Look up!

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in the far away land of Wales. A land of mountains and valleys. Very different from the flats of the Fens.

I don’t know about you, but I confess I love being in the mountains. The longer I live in the Fens, the more my muscles scream at being asked to take on an incline. Yet, once they’ve given up their complaining, there’s almost no place I’d rather be.

Seven years ago, we moved to Whittlesey. I remember at the time commenting on the lack of mountains. The reply was swift, ‘yes, but we’ve got big skies.’ Standing on the wash looking at the red sky flaming as the sun rises is an awesome sight. Or standing in the same place on a clear night surrounded from right to left, front to back, by the huge dome of the sky, that’s something special.

It struck me this week that whether we’re in a place with mountains or somewhere flat, in both locations, there are things around us that lift our eyes upwards.

That made me think of Psalm 121. Here, the writer speaks about looking up to the hills in a time of difficulty. As he does so it reminds him of God. A God who is vast, but also close. A God who is powerful, but also caring. A God who can help.

A friend of mine used to fly planes in the US. One night he was out flying and a storm closed in around him. Enveloped in greyness and not able to see, the panic began to set in. Then he remembered that above him were all the instruments he needed to find his way. All he had to do was look up.

That’s the encouragement at this point in the Bible. We’re being told, look up and see there is a God who is able and willing to help.

When you look up, what do you see? Is it just the physical universe, is that all that’s out there, or is there something more?

I’m taking a short break from writing these articles and should be back in the New Year. If you’ve got any questions or want to know more about God during this time, please do contact us through our contact page or join us on a Sunday at 10:30am or 6pm at our building in Gracious Street.

Friends?

20 years ago, someone lent me the DVD of a Hillsong’s concert. I must have enjoyed it because I still remember it today. The song that really stuck out was called ‘My best friend’. Good tune, upbeat and electric guitars. What more could you want?

It was only later, with the chorus going through my head that I began to ask questions of the lyrics. ‘Jesus, you are my best friend’ was the line that repeated several times.  Sounded great, but can it really be true?

I’d grown up going to church and heard about Jesus all my life. If you were to ask me who Jesus was, I would have used terms like God, King or Saviour. There’s nothing wrong with those words. The Bible uses them and says they’re all true.

Yet, ‘friend’ seems so much more personal. A friend is more than just someone you meet; they’re someone who’s interested in you. A friend is more than someone you spend time with; they’re there when you need them. A friend is someone who cares. A friend is someone who’s willing to make sacrifices to help. A friend is someone who’s happy to get their hands dirty and get involved in your life.

Can that really be said about Jesus? The Bible says yes! In John chapter 15, Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Three times in three verses he refers to them as his ‘friends’. Friends he cares for, friends he has shared his life and plans with, friends he would die for.

I want to be careful how I understand that. If Jesus is God, then I’m not his equal. If Jesus is King, we need to honour him. Yet, if I take the Bible seriously, the invitation to trust in Jesus is an invitation to become his friend. For me, that’s pretty amazing.

On three Sundays, the 12th, 19th & 25th June, we’re going to be looking at this claim in our morning services. Friends with God. Friends with the King. Friends with the Saviour. What does it really mean? If you’re interested in finding out more, why not come along to one of our services. They are at 10:30am at our building on Gracious Street, or you can connect via the stream on our YouTube channel.

A look at the king

It’s just a matter of days until the Coronation. I wouldn’t count myself a fan of the royal family. I tend to be a bit apathetic, but I do recognise there is a significance to the occasion. For most of us, it’s something we’ve never seen or experienced in our lifetime. That alone is enough for me to tune in to watch the coverage on May 6th, or at least part of it anyway.

Thinking of the Coronation, I’ve got three questions spinning around my head. First, what will happen? How will it work and how will traditions be tweaked for the 21st century? Then, what type of a person is King Charles? I’ve heard interviews, seen some of the news reports, watched some episodes of ‘The Crown’, but what’s he really like? And thirdly, what is the role of the king? The monarchy is an institution that goes back centuries, but what does it do today?

