“If you’re God’s child, the gospel isn’t an aspect of your life, it IS your life; that is, it is the window through which you look at everything.” Paul Tripp
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think!” Ephesians 3:20
As many of you know, Eddie and I and a team of nine are going out to Uganda tomorrow to serve Christ through coming alongside missionaries and their children for a week. We know that you are praying and we appreciate this as this is always a community endeavour for Christ’s Kingdom. Thank you.
There are two goals for our short-term mission team: First is service; and second is discipleship. These trips are as much a part of how we grow in Christ as it is about how we serve others.
Please pray for us as we endeavour to follow the paradigm of Jesus. I am reminded in the gospel of the feeding of the 5000 that Jesus fed the people through the disciples. Initially, the disciples focused on the problem of no food and not on God. But Jesus was teaching them about ministry and serving. Jesus was also teaching them about who He was. He gave to the disciples to distribute the food. In this way, Jesus’ disciples had to trust the Lord for it all. They gave as they received from Jesus. Through Christ’s three years on earth, He modelled intentional actions and habits in relationships with people in every day opportunities and hands on experience.
Isn’t it the same with all of us, whether we are in Rudloe, Corsham, or Africa? As followers of Jesus, we must bring our lives everyday to God in a spirit of obedience and sacrifice, no matter how insignificant…..or how confident we may think our gifts and talents are.
So please pray for us, and we will pray for you to that end. Thank you Lord.
Workers together for His Kingdom,
See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6.28)
Its lovely to have flowers in church during our services, and people have sometimes testified as to the powerful impact that they have had. They are a vivid reminder of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation – something which most of us can enjoy in our gardens, in parks, and sometimes in the open fields – and something which can be brought in to our services as a reminder of what God can do. His creative power is infinite, and it follows that His power to heal, to calm us and to uplift our spirits is just as great. I know of an occasion when a lady came into a service in some distress – she was a visitor – and said afterwards that she remembered little of what went on or what was said, but was greatly affected by the flowers on display which spoke to her and calmed her.
Those who support the flower ministry are contributing to a further objective too. Not everyone is able to go out and enjoy the beauty of flowers in their natural environment. There are quite a number of people known to us who have become housebound, and often the flowers go to one or another of them during the week, and this is greatly welcomed. In addition, there are people recently bereaved, people recently out of hospital, new parents, people with special birthdays, who are greatly encouraged when flowers are brought to them. It’s a point of contact in which the love of God and Christian fellowship can be expressed, both to CBC members and sometimes to others too, for whom it can be an opportunity to bring into the conversation the subject of CBC and whom we worship. It’s a rewarding ministry and we’re thankful to all who are involved.
In preparing for this year’s studies in Colossians, I was reading the recommended Mark Meynell book, ‘Colossians and Philemon For You’. In the opening pages the author describes Paul’s claims about Jesus as truly ‘outrageous’. I read it and thought how jarring that was with my Sunday experience of God. I’ve gone to church all my life, surrounded by people who love singing praises to him and learning more about him. We are comfortable, unshocked and perfectly happy. Surely nothing about Jesus is that outrageous?
Then I began to think. How much do I limit God by my comfortable familiarity? Why does the truth about Jesus not blow my mind on a more regular basis? Paul’s claims about Jesus in chapter one of Colossians are big. He is the ‘firstborn over all creation’, the sustainer of everything – God himself. If I was as brave as I should be and told my non-Christian friends exactly what I believe about Jesus, they would be straight-out shocked. Jesus is that cute baby on Christmas cards, right? Yes, and he’s also the cosmic-creating, terrifyingly powerful, fearless ultimate hero who gave his life for me.
You may not know this about me but I love fantasy. Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (and many less well-known novels that I can recommend!). I like big; I like unbelievable – I like high concept fantasies where the incredible happens. Dragons fly, magic is real, one person can save the whole universe. Show me a crime drama, or a soap and I’m not interested. I don’t want to see something that could be happening down the road from me – I want my imagination to soar.
I know I’m not the only one. The success of superhero movies alone show that people have a longing for the incredible. Critics would call it wish-fulfilment; I’d call it our hearts crying out for something more: the inbuilt belief that there is a real superhero out there who really has saved us.
I was never quite sure why fantasy was so appealing to me until I read a quote from Tolkein. He said that myths and fantasies are ‘echoes or memories of the truths that God had originally made known to Adam and Eve’ and that the gospel is ‘the true myth, the great fairy story in which all the elements of the pagan myths find their fulfilment.’
