Best Sermon Ever

Before you start to draw a conclusion that the leadership of the church are getting a little uppity about the teaching the church provides, let me reassure you.

‘Best Sermon Ever’ refers to the sermon given to us by Jesus in Matthew, that is, Matthew chapters 5 through to 7, otherwise known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Much has been written and spoken about these incredible chapters, but suffice it to say that Jesus talks about how Kingdom People live. Why not sign up to the YouVersion reading plan to remind yourself of the particulars and how they link to the Kingdom of God?

You will also notice, as we have different members of the Teaching Team sharing on verses from this Sermon – starting with myself on Jan 30th with the beatitudes and not finishing D.V. until the end of April – that we have gone for slightly cryptic titles such as ‘Further in’, ‘Further up’, etc. Narnia fans among you will be familiar with this moment in The Last Battle:

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”

He shook his mane and sprang forward into a great gallop — a Unicorn’s gallop, which, in our world, would have carried him out of sight in a few moments. But now a most strange thing happened. Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with him: not only the Dogs and the humans but even fat little Puzzle and short-legged Poggin the Dwarf. The air flew in their faces as if they were driving fast in a car without a windscreen. The country flew past as if they were seeing it from the windows of an express train. Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath.1

So we’re going to see something which is quite extraordinary – a better life than we have known, but still recognisable to us – we see flashes of God’s kingdom from time to time, but we have the opportunity to learn so much more as we pay attention to what Jesus taught. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If you feel ‘poor’ today, you are happy, you are blessed, you are part of the Kingdom!

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Logos Bible Software – a year in action

Hi there, I thought I would give a little lowdown on my experience as a customer with Logos Bible Software. I am not sponsored for doing this post!

If you want to find out more about this software, there are several places I would point you towards. One is the website itself, where you can download a free version and start to play around with it.

Secondly, there is a good forum and wiki base with lots of information on that you can burrow into to figure out the mysteries of Logos.

Thirdly, you will find lots of videos on YouTube, some more helpful than others. I would recommend the free Logos videos for quick guides, or Morris Proctor free monthly webinars for a little more detail.

https://www.youtube.com/c/logosbiblesoftware

WHAT DID I BUY?

I started off in July 2020 with a free version, and then took the leap, after I think quite a lot of researching, and purchased Logos 8 Anglican Bronze, which set me back around 630 dollars. Can I apologise in advance that I have only just learnt how to switch on the website so you can see cost in pounds! I’ll give you a summary at the end of what I’ve spent, and what I have to show for it!

Now I soon realised that no sooner had I purchased, than that Logos came out with their update Logos 9, which was actually significantly better in a number of ways. So I purchased the upgrade for around 310 dollars, which I believe got me quite a lot more resources as well. That was in January 2021, so close on a year ago.

What made me want to upgrade so soon? The function that I was really after was the Sermon Builder, which would enable me to do ALL my Bible study and sermon prep within Logos, and then have ready access to my sermons. I use an ipad now to preach from, and just put it into Preach Mode, which works really well. I don’t print out my sermons any more.

This year I have also been running a discipleship course, and because I have been creating powerpoints and handouts to quite tight deadlines, have found the Sermon Builder with your handout exporter such a boon. Everything works so quickly and looks very good. I haven’t found anything to match this.

Why don’t I just use free resources, such as powerpoint or Libreoffice or something like this? I’m a secondary school English teacher as well as a pastor, and I find it quite helpful, when I open up Logos (anywhere I am, I might add!) to switch mode and to think ‘Bible’ rather than thinking ‘starter’ or ‘essay on Macbeth’ if you see what I mean.

So after those I made one more major spend, which was buying Logos 8 Silver Legacy, for around 136 dollars. My main reason for buying this, I think, was to add on to my commentary resources a solid commentary for each book of the Bible – this Legacy package offered the Tyndale Old and New Testament commentaries if I remember rightly. I’m still missing some updated editions, but I’m pretty happy with what I have.

I’m not going to spend too much time here extolling the virtues of Logos, other people do that very well – I wanted really to comment on my journey through packages and what I have.

