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JOY TO THE WORLD!

kathylarkman,

 

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ESTHER KING, CONTRIBUTOR FOR TODAY’S BLOG POST

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,
Joy to the WorldNor 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.

Beautiful! Check out John 1.1-18 and Psalm 98 then take a moment to reflect. Are you starting to really feel the joy?

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!

Christmas Thought

kathylarkman,
grace place bio photo christine

Christine Coltman, contributor for today’s Christmas thought 

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!

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Christmas Thought

kathylarkman,
grace place bio photo christine

Christine Coltman, contributor for today’s Christmas thought 

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!

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Still getting ready

Matthew Little,

Still getting ready

 and I leave (with my parents, Stuart and Lynne) in three weeks, to fly to Texas for the confusedly named  ‘On Boarding’, as we don’t actually get aboard the ship until we fly from Texas  to Conakry, Guinea in November.

We are all still getting ready, which, for me, means tidying-up my bedroom by throwing away useless tat (as my dad would probably call it) that are no longer useful to me or have been left on my desk or shelves for years underneath piles of slightly more useful stuff. Somewhat related, this has also meant buying more stuff. Stuff that I am going to take, that is. However, I both know what I want to take, but at the same time,  I don’t. For the things that I do know what I want to take with me is clothes. (Obviously. Clothes are essential, Clothes are basically the priority), and my few technological devices, which are, my Laptop, my Samsung Galaxy Tab A and my PS Vita (the Xbox is staying at home, but all four of my devices I am taking have the capability to play games. The fourth item being my phone) There are some books that I am yet to read, both fiction and not fiction. Or books that I want to restart, those being The Hobbit, which I think I have restarted twice, but never finished, and a biography on the Knights Templar. (The REAL Templars, not the fictitious Templars from Assassin’s Creed. They are vastly different).

As for the things I don’t know what I want to take are what clothes I want to bring. I have finally started practising packing, which has made my mother happy, which has given me some idea of what of my clothes I will bring. What makes it difficult is thinking about the climate that I will be living in for 10 months, and what will be suitable clothing items. Especially since my two favourite t-shirts are black.

Other things that I have done to get ready are: Put a bunch of movies onto an external hard drive,  set up this blog, set up my YouTube channel to upload vlogs, (Check it out, I have put up a short film I made!) and shifted my payment methods for Playstation and Microsoft from my parents too me. And verified that I am adult with Microsoft. I am starting to think that these things probably shouldn’t have been my priority, but the only time I could really start packing is this week and next week, otherwise I would have been living out of a suitcase for a few weeks.

I guess all I can do now is to actually pack, wait till Friday (21st September) and leave.

(Note the time difference, this one post took three weeks to complete)

Outreach events at St Michael’s Stoke Gifford

Tim Stephenson,
Flyer for events in autumn 2018 at St Michael's Stoke Gifford. Details in the text of the page.

St Michael’s Stoke Gifford (200 mtrs from Parkway station) are launching a series of events designed to make full use of our new 500+seater auditorium.  We commence with Stuart Townsend on the 28th September (tickets down to the last 100 and expected to sell out soon so move quickly!).

The aim is to bring ministry and evangelism on a scale we cannot easily provide in our local churches. So why not think about whether you have friends for whom this might be a good introduction? They have placed a Christmas Comedians and Carols event just before Carol Service season for that reason and hopefully it will then be natural to invite them to a carol service afterwards. Other events include; Riding Lights, Steve Legg, John Archer, and Patrick Egan with more on the horizon.

The loction is a 2 minute walk from Parkway Railway station with easy access from the M32, M5 and M4.  Parking is free in the village after 2.00 pm and there is always the Parkway Station car park.

Telephone 0117 9692486, on Tuesday and Friday mornings in September to pay by card or see http://www.stmichaelsbristol.org/smcevents/.

TITUS: GRACE FOR LIVING THE GOOD LIFE

kathylarkman,
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Sharon Durant, lead teacher for this year’s bible study on Titus and today’s blog post contributor

The good life: Colourful cocktails? A deserted beach? Organic food? A TV series?

