MARCH NEWS - CHRISTMAS 2010(Click Here to see our PDF newsletter)
MARCH NEWS - SEPTEMBER 2010
"I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless - Gen 17v1b NIV"Dear Friends and Family,
In my morning devotions I came across this verse. It is one of those incredible verses that sum up the whole of the Christian faith in a few short words.
The first part is a simple statement of reality - God exists; the second part is the response that this reality calls for, or rather demands, from human beings.
The human response has two aspects - the first calls us to live out our human existence in relationship with God. We are called to live consciously in God's presence each moment of our lives. The second part explains the natural consequences of our living in God's presence - a blameless life - blameless towards God and blameless towards our fellow human beings.
This was reinforced as I then turned to the Psalms, which I have recently started praying through - they are truly the 'discipleship manual' of faith. Today I came to Psalm 15 and the whole psalm is about what is required in order to live in the presence of God and it is all about living blamelessly among our fellow men - right actions, right words, right attitudes, right relationships, right values, integrity, charity and honesty.
These two passages therefore very neatly 'mirror' each other. One shows us how living in relationship with God leads to good living, the other shows us how good living enables us to live in the presence of God.
What strikes me is how practical and 'earthed' the Christian life is meant to be - less lost in theological speculation and complex doctrine and more about simple honesty, integrity, watching our words, acting wisely and well.
However, the rub is that once we actually try to live like this we find out only too quickly that it is impossible. We just can't do it.
That is why Christianity does not stop at moralism, but leads us beyond it to mysticism. Only the empowering presence of God, accessed by prayer, makes an 'ordinary' good life possible.
May the Lord help and encourage us to grab hold of both these passages of Scripture. May we embrace the challenge to express our relationship with God in good lives. May we embrace the truth that it is only through God's empowering presence that we can receive the power to do this.
Points for Prayer and Praise:Great Family Holiday in CHampagne - We had a great holiday with our friends the Cooks. They came to us for a few days and then we went away together to a gîte in Champagne for a week. The following photos show something of that time!
Summer School - Stephen had a good time at Summer School, continuing his Masters studies. It was a positive time and he enjoyed meeting fellow students from around the world. He now has to knuckle down and write four essays. Books have already started arriving and are being piled up in odd corners! Please pray that these studies will be helpful and give Stephen knowledge and tools that will be useful in future ministry.
Joshua off to Stirling University - Joshua succeeded in his Baccalaureat exams and so has been accepted to begin a BA Honours at Stirling University in September. Sharon will travel to Scotland with him 10-19th September to see him settled in. Please pray for Joshua that he will make friends; that he will find a church community which will be a blessing to him and please pray also that his studies will help him and prepare him for whatever God has for him in the future. Please also pray for God's provision for Joshua as he has no grant and no access to a Student Loan, so once again we are dependent upon God's miraculous provision!
Ben back to Belfort - Ben passed all his exams so continues to year 2 of his 5-year engineering course. He is changing flat to be nearer the University and will be in a small bedsit, but in the same building as his friends, which he is pleased about. Please pray for him that he would work hard and succeed in his studies, that he would grow in his faith and that God would have His hand upon his life.
Caleb back to school - Caleb passed his year (thankfully) although it was close! The standard in his 'British Section 'is extremely high, and sometimes he doesn't quite meet the mark! But he is happy that he made it into his second year there. He is looking forward to meeting friends again and discovering the new English teacher's methods! He is going to live in once again Mon-Fri and only come home at weekends. Where he will have just us two 'oldies' for company - we are all aware we'll be adapting to that for some time, so please pray he won't miss his brothers too much and that we all manage this time of adaptation well.
Parish Involvement - We shared about Father Jérôme's health problems recently and in response to this the Archbishop has decided to move him back to Dijon, into a city-centre parish where he will have less travelling and easier access to health-care.
In a parish re-shuffle we are also being separated from the Précy parish and put with a parish centred in Sombernon (about 20 minutes' drive from us). Again it will be a monster parish of about 46 villages.
Our new priest will be Father Yves Grosjean. As yet we have not met him, so we would ask for your prayers that God would guide us clearly in this time of change. If we are to be active in ministry here we need the blessing and approval of the parish priest.
