Summer Is here!

Apparently summer is now here, although just a week ago you wouldn’t have been far off saying the weather was much more like late September already!

Christian Books | 2016 | Steve Petch BlogThe weather may not always be quite as reliable here as it is in Greece or Spain, but this time of year is a great chance for many of us to take a break and get some time with family rain or shine!

Church life usually gets a bit quieter at this time of year, although all three of our sites will still be meeting every Sunday (except for August 28th when most of us are away at Westpoint). Many of our ministries and events will take a well earned rest until September. There are no planned dates for Life Groups over the summer, although many groups get together anyway to eat and have fun.

Of course this quieter season doesn’t mean that God has gone on holiday … as someone will usually tell me at some point along the way! (I know! I really do! Honestly!)

This season is a chance to take things a little easier for many people, and whilst I appreciate that some will be working flat out all summer long, here is my suggestion for those who can take some sort of break: don’t just take a holiday, make it a Sabbath.

A Sabbath

God took a Sabbath rest after the work of creation was finished. He designed our lives to have holidays and regular breaks – we function best that way.

So don’t just lie by the pool … lie by the pool and pray. Talk to God about your life, your family, your walk with him, your disappointments and your plans and hopes for the year ahead.

Don’t just sit in the garden … sit in the garden and meditate on God’s word and his creation. Take time to pause and give thanks.

Don’t just go for a walk … go for a walk with your kids or your friends and ask them how their own walk with God is. Ask what’s going in their hearts and how you can pray for them and encourage them and support them in the next year.

Read this summer…

And don’t just read trashy novels and magazines … read something that will speak to your soul and build you up in your faith. So with that in mind I have four book recommendations for the summer with a brief description of what the book is like and why I found it useful to read.

Whatever you’re doing this summer – enjoy!

4 book suggestions for summer

(All available on Amazon)

  1. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Peter Scazzero

Peter Scazzero - Emotionall Healthy Spiritually | Christian Books | Steve Petch Blog

 

This book looks at the importance of handling our emotions well. As the author says, “You can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

It’s helpful stuff, especially if you ever find yourself avoiding conflict in the name of Christianity, or if you are sometimes affected by unexplained sadness, anger or fear.

I hope it does you as much good as it did me.

 

  1. What Good is God? – Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey - What Good is God? | Christian Books | Steve Petch BlogThis book is built around ten challenging situations where the author was required to speak or preach as a Christian minister, bringing truth and encouragement, after times of great trauma, challenge or tragedy.

In each situation he talks around the issues that were stirred up by the scenario or situation he was facing, and then tells us what his message was:

  • What can you say to students after one of their number has shot dead his fellow students and them himself in a senseless campus massacre?
  • What can you say to sex workers and those who minister to people trapped in this lifestyle?
  • What can you say to Middle Eastern Christian pastors experiencing intense persecution?
  • What can you say to a room full of recovering alcoholics?

These and several other challenging situations were faced by Philip Yancey, and he does a great job of communicating how God is good news to all people. I loved this book.

  1. Gaining Heaven’s Perspective – Julian Adams

Julian Adams - Gaining Heaven's Perspective | Christian Books | Steve Petch Blog

 

Julian Adams has a well respected prophetic gift and was a huge blessing to our church in the early days, bringing some influential prophetic input to us.

This is by far the shortest of my four book suggestions, but not necessarily the simplest.

Julian encourages us in this book in how to enjoy God’s presence in our daily life and hear from God daily. The impact will last beyond reading the book! 

 

  1. The Road to Character – David Brooks

David Brooks - The Road to Character | Christian Books | Steve Petch BlogMy final recommendation was not written by a Christian at all (as far as I know!) According to Wikipedia the author is Jewish, although I don’t know if he practices this faith.

This challenging book looks at how various different people have developed character through the trials and pressures of life. It also brings a very helpful perspective on how our society has strayed down some very unhelpful dead ends in terms of our life goals and the things we praise and desire.

I guess I should warn you that it contains one occurrence of bad language (I’m sure most of you will cope!) – but it also contains a lot of helpful truth.

Chapter 8, about St Augustine, is especially helpful, and clearly this author has a sharp understanding of what the Christian gospel is about, though I have no clue if he has accepted it for himself.

This helped me personally more than any other I read this year, although it is the one on my list that would take the most commitment and brain power to read.

 

Enjoy.

Wall Building: Heroes of the Week

There are people in our church who astound me from time to time with their faith and commitment, and sometimes it’s easy to miss what they do to ‘build the walls’ (Nehemiah 3). With that in mind, from time to time and with permission, I want to tell some of their stories as an encouragement.

My first “Heroes of the week” are Greg and Becky Bell

Greg and Becky Bell | Hero of the Week Wall Builders | Steve Petch Church Leader Blog

Greg & Becky

Greg and Becky have been a part of our church for several years. They have always been full of faith, like the true ‘living stones’ talked about in 1 Peter 2 v 5. Sometimes God has taken them right to the edge before coming through in various ways. It was nail biting to see it happen again recently.

Greg and Becky became confident that God wanted them and the family to relocate from Bognor Regis to Midhurst to help support the new congregation. This presented a challenge since houses to rent in Midhurst are few and far between and often more expensive than Bognor. Added to this they found out they were being evicted from their Bognor house because it was going up for sale.

Having Faith

Convinced Midhurst was God’s calling for them they refused to rent anywhere else. As the weeks ticked by some of us worried on their behalf. As the deadline got closer we worried a bit more.

And then a house came up … and they put in an offer … and someone else took it. And we worried more for them, but Greg and Becky prayed.

Living Faith

Then the same property fell through and came back on the market and they put in another offer … and someone else took it, only this time they had to move out of the other house with their three children and all their furniture NOW.

Growing Faith

But Greg and Becky believed that this house in the centre of town was theirs … so they refused to look elsewhere … and that same house came back on the market a third time … and they put in an offer

… and moved in seven days later.

God is so good and they have been so faithful. And now they live in the centre of the town they believe God called them to and are helping to build the church in that place.

One more thing along the way…

Becky was very keen to go on the Commission India trip this summer but it costs around £1,000, which with moving they did not have, and with all that was going on she laid the trip down before Jesus with a good attitude and focused on Midhurst and on moving in.

When we told the church about the trip taking place and invited people to apply to go (not mentioning Becky at all), one response we got came from a couple who told us that they believed this trip was not for them, but that maybe God wanted someone else in the church to go who could not afford it, and if that person existed in the church could they please pay for them instead?

So Becky is going to India now too and I’m delighted.

God is our provider: 5 loaves + 2 fish + 5000 people (+ women & children) + JESUS = everyone fed + 12 baskets of leftovers.

That’s how we build!