Transformation not Modification

Andy Elmes • August 2, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy speaks about Transformation not Modification. Last week we heard personal testimonies about how God had changed people and transformed their lives. We can only manage modification but God produces transformation – God on the inside of us changing us totally from the inside out. This is not behaviour modification. God does not just save us but also change us from the inside out, just as in a metamorphosis (a change from one form to another). Much of religion only has a gospel of behaviour modification yet the gospel of Jesus Christ is about God coming to live within a person’s life transforming them. Whether instant or process there is always a starting point. In Luke 19, scripture recalls the life of Zacchaeus, a thief wanting to give back to those he stole from……this was an instant encounter with God that transformed a life. In Acts 9 there is a moment where Saul a serial killer is transformed ….a light shone, he fell to the ground hearing a voice calling him. He asks who calls and hears “I am Jesus who you persecute”…. Later he becomes Paul but from that moment everything became different, a transformed life. Transformation can be instantaneous but also ongoing as well, even if started by a single event, perhaps when we received The Lord. As we commit to living a life of “abiding in Him” (John 15) then there is an ongoing transformation. Many disciples had this type of change as they walked with Jesus over time. There can be moments but as we commit to walking with Him our lives will be transformed. His presence, His Spirit and His Word will transform us daily as we walk with Him. This is still His plan to transform us as it was during biblical times. When we love the presence of God, things that are wrong cannot remain.. deceptions, stubborn things! The bible says we are transformed by His Spirit - 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV) says “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord”. The Holy Spirit now in us causes the transformation in our lives and moves us from glory to glory to be more Christ like. Often this is ongoing when we don’t realise it. Also His Word, the supernatural living words cause everlasting change. Romans 12:2 (NKJV) says ”And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. This renewing of our minds comes from reading His word. The Passion Translation embroiders this text further… “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes”. WOW! The Holy Spirit and The Word almost dance together inside us to make changes from the inside out. ….The word of God and The Spirit of God were present in creation (Genesis). What for us? We can only manage modification. God does transformation – which occurs when we choose to yield and submit to Him. All we must do is yield and obey….not purpose in our hearts to do what we wish to do but yield to the Holy Spirit and the Word. Obedience is key and produces fruit. Let us be hungry for God and His change in our lives.

This is My Story

Andy Elmes • July 26, 2020 • Andy Elmes

This Sunday’s broadcast was titled “This is My Story”. An exciting Sunday's broadcast where we heard from individuals about how their lives have been transformed by God! Several testimonies from Family Church members about how God has impacted their lives and changed them personally gave gripping insight into how God transforms from the inside in a relational way. Following this, Pastor Andy spoke briefly about transformed lives, people encountering God from the inside out, not outside in as religion tries to. Real lives welcome the opportunity with Jesus and consequently have their lives changed. The bible is full of such stories, especially in the gospels; how Jesus met the lady at the well whose life was out of control, when Jesus met the religious Nicodemus (a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin) and answered questions leading to his life changing. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1) was a tax collector and a thief, but he wanted to see Jesus. Being not too tall he climbed a tree to be able to see Jesus pass by. Amazingly, Jesus tells him to come down immediately and tells him he wants to come to his home. People saw that Jesus was a guest of a sinner, not preaching, but only sitting eating with Zacchaeus who consequently says he will give half his money to the poor and repay people four times anything he had robbed them! Jesus announces how salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house, how the Son of man has come to save to lost. It’s a great story as Zacchaeus would not have wanted religion, being a tax collector he would have seen such people as hypocrites…he must have been amazed when Jesus stopped, looked up at the tree and said “today I want to come to your house”. We note Jesus did not preach to him or tell him off for his sins; just being in the presence of Jesus was enough to cause the transformation of Zacchaeus life. Previously he had been a thief, now he wanted to recompense everyone! In the moment of encounter with Jesus everything had changed, just as we heard from other people today during the service. When you really meet Jesus, everything inside you changes. Suddenly the life that matters breaks out and relationships begin. God is an incredible God, still changing lives in present days just as in biblical times.

