Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Praise God!

Some 50 people joined in our fifth quarterly Songs of Praise, last Sunday evening. We not only had the chance to sing some magnificent songs and hymns, but we learned more of each other as people explained their reasons for choosing them.

Some hymns brought memories of how people first came to faith. Some brought memories of how God had helped through periods of particular problems or suffering. Others were just felt to express people’s faith clearly, while yet others were associated with happy memories.

We were reminded that the Christian message is timeless as we sang songs ranging from Charles Wesley's "Jesus! the name high over all" of 1749 to Stuart Townend's "in Christ alone" of 2001.

People left feeling that they had come to know God and each other better. We hope to have another Songs of Praise in three months. So watch out for the advertising and come and join us!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What did you promise? St Paul's Lent Course

At our baptism, very serious promises and statements of belief were made. If we were a baby, they were made on our behalf by our parents and godparents and as we grew up we had the opportunity to accept them for ourselves. If we were adults, we made them for ourselves, but that may have been many years ago. These were the promises (as in the present service):
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.

It is easy to ignore these promises and many take them very lightly. But they are very serious promises by which we commit ourselves to God. In France, serious thinking atheists have looked at their serious implication and have demanded the right to be unbaptised! We do not wish to do that! But we do want to take them seriously.

This year, we shall be holding an 'in house' course based on our baptism promises. Each week we shall be looking at one of the promises. We will meet in the Barnabas Centre, on Wednesdays, from 2.0-3.30pm in the afternoon or at 7.30-9.0pm in the evening.

During our service on Easter morning there will then be the chance for us all to renew our baptism promises together. This is a great chance to study our faith together. Do come along.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Prayer is an important part of the Christian faith. I offered a challenge at the beginning of the year to make 2012 a 'Year of Prayer' where we deepen our prayer life and experiment with new ways of praying. After my sermon on 5th February about prayer some people have asked about books on prayer. Below are a few recommendations from the hundreds of books available.

Books on Prayer

'How to Pray: A practical handbook' by John Pritchard (SPCK)
For those starting out in prayer and those who want to deepen or refresh their prayer life. An excellent book with lots of practical suggestions for different styles and traditions of prayer.

'Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing down to be with God' by Bill Hybels (IVP)
For those who know more about prayer than they have time to put into practise. Recognising the importance of prayer and making time for it.

'Prayer: Does it make any Difference?' by Philip Yancey (Hodder)
Not afraid to ask the big questions and share from his own experience Yancy writes honestly and thinks deeply.

'God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer' by Pete Greig (Survivor)
The fonder of the 24/7 prayer movement writes honestly about unanswered prayer with reference to his wife's suffering.

'Personality & Prayer: finding the prayer style that suits you' by Ruth Fowke (CWR)
Linked to the Myers-Briggs personality types a great resource for exploring prayer in a way that suits you, recognising that one size does not fit all.

Bible Study Guides on Prayer

'The Lord's Prayer' by Douglas Connelly. Lifebuilder Bible Study (Scripture Union)
8 sessions working through the Lord's prayer in stages and using other passages of scripture to help you go deeper into Jesus' teaching.

'Great Prayers of the Bible: Applying then to our lives today' by Jennifer Oldroyd. Cover to Cover Bible Study (CWR)
7 sessions looking at the prayers of different characters in the Bible.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Something different for Lent – a Carbon Fast

In Lent, we remember the discipline that Jesus knew as he spent 40 days in the desert resisting the temptation of the evil one – the devil. As a result, many people try to improve their self-discipline by giving something up during Lent. This is usually a luxury like chocolate or alcohol.

But at St Paul's this year we are trying something different. We are supporting TEAR Fund’s "Carbon Fast." TEAR fund’s main work is as a Christian Relief and Development Agency. But this year they are recommending that we try to do something to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and thus reduce the rise in CO2 emissions.

At St Paul's we will be recommending following the TEAR Fund Lent programme which will give members something different to do each day that will reduce our dependency on carbon. Hopefully this will not only be good for our self-discipline but also make us aware of the crisis that the world faces, as carbon emissions rise, and in some small way help to reduce them.

Monday, 6 February 2012

And Down Came the Snow!

Like many places in Britain, we awoke on Sunday morning, 5 February 2012, to find St Paul's under a 10cm blanket of snow. Snow means such different things to different people. For the elderly it means great difficulty in getting out – and certainly getting to church. For those going on a journey it means the disruption of travel plans. For birds it means that they cannot get at their food sources. But for children it means a playground like no other. I have great memories of family outings with sledges to Thurnby, Gumley or Old John.

But in the Bible Snow is symbolic of supreme purity – what our lives can become with God's help – “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

Once the sunlight comes out, nothing is brighter than snow – mountaineers can even suffer from snow blindness. In the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation, God himself is described as bright like snow.

As the brilliant snow turns to a dirty slush, may we remember what God really wants us to be like.