Posted by: lepages | January 7, 2014

Inspecting the floods!

Went for an off road run at lunchtime – bit distracted by the floods…. and a bit rerouted by them… as well as a bit wet through them! Glad to have my trail shoes on this time and not be slipping and sliding everywhere in the mud! You can have a look at where I went on Strava. Anyway, run done, just had to have a quick shower and MTB back along and get some pics. Enjoy!

ImageThink we had a picnic just down there in September…

 

ImageWhere’s the island gone??
ImageLoving this new cycle path!!ImageImageSpot the life buoy!! Really accessible in flood conditions when you need it!!ImageImageImageMore like a lake than a river!

Posted by: lepages | January 6, 2014

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike…

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike…

Had those words and that tune buzzing round in my head on several occasions as we walked around in Guernsey over the Christmas / New Year holiday… especially when I saw others riding their bicycles…

So, day off today – good few chores to do, cleaning aviaries, repairing a shed door…. so quick check of the hourly forecast… sun and cloud all the way till 4pm…. so thought I’ll get the jobs done first and then head out… plan was to do around 25-30 miles as hadn’t been out for a few weeks….. around 30 minutes easy…. around 30 minutes at steady/tempo… and then an easy 30 minutes or so home….

Got the jobs done (successfully! I’m not the world’s best DIY person, so really pleased to get the door off the shed, sort the problems with the door frame and the frame of the door and reassemble it so it all works smoothly… well chuffed 😉 ), had an early lunch and thought I’d head off around the outer loop of the Priory Middle Distance tri route just before 1pm.

Had only got on to Prebend Street, going over the River Ouse, when I realised it was going to be an ‘interesting’ ride!

Some very strong gusting breezes meant that the ride was going to be more about bike handling skills than any worrying about 30 minutes easy/3 minutes tempo/30 minutes easy! Twas a hard ride down to Shefford… and whilst it was bright as I headed out by the time I had got down towards Chicksands the sky had covered up with some heavy cloud… which then decided they’d like to deposit their contents on me…. now not only wind to contend with, but wet roads… and wet me!!

Pace very variable, depending on the way the wind was blowing, and how wet the roads were. Turn at Shefford meant wind more behind than head or cross. Able to go for my tempo session and give a steady push pretty much all the way to just before the Sandy roundabout… but very aware of the effect of not cycling for a few weeks! A lot of work to do to rebuild endurance and speed to be ready for my target average of 20mph for the 56 (+ abit!!) bike leg of the Middle Distance tri in May!

Turned back towards Bedford and Moggerhanger – drop to easy pace (read struggle along slowly into the wind….) Queue of traffic in Moggerhanger… cycled past it towards Willington… only to find road blocked off with fire engines, police cars, ambulances…. couldn’t see what had happened…. a nice police lady kindly said ‘NO!’ when I looked quizzically at the possibility of cycling through… to which I politely responded ‘Thanks, I’ll go round the other way.’ 

As I retraced back to Moggerhanger the sun came out. Turned right and headed slowly along what I’ve discovered is a Strava segment called ‘Sheerhatch climb’. Was really straight into the wind section…. and straight into the sun! Bright sun… on wet roads… makes seeing your way forwards fun… was glad I was wearing my yellow fluorescent jersey so the drivers rerouteing could see me! All who came past kindly gave me plenty of space which was nice!

Pleasant run back into Bedford. Not pushing, but found myself holding a comfortable pace of 18-20mph most of the way back home. Don’t quite understand that. Maybe the wind dropped, or changed direction as the storm front disappeared. I’m not complaining!

Hadn’t had my Garmin on average speed. Was guessing it was going to be a pretty slow average, given some of the battle along the way. Pretty pleased to find I’d got an average speed of 18.1mph. Happy with that given lack of training recently… and the Christmas weight gain discovered on the scales this morning…

Posted by: lepages | January 5, 2014

Women in leadership – all one in Christ Jesus

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It’s a long time since I’ve blogged my preaching notes, but here they are from our first Sunday’s teaching of the year at Rutland Road Church and here’s a direct link to the live recording of what I brought… which suffers from a number of distractions including problems with my presentation (slide shot above), problems with my microphone and a runny nose!

So, anyway, here’s my notes…..

Women in Leadership – ‘All one in Christ Jesus’

Galatians 3:26-29 p1170

Happy New Year to you all!

Hope you’re rested and have had a restorative time over the Christmas/New Year holiday period

Hope you’ve been spiritually refreshed as we’ve spent time reflecting on the wonder of the Christmas story, of Immanuel – God with us.

Sounds like those of you who were here had a wonderful time last Sunday giving testimony to God’s grace and favour on our lives through the last year.

Well, we’re now looking forwards!

Time to get the brains in gear again – not just those returning to school, education, work!

Through January we’re going to do a series of teaching on (PP) Women in Leadership

Whilst we were over in Guernsey on holiday visiting my family, one of the deacons in my parents’ church was preaching on the Sunday morning. He preached on ‘worldliness’.

I expected that his preach would be about naming all the worldly things which we as Christians sometimes let dominate our lives… but it wasn’t! He came from quite a different angle to what I expected and it was really refreshing as he unpacked the theme from scripture and experience.

I hope that as we as elders unpack the theme of ‘Women in Leadership’ over the next few weeks that we might similarly come from quite a different angle to what is expected, and that it might be refreshing as we unpack the theme from scripture and from experience!

I grew up in a very traditional Brethren assembly. Women had no role to play in the church overall. They had to be silent. They weren’t allowed to pray out loud, introduce a hymn, read scripture… they weren’t allowed to say a word – except join in with the men in singing hymns.

I believed this was right, because in 1 Corinthians 14:34 it says:-

‘Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak….’

I left Guernsey just before my 18th birthday and went to college in London.

I had my approved list of Brethren assemblies to go and visit.

