We are now in the process of looking at opening our churches for private prayer. Even for this we need to be very careful to follow the government and church guidelines. It is a process and not a final destination. We do not know how long this process will take because a lot depends on how carefully we adhere to the guidelines but also what the situation is like nationally. The government seem confident that they can detect upsurges in the Coronavirus in local areas. If this is the case then they may continue to ease the restrictions that we have been under which will allow us to worship more freely. But some people are saying that it may be after Christmas before we can get back to what we would consider ‘normal’.
This means that we will continue with our digital presence for quite a while and may carry on with it even when we have ‘normal’ services back in our own churches. The Circuit Leadership Team are looking at how we use our resources in the most effective way, you can join in these discussions and prayer meetings on ZOOM. Please ring me for the ID No. and password if you want to participate. This will not be a quick fix solution but a prayerful approach to God asking him to lead us into the new age we are stepping into. I don’t think there has ever been a time in history like ours, where churches world wide have been shut. We know that many persecuted Christians have to worship in their own homes for fear of being caught by the authorities. But this is a new thing for us, and we have free access to the internet and Christian material. How much harder must it be for our persecuted brothers and sisters in places like North Korea. God Bless Peter and Cathy
The ZOOM Coffee Time meeting ID NO. is 828 1591 3824 and the password is Coffee
Here is the service for Sunday. I have chosen hymns from Sing the Faith StF AND Songs of Fellowship SofF, some of the songs are also in Hymns and Psalm HP.
Let us pause as we prepare our hearts and minds to worship God.
Hymn SofF 1061 This is the place where dreams are found
Lord, as you revealed yourself to Jacob, we ask that you reveal yourself to us. We thank you that we can see your glory in nature, the splendor of your creation. We worship you and bow down to you in our hearts. As the angel’s worship and praise you in heaven we too want to share in that worship, although the angels see you face to face, we can only catch a glimpse of your glory with our spiritual eyes. We thank you for the way you reveal yourself to us in so many different ways. The feeling of your presence in our lives, the joy in our hearts, the dreams and visions that you share with us. All these enable us to lift our hearts and voices to praise and worship you.
We are sorry for the way we sometimes treat people, for the selfishness in our hearts, the self-centredness of our lives. We pray that like Jacob we are willing to look at ourselves honestly and say sorry to those we have hurt and that we are willing to say sorry to you Lord for the way we have offended you. We thank you that you are always willing to forgive us. Always willing to see our potential and not our mistakes. So, we thank you for full and free forgiveness which enables us to reflect your joy, love and peace in our lives. Amen
And now shall we say the Lord’s Prayer together
Reading Genesis ch 27 v 1 – 10
Hymn StF 526 HP 552 Lord of all hopefulness
Reading Genesis ch 28 v 10 – 19
Hymn SofF 940 HP 451 Nearer my God to thee
One of the things I like about the Bible is that it reflects real life. The stories in the Bible are about families that are not perfect and individuals who have their faults as well as their strengths. One such family we will look at today. The family in question is Isaac, the son of Abraham, and Isaac’s wife, Rebekah and their two sons, Esau and Jacob. It was a fairytale romance between Isaac and Rebekah, but at first, they couldn’t have children. Isaac prayed for his wife and eventually they had twins. Even in the womb it seemed as though the brothers were jostling for power. Esau was the firstborn, quickly followed by Jacob.
As the brothers grew up, they developed different interests. Verse 27 sums this up, ‘Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. While Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.’ Both brothers were free to do as they pleased. Genesis indicates that Isaac favoured Esau because of the type of person that he was, he went out into the wild countryside, hunting and bringing back the animals he caught to cook for his father. Rebekah loved Jacob, perhaps she enjoyed him being around to help with various chores. It was not good for either of the brothers to be indulged so much by their parents, especially as each parent had their own favourite son. It can’t have been easy for the brothers to come to terms with this. But the boys didn’t seem to mind, at least one of the parents was spoiling them.
There is one incident which illustrates how spoilt they both were. Esau had been out hunting as usual, he came back hungry, and saw that his brother had made some Lentil stew. Esau was desperate to have some and so he begged Jacob to share his meal. Jacob responded by asking his brother for his birthright. Esau didn’t see this as a big thing and so he agreed. Already Jacob was scheming for the future. This incident was perhaps forgotten until Rebekah heard a conversation between Isaac and Esau. Isaac knew that he was getting old and he didn’t have much time left and so he planned to give his blessing to his favourite son, Esau.
