A Conversation with My Lord

dvickersby David Vickers

I sit with my Lord in the quiet of the new morning. He speaks to me in a whisper.

I read His word and hear His voice.

I sit at my open garden window and watch the Sun rise and know the Son is risen.

I play music on my radio and my solitude is broken by the birds who come to listen and give their own recital.

I pray for my family and am joined by a family of squirrels sitting on my garden fence.

I watch the life of the river below and He speaks of the living water.

I glimpse a kingfisher diving for his breakfast and think of my King who guides us fishers of men.

I see regularly changing seasons and thank my Lord that He provides so that I don’t go hungry.

I wonder what I will wear today and look at the ways that the beautiful flowers and trees are dressed.

If I begin to lose hope, I trust His promises. He paints a rainbow in the sky.

He paints pictures in clouds, hanging in the gallery of my sky.

When I need encouragement of human contact, He asks a friend to call me.

When I am in pain, He reminds me of the pain He endured for me, and mine seems little.

When I cry one tear, He rains with me.

When I laugh I imagine His chuckle.

When I work, He reminds me of the ants and bees.

When I need guidance, He is my Way.

When I wonder at the night sky, He winks at me.

When I sleep, He doesn’t. He watches over me.

When I dream, He is there too, helping me to make sense of this day and the next..

When I speak, He listens. When He speaks, I listen.

When I wake, we start a new conversation.

Spiritual Re-fuelling

refuel_petrol_stations_gas_pump_petrol_gas_auto_fuel_diesel-1289665[1]In recent months we’ve heard a lot about sharing the good news with our friends, family etc. After all, Christmas (usually) gives us plenty of opportunities to do this and it’s why we’re here – to continue Christ’s work of building the Kingdom. But I wonder how many times we don’t
work to build the Kingdom because we’re either too tired or too busy?

It’s interesting that in this passage, “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed”. How many times do we sit in solitude at the start of the day and pray?

The previous day had been very busy for Jesus, meeting many, many people who’d been brought to Him for healing. He could easily have woken up next morning and thought “I’ve got SO much to do today – new towns to preach in, more sickness to heal, more demons to destroy”, gathered His disciples and got on His travels but – no, He took time out to spend time alone with His Father; time to spiritually re-fuel. We too need a place and time to escape, to get away from the noise, even from family and friends, and spend a little time alone
with God.

It wasn’t easy for Jesus to live in this world but He wasn’t overwhelmed by the things around Him because He was able to keep the picture in focus. He would pull back from the world in order to see it more clearly and perhaps we need to do this also, especially in these very difficult times where we can become overwhelmed by what we’re going through. Jesus saw the needs of those around Him more clearly than anyone and served it more effectively because He had mastered the art of escaping from it, and being spiritually re-fuelled.

If you feel as though your tank’s empty; that you’re trying to run on “low” – take time out to be spiritually re-fuelled – today!

“Can you spare any change please?”

Although we’ve been having our shopping delivered, last week we had to pop to our local Tesco. There’s often a man stood outside asking for “any spare change please”. He’s very quiet, stands very still, and almost whispers his request – very different to others down there who can get quite rude when you say “sorry”. I’ve felt drawn to speak to him for a few weeks now, having a feeling that God’s got something planned, but not done so. On this occasion,

I felt it was the right time and so told him I had no cash but asked if there was anything I could buy him. His face lit up and he said , “thank you SO much, that’s really kind, could you get me a bottle of cola please?” – and I did. When I gave it him he was so very please. I asked his name and he said it was Peter. I don’t know Peter’s background, or why he’s asking for money but I do know that God’s drawn me to him for a reason. I’ve not seen him since but I now have something to work on.

My sermon for our on-line service last week was about God’s power and authority demonstrated in Jesus. I wonder, using a rating of 1 – 10, how much power and authority does God have in your life? On this occasion Jesus delivered a man from being tormented by an evil spirit but, as many of us know, he made the blind see; the lame, walk; the mute, speak; and healed many, many diseases and sickness. This wasn’t just because he was a good teacher, healer etc – it was because He did these things with the power and authority that He received from His Father. It’s exactly the same power and authority that He demonstrates in the lives of men, women and children today. Many of us in the Rivers Team can testify to what Jesus has done/is doing in our life today. We all like to think we have control of our lives don’t we? but, actually, during times such as we’re living in at the moment where we can’t visit friends and family; visit someone in hospital; have our own medical needs met; cant even shop properly etc etc, it’s bound to make us feel as though we have no control. In my sermon, I asked people to think about a question, “what difference might the power and authority of God make in my life?” and, “what difference might it make in my friends life?, my neighbours life? my family’s life?” I can’t answer these questions for you but perhaps you’d consider thinking about them yourself – I have – and I can’t help but wondering what difference the power and authority of God might make in Peter’s life.

