Fareham Community Church

Month: November 2020

God is present…

While reflecting back across the past 7 months, I have realised how God has quietly been helping and providing what I needed to keep going.

For instance, in early September I wrote about the “6-month block” that I had faced and that just as it was becoming almost too difficult, I “came across” a post about this being normal in crisis or warfare situations.  The post said that by just keeping going this block resolves by around the 8th month – and it seems to have!

Then there were the times when I found praying to be like speaking to closed brass doors, and someone would share a story of a remarkable answer to prayer that would encourage me to go back to God.  When I have persevered with seeking God’s face, the brass doors have “opened” and I have known His presence again.  I recently saw a gardening program that talked about not providing lots of good compost around some plants – especially trees.  By not providing compost, the roots seek out both water and nutrients and as they do, the plant becomes stable because its foundations grow.  It finds new sources of sustenance within its new context and putting down deeper roots that enable it to grow.  This is a season that is pushing us to seek God more than ever.

And then again there have been the times when it has felt like I have simply been going “through the motions”.  Dryly reading scripture, passively watching a service, or being disengaged in zoomed fellowship meetings.  In Psalm 57:8 the psalmist speaks to his soul “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn”.  Often the Holy Spirit has reminded me of this attitude.  When I have chosen to open my mouth and sing worship songs or pray in tongues in a persistent way, I have found that something in my soul does wake up and often later in the day I catch myself joining in with the song in my spirit as I have been watered by the Spirit again.

Ephesians was written to churches that were facing spiritual opposition often expressed in physical ways.  The early church had an understanding that they were living in the “last days” that period between Jesus’ ascension and His return.  In this context, Paul tells the Ephesians about their warfare.  It is all about standing in Christ, standing their ground, and standing firm. 

I believe we are all being challenged to do this at the moment. When we worship, we stand in Christ reminding ourselves what God has done for us and who we are in Him.  In persevering, we stand our ground as we are pushed deeper into God and recognise our dependence on Him.  We stand firm by putting one foot in front of another as we continue to live as those who are in Christ.  And we do this together as much as we can.  As John Ansell vividly showed us a few weeks ago when our roots spread out, they become intertwined with the roots of others.  This further strengthens our ability to stand together in the face of whatever opposition or difficulty comes our way be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  We are able to meet in small groups, so let’s do so as we are able.

God is providing what we need to stand in this season. Can I encourage you to make the decision to awaken your soul to worship! Can I encourage you to persevere in prayer? Can I encourage you to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you breakthrough?  Can I encourage you to meet in whatever groups you can, so that the life each one has flows between us helping us all to stand? And God will continue to provide what we need to keep going with hope and in peace.

Richard

01/11/2020

Trees are special…

When I was a boy, I was given a Book called Wonders of the World. It was full of black and white photo prints. One, in particular, caught my attention, it was of a car being driven through a ‘tunnel’ cut through the trunk of a massive tree, somewhere in North America. Now that must be some tree, a sight to behold, I thought, “love to see that!!” 

Fast forward to Yosemite National Park, in North America some 55 years later. Joan and I were privileged to see a similar one in the same area, it took our breath away. 

 The Sequoia is big, it matures: 
> at 340 feet high = Portsmouth Millennium Tower is 560 feet
>at 30 feet in diameter = approximately 5 times the height of Chris Lubbe
> at 1200 tons = 30 times 40-ton full shipping containers

Trees figure a lot in the Bible from Genesis, “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” …. to Revelation, “Tree of Life”.  

People are likened to trees in terms of strength, majesty, beauty… etc! Worth a study? 

The Lord taught me some lessons from this tree which I would like to share with you. 

The Seed 


The cone is 1.5″-2″ long and the seed has a wing (see picture) and is about this size . 

Isn’t it amazing when you see the size of the tree? God’s handiwork!! 

Unless the seed germinates it remains a seed. To germinate it requires the right conditions. For years scientists tried to cultivate the seed with no success. Then it was discovered that the seed needs a wildfire to open the cones. The bark (up to 3ft thick) protects the trunk, and ash provides the nutriments for the seed to germinate and grow. 

Sometimes we sow small seeds of encouragement, they make a Big Difference – the gospel in word and action. 

Compare the Sequoia seed with the mature tree. We just need to be faithful…God gives the increase!! 

Sometimes in times of adversity, (wildfires in our lives), God uses them, to do a new thing in us, or enable a change of direction!! 

The Roots 
The soil where these trees grow is relatively shallow, up to 12 feet deep. Unlike most trees the sequoia does not have a large taproot instead, it sends out radial roots up to 200 feet away from its centre. On its own, it would be vulnerable to strong winds. These trees thrive best in groups because of their ‘Knees’?! which make their bases wider and more importantly, their roots, which intertwine over and under the roots of adjacent trees. This matting of roots enables the trees to support one another. 

In the same way, God intends that we as church mutually support one another as a family and in Life Groups. Also, to look outwards.  What about our knees?! 

The Purpose 
The Sequoia tree is just one of many things created by God that is amazing and definitely has the WOW factor and created for the display of HIS splendour. 

They shall be called “Oaks of righteousness” a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendour.  Isaiah 61 v 3b. 

John Ansell 

25/10/2020 

No masks here…

I hope you encountered God in some way during last week’s live-streamed communion and that those online somehow felt part of it even though they weren’t joining in the gathering in the building.  I know some who have said that they watched afterwards but still felt connected with us all as they took communion while watching. 

We often talk about we, as members of the church, being “one body in Christ” and, sometimes, God stirs us to remember that we belong to a church made up of multiple generations of believers.  As I have heard us talk this week about the sense of God’s presence and our being united together across space and time, it has brought the truth of this into focus for me in a new way.   We live in this temporal world, but, in Christ, we are also alive in the eternal heavenly realm.  We really are united in Christ with Jesus’ followers alive now and those who have gone before and those still to come! 

During communion, Andi Clay talked about wearing masks and how she sensed God say to her that He doesn’t wear a mask – we can hear Him clearly and be aware of His very breath – and we don’t need to wear a mask with Him either.  It was an encouragement for us to come, as we are, to our Father, who sees us as we are anyway and has made it possible for us to approach Him with confidence.  

Later, Caroline Robinson shared a picture with Martin that not only does God not wear a mask, He doesn’t abide by the two-metre rule either!  She sensed God was saying He wants to stick very close to us in this storm, to be standing right next to us each day.  Jesus wants and eagerly desires us to draw near to Him. 

Many of us have enjoyed getting together in different groupings – up to sixes in homes, in larger life group worship at the King’s Centre, or in the two face-to-face meetings we have had in the building (more of those are being planned).  In all these settings, we’ve experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and had the encouragement of others with whom we are united in Christ.  

Over the next few weeks, let’s be creative and see how we can still get together safely so that we continue to grow in unity and know God’s presence with us as we meet.  How about sharing communion whenever we do, taking time to acknowledge God and all that He has done for us?   And let’s continue to pray for the wider family of God – in Fareham, in the Forge network and with FCC’s friends and co-workers across the world, remembering that we are one in Christ.  But, above all, let’s draw near to Jesus, without our masks, as He has encouraged us to do, that He may fill us afresh with the Holy Spirit and enable us to demonstrate the unity we have with Him and each other as we let His love motivate us to do the good works He has for us to do. 

Bless you all, 

Richard 

11/10/2020 

The six-month wall

Last week I read an article written by an aid worker, from Médecins Sans Frontières, about the “six-month wall”.   Reflecting on fifteen years’ experience working in epidemic situations lasting more than a year, she talked about the wall that she and nearly all her colleagues hit after six months.  The experience varied from person to person: for some, weariness, for others a loss of resilience and hope, and, for others anger expressed in frustration or shortness with colleagues.  She didn’t explain why this should happen, she simply observed it did; and that those who kept on going were able to get through the wall and gain renewed energy for their work.  

