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 ( 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. 

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

by Susie Jean Sharkey

"Make the seven lamps for the lampstand and set them so that they reflect their light forward" Exodus 26 v31-38

I have for a long time been attracted to what that holy place must have looked like, enclosed, the only light being the lamps and the gleaming reflected gold, but when I read this verse earlier in the year the word 'forward' has  stayed with me - so that they reflect their light forward. As I tried to understand what the word 'forward' meant, I made a connection with the famous words of Paul thousands of years later 'Forgetting what is behind I press on towards the goal". It made sense as I imagined that beautiful holy sanctuary of the Tabernacle 'looking forward' and in the brightness of that light I realised afresh that all our sins, all that we are disappears from view, hidden in the shadows - the shadows of the one who is the one true Light, and hidden in the shadows of the cross. Standing on that holy ground the past really is gone because the eye, the lamp of the body, is facing forward.  When we come out of that place of faith, we, others and the devil can remind us of our past, but with faith we can in every circumstance remember the command of God to look forward.

But what are we looking forward at? In Revelation John speaks of the vision of "seven golden lampstands and standing in the middle of the lampstands was some-one like the Son of Man" From the days of the first tabernacle, reverently speaking, God looked forward - forward to the redemption of mankind, forward to the union of the church with himself, forward to the great rest that is promised, and he invites us individually, one by one all over the world, all through the millenia to stand in that holy place and look Forward

"He who has this hope in him purifies himself" I had always read this verse to mean 'he who believes this will strive and make himself as holy as he knows how in order to be accepted' but it came to me very differently this year. It is not me that purifies myself no, it is the very hope within fed by the Holy Spirit that works the purification. As I let that light burn within so the hope that grows brighter, it is this very process itself that is what purifies me, and not any striving of my own. Jesus said 'this is the  work God asks of you - to believe in the One he has sent. 

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Andy Creighton

by Susie Jean Sharkey

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107.1

Modern psychologists have studied the effect on wellbeing of practising thankfulness. In one study, one group of students was assigned the task of recording three things they were thankful for at the end of each day for one month. The control group made no change to their daily routine. Each group answered the same questionnaire at the start and end of the month. The questionnaire revealed the happiness of the students and each group started with students of varying happiness levels. In the group who recorded their thankfulness, happiness levels increased by a noticeable amount. Unsurprisingly, the control group remained unchanged. 

The Biblical writers understood the importance of giving thanks to the LORD many years before. The Psalmists didn’t just tell people to be thankful without giving reasons. In this one verse we have three reasons:

1. He is good

2.  His love is faithful

3. His love is eternal

God proves these things throughout Scripture. In this Psalm alone we read of those who suffer hunger and thirst in the desert, those In the darkness and misery of prison, foolish rebels who are so troubled they can’t eat, and sailors who are tossed about on the chaotic sea. Each group cries out to the LORD in desperation and each time He “saved them in their distress”. 

God proves himself again and again throughout the Scriptures. And those of us who follow and love him can reflect on all the occasions that he has saved us or simply reassured us of his love and presence. 

Let’s give thanks to the LORD in all that we think, say and do this week. 

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Rosalind Creighton

by Susie Jean Sharkey

Psalm 139: 23 & 24: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I was thinking about this verse recently when praying about a particular situation. The words “Search me, O God” suddenly struck me: the psalmist is asking God to do the searching of the psalmist’s heart. He then goes on to ask God to do four more things on his behalf: test, know, see and lead. 

What I realised was, that very often, we try to do the searching and seeing ourselves and it can lead down a blurry, and sometimes dark, path of introspection and condemnation which is often fraught with anxious thoughts- thoughts we really should hand over to God, and realise He knows them already and knows what to do far more than we will ever know. 

It is good to acknowledge our sin and confess it to God. But then we must allow Him to deal with it, instead of berating ourselves and tying ourselves in knots wondering if we will ever be free of our sin.  When we allow God to search, test, know and see, He lovingly allows conviction of sin to touch us, so that we can confess it to Him who has made the “way everlasting” open to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a path of peace, true freedom and the knowledge that God is our Father who cares deeply for us. 

The Gospel says that our works cannot save us - and we should apply this to our daily walk with God. Allow him to do the searching, testing, knowing, seeing and leading, rather than relying on our own efforts which are often futile. He leads us more patiently, gently and wisely than we could ever hope to do ourselves. 

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Leah Marks

by Susie Jean Sharkey

‘Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ Matt 18:3

I was recently in a situation where a something of a philosophical debate was taking place. I felt slightly overwhelmed by the whole discussion and generally a bit perplexed! However drifting off to sleep that night I felt the well-known words of Christ filter through my subconscious....

