Mission to Earth

January 11, 2019

Satellite picture of Earth and MoonDid you see the pictures from the Yutu 2 “Jade Rabbit” lunar rover this week?

If you are a fan of space exploration (and who isn’t?), these pictures are not to be missed as the Chinese rover is the first chance we have had to see what the far side of the moon looks like at ground level*. While previously we have had pictures taken by satellite of the far side of the moon, this is the first time we are able to see it up close, and experience what it is like to travel along its stark landscape.

Space has often been associated with the divine and mankind has often tried to see God, but can we ever truly know what God is like? Is God too far away? Is our image too blurry?

The good news of Jesus Christ is that God came to us so that we no longer have to guess what God is like. Through Jesus we can see God up close and encounter him personally.

Don’t miss out on God’s mission to Earth.

Gavin.henderson@gracecom.church

* The moon is tidally locked to the Earth, which means that only one side is ever visible from the Earth’s surface.

Take a look

January 4, 2019

winter landscape panorama with sunset and the forestIt is conventionally thought that the month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates, beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. In the UK as we look back to 2018 we probably recall the entanglements of the Brexit negotiations and as we look ahead to 2019 we may wonder how it’s all going to be resolved.

As a Christian when I look back in time my focus is on the cross of Jesus Christ where my salvation was secured and when I look into the future I live in the light of his anticipated return to earth. But my looking doesn’t stop there: I look up to see that God provides the power and strength for me to live in a dangerous world; I look in to see that God lives in me and has promised never to leave me; And I look around at my fellow Christians reminding me that we travel together on this journey as part of a Christian community. In 2019 I hope to deepen my vision in all of these aspects of my Christian walk.

If you are a Christian and are concerned about what the next year holds for you why not try and do the same. If you are not a Christian and you are apprehensive and anxious about the future, 2019 might just be a good time to take a look at this thing called Christianity. It is well worth a look.

Barry Robinson (Barry.robinson@gracecom.church)

It’s all about the timings

December 21, 2018

Christmas is all about timing. Festive music in the supermarkets from late November seems too early; rushing around on the 24th of December for the present you forgot seems too late. Will those Christmas cards sent to Australia arrive in time? If you are travelling to be at home for Christmas, will you get there on time? Then there’s the Christmas dinner. Will the turkey be ready before the Queen’s message? Have the brussel sprouts been left on too long? How many hours does it take for a Christmas pudding to simmer? Time after time Christmas brings us timing issues.

Interestingly, the Bible tells us ‘when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman’ (Galatians 4:4 The Message). Ultimately, for the Christian, Christmas isn’t about the presents, the cards or the dinner; it’s about the time when God came to be with us (Matthew 1:23) in order to save us from our sins (v.21).

If you feel that Christmas is just a hectic round of trying to get everything done on time, why not take some time to explore the Christian claims about Jesus? It will be time well spent, and you might just find that it is his coming into the world that makes this the most wonderful time of the year.

I hope you have a good time this Christmas.

Barry.robinson@gracecom.church

No vengeance?

September 7, 2018

Vengeance seems to be on the mind of international leaders this week.

But should it really be payback time? The UK and its allies against Russia for the alleged deployment of nerve gas on UK soil? Russia against the UK for making what its leaders view as unfounded allegations? And, the more we look into the news, the more examples we come across.

Some have thought that God has vengeance on his mind, and that he plans to bring the world to an end in a fit of wrath. Typically, that’s what many of the Judgment Day pundits claim. That a disillusioned God will satisfy his anger by destroying the earth and sinners like you and me. As society appears to go from bad to worse, the more religious zealots preach that view.

But, is this true? Actually, the Bible proposes something different. It’s not that God is intent on revenge, but that he offers outgoing love to a resistant humanity. God prefers to return evil with good. Vengeance is subsumed in grace. Jesus returns in power as the Prince of Peace, and not like some charging, vengeful warrior king.

How will all this play out? I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is the God of amazing grace, not of spiteful vengeance, and, because of that, there is hope for all of us.

Accept his grace.

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

Future Plans

July 20, 2018

London RainThis week has been a frustrating time for many of us who live in the British Isles as it has become clear that there is no consensus in the British Parliament about what the UK’s relationship will look like after the 29th of March 2019.

It sometimes seems like the UK government has no plan, and that our future is being carelessly left to the whims of politicians and whatever time will bring.

This same claim is sometimes brought against God. That there is no great plan of which humanity is a part and that what happens to us is solely time and chance.

The Bible tells a different story though. It tells us that God so loved the world, so loved you and me, that even before the universe was created God had chosen to give us his son, Jesus Christ. That God planned from the beginning to make his dwelling among us and that in Jesus Christ we have life and hope, no matter how dreary and dark the world seems.

That God’s love for us is so resolute and unchangeable that nothing can separate us from it, not even the mess we might make of Brexit, or of this planet or even of our lives.

Turn to Jesus, for in him is the hope of the world.

Gavin Henderson

Message in a Bottle

March 9, 2018

Perhaps you heard this week that the oldest recovered message in a bottle has been found in Western Australia. The message was thrown into the sea in 1886 by a German ship as part of an experiment into ocean and shipping routes. The Illman family who found the bottle have expressed their amazement and wonder at finding the bottle lodged in the sand.

