SIMPLE TRUTH

NativityAs we approach another Christmas, and many of us are caught up in a flurry of activity, in addition to carrying concerns for church and nation, we do well to remember that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is a powerful statement of the premium God places on simplicity.

I was considering our pre-Christmas service in Golden Valley Church and I kept hearing the words “simplicity” and “simple.” I knew that Holy Spirit is wanting to impress this upon me – on us all.

In life we generally overlook the simple in favour of the complicated. The world mocks simple things, and ever looks for more sophistication. Our lack of simplicity breeds fear, control, pride, anxiety, strife, and unrest. But we actually miss much of what God has for us, because it is contained in the simple. He hides Himself; He hides our blessings – maybe our breakthroughs – in simple places. The sophisticated and cluttered minds will often miss Him there, just as they did in Bethlehem all those years ago.

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Modern lives are so full of noise, clutter, surplus, and overload. Conveniences and technology which are supposed to make life easier and simpler can end up increasing the demands with which we find ourselves juggling. Simplicity is ever-illusive, and no less so at Christmastime when the plethora of competing demands – many of them completely unnecessary  – shout loudly for attention. Even in modern church it’s easy to fall into living by a set of tick-boxes in our desire to grow and become all that God wants us to be. For example: “Four keys to this…”, “Seven steps to freedom…”, “do this course”, “attend this conference”, “read this book”, “master this truth”, “pray for this and that need”, etc. And so the plates continue to spin in overcomplicated lives.

The dictionary definitions of “simplicity” include, “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded; freedom from pretence or guile; restraint in ornamentation.” I like the “restraint in ornamentation” which is so apt in a modern Christmas where the true meaning is obscured – even obliterated – by the overload of lights, sounds, and Santa Claus.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1 that God has made the wisdom of this world to turn out as foolishness. He says, referring to Jesus and His cross, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,”  and, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” The ‘foolish simplicity’ of a baby laid to sleep in an animal feeding trough in a small out-of-the-way town is where God hides Himself, and where most people walk on by unknowingly.

The simple life – a life of walking daily with God and receiving everything from His hand – was stolen from mankind through deception, in the Garden in Eden, right in the beginning time of the Adamic race. But both the divine Baby in the manger and the divine man upon the cross are the wisdom of heaven to restore simplicity to us.

Last January Pope Francis tweeted the following: “In the simplicity of the nativity scene we encounter the tenderness of God which reveals itself in the Baby Jesus.” Tenderness. I think it is impossible to truly experience tenderness without – even for a moment – withdrawing from the overload, and finding a simple space.

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I have a friend who recently proposed to his girlfriend in city centre Paris. In the midst of the bustle, the sights, the lights, the sounds, the traffic, and the masses going about their business, he knelt down and found tenderness to engage with the one he loves. It was an age-old simple act, yet totally new and fresh; full of power, purpose, and long-term promise. Tenderness and simplicity go hand in hand. And that soil of the heart is poignant with hope.

This Christmas the Vatican has taken their understanding of the simplicity of the nativity one step further. More than 700 pounds of sand were brought into St Peter’s Square in lorries for a chosen group of artists to create a beautiful 52 foot representation of the nativity scene – in sand. Pope Francis commenting on the symbolism is quoted as saying, “The sand recalls the simplicity, the smallness with which God showed Himself at the birth of Jesus, in the precariousness of Bethlehem.” This is the unspoken message of their 2018 nativity scene.

It takes humility to embrace simplicity. Jesus chose to humble Himself to a level beyond our ability to humanly comprehend. From the Throne of Heaven he made the decision of love to become a baby in a manger in Roman-era Israel. His was outrageous humility! When we are proud – where we are proud – it is impossible to be simple. Pride by nature needs to exalt itself and seeks to impress by its accumulations.

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Nativity Sculpture in Sand at the Vatican 2018

It also takes trust to embrace simplicity. Jesus had to trust His Father in order to become that baby. He also had to trust His Father as He hung on the cross. On both occasions He stepped into trust that His Abba would come through for Him, would watch over Him and never let Him down. He was no longer in control. Simplicity demands that we stop trying to control everything and everyone, and rest in the Love by which we are held.

The first church was known by its lifestyle of simplicity of heart [Acts 2:46]. The Apostle Paul’s testimony of His team’s conduct was that they had conducted themselves in simplicity and godly sincerity [2 Cor. 1:12]. And writing to the same church again in chapter 11, verse 3, he expresses his deep concern that the same serpent that had deceived Eve was continuing his fraudulent schemes and beguiling them from a life of simple devotion to Christ. Sometimes spiritual warfare comes to us in the form of clutter, distractions, and deceitful feelings that we have to occupy ourselves with any number of seemingly important enterprises. There is always a battle on against divine simplicity.

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In the simple we hear Him; that ‘still small voice’. Elijah was unable to engage with God in the blast of the fire, the swirling of the winds, or the noise of the earthquake. He had to pass through these to the place of simple stillness.

Those who managed to find the manger in Bethlehem found the Messiah. Those who stooped to enter the cave, met with the Saviour. In locating the place of heavenly simplicity, they found hidden treasure.

As we again approach Christmas, it’s important for us to dial down on the clutter, the noise, and the assumed demands. Let’s focus in on the Babe in the manger – the simply powerful and powerfully simple birth of the Man from Heaven. Stop to savour ordinary moments, quiet times, and that Still Small Voice. Reflect again on Love come down to us. And somewhere as you savour it – Him – ask Him to help you embrace His simplicity in your life.