So please pray that God would make Father Grosjean open to us and that we would be able to support and encourage the people of our parish in this difficult time of transition. It will be the first time that Vitteaux has not had a resident priest for 800 years. But perhaps this will open up space for lay ministry, who knows? May the Lord guide us all clearly.
English Language Funerals - A few months back, Stephen was asked to take a funeral service for a British family in the area. This was a first for Stephen, but God's presence was clearly with him as he did it. This week another family has made the same request.
If this is something God is opening up, please pray that we would be sensitive to how we should respond to this and that God would use us to show His love to people in the difficult and painful time of bereavement.
Alongside Ministries - Ian and Terri Rutter, the European Directors of Alongside Ministries came to visit us over the summer. This organisation works to supports and encourage missionaries. We first came into contact with them through David and Diane Bjork - David is now a board member of their organisation.
We are not sure what our involvement with them will become - as yet most of their focus is in the UK and the USA. However, Ian has asked Stephen to join him in attending a planning session for the RELaY Network conference in Dublin.
RELaY is a European Network which promotes Reconciliation among Christians, the re-Evangelisation of Europe, the formation of Lay Leaders, and the mobilisation of Youth for the Gospel. Please pray that we would know if this is something Stephen should get involved with, and if so, that God would open up the way. In particular Stephen will need to be granted the required time off from his work on the school bus and we also need God to release the required finance for travel etc.
It is an interesting opportunity and would give Stephen some valuable contacts for his upcoming dissertation - looking at Evangelical and Catholic evangelism and some exciting new examples of cooperation in mission.
David and Diane Bjork - Our friends continue to seek God about their future. One opportunity that seems to be opening up is for them to go to French speaking Africa. David would teach theology and religion in an African university. This is a new and exciting possibility and David plans to travel to Africa in November to explore it.
Please pray that God would guide them clearly and that if it is the right thing that they would be able to raise the required financial support in order for them to respond to this invitation.
With grateful thanks for your prayers and support.
MARCH NEWS - APRIL 2010
"...the spiritual fight is not for the victory. The fight is to convince others not to be tricked into accepting defeat"Rev Dr Gregory G. Ogle, "Let the Men Fight"
Dear Friends and Family,
Every now and again in my reading I come across a phrase that wonderfully captures the essence of some aspect of the Christian faith. The above phrase really "buzzed me up" when I read it this morning.
The victory is ours people! It was won conclusively and irrevocably 2,000 years ago at Calvary, when Jesus defeated fully and finally all that opposes God and good in the life of men.
Our battle is therefore not to achieve victory, but rather to proclaim it, to announce it and to implement it.
No more passive acceptance of defeat in our spiritual lives, in our marriages, in our families, in our communities, in our workplace, in our societies.
The victory is ours people! We've read the end of the story! We know how it finishes!
Let us devote our lives anew to proclaiming and implementing the victory that is ours in Christ - in prayer, in word and in lives well led. Hallelujah!
Points for Prayer and Praise:Ben's PC Woes - Some of you may know that Ben saved hard for 2 years in order to buy himself a fancy computer. Sadly, just as the guarantee expired, so did his motherboard! We felt really bad for him as it was going to cost 450€ to repair. It is at moments like these not having the money to be able to help your children really gets to you!
Ben decided that it would be better to buy a laptop (which he needs for his uni studies) rather than spend this money to repair his PC at this time. So Ben ordered a laptop. Sharon and I felt so bad that we cried out to God that He might give us the money to be able to buy this laptop for Ben.
Over the next weeks unexpected gifts came in one by one, until finally we were able to say to Ben, "Receive this laptop as a gift from God!" We do praise God for His provision and His grace in enabling us to do this for Ben.
Josh's Uni Application - Josh has received a conditional offer from Stirling University to study French and Philosophy. So as long as he gets the marks he expects in his Baccalaureat exams, he will be off to Scotland to study in September!
Please pray for the finances for this, as Josh is not eligible for a student loan and so we need to pay for his digs, books, travel etc. Humanly speaking this is impossible - our finances have only ever decreased since arriving in France! But Josh feels that God is leading him in this direction, so please pray that the finances will be released for him to do it.
If anyone can offer him work for the summer, please get in touch - he is willing to do anything in the UK!!
Caleb and School - Caleb will probably have to change track in his Baccalaureat studies next year. At present he is not doing well enough to continue in a literary track and he needs to change school as the track he wants to follow is not available at his current one.
Please pray for him as we try to find the best place for him to go and also that he would have some idea of what he wants to do after school.
Stephen's Studies - Stephen continues to do well in his Master's studies - marks of 65%, 68% and 70% so far - things can only go downhill from here! He has one more paper to complete before he heads off to Summer School from 14th June to 2nd July.
During this time in Gloucester he will also visit our sending church in Burton for the weekend of 19/20th June and speak at a Men's Breakfast on the Saturday and at a combined URC/Burton Baptist Sunday Morning service.
Please pray that God will give Stephen messages that will help and encourage the people in their walk of faith.
Parish Involvement - Sharon continues to be very involved with the parish in the area of music, children's catechism and admin. Stephen continues with the Parish website, the financial committee and the Re-Beginner's Group.
Although the Re-Beginner's group is still very small, Stephen feels that it is nonetheless very significant and may well become a key part in a transformation process for the parish.
There are positive signs of life appearing in the parish for which we praise God. But we know that we have a long slow process of years or decades ahead of us. Please pray that we would be able to identify and encourage the 'green shoots' that we see and that we would have the grace and patience to wait for God's timing and accept God's slow and gentle way of working.
Ecclesia 21 - This was a diocesan training day about sharing your faith. It was a very interesting experience! Click on the graphic to find out more and test your French!
Over 1200 people gathered to be inspired and challenged about how to respond to the post-modern context and to be bold in sharing their faith in new ways with those outside the church.
During his introductory talk the Archbishop mentioned Evangelicals 3 times - and always in a positive light, as a model for Catholics to follow. He spoke about the ability Evangelicals have to create vibrant faith communities and to take the gospel outside of the church. Things are definitely changing in the French Catholic world!
Please pray that parishes in Burgundy would respond to the Archbishop's call and that evangelism and discipleship would once again become central features of parish life.
Pray for key individuals to rise up with new visions for sharing the Christian faith and for creating real community. Pray that we would have invitations to share in this.
We would like to praise the Lord too for the words and gestures of encouragement He sends us from time to time. Recently we have received free food! A lady who is a lovely Protestant Christian telephones us regularly to offer food close to its sell-by date, which would otherwise be thrown away. Her husband is in charge of a local supermarket, and she faithfully ministers in this way to needy families in our local area and in Dijon.
This has significantly reduced our increasing bills. We wait to see what comes on Tuesday evenings before planning our shopping and have interesting experiences as a result - not too much choice, so that's the rub - it has been good for Sharon's pride!!
Another lady has recently joined the parish. She moved into the area and is very open to us. She has already visited our home and we enjoyed real fellowship with her, not something that happens easily or often for us in French.
The recent visit of friends from Burton who never arrive empty-handed has been another plus. Other friends have suggested we take a break at their expense sometime later this year, and we have an invitation to Paris for next spring!
We are humbled by all of these people and the way in which they choose to share with us in response to the Spirit's prompting.
It is hard for us to believe we will have been here ten years come October, and as this summer promises to be one of yet more changes all round, we are feeling a little 'battle-weary'.
Potential repairs in the flat mean our kitchen will be 'out of action' for two weeks. The floor needs to be repaired and this has to be done whilst school is out for the summer. So we are waiting for definite dates and hoping the work coincides with a weeks' holiday we have planned with friends in a gîte......
Ben needs to move out of his accommodation some time during Stephen's summer school trip - so Mum will have to go and do that! Joshua's exams are in this time frame too - not the best three weeks for Stephen to be gone!
Once Joshua's results are in we hope he will be on schedule to leave, and we need to think about the best way for that to happen......
It all seems very complicated - Sharon in particular struggles with 'not knowing' and not being able to plan, and this can be a real stress-raiser. But God didn't promise us a model to work with or a map to follow, only a person to listen to! So we will try to remain listening and following and not go 'Marching' ahead....
We would ask for prayer too for friends who are coping with illness and for David and Diane who are still seeking God for his way forward.
With thanks for your prayers and support.
Stephen & Sharon MARCH - Check us out on Facebook - www.facebook.com/stephen.j.march - Click the Facebook logo below