Category: Friendly Faith


Celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost in all the main traditions of the Christian Church

Two texts:

Matthew 28:18-20

“Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

2 Corinthians 13:14

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Briefly stated:  We believe in ONE God, who reveals Himself, fully and equally, in three PERSONS: God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit.

Personally I find this ‘diagram’ helpful:

That said, however, I do not regard Trinity as a matter for cold analysis, or idle speculation – Trinity defies explanation, is an unfathomable Mystery, and yet is an invitation into relationship. In this I find myself in agreement with Eugene Peterson as he writes: “Trinity insists that God is not an idea or a force or a private experience, but personal and known only in personal response and engagement” – (Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places)

Both the liturgy and hymnology of the Church, as developed over the centuries, has provided a vast resource both for private & public devotion. Here’s one verse of a truly magnificent hymn which will be familiar to many:

Holy, holy, holy
Lord, God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee

Holy, holy, holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons blessed Trinity

Not in the same league as the above hymn, here’s a ‘poem’ I wrote in honour of the Trinity:

Perfect Father

Love ineffable

Gracious giver

Genius God

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Son, beloved

Love’s expression

Broken body

Dying God

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Spirit,  holy

Love’s proceeding

Gentle dove

Breathing God

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Three in One

Love enfolding

ALL who come.

Accepting God

When I published this on Ready Writer, I added: “Unashamedly Trinitarian, I am deeply grateful for the remarkable insights contained in William P. Young’s allegorical work: “The Shack” – which is available in both book or DVD format, and which I’m happy to recommend.

A few years ago I also wrote a ditty (song) which again reflects on my very limited understanding of Trinity:

You are my Source

You are my Centre

You are my Home

Where I belong

 

So, may I know You

And may I grow like You

Lord may I make You known

Wherever I go

The Father is Source, the Son is Centre, the Spirit is Home —  and to know Him, to grow like Him and to make him known is my life’s vision and purpose.

So, a concluding Prayer, from Universalis, directed to our God, Who is Three in One and One in Three

God of mercy,

you revealed the great mystery of your Godhead to men

when you sent into the world

the Word who is Truth

and the Spirit who makes us holy.

Help us to believe in you and worship you,

as the true faith teaches:

three Persons, eternal in glory,

one God, infinite in majesty.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

AMEN

 

 

 

 

 

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Journey

I’ve been a Christ-follower since my teens, in the mid-1960s, and marvel at the vast range of hymns and spiritual songs out there, pertinent to all kinds of moods and seasons. Just occasionally in recent years I’ve come across a ‘belter’ that I’ve never heard before … this is one such. Its lyrics are special … yes, one of those you wished you’d written yourself !! So it’s with great enthusiasm that I commend Joy Dine’s brilliant hymn to you. In a ‘meter’ which fits with many ‘well-known’ tunes, I find “Ode to Joy” as appropriate as any – do enjoy and let it speak for itself.

(My own photo: a section of Hadrian’s Wall, northern England – June 2012)

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God who sets us on a journey
to discover, dream and grow,
lead us as you led your people
in the desert long ago;
journey inward, journey outward,
stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
love for God and self and neighbour
marks the way that Christ defined.

Exploration brings new insights,
changes, choices we must face;
give us wisdom in deciding,
mindful always of your grace;
should we stumble, lose our bearings,
find it hard to know what’s right,
we regain our true direction
focused on the Jesus light.

End our longing for the old days,
grant the vision that we lack –
once we’ve started on this journey
there can be no turning back;
let us travel light, discarding
excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential,
choosing treasure that will last.

When we set up camp and settle
to avoid love’s risk and pain,
you disturb complacent comfort,
pull the tent pegs up again;
keep us travelling in the knowledge
you are always at our side;
give us courage for the journey,
Christ our goal and Christ our guide.

 Joy Dine (1937 – 2001)

I read an anonymous article recently and found it really refreshing. It made me reflect once more on the vital issue of personal integrity, and resulted in the following ‘pointers’ – without doubt each is worthy of much fuller treatment and meditation, but I hope you will find inspiration here, and fill in the many gaps:

  1. Valuing other people’s time

People of integrity value their own time and consequently value the time of other people.  If you spend time with them, it is highly likely they will thank you for that as well.

  1. Giving credit where it is due

They do not take credit for things they did not do. They will always credit those who deserve it.

