This a time of anxiety and confusion for many as we follow the advice of the government and self isolate. Food and basic household items such as toilet paper are no longer so easy to get hold of. News of hospitals across the world struggling to keep up with the spread of the virus can overwhelm us. Many are struggling to keep children entertained or battling isolation and loneliness. And many are wondering where God is in all of this?
"Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay." - Romans 8:20-21
These verse remind us that, firstly, all creation is under God's curse and humanity is responsible for this horrific state of affairs because we live in a world which long ago chose to replace worshipping God with worshipping possessions, power and pleasure. Sadly, you even find this today in churches. When humans abandoned God, the effect on all of us was catastrophic: the world became a place of danger, disease, decay and death. Covid-19, just like other deadly diseases such as rabies, smallpox and meningitis, is a powerful reminder that we are not immortal and will one day face our creator. God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He corrects our tendency to live like we are immortal.
Secondly, these verses encourage us to hope. The author, Paul, is describing creation as if it were a human with a mind and heart. Creation didn't desire to be cursed but it does look forward with 'eager hope' to a better time of 'glorious freedom from death and decay.' Paul is talking here about the new creation. When God will end this cursed universe and create a new creation without danger, disease, decay or death. God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He coaxes us to focus on the glorious future of the new creation.
Finally, these verses challenge us to recognise that the glorious freedom from death and decay belongs solely to God's children as their inheritance. When we follow Jesus we are more than followers, even more than His disciples, we become His brothers and sisters, sharing in His moral goodness (righteousness), His death, the power of His resurrection and all the privileges of His inheritance for eternity. God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He challenges us to live as His children, free from the fear that neither decay nor death can destroy us.
God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He corrects our tendency to live like we are immortal. So, let's follow the government self-isolation and social distancing guidance strictly as the best way to care for ourselves and the elderly and vulnerable around us - and let's reshape how we spend our time, focusing on prayer and fellowship instead of possessions, power and pleasure remembering that all we have that is not eternal will one day be dust. God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He coaxes us to focus on the glorious future of the new creation. So, let's show each other and our unbelieving friends that we are people confident of our future by not acting in a selfish, rude or panicky way such as arguing with our families in the claustrophobic atmosphere of homes in lockdown. God is in the Covid-19 crisis as He challenges us to live as His children, free from the fear that neither decay nor death can destroy us. So let's love each other with encouraging texts, phone calls and zoom meetings.
By Senior Pastor Arni Pelosi
By Neil Richardson, Longheath Church Elder & Outreach
Have you ever been sitting at the traffic lights behind another car?
The lights turn green. But the car in front stays still! What’s going on inside your head? Maybe you’re thinking, “What are you waiting for, slowcoach?”
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” God has given us his green light in Jesus Christ. He’s saying to us, “The light’s green! What are you waiting for, dear and weary one?” But instead we often give him our amber light. We say, “Maybe later!” or “I’ll come when I’m ready, after I’ve finished this important stuff I’m doing now!” And Jesus might say, “Well, what’s so important that coming to me can wait?” And we might reply: “The Great British Bake-Off” or “Getting more likes on Instagram” or “Achieving that beach-ready body, don’t you know?” Sometimes it’s worse than that. Jesus says, “Come to me.” And the angry red light of our soul flashes out: “Don’t want to!” or “Ain’t got the time!”or “Who made you the boss of me?”
In the book of Acts, Paul, Christ’s ambassador, ends up in Athens. He sees idols, idols, everywhere, but not a God who lives! They even have an altar to an ‘Unknown God’. So because Paul knows the Unknown God, through the risen Jesus, he can’t help speaking out. He encourages them that they can know the one true God (not lots of false ones), a living God who made the world (not dead idols who had to be made by human hands). Although God doesn’t need us (our temples, our prayers, our statues), he does want us. He’s not far from any one of us. But our idolatry and sin get in the way.
So God has given everyone, everywhere this order: “Repent and turn to me!” Change your mind 100%. Do a complete 180. If you’re going south, turn round and north. Turn away from self and towards your Creator God. But why should we do this? Especially if we quite like the direction we are going in. (Because, let’s face it, if sin wasn’t enjoyable, we wouldn’t be doing it so much!) Why should we give God the green light? We should do it because of what Paul says next: “For God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Judgment Day is coming. The movies, even with all their special effects and fantasy fluff, are basically correct about that. How do we know? Because Jesus’ tomb is empty. An real flesh and blood man really came back from the dead. He really ascended into heaven, and he’s really coming back. And when he gets back, we’d best be ready. As his cousin John put it: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he clear the threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Dear reader, will you be ready on that day? Will you come to Jesus now as your loving Saviour so you won’t have to face him then as your angry Judge? Have you repented and turned to God? Have you given God the green light? If not, what are you waiting for?