Abiding Presence

Andy Elmes • July 19, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy speaks about being a people of presence and harvest for The Lord. We are a community of people who love and honour and have regard for the presence of God. Exodus 33:7-11 looks at the relationship Moses had with God under the old covenant and describes the Tent of Meeting where Moses would meet with the Lord in an intimate way. Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshipped God. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterwards, Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent (he stayed to get the remnant of God’s presence). So Moses had a designated place of meeting with The Lord, away from others, however other people benefitted from his time with The Lord. Moses would receive all he needed and also all he needed to lead other people, it was a relational not religious place, much as in the gospels where Jesus went away to be in the presence of The Father and receive all He needed. Moses (and Joshua) loved the presence of God, experiencing life changing moments. What Moses wanted most was the presence of God. Exodus 33:14 tells us that true rest is found in the presence of God. Verse 16 (NIV) is challenging “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” It is the presence of God that distinguishes us from others in the world, so if we do not walk in the presence of God we are no different to anyone else. Today we are in New Covenant times; we are able to know the presence of God in a greater way as God has achieved more for us through the blood of Jesus. The Old Covenant was about tents and temples made by man where the presence of God could be found momentarily. All these were just shadows of what we can now know. The New Testament does not say we meet Jesus in a temple or tent but that God is within us. Our lives have become temples and tents of meeting with God! Paul speaks to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Likewise for us, God is not waiting for us to meet with him in a temple or tent somewhere. God has now come to live in the presence of our lives. Also in 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV) Paul tells the church “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” This is as true for us now as it was for the early church then. However, we are not in the days of Moses; The God of outside of us also dwells inside us through the Holy Spirit. We need to realise this and glorify God in our bodies. This is the revelation within this week’s message from Pastor Andy - Moses experienced moments of presence but we are to know abiding presence. Each of us who have accepted Jesus has been made holy and righteous through God’s son-ship. We have been made so holy that the Holy Spirit would call us His Temple. Christ prepared our lives for the abiding presence of God in our lives just as the Tent had to be prepared for the presence of God in the Old Testament. We have abiding presence. He never leaves nor forsakes us. We cannot underestimate the value of this. The same presence of God that Moses experienced in the Tent is available to us every day. John 15:4-5 (NIV) tells us “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. So if we are abiding in Him we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us. Let us do three things:- • Realise His presence in a greater way, have the revelation He is with us changing our lives. In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel is lying down inside the temple near the Ark, God calls Samuel and he says ‘here I am’. But God didn’t call from anywhere; he was already in the building. God spoke from the presence that was already there. Likewise, for us now, we have God in the Holy Spirit temple of our lives and he can speak any time. • Take and make time for His presence. Wherever we go, He is with us, we have His abiding presence. Let us acknowledge this daily, enjoy the revelation that God is within us. • When we realise His presence we can practice living out His presence. His presence changes everything so all the things we struggle with will alter. Everything begins with a realisation we have been given the ability to have abiding presence with God.

What If?

Andy Elmes • July 12, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy asks us “What If?” Life is filled with What Ifs, what if Jesus returned today? All our What Ifs should be undergirded by scripture. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Alternatively, in The Passion Translation “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 fulfil his designed purpose”. This statement should be a part of what we are thinking in our daily ‘What Ifs’ Maybe we don’t feel God is at work but we must live by truth not feelings. In all things he is designing and weaving things together for our good – even if we don’t know or can’t feel as though this is the case! We need to find firm ground under our feet; God is in it to cause us to win it! This is true for all moments and seasons including this time when church meetings as they were have been halted. What If can cause us to think optimistically or pessimistically. For instance, what if it takes longer for church services as we knew them to begin again. What if God was at work doing things in us beyond the virus and its ramifications. God could be at work in this moment to do us good! What if God was using this time to reset the church, or reset us so that we meet again we are not the same but stronger. Maybe the church gates are closed because God is not finished doing something good in us! Are we sitting waiting for the church doors to open are we busy letting God work in us and through us so we can be the people we need to be when the doors do open again? Scripture shows that God works in unusual moments, doing inconceivable things. God works this way, taking unusual moments when everyone thinks everything is going wrong to do amazing things. Acts 8:1 (NIV) gives an example at the time of the birth of the church of an unexpected moment. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria”….this group of people who were previously loving gathering together being scattered to the corners of the earth. As this was happening, people must have had What Ifs like “What If we can’t meet again like we used to”. But what a great plan God had for touching the world! In fact it was genius; the church had become obsessed with meetings but had missed the point. Jesus told them to go into all the world and be witnesses for Him in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. God’s purposes were not just in their gatherings but in their scatterings, although they could not see it at the time. What if we keep our focus on becoming, rather than sitting and waiting? Lord, what are you doing in this moment? Romans 8 tells us God is at work in ALL things. What if God is wanting to do something new in this moment? When our doors open again we need to be a church of strong small groups that gathers altogether at times rather than a strong church gathering with few small groups. It might be a while before we can gather again. Strong small groups will make for a much stronger church gathering overall. If God is in this moment then this is certainly true. Small groups were the norm for the early church. The vision for us to be 100% in small groups was seen by Ps Steu last year without foreknowledge of what was to occur in the year 2020. In fact, during lockdown our small groups have increased and strengthened. What if this is part of God’s plan? If so we shall have stronger church when we do gather again. Our passion for small groups will have assisted this aim. Let us not be sitting wasting this time when God has plans for us. Our expectations should change from expecting much from meetings to enhancing and creating relationships. Let us not expect to connect to people in a large gathering on Sundays but in a more intimate fashion that a small group can provide. Discipleship, training & pastoral care might better be provided in small groups. God could reshape us as a church, even when we feel things are going wrong. What if God is in this unusual moment teaching us things that we never thought of before?, especially if we were still meeting as were had been. What if in this moment God was trying to get the “cells” of Family Church stronger so that when we do re-open we have a body which is stronger and more ready for the purposes of God. What if we are in a moment where God says let us do more life together in small groups that also meet on a Sunday. God could be more in this moment than any of us ever thought! Let us all be much more passionate about our small groups, our Connect groups.

Do you know what time it is?

