FROM OUR MINISTER'S SOAPBOX
Autumn is upon us, leaves are changing colour and falling, the temperatures
are dropping and raincoats and umbrellas are needed! The changing of
seasons is a given, part of a pattern but there is much that also stays the
same, day and night, sunrise and sunset, I am sure you get the picture!
People generally like patterns, it gives a sense of security, safety, control.
Could this be why church so often gets confined to what happens in a
building, on rotas, instead of being about whatever its members are doing
wherever they are?
church was not confined in this way, as Ed Silvoso in his book
Ekklesia (Church) writes, ‘it was always people, never buildings. It was
vibrant, expansive, operating 24/7, had unstoppable capacity for growth and
question is, why such low performance and little social relevance
today? Could it be that we have confined to four walls, once a week, what is
meant to operate 24/7 in every place? The Church is part of the Kingdom of
God and Jesus described the Kingdom as yeast, light, salt. Yeast in a jar
doesn't do what it’s supposed to do. Light that is blocked leaves darkness.
Salt in a cellar doesn't do any good to food. So, we need to take these into
introduced the Ekklesia, his intention was to use it as a vehicle
for change, brought about by impregnating society with his Kingdom DNA.
The ekklesia secular, was a Roman institution, an assembly of people
deputised by the emperor to teach the language, laws and the culture of
Rome until everything and everyone walked, talked, and acted like Rome.
said, "I will build MY Ekklesia." he was implying, I am
releasing a new ekklesia, a group of people, who will have my power and
authority with them to implement my culture, my way, my kingdom. He
said, " For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
Matthew 18:20. But it goes beyond that. He not only called them to gather but
also sent them out into all the world! Jesus’ ultimate objective was to see
people, even nations, discipled by inserting the yeast of his Kingdom into their
social fabric through the Ekklesia, which is his people.
participation is vital, God has always worked through his people, in Acts
19:11 we read, "And all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, and
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." In a
season where we begin to look at upgrading our buildings, let us remember it
is not about the buildings but always about the people who use them. Let us
be the ones God uses today, to be agents of transformation, salt and light
wherever we are, gathered and scattered. With God anything is possible!
September once more and the harvest is already gathered in across most of the country, barns are full of hay and straw and grain for the winter. These are rich blessings and there is still time to collect blackberries, apples, pears and raspberries amongst other delights before the days draw in! But the time will come when the branches are bare and it will be too late to store up treasures!
All this reminds us that there is a time for everything, this being so we should be looking to make the best of the times we live in. Sometimes they seem hard and difficult but they are also full of opportunities.
The God and creator of the universe is calling us even as we read this short message, saying different things to each of us but all of them expressing his love for us and calling us on to an eternity with him, calling us to prepare now while there is still time, not worrying too much about the treasure of the earth but looking to store treasure in heaven! So, as we think about gathering and storing let us not do so selfishly but in generosity let us give to those in need: a word in season, an act of kindness and be rich in our spiritual lives bringing glory to the one who gave up everything for us.
As I look around, friends, family, country, world, I see plenty of difficulties that people are doing their best to deal with, I am sure you do too. While I was thinking about this and what my part might be in any solutions, I came across six powerful words in the Bible that I want to share.
He has made me grind my teeth on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendour is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Lamentations 3:16-20
Can you feel the anguish in those words? I can. Have you ever been there? Maybe not completely but at least somewhat? I have. As I read them, I could actually feel the sand between my teeth and taste the dust. No peace, no prosperity, all hope is lost (or that is how it feels), pain beyond description, grieving. Agony!
But then I
came upon these six words that grabbed me:
Yet I still dare to hope Lamentations 3:21
Yet… after all that has happened, after all that I’ve seen.
Still… nevertheless, even now.
Dare… boldly, courageously.
Hope… expecting good.
Here’s the rest of the passage:
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him. So, it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.
Yet I still dare to hope. Whatever you are facing, concerned over, troubled by; I encourage you too and it will inspire you to do good, make a positive difference, however you can.
