Daily message – 6 Jan 2020


If you did not hear my last Sunday message of 2019 then let me recap: I’d like to offer this to you as your pastor – something brief but good to ponder each day.

It is impossible for anyone, including God, to love God too much.

Jen Wilkin, “In His Image”

How do I get the most out of reading the Bible?

Esther King,
Open Bible, journal, pen and glasses

Originally published by Bible Society on 3rd Jan 2020

‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Matthew 22.36–37 (GNB)

How do we love God with all our mind? Well, one way is to read God’s word – to feast on what God says about himself, about us, and about everything he has created. But if we’re being honest, we’re a lot better at feasting on spiritual junk food than the Bible, and our minds are tricky, easily distracted things.

Why can Bible reading so easily become a box-ticking exercise and even a bore? And what can we do about it?

Firstly, I find it so encouraging that God wants us to find him. He promises, ‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29.13). He even helps us out by speaking directly to us through the Bible. The Creator of the universe wants a relationship with you and he is reaching out!

Getting more out of reading our Bibles is going to be a lifelong venture but it’s well worth the effort. Here are just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me. I hope they do the same for you!

Pray before you read

‘When you open your Bible, don’t expect to be put under some mystical spell. Speak directly with the Author. Ask the Spirit to unblind you to the beauty staring you in the face.’

Matt Smethurst
Before You Open Your Bible

It’s tempting to give prayer a miss and dive straight into reading our Bibles but that’s a bit short-sighted. It won’t be long before we hit a passage that we don’t understand or that challenges us in a troubling way and we find ourselves putting the Bible away, feeling discouraged.

Speaking ‘directly with the Author’ reminds us whose word this is and invites the Spirit of God to help us as we read. It’s an invitation he’s eager to accept.

It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Just ask God to speak to you, show you who he is more clearly and help you understand.

Read it out loud

There are so many good reasons to read the Bible aloud and none of them has anything to do with performance – so don’t worry if you don’t feel confident.

For a start, studies show that reading aloud helps us to remember more of what we read, so it’s a very simple way to make the time and effort you’re investing more worthwhile. If you’re visually impaired, you could try listening to an audio Bible and repeating back what you hear in your own voice. If you are hearing impaired, you could try repeating what you read in sign language. Find out what works for you.

Secondly, reading out loud helps you concentrate because it makes you participate more actively. You’ll probably take yourself off to a quieter place with fewer distractions to do it too.

Thirdly, reading aloud helps you visualise and imagine – it brings the Bible to life. It’s a basic form of interpretation because you have to think about what is being said to find the appropriate tone of voice. As you gain confidence, your voice will reflect the wonder, joy and hope, or shock, sadness and gravity of the events you’re reading about in the Scriptures.

Review what you read

It’s tempting tick off the passage in your reading plan, close the Bible and get straight on with your day, but a few minutes of reflection can really help. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You could simply ask yourself:

  • What did it say and what did I notice?
  • What does it mean (both when it was written and now)?
  • What should I do as a result? (What am I being asked to believe/trust/hope/do/make right/change?)

It’s up to you whether you write anything down or not, but don’t miss this step.

Pray after you read

It wouldn’t be much of a conversation if we didn’t respond to ‘the Author’.

Wouldn’t it be strange for us to read about the wonders of creation and not respond to God with awe, or what Jesus did for us on the cross and not pour out our thanks and praise?

And what do we do when what we’ve read has exposed our sin and failures? The Bible is undoubtedly a source of wisdom, guidance, encouragement and eternal hope but don’t expect it to always be a comfortable read!

The good news is that when God’s word exposes our sin, we can turn to him in prayer and ask for forgiveness. We can rejoice in the fact that Jesus died for our sin and his grace is sufficient for every moment of every day.

Study it

‘Do you want deeper worship? Richer joy? Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, as the hymn says? Then approach your Bible with a learner’s posture, asking the Author to teach you marvellous things. Don’t just waterski across the surface of Scripture’s waters. Put on scuba gear. Dive in and explore…’

Matt Smethurst
Before You Open Your Bible

There are so many amazing resources available today to help you study the Bible more deeply. From study Bibles to videos on YouTube that give an overview of each book, if you’re hungry to know more you don’t need to look far for ‘food’.

You might be interested in these resources from Bible Society:

Maybe you could try Bible journalling? Or if you’re not artistically inclined, another way of studying the Bible is close reading. I used to be an English teacher so I find ‘zooming in’ and spending significant time on a passage really enriching.

I sometimes print out passages or shorter books of the Bible leaving a wide margin and spacing out the lines. Then I go to town highlighting and annotating, drawing out what the writers are emphasising in the text. Maybe this is something you could try.

Share it with others

I’m part of a ‘Life Group’ with other members of my church and meeting with them is the highlight of my week. We all participate, whether we’re new to the Bible or have been studying it for years, and it’s so encouraging to see that we all have something special to contribute.

