The Thought for the Week this week is written by David Shuttleton

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“Go to thy house unto thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and how he had mercy on thee.”— Mark‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭RV1885‬‬

Not so long ago, while reading about this man delivered of two thousand demons, in a few moments several thoughts lodged themselves in my mind, mainly concerning things that must have taken place– between the lines– so to speak.

First up was the fact that as the mob of crooks, criminals and low-life were ordering Jesus and his apostles to get out of their region of the Gerasenes (they had lost their illegal herd of two thousand pigs, and thereby their income),  this dear man was standing in the middle of this chaos, wholly ignorant of the threats from this mob, pleading with Jesus that he might travel with Him and His followers. His life had just been utterly transformed in one moment of time when Jesus ordered the two thousand demons to come out of him and enter the nearby herd of swine. He begged to follow Jesus. We read that Jesus ‘suffered him not’ to go into the boat with them. I reckon this means Jesus told him several times to “go to thy house unto thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for thee, and how He had mercy on thee”. This man was having none of it. I’m sure he was intent on following Jesus for the rest of his life. As he, I have no doubt, tried to climb into the boat, one leg on the rail, the other bobbing up and down in waist high water sloshing around him, Jesus probably tried not to laugh as the other apostles were doubled up in joyous laughter, all the while pushing the boat out into deeper water so they might escape the danger from the mob. Jesus would have His hand on the dear man’s shoulder repeating His earlier advice, “go to thy house unto thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for thee, and how He had mercy on thee”. Tears of pure joy would surely have been running down his cheeks. 

Wide eyed in horror and incredulity that Jesus was not allowing him to follow them, he may have shouted out “Well, I’ll come and visit you next week!” Causing Jesus to perhaps wag His finger as He stood at the helm of the boat while repeating His exhortation “No, no, no, noooooo, go to thy house unto thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord has done for thee, and how He had mercy on thee”, causing further hilarity among the apostles. All the while keeping an eye on the mob. 

The boat by now would have been possibly twenty of twenty-five feet off shore leaving this man, lips puckered, frowning, hands on waist in waist deep water, with a cloak three sizes too big that one of the apostles had given him. He probably gave in and realised he had better go home, then panicking at the depth of the water for the first time, turned tail, and, seeing the mob of thugs, throwing his arms in the air, shouted “Hey, lads, let me tell you all that the Lord has done for me!” These criminals would in turn be falling over each other, running for their dear life in every direction away from the man! 

Remember that only a couple of hours previously this man was shouting and screaming among the tombs and the mountainside in torment and abject misery, night and day. He cut himself with sharp stones and hated his life. He snapped chains when the locals chained him to trees or huge boulders. He was naked for many years, filth and grime was embed on the skin of his face and hands. His body covered with long hair. As JB Philips calls him, ‘a violent lunatic’. His hair must have been so unkempt, beyond imagining, uncut, greasy, wild. He was stinking as awful as any man ever did. 

Now we read that he sat with the apostles talking with Jesus, mesmerised, and as JB Phillips translates it, “properly clothed and perfectly sane”. He must have been a born optimist, naturally high-spirited and extrovert. Why else would Jesus have to plead with him not to follow them. I’m sure Jesus and the apostles would have realised that this poor man would need weeks of balm and ointments on his open sores and multiple scabs before they could even think about shaving his beard or cutting his hair. How could anyone in such a sorry state go around the county with Jesus. He required loving nursing and caring from his family and friends. Then he could go out and tell people about what had happened. 

The last verse informs us that this man travelled virtually the entire country of Judaea and Samaria (Decapolis) right over to the far side of Israel deep into the desert regions of what we now call Jordan. When we realise that Decapolis is the ten major cities of northern and central Israel, did anyone else travel so extensively preaching the word? 

Within an hour Jesus was raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and as a “dense crowd ...thronged Him on all sides”– in Weymouths translation, the woman with the issue of blood was healed when she touched the hem of His garment in total faith that she would be healed. He then send the apostles out two by two around the country. This busy day was no place for a man in dire need of convalescence. 

He eventually set out for the towns and innumerable villages of this region of the Holy Land “And he went his way, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; and all men did marvel”.

Those of us who have been delivered from demons and entities by the authority of Jesus, especially those of us from scores, even hundreds want to tell everyone we know, in particular those who knew our darkest days, that we are now in our right mind thanks to Jesus alone, the voices gone, the torment gone, the misery gone. 

