Latest Congregational Bible Reading plan.

It has been a year since our last Growing Together; Getting Closer to God reading plan. It has certainly been an interesting year noticeably with not being able to meet together. It looks hopeful that we are nearing the end of restrictions so this is an appropriate time for us to read the book of Ezra. Whilst we won’t be reading Haggai or Nehemiah, they run parallel to Ezra and are referenced in one or other of the books.
Enjoy reading as we not only understand the context but consider the relevance for us today and in the coming months when we re-gather as a fellowship of Jesus Followers.

Pastor Andrew

Judah was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon [modern day Iraq] and he sacked Jerusalem and the temple. This included taking the Ark of the Covenant which has not been seen since! Later, after Belshazzar’s feast and writing on the wall [Daniel chapter 5] Babylon was taken over by the Medes and Persians. King of Persia [modern day Iran] Cyrus arrives in Babylon and we pick up the story at the end of the writing of Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 36 v 22/23 that leads in to the book of Ezra. The first 6 chapters tell of the partial return of the Jews to Judah. Ezra himself doesn’t appear until chapter 7. It would be good to read Nehemiah chapters 8 & 9 to understand Ezra’s view and thoughts of Ezra chapter 9.

Day 1 Chapter 1 v 1 - 4 The decree for end of lockdown!
Day 2 Chapter 1 v 5 – 11 Holy items for return (no ARK?).
Day 3 Chapter 2 v 1 – 70 List of returnees to ensure family tree and right of return to lands confiscated 70 years earlier.
Day 4 Chapter 3 v 1 – 7 Folk return to home towns before Jerusalem and building of place of worship.
Day 5 Chapter 3 v 8 – 9 Temple rebuild starts.
Day 6 Chapter 3 v 10 – 13 Celebration at start but opposition comes; this isn’t as good as before exile [lockdown]!
Day 7 Chapter 4 v 1 – 5 Offers of help turn to opposition.
Day 8 Chapter 4 v 6 – 16 Rejected folk call upon government to help stop the work going ahead.
Day 9 Chapter 4 v 17 – 23 Religious work is subversive to government?  External government stops the work progressing.
Day 10 Chapter 4 v 24 – Ch 5 v 5 Prophets step in to restart work but still questions on whose authority.
Day 11 Chapter 5 v 6 – 17 Truth will out – look at archives [scripture].
Day 12 Chapter 6 v 1 – 5 Earlier decree/law still valid.
Day 13 Chapter 6 v 6 – 15 Original decree upheld.
Day 14 Chapter 6 v 16 – 22 The Lord’s work goes forward; folk rededicate themselves to God and His work.
Extra reading – Nehemiah chapters 8 & 9.
Day 15 Chapter 7 v 1 – 10 Lawyer & teacher Ezra returns to Jerusalem.
Day 16 Chapter 7 v 11 – 28 Foreign King blesse Ezra and other exiles with further decree that folk must give to God’s work
through Ezra.
Day 17 Chapter 8 v 1 – 20 Second record of returning exiles.
Day 18 Chapter 8 v 21 – 30 Ezra prays before returning to Jerusalem (Church?).
Day 19 Chapter 8 v 31 – 36 Strengthened by God.
Day 20 Chapter 9 v 1 – 3 Ezra shocked at what was happening in Jerusalem rather people serving God as they should.
Day 21  Chapter 9 v 4 – 15 Ezra prays laments over situation/behaviour.
Day 22 Chapter 10 v 1 – 17 People acknowledge their sin and repent.
Day 23 Chapter 10 v 18 – 44 Those guilty – do they act in repentance?

Whilst the book of Ezra seems to end abruptly and not clear if action was taken by the guilty the reading of the Law and subsequent repentance of the people initiates revival – Nehemiah 9 & 10 with agreement of all the people.

As we stand at the edge of ‘returning’ to Church gathering may we recognise the government decrees of lockdown/exile relaxing rules, earnestly pray for God’s leading before returning. Let us re-read and keep the Word of the Lord centre stage in our faith journey. Reading of the Word, private and public, with fervent pray will bring revival and the furthering of The Kingdom of God here in our neighbourhood. Amen?


Previous Bible Reading plan.

We have been enduring a coronavirus pandemic since March 2020. During this nearly time we have had various levels of lockdown and social isolation and distancing; so, with the title of these notes of Growing Together it is a bit incongruous with our separation but I hope that through reading these notes it will help us all to Get Closer to God.

By reading the letter to the Philippians we may see and maintain the unity of church, our love for God and others will grow and we will bring honour to God through keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ as we wait for His return. May this sharing together help us all to endure joyfully the current difficult times.