In Psalm 131 David testifies how he has simplified his posture from being overly concerned with too many things, to resting in God as a young child would on its mother’s lap. He has chosen to resist pride and arrogance. He has decided to stop looking at others with contempt and judgement. He has quietened his mind and heart, and focused on one thing – the simple child-parent relationship he has with God. From this place hope has risen in his life. He is able to encourage others to hope, because he has found the simple place where it grows, and where fear and anxiety die.

Jesus, for His whole life, lived from this same stance, beginning with the manger. And wherever He went hope grew. Love sprung forth. And faith began to return. Simple.

Let’s find the tender simplicity of His heart this Christmas as we find Him off the beaten track lying in the manger.

Wes Boxall

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HOW EXTREME IS GRACE?

The subject of grace is a hot topic in some parts of the church right now. I have observed friends who have received greater revelation of the grace of God in Christ which has given them a new sense of freedom, joy, and peace. I applaud such fruit. Amazing GraceThe grace of God which is ours through His Son Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross is meant to produce in us such results  .

What can we say about grace?

It is ‘amazing‘, as the hymn goes. It is meant to make us stand in awe and wonder at the goodness and kindness of God in dealing with our sins and sin-nature, once and for all.

It is ‘extreme‘. The Father welcoming back His prodigal sons and daughters and throwing a party for them, completely covering their shame and dirt with His own robe of righteousness sounds almost too ‘extreme’ to be true! Yet that is the grace that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. He came to bring us to this very Father as sons and daughters. Continue reading “HOW EXTREME IS GRACE?”

EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS’ PRAYER EXAMPLE

Emad Youssef
Emad Youssef

It was a truly awesome weekend in GVC as Emad and Ash shared with us their own remarkable testimonies, stories of what is happening in Egypt right now, and encouragements from the Word of God.

The Presence of God crammed the worship, which was poignant with prophetic urgency. But it was the (repeated) exhortation by the Spirit of God to pray which perhaps came across above all else.

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Egypt Map

Emad encouraged us to continue to store up prayer with God. Ash shared his own story, that His godly Christian mother prayed daily for him for nine years when as a young man he was in a rebellious, drug-fuelled state, until He personally encountered Jesus Christ, who immediately turned His life around.

We heard that on 11/11/11 seventy thousand Egyptian Christians gathered together in Cairo to pray; to humble themselves and seek God for their nation’s condition and future. God heard the cries of His saints.

There is clearly a spiritual revival going on in this nation that is beloved by God. Accounts of miracles and healings continue. There is much in the Bible regarding Egypt. And several prophecies yet to be fulfilled. How good to know that our God is on the move outside of what normally appears in the media.

Let’s take this example of persistent prayer to heart, and continue to call on God for our own very needy nation, and the global purposes of God in our day. Jesus still calls for His church to be a “House of Prayer for all the nations”.

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Cairo Prayer

[several clips of the large Cairo prayer meeting on 11/11/11 are available on YouTube. Here is a link to one short clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPhTEYqinVQ ]

OPEN DOORS IN 2014

Often at the beginning of a New Year we have a clear mandate or direction from God as to the focus or prophetic significance of that year. We knew that 2013 was a ‘year of alignment’ and we have spent many occasions in prayer regarding this. There are some who interpret the current Hebrew year 5774 as meaning “the year of the Open Doors”.  Whilst I don’t feel strongly enough to declare it as THE year of open doors in Golden Valley Church, I do believe that within this next 12 months the Father is wanting to open up new ‘doors’ for us in many areas of life.

doorBiblically, and in within ancient cultures, the concept of doors, gates, and doorways are more significant than we generally regard them in a modern western society. Clearly doors into our homes or businesses are significant as both entry points and security factors. Continue reading “OPEN DOORS IN 2014”

CHRISTMAS MORNING 2013

Christmas Service 2013

Come and join us as we gather around the manger and worship this Christmas morning. Christmas begins with Christ. Without Him there’s not much left.

May you be blessed with a fresh knowledge of God’s love for you this Christmas.

GOOD FRIDAY

On Good Friday we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ who was crucified on behalf of humanity. Why us it ‘good’? The horrors of crucifixion cannot be called ‘good’. The murder of an innocent man by jealous religious leaders conspiring against Him can’t be called ‘good’. The rejection of One who healed the sick and blessed the poor can’t be described as ‘good’. The mourning of His family and friends can’t be called ‘good’.

Yet it is ‘Good Friday’. It is a memorial of the day when one sinless man – the Son of God, Jesus Christ – was put to death on behalf of the remainder of mankind who had no eternal hope because every one had sinned and missed the mark of God’s glory. God Himself, both just and loving, became a man and received the penalty of sin in Himself as He was crucified on the cross. Now, anyone – however far they have fallen in life – can call on Him because He has paid for their failures Himself, and receive forgiveness and eternal life. That is GOOD! This is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. He has loved us to the very end! Why not step into it for yourself this Easter?

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Our Good Friday Service is at 10:00am,

in the Firehouse Chapel, Newton Avenue, Coney Hill, Gloucester, GL4 4NS

MY ROAD TO LIFE

A few weeks ago Ian brought us a passage that seems relevent now:

MY ROAD TO LIFE

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a referee waiting to blow the whistle…. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was on the back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I went the ways I know. It was rather boring, and predictable… It was always the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on!

Even though it looked like madness, He said, ‘Keep Pedalling!” I worried and was anxious and asked, ‘Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and slowly I began to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered in the adventure. And when I’d say, ‘I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey.

And when we were off again. He said, ‘Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” so I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ!