DGBC Prayers and reflections for Sunday 29th March – for use in conjunction with notes in our weekly newsletter – available on our home page
A reminder that our prayers and reflections for this week will appear on this page on Sunday morning, with additional resources available in our weekly ‘Keeping Connected’ bulletin which will be available on the home page.
You may also view the video recording on our Facebook page on Sunday morning.
DGBC Prayers and reflections for Mothering Sunday – for use in conjunction with notes in our weekly newsletter – available on our home page at http://www.dgbc.org.uk/
A short bit of news about how we are doing church together, whilst apart. Tomorrow morning, we will post a further pre-recorded video of prayers and reflections to help us worship together in our homes. Watch out for our weekly bulletin, to be circulated today, which will include suggested additional prayers and resources to use alongside those prayers and reflections.
With our love and prayers
Matthew & Pauline Scott
We pray for every leader, every family, every individual feeling their way in the darkness at this time. May we know that Jesus is still the Light of the World. And may we find the ways in which we are called to be the light of the world, too.
Last month, Pauline and I attended the Southern Counties Baptist Association Ministers’ and Leaders’ annual conference in Cheltenham, where the keynote speaker was Glen Marshall, Principal of the Northern Baptist College in Manchester.
Often, when God wants to confirm something that is settled in his mind, he will speak to us two or three times on the same subject. So my ears pricked up when, in his final session, Glen Marshall said that when we commit ourselves to God’s mission in the world, the ‘great priority’ is to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33). After all, it was Jesus’ priority during three years of ministry and during 40 days of preparation after his resurrection.
As we are exploring what it means to seek God’s kingdom first in our current sermon series, it seemed a timely confirmation that this is what God wants us to be looking at right now. Not only that, but several colleagues attending the conference said that their churches are also currently studying this subject.
So, let’s be encouraged that we are not alone in being prompted to focus on kingdom-seeking at the moment! A few of Glen Marshall’s observations are therefore worth repeating here, as we continue our reflections.
Firstly, he pointed out that in Matthew’s gospel we’re called to seek and pray for the kingdom, but never to deliver it. Our commitment is to faithfulness. Success or failure is in God’s hands. That confirms something that we realised as we discussed our church values last year. Glen argued that this liberates us for Christian service by liberating us from ultimate responsibility.
He went on to point out that God can use whoever he wants to pursue the kingdom – the Church is not the only agent of the kingdom. So we need to discern which individuals and agencies God is calling us to work alongside in our local community for the sake of his kingdom. For example, we are able to show God’s love through the Carers’ group and through Windsor Foodshare, partly because local authority agencies refer those in need to us.
And finally, the real challenge! People should be able to get a taste of the kingdom from our church. We’re not perfect, so they’ll probably get a few unhelpful additives as well… but overall, does our presence in Dedworth give Dedworth a taste of God’s kingdom? Because that should be our priority.
With my love and prayers
As we aim to prioritise the values of God’s kingdom, I am reminded that on several occasions in recent years we have been reminded of Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 6:33 to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…’
Jesus knows just how difficult a challenge this is – earlier in Matthew 6 he says that our giving, our prayers and our fasting should be seen only by God because he knows that our motive is often to draw attention to ourselves rather than God. He tells us to store up ‘treasures in heaven’, describing the impossibility of serving both God and wealth, because he knows that the temporary benefits of material things make us self-sufficient rather than dependent on God. He goes on to tell us not to worry about how to provide for our needs, precisely because we are prone to worry! Yet, in a world damaged by the sin of selfishness and greed, many people are very understandably anxious about where their next meal will come from, or how they will stay warm.
Jesus’ solution to these common issues – to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom…’ is both simple and radical. But sometimes the ‘simplest’ things in life are the hardest to do. The gentle tune of the old song ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ masks the fact that as this is about the battle to gain ground for the Kingdom of God, this task is more like trench warfare than a stroll in the park! The modern translation ‘strive first for the kingdom of God…’ highlights the challenges we face in restoring God to his rightful place. It is a battle to keep our motives pure. The attraction of wealth or self-sufficiency is alluring; the worries of day to day life are overwhelming; even the burdens of church responsibilities can easily suppress God’s calling on our lives, although of course ideally they should be very closely aligned!
