Kate Short encourages us to read 'Happiness' by J. C. Ryle and join the book discussion at 7:45pm on Thursday 9th April...

We’re facing uncertain times, where anxiety and loss (of loved ones, financial stability and freedoms) are looming ever closer with every daily government briefing we tune into. But this time of uncertainty is also a time of opportunity. Perhaps working from home, no daily commute or just the absence of regular hobbies and commitments has given you more time to slow down and think.

Hopefully, you have received a copy of ‘Happiness’ by J C Ryle through your letterbox over the past week. As a church, we are going to read it together and then, on Thursday 9th April, discuss what we thought as part of a ‘virtual book discussion’.

In case you need persuading, Ryle’s book is short, concise and easy to follow. The language has been updated since it was first written and it shouldn’t take you more than an hour or so to read in one sitting. More importantly, this book couldn’t be more relevant to our current global situation.

We’re living in a time and country where the world is our oyster and yet we have higher rates of depression and family breakdown than ever before. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people are facing losing their jobs or business or missing out on milestones like finishing their A-levels or GCSEs and saying goodbye to friends. Lockdown means we are all separated from our friends and extended family, and for those on their own, the next few months are perhaps filled with a huge sense of loneliness and isolation. These circumstances will leave many of us feeling distinctly ‘unhappy’.

But Ryle provides a medicine for this. He doesn’t belittle the very real, difficult circumstances we may be living in. Instead, he exposes the myths we believe and the temptations that lure us to find happiness where it can’t be found, and he points us to the truths we all need to hear about how we can truly be happy.

This is a very weird time for all of us, and you might be missing ‘normal church community’. But this is also a great opportunity for us to grow as a church and to make the most of this time that God has given us.

The book discussion will be very informal and relaxed; a sharing of thoughts rather than a formal bible-study structure. The focus will primarily be application: ‘how does the content of the book apply to us specifically’. With that in mind, have a think about these questions as you’re reading:

  1. What do you feel you are ‘lacking’ in life that means you’re not quite as happy as you could be?

  2. What things are you anxious about for the future which might be robbing you of happiness now? What do these fears and anxieties show about where you may have put your hope?

  3. Are there any areas in your life where your priorities might be in the wrong order?

  4. What difficulties are you experiencing (or have you experienced) that have made it difficult to be happy? What truth does Jesus offer that provides happiness in spite of these difficulties?

  5. Which of the truths about being a ‘true christian’ do you think you need to hear and apply to your heart most?

  6. Do you have any objections to what J C Ryle says after reading the book?

I find it helpful to write in books as I am reading; things I liked and things I was confused by. Feel free to do that as this is a gift from Village Church to you. However, I know some people will see that as sacrilege so if you’d prefer, it might be helpful to write some notes down on your phone just to help you remember what you’ve read as we’re discussing.

I really hope you can join us for our ‘virtual book club’, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about what J C Ryle has to say.

Below is a copy of the email that was sent on Friday 27th March 2020...

Dear all,

I continue to read Psalm 121 most days. I can almost remember and recite it off by heart. It's a great Psalm! Verse 5 repeats the refrain: The LORD watches over you. Over the last week - day and night - the LORD hasn't stopped watching over us. He watches over me and he watches over you. The Psalmist then says that the LORD is your shade at your right hand. Or in other words the LORD is a protector, and he protects his people from danger. Verse 6 intensifies this thought: ...the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Psalmist mentions the idea of day and night again, emphasising that the LORD protects us 24 hours a day. And I think the reference to the sun and the moon is a poetic way of speaking about anything that's dangerous. The LORD protects us from all dangers. This clearly can't mean that the LORD will protect us from COVID-19 and its consequences. That's not true. Christians will suffer as much as non-Christians as a result of the coronavirus. However, ultimately the LORD will protect us. We're pilgrims on our way to the New Creation and there is no danger (and no disease) that will stop us getting there. The LORD himself will see that we arrive safely at our final destination. He's proved that he can do that by raising Jesus from the dead - he has overcome even the danger of death. And so be reassured - our help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

This coming Sunday morning we'll be streaming at 10:30am on YouTube. In light of the Prime Minister's announcement earlier in the week we've decided that it wouldn't be right for the leader and preacher to get together. Therefore it will be slightly different to last Sunday but hopefully it will still be an encouragement to us all. For the children there are at least three options: (1) They can listen to the whole stream including the sermon - that would be great! Or (2) I've attached a relevant colouring page to this email or (3) Lorraine and Ali have filmed a couple of videos for the Village Kids (now available on our YouTube channel) and if you prepare in advance they could start 'the challenge' during the sermon.