If you want to get the most out of reading your Bible, I can’t over-emphasise the importance of sharing what you’re reading with others. Find a church, join a Bible study group, meet up with a fellow Christian or join a group online.

Then: when you’re full of enthusiasm about what you’ve read, you can share it with others and encourage them; when you’re confused or have questions you can tackle them together. The more you talk about the Bible, the more natural it will become and the more confident you will be about sharing the gospel.

You can sign up for the Bible Society newsletter here, find out more about their apps here. Or follow Bible Society on social media:

Daily message – 5 Jan 2020


If you did not hear my last Sunday message of 2019 then let me recap: I’d like to offer this to you as your pastor – something brief but good to ponder each day.

When we encounter difficulty loving our neighbour, we often attempt to remedy the problem by trying harder… Yet a deficit in our love of neighbour always points to a deficit in our love of God. We must first focus on loving God rightly. Restoring the vertical relationship is the first step to righting the horizontal relationship.

Jen Wilkin, “In His Image”

Daily message – 4 Jan 2020


If you did not hear my last Sunday message of 2019 then let me recap: I’d like to offer this to you as your pastor – something brief but good to ponder each day.

We are not merely saved from depravity; we are saved to holiness. Conversion entails consecration. The Bible presents holiness as both given to us and asked of us. It says, ‘In Christ, you are made holy. Now be holy.’

Jen Wilkin, “In His Image”

Notices 5th January 2020


Priory Street (Corsham)

9.15am             Eddie Larkman

11.15am           Eddie Larkman

6:00pm            Gathering round the Word

Church on the Green (Rudloe)

10:00am           Rob Durant

Midweek Service

The text for the midweek service on Wednesday 8th January is James 4: 11-5: 6. Eric will be leading & preaching and there will be communion.

David Rawstrone

David Rawstrone, a member of our 11.15 congregation, went to be with the Lord on Boxing Day following a long illness. The Thanksgiving Service will be in our church at 2.30pm on Thursday 9th January, following a private interment.

Open Doors

Prayer leaflets and the latest Open Doors’ magazine are at the back of church.  The next prayer meeting for the persecuted church and missions is taking place on Monday 20th January at 7:45pm at the home of Vanessa Naish.  The country to pray for specifically this month is North Korea.

Fight Night

Every second Monday of the month, the men of the church meet for a “fight night” prayer meeting at 8pm.  Please speak to Ian Holmes or a member of the men’s team if you would like more information.

Women’s Bible Study

The first women’s bible study of the new year will take place on Monday 27th January at 7:30pm.  Study notes are on the table at the back of the church.  Please speak to Anne Holmes if you would like a “study buddy” or would like more information about women’s ministry at CBC.

…This week…

Monday: Mums’ bible study, 9:30am

Wednesday: Midweek service, 2pm

Thursday: Toddler Group, 10am

Friday: Encounter, 3.45pm; Engage, 4:30pm; Energize, 5:30pm

Daily message – 3 Jan 2020


If you did not hear my last Sunday message of 2019 then let me recap: I’d like to offer this to you as your pastor – something brief but good to ponder each day.

Want to know what it should have been like to be human? Look to the only human who never sinned.

Jen Wilkin, “In His Image”

Daily Message – 2 Jan 2020


If you did not hear my last Sunday message of 2019 then let me recap: I’d like to offer this to you as your pastor – something brief but good to ponder each day.

God does not hide his will from his children. As an earthly parent, I do not tell my kids, ‘There is a way to please me. Let’s see if you can figure out what it is.’ If I do not conceal my will from my earthly children, how much more our heavenly Father? His will does not need discovering. It is in plain sight. To see it we need to start asking the question that deals with his primary concern. We need to ask, ‘Who should I be?’ … What is God’s will for your life? Put simply, that you would be like Christ.

Jen Wilkin, “In His Image”

Tanzania Touch-down!

Steve and Ruth Lancaster,

It seems more than five weeks ago that we packed up our stuff and headed back here to Tanzania.  I’d been given the all-clear by the surgeon and was able to return with a new nose!  The operation went well and my sinuses were well and truly scrubbed up and scraped out!  As we touched down in Dar another delight awaited us!  In fact, we wondered whether we’d arrived in the right country!  We left Dar back in March from a rather grotty airport and arrived back at a brand new terminal building!  And this time, it was great to see all our luggage trundling around the gleaming new carousel!  It was also a bit of a surprise to have no issues at Immigration, so the system obviously acknowledged the recent renewal of our permits. 

