Allan Bartlam | Matthew 5:14-16 

But... isn't Jesus the light of the world? It's a privilege that he gives that title and responsibility to us also, says Allan, but often we feel the pressure of our weakness and failure and so our light is never seen in this dark world. Suppose we were honest about our struggles and showed those around us the forgiveness and hope that Jesus brings? Allan has some practical ideas for doing this.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

'You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.'

Chris Chalmers | Isaiah 49:1-6 

On the first Sunday in Advent, Chris shows us how we can make a difference that will outlast the season - but we have to work out the details in our own lives. We had a chance to do just that as we responded in different ways after Chris spoke in our All-In service.

“And now,” God says,
this God who took me in hand
from the moment of birth to be his servant,
To bring Jacob back home to him,
to set a reunion for Israel -
What an honour for me in God's eyes!
That God should be my strength!
He says, “But that's not a big enough job for my servant -
just to recover the tribes of Jacob,
merely to round up the strays of Israel.
I'm setting you up as a light for the nations
so that my salvation becomes global!”
- The Message version

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Two lights: Can you see the difference?

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Some lights are brighter than others, but we all shine together

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Questions for the Write zone: how will you respond?

November 24, 2019

Solomon

Peter Frere | 1 Kings 3:1-15, 1 Kings 11:1-12 

When God offered him anything he wanted, Solomon asked for - and was given - his legendary wisdom. Under his reign Israel achieved its greatest wealth and power, and Solomon fulfilled the task of building the temple. And yet... in just one generation the kingdom broke apart. In the end, says Peter, it took several centuries more for God's true kingdom to be established - a kingdom built not on power and wealth but on sacrifice and humility.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

Solomon answered, '... Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?' The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, 'Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.'

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter... As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

November 17, 2019

Lessons for life: Saul

Allan Bartlam | 1 Samuel 8:1-9, 1 Samuel 10:9-11, 1 Samuel 10:17-27 

It all started so well: Saul had everything he needed to serve as Israel's first king, but he made some serious mistakes along the way which led to disaster for him and the nation. Allan traces Saul's path from hero to zero and challenges us to take care of our own lives.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, 'You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have. But when they said, 'Give us a king to lead us,' this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: 'Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.'

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.

They ran and brought [Saul] out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, 'Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.' Then the people shouted, 'Long live the king!'

November 10, 2019

Finding freedom and peace

Bobbie Frere | 1 Peter 3:8-15a | Psalm 34:12-16 

We use words like "freedom" and "peace" a lot on Remembrance Sunday, and we are grateful for the absence of tyranny and war, at least in Britain and many other countries. Yet, Bobbie says, true freedom and peace in our lives mean so much more than that. There's a dangerous weapon that we all possess than can be turned to bring good to ourselves and everyone. 

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

November 3, 2019

Deborah

Chris Chalmers | Judges 4:1-10 | Ephesians 1:15-19 

Leaders are expected to solve problems, and Deborah faced an especially tough one: her nation was being oppressed by an army that possessed iron chariots. But while the enemy had an advantage in technology, she, as a prophet, had God's voice to guide her and lead her people to victory. When we are confident of our place before God, says Chris, we are equipped to carry out any task to which he calls us.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor... they cried to the Lord for help. Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

October 27, 2019

Samson

John Lanchbury | Judges 13-16 

Once again the people of Israel find themselves oppressed, and once again God sends them a deliverer. This time it's a man of volcanic temper and superhuman strength whose deeds are very much in the "don't try this at home" category. Samson stirred up trouble and ultimately destroyed himself, yet for all his many weaknesses, God used him to fulfil his purposes. John talks us through Samson's dramatic life story and finds out what we can learn.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years... The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

For further reading on Samuel's life and the issues it raises John recommended this book: There are no strong people by Jeff Lucas.

October 20, 2019

Gideon

Bobbie Frere | Judges 6:1-16 

After a break last Sunday to cheer on the heroes running in the celebration of the Birmingham Half-Marathon, we're back with our series looking at some of the Bible characters who can teach us "Lessons for life". Like so many long-distance runners these "heroes" encountered adverse conditions, uphill stretches and times when they thought that they would never make it. None faced more overwhelming odds than Gideon, plucked from obscurity to free his nation from a massive army of occupation. How did he face the challenge? As Bobbie explains, he didn't get everything right - yet God still fulfilled his promise. 

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'

'Pardon me, my lord,' Gideon replied, 'but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, "Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?" But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.'

October 6, 2019

Guard the gospel

Chris Turner | 2 Timothy 1:1-14 

Unusually, this recording comes from our evening service. Our All-In morning service told the story of Joshua through drama, which doesn't really work as a podcast (sometimes you just have to be there), but in this talk Chris focuses on another leader who faced a challenge. Like Joshua, Timothy needed to be strong and courageous, and he also had God's infinite resources to call on. Chris talks us through Paul's message of encouragement to Timothy which applies to us too.

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

September 29, 2019

Rahab

John Lanchbury | Joshua 2:1-21 

Of all the people who could be counted as Bible heroes, Rahab was one of the least likely: a prostitute living in a city that was about to be invaded and destroyed by the huge Israelite army camped across the River Jordan. She probably didn't know much about the God of Israel, yet she hid the two men who had come to spy out the land and extracted from them a promise that she and her family would be saved. She made a life-changing decision, says John, one that challenges our view of who can and cannot become part of the people of God.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

Before the spies lay down for the night, [Rahab] went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you... please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them - and that you will save us from death.’

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