January 12, 2020

Elijah

Chris Chalmers | 1 Kings 18:1-39, Mark 8:27-30 

The word "legend" is overused these days but Elijah really was a key figure in God's story, inspiring hope even in Jesus' time. Chris tells the story of Elijah's confrontation with one of Israel's worst kings and encourages us to find out where we fit in to God's story today.

Discussion questions can be downloaded here.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.' Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 

Bobbie Frere | Matthew 2:1-12 

In a dramatised account we meet not just the Magi but some of the other people involved in their story. How did each of them react to the news that a new King of the Jews had been born? First Peter, then Bobbie, encourages us to seek and worship the newborn King.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'

December 25, 2019

Jesus, the light of the world

Bobbie Frere | John 1.1-14 

At Christmas we especially celebrate Jesus coming into the world, but where can he be found today? As we live in a society that largely excludes Jesus from his own birth celebration, Bobbie challenges us to find, follow and reflect the true light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

December 22, 2019

Light and darkness

Jenny Tomlinson | 1 John 1:5-7 

Darkness is real: the place where we try to hide things from ourselves and others, where we shy away from hard choices, where we let our human failings take control. Yet, says Jenny, the true light not only overcomes the darkness but also transforms the things it reveals - and that light is God himself. Here is both a challenge and an encouragement to reflect that light in the world.

We were pleased to welcome Jenny as our guest. In her role as Archdeacon of Birmingham Jenny has an important role in the process of appointing a new vicar for Christ Church and this was a great opportunity to build on that relationship.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

December 15, 2019

Led by the light

Chris Turner | Psalm 78:9-16 

In the days of the Exodus the people of Israel had a very clear indication of the way that they should go. If they had chosen a route through the desert themselves, it would have been very different from the one they followed - and they would never have made it. Chris gives some modern day examples of how God still leads his people and teaches us to trust him.

He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.

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.

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