It was not an accident that Jesus met the dear woman at the well, He knew her tragic backstory, as he did that of this dear man. He knew they had hearts after God but circumstances were agin’ them from the start. Jesus ‘happened’ to be at the well at noon. He also ‘happened’ to tell the apostles to land the boat at this desolate spot on the shore of Galilee where the tombs were, when He knew there were many thousands waiting to hear Him preach and heal in nearby villages further along the shore. 

We can be sure this man convalesced and healed and grew deep in God in the quietness of his home before he went out around Decapolis proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. 





The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Will Revolta

by Susie Jean Sharkey


‘Where there is no vision, the people perish...’  Proverbs 29v18 KJV

Before I write this, I would like the reader to know that this message is for me. 

If it speaks to you as well, praise God

As I sat in church last Sunday morning, something the preacher said struck home. 

It made me ask myself afresh: Why am I going to church? What is it really all about? Is it simply a routine of many years, or a respectful effort to keep up appearances?

Or, deep down, is the reason I go to church because I love Christ and want more of Him and am determined to serve His purpose and calling in my life?
Of course, I want my answer to be 100 percent the second reason. However, sometimes the busyness of life can cause the ultimate goal to become obscured to the point that I can almost forget not only why I am going to church, but also, what my life is really all about. 

Do you ever find this?

In the words of the Michael Brown, ‘If God took away from you everything and only left you one thing, what would that thing be?.... Do you know Him, do you really know Him, is He really your best and closest friend?’

I don’t pretend to know beyond what I know but one thing I have come to realise is this: the most important thing I can have and seek for, is to love Jesus Christ. 

A deep and real love for Him is the one thing that will keep my focus. 

It is the one thing that will keep me on His path and at a safe distance away from the wrong path. I need Him.

How do I obtain this kind of a walk?
In answer to this question, I found the words of another preacher also spoke to me later in the week, as I listened to another sermon when doing the dishes.

I paraphrase:

‘In your crises, in your busyness, are you still spending quality time with the Lord? Your quiet time with God is vital to staying strong in Him, and, in keeping your focus on what life is all about.’

Lord, I hear you. Help me follow through on this. Amen.



The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Kenneth Gaw

by Susie Jean Sharkey


We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors. 2 Cor 5:20

Although sensitive to the customs of the society in which he works, an ambassador is not a member of

that society. He represents a different culture, a different outlook, and a different set of interests. His

purpose is to represent and communicate the policies of his government.

As Christians, we are called to represent Jesus Christ in every situation. We must continually ask

ourselves, “How does God want me to relate to this person?”, “What is God’s will in this place?” Often

this can mean giving up our right to our own ways, our own opinions, our own way of doing things and

becoming “all things to all people ”( 1Cor 9.22) in order to fulfill purposes of God.

When the experienced missionary William Burns saw how young Hudson Taylor’s Chinese dress gave

him access to the Chinese people, he felt obliged to do the same, in spite of the criticism and ridicule

from other westerners. They had to break with convention and convenience in order to reach the

Chinese. They represented the heavenly kingdom, where their (and our) home really is.

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be

called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:16)


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Jay Neilson

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Psalm 25:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

Sometimes God says No!

I came across this story in a local paper on holiday, cut it out and kept
it. I hope you enjoy it.


I asked God to take away my bad habits. God said, “No. It is not for me to
take away but for you to give it up”.
I asked God to heal a disabled child. God said, “No. His spirit is whole.
His body is only temporary”.
I asked God to give me patience. God said, “No. Patience is a by product of
tribulation, it isn’t granted. It is learned”.
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, “No. I give you blessings.
Happiness is up to you”.
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, “No. Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to me”.
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, “No. You must grow your own,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful”.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. God said “No. I will
give you life, so that you may enjoy all things”.
I asked God to help me LOVE others as much as He loves me. God said, “Ah,
finally you have the idea”


Psalm 25:4 New Living Translation (NLT)
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Craig Duke

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“……He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire”….Luke chapter 3 and part of verse 16

With the Fire Conference only round the corner I have been thinking about the word ‘fire’ and what it means in a spiritual way to me.

John the Baptist refers to this fire in, Luke Chapter 3: 16

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

The man John the Baptist speaks about is Jesus our saviour and when we get baptised in the holy spirit our spiritual fire is lit. Like a fire though if we don’t fuel our spiritual flame within it will grow dim.

Keeping the flame lit and letting it grow within into a roaring fire is our true desire. We need to live our lives following Jesus and listening to His word and what He has for us. Trusting in Him with our lives and loving Him whole heartily. Over the coming weeks and through the fire conference we need to turn our minds to God whatever stage we are at. No matter how big or small, strong or weak our fire may be at this moment , we need to let it burn and watch it grow as the Spirit falls among us.