I listed earlier today all the little add-ons I have since purchased (which includes Black Friday ones and early Christmas presents for myself!), and here they are:

Logos 7 Anglican bronze and Logos 7 Baptist Starter – 33 dollars

Logos 7 Methodist and Wesleyan starter – 33 dollars

Logos 6 Anglican starter legacy, Logos 6 Methodist and Wesleyan starter, Logos 6 Pentecostal and Charismatic starter, Logos 6 Reformed starter – that all came to 31 dollars

John Piper sermon archive – 30 dollars

Bronze 9 Upgrade and Baptist 9 starter upgrade – 28 dollars

Logos 9 Pentecostal and Charismatic starter upgrade – 25 dollars

Logos 7 Reformed starter 22 dollars

Logos 6 Methodist and Wesleyan Bronze – 18 dollars

Logos 9 Pentecostal and Charismatic Bronze upgrade – 18 dollars

Logos 6 Bronze legacy – 17 dollars

Logos 8 Starter – 16 dollars

Psalm 119 Thomas Manton commentary – 10 dollars

Macarthur Romans, 3 vols Bibliotheca Sacra – 7 dollars

Now those are not listed in order of purchase, but in order of cost. My first thought when I looked at the list is help! It comes to some 1300 dollars in total or just over £1,000. That’s more than I realised!

Then I reflected on what I have in my library for that value. I have 1,552 volumes, which means that I’ve paid under a pound for each volume. Some of those volumes are extremely weighty and authoritative, as well as of course fully searchable, and accessible anywhere I am and have the internet (I have a considerable number downloaded on my ipad too).

If you’re anything like me, and you lose Logos, a lot of time can be wasted just filtering through the different packages on the website and seeing what they offer, ticking the ‘already owned’ box and then trying to consider whether it’s worthwhile or not. After a while, if I’ve had an intensive ‘looking’ session, I can tend to think I should buy something so that it wasn’t a waste of time. There is a great Facebook group for Logos users, on which someone the other day asked how people control their Logos addiction – I think it was a very important question. When you get too far from the original purpose of owning a good piece of Bible Study software, it’s time to take a break perhaps! And certainly hold off from spending more. As one wise commenter on the Facebook group said, these books ain’t going anywhere. They’ll still be there tomorrow.

I am someone who collects hard copies of books, and I’m having to slow down due to constraints of space, but it’s partly the novelty of being able to access ‘that’ book straight away, that can tempt you to the click of a button. That’s partly why I decided to do a proper audit of what I’ve spent, and I think in the future I will take a much more structured approach to any Logos spending I do.

What does my Logos Library look like?

In terms of commentaries I have the Holman Bible commentaries, the Tyndale, the Bible Speaks Today for New Testament, Wiersbe for New Testament, Tom Wright’s Bible for Everyone New Testament, the IVP New Testamnet series, a lot of the socio-rhetorical commentaries and some of the Lexham Geographic, the Life Application commentaries, Lange’s Bible Commentary, the Cornerstone series on the whole Bible, a number of Lectionary commentaries (e.g. Feasting on the Word), John Goldingay Old Testament for Everyone, Wesleyan Bible Commentary etc.

In addition to that I have a number of whole Bible commentaries, including the New Bible Commentary, Teacher’s Bible Commentary, Wesleyan Bible Commentary volumes, Wiersbe Expository Outlines, Women’s Bible Commentary, Fortress Old and New Testament volumes, Bible Knowledge Background Commentaries, the IVP Background Old and New Testament volumes, Jamieson Fausset Brown, Eerdman’s Companion to the Bible, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Exploring the OT volumes 1 to 4, the Grace New Testament Commentary, the Life Application New Testament Commentary, and I have also picked up a number of excellent single book commentaries through the free books each month. I had no idea until I joined Logos how many different commentary series existed! Of the making of many books there is no end…

In terms of Encyclopaedias and Bible Dictionaries I have the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, a number of Baker Encyclopaedias (Christian Apologetics, Psychology and Counselling, of the Bible),. Dictionary of Christianity in America, Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, Eastons, Eerdmans, Holman Illustrated, Lexham Bible Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, a number of Pocket Dictionaries, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology and the Dictionary of Bible Themes and a number of others. On my wishlist I have the black IVP dictionaries!

In terms of lexicons I know I have some gaps, but I’ve still got enough for my fairly modest needs: The Abridged Brown-Driver Briggs, Strong’s Concise, Some Lexham volumes, Lexham Theological Wordbook, Pocket Lexicon to Greek NT, the abridged Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament and the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. I also have Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament and Robertson’s Word Pictures. I have the fuller Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and BDAG / HALOT on my wishlist, but it won’t be disastrous if I don’t get them.

For systematic theologies I have a bit of a mishmash currently: John Miley’s, Lexham Survey of Theology, Ryrie’s Basic, Charles Hodge, Augustus Hopkins Strong, Berkhof, Anthony Thiselton, James Leo Garrett, Stanley M. Horton, R.T. Kendal Understanding Theology 3 vols, Bible Doctrines a Pentecostal Perspective by Menzies and Horten, Biblical Systematics by Forlines, adn a Systematic by Mullins, as well as Donald Bloesch on The Church, God, Scripture and the Holy Spirit (a number of different volumes), Foundations of the Christian Faith by Boice, Concise Theology by Packer, Compendium of Christian Theology by Pope, Manual of Theology by Dagg, and Outlines of Theology by Hodge. I didn’t actually realise I had so much, and I need to create better collections and searches to make full use of it!