How are you spending your time with God? Psalm 131:2 says, “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” A picture of contentment, of waiting quietly, trustingly, not of one crying out. Is this what your ‘quiet times’ with God are like? More often I expect, if you are like me, rather than waiting for God to speak you fill the space, jumping in to tell God not only the problems but also the solutions, much more like a baby crying out urgently than a content child! To do lists can run through our heads making us distracted and hurried instead of peaceful and quiet. It is sometimes easier to talk than to listen but the end result can be anxiety and restlessness rather than the wholeness God desires for us in relationship with him.
God invites us to ‘Be still, be absolutely quiet and know that he is God’ and this direction is about more than resting our mouths! Being quiet is about resting our hearts by coming to quiet waters where we may ‘still and quiet our souls’. God wants us to understand and receive true rest, His rest.
As with many things practise helps! Slow the stream of thoughts down, park them, add them to a ‘to do’ list if it will help. Then stop the cleaning, tidying, doing, they are less important than time with God, and be. Take time to let your soul find peace, rest and be renewed.
As we learn to fill the reservoir of our soul with true refreshment from God we learn to relax and receive. We can then carry this refreshment with us as we face the days challenges.
Do you find it a challenge to be quiet and still with God? Ask Him to help you practice, show you the right way for you to engage in this practise. Your soul will find refreshing peace. God’s peace is what our restless soul needs.
To get started for 5 days try to spend 5 minutes in silence with God, and see what happens. I am sure you will find unexpected treasures if you persevere.
And we know
that in all things God works for the good of those who
love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
When you are tired and discouraged from fruitless
effort, God knows how hard you have tried.
When you've cried so long your heart is in
anguish, God has counted your tears.
If you feel that your life is on hold and time
has passed you by, God is waiting for you.
When nothing makes sense and you are
confused or frustrated, God has the answer.
If suddenly your outlook is brighter and you find
traces of hope, God has whispered to you.
When things are going well and you have
much to be thankful for, God has blessed you.
When something joyful happens and you are
filled with awe, God has smiled on you.
Remember that wherever you are or
whatever you are feeling, God knows.
- Author Unknown –
More than this God knows and cares about you, he loves you now and
always will. He longs for you to draw as close to Him as he draws to you.
So, try to spend a few minutes, at least, each day being with God
intentionally, not trying to be something, or to feel something but being the
real you, with the real God. I am sure if you do your life will be changed.
I look forward to hearing about that!
I read this short peace written by Margaret Killingray for LICC and thought it may be good for us all to read and reflect on.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore... When the disciples landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread... Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." John 21:4, 9, 12
This all sounds so ordinary, so everyday. And yet it is the kind of moment that stands out in a lifetime - some combination of daybreak on a lovely day, the gentle lapping of waves, the joyous sound of the dawn chorus, people we love, and the smell of barbecued freshly caught fish for breakfast.
It is the kind of escape to beauty that we look for in holidays, leaving behind busyness, work, lists and obligations. But for these men, battered by all that had happened in noisy, crowded Jerusalem, still hardly believing that he had risen from the dead, it must have been quite a moment.
Jesus spent these final days of his physical presence on earth, making sure that they really understood that he had risen from the dead. After breakfast he spoke to Peter, reinstating and recommissioning him. Reassured, they would all remember this morning's breakfast and all the other meetings when they faced persecution and their own, possibly violent, deaths. They knew they would live for ever with him.
This breakfast by the lake brings us reassurance as well. The Lord of glory, the Saviour of the world, creator of the universe, word made flesh, has conquered death - and he cooks for them.
I like living here with the people and places I know, and I don't want to die. In fact, I don't want to move to another house, let alone to another sphere of existence. I say out loud on Sundays, 'I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting'. And I believe it as fully and as far as I am able; but sometimes that isn't very far. On dark nights of doubt this lakeside reunion reassures me that however and whenever I die, I will be transformed, not into something strange, but into a familiar recognisable individual, in a familiar renewed and recreated earth.
