Stepping into the future

imageOur circuit steward, Andrew Cashmore, spoke last Sunday (8th May) and part of his talk was about having courage. This message came as a follow up to the ‘day out’ FSMC had the day before. This ‘day out’ was to discuss our vision for the church. We spent time reflecting the past, reviewing the present and reconsidering our future. A similar day was held several years ago. Much of that day’s decisions were acted upon. Some still wait answered prayer. Now we, as a congregation, are facing the reality that we must move forwards. We cannot stand still and let pride or complacency stand between us and what God has for us.

Earlier this week I helped to rebuild a Cornish stone wall at the back of my neighbour’s garden. It had become dilapidated. To fix it we had to be prepared to dismantle it and start again. But, actually, it made the job easier and better. When asked about the future of the church as FSMC, the group I was with considered what we would do if we had to start all over again. So, what would you do? What would be your priorities?

In the book of Nehemiah, we have the story of the walls of Jerusalem being rebuilt. It can be seen as any one of us rebuilding our lives after a period of success or prosperity, followed by a time of regress. Henry Ford always said that key changes should be made when a company is at the height of its success. Don’t wait until things have already started to go downhill. Don’t allow neglect. My neighbour’s wall had been hidden by a crop of bamboo plants. He decided to remove these as their roots were spreading too far. (There’s another analogy here me thinks). The truth of the state of the wall was hidden behind the bamboo. It needed fixing.

While it is lovely and comfortable to look at all the good things we do and are at FSMC, it takes courage to tackle those areas that require change. Perhaps Nehemiah’s example is one we should follow?

Mourn and pray (Ch. 1 v 3-4)
They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”

I wonder what the correlation is between making decisions about the future of our church and our prayer life. It is good that, whether as church or individuals, we are concerned about our relationship with God.

Realism and action (Ch. 1 v 11)
“O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honouring you. Please grant me success today…”

Nehemiah had a plan and asked God to bless his actions. This request came after he had confessed on behalf of the nation of Israel regarding their sins and disobedience. Confession makes us vulnerable and takes way out of our comfort zone, but, if we are to be real with God, this forms a part of our future. Nehemiah didn’t pray and confess and sit back and wait for God to do something. He had a plan which he intended to action.

Courage and Awareness (Ch. 2 v10)
“But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.”

Nehemiah knew he would face a lot of opposition. The Horonites and Ammonites (any ‘ites’) were arch enemies of Israel. If we try to rise and build, be sure that Satan will try and stop us. In his message Andrew also reminded us to wait on the Lord, just as the children of Israel waited for three days before crossing the River Jordan. Then they would face battles. Nehemiah went out at night (ch2 v 11ff) and surveyed the walls. He got a full picture and formed a clear plan before starting the rebuild. He was fully aware that it would be anything but plane sailing.

It took about twenty five years to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Terry and I took a day to rebuild his wall. FSMC and each of us will have our own time scale. Maybe your church or your life could do with a ‘day out’. Using Nehemiah’s example might help in the future God has for you and us at FSMC.

Alan Thomas

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Why did Jesus die?

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Easter morning sunrise, St Ives, Cornwall.

I read an excellent book last year. It was one of those books that gets you thinking in lots of ways, and I’m the sort of person who ends up reading a bit then has to put the book down because my mind goes in overdrive thinking and pondering about it all. It can take me ages sometimes to finish the thing!

At one point the question ‘Why did Jesus die?’ was raised. The writer started by simply stating that Jesus died because the Romans executed him. I guess that is the really obvious answer and one that still needs to be made clear. It underlined the reality and historical fact of the situation. Now, I’ve heard lots of great sermons over many years, but I’ve never heard anyone say it that obviously. That certainly got me thinking at first. It was put that simply to get over any question that we should hold it against the Jews. This has given many people over the centuries an excuse for anti Semitic attitudes. The writer then went into greater depth about why Jesus died to forgive our sins.

There are lots of good things to read and listen to concerning the death and physical resurrection of Jesus. We like to use big words as well to describe it all, like atonement and reconciliation. I happen to like big words as it helps me ponder and reflect on it all, although I do it with a dictionary close to hand! I also use the words of hymns to help my mind wander on the wonder of it all, like “No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in him is mine…” or “forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ my God” .

