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Archive for the ‘Christ’ Category

As we look at the world around us – the pain that so many are suffering – perhaps it’s good to just stop and remind ourselves that we are actually loved by God.   Pain and suffering are not His will for us, healing and wholeness are.  Sometimes though, it is difficult to return that love so freely given to us.   Sometimes we want to rage against God and hold back our love.   It’s always easier to proclaim our love for God when our emotions and circumstances are all in a good place, but when we’ve lost someone so dear to us that it becomes almost unbearable, those are perhaps the times we have to choose to love.

When Christ laid his life down for the world, He demonstrated what real love looked like.  It was a choice, beautiful beyond words. That’s the kind of love Circleslide sing about in their song, “Love Amazing”.

“I’ll rejoice
Though my heart aches
I’ll rejoice 
My God will save
All my needs have been replaced
With Love Amazing
With Love Amazing …”
 

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I know Christmas is some weeks away, but we are about to enter the season of Advent – the time of waiting and preparation for the second coming of Christ.   But I thought now was as good a time as any to remind ourselves of what it is we celebrate in 29 days time – the First Coming of Christ.

“He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.   And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”   

(Philippians 2:7-8)

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I’m sitting preparing the sermon for this coming Sunday; the last of our Summer Series – Wired that Way.   The theme for this week is “Wired to Know” and I’ve been looking at various passages which highlight how down though the ages and in various ways God has spoken to make his existence known … in creation, through the prophets, through Christ, through Scripture.  

As I’ve been reading, the words of the French philosopher Blaise Pascal kept coming back to me “There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator.” Or in the words of the contemporary Christian singer, Plumb, (Tiffany Lee):

There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us

And the restless soul is searching

There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us

And it’s a void only God can fill.”

I am often amazed at how many feel little or no inclination to follow a particular religion, and yet they are nonetheless conscious of what might be called ‘the God-shaped hole’.  Many seek to nurture the spiritual side of themselves, and yet rather than enter a church they would gladly pay for a course to hear a speaker talk of feel good factors they can embrace in order to have fulfilled lives.   I’ve read articles on ego, meme pools and the selfish gene and frankly none of these make my heart leap or give me a sense of peace and fulfilment.  

The “God-shaped hole” is the innate longing of the human heart for something outside itself, something transcendent, something “other.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 refers to God’s placing of “eternity in man’s heart.”  And I suppose that given that God is eternal, for in him there is no beginning and no end, then it is only God that can fulfil our desire for eternity; which is found in a relationship with him.

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This week is Holy Week. During this week the Church remembers the final week of Jesus’ life, from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through to his resurrection on Easter.

Below is a map, adapted and published back in 2008 by the English Standard Version Bible Society www.esv.org  that marries the locations and events of Holy Week.

Click on the image below to go to the Google Map, then click on each flag to see a summary of the events at a particular location on that day.

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Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and for me there is a growing sense that most folk skip straight from this Sunday of celebration, to the joy of Easter Morning. The numbers that participate or enter the stories of Holy Week itself seem to be getting less. So perhaps we should be doing both – celebrating the entry to Jerusalem and reflecting on the events of the Passion too.   That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years; yes, we do still have services during Holy Week that tell the story and give us time to reflect, but tomorrow we will begin our service with our children entering the sanctuary waving palm fronds, and we will leave having moved through the last week of Jesus’ life, to stand at the foot of the Cross.

Below is one of the songs we will be singing … The Power of the Cross: Written by Keith Getty, sung by Stuart Townend

  

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Coping with Worry

A few years ago a report conducted by a Mental Health Committee had this to say – half of all the people in our hospital beds are there because of the effects of worry.

Mental distress can lead to all kinds of health problems – headaches, heart trouble, ulcers, depression, digestive disorders, and yes, even death. When we add to that list, the mental exhaustion of nights without sleep and days without peace, then we get a glimpse of the havoc worry plays in destroying the quality and quantity of life. Worry is bad for us.  Worry has no nutritional value for the body or for the soul.  An estimated

Worry

40% of things we worry about are future possibilities that will actually never happen;

30% are things from the past which can’t possibly be changed;

12% are about our health – which gets worse with stress;

and 10% are too petty and insignificant to matter. 

That means that only 8% of the things we worry about legitimately deserve our thought and concern.  Most worry is irrelevant and does an enormous amount of harm. 

Jesus said: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not your life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?… So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-27; 31-34)

People may say to us, “Don’t worry, pull yourself together” or “Don’t worry be happy”.  All simply said, but much harder to accomplish.  But what happens if we listen to Jesus’ advice to us “Don’t worry, seek God’s will first.”

Sometimes we live as if Jesus had said: Seek first all the other things in life that everybody else seeks, and then the Kingdom will be added to you. 

He didn’t say that.  He said: Seek first the Kingdom.  Everything else comes second.  

So, based on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:33, what if today you were to do a really radical thing?  What if you were all to say:

I’m going to start as if each day is a blank slate.  I’m going to begin it by devoting myself to what matters most, seeking God’s will, and then see if what Jesus said is true, that “all these other things will be added to me.” 

If our heart is in tune with God, if our heart seeks God and his will, we have nothing to worry about.  This doesn’t mean that we will be free of trouble, after all we may be a special people but we are not a protected species, rather it means that God will be with us in the middle of our trouble, to uphold us and to drive away our fear.  For many of us the struggle with worry will be an ongoing battle, but we can be assured that this is not one that we fight alone, if we: Seek first the Kingdom of God.

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Recently I’ve been reading through the Book of Genesis and once again I’ve been caught up in the stories of the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not, it has to be said, your ideal template for ‘happy families’.   Yet I am constantly amazed by the fact the people think that if you belong (or even come along) to a church then you should have some kind of perfection in your life, whether it be your personal life or your family life. 

Many believe that over the past few decades there has been a shift in the shape and the nature of family, but has there?  Have we not always lived as fractured people, in fractured families, within fractured communities?  It’s just that before we didn’t openly acknowledge it – we kept it under wraps; hidden behind a veneer of respectability.   (Certainly that’s what I’ve found as I researched my family tree back over three or four centuries!)

The fact is there is no ‘perfect family’ modelled within the pages of Scripture.   And yet this ideal is still put forward and even offered by some within the wider church.   The proposition being – if one adheres to the ‘rules’ then you will escape the pain;  your marriage will work; your children will grow up well balanced and responsible;  you will cheat the chaos that surrounds you in society as a whole.  And if the chaos affects you – well then the fault is yours!   You failed – you – the divorced; the addicted; the imperfects.  

It is any wonder then that when the chaos does hit, the first thing people do is to stay away from the church.   Even for some within the church, this notion of the ideal of perfection means that many strive to produce a perfect image, because by doing so, they do not have to deal with the brokenness and chaos that they face in their lives, and they can still feel that they belong.  

The role of the church is not, nor has it ever been, to project themselves as a community only for the perfect, rather it is a place where the broken should feel they are able to come to find acceptance and achieve wholeness.

When it comes to the chaos that we encounter in our lives and in our world, the church needs to step up to the mark and declare its belief:  that God is at work and he will bring order from chaos; that it is only through him that our broken lives can achieve wholeness.

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