The first meeting I went to was a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

I was somewhat stunned when I went in and some of the women weren’t wearing a head covering. I was in shock when during the course of the meeting when a woman stood up and prayed!!

 I went home and had a long telephone conversation with my Mum.

What should I do?

Do you think the Lord could have sent me there to show them the truth from God’s Word?

My Mum was very gracious, and suggested that perhaps I should visit some of the other assemblies I had on my list.

I did… and at each one I found women praying and participating in the services.

By the time I had visited four it made me start to stop and wonder… and I prayerfully went back to reading scripture to see if there could be any justifiable reason for this wholesale disregard for the plain teaching of scripture.

As I did that I read from scripture in 1 Corinthians 11 about the wearing of head coverings… and of how in that culture it was a disgrace for women to pray or prophesy with their heads uncovered… and there was this sudden dawning that it’s possible for women to pray silently… but you can’t prophesy silently…. therefore as Paul had given this church instruction on how women should pray and prophesy in the church, the keeping silent was clearly not about not saying a word in church!

 In the evangelical church today, there are two main streams of theological thought as far as women’s ministry in the life of the church go.

 They are termed (PP) Complementarian and (PP) Egalitarian

Now, please don’t switch off!

We’re going to explore them a bit!

Your brains have had a bit of recovery time over the Christmas period, so now they need to do some grappling!! 😉

The basic principle of the complementarian line of thought is that God created men and women differently – not just physically, but in every way, and so that should lead to men and women fulfilling different roles and functions in life and faith. Men are seen as the leaders, with women working alongside and complementing them through their own respective ministries and callings

That’s the basic view of complementarian thought – but within it there is quite a wide latitude of interpretation – so for example there are those complementarians who would feel that women should never teach the whole church, and there are those – and I would have put myself in this place at this time last year – who feel that women can teach, provided they do so under the authority of a male eldership. There are those complementarians who would feel that this complementary relationship should extend in every area of society and that leadership should always be male, at every level of society. Equally there are those who would say that this complementary relationship only really finds its true definition within the roles and life of the church, or indeed within marriage, and that there are levels of leadership which women may operate in outside of church eldership.

That’s a basic summing up of the breadth of thought from a complementarian end.

The egalitarian line of thought is that when God created human beings, he created them male and female, and he created them equal in every way. The egalitarian line would say that as a result of ‘the fall’, when Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God, that that relationship of equality was disrupted, but that in Christ it is restored. An egalitarian would therefore not put any limitation on women’s role in leadership in the church or in any other setting as man and woman are seen as equal in every way – each made in the image of God, each adopted as children of God through Christ.

On a few occasions in the last few years it has seemed appropriate to invite a lady to preach or teach on the basis of an older woman teaching the younger women, for example on Mothering Sunday; on ‘Being a woman of God’; to share in the teaching with their husband, on the theme of ‘Marriage’, and so on.

As a complementarian who was happy for women to teach under the authority of the elders, I asked the other elders early last year for permission to consider inviting ladies to bring teaching where we thought it might be appropriate, at other times.

In response it was felt that we ought to take some time to review our position as elders and not to pursue that line without doing so – on account of the last statement we had made as elders, as far as the ministry of women was concerned, had given freedom to all activities except teaching the whole church and eldership.

We set ourselves to study and pray over several months, to talk and to share honestly and openly our own positions.

As we did that, much to my surprise, as I studied scripture I found my position changing in a way that I would not have expected! A way which I’m still not 100% comfortable with!! But that’s about me, rather than about scripture.

We’re going to have a little explore of scripture over the next few weeks so that you can see where we are coming from as elders at this time.

Turn with me if you would to (PP) Genesis 1:26-28 p4

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

The word ‘man’ lit. adam, is used in both singular and plural tenses – so the more recent version of the NIV translation puts let us make mankind in our image NLT puts humankind

Male and female created together in the image of God and jointly entrusted with care for and responsibility over the earth. And God when he’d finished thought he’d done a pretty good job (see v31!)

Chapter 2 unpacks chapter 1 a bit and we find that man & woman were created to be partners as it wasn’t good for the man to be alone. God is community, and so we, as human beings created in his image, are created for community..

In chapter 3, it all goes wrong – and we see a differentiation between male and female as a result – and the pattern for male/female relationships is set. The culture of men doing the work and women raising the children is set into being…. except that right through the history of God’s people there are exceptions… women who are raised to significant positions of authority, leadership and responsibility. And we might touch on some of those next week… And then, at the end of Proverbs we have the description of the ‘perfect wife’ – who is anything but a stay at home housewife – much more a successful business woman, as well as a fantastic mother and manager.

But even though there were these significant honouring of women at different times in the Old Testament, it wasn’t the prevailing culture amongst Jewish men, summed up in a Jewish Orthodox prayer, ‘I thank God that I am not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman…’

Jesus came and overturned cultural norms in the Jewish world in how he related to women.

He talked with the woman at the well, on his own, which was not the done thing. He had women sitting at his feet receiving teaching – which was something normally reserved only for men – you can parallel it with the way in which some Muslims say ‘women are not required to go to mosque’. Jesus then chose women to be the first to go and communicate the Good News of his resurrection – in a culture which said that one man’s testimony was of more worth than 4 women’s.

The New Testament church changed things further – and we’ll see more of this in the coming weeks – in the religious culture of the Jewish world of the time, just as many Muslim women are not expected to go and worship at the mosque, so it was the men who spoke out the prayers, whether at the Temple or in the Synagogue.

In 1 Corinthians 11, which I touched on earlier, all of a sudden we have both men and women praying and prophesying – and if you read through the chapters on the gifts of the Spirit and their use in worship, there doesn’t appear to be any division or separation into those which are made available to be used by men and those which are available and to be used by women.