Author: Neil Richardson
 Matthew 11:28
 Acts 17:31
 Matthew 3:12
Last year was a difficult time for the church as it coped with my 6 month sabbatical after my heart attack. I am so grateful to all the leaders for their dedication and in particular to Neil for coordinating things so faithfully whilst I was away. We are truly blessed by the leaders God has given us.
2018 Vision Bible Theme – Worship
We have just finished our bible theme of Holiness. It has been very rewarding as we deepened our understanding, awe and joyful appreciation of God’s majestic transcendent moral perfection:
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It seems a natural progression for us to spend 2018 studying the only reasonable response when faced with our majestic holy God, which is to worship Him. We will start with a sermon series on Acts 17 where the apostle Paul explains who God is to a crowd of Athenians, then we will be heading into the Old Testament to look at some examples of faithful worshipers such as King David, studying his spirituals songs of worship and pausing at Psalm 51 to pick up on the mini theme of Repentance. The Old Testament prophets Jonah and Joel, and Paul, John and Jesus’s teaching on worship will feature later on in the year. May God open our minds and hearts to worship Him more passionately and faithfully ‘in spirit and in truth’. During last year’s Weekend Away we studied the Fear of the Lord and the Bible’s answers to our fears. The talks are available as 4 videos on Youtube and will soon be available as a book from Amazon and our book stall. This year’s church Weekend Away will enable us to go deeper into one aspect of Worship and Repentance.
This year’s vision isn’t just a bible theme. It also includes a fresh, more intentional approach to how we welcome people with a welcome table, welcome packs and friendly church welcomers, and a strategy to provide more space for growth in numbers and develop leadership skills – a new evening service at 6pm starting on April 1st Resurrection Sunday evening. We have helpfully simplified the 2018 Vision into 3 Ws: Worship, Welcome and Worthwhile Growth.
Tonight you will have the opportunity to hear more about all 3 Ws as well as hear from people who are going to be baptised, from Toi about a new bible study we are starting called Bible Matters, from Ana about Sunday evening music, Neil about our Bible Study strategy and one2ones, from new Christians and also from our Treasurer and her assistant.
None of the goals in our vision will be possible without a committed congregation dedicated to the church in prayer, in financial giving and time. If you regularly attend the church then we need you to pray regularly for wisdom, unity and health for our leaders and for God’s spirit to bless His Word for the salvation and growth of many. We also need you to generously and cheerfully give to support the vision and commit to weekly serving in one of the 2 services. If you are a guest tonight, we need your prayers and welcome any financial gifts if you feel prompted by God.
May God use it to bring glory to His and our Saviour.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Luciano (Arni) Pelosi
Have we lost the true meaning of worship?
Have you ever considered the different kinds of kisses in the Godfather movies? There’s the romantic kiss Michael gives his girlfriend Kay and then later the parental kiss he gives his two children. But right at the end of movie there is a different kind of kiss. Michael’s wife watches as mafia captains visiting them each kiss Michael on the hard declaring their loyal submission to their godfather, ‘Don’ Corleone.