This year we’re going to be studying how God’s grace helps us to live the real good life – a life full of good works, done with a thankful, rejoicing, hopeful heart, confident of God’s love and walking in his light. This is the best way to live, the ultimate good life.

Why Titus? Because in the letter to Titus, Paul brings together the two essential ingredients of the good life – grace and good works.

These two might sound like opposites. Don’t we spend ages as Christians reminding ourselves that only God’s grace can save us? That all our good works won’t add anything to Jesus’ completed sacrifice on the cross? If grace is so amazing, why do we try to live a good life?

Well, as one preacher put it, “Jesus did what we can not do, so we could do what we can do.”

I’ve been so blessed by this truth. The grace of God poured on through Jesus did what I can’t do – it paid the price for me and freed me from my sin. But the purpose of this grace was so that I could do what I can – freed up to do good works, to live the good life.

We’re not set free so we can run riot like stray dogs; we’re set free to live purposeful lives that glorify God and bless others.

So, be ready, girls! Over the course of the year, it’s going to get painfully practical. In Titus, Paul applies grace thoroughly to our lives at home, church and in the world.

There’s a lot of momentum already, building on last year’s studies in God’s grace and the (now legendary) weekend away.

Plus this year there are going to be new faces and new voices speaking, sharing from God’s Word about grace for living the good life.

I’m excited. More than I usually am! Because this year the Holy Spirit is leading us forward in living the good life; we’re not being complacent and letting God’s grace go to waste.

I’m praying. I’m praying for you and your study buddy (Don’t have one? Talk to Anne Holmes ASAP so you don’t miss out on the full impact of Titus) that God would prepare your hearts and make you teachable by his grace.

I’m praying for our team of speakers this year as they study and prepare God’s Word.

Please pray with me – for each other, for those preparing the studies and talks… but most of all, please pray that more and more women in Corsham and the surrounding areas would be drawn into God’s grace, begin to live the good life, and study God’s Word together with us.

See you on 24th September!

Week of Prayer 2018 – Saturday

Tim Stephenson,
Week of prayer 2018

Welcome to our Week of Prayer!

To help you get started, we have some prayer stations set up in the church and I have prepared some prayer points some of which are requests from those involved in the ministries and some of which are suggestions. This is not an exhaustive list, so please don’t be constrained by it but pray as the Spirit leads you. You may like to begin by reading a psalm of praise and praising God for all He is and has done for us in Christ. (Some suggestions – Psalm 8, 96, 103, 145, 146.)

Our vision is to be a “gospel-centred church”, aiming to make disciples, reach out to the local community with the love and truth of God and to play our part in taking the gospel to the “ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:8) With this in mind, let’s lift the ministries of our church to God in prayer!

I’ve split the notes up so there will be a daily update but if you want to get them all now click here.

MISSION AND THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

  • Steve and Ruth in Tanzania – with AIM

  • Gill and Steve in UK – with WEC

  • Praise God for the time Neal and Lesley spent in Austria with Oasis and pray for them as they prepare to return there in February

  • Compassion and the children sponsored by church members

  • The Bible Society – Sue W, Alan K and Esther K who work there

  • Short term mission – trip to Tanzania in October

  • The Littles on Mercy Ships

  • Persecuted Christians around the world

CORSHAM MONEY & DEBT ADVICE CENTRE

  • Pray for those involved in this ministry – Brenda, John G, Colin W, Alan C and Alan S as he leads the ministry

  • Keep the ministry rooted in prayer and gospel centred

  • Clients – their financial situations and opportunities to speak the gospel to them

COMMUNICATIONS

  • For all those involved in assisting our church in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and giving God all the glory e.g. those who design and distribute flyers, those who produce banners, those who provide information about our church and our ministries

  • Pray for Louise as she processes and uploads the morning sermons at Priory Street and COTG

  • Pray for Tim S as he works on the web site

  • Pray that God would be glorified and that all our communications would always point to Him, not us!