And so we come to our scripture for today from (PP) Galatians 3:26-29 p1170

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to counter a creeping threat in the life of the church – a creeping in requirement for Christians of whatever background to be obedient to all the Jewish law – this aside from the threat to the gospel, that our salvation is through faith in Christ’s sacrifice alone – not based on our works or anything we have done – would also have brought levels of division – only a God fearing Gentile, not a true Jew; a saved slave… but not a freeman… a woman… with a place in life…

Some scholars believe that Paul included these words in response to the Orthodox Jewish prayer ‘I thank you God that you have not made me a slave, a Gentile or a woman….’

Jesus said ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ – and this creeping Judaizing was in danger of restricting that freedom… in so many ways.

Paul says, in Christ, what our background is doesn’t matter any more, because now we are restored to the relationship we had with God before the fall – made in God’s image as humankind – jointly entrusted, male and female with the authority to care for and oversee his creation as equals again.

FF Bruce – a Brethren theologian of the last century, argued that the setting of Galatians 3 is more than spiritual, it’s also practical. He said that ‘just as Gentiles may become leaders in the church, no less than Jews, so too can slaves no less than free, and women no less than men.’

In the coming weeks we’ll begin to have a bit more of a look at how leadership worked out in the life of the early church, and there’ll be plenty of opportunity to talk and share together in our small groups during the week.

For now though, let’s celebrate the freedom which Christ has brought for us through his sacrifice on the cross. Let’s celebrate the fact that it doesn’t matter what background we come from, whether from a background of faith or no faith, from rich or poor, from whatever nationality or ethnicity, or whether we are male or female, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Posted by: lepages | January 2, 2014

#90dayNT

Well, who would have thought it, pastor of a church, and yet I still struggle spending dedicated time with God, reading scripture and in prayer….

Pressures through the Autumn period meant that my normal schedule was somewhat disrupted. Early in December I decided I was going to get back on track… but how??!! I receive lots of prayer news letters/magazines. They provide fuel for the fire (spiritually that is – I am talking metaphorically! I don’t chuck them on a fire!!) I look up every scripture referred to and pray into it, both for the situation mentioned and any other way the Holy Spirit leads me. I also received the Hope 2014 prayer guide which was a great stimulus – and I’ve shared some of the things from it via social media at times – see the link to join in  http://www.hopetogether.org.uk/Groups/224333/HOPE/Prayer/Join_us_in/Join_us_in.aspx#.UsVGwY6sxBw 

But, the problem was I felt a need for some consistency….

I was delighted when a friend, Steve Wilson, whom I had the privilege of spending time with in the early days of his spiritual life, shared a Twitter/Facebook post about reading though the New Testament over a 3 month period. So I thought, that’s it! I’m in!

It’s a chronological reading plan, and I’m using this one http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan/read.aspx 

The intention is to do a short tweet in response to the reading each day (may not always happen!! Realities of life) And I may put some more reflections on here.

Anyway, my first two tweets were as follows:-

  • Miracles – miracles of birth, miracles of life, miracle of God amongst us #90dayNT Luke 1; John 1:1-14

and

  • Everyone’s important – Matt 1 Lk 2:1-38 #genealogy #census #goodnews #spreadtheword – for all people, old, young, all nations #90dayNT
     
    Have a feeling there’s quite a bit I’d like to natter about from what I was stirred with as I spent time reading, reflecting, praying… but this blog is long enough… so I’ll sign off here!
Posted by: lepages | January 1, 2014

Wind, rain and running!

Wind, rain and running!

So, I’ve started my running for 2014… and what a day for it! Hadn’t run for a few weeks till this last weekend, courtesy of a bit of a groin and hip strain, followed by a nasty bug that wiped me out Christmas Eve… Did a couple of short 5k ish tempo runs over the weekend – Saturday 3.4miles in 28:14 pace 08:18/mile – Monday, same route in reverse 27:13 pace 07:59

Both days reasonable conditions, breezy, dry, Saturday overcast, Monday sunny.

Thought I’d start the year well with a slightly longer run…. but oh the weather…. so windy – 40 – 60 mph gusts… and it was wet too… with rain falling at various levels.

Staying with my parents on top of the beautiful island of Guernsey (Home, I was born and grew up here! 🙂 ) So I thought I’d head down to Vazon bay, along the coast for a short way and then back up by the reservoir – easy run…

Dropped off a couple of birthday cards en route – lovely running mainly downhill with a following wind for the first 2 miles…. and then out onto the coast turning into the wind…. interesting…. all of a sudden the rain started to sting a little… the aimed for low heart rate was going up a bit…. it didn’t stay that low going downhill to be honest… hard to go really slow going downhill with a following wind… hard to keep heart rate down running into a strong wind… and even harder when running up steep hills into the wind… heart rate jumped into the low 170’s inspite of going oh so slow uphill.

Kept pace down for the couple of miles of mainly uphill, into the wind and rain home.

Arrived home soaking wet, but having had a fabulous time… even if my stats weren’t great!

Distance 5.65 miles Time 50:45 Av. pace 08:58 Av. HR 159

Posted by: lepages | January 1, 2014

Waves up close

Well it’s a long time since I’ve blogged. But having been stirred again by others blogs and feeling excited at the prospect of the year ahead – spiritually and sportingly I thought I’d be brave and start again! Corny with New Year and all that!

Got up close and personal with some waves back home at Grandes Rocques on my lovely island of Guernsey. It’s partly that prompting me to think about getting up close and personal with my spiritual reflections, courtesy of someone else’s idea of #90dayNT and with the joys and delights and frustrations of my sporting stuff.

So here’s to getting up close and personal in the vast breadth of life we have been given richly to enjoy during 2014

Posted by: lepages | April 1, 2012

Mission accomplished!

Had a moving time preaching this at Rutland Road Church this morning, following a moving time of worship and response as we celebrated Palm Sunday and looked forward to Good Friday

 Mission Accomplished

Mark 15:1-47

Setting the scene

Quiz with volunteers/Sunday Gang members – Mission Impossible background music

The mission people are called to do, is not always what people think it is.