Jesus’ call to ‘…strive first for the kingdom of God…’ is a call to join him in the battle to introduce God’s kingdom on earth. So our latest sermon series will look at what God’s kingdom looks like, and what it means to strive for it. Thankfully we don’t strive in our own strength – the Holy Spirit equips us for this battle. And Jesus promises that when we put God’s kingdom first, then we will not lose out – all the things we need in life will be given to us as well.
With my love and prayers
Last Sunday morning, we learnt from the wise men following the star that led them to Jesus, and challenged ourselves to be ‘stars’ that point people to him.
Entering another New Year presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the events of 2019 in order to allow God to shape our thinking and actions as we aim to point people to Jesus in 2020.
Pauline occasionally reminds me that knowing our history can prevent us from repeating past mistakes and help us learn from past successes. That principle is no less relevant in personal and church life than it is in national and international relationships!
So, what have we done in 2019 that we need to build on in 2020?
If I had to single out one significant development, it would be our values statement, which reflects something of who we are and who we want to be as a church community. The idea that we want to prioritise God’s Kingdom ways by expressing our faith through acts and attitudes of love, and to do so with integrity, is summarised in our text for 2020, ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’ (Galatians 5:6)
As we do so, I believe God will lead us further into his vision for our future together. We do not yet have every piece of that vision in place, but 2019 also showed us that God unfolds his vision for us as we worship and serve him through the year. As we realised last week, we did not start 2019 knowing that the single most significant area of growth in our ministry would be Messy Zone. But as we responded to what God was already doing in Messy Church, it became clear that Messy Zone was something that we could offer as a new way to point families in our community to Jesus.
So, as we continue to focus on God’s Kingdom priorities in 2020, may he give us 20:20 vision to see the ways in which he wants us to show love as an expression of our faith in Jesus this year. And may we act with integrity by being true to his calling, by becoming increasingly responsive to God’s leading through the Holy Spirit as he works in us and through us day by day.
With my love and prayers for a happy and peaceful New Year
Our Advent messages this year focus on the idea that Jesus coming into this world is a past, present and future event. We are used to reflecting on the fact that Jesus came to us 2,000 years ago in the person of a tiny baby, born to be the Saviour of the world. And Advent is equally an opportunity, which we sometimes neglect, to look forward to the time when he will come again and gather all of creation to himself (Ephesians 1:10) and restore things to the way they ought to be.
But we live in between those times, so I wonder whether Advent is for the ‘here and now’, as well as being an opportunity to remember the events leading up to Jesus’ incarnation and to anticipate his second coming? In what way does Jesus ‘come to us’ now?
The obvious answer is that he sends his Holy Spirit to help us live for God today. Jesus told his disciples on several occasions that after he had left them, he would send the Holy Spirit to help them – and us – to continue his work. And if we, the Church, are continuing Jesus’ work then, as the body of Christ, we have a daily opportunity to bring Jesus into the lives of everyone we encounter, and into each other’s lives.
However, although Jesus takes the initiative in coming to us, he does not impose himself on us. He invites us to accept his offer to be ‘Immanuel – God with us’. We therefore need to respond. James encourages us to ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’ (James 4:8), and the great passage in Hebrews 10 makes it clear that we are able to draw near to God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
So the initiative is now with us. If advent means ‘waiting’, perhaps in these ‘in-between times’ God waits for our response to his first coming, just as much as we wait for his second coming? This Advent season, why not take the opportunity to draw close to God again, so that you may experience the joy of him drawing close to you in a new way?
With my love and prayers
From time to time, we reflect on a literal understanding of ‘re-membering’ as involving putting back together something that has been dis-membered. When we are ‘re-membered’, broken, damaged and dismembered aspects of our past lives are put together again; mind, body and soul in the present tense enjoy wholeness; and helplessness in the face of an unknown future gives way to resurrection hope.
Our thoughts are often linked with Jesus’ instructions to share bread and wine in remembrance of him. At this time of year they also point us towards our Remembrance Day services, marking the sacrifice of fallen servicemen. But there is another, arguably even more significant act of re-membering to be found in our Bibles. It’s found in the encounter between Jesus and the thief on the cross who pleaded with him ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ answer, ‘today, you will be with me in Paradise’, points to the significance of the cross as the place where Jesus re-members the living; where broken lives are put back together through God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace, and through which ultimately God’s image in us is fully restored as we take our place in his kingdom. Just as we remember Jesus when we share bread and wine, so he re-membered us when he went to the cross in order to take us from our spiritually dead state and restore us to the way God intended us to be – living and active members of his family reflecting God’s image.