For plain old ‘monographs’, which label covers a multitude of categories (some of these books are not academic at all!), I have some 400. They range from starter texts to help beginners, such as Beginners’ Guides to Prophecy etc., to Small Group Lifebuilder studies, to fairly good collections of John Stott – which includes The Incomparable Christ and The Cross of Christ, Oswald Chambers, N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God etc.), some D.A. Carson monographs, Sam Storms volumes, Ray Comfort and Elmer Towns, E.M. Bounds, the great lite commentaries ‘How to Read Exodus’ etc by Tremper Longman, I also have Calvin’s Institutes and a few commentaries, quite a lot of Jeremiah Burroughs (yet to read!), all of Thomas Brooks, a few Dutch Sheets books, some Cindy Jacobs, I own John Piper’s sermons, quite a lot of Meredith Kline (again yet to read), Herman Ridderbos, George Eldon Ladd’s NT Theology, Steven Lawson on Jonathan Edwards and a coupla others. I would quite like all of Andrew Murray and R.A. Torrey, but I’m holding off at the moment (that’s in a package on my wishlist).

I just wanted to put this brief post together to provide some concrete illustration of what a Logos library might look like, and the sort of outlay required to achieve it. My library is extremely modest compared with a lot of Logos users on the Facebook groups and on the forums – some folk have 14,000 volumes or something like that. If you have any questions relating to any information, feel free to ask below!

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The Holy Spirit and you – Equip Session 3

Equip Teaching / Discipleship / Ephesians 1

Ephesians 5:18–22 (NKJV)

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

 Acts 2:37-39 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.””

Spirit Baptism after Salvation

 For example in Samaria the disciples had been baptized in the name of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen upon them, it tells us in Acts 8:16 and it needed the laying on of Peter and John’s hands for them to get baptized in the Spirit. 

Also in Acts 19 Paul is at Ephesus and they find some followers of Jesus: Acts 19:1-6 “And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

 A.W. Tozer said: “Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God.”

At this point it’s worth remembering one of God’s characteristics – he is a faithful God, as in Deut 32:4 “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”

What does this mean?  It means he will always do what he has said and will fulfil what he has promised.  He can be relied upon and will never prove unfaithful to those who trust what he has said. 

 A definition of tongues is this: “The act of speaking a language one did not acquire by natural means. This often related to either divine revelation or worship. The language may or not be intelligible by another human.”

 Acts 2:39 “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.””

The purpose of the baptism of the Spirit is to enable you to use spiritual gifts, to experience the assurance of God’s love, and to be effective in your life for Jesus, to serve Him in the church and the world.

To drink, in John 7:37 “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

Problems with Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

David Devenish says sometimes there can be a delay. 

You feel too self-conscious in a group of people.  Get on your own!

1. Depend on Christ alone for salvation

 Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”

2. Repent from all known sin

 Eph 5:10 “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Eph 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

3. Water baptism. 

4. Obedience: surrender our will unconditionally to God. 

5. You have to be thirsty for the Holy Spirit. 

  Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;”

6. You have to ask for the baptism. 

7. Believe in faith.

 1 John 5:14-15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Biography of Keith Green by Melody Green

Hosea 10:12 “Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.”

Prayer to Use Personally:

Father, I repent of all my known sin and ask you to show me any wicked way in me. I am trusting fully in the finished work of Jesus for salvation.

I surrender my will to Yours today, and ask for strength to fully obey you in everything I ought to do and all you prompt me to do. I know that as a good Father you will give the Holy Spirit to anyone if they ask, and I know it’s Your will that I might be filled with Your Holy Spirit, so Jesus I ask You to send Your Spirit on me now in power and grace, that I may serve you effectively today and bring much glory to Your name in what I do, say and think. Thank You for saving me and for calling me to join in Your glorious and eternal work. Amen.

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Psalm 27 in verse

A talented member of our church offered a poem as a re-working of Psalm 27 recently and we all enjoyed the result.

I recall someone else versifying a Psalm very effectively recently too. Making it our own is just one way of Scripture becoming more powerful to us. When we invest time in something, it gains value and becomes a treasure to us.