Some of our ‘volunteers’ accomplished the mission quickly, others took a little longer and perhaps found that they were doing things which maybe they need not have done.

 On the day that we call Palm Sunday, many people celebrated Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, they shouted praise to God, they threw their coats down in the road, they laid out palm branches, as a means of laying out a red carpet to welcome the coming of the Messiah who would re-establish the Kingdom of David.

 Just a few days later the crowds were shouting out ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

 It didn’t look much like the mission people were expecting him to fulfil was going to be accomplished!

 And yet, as Jesus hung on the cross, just before he died, he cried out, we read in John’s gospel, ‘It is finished!’ And then he died.

He didn’t shout out ‘I am finished.’

He said, ‘It is finished!’ Job done! Mission accomplished!

Not the mission others thought he should accomplish, but the mission he was sent by his Father to accomplish. 

Mission Accomplished

Image 

We’re going to take a short while to look at 4 aspects of the mission Jesus accomplished so that as he shouted out with his last breath he was able to say ‘It is finished!’

Wouldn’t you like to be able to get to the end of your life and say ‘It is finished!’ – knowing that you have completed everything that you were placed on the earth to do.

That’s what Jesus did.

Right from his birth Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies written about him.

Prophecy fulfilled

Prophecies that spoke about where he would be born… and prophecies that spoke about his death. Prophecies that we see fulfilled in our Bible base from Mark 15 which were written by King David around 1000 years before… could you imagine prophecies about someone’s life written in around 1000AD being fulfilled today?

That is what happened for Jesus.

I want you to have your finger in two sections of scripture so you can flick back and forth between them – in our Bible base for today Mark 15 and in Psalm 22 

As Jesus hangs on the cross, he cries out the words written in the first verse of David’s psalm

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

And God had. He had to turn his back on the one with whom he had been one from before creation.

Can you imagine what that was like for Jesus?

Aside from the physical agony.

Aside from the betrayal of trust of his friends we reflected on over the past couple of weeks, what can it have been like to feel forsaken by God, as he bore punishment which he didn’t deserve….

David in Psalm 22:6-8 prophecies of how Jesus would be mocked

READ Psalm 22:6-8

Flick over to Mark 15

READ Mark 15:16-20, 25-32

David goes on to prophesy with picture language of the awful affect on Jesus body

READ Psalm 22:12-16

and we know that Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced in that cruellest of cruel means of execution, crucifixion.

READ Psalm 22:17,18

Jesus fulfilled prophecy that he couldn’t fulfil. He couldn’t cast lots for his clothes but the Roman soldiers did

READ Mark 15:24

‘And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.’

The Jewish leaders thought they were eliminating a troublesome person, manipulating the Roman authorities and the ordinary people to accomplish their purposes, but in fact they were fulfilling God’s purposes.

Sacrifice made

It’s significant that Jesus’ last, loud cry ‘It is finished’ occurred just before he gave up his Spirit, breathed his last and died.

Jesus’ mission to come as a sacrifice had been accomplished – not a mission others understood or saw, but a mission accomplished!

But it was a mission written down and prophesied some 700 years before his birth.

Isaiah prophesied of the mission that the servant of the Lord, the Messiah was to fulfil.

Keeping your finger in Mark’s gospel, turn with me if you would to Isaiah 53

My first thought was to just read the parts that relate directly to Jesus’ sacrifice… but this whole passage speaks so vividly of what Jesus went through, and his mission in doing so, that I would like to read the whole passage, starting at ch52:13.

As we read this, bear in mind the events of Good Friday and what Jesus went through, and you will see this sacrifice being spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, 700+ years before they came to be.

READ Isaiah 52:13-53:12

V5 ‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…. v6b the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…. v7b…. he was led like a lamb to the slaughter…. v8b… for the transgression of my people he was stricken…. v10b… the LORD makes his life a guilt offering… v12b… he bore the sin of many….’

Jesus’ mission was to be a sacrifice.

To take our place.

To deal with the problem of the wrong in our lives.

I’ve recently read through Leviticus and the other early Old Testament books – the list of ongoing sacrifices to deal with the problem of sin in our lives is huge!

Jesus came to be the sacrifice so that we no longer have to fulfil all these sacrifices – his sacrifice was sufficient for all time, for all who will receive him as the sacrifice made on their part.

And it accomplished the third dimension of his mission that I’ve picked up on today

Redemption purchased

Jesus’ sacrifice has bought back our right to be in a right relationship with God, because he has paid the price through his death

Isaiah 53 again

v4 ‘he took up our infirmities, he carried our sorrows, he was pierced for our transgressions’

He paid the price for them.

To redeem something is to buy it back.

In truth, what God did for us human beings was to buy us back to himself by redeeming us from our slavery to sin.

How awesome is that??!!

That God would choose to buy you back!

That’s how much he values you…. and that is what lies at the heart of the Easter story.

God’s love and desire to bring you back to himself so that he can have the joy of your worship and so that you can have the joy of knowing your creator for yourself!

WOW!!

And that brings us to the fourth part of the mission which Jesus accomplished

Way to God opened

v11 of Isaiah 53 says:-

‘After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.’

You know, Jesus looks down today at us here and it brings him satisfaction – because he sees that the suffering of his soul was worth it to buy us back to God!

Back in Mark’s gospel ch15:37,38…

after Jesus’ final, loud cry, ‘It is finished’ and his last breath as he died, something remarkable happened.

Across the temple was a huge curtain, much bigger and thicker than this one (Hold up) – which blocked off the Holy of holies – the place where God’s presence and power could be felt – only the select few were ever allowed in there. Most people were excluded from God’s presence.

As Jesus cried out ‘It is finished’, as he breathed his last and gave up his spirit, his mission was accomplished and something remarkable and symbolic happened – the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (Tear curtain from top to bottom!)

The way to God was now open for all to be able to come in – and it was God’s initiative – that’s why even the tearing of the curtain from top to bottom is significant – it wasn’t about us working our way to God; it was about him opening the way to himself.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Shouldn’t we praise a God who has done everything for us?