  1. Committing to authenticity and honesty

You won’t catch them in a lie or being fake. They are honest people that feel no need to lie, as it is important for them to get where they need to get in life honestly.

  1. Refusing to take advantage of others

They are not the kind of people who will take advantage of someone else. They love to build people up and help them get where they need to be. Taking too much from someone else will never be an issue with someone who has a lot of integrity.

  1. Shunning arguments over disagreements

They will talk through things in a civil manner, or not talk at all. You cannot and will not force this person into arguing over something completely ridiculous.

  1. Giving other people the benefit of the doubt

They try to look for the good in everyone, which can make them extremely vulnerable

  1. Sensing when something is bothering someone

They have an intuition that lets them know when something is going on. If someone is down in the dumps they will notice. Chances are they will actually do what they can to cheer you up.

  1. Believing in others

They accept your word as truth until it is disproved. That being said, they do not take lying well, and once you lie to them, they will be most hesitant in taking your word again.

  1. Apologizing quickly when at fault

If they have done something wrong they will come to you and apologize. This is just how they are. They own up to their mistakes and try to make things right.

  1. Walking in humility

They do not quite know their own worth. While they are very important and do so much good they don’t quite see it.

11. Doing good when/where they can

They are always helping other people. They love to know that they have improved someone’s life. It gives their lives meaning.

  1. Showing kindness to those who need it

Giving kindness can go a long way. When someone looks like they need a little pick-me-up these people deliver. They can brighten up almost anyone’s day.

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One final thought … if you are a person of integrity, thank you for being who you are, and thank you for all that you do. You really do make a difference in society, so please keep up the good work.

 

The Apostle Paul was a prolific writer. We have 13/14 of his letters included in our New Testament, with a clear endorsement from another apostle regarding their divine inspiration. Peter writes: “His (Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures …

We are permitted glimpses of Paul’s ‘modus operandi’ in many personal passages in these writings, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 we find extremely pertinent references to ‘parenting’ – vs 7 & 10, 11

“…We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children …. you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God…”

With that as a backdrop, I’d like to share something of our personal journey.

Meeting my wife, Sue, 44+ years ago, as students at Bible College, we were married 2 years later and moved to Immingham to serve the Lord. We were blessed with two children: Miriam born in 1977 and Mark, born 14 months later – both arrived safely at the Croft Baker Maternity Hospital in Cleethorpes – and so our adventures in parenting began over 41 years ago – what a roller-coaster. Much of it was a matter of ‘trial and error’ – our error was their trial !

Years later Mark met and married Michelle – a young lady whose family attended our church during our ministry season in Brigg. In the first 5 years of their marriage they produced 4 grandsons. The oldest, Daniel is 12 at the time of writing. So, added to our parenting experiences we’ve had 12 more years learning the joys of being grand-parents.

Additionally, we spent all of our married life caring for others in a professional capacity – Sue as health-care professional and I as a ‘church minister’, and even since leaving paid ministry our commitment to parenting has continued. We’re delighted to have been ‘adopted’ by a Nigerian daughter, and more recently, by a Ghanaian son, who pastors a growing church in the vicinity.

However, 6 months ago, one Thursday in early September 2017 our journey took an unexpected twist. Sue attended the Cancer Support Group which she’d helped to initiate, and which meets weekly at our local Library. For some weeks she’d been accompanying a lady through her personal cancer trauma. On this occasion, the lady, who happens to be a foster parent shared that her greatest grief during the whole period, was the temporary removal of her foster children, deemed necessary to allow her to receive vital treatment. After offloading her burden, she said to Sue, “You would make a great foster parent – you are such a good and caring listener”. On her journey home, Sue pondered these words & they took hold of her. Yet she had serious doubts about my agreement with such a course of action.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch that very morning, and for an inexplicable reason, I read a leaflet that I’d picked up at a Church Celebration event some 2 years previously. It had laid around the lounge, unread, all that time. Its title was:

“Open your heart, Open your home. Foster.”

 I was very taken aback when the thought crossed my mind: “We could do this”, and, of course, with hindsight, I was being set up for Sue’s return ! You may imagine the conversation which followed, in which we decided to ‘try the door’.