‘Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ Matt 18:3

They spoke peace to me and reminded me of the simplicity of faith in Christ that is all that really matters. Leaving things that are too great for me aside, there is a place of resting and if peace in Him. 
What does Jesus mean when He says that we must become like a little child? Being around children on a daily basis there are lots of aspects of childhood that I wouldn’t want to go back to! And in Jesus’ day, children had much less importance than our society places on them, so I can’t imagine many of Jesus’ listeners thought going back to being like a child was a good idea! 
I think what Jesus is talking about is very much related to the idea of the helplessness of a child. There are just so many things that a young child is utterly reliant on the adults around them for. The whole process of growing up is about becoming independent and learning to do things for ourselves but there is very little that a tiny child can actually accomplish for themselves. 
We depended on Jesus for redemption when  we were initially saved but He desires that we are dependent on Him for our whole lives. Every part of us is fallen and it’s good to remember again that it’s all about Him and the work He has done for us at Calvary. 
Even Jesus did ‘only what He saw the father do’ (John 5:19) when He was on earth. He was completely reliant on the power and direction of God in His earthly ministry. So many times we try to take things into our own hands and work things out for ourselves. But in becoming like a child, we accept that we actually can’t do things for ourselves and are wholly dependent on the continuing power of redemption in our daily lives. This is what He died for - and He wants to take the burden from us again and again. 
A poem Amy Carmichael which I have always loved sums up this thought for me: 
‘Leave it to me, Child, leave it to Me,
Dearer thy garden to me than to thee,
Lift up thy heart, Child, lift up thine eyes,
Naught can defeat Me, naught can surprise
Leave it to me, Child, leave it to me,
Let stop the burden too heavy for theeThat which I will, My Hand shall perform,
Fair are the lilies that weather the storm’

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Mandy Stinglehammer

by Susie Jean Sharkey

Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them” Exodus chapter 14 v 9

I have just been looking at Exodus Chapter 14. 

The Israelites found themselves in a humanly impossible situation: the apparently uncrossable Red Sea was in front of them, and the whole army of Egyptians was racing up behind them.  But…..then we read that wonderful verse 9, stated above.

FB Meyer, in Through the Bible day by day, says about this verse:

“The ordinary man puts circumstances between himself and God, but the consecrated soul inserts God between himself and circumstances”

I have been a Christian now for nearly 50 years and I have recently been looking back and reflecting on the faithfulness of God. He has been with me through happy times and difficult times, and I see His love and care  even in the small everyday affairs of life.I am so grateful to God for how He has led and gently guided in the big issues of life ever since I gave my life to Him, sometimes without me realising it at the time.  It makes me wish I had trusted Him more, and had, as FB Meyer wrote, more often inserted God between myself and circumstances. 

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Paul Sharkey

by Susie Jean Sharkey

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (Berean Study Bible) 

Life changed forever, at the age of seven, when my mum died. Life had been blissfully innocent and safe; our wonderful parents gave us a simple, but safe and secure home to grow up in, but all that changed one day in November 1967 when mum lost her battle against ovarian cancer.

It was an empty, strange time. We weren't allowed to go to the funeral and no one knew exactly what to do with myself and my two sisters each day after school and during school holidays. There was no out-of-hours childcare or social work help, so we spent hours unsupervised and for the first couple of years elderly aunts came to supervise us, or we were sent to one of them for the summer. Our Dad did his best and employed nannies, or housekeepers as we called them - some good, some not so good. Then we were sent away for school holidays for a couple of years to a children's home, which has been in the news, these last few years, for all the wrong reasons. 

I remember such a feeling of emptiness, but it made me begin to wonder what life's purpose was and what happened after you died. I was maybe ten years old. Kids think these thoughts, you know. Without putting it in these words, I had begun a search for God. There had to be something more. 

Skipping forward more than ten years, I was alone in a student flat in Glasgow during a long weekend. My sin and guilt weighed heavily upon me and I knew my life was heading in the wrong direction. I got down on my knees, not even sure any more if Jesus existed, but asked Him – if He was there – to forgive my many sins and 'get in the driver's seat' of my life; I had made a mess of things, I knew that. I got up from my knees and got back to my studying.

Suddenly, about three hours later and in an instant, I felt flooded with light and love. I knew something profound had happened: God had drawn near, I knew my many sins were forgiven and I felt deeply changed inside. Cleansed and forgiven! I knew this Jesus had come to me. The bible calls it being born again. It certainly felt like a new birth.

In that same moment an amazing thing happened. It was as if my eyes were opened for the first time and suddenly, I understood the Cross. Of course, the Cross! It all made sense for the first time. Jesus had taken my sins on the Cross and died for me, so I could be forgiven. I don't understand how I knew, but I just knew and I've known every day since.

This Easter let us think about the Cross. He went to the Cross because He loved us and knew we couldn't cancel out our sins alone. He then rose from the dead on Easter Sunday to prove His victory over sin, hell and now death. There is a way to Life in Jesus Christ. I know – it happened to me. “For, God so loved the world...”

