Saturday, 23 July 2011

For this we have Jesus ...

I was reflecting earlier on the amazing privilege of being a Pastor - we get to be with people in the most difficult and the most happy and amazing times.

Just in this last week I have married a lovely couple that my wife and I took through marriage classes - sharing their joys, fears, helping them put down good roots for a long and loving marriage before and in God.

Last Saturday the church was full of folks from Belgium, Paris, Congo, the USA and England as well as people from our church and from another Baptist church - and possibly a few others I didn't get to speak to :-) - a day in which it was a privilege to share with them and those who celebrated with them. Truly a moment in time when God was powerfully present in the whole event and I hope was glorified. There was certainly joy in the house.

Today I am preparing to join with another family as they say good bye to the mum of their family. A time of sadness of tears, or memories and sorrow. A small group of family and friends will be at the service to share this sad moment. But also I hope and pray it will also be a time when God will be with them as they journey in this season of sorrow, struggling to understand death, heart-ache and this painful goodbye.

For me God is not a fair-weather friend only there on the big occasions or when things are going well, he is there with us in every season of our lives, with us in pain and sorrow, with us in joy and celebration, with us in the ordinary everyday - a God who loves us enough to die for us, who loves us enough to offer salvation to all who will receive it.

A God who is there for the joys and for the sorrows ...

For the joys and for the sorrows
The best and worst of times
For this moment, for tomorrow
For all that lies behind
Fears that crowd around me
For the failure of my plans
For the dreams of all I hope to be
The truth of what I am

For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus, I have Jesus

For the tears that flow in secret
In the broken times
For the moments of elation
Or the troubled mind
For all the disappointments
Or the sting of old regrets
All my prayers and longings
That seem unanswered yet

For the weakness of my body
The burdens of each day
For the nights of doubt and worry
When sleep has fled away
Needing reassurance
And the will to start again
A steely-eyed endurance
The strength to fight and win

I am so grateful that in all things
I have Christ who strengthens me

For all things I have Jesus ...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hard Lessons

Spending some time recently preaching through Jonah has thrown up some thoughts. There are the obvious ones like was it a whale? Is the story real or not? Could a man stay alive inside a fish for 3 days? And so on.

However something that stuck me even more was how much it took for Jonah to learn that he was going to have to do what was right, in God's eyes. Unhappy to do as God asked, this prophet took a hike to the nearest port followed by a sea trip which nearly proved fatal for the crew. Jonah has to confess that he is the problem to them and ends up over the side, drowning he prays and is saved, only to find himself in a large fish and is finally spat out onto land.

A hard lesson to learn, that he could either choose his way or God's way - its a lesson that we are still having to learn and usually the hard way. All too often we rely on our own strength, ingenuity, resources or systems and all too often they fail us. Our banking systems, our pension funds, our work places, getting a University education to get a good job ... the list is long! Then theres those in the world who pay the price of our systems, who have no justice, find no mercy as their children die of hunger and malaria, for whom there is no education or work at a fair reward.

Christ tells us that dying to self is the right way but that means letting go of our "man made" securities making us vulnerable - the very things that often draw us away from God as we clutch at the false security they offer. Jonah had to become vulnerable to finally accept God's call and charge. Read the story, Jonah was to be God's instrument to turn the hearts of another people from their godless ways, another people who had to learn the hard way - serious fasting and humility.

Are we having to learn our lessons the hard way yet again, that not following God's guidance means we have to land hard before we turn and seek him and do his will?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Grace, an endless supply

Grace is a big concept in a little word. I was preparing a sermon the other day as I track my way through Jonah, one of the Old Testament prophets, and came across a provoking statement.

In the NIV it reads  "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."
I am sure we can all point to "worthless idols" that we cling to or at least used to cling to - money, property, job, health, sex, etc. etc. etc. but I wonder if  the import of Jonah's prayer is missed as we scan these verses - looking at salvation and considering how he could be in a fish.

We, that is the Church that has Jesus as its Lord and saviour, have a command to follow - to tell the world about salvation and so God's grace. A costly grace for Christ and a costly grace for us as we are called to sacrifice time, energy, emotions and love in telling others of Jesus. The Acronym God's Riches At Christ's Expense is often cited when Christian talk about grace, I wonder if having received that grace, the church should consider reflecting this to God's Riches At the Churches Expense when considering what having received that grace should mean to us in telling the world?

If we don't tell folks who don't know of the this grace, how will they know and following false gods they will miss this incredible grace from God. The folks on Jonahs boat were in awe of Jonah's God once he explained what was happening and were saved by Jonah's being sacrificed. A lesson for us all I think.

Read on in Jonah there is a wonderful twist at the end and a comment from God which calls me to action, since he is my God and he has commanded me to tell others. God has an endless supply of grace which he pours out on his people so that they can in turn reflect that grace to those who don't know of it.