Monday, 13 May 2019

I Can Only Pray

“I Can Only Pray”
The Bible reveals that God calls and equips all Christians to share in his mission.  Some seem to have very special and noticeable gifts, but we all have a special part in God’s plans.  Occasionally I meet a Christian who, because of age or infirmity tells me that they can only pray. That makes we wonder whether we underrate the importance of intercessory prayer.

As I look back over many years of ministry in both evangelism and Bible teaching, I know that where there has been the greatest blessing is where there has been earnest prayer.  That cannot be coincidence. John Wesley once said, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer”. That echoes the word we find in James, You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:2  Charles Haddon Spurgeon is said to have always had  a small group of men praying in the room below his pulpit.

Recently,in one of the Bible Study sessions in the prison where I work as a part time voluntary chaplain, we studies Colossians chapter 4 which contains some significant verses on prayer.

Firstly, he exhorts them to pray with vigilance and thanksgiving.  There is a need to be spiritually watchful; that is to be ready to be alerted to pray.  But our prayers should also be thankful. Jesus once prayed publicly and thanked his Father that he always heard him. When we are in a difficult situation that drives us to pray, we do not pray as those who are impoverished but as those made rich by the promises of God.  But Paul urges the Christians at Colosse to devote themselves or to persevere in such praying.

Secondly, he asks prayer for himself and those with him that a door might be opened for their message.  It is unclear as to whether behind this prayer is the hope of being released from prison, where he was at that time.  Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul explains that he was having a fruitful ministry within the place where he was confined.  But Paul’s concern here is not for his own release and welfare but that the word of the gospel would be released from confinement.

Thirdly, he asks for prayer that he might proclaim God’s word clearly, or make it known.  It is not enough to have the opportunity to preach the gospel; we need to make the message clear and plain.

But Paul has not finished with the topic of prayer, and presents us with an extraordinary example of praying.  It was probably Epaphras who, having heard the gospel in Ephesus, took the same message to the Colossians, and possibly other nearby towns.  Paul describes him as wrestling in prayer. The word translated wrestling also implies striving for an outcome or prize. There is nothing casual about this man’s prayer life.  The word translated in the NIV as “wrestling” is elsewhere translated as “labouring”. It comes from a Greek word from which we get the sense of agonizing. His prayer is for the members of the church from which he has come to visit Paul, that they would stand firm in all the will of God, both mature and fully assured.  This may have been because there were some whose ministry undermined the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sin and who were adding aspects of law to the gospel of grace. Here then is a model of praying for the fellow members of our own churches.

Paul not only draws his letter towards a close with this emphasis on prayer, he also wrote about this topic as the letter opens.  For he too was a man of prayer. He prayed constantly for this church he had never visited. Incarcerated and unable to get out to preach and teach, he does what he can.  He writes letters for encouragement to churches, and he prays. But I cannot imagine Paul saying that he could only pray.  If your circumstances limit your opportunities, please grasp the amazing potential of prayer.  What might seem to restrict you could be an opening to an important ministry.

Barry Osborne - 11 May 2019.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Aspiration

I wonder what your attitude is to hymns and songs is these days.  Many lament the loss of old hymns that are rich in scripture and doctrine.  Some grumble that there is too much emphasis on subjective personal experience rather than being about God. Some delight in the newer songs and in setting old words to new snappy tunes,  We will certainly not all agree.  As I have written on other occasions I find delight in some newer hymns and songs as well as in some older 'traditional' hymns.  What does annoy me is the slavish sticking with old English when some sensible modest adjustment to the language would make older hymns more accessible for those who have not grown up with that language.

Over the years I have used various hymn books, but count myself extremely fortunate to have been introduced to the 1955 revised edition of Redemption Hymnal.  This collection was originally published in 1951 to serve the growing number of Pentecostal churches at that time.  However, you should not run away with the idea that it would therefore be full of 'happy clappy' hymns.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are a reasonable number of joyful songs including Philip Doddridge's "O happy day".  Doddridge was a Congregational contemporary of Charles Wesley and continued the hymn revolution begun by the earlier Congregationalist, Isaac Watts, whose hymns have found their way as favourites across the denominations.