I’ve found it interesting to read the Bible with these questions of kingship on my mind. Why? Because the Bible talks about Jesus as a king. Did he have a coronation? Yes, although it looked a bit different. At his baptism he was anointed with the Holy Spirit as a mark of kingship. Through his resurrection and ascension, he enters heaven to take his throne.

What kind of king is he? The Bible says, Jesus is the best kind: powerful, just, good, loving, wise. There are four accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As we encounter Jesus, we see him reaching out to the outcast, being gentle with the hurting, challenging the proud and selfish. He reads every situation, no missteps or misspeak.

What is his role? Here is perhaps the biggest claim of the Bible. Jesus is called ‘king of kings and lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). According to the Bible, the kingship of Jesus is no mere ceremonial position. It says his authority is real and extends across the world.

Is the Bible speaking the truth here? That’s not an unimportant question. If it isn’t, then Jesus doesn’t matter. He’s just another figure of history who we can learn some stuff from and get on with our lives. But, if it’s right, what then?

If you want to know more of what the Bible teaches about Jesus and what it might mean for you, why not get in touch through our contact page or join us at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. Our services are held at our building on Gracious Street, or you can connect via the stream on our YouTube channel.

True glory?

“This is the stuff of legends.” That, the lightning on the cover and the strap line ‘Half boy – Half God – All Hero’ had caught my eye. I picked up the book and entered the world of Percy Jackson. Yes, before you think it, I know I’m not exactly in the target age group.

Rick Riordan’s books bring the stories of Greek Mythology into modern day through the adventures of the ‘demigods’ – a group of characters who are half human & half god. It makes for an interesting fusion of ancient and modern with a generous amount of craziness thrown in.

As I read story after story, the thing that stood out to me was not so much the inventive plotlines, but Riordan’s portrayal of the nature of the gods in Greek Mythology. They’re a distant group who are more interested in themselves than in others; selfish, unfair, unkind –  these are the words I’d use to sum them up.

Is that what you think of when you think of God? Or do you see him more as a Santa figure? Someone who turns up from time to time and drops you a gift or grants you a request, so long as you’ve been good.

Or is God all about rules? Is he someone who lays out a whole load of demands that you have to keep? If you do, there might be some reward at the end, but if you don’t, what then?

I don’t know about you, but to me a god like this might be impressive in power, but just seems lacking somewhat. Not a god of true glory.

Yet as I read the Bible, I see someone different. I see a God of immense power who also cares about individuals. I see a God who is as far from selfish as you can get. So much so, that he came into this world. God the Son became a human being, Jesus, and went to the cross for our sin.

At the cross of Jesus, I see true glory. A God who makes me go ‘wow!’

That’s the theme of the video above. If you want to know more of what the Bible says about God do give it a watch. Or, why not join us for our Easter Sunday morning service, 10:30am at our building on Gracious Street or streamed on our YouTube channel.

A place for everyone

Ange Capuozzo had just beaten two French Defenders, flown through the air and touched the ball down for a spectacular try. The superlatives began to flow in commentary – he is one of the rising stars of the game. Yet, the comment that struck me was this one, ‘Rugby still is a game for all sizes.’

I started to take an interest in Rugby Union about 14 years ago when we moved to South Wales. There, rugby really is the game of the masses, so I guess there was a certain inevitability about it. I remember asking one of my friends why they liked rugby so much. Their answer was the same as the commentator’s statement, ‘It’s a game for all sizes’.

In rugby, it doesn’t matter what type of build you have. There are positions for short and tall, slight or bigger boned, the quick but also the not-so-quick. At 5’10” and around 12 stones, Capuozzo is dwarfed on the rugby pitch by most of the people around him. But that doesn’t matter, there’s still a place for him on the field.

In this sense, the church is very much like a rugby team. The Bible uses a picture of a body to describe the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). It says that the body is made up of many parts. Each part is different; they are shaped differently; they are good at different things. Yet, that difference doesn’t mean they don’t belong. No, each one is important and has a part to play.

Every Sunday I see this in practice. As I look at our church community, I am often struck by the diversity that I see. Different people, different backgrounds, different gifts and abilities, yet each finding a place where they belong.