Andy Elmes • July 5, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Do you know what time it is? Pastor Andy asks this key question. We need to know what time we are in as a church right now. We need to learn to tell the time spiritually. The bible may tell us different things that will happen in various times but we may not have grasped this fully. 1 Chronicles 12:32 speaks of the peoples of Issachar (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) understanding the times they were in. Likewise, as the church, we need to understand times we are in with readiness to respond. We are in last days as the bible teaches. But do we know this, the days before the returning of Jesus Christ. He will come back to collect the people who belong to Him. In less than a second some will go to hell, some to heaven. No one knows the exact time but we can know the season we are in if we listen to the Holy Spirit and understand the nature of what is happening in the world. The global happenings now indicate times different from any before. We need to make ready for when Jesus returns. The Word does not give us exact times but it does give significant signposts. Jesus describes to His disciples how things will be before His return in Matthew 24 (TPT, extract of key verses) {His disciples came privately to where he was sitting and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what supernatural sign should we expect to signal your coming and the completion of this age?” Jesus answered, “At that time deception will run rampant. For many will appear on the scene claiming my authority or saying about themselves, ‘I am God’s Anointed,’ and they will lead many astray. You will hear of wars nearby and revolutions on every side, with more rumours of wars to come. Don’t panic or give in to your fears, for the breaking apart of the world’s systems is destined to happen. But it won’t yet be the end; it will still be unfolding. Nations will go to war against each other and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be terrible earthquakes—seismic events of epic proportion, horrible epidemics and famines in place after place. This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin! You can expect to be persecuted, even killed; for you will be hated by all the nations because of your love for me. Then many will stop following me and fall away, and will betray one another….many lying prophets will arise, deceiving multitudes and leading them away from the path of truth. There will be such an increase of sin and lawlessness that those whose hearts once burned with passion for God and others will grow cold. But keep your hope to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive. The appearing of the Son of Man will burst forth with the brightness of a lightning strike that shines from one end of the sky to the other, illuminating the earth. Concerning that day and exact hour, no one knows when it will arrive, not even the angels of heaven—only the Father knows. For it will be exactly like it was in the days of Noah when the Son of Man appears. Before the flood, people lived their lives eating, drinking, marrying, and having children. They didn’t realize the end was near until Noah entered the ark, and then suddenly, the flood came and took them all away in judgment. It will happen the same way when the Son of Man appears. At that time, two men will be working on the farm; one will be taken away in judgment, the other left. Two women will be grinding grain; one will be taken away in judgment, the other left. This is why you must stay alert: because no one knows the day your Lord will come}. Jesus is the ark people will now find salvation in……….but are we ready for this time? In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 Paul also speaks of the last days (TPT, extracts from verses) {But you need to be aware that in the final days the culture of society will become extremely fierce and difficult for the people of God. People will be self-centred and obsessed with money, boasting of great things as they strut around in pride and mock all that is right, ignoring their families, being ungrateful and ungodly, addicted to hateful and malicious slander; Slaves to their desires, they will be ferocious, belligerent haters of good and right. With brutal treachery, they will act without restraint, bigoted and wrapped in clouds of their conceit, finding delight in the pleasures of this world rather than God. They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!} These descriptions do paint the times we are in now. What ought our response to all this be? We need to ensure our lives are ready for Him, no junk in our hearts. Also it’s a moment for the church to find its purpose…we need to be harvesters. God is speaking to His people. We do not know the hour or second but these are unusual days naturally and spiritually. If Jesus is returning soon, we must focus on harvest of souls. If our closest friends and family have not heard the good news they may be looking at an eternity of hell. This must motivate us and focus us. The fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35)….people are emerging from lockdown. The harvesters and labourers are each of us, to rescue the lost. Nothing is as important as somebody’s eternal soul going to hell. Roughly one hundred people die per minute worldwide! Where will these people go….to a lost eternity if they have not heard about Jesus? God made a way for everyone to escape lost eternity. If they choose not to choose His Son, having heard of Him, then this is their decision. But our motivation must be to tell them firstly. We are not waiting for buildings to open but to focus on getting into the harvest field and save people. Harvest now is not bringing people to buildings, but the church being mobilised to go into other people’s worlds to tell them of Jesus. We have been able to rediscover ourselves as a community of people of God during lockdown. He is still sending us into the harvest. What time is it? Time to be mobilised! There are no last moments. It is about reaching our local community, neighbours, maybe using social media to spread the good news rather than anything else! In Acts 1:8 (NKJV) Jesus said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Our local world is our Jerusalem. Our loved ones are our immediate concern. Let us ensure we are ready, that we know and understand the gospel. Are we ready for His return? Are we a wise or foolish virgins (Matthew 25), do we have oil in our lamps? Yes, scoffers will come in the last days as in 2 Peter 3:3-10 (NKJV) “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they wilfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word are reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Let us make sure we are ready, for ourselves ….and to help rescue others.

