Our Christmas theme at Bethel this year is “ all I want for Christmas”. The theme didn’t come about by hearing Mariah Carey singing it! but by someone being interviewed about the general election and Brexit and saying “All I want for Christmas is…..confidence”.
As Christians no matter what the election result, and the possibility of leaving the European union, we have confidence, Hebrews 13:8 reminds us, there is only One who will never change:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
As Christians, lets pray leading up to election day. Lets make prayer our first response and not our last resort.
1. Let’s pray for our political leaders.
Being a political leader is no small task; the power of politics is paid in stress. As we consider the responsibility of our leaders, let’s pray for wisdom, health, and safety. Paul reminded Timothy to pray for his leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-2
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
2. Let’s pray for wisdom for ourselves.
As Paul mentions in the verses above, Christians should long to reflect the love of Christ in our actions and opinions. When oppositional views are revealed, our responses should be spoken in loving kindness and truth. Doing this requires great wisdom that can only come from our heavenly Father. Ask the Lord to guide your heart and mouth during this election period so our thoughts and replies to align with His ways.
3. Let’s pray for our nation.
To pray for our nation as a whole brings us together as Christians and this unity is critical. Pray that truth would be the source for every political choice and that Christians would unite our hearts in prayer. Pray that the Truth of God’s Word would be the foundation of our nation and that hearts would turn to God as their guide. We can ask the Lord to help those who trust Him for eternal salvation to trust Him for everyday solutions, remembering Psalm 9:10 :
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.
4. Let’s praise God for He knows every detail of this election and He is still in control.
As the Psalmist says in the verse above, God has not forgotten His people. His Word promises that He will not abandon us, but will be with us, no matter what party wins and what choices are made. For His steadfast love, we can praise Him for being the One worthy of our trust!
Music has always been a powerful way to capture human experience and emotion. If you listen to the radio for any length of time, you’ll hear songs about love, songs about heartbreak, songs about overcoming, and songs about quitting.
You’ll hear songs that make you want to dance and songs that make you cry, songs that take you back and songs that push you forward.
As ancient Israel’s songbook, the book of Psalms covers the same wide range of experience. This collection of 150 songs and prayers was written by several men over many centuries.
The writers don’t hide behind cliches and pleasantries. They write honestly about their doubts, their fears, their joy, and their worship.
In reading their prayers and songs, we find words for the feelings we didn’t know how to express, and we get a glimpse at the kind genuine communication God wants with us today.
Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He promised that after He had died, risen again, and ascended to heaven, He would send the Spirit to be with His people. In John 14:16-17, Jesus is talking to His disciples, when he says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. …you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Jesus promised that when He left, His Spirit would be sent to live inside Christians.
When we believed the gospel, and trusted Jesus to save us, that’s when we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian, then the Bible calls you God’s temple because “God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). As children of God we literally possess the Spirit of God with us.
He has been given to us so that we can know who God is and how to follow Him. Often He will speak to us in our minds by giving us a thought or an idea. Or He will lead us by making an impression upon our heart to say something, do something, or think something according to His will. It’s important to recognize that the Holy Spirit will never speak anything to us that doesn’t align with scripture. If it conflicts with anything in the Bible, then it is not from the Spirit of God.
Like Jesus said, the Spirit will be with us forever. Therefore as Children of God we can have confidence that He will never leave us or let us down as we choose to follow Him all our days.
Without Easter, the Bible would be useless.
Our whole faith and the power behind everything we believe and teach are wrapped up in the fact that Jesus died, then rose from the grave. Without a resurrection, Jesus would have been another good intention individual cut down in His prime.
But Easter did happen, and because of that, we can place our trust in God’s promises. Jesus overcame death and established Himself as having authority over all things. That means, when Jesus makes a promise, we can believe Him.
Some promises that are true because the resurrection happened…..