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, I will follow you; be with us through this fire conference; bring your spirit upon us and make our fires grow with your presense.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Christine Young

by Susie Jean Sharkey


"Abide in me…" John ch15 v.4

For some reason I have been thinking about this verse for a few months. I noticed that in the New Living Translation it says “Remain in me..” which makes it easier to understand, (I think that abide is an old-fashioned word!) simply that Jesus wants us to be very close to (or IN) Him constantly.

A book on the second hand bookstall caught my eye when at camp. It is called "The True Vine", and was written by Andrew Murray, a church leader who died in 1917. It is a study on John ch 15 verses 1-16. He speaks about the verse “Abide in me and I in you” and that “Abide in me” is the part that we have to do. He says that in order to abide in Christ, that we have to-

TRUST AND OBEY- I think it is so easy to worry about situations and try to work them out ourselves, rather than trust that God is able to deal with them and knows all about them. He is able to take care of everything that concerns us. If we bring the things which worry us to Jesus and deliberately give them to Him (and keep giving them to Him when they start to worry us again), it keeps our eyes on Him and takes away the strain from us.

TO DETACH OURSELVES FROM EVERYTHING ELSE- not to let other things, even good things take our love for Christ.

TO REACH OUT AFTER HIM AND CLING TO HIM- I believe that thinking about what Jesus is like, how kindly He dealt with people, His purity, and what He has done for us will help us to come to Him.

TO SINK OURSELVES INTO HIM

We are to be like a branch which is grafted into the vine and receive all of our life from the vine, and become part of the vine.

I think that all of this can be difficult, but that it makes it easier when we realise that Christ longs for us to live in this place with Him and that if we ask that God will help us. It is a place of rest for our souls.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Elaine Black

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” John 13:35

This is a verse that speaks to me again and again and in recent days, I have pondered the exact nature of the love that Jesus is talking about, and my mind went to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This is from the Passion Translation.

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offence. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving.

What a love! There are so many facets of this love. You can take each one in turn and just think about it, the importance of it and the impact that it can have. It’s a love that doesn’t change depending on who we are with and even if this love isn’t accepted or reciprocated, it remains constant. If this is the love that we are called to show, it’s quite a challenge! How dependent we are upon the One who is Love Himself, to help us show this pure love to each other.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Lesley Rankin

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“ …. He is risen from the dead……” Luke 24 v6

Up from the grave He arose

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.

He arose a Victor from the dark domain

And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose!

Hallelujah! Christ arose!

from the hymn by Robert Lowry

I have been thinking over the summer about the victory of Christ - and how complete and perfect it is.  These thoughts were sparked by a desire for change, and the realisation that within me there are still ways of being which are far from perfect.

Instead of focusing on these, I turned to the Cross, and really thought about what Jesus has done for us.  I know that I so often think of the Cross as a symbol of the forgiveness of sins, and the mercy of God, and that is very comforting, but I felt that I needed more than that - I wanted to go beyond forgiveness towards lasting change.

When Christ died on the Cross, He reversed the disobedience of mankind, and caused forgiveness and covering to flow from God.  Yet He also descended, into the very depths of evil and darkness, and He brought His light into every single part of it. This is such an exciting thought!  All those parts of us which are fallen and imperfect, Christ has already brought His light and victory to these places.  There is absolutely no part of human nature over which Christ is not Lord and Master - because He faced every single part of it at Calvary and was victorious - and not just a little bit victorious, but overwhelmingly victorious.

Of course there are still parts of us which are imperfect - but Christ has already won the victory over them! This such an encouraging thought, and it is this that causes change within, because when we really believe it, His Light comes, and His victory becomes ours.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!



The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Sarah Kakooza

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” 

1 Chronicles 16:34

The expression "God is Good" is said in many ways, in many places throughout the Bible. “Good and upright is the Lord”. Psalm 25:8; “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good" Psalm 34:8. We know God is good. We read and sing about it, but what does this really mean?

The Bible doesn't just say that God does good things. It says that God IS good. It's not just what He does; it's who He is — and who He is never changes.

God’s mercy is boundless. 

He knows that we can never be fully at peace without Him, so He calls us to Himself. When we were saved, it was He who drew us to Him. 

He changes us.

God knows what sins and weaknesses, both external and internal, are bad for us and in His way, at the right time, He changes us.

God is always with us and He cares.  

We all suffer, but I cannot imagine suffering as a non Christian, without knowing that God is there with me. God never said we wouldn’t go through the valleys…He said He’d be there as we walk through them.