But alongside joyful celebrations of faith in the Redemption Hymnal there are to be found many profound hymns that reflect the deep faith and biblical knowledge of the Pentecostals that preceded the later charismatic movement.  It is extraordinary that it was their very longing for more of God that brought an experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that led to many being expelled from historic denominations in the first half of the 20th century.

In the 800 hymns that make up the Redemption Hymnal there are some 18 hymns within a section entitled "Aspiration" which is followed by a similar number under the title of "Communion" (not specifically about breaking of bread or Eucharist for which there is another excellent selection elsewhere in the book),  I deeply lament the gathering of hymns in alphabetical sections in newer books.  When planning a service the thematic collection of hymns made intelligent selection easier for both ministers, and for members of the congregation where open worship was practised,

I was introduced to this hymn book around 1966 and we used it in the church where I served my first pastorate in 1968 to 1989.  For me, this treasury has proved a wonderful aid to personal devotion to Christ.  Each hymn is headed by a simple scripture quotation and reference, so that it is possible to move between Bible reading and hymns in a way that causes my heart to overflow in its extravagance.

On a few previous occasions, I have used Praise and Prayer News to share favourite hymns (old and new) that have special meaning to me.  Today, during some moments of prayerfulness, a verse from a hymn by Ian Macpherson, one time Principal of the Welsh Apostolic College.  Immediately, various biblical concepts began flooding my mind and overflowing into my heart.  Despite its use of 'Thees and Thous' the words of this hymn are treasured by me and I recall singing them in the past during services devoted to worship.

If I but knew Thee as Thou art O loveliness unknown;
With what desire, O Lord, my heart would claim Thee for its own.

Thy glory would my shame conceal, Thy purity my dross;
I should rejoice with Thee to feel the sorrow of the cross.

But I am dull and blind, O Lord, unapt of Thee to learn;
Thee I but dimly in Thy word as in a glass discern.

With faith's warm finger through the veil I seek to touch Thy hand;
I feel the imprint of the nail, and partly understand.

But, ah, my lonely spirit tires of knowing Thee in part.
O Jesus, how my soul desires to see Thee as Thou art.


I especially love that fourth verse.  The hymn evokes reflections on Moses who longed to see the glory of God (Exod. 33:18), of the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12: 20-22), of the disciples on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:28 -36) , of their desire to see the Father (John 14:8), and Paul's longing to know Jesus (Philippians 3:7-11).

The hymn is set to a perfect tune attributed to Anon.  You may have your own favourite aspirational hymn.  Do let me know or, if you are reading this on the blog, add a comment.

