The Third Rocky Road Epistle Chapter 5

What will RRBC be like in the future?  What are your hopes and fears?  What should we keep doing?  What should we stop?  Will we be developing new ways to do services or meeting together using methods not imagined last century?  This cartoon was probably funnier when it was drawn, it is now a reality for some fellowships.

But this is the wrong question to start with!

The reason I say this is that 2020 has been a time of upheaval in the whole world.  It has been a time of shaking for the church, a time of pruning (the vine branches need pruning to be more fruitful John 15 v.1-8) and a time of refining.  God is at work and we should not try to stick to our old ways of doing things, or as the Bible puts it use old wine skins to contain the new wine (Luke 5 v.37). 

Last year has also challenged the reality of our faith.  Nigel Cole (Baptist regional minister in the West of England) wrote “The pandemic has revealed what deep down we already knew – there are too many mediocre churches out there.”  He’s got a point and I wonder if it applies to some Christians?  We need to hear the warning from the illustration of the vine, that God the father cuts off branches that do not bear fruit.  Pray for RRBC and pray for each other that we would take note of the warning to the church of Sardis who had a reputation of being alive and yet were dead.  They were told to “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God” Revelation 3 v.2.   With God there is hope of fruit, but only if we remain in the vine and rely on Jesus to show us the way forward.

I have recently received “Word for 2021” produced by the British Isles Council of Prophets, which contains much thought-provoking material.  Some of their words ring true with my own thinking as follows:-

“This is a ‘year of uncertainty’, where at times we will feel unsettled and unclear.  It is not a predictable year.  Don't assume you know what God wants you to do but yield your agendas to Him and ask Him questions.  The Lord says, ‘I invite you into what I am doing - stop inviting me into what you are doing.
Maturity will come out of this great shaking.  Those who are on the Lord’s side must stand strong amid this increasing uncertainty, fear, and confusion.  Choose in your heart whose voice will you listen to; cry and shout forth that, ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength.’”
(Nehemiah 8: v.10)

So, what is the question?  Surely it is – Lord what do you want to say to us and do through us?  A question that needs to be asked in humility and in readiness to respond.  First each of us needs to seek God’s face in prayer and fully open up our lives to His spirit’s work.

This week we are continuing with our Wellbeing Journey, based on the story of Elijah. 
The reflections, together with the Bible Studies, are based on the book “God’s Plan for Your Wellbeing” written by the author and church leader Dave Smith  
This week’s theme is Relational Wellbeing,

Next week’s theme will be
“Financial Wellbeing”.


Reflection

From Laura on 1 Kings 17 v.15-24, 19 v.3-5, 13-18
“Relational Wellbeing”

Back in November a columnist in “The Times” newspaper wrote “It is not that loneliness wasn’t a serious problem before the pandemic.  Even before hugs and handshakes were toxified, one in five UK adults were lonely most or all of the time, two in five pensioners’ main form of company was their television or pet, and three in five 18 to 34-year-olds said they were lonely sometimes or often.”  We know that it is perfectly possible to feel lonely in a crowd.  It is not just how many people we know but also about the quality of those connections. 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance and impact of relationships.  Sadly, some relation-ships have not been positive and brought their own damage.  If you think about some of your relationships which people do you enjoy being with and who energises you?  Which people bring you down or do you ever drain someone else’s wellbeing?  We all need close healthy relationships to grow and flourish in our lives, particularly spiritually.  This is not surprising since God is our great three in one, at the heart of God is the relationship between Father Son and Spirit.  For wellbeing in our lives, we need a vertical relationship to God and outwards to other people.  The pastor and writer Rick Warren wrote,

“Being included in God’s family is the highest honour and the greatest privilege you will ever receive.  Nothing ever comes close.  Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.  While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private.  In God’s family you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity.”

In 1 Kings chapter 17 we read of God’s provision in a severe drought for Elijah and for a widow and family.  Elijah was instrumental in the supply of food which kept her alive.  Then tragedy struck, her son died.  Despite all Elijah had done she turned on him, blaming him for her son’s death.  How would you have responded to this unjust accusation?  With resentment, with argument or just leaving her to deal with her own life?  Elijah positively acted to bless her.  He responded with love and compassion, we read of his heartfelt prayer and the son’s life being restored.  Dave Smith writes that

“It is inevitable in any human relationship that from time to time we will disagree, annoy one another, hurt one another and potentially separate from one another.  But great relationships are those where through love, persistence and character, we are prepared to work things out and move on.  In fact, as we weather these relational storms, our connections come out strengthened on the other side.”  As we grow in God’s love we will become less easily offended and more forgiving.  In fact, we need to forgive and act to bless, if possible, others for our own sakes as well as for them.