God knows best.

I used to be worried that God would ask something of me that I didn’t want to do, but the verse in Jeremiah has really spoken to me recently: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

God works things out better than we could imagine. His plans are always the best because not only does He know us, but He loves us and knows what is best for each of us.

What a wonderful God we have. Let this truth go deep into our hearts – God IS good.




The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Chloe Duke

by Susie Jean Sharkey


That I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanksforever.

Psalm 30:12

We have just come back from a week of camp in God’s presence. He has been so faithful and victorious in many lives.T his made me really think, do I praise and thank God enough for what He has done? This week I have been overcome at times with His love for us. He does so many wonderful things because we are His children.

But we can so easily get caught up in the busyness of this life and not really thank God for what He has done. Yes we thank Him in that moment of change, healing, deliverance, baptism and so many more wonderful things. But do we keep remembering to thank Him later? In this Psalm it says David wouldn’t be silent and proclaimed He would thank God forever. This is something I feel personally challenged in my own life to do. To really thank Him and be mindful of what He has done in my own life and in the life of loved ones.

Let us together not just thank God in the moment, but to thank and sing His praises forever. Let us not be silent and let us take time to remind ourselves what God has done for us, and in the life of others.


The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Willie Kinnaird

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others (Pro12:15)

One Saturday morning about 15 years ago, when we were still living in our African village, I was doing some routine maintenance on the group of eight 12-volt batteries of our solar panel system I had set up 10 years earlier, the only source of power we had for lighting and for running our computers, since there was no electricity or water in the village. The batteries were on the outside of the house, inside a brick enclosure I had built. Opening the metal lid of this enclosure was never a pleasant experience, as lizards, geckos and other creepy crawlies found it an excellent place to hide - and to leave their foul-smelling droppings. But it had to be done. I started removing the sturdy cable connectors which combined the eight batteries into one massive 12-volt bank, wiping off the vaseline I had daubed on months before to protect the terminals from dust and dampness, and sanding off the corrosion which had nevertheless found its way there. As I worked systematically through the connectors, I observed a couple of things out of the corner of my eye, without really giving them much thought. Firstly, I saw chunks of what I took to be lizard skin lying on the cement floor of the enclosure, beside the batteries. Secondly, in the corner of the enclosure, at the juncture with the house wall, I saw some mud “termite tunnels”. Termites are a real threat to the woodwork of any house in Africa, but we had up till then been blessedly spared their intrusion into our abode. The termite barriers I had incorporated into the walls when building the house were obviously effective, forcing the destructive critters to climb on the outside of the walls, thereby exposing themselves. When they were forced into the open in this way, they constructed these mud tunnels to protect themselves. I had to prevent the termites getting any further, so I made a mental note that, once I had finished my battery maintenance, I would destroy their construction work.

Now, our village cook, Simon Pierre, worked for us on Saturday mornings, and was present that day, standing observing what I was doing, rather than getting on with the labour-intensive kitchen work we paid him for. Pierre is a very practical man and he had the disconcerting habit of always coming and watching every practical thing I attempted when I wasn’t at my desk. But more, he was also very liberal in giving me advice about how I could do better whatever I was doing. That morning he couldn’t resist coming out of the kitchen and standing close by. Feeling his eyes following my every move, I waited for his wise counsel about my electrical work. I often felt like saying to him “Pierre, what do you know about this?” After all, what match was he for me with my multiple degrees since he had not even completed primary school? But only too often I had observed that his practical wisdom trumped my book learning and I had gained too much respect for him to think of addressing him in such a way.

After a few minutes he spoke. But it wasn’t to offer me his thoughts about how I was managing with the electrical system.

“There’s been a məkisiwiɗ (a snake) in your battery enclosure.”

“Hah? What makes you think that?” I enquired.

“Simple, there’s its skin,” he replied, pointing to the sheddings I had half observed.

“Hmm, I would say that’s lizard skin” I maintained, as if I, the foreigner, would know such a thing better than the local man who had been brought up with all manner of reptilian wildlife inside his house.

Pierre parried my thrust with the obvious “Lizards don’t shed their skin in large pieces like that,” and repeated, “there’s been a snake in there.”

I tried to ignore him and continue with my work, but, pointing to the corner with the termite tunnels that I was intending to clear out once I had finished my maintenance, he went on. “In fact, there’s the hole where it may have been hiding”.

Drawing breath through clenched teeth I reluctantly turned my head and observed that there was indeed an orifice hardly an inch across, right at the base of the tunnels. “Hmmm”, I reluctantly conceded, “But it’s a good thing it’s gone”. Pierre was silent for a moment, staring at the hole intently, then he said “No it hasn’t, I can see its eyes in the hole!”