Barry Osborne 28th April 2019

Monday, 25 March 2019

Family Squabbles

Bible Reading:  Luke 10: 38 - 42  At the home of Martha and Mary


As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
Commentary
Only Luke records this incident, and I wonder what he wanted us to learn from it.  As far as we know, this is the first time that Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Martha and Mary seem to be contrasting personalities, and we sometimes use them today. Some people consider themselves more of a Mary than a Martha.  
Question:  What do they mean by that?
Others, think of themselves as more of a Martha than a Mary.
Question:  What do they mean by that?
Martha seems to be a doer.  She seeks to serve Jesus by what she does.  Her sister shows her devotion by wanting to be still and listen to what Jesus has to say.
Take a moment to discuss who thinks they are more like Martha than Mary?
Question:  In what ways do Christians show their faith actively like Martha and in what ways do Christians show their faith reflectively like Mary?
We notice that it is Martha who has invited Jesus into their home.  We do not know how she has learned about Jesus. She might have heard him on one occasion.  Or she might only have heard about him. But as he passes by their home she grasps the opportunity to get to know him more.
Question:  What do you think she was thinking as she invited an important person into her home?  How do you feel when you have a surprise guest turn up at your home?
Luke uses the phrase “Opened her home to him”.  We might have visitors to whom we might say, “Make yourself at home”.  But do we really mean that?  Do we mean that they can go where they like and sit wherever they might want to, or possibly rearrange things in our home, as if it was their own?  
Question: Do you have rooms or cupboards you would hope visitors would not see?  If we have invited Jesus into our lives, does that mean he has access to every part of our lives, and can make changes?
It seems that Martha sets about preparing a meal for Jesus and possibly everyone else.  Eastern hospitality is different to our. There would be no progression through courses.  Nor would they offer just a few biscuits or a cake with a drink. It is normal to be generous and a range of different food, some sweet and some savoury will be presented at the same time.
Can you imagine Martha hunting through cupboards for special treats she had set by, or looking for the ingredients to make something tasty?  Is there something special in or from your kitchen that you like to give to guests?
Question:  What have we got that we can offer to Jesus?
While Martha is frantically trying to get everything just right, finding lots of tasty food and perhaps in a bit of a panic, her sister is simply sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what he has to say.  
Question: Was this only for her own benefit, or is listening to what Jesus has to say also for his benefit?  How can we benefit from the words of Jesus today? In what ways might this also benefit Jesus?
It is probable that as Martha is flustered by all she is trying to do, she begins to resent her sister’s apparent idleness.  She breaks into what Jesus is doing and demands that he tells Mary to come and help her. To me, her attitude seems rather rude and demanding.
Question:  Could there be times when we have an agenda and want God to fit in with our plans, without considering what he would rather be doing in our lives and in our church?
Jesus responds by gently and kindly admonishing Martha.  He points out that what she is trying to do for him is making her worried and upset.  Sometimes, our desires to do things for God also become burdensome, worrying and distressing.
Question:  In such situations what might we hear Jesus say to us?
Finally, Jesus states that only one this is really necessary.  Mary has chosen what is better.
Question:  In what way do you think this was better?

AFTERTHOUGHT:  We are all different kinds of people but God loves us all.  In John 12 we read of a later incident. Read John 12:1-3. We find Mary offering costly devotion, Martha busy serving, and Lazarus, now raised from the dead sitting there.  Each could be said to be doing their thing for Jesus?  Whatever our personality, we can use who we are in his service.
In John 11:5 we read: Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  It is good to know that Jesus loves us, but he also loves others just as much!

Friday, 15 March 2019

Effervescent Faith

Thirty years ago, together with my wife and my colleague, Monica Cook, I started Sunrise Ministries (Rural Sunrise), now known as Rural Mission Solutions.  Over the years since then we have tried to help rural churches to be more missional. This was a logical objective since, with 12.5 million people in the rural areas, there are insufficient mission agencies but plenty of rural churches that could re-evangelise the rural communities of the UK.  But in 30 years we have barely scratched the surface.

The problem is that in the vast majority of village churches in the UK no one is excitedly sharing their faith with others. No matter what good ideas and programmes we promote through RMS, the bottom line is that people must be sufficiently thrilled with their faith in Jesus to not only want to tell others, but almost find they cannot help from doing so.

From my earliest days as a committed Christian, Acts 11: 19-21 has been a favourite passage. Luke, in writing his account of the early Christians introduces us the the church at Antioch (Syria) and the amazing missionary work that went on from that church, by explaining how the gospel reached Antioch.

The persecution of Christians in Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen, caused them to be scattered over a large area. But wherever they went they told the story of Jesus. While this was usually focused on speaking to Jews, some from northern Africa and Cyprus also told the story to gentiles. As a result, a great number of people in this, the third most significant city in the Roman Empire, turned to Jesus Christ. An exciting cosmopolitan church was established and the second half of the Acts of the Apostles largely records what happened in and from there. The Christians from Cyrene and Cyprus had an effervescent faith.

Effervescence is what happens when trapped gas in liquids can no longer be contained and bubbles over. You may have experienced it when opening a bottle of lemonade or champagne. The energy is such that it carries with it some of the content in which it was contained. Success in sport is often celebrated by deliberately shaking bottles and releasing a soaking stream of champagne.

So, the burning question this week is, “Have we lost our fizz?”. Have we become “still water” Christians? Writing to the Christians at Philippi, Paul states that one of the characteristics defining Christians is that we boast (or glory, joy, rejoice) in Christ Jesus. To me that describes effervescent faith. If we have realised that the Almighty God loves us, and that because of that love Jesus died for us taking our guilt upon himself, we should be thrilled. It should be impossible to keep it bottled up.

