Posted by: lepages | May 25, 2016

‘By his wounds you have been healed’

A few days ago, I was reading in 1 Peter and came to this verse:-20131002-190345

‘He himself (Christ) bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins & live for righteousness, “by his wounds you have been healed”.’ 1 Peter 2:24

‘by his wounds you have been healed’ – a text that is so often taken out of context – and yet so often limited when not done so!

Classic Pentecostal teaching sees this as a proof scripture for physical healing for God’s people; extreme prosperity, health & wealth, name it and claim it types sometimes take this to extremes! I have known some people who have said that they have been healed, when manifestly, they are not!

The context of the verse, both in 1 Peter and in it’s origins in Isaiah 53 make it clear that the scripture is talking about our spiritual healing, our restoration to God and the new life we have in him through his sacrifice on the cross – and yet, if we focus it purely on a spiritual level, we fail to recognise that we are whole human beings – body, mind & spirit.

God has a passion for the healing of the whole of our beings – body, mind & spirit – shalom – peace & wholeness.

Is this why having been really crook one day last week with sickness and diarrhoea, described as ‘sooooo pale….’ by my wife, struggling to get warm the following day, that I was then the following day feeling fine and that evening able to compete in an off-road sprint triathlon?

(Split times came out today – delighted to see I came 4th out of 47 in the swim – swim training obviously working…. more than can be said for the rest of the tri!!)

Is that also why I was able to compete, with minimal training on the run front due to foot problems which have received support from all fronts – physio exercises, podiatrist treatments & fitting of orthotics, regular use of an oscillatimg massager, & prayer… and 10 years on from an accident that threatened my life with 2 bleeds on the brain, a broken hip and pelvis…. that saw me unconscious/in stasis for 9 days, and yet, against all the odds, home within 3 weeks, with a loss of sense of smell and ability to remember names – both of which have generally been restored?

‘By his wounds you have been healed.’

Thank you Lord Jesus for your sacrifice on the cross which has bought my healing, body, mind & spirit. Thank you that I can live and enjoy life to the full in the light of that. Praise you for your abundant grace which you have liberally poured out upon my life. Tongues, because human words cannot fully express my gratitude and worship to you. Amen.


Posted by: lepages | May 20, 2016

Return to multisport….

I got into triathlon about 7/8 years ago, courtesy of working out, rebuilding my body following a serious accident some 10 years ago. As well as making me fitter than I’d been in years, it provided another benefit! Since going through a period of deep depression many years ago, from time to time the old depressive symptoms keep having a go from time to time. Exercise helps! Think it does so on two scores. Obviously the brain chemistry matters, releasing endorphins etc, but also, when I’m out training I find it very difficult to think about anything else – except perhaps for the beauty of creation which surrounds me which often provokes praise in my heart to God for the incredible breadth and depth of his creativity, and for the privilege of being able to get out and enjoy it! So, it’s probably the one place I can switch off, other than getting right away from my home town.

I love competing. I love the variety of swimming, cycling and running. In December I started to get pain in my left foot and heel, and by Christmas time I had to stop running. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, though my symptoms were the reverse of most peoples…. instead of pain first thing in the morning when standing after a night of rest, I was the opposite! Fine first thing in the morning, but depending on how much I was on my feet during the day, the pain would come on and get worse – on a couple of times I had to call my faithful wife Julie and ask her to come and pick me up from somewhere as I couldn’t face the pain of walking home….

At the same time, there was huge pressure on the work front…. finding time for training was hard to do… if I managed a swim and a bike in the week I was doing well…. Often where in the past I might have got the turbo out for even just half an hour, I was often so tired that I couldn’t even bring myself to do that… strangely of course, I may have been better if I had done so!!

Anyway, in the past month or two, in the lead up to my sabbatical I began to get a little more time… or perhaps it was just the longer days and milder weather that was just encouraging me to make time better…. and so I got out a little more on the bike and maybe managed a couple of swims a week….. Since Christmas I have had a series of treatments on my foot, done physio exercises, seen a podiatrist, leading to the fitting of expensive orthotics (they are wonderful…. foot feels so much better when they are in place, and they are transferred to whatever I am wearing on my feet constantly)…. but there was still that nagging discomfort.

Early in April we went to the National Triathlon show at Lee Valley Velo Park (What a fab place!!) Whilst there we came across a stand promoting ‘massagetech’. It was tried out on my foot and Julie had some treatment on some whiplash. It helped both of us. By the end of the day we had purchased one. It was suggested that with daily use I would start to see improvement within about 2 weeks – I did! The problem is not solved completely, but it is so much better. The combined work of the orthotics and the massagetech have made a huge difference. So much so, that come the start of my sabbatical I thought I would start trying just a little gentle run – if the result was I was in absolute agony, well I didn’t have to worry about the difficulty of getting to appointments/meetings etc!

I was delighted to survive without any real different change in symptoms! The only problem was my major lack of run fitness! So much slower for same level of perceived effort and heart rate! Still, I wasn’t going to be silly, so I was going to follow the gradual build stuff… so just 3k first week, then 3 1/2, then 4 1/2 and then Tuesday I ran my first tempo 5k with a pace of 8:15 mileing. Pleasing considering the lack of training, but way below what I would expect for the effort.

Yesterday was the first Box End off-road triathlon of the year- couldn’t resist entering!Box End tri 2016-05-19

That’s me with the blue hat on!

It was great to compete again, though I knew I wasn’t going to be chasing folk down. Think I did reasonably well in the swim, as there were a progression of people who passed me on the bike, and then passed me on the run! It was a pleasure to cheer them on as they did so, as for me, it was just about getting back out there again…. but as well as getting some more running in, think I definitely need to do a bit of off road biking – boy that was hard work! (Well what do you expect when you haven’t cycled off-road since the last time you did a Box End tri last summer!!) Split times aren’t yet up, but here’s the overall results with me at 29th, not bad considering the amount of training gone inBox End Tri results 2016-05-19

If you’re interested in how I got on for the various parts, you can have a look at my Garmin trace. You’ll see there’s a very slow T1 (Transition 1 – from swim to bike). Putting the orthotics in my shoes means that sockless biking/running aren’t really options… putting socks on to damp feet is not a quick task… another technique to learn!!Box End tri Garmin trace 2016-05-19

Onwards and upwards.🙂 The last few weeks have been a time of physical, mental and spiritual blessing. I’m more rested, even having done more physical exercise, including some long bike rides. I’ve lost a few pounds in weight – definitely a few more kilos to lose though. Some spiritual reflection to come in my next blog post!


