Fareham Community Church

Month: December 2020

We need to Stand

As I was wondering what to write this week and how to link it to Ephesians, Caroline, writing our Christmas letter, was saying that after all the challenges that this year had brought, we were still standing!   Which is part of our testimony to God’s goodness in 2020. 

Earlier I had a chat with Martin D (not Jnr 😊!), who is a pharmacist.  He told me about a lady who, while he was giving her a flu jab, opened up about her fears over some breast cancer treatment she was going to have a few weeks later.  Martin suddenly found himself saying, “You need to stand”.  Surprised by what he said, she asked him to explain.  Martin asked if she was a Christian, to which she replied, “Very much so”.  He then spoke about Ephesians 6:13, Put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand – and that she didn’t need to be in fear.  Some weeks later the lady returned.  She told Martin that she had gone home and read Ephesians 6 and it had made all the difference to her!!!

What a great testimony to the truth of some of the things we have been talking about over the past few weeks. And what a testimony to God’s goodness that the Holy Spirit, within Martin, gave him words to speak that would point the lady to Jesus and lead to her being strengthened and sustained. And what a clear example of how the Holy Spirit’s gifts to us can lead to mission and ministry in the middle of everyday lives.

Ephesians may be full of biblical and theological truth, but also describes the practical reality of living in and by the Spirit, and simply put – it works! 

I know that many of us have similar stories to tell.  Stories of sudden thoughts to call someone, that result in an answer to prayer. Stories of timely encounters, that result in meeting someone’s need. Or other stories, like Martin’s, of words which come out unexpectedly, and make a real difference to someone’s life.  We need to be sharing these stories with one other.  Individually, we may not have a story each week, but together, there will be plenty.  Wouldn’t it be great to be sharing these as they happen?  So, over to us all!

Living out the truth of Ephesians – being doers of the word not just hearers – is part of the normal Christian life that demonstrates God’s goodness and brings hope and life to a world that needs it. During Advent may we all take the opportunities God gives us to encourage all those we meet.

Richard

06/12/2020

Our True Rescuer

On Sunday, Richard will round off our study of Ephesians.  We do hope that as we have been looking at this book over the last couple of months even those who are familiar with it will have learned something new.  And we pray it has encouraged you to keep pressing on and growing in your faith.  The Spirit has certainly challenged me as I have been preparing my talks – now it’s up to me to do something about it!  May God continue to produce fruit in all our lives as we read his Word and put it into practice.

Sunday is also the start of Advent and we will be lighting the candle of hope, something we all need in these difficult times.  Isaiah 9:2 seems more relevant than ever this year: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  We’ve seen some light this week with at least three vaccines looking so promising, with political certainty being re-established in the States and with the possibility of being allowed to be together as family and friends over Christmas.  Richard remarked today that the Dow Jones index had shot up with the renewed optimism around.

But the real light is none of these.  It’s Christ!  He is our true rescuer.  May this advent season cause us to look up again to Him so that we find light in the darkness every day, for ourselves and to share with others.  We have good news to bring this season and I pray for all of us, that we will take the opportunities God gives us to share the real reason for our hope this Christmas.

With this rather lofty goal in mind, we have produced an Advent Calendar for FCC!  We have a window to open every day, sometimes to service, sometimes to meditation, a poem, a song, sometimes to something downright silly.  It’s been a lot of work and we’re grateful to all those who have taken up the challenge of putting it together.  We hope you will enjoy it and that maybe it will be a daily reminder, not only of the light Christ brings at Christmas but also of the joy of being family together as FCC. 

Bless you this week and throughout this wonderful Christmas season,

Caroline

29/11/2020

Knowing God’s Perspective

So just over halfway through lockdown number 2.  I wonder how you are doing.  In lockdown number 1, we were entering into the unknown and gave ourselves to enduring, even making the best of, the strange circumstances we found ourselves in.  This time, many of us are weary, the days and weeks blur, and our thoughts keep returning to whether we will be able to see our families and friends somehow over Christmas.  But what is God’s perspective?  Over the last months, in the newsletter, we have reflected on some encouraging, inspiring, and challenging thoughts, and, the truth is, they still stand.  God is still for us, and has purpose for us, in these difficult days.

Remember John Ansell’s picture of how the seeds in the cones of sequoia trees are exposed when they encounter heat, enabling them to be sown and germinated.  So, God is using the pressure of the hard times we are in to open us up that the seeds He has placed in us might grow.

I wrote about the celery stump we had planted for fun and the new celery plant that grew from its centre.  Well, this is what it looks like now – 18 inches high and still going strong!  Reflecting further, like Caroline in her recent Thought for the Day, we have been asking what new things God might want us to do.  Is what we have been doing as FCC up ’til now suitable for what God has in mind for the future?  What are the new things he is bringing from the old, and where does he want to start afresh, for the sake of the harvest?

There has been a sound across the churches, that God is on the move, yet here we are in another lockdown.  What’s that about?  Think back to the questions Caroline raised from Ephesians, just before lockdown 2 began:  Are we growing in our knowing? Are we making a home fit for the king? Are we enjoying and overflowing with God’s love? Are we becoming more like Christ each day?  As I have been seeking to answer them honestly before God, it’s been uncomfortable.  But those words were underlined again as I listened to Phil Moore (pastor of Everyday Church, London) who shared that he believed this lockdown number 2 is not about activity but about learning to wait on God and to spend time with Him so that we might rediscover our first love, out of which all that God is wanting to do will flow.  So, change is on God’s heart for us as individuals.  

