Precious Thoughts, Anxious Thoughts
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to our Gift Day! I will be sure to let you know once our Treasury team has a final total – rest assured it’s not too late if you still want to give!
I was back at Oxford this week for the first Tuesday in my second year of training at Regent’s Park College (RPC). Having completed my first year, which consisted of a “Certificate in Theological Studies” (CTS) I am now moving into the deeper waters of “Bachelor of Theology”. So please keep sending the prayers up!
It was really, really great to be reunited with my friends from the CTS year, and although one or two have now moved on to other things, it felt very special and a real privilege to be back with the rest at RPC.
The “quad” looked absolutely beautiful, with the ivy-clad college buildings bursting with Autumn colour – leaves in a kaleidoscope of greens, oranges, purples and reds, simply beautiful! Praise God for the glory of creation!
I feel very privileged indeed that EBC has sent me to study at this special place, where my faith (not to mention my ministry skills, hopefully!) are being enriched. So thank you, thank you, thank you, for being part of such a loving and supportive church!
Back at EBC, we’ve settled into something of a rhythm of recording our online services, and preparing for our two Sunday services. These have been going really well, and it’s been lovely to see lots of familiar faces. However, there’s a sense of sadness too, because we are anxiously, painfully aware that for some of you, it’s just not possible, or wise, to return to church as yet.
I want to remind you again that we really miss seeing you and we haven’t forgotten you. The main reason we put out weekly emails (and letters to those not online) every week is much less to do with keeping you informed and much more to do with simply contacting you to encourage you and to remind you that you are in the thoughts and prayers of the staff team and the Leaders team.
Just yesterday, in the college chapel, I was reminded in a very powerful way of Psalm 139, which I am sure is a special one for many of us. I will copy it below for you to read and reflect on. I also want to remind you, as I remind everyone in the church, to keep trying to stay in touch with people, to keep praying, and to keep reading your Bible. I know many of you are already doing those things, but I remind you and encourage you again to keep going!
Over the course of the summer, and ongoing, I have been thinking very deeply about preaching. One of the most formative moments in my life was hearing Reverend Kenny Borthwick preaching at the New Wine conference in 2011. It was a life-changing time. In recent years, Kenny started an online blog, and I have occasionally written to thank him for the blog and for the experience of 2011. Each time, my encouragement has seemed to be timely. Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote to another church leader to encourage them after listening to one of their online services. Again, it seemed to be a much-needed encouragement that came at just the right time.
Perhaps we’ll never know how much our words, and writings, will impact upon the people that hear or read them. Today I just encourage you to persist in keeping in touch, by phone or by letter or card (even email!) with your friends and church family, and to assure you that this has a value far beyond the cost of the time it takes to do it.
About 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the early church at Rome. A chapter of that letter has sat on my desk for the last ten years, alongside a Psalm written by King David around 3000 years ago! Those writings, those precious thoughts, still uplift and inspire me, and countless others, today. So I’m sure there’s a lesson in there about the power of staying in touch!
I really hope you are staying safe, staying as active as you can, and that this blog gives you some encouragement.
Until next time, with love and affection,
Psalm 139 (New Living Translation)
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life