The disciples went back to Jerusalem fully reassured, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then became his witnesses - to the ends of the earth.
We too are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit and go out as witnesses in what we do and say, in sharing our lives with those we meet. Reflect on how you are doing with this aspect of your discipleship and then go ahead confident that Jesus will be with you wherever you go.
In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
Here in Paul’s letter to the Philippians the biblical story of salvation - never far below the surface of Paul's letters - rises to the top. Here we are taken from the beginning of all things to the end of all things, an account in which Jesus is central. It is this story of this one that shapes us - providing a pattern of thinking and living that is ours if we are 'in Christ'.
And at the centre of the story is the humility of God born as human child and the greater humility of accepting death on a cross, Paul's words here evoking the horror and shame associated with the public execution of criminals. And yet, it is the scandal of the cross that was central to Christ's own determination to press on to Jerusalem, showing the true nature of God's self-giving love. And it is the cross that is central to understanding what it means to be a disciple, to follow in his footsteps in serving others - his death not only bringing about redemption but providing a model for our lives.
Even then, the cross is not the end of the story, for God raised Jesus to a place of highest status and assigned him a name that reflects his vindication, with the result that all will confess him 'Lord' - Paul's language here deliberately echoing Isaiah 45:22-23, with Christ receiving the glory God says is reserved for him alone. Beyond this, the confession would have carried political overtones, perhaps especially in Philippi, a colony of the Roman empire in which emperors were proclaimed as 'Lord'. The church's worship of Jesus as Lord not only qualifies the empire's rule, but anticipates the confession that will be offered by the whole universe - the sovereignty of Christ over all things.
All of which had profound implications for the daily life of Christians in Philippi, and of Christians everywhere since, as we 'work out' our salvation, with God himself working in us 'according to his good purpose' (2:12-13), concretely applied in our relations with each other and our integrity of witness in the world, where confessing him as Lord means committing to a way of life marked by his lordship.
Lordship that is loving and giving, that meant on being raised to life instead of smiting those who rejected him he offers them and all of us eternal life. A lifetime’s adventure that begins the moment you accept Jesus as Lord and continues through all eternity!
I hope you have all accepted Jesus as Lord but if not the approach to Easter offers an excellent opportunity to consider again the offer of eternal life about which I would be delighted to talk to you!
God bless you, may you experience the peace and joy which flows from Christ Jesus crucified and risen.
If we love God most, we will love others best!
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he said, “And you
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other
commandment greater than these.” - – Mark 12:30-31
Sometimes loving people calls for you to go the extra mile or to sprinkling our
conversations and attitudes with grace or to forgive the seemingly
unforgiveable. It can seem hard but once we have our relationship with God
right our relationship with people will fall in line.
Many people have frozen hearts and they do not realize it. A frozen heart is
one that is unable to shed tears of compassion, forgive those who sin against
us, feel the true joy of triumph over evil, and sense the Lord’s heartbeat and
the heartbeat of others. It is more than the ability to feel emotion, it is actually
a heart change from stone to compassion.
When we live in the world of noise, torment and trauma, it is a natural flesh
response to try to numb ourselves so that we don’t feel. Children who were
abused find ways to escape and numb their feelings. Life’s traumas all take a
toll on our ability to be one with the Lord and His heart for His people. When
we come to God, He renews us taking us through a journey where He breaks
up our stony hearts and replaces them with His own heart.
“A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take
away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel
And I will give them one heart [a new heart] and I will put a new spirit within
them; and I will take the stony [unnaturally hardened] heart out of their flesh,
and will give them a heart of flesh [sensitive and responsive to the touch of their
God]” Ezekiel 11:19
God will continue to work in us and through us, for our good and his Glory. "A
new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have
loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know
that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." – John 13:34-35
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves
has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not
know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
May we all know the renewing, the healing of God and the melting of our
hearts that we might take hold of the abundant life of love that we are called