What is it that draws us together? It isn’t a common culture or heritage. It isn’t similar interests or personalities. It’s a shared love for Jesus, the one who died for our sins and rose from the dead to give us new life. Or, to put it another way, a shared realisation that Jesus loves us the same, whoever we are.

If you want to get in touch to talk about church or what we believe, you can through the contact page. If you don’t already have a church to go to, you’d be very welcome to come and join us on a Sunday.

Need a firm footing?

It was a bit of a crazy idea. A winter walk in the Peak District. There and back in one day – 5 hours driving with a 3-4 hour adventure in the middle. A quick 10 minutes on a well-known shopping app and I was waiting for a walking guide and a map of the area to arrive.

The book contained 40 walks, yet number 19 caught my eye. Only 4 ½ miles with an estimated time of 3 hours. That should work for the different ages and levels of walking enthusiasm in the family. Best of all, we’d take in the two hills of the dragon’s back range – Parkhouse and Chrome Hill.

Destination reached, we started our walk around 10:15am. First up was Parkhouse Hill. The guide did say it wasn’t a walk for wet conditions and if you didn’t think you could make it up you could skirt around the side. It was dry, and we’ve climbed steeper before so up we went.

Then came the descent. Initially a gentle incline but ‘hang on, where did the path go?’ We turn a corner, and the hill just seems to fall away in front of us. Too steep to walk down, we had to manage on all fours.

The limestone was wet from several days’ rain and slippery under foot, so every move required a cautious transfer of weight as we checked we were on something solid. It wouldn’t have taken much to slip and tumble and none of us fancied a trip to the local A&E.

When life gets difficult, where’s the firm footing? Where can we turn for help? That’s a question I’ve been thinking about today. This morning I read one of the Psalms in the Bible. It opens with this question, ‘Where does my help come from?’ Here’s the answer the writer gives:

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2

Over the years I’ve been a Christian, I’ve found God is someone I can turn to. I’ve found that he is a rock I can lean on even in the most difficult times I’ve faced. What about you, where’s your firm footing?

If you want to get in touch you can through the contact page or, if you don’t already have a church to go to, you’d be very welcome to come and join us on a Sunday.

What’s it all about?

It’s movie night and my turn to pick. Which one will I choose? How will I decide? At times like these I’m thankful for the little description, the blurb, that comes up when I click on the title. It doesn’t tell me everything, but it does give me a sense of what it’s all about; enough to decide whether to put it in the discard pile or not.

If you were to write a blurb about Christianity, what would you say? Wherever you travel in this country, you’re never far from a church building. Some are old and some are new. Some are big and some are small. Is that where you’d focus, or would you go with something else?

Christianity can often bring to mind particular ceremonies: christenings or baptisms, church marriages and funerals. You might think of choirs and organs, or in some services guitars and drums. Yet are these the core? Is this what it’s all about?

A particular moral code or sense of charity have often been associated with what it means to be Christian. As we write our blurb, are these the things we need to be talking about?

What is Christianity all about? The answer the Bible gives is quite different from the aspects that we’ve just mentioned. It’s not that none of them have any place, but they aren’t the essence of Christianity.

Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible is John chapter 3 and verse 16. In it, we’re told that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus. As a result, all those who believe in the son, Jesus, will receive eternal life.

But what is eternal life? Jesus tells us later in the book of John that it’s a life where we know God (John 17:3). At its heart Christianity is about a relationship, a relationship with God. A relationship that has been broken because of sin but is restored through Jesus Christ.

What do you think as you read that? Maybe you disagree or you’re just not interested. Or maybe that’s something you want to explore and understand a bit more about. If so, why not get in touch through the contact page or, if you don’t already have a church to go to, you’d be very welcome to come and join us on a Sunday.

Unto us a child is born

2022 is the 750th anniversary of the death of Henry III. He is not the most well-known of England’s monarchs and it’s not helped that he is overshadowed by his uncle Richard the Lionheart, and his father King John.