One way that we seek God’s grace to heal our brokenness is to offer services of remembrance in which we bring God our feelings and circumstances in the face of loss. Remembrance Sunday is one such opportunity, focusing on lives lost in the horrors of war, and pointing us to the constant need to ‘…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18) Another opportunity is offered at our ‘Lost and Found’ service at 5pm on Sunday 1st December, when we will take time to give thanks for loved ones who we have lost in other circumstances (however long ago or however recently).
My prayer is that in remembering those we have loved and lost, we will reaffirm and give thanks for all that they mean to us; so that instead of being shaped by our loss we are shaped by the gains we still have from knowing them in the first place, which have helped us to be the people God calls us to be.
With my love and prayers
Today we revisit the strength of taking a partnership approach, as we continue to examine love as one of our core values. Those of us who attended last Sunday evening’s celebration service at Slough, when the local cluster of Baptist churches in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead met to worship together, heard our regional minister Joth Hunt speak on the subject. Looking at the Apostle Paul’s relationships with his co-workers as outlined in Colossians 4:7-11, he unpacked how our partnership or togetherness as Christians is strengthened by (i) the power of team, as we work together rather than in isolation; (ii) the power of news, as we share our triumphs and trials; (iii) the power of encouragement as we draw alongside each other, and (iv) the power of prayer, as we bring each other’s needs and situations to God. You can hear Joth’s full message by visiting http://www.sloughbaptistchurch.org.uk/churchbuilder/medialib.php?id=756 .
For over 400 years, the Baptist church in Britain has not only recognised the value of each individual gathered community of believers, but has also promoted mutual interdependence with our brothers and sisters in other congregations. You can read much more on the Baptist Union website, which gives interesting information on our Baptist history, and also explains the values and practices which help to make us who we are, and which alongside our own church values and practices help to identify the role which God is calling us to play in the wider Church – http://www.baptist.org.uk/ .
Of course, in addition to the relationships that we have with other Baptist churches, we recognise that we are part of the wider Church community across other Christian denominations, and so our partnerships with other churches in Windsor through the work of Churches Together in Windsor and of Windsor Christian Action are equally important.
These mutual partnerships are vital in church life, expressing as they do the covenant love and sacrificial service which God calls his people to show both inside and outside the church. Whether it’s working on one of the many teams in our own congregation; enjoying the fellowship of cluster services; joining with neighbouring churches in running holiday clubs or night shelters; supporting our link missionaries, or any number of other initiatives and callings, our primary purpose is to worship God together in fellowship, because it is through our loving concern for His people that the world recognises us as His disciples and His kingdom grows.
Let me encourage you today that each one of us is vital in this work. Never underestimate what God is calling you to do, no matter how small it seems, and take up the challenge of this shared ministry as you find your role in the body of Christ here in this church and community.
With my love and prayers
As we start a sermon series looking at some of the ‘Kingdom values’ associated with following Jesus, I am reminded of a reflection that I shared on this page last year, which bears repeating.
At a conference that Pauline and I attended in October, we were challenged to consider what our values are – in other words, what do we place most value on in life and ministry?
For some people, the answer might be something like ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. For others it might be health and strength – the ability to play sport, or to get out and enjoy God’s creation. For still others it might be peace – the opportunity to think and reflect, or to enjoy freedom from conflict.
All of those – and many more – are good things, and help to shape who we are, to form our identity and to help us understand who we are called to be, either individually or as a church. As a church over the last few months, we have responded to the challenge to consider our values, and agreed that we felt that God is calling us to particularly value his Kingdom, love, faith and integrity. These are the values that we will reflect on in the next few weeks.
Jesus told several stories, or parables, to illustrate that in his view the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom of God) is what he values above all, and that it should therefore be what we value most highly too. In Matthew 13, he likens it to ‘…treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…’ and to ‘…a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ (Matt 13:44-46) In other words, God’s kingdom, which Jesus came to establish, is worth more than everything we own, everyone we love, and everything we enjoy.
That means that our highest value is to seek God’s kingdom. It’s an attitude which Jesus promises will be rewarded: – ‘…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33) It’s our way of acknowledging that ultimately, God is in charge. It’s his kingdom, and we’re his Church – whichever church (small ‘c’) we belong to.
As the writer and Baptist minister Roger Sutton puts it, we need to develop and nurture an outward-looking kingdom mentality rather than an inward-looking empire mentality. When God’s kingdom becomes our highest value, all other aspects of who God calls us to be and what he calls us to do will fall into place.