Protecting Our Unity

Andy Elmes • June 28, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Following from last week Pastor Andy speaks about Protecting Unity in the church. Last week the message spoke of God moving through His people, the Church. As His church, we need to live differently in order not to blend into the world. We have a light that is different to that of the world. Isaiah 61:1 tells us why we are different (NIV) “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord as anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. The Spirit of God is upon us, this makes us different! Daily we need to choose to live by His Spirit. How we live and love will make us different to the world. Additionally we choose Unity rather than division. We believe God has a plan to use His church for His plans; hence we need to protect the church from strife and division. The enemy’s plans surely are to divide and conquer the church rendering it useless. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV) says “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Let us not be unaware of the devil’s schemes! Paul told the church in Ephesus how to live to protect unity and provide maturity – Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV) “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. A unified church has great effect…unity in fact means acting as a single unit. Let us must march in step with the commission the Lord has given us. God reminds us how nothing is impossible when men remain united in speech and purpose (Tower of Babel story) – Genesis 11:6 (NIV) “The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”. In verses 7 & 8 God confuses their language and scatters the people resulting in the cessation of their building. Satan is equally wary of Gods plans and can confuse our communication if we let him resulting in an inactive church! Our unity is precious to God, it also attracts commanded blessing. Psalm 133:1-3 (NKJV) tells us of this “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.” Unity needs to be a covering on our lives, to drip down over us all….there we get the commanded blessing. We must however protect our unity both in action and speech, building up rather than knocking down. Do not interpret unity for uniformity, free speech is powerful, but let us be of one spirit – God’s Spirit. We need to be wise in how and where we speak. Issues between us are usually best solved person to person as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:24, rather than public airings on social media! Better to use these channels of communication to display a better way of loving and living undergirded with the spirit of love. Different views on some things are acceptable, but we do need to walk in the spirit of unity. What matters most is lost people going to a lost eternity. The saving of the lost should be at the top of our priorities and should drive our unity as we are God’s plan to prevent this. We need kingdom etiquette in how we protect unity as Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 2:23-24(NIV) “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful”. Let us be careful that the spirit we operate in does not bring quarrels or dissention - Proverbs 6:19 states that God abhors dissention in His church. Our freedom of speech is a gift but we must be careful how we use it. A divided church God cannot use but a united church God can use to turn the world upside down. 1 Corinthians 12:27 tells us that we are a family, a team, however we need to understand the season we are in now as God has a plan to use us but the enemy has a plan to separate us. We must strengthen the bond of unity in peace. Beware of spiritual auto-immune diseases…..let us celebrate our differences in spiritual unity. The separator, the devil, is very subtle, thankfully Christ has rescued us. Before his arrest, Jesus prayed a prayer of oneness, unity, for all his believers that we need to pray and keep as our mantra – John 17:20 & following (NLT) “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began”. Let us be the answer to this prayer. The spirit of The Lord is upon us and He has anointed us to make a difference to the world. Let us protect our unity, making us an unstoppable force on this earth. We are not peripheral but central to the world. Let us be wise in how we express ourselves, using all our communication channels to glorify God. Amen.

Time to Arise & Shine

Andy Elmes • June 21, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy encourages us that we need to be assured that God is at work in all things (Romans 8:28). God has a plan! Let us understand the time we live in and the part God wants us to play. His plan is us, we are His church. Isaiah, a prophet was seeing things through The Spirit ahead of his time. Isaiah 60:1 (NIV) says “‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” This is key to the moment we are in now & how God wishes us to respond. Arise and Shine means get up, don’t shrink in fear and purpose, and be the dawn, the break of day. Darkness will cover the earth comes from hebrew khoshekh meaning misery, destruction death, sorrow, unrighteousness. Thick Darkness here means a cloud of gloom. So Isaiah foresaw gloom over the earth but told the people of God it was time to let the light of Jesus shine. Isaiah 60:3 says that the people of this world, (gentiles & heathen) will be drawn towards the light we shine – when the church stops hiding, arguing and fighting and stands up to be the representation of Christ on earth. The unsaved will be drawn to something better they see in us – the holiness, beauty and reality of Kingdom life. These verses speak to us... His People, His church on earth! The Jesus who came and now lives in us is the Jesus who will shine. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 the bible speaks of us being one body, made of many parts, many cultures and nations (if one part hurts so do we all). The final statement here says that we are the body of Christ and each of us is a part of it. We are the body of Christ on earth and contain the spirit of God. He is here in us now on the earth wishing to express Himself to a confused world through the lives we live, not necessarily our words. We are called to stand out not blend in; we are called to be operating and responsive in a different spirit from those of the world - to be that breaking of dawn in these confusing times. John 13:35 tells us people will know us by how we love one another, a different love from that in the world. People of God choose unity over division or dissention (Proverbs 6:19 reminds us how God hates such things). We speak truth in love not deceptive thinking. We understand the Word of God separates what is soul and what is spirit and how to respond. The world desperately needs us to be different to be the church, however we need to know what this means from a spiritual perspective. We are a called out people in this world but not of this world. Colossians 1:13 tells us we have been snatched out the kingdom of darkness & brought into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. We need to be true to this. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us how we are a chosen people called out of darkness to declare his praises. Once we had not received mercy but now we have! We are a people of Christ on earth, with no partiality to race, colour etc. We know each other only by how we are in Christ. We do not despise our cultures which we celebrate, but we are defined by who we are in God. 2 Corinthians 5:16 onwards speaks about the truth of who we now are. If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation or species, a new variety of people belonging to God. There is no partiality of skin colour here. God expect us to respect each other as human to human. Let us see Jesus in each other and choose to be different. Then we can celebrate our differences not judge or despise them. God looks for us His church to be different in the darkness of today’s world, to be a bright shining light. To accomplish this, our thinking, loving, forgiving, and graceful judging must be different. All this starts with how we treat each other in our own church. Our local culture can then impact the wider church. The church is not peripheral to the world but central. Ephesians 1:23 (MSG) tells us “He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” The Bible tells us to understand Kingdom life in order that life around us can change. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us to study The Lord and we shall be transformed into His image with ever increasing glory! Then we begin to shine and impact our own local church then indeed the church and the world over. This means living with no racism, judgement, division but seeing Jesus in each other. The devils plans will be ruined! We must see ourselves as reflected in the Word, how The Father sees us. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) teaches “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Whether reading the words of Isaiah or Jesus, the request is the same. Pastor Andy shared a personal message he received during his devotions: God is about to move again through His church, His body on the earth. It is vital we know who we are and what we are here to do. It is time to Arise and Shine.