Pastor Andrew

June 28 Acts 16 v 11 – 15 Paul arrives at Philippi.
June 28 Acts 16 v 16 – 24 Arrest
June 28 Acts 16 v 25 – 34 In prison
June 28 Acts 16 v 35 – 40 Apology, Release & Departure
June 29 Philippians chapter 1   
June  30 Philippians chapter 2  
July 1 Philippians chapter 3  
July 2 Philippians chapter 4  
July 3 chpt 1 v 1 - 2 Are all Christians saints?
July 4 chpt 1 v 3 - 7 Not seen, but not forgotten
July 5s chpt 1 v 8 - 11 Love can grow in separation
July 6 chpt 1 v 12 - 26 Circumstances don’t dictate the future
July 7 chpt 1 v 27 - 30 Stand firm
July 8 chpt 2 v 1 – 4  Live worthily, in unity with the Spirit
July 9 chpt 2 v 5 – 8 Have the mind of Christ
July 10 chpt 2 v 9 – 11  Do you bow and confess?
July 11 chpt 2 v 12 - 18 Saved, now work with joy
July 12s chpt 2 v 19 - 30 Are you a Model Christian?
July 13 chpt 3 v 1 – 3 Rejoice, worship in spirit & joy
July 14 chpt 3 v 4 – 8 What is important in your life?
July 15 chpt 3 v 9 – 12 in Christ, press on
July 16 chpt 3 v 13 – 16 Maturity in Christ Jesus
July 17 chpt 3 v 17 - 19 beware of enemies of the cross
July 18 chpt 3 v 20 - 21 Christ your Hope?
July 19s chpt 4 v 1 - 3 agree in the Lord, support each other           
July  20 chpt 4 v 4 – 9 Rejoice, be thankful, have peace
July 21 chpt 4 v 10 – 20  know contentment, strength in the Lord
July 22 chpt 4 v 21 – 23 Grace be yours in Jesus Christ
Paul only stayed in Philippi a relatively short time and some of the latter time was spent in jail, yet this first European church was close to his heart. So, being aware of some tension between a couple within the church (Chpt 4v2) Paul calls for the fellowship to be united firstly in Christ then with each other. To grow in love with Christ and with each other so that unity and love will spill out to those around then who as yet do not know salvation in Christ Jesus. At this time we are separated physically and we don’t as yet know when or how we can join together in community, times are tough and it can feel that we are under attack but remember that our circumstances do not dictate the future outcomes. Whilst Paul was in prison, both in Philippi and Rome and elsewhere the Gospel was declared and the Holy Spirit convicted many to turn to Christ. Our ‘social distancing’, our inability to meet in church may be the opportunity for us to share the love of God with others more noticeably.
Keep eyes fixed on Jesus our Lord and Saviour, Rejoice in Him in all circumstances and love all.

On Saturday 8th August 2015 the church had an away day at H.O.M.E, a small chapel in the Heart of Monks Eleigh.

I am sure that all who were able to attend the day had an enjoyable time. The weather was wonderful, the venue intimate and comfortable with all facilities we needed. Some of us walked to The Quiet Place in the afternoon which offered us a place for quiet reflection and meditation with God. Chris & Von lead us in song and worship at different times through the day and Simon engaged us with thoughts and prompts to help us as a fellowship to listen to God; to dream big dreams for and from God.

During the day we looked at the history of Witnesham Baptist Church, how it started as a Sunday school an outreach or mission from Stoke Green Baptist, when it began as a ‘church’ a desire for a blessing from the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich. So in a sense we have, as a church, in our DNA - wanting to work with children, families, other denominations/Christians, willingness to serve with generosity, mission. Over the past 150 plus years there have been huge highs (200+ children) and deep troughs (members down to 4) yet it has been God’s will that His witness here remains. Our challenge and opportunity is to walk and work with our Lord to maintain and extend that witness into the village today. Looking back is good if it provides us with encouragement and stimulation to move forward.

Thoughts included ‘moans’ into positive ways of Church or future hopes. Below these are in columns in alphabetical order rather than priorities
From Moans experienced (elsewhere)                   To what we want to be to others
Boring sermons                                                          Engaging, interactive sermons
Boring Songs                                                             Relevant, contemporary songs
Dead                                                                          Alive
Difficult Tunes                                                            Accessible + familiar tunes
Holier than Thou                                                        Real
Inaccessible                                                               Accessible
Lack of explanation                                                    Clear about what’s going on
Lack of Joy                                                                Alive and real
Lack of preparation                                                   Get prepared with pa/projection etc.
Lack of welcome                                                        Great welcome; good goodbyes
No intercession                                                          World aware prayers
Poor Coffee                                                               Great coffee & tea, drinks
Prayer                                                                        Active prayer life
Sound issues                                                             Clarity of PA system, music,
Toilets                                                                        Clean pleasant toilet environment
Unresponsive                                                             Responsive to people’s need

Some of the aspects or core functions of Church were brought forward as an encouragement and to establish where we are or must be, again in alphabetical order although it might be good to consider which are our priorities as a church:

Baptism; Biblical reading; Communion; Discipleship; God centred worship; Inclusivity; Meeting together/Fellowship; Mission; Prayer (including intercession); Serving others; Teaching (including but not exclusively preaching).

The ladies from Stoke Green when they started the Sunday School didn’t know what would grow from their early steps of faith; we must now keep hold of the baton of faith, step out and see where God leads us. We may have changed part of the building but which part of our (His) work needs to change? The wider society no longer looks first to the church for guidance or assistance, why? Are we within the church stifling the Holy Spirit so that others do not see the power of Christ in our lives? Is it our dream to see the people around us coming to know Jesus personally, are we prepared to let go of the past and let God do a new thing in our time? I know that I’m guilty of restricting God in my life, I’m not a big dreamer yet deep in my heart I desire to serve and let God lead my life. Together I pray that we might dream big dreams to let our big God leads us into sharing His love and power in new exciting visionary ways so that people will be drawn to Jesus through us.

Help me to dream BIG!

In Christ Jesus, Andrew