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Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

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No longer forward, nor behind I look in hope or fear; but, grateful, take the good I find, the best of now and here. Horace Bushnell (Congregational Minister 1802-1876).

Do you complain of your birth, your training, your employment, your personal problems? Never imagine that you could ever be something if only you had a different lot. God understands His own plan. He knows what you want a great deal better than you do. The very things that disappoint you most, as frustrations or obstructions, are probably what you really need.

What you call hindrances, obstacles, discouragements, are most likely God’s opportunities. Lift up your heart to receive God’s will. Do His work. Do it in your circumstances, under your cloud of obscurity, against temptation. Then you will find your condition is never opposed to your good, but really consistent with it.

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It Came To Pass, It Didn’t Come To Stay

Having been a teacher in my early life I developed “Magpie” habits. I still find it hard to throw things away just in case they might come in useful at some stage in the future. From time to time I look through some my old papers. I found this the other day which my late mother sent me to help me though a difficult time in my life and I hope it might help you.

When you feel cast down and despondently sad and you long to be happy and carefree and glad, do you ask yourself, as I often do, “Why must there be days that are cheerless and blue?” Why is the song silenced in my heart this day and then I ask God, “What makes life this way?” And His explanation makes everything clear, the soul has its seasons the same as the year, man, too must pass through life’s autumn of death and have his heart frozen by winter’s cold breath – but spring always comes with new life and birth followed by summer to warm the soft earth – and, oh, what a comfort to know there are reasons that souls, like nature, must too have their seasons, bounteous seasons and barren ones, too, times for rejoicing and times to be blue – for with nothing but sameness how dull life would be for only life’s challenge can set the soul free, and it takes a mixture of both bitter and sweet to season our lives and make them complete.

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The Pessimist Sees Difficulty in Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity in Every Difficulty.

2018 seems to have a theme at the chapel this year of stepping out of the boat. This takes faith to conquer fear. It also means focusing on the positive rather than the negative. This goes against the tide as the newspapers are full of articles written by pessimists. Can you promise yourself – to think only the best, to work only for the best and expect only the best; to think health, happiness and prosperity to everyone you meet; to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind; to look on the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Promise yourself, with God’s help, to wear a cheerful face at all times and give every living creature a smile – to give so much to self-improvement that you have no time to criticise others.

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Nothing will ever be done at all if I wait until I can do it so well that no one can find fault with it.

Henry Ford, poor and uneducated dreamed of a horseless carriage went to work with the tools he possessed, without waiting for the opportunity to favour him. Now the evidence of his dream is evidenced all over the world!

Thomas Edison, you may recall, dreamed of a lamp that could be operated by electricity. He began where he stood. Despite more than 10,000 failures he stood by his dream and did not give up.

Marconi dreamed of a system of harnessing the intangible forces of the ether. Evidence that he did not dream in vain is found in every radio and television in the world.

The oak sleeps in the acorn. The bird waits in the egg. In the highest vision of each soul a potential saint awaits the opportunity to be born.

During 2018 we at the Old Meeting are praying that God will not only bring us breakthroughs in our fellowship but will make us better able to reach out to you. Lots of people these days seem to think that there is an ideal moment to start. The truth is that the best moment to start is right now. You might remember the Bible story when Moses asked God about His name. God told him that His name is “I AM” past is over, the future has not yet arrived, the only time to live is NOW, in the present.

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When I am good to others... then I am good to myself

To me the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who are conscious and those who are unconscious. There is no difference to me when it comes to people’s colour, their race or their religion. God made us all equal. The only difference is their awareness of the world they live in, their understanding of the meaning and purpose of life, of the joy and pleasure of living, of having faith in their Creator, and the need of sharing that awareness with others and bringing it to their fellowmen… is a measure of this difference.

During my long life, I hope that I have learned at least the most important lesson: that the most important thing is to realise why I am alive. I think it is not only to build bridges, or tall buildings, or make money, or be a leader, but to do something truly important; to do something for humanity. To bring joy, hope, inspire faith, and to make life richer. For the Spirit of God helps you because you have been alive… that is the most important thing.

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You fearful saints, fresh courage take…the clouds you so much dread…are big with mercy, and shall break…. In blessings on your head.

You might have heard that on the 3rd Saturday every month we have Sing on Saturday at the chapel, this is a time when we sing the hymns which have been loved over the years and are not sung so often these days. You would be right in thinking that I love singing the old hymns especially as I find them so uplifting and inspiring.

It might surprise you if the hymn that I turn to more than any other was written by a man who contemplated suicide. Life had become so meaningless and hopeless for William Cowper, the famous English poet, that he decided to commit suicide. Hailing a horse-drawn cab, he gave as his destination a bridge over the River Thames. But the fog was so think that he rode about for an hour or more. Where was the river? Rebuking the cabbie for taking so long to find the river bank, Cowper thrust open the door of the cab. Upon doing so, he discovered that instead of being near the river, he was right back at his own doorstep! Smitten by the coincidence, he rushed to his room, took a quill and paper and penned the lines that have cheered millions who have come to the brink of disaster:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

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Consistent cheerfulness and enthusiasm can make my day…may even change a life.