Shouldn’t we praise our Saviour Jesus whose Mission was accomplished?

And shouldn’t we go out to accomplish the mission which he entrusts into our hands, in response to his incredible grace to us??

Posted by: lepages | March 20, 2012

The Struggle within

Notes from the first of our Easter series 2012 shared at Rutland Road Church on Sunday 18th March 2012

The Struggle within

Mark 14:1-42 

Introduction

So, Easter is coming, in just a few weeks time.

Contrary to what all the shops would have you believe, its not all about chocolate eggs, bunny rabbits and chicks.

Its about an incredible man, and his incredible sacrifice on behalf of others.

Easter means focusing in on the person of Jesus Christ – a most wonderful person – a man of grace and love – a man of compassion and mercy – a man of wisdom and insight – a man who loved to bless others, ministering grace to people where others would cast stones, ministering healing where others would put up exclusion signs, ministering to practical needs where others would say go and sort it yourselves, ministering teaching which moved hearts and minds as it was shared with humour, passion and clarity.

You would think such a man would be someone who would be honoured by all around him.

But that is the opposite of what happened for this incredibly gracious, passionate and loving man.

Trevor has put some very poignant titles together for this series, following the account of the Easter story from Mark’s gospel – which we will also do on Good Friday in Harpur Square – making copies of the gospel available to folk so they can read the account for themselves.

The first two weeks he’s given the headings ‘The struggle’ – next week ‘The struggle without’ as Jesus faced the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders, but this week:-

The Struggle within – Mark 14:1-42  

as Jesus faced struggle amongst his closest friends, and as he faced the struggles within himself, as he looked at what lay ahead of him.

At the heart of the struggle within is the word ‘betrayal’.

Jesus was to be betrayed again and again in various ways.

We’re going to look at the passage section by section as we see the various ways Jesus was betrayed and faced the struggle within.

The first section I’ve headed:- 

  1. Betrayal of worth v1-9

 Turn with me if you would to Mark 14 

 READ Mark 14:1-9

Have you ever had your worth denigrated by someone, or a group of people saying something like ‘He/she doesn’t deserve that!’ ‘fancy wasting that on them’?

It hurts desperately doesn’t it?

Somebody’s done something kind and gracious, which has been a blessing, but the blessing is ripped away as you are made to feel as though you’re not worthy of it.

That’s how Jesus was treated by his friends.

This woman comes to honour him, and her treatment of him is seen as being a waste of money – an extravagance which should have been saved to minister to the poor – something which Jesus had of course done on many occasions – remarkably even at this moment being in the home of Simon the Leper, who would previously have been seen as an outcast from society.

This scene flags up a couple of thoughts in me:-

a) How generous are we in bringing our worship in seeking to honour Jesus?

  • are we generous in our finances towards that which honours him?

  • Are we generous in our time, in taking the time to come and give him our love and devotion?

b) The second thought it flags up in me is how many of us have known the humiliation that Jesus might have felt, of being put down when others have sought to be a blessing to us?

Know that Jesus has been there and that he understands when you tell him about the pain of your experience.

So firstly we have a ‘Betrayal of Worth‘, next we come to a:- 

2. Betrayal of trust v10-21

READ Mark 14:10-21

Betrayal by a friend is one of the most hurtful, damaging things in life.

When those whom you trust go directly against you there are few more painful things emotionally.

Judas was the Treasurer for the disciples as they travelled around and went about their ministry.

He was trusted implicitly.

Just like we trust our Treasurer!!

Dave will know things about many of us in terms of our financial giving and sacrifice that no-one else will. We trust him with that information.

Judas was that sort of trustworthy guy.

But here he is seeking to betray this wonderful person that he has spent the best part of the last 3 years with 24/7.

Jesus knows it.

Its horrible when you just know that something is not right.

It disturbs you to the core of your being.

It can threaten to wreck your life, before anything is even seen to happen.

But Jesus doesn’t hide from the issue.

He raises it.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit had given him prophetic insight into the situation.

Perhaps it was just that human intuition which sometimes seems to know things even when we have no real way of knowing them!

Perhaps that is the Holy Spirit at work whether we recognise it or not.

The person who is to betray me is not someone on the fringes of our group – its someone at the centre, one of the Twelve.

Betrayal of trust is one of the most damaging things we can do in life.

It damages those whom we betray… and it damages us as well.

Jesus said, v21 ‘..woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

If you have had trust betrayed in your life, you know the pain.

If you have betrayed trust in another you will know how it not only damages the person you have betrayed, but also how it damages you.

Sadly for Judas it was to lead ultimately to him committing suicide, unable to cope with the betrayal he had wrought on this wonderful man whom he had loved and spent the last 3 years with.

If you have been betrayed, know that ultimately there is hope in the end.

Jesus went through a traumatic period, but in the end he did come out the other side.

There are those of us here, I’m sure, who have known what it is to be betrayed in the past, but have come out the other side.

It doesn’t mean the memories are good.

It doesn’t mean that the pain of the betrayal never rears its ugly head.

But it does mean that there is hope beyond the pain.

If you have betrayed another, it doesn’t have to end like it did for Judas.

Our God is the God of reconciliation.

He loves to reconcile us to himself, and he loves to bring reconciliation in damaged relationships…. but that doesn’t mean that its okay to betray another…..

If you are betraying the trust of another at this time, STOP IT NOW!

Before the damage your actions will cause damage the person of trust and before your actions damage you more than they already have.

Repent of your actions and seek forgiveness and restoration.

If it’s not enough that your worth is betrayed by others, that a close friend betrays you, then to add insult to injury Jesus experienced the :- 

 3. Betrayal of promise v27-31

 READ Mark 14:27-31

Words, words, words… it’s easy to say words…. and to think that we mean them…

That’s why a couple of weeks ago, when we introduced that new song ‘Surrender’ I read the lyrics before we sang it and asked you to reflect on whether they were words you could genuinely say and sing…..

