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23rd December 2014
You may be aware that throughout 2014, one of our leaders, Adrian Pursglove, produced a daily Bible reading plan with a short passage, some thoughts to consider and a prayer.
In 2015, Ade will be setting daily Bible readings to help us read the whole Bible in a year chronologically.
If you want to read the Bible more and are up for the challenge, why not follow one of these reading plans throughout 2015? They are both available on Adrian's website here. Last year's readings are available by clicking on the 'Archive 2014' button at the top, while the Bible in a year readings are available each day on the site or, if you sign up, will be e-mailed to you each day.
Posted by Adrian Pursglove
1st June 2014
We find, in the book of Exodus, the Israelites encountering God powerfully in two incredible but different ways. Firstly, in Exodus 19:16-18 and 20:18-21, would have been terrifying – imagine what a mountain trembling looks and feels like! This encounter was defined by fear, distance, holiness, thunder, lightning, smoke, thick darkness, and God descending in fire!
The experience of the Israelites was very different to ours. Why is this? Has God changed? No. It’s not because we are better than they were or because God is no longer holy. It’s because we have a beautiful, spotless, perfect Saviour: Jesus Christ! God hasn’t changed, but I have a mediator, a substitute. The Israelites couldn’t even touch the base of the mountain, but we can know God and have His Spirit living within us.
The other way in which God met with the Israelites is through His Word (Exodus 20:1-17). He gave them the Ten Commandments, revealing Himself to them through the Law. Throughout all of Church history, this has been the experience of God’s people – that they encounter Him in both Spirit and Word. And just like the Israelites, we encounter God in both ways today.
If the message of Jesus isn’t proclaimed, how will people understand it and turn to Him? We find right the way through the book of Acts that the gospel advance was connected to the spreading of the Word.
The world is living under a lie. The way to handle a lie is with the truth. If we want to know how to be happy, we turn to God’s Word. If we want to know what happens when we die, we turn to God’s Word. If we want to know how we can know God and what He is like, we turn to God’s Word. The Word – the Bible – is God’s gift to us. It is life to us.
You may have a thousand books at home, but none compares to this one. It gets planted in your life and grows. We live in a day of headlines and adverts – soundbites designed to get our attention quickly and cause an emotional response. But that’s not enough when it comes to the Bible, which needs to be the foundation of every healthy church and healthy Christian. We can all have good ideas about God (and bad ones). As J I Packer writes: “People have got into the way of following private religious hunches rather than learning about God from His Word.”
Do we hold onto soundbites or do we know what the Bible actually says? God has revealed Himself through the Bible. How serious are you about getting to know God? Don’t gather crumbs from soundbites or a one-meal-a-week diet from Sunday preaching. We can read the Bible in a year, work through a commentary/devotional book (such as those by Phil Moore, available from Resources on Sundays), read the blogs posted on the church website each week, follow Adrian Pursglove’s daily Bible reading blog.
Whichever way you do it, be students of the Word of God – take the Bible seriously, and get to know God through it!
Download the sermon audio and life application questions here.
Posted by Paul Mann
4th April 2014
My husband Steve and I were on our way to Bulgaria for a holiday in the early 1990s. After we had booked, we met a young Bulgarian man who was looking for a lively church in Hastings. In conversation he told us he'd had to leave his home because of his Christian beliefs. He had been to a Bible college in Scandanavia, but after communism collapsed, he had returned to his home to see his parents and to Burghas where he had been a member of a evangelical church, which had just reopened.
This man had come to England to improve his English. As we talked, he realised we were going to be staying just three kilometres from his parents – he asked if we would visit them, so we said we would be happy to meet them. He then told us of the plight of his church – all of their Bibles had been confiscated when the communists took over the country and now they were very scarce and materials for children's work were non-existent. So we decided to try to help them. We contacted a company called No Frontiers that translated Bibles and other Christian materials in every language and we bought a supply of Bibles and children's material to take with us.
So here we were on our way, the flight was delayed, but we eventually boarded just before midnight. The plane was very antiquated, it looked like it had been hand-painted! Our seats were at the back, I looked under the seat for the life jacket but there wasn't one there, my husband had one and I just hoped they would have spares if we needed them! Hopefully we wouldn't.