For some, the Bible is just an historical document, the writings of a particular time and a particular place. To others, the Bible is like a message in a bottle, a personal note that survives the vagaries of the tides of time to bring amazement and wonder to those who read it. It tells the story of Jesus Christ and his ‘eternal message’, encouraging us to ‘worship the Maker of Heaven and earth, salt sea and fresh water!’ (Rev 14:6-7 MSG)

Open the Bible and see what has been kept for you within.

Gavin.henderson@gracecom.church 

The Overview Effect

November 10, 2017

They call it the Overview Effect. It’s a phrase used by astronauts for the shift in awareness when, from space, you come face to face with our beautiful earth.

“It changes you,”1 was the effect on Scott Kelly, an American astronaut, who has just come back from the International Space Station.

And he should know: he spent nearly a year up there, beholding the beauty of a boundaryless earth.

Through this privileged orbital perspective, he explained that he saw the earth “very peaceful looking…but often not.” And this weekend, the often not peaceful weighs heavy on our minds as we remember the pain, loss and sacrifice that war brings.

As he explained how his 340 days in space made him more “empathetic to the human condition”, I wondered if fewer wars would have been fought if national leaders could have experienced this overview effect? However, unfortunately, not all of us can make it to space.

So, are we without an overview effect? To change us, that is.

Not entirely.

There is an overview that can change us. Where we don’t see boundaries that divide, nor pride that puffs up, but a view that gives us new eyes of awareness.

It is a view found in Jesus. As we look to him, our view of humanity changes. Why? Because “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Simply put, our true, new condition is found in our relationship with Jesus. And from this relationship, our overview of humanity changes as we treat others as Jesus treats us: with oneness.

An overview informed not from space, but from grace.

Richard Fowler

1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-41908978/what-it-s-like-spending-a-year-in-space

Image from www.nasa.gov

 

Build Bridges, Not Walls

October 13, 2017

Eight alternative designs for Donald Trump’s proposed US-Mexico border wall were unveiled this week, once again raising questions in the Senate about who was going to pay for it.

Of course, building walls to separate one group of people from another is nothing new.

Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, the West Bank barrier in Israel and the granddaddy of them all, the Great Wall of China, are all attempts to keep people out (or hold them in).

Many people, both agnostic and religious, believe there is another great wall; one that separates humanity and God.

The reality is that people, not walls, keep us apart from God and each other. So God, in his love and mercy, sent his son Jesus Christ to fix it.

The bible tells us that “Jesus is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one.”*

By dying for all people, Jesus tore down the wall of hatred and bitterness. Through him it is possible for us to mend fences with one another and have direct access to God.

Thanks to Jesus, we can stop putting up walls and start building bridges.

Peter Mill

* Ephesians 2:14, The Voice

Bastille Day

July 14, 2017

Today, 14th July, is Bastille Day, a day that now commemorates two violent events.

The first, in 1789, when the Paris fortress-prison of the same name was stormed. A symbol of all that was hated by the common French people, its capture became the turning point of the French Revolution.

The second event happened in Nice exactly one year ago today, when 80 people were killed in the far-from-noble terrorist truck attack in Nice.

But quatorze juillet, as the French call it, has another name and another far more peaceful association. A year after the original Bastille Day, the first Fête de la Fédération took place; a festival to celebrate the new unity of the French people. A day that championed peace and reconciliation.

The ancient prophet Isaiah also dreamed of peace and reconciliation. “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks” he wrote, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

Wouldn’t it be great if that prophecy came true, like so many of his other writings? So that on days like today, we could celebrate everlasting peace and harmony.

Peter Mill

Hope for the hungry

March 17, 2017

In the midst of all the hoo-hah and hullaballoo about Brexit and another Scottish independence referendum, there was an arguably much more important story in the news this week.

On Wednesday, the Disasters Emergency Committee broadcast an emergency appeal for the millions of people in East Africa who are slowly, inexorably starving to death. It has been called the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. Around 16 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan are on the brink of starvation and urgently need food, water and medical treatment.

The problem is largely our own doing. As Dr. Alex Awiti, director of the East African Institute in Kenya puts it, “This shameful scale of starvation, disease and death, especially of children, women and the elderly, is unconscionable because it is man-made.”*

At times like this, in situations like this, it often seems as if there is no hope. But there is.

Mankind may be the problem, but we also have the solution in our hands. We produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, 30% more than the global population. And there is more than enough money to get it to the point of need.

But there’s a missing piece in the jigsaw and Jesus knew what it was. In his famous sermon on the Mount, he said, “Blessed are those who hunger…for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Jesus understood that it takes one kind of hunger to satisfy another. Unless humankind desires to put things right, it just won’t happen.

However, in this instance it seems we do. And it has.

First of all, the Queen announced she was making a personal donation to the fund. Then the government said it would match the first £5m donated by the public. And this morning I turned on the television and was greeted by the encouraging news that in just 24 hours the concerned and generous British public have already given £7m.

It is encouraging to know there are still many in the UK who have the right kind of hunger.

All the very best,

Peter Mill

*http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/03/14/africas-famine-is-mostly-man-made_c1523730

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