Psalm 27 is a knockout Psalm in its own right. Here it is in its unadorned splendour in the King James:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Where do you start with admiring this Psalm? I guess with that double rhetorical question at the start – begin on the offensive when it comes to the spiritual life, that’s what I say! The splendid ideas that the Lord is my light, and my salvation – Jesus is the Light of the World, and He is indeed all of our salvation, and there is no salvation other than Him. Then there is the marvellous hyperbole of a host of an enemy camping against you, and yet they have no chance, because the Lord is on our side.

We also love the emphasis on ‘One thing’ – life must ultimately become simple, must become a clear and pure desire – and in this case just to be in His temple, to gaze on His beauty. We don’t need anything else.

This is a rich Psalm – for 14 verses, we get so much value for ‘money’, so to speak. It almost reminds me of Psalm 119 where we are told that God’s law is worth thousands of coins of gold and silver. Let me give you the verse edition by my friend, and I may make a couple of comments on this too:


1. God lights my path and rescues me

So whom then shall I fear?

He strengthens me in every part

Fear shall come nowhere near!

2. When evil comes to trouble me,

to take away my peace,

God’s strength within will come to help,

His power will bring release!

3. Though evil foes surround me

I will not be afraid;

God sees me through the conflict,

I shall not be dismayed.

4. Forever in God’s wondrous house

is where I want to dwell;

Beholding all His beauty there,

His mighty praise to tell.

5. When trouble comes to hurt me

My Saviour will me hide

His secret place my shelter,

my Rock; He will provide.

6. Victorious in the battle

Through Christ the Son of God

I’ll never cease to praise Him

Who carries all my load.

7. Now when I cry to You O Lord

In mercy hear my plea,

And when you bid me pray to You

To You alone I’ll flee.

8. Yes, thank You Lord for calling me

to make a call to You,

In seeking You my heart finds peace

and everything that’s true.

9. You will not hide Your face from me

Nor turn from me away;

You always have my helper been

And with You I shall stay.

10. My parents I’ll not always have,

Time carries them away;

But daily care I shall not lack

For You are there alway.

11. The lessons that You teach me, Lord

make smooth the path I tread;

My enemies shall not prevail

Nor cause my heart to dread.

12. God’s enemies are always near

with lies to hurt the saints;

Deliver me from them O Lord

Lest my weak heart should faint.

13. But I’ve believed, so shall not fall

By grace I’ll not lose heart;

God’s life is ours, and He is good

and always on our part.

14. Wait on the Lord, take heart right now

And trust His mighty power,

And as you look to Him you’ll find

great strength for every hour.

Chris Smith

Just to remark that this poem is at once less than Psalm 27, of course – with its ringing affirmations and familiar rhythms that an English rhyming poem does not have (because as you may be aware Hebrew poetry in the Psalms is alliterative and emphatic rather than dependent on rhyme and scansion) – but at the same time it adds some lovely little touches in, borrowing it seems from Victorian hymnody at times: “with lies to hurt the saints” seems quite modern, and especially the reference to verse 10 ‘When my father and mother forsake me’ with ‘Time carries them away’ adds a more generous reading to that verse than those who suffer from abandonment by their parents. True, we all lose our parents eventually.

Reading some parts of the poem more closely and looking to see where they originate from, I can’t quite see where ‘Christ the Son of God’ is in the Psalm, although there are references to ‘Lord’ – perhaps I’ll get a response in the comments!

But I was reading the final verse of the poem and thinking how immediate and arresting the advice is – I went back to the Psalm and it’s just the same, if not more powerful. What an exhortation and encouragement to remind ourselves: ‘Wait, I say, on the Lord – He will strengthen thy heart.’ This is a tremendous promise that we can remind ourselves of.

Perhaps at the start of a day, apprehensive that we have the strength we need, wait on Him. Listen to Him – worship Him. He will strengthen your heart – you’ll find the strength you need for every hour.

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Some ways to do your Bible reading (or what’s going on in 2 Chronicles?)

I’m using Nicky Gumbel’s Bible in a Year, and a friend of mine is also reading through it too. Every day, there is the ‘Talk it Over’ feature, where he and I can both comment on the day’s reading. While I go to my ipad to collect my reading, I usually turn it up in my paper Bible to read (which means I’m in NKJV rather than NIV). Incidentally, this is a feature of ANY Youversion Bible reading plan, and I highly recommend that you link up with some friends to have an online conversation about what you’re reading. It’s excellent.

Today’s reading

There are different ways of approaching this, but I read Scripture first, and then I go back to the Devotional. Most of these Bible plans, if you just press the ‘forward’ button, take you into the devotional first, but I like to see how the Spirit leads as I just lean into the Word.