Posted by: lepages | May 18, 2016

To rest… or not to rest… that is the question..

I guess for many people rest seems to be something easy to do… there’s enjoyment in just sitting… for me, it’s a struggle! Prior to the start of my sabbatical I had had Psalm 23 spoken over me by several people, particularly the first part

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honour to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord

Well, things haven’t turned out as expected so far on sabbatical. Our anticipated start in France hasn’t happened, as our reason for being there – the opening of a new church premises with Geoff & Annette Cawston in Avrille – through whom we experienced our call to ministry – has had to be delayed till September. I think this has hit me harder than I realised – Proverbs 13:12Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Our plans to walk the Bunyan trail have been delayed due to illness – Julie now into her second week dealing with s&d… and I joined her yesterday… whilst at the Excel centre for the Christian Resources Exhibition… thank God, in response to prayer and practical help from a First Aider at the Excel centre, I managed the drive home without accident of any form!!

At the start, on the idea of ‘rest’ and knowing my inclination to get on and do, I had determined that I wouldn’t do more than one ‘job’ around home each day, that I’d make sure that I’d have at least part of each day to read and pray, beyond my normal time with God each morning. That’s happened mostly, and has been very precious times. Sometimes, it’s been sitting in the garden having a tea or coffee and watching the birds – I have had to learn that it’s okay to just be still and not do. I’ve managed to get down to the river too and just sit there – so fortunate to live with such beauty just a couple of minutes walk from our house!2016-05-16 13.19.51

The result of my determination on this has been good, but with added family responsibilities as a result of the illness circulating, it means there are a number of things that haven’t got done that should have been done… and so enforced rest has been the order of the day! Having survived to get home last night, it was collapse straight into bed by 7.30pm and sleep off and on right through the night till after 7 this morning. Fortunately I’m feeling somewhat better, but after seeing to the birds was able to go back to bed and just… rest…. today has been about rest… reading blogs…. watching TV… but couldn’t resist finally getting around to this….

To rest, or not to rest… that is the question

Posted by: lepages | May 4, 2016

Ups & Downs…..

So, I’ve now officially started my sabbatical and ‘ups & downs’ sums up well life over the last few days… on all levels!!

Sunday was certainly ‘ups & downs’! We started off in the morning heading over to Kings Arms Church and what a fabulous morning. Great worship, led by a band who are to lead worship at the Catalyst festival , some great encouragement to faith with news of what God has been doing, encouragement to enter into intercessory prayer together, honest appeal on the financial front with clear vision for use of the finances, and then a great preach from Paul Johnson, which was spot on with some of the things we have been facing as a church – definitely want to be back for part 2 with Simon Holley next Sunday!

From there it was off to see Bedford Blues v Bristol in part 1 of the Championship semi-final. gw8g8710

The first half was excellent with good running rugby from both sides, and Bedford even holding their own and winning at the scrum. We went in behind at half time, but going down the slope and with a following wind I genuinely felt we were in with a shout for the second half…. how wrong I was…. Bristol outplayed us well and good… and once we began to bring on replacements our form just got weaker… we got well and truly beaten at the scrum… and in pretty much every other way…. Headed home a bit disappointed, but also with a sore foot and the plantar fascia pain returning… a product of the run on Saturday… or just the result of being on my feet for most of the day?? Treatment with the oscillating massager brought some relief! Any bizarre thoughts I had been carrying about attempting Milton Keynes marathon without any training on Monday, were soon removed! Instead Julie and me enjoyed going over and supporting a few friends who were competing and who all seemed to do brilliantly.

Some nights I have been sleeping well, other nights not so well… Several times I have been awake around 4 and struggled to get back to sleep. Mind not buzzing with work stuff (fortunately!) but finding other stuff whether it’s sabbatical or sport to mull over… really do need to switch off!!

Then there was the visit to the dentist…. having broken a tooth last week… not much of it left… so looks like it’ll be a long job of root canal work, building a tower and fitting a crown… but no time slot till a month’s time… so got to take care not to get stuff lodged in the remnants and bringing on an infection… Tuesday was my first ‘proper’ day of sabbatical – a day when I would have been doing other things… having a meeting of the apostolic team in the morning and an elders’ meeting in the evening…. Not being at them felt difficult, and I felt low as a result… For years having been ‘on my own’ as far as full-time ministry was concerned, being a part of a team has been a delight since the start of the year, and I’ve come to value the other team members highly over the past months. Being away from them, and indeed from others in the church does give a feeling of loss. My role is not only a job, it’s a calling, and the people I work with are my brothers and sisters and friends whom I love… so being away from them, whilst being at home is difficult…. Driving through town yesterday morning I saw a couple of folk from the church on different occasions and couldn’t help but wonder how they were doing and begin to pray for them… The thought crossed my mind that the only way to truly switch off would be to be away from Bedford, but that’s complicated with the care of our birds… particularly with young chicks in the nest and hungry parents feeding them…

In my time with God this morning I journalled all about my feelings in relation to the above and more, writing my prayers, concerns, complaints, fears… and then I turned to my scripture reading and turned to a book I have been reading by Andrew Wilson 2711992

– it was just what I needed.

Based around verses from Romans 11:


33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgements,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
35 ‘Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?’
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory for ever! Amen.