This was almost too much for me and I nearly said to him, “Look, will you just leave me in peace!?” But he suddenly sprang into action, grabbed a long, thin stick and plunged it several times into the tiny hole. Then he pulled out a two-foot long grey snake - a young but now very mangled and very dead cobra. Even I knew that, although it was a youngster, without the characteristic hood of the adult male, it still carried lethal venom and was just as deadly as the mature snake.

I looked with horror, thinking about how I had been intending to clear away the termite tunnels with my bare hands, only inches away from those cobra eyes and fangs. And also when I thought about how I had wanted to tell Pierre to get back into the kitchen and mind his own business.

His duty completed, and without any “Didn’t I tell you?”, Pierre went quietly back to mincing the meat, washing the vegetables and sifting the weevils out of the flour to bake bread. Very shaken, I resumed my battery maintenance, humbled by the experience and impressed once more of the need to at least listen to others, however much it might cost and however much we might think we know better.

Later, I was able to bring myself to tell Pierre (and others) that he had probably saved my life. And I also let him know that I had initially wanted to tell him to clear off!


The Thought for the Week this Week is written by Annukka Kinnaird

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Her children arise and call her blessed. Prov 31:28

My thoughts are with my mother in Finland. I saw her yesterday evening via a video link and spoke to her, telling her what a wonderful mother she has been. She may not have understood my words, but she smiled back to me before drifting off to sleep again. Today, Friday, 2 nd of August, she entered her Heavenly Home, and now this earthly struggle is over. She was 91 and suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last five years.

Yet mum never lost courage and never stopped giving to those around her. Before the onset of her illness, she was always thinking about gifts for people, helping them one way or another. She bought her vacuum cleaner from a salesman who came to the door, asked him in for a cup of coffee and listened to his story about his wife’s death and how he was trying to make ends meet by selling hoovers. Mum did all this naturally, it just happened before you had time to notice. Even after being admitted to the care home, when she was still able to speak, she used to offer chocolates to everyone who visited.

When I was at school, a friend said to me: “You are lucky to have such a mother”. I stopped to think what she meant by that. It was true, mum used to play games with us and chat with my friends. Somehow she always made us feel she was there with us, although she was working full time.

Mum was not a good singer. Her teacher at school asked her not to sing loud in the school choir as she couldn’t really keep in tune. So, after that mum never sang. But she was good at learning things by heart. Even in the care home she one day surprised her carers by reciting with a clear and loud voice a beautiful yet slightly tragic Finnish poem, even though by that time she no longer remembered who I or my brothers were. She read a lot throughout her life; as a schoolgirl she used to take a later train home from school so that she could borrow a book from the library, read it quickly, take it back to the library and get another book to take home.

Mum was not happy when Willie and I left for Africa. But she didn’t stop us from going, and kept sending parcels regularly. Most of her parcels made it with their contents intact and were a huge source of joy to us and our kids. She also regularly sent us magazines in an envelope, and once when we opened one we found what looked like a page-sized piece of brown cloth. This ‘cloth’ turned out to be brown powder in a plastic bag that she had carefully sown into squares with needle and thread, so that the powder would be evenly spread and not all run into one corner. We had to open up the bag to figure out what this hidden drug was, and a wonderful aroma came out: she had sent us decaffeinated coffee!

She knew it was difficult to get it in Cameroon and she also knew that if she had sent us the coffee packet in a parcel it would simply have been stolen in the post! Maybe she should have been a spy. Her dad died when she was only five. At the age of twelve when the war broke out she, her big sister and her mum had to abandon their home and flee from the advancing Russian army. Twice their train was strafed by enemy aeroplanes and they had to jump out and wade into the deep snow for safety. But the train made it. They ended up in the west of Finland, as far from the enemy lines as they could, only to find out that their fellow Finns were not very friendly, treating them as unwelcome foreigners and refusing even to sell them milk. But someone gave my grandmother a sound piece of advice: take your family to the capital, Helsinki, rent out a big apartment and sublet part of it and make food for the lodgers. That’s exactly what my grandmother did, and she managed to make it possible for both of her daughters to have a university education. That’s where mum met my dad, at university: he was one of her teachers.

Mum was an example to me. She lived a simple life, she was always giving to others and had high respect for those who lived God-fearing lives. Her heroes became my heroes. Mum prayed a simple prayer every evening. She prayed for us, her four children. She prayed for those around her. And she always had her home open even when Willie and I and our three kids came to stay for weeks at a time!