I wonder how many of us, to take up some of the lines from the song, truly surrendered all to God as we sang that day:-

I’m giving You my heart All that is within I lay it all down For the sake of You my King

I’m giving You my dreams laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride
For the promise of new life

And I Surrender
All to You, all to You

I reckon Peter meant it when he said he would never fall away, when he said he was willing to die with Jesus, rather than disown him…. but by the following morning he had sworn and in a temper said he didn’t even know Jesus.

 As a 14/15 year old lad I hit what I see as one of the lowest points in my life.

I had come to know Jesus for myself, I had taken the decision to follow him through my life.

I rejoiced in all he meant to me.

And yet, when asked by a fellow student why I went to church (think it was a genuine question with hindsight! Wish I’d known Alec Buchanan’s prayer ‘Lord give me an opportunity to speak for you today; help me not to miss it; tell me what to say.’) – because when this other lad asked me the question I said, ‘Oh, I just go to please my parents…’ end of conversation… when I should have been speaking of how much Jesus meant to me….

‘Betrayal of promise’ – can I suggest that maybe we need to be careful about our promises?

When you make a promise to the Lord, or indeed to any other person, make sure that you can see it through and don’t do it glibly.

Fortunately we have a gracious, loving Saviour in Jesus, and he went on to restore Peter gently from his failure…. and he wants to restore you too.

We come to our fourth and final betrayal from the passage, a :-  

  1. Betrayal of support v32-42

READ Mark 14:32-42

I guess many of us have known what it feels like to have a sense of betrayal of support, to have expected others to stand with us in our time of need… and to have found the support lacking….

I guess many of us will probably know of times when we have failed to be the support alongside another that we should have been…. I know that I have failed on that score time and time again…

Jesus wanted his closest friends to come and stand with him as he experienced not only the struggle of betrayal from within his own friends, the betrayal of his worth through the denigrating of those who sought to honour him, but also as he faced the struggle within himself…. moved to the core of his being as he faced the awful prospect that lay ahead of him… desiring that if there was any other way, that his Father might take away what lay before him.

Jesus’ love and grace is seen even as his longed for support failed, as he thought not of his own needs, but of the needs of his friends v38 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’

Perhaps we need to learn some grace too… when we need support, to bear with those who struggle in supplying it…. and perhaps sometimes we need to give ourselves a pinch to wake us into action to stand with, pray with and support others.

Conclusion

Our reading ends with the words v42 ‘Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’

Jesus knew all along what lay ahead of him. He knew how he was to be betrayed, how Judas would betray him, how Peter would deny him, how all would flee and run away, and where all of that betrayal was to lead… because it was all ultimately in God’s plan and purposes.

In our reading through of the chapter we’ve missed out on 5 verses.

5 verses that speak vividly of what Jesus knew lay ahead for him

READ Mark 14:22-26

Apply and lead into communion.

Posted by: lepages | February 26, 2012

Living by the Spirit!

Had the privilege of going to preach at Queen Edith Chapel, Cambridge this morning. Great morning with a moving time of worship following the preach.

Below are my notes for preaching.

“Living by the Spirit – what to avoid”
Queen Edith Chapel, Cambridge 26/02/2012
Galatians 5:1,13-21

Introduction
This past week, the growing phenomenon that is Lent started!

At the heart of the cultural move in our nation is a desire for control, by giving up something that you love. For many, it is not a spiritual exercise, but is a useful challenge and discipline. For many in the church it can be a useful spiritual discipline when combined with scripture reading and prayer.

So, anybody admit to having given something up for Lent??

I’ve given up TV and radio.
It was horrible on Wednesday morning eating my breakfast in silence!
Alone with my thoughts, struggles and emotions.

So those of us who have set out on a Lent abstinence programme are choosing to avoid something, whether it be chocolate, Facebook, TV or something else.

Our title for this morning is:-
“Living by the Spirit – what to avoid”
from a scripture base of Galatians 5:1,13-21

A fitting title for the season!

Turn with me if you would to the Bible reading Galatians 5:1,13-21

READ Galatians 5:1,13-21

Now, I’m guessing that as we read the last few verses of that reading that you might have sussed the things that we should avoid!!

I remember being in a house group meeting many years ago, when the person leading the group said after we’d read this passage, ‘Well, we don’t need to think about those things because they’re not a problem for us.’
And I was sitting there thinking…. ummm…. but I’d have to stick my hand up to at least a couple of those things! And I’m sure some others in the group would do to!

I’d be very surprised if there’s one person in this room who wouldn’t have to admit before God to struggling with, or having failed at, at least one of the things listed in the acts of the sinful nature, as NIV puts it, or acts of the flesh as it is more accurately translated in the footer at the bottom of the page. For some of us it might be the battle with our sexuality, for some it might be the reality of our worship of other things, struggles in relationships, our own inward desires, our own prejudices – acknowledged or otherwise – for others it may be difficulties with alcohol or other drugs.

The reality is that this is real stuff! Not something to brush under the carpet.

If our spirituality is to be the best it can be, if we are to have the best relationship with God we can, then these things are things, as our title for today says, that we need to avoid.
BUT avoiding is difficult!

I remember hearing the evangelist J.John, speaking at a conference once – I actually can’t remember what he was speaking about – but I do remember him saying that so often we hear the words, we get the reminder that we need to do or not do something, but what we really need to know is ‘HOW’?

How do we avoid the desires of our sinful nature? The desires of our flesh?

I’m going to use the term flesh rather than sinful nature.

The difficulty with using the descriptive translation sinful nature is that we can have the idea that it’s just a part of our human nature, and that somehow, in and of ourselves we have a good part that is somehow able to outweigh and defeat this bad part.