Andrew Wilson quotes John Piper: ‘Paul says God’s knowledge is unfathomably deep, he knows all recorded facts – all the facts stored in all the computers and all the books in all the libraries in the world. But vastly more than that, he knows all the events at the macro level – all that happens on earth and in the atmosphere and in all the furthest reaches of space in every galaxy and star and planet. And all the events at micro level – all that happens in molecules and atoms and electrons and protons and neutrons and quarks. he knows all their movement and every location and every condition of every particle of the universe at every nanosecond of time…. When one event happens, he not only sees it, but he sees the eternal chain of effects that flow from it and from all the billions of events that are unleashed by every other event. He knows all this without the slightest strain on his mind. That is what it means to be God!’

And so, he knows all about my sabbatical and I can trust him with it, even though there is so much that doesn’t ‘fit’ with my expectations for this sabbatical.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will direct your paths.’ Proverbs 3:5,6

Lord, I willingly submit myself again to your will for my life; I acknowledge you as Lord and say I will trust you, even when I don’t understand, when I don’t have all the knowledge, because I know that you do. Thank you for this reminder from Piper at this time.

Psalm 139:1-4 ‘You have searched me Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.’

lol – Even before I started to think all this and write it down, you knew that you were going to meet me at my point of need with your reassurance in what I was going to find myself reading. David, when he continued writing was spot on, v6

‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.’

Two more quotes from Andrew Wilson which I couldn’t help tweeting earlier:

‘God not only knows all things that happen, but he knows all things which would have happened under different circumstances. He knows all possible outcomes from every situation.’ #reassuringwordsatthistime

‘God knows all past, present and future events, all thoughts and all possibilities. Oh the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!’


Posted by: lepages | April 30, 2016

A rare Saturday!

– not that Saturday’s are rare, but how I spent this one has been!!

Normally, I’m setting the alarm for 6am, and up and out quickly to swim either with Bedford Traktors at Trinity or in the last few weeks to get in a couple of laps of Box End cable lake, before quick turn around for prayer time at church at 8.15am.

Now I love all of those things! I love the swimming! And I love the praying with others, seeking after God, but this morning I didn’t have to get up… and I didn’t have to rush out! It felt so strange to wake up naturally just before 6.30am (alright I was awake earlier about 1/4 to 5 courtesy of some squalling cats, but thankfully I got back to sleep – that’s rare!!) and have time just to spend with God on my own. Had a good hour reading and praying – wonderful! Some of my highlights:

moved by Philippians 2:13 ‘for it is God who works in you to will and act in order to fulfil his good purpose’ – moved by the fact it’s what God does in us and wrote in my journal so glad #itsallaboutyouJesus

and then I came to Isaiah 41:10 ‘so do not fear, for I am with you (needed that when I came to a very nippy swim race later!!😉 ); do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’

In response I found myself praying like this: Thank you Lord for the assurance at this time that you are with me, thank you that my security is in you and so I don’t need to be dismayed, I just need to trust you, knowing that you are my God and you are with me; thank you for the sense of your presence right now, I am in awe of you – thank you that you shine the light of your glorious presence upon my life – even as the beauty of the glorious sunshine shines it’s light out on this new day. Thank you for your promise that through this sabbatical time you will strengthen me and you will help me. Thank you Lord for the knowledge that you will continue to uphold me and make me strong in you. #itsallaboutyouJesussunshine morning

Along the way, I also listened to this song, Just be held, by CastingCrowns

Then it was up, breakfast, feed birds and cat and down to BoxEnd for the first of the GaleForce Mass start swims of the year. Total respect for those who did the 3.8k with the red hats, and thanks for the pics on Facebook Russell Hanford. Box End mass start Russell Hanford

I’ve got a green hat as I was just going for the 1500m – I’m in this pic somewhere!!😉Box End mass start swim 2016-04-30

It was cold, the water temperature having dropped a couple of degrees to 11 . something over the last week or so. Felt pretty good once adjusted in the first few minutes of ‘warm-up’ (sic) and felt went pretty well on first lap. Half way round the second my feet started to feel numb.. and by the time I came to the long straight for home I was starting to lose my form. By the second lap I was in my own, with nearest person some way ahead, so no-one to draft off or to pace… and that long straight seemed to go on forever…. Eventually climbed out across the timing mat with a time of 29:16 – around 2 minutes slower than what I was hoping for, and 4 minutes off my best sort of times…. still came 13th out of 24 doing the distance… results showed how alone I was for a good part of the swim… around 90 secs behind the person in front and around 90 secs ahead of the person behind!

Great to hang around after, not having to rush away with thought of preparation work to do/finish off. Enjoyed a nice hot coffee and breakfast roll after a hot shower, and gradually warmed up. Great to chat with folks. Hearing of other’s plans for the year, made me want to try running again, having not done so since before Christmas! Been suffering with a plantar fascitis type problem (though my symptoms have been the opposite to most people’s – feeling okay first thing in the morning but then getting worse as the day goes on, depending how much I’m on my feet.) Still, visits to doctor, podiatrist, exercises, fitting of orthotics and use of an oscillating massager and finally in last week or so I’ve not been suffering pain! Hasn’t felt 100%, but at least not painful!

So out for my first little run.Strava run 2016-04-30

Long way to go to get run fitness back, but ran without pain and #sofarsogood seems okay!

Happy man! Just an enjoy your sabbatical meal out to go this evening with friends from our small group at church.🙂

Posted by: lepages | April 29, 2016


Well, I guess this isn’t really a resurrection, more a resuscitation or wakeup – this blog has been asleep for a long time – over 2 years in fact! It started 7 years ago with my last sabbatical. 7 years on, I have another sabbatical about to start and felt that I wanted to start it again so I can record some of what’s going on for me!

The blog is not the only thing being resurrected/resuscitated/woken up! somewhere over the last 7 years I have got out of the habit of journaling as much – occasionally I might scribble a note of something, or note some things down, but actually journaling as such had ceased. Last Sunday the congregation at Three Rivers Church West (the new name for Rutland Road Church after we joined together with Three Rivers Church, at the start of this year to become one church with two congregations) gathered round me and my wife Julie to pray over us and commission us for this period of sabbatical. They presented Julie with a lovely bouquet of yellow roses, and me with a notebook (because I love making notes – which is true!)

2016-04-29 13.58.35

I had already been thinking of journaling my experiences during my sabbatical, so as I began to approach it I couldn’t resist getting started again. It’s such a good thing to do! This week I have been journaling my mixed emotions at the approach of my sabbatical – the eagerness for it to arrive, combined with the desperate desire that it wasn’t now, at this time of change for us as a church!

The reality is I desperately need it! Early in the week my tiredness really showed and I was encouraged to begin preparing myself for the sabbatical by winding down so that come next week I don’t crash after a sudden stop.

It’s been good doing that – and difficult! Things that I love to do, (corporate prayer predominantly) I have stepped away from to stop my continual looking forward with anticipation for what God is going to do next. (That sounds awful saying that…. but I know that as I pray I expect to see God act and am always eager to know what he’s been doing…. and if I’m going to switch off…)

There’s also been the explaining to a number of folk I support outside of the church that I’m not going to be around for the next 3 months… and attempting to put them in touch with others who can support them.

Looking forwards, I’m going to start blogging again on all fronts, because I am convinced that Jesus came that we might have life to the full, and that he has given us all things richly to enjoy. So expect, as well as my spiritual reflections, to hear about my feeble sporting attempts (training been at a minimum over past 6 months or so, with no running since before Christmas), Bedford Blues in the play offs for the Championship, and our birds and any trips away!

Posted by: lepages | March 3, 2014

Rest… the best way to train for multisport??….

So, I’m getting ready for my first event of the year, the Dambuster Duathlon



and preparing for doing a couple of Middle Distance triathlons through the year, along with a few shorter ones too…. only problem is… as my run form was improving in the Autumn after finally feeling like I was getting somewhere following long term struggle to regain form after an accident 18 months earlier… I seemed to go down with every bug in sight…. and then I foolishly ran off road in my road shoes and gave myself a groin strain, slipping in some slidy mud… just recovering from that and I got another bug….

Finally, between Christmas & New Year I was starting to feel better and got a few easyish runs in whilst on holiday at my parents in the beautiful island of Guernsey.


Thought we were going well, could begin to up the pace and build positively for the season ahead. For my training, I was following a training plan from Triathlon Plus magazine


Determined to up my running pace, I worked hard on interval sessions on a treadmill at the gym. It was going well… and then towards the end of a hard session, as I got to the end of a hard interval I felt a twinge that I hadn’t felt before… I thought at the top of my hamstring… the interval finished and I was in a slow recovery period and went for the final interval when….. ouch!! Had to hit stop…. knew I had a serious problem….

Asked advice from mates on Facebook, and several recommended Ken Parsons. His help and advice was superb – if a little uncomfortable at times!!😉

No running for me for a while, no cycling for a bit… just swimming… and no kicking to start with… feared my season was going to be wrecked again….😦

But the swimming was going well… and adding in some coaching from Steve James and my stroke has improved further with new PB’s of 1:35 over 100m 3:20 over 200m, and surprisingly finding myself able to swim repeated 100’s at around 1:40ish.

Treatment of torn hamstring (quickly diagnosed by large bruise on back of leg… which went on to gradually drop down round the knee with the aid of gravity!) helped tremendously. After a few weeks I was able to do a short slow jog, then a short slow jog with a bit of a run in the middle for 5 mins… and then gradually building from there. Last week I got up to 9k, including 10 mins easy jog at start and finish. Inbetween, I discovered I could run just under 8 minute mileing quite comfortably, albeit probably effort level 3 – 4 rather than 2 – 3. Biking seemed to be going okay too for the time of year and weather conditions.

Last Saturday after a reasonably easy nearly 50 miles on the bike, I ran straight off for 3k at sub 8 min mile pace and felt good. Today, I decided to do a 25 mile bike and run off again. Pleased to have averaged 20mph for the 25 miles, though dropped off to 19.6mph by the time I got home coming through town traffic, straight into run at just slightly faster pace than Saturday (though admittedly, I only did just over 2k as I found the river path was under water again as the river had burst it’s banks over night….)

So, going to try and get a longer run of 10k, or just over, in tomorrow (time permitting!), perhaps a bit of turbo Wed and then maybe a swim Thurs… then rest Friday…. and we’ll see what Saturday brings!

Posted by: lepages | February 17, 2014

Joseph – The Big Head – Genesis 37

So, it’s a little while since I blogged – been a busy period – and would like to have written about some of it, but just can’t find words to put things as I would like… so back to what I love to do most….

Here’s our first preach in our teaching series on Joseph from Rutland Road Church. You can listen to how I delivered it live from the website, or read my notes below…

Joseph, and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat!

A wonderful stage production, and musical extravaganza!

Here’s a clip to enjoy!!

But Joseph was a real man in history, with all the ups and downs of life and relationships which many of us face.

Over this next month we’re going to have a look at his life – not just as a character study, but to see what we can learn from his life, the good, the bad and the indifferent, to help us in our own lives and relationships.

We’ll have some teaching on a Sunday, and then as we gather in our small groups – we call them cell groups – because each group is like a biological cell, growing and developing, but they are all part of the whole body of the church, not just an independent group doing their own thing – anyway, back from the diversion, in our cell groups we’ll help one another with living it out, standing with one another in the ups and downs of life, and supporting and strengthening one another so we can be the best we can be as human beings. If you’re not a member of a group and you’d like to find out more about them, talk to me after the service.

Today, we reflect on  Joseph – the Big Head!

And we pick up on his life in his late teens – you might find it helpful to be able to see the account of his life as we reflect on it – we start in Genesis 37,


Setting the scene a little…..

What environment did you grow up in?

A good stable family?

An awful dysfunctional family?

A family with inconsistent values?

A family of favouritism and resultant sibling rivalry?

– that’s the sort of family that Joseph grew up in.

Perhaps because Joseph was born, in his father’s senior years, he was treated as the favoured son – this meant that his brothers hated him.

Let’s read a little of the account of his early years – and we’ll go through progressively as we reflect on his life and what we can learn from it.