In my reading this year over the Easter period, another thought came to mind. I have had recent deaths in my family, and although each person has had a Christian faith it has still been a difficult time for us all. So this thought came to mind. Perhaps another reason why Jesus died was to show that human beings do die. God made flesh died. It’s ok to die. Other stories in the Bible show its ok to doubt, or question, or get angry. Jesus died and was resurrected to show that a resurrection body is what it’s all about. With faith in him, we can also be granted that body and spend eternity with him in glory.

Where that is and how that happens is something else I love to ponder and think about…

Andrew Cashmore

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The cows are in the corn!

imageI came across this story which is available on number of websites. It was originally just the first part. Others added to it. You can read it for its humour, or incline your hearts to its deeper meaning. Here are a few variables (random order) to throw in when it comes to Christian worship in song. You can reflect on their importance…..

• Age
• Upbringing
• Personal taste
• Edifies the body
• Quality of musicianship
• Prefer harmonies
• Gets me into God’s presence
• Denomination
• It’s what you do in church
• Glorifies God
• Tradition
• Theological truth
• Contemporary
• Gets me emotionally

The Cows Are in the Corn

The Original:

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended a large church.
He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the farmer,
“It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses,” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The farmer said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you: ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn.

If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: ‘Martha Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN.’

Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.”

The sequel!

Coincidentally, the same week, a young businessman from the city who normally attended a church with contemporary-style worship, was in the old farmer’s town on business and visited the farmer’s small town church.
He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the young man,
“It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”
“Hymns,” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said
the young man. “Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The young man said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you,
’Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song.
If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry.
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
to the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain,
There in their heads is no shadow of sense.
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night,
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry.
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.

Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on
the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”

The Special Rendition

The Cows Are In The Corn
(Tune: I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever)

Over the laneway from the barn
That sits upon our family farm,
Across the pasture there’s a gate
To which I hurry, but I’m late.
For now the gate is open wide,
The cattle are no more inside
And further from the barn I see
Now where the cows have gone to be.

Chorus:
Oh Martha, the cows are in the corn,
Oh Martha, the cows are in the corn.
Oh Martha, the cows are in the corn,
Oh Martha, the cows are in the corn.

Bridge:
Right now they’re busy eating
The corn right off the plants,
But when it’s time for milking
They will find their way to the
Barn at last, yeah!
(reprise chorus 8 times)

Christian Rock Band Version

Now if you were to do a “regular song” about the cows in the corn” it would
go something like this:

the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn

(volume up a notch)
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn

(key change)
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
the cows are in the corn
(drum shift with increased tempo)
the corn, the cows
the corn, the cows
the corn, the cows
the corn, the cows
(the lead guitar beginning to start thumping and the bass up the key and
drum up the pace)
the the the the
cows, cows, cows, cows
are, are, are ,are
in, in, in, in
corn, corn, corn, corn

cows are in the corn
cows are in the corn
cows are in the corn
cows are in the corn
(improv ending in a key change)

cows are in the corn
(volume up a notch)
cows are in the corn
(volume up a notch)
cows are in the corn
(volume up a notch)
the cows are in the corn
(at this point the backup singers begin
putting your hands into the air and making fists and pulling down
the milking leader tells everyone to “embrace the utters and let the corn fall”)

the cows,
(milk leader now beginning to weep visibly)
OH the cows, Those precious cows,
My precious cows, Your precious cows
Her precious cows, His precious cows
(at this point the dance team enters dressed as milk maids each with a milk stool
followed by men dressed in farmer costumes with giant dowel sticks with
flowing golden 3 foot wide ribbons with painted corn ears which are waved
over the congregation)

are in
the corn
(all instruments slam)

the corn
(all instruments slam)

the corn
(all instruments slam)

TTTTTTTTTHHHHHHHHHHHeeeeee CCCCCCCOOOOOOOORRRRRRRNNNNNNNN

(at this point all the dancers fall on their face and the milkleader falls
exhausted on one knee as a giant inflated cow is carried by four men dressed as ears of corn
through the congregation as the instruments frantically play on)
The congregations looks at each other and smile knowing from the warm milky
feeling they share that the fertilizer has flowed freely here today.