The Home Group leaders have all been positive about our first experience of using Zoom on Tuesday or Wednesday evening. Therefore, we're going to give it a go on Sunday morning too.  We're going to have a Zoom Coffee and Chat! The idea is that we'll see a few different faces and hear a few different voices (and maybe even get to know a few new people). Zoom has a 'breakout room' function which means if a large group of people join a meeting 'the host' can 'automatically assign' people to smaller groups. So... 5 minutes after the stream finishes (which gives you time to make a coffee) on Sunday morning (if you want to) you can join the 'Coffee and Chat' meeting (Meeting ID XXX-XXX-XXX and password 'XXXXXXXX') The host will then 'automatically assign' people to smaller groups and in smaller groups we can spend a few minutes catching up. It should be straightforward, and if it works well we can try it again next Sunday...

'See' you on Sunday morning!

Warmly in Christ,


Judith has written an encouraging post for us to read and reflect on:

As the world around us seemed to turn upside down this month, I was challenged but also greatly comforted by the account of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat was facing an invasion by a “vast army” (v2). Jehoshaphat was one of the good kings of Judah who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” (v32). In this chapter we see: (1) Jehoshaphat's response to the crisis, (2) Jehoshaphat's prayer, (3) God’s answer, and (4) the consequences...

Jehoshaphat’s response

Initially he was alarmed but in his alarm he also made a decision to speak to God – in his anxiety, he 'resolved to enquire of the Lord.' (v3). He then encouraged the people to come together to fast and seek God. How do we respond when our hearts are fearful? Do we immediately turn to God in prayer and encourage others to do so? In our present crisis we are prevented from physically meeting, but with phones and the internet we can still encourage one another to pray, share spiritual songs and God’s Word. In these days social media can be used for good and we can thank God for it.

Jehoshaphat’s prayer

He approaches God as – "ruler over all kingdoms," (v6). He reminds the people that God had previously delivered them (v7), and he cries out in faith and trust, "you will hear and save us." (v.9). They acknowledge their present helplessness and dependence, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." (v12).

Note that whole families “stood there before the Lord” (v.13). What a beautiful picture! Oh that our whole nation and even the world would cry out to God now.

God’s answer

"The Lord says to you : 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'" (v15). This did not mean they could sit back and do nothing; they had to, "take up your positions; stand firm and go out to face them." (v17). Similarly for us we heed advice from the experts and take care to protect ourselves and others, while also helping others as much as possible. God told Jehoshaphat to face the enemy but assured him that He would be with him. What a promise! What reassurance!

The consequences

The amazing thing was that the people were so overjoyed by God’s promises that even before they went out to engage in battle they 'fell down in worship before the LORD.' (v18). What a challenge that is to us! Are we still praising God this week for his attributes and all His promises to us? Then Jehoshaphat addressed the people and encouraged them to trust God and keep on singing, "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." (v21).

After successfully subduing their enemy they continued to worship God and give Him the glory. And the end result? The kingdom was at peace, God gave rest on every side. May we, like Jehoshaphat, cry out to God for help in this present crisis. Not just for ourselves but for those in our world who are far needier – those living in poverty and overcrowded conditions without a reliable water supply, and possibly without enough food. May we also follow Jehoshaphat’s example by encouraging others to seek God and to acknowledge our weakness and inability to overcome these difficulties without his help. May our eyes be “on HIM”

Let us thank God that we can look forward to eternal peace and rest because of Jesus who is victorious over sin and death.

Sunday at 10:30am

Mangotsfield Primary School

Emersons Green

Church Farm Road 

BS16 7EY

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