There are different kinds of kisses in the Bible too. There are the romantic kisses in the Songs of Solomon and the kisses Jacob gives his mum and dad, Isaac and Rachel (Gen 27) and the parental kisses Laban gave his grandchildren and daughters (Gen 31), the brotherly kisses of Joseph for his 11 brothers (which must have taken a while) and even the kiss of betrayal from Judas. But there is also another kind of kiss, the same kind of kiss that we find at the end of the Godfather:
“Kiss His Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to destruction, for His wrath can flare up in a moment.” (Psalm2:12 NIV)
This is same kiss of loyal submission that the mafia captains gave their godfather but instead we are told to kiss the Son of God and warned of the consequences of what will happen if we don’t. In Middle Eastern culture a kiss on the hand, ring and often on the feet of a King would be expected and statues of pagan gods would be kissed in the same way as an act of worship. In fact, the Greek word for worship is “proskuneo” which comes from the words “pros” to move towards and “kuneo” the special kiss of submissive loyalty. Job gives us an insight into kissing and worship:
“Have I looked at the sun shining in the skies, or the moon walking down its silver pathway, and been secretly enticed in my heart to throw kisses at them in worship?” (Job 31:26-27 NLT)
Ancient worship was pretty passionate and involved your whole body. Hebrew words for praise and worship reveal this clearly. For example, there’s the Hebrew word ‘guwl’ which means to spin round violently, the words ‘alats’ and ‘alaz’ which mean to jump for joy and ‘ranan’ which means to shout with excitement. You might think that is the kind of stuff you are much more likely to see at a pop concert or football match than a church service. We can get so used to reading the psalms spiritually but if you read a psalm like Psalm 98 in Hebrew it feels like a wild explosion of shouts and jumps in Praise of God.
Hebrew words for worship are equally physical. The word ‘shachah’ means to bow low or lie face down in loyal submission. One example of ‘shachah’ is Psalm 95:6, which uses 3 words for bowing and literally says:
“Come on, let’s go and lie face down in submission (‘shachah’) and bow down and kneel before the LORD our maker.”
Of course, ‘shachah’ has a bible sense which is much greater than the act of lying face down and came to mean an attitude of submissive reverence, wonder and awe long before the psalms were written. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek a couple of hundred years before Jesus was born it made sense to translate ‘shachah’ Hebrew worship into Greek ‘proskuneo’ worship because they meant the same idea, submissive action to show a loyal reverent awe.
Understanding the biblical concept of worship came naturally to the ancient world. From their worship words they knew that when someone worshipped a god they were making a statement. They were saying that they were weak and their god was great, they were servants and their god was in charge. Their act of worship was also a commitment to stay loyal and be obedient to an authority greater than us. Have we, worshiping in our modern churches, lost the true meaning of worship?
'We live by the word of God' Co-Mission Sunday Article. Published 7.1.18
At Longheath Baptist Church we have a ‘Word of God’ problem. Our ‘pew’ bibles have been passed around, piled up, accidentally dropped by the children who help pack them away after the service and thankfully opened and read so often since I ordered 40 shiny new NLT Giant print bibles that the spines are now clinging on for dear life. It’s a problem. But, by God’s grace, a good one to have.
We also have another ‘Word of God’ problem. People on our estate have many competing voices shouting ‘wisdom’ at them from role-models on Eastenders to ‘lifehack’ tips on Facebook. Yet in a world where gang wisdom can be passed on at the tip of a knife our church has found the word of God to be “alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword”. But lack of literacy and a culture of resistance to formal learning means we have had to think carefully about how best to bring God’s word to the estate. Here’s some of what God’s taught us:
‘“How can I understand,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him’
1-1 Bible studies, in my view, have been the single most fruitful endeavour in my Christian walk. Other than those invaluable bedtime quiet times with my parents growing up, I was first approached at 22 to study God’s Word with another guy. I wish it had been a decade earlier. Since then, the Lord has given me the privilege of reading the Bible in a sustained fashion with around 40 men, and I’ve been incredibly struck with just how much impact it has had on both their lives and mine.
At Longheath, we created a Mentors programme to help 5 men and 5 women study the Bible 1-1, and this is bearing fruit. D, a man who had sustained a serious head injury, has now completed Mark’s gospel, Just for Starters, Man of God and we are surging through Luke. I thank God for him. The changes in his attitude and life have been remarkable – he is one of the first to arrive at church, and goes out of his way to help those more vulnerable than himself. Believe me, God’s Word is like positive radiation. Prolonged exposure leads to significant spiritual health benefits, and even to new life. So, why not chat with your leaders, and give 1-1 Bible study a go with whomever God lays on your heart?
Pastor. Luciano Pelosi 1.1.18
"But with God everything is possible..."
With these words Jesus explains how an impossible rescue happens all over the world every day to people like you and me. What is impossible for us is one of God's specialties. And this is not just true when it comes to entering the Kingdom of God. I am reminded again and again that when facing seemingly hopeless situations and blocked paths, God hears our prayers and the faith that doesn't give up and bulldoses through the barriers to clear our way ahead.
Arni Pelosi was the Senior Pastor of Longheath Baptist Church for 9 years and has been in Church Leadership for over 18 years.