I thank God for my mum and pray that I may walk through my life following her example.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Fiona Neilson

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Thought for The Week

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God”

We have two little Bichon Frise named Benny and Theo. They both have fluffy thick white coats, don’t shed hair and so need groomed regularly. Our family is used to having in-house haircuts and so spending £30 plus, per dog, per month on grooming seems shocking! So the dogs like the rest of us, have home haircuts!

At this time of the year its hot and often wet and so having a long coat is not pleasant for them. After July Camp we got the grooming table out and Theo promptly went to hide. Benny was first and got lifted up for me to start his haircut. He stood perfectly, not moving an inch and allowing me to use the clippers quickly and efficiently removing all the excess hair and leaving him refreshed and comfortable. He was like a new creation, unrecognisable as he was lifted back down and the pile of excess hair brushed up and put in the bin.

Theo however is a different story. His coat is also long, uncomfortable, too hot and not needed in this weather - but he’s afraid. He doesn’t like getting his hair cut. He runs away and hides on Isabelle’s bed. When I finally go and get him and bring him down, he fidgets and it takes me two or three times as long to groom him. Often the finished cut isn’t as perfect and neat as it would have been if he had just stood at peace in the first place. I often have to go back again and again re-trimming bits here and there.

With August Camp around the corner it made me think. Which am I? Benny or Theo? I am sorry to say I am like Theo. As soon as I feel God’s pruning shears come near me I fidget and try to run away as well. I am often afraid and over think what’s ahead. Like Benny, if I too could only stand still God’s work could be perfected in me an awful lot easier and quicker.

I am praying this Camp I will be more like Benny. Which one are you?

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God”

Philippians 1:6

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Graham Mellstrom

by Susie Jean Sharkey


They looked unto Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. - Psalm 34:5. 

It might seem strange to start like this but here we go. In the Star Wars films we read in the opening titles "Long ago in a Galaxy far far away.." well similarly long ago in a book I read but can't remember the name of nor its author.. however I do remember that this book instilled some thoughts that had caused me to become more interested in and begin thinking more about the back stories when reading the actions and words  of Jesus. 

One highlighted area that I began to think more of was just before Jesus ascended into Heaven from earth. We read that He led his followers to Bethany.  Why Bethany? 

Reading of Bethany it seemed that this was a place of your ordinary people, a place of much suffering and hardship. From some sources the description for the name Bethany was "house of affliction" or "house of the poor". It was from here that we read that the Simon the Leper came from and that there may have actually been an almshouse, which would tie in with some of those descriptions.  It was also the place reported where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. Again here in there story there was much suffering and hardship before the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus himself. 

Reading around these stories there is the obvious sufferings, physical infections, hardships and the general day to day difficulties of life yet, there is the opportunity to focus on the positive and the moments of light and hope that came into these hard times. It was there in Bethany that Mary herself, in front of many people, poured out the fragrant and expensive perfume upon Jesus, anointing his head. Mary did not care who was there, who would criticise her for who and what she had been in the way she previously lived her life. She was focused on the one who had came and gave hope for the hopeless, who brought light into the darkness, focused on the one who cared for the ones that nobody wanted to go near. She wanted to express her love for this Christ who had transformed her inner heart and she acted out a beautiful thing of worship that would be remembered throughout all ages. 

We too have a choice. We do not take hardship and suffering lightly as these can be tremendously real but might I suggest that one of the the best things that we can do to help those around us is toturn our gaze upon Jesus in earnest prayer and worship. Just as Christ brought his followers to Bethany where all would see that there is indeed hope in His resurrection and power; like Mary andHis other followers we too can focus on Him and not be worrying who is there and who will see us, what family member maybe there to criticise us, but that we set our gaze fully upon Him and in THAT daily act of worship done in private or in public, will out pour from within our lives and be seen by all who are observing our Christian lives. Our prayer is that something of the joy, the adoration, and the unrestricted love of our hearts towards our Christ might become infectious and they too might find this hope and salvation that we find in our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Claire Beasley

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” Proverbs 16:3

 

This verse spoke to me the other week when I read it as part of my daily reading following Nicky Gumble’s Bible in One Year plan.  The words “He will establish your plans” particularly jumped out, as I have been planning for the church youth camp which takes place this week.  The reassurance that God will be with us into this week ahead and cares about the every day activities and plans was a comfort, however it comes with a proviso. 

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do.”  The word commitment isn’t often associated with our generation.  To commit to a person, a job, a location etc is often viewed as limiting your options for the future.