With my love and prayers
“Practise hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
I could end there, and that would be a helpful appeal that many of you would act upon – but I’ve got a whole page to fill…!
Someone once pointed out to me that many people find this a lonely time of year as activities such as Home Groups, which form a lifeline for them throughout the rest of the year, close down for the summer. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to run the Bible Course during the summer holidays, and perhaps one of the reasons why it is being so well attended!
We are richly blessed with being part of a church that offers a warm welcome whenever we meet together, or when other groups use our building. But I was challenged by a message that we recently received from Moorlands Bible College after we hosted a training day for children’s and youth workers here. Addressed to Wayne Dixon, the local schools worker who had organised the day, it simply said ‘Thank you for your hospitality, Wayne – great church to hold a training day in and they know how to do hospitality well.’
Thank you to those members of our hospitality team who did such a great job! But I haven’t shared that just to pat ourselves on the back… it challenged me because it gives us something to live up to!
So I want to challenge us to extend our welcome. During this summer, let’s all continue building relationships with each other in our homes over coffee or a meal; let’s take the chance to invite someone we know less well. And on Sunday mornings, why not develop the mindset that church starts when the doors open and not just when the service starts at 10.30? That way, any visitors or newcomers (who inevitably and very politely arrive in plenty of time for the service) will be met by a critical mass of DGBC regulars. And yes, tea and coffee are normally available before the service if you need something to wake you up!
Finally, whatever your plans are for the summer, may you be refreshed by someone’s act of hospitality, and may you find opportunities to refresh others in the same way. And as we continue to practise hospitality – both by giving it and by receiving it – may we all be equipped to start a new season in the life of the church in God’s strength.
With my love and prayers
Physical journeys often become a significant part of our spiritual journeys. At Sarah’s baptism last week, we heard her testimony about the time, last year, when she was carrying out medical work in Malawi which included treating people who had been bitten by rabid dogs. They knew that one 10-year-old boy had been bitten, but they didn’t know where to find him. It was only after Sarah had prayed – almost as a last resort – that he was found and his life was saved. And it was in
answering Sarah’s prayer that God drew her back to himself and she found her way to DGBC last September and into our baptistery last week! Her physical journey to Malawi changed the direction of her spiritual journey and became a significant part of her story.
We find the same sort of thing countless times in the Bible. On the Emmaus Road, the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus sent them back where they had come from so that they were ready for what God was about to do next. On the road to Damascus, Saul encountered Jesus and he was shown his true purpose in life as the apostle Paul – making disciples, instead of destroying them! Around the same time, the apostle Peter was travelling from place to place proclaiming the Gospel to Jewish people. When he was staying in a place called Joppa, he had a very timely vision from God that taught him that the Gospel was given for the whole world, not just for Jews. As soon as he emerged from that vision, he received visitors asking him to go and talk to a Roman centurion named Cornelius – someone who, just a short while earlier, he wouldn’t have dreamt of sharing the Gospel with.
On each occasion, God met in a special way with people on a journey to accomplish his purposes in and through their lives.
Summer is often a time of journeying as we travel on holiday and encounter different people, different cultures and different ideas – or simply as we rest from the busyness of daily life. None of these people were actively expecting to encounter God on their journeys. Maybe you don’t expect to either. But at the same time, don’t be surprised if you do! And be ready and willing to respond by making your physical journey part of your spiritual journey, with a story to tell of how God has been at work.
With my love and prayers,
‘How do you identify yourself?’ That was one of the questions asked by David Coffey, as he addressed the conference that some of our deacons attended with me last week. ‘If you were a stick of rock, what word/s would run through your middle?’
He spoke as someone who has held several impressive-sounding titles, including General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and President of the Baptist World Alliance, as well as several posts as a local Baptist minister. The question is equally relevant to any role or position of responsibility that we may hold, whether it is as a parent or carer, a Chief Executive or a student… ‘How do you identify yourself?’
His point was a powerful one. As Christian believers, we should not find our identity in the role or roles that we undertake or are called into. To do so leads to serving the wrong master – in his case, the Baptist Union, or the Baptist World Alliance, or a local church. ‘Whatever other title you hold,’ he said, ‘keep hold of the title ‘disciple of Jesus’. Those should be the words that ran through your middle if you were a stick of rock, because only then are you able to serve the right master.’
