started (can you plagiarise yourself??) but as this option isn't available they will now all be "fresh."

For those of you who don't know what blogs are, they are means of making available short thoughts/reflections/articles that may be of interest for folk to read. The phenomena is an interesting one and often used as means of self promotion. As I'm here to promote Jesus and his Kingdom, not myself; I'll only be blogging when seriously inspired by something and/or God puts something on my heart.

So feel free to check this part of the web-site every now and again to see if there's anything of interest and feel free to give me feedback!