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

 

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

Metanoia (The Process of Transformation)

dvickersby David Vickers

Have you ever considered how it would be if you had never committed yourself to following Jesus – if you had refused to accept His call on your life? This may have been quite recently or decades ago. In my own case, it was 8pm, June 16th 1984. It was a dramatic occasion at Mission England at Anfield.

In 1999, I started writing a book – a sort of autobiography. It wasn’t intended to be published. I wanted a record of my life up to that point so that, when I might lose my memory in older age, I could be reminded of people, events and situations that had influenced my continuing story. When I started it, it was titled, “Christmas Shopping in Damascus”. Twenty-one years later and I am still writing it and there is no sign of it being completed this year.

It is now called, “Joining the Dots”. It opens with a quote from Psalm 143:5
“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”

Each dot is a place, time, person or event in my history. As I reflect on diaries and journals kept throughout my life, I consider what He has done to transform me. I can still remember my life before I became a follower of Jesus. I had a new job which I liked, but was living alone and going through a divorce. I was probably binge drinking too much. I was also senior steward of my local Methodist Church.

From that moment in 1984, things started to change. Some changes have been dramatic and some almost unnoticed at the time. Its not until I look back that I begin to recognise God’s hand in creating and joining up the dots in my life to get me to where I am today. I am at peace today, so I thank God for the seemingly bad and good things that have shaped me. I have rebelled occasionally; I have been proud of personal achievement. He has always lovingly nudged me back on the right path.

He has never forced me to transform. But I am blessed that I don’t rebel as much as I did. And now I have many stories to tell of my walk with Him. I can testify to His guidance, His love, His protection and provision. And I can also testify to His patience with me and the times when He chastised me, as loving fathers have to.

Romans 12:2 teaches quite clearly:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

So, look back and meditate on your life and give thanks for all the marvellous ways that God has been at work. You are special to Him and He will never give up on you. He is preparing us for eternity with Him

 

Pastors more at risk than bandits

Bob Luntby Robert Lunt

Pastor Alain is used to receiving harassment from Cuban authorities. A key leader in the Apostolic Movement and leader of Emanuel Church in Santiago, he has been subject to much intimidation and abuse, and the government has refused to register his denomination. Pressure has increased recently, with those in power trying to criminalise his pastoral work.

In 2016 his church and pastor’s home were surrounded by police, state security and members of the military while Alain was out of the country. Hundreds of church members were detained, including his wife Marilin; the authorities then demolished church and home in front of their daughters. This was not the first time – it had happened in 2007 too.

Tragically, this harassment is not simply history. Last year Alain was going to Washington DC to a State Department meeting on Religious Freedom, the perfect platform to raise concerns about this in Cuba and call on the international community to take action. But he was stopped from boarding his flight by Cuban government officials who informed him he was banned from leaving Cuba for reasons of national security.

The targeting did not stop there. In August and September Alain was summoned to the police 17 times. At one of these he was informed that if his church went ahead with their planned women’s conference, he would be charged with the crime of ‘disobedience’ and risk imprisonment. Despite the high stakes, Emanuel Church went ahead with the event. True to their word, the police did indeed charge Alain with disobedience.

“In Cuba, pastors are more at risk than criminals and bandits”, Alain told us. “I committed no crime, it had to be manufactured. My disobedience, according to them, is that I cannot meet with other pastors, I cannot carry out any religious activity. They want me to stop being a pastor.”

Despite the ever-increasing risks to his freedom and twice witnessing the destruction of his property, Alain refuses to give in to the government’s threats. He continues to preach the Christian faith and carry out his pastoral duties, “convinced that neither death nor life … neither the present nor the future, nor any powers … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) (working on Alain’s case)

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