Denise

My Trip Out

Well what exciting news!! I had a telephone call from the NHS Call Centre on Friday to tell me I was able to have a vaccine against Covid 19. After a couple of questions, confirming I was the right person to have this injection, I had a choice of where I would go. The appointment was for Saturday morning, (next day). How thrilling, I was being given the ‘so longed for’ vaccine.

Of course, this was excellent news, so I phoned around family and friends letting them know my good news. When I phoned Anthea Underhill, we found out our appointments were at the same Centre and only two minutes apart, so we travelled together.

Slightly nervous, we were greeted at the gateway, by a gentleman setting out the procedure of where we should park the car and where we should then go. We were met at the main door by a friendly lady, making sure we had appointments and all details were correct and she then made sure we used the sanitiser. We were then ushered into the “main hall”. People couldn’t have been more helpful. Each time a person moved, their vacated seat was thoroughly cleaned. The whole set up was brilliant, methodically organised and ministered by very caring staff and volunteers, with a clear warning that we must carry on protecting ourselves, sanitising hands, wearing masks and following the rules.

Who would have thought having an injection would prove so ‘newsworthy’.

God bless, take care and we will soon be meeting together as The Rivers Team.

Linda Read

The Rivers Team Guide to Writing Your Faith Story.

Thumbnail - LiveLent 2021Through Lent we will be following the Church of England series ‘God’s story – Our story’ and looking at how we are witnesses to the work of God in the world and in our own lives. As part of this we would like to encourage you to write down your ‘Faith Story’.

There are a number of reasons why this is a useful thing to do, including providing an opportunity for self-reflection, looking back but also considering the learning that has taken place or actions needed. If you have done this before it is still good to update your story to keep it relevant, and for it to be as much about the present as the past.

Spending a little time writing your story is also good preparation for how you share your experience with other people. Being confident in our own story helps us to find the links and connections with people as you talk to them, and recognise shared events or similarities that, with their permission, offer an opportunity to tell them more about what you believe.

Keep it simple, authentic, honest, and because we know our God is there in all circumstances (struggles and high points), try to identify how He was at work and how you know this.

If you don’t know where to start here are a few ideas that might help,

  • Think of your story as a time-line, writing the significant events in chronological order.
  • Think of your faith in bursts. As you remember key events, write them on post-it notes over a couple of days, and then shuffle the notes round into the order of your story.
  • Set a timer and give yourself two minutes to write down your Faith Story (focus on the really important/stand out parts and maybe use bullet points). Then go back with no time limit and reflect deeper on one or two parts.
  • Draw three boxes, give them the titles ‘what I was like before I knew Jesus’, ‘how I came to know Jesus’ and, ‘what I am like now I know Jesus’. Make the boxes different sizes according to your age or how long you have been a Christian, for example if you became a Christian a long time ago you might need a bigger box for writing about your life since getting to know Jesus.
  • Split your page in half and write on one side ‘before’ and on the other side ‘after’. Make a list of differences and similarities in your life before and after knowing Jesus as a starting point for writing your story.
  • Answer some of these questions – How did Jesus come into your life? How has life changed since knowing God? What difference has knowing Jesus made? What does the Good News of Jesus mean to you? How is Jesus working in your life today?
  • Or simply begin to write in whatever format you feel comfortable with, paper and pen/digital device, and feel free to doodle or illustrate some parts.

Once you have reflected on this you may want to focus in on one particular aspect or a recurring theme from your story.

Our witness or testimony is not limited to how we came to faith, it is an ongoing thing. Particularly if you have been a Christian for a long time, how you came to faith may be less important than how your faith has developed and what God has done in and through you.

Work on around 250 words and allow the word limit to help you focus in on the ‘big story’ within your story, and try to avoid using Christian Jargon, look for words that someone who does not yet know Jesus or have a Christian heritage will understand.

