The Sunday Sample, 11 June 2017

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Date: Sunday 11th June

Location: Watford and Lower Earley

Special occasion: n/a

I just love the look on this young lad’s face! The astonished joy etched on the face of Enitoni was a sight to behold. He is looking at his candle-strewn birthday cake (just out of shot). We had a good time in Watford in the morning, and likewise in Lower Earley in the afternoon. Here follow a few reflections on both services.

Speakers

Both services featured inexperienced speakers. It added to the atmosphere of the occasions in a very positive way since the congregations were willing the speakers to do well, and the speakers themselves brought fresh perspectives. Leon preached his first sermon (highly recommended viewing/listening – check the Watford church of Christ podcast and YouTube channels). It will not be his last. Michael shared his first communion talk since being restored two years ago. Wale preached his second ever sermon in the UK.

Note to self: don’t be afraid to ask people to speak even if they are inexperienced.

Music Worship

The song services went well in both places. The opening song was preceded by the scripture which inspired the song – which helped connect the spiritual point with our hearts and minds. I would say it helped the focus of the worship. The communion song in Lower Earley was led without a leader in a central position. I sense this helped people reflect on the words more than usual.

Note to self: agree who is leading which song in advance. 

Other Thoughts

Focus for next Sunday

  1. Agree who is leading which song in advance (Bracknell)
  2. Use scripture to help us focus

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. Share ideas with us so we can grow and please God.

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 4 June 2017

Date: Sunday 4th June

Location: Bracknell

Special occasion: themed service – “Elected”

Although the picture on the left is from the morning service in Watford (the kids were magnificent – singing and performing the actions to the song, “Great big God” – “thank you”, Danny), I’m going to focus this review on the Bracknell event because it was a special themed service.

The title was “Elected” as a pun on the forthcoming general election and the scriptures about our spiritual election.

Outline

The service outline is below:

Item Details Who Other
Song Thank you Lord – Voices & Guitar Tidu/Roger Band
Song I Will Rise – Band Tidu Band
Song Hallelujah (Lord we sing ….) – Band Tidu/Roger Band
Welcome & Prayer Watkins
Slideshow Children go to classes
Song Transcend – Voices & Guitar Alex Band
HOPE talk It’s not about governments, but us here in this room Tony
Song Take my Life – Voices & Guitar. While HOPE collection taken up Tidu Voices & Guitar
Introduction Malcolm Explain group work
Group work Together with the person sitting next to you, discuss a time you felt chosen and how it felt (not about God). 2’s or 3’s
Sharing Get a few responses.  Introduce testimonies. Malcolm
Testimony 1 Shevvy
Sharing What did we notice about Shevvy’s testimony? Malcolm
Testimony 2 CJ
Sharing What did we notice about CJ’s testimony?
Communion Describe how God chose/elected us because of Jesus. Take the bread to choose Jesus. Malcolm Holding loaf. Break at end & distribute.
Song Amazing Grace – Voices. Bread and wine passed Obi Voices
Song Here Am I Send Me (Brian Craig version) – Band Tidu Band

Handout

We gave a handout to everyone who attended so they could reflect on what they were hearing, and take something away for further quiet time and discussion material. You can see a copy here: Election Service handout.

Reflections

Several people remarked on the helpfulness of having a theme for the entire service. It helped them to concentrate, focus and dial down deep into the topic. The testimonies were terrific. Very different characters and circumstances clearly illustrating that God chooses all kinds of people. The speakers remembered to include points for the teenagers in the room, which I would hope will have made the messages more relevant for them.

Have you run a specially ‘themed’ service recently? If so, what worked, and what did not? Do you have any recommendations for events such as these?

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

How to pray when you’ve got exams

Exam season is here. GCSE’s, ‘A’-levels, degree finals and more are part of the landscape. A few years ago I almost had a panic attack in an exam and passed by the skin of my teeth. We need all the help we can get. But can prayer make a difference? And if so, how?

We’ll take a look at five strategies that will help you be your best when exam time arrives.