Suddenly it clicked. I like ‘big stories’ because I am part of a big story; the greatest story ever told. I want more because I am built for more. I dream of an incredible land where the unbelievable happens because that is where I am headed; because a God – the one true God – sacrificed himself for me in a cosmic spiritual battle which he won.
Jesus is counter-cultural. He is not comfortable – in fact, he’s pretty unbelievable, and I’m glad of that. I don’t want to stake my life on something small. But there’s also a huge challenge in that. As Mark Meynell says, ‘If Jesus really is the cosmic Lord, then how can we not dedicate every fibre of our being to him and his service?’
‘The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.’
Colossians Chapter 1 v 15-17
I would like to start by saying that this is not my blog post/update/newsletter/ thing/ whatever you want to call it for the latter half of January 2019 and former half of February. This is the result of thinking over the course of a week, and refuting past statements. See my last post. I have also just discovered that putting a slash into italics makes it lean a little further than usual. Putting lean into italics, aren’t I a creative soul.
I don’t care if that’s grammatically incorrect. Plus, I have my first deck department evaluation this week, so it gives me an opportunity to think about how I will respond.
I wanted to do a reflection in a separate blog post.
The things that happened…
As one door closes, another opens…
We all change. When you think about it, we are all different people; all through our lives. And that’s ok- that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. – 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) The Time of The Doctor.
So that’s why. Looking back on the person I once was, but it’s important that whilst you look back on yourself, but to keep changing as a person, otherwise that’s some pretty rubbish character development, if you ask me.. I have been feeling fairly nostalgic this year. I am not saying I haven’t been nostalgic in the past, but I have found myself wanting to back to my childhood, and wanting things from my childhood, for instance, my 12″ Radio Control Dalek. Which was my first ever Doctor Who toy. That I bought (I say bought, It was probably my mum) from Woolworths, that fossil. Did you know that the first ever Woolworths was opened around the same time that Moses and the Israelites left Egypt? But I know at heart that I am now, as an adult supposed to be responsible, let the new children do what they want to do, play with their toys, read their comics, watch their films, whilst I put my childish things away, as in Corinthians, But that’s hard. With lots of voices trying to tell you how they want you to be, and trying to integrate them into yourself. So now I don’t want know what to do, but I am happy at where am in life. Confusion and Contentment. (A nice way to end this, right)
Thank you for reading, and goodbye.
And one last reflection, and to clear some confusion. I didn’t break the window.
Back in February 2016 the title of our pre-home assignment newsletter was taken from a John Denver song: “Take me home pot-holed roads”! Three years on and it’s another one of his songs. We are indeed “leaving on a jet plane” after completing our second term in Tanzania. On the morning of 7th March you can expect me (Steve) to be humming JD’s words: “All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go; the taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn”, although I won’t be able to sing along with the words, “I hate to go”, because I’m very much looking forward to heading home! In fact we both are.
In February 2016 I referred to the first home assignment (furlough) of a certain missionary explorer that you may just have heard of! And so it seems fitting to refer to Mr Livingstone as he prepared for his second home assignment! His first stint in Africa lasted a whole 15 years but he decided to take his second home assignment after only 8 years of trudging around Africa! During that time he ‘discovered’ Lake Nyassa in Malawi, buried his wife in Mozambique, encountered the ‘wretchedness’ of the slave trade, and sailed a small boat 2500 miles from Zanzibar to Bombay in 45 days! Having then sold his boat, he got back on another one and headed home for England. He arrived in London to find that not one member of his family had come to meet him, and so he ended up having dinner with the Prime minister instead! It had been an extremely tough term for him. He wrote in his journal: “Due to the failure of our recent mission all my work seems in vain. Am I to be cut off before I can do anything to effect permanent improvement in Africa? I have been unprofitable enough….”
Well, as we prepare for our second home assignment, I can assure you we’re not feeling as low as Livingstone was! Whatever hurdles and hardships we’ve had to deal with can in no way be compared to what DL had to endure, although we both admit that this term seems to have been tougher than our first one. I’ve struggled with illness for the past 10 months (sinusitis and gastritis) and we’ve both had bouts of what they call “culture fatigue”, although which missionary hasn’t experienced this?! Sadly I’ve had to deal with a disciplinary matter concerning a Tanzanian pastor who had been a close friend and, just a few weeks ago our ‘guard’ dog died, a faithful companion who really enabled Ruth to settle here in Tanzania. Ruth has also felt the burden of various responsibilities more this term. All that to say, we’re ready to get on that jet plane and we’re thankful for the fact that we can be home in 12 hours!