Kingdom Perspective

Andy Elmes • June 14, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Following from the previous week, Pastor Andy continues the open conversation about racism and equality. Understanding people’s perspective is a key thing, it is a point of view regarding things going on around us. This can impact our response to issues we face in the world. Various people will have varying perspectives on something and we need to recognise this. This is normal. Our perspective is our view point determined by what is happening. Even how we see things can change as we view from a different perspective. Christians seek to choose and view from another viewpoint, the Kingdom view. This is the perspective of God and His word regarding things we are seeing and experiencing. This perspective is always the one that matters the most. We need to be willing to lay down our perspectives and gain that of heaven. Our identity is fundamental here – we will only choose Kingdom perspective when we fully know who we are in Christ. Citizenship of God’s Kingdom forms a common voice inside us. Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) tells us “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love”. This is when we receive Jesus as Saviour here on earth. We are then made alive in our spirit to God. Our lives become under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We are triune beings – body, soul and spirit. Our soul can be heavily influenced by the how we see things. Our spirit is now alive to God, we are now able to hear and know Gods spirit and His thoughts. We can access the mind of God, having the spirit within us which is alive to God. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 onwards scripture speaks about what God has revealed to us by His Spirit, how only a person’s thoughts are known by their spirit and in verse 12 how our understanding of God’s Spirit can come from His Spirit ((NIV) “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us”). In verse 14 we are told that the person without God’s Spirit in his heart will see things as foolish, not understanding them, as here we speak of spiritual discernment, but the person with Gods Spirit will see all things through Godly eyes. In verse 16 it says (NIV) “for who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ”. We have the mind of Christ and can access God’s perspective of things happening on earth. If this does not agree with our perspective we need to be able to change our perspective. We see God’s perspective through His Word and His Spirit that can lead our ways. God designed us to have a spirit alive to him. Our soul is not removed but our choices need to be carefully made – not by the soul as before we accepted Jesus but by the spirit………..let us be influenced by the spirit of who we now are through the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ. We need to seek first the Kingdom perspective. We must seek to find Gods perspective when we discuss aspects like racism and discrimination. As Christians, we are carriers of the Kingdom of God and this needs to affect our perspective and the way we live. The cure for racism, inequality and such issues is Kingdom Come. We represent a kingdom where all are equal. This is how we need to see life. In Colossians 3:7-11 Paul speaks of who we used to be and how we were, but how we are now, how God sees us….(NIV) “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all”. This clearly shows no delineation between races, religions, cultures, social or economic distinctions people etc. We are all one in Him and He is one in us. We are one body. Joining the perspectives of the Kingdom of God rather than of the worldly kingdoms is how we may change the world. We are in His Kingdom and He is in us. Let these truths affect how we see ourselves and how we choose to see others. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Let’s talk About it – Racism

Andy Elmes & Paula Finch • June 7, 2020 • Andy Elmes & Paula Finch

Pastor Andy starts a conversation about Racism and Equality, with a commitment to keep this conversation going. Our church leaders have already responded regarding the incident in Minnesota and recent world events with a statement however, Pastor Andy believes we need to open a conversation to do the right thing in the sight of God. He is hoping for longer term change not a token response from our church. He recognises we all respond in differing ways to these situations and has a desire to understand more fully these situations. It is crucial we all seek to journey in Family Church to understand things we do not, but be taught by those who have a correct perspective, who have Jesus in their hearts. He then introduces Pastor Paula to share from her perspective, as someone who has suffered racism but has a Godly view. Paula mentions she has spoken to many people recently and that it is important we do not shy away from the topic of racism and equality in our church. A key thing to remember is that we are the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (MSG) tells us “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing”. So this not a black people issue but an issue for us all. Recent events have highlighted Racism and Injustice. Paula explains that the reason she is hurting is because these attitudes are wrong. Black and coloured people have suffered injustice for a long time, maybe more subtle and hidden in the UK, odd comments, thoughts etc. However, we are all made in Gods image. Psalm 133 tells us how wonderful it is to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity. As Christians we know this is how we must live with all brothers and sisters. Paula shared experiences of personal injustice in her workplace and how she was ignored when trying to deal with these situations. The recent killing is not the only thing that has enraged the black community. It has been an ongoing thing for ages. It is important that we speak about these things and make changes. We must educate ourselves and our children - starting in our own homes. We must listen to the pain people have, just as if we sat with someone who mourned a loss. We must stand against racism. Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJV) states ‘Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’ So we have this instruction…love everyone regardless of skin colour. Let us open our eyes and transform our minds according to the Word. As Christians, we must remember we do not fight against flesh and blood but the principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil in a wicked world (Ephesians 6). We have to see this for what it is! Racism is evil but if we look at this just through the lens of the world we miss a lot. Are we praying? We must certainly do more but not less than pray. We need to yield to God, not emotions. Let us not be silent but vocal in a correct way – just as God constantly mobilises people throughout the bible. Speaking up against injustice brings change and healing as we speak of Jesus also. Only Jesus can heal. He came to seek and save the lost. Let us stand for truth! But let us make sure our motives are correct (Matthew 6:1). Hard work happens behind our closed doors. As Jesus instructed Peter in Matthew 26:52 we must still look to God even in our deepest pain. We can process our pain with the Word, not the Sword. Psalm 89:14 tells us that righteousness and justice are the throne of God. So stand against evil but in a righteous way. Let us lead from the forefront in our actions not leaving God out of this. The silver lining in the cloud of Covid had started uniting the whole church with things like “The Blessing” being sung the world over. But racism can divide the church….As Christians; we must show the world what unity really looks like. Do not be caught in arguments or divisiveness. Let us pray for everyone. Jesus can transform everyone, changing their hearts. Amos 5:21 tells us what God seeks….(MSG) “I want justice - oceans of it. I want fairness - rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want”. Love prevails all including racism. We need to use our voices to support all communities, making a stand for change against racism. Let us not just be non-racist but be anti-racist. Pastor Andy ended the meeting with concluding remarks then we took communion reminding us we are all one body regardless of colour. Amen!