HEALTH AND SAFETY

  • Praise God for a good health and safety record within our congregations

  • Thank God for the opportunities that have been taken to improve Health and Safety

  • Tim M as he oversees this ministry

  • Raise up others with the necessary gifts to serve in this ministry

CRAFT GROUP

  • Praise God for His blessing on this group

  • Pray that whilst sharing craft ideas and techniques, they would be building deeper relationships with one another

  • Pray that the church ladies would be bold in inviting their non-church friends

  • Pray for opportunities to speak of Jesus to these friends

  • Pray for Pam M and Hazel H as they lead this group

OTHER ACTIVITIES

  • Christianity and Discipleship Explored groups, walking groups, one-to-ones etc.

  • Pray that in all our activities we would seek to point others to Jesus, to share the gospel with unbelievers, to encourage and disciple one another and to give all the glory to God

Countdown

Stuart & Lynne Little,

Umm – this is our first blog post – ever!  We hope it is okay.

Well, in two weeks time we, and Matthew our 18 year old son, will be in Dallas about to start our training before heading to Guinea on 28th October.

It has been four and half years coming and six months since we were officially accepted and our ‘to-do lists’ are nearly done!  We’ve had a myriad of vaccinations, completed and signed many forms and policies, completed personality profiles, rationalised our bank accounts, sorted out mobiles, got our International Driving Permits, cleared and de-cluttered our house, revamped our garden to hopefully stop future flooding(!), bought luggage that will fit in our cabin (we hope!), checked our wardrobe complies with the Guinea dress code (very strict), spent £340 on Malarone (anti-malarials) for a three months supply for the three of us, booked our flights to Dallas, nearly booked a shuttle from Dallas to Mercy Ships HQ (must actually do that!), sold two cars, bought a new laptop, set up a VPN (what on earth is that?!), had a couple of short camping breaks on the Gower, a quick trip to Pembroke, had a fundraising tea and cakes afternoon, spoke at our church on a few occasions, went to the Mercy Ships End of Field Service celebration, set up a blog (what?), told people about Mercy Ships, had some get-togethers and tried to keep in touch with friends and family.  


Intertwined with all this we have had some significant family life events:   


Hannah’s graduation



Hannah (our oldest) graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering after five years at Cardiff University







Matthew (our youngest who is also going to serving on Mercy Ships) passed his A Levels (hooray!) Matthew is on the left of the picture above looking very smart.  (He has set up his own blog: matthewswestafricanadventure.blogspot.com )


Zoe and Seth

and Zoë (the middle child, as she keeps telling us) married Seth on 25th August.  


Some fabulous family days!






Due to these events, our household has doubled in size recently with six of us now living in our house and the contents of two, or maybe three, university accommodations and wedding presents coming into the house too!



Oh, and we both finished our (paid) work – Lynne at the end of June (she had a party) and Stuart’s self employment in July (couldn’t have a party as he had no colleagues so he had one later with some previous work colleagues from his MOD days.)

  


Haven’t quite mastered the art of positioning pictures! Hmm!

Three Cliffs Bay

Slade Bay

The parents selfie attempt

Sunset at Rhossili


So, what’s left to do?


We have our commissioning service tomorrow at Corsham Baptist Church and a final leaving party next Saturday.  The realisation of goodbye is getting harder!  

And, of course, we have to pack.  Lynne really doesn’t like packing and tends to keep packing until there is no more room!  However, we have to make sure the cases fit in the car that Zoë will drive to take us to the airport.  Had a test run this afternoon and we think six large bags, cabin luggage, Stuart’s guitar and Matthew’s ukulele will (just about) fit in Zoë’s Honda Jazz!   Oh, and final hair cuts as we don’t know when we will get the next one!

We are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives with excitement and some nervous anticipation as we really are stepping into the unknown.  How will we react to living on a ship with 400 other people from many different nationalities and living in a country so unlike England and where poverty is an everyday reality for so many and access to surgery that we would take for granted is non existent?  We go with determination and a motivation to serve the people of Guinea as we believe we are going to where God wants us at this time.  We so appreciate, and will continue to need, the love, support, encouragement and prayers of our family, church family and friends.

We will finish with the bible verse that has inspired us:  ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8

Thank you for reading.



Everything communicated here strictly reflects our personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.


Week of Prayer 2018 – Friday

Tim Stephenson,
Week of prayer 2018

Welcome to our Week of Prayer!