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Janice Hederson

by Susie Jean Sharkey

While they were worshipping as priests before the lord in prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ' I have called Barnabas and Saul to do an important work for me.  Now release them to go and fulfil it.'  so after they had fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and sent them off.  Acts:13v2  TPT

Saul and Barnabas Sent Out as Apostles

Paul and Barnabas were the ' Sent Ones ' this is the meaning of the word Apostle. This is a lovely thought.  Who sent them? as we read the the above chapter we look at their Church in Antioch we note that there was a number of prophets and teachers of the word, one is Simeon who isn't mentioned anywhere else in in scripture but it's believed he is Simon of Cryene who just passing through, was laid hold of to carry the cross of Jesus, this Simon was brought very close to Jesus and shared the special bond that comes through suffering. Its not surprising that he was part of this church leadership who were committed to seeking, listening and waiting on God. The leaders laid hands on them but It was the Holy Spirit who sent them, He is the Lord of the harvest who sends out the labourers into the harvest field!

We learn the ways of God by looking at the establishing of the early Church, the true church will always be built by the Holy Spirit.  It was while the church leaders were ministering to God that the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas to the office of Apostle, they followed the same pattern going out and laying hands on disciples and ordaining elders in the churches.  God is creative, He is the creator He is also the God of Order and we pray  ' thy will be done ' with confidence that his ways work. 

We have all been called to do a particular work of God but first we must learn how to serve and know that God makes no mistakes, that we will be ' Sent ' by the Spirit, His Way, and in His Time also there will be a confidence because He is definite and gives assurance. during our time of learning, we will become more attuned to His ways of transmitting His desires to us, until the ' still small voice ' sounds above the crowd to us, this becomes everything and is such a beautiful way of being, iit is also what a Christian means when they say they are apart or separated to God. Like the Church in Antioch whose leaders were hearing from God, we also trust the same God who imparts the ministry of the Holy spirit from our leaders who follow the same pattern as the first church. God is a loving God who makes every provision to keep His people safe and secure and this is the heart of our leaders who care for our safety in this battle for souls. A soldier does not go out to battle without discipline and training under authority, how much more a Christian without the authority of God! 

A final thought: humility keeps us safe. Personally the more I pass through and learn of God’s ways, the knowledge, value and appreciation of my leaders grow, those who have gone before us are held in high regard.

May the blessing of God be on all his people  Amen

The Thought for the Week this week is written by Graham McKenzie-Smith

by Susie Jean Sharkey

“I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah46:4

A few weeks ago during a visit to Ireland, we had the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast. I must confess that like many, I have a strange fascination about Titanic and often wonder what exactly happened that fateful night.

We all know the basic story - a brand new luxury ship sets off across the North Atlantic, loaded with people from the richest in the world to some of the poorest seeking new life in America, then late one night it hits an iceberg, there’s not enough lifeboats and only about a third of the passengers survive. Over the next century, questions have been asked about how a supposedly unsinkable ship could then sink at the first hint of trouble. I could list a ream of these questions and theories but I’m trying keep this short.

Since visiting the museum, I did some research and found that at the time of the centenary there were several new expeditions visiting the wreck with all the latest technologies available. Between new information, tests and computer analyses, experts are 99% certain of what happened. And what they found was very surprising. They found that over the subsequent 100 years, the wrong question had been asked.

The absolute reason the ship sank was because it hit rock hard ice at a fast speed and perfectly strong steel came under more pressure than was reasonably expected. Thomas Andrews, the ship’s architect, was on board and estimated that they would sink in about an hour. Titanic actually took two and a half hours to sink. Not only that, but she stayed upright while most floundering ships tend to roll over (think of the recent Costa Concordia). Sadly, if she had more lifeboats, everyone would have been saved.

So the question all this time should really have been “Why did Titanic stay afloat for so long?”.

When I heard this, I remembered how often we can feel less than ideal in our spiritual walk. So often we ask ourselves “Am I good enough?” , “Is God disappointed in me?” or “Have I failed my calling?”.

These are the wrong questions. We should really be asking “How have I stayed the course for so long when others have drifted away?”, or “Why does God still care so much for me when I’ve failed Him so often?” Maybe it’s the pessimistic Scots in us but I know that many people feel the same way.

God knows us through and through. His plan has taken into account all our past, future, weaknesses, thoughts and deeds. When troubles come or we stumble on the way, we shouldn’t think of our failings but rejoice that no matter the circumstance, He carries us onward as long as our trust is in Him and Him alone.

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

by Susie Jean Sharkey

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of you mind, that, by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12 v 2.

I have been thinking about the ways of the modern world and the requirement that we, as Christians, are required to seek something higher than simply conforming to the standards which are set by those outwith Christ.

While it’s the normal for us to consider the extreme evil of many aspects of this world, the obvious sins of violence and sexual depravity, of theft and multiple addictions, even to look at the ugliness of bitterness or jealousy or anger and to understand that it is unwise to behave in such a way, today I want to look at another aspect of worldliness where it’s misery is not so obvious.

When I look at the world of the 21st century and listen to its vocabulary I realise that words such as “stress”, “mental health problems”, “teenage suicides” are starting to dominate the media and we are required not to conform to this worldly model but to be transformed by having a new mind set which seeks the will of God and thus finds that which is good and acceptable and perfect for our lives.
Let’s pursue a simple life in Christ Jesus our Lord.