He quoted Jesus’ statement in Mark 12:30, about the greatest commandment being to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’, and challenged us to reflect on the fact that if we identify ourselves first and foremost as disciples of Jesus, everything else falls into its rightful place.
If we love the Lord with all our heart, we will love him with right desires.
If we love the Lord with all our soul, we will love him with the right direction.
If we love the Lord with all our mind, we will love him with right thoughts.
And if we love the Lord with all our strength, we will love him with right actions.
As we celebrate Pentecost, we remember the day when the Holy Spirit filled the early church to enable them to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The same Holy Spirit fills God’s people today – and the branding or identity that follows is simply this: – ‘disciple of Jesus’.
So, ‘How do you identify yourself? If you were a stick of rock, what word/s would run through your middle?’
With my love and prayers
On many occasions, Pauline and I have had the joy and encouragement of working alongside friends who have had a real sense that God was calling them to do something new for him. It has been inspirational to see how often these experiences have taken them (and sometimes us!) out of their comfort zones, as they sensed God challenging them to start work that in many cases they would not have chosen to do themselves.
On each occasion, common qualities of character shown by our friends have been an availability to serve God’s agenda and purposes and a willingness to do things his way and not theirs. The Bible has many examples of such attitudes.
Perhaps availability is rarely expressed more clearly than Isaiah’s response to God’s call, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ ‘…Here am I; send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8). And in 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faces the incredibly scary challenge of being told simply to ‘stand firm’ in the middle of the battlefield and allow God to fight the battle for him, because ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’ (2 Chronicles 20:15).
Jesus himself embodies these attitudes in his availability to be sent to rescue a needy world from the consequences of our sin as, for our sakes, he ‘…became poor, so that [we] through his poverty might become rich.’ (2 Corinthians 8:9) And, as we have once again remembered over Easter, he demonstrated a willingness to do things God’s way and not his as in the face of the most extreme pressure he prayed ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42)
Isaiah, Jehoshaphat and many others, but most significantly, Jesus, show us that the way to see God at work is to make ourselves available to him, and to be prepared to stand firm as he does things his way. So, in what way is God calling you to make yourself available today? And in what area of your life is he asking you to let go of your agenda and allow him to do things his way because ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’?
With my love and prayers
Our ‘Messy Church’ service is so named because its founder recognised that people often seek God in the midst of a messy life – whether that is the mess of broken relationships or heart-breaking loss; failed ventures or challenging health issues; low self-esteem or arrogant pride; wilful sin or unfortunate circumstances. It is to some extent incidental that Messy Church explores who God is through the mess of various craft activities. Nevertheless, it was entirely appropriate that one of those activities – the child-like colouring in of the word ‘LOVE’ – led one of our Messy Church congregation just before Christmas to observe ‘Look! Love is shining
through the mess!’ For us, it came to represent and describe the story of Christmas, of how Jesus entered this world not in the splendour of a palace, but in the squalour of a stable, to bring God’s love to us.
Now, as we approach Easter, we are faced once more with the reality of God’s love shining through the mess – through the messy anguish of Gethsemane, as Jesus wrestled with the harsh reality of his calling; through the messy injustice of multiple trials as those in authority contrived to sentence him to death; and through the messy violence of cruel beatings and an agonising execution, as Jesus went to the cross for us.
As he did so, Jesus showed what he meant when he said ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13) – so God’s sacrificial love shone through the mess on that first Good Friday. And the power of God’s love shone through the mess when, on the first Easter Day, Jesus rose to show that death was defeated. That is the message of Easter, and it is the redemptive heart of the Christian faith that enables us to know God’s forgiveness and new life.
Soon after Easter, we will start a sermon series that looks at how various Bible characters found God’s love in the mess of their lives, and how they made a new start with his help. If you have your own stories that you are happy to share, of how God rescued you from any mess that you have faced, it would be good to include some personal testimonies alongside those messages, to reinforce the Christian hope that God’s love shines through the mess.
With my love and prayers
The theme of the recent regional conference for ministers and leaders that Pauline and I attended in Cheltenham last month was ‘one new humanity’ – a phrase taken from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:15), where he writes about Jewish and Gentile believers becoming united in their shared faith in Jesus.