1. I won’t die. “Those who trust in the Son possess eternal life; but those who don’t obey the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”. John 3:36
2. I don’t have to be a slave to sin. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”. Galatians 5:1
3. I am a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”. 2 Corinthians 5:17
4. I don’t have to fear. “Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection”. 1 John 4:18
5. I don’t have to worry. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. 1 Peter 5: 7
6. God wants good things for me. “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose”.. Romans 8:28
7. I am not alone. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. Hebrews 13:5
8. God wants to hear my requests. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”. Matthew 7:7-8
9. One day all things will be made right. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”. John 14:3
10. God loves me. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16
All of these promises may seem hard to believe. The good news is that the one who promised has proven Himself trustworthy. Every Easter, we are reminded that nothing is too big for God to handle, and nothing can keep Him from us.
The greatest promise of all: Even though we should be eternally separated from God, Jesus came to Earth and gave His life up to bridge the gap between us and God. Jesus chose to reconcile all of us who believe and He was willing to face death and suffering to do so. This Easter let’s celebrate like we have a God that refused to leave us on our own. He is a God of great promises, a God that is faithful.
On March the 6th sees the start of a six week period leading up to Easter called Lent. Over this period, Bethel Connect Groups will explore and reflect on the connection between Psalm 23 ‘The Shepherd’s Psalm’ – and Jesus as the Good Shepherd in John’s Gospel. The events around Easter inevitably lead us to reflect on how God can turn darkness into light.
If you’re not familiar with what Lent is:
Christians have celebrated Lent for nearly 2,000 years as a way to commemorate Jesus’ death and burial before celebrating His resurrection. One of the main ways people celebrate Lent is through fasting, the practice of abstaining from something you enjoy for a set amount of time.
So why not fast
Fasting is not something we do to make God love us more. No action or attitude can change the depth of Jesus’s love for us, so we shouldn’t try to use spiritual disciplines to gain God’s approval. Neither should we use fasting to gain other people’s approval. God wants our commitment to Him. He doesn’t want an intimate spiritual practice like fasting to become an external show of religious pride ( Matthew 6:17-18)
Three Reasons to Fast
The Bible mentions fasting throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus fasted for 40 days ( Matthew 4:1-4).Nehemiah fasted when he asked for God’s forgiveness and direction (Nehemiah 1:4) (Daniel, Ezra, Moses, the people of Israel, the early Church, and many more fasted (Daniel 9:3, Ezra 8:23, Judges 20:26, Acts 13:2-3).Fasting helps us practice saying “no” to our desires and saying “yes” to Jesus.
Looking at the Bible’s examples, here are three good reasons to start a fast:
1. To Connect with God
In the Bible, fasting is a way to grow a deeper connection with God. It’s a way we show our submission to Jesus and repent for things we’ve done (Joel 2:12-13). Fasting is almost always paired with praying because when we give something up for a set time, we can exchange the time spent preparing a meal and eating with time spent talking and listening to Jesus.
2. To Focus on God
Fasting is about remembering that God comes first in our lives. It helps us practice saying “no” to our desires and saying “yes” to Jesus. When we give something up for Lent, we are more focused on God than things that may distract us. Rather than focusing on a craving for food, we should hunger and thirst for what’s good and true (Matthew 5:6).
3. To Depend on God
Fasting is an opportunity to place complete dependence on God. We have the luxuries of running water, easy access to food, and so much more. We can intentionally step away from something we regularly enjoy to remind ourselves that Jesus provides for all our needs. God is a generous God, and fasting is one way to remember how good He is to us (Philippians 4:19).
Jesus gave Himself to save us from our sin. We can give up a luxury for a set time to remember God’s goodness to us. As we near Easter, let’s remember to set our focus on Jesus and let go of everything that distracts us from Him.
Let’s use the time of Lent to go deeper.
February can always be a difficult month for some people, the motivation of a new year has disappeared, so here’s some encouragement for you ….
10 things to thank God for daily by Lauren Ayers
1 Thessalonians 5:18 ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’. We are called be thankful daily.
10 things to thank God for daily
1. A Saviour
Jesus died for us (John 3:16). He paid the price for our sin so that we didn’t have to. Jesus’ sacrifice is a beautiful example of how much God loves each of us.
2. A fresh start
Every day is a new day (Lamentations 3:22-23). We have a God of grace whose mercies begin new every morning. Our past doesn’t define our future.
3. A purpose
If you’re reading this, God is not done with you (Ephesians 2:10). He created you on purpose, with purpose, and for a purpose. We are God’s handiwork, uniquely designed to carry out His plans.