Yet, I want you to imagine that you’ve been doing some work in the garden, preparing it for winter. As you dig you feel the spade impact against something solid. You investigate further and find an old wooden box, barely held together. Inside are some well-preserved pieces of paper bearing the seal of Henry III.

As soon as they hear, the historians from Cambridge University are on your doorstep. The box and its contents are taken away and a few weeks later they phone you up to let you know what they’ve found. The documents were Henry’s predictions of the birth of a child in 2022 and the things that child would do with their life.

Is that believable? Do you think it would ever happen? Would you ever try to write down what will happen in 750 years? I think if I was to find a box like that, I’d either think it was fake or that Henry III was a bit mad.

Yet, when we look at the Bible this kind of prediction is exactly what we find. Isaiah was a man who lived around 750 years before Jesus was born. In the book he wrote, which is found in the Bible, he speaks about the birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the difference Jesus would make to the world.

One of the most well-known of these prophecies is found in Isaiah chapter 9 and verses 6-7, a section that is often read at Christmas carol services. Isaiah tells us about a time where sadness will be turned to joy. Why?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Does the birth of Jesus matter? The Bible says ‘yes’. And not just because it gives us a day when we get presents and eat a turkey dinner. The Bible explains that his birth is a life changing event for all people because Jesus came from God to bring us out of the sadness and pain of our sin into the joy of his forgiveness and love.

We, like many churches across the Fens, are having several special Christmas services during December. Why not come and join us, or a church more local, and discover Jesus, born to save.

For more details, check out our events page

Love is…

Cheryl Anderson was 32 when she received her cancer diagnosis. Her story still moves me to tears. She was two months pregnant when the news came in and she was presented with a choice, her life, or that of her baby. She turned down potentially life-saving chemotherapy and instead went through an operation and course of radiotherapy with only the bare minimum of pain killers in a bid to extend her life long enough to give her baby the best chance of survival.

At 6 months pregnant, the medical staff performed an emergency caesarean. Coming around from the operation she was awake long enough to hear the news of her daughter being born. Later that day she passed away in her husband’s arms. It’s a tragic story that is full of sadness and grief, but at the same time there is a beauty in it. Here is the love of a mother for her child, a love that is willing to sacrifice everything.

Love is so much more than a valentine’s card or a bunch of roses. It’s something we crave and need and admire. It’s something so powerful that it causes people to give their lives for the good of others.

Many of us will be recollecting that this month. Around November 11th, people will gather in all parts of our country to remember our soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars and other battles since. On many of the war memorials is this Bible verse, ‘Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). It’s a reminder that for so many who went to war, the reason was love. Love for their country; love for their neighbours; love for their family and friends.

Yet, that verse is not ultimately about a soldier on the battlefield, or a mother in a hospital. Jesus said these words to express and explain his love for us. At the centre of the Bible’s message is a God of love who loves the world he made and the people in it. It is a message of a love that is bigger than we can possibly imagine.

Over the next few weeks, at our Sunday morning services, we’re going to be spending some time looking at what the Bible says about love and particularly, God’s love for us. Why not join us in-person or online. Check out our events page for more details.

Costly Mistakes

It was 25 years ago, but still whenever I see a combine in the fields the memories return. I was a city boy with his first summer job on a country farm. It was all going well, until the day the harvest started.

The contractor arrived with his shiny green combine and got to work on a field of oats. I was ready with a tractor and trailer. ‘Don’t keep him waiting’ were the last words in my ear as I settled down to wait. I was determined not to.

The auger was extended, and in a flash, I started the engine and I was on my way. To save time I decided to head straight into the field over a small bump. ‘Great idea’, I thought, but then ‘bang!’. I’d judged it wrong. The skid of the trailer was buried in the ground, totally stuck.

It took several hours to dig the trailer out. As I tended to my wounded pride I was conscious of two things: contractors don’t stand around for nothing; and my mistake had cost the farmer – yet he didn’t make me pay.