At about 1am they put a plank across the aisle and said the bar is now open: all they were serving was spirits and vodka mostly; all I wanted at that time was a cup of tea! So I declined and tried to sleep. We eventually landed in Bulgaria. We had to pay for visas to get in the country. Then I noticed people were in a queue with their luggage and as I watched I saw they were scanning people's luggage before they were allowed into the country – at that time we had never experienced that before.
We joined the queue apprehensively. We weren't sure about our case full of literature – I rather felt we would be in trouble! I looked at my husband and could see he was worried too, but we just had to bluff it out; I started praying desperately for a miracle. I came out in a cold sweat and started shaking, my husband held my hand to hide our nervousness.
Our cases were just approaching the scanner when suddenly there was a tremendous argument going on: a Bulgarian lady was screaming and shouting at one of the passport control officers, she was waving her arms and everybody stopped to watch, including the officer in charge of the scanner. Our cases passed through the scanner without anyone watching what was in them! When the shouting stopped the officer didn't seem to realise our cases had not been examined, he smiled at us and we were through. I have no idea what the commotion was about but I know the timing was of the Lord's, he was looking after us and His Word!
The church was very grateful for the literature, which made it all worth it. We went on to enjoy our holiday and meeting the parents of the young Bulgarian. His mother and sister later became Christians and we remained friends with his mother – she came to stay with us when he later married an English girl. We will always remember our first experience of Bulgaria!
The original version of this story appears on Heather's blog.
Image: 'Bibles' by GeoWombat.
Posted by Heather Benn
23rd January 2014
I have a confession to make about something that has recently been bothering me: New Year’s resolutions – I don’t like them! It is around this time each year that we see debut runners pass by, drenched in an alarming amount of sweat and cursing the very existence of mince pies.
These resolutions rarely last a whole 12 months and, as a result, leave you feeling lousy for the remainder of the year. You desperately try to stay on a track you’ve already veered off as you go for a pilates class after feeling guilty for having that kebab or you drink the whole bottle of Baileys because your week’s been awful. They just don’t stick.
I’ve had a recurring New Year’s resolution, which, no matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to keep for longer than a few months… reading the Bible in a year. I’ve never got close to achieving what I set out to do, and it’s annoyed me increasingly. I’ll do well in the first week or two, as I get used to waking up early, with my coffee in one hand and optimism in the other, but after a bad week, I’ll lie in bed at 7.30am on a Saturday morning and chuckle at the notion of even opening my eyelids, let alone at the idea of opening up Leviticus 3 to find what to do with the fat and kidneys of a goat when at a peace offering!
I’ve tried to instead aim for something more achievable, less daunting and more suited to the type of person I am. First thing to consider: I’m slow at reading, so trying to read five chapters a day doesn’t work for me. I forget what I just read by the time I’m halfway down a page, let alone two chapters ago. But I do have a desire for the Word, so one thing I’m having a go at again is a prayer journal. I’ve tried it in the past, and after getting over it feeling a little alien, it’s very rewarding. Also, I’m forgetful, so I need that constant reminder of where God’s taking me and how He’s shaped me, so I can ask myself if I am acting on what He spoke to me about back then.
Here’s a look at what I’ve been thinking about in my journal lately:
“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.”
This psalm fits in really well with what’s been on my heart recently. Last year I had a real longing to know the Word, but I never quite satisfied that hunger. This meant I put a ton of pressure on myself to know Him and His Word more. While at Impact training the other week, a lady pointed out this unhelpful amount of pressure I’d never realised I’d adopted and she reminded me that I don’t need to know and understand the entire Bible to have a better relationship with the Father. He doesn’t sit there with score-sheet, tutting away at my lack of understanding; He embraces my desire to learn and know Him and celebrates our first steps, our basic sentences and our eagerness for more even when we haven’t finished what’s already on our plate. I don’t have to earn His favour or love, because it’s already given to me by grace!
This psalm is helpful as it reminds me that His Word is of utmost importance, but I now know I need to fuel my desire in healthy, realistic-sized coals, and not just swamp a heap on myself and strive to get them all burning, only to find it’s put out what little flame was there. I need to meditate on Scripture, let it catch alight, and as I increase in understanding and adoration, the temperature rises. This way, I know each coal will be of a part of a sustainable, unhindered fire in my soul that will burn for years to come. I don’t want to bombard and over-gorge myself, trying to align to everything at once. I want to enjoy and appreciate the goodness of each verse, as I allow the truth to sink in and, by doing so, the rest of my heart, mind and soul catches on and rejoices in its warmth and truths.
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