4. A beautiful world
God’s creativity is on display 24/7 (Nehemiah 9:6). How many times do we drive from point A to point B and never stop to witness the beauty of God’s creation?
5. The ability to worship
We have the freedom to worship Jesus every day of the week (Psalm 100:4). We sing lullabies to our children and belt out our favourite music in the car, why would we not sing out to our Saviour?
6. Peace in any circumstance
God does not promise that life will be easy, but He does promise us peace (John 14:27). When we take our eyes off our circumstances and focus on Him, He gives us peace.
7. A full life
Jesus doesn’t want us to just endure life; He wants us to enjoy life. John 10:10 says Jesus came so that we could not only have life, but have it to the full.
8. The Bible
The Bible doesn’t just speak of things in the past; it speaks to us today (Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:16). Through the Bible, God instructs us, encourages us, and guides us.
9. The church
We don’t have to walk through life alone (Hebrews 10:24-25). The church is a community of people doing the best they can to follow Jesus’ example. In the church, we find the encouragement to grow in love and good deeds.
10. A reason to hope
We serve a God who is not only a promise maker, but also a promise keeper (Numbers 23:19 and Romans 8:28). He promises to work all things together for our good. There is no greater hope than in a promise fulfiller who has conquered death.
We are delighted to announce that we have completed on our purchase of Hill House. It’s onwards and upwards from here as we now hold the keys to the next stage of our Bethel journey. We stepped out in faith and are thankful for God’s provision in bringing us to where we are now. We are also thankful for the generosity of spirit of all those who have contributed financially and practically to making this a reality. Bethel has always been more than a building and it is this joyful coming together as a family which will help us continue to transform lives in His strength as we move forward.
The next stage is to renovate the upstairs which should start shortly after tenders have been sought and approved.
Growing your faith in 2019
Watching your children grow is amazing. The differences seem minimal day to day. But after a year or two, we can look back and see how much they’ve changed physically and developed mentally.
No one expects a child to grow in one day, yet sometimes we have those expectations in our walk with Jesus. When we meet Jesus, we are made new and we want instant results. But like a child getting bigger, spiritual growth happens over time.
In Mark 4 :26-29,Jesus compares spiritual growth to the way a plant grows:
“…a man scatters seed on the ground. Whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come.”
In this one parable, Jesus teaches us three important things about growing in faith.
3 Ways To Grow Your Faith According To Jesus
1. Give all you’ve got to God’s Word.
Jesus compared God’s Word to a seed. A seed does not start to grow until it is planted. When you asked Jesus into your heart, you planted the seed. Every time we open the Bible and dive into God’s Word the seed is fertilised. Find a time of day that works and immerse yourself in God’s Word.
2. Consistency and commitment will turn into a crop worth harvesting.
The farmer rose day and night. It takes time for a seed to poke through the ground, but just because you can’t see the seed, doesn’t mean it’s not growing. The Word of God changes and grows us without us even knowing it. So approach the Bible each day with patience and expectation. When you don’t understand something, just keep reading or ask a friend. But don’t give up! God is changing you one day at a time.
3. Don’t try to change yourself.
Does the seed try and change by itself? No, and we can’t change by ourselves either. Just like a seed growing, God will change us without us even knowing it!
As Christians, we should be concerned with our spiritual growth, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t grow overnight. Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.Be diligent. Listen to God, do what He says, and trust that He is growing you. He will make you into the person He wants you to be one step at a time.
Everyone today is looking for freedom. Freedom from financial problems, freedom from stress, freedom from pressure, freedom from pain, freedom from depression, freedom from burdens, freedom from work, freedom from worry and freedom from despair.
It seems like everywhere you turn, you are trapped by something. And when you finally get free from one thing, here comes something else. It never seems like you are completely free.
There is hope. Jesus tells us in John 8:35-36, “ Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Jesus is the only one who can set you free. When you give your life to Him, He provides true freedom. When He sets you free, you are free without question. Jesus replaces your stress with peace. Your pressure with comfort. Your pain with healing. Your depression with joy. Your burdens with relief. Your work with rest. Your worry with calmness. Your despair with hope.
Stand firm in the promise that you have real, true, complete and unquestionable freedom in Jesus.