I was thinking the same thing just a couple of weeks later. It had been my job to put the wheel back on the tractor after a puncture repair, yes that was my fault too. I thought the nuts were tight enough, but they weren’t. A few days later the tractor ground to a halt with a grinding screech. New parts, hours of labour and a hired tractor were the cost of my mistake. Yet again, the farmer didn’t make me pay.

Why am I writing this? The Bible tells us that just before Jesus died on the cross, he said these words, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). What does he mean by that? The word used is one found on first century receipts. It means, ‘paid in full’.

The Bible tells me I’ve made mistakes. It speaks about sin. Now sin is more than just breaking some rules. In the Bible God is seen as the King. To sin is to rebel against him; to decide to live our way not his. Yet, on the cross we see God, in the person of his Son, paying the price for those mistakes.

For me, that’s amazing news. I’ve messed up in so many ways. But because of Jesus, the Bible says I can be forgiven. What do you think? Does it sound like good news to you?

If you want to know more about God and the difference the Bible says he can make in your life, you can use the contact form on our site.

Not another change!

Change is a strange beast. It can excite and scare at the same time. It can bring hope and it can bring dread. Some of us love it, others of us hate it.

I’m not a change addict but, looking back on my life, it’s not something I’ve minded. There is an excitement that comes with new things. I enjoy that. Yet, I’m not so keen when everything changes all at the same time.

I think that’s one of the struggles I’ve had over last 2 ½ years. When covid struck our country, lockdown followed. Life was radically altered for all of us, and it happened in just a matter of hours. Then, no sooner had we settled into the new pattern, it was already changing again. It left me craving for just a bit of normality and stability.

And this month, life is changing again. As you read this, our oldest two are getting ready to fly the nest and head off to Uni. I’m excited for them, but I also know their absence will leave an empty space in the home. It’s another change to have to get used to.

Over the last few years, I have been helped by reading a song that’s written down in the Bible. It’s Psalm 46. The words tell me that in the changing seasons of life, no matter what they bring or how hard it gets, God is able to keep me safe.

The most well-known line is this one, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). Change can bring with it worry. Worry churns us up on the inside. What does God say? ‘Be calm and know that I’ve got this.’ I love that!

As we walk through life, we will all face times that make us apprehensive and fearful. If you’re finding yourself anxious, it’s important that you know you aren’t alone. There are people you can talk to, and I’d encourage you to seek them out. For me, the biggest help has been my faith in God, or should I put it, the God that I have faith in. The Bible says, he’s someone who is always there, and nothing is too big for him to handle.

If you want to know more about God and the difference the Bible says he can make in your life, you can contact me here.

Shedding Pounds!

‘How much?’ was the first thought that emerged in my brain as I looked at the direct debit payment notification. Note to self, ‘redo the family budget, utilities up 110%.’ That was a few months ago and the shocks still keep coming.

As I write this, diesel is currently just under £2 per litre. It may be a sign of my age, but it doesn’t feel that long ago that the oil refineries were being barricaded because the price at the pump had dared to exceed £1 a litre. Suddenly, we’re asking all kinds of questions whenever we think of using the car.

It’s not just fuel though. Wherever we look prices seem to be increasing as we face one of the highest periods of inflation for decades. Rocketing costs mean the pounds we own are shedding value.

I’m reminded of something Jesus said in the Bible. He urged people not to store up treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy (Matthew 6:19). Nowadays we don’t hear too much about moths eating the clothes and we’re getting better at dealing with rust. Yet, Jesus’ point still fits with our experience. Stuff wears out; the value of money is temperamental; there is no such thing as a 100% guaranteed investment.

Or is there? Jesus gives people an alternative by urging them to store up treasures in heaven, treasures that will last, will not wear out and will never diminish in value. Treasures we receive as we seek and follow God.

One of the things I’m aware of as I write these articles is that you, the readers, will all have different opinions about Jesus and the value of his words. Are they just religious nonsense or are they worth taking note of? Do Jesus’ words here sound too good to be true, or is he on to something? If he is, would it be worth our while to do something about it? What do you think?

Hope you have a good summer, whether you’re going away or staying put. Thank you for reading this far. If you want to know more about Jesus and the difference the Bible says he can make in your life, you can contact me here.