So you love Jesus and you're keen to serve him - but how? How does what you hear on a Sunday or in your cell group link to your workplace? How can reading the Bible each day help you chat with your friends and colleagues and answer their objections to faith? How can your cell group or mission group make more of an impact for the Kingdom of God?
'Formation School' is a great course, run here in Southampton, which helps answer all of those questions. It's a course which will take you deeper into the Bible, grow your love for God and help you work out how you can serve God - at home, at work, in the community, in church. Why settle for staying as you are now - when you could be making more of an impact for God.
It runs from September to July on term-time Tuesday evenings - plus a couple of Saturdays each term. There is a charge for the course - but I'd see that as a fantastic investment in the Kingdom which will reap rich rewards. St James' by the Park may be able to contribute towards the costs if that would help.
I really cannot recommend it highly enough - it's the sort of course I'd love to have done when I was younger.
There's lots more information about it on the Formation School website. Better still, go along to one of the Tuesday evening sessions in June to get a feel for what it's like. You can contact Ruth, the administrator to get details of venue and time.
Jesus taught us to pray 'Thy Kingdom Come' - to pray that God's light and life would break through in our day and age. Justin Welby has set up 'Thy Kingdom Come' as a global prayer movement, praying from today, Ascension Day (25th May) to Pentecost Sunday (4th June).
He says, "I cannot remember in my life anything that I’ve been involved in where I have sensed so clearly the work of the Spirit."
Wow! Let's join in with what the Spirit is doing!
Watch this short video where he explains what Thy Kingdom Come is all about.
And then join us, and other local churches as we pray for Shirley, Southampton and our world - that more and more people may come to experience for themselves the love, forgiveness, freedom and life that Jesus offers.
We will have short prayer evenings on Tuesday 30th May, Wednesday 31st May and Thursday 1st June, from 7.00 - 7.30pm. Drop in as you are able.
Lots of other churches around the city are joining in - if you can't make our prayer times, why not join with one of these other times?
Let's #Pledge2Pray #toJesus !
Lots of people are tired of politics and politicians, but the Bible urges us political involvement: to pray for those in authority, to pay taxes, to submit to those in power (except where they ask us to do things against God's will) etc. Voting is surely one of our opportunities to be salt and light in our community. And to vote not just how we've always voted - but to vote thoughtfully and prayerfully.
The Archbishops have written a letter encouraging Christians to vote and giving their assessment of some of the key issues to consider. And here's a thoughtful article called 'How would Jesus vote?'
And do take the opportunity to hear our local candidates at St James Road Methodist Church on Wednesday 24th May, 8pm.
Whoever forms the next government, let's pray for God's kingdom to come.
The night before Jesus died, he startled his disciples when he said, “It is for your good that I am going away.” Then he explained why - he said, “unless I go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” [Jn 16.7] In other words, the Holy Spirit is no poor substitute for Jesus. In some ways, having the Holy Spirit is even better than having Jesus. How does that work?
The Bible says that the Spirit lives in us [Rom 8.9, 11], and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that incredible?
He’s in us 24/7 - whilst driving to work, whilst sitting in a classroom, whilst changing nappies or waiting for a medical appointment, whilst in a difficult meeting or serving an awkward customer. That was why Jesus said it was better for him to go, so the Spirit could come. He can now be with each of us, all the time.
But what does the Holy Spirit do? We’ve started a sermon series which will begin to answer that question, and as usual, we’ll follow it up in our midweek small groups.
Some people are wary of the Holy Spirit or get worried when people start talking about the Holy Spirit too much. Some people want to steer clear of the Holy Spirit - for them, it sounds a bit spooky or weird-and-probably-not-wonderful.
There are people who make unhealthy and unbiblical claims about the Spirit’s work. That’s why in the Bible, God urges us to test the spirits [1 Jn 4.1] - we have to use our brains to see whether something that is claimed to be the Spirit’s work really is the Holy Spirit. But God also urges us the Bible not to quench the Spirit. [1 These 5.9] So we mustn’t write off everything that sounds a bit out-of-the-ordinary. Over the years, I’ve had to go on a journey to become much more open and desiring of the Spirit’s work.
Some people say, “The Holy Spirit isn’t really for me – I’m not that sort of Christian.” But Romans 8.9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” In other words, you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. It’s simply impossible.
And the Spirit is really not to be feared. You see, if Jesus is the most loving man who ever lived, and this is the Spirit of Jesus, then of course we’ve nothing to be scared of. The Spirit’s presence brings love.
Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” [Lk 11.13] Our heavenly Father longs to give us his Spirit because he knows the Spirit is the best possible gift he could give us.
My prayer through this series is that we’ll all open ourselves up to the Spirit’s work in our lives more. I don’t know what that will look like - sometimes he acts obviously and quickly; more often he works slowly and in a hidden way. But let’s welcome his work among us, whatever he chooses to do.
Empowering women always has a positive impact on society. In Uganda, teenage girls often miss out on some of their education each month. Our church are partnering with a simple social enterprise project in our partner parish in Uganda (and with expertise from Southampton Uni’s Wessex Social Ventures) to help girls get as much education as possible. What an impact that could have in the years to come!
You can give directly to the project, or you can go to a Quiz Night next Friday to have fun and a glass of wine, whilst raising funds! Invite your Facebook friends!