However, and it is a big ‘however’, we do have much to praise God for! Many positive things have happened during this second term – so here goes! I’ve driven over 50,000 km without accident or breakdown. We’ve seen the Conference Centre grow to its completion with the facilities being well-used by various groups. I’ve preached or taught over 160 times, mainly to Tanzanian pastors & leaders, and had a go at my first Swahili commentary! Ruth has dealt with over 80 bookings at Sanga with over 2600 people staying there, taught several English courses, and she’s also processed donations for work at Sanga totalling 507 million shillings (£170,000)!
We’ve also had the pleasure of introducing family members to Tanzania, as well as a number of church teams and Oak Hall groups. It was also heartening to hear that a number of those Oak Hall folks have gone on to invest further in mission. So, whilst we travel home with jaded eagerness (!) we’re counting our blessings, and we’re thankful for what God has gifted us to do. As I mentioned in our last newsletter, using the words of Paul in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 8: “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone”. And one of Ruth’s favourite verses, Isaiah 26:12: “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.”
Over the next six months we’ll be spending time with our home church in Corsham, meeting up with family members, some of whom we’ve never met before, and talking to folks about the work we’ve been involved in. I’ll be doing some Bible teaching on a number of Oak Hall trips, and we’re hoping to get away for a few breaks, one of which will hopefully see me celebrate a significant birthday! Among the more routine matters that need attending to will be visits to doctors, dentists and opticians, preparing presentations and sermons, sorting out tax and pension issues, and having a debrief at AIM’s HQ in Nottingham. At some point along the way, we hope to be able to see many of you, so that we can say a personal “THANK YOU” to those who have supported us. Without the financial and prayerful support of many of you, we simply couldn’t do what we’ve done – so “ASANTE SANA” for your backing and for lifting us up to the throne room of the Almighty! A privilege indeed.
The last few months…. As well as dealing with bookings and the finances of Sanga, Ruth has spent a lot of time training up an AIC pastor to look after the accounts. Fortunately, he’s not just a pastor but a qualified accountant! Praise God for this provision. Whilst on the subject of the AIC (Africa Inland Church) we were recently very encouraged to see a clip of the General Secretary addressing the Tanzanian President on TV. Once in a while various church denominations get the opportunity to make requests to the President, and one of the requests that our AIC guy raised was whether it would be possible for missionaries not to have to pay for work permits! At $500 a time, we’re hoping for a positive result!
In terms of recent preaching appointments, I’ve formed firm friendships with a number of local churches. The AIC church at Kihonda meets in a dilapidated school classroom on the edge of town, and for that privilege they get to pay £17 per month in rent! Thankfully there’s no electricity! It means there are no microphones or sound systems to damage the eardrums! The singing is great and it’s from the heart. The décor is also interesting! They decorate the front of the dusty classroom with brightly coloured material and stick a couple of yucca plants in the corner wrapped in plastic bags! They also wrap up the pulpit as if it were a Christmas present! At the end of the service everyone files out whilst singing with the added benefit that you get to shake every sweaty hand along the way! Apart from the dive-bombing sparrows that target the gaudy pulpit, I’m always encouraged when I preach there, because the percentage of note-takers outnumbers those who don’t! They’re keen to study the Word, and that’s always an encouragement to the preacher.
One of the other churches we sometimes visit is out in the bush at a place called Kiloka, although it could be Kiroka! We never quite know due to the problem many Tanzanians have with their L’s and R’s! The AIC church at Kiloka is led by a man called Francis who is actually one of our trusty workers at Sanga – even though it’s an hour’s journey from Sanga to Kiloka! I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a godly, committed, smiley evangelist during my time in Tanzania. Just a few weeks ago, I was preaching to the small congregation there and was able to give out Bibles thanks to a monetary gift from someone who had read about the church in one of AIM’s publications. Other gifts have also meant that the church had a makeover a few months ago. In fact it was more like a rebuild due to the fact that the cracks in the bowed walls were getting bigger! Whilst it can be a bit of a challenge getting to the church, it’s always well worth it and we come away feeling blessed at their generous welcome, often shown with a big bunch of bananas! The church provides a small glimmer of gospel light in an otherwise dark community where Islam rules, and we pray that this small gathering would be protected and blessed as they witness for Christ there.