Take a look at the readings I had today, a real feast! Starting off with the opening verses of Psalm 103:

I make an effort to read some of the Bible aloud – Psalms or Proverbs or sometimes the NT passage works well for this (as you can see we get a long chunk of OT and I don’t always have time to read that aloud, but I do have to be careful, as a fast reader, not to skim it and think I have taken it in). As I go through the day, I can come back to my morning portion and ‘suck it like a sweet’ to get more from it, perhaps as I walk the dog, or I’m driving in the car, or doing something practical like sorting washing or clearing kitchen. I don’t have to have it with me if I know the passage well enough, or I can turn it up again if I need to.

Then we get the NT:

Some years ago I preached some themes on 2 Corinthians and it’s a very precious book of the NT to me so I am looking forward to re-reading it – I really enjoyed Nicky Gumbel’s point on this that in v. 7 where it talks about being partakers of the suffering (or ‘sharers’ in NIV) it is the Greek word koinonia, which means that in times of difficulty we experience extraordinary closeness of relationship.

We may not think that we are close to people in our church, but suddenly we become aware of it, for example the sad occasions when someone in our church community dies – okay it’s also a glorious thing too! – but our loss of them is sad, and we don’t always realise how much our fellow Christians mean to us until they’re gone.

On to 2 Chronicles. The Bible in a Year sequences the books quite well, so normally we’re ‘chewing’ on something and we keep at it in one go. In other words, it doesn’t dart you around the Bible too much. Sometimes you get Proverbs rather than Psalms, but I think that if you start in January you are more or less going through the Old Testament and the New Testament in order.

Making a start on reading the Bible

If you are new to reading through the Bible, why not try the Nicky Gumbel Bible in a Year, which is free on Youversion, but just read the New Testament this time? If you have a little more time, you could do Psalms / Proverbs as well. An important note to add is that you can play it as an audio, so you could listen while you’re making your breakfast or doing something else. I do recommend making some still time to read the Bible, at least in the morning, as it it important to slow down, just to remind yourself how big God is, and how much we need him.

Some examples of good prayers to pray before opening the Bible (or turning on your device) is the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Or one of the prayers from Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises: ‘What have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I do for Christ?’ One I discovered recently buried in Psalm 119 is simply this: ‘I am yours, save me.’ It can simply be a repeated: ‘God’ ‘Jesus’ or ‘love’. We need to still our breathing, quiet our mind, and come reverently before Him.

So what about Chronicles? Here is the reading:

And there’s more! I told you the OT one was long (it’s only up to the end of chapter 28):

Incidentally I think this verse is a contender for ‘verse not to give to someone who hasn’t got their false teeth in’ – remind me to do a whole sermon on that verse some time:

“Then some of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who came from the war”

2 Chronicles 28:12

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even realise there was a Jehizkiah in the Bible. Anyway, I did my reading, thought I’d take a quick look to see how Kings treats the story of Uzziah and to my surprise couldn’t find it in Kings. Everyone says that those sets of books are the same, but boy are they different when you read them through after the other. They have very different emphases. To quote a verse which is more powerful than the one above, King Uzziah who was only 16 to start with, was ‘marvellously helped till he became strong’, which sounds like both the Lord and people supported and aided him, however:

“But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction”

2 Chronicles 26:16

What a warning to the young, to the wealthy, to the powerful, about pride and hubris! Read on in that chapter to find out exactly what Uzziah did and what the consequences were. Nicky Gumbel’s Devotion always opens with an interesting anecdote, for example the one from yesterday I had read before but it’s a very good one:

“A busy father was looking for a way to entertain his young daughter. He found a map of the world in a magazine and cut it into pieces. He gave the pieces to his child and suggested she try to piece the map back together.

After a very short time, she said she had finished. He was very surprised by how quickly she had done it. He asked her how she managed to do it so fast. She replied: ‘I noticed when you took the page out of the magazine that on the back of the map of the world there was a picture of a man and a woman. I thought that if I could put the man and the woman back together, I could put the world back together.’

So when I got to the ‘Talk it Over’, I found that I was the first one there today, probably because it’s a Bank Holiday, as my friend normally comments before me! To start with, I would make quite a detailed comment there, but sometimes I just respond to what my friend has said. Recently, I’ve come back to writing out verses and thoughts in my journal, so that I can pray either before or after I read the Bible, depending on how I’m feeling – so if my mind’s all over the place, I might read the Bible first to help to focus me.

Sometimes I find that I’m halfway through my reading, something strikes me, and I start praying. At the moment, if I don’t allow 30 minutes, I don’t get my reading done, and certainly don’t get any time in prayer.

Be encouraged today that he forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases! I might even make it a picture verse in YouVersion! And if I can work out how to do it, I might add it to the bottom of this post.