God Knows What We Need

Andy Elmes • May 31, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy speaks about our needs in these uncertain times. There is plenty of fear being circulated currently, but we must choose faith in God over fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. God has given us a sound mind! Fear is often based in the thought of “I won’t have” what I need and can drive us to unusual behaviour. God’s people are not driven by fear and understand Gods promises regarding their provision. Scriptures tell us to cast our cares on Him for he cares for us (1Peter 5:7); The Father knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8); God will supply all our needs according to His riches (Phil 4:19). In these verses God speaks of meeting the needs of our body, soul and spirit. The present times challenge the belief systems regarding our needs - what do we need in order to survive and thrive, what are our priorities regarding needs? Will I have what I need when I need it? There are two ways of looking at this – the worldly way and the Kingdom way. Abraham Maslow, a well-known American psychologist summarised the worldly view in a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid - physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. He alludes to the fact that until all our basic needs are met we will not consider whether a God exists, or where we came from. He placed more emphasis on needs of body and soul before the needs of spiritual development – the person we really are. But Maslow was an atheist and did not believe in God’s wisdom. His understanding of the needs of a person was based solely on the physical not the spiritual. He did not recognise that there was a creator, someone who made creation to have needs and also would meet these needs. Jesus taught very differently. Matthew 6:25-34(NIV) teaches “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. This is a completely different emphasis to that of Maslow - seeking first the Kingdom of God and then all the other things will be met by God. Many times these verses tell us not to worry. Jesus turned Maslow’s pyramid upside down by saying seek me, seek My Kingdom first and if you do then God will meet all your other needs. For example we will never know the esteem that comes from knowing who we are in Christ, in God, until we seek first his Kingdom. Being in pursuit of God brings in everything we need as a human. Unshakeable safety comes from knowing God. As we busy ourselves in pursuing God he will busy Himself in meeting all our needs. Our greatest need is our need for God. Only when this comes into position correctly can we then stand on the promises of God’s word.

Pure Joy

Steve Carey • May 24, 2020 • Steve Carey

Pastor Steve speaks about Pure Joy during trials in our lives, and continues looking at who we are becoming and how we are using our time in this season. James (brother of Jesus writing to the church he oversaw), tells the Jewish Christians to consider it pure joy when they faced trials (James 1:2). We are in a trial right now, but trials always come and always will come. Sometime we see them and sometimes they catch us unawares. Trials may be as a result of spiritual attacks (we need to open Ephesians 6 and put on the full armour of God) knowing our enemy is defeated. Sometimes trials come as a result of a lack of wisdom or something we did. Other times life may just deal out an issue, or sometimes as a result of the actions of other people. Trials have differing types of impact but the key issue is how we respond. James tells us that when we face a trial we should consider it pure joy….but do we respond in this way? Many of us will look at the words James wrote and say he did not know anything about our situation…often our response is anger or doubt. James writes as a pastor and tells the church to consider it as pure joy because the testing of faith produces perseverance (James1:3). So the journey is not so great but the destination – perseverance – we like much more. Often we are excited about getting somewhere but do not enjoy the journey. But in a spiritual context James tells us we need to embrace the journey, what God is doing for us, in us and through us in this season. James is not saying delight in the problem, but delight in what God is doing in and through us. Sometimes the journey to completeness and maturity in Christ comes as a result of times of confusion, pain and sorrow. God is not the author of these things but will use them for our good and for His glory. Often the journey to maturity comes when we are on the edge of quitting. This produces faith which is mature and pure. Jesus did not promise an easy life but he did promise an overcoming life and one of peace and hope. In the context of a classroom of positivity as we have spoken recently, maybe this is a season to look at revising the goodness of God, who he is on our lives, who we are in him, the faithfulness of God. Character is built in the circumstances of life. When we understand how God uses circumstance to develop our character we are able to respond correctly when god places us in character building opportunities. God wants us to grow and mature. His desire is for us to be complete in Him. Elsewhere in the New Testament we see similar instructions (1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:3-5). Maybe it is time for us to change our perspective even in a time of a trial…from allowing the trial to break us to allowing God to make us. Let us ask a few questions…….. 1 - What is our perspective in this trial….out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks or fingers type? Our perspective will change when we change our thinking, by renewing our minds with scriptures of hope, encouragement, peace etc. 2 - Are we praying for this trial to end or for God to mature us in this trial? Even in this season, Dear God use me and complete me. 3 - Are we enduring the journey or embracing it? Are we wishing it away or embracing who God is during this time. Now is a time to be used by God. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Let us use this time effectively. 4 - Is there a sound of joy in our homes and lives? Joy gives us confident hope; it does not take away the issues. Maybe start our day with the word of God and fill it with praise then when other things come into our homes we shall have a different perspective on life. Our challenge is to look at our season and consider it pure joy rejoicing in the fact that God is shaping us.