As forecast in the last newsletter, the cars were indeed a lengthy job!  Peeling back the tarpaulins revealed that the insides of the cars were covered in a thick layer of mould!  In an effort to protect the outside of the cars, the insides had certainly suffered, so much so that we had to take the seats out to give them a thorough cleansing!  Rotting fuel (?!) also added to a fuel-filter issue and, although the engine compartments hadn’t become a nesting place for termites, rats or snakes, we did find a couple of rather large spiders hiding in there, one of which is still lurking somewhere amongst the spark plugs!  Thankfully, the house was in good condition and it didn’t take us long to get settled in.

On our return to Sanga Sanga, it was good to see the conference hall being used for a pastors’ conference and to hear that all but one scheduled seminar had taken place during the year.  It was also encouraging to see the AIC using the facilities for a children’s camp.  Thanks to our sending church, Corsham Baptist, it was great to see a new accommodation block rising out of the bush!  And, as a tree lover, it was fantastic to see that the team had been busy planting lots of trees and shrubs around the site.

Since our return Ruth has been spending hours with her head in the cash books, sorting out vouchers and receipts from the last eight months and playing the detective in trying to work out what came from which budget etc!  It’s consumed her every waking thought (and some night-time thoughts as well!) but headway is being made slowly.  My efforts have been focussed more on unit leadership matters, which has meant more time behind the mouldy steering wheel as I visited various missionaries in the unit.   
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go”?! 
As I wandered the aisles of a supermarket in Dar the other day, this was one of many Christmas songs being played.  It all seemed a bit surreal and disconnected from life outside.  In fact, here in Morogoro, there are only a few small shops that are remotely Christmassy and it’s rather ironic that those shops belong to Muslims!  I pondered some of the words of these so-called Christmas classics and wondered what Tanzanians make of them.  After all, reindeers and sleigh bells, mulled wine and mince pies, snowy Christmas-card scenes and Santa, carolling and Christmas cake don’t quite fit into an African culture!  Thankfully, there’s more to Christmas than some of these western traditions! 
The situation I found myself in 24 hours earlier was even further removed from the title of that song!  As part of my role as unit leader, I was visiting a team of AIM missionaries out in the bush who are living amongst an unreached Muslim people group – and it certainly didn’t feel anything like Christmas there!  The rutted red-mudded ‘road’ was a bit of a challenge for the Subaru but it led me to a village of mud huts and mud-bricked houses.  The heat was intense, the cicadas buzzed in the trees, and a family sat on the ground under some trees, whilst bare-bottomed toddlers toddled around!  One of the recent buildings is a small school which was built by an AIC church and the team.  Providing education has definitely been a gateway for the gospel here, where teaching the Bible is part of the curriculum.  Twenty five children have made it through the first year of education and there are some encouraging tales of the gospel rubbing off on some of these little ones. 
You might remember a rather different Christmas song released back in 1984 (35 years ago!) which contained the words “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”  Well, here in this off-the-beaten-track Tanzanian village, they definitely do!  They’ve heard the real Christmas message, without having to wade through wrapping paper and tinsel to hear about Jesus.  Thanks to this team, this group of people has heard the real and relevant message of God’s son “putting on skin” and descending into humanity for the most dramatic and sacrificial rescue mission of all time!  As you pray for people around you this Christmas who don’t yet know Christ, please also spare a prayer for this team and the villagers they’re trying to reach with the gospel. 
Christmas will be different for us this year as we’re heading to Uganda to spend some time with our former team-mates, Tony & Cath Swanson.  At some point during those festivities we’re also hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Shoebill, which I realise might not mean much to many of you, or even be top of your Christmas wish list, but it’s one of those ‘must see’ birds in the African birding world!  For those trying to picture it, just think of a large bird with a shoe-like bill!  Soon after New Year, we’ll be heading to the cooler climes of Nairobi for unit leader meetings.  So all in all, a festive period that will involve quite a bit of travel, some of it for pleasure and some for ministry.  
As we close up a memorable year, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank those of you who support us prayerfully and financially.  We couldn’t do our work here in Tanzania without you – so many, many thanks to you all.  Whatever you’re up to for Christmas and New Year, have a truly blessed time!  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13).      
Diary Dates: 
23-30 Dec: Christmas in Uganda
5-11 Jan: Nairobi (Unit Leader meetings) 
Jan-March: Steve prepares teaching material for 2020 conferences
Prayer & Praise Points: 
  • We’re thanking God for a safe return and for the fact that we’re fully supported.
  • Please pray for Steve as he begins his teaching preparation for the seminars in 2020.
  • Pray for Ruth as she wades through the accounts, checking and correcting.
  • Please pray for an accountant to be employed at Sanga, sooner rather than later! 
  • Please pray for Steve and his health.  Whilst the sinus operation was very much needed, it has now become obvious that the sinuses weren’t the real cause of headaches and dizziness.  They still exist, along with the insomnia. The sleep tank is pretty empty!  
Bird of the month:
Long-crested Eagle