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Paul and Israel

I have been studying Romans 9-11 recently for a preaching series on Israel. It’s wonderful to look at this section of Paul’s letter. Have you come across this phenomenon? Everyone is talking about how good something is? They tell you that you really ought to watch it, or read it, or taste it? And something in you just thinks: ought to, I’m missing out, am I? And the very energy that is coming toward you, probably for good, somehow loses its way, and you feel extremely disinclined to engage.

I got that for quite some time with The Chosen, the crowd-funded, app-based drama based on Jesus’ life. I still haven’t watched all the episodes yet, but having seen a few of them, I know enough to regard them very highly. They are like a lectio divina, an imaginative reading of the gospels, giving you a possible context for the Lord’s dealing with people: giving you a sense of awe at the completely different way he went about helping people. Making the events of the gospels seem fresh, and dynamic. How he wins Peter over, how he rescues Mary. How he intrigues Nicodemus from early on.

So I guess there is the danger, with an institution like the letter of Paul to the Romans, that we lose the sheer awe and power of the original thought process, of the context of what Paul was writing, and we look at fragments of reflections of what Paul wrote, in comments of others, in modern treatments of it. I’ve always been a believer in immersing yourself in the text, whether it be a Shakespeare play, a poem, or indeed Holy Writ (where it is the most important of all to sit at the feet of Jesus, to still our hearts, and to listen).

But Paul’s letter, and in particular Romans 9-11, does have a lot of twists and turns. I’ve been using Logos Bible Software, and a workflow called the Michael Heiser method, to study each designated section. I did look at all three chapters as an overview first. It is a very rich section of thought, and it contains a number of different ideas, including Israel as a remnant, how the gospel actually gets preached, Paul’s personal burden towards his fellow Israelites, and this metaphor of the cultivated olive tree as a picture of the people of God.

While this brief blog post is not the place to lay out in full an interpretation of the passage (and I will admit that I am using various companions, from Douglas Moo’s excellent commentary which I don’t own on Logos, by the way, also to Martyn Lloyd Jones’s commentaries, and other Bible reference works too – Stephen Runge’s commentary on Romans with its diagrams is quite suggestive): while it’s not the place to do that, something is starting to emerge in my spirit as a sense of the corporate people of God at this time, which includes Jew and Gentile, which points to the incredible glory of God, and which gestures at the consummation of a more amazing and stupendous plan to rescue humankind than we have even realised.

We might think that we understand (if, that is, we have some knowledge of the New Testament and have expressed belief in our heart, and confession with our mouth, as Romans 10:13 of course puts it) how God has saved us in Jesus. Perhaps in a way, for example, that the disciples certainly didn’t get it when he was arrested, when Peter denied him, when the couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus mournfully recounted the loss of the Messiah to that shadowy companion figure.

But is it possible that we don’t yet really get it at all? That there is such an in gathering yet to arrive, after the gospel has come to all the world, where ‘all Israel will be saved’, that redeems and makes good all the promises that God has made? It scarcely seems possible in this secular age. We need to keep holding on, and praying, and getting God’s heart and His plans.

My plans change all the time. But God knew what He was about from the very start, and like a master artist, a genius craftsman, he has taken the raw materials of His creation and there will be something beautiful to marvel at. To Him be the glory forever.

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Time for a break?

As a teacher (even if only part-time now!) half-term always helps me to slow down, and I take at least a day somewhere just to laze around, pursue interests as they come upon me. But I can’t tell you how many different projects and thoughts are whirling around at the moment relating to church! I’m very excited about them as well.

First, we have the Jubilee weekend coming up. Things are shaping up for that. I’m trying to get into a groove editing Roger’s transcripts of the FLS (Fellowship Life) talks, and having an endpoint where I want to report or bring something is quite helpful. I have swiftly realised I am not going to have much together for March 20th, but it at least is starting a conversation. Watch out for some more blogposts on what I am learning as I transcribe all about Fellowship Life!

What’s a real blessing about this Conference is we have started getting in touch with lots of ex-members of the Fellowship and quite a few have signed up to come along on Zoom, so make sure you don’t miss out! It also means that I am spending some time having face to face conversations with people as we plan it. I’m grateful for all those who have already come forward with stories of ‘the early days’ and great testimonies. What will make the weekend extra special is that Chris Cartwright will be joining us on the Sunday to celebrate with us. We will be putting out a programme in early March for the Saturday.