20 things we’re looking forward to on HA!
The cold! No mosquitoes! Visiting Israel. Being spiritually fed. Running in cooler climes. Spending quality time with family & friends. Watching Carlisle United get promotion?! Not battling with Swahili! Enjoying long summer evenings. Food variety. Driving on smooth roads where most people adhere to the highway code! Playing golf on greens. Skiing. Climbing a mountain or two. Going to the chippie! Not having ants crawling around the kitchen! Cycling the Hebrides. Not being at the mechanics on a weekly basis! Not being stared at! Being at our home church.
- Please pray for us as we aim to finish well and handover our various responsibilities. Pray in particular for Pastor Heri Ruma who will be looking after the accounts. Pray that our home assignment would be a time of refreshment, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
- Please pray for our teammates Matt and Amy Dixon as they will be the only missionaries left at Sanga, at least until May when we have another family joining.
Please pray for stomach healing for Steve! Recently diagnosed with gastritis and duodenitis.
- Please pray for the two K churches; Kihonda & Kiloka. Pray that the Kiloka folks would be protected as they live out their faith, and for the Kihonda church which is currently leaderless as their pastor recently went to Bible College!
Every blessing and see you soon!
Steve & Ruth
Priory Street (Corsham)
9.15am Eddie Larkman
11.15am Eddie Larkman
6:00pm Gathering to Praise
Church on the Green (Rudloe)
10:00am Rob Durant
The Thanksgiving service for the life of Mary Hayes will be held on Wednesday 27th February at CBC, Priory Street at 2pm . Mary died on 25th January at the age of 99 years, had been a regular member of our lunch club and attended many other church activities. All welcome.
Bible Society Event at Priory Street, 2nd March, 7pm
As well as up to date information on Bible Society, there will be the exciting launch of the new book – ‘JONAH AND THE BONY-FINNED ASTEROID FISH’. Publication date – 26th February. Join us for a fun evening with readings, quiz, book-signing and supper. If you are thinking of coming, please sign-up at the back so we can cater accordingly! Thank you.
If you’re not still away for half term do join us for the next Ark on Saturday 23rd February and why not bring a friend? It’s about treasure! It’s aimed at 0-7 year olds but all are welcome with an adult. The puppets will be here, and exciting crafts, as well as the normal children’s service followed by drinks and cake.
Mission Trips’ Thank Offering – 3rd March 2019
As we seek to play our part in spreading God’s love around the world, on Sunday 3rd March, we will be holding a thank offering to build up a fund to support self-funding adults who volunteer to serve on our future Mission Teams. This year, teams will be going out to support an AIM conference in Uganda and to help with construction work at the AIM Sanga Sanga conference centre in Tanzania. The money raised will be lodged in our Restricted Mission Trips Fund. Please do pray about how you can contribute towards this offering. Special yellow envelopes for your Gift Day offering will be available on the table at the back of the building. Please mark the envelope MISSION TRIPS THANK OFFERING, and if you are able to gift aid your donation, please complete the declaration on the envelope. If you are not able to do this, please just score out the declaration. When the offering is taken on the day, only the contents of the yellow envelopes will be included in the Thank Offering total. Blue envelopes and loose cash/cheques will be treated as regular giving to the general work of the church. Please speak to Paul Garcia (Church on the Green), Michael Prior (Priory Street 9.15) or Roger Hammett (Priory Street 11.15) should you wish to clarify these arrangements.
Women’s World Day of Prayer
Corsham Baptist Church is hosting this year. Please join us as we pray for women of SLOVENIA, one of the youngest and smallest countries in Europe.
WHERE: CBC Sanctuary, Priory Street
WHEN: Friday, 1 MARCH, 2019
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Please see Kathy Larkman as she needs assistance for readers, refreshments, and greeters. We are never too busy to pray!
The next midweek service will take place on Wednesday 20th February at 2pm. The text is Matthew 6.1-18. Eric Seager will be leading and preaching. All welcome.
Women’s Bible Study
The next women’s bible study will take place on Monday 25th February at 7:30pm. Notes for the next study – Titus – are on the table at the back. Please take a copy!
