Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Just Joseph?

Last Sunday I talked a little bit about Joseph ( Mary's Joseph) and the magnanimous way he decided to treat Mary after she turned up preggers, even before the angel of the Lord told him what was going on.

It was a difficult talk about properly forgiving people, but what I didn't have time to go into was how super Joseph was in respect of his relationship with God! I was reading the beginning of the book of Matthew and Matthew spends a lot of time pointing out how God is working, how God has paved the way and showing God's plans being fulfilled. It's all very clever.

Joseph was very involved in this. His obedience to God fulfilled many of God's plans, for example Jesus being born in Bethlehem and being exiled into Egypt (Matthew includes old testament references to these events prophesied hundreds of years before!)

God spoke to Joseph in dreams and Joseph took these things seriously. Where most men would probably have discarded their future wife for unfaithfulness, (as proven clearly by this week's episode of Merlin – sort it out Arthur!), Joseph's strong trust in God saved both he and Mary a lot of pain, maybe even saved Mary's life. Later Joseph's continuing faith and relationship with God would save Jesus' life, as Herod plotted to kill him.

A studious friend of mine also points out that Joseph sets Jesus up with a good trade that is locally renowned and he is also the father of at least two early church leaders (James and Jude).

Oh boy, what a guy! Gentleman, how's that for an example of Godly manhood? Ladies, do we even expect as much from ourselves as the little-celebrated Joseph did?

When was the last time someone said to you, “Oh, I'm not quite sure what to do here,” and you were able to say with certainty “I know the answer to that! I'll take responsibility for that decision! I've prayed it through and I'm at peace with God about it. I know what we have to do...”?
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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Roars and in-laws: Getting away

Last week I took Sunday off and Chris and I went away for the weekend. After all there's nothing like being sicked on by a friend's baby, charged by a lion and hanging out with a large group of your in-laws to give you a relaxing break!

Actually all these things did happen, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a nice break! I'm really very fond of lions, babies and my in-laws, so we had a wonderful time.

We spent a relaxed Friday evening with some friends, hit the Woburn safari park hard on the Saturday and had a lovely Sunday lunch with Chris' family. Leaving did cause a little bit of havoc, as select members of my congregation will attest, but it didn't affect our Sunday service, which I hear went really well. Thanks to everyone who stepped in!

Sometimes it can be difficult to get away from your usual duties and responsibilities. But resting is really important (even God rested on the 7th day of creation!) Sometimes upping and going is the only way to properly stop working and rest.

Beyonce once tunefully told a man “Don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable!”.... Whilst I suspect there are only certain circumstances in which that line is useful and productive in your lovelife, I think it IS useful as a reminder that we CAN stop and rest. Are you really irreplaceable, just for a day or two? God can manage without you, life will go on. Even if your ministry stops for a week, even if you feel a bit guilty. You really are likely to be less useful to God and to others when you are run-down and shattered.

Consider this, a few more people get to use and develop their gifts if you hand over the reigns for a week. If you go with a partner or a friend a proper break is normally a really nourishing time for a relationship. And it doesn't have to be expensive either, borrow a tent or a room, take the mega bus for a pound, get a dinner deal from Top Table.com (no I'm not on commission...) Just take a rest sometime.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Don't let 'em get you down

Today I've been thinking about the problem of constantly being asked to prove yourself. It seems to be all around us. Pop stars are only as good as their last performance or their last haircut. Schools are only as good as their last Ofsted report. Businessmen are only as good as the profits they made last quarter.

Of course we know in our minds that this can't be right. These judgements are all a matter of opinion, and aren't representative of everything you are and do. But it can be very demoralising to be told that you “could do better” when you are trying hard. It is easier to criticise than recognise in our culture, especially when there are targets to be met.

We have so much unnecessary, unhelpful criticism in our lives, who do we go to to get a clearer picture of ourselves? Who can we trust to tell us what we're really worth?

The bible teaches us we are children of God, loved by Him. All the good things about you, God loves, God sees and He values. All the other stuff, the things you'd rather no one else knew about, He knows about but He loves you just the same.

Nobody else on this earth has the capacity to love you without ever letting you down. No human can ever be as reliable and as loving as God. Why not try taking your sense of self worth from Him? Then you can believe in all the good things about you and know that they are important, because even if no one else ever says so, God says they are.

God knows that you are (delete as applicable):

sporty/clever/caring/strong/cultured/attractive/domestic/generous/practical/trusting/patient/conscientious/hard-working/talented/gentle/outgoing/friendly/fun/musical/faithful etc etc

And He loves and appreciates that. You don't have to be good at everything, you don't have to better than everyone else, you only have to be you. You are known to God and you are special to Him, you are an individual and God loves you.

“We love, because He first loved us”. (1 John 4: 19)

Remember that, when you're up against it. God thinks you're brill. So you can believe it too!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Trusting Anyway

I preached a sermon recently on how the Israelites had an 11 day journey to get through in the wilderness, to start claiming their promised land. But they lost faith, and through their complaints and mistrust in God their 11 days of difficulty turned into 40 years of waiting.

So when things at church seem slow or difficult, I keep saying to myself “11 days, just 11 days”. I know it won't (in all likelihood) be literally 11 days until big changes occur, I don't even know if it is big, sudden change God has planned, but He is planning the growth of His kingdom. And God's plan is not slow, it is timely.

Someone said to me, it is like Noah waiting to come out of the ark. If it took 40 days for the rain to stop, why was Noah in there all year? He was getting on with the job in hand (taking care of the animals and his family), while elsewhere, God moved. Outside, drying the land, growing the trees in readiness, God was working in the background.

Let's review God's faithfulness recently at Bures: we have four youth outreaches and a coffee morning, which all continue to be well attended, we have a new ceiling and lights in the hall, we have a lovely band of faithful workers who tend the garden, work the admin, manage the sound equipment, clean and maintain the building, play the music week in week out, we regularly have folks turn out to worship God on a Sunday and God has faith in us to do more. Let's have faith in Him to do the same.

After all, it may turn out that we're at the afternoon of day 11, just about to start claiming some serious promised land. Or it might be that we're just be coming up to coffee break on day 1. We don't know. But we can survive, if we just remember to trust. Because real faith develops when it's most difficult to trust and you do it anyway.

You can check out past sermons on our website. The one mentioned above should be added soon.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Prayer Scare

Hands up if the words “prayer” and “meeting” too close together make you shudder. Guilty? You are not alone in this I suspect.

Why is it prayer has become more of a “yikes” than “wahoo” for people these days? Even for people who like to pray, a prayer meeting can sometimes feel like a laborious experience. It strikes me, perhaps we have fenced prayer in too much.

Let's think about it for a second:

In order to pray you don't have to be anywhere specific.
You don't have to have any qualifications.
You don't have to have time spare, you can do it on the go.
You don't have to have anybody with you, but you can if you like.
You don't have to do it out loud.
Nobody even has to know!
You don't have to feel any response from God to know that your prayer was valid.
It doesn't cost you anything.
You don't have to say anything particular.

Prayer is your ultimate flexible friend!

Some of the most important prayers for our church are said by folks at home, by themselves, at their convenience, because they have committed to pray regularly for a ministry. Their prayers are so important. When there are good discussions at Friday Club, when we meet new faces at toddler group, when we survive another night at youth club, we know it's because people are praying.

Let's face it. If you believe in an all powerful God, it's worth having a word with Him now and again.

We've all got room for improvement, so why don't we try just offering up once sentence to Him this week, “Lord, motivate me to pray”.