The reality is that that is not really the case.
The fact is that the whole of us are fallen as human beings, it’s not that we just sometimes sin, the reality is that we are all by nature, sinful. We all fall way short of God’s standards – even in the good that we do – so often even in doing good, if we look at our motivations there can be underlying desires for acceptance, for appreciation and so on.

I’m sharing this to set the scene.
By nature, in the flesh, as fallen human beings we will tend towards failure in this list of the acts of the flesh. These are things which as human beings we naturally tend towards, albeit different ones of us are more prone to some things than others and prone to differing degrees of falling.

The Apostle Paul himself testified to this when he said in his letter to the Roman Christians:-
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:18-20

‘It is sin living in me that does it.’

So, if we are to avoid these things so that we can live by the Spirit, in the words of J.John, how are we to do it?!!

There’s a four letter word used several times in this passage, and extended several times too to make the word Freedom – the iconic word used repeatedly, in the now, old film ‘Braveheart’

Freedom – a strange concept in a film about war and strife.
But that is where so often freedom come from.
Think about the celebrations in Libya over free elections this past week.
Where did that freedom come from?

Galatians 5:1 says:-
‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’

How did Christ set us free?
He went to the cross. There aside from the physical agony, abuse and pain, he also bore our sin, all the wrong stuff in our lives in his body. He bore the judgement of God on his life as he took the punishment for our sin on himself.
Our freedom has come at a cost.
It cost Jesus his life… and more!

Now, we could focus on each of these acts of the flesh and think about how we can have strategies for overcoming them…. but I don’t believe that that is what this passage is saying we should do!

There is a problem when you focus on a problem!
The problem gets bigger in your minds eye and so grows to dominate more and more.
Its why in English we have this little phrase, ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’.
There may be a beautiful wood, but you can’t see it because you’re so caught up with the problem tree in the foreground, which has come to dominate your view, your mind, your thinking.

There may be some of us here this morning who are facing that sort of situation in our lives at present!

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the town of Phillipi he encouraged those who were anxious to bring their requests to God in prayer and to come to know God’s peace guarding their hearts and minds – and he then went on to say:-
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’
Philippians 4:8,9
And do you know what?
When you do that it changes your perspective.
You begin to be able to see and appreciate the beautiful wood that surrounds you, even if you have a horrible great big tree of a problem right in front of you.

So what does this mean for us as far as ‘Living by the Spirit’ and ‘avoiding the works of the flesh’ is concerned?

It’s summed up in v16
‘So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’

So, How do we come to that place?

The first thing we have to recognise is that we are Free!

It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, no longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery
as we sometimes sing!
Lyrics based on the first verse of our reading!

Do you know this morning that you are:-
Free – not to be a slave to your flesh

A good number of years ago I had a prophetic image shared with me.
In the image it was said that I was like a caged lion, wandering back and forth, except that the cage had been removed and I was still wandering back and forth in the same way, when in fact I was free to step out. It was a true prophetic word, spoke deeply into my life and allowed me to step out into the freedom that had already been given to me.

For some of us this morning, maybe we need to recognise that Christ has set us free, and that we no longer have to let the acts of the flesh, of the sinful nature, control us. Jesus has broken their power in our lives, and we can step out of the cage that they had on our lives.
Freedom is something that is often misunderstood in society!

The traditional reaction and image of folk in secular Britain is that Christianity is about a lot of rules which restrict and inhibit your life.

I want to be free to go out and get drunk, to sleep with whom I want, when I want….
but actually, that’s not freedom…. it’s slavery!
It’s slavery to things which damage lives physically and emotionally…
after all, isn’t it great to wake up with a hangover, bleary eyed, thumping head?
Isn’t it great to have damaged relationships, betrayal, hurt?
Isn’t it great to end up with serious health problems?

V13 ‘You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, the sinful nature…
v1 ‘…do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

You are free!
So you can say, when the temptation comes to give in to the acts of the flesh, as it surely will, you can say, ‘Hey, I don’t have to give into you! I am free! I am no longer subject to this yoke of slavery.’

Recognise where the slavery is.
Recognise where the freedom is.

We are Free – not to be a slave to our flesh
We are also
Free – to love and serve

v13,14 ‘You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’

Sometimes we live with this feeling that we shouldn’t be seen to serve others – we don’t want to be seen to be making more of ourselves than we should, we don’t want to appear to be boasting in what we do, we don’t want it to appear as though we’re trying to earn our salvation – after all, Jesus has done it all.

Paul again, when he wrote to the Philippian Christians said:-
‘..work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his purpose’ Philippians 2:12,13

The Apostle Peter wrote:-
‘Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’
1 Peter 2:11,12

So you are free, free to love and serve others.
It’s alright to have pleasure in being a blessing
When you do good to others, its hard to do harm to them!
Love is not an emotional feeling, its an act of sacrificial service.
God loved us so much that he gave his one and only Son.
When you love others it will be a blessing to you, and to them.
It breaks the power of slavery which binds and damages.
V15 of our reading sums up the slavery we have been set free from well.
‘If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.’

If that describes your life as a Christian, walk free from it in Jesus’ name.
He has broken the power of it in your life.
You are a new creation in Christ Jesus.
You don’t have to live in slavery to the acts of the flesh any longer.
You are, and with this I come to a close,
Free – to live and be led by the Spirit

Want to avoid the works of the flesh, the acts of the sinful nature?
Then you need to live by the Spirit.
You can’t do it on your own.
You need to be led by, live by, be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

When you become a Christian, when you receive Jesus Christ into your life and give your life to him, to follow him and to serve him, then the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit comes and takes up residency in your life.
But it’s possible to live with someone and not interact with them.
How many marriages, friendships, children’s lives have been damaged, ruined because whilst people have lived in the same home, they haven’t given themselves in loving attention to one another?

When have you shown loving attention to the Holy Spirit in your life?
If you want to live by the Spirit, if you want to be led by the Spirit, you need to communicate with the Spirit. Tell him he’s welcome in your life. Tell him you want him to lead you. Tell him you want him to empower you. Tell him you want to love and serve others and ask him to lead you in doing that.