Second, we are going to come in on the Really Good News campaign that Elim is running. As I write, Elim are running an exciting digital conference (some of which I will catch up with afterwards otherwise I won’t get this blog or church email written!) on how to reach out online. Personally I’ve been dipping a toe in the water with short Facebook live messages, and using Facebook Ads to give them a wider reach. I feel very challenged that I need to be outward-facing, and bold. Through March there will be real life testimonies shared from Elim, and we will share them on our Facebook page (anyone fancy setting up an Instagram account?). Then after an Easter service, and with a sign-up available on our website, we will run an online Alpha Course on Wednesday evenings. This is going to be a challenge but also really exciting. Please pray about how you might be involved in this.

And I could go on – I am on a learning curve at the moment. I am really enjoying following through Nicky Gumbel’s Bible in a Year on YouVersion – his and Pippa’s insights are excellent – but I feel that perhaps we might find a reading course that is a bit shorter, and not so demanding, for us all to join in with. This is a great opportunity not just to read the Word daily, but also to share daily our thoughts with others we know and pray for. I am also personally excited that we are doing live worship on the Zooms now, and grateful to those who are committing to that – not to mention the Kids Zoom and the popularity of that. I am inviting guests week by week to the older group, so watch out for an invite to come and say Hi and share something of your testimony!

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CCF 50 Year Jubilee!

50 Year Jubilee: March 1971 – March 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,   

We are getting in touch because you have walked with us for some of the way before or since March 1971 when Chichester Christian Fellowship was first brought together by the Lord.  Some of you are part of the King’s Gate Church now, and by being part of these celebrations will learn more about our roots, others of you have been key players along the way.

Since that time, by God’s grace, many have come to new birth in Jesus, many believers across the land and internationally have been inspired and encouraged by the Fellowship, a new flag was raised for the priesthood of all believers, for freedom in worship, for clear biblical teaching in an age of woollyness and liberalism, and for rich, deep ‘koinonia’ style Christian living, ‘holding all things in common’.  Of course, a major provision, not just for the Fellowship, but more widely too, was Roger Price’s teaching ministry and leadership within the church.  Alongside this, and around that time, was a host of other, like-minded ministers who also contributed.

Personally, I have been revisiting Roger’s teaching.  I first listened to it via the Tape Library as a teenager, 3 / 4 tapes each week – and I eagerly collected the fresh batch of tapes, I can assure you.  Recently I have been listening to and now in the middle of transcribing the 24 talks of the Fellowship Life Studies. 

Since I have had the privilege of being Lead Elder at King’s Gate, I have seen the importance of discipleship and growth in maturity in Christ in a different light, and found that the insights that Roger brings (into among other aspects group dynamics, moving in the Spirit, and practical approaches to church life) are not readily found elsewhere, even in the plethora of church growth and discipleship literature that is available today.  I believe it’s time to make it more widely available in a helpful format to the Body.  Writing this letter today is providing me with fresh impetus to continue with the transcriptions, and I will hopefully have something to share with you by March – please pray!

Equally, CCF Tapes, ever-faithful to the ministry and prayerfully moving forward, has been exploring different ways of making Roger’s teaching more widely available, and with the demise of the Biblevoice website, are moving towards making more of the BBS available as free downloads on the CCF Tapes website, which is an exciting move. 

Saturday 20th March – on Zoom

While it is hardly in the spirit of ‘koinonia’ to merely meet online (do see FLS1 for more on this), it is incredible how technology has been our ‘manna from heaven’ in these days, and King’s Gate Leadership have decided that we wanted to go ahead with this celebration on this weekend, even though we sadly acknowledge we cannot meet in the flesh.  This does in some ways widen our reach – and you are very welcome to tune in, for whatever time you can make, for any of the day.

You are warmly invited to join us.  If you would like to join us on Zoom for the whole time, please allow for 9:30 to 4pm. Also ensure that you have some provision for lunch, as with some full sessions lunch may take you by surprise otherwise.  We are sorry that at this juncture we cannot offer you the hospitality of a lunch!  We will be getting in touch next month with more information about the programme for that day.

The day will have variety to it: we want to share the work we have done in recalling the early years, and stories of God’s provision and life among us.  We want to share some clips of Roger’s DVD teaching (which we can do over Zoom).  I would like – if I’ve done enough – to bring some highlights from my transcriptions of the Fellowship Life Studies.  And of course we will make lots of time to worship, to mix in different breakout rooms, and to catch up with each other as well.  Knowing the rigours entailed in being fixed to a screen, we will provide some regular screen-breaks too. 

If you have any relevant photographs, or anecdotes, and could take a few moments to get them to us (on the email address below) we would have the chance to include them on that day or in any documents we produce.   Looking back, I know you will have thoughts on HOW your involvement in CCF/King’s Gate was part of your spiritual pilgrimage, and what you gained from it.  All the glory goes to God in all of this – and if there were any failings, well let’s own up to those ourselves!

