We were delighted that so many of you came to Worship @ 5 last Sunday evening. Dennis talked on the difficult and challenging subject of bullying and how, as Christians, we should respond. We were urged to:
Fight it … confront and stand your ground
Flee from it … getaway from it
Endure it .. with God’s help and without feeling guilty and responsible
The next Worship@5 Service is on 17th July and Dennis will be speaking on “How do I help my neighbour?” Do come. Doors open at 4.30pm and the service lasts 45 minutes.
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v.21) RSV
There is no other way to live the Christian life than by first ‘dying’. Whilst we try as our priority to preserve our life or our reputation, we are going to be compromised in following Jesus Christ. Jesus has clearly said that we have to “lose our life to find it” (Matthew 10:39), and that we must “take up our cross and follow him”, and “he who does not lose his life is not worthy of him” (Matthew 10:38).
How can we do this? Surely we are hardwired for self- preservation? Yes we are, and to pretend otherwise is folly. If we try to act differently from our inborn nature then we are finally doomed to failure. But the gift of salvation is that we can be rewired. God will put a new heart and a new spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26).
Paul had had just such a ‘transplant’. That is why he was able to say “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He was freed from the fear of dying, that last great enemy that holds us in bondage.
Paul was free to follow Christ wherever that might lead and whatever the cost might be. He was freed from slavery to himself and had become the “bond slave” of Christ. This slavery was “perfect freedom”. The point and purpose of his life was to live for Jesus Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v.21). This total love of and involvement in Jesus was not a result of endeavour or asceticism; it came solely from the Death and Resurrection of Jesus mediated through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in him.
Because Jesus is his passion, he is only too happy to die and go to be with him forever where he will see him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12 ). But for Christ’s sake and the sake of the churches he is prepared to continue on earth. Despite the cost and buffeting he will continue his mission. But if he dies in the process then it will be his gain: “to depart and be with Christ which is far better” (v.23)!
Lord, your calling is too high for me, yet I know that with you all things are possible. Help me follow you. Amen.
On Thursday 23 June, the first party from St Mary Magdalene went to The John Taylor Bellfoundry in Loughborough to see the first bells of our new ring cast. Included in the casting was the Somerset Bell. Our Vicar, Rod Corke, travelled there and back with our new Mayor of Taunton Deane, Vivienne Stock-Williams. The trip exceeded all expectations – a wonderful and historic day! We are especially grateful to all the staff at the foundry who gave of their time and we are thankful for their guidance and wealth of information shared. Photos used with the permission of John Taylor & Co, The Bellfoundry, Loughborough.
“On the evening of Wednesday 22 June, we hosted the second Charis public meeting to report on progress with offering a vulnerable Syrian family safe haven in Taunton. We were delighted that approximately 50 people came. We heard some shocking statistics:
61 million displaced refugees worldwide
11 million from Syria
6 million Syrians living outside Syria.
Syrians are not economic migrants. Most want peace to fall upon their country and to go home. Our government is right to support temporary housing in refugee camps. However, some are too vulnerable for this and they need to be resettled here and in other developed countries. Britain has pledged to take 20,000 and Charis is church sponsorship to help in this challenging process. Charis has applied for charitable status and once this is received we can have informal and formal conversations with the Home Office. Taunton Deane is about to receive the second family – the first family has integrated very well so far. Accommodation remains the biggest difficulty. In North London, an orthodox and liberal synagogue have buried their differences and are working together with a local mosque to bring over a family using the same community support approach Charis is using. Many of the Jewish people involved descend from refugees given sanctuary here during the 1930’s and remain exceeding grateful for the welcome they received when they needed it most.”
Have you seen the Christian books in our bookshop? Through a partnership with Aslan Books we can now offer the latest titles and a wide range of Bibles and Prayer books. Other Christian books can be ordered and the delivery is fast and efficient. Why not take time to browse?
All things work together for good, even imprisonment for Christ! We are not perfectly sure where Paul is in prison, but it matters not. The effect is the same. His incarceration may be unpleasant for him and frustrating too, but its benefits for others are manifold.
His testimony has gone forth to “the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest” (v.13). Paul never fails to grasp the opportunity to witness for Christ. Even his guards were subjected to the gospel. Do you remember when he had been thrown into prison in Philippi together with Silas, he sang hymns in the middle of the night, and when there was an earthquake and the prison guard was going to kill himself thinking the prisoners had escaped, Paul led him through to faith (Acts 16:25-34).
Similarly when Paul was on trial before Herod Agrippa and the Governor (Festus) he boldly spoke for Christ. And when under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16) he “welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ … “ (Acts 28:30-31). Paul was nothing if not bold; he used every opportunity to commend Jesus Christ. What a challenge for us in our daily lives.
Another benefit of his imprisonment was that the Christians had been inspired by his testimony and had become bolder in preaching the gospel. Maybe Paul’s powerful presence had stifled others, but now with him ‘out of the way’ they were coming into their own. Unfortunately not all were doing it from the best of motives. Some were doing it for “love” (v.16), but others were scoring points over Paul (v.15). Yet Paul is big enough not to be concerned about his own status. He simply rejoices that “Christ is proclaimed” (v.18).
We learn from Paul that everything can be turned to advantage if we trust in God and love others.
Forgive me, O Lord, when I grumble. Teach me to see the positive in every situation, and use it to your glory. Amen.
1 How did Joseph see his slavery and imprisonment in Egypt?