What are we becoming?

Andy Elmes • May 17, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy asks us “What are we becoming?” during this season of lock-down. Two Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) says “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord”. In this season we need to ask what are we becoming? ‘Coming’ and ‘becoming’ are not the same. We cannot ‘come’ to church we as did but we can still ‘become’ more as god wanted us to be. We are still in an element of isolation and our choices will determine what we become. Some fitter, some fatter! We are all ‘becoming’ something; some wiser, some less so. Some bitter, some better! A great example is Joseph in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 37, he shared dreams with his brothers, but they threw him into a pit and later sold him. He might have become bitter and insecure. However, in his isolation he determined not to quit. In Genesis 39 the favour of God is on Joseph, he has risen to be second in charge in the house of Potiphar. He even scorned Potiphar’s wife who wrongly accuses him of improper behaviour. Joseph is wrongly imprisoned, but in this time of isolation he actually developed himself to be stronger and better. In Genesis 41 when he is released from prison God works for his good. Pharaoh asked for Joseph to interpret his dream about seven years of good and seven years of famine. Pharaoh then promoted Joseph to being second in charge of the country! So he is not broke and weak but he comes out of prison strong and ready for action. He leads the nation in a successful plan of well-being and sustainability. Why? Because in prison he chose to let God do in him what God wanted to do at that time. When others were quitting he chose to develop from glory to glory. Such decisions we can all make for ourselves when we read the word, pray and spiritually develop. God is in this moment with us. When Joseph was in prison, he was diligent – Genesis 39:21-23 speaks of God's favour being upon him, even being promoted within prison! He also stayed sharp in walking and hearing God. In Genesis 40 the Cup Bearer and Baker ask Joseph to interpret their dreams. Joseph was hearing heaven! Let us be alert and spiritually diligent also. Three things kept Joseph focused - • He knew God was with and in him and had plans for him • He had a revelation of Romans 8:28 which speaks of all things working together for those who love God (Romans wasn’t written then!). In Genesis 50 his worried brothers were brought to him when his Father Jacob had died, but Joseph showed optimism, telling them not to be afraid as even although they had intended to harm him. God had put him in the place he had been to accomplish His plans and save many lives. • He stayed submitted to God. God often leads people into wilderness or isolation in order to accomplish His plan or make that person ‘become’ something different. Jesus is the prime example in scripture. The Holy Spirit is with us now in our periods of isolation. We need to stay submitted to Gods plans for us to become as he intended.

Spending Time To Pursue God

Andy Elmes • May 10, 2020 • Andy Elmes

Pastor Andy Speaks about pursuing God, and redeeming time during this season of lockdown. Some things in our lives are out of our hands, others may not be. Things may not necessarily be out of control but waiting for us to manager properly. Time, a gift from God is such a thing. We can all do different things with this precious gift of life. Many folk have a lot more time than usual presently, (not everyone), but many do have extra time at the moment. What do we do with this time, which we can consider as the currency of our lives? God has blessed us with time, our life and also the ability to spend it as we see fit. We need to spend the rest of our time in best way we can. It’s the most important currency we will ever own. Unfortunately, some people are not good at managing time well. We cannot get back time we have wasted….but we can invest time in serving others. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul speaks about the best use or redeeming of time. In Colossians 4:5, we are also told to walk in wisdom to outsiders, making the best use of time. Let us make sure today we are being wise in how we use our time. The best way we can use our time is in our personal pursuit of God. Many other things are admirable, but this ought to be top of our priorities. Let us be diligent in knowing Him more. God is waiting and wanting to be found by those who dare to seek Him. We need to seek God out, search for him. Jeremiah 29:11 speaks about knowing the plans to prosper and live with good health. However, verses 12-14a (NIV) also say “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord”. This is not a casual pursuit, but a whole hearted action by someone desiring God. Matthew 7:7-8 tells us “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.” Many verses in the Old and New Testaments encourage us to be in pursuit of a deepening relationship with God. Proverbs 8:17 (NKJV) says “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me”. James 4:8 instructs us that if we would draw near to God, He will draw near to us. This is not just a call for those who do not know God, but also for us who do know him….to know him deeper, to know him as we could. God waits for those who will pursue him. He beckons us to spend our time to be in personal pursuit of him in ways we did know know before. God will never disappoint the person who hungers for him. Psalm 42:7 speaks of “Deep calling unto Deep”. Nothing satisfies the longing we have within us like a deep calling for God. We must find God for ourselves. We must not choose familiarity but rediscover awe for God.

