New Year’s Resolutions

Many people make New Year’s resolutions. At the start of 2019 no doubt some of us will be planning to do one or more of the following:

    • more exercise
    • join a gym
    • start a diet
    • take up a new hobby
    • change jobs

The beginning of a new year is often the time when we look at our lives and consider what changes we would like to see in them. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions are often easy to make but harder to do!

During the last 12 months my church has been going through a challenging time. We are in the process of merging with one of our sister churches in our parish and appointing a new rector to lead both the new merged church and the parish. We were hoping to complete this in 2018 but it still has not happened yet.

I have found that it has been very easy to get distracted whilst awaiting the completion of the merger and new rector appointment. Endless speculation of what is going to happen and when is not ideal. Although I have prayed about the situation I have certainly lost focus myself.

Therefore, for me the most important New Year’s resolution is to get my priorities right and focused correctly. To that end I was pleased to hear that our parish will be starting a Christianity Explored course at the end of January. The leaflet that has been produced for the course contains the following wording:

“….. it is vital that we have an opportunity to focus our efforts and energies first and foremost into the rediscovery of what is referred to in the book of Revelation as our ‘first love’: that good news about Jesus which not only gave birth to us as Christian believers, but which we are called first and foremost to live out and proclaim to the world.”

Your situation might be very different to my one. However, I think for all of us it would beneficial to make our New Year’s resolution to rediscover our first love for Christ.

Walking in the Truth

The following devotion is taken from the Heartlight website. It is from the “Morning and Evening” daily devotions written by Charles H Spurgeon.

For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth (3 John 1:3)

The truth was in Gaius, and Gaius walked in the truth. If the first had not been the case, the second could never have occurred; and if the second could not be said of him the first would have been a mere pretence. Truth must enter into the soul, penetrate and saturate it, or else it is of no value. Doctrines held as a matter of creed are like bread in the hand, which ministers no nourishment to the frame; but doctrine accepted by the heart, is as food digested, which, by assimilation, sustains and builds up the body. In us truth must be a living force, an active energy, an indwelling reality, a part of the woof and warp of our being. If it be in us, we cannot henceforth part with it. A man may lose his garments or his limbs, but his inward parts are vital, and cannot be torn away without absolute loss of life. A Christian can die, but he cannot deny the truth. Now it is a rule of nature that the inward affects the outward, as light shines from the centre of the lantern through the glass: when, therefore, the truth is kindled within, its brightness soon beams forth in the outward life and conversation. It is said that the food of certain worms colours the cocoons of silk which they spin: and just so the nutriment upon which a man’s inward nature lives gives a tinge to every word and deed proceeding from him. To walk in the truth, imports a life of integrity, holiness, faithfulness, and simplicity-the natural product of those principles of truth which the gospel teaches, and which the Spirit of God enables us to receive. We may judge of the secrets of the soul by their manifestation in the man’s conversation. Be it ours to-day, O gracious Spirit, to be ruled and governed by thy divine authority, so that nothing false or sinful may reign in our hearts, lest it extend its malignant influence to our daily walk among men.

 

Great Expectations

Sometimes when we look ahead to a forthcoming event we are full of excitement and expectation of what it will bring. For example we may be looking forward to our summer holidays with great expectations of the enjoyable time we will have. However I wonder if our Christian life is also full of great expectations?

When we go to church each Sunday do we have an expectation that we will meet with God? I expect that if we are being honest we sometimes go out of habit and maybe our expectations are low or sadly maybe non-existent.

At my church once a month in the evening we have a modern contemporary worship service. I personally enjoy this service and generally speaking I have an expectation that I will meet with God during this time. However when I attend our normal morning service I do not have the same level of expectation. Why would this be?

I think part of the answer is that the evening service is monthly rather than weekly and the style of the service is significantly different to the normal format of worship I experience each week. It also helps that I’m not on any rotas for the evening service so I can 100% concentrate on it. However some of the fault obviously rests with me as I should be prayerfully preparing myself before I attend the morning service with a view to meet with God.

There is another church whose morning service I have attended a few times recently. I also find when I attend that church there is an expectation I will meet God during the service. When thinking about this particular church it’s fair to say that I really enjoy their times of worship. It seems to create an atmosphere where you just expect to meet with God.

It’s not just at church though where we should have great expectations to meet with God. There ought to be this expectation each day. When we read our bibles we should be expecting God to meet and speak to us through the scriptures. However there are occasions if we are being honest with ourselves when we can regard our bible reading as a tick box exercise. This is not how bible reading is supposed to be.

Likewise the same thing can happen with prayer too if we are not careful. When we pray