We are all unique and our stories are all different, no right or wrong, no less important, or valid than another, the one consistent thing is our loving God. If you feel able to share your story, please email it to the Rivers Team Office as we are hoping to record a selection of these ‘Faith Stories’ to enhance our online services during Lent.

Please be encouraged to take part in this, sharing your personal story in this way will be a blessing to the Church and great witness to other people.

God Bless.

A great time to go fishing

by Denise Cryer

1200px-Bank_Of_River_A_Fisherman_Is_Waiting_For_Fish_(186744883)If there’s one thing lock-down has taught me, it’s that now is a great time to go fishing! Not by making a long journey to a good carp-lake, but by fishing in a pond nearer to home. As Christians, we’re given a great opportunity to become fishers of men – sharing Christ’s message to the world. Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:14).

There’s a good chance, at the moment, that our friends, family and neighbours are struggling, in other words, the fish are readily available, if only we are willing to go catch them. I’m not sure what the fishermen of Jesus’ time were like but I presume there were similarities with the fishermen of today. That they had a rod/net, bait, tackle and most importantly, patience. Though
our times might be different, the intention is the same: to catch fish.

God has equipped each one of us to fish; through the sharing of our testimony, sharing Gospel promises and encouraging scriptures, prayer, practical help etc. Let’s never think that we don’t have what it takes to fish because God has given us all the tools we need. In my experience and speaking as someone who’s resisted fishing many times because I’ve not wanted to say the wrong thing, or not known what to pray or how to help, or just been afraid to open my mouth at all, I can honestly say, each time I’ve gone fishing, it’s got a little bit easier! As I’ve studied God; His word; His character; His will, and as I’ve got braver in “casting our my line”, the more comfortable I’ve become in fishing. I’ve learned to fish “whatever the weather”, even though there are times when I’m not sure I’m using the right bait.

With every day that passes, people are struggling with feelings and emotions that they’ve never had to deal with before. People are wondering where it’s all leading; asking why it’s happening and “where’s God in all this”; they’re dealing with illness and bereavement under very difficult circumstances. Many are very unsettled at the moment and if we don’t go fishing now, I think it will be a long time before the pond’s as well stocked as it is right now. Let’s follow Jesus, and get fishing!

Denise (Cryer)

What’s in a Name?

 

dvickersBy David Arthur Vickers

My niece was born in 1998 and my brother and his wife chose to call her Alexandra Grace. On his way to register her name, my brother expressed his feelings in adding a third name, Joy. She was his bundle of joy. Names are an important part of our identity. We usually keep them for life. They mark our right of ownership and can be used to trace our lineage.

There are many Bible characters who do change their names. Abram (“exalted father”) became Abraham “(father of multitudes”) even when he and his wife were very old. He believed God. When he told his wife, she laughed at him. When their son was born, he was called Isaac (“She laughed). When Isaac’s son, Jacob was born he was clutching the heel of his twin brother, Esau. His name means “grasping the heels of”. He later proved to be a bit of heel in his life. Always destined to be second to his brother, he deceived his now blind father, Isaac, to bless him as his inheritor instead of Esau. The descendants of Esau and Jacob would always be in conflict. But later in life, Jacob spends a night wrestling with an unknown man, said to be an angel. In the morning he is given the name, Israel (“contended with God”). As Israel, he When the Jewish nation was exiled under king Xerxes, the Jewess Hadassah (“myrtle tree) achieved stardom by become Queen Esther (Persian – “star”)

In the New Testament, the great and feared man Saul became the humble apostle, Paul (“small”). Paul’s companion, Joseph was more widely known by his nickname, Barnabas (“son of encouragement”) because he was encouragement to many.

My name is David Arthur which is translated as being loved and royalty. 34 years after being given that name, by God’s love, I was invited into His royal family. (Never call me Dave) I feel my given Christian name was part of God’s plan for me. Not all of us like our own names. Be assured that God has His own name for you and you will learn it when you meet Him face-to-face. “..You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:2-3)

When you pray, pray for individuals by name when you can. But remember that God knows every single person on earth by name and loves each one equally.

David Arthur Vickers

 

Editorial – March 2020

by Eddie Short

A Season Of Generosity

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to believe that we’re already into the third month of 2020! This year seems to be flying by and Easter is already just around the corner. In fact, the 40 day season of Lent – when Christians around the world spend time reflecting and preparing for Easter – is already underway.