The second half of the verse however contradicts this theory.  If we dedicate our lives to God and walk with him, His plans will quickly become our plans and before we do anything we should talk it over with Him first.

This way of life often results in God bringing about ideas / plans that we hadn’t contemplated before, rather than limiting our plans.  

Let us in this week ahead, talk to God about our daily plans, listen for his instruction and ask Him to be with us in all that we do, so that His name will be glorified.    

 


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Lorna Speirs

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10

I’ve been visiting Ben in hospital 2 or 3 times a week for the last 5 weeks. I always park on the same floor of the multi-story car park and walk over from there. A few times I noticed the same car parked in the space beside the stairwell and then realised it was always there. Over the weeks I’ve watched it get dirtier and more dusty I even looked in the window and the interior was covered in mould!

I finally decided to check the registration number on the government website to see if it was taxed and MOT’ed - to my surprise it’s been untaxed since March 2017! So that car has been sitting in a far away corner of a multi-storey car park in a hospital for over 2 years - unreported and unmoved with no signs of it being taken away any time soon!

I laughed about it and thought nothing more of it until I was there again and saw it still sitting there rusting away in a forgotten corner. It’s a bit like areas of our lives - negative attitudes, things we keep hidden, bitterness, angry thoughts or deeds, parts of our personalities we’d rather not address. We leave them festering away in a dark corner hoping the light will never shine on them and they will go unnoticed. I believe God wants us to open up these areas to Him. He wants to shine His light into every shadowed area of our lives so that He can clear up the mess and remove the things that should have been discarded or dumped a long time ago. To be open to change and to make more space in our lives for Him. 

This verse really spoke to me in this regard: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10

Bring the whole tithe, all of it, all that you are, bring it before Him. Not matter how rubbish or battered or broken you feel. Allow Him into every area of your life and wait and see the floodgates of heaven open for you. Your life will be blessed and you will become a blessing to others. Your mess will become your message!



The Thought for the Week this week is written by Janet Leith

by Susie Jean Sharkey


 “There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, NO CRY OF DISTRESS IN OUR STREETS”.  Psalm 144 verse 14

Read also: Psalm 144 verse 3 and verses 12 to 15

 I have been trying to read a Psalm every day following The Bible Project’s reading plan (www.thebibleproject.com). I read this psalm on 28th May.

 I had been thinking and praying about some of the people who attend my church and those I work with who have significant problems in their lives and who really need miracles to change things.

 David, about whom this Psalm is written, has a similar theme in mind. He was the greatest King of ancient Israel and had a heart to serve God and to establish his nation as one that loved and served God. The Psalm outlines David’s enemies and his desire for God to deliver him from them. He is sure that his God is one who “gives victory to kings” verse 10 and as a result the nation will experience abundant blessing.

 My attention was caught by verse 14 where David describes this blessing

 “There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, NO CRY OF DISTRESS IN OUR STREETS”. 

 This really spoke to me as there is so much insecurity, so many people caught in the consequences of their sin and so much distress in our communities.

 So let us pray this week that our “loving God” verse 2 will “reach down His hand from on high” verse 7 and our church congregations and communities will be blessed by the moving of God’s hand.


The Thought for the Week this week is written by Jennifer Offord

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“His Name will be called Wonderful Isaiah” 9:6

 

“Grandma, Grandma look, GRANDMA look, GRANDMA LOOK, oh look, look, look. I was out a walk with my 4 year old grandson.  Every two seconds he seemed to be finding something else that he was excited about, a log to climb on, an enormous toad, every bird we saw had to be identified, all had to be explored and the walk rang with his cries of look over and over again.

 I was amazed by his capacity to wonder at even the most trivial of things and I though of the fact that children live in a world filled with wonder. They can stare at a butterfly on a flower and be perfectly content.

 In our word today we are surrounded by so much but for many people life is just dull. They look for new things but once the novelty wears off they are bored again. Wonder is lost in the round of daily life. The only person that can change this and restore wonder to our lives is Jesus Christ, because His name is Wonderful.

 Everything about Jesus is wonderful, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection and His words. Everything is changed when He comes, a wedding is transformed and ordinary fishermen have their lives changed forever, outcasts are shown love and acceptance, the blind see and the deaf hear and death is no longer to be feared.   Wonder comes into our lives as we walk with Him, ordinary people experience extraordinary things because of the wonder of Christ. When we are born again we receive a whole new set of spiritual senses, everything becomes different as George Wade Robinson said in his hymn “Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green”

 When we walk with Jesus by faith we know the meaning of wonder and this life will grow until we see Him finally as He is. We will be lost in the wonder of His Glory. No darkness, dullness, monotony, loneliness, pain or sorrow will be there.  We will see with perfect vision and eternal wonder “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). What could be more wonderful!