The keynote speakers, Dr Kang-San Tan, who is General Director of BMS World Mission, and his wife Laun Tan, shared their experience of churches around the world. They observed – indeed, warned – that all too often, churches become in some way monocultural. Even though they may include people from many ethnic backgrounds, they still manage to be from the same socio-economic class, or attract people of similar ages and generally be filled with people who are all very comfortable with each other. In other words, they begin to resemble clubs of people just like themselves – comfortable places where you are not challenged too much by the differing opinions and experiences of your neighbour because they are very likely to agree with everything you already think. We were challenged to see this sort of gathering as being very different from God’s desire to create a new humanity, where Jew and Gentile came together, ate together, debated together and became something new – a diverse culture, united but not uniform.
The problem with being monocultural in this way is that it leads to a ‘consumer church’ attitude, in which we look for what our church can offer us, instead of a servant-hearted attitude in which we look for what God can give our church through our unique gifting and calling. As Pauline reminded us last Sunday, no calling is too unimportant to be taken seriously, and no service we can offer is too minor to give God pleasure, or too unimportant for the life of his church.
From his worldwide experience with BMS and his reading of the early church’s experience in the New Testament, Kang-San Tan observes that Christianity expands by crossing cultural boundaries, but shrinks when it becomes monocultural. I wonder what cultural boundaries God is calling us to cross at this time? Those between young and old? Rich and poor? Male and female? British and overseas? Brexiteer and remainer? The list goes on… so I pray that we will develop a culture that shows God’s love by our acceptance of and love for each other, whoever we are.
With my love and prayers
Reading Mark chapter 5 recently, I was deeply struck by three words that stood out in verse 19. A demon-possessed man had just been healed by Jesus (and his many demons had been allowed to enter a herd of pigs, which had then spectacularly thrown themselves off a cliff into the sea).
Understandably, the man who had been healed wanted to follow Jesus as he departed for his next destination. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? You or I would want to do exactly that! But then we read Jesus’ response, and it sounds like a complete rejection: – ‘But Jesus refused…’
So, why would Jesus refuse the man’s request to go with him? Reading on, we’re told that he then said ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…’ and that the man did just that, to the amazement of everyone who heard his testimony. In doing so, he discovered Jesus’ call and purpose for his life.
Because he knows what’s best far better than we do, God does not always live up to our expectations. Instead, he exceeds them. Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it like this: –
‘…my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
So, next time we find ourselves disappointed by Jesus’ apparent refusal for us to do what we think is good, it’s worth listening to what he says next. His rejection of our apparently perfectly reasonable request might actually turn out to be his call to our most significant ministry in life.
With my love and prayers
In reflecting on the New Year, the author of The Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel, writes: – ‘I belong to a squash club, which is also a gym. Each year on 1 January they bring in extra gym equipment. The place is packed out. By about 7 January, they move out all the extra equipment, as most people have given up their New Year’s resolution, and the club returns to normal!
Get fit… Lose weight… Reduce drinking… Stop smoking… Get out of debt… There is nothing wrong with making these common New Year’s resolutions. Of course, all of us make resolutions that we fail to keep.
The good news is that each year is an opportunity for a fresh start. But then so is each week. Every Sunday is the first day of the week – a new beginning. Actually, every day is an opportunity for a new beginning.’
The Bible is full of stories of people’s new beginnings from the most challenging of circumstances, because it is the account of how God redeems us from the situations – large and small – that we find ourselves in (and get ourselves into!) Just think of the new beginnings that God brought about for Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah, David, Mary & Joseph, Peter, Paul and countless other characters from biblical history. Now think of the new beginnings that God has brought about in your life, and give thanks for his faithfulness. But, as the ‘works in progress’ that we inevitably are, we know that there is both the potential and the need for more new beginnings ahead of us. Some of them may take the form of New Year resolutions.
‘I want to read the Bible more’ – Why not use a resource that helps you read it in one year? (It’s not too late to start!)
‘I want to learn to pray more effectively’ – How about keeping a journal of your prayer requests, and perhaps more importantly, of what God says to you?
‘I want to be more available for other people’ – Perhaps you could start by spending time with them over a cup of coffee?
‘I want to rediscover who God made me to be’ – Sometimes we need to give up some of the things that we couldn’t say ‘no’ to, in order to recapture a good rhythm of work and rest.
Whatever your desire or need for a new beginning is at the start of 2019, remember that every day throughout the year is an opportunity for God to continue his redemptive work in your life. This year, may you find that he continues to bring about the new beginnings that you most need so that, by his grace, you can live for Him.
With my love and prayers