As you are so caught up with him, the love of God will be shed abroad in your hearts and there will be no space when the acts of the flesh rear their ugly head – as they surely will – but in his power you will be able to squeeze them out.

And if you fail, God is a loving Father, who longs to welcome you back, and to say, come on, let’s start again.

For some of us, we may have forgotten that the Holy Spirit is there.
Or maybe we haven’t forgotten, but we’ve just lived lives with him there without paying real attention to him.
Maybe we need a fresh encounter with him.
I’d like to pray as we break for coffee.
If you know that you need to get your life back in tune with the Spirit, to step into the freedom which Christ has brought for you, rather than staying in the realms of slavery to the acts of the flesh which have been broken through Christ’s sacrifice, I’d invite you to stand with me as we pray, and we’ll ask the Holy Spirit to come and help us step into the freedom Christ has bought for us, and we’ll invite him to take his rightful place at the centre of our lives.
If, during coffee time you’d value having me pray with you personally, I’ll stay around here and will happily do that.

If you know you need to respond, please stand with me now, and let’s pray together.

Posted by: lepages | February 20, 2012

First outdoor brick session of the year

So, a couple of weeks ago I suddenly realised I only had 5 weeks till my first multisport event of 2012 and thought I ought to get down to some training!

Been struggling with the ongoing problem of my, I believe, piriformis syndrome, some aggravation of my knee injury from my accident last July, and resultant tension in my right hamstring. Can’t sit for long and having to repeatedly resort to sitting on floor with leg outstretched. Think it probably all links back to knee injury and that I’ve triggered the piriformis problem by overcompensating for my knee. The resultant tension in the hamstring has limited my running a bit – doubt very much that I will beat last years time for the Dambuster Duathlon – think I’ll be lucky to get near it. 😦 Oh well… Still awaiting physio… hope its forthcoming soon!

Anyway, back to my training programme! Variable I think has to be the assessment… and haven’t really worked out what is causing the variability overall. So, here’s what I’ve been up to:-

Monday 6th February
In the midst of the snow opted for a gym workout
Did a brick session
Treadmill run 1 25mins intervals 3mins 12kph 2 mins 16kph 5.5k Av speed 13.3kph
Gym bike 22mins intervals Cadence 80-90 (90+ on intervals) – level rising from 8 – 14 (felt shattered at end)
Treadmill run 2 4k, plodding mostly at 12kph increasing gradually to 12.7kph towards end. Av speed 12.3kph.
Followed with core workout.

Tuesday 7th February
Swim technique session
W/U 300m FC 100m KB 200m PB
Drills 4x50m single arm / 200m negative split / 4x50m finger trail / 200m negative split / 4x50m fists / 200m negative split
W/D 200m FC easy

Wednesday 8th February
V. nervous about going out and slipping and aggravating problems, particularly conscious of how much tighter muscles feel when they’re cold compared to warm. Opted for gym treadmill run, followed by bit of core work. 5mins 11.5kph 5mins 12kph 10mins 13.5kph 3mins 10kph 10mins 13.5kph 7mins 12kph.

Thursday 9th February
Off road MTB ride – mix of rough hard ice/snow, clear hard paths and slippy, slushy ice on tarmac – challenging, hard work, fun!
Time 1:28 Dist. 18.47m Av. 12.5mph Mx 21.8mph

Friday 10th February
Swim session
W/U 200m FC 100m KB 200m PB 100m FC
Main 4x(50m FC 50m KB) 3x(200m PB 100m KB)
W/D 2x(50m BK 50m BR)

Monday 13th February
Gym session with Julie
Treadmill run 6k 2.5k@12kph then increasing by 0.5kph every 0.5k to 15kph with final 0.5k@12.5kph Av. 12.8kph
Gym bike for 50mins – couldn’t complete prog. at planned levels… 10mins L7 C90 (done) then 15mins L10 C90 – couldn’t keep it going at that level, had to give up after 10mins, recovery @L7 for 5mins then tried some more @L9 instead – didn’t last 10mins this time. 5mins recovery. Another go at L9 for around 6mins then opted to just spin out and recover @L7. Sweated buckets, felt sick. Julie said I got v.pale. Disappointed

Tuesday 14th February
MTB bike commute to Turvey and back via Bromham/Oakley/Pavenham/ Carlton. Strong NW breeze – into it on way out, following on return.
Out 12.88m Time 50mins Av. 15.5mph Total time 1:36 Dist. 25.78m Av.16.2mph

Wednesday 15th February
Road bike with friend – Renhold – Ravensden – Thurleigh – Sharnbrook – Odell – Harrold – Carlton – Turvey – Newton Blossomville – Astwood – Cranfield – Kempston – Home. Strong WNW breeze Av. to Harrold 15.5mph, to Astwood 16.5mph, to home 17.4mph. Time 2:03 Dist.35.74m

Thursday 16th February
Very busy pool disrupting planned swim session. Had an easy swim for around 45mins

Friday 17th February
Steady run on route 51 towards Willington and back. Dist. 15.7k Time 1:19:46 Av. 11.8kph

Saturday 18th February
Good swim session – didn’t record all details, but included a Zone3 timed 400m after around 1000m of W/U and drills. Well pleased with a time of 7:17 without pushing hard

Monday 20th February
So today… legs aching as I type. My first outdoor brick session of the year. Strong SW breeze. Bike on Bedford Classic course (though starting and finishing from home) Av. speed to Shefford 18.2mph, to Caldecote 19.7mph, to Cardington Rd 19.2mph, to home 18.8mph Dist. 26.34m Time 1:24:00 Transition 1:58 Run 3k 15.38 Av 11.5kph (R hamstring tight – opted not to stretch out stride but just to go for high cadence short strides)

So, 3 weeks to go… what will happen in next few weeks??
Will keep working in ways I know to help with knee and core strength, doing general training and hope that the physio comes through too!

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