Esau went off hunting, and Rebekah hatched a plan. Rebekah must have been thinking about this situation for a while, she wanted her favourite son to get the blessing. Straight away she called Jacob, she explained to him her plan. The only objection Jacob put forward was that he might get caught. He had no problem with deceiving his father and brother. Jacob already had the birthright all he needed now was the blessing. His mother had thought of everything, the meal she was going to cook for her husband, and how to dress Jacob in such a way that he smelled and felt like Esau. The plan worked and Isaac blessed Jacob. What terrible trouble befell the family because of the jealousy of the parents. Although Isaac was almost physically blind, both him and Rebekah were blind to the harm they caused their children. It caused friction between the brothers and the parents. Rebekah knew that Jacob wasn’t safe, so she sent him away to relatives. Rebekah who had doted on her son so much, now had to let him go, and possibly never see him again.
Verse ten and eleven state, ’Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.’ Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway to heaven, angels were ascending and descending on it. And then Jacob saw God. The Lord said to him, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham, the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying….. All peoples on earth will be blessed by your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you. When Jacob awoke from his sleep he thought, “Surely, the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God.” Genesis ch 28 v 13 – 17.
Despite the kind of person Jacob was – spoilt, selfish and easily led. God had a purpose for his life. God was not just looking at the person Jacob was now; he was looking at the person Jacob could be. He saw the good qualities in Jacob as well. Jacob was hard-working, resourceful, determined, and he was open to God, he sensed God’s presence. Jacob left home with no one with him and God reassured him that he would always be there for him. God reiterated the promise that he made to Abraham, that the land was for Abraham and his descendants. And again, God repeated the blessing that he gave to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed by your offspring.” Jacob did not deserve this but God chose to use him. Just has he has chosen each one of us to use for his glory.
This experience did not change Jacob overnight. When Jacob arrived in Harran, he met someone more devious than his own mother. Laban was a relative of Jacob and he welcomed him into the household. Laban tricked Jacob to work for him for fourteen years in exchange for one of his daughters. In turn Jacob tricked Laban out of a large number of sheep. Jacob had learned to look after himself. But again, his deceitfulness made enemies, and Jacob decided to flee with his wives and children.
There was one barrier to returning home, and that was his past, the way he had cheated his brother. Jacob wrestled with God and his conscience. He had to face what he had done, the kind of person he was, the kind of person he wanted to be. He had to deal with the hurt he had caused other people. Each one of us wrestles with these things. We acknowledge the hurt we have caused to others and we acknowledge our disobedience to God. We are not the person we want to be; we wrestle with the old nature to be the person that God calls us to be. God had been working in Jacob’s life for many years, and now was the time for Jacob to choose what kind of person he was going to be. Jacob knew he had to say ‘Sorry’ to his brother, and Jacob also had to say ‘Sorry’ to God. We too have to say ‘Sorry’ to the people we have hurt and we too have to say ‘Sorry’ to God.
Jacob had to put his life and his family into God’s hands. He prayed, “O God, of my father Abraham, God of my father, Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives and I will make you prosper. I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed the Jordan but now, I have become two camps. Save me I pray from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me and also the mothers and their children. But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea which cannot be counted.” Genesis ch 32 v 9 – 12. There was a tremendous reunion between Jacob and Esau. Esau expressed no bitterness towards Jacob.
Jacob didn’t have a very good start in life, he was spoilt and selfish, he learned from his mother how to trick people, he became self-reliant and made enemies. But he had good qualities, he acknowledged God in his life, he was willing to face up to his past, he was willing to say ‘Sorry’ to his brother, he was willing to put his life and his family into God’s hands. God saw the potential in Jacob, he saw through the sin in his life, he saw the kind of person Jacob could be. God does the same with us, he sees our potential, he sees our strengths and weaknesses, and he is willing to forgive our sin, if we are willing to look deep inside ourselves and be willing to change, and are willing to trust him with our life and the lives of our loved ones.
Most of all, God is faithful, and he keeps his promises, and he wants to bless us and prosper us. God honoured the promise he made to Abraham by bringing Jacob back to the Promised Land. God will fulfill in our life the calling he placed on us. He will equip us and strengthen us for the tasks ahead. Amen
Hymn StF 481 HP 70 The Lord’s my shepherd
Lord, we pray for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. We ask that the injustices of the past will not carry on today or in the future. We thank you that all lives matter to you. But we also know that you reach out to those in need. We pray for an end to institutional racism, for the unfair way that people are judged by the colour of their skin. We pray for a society where everyone is valued.
We pray for people who suffer domestic abuse, we ask that you will protect them and lead them into a place of safety. We ask that they may have family, friends or neighbours to help them to escape or to change the situation in which they live. We pray for the abuser that you will bring a change in their hearts to turn away from their destructive behavior. We especially pray for those who have children who may be in a vulnerable position, give them strength to act.
Lord, we pray about the economic situation. We ask that you will give our government wisdom and guidance to help them through the problems that they face. We pray for businesses that are struggling at this time and individuals who are desperate to find work, we ask that you will meet their needs. Help us all to keep safe, especially now there is an easing of ‘lock-down’ restrictions
Hymn Gracefully Broken by Scott and John Lee from North End
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us for evermore. Amen