Let Go, Let God

We are in one of my favourite times of year. I adore the colours of this season: the reds, oranges and yellows; and the ground carpeted with crisp, or soggy, leaves. There is nothing quite like a crisp, autumn afternoon. Blue sky, bright sun with a bite to the air. I’m a bit of an anomaly though in that I also love pouring rain making the streets glisten. I’ve lost some of the joy of a walk in the rain now that my age means I need to wear glasses, but still, the sound of rain will always bring a calmness to my heart. Nature puts on the most glorious show at this time of year, and I find myself more grateful for it each time it comes around.

One of the things I have learnt from the trees in particular at this time of year is, what a delight it is to let go. Our lives are heavily burdened with worries and concerns. As a parent, I constantly worry about my child and whether I am bringing him up to be the best person he can be. The joy of a faith is that we are told to lay our burdens down. 

1 Peter 5v6,7 says:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Now, I have been accused before that what I am saying is ‘just ignore the problem and don’t try to fix it’. This is absolutely not the case. Note verse 5 says to humble ourselves before God. This is not a tossing of rubbish before our Heavenly Father. This is a laying down of something we find too hard to carry always. It’s an acknowledgement that we have a Father who cares and is there to help. He wants to walk alongside us in our pain and anguish. Our worries can become so overwhelming as to cause us to forget whose child we are. Letting go and letting God gives us space to find who we are IN HIM.

Thank you Autumn for this lesson! Please enjoy this song which speaks of what I have touched on.

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Living water

Fountains in Coventry city centre, with words from John 4v14.

To us, a fountain is something purely built as decoration and it serves no real purpose other than to look nice. The image above is from a recent visit to my home town of Coventry, and the fountain here is just a nice attraction on a warm day.

To those in Biblical times, however, the fountain was a naturally occurring spring of water, which was vital and life-giving. Communities would be built up around these sources of drinking water, providing a life-line to both locals and travellers to the area.

Jesus said…“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Jesus used this as an analogy for the Gospel. No matter how much water we drink, we’ll eventually be thirsty again, and yet God’s words of truth, the good news of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ, provides the way to eternal life. The sure hope this provides is the best thing for a community to build itself around, to make the most of drinking the living water that Jesus provides.

Jesus…cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:37-38

Love

When the word “love” is mentioned, we probably think about the emotion between people, whether that is a couple, parents and their children, families or groups of friends. In this context, it is a positive expression of care, thoughtfulness, happiness.  Much has been written about this sort of love and one poem, by Robert Burns, has produced what is perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of love: a red rose.

“My love is like a red, red rose”

Love can also be applied to a liking for a particular activity or occupation. For example, you can have a love of gardening, or painting, or walking.  It means you enjoy doing these sorts of things and probably spend more time on them than on other activities.

These concepts of love are positive and reflect things which we do naturally and find pleasant.

But we can also show love in another way.  In the Bible, we are told to love our enemies.  This may be quite difficult in practice, and not something we would particularly enjoy or even wish to do.  Jesus says

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”  (Luke 6v35)

The apostle Paul tells us

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13v4-8)

So, we don’t have to like our enemies to love them.  We should forgive them and not harbour any grudge. We should seek their wellbeing and not feel pleased if they suffer misfortune.  This isn’t easy, but we have two wonderful examples to follow:

 Jesus himself gave his life on the cross for us, and told his disciples beforehand

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15v13)

Our Heavenly Father too demonstrated His love for us in that, despite our sinful natures, He

 “ … so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3v16)

God be honoured – how do you feel about that?

Here at our small church hall, we, our family and friends were able to consider whether we might start meeting on the premises again. This has indeed been possible for most of us since late August with the necessary work having been done to enable us to do so with respect to COVID requirements. Those of us not in a personal position to do so continue to tune in via Zoom, which has been serving us well. This has been a source of great joy, and it is right and proper that we express our thanks to our Lord God – our Heavenly Father – for the opportunity. We recently recorded a hymn which enabled us to do just that. It starts  

“Hallelujah, God be honoured:
True and righteous all His ways;
Praise our God, all ye that fear Him,
Praise the Lord, His servants praise.”

The Bible message is challenging but, in this difficult world, it has a truth – and rewards! – for us all; not just in snippets though – try to find the full understanding, then you will be able to rejoice!

This is a church in Abbot’s Leigh, a village to the north of Bristol, which gives its name to the tune of our hymn.

How does it look on me?

I saw a quote recently which got me thinking: “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” (Rachel Zoe – American fashion designer). I think this is something that’s true for us all, whether we’re a dedicated follower of fashion, or not. What we wear tends to say something about us – from the subtle to the overt!