Gregorian Chant Version
Mar——te, Mar——te, die—————–Kuehe sind im Maise—–​

Alan Thomas

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A Kuwaiti Perspective

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A KUWAITI PERSPECTIVE

As the 777 swung west in its descent over the Arabian Gulf on its approach to Kuwait International Airport, the city’s myriad lights twinkled like a fading crown before the dawning sun. Soon we had disembarked and began immigration through the airport building which was small but magnificent, a phrase which summed up Kuwait City too. Hard to believe that only 25 years earlier Operation Desert Storm had been fought here. Half buried memories emerged of TV scenes showing oil wells burning fiercely, darkness as thick smoke covered the land, a black plume visible from satellite, and black rain falling even as far away as India. Now the only obvious traces were oil lakes in the desert and a wildly popular Liberation Day, celebrated during our visit.

Friday morning saw us attending church, Sunday being the first working day of the week. Unusually for a Muslim country, Kuwait currently permits or licenses churches. They do not have to operate underground as in Kuwait’s southern neighbour, Saudi Arabia, or run the risk of wholesale destruction at the hands of ISIS in Kuwait’s northern neighbour, Iraq. So for now, Kuwait sits like a liberal pearl between the iron finger of Iraq and thumb of Saudi.

There are Arab Christians in Kuwait. Some arrived from Iraq very many years ago and have largely assimilated. Others came later, many having elected to leave Palestine when the State of Israel was born on 14 May 1948 (Isaiah 66:8). But the numbers are just a few hundred. By contrast there are reckoned to be some 450,000 ex-pat Christians, ex-pats being around 70% of Kuwait’s population, and mainly Indian and Egyptian. The compound in the city which houses the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait (NECK for short) is home to congregations of many different nationalities, all sharing a love for the Lord Jesus.

In contrast to its liberal approach to the church Kuwait can seem quite harsh in other ways. Recently a group of four who had tried to smuggle drugs into the country were sentenced to death. A few months ago Kuwait Airlines refused to allow a Jewish passenger flying from New York to London to fly with them, simply because he was Jewish. When the American aviation authorities reprimanded them, they simply chose not to fly out that route again! (Daily Telegraph 18 Dec 2015)

There is a yawning chasm between the phenomenal wealth of some Kuwaitis and the dire poverty of many expats. Forgetting and even worse oppressing the poor is something the Lord takes a dim view of (see for example Ezekiel 16:49 concerning Sodom). It was a privilege to be involved in a small way with the efforts of a few folk, Christians and non-Christians together, to provide basic food supplies to some in great need in a dark corner of the City.

A brief visit to the Southern desert was surprising. You expect a desert to be, well, deserted. However in the cool season (November to March roughly) the Kuwaitis like to return to their desert-dwelling roots. As far as the eye could see were pitched tents of all shapes and sizes – complete with diesel generators, air conditioning units and satellite TV. And it was cooler in the desert than in the City.

But not as chilly as the return to Heathrow!

David Lush.

The Impact of Jerusalem Joy!