READ Genesis 37:1-4

Perhaps some of us identify with the various positions there?!

Maybe some of us grew up as a favoured child…. knew what it was to always be Mummy or Daddy’s boy or girl…. and perhaps knew…. maybe know… what it is to have the jealousy of siblings….

Perhaps you weren’t the favoured child…. and know the hurt of seeing someone else in that position…. perhaps you have sympathy with Joseph’s brothers – you know what it’s like…

Perhaps you’re a parent… and have to acknowledge that you have (maybe ‘are’) showing favouritism amongst your children in some way???

How do you handle inconsistent treatment?

This is the context Joseph was born into.

He was a ‘Daddy’s boy’…

The first thing we read about him is how as a young man of 17 he was out working with his brothers, tending his father’s flocks…. he went home and told his father a bad report about his brothers….

We don’t know what he said…. we don’t know whether it was a serious issue… or whether it was just folk having a bit of a laugh… as in the cartoon clip that was showed earlier.

It’s one thing to be questioned about something by a parent, and spill the beans…. quite another to go and blab about one of your siblings!

Any of us ever known that happen??!!

The writer of Genesis then says v3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons… (Israel & Jacob are the same people – different names he was known by – bit like my father-in-law was – everyone knew him as ‘Gordon’, but his name was ‘Henry’)

Even down to how he treated him – not just an inner greater tenderness towards him, but a practical outworking of that, so Joseph got the special treatment – he received a specially, personally made robe from his father – the robe made famous by Tim Rice and Andrew-Lloyd Webber as ‘the amazing technicolour dream coat’.

It’s one thing to sense that a sibling is being favoured more than you… even tougher to see that outright favouritism being shown publicly….

the result…. his brothers v4 hated him and could not speak a kind word to him

I guess, more likely, they would have said unkind things to him.

Joseph’s behaviour, blabbing to his father, didn’t help the situation… it aggravated their relationships further…. equally, neither did his brothers behaviour help things… their hatred and likely unkind words would have further pushed Joseph away.

Sometimes, inspite of our circumstances, if we want the best, we have to choose to love – and in that act of choosing to love we can begin the process of rebuilding damaged relationships – we’ll see that happening in later life for Joseph… but how sad that it had to wait that long!

Touching on this sort of thing, could well be touching on painful situations in some of our lives… can I encourage you not just to leave it… staying in entrenched positions… living with hurt and pain… choose, as far as you are able, to love and to work for reconciliation and good relationships.

For some of us, we may need some emotional healing to help us do that.

If you’re in that place, can I encourage you after the service to ask one of the prayer team, or someone else you know and trust, to pray for you and ask God to come and minister his healing and grace to you. If you’re in a cell group, you might like to share it with other group members during the week and have them stand with you in prayer and minister God’s grace to you.

The next little section I’ve headed:-  Dreams & Drama

 Let’s read Genesis 37:5-11

Who has dreams??!!

Do you always tell others about your dreams??!!

There are some which it’s appropriate to share….

and there are some that it’s not appropriate to share!

God sometimes speaks to us through dreams.

He is able to use our subconscious as a way of communicating truth to us.

Across the world at this time Jesus is often appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions to draw them to himself.

Sometimes God gives us dreams, visions, pictures, images to communicate truth to share with others…. but sometimes those dreams are just for us….

I have a feeling that life might have been a bit easier for Joseph if he had kept his dreams to himself!

The Bible teaches us in Romans 8:28 that

‘God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’

I would guess that Joseph wouldn’t have been sure about that with the events that were to follow after he shared his dreams… and yet, ultimately, as we shall see in the coming weeks, the sad situation really worked out for good and enabled Joseph to achieve things he may never have achieved as a shepherd working for his father.

There’s no getting away from it though…. Joseph was a Big Head – he seemed to take delight in sharing the dreams with his brothers… and then with his father…. dreams which said, ‘hey, one day you’re going to bow down to me, one day I’m going to rule over you’ – his brothers had no doubt about what he was saying… his father challenged him over it…. and yet…. that fatherly love meant that even though he struggled with Jacob’s dream, he didn’t dismiss it, but held it in mind.

What do you do with a Big Head?

It’s tough isn’t it??!!

There’s two sides to it of course!

What do you do if you naturally have a big head (in the eyes of others!!)??

You’re naturally confident, outgoing, you naturally take the lead and assume that others will understand you and follow your example or what you say.

What do you do if you work with, live with, socialise with someone like that and you struggle with it?

I’m guessing that Joseph’s approach in ‘just putting it out there’, isn’t necessarily the most helpful one….

But I’m guessing too that his brothers’ reaction wasn’t the most helpful too either…

Perhaps his father had the best approach – yes he maybe challenged his son’s arrogance… but he didn’t dismiss it!

You see, sometimes, there can genuinely be a good reason why a person has ‘a big head’, why they have a confidence that leaves others feeling threatened… it could be that they do have real, valuable, leadership gift and ability…. even if their character could do with a bit of work!!

Joseph and his big head were to have to go through some conditioning processes, to mould and shape his character so that the gifts within him could be used effectively for the blessing of many people….

I wonder if there’s any of us who need some character building and moulding, so that we can be more effective with the gifts we have, rather than letting the gifts we have, and our character, cause offence to others?

I wonder whether for some of us, who are perhaps offended by the big head of others…. whether we need to hold back a little, and recognise that maybe there’s gift in there which needs using, but which needs some character development before it can be released to be as effective as it might be?

There’s a place for challenging… but not for condemning.

Challenge can sometimes refine.

Perhaps in our groups this week, we need to be prepared to make ourselves accountable to one another and say honestly ‘How do I measure up?’

In doing so, it may be to our encouragement and up-building… and it may be to our refining for the better.

Well, we come to the final section of our account of the life of Joseph for today.

I’ve headed it  Deceit & Devastation

I don’t intend to say a lot about it, but as we read from v12 to the end of the chapter, just let the overwhelming emotions expressed in the narrative touch your life, and we’ll reflect briefly on some of the themes as I conclude…..