It intrigued me that one of the places that Christians had travelled from to talk about what Jesus meant to them in Antioch, was Cyrene. I wonder whether Simon, who was obliged to carry the cross for Jesus, had been involved in living out the faith in his home city. We sometimes speak of being touched by the cross, but here was a man for whom it was an actual experience. Have you been touched by the cross? Has it left a mark in your life? Once faith has been combined with the power of the Holy Spirit it always puts a fizz into our witnessing for Jesus.

The good news for still water Christians is that God is able make us effervescent. Clearly, what made the early Christians effervescent was the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. According to Peter on the Day of Pentecost, what had turned him into a bold witness for Jesus, is promised for all whom the Lord will call - even to our generation.

The task of reaching the world for Jesus will not be done by merely praying and asking God to do for us what he has asked us to do for him. It will not be achieved by faithful attendance at church, or even giving out the hymn books on Sunday mornings. It will only happen when ordinary Christians like you and me get excited about the gospel and filled with the Holy Spirit. If that happens there will be a serious risk of bubbling over with joy and irrepressibly sharing our faith with others.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Fill me anew. Fill me anew.
Spirit of the Lord, fall afresh on me.
Amen.  Barry Osborne 15th March 2019

Monday, 11 March 2019

Refusing the easy way

No doubt, entering the season of Lent will have provided you with the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the temptations of Jesus as he fasted in the wilderness.  Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted over the 40 days, while Matthew presents the temptations as coming at the end of his period of fasting. Both record the same temptations, and the responses that Jesus gave to them.  Both of the gospels record that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness, with Matthew telling us that the purpose he was so led was so that he could be tempted or tested by the devil.

I have found myself pondering on the significance that this experience had followed the moment where Jesus had been baptised and when God the Father had declared Jesus to be his Son.  We know almost nothing of the life of Jesus during childhood and early adulthood. Drawing on Scripture, early Christians defined Jesus as being both fully human and fully God. Luke’s account of the 12 year old Jesus suggests some awareness of his nature, but we also get a clear suggestion of the development of the human aspect of his unique nature.  We know that he had to learn obedience, and would have shared in the religious life of his family, and probably the family business. Prior to his baptism, could any self-awareness have not been fully formed?

We are also left to wonder exactly what was the significance of the Holy Spirit coming upon him at his baptism.  How much, I wonder, did those weeks in the wilderness have to do with deepening his understanding of who he was and what was his mission.  Jesus had to be fully human in order to die on the cross and to become the atoning sacrifice that John the Baptist suggested when he described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.  

As fully divine he was able to rise from the dead as victor over sin and death. As fully human, he was vulnerable to temptations to use his power to satisfy his hunger, to act in a superior way,, or to take an easy route to reigning over human affairs.  His faithful resistance in the wilderness finds an echo in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the endurance of the cross.

It seems to me probable that there were costs that Jesus willingly paid throughout his earthly ministry, and the trials in the wilderness as that ministry began were just part of price of being our Saviour.  What a contrast to our own commitment and all too prevalent easy believism that characterises far too much of western Christian life today.

Doreen and I have been reading through 1 and 2 Samuel recently and I was struck by the account of David refusing a generous gift of land and materials for a sacrifice (see 2 Samuel 24: 18-25).  Gad, a prophet, had shown Davis he was to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  But when Araunah discovers why David had come to him, he offered to supply oxem and timber for the offering.  David responds, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  He declined the east way.

It is not a sacrifice if it has cost us nothing.  Far from an irrelevant thought as we enter Lent which might bring a challenge of self-denial.  Paul reminds us that in the light of all that Jesus endured for us, we should surrender our bodies to be a living sacrifice to God as an act of worship.  Two hundred and fifty years ago, Frances Ridley Havergal sets out the price of true surrender of our lives to God in following Jesus:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my love. My Lord, I pour
At They feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

That’s deliberately refusing the easy way.

Dear God, help me to show that I am serious in worshipping you and to resist the temptation to take the easy path, rather than the path you have set for my feet.  Amen.

Barry Osborne 10th March 2019.



Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Lost Passion

Doreen and I recently celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary.  Many will know that over the last few years she has suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.  In some ways, the woman I married all those years ago has changed so I have been learning to love her all over again.  We still enjoy many precious moments together, and she is as dear to me today as she has ever been. I thank God for that passion I feel that now enables me to serve and care for her.  Indeed, it is that passion that makes service a pleasure.

Sadly, these days, I hardly ever hear anyone talking about a passion for the lost. I find myself wondering whether the passion for the lost has declined because we have lost passion.  Where is the spirit of John Knox who prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I die”?  We might not have the faith or courage to pray for an entire nation to be saved, but, surely, we could adapt this prayer to the place where we live.
In a previous Praise & Prayer News I reflected on the way in which the three parables about the lost and found in Luke 15 (a coin, a sheep, and a son) contain many important nuances that demonstrate aspects of the gospel.  But the most important element of these three stories is the passion of the searchers. The shepherd is not content with his 99 but goes and searches, not resting, until he finds it. The woman sweeps the entire house diligently until she finds the coin.  The father who was abandoned by his selfish son, runs to welcome him back home. There is passion for the recovery of what was lost.
Back in the days when holding evangelistic missions was more common (I’m not exactly sure why they are now so uncommon), I sometimes heard people say that even if only one person was saved, it was worth all the effort and cost involved.  However, I reasoned that as long as there were still some who have yet to be saved, it was worth it! It was the fact that the sheep, coin and son were lost that justified the passion for their recovery.
In a recent conversation, the person with whom I was talking spoke about sensitive feet.  I discovered that, like me, she found walking over shingle on the beach unbearably painful.  The only way I can cope is to wear sandals. The apostle Paul noted that good footwear was an essential part of a soldiers readiness for the battle.  He likens this to the “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (NIV).  This is a phrase that has proved difficult for many Bible commentators. Roman soldiers needed to be well shod in order to cover ground to engage the enemy.  Paul might have been implying that the gospel provides a strong foundation on which we stand. While I do not want to dispute that interpretation, the concept of readiness suggests an immediacy from the impact of the gospel, that finds a similar thought in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
The gospel that is the foundation of our faith should always be so continually thrilling in our hearts that we are always ready to share the story at any and every opportunity.  Passion for the lost is not something that is an unrelated emotion; it is a passion that has been stirred up by the impact of the gospel in our own lives. Such a passion will both stimulate and direct our prayers.
The same passion will motivate us to share the gospel with others.  Paul, who declares that he is “not ashamed of the gospel” also writes, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”. Although it would be easy to suggest that such a passion would be expected in those called to be evangelists, I note that in Acts chapter 8, those Christians who had been scattered from Jerusalem because of persecution shared the gospel everywhere they went.  No wonder the church expanded so quickly!
Today, I search my own heart, and I encourage you to do the same.  Am I as passionate today about praying for the salvation of others, and about sharing the gospel as I have been in the past?  If I have lost passion, what caused that? How might it be recovered, if it has diminished? Actually, I experienced a recent stimulation while reflecting on the unique nature of God as completely divine and completely human.  He had to be completely human so that he could die on the cross, paying the price for our salvation. He had to be completely divine because God could not ask other than himself to make that sacrifice. Such is the love that planned and achieved a way of forgiveness and eternal life for me and you.
So, here are the hard questions:
  • When was the last time someone was converted or came to faith in Christ in your church?
  • If that has not happened for some time or is not happening regularly in your church, do you really care?
  • How often do you pray for the salvation of others?
  • When did you last share your testimony or a word of the gospel with others?
  • Have you and your church diligently sought ways of sharing the gospel in a way that is culturally effective and draws people to Christ?
  • How does the way in which your church applies its human and financial resources demonstrate a priority for sharing the gospel?
  • If these questions are disturbing, what needs to be done about it?
May God grant us the passion to love as he loves, be prepared to sacrifice, as he was prepared to be sacrificed, and bring the good news to others as he did through his earthly life.
The opposite to passion is complacency, and the only difference between a rut and a grave is a matter of degree.
Barry

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Opportunity Knocks

It is almost 30 years since this early broadcast talent show aired its last programme, so it’s probable that some of those reading this will not remember it.  I was amazed to discover that it began in 1949 - 70 years ago! I think Opportunity Knocks was a great name for a show that opened a door to a career for Les Dawson, Paul Daniels, Pam Ayres, Su Pollard, Freddie Starr, Mary Hopkin and many more.