Good Friday Impacted by Jerusalem Joy

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Yesterday was Good Friday. I heard an outstanding presentation of the Roger Jones’ musical, ‘Jerusalem Joy’, given by the FSMC Gospel Choir. I have heard the choir a number of times. They make a great sound and produce effective gospel presentations that challenge, encourage and uplift one’s spirit. Together, they make a very harmonious sound.
Jerusalem Joy was different. Many of the choir had to come out from behind the comfort of the crowd and sing solo. For most it was probably the first time they had ever done so. Some, only a line, others had considerably more. Rather than just singing, the piece required a degree of movement and acting. This is not a skill set that one can simply fall into. It would not be untruthful to say that a number of individuals were very nervous and certainly not note (or movement) perfect. Far from being critical, it deeply moved me to see folks stepping out and taking responsibility. How much more incredible that a group of ordinary people, many of whom struggle with singing on their own, can produce such an amazing sound when performing as a choir?
The presentation made me think that it was like the church. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” [2Cor 4:7]. God can take us, mould us and use us for His glory. When we all move with the same vision and goal, the result can be very powerful. In the musical each individual added a beautiful, raw element to their role. Each did their best and God used it. In the church we must each use our talents and gifts and let God be the judge of the impact of their use. We should not rely on the few. All of us be confident that God will draw out the gifts that He has placed within us. It’s His call, not ours. God never promised or desired that we remain in our comfort zone.
Jesus, My Brother
One outstanding and moving performance came from my brother, Jesus. This was certainly a step beyond any normal horizon for the performer. Yet, with a combination of spoken voice, gestures and musicality, the part of Jesus was played with great impact. Viv, who played the role of Jesus, is my physical brother. It got me thinking. Is it really OK to call Jesus, ‘My brother’?
Many Christians go through life never knowing or benefiting from the fact that Jesus is our brother. He became flesh, fully human. “…He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” [Rom. 8:29]. After His resurrection and prior to His ascension Jesus called us His brothers; “Go to my brothers…” [John 20:17]. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” [Heb. 2:11]. However, there is a condition; that we accept Him as Saviour, follow Him and become part of His family. He is not the brother of all mankind. He is a brother to all who also call Him Lord and Master of their lives. We willingly and confidently hand over our lives to Jesus. We are adopted by The Father into His family. This is a spiritual relationship which should add joy and completeness to our Christian life.

Alan Thomas.

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Jerusalem Joy!

FSMC Gospel choir are presenting the Musical ‘Jerusalem Joy’ at our church, St.Ives on Good Friday 25th March commencing at 7pm. Written by Roger Jones, the prolific writer of modern Gospel music, the storyline is set around the time of the Jewish feast of Passover and the events that impacted the whole world. Incorporating the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal, trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth the musical tells the story in typical Roger Jones’ style with tempos sensitive to the occasion and script true to the original accounts of that first Easter. 

This will be the third Easter that the choir has put on a musical presentation following on from ‘Rock’, O What A Saviour’ and ‘Apostle’ which received much praise from audiences around the county. Directed by William Thomas and Narrated by Alison Ashby ‘Jerusalem Joy’ incorporates solos, duets and quartets as well as choir pieces, and is an entertaining, yet moving reminder of the Passion story . Admission is free with light refreshments at the close. Celebrations continue on Easter Sunday at 10.45am & 6pm and everyone is welcome to all of the services.

Fore Street Methodist Church TR26 1HW

William Thomas.

  

Dan Walker ‘created’as new presenter on BBC Breakfast

It has been announced that Dan Walker is to replace Bill Turnbull on the BBC Breakfast News and has already been criticised by some journalists. How can we take him seriously? He’s a Christian and believes in creationism. What if there is a report on dinosaurs in the news? He couldn’t possibly give an accurate report and can’t be trusted. Oh dear.

Once again, some blessed individuals in journalism have failed to understand what Christians believe, what we are able to do in our work and what Christians can achieve in their lives. Part of me thinks that it is just narrow minded members of the press who want to have a go at someone who is clearly doing well in their chosen career, and has a confident manner in what they believe. Or are they afraid that he is going to impose his beliefs on the audience, regardless of what the autocue says and what his editor and producer instruct.

I have always enjoyed watching Dan Walker on Football Focus. I’m not aware that he was ever biased to a certain story or match because of his faith so why now? “That was a great match last week, but that tackle was a bit rough, and the ref wasn’t very good. What would Jesus do? Over to you, Alan.” Bill Turnbull has presented Songs of Praise, and has suggested he goes to church and ‘tries to live’ a Christian life, but did not report any strong faith. But this seems OK, as well as the fact he went to Eton, and doesn’t give any bias in his news reporting towards education policy.

It is just plain daft that Dan Walker should be criticised for his faith, especially as there is no indication about what he does actually believe. Is his creationist view based on ‘old’ or ‘new’ creation values, for example. Should the BBC include these things in its interview process? Obviously not as it starts a whole new prejudicial attitude to people of faith and no faith.

He has to be respected for not working on a Sunday, too. I disagree with him on this matter, as I don’t have a problem with working on Sundays, as I have had to in my career. I’d rather not work on a Sunday, but have done so when required. It simply has to do with whether he is any good at his job or not. He’s a news reader on the BBC, not the Archbishop of Canterbury. And Justin Welby has been known to work on Sunday. How very dare he!

Andrew Cashmore

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