Then a quick phone call, kicked off a lengthy process, which included:

  •   Pre-assessment (with a social worker, who is a church goer, and is related to someone who shares our surname, Depledge)
  •   Training – over 3 days (18 hours) – with 5 other couples, 2 of which are church-goers
  •   The main assessment, with weekly visits from a different social worker – each lasting 1-2 hours, with loads of form-filling,  questions, discussions, voice-recordings – no stone left unturned.
  •   Fire Safety visit – 3 burly firemen, complete with machine looking at our bungalow & advising on escape plans
  •   Medicals with our GP – very thorough (and re-assuring) lasting an hour each
  •   Gathering references – some face to face, others by phone – family, friends and former employers
  •   A Panel Interview – still to be arranged, as I write, which will give its approval – hopefully !
  •   If/when approved we may well have our first foster-child by the end of June 2018

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I’ve shared this because we’d appreciate your thoughts/prayers as this exciting, and challenging journey in ‘parenting’ continues.

THANK YOU !

Carrying

70 years is a vast amount of time … if you’re aged 70 or above I honour and congratulate you.

For 70 years God’s ancient people endured ignominious captivity in Babylon, before being permitted to return to their homeland. Many of those who returned were born in captivity, had never seen ‘the land of promise’, and were entirely dependent on childhood stories, which fired their imagination and longing for the ‘home’ they’d never known.

Psalm 126 is a short piece describing the emotions of that return from captivity, the adversity faced on arrival, and the hope brought to them by prophetic input.

Here we may discover something of our own journey towards God … often experienced in three repeating stages/cycles:-

 1 – HAPPINESS – described in vs 1-3 – A Dreaming

Whenever God works to bring about release to captives there is a sense of joy. Sometimes it seems too good to be true, almost like we’re in a dream world. For many, the initial experience of saving grace, of forgiveness, of sheer relief, of peace within our heart leaves us pinching ourselves to check it’s real and we’re not sleeping. Very often it can be the recognition by others, of what God has done, that brings it home to us. They say, “the Lord has done great things for them” and we respond, “Oh yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoice”

 2 – HARDSHIP – described in 4-6 – A Drudgery

The euphoria of ‘deliverance’ is more often than not tempered by discovering the true state of things (our hearts, our circumstances, for example) and may produce severe anxiety over the future.  Lyrics of a ‘Verve’ song are quite pertinent:  “It’s a BITTER-SWEET symphony, this life”.

The returning captives found:

  • Uncultivated Land – hard, dry and barren
  • Unpromising Conditions – unseasonable weather and a wilderness environment
  • Unwelcoming Neighbours – who were not exactly pleased to see their return

NONE of this was conducive for sowing seeds. There was the strong likelihood of crop failure – and a farmer’s precious seed (which is his future) all being wasted. He sowed with tears, with apprehension, with uncertainty … BUT

https://i1.wp.com/www.rutahsa.com/sheaves.jpg

3 – HARVEST – described in 6 – A Doubtless

The contrasting ‘moods’ of previous verses take another twist on this winding journey in our final verse, with the ‘prophetic’ use of a powerful word: “DOUBTLESS” – the original Hebrew text suggests this word which is beautifully picked up by the translators of our Authorized Version. What fresh hope this word births – what new confidence it inspires – what a firm foundation for faith it offers – what outstanding encouragement – “DOUBTLESS”.

How descriptive of our journey

As people of God, ours is a faith journey within a community of faith – facing our hardships with perseverance, while trusting the Living Word and the Spirit of God, we work hard, we sow our seeds, we weep over the hardness of our own hearts, and of others, we commit ourselves to God, casting ourselves on His unfailing love. As the “DOUBTLESS” kicks in, we may grow in the certainty that our ‘toil’ is not in vain, and  that we will reach the moment of HARVEST. Having carried seeds, we will carry sheaves, too.

The fruit will be gathered in because of the favour of God, as clearly expressed in another Hebrew Psalm: “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.  You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. ” Psalm 65:9-13

What remarkable evidence of God’s providential care for the natural creation – watering, enriching, filling, drenching, leveling, softening, blessing and crowning. This being so, how much more does He care for us, described as His new creation in Christ.

REMEMBER THIS: God has not brought you out of captivity in order to fail, but in order to bless you and cause you to increase – DOUBTLESS.

So doubt less.

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FOOTNOTE: These are notes of a ‘sermon’ I preached at King’s Baptist Church, Cleethorpes – on Sunday 28th January 2018