22nd March

Week Commencing Sunday 22nd March 2020

Dear Friends,

This is the first of the written communications I will be sending to you while we are being advised to avoid meeting together in order to contain the coronavirus.

Even though we are not physically together. We can still encourage one another in the Lord. We can pray where we are, we can receive God’s Word. We can look out for each other in practical ways. These written communications aim to help you in fulfilling these godly criteria.

The 22nd March is Mothering Sunday.

The following are prayers and thoughts to help you reflect about mothers and our Heavenly Father. Set aside time this Sunday to do so. Of course you can reflect on them individually, but if at all possible I suggest you work though them with members of your own family. It was quite common to have family services at home until recent times. The current climate is a good opportunity to revive this practice:

Here are the words of a hymn written by our own Judith Simmons:

HYMN FOR MOTHERING SUNDAY

 

We thank God that our mothers

Give us the gift of life.

We know they’ll always love us

In happiness or strife.

If we are bad and thoughtless

We always have their care.

And when we’re sad or lonely

They always will be there.

 

We praise God that our mothers

Can make our house a home.

But we forget to thank them

For all that they have done.

For everything they give us

For all the gifts they share.

Our thanks must be more joyous

For all their loving care.

 

We thank you too our Father

For all the care you give.

Just like our loving mothers

You help our lives to live.

And when we come to love you

We know you will be true.

As to our loving mothers,

We can come home to you.

 

(Dedicated to the memory of Phil Marwick. ABC Sunday School Superintendant).

 

You might like to take time to thank God for your own mother. For many that will be giving thanks in remembrance of your mother’s life. Take time to do that now.

 

Here are some prayers to help you if you are a mother, a grandmother or even a great grandmother. If you are none of these, then they can still be used to pray for mothers known to you:

 

Please reflect on Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 

  1. Thank God for families

‘…so that, your children and their children, after them may fear the Lord your God…and so…enjoy long life’ (vs 2)

 

Time and again in the Old Testament, God chooses to deal with families, not individuals. Praise God that family matters for Him. Then thank Him for this particular family and for the life that they share together.

 

Then pray that this parent would enjoy…

 

  1. A love for God

‘…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ (vs 5)

 

It’s God, not our children, who should occupy first position in our hearts. Pray that this parent would resist the temptation to turn their child into an idol. And pray that their love for God would be teaching their child an important but counterintuitive lesson: You’re not the centre of the universe.

 

  1. Focus on God’s commands

‘…These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts’ (vs 5)

 

Pray that this parent would keep God’s commands on their heart and in their head through the day- his call to be loving, patient, selfless, truthful, gentle, self-controlled, forgiving and repentant. Pray that these qualities would make a difference to the way they parent, in all the mundane busyness: the school run, washing up, disciplining, bathtime, sports practice…

 

  1. Time to teach

‘…Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home…’ (vs7)

 

Pray that this parent would appreciate that their greatest responsibility to their child is not securing them a good education, or developing their talents, but teaching them about Jesus. Ask God to help this family to start- or sustain- regular times of reading the Bible and praying together.

 

  1. Whole- life devotion

‘…and when you walk along the road…’ (vs 7)

Pray that this parent would find creative ways to bring Jesus into all aspects of family life. It can be easy to give the impression that God is only for Sunday mornings: but pray that this parent would display the truth that all of life belongs to God, and every moment can be used to enjoy and worship him.

 

(From ‘Five things to pray for the people you love’ Rachel Jones).

 

 

Thought from God’s Word. Please read Matthew 7:7-11.

 

We focus here specifically that God is our Heavenly Father (9-11)._

Jesus says: “Which of you if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Jesus has spoken of the certainty of answer to prayer. To remove all doubt and to show us the certainty of these promises, Jesus appeals to what everyone have seen and most have experienced.

We have all been children. Children ask their fathers for things. They do this because they know their father loves them. And because of that special relationship the father has with his son or daughter, the father wants to show his child generosity.

Now Jesus makes the point that even though we are all evil (11) - even the best of us are sinners, inherently selfish by nature- we still love our children and give them good gifts. We would not knowingly give them anything to harm them. Now if this is true of our earthly parents, how much more, says Jesus, will our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him. If human parents who are evil know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will our Heavenly Father- who is not evil but wholly good- give good things to those who ask Him. It’s absurd to imagine that God would give us anything harmful when we consider that our own parents would give us good gifts.

Further, our Heavenly Father will only give us good gifts.

This makes us confident in seeking Him, knowing He will only give us good gifts. It would be a terrible thing if God always gave us what we asked for, as we would never be able to pray with confidence. We would be afraid of making a terrible mistake.

The Greeks had their stories about the gods who answered men’s prayers, but the answer was an answer with a barb in it, a double edged gift. Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Tithonus, a mortal youth, so the Greek story ran. Zeus, the king of the gods, offered her any gift that she might choose from her mortal lover. Aurora very naturally chose that Tithonus might live for ever. But she had not asked that Tithonus might remain forever young; and so Tithonus grew older and older and older and could never die and the gift became a curse.

How different is our Heavenly Father. Good fathers always correct their children’s mistakes. Spurgeon once said “Our prayers go to heaven in a revised version” That’s why Martin Lloyd Jones wrote:

“I thank God that He is not prepared to do anything that I may chance to ask Him, and I say that as the result of my own past experience. In my past life I, like all others, have often asked god for things, and have asked God to do things, which at that time I wanted very much and which I believed were the very best things for me. But now, standing at this particular juncture in my life and looking back, I say that I am profoundly grateful to God that He did things for which I asked, and that He shut certain doors in my face. At the time I did not understand, but I know now, and am grateful to God for it. So I thank God that this is not a universal promise, and that God is not going to grant me my every desire and request. God has a much better way for us...”

We are now beginning to think about what we best ask for in prayer. It’s interesting that in Luke’s Gospel these same words from our passage are used, but Jesus substitutes the phrase “good gifts” with the Holy Spirit. So Luke 11:13 reads “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”

This teaches us that the chief and best of the gifts we should ask for is the Holy Spirit. And when we think about the best gift a good and wise father can give his child, it is to give him his own spirit. To reproduce his own character. So too it is impossible to think of a greater gift our Heavenly Father can give to us than that of giving us His own Spirit so He might reproduce His own nature in us.

It’s by the Holy Spirit that we are made more like God’s only Son: the Lord Jesus, in character. It is by the Holy Spirit that we enjoy fellowship with the Father and the Son.. Ever since Pentecost believers have known the living God personally by the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, then, is the Spirit of Sonship: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father” The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift we can ask for. Yes, we as Christians have already received the Spirit, but we are to go on being “filled with the Spirit”. We need to ask and seek and knock for the gifts and fruit the Spirit wants to bestow on us. We need to pray that He will take complete control of us and that He will continually guide us

We ask for the Holy Spirit. He is the chief of gifts. But really all good gifts are found in Him.

This becomes clearer when we consider the titles given to the Holy Spirit. Each title speaks of a special gift He gives us to meet particular needs:

So He is the Spirit of grace, who imparts to us all of the grace there is in Jesus.

He is the Spirit of faith. He teaches us to begin, go on, and increase in believing. To trust God and so walk by faith rather than sight.

He is the Spirit of adoption and assurance. Witnessing that we are God’s children

He is the Spirit of truth who leads us to accept the Scriptures, spurs us to put our trust in His promises and pray accordingly

He is the Spirit of prayer, through whom we speak with the Father, and who helps us when we do not know how to pray.

He is the Spirit of judgment who searches our hearts and convicts us of sin.

He is the Spirit of holiness who communicates the Father’s holy presence within us

He is the Spirit of power who makes us witness boldly

He is the Spirit of glory who is the guarantee of our future inheritance and prepares us for the glory to come

These are the gifts we should be praying for from our Heavenly Father these meet our deepest needs- but they are all found in the one gift- the gift of the Holy Spirit. We must ask our Father that He fill us with His Spirit, for with Him come all these blessings.

 

Practicalities

  • Please pray for the Deacons and me as we meet together this Monday to discuss further, and to pray to our Heavenly Father for wisdom, about the best way forward for ABC while we are unable to meet as a church in person.
  • The Deacons and I will be keeping in contact with members and attenders by phone and offering prayer for you over the phone.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact your pastoral Deacon or myself should you be unable to fulfil a practical need such as shopping or collecting a prescription. We will do our best to help you in these circumstances.
  • Do think about phoning others in the fellowship who might value conversation when they might otherwise have limited or no other human contact and feel lonely.
  • Should you feel lonely or frightened do call me or your pastoral Deacon and we will pray for you. Reflect on the thought from God’s Word for this Sunday, and make your requests to your Heavenly Father who loves you.
  • We are not having any of our midweek meetings, so on Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm I would suggest you set aside time to pray further. Pray using March’s newsletter for individuals in need listed there and for our missionaries. Pray also that the coronavirus will be arrested soon, for the fearful, for medical staff and for Government leaders.

 

 

Final Prayer

O God

Sometimes I can’t help feeling

   that I am one of those people Jesus meant

   when he talked about

   those who have little faith.

I’m afraid of what might happen,

and I haven’t the faith that can face the future

without a tremor.

Doubts get into my mind and heart,

and I sometimes wonder

if you do really care for me.

I suppose that, when illness comes,

far more people than I wonder

why this should have happened to them.

Sometimes I wonder if you can possibly hear my prayers.

There are so many people praying to you all at the one time.

And yet I know that

I wouldn’t be alive at all, and

I couldn’t have faced life at all

by myself.

And after all I wouldn’t be talking to you now

unless I had some faith.

Give me the perfect and serene confidence

which can lean back and say:

Into your hands I commit my spirit,

for life and for death and for life to come.

 

Help me to remember the prayer that at least I can pray:

I believe: help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

Other refuge have I none;

Hangs my helpless soul on thee;

Leave, ah! Leave me not alone;

Still support and comfort me.

 

(Prayers for help and healing. William Barclay).

 

                                                                                                                                            David 20/3/20