Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Expecting the worst

Another enjoyable bible story re-enacted in assembly this morning. When I think about the fantastic props that were used to bring Noah's ark to life this morning in the primary school, think about the talented team of actors and youth workers God has put together perform it, and think about the hours and hours of prep I would be doing for assemblies if I didn't have these wonderful resources, I realise that my expectations of God have been woefully low. He has put things into place perfectly.

The problem is that, my expectations are based on worldly experiences. In the secular world, you can't always count on having the best people for a job, or the best resources. When you work in the secular world you're used to being told, “The hard way is the only way, just get on with it”.

When God is your boss, it's different.

When God wants something done, He doesn't have to put people under pressure to achieve it.
When God wants something done, He doesn't have to twist people's arms who don't really want to help, to join the team.
When God wants something done, He doesn't have to duplicate hours of work for everyone to have the resources they need.

When God wants something done, the details are in hand. No matter how complicated or difficult or unlikely, when it's God's plan, He's sorting it out. (Look at the detail of His planning in Matthew 21 with the donkeys!)

Here are the various results for something God is doing:

> Turns out really, really awesome because God has sorted it.
> Turns out badly because God is teaching you persistence and humility.
> Turns out badly because you stopped trusting God and tried to take it out of His hands.

I suppose that is why our expectations are low sometimes. We know that things turn out badly when we get them wrong, but we also know things can sometimes turn out badly because God is teaching us something.

But let's not forget that a proportion of the time we get to see God's plan being super, duper, fantastic and brilliant. We would see more of those times if we could just let go of things a little more. Stop trying to convert the world all by ourselves, stop trying to end poverty one Fairtrade chocolate bar at a time, stop micromanaging what God is managing.

Don't get me wrong, it is Fairtrade Fortnight. DO eat the chocolate, but don't panic that it's too little to do and that you haven't ended world poverty yet. Less expectation on yourself, more expectation on God.

After all, we can all take a tip from the person who once wisely commented to an overwrought and overworking minister (not me by the way!) - “You have to stop putting all this pressure on yourself. There is a Saviour and it's not you!”  

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

 In my sermon this week I mentioned how when we give our lives to Christ, we give up our right to our own ambitions and plans – we allow God's plans and ambitions for us to take over instead.

The problem with our own plans, is that they don't bring us the satisfaction they promise. C.S. Lewis wrote very eloquently on this. His suggestion was that the longings and hopes that arise when we fall in love, when we have children, when we get excited about a particular topic or event – those longings are never quite fulfilled. Even the best marriage, family-life, hobby, holiday etc, still on some level leave us wanting.

Lewis suggests this is because that longing in us is for the perfection of heaven and in heaven is the only place it will be satisfied. But thank goodness it will be in the end!

Don't spend your life seeking the satisfaction of those yearnings. God will complete you when the time comes. Searching endlessly for satisfaction in this lifetime will lead to disappointment and worse – you could find yourself facing divorce, financial struggle, strained relationships in your family, all because of this selfish, fruitless pursuit.

Paul teaches us to be content in every circumstance. Not necessarily happy, but content. Be at peace with God and learn that your life is not about making yourself feel better.

Former President of the Baptist Union, Kate Coleman, writes that God has a vision for each of our lives and instead of asking abstractly “What am I here for?” we should try asking God “What am I here to accomplish?” If you take a couple of weeks to read the bible regularly and prayerfully seek God's vision for YOUR life, you'll find you're not so tied to those longings after all. You've got things to be getting on with - important, blessed, good things!

So what'll it be? Look back on your life in your golden years and ask “Did I feel good? Did I get what I wanted?” or look back on your life with God and say “Look at everything I accomplished with Him!” 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

You Threw Off My Groove

Apologies for not being able to blog last week all, I was a bit under the weather and it knocked out a lot of my 'weeklys'.

Have you ever had a time when your routine got thrown off? Interruptions, unexpected events, sickness, snow... It's easy to get blown off course and suddenly feel out of control. (For 'being thrown off ones groove' see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tePa0CI478k ).

It's at those times when we're stressed and we're trying to get back on top of things that we need to remember what Jesus' disciples did when the stormy weather blew their boat off course (or just generally blew it about a lot...)

Two things.
  1. They panicked.
  2. They called on Jesus to calm the storm.
Step one is not worth bothering with. When Jesus awoke the first thing he said was “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matt 8:25). He over and again spoke of trusting and not fearing.

When are we going to start taking Jesus' words seriously when he says there is no need to be afraid?
When will be start believing him when he says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30)?
When will we take seriously his command, “Do not worry about your life” (Matt 6:25)?

When Jesus is with you, there is no need to fear. When they came to him, on that stormy sea, he got up and he calmed the storm. 

The disciples, in spite of the many other miracles they had seen, were still amazed he calmed the storm. Are you the same? In spite of all the good God has done in your life, are you still worrying he cannot or will not calm the storm you are in right now? Why should He have power to do one miracle and not another?

Whatever your situation, it can be improved by calling out to Jesus for help. Even if it just helps you to deal with the storm more easily. Christ who calmed the storm can transform lives. He can transform your fear into courage, your burdens into freedom and your worries into peace. All you have to do is ask.