To help you get started, we have some prayer stations set up in the church and I have prepared some prayer points some of which are requests from those involved in the ministries and some of which are suggestions. This is not an exhaustive list, so please don’t be constrained by it but pray as the Spirit leads you. You may like to begin by reading a psalm of praise and praising God for all He is and has done for us in Christ. (Some suggestions – Psalm 8, 96, 103, 145, 146.)

Our vision is to be a “gospel-centred church”, aiming to make disciples, reach out to the local community with the love and truth of God and to play our part in taking the gospel to the “ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:8) With this in mind, let’s lift the ministries of our church to God in prayer!

I’ve split the notes up so there will be a daily update but if you want to get them all now click here.

WELCOME AND IN-SERVICE MINISTRY

  • Praise God for the many services we have

  • Pray for the many people involved in serving before, during and after our services e.g.

    • The Welcome Team on the door
    • Those who prepare and clear away Communion
    • Those involved with taking up the offering and counting it afterwards
    • Those who serve teas and coffees
    • Those involved in prayer, leading worship, the overhead, the sound desk, preaching………..
    • The duty elders and deacons

PA MINISTRY

  • Pray for the sound system operators and Ben Ross who leads this ministry

  • Wisdom in maintaining and improving the system

  • Patience for everyone, particularly between the two morning services which can be tricky

WORSHIP AND MUSIC MINISTRY

  • Praise God for the many gifted musicians and worship leaders He has given us

  • Pray that they would all grow in their walk with God as they serve in this ministry

  • Ask God to raise up others gifted to serve in this way

  • Pray for David M as he oversees the 11.15 worship teams and Joey P as he oversees the 9.15 worship teams

  • Pray that we would all grow in worshipping God in spirit and truth

LIFE GROUPS

  • Praise God that there are so many Life Groups but pray that more people would join groups and grow through the fellowship of being together

  • Praise God for the many Formation Groups and ask that God would use these groups to transform us by the renewing of our minds

  • Pray for the leaders of all the groups that they would grow in wisdom and strength

  • Ask God to raise up more leaders

  • A growing balance within the groups across all four areas in the LIFE principles i.e. Loving God, Individually known, Fellowship and Evangelism

PASTORAL MINISTRY

  • Pray that God would help us all to reflect His love in caring for our brothers and sisters

  • Pray for the sick and housebound and those who visit them

  • For Joan C as she seeks to oversee and meet the growing pastoral needs of the fellowship

  • Those organising, preparing and distributing meals

PRAYER MINISTRY

  • Praise God for the many opportunities to meet together to pray

  • The Prayer Chain – many answered prayers – those who administer it and those who pray

  • Those who lead us in intercessory prayer and those who pray with us after services

  • Pray that God would give us all the desire to draw closer to Him in prayer

A PRAYER ABOUT HEART GUARDING

kathylarkman,

everyday prayers scotty smith“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21 NIV

Gracious Father, how I long for the day when I will no longer be temptable, deceivable, or capable of worshiping any other god but you. I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention, and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one redeems us like you. No one loves us like you do. No one cares for us like you. No one understands us like you. There is no God but you.

In Jesus, you’ve already given us a new heart and have placed your Spirit inside us. In Jesus, you’ve already turned our heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). In Jesus, you’ve already given us a heart to know and love you (Jeremiah 24:7). In Jesus, you’ve already written your law upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

Indeed, Father, you’ve already given me a perfectly forgiven heart-yet it is far from being a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s worship continues, daily and relentlessly. This conflict will persist until the day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus the warning to keep myself from idols is not going away.

Father, there are some idols I run from like the plague, but others I don’t even recognize as idols. It’s easier to see the idols outside of me, but help me to discern the ‘idols of the heart’ (see Ezekiel 14:4) Help me to know when I’ve made a good thing an ultimate thing. When I don’t think you are ‘enough,’ where do I take the trust and worship you deserve-where do I go for life, deliverance, and salvation?

I praise you for the assurance that I am already one of your ‘beloved children.’ You cannot love me more than you already do, and you will never love me less. Surely the gospel, this gospel, will win the day, my heart, and the entire cosmos. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”