Family service (The Ark)
A family service will take place at Priory Street on 17th March at 3.30pm. The service will be fairly short and will finish with tea. Please put the date in your diary and start inviting family and friends along. We’ll also be advertising it at the Ark, Toddler group etc. Many thanks.
Accommodation for summer course 2019
For the last two years, CBC has hosted the WEC MK Staff Training course in July/August.. The course is scheduled to take place again, from Sunday 21st July to Thursday 1st August 2019. Some participants will only stay till Saturday 27th July. If you are able to provide accommodation (including breakfast and most evening meals) for someone for all or part of this time, please contact Steve and Gill Bryant. Thank you so much for your help.
Chippenham Street Pastors
Several of our church members are involved in Chippenham Street Pastors. There will be a celebration service on 13th March at 7:30pm at St. Paul’s Church, Chippenham. The night will include worship, testimony and prayer to celebrate this ministry which started in 2011. Please go along if you are interested in joining or simply wish to encourage those already involved.
Opportunities to Serve the Corsham Community as a Foodbank Trustee
The Corsham Churches Foodbank has been serving the community for around seven years now, and many of the Trustees have served from the outset. Whilst we have the experience, we are all getting older and are looking for new blood to refresh both us, and our work. If you would like to find out more about serving as one of our Trustees, we would love to hear from you. For more information contact Roger or Hazel Hammett in the 11.15 or call 01249 715816.
…This week is half term…
Please check with your small group leaders about your group!
Monday: Prayer for mission and the persecuted church, 7:45pm
Wednesday: Midweek service, 2pm
Thursday: Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 7:30pm
Friday: Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 9:30am
Saturday: The Ark, 10:00am
Life groups meet in and around Corsham and neighbouring towns and villages during the week. If you would like more information on any small groups, please speak to your congregational leaders.
… Looking ahead…
25th February: Women’s bible study, 7:30pm
27th February: Mary Hayes’ thanksgiving service, 2pm
1st March: Women’s World Day of Prayer (Slovenia), 7:30pm
2nd March: Craft Club, 10am; Bible Society Event, 7:00pm
3rd March: Gift day
6th March: Midweek service, 2pm
11th March: Fight night, 8pm
18th March: Prayer for mission and the persecuted church, 7:45pm
20th March: Midweek service, 2pm
24th March: Nominations open for Safeguarding Deacon
C.S.Lewis’ words to me mean: “Emmanuel” (God is with us); Fatherhood; Redemption, an Eternal inheritance, Hope and purposed to do great things in Christ Jesus.
Ah! My favourite Christmas carol… not because my middle name is ‘Joy’ and not just because I love the stirring musical arrangement. Most importantly the lyrics, rooted in Scripture and written by Isaac Watts, are INCREDIBLE.
Here they are – clear those throats and sing them out with gusto! Or venture onto YouTube and find a recording to listen to (Here’s a modern version which includes the 3rd verse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mnC8zMiwaQ):
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
I love the ‘present continuous’ feel of this carol. It celebrates the birth of Jesus – ‘the Lord is come’ – but as well as invoking the nativity story in your mind, it encapsulates the entire significance of what Jesus has done for us.
Why is it we sometimes miss out the third verse when we sing this congregationally? Is it the use of ‘heavy language’ such as ‘sin’, ‘sorrows’, ‘thorns’ and ‘the curse’? Yet look again and here’s the truly amazing news of the Gospel. Because Jesus has defeated sin and death, we’re set free from their power! And there’s no dark, cursed corner where God can’t make his blessings flow!
The Lord reigns and he’s not just our ruler but our saviour! And how does he rule? With ‘truth and grace’ and the way he interacts with us, ‘the nations’, speaks of both his glorious righteousness and wonderful love!
I love the way the carol reminds me that it’s not just us praising the Lord with joyful and thankful hearts but all of creation, everything He has made, the entire universe. Lord open my eyes to see how everything in all creation points to you and your goodness!
Finally, don’t miss key call to action in the carol. To truly experience the joy, the earth first has to receive its king. To truly mean what we sing, we must first prepare room in our hearts, putting Jesus at the centre of our lives and acknowledging him and him alone as our Lord and saviour. Lord, please help us to do this. Amen!
We usually all get what we seek at Christmas – presents, family time, indigestion – but if we seek Jesus we get him in abundance for ‘The grace of God has been revealed to all men’ at Christmastime. Thank you God!