Posted on: 10th December 2018
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
When I read in the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus, I read a verse like “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem”, without stopping to consider the implication. Have you ever stopped to question how far that was, what the route was like or how long it would have taken? Let’s just say, it wasn’t close, easy or quick! Factor in the pregnancy and you must come to the conclusion that Mary knew what it was like to face adversity.
Compare this to the opening verses in the book of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” I wonder if that is the sort of encouragement that spurred Mary on to the stable in Bethlehem. Interestingly, the book of James was written by Jesus’ brother, another son of Mary. I wonder if the story of Jesus’ birth as well as his death were in his mind as he wrote those words.
I heard a story once about a lump of rock that made me consider the meaning of James 1:2. In a busy museum there was a beautiful marble statue that people in their thousands would come and admire. The statue was magnificently crafted and showed the expertise of the sculptor. A marble tile from the floor looked up and grumbled at the statue, “It’s alright for you, everyone loves you and admires you. All I get is walked all over and trodden on each day.” The statue looked down at the tile and replied, “My friend, we were once the same but when the sculptor came at me with his tools, I allowed him to break me and shape me in the way he saw best. There were times when I wanted to crack and give in, but I trusted his workmanship.”
Maybe the reason Mary was able to face her adversity was because she clung to the promise in Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” During this season as advent, let us consider how we can be thankful for adversity, clinging to the promises we have been given.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Posted on: 8th October 2018
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”
Verses like this in Matthew deserve making into fridge magnets, bumper stickers and t-shirts. What a fantastic encouragement to all who need encouragement. But we do not present the gospel fully if we just cherry pick the best bits. The whole verse reads, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
When we look into the life of Saint Wilfrid, we see a saint who lived to establish the church in the north of England against many oppositions. His determination and strong confidence in his beliefs led him to face lots of opposition from all sides. But he showed resilience and character and stood strong for what he felt was right. Through our assemblies and form worships this week we will be looking more into the life and achievements of Saint Wilfrid.
James, the writer in the New Testament offers a gift money cannot buy. In James 1:4 it says, “…so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What an offer! Who wouldn’t want some of that maturity, completeness and a life without lack? James precedes this offer with what it takes to achieve such rewards by saying,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Are you facing a trial at the moment? Whatever you are up against, my prayer is that you will see the fruit of your determination as you grow perseverance that leads to completion. If it is persecution from others because of your determination to do what is right, then take heart, rejoice and be glad, because God has reserved a reward for you.
Posted on: 21st May 2018
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Discontentment. It’s something that can stop us from feeling joy and living life to the full.
The Bible says we must learn to be content ‘whatever the circumstances.’ That can be hard.
We see what other people have and we want the same. We see what other people have achieved, and we want to do that too. Once we start comparing our lives to other people’s, discontentment can find its way in and we begin to forget all the blessings and gifts that God has given us.
Discontentment clouds all the good and makes us think our lives are not alright as they are. Instead, contentment recognises all the good in our lives and doesn’t want what other people have. There’ll always be people who have more than us, but there’ll also be people who have less. What you choose to focus on will determine how contented you feel.
Our security and self-worth should be based on who we are in Christ, not what we have. Our possessions, achievements and relationships shouldn’t define who we are. Paul wrote: ‘I’ve learned…to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am’ (Philippians 4 v 11-13).
When we’re focused on our identity in Christ, rather than what we do or don’t have, we leave no room for discontentment in our lives.
Posted on: 8th May 2017
“For life is more than food and your body more than clothing.”
(The Parable of the Rich Fool)
What do you want to achieve in your life? How will you measure the success you have? How will you know if you have made it?
More frequently, we are seeing the measure of success to be something like how much money we have made; how many followers we have on social media; or what possessions we own. That however does not really match up with God’s idea of success. See God is not opposed to us gaining possessions nor does he dislike our achievements in both the big and the small. But God does want us to know that this life in which we live in now can only offer us so much. In fact, a better way to look at it is to remember is how much is the worth of our possession or our achievement in light of eternity.
If we hold tight to the things we think are valuable now, we are going to waste our time on the wrong things.
The story of the Rich Fool reminds us of our contentment in what we have from God; it reminds us of the worth of temporary items or achievements.
The story Jesus shared was about a farmer who had an amazing harvest one year, all the crops were too big to fit into his barn. Instead of sharing the rest of his crops that overflowed his barn with his friends and siblings, the farmer built a new barn that was bigger than the original one. But God challenged him and asked him if he was to die tonight what would happen to his crops? (Luke 12 v 13-20 abbreviated)
The labour and effort that this man had put into his barn was wasted, he had enough when he had filled his barn but he was greedy and he wanted more. The man was rich in his earthly possessions but he wasn’t rich in the eyes of God as his greed had overcome him.
So this week the challenge is this, what are you storing up? What are you aiming for? Is there one thing that you could spend less time on or give up completely to give that time to God?