Here is our church newsletter for January 2019. Hope you find it to be of interest.
Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category
I was somewhat euphoric some little while ago as regards to the outcome of a certain situation. I have pondered a little on that subsequently and wondered about what is the substance of our lives. I muse on this because if my life is based on circumstances and outcomes, and generally upon happenstances, then I am living a very precarious life. This is so because as good days come, so do bad days. There are times where all seems to flow swimmingly and there are days when everything seems to be a mess. One will make me happy and the other will make me sad.
This is really how so many people live unless they impose upon themselves some stoic indifference to circumstances. The Christian though is called to a better way; the way of the Christian is the way of faith. Whether all goes well or all goes badly, I am called to trust in the Lord. This reminds me of the incredible truth of Psalm 112:7 where we read They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Here are people who are truly living in a bigger way. This is not a detached way because there is an awareness of bad news. However, it is a more secure way because it is a way not dependent upon my circumstances. Such a way is a way of settled trust and joy. It is so because I am looking away to the God who does not change; I am looking to the One who is in control of good and bad news.
I am looking to the Lord God who is overseeing overall and as my soul is enfolded with Him by faith I am established in a settled way. This way is the mature way. It is the way of peace and hope and joy. Circumstances bring temporary hope and peace and joy. The faith way brings settled joy in God’s eternal purpose in Christ. A circumstance based Christianity is an infantile Christianity. A faith based Christianity is a mature Christianity.
What is the purpose of our sufferings in life? In 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 we read the word of Paul concerning his experience in Achaia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Paul had gone through some really hard times, but these were not purposeless times. God was using his suffering to teach him the grand lesson that he must rely upon the Lord. This leads us into considering what it is to truly live. For so many true life is found in personal emancipation. To throw off all shackles of external control and be free to rely upon oneself and fulfill oneself is the desired goal advocated and advertised in our society.
However, this in the end produces a futile life. The true life is actually in a captive life. Life is found in a life of dependence. Of course this is not a dependence on just anyone or anything. Rather it is a dependence upon God our maker, redeemer and friend.
So we learn that God is working in all the hardships of life to teach us this lesson that we would depend upon the Lord and not ourselves.
Easy times in many ways are not the best times because they incline us to depend upon ourselves and our circumstances. When all is easy we conclude “I can handle this!” What terrible even frightening words those are.
In many ways the hard times are the best times because, when we use them well, they take us into the essence of life and that is to depend upon the Lord.
We live in confusing times. The two most powerful men on the planet, namely Presidents Trump and Putin are maligned by the liberal western media relentlessly. In many ways there is much to malign them for. President Trump seems to have a prevailing spirit of arrogance about him which unpleasantly, mixes in with moral indiscretions in his private life. Whilst President Putin does seem to display megalomaniacal tendencies where any means are acceptable just so long as Russian power increases.
And yet both seem to have a sound moral compass in many ways. So for a couple of examples:
- Here we have President Trump giving testimony to God’s great salvation workings.
- Here is president Putin saying something immensely sensible about a wholesome upbringing.
I know through being in Ethiopia that Christians are glad that President Obama has gone and President Trump has replaced him. The fact that under President Obama economic support was promised at the end of the gun of moral conformity. So to get the aid there had to be a move towards embracing the LGBT agenda.
It’s all confusing. I think one thing for sure is that the power of the media cannot be underestimated. They have an agenda; and that agenda is focussed on a destruction of Judeo-Christian moral values. I know I make a vast generlization, but that would be my observation.
In Micah 7:1-6 we see portrayed a society which is in collapse. It is headlined with the exclamation “What misery is mine!” (Mic. 7:v1a). We are then told of crop failure (1b), disappearance of the godly (v2a), brutality (v2b), corruption (v3), a land filled with useless people (v4a), a people set for judgement (v4b), relationships (even the closest) filled with conflict and deceit (vv5-6).
Into such a situation Micah emerges with a great affirmation of his trust in the Lord. He says: But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me. (Mic. 7:7). What a word this is! A word to tell of light in darkness and rescue from a disintegrating world. He tells of a personal relationship with a God who is his Saviour. How remarkable it is that he can have hope in such a mad situation. And, oh to seize the promise that we have a God, who is Micah’s God and that God will hear us.
We live in the West which, with its feelings based culture, is increasingly developing characteristics of Micah 7:1-6. So what a joy to know that there is Micah 7:7 to hang on to and a God who never fails.
I heard Tope Koleoso say, in the context of church leadership some years ago, that “very few things are the end of the world.” As someone who very easily panics and has panicked when things have gone in a certain direction in the church, this was a reassuring statement.
I, therefore, seek to remember this maxim, when things happen in the life of the church which I perceive to be undesirable. Such happenings can be greeted with thoughts that a bad precedent has been set, or this will lead to conflict, or this will unnecessarily upset certain people or this will cost a lot of money to put right or ….. In it all I have sought to remember that “very few things are the end of the world”.
So when others are encouraging panic or quick reactions or generally getting stressed out about something I have sought to continue to get the “very few things are the end of the world” perspective. Moreover, when considering things calmly if decisions have been made which prove to be wrong, they can very often be changed.
And in all this we must remember that our Lord is the sovereign Lord. And He is in charge of all things. So have faith in God Philip
Paul writes to the Philippians and speaks to them about believing and suffering. He says For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for him, (Phil 1:29). How do we respond to that scripture? We might say that believing is wonderful, but we’re not so sure about the suffering? We are so happy that the Lord grants us to believe, but are not so comfortable with being granted to suffer.
As we come to ponder upon this we note that it is not suffering because of being awkward or odd. Rather it is suffering for His sake. So when we take a stand for the gospel, and when we seek to honour Jesus Christ, then we can expect suffering.
Moreover, there is an inherent connection between exercising faith and suffering. We suffer because by faith we have entered another world. That heavenly world has different values. Accordingly this world does not like us standing in Christ (and with Christ) and so we suffer. We are in this present evil age, which is under the sway of the evil one, and this world is set against the beautiful ways of Jesus Christ. So as we affiliate with Jesus Christ by faith, we can expect the onslaughts of the evil realm. Faith brings suffering.
How is it then as regards to my situation and my experience of suffering? Our Lord says: Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets (Luke 6:26). A Christ-less life will be a comfortable life. A faithless life will be a comfortable life. But both end in death. Oh, for Christ, oh, for faith and when those are present with all the glorious things we possess thereby we will surely be happy to suffer with Him, in Him, and for Him.