I wonder if you were ever sent to Sunday School as a child. What memories do you have? I can remember singing lots of choruses and the one that sticks out in my mind was “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.” I never really liked it much and it is only in recent years that I have realised what the simple words were all about. Sadly, there are many people’s lives that are anything but sunny, they are filled with pessimism, depression and dark thoughts. There is a verse in the Bible that tells us that Jesus came to give us abundant life. True Christians should be the happiest people on earth yet over the years that I saw people as a counsellor, I met very few really happy people. Proverbs 23 verse 7 shows that our thoughts determine our lives.  Sometime ago I made the following list of positive things that I choose to say especially when facing a negative situation. I have found these positive affirmations help change my life and I hope they will do the same for you.

“In order to promote happiness and joy, I sincerely promise that wherever I am:

I will talk health instead of sickness.

I will talk of prosperity instead of failure.

I will carry good news instead of bad news.

I will tell the cheerful tale instead of the sad tale.

I will mention blessings instead of burdens.

I will speak of the sunshine instead of the clouds.

I will think of cheerful things, not gloomy, and my thoughts will shine in my face.

I will praise, whenever I can, those putting forward an honest effort to perform their tasks creditably.

I will always remember: a merry heart doeth good life medicine.”

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The legacy

Every Christian has to acknowledge a debt to books of devotion. The great Charles Spurgeon inherited a library of Puritan books which transformed his life. The books written by Christians in the past constitute an invaluable corrective to our tendency to compromise. Left to ourselves, we easily slip from the highest. We excuse our faults and failings as amiable weaknesses. When we see how those who have attained spiritual power have had to discipline themselves, we realise afresh where our slackness is leading us. At the same time, we have to be on our guard against a subtle temptation in reading devotional books. We are conscious of a heightened emotional and devotional thrill. Our hearts respond to the higher call. We feel how much we really want to be our best selves. But if we are not careful we leave it at that. We take the will for the deed. We are satisfied that we have felt good and resolved to be good, and expect the day to be better than yesterday. We forget that before the new thought or the higher vision are really ours, they have to be expressed in action. I may feel the glow of a new resolution to be absolutely loving all day, but it means nothing if I am irritable at the first test. Ideals are deceivers till they are actualised. Holy thoughts must lead to holy acts, or they become unholy deceptions. How much of what I learned to-day in my devotional hour have I implemented in actual conduct? That is the test, and the only one, of the reality of my devotion.

John.

 

Can you be quiet?

Many people come to the Norfolk Broads to find peace and tranquillity. I recently was told a story about a family from London who chose to have a holiday on the Broads. All went well on the Saturday when they arrived at the boatyard to collect their boat for the week. However, the boatyard owner was woken early Sunday morning by someone banging at his front door. It was the family who the day before hired one of his boats for the week. “Please, can I return the boat now?” He pleaded with the boat-owner. “We just can’t bear the silence.”

Life in 2018 is full of noise and one of the most challenging things to do is to be still and quiet. I have met quite a number of people who find it difficult to be still before God. Even if they are relaxed physically – a requirement which anyone can learn – they find their minds racing round a hundred things. This mind-wandering is very disturbing for many eager souls who would serve God with a quiet mind but find they cannot. There are ways however in which we may aid our minds to attain stillness. One good way is to read a portion of Scripture, like Psalms 23, 62, 91, or the 14th chapter of St John’s Gospel. Then quietly say some such prayer as the following: “God is now flooding my life with His peace. Every fret and care is going before the tide of His peace. I am at rest in Him.” Hold that thought for a few moments steadily and you will find it much easier to realise His presence with you. Then begin to lay before Him the needs of the day, assuring yourself that He will provide all the courage, strength, wisdom and patience you will require. As the day goes on, if you find yourself getting troubled, remind yourself that His peace is ever flowing around you and within. You may be engaged on a thousand thronging duties, but you will retain your poise and your inner peace. Let’s remember the verse from the Bible which says, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.”

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The Unseen Friend

“When I look back I have no doubts that Providence guided us, not only across those snowfields, but across the storm-white sea. I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four not three. I said nothing to my companions, but afterwards Worsley said to me, `Boss, I had a curious feeling on that march that there was another person with us.”

- Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874 – 1922), after one of his journeys.

Sadly, I meet rather a lot of people who seem to think that God either does not exist or that He left this planet years ago. I just can’t agree with this. As I look back on my life I have a very strong sense that at times I have been guided by an unseen hand. I meet the right people, I find (or was I shown?) passages in books that have inspired me, doors of opportunity have opened, the list is endless. I really love the quote by Shackleton and it is my prayer that you will love this quote too.

Every true Christian should believe that God guides. It is a fundamental doctrine found in the Bible. But how does He guide? Many people have abandoned their belief in His guidance because they asked it in a special difficulty, and so far, as they know they have received no help. Why does God seem to deny guidance sometimes? One possible reason is the condition of our own lives, the quality of our faith. God’s guidance is a question of purity of heart. “The pure in heart,” said Jesus, “shall see God.” When there is conscious sin we cannot very well to expect to get God’s guidance. If I am harbouring any evil whatsoever in my heart I cannot go to God and expect guidance because I am not following the guidance I already have, which is to cast evil out of my life. Evil not only prevents me from getting new guidance, but it throws a smoke-screen between myself and God, so that I cannot see the guidance when it is there. Before asking further guidance, I must ask myself whether I have obeyed the guidance I have already received. Have I surrendered every known sin? Have I given Christ the right to control my every thought and desire? God says, “Make yourself clean, put away the evil of your doing, cease to do evil, learn to do will.”

John.

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