  1. Stop. Put down the textbook, close the laptop and turn off the phone. Pick up the Bible, open the Psalms and turn on your heart. You may not have long to pray, but even 5 minutes can make a huge difference to your state of mind. Deliberate action is needed to enjoy a time of prayer – no matter how short or long. The first step is to stop what you are doing and decide to pray.
  2. Trust. Jesus knows how you are feeling. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV11) But he didn’t have exams! Or did he? “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:” (Matthew 22:35 NIV11) He knows how it feels to be scrutinised under pressure. Make a decision to trust that, as you pray, he understands.
  3. Focus. Do what David did, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 16:8 NIV11) Make a decision to begin your prayer with a focus on God, not on yourself or your challenges. Then you will find, as David did, “.. my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead…” (Psalms 16:9–10 NIV11)
  4. Ask. Go ahead and ask God for whatever you need. Is it energy, alertness, concentration, peace? Whatever it is, know that he is interested and listening. Is it allowed to ask him to help you pass your exam? I don’t see why not. Will he write the paper for you? Probably not. You won’t learn anything that way. But, he is with you. Ask him for what you need.
  5. Thank. In faith, thank God in advance for providing what you need (not always what you want). You can have, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7 NIV11) He has an unlimited supply, and it’s always available.

Take one minute for each of these stages, and you will have a five-minute prayer leading to a more peaceful state of mind. You might pray for longer, but even if not, you will be more conscious of God’s presence, power and love.

“Good luck”, to you as you take your exams. I hope these five strategies will help you do your best – and feel your best.

What have you tried that has made a difference now or in the past? If you’ve tried my suggestions, how did it go? What other ideas can you share with us? Please leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

P.S. If you’d like some prayer coaching, please click the button below and let me know how I can assist you.

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“Why do we take medicine and not just pray for healing?”

I saw this question on Quora….

If religious people pray to God to cure their loved ones of a disease, why do they take medicine? For further clarification, if they really solely believed in God and his powers, and dispute scientists, why take medicine, why not rely on god alone? (I am an atheist looking for an answer from a religious person, not an atheist himself because I know what you will say, thank you!)

Here’s my answer…

It’s a good question. My wife is a medical doctor, and a believer in God. As other have written here, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Think about this – the writer of Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts was a doctor.

“Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” (Colossians 4:14 NIV11)

Luke recorded the miracles of Jesus, Peter, Paul and others, and, as far as we can tell, saw no contradiction between his faith and his medicine. Paul tells Timothy to,

“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:23 NIV11)

In this context wine is to be used as a ‘medicine’. It’s interesting that Paul does not tell Timothy to pray (though he does not rule that out, either). And we know Paul believed in the power of prayer, and healed people himself (Acts 28.8). What are we to make of this?

Why would Christians take advantage of medical science rather than only pray for healing? I can see at least three reasons.

  1. God provides gifts – we are to take advantage of them. His gifts include both the substances of medicine (chemicals etc.) and the skills of medically trained people (nurses, doctors, radiologist, ophthalmologists etc.). It would hardly be an act of faith to disregard the gifts that God has given.
  2. God receives glory when his gifts are used and enjoyed. Much as a parent shares in the glory of the achievements of their children, God is honoured when we enjoy healing through prescribed plant enzymes or the skills of a surgeon.
  3. The healing professional receives joy. The provider of healing can rejoice that their skills are used to the benefit of other people. This is not something exclusive to the medical profession, of course, but there is great satisfaction in using one’s skills to help someone in dire need. Providing relief for pain, hope for a better future or a prolonged life is a wonderfully gratifying experience. Why would we deny people that joy?

There are times to pray for healing, and there are times to take a pill. Indeed, it would seem wise to do both, since God has provided the medicine.

In no way have I addressed all the issues here. I’m interested in other perspectives too. What do you think is the right balance between prayer and medical intervention?

Please leave a comment here and continue the discussion.

Malcolm

P.S. If you’d like some prayer coaching, please click the button below and let me know how I can assist you.

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