READ Genesis 37:12-36

Bereavement is a tragedy. It can bring devastation to people’s lives.

We have seen this in our community this past week with the sad loss of a young man – thank you to all who came out on the streets to pray for this community last night, and to those who prayed from at home.

For Jacob, he could not reconcile all his hopes and dreams with the loss of his son Joseph.

The tragedy of the situation is that the devastation Jacob felt was the product of deceit by his other sons…. and his emotions would have been very different if he had known the truth that his son was not dead, but had been sold as a slave.

It’s amazing how real threat can change thoughts and feelings – Reuben may not have liked his brother…. but he was his brother…. and the thought of killing him was too much…. sadly, family problems can lead to violence…. and even death… we need to guard ourselves wisely…. if there are problems, we need to address them before they lead to worse… if you are facing family issues… don’t ignore them…. don’t fight within…. get support! If nothing else, get prayer today.

As we conclude, I feel it would be appropriate to pray into some of the areas raised….

1. those who have not been the favoured one, and identify with the hurt and pain of Joseph’s brothers

2. those who have received a hard time from siblings or others because they have been the favoured one

3. those who know that their personality type, their character causes difficulty for others

4. those who struggle with coping with others because of their big headedness, real or felt


Here’s my notes from my sermon reflecting on the breadth of leadership, in our teaching series on ‘Women in Leadership’.

The audio file of the talk is available on the church website here.


I wonder what you feel about lists…???? 

Lists of people, lists of facts, lists of figures, shopping lists, to do lists? (And so on!!)

Who loves lists?

Who loathes lists?

I used to loathe lists… but I’m growing to see that they have value! (Wouldn’t go as far as to say that I love them though!!!)

Earlier in the week someone said to me, ‘Why do we produce an annual church report?’

Having been working on one of the parts for which I had to prepare for inclusion, it was quite easy for me to answer. (Not sure whether this is what I said or not!) But, making a report means that you have to stop and reflect, to remember things, to be reminded of them, to record them – and that’s a good thing to do! (So once Andy – thanks Andy! – has compiled the report for the year, can I encourage you to read it, and to be prepared to ask questions about it where you would like to know more or question what has been done – doing this helps us all to grow and develop.)

If you’re like I used to be – a list loather….. !!!! – when you’re reading your Bible, and you come to a list of things…. maybe a list of people…. a list of objects….. a list of offerings…. a list of dimensions…. a genealogy…. a list of tribes…. a list of greetings… what do you tend to do?

Skip over it, skim read it??……

It’s easy to do that…. but when we do that, sometimes we miss out on fascinating detail!

A year or so ago, some of us participated in the community choir set up by Bedford Creative Arts, to perform a piece of music put together by Johnny Parry, bringing together a collection of lyrics from a diverse group of people, to form ‘An Anthology of All Things’ as it was called.

One of the parts, was a listing of names from park benches – random – but as we went through, different people would say…. ahhhh… I knew that person…. and share something about them that you might never otherwise have known.

Well, we come to our Bible reading for today…. and if you haven’t already guessed(!) …. it’s a list! A list of greetings…. and it’s easy to skim over them, but if we do, we’re apt to miss out on some fascinating elements of early church history….. elements which have caused otherwise respected scholars to be very selective at times in their translation of the text, so as not to cause a difficulty with their own theological position…. which includes the largely evangelical translators of the NIV, the ESV and the NLT. It’s interesting to read a translation which seeks to be a literal translation, which doesn’t come from an evangelical background, such as the NRSV.. and to see the differences which arise as a result! Fascinating too, that the revision of the NIV in 2011 which any NIV Bibles purchased in the last couple of years, or used on line or in mobile apps contain a text which mirrors very closely the NRSV’s literal translation of the passage.

I said two weeks ago that it was time to get our brains working as we move into a New Year…

So, we’re going to read a list of greetings, and then we’re going to grapple with the text a bit… and we’re going to face the reality of what that means… and we’re going to reflect on how that has worked out subsequently in the history of the church.

We’ll read from the NIV as we have it in the pew Bibles, but then we’ll look at the revised and more literal translation, where it has been ‘adapted’ for theological reasons….

READ Romans 16:1-16 p1142


Bit of background to help us understand the context Paul was writing into.

Many of the New Testament books are letters written to ‘the church in’ a given city (e.g. Corinth), or to ‘the churches in’ a region (e.g. Galatia).

The letter to the Romans isn’t written that way.

In his opening greetings (not the concluding ones we’ve just read!) Paul says in ch 1 verse 7 : ‘to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints’ or ‘to be his holy people’.

Rome was a big place. At the time Paul wrote it would have made Bedford seem small in comparison. It had a population of around 1million people. Like Bedford, it was a multicultural city – as a major world centre it attracted people from across the known world – and with freedom of movement within the Roman world – much as there is today within the European Union – people could pretty much move where they liked, when they liked…. as long as they had the means to do so. Of course that multiculturalism brought problems just as it does today, and so last week we read of all the Jews being expelled from Rome under the rule of Claudius, just as we hear of arguments for and against limits on migration to the UK.

It’s likely therefore, that the church in Rome was not a single entity – that it had many congregations, meeting in many places across the city – with many people giving time to serving the church and extending the kingdom – and Paul writes greetings and commendations to this incredible list of people. He greets or mentions or commends just under 30 people by name – 8 of whom are women, along with a mother and a sister who aren’t named.

So, what’s the significance of this?

We’ve entitled this morning ‘Breadth of Leadership’ – and in the midst of these greetings and commendations we find a huge breadth of leadership.

 Paul, having given a final blessing to God’s people in Rome in ch15:33

‘The God of peace be with you all. Amen’

then goes on to provide some final commendations and personal greetings.

He begins by commending Phoebe – a servant of the church in Cenchreae – except that whilst the Greek word here diakonos means ‘servant’, it is also translated elsewhere within this edition of NIV as deacon or indeed, as minister.

It’s interesting, that if you look at the footnote in the church NIV Bibles, it provides an alternative translation to servant, with the word deaconess…. but why does it say deaconess… the noun is not a feminine noun! Fortunately in the 2011 edition this has been corrected and it says:-

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

It has 2 footnotes saying Or servant and explaining ‘The word deacon refers here to a Christian designated to serve with the overseers/elders of the church in a variety of ways.’

Phoebe was a recognised leader in the church in Cenchreae, under the authority of the other overseers/elders. But she was a leader – and Paul expected her to be given respect and support as a leader. And so he says, v2

I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you…

She was a servant – as all Christian leaders are called to be – as Jesus modelled himself – but she was nonetheless a leader and Paul expected the Christians in Rome to help her in her ministry when she called for help.

But the understatement in our pew NIV Bibles doesn’t end there for Phoebe…

v2 continues….

give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me

This continues to give the image of a kind hearted servant type… but sells short on what she does!

ESV gets this right, translating it:-

help her in whatever way she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

2011NIV puts it

for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Phoebe was a wealthy woman who had not only served the church faithfully and effectively in practical ways, but who had also released finance to support many people, including Paul in their missional work.

So we have Phoebe, a recognised leader, a deacon, a real servant of the church, who funded many others in their ministry – whose role and function may sadly be missed by many through selective translation work….

Then we come to Priscilla, whom Ian helped us think about last week. Just to pick up two phrases – Paul called them his fellow-workers– not my fellow-worker Aquila, and his wife…

Paul clearly saw and acknowledged Priscilla as an equal fellow-worker along with Aquila – and it’s significant in a similar vein that he says v4:

Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them

He clearly saw them as a team who worked together effectively for the Kingdom of God and the blessing and upbuilding of the church and their ministry was widely recognised across many churches.

Next comes Mary – we don’t know much about her – accept that she worked very hard for the church in Rome. Sometimes we need to make sure we honour those who put in hard work.

I want to do that this morning and honour Jean – Jean has worked hard over years as a faithful servant and witness – it’s as a result of that that some of you are here today! (And I could name others too – perhaps I can encourage you all to thank and honour others that you know have worked hard for the church and for the Kingdom??)

We then come to the next ‘lady’ v7

‘Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Believe it or not, but in Greek ‘Junias’ is a male name, ‘Junia’ is the female name…. bit like ‘Julian’ – ‘Julia’.

You would not believe the struggles this verse has caused for Bible translators….

Here’s the problem…. in the Greek manuscripts the name is Junia – which is female – no men in recorded history called Junia – there are no manuscripts with the male name Junias, as you have it in the church Bibles, until the 13th century….. long after the letter was originally written…. why was it changed? Well, you can’t have a woman apostle can you??!!……..

And so you find that modern Bible translators into English who have sought to translate this verse and have a theological bias as far as women in leadership is concerned have found ways of ‘adapting’ the translation – so the NIV in the church Bibles, puts the name in the male ‘Junias’ – which doesn’t feature in any manuscripts until the 13th century – in spite of the fact that early church fathers – including those who otherwise were opposed to women’s ministry – had no doubt about the fact that Junia was female…. Chrysostom, who generally expressed reservations about women in leadership wrote this:-

‘O how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle.’

Gladly, the 2011 NIV has corrected it’s error, and now has Junia – but it has now added a footnote to the verse…. saying that an alternative translation to ‘They are outstanding among the apostles’ could be ‘they are esteemed by the apostles’.

Interesting that they didn’t put that footnote when they had Junia as male….. as in the church Bibles…

Read any translation commentary and it is apparent that the phrase ‘They are outstanding among the apostles’ is an accurate, literal translation. Sadly ESV, because of its translators theological bias, I would say, does not remain true to its intention to be a literal translation – and puts the phrase in the most understated way imaginable ‘They are well known by the apostles…’

To me, that is really sad. Rather than grapple with the complexities of doctrine found in scripture, they have sought by a liberal translation to avoid the issue….

The 2011NIV expresses the verse well, following other literal translations like the NRSV, in putting it like this:-

‘Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.’

So what does the verse tell us about Junia?

It tells us that Andronicus and Junia were kinsfolk of Paul – he may have been physically related to them, he may have been just referring to their racial affinity – one of the fascinating things with this list of greetings is that it contains male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free – paralleling Galatians 3 which we looked at a couple of weeks ago.

They had been in prison with Paul – implying that they had worked with Paul on apostolic teams. Their ministry was looked up to as outstanding – they were therefore very gifted leaders. And then there is this final statement about them – they were in Christ before I was – they had become Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus before Paul had – so they were around in the very early days of the church.

The word ‘apostle’ is used in a couple of ways in the New Testament.

As well as ‘The Twelve’ it is used in a wider way as those who have a calling to be foundation layers, of those who are called to church planting, establishing churches in new areas – and so in Ephesians 4 amongst the gifts Paul lists of people to equip the church we have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Andronicus and Junia were apostles, called by Christ to equip and build up the church.

Women have been called to this sort of apostolic role down through the centuries.

When we were at Bible college in Scotland I remember going to a mission conference in Edinburgh and talking with a lady who had been a pioneer missionary in Africa. She had started new churches in areas where there was previously no witness, seeing folk come to Christ, and then teaching them and building them up in their faith, until local leadership was established – the somewhat bizarre thing was that when she came back to the church she was sent out from in Scotland, she wasn’t allowed to report out loud in a church meeting on her work…. let alone use her gifts for teaching in that context.

In the last couple of weeks, I have learned of how a lady missionary came on her own to the village that Maria, Lilian & Ruth’s mum, grew up in. She helped the women learn basic skills to help them earn a living. She taught people to read, using the Bible as the teaching aid – and she saw folk come to faith, starting meetings in people’s homes, leading ultimately to the planting of a church in their village.