Time To Clear The Weeds

Steuart Payne • May 3, 2020 • Steuart Payne

Pastor Steu speaks about clearing weeds from our lives. He focuses on three key weeds; Insecurity, Offence and Doubt. He has been gardening recently clearing weeds, which tend to grow back unless the roots are dug out and the soil tended. In the garden of our lives, there is also a challenge to keep ourselves weed free. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our heart as it determines the course of our lives. If our lives are the garden, then our hearts are the soil and God wants to be able to display his glory in our garden. Removing the weeds and planting fruit bearing plants is our responsibility as a Christian. No one else can do this, however we are not alone….good people surround us and we need to call upon them, especially if their gardens are beautiful! Our heavenly Father is present in the garden of our lives also. In order to deal with the weeds we need to understand them. Weeds start with seeds and growth begins under the surface until they take over unattended areas of our lives. Salvation is often a time of clearing weeds in our lives. Our hearts are made new at this time, but we may allow things to affect our hearts in daily life. Some roots remain; even from a clear-out. The Christian life is a process of clearing the weeds from our garden. Even after roots are removed weeds grow as weed seed blows back, so weeds need to be permanently eradicated after uprooting, maybe by burning. The devil puts tiny seeds of thoughts in our lives - 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us to stay alert as the enemy is looking to prowl around - these tiny thoughts can grow and cause damage. Some weeds are deceptive, looking rather nice, but they stop fruit bearing trees from growing. In 2Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul addresses the Corinthians about false teachers….not everything that looks good is actually good for us. The weed of insecurity comes from the seed of rejection. It’s a tough weed to deal with. It damages good seeds, overshadows healthy plants. This weed says “we don’t deserve it, we can’t achieve it, and we will make fools of ourselves”. The weed must be dealt with at the source which is the root of rejection. The Sword of the spirit, the word of God is the axe to use. The word tells us we are accepted, we are children of God, we are no longer rejected. As we declare this truth we get revelation from it. If we have this weed, we can use God’s word to eradicate it. Ephesians 1:4-8 tells us that God decided in advance to adopt us into his family. The weed of offence can grow strongly. It can grow from misunderstandings or false expectations, or also the seeds of entitlement or rights. It might say “that’s not what we agreed, I feel that I deserve more than this”. We can justify these easily. The weed of offence that grows to look quite pretty is actually deception; we need honest friends to tell us how this may take over the garden of our life. Proverbs 26:27 tells us that a friend who really loves us will speak the truth. In Job 32:6-10 Job’s friend Ellihu had held back listening to all the supposed intelligent people, but told Job that no one had spoken the word of God into his life as he was now going to do. Sometimes we need honest friends who love us enough to speak truths. The seed for the weed of doubt is hope deferred or disappointment. This seed can impact a life hugely. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. This weed is like contaminated soil. Nothing else can grow. It seems that all dreams are impossible. The weed tells us “we didn’t see a miracle today so one will not come tomorrow, good things happen to others not you, and things never work out for you”. All joy can be robbed. Our gardens will not be attractive to others. The roots here need to be dug out and burnt. We need to become closer to God, the One who never lets us down, never breaks promises. Our hearts needs to be unclogged and we need to come to God and recognise he is totally faithful and dependable and also know that all things are possible with God. Other weeds exist and now may be a time to walk through our garden and deal with these too. However, these three - insecurity, offence and doubt often have the strongest roots. Ephesians 6:17 (NLT) says “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”……this is our gardening tool, the word of God.

Being Fruitful in This Season

Andy Elmes • April 26, 2020 • Andy Elmes

The rhythm of life has currently changed for a period of time. It is important that we make wise choices during this season. Our choices will determine whether we grow producing fruit and flowers in the garden of our life or allow weeds and thistles grow in our lives and so curtail healthy fruit and flowers. At this time of isolation, there can be stress and loneliness. We need to give people our support, connecting with them, being loving towards them. How we deal with comparative isolation depends to an extent on our character. If we are introverts we may well be naturally comfortable but if we are more extrovert we may struggle. Regardless of our chief character traits the key aspect is our personal response to the situation. We may choose to lock ourselves away - looking away from others rather than looking to help others. Alternatively, we may say “I’ll make the most of this unusual season to help others.” Captain Tom Moore’s outlook and response is a wonderful example of a 99 year old who decided to help others. He decided not to just sit in his armchair for the season, but instead to walk lengths of his garden to raise money. What started as a small gesture exploded into something massive. He used the time to benefit others; he showed determination; he purposed it. We need to be personally encouraged by this. Being isolated can be a good thing. Stepping back from social engagements means that we can learn, discover and develop. We can choose to look positively, or look negatively; at things being good, or being bad. Romans 8:28 (NIV) tells us “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.” As Christians, we ought to be expecting God to work good out of the current situation. If we do, the challenge is to see how can we serve and partner with God to achieve the positive outcomes. Many famous people produced some of their best works when isolated, for example, Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, Van Gough, Lord Byron and of course St Paul. St Paul wrote several of his letters to the churches whilst he was in prison or under house arrest (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon). John wrote Revelation whilst he was in exile, in punishment, on the island of Patmos. During this isolation time, what could God be working out in us? Do we want to purposefully draw closer to God? James 4:8 (NKJV) says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God is waiting for us to want to move closer to Him. This season of separation has four rooms….the classroom (where we may learn new things); the greenhouse (where something could grow in our lives); the waiting room (where we may develop patience) and the Pressure Cooker (where flavour can be developed if the ingredients are correct). Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) tells us “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”. Depending on our characters and whether we look positively or negatively at situations, God can work in us during these times. However, where there is ill-feeling or negativity, then the ingredients and conditions in all of the room of our lives will not be good. We can choose positively to deal with issues. We can and should choose to take issues to God, to let Him in, to voice any cracks apparent to our loving God. God doesn’t want to put a plaster on the problem. He is our God who heals. God has also supplied us with servants within the church to partner Him in helping us - those in leadership. So, when life gets tough, we can choose to speak to our pastors, core leaders or connect group leaders. Let us not be alone. Let us keep connected. Let us ensure this season produces good things in each of the rooms of our lives!