It was encouraging to read what she shared, because I had hit a wall over Covid and the limitations it has set on home, work, and church life.  I was irritable (ask Caroline if you don’t believe it!) and, to be honest, I’d lost my sense of purpose and vision (and we know that makes the heart sick).  Her story helped me gain a new perspective of hope.  What I was feeling was simply part of the process – I wasn’t the only one and there is a way through.  Her testimony called me up to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That’s what encouragement does! 

Paul, writing to a young Thessalonian church, says “Jesus died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you have been doing.”.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “encourage one another daily”.  As we actively respond to these biblical exhortations by sharing our stories of how God has met with us, answered prayers or simply given us some insight into how we can live well in these times, we will help each other to grow and keep moving forward in Him.  

Your story may simply be about how you have got through something, like the lady in the article.  Share it with others, friends, neighbours or your life group.  And may I encourage you to think about sharing it with the wider church too by sending it  to the office or to me at richardw@farehamcommunitychurch.com so we can include it in the newsletter – we can always edit what you send us if you are worried about the words!  Or, if you are feeling brave, you could video yourself telling the story so we can include it in our Sunday meeting as a testimony.  Your story will help us all to keep taking one step after another towards God and His purposes for us.  

You may already have hit your wall, or maybe you are helping someone else journey through theirs.  Wherever you are, be encouraged that this will end, and God desires to draw each of us closer to Him in the midst.  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  May this be true for you over the next few weeks! 

Richard 

04/10/2020 

Jesus with skin on

A phrase came to my mind this morning, “Jesus with skin on”.  This isn’t a biblical phrase.  But it’s related to the description of Jesus in John 1 (“he became flesh and made his dwelling among us”) and to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 12 that now we are ”the body of Christ”,  a walking talking representation of Jesus for our generation. 

We have begun a series in Ephesians which is full of wonderful truth about God, his plans and purposes, and who we are in Christ.  And I’m praying that, as we study it together this term, these truths will get more and more firmly established in us, and will form a solid rock on which we can stand in these uncertain times.  

Hearing and understanding biblical truth is vital, but it’s not sufficient in itself.  We don’t stand because of head knowledge or good theology – that’s just part of the story.  We need heart knowledge too – that truly knowing that we know that God loves us, He is for us, He has a plan for us and will provide for us.  And we don’t get that from a book, we get that through a personal relationship, firstly with God and then with one another.  That’s where “Jesus with skin on” comes in.  

Jesus came to reveal God’s love and grace to those around him, one person at a time.  Miracles happened as people came to him in their hour of need and he demonstrated the Father’s love in both word and actions. 

And now, that role has been taken up by the Holy Spirit, who lives and works through all of us who call Jesus our Lord.  As flawed individuals, we can never really be “Jesus with skin on” BUT our words and actions can reveal God’s love, hope and comfort to the people around us as we seek to follow the Spirit’s lead. 

On Monday, I was struggling – all the new COVID regulations and trying to work out what to do for the best in the church; missing family…it was a difficult day.  I didn’t doubt that God loved me, that he would, as always, get me through, but I needed to encounter that love again – to meet Jesus with skin on.  On Tuesday, I didn’t feel like going to life group but did anyway, and as we talked and prayed together, I heard and felt the love of Christ again through the words and actions of my friends.  

Hebrews 4:12 says ”the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates…”   This isn’t negative, it’s quite the reverse!  When another believer shares the right thing at the right time, it penetrates in a way that little else can, and the truth sets us free and enables us to stand.  That’s what my friends did for me on Tuesday night and I’m so grateful to have them around! 

Let’s seek to be like Jesus with flesh on for one another and for those individuals around us – families, neighbours, parents at the school gate, co-workers – who so need to know the God who loves them, through people who not only believe it and stand on it but live it out day by day.  

May God truly bless you this week, 

Caroline 

20/09/2020