And change is on God’s heart for us as a church.  But this is not a time for planning, it’s a time for preparation – clearing and preparing the ground for God to do a new thing.  Who can make plans right now?  It’s impossible!  But we can respond to God drawing us to Himself and we can encourage one another with the revelation that He brings. Whatever our gatherings look like in the future, whatever activity begins again in the church, God is calling us to start now in the secret place – to lay aside our own agendas and search for his.  I’m excited to see the new things he will sow, and the new life he will grow out of the stump!

Richard

22/11/2020

As we remember…

This week there have been many opportunities for remembrance, including the poignant two minutes’ silences on Sunday and Wednesday.  These few precious minutes give us a window through which to look back to those we have loved and lost through the world wars and more recent conflicts. 

Both my mum and dad were in the RAF during WW2.  My dad was in bomber command and on his 13th raid over Europe in 1942, he was shot down, and spent the rest of the war in German prison camps.  When he returned home, emaciated and exhausted, there was no PTSD counselling, just a few weeks off to see his family, and a new posting to Andover, where he met my mum, who was an accounts clerk there.  They married three years later and for the most part, lived happily ever after. 

Dad could often be persuaded over a meal with the family to talk about some of the funnier sides of life as a POW, like the way they tried to sleep with minimum struts under their thin mattresses, as the rest were used as props for escape tunnels!  But just occasionally, his mind would stray to the darker memories and I would see tears well up in his eyes.  Such pain, but he didn’t dwell there.  He’d take a deep breath, pull himself together and carry on.

My dad didn’t consider himself a Christian, mainly I think because of all the suffering he’d seen, but he was a man of extraordinary character.  He knew how to grieve over loss but count his blessings, he knew how to face difficulties head-on and overcome them, and he was also a great husband, father and granddad – always generous and kind to the family he could not have imagined having in those dark POW days. 

It’s my dad I focus on in those two-minute silences.  What about you?  We all have our own thoughts, our own stories, but the act of remembrance brings us together somehow to honour for a moment those long passed who have made such an important contribution to our lives.

Friday 13th November is National Kindness Day – instituted ten years ago to celebrate and promote good deeds and to unite us together to make the world a better place.  I’m not sure about this one – like so many other so-called National Days, I don’t think it will achieve its lofty aims.  But self-sacrifice and kindness to others are key for us all, especially in times of struggle like these days or those we have been remembering this week.

Such sacrifice and kindness are nowhere better modelled than in Jesus, and kindness is a fruit of the Spirit.  Maybe we could each take a moment to reflect on this, not only remembering those who have sacrificed for us and recalling those random acts of kindness that have come at just the right time, but also asking God for more of this gift in our own lives and what we can do for others who He brings to mind.  In days when meeting together is prohibited, maybe this is a way we can continue to build one another up and to build a community that shares the love and kindness of Christ with those around us.

Bless you all this week,

Caroline

15/11/2020

Be a light to others…

Heading into 28 days of lockdown and thinking about how to encourage us all, I received this:

“As we enter this season of darkness, both in a physical sense with the clocks going back and also in an emotional and perhaps spiritual sense as we move into a second period of lockdown, I am reminded even more powerfully that Jesus is the light of the world.

I was lighting the candles in our pumpkin lanterns this weekend and I realised that the gas lighter I was using had nearly run out of gas and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to light all the candles. But then I realised that I only needed to light one candle, and from this one candle I would be able to light all the others.  This in turn reminded me that it only takes one person to shine the light of Jesus and this can then ‘light up’ others or re-ignite those whose lights have grown dim.  So, I would encourage you that if you feel your light is shining brightly, share it with others who are perhaps struggling at this time or, if you feel your light has grown dim or gone out, draw near to those whose light is shining and allow them to re-ignite you. It is only when we share the light of Christ that we overcome the darkness.”

Thank-you Emma H for this timely encouragement – the Father, in His love, has set us in family and made us one body knowing that we need each other and need to do what Emma has encouraged us to do and together the darkness will be overcome!

Later the same day, Jenny B shared these words that God gave her in a difficult time 32 years ago. As she pointed out Jesus’ words are timeless and the encouragement to come to Jesus is always there.

“Jesus speaks.
I’m here, I’ve not left.
I’m here with ears ready to hear your call.
I’m here with arms that hung on a cross, outstretched now ready to hold you close.
I’m here my presence to comfort and cheer you.
I’m here with eyes that watch over you.
I’m here with a heart that loves you.
I’m here to be “all” to you.
I’m here, I will not leave you.”  

The assurance that Jesus is with us, “with a heart that loves you” – no matter our emotions and thoughts, took me back to Caroline’s talk last Sunday.  She was encouraging us to give time over the 28 lockdown days for “growing in our knowing of Christ and His love”.  Yes, praying the Ephesians 3 prayer for each other and ourselves, but also asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our first love, even in the midst of good activity. 

Three encouragements which could transform us if together we took them to heart.  Who’s up for the journey?


Richard

08/11/2020