Lent is a time when Christians have traditionally given something up as an act of sacrifice to honour the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us when he submitted to death on the cross. However, over the last couple of years, in The Rivers Team we’ve instead been encouraged to take part in the 40 Acts Generosity Challenge.

Created by UK Christian charity, Stewardship, for the past ten years 40 Acts has challenged followers of Jesus with this question: what if Lent could be about more than just giving stuff up? What if it could be a time of radical generosity as well as spiritual discipline?

Taking part in 40 acts is a great opportunity to live out our Christian faith in a practical way that can have a positive impact on those around us. That’s not to say that you can’t still mark the season by sacrificially removing something from your life. But, if you’ve already committed to give something up during lent, why not replace it with a commitment to a daily act of generosity?

So how does it work?

It’s easy to take part in 40 Acts by signing up at www.40acts.org.uk. You’ll then receive an email each morning for the rest of Lent with a short bible reading and reflection, together with the daily generosity challenge. Each of these has an overall theme and then three different ways of acting on it, each requiring an increasing level of engagement. So you can decide how far you want to take each day’s challenge.

40 Acts can be done alone, but – for those who can – engaging with it as a couple or family is a great way to build a culture of generosity within your home. We’ll also be encouraging each other during 40 Acts as a church family, through The Rivers Team WhatsApp and Facebook groups, while our Sunday sermons throughout Lent will also tie into the same themes as the daily bible readings and reflections, drawing on the book of Proverbs.

Generosity is, without doubt, central to the Christian life. Jesus not only tells his followers to be generous (“freely you have received; freely give” – Matthew 10 v8), but we see him modelling generosity throughout the gospel accounts of His life and ministry. Because, of course, generosity is about a lot more than simply financial giving. As Jesus showed by inviting Zacchaeus to eat with him, we can be generous with our time by giving it to those who are lonely or ostracized. As Jesus demonstrated when he feed the 5,000, we can be generous with our hospitality. And as Jesus modelled through his ultimate act of sacrifice on the cross, we can be generous with our love and compassion.

So, as we go through the season of Lent, building towards the celebration of Easter, let’s be deliberate in our generosity. Let’s live out the gospel message of salvation found through faith in Jesus, one small daily act of kindness at a time!

Parliament on Persecution

Bob Luntby Robert Lunt
On 6 February MPs debated the persecution of Christians. This followed a report commissioned by Jeremy Hunt and the presentation of the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List – the 50 countries where it’s toughest to be Christian. There is evidence “Christians are the target of about 80% of all acts of religious discrimination or persecution around the world”.

Rother Valley’s new MP, Alexander Stafford, suggested the UK’s aid budget should “help persecuted Christians and give more money to minority groups affected, such as poor Christians in Syria and across the Middle East”. This led to discussion about withholding aid to governments such as Nigeria’s which has “shown little sign of stopping the silent slaughter of the innocent … After years of generous aid the massacre of Christians is escalating”, some 1,300 having been killed in the past year.

China and North Korea featured in the debate. China has closed churches, arrested members, replaced pictures of Jesus with those of the Chinese leader, torn down crosses on church roofs. Human rights defenders have been arrested and tortured; the distraught wife of one said to the police, “His mind is shattered. Just what did you people do to him?”

One MP reported a defector from the North Korean national security agency describing being trained to look for ‘people who remained silent’, ‘people meditating’, ‘smokers or drinkers who suddenly quit’ – all potential signs of Christians. Severe recrimination, often leading to death, follows.

A prominent contributor to the debate was Fiona Bruce – not the newsreader but the MP for Congleton. She spoke with deep feeling of how in 2016 the Select Committee on International Development visited Nigeria to review the Department for International Development’s (DFID) programmes there. Despite her appeal, the DFID staff declined to listen to the concerns of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) about how Christians were being targeted and “killings could not simply be put down to local disputes between herdsmen and settlers”. Ms Bruce called for a report on what the DFID staff are now doing to address persecution of Christians – especially in light of the kidnap and murder in January of a leader of CAN and the videoed beheading of 10 Christians on Boxing Day.

The challenge of Christian persecution has been forcibly put to the DFID and the Foreign Office. Will there be action before the Lord comes?

Source: Hansard

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