Sometimes, persevering in faith when there's nothing to see for it can be hard. Persevering in faith is our theme for today. Let us pray.

"All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvellous deeds;
you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name for ever.
13 For great is your love towards me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead."

Psalm 86:9-13

Let's reaffirm and proclaim our resolve to trust our God in this familiar, steady, reassuring old hymn:

Here is the Word for the Week video. Please pray it gets used to bring people truly to Christ

Prayer prompts

One of the leading spiritual effects of 2019 is that a lot of regular attenders across the Western world have simply  stopped going to church ... in-person church and online church has been equally affected.

Carey Nieuwhof has identified four evidence-based reasons behind this in his blog HERE, and we're praying about these issues alongside church family needs in our prayer time today.

Pastor Nieuwhof identifies four issues that've been fallen down on by many Christians for our prayers:

1. Overfocusing On Content At The Expense Of Connection

We all started out in the epidemic doing creative things to stay in touch with people, but the old obsession with church attendance has often become the new obsession of content consumption.

Live streaming the service, creating the blog, putting out the sermon recording and producing a worship playlist or Sunday Service Sheet take over from maintaining fellowship and relationship.

  • Lord, where this has been a mistake we have made, please give us real repentance and show us what to change.
  • Please stimulate our thinking, awaken our understanding, build our discipline to make time for our brothers and sisters, maintain and grow our community of the people of God.

With this in mind we pray today for those connected with us, of whom we are aware that have needs of any nature.

  • Lord we thank you that the two y GRWP trustees Jonathan Stephen and Bill Capper who've been ill and in hospital have returned home and are making steady progress on recovery. Please strengthen them and their families who are caring for them and return them to your joyful service and our fellowship.
  • We also pray for Ashlee whose father passed away last week and who has been trying to get to America to resolve his father's outstanding business affairs.
  • Lord in your mercy please watch over Ashlee, his brother Jay and sister Rhea. Enable them to do all they need to to resolve matters arising around their father's passing, and watch over their travels and their grieving.
  • And ensure our digital content creates connection not just consumption, empowering for good the resources we offer.

We pray for Jesus sake.

Amen.

2. An Obsession With Attracting, Not Equipping


To some extent, the pandemic era church revealed what we had produced: lots of attenders who, once the pattern was interrupted, stopped attending.

It was easy to assume before COVID that we had cultivated devotion. Instead what we’d really done is created attendance habits. Once the pattern of attendance at meetings was interrupted, engagement very quickly dissolved.

It's been suggested that perhaps we took too many people fishing, but never taught them how to fish.

  • Lord, where our focus has been on building congregations rather than on equipping resilient, Jesus-serving saints we ask for your forgiveness and that you to lead us to understand how to amend our mistakes.
  • Focus our minds we pray on existing as discipling-making fellowships on pilgrimage, and not institutions simply fixed on attendance and visible 'success'.

We ask for Jesus sake.

Amen.

3. Christian Meanness On Social Media

Under the impact of the pandemic, the world seems to have become frustrated, an angrier and more verbally vicious place.

This has flowed over into the behaviour of many Christians on social media ... the public sphere where our hearts show their colours.

  • Lord, we confess that 2020 was not the Christian world’s finest hour on social media.
  • Time and time again, when the world needed love, we Christians showed it anger, frustration and judgment.
  • We acknowledge afresh that it’s not our job to judge the world, but our job to love it.
  • We acknowledge that any tone issue in our posts isn’t really a tone issue: it’s a heart issue, because out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths and fingers have spoken - 2020 was probably not our finest hour on social media.
  • You have given us great privileges with modern communications media, please teach us to use them well to bring light and life to light in the attractiveness of the Gospel you gave us.

Amen.

4. Making Politics And Ideology More Important Than Theology

Last year may have been the year more than possibly any we've seen that the evangelical church became inflamed politically and ideologically. Regardless of which direction we've leaned, it wasn’t pretty for those who were watching.

People who turn up at a church in person or online in our post-Christian culture aren’t looking for our political views or ideological bent—they’re often hurting and likely to be looking for God.

  • Living Lord please help us as followers of Christ look, live and sound much more like Jesus than the political candidate of our choice, or the party of our predisposition.
  • Help us to live and interact as if your Kingdom is not of this world, and to model the life of the citizens of your Kingdom.

We ask all these things for your sake and your glory.

Amen.

Hebrews 11 (Listen)

By Faith

11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

(ESV)

By faith ... let's sing

An edited transcript of this sermon is on the blog here:

(Click the graphic)

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Let's pray

We thank you Lord for feeding our souls with the songs we have sung, the Scripture we have read and the unfolding of those Scriptures that we've listened to.

Help us to profit from these means of your grace that we might embody your Gospel and live a consistent and creative life of faith in our world.

Please send us on in the power of your Spirit, to live to you and to serve you, for your praise and for your Glory.

Amen.

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