In chapter 18 v.43 we have mention of a servant of Elijah.  Clearly this man had accompanied Elijah on his travels but then in 19 v.3 we read of Elijah leaving behind his only companion and going into the desert alone.  We do not know why, but surely in this situation some company would have helped.  Elijah’s response, “I am the only one left” to God’s repeated question highlights his loneliness.  He has forgotten the conversation reported in chapter 18 v.7-15, where the king’s official Obadiah tells of the hiding of 100 true prophets in caves, so they are not killed by king Ahab.  There is danger in isolating ourselves.  Especially if we wrap ourselves in self-pity and ignore the truth.  The complaint that I sometimes hear is “no one ever talks to me”.  The response is simple, who are you talking to?  We should put effort into relating to others and should not expect people to run around after us. 

God provided for Elijah a successor, Elisha.  A companion and someone to mentor, a positive mutual relationship.  From Elisha’s reaction when Elijah was taken up to heaven (2 Kingsv.11-13) they seem to have grown like Father and son.  God provides people for us and provides us for other people.  Let us thank God for these people and act to bless them.  One final idea which I am sure others will find a blessing.  Everyday Rita looks for something that God has sent to brighten up her day. For any of us, a glimpse of God’s love is worth looking for and giving thanks for.


Zoom Bible Study

On Wednesday 10th February at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start,
“Relational Wellbeing”

All are welcome to join - please ask Laura for details.  Or if you prefer to do this Bible Study at home, then read the passages several times and consider the following questions.

  1. Anthropologist Edward Hall suggests there are 4 levels of relationship - intimate, personal, social and public.  Can you see these levels in the relationships of Jesus?  What about in your own?  What are the blessings at each level? 

Read Ephesians 4 v.22 – 5 v.2

  1. What does this tell us about relationships? 
  2. What does it tell us about God?
  3. What do you need to work on? 

Read Palm 133

  1. Why is unity in relationships important and how can we encourage this? 
  2. Oil is a symbol of service and dew of refreshment.  What do these images tell you about God’s blessing through good relationships. 

Prayers

Loving and Holy Spirit of God
we pray:
that we and all people
may increasingly work together
to establish on earth
the rule of the Kingdom of heaven;
that the resources of the world
may be gathered,
distributed and used
with unselfish motives and scientific skill
for the greatest benefit of all;
that beauty may be given
to our towns and cities,
and left untarnished in the countryside;
that children may grow up strong in body,
sound in mind and trained in spirit;

that there may be open ways,
and peace and freedom,
from end to end of the earth;
and that people everywhere may learn
to live in love
through keeping the company
of Jesus Christ our Lord,
in whose great name we pray.

(Taken from Baptist Praise and Worship)

Our “Mission of the Month” for February is “Accommodation Concern”.

Father, we thank You that
Jesus came to break down barriers.
He did not see the migrant or the
settled, the housed or the homeless,
the employed or the unemployed;
He saw and loved the person.
Forgive us when we put up barriers
between ourselves and others; help us
to show love to all without constraint.
Help us, Your Church, to build
communities without barriers,
where all are valued because
all are made in Your image.
In Jesus’ Name.
Amen.

(Taken from Prayers4reparation)


Songs for Sunday

For I’m building a people of power,
and I'm making a people of praise,
that will move through this land by My Spirit,
and will glorify My precious name.

Build Your Church Lord,
make us strong Lord,
join our hearts, Lord, through Your Son;
make us one, Lord, in Your body
in the kingdom of Your Son.

Dave Richards
© 1977 Thankyou Music CCLI#5638

1. Restore, O Lord,
the honour of Your name,
In works of sovereign power
come shake the earth again;
that all may see
and come with reverent fear
to the living God,
whose kingdom shall outlast the years.

2. Restore, O Lord,
in all the earth Your fame,
and in our time revive
the church that bears Your name,
and in Your anger,
Lord, remember mercy,
O living God,
whose mercy shall outlast the years.

3. Bend us, O Lord,
where we are hard and cold,
in Your refiner’s fire
come purify the gold:
though suffering comes,
and evil crouches near,
still our living God
is reigning, He is reigning here.

Graham Kendrick
© 1981 Kingsway Music CCLI #5638


Listening to a recording of our audio service

If you have the Internet, then go to our website (www.rrbc.org.uk) where you will find a recording under the audio files.

If you are not on the Internet, we have now paid to have a “Dial-a-Service” facility.  If you phone 01536 909787 you will be able to listen to a recording of the service on your telephone. 
The cost, around 30p a call, is covered by the church.

Don’t forget our Facebook page always has some interesting things on as well.