The Bible frequently uses clothing as a metaphor.

Image of a wardrobe full of clothes, with text of Colossians 3:12 “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

Equally, and arguably more so, our behaviour speaks volumes about who we are, what our values are, how we’re feeling, at any given point.

As a Christian, I am very aware (though not as much as I should be a lot of the time!) that how I behave and act can speak volumes about me as a person. Not only that, but if I am saying that I follow Jesus and am endeavouring to behave like him, I have the power to make or break someone’s understanding of what he was like. What a responsibility!  

The quote I have used in the image above is one of my favourite verses – talking about characteristics as if they were clothes – things that people see first. Like a uniform helps us identify people and the organisations they belong to, how I behave ought to help someone identify me as a follower of Jesus.

He highlighted this to his followers at the time:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35

So – what are you wearing? What can someone tell about you, by the way you behave? We each have the opportunity to say something about who we are, often without saying a word.

Normality resumes

I write this blog as we as a church plan to open our building back up again.

I’m jolly nervous about it. My nerves are nothing to do with not wanting to see my church family, nor is it anything to do with any fears around Covid. I am very much looking forward to seeing my family again, and as a double vaccinated, mask wearing, privileged healthcare worker, I am very careful and try my best to stick to guidelines.

My nerves come from the growth my faith has been through in the last year. For the last 18 months, since the government ‘stay at home’ message, we have moved to services online. This has had its challenges, and positives too.

The Bible tell us that ‘where two or three gather, I am with them’. God isn’t restricted to us all being in the same building, under the same roof. If we join a zoom meeting with the purpose of thinking about Him, God’s presence is there.

Throughout lockdown, I have enjoyed joining a variety of services. I have enjoyed participating in, and being a part of, worship and study. I have enjoyed a different way of remembering God and Jesus and what was done for us. In the same way that God doesn’t need us all to be in the same room, He doesn’t need our services to all follow the same prescribed order. Throughout lockdown, church has no longer felt like just ‘going through the motions’.

As we return to almost normal, I am comforted that God will be there with us. He knows we are all different; after all, He made us.

1 Corinthians 12v14-27 describes the church as all being one body made up of different members. These verses talk about us all having different gifts of equal importance. I take a huge comfort from these verses as they assure me that God does not want robots or carbon copies all worshipping Him the same way. Not everyone will find comfort in the formal way our services are laid out. Some people will, and that’s great, but not all. I fear the scrutiny of my spiritual family as someone who would like things to change a little. Lockdown showed me more fulfilling (for me) ways to worship and remember Christ – how will it feel to be constricted again by tradition?

So, as we return to in-person worship, I am left wondering – are there any others who can relate to my nerves? What else can we do with our times of worship and study? I’d be interested in any thoughts readers may have.

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Loving your neighbour during a pandemic

In this most abnormal of times in which we are currently living, wearing a mask and getting a Covid vaccine are very normal things to do, and the overwhelming evidence is that both of these actions have done, and continue to do much to help the situation. This is not only the case in terms of doing something to protect our own health, but they actually help others too, by preventing the spread of the virus.

Whilst this is the majority view, backed by science and common sense, unfortunately there are fringe conspiracy views too which can often gain traction through social media and become widespread. Without wanting to delve into specific examples, let’s just say that, unfortunately, people of faith are not immune from falling for this sort of thing.

Whilst the law (in Scotland, at least) continues to mandate masks being worn whilst on public transport and in shops, Christians need to understand that they have a duty to obey the law.

In Romans 13 v 1-2 Paul says: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Clearly there is a caveat with that, because if the law of the land contradicts wisdom from the Bible, then Christians should treat God’s law as being more important. Obviously, wearing a mask during a pandemic isn’t specifically covered in the Bible, and although individuals may have personal views on the rights or wrongs of a particular requirement, that should not stop them from obeying the law, both in letter, but more importantly, in spirit, because it is intended to be done for the protection and reassurance of other people that we come into contact with.

A picture of a woman wearing a mask being vaccinated. The
text is… “Love your neighbour as yourself” Romans 13:9

Paul continues in Romans 13 to explain why we should exercise our conscience by doing what is right, and in v 9-10 he goes back to the words of Jesus in explaining that our motivation in all of this is to show love: The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Jesus showed the ultimate act of love in giving up his life to offer the gift of salvation to all. Very little is asked of us in return. I can think of few easier ways in which anyone can show love to their neighbour in 2021 than by making sure that they ‘do their bit’ by wearing a mask when out and about.

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