But the title also speaks into two New Testament verses that speak about opportunity knocking (Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5).  In the Authorised Version it is translated as “redeeming the time” and more modern translations use “making the most of every opportunity”.  Opportunities knock for every Christian on a regular basis.  The trouble is that most of us fail to recognise them before it is too late.


The classic illustration from the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of Esther.  The Jews scattered among the Babylonian, and later Persian Empires were threatened with extinction.  One woman was the only person with a unique opportunity to change this. Having won an international beauty competition she had been appointed as Queen to King Ahasuerus.  However, grasping that opportunity could have cost her life.  Seeing the uniqueness of the opportunity as a gift from God, her cousin says to her, “... who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4 NKJV).  Esther stepped up to the mark and brought about a great deliverance.  She made the most of the opportunity.


I have always found the foundation for the great Hebridean Revival an inspiration.  Two ladies, housebound, had been interceding for the salvation of others when God revealed to them that a village evangelist from the Faith Mission should be sent for to conduct special meetings.  Despite at first seeming impossible, the women remained steadfast that Duncan Campbell should come. He did and the revival that changed the lives of thousands began. It might have been a different story had not the two women not have grasped the opportunity that limited mobility gave them to spend much time in prayer.


Many years ago, a dear Strict Baptist preacher, Mr Oliver from the village of Egerton in Kent, approached me to tell me that God had “given him a word to share with someone”.  He seemed to feel that might be me and I gladly received from him the message that had been given to Esther.  Knowing that you are acting within the purpose of God is a precious thing. At that time I needed assurance in my own ministry.  That encounter - grasped by Mr Oliver - has contributed greatly to my sticking with a vision for rural evangelism and I hope, one day perhaps, revival.


In recent months, my own ministry moved into a situation that limited me.  Like the women in Hebrides, my ability to travel far and wide has been curtailed by illness.  It is not my illness but that of my wife who now needs virtually 24/7 care. But this has presented an opportunity to be grasped.  We, in Rural Mission Solutions, had already begun using the internet to provide webinars, or online seminars. Following the first few faltering steps, and with the aid of my good friend and colleague, Gordon Banks, we are running an increasing number of these event, and steadily building a valuable library of videos that inspire and encourage a growing number of Christians in rural churches to boldly share their faith in ways that are simple yet effective.  Limitations physically have provided a fantastic opportunity to grasp.


At present every webinar attracts scores of people but we have capacity in our webinars to welcome up to 1,000.  Consequently, just one webinar lasting 30 to 45 minutes can (and is) reaching many more people that a face-to face seminar.  In addition to this there are all those who use our resources on YouTube. Just such an opportunity presents itself to you on Saturday 26th January from 9.00 to 9.30 when Gordon and I will be presenting a webinar on simple ideas for mission for rural churches (and others) during the months of Spring.  Already the number of people registering to attend this event (advance registration is essential) is steadily increasing. If you are not otherwise committed, please grasp this opportunity as it knocks in your life.


I welcome every opportunity to share the gospel message and teach the scriptures.  One special opportunity is in prison at HMP Gartree where for a few hours each week I work as a part time voluntary chaplain.  A few days ago fourteen men in prison for life, grasped the opportunity to spend 45 minutes drawing precious truths out of the letter to the Hebrews.  The spiritual hunger and enthusiasm is remarkable. As questions are raised, prisoners help one another to understand biblical truths. Many of the Christians explain to me that they were in slavery before their sentence but now they are free!  While fully acknowledging the seriousness of the crime that resulted in a life sentence, they daily grasp the opportunities God gives them to live out and proclaim the gospel that changes lives.


Every day God will give you precious opportunities.  Apparent setbacks and problems are only new opportunities if you look for them.  I know that many who read these words are already seeking to make the most of every opportunity.  I want to encourage you. If you have not been aware of the many opportunities God has been giving you, please pray that he will help you to see and to grasp them for every day in the rest of your life.  Who can tell what blessing this might bring. It could change your world.


Barry Osborne - 19th January 2019