Sunday 21st March

You will also be very welcome to join us for a special Zoom service.  You may or may not be aware that in recent years we have connected and are friends with Elim Pentecostal Church (there is a story there!) and the General Superintendent, Chris Cartwright, who is appreciative and aware of Roger’s ministry and the influence of CCF, will be joining us to share, to encourage us for the future and to help us mark 50 years of faithful witness for Jesus.

Can I take this moment to encourage you, whether you’re able to join us on this weekend or not, that while for ourselves we may have many regrets and I’m sure errors yet to discover, God does not make mistakes, and he works in miraculous ways through the twists and turns of our lives.  One of the miracles of Christian fellowship is the prophetic and timely input that I have received down the years from unexpected or serendipitous encounters.  I believe that our 50th celebration will be one of these.  Please join with me in praying for it, for each other, and if at all possible, to join us in just under two months’ time.  We are spreading the net as wide as possible, but if you are in touch with other former members who may be interested, please let them know.  I will be creating a central list of people contacted, and I can supply this if you are interested.

As a quick summary of possible action points from this letter:

  1. Put the date in your diary if you are hoping to come
  2. Any stories / photographs of the Fellowship over the years, just get in touch
  3. Finally check in with others you know, to see if they are coming too!

Looking forward to renewing contact and fellowship with many of you, meeting some of you perhaps for the first time – we would so love you to be a part of this unique event. 

Lead Elder, the King’s Gate Church

On behalf of the Leadership Team and trustees of the King’s Gate Church

And on behalf of the Trustees of CCF Tapes

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Journey through these days

On a wet Tuesday afternoon, with the brittle twigs and branches trembling outside my window and the dusky grey of the sky threatening to merge into them with the evening, it’s good – it’s always good – to just step back from the to-do list for a few minutes and reflect.

For our church, we have been in and out of lockdown. We have not been able to gather to worship in the way that we have always done (for coming up to close to 50 years now!) for about 9 months. Instead, Zoom, muted worship, Youtube videos, acapella singing, breakout rooms, and pre-recorded video has been the order of the day.

We reached a breakthrough point towards the end of 2021 when we started livestreaming from the hall we usually meet in. We are still wanting to do this when we get back to the Hall, from our YouTube channel. But it’s still early days for us with that.

And now firmly into 2021, the chilly, uncertain and yet pregnant New Year, I do feel that we are embarking on the next stage of our journey as church. We are holding a Kids Zoom now before the main Zoom service, and we are now inviting those of us who can to play songs live on Zoom.

Also, with our YouTube channel more established, we may be pre-recording more sermons and putting them up on the website, worth visiting https://www.thekingsgatechurch.org.uk/. We also have a church Facebook page, and may be putting some more content up on there as well.

Theme for the Year

Our theme for the Year is Peace, and being a piece of the puzzle. Within this, we are also looking forward on March 21st to celebrating 50 years since the founding of Chichester Christian Fellowship, our ‘mother church’ so to speak. We are inviting old faces (not so much of the old) to come and celebrate with us, and to have a catch-up. The Fellowship was strongly associated with the teaching of Roger Price, and we are planning (via Zoom) to view some curated video clips of his teaching, to retrace the history of how the Fellowship came to be and grew rapidly in the 70s and 80s, and to also perhaps release some more of his teaching in book or booklet form. For more information about Roger Price’s teaching you can visit http://www.ccftapes.co.uk/.

For me, what is on my heart currently is twofold. Worship, combined with intimacy with Jesus, and secondly mission. How can we sit in our houses, declaring God’s truth, without reaching out to those who need to hear it?

I think a lot of us shrink back from mission because it seems to be a big, all-encompassing Ask. But actually Jesus is only asking from us for the present. That’s all we have to give. Just a steady series of small ‘yeses’ to the one we love, one after the other. Let’s have a go at that this year, and walk constantly and faithfully with each other as we do so.

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A walk with Jesus

One of our Prime Time group shared earlier today that you never need to think you’re going for a walk on your own. Are you put off by tramping around with no one to talk to?

Well, you can go for a walk with Jesus! Talk to him (perhaps inside your head, if you need to!).

This is just one way that we can help ourselves to deal with the current lockdown.

Another thing (also shared by the same member of our group!) if you need healing, you need to do something to get that healing. Even if someone gives you a gift, if you don’t reach out your hands to receive it as they pass it to you, it will just fall on the floor. In the same way, are you sitting in the right position to receive the healing that God has for you?

Why not ask Jesus if you need to adjust your posture? We know our God is a good God. We know that His timing isn’t always ours. But there can be other reasons why God seems silent – sometimes it’s we’re not close enough to listen.

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