Through the Autumn I have been reading a book entitled ‘Voices from the Welsh Revival’ – inspiring stuff to read – if you want some inspiration in your life, this is one book I’d encourage you to read. Well, I knew of Evan Roberts as a major part of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 – I knew that many other leaders were affected by it and took the power of the revival into their own settings…. what I didn’t know of and was surprised to read of in a conservative Evangelical Press publication was the incredible role of women in the Revival. Admittedly, many started as ‘singers’, soloists who would call people in song, or lead the congregations in worship, but their ministry went far further than that, and many were labelled as ‘missioners’.

I’d like to read just a couple of paragraphs of one lady mentioned in the book p76,77

There are fewer first-hand reports of Cardiff meetings, perhaps because Evan Roberts refused to visit it since he had ‘no leading of the Holy Spirit’. The singers and Sidney Evans also stayed away from the city, but one team member, Annie May Rees the elocutionist, created a sensation in the new-style meetings. She had a natural flair for doing unusual things, such as bringing two converted gypsies into the pulpit at Aberdare. She served her apprenticeship in the Rhondda meetings and when Evan Roberts fell ill, she filled up the time with the singing of such hymns as ‘O Happy Day’ and ‘I need thee’. From making just a few remarks to the hymns, she progressed to dramatic invitations to ‘Throw out the Lifeline’ after telling a story. On 2 December at Moriah Chapel, Pentre, with the main team miles away, Annie took her seat alone, in the ‘big pew’ and presently began to sing some of the beautifully touching hymns of the revival. After the congregation had joined her she opened the meeting with prayer, and afterwards spoke alternately in Welsh and English, taking practical charge of the proceedings.

At Christmas she made a triumphant return to Gorseinon and was at once invited to give an address at Bethel Chapel. An observer wrote:

The people were very much impressed by what she said, as she is only a young girl of fifteen summers, and a native of this place… Miss Rees said, ‘My heart is in the work, and I am eagerly looking forward to the time when I shall return to Cardiff to continue the meetings….’ She mentioned the name of the Rev. Charles Davies, the respected pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Chapel, Cardiff, as one who was giving her great assistance.

Did you spot that? This lass who was preaching, leading services and worship, calling folk to give their lives to Christ in the midst of this revival was 15 years old! So get in there Youth Cell!!

Well, time has gone and we haven’t even mentioned Tryphena (Dainty) & Tryphosa (Delicate) or Persis, or Julia – Tryphena & Tryphosa – names which indicate they were likely to be high class Roman citizens & Persis, a common female slave name – all treated alike by Paul – Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female.

So what does this mean for Rutland Road Church in 21C?

– something for us to reflect on next week!



Posted by: lepages | January 15, 2014


Been mulling over this for a few weeks, and thinking I ought to write something.

(Sorry – this isn’t a competition – it’s my random thoughts about competition!)

Has been brought to a focus recently when it was suggested that we might like to organise a team Bible quiz and have our church small groups (we call them ‘cells’ – they’re not independent groups, but all part of the whole body of the church and working together) compete against each other. There was strong reaction from one person indicating that they didn’t think it was helpful to have competition – have heard this said in some quarters in an education setting in the past. BUT, I have to admit, I love competition! I love to compete!

Competition for me is a regular part of my life! Very regular!

As a triathlete I love to compete in triathlon – and I’ll give duathlons a go too… and the odd run…. and a few bike time trials… and I love to train… because it prepares me to compete… as well as helping with my mental health! One of my big struggles in training has been learning to train at levels which aren’t always competing with each other!!

I’m never going to be a winner at triathlon – pretty much always tend to come between the 50 & 33% mark in events I enter – and I don’t mind that. I don’t get disappointed or frustrated that I don’t win. I just love to compete. I love to be able to try and do better than I’ve done before. Loved the time when I just broke 2h30mins for an Olympic Standard distance triathlon (1500m swim/40k bike/10k run). Loved last year aiming to go under 6hours for my first Middle Distance triathlon (1.9k swim/90k bike/21k run) so was well chuffed when I clocked 5:42. Entering my second in September, I was hoping to break 5:30 – was absolutely stoked when I smashed it and completed in under 5:20. When I enter the repeat of last May’s first event, I shall be competing to get under 5:30. 

But I love to compete constantly! And so I love to play card games, board games – and I do win at some of them – not so often at others! We have a craft and games afternoon at church every other Wednesday – and carpet bowls on the alternate ones – love to go and join in with both. The carpet bowls is played in fun – but there’s a delight when you get a good run. I love to play Scrabble… even if I usually lose to the Senior ladies who usually beat me thoroughly!

And then… courtesy of social media, and Facebook in particular, there’s a wealth of competition to enter into. A particular favourite is Bejeweled Blitz – I don’t often hold top of leader board, but I had a great start to the week of competition yesterday, and scored for me, a cracking score. Couldn’t resist posting a picture about it on Facebook, having a good score for the week before anyone else had even had a go since the scoreboards were reset.


Interesting, tongue in cheek comment came from a fellow minister:-

“Now remind me… what does the good book say about the proud and the humble… “
So I suppose it raises the question, is my blogging a lot of boasting – particularly this posting!!??
Well, I hope not.
Competition is to me about facing the challenge to be the best we can be in every sphere of life.
To be honest about our failings, where we don’t measure up, where we can improve, to rejoice in the achievements of others (like the humbling reality of sitting after my first Middle Distance triathlon close to the guy who won in under 4:30 and who maintained an average speed of over 25mph on the bike…. How can you do that??!!)
God has made me me! He created me to be me! He created me to use all the gifts and abilities he has put in me to the best of my ability. Not so that I can boast, but so that I can find delight in being whom I was created to be, and in using those gifts and abilities to be a blessing to others.
So competition????
I think it brings the best out of me in every sphere of life. It encourages me to strive to be the best I can be at whatever I do – whether it’s something competitive or not.
So, I had a good swim training session at lunchtime today…. fast interval sessions… but having done 4x100m with rest intervals of 30secs in times of 1:45- 1:50 going really hard, I realised that this was slower than my 400m PB set last year at under 7mins…. so I’ve got some work to do to build my endurance back up…. how long is it to my first competitive event to focus me….???!!!😉


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