The Thought for the Week this week is written by Isobel Marshall

by Susie Jean Sharkey


Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Acts 13 v 38

I have been reading the Acts of the Apostles. With freshness the core message of the Apostles struck me. Peter speaking to Cornelius and his household, “Everyone who believes in him has complete forgiveness of sin through the power of his name.” Acts 10 v 41 Paul speaking in Antioch, “So listen friends! Through this Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is offered to you”.Acts 13:38 What must it have been like to hear that message for the first time and respond. I can remember when first I needed that forgiveness, with what welcome I received it. 

Sin, like ill health may not always be visible. For some, ill health caused by physical trauma or a disease process can mark our lives, paralyse, disfigure, bring malaise, depress and more. Sometimes it is very visible, sometimes not, but its impact is felt day and night by the person who bears it. Sin is like that; crippling, deforming, weakening, affecting all aspects of our life. We bare it day and night. Its hard to watch someone struggle under the weight of ill health, Jesus healed the sick and still does. Its harder yet to watch someone you love struggle under the weight of sin, Jesus has the power to forgive sin. “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” Luke 5 v 20. To prove to an enraged audience that he possessed the power to forgive, he asked them: which is easier, heal the paralysed man or forgive him? Immediately he rose up and walked. When Jesus forgives us we immediately know the difference and it is felt throughout our whole being. 



The Thought for the Week this week is written by Alison Atkinson

by Susie Jean Sharkey


“How kind the Lord is! How good He is. So merciful, this God of ours.” Psalm 116 v 5

‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, I cannot find in my own, and He keeps His fire burning, to melt this heart of stone, keeps me aching with a yearning, keeps me glad to have been caught, in the reckless, raging fury, that they call the Love of God’  by Rich Mullins

I loved this Rich Mullins song as a child, although only as an adult did I realise I’d messed the words up: having it in my head as the ‘wildness’ of God’s mercy, not ‘wideness.’ On reflection though, I think this is the perfect way to describe the mercy of God. But what is ‘wild’ about mercy?? Surely mercy, in it’s essence, is a gentle, soft characteristic, something that nice people possess but don’t make too much of a fuss about? 

As I’ve ridden the rollercoaster that is life, I’ve come to appreciate to some extent the true strength of the mercy depicted in this song. I think there are few stories that illustrate this better than that of the Bishop of Digne in ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo (promise there’s no singing, so you can keep reading!!) His tale, set in 1800’s France, tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean, who has recently completed a prison sentence of 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Angry and bitter at his treatment in the world, he finds on his release he still cannot find work, shelter, or a means to survive as a result of his prison legacy. In this state he finds himself cast on the kindness of the town Bishop, who offers him shelter and food for the night. The assumption is that this kindness will change Valjean; instead he gets up during the night and steals the Bishop’s silverware and runs off into the dark, only to be caught by the local police and brought back to face the Bishop and the consequences of his actions, most likely a life prison sentence for reoffending. This does seem a just and reasonable outcome, given his disregard for the trust and kindness of the bishop. On arrival at the Bishop’s house the police mockingly tell the story Valjean has told them: that the Bishop had given him the silverware as a present. Their mocking turns to astonishment and disbelief when the Bishop tells them not only that this is correct, but that Valjean has forgotten the most expensive item in the house, the silver candlesticks - and gives these to him also. Faced with this, the police are forced into a position where they have nothing left to charge him with- and melt away, leaving Valjean alone with the man who has ‘bought his soul.....and given him back to God

Valjean at first cannot comprehend and does not know how to act in the face of such undeserved favour and kindness- and suffers for a time the confusion that accompanies one trying to grasp the concept and possibility that there is Grace. Valjean‘s behaviour, in stark contrast to the Bishop’s willingness to show mercy at any cost, even when it may make him look foolish to the people, and his willingness to be made a fool of by Valjean again, causes Valjean to break and turn to the light...and to the mercy of God. 

The ‘wild’ mercy, that will take a risk in looking foolish, for the sake of the impact that that mercy and Love can have on a soul in turning it from darkness to light. We need to remember this: that the strength of our Christianity lies not in rules, in judgement, or our ability to adhere to our current version of what ‘good’ looks like: rather, it lies in the strength of the Love and mercy of our God, who looks on our sin, all of it, any of it, and lets us go free- knowing that this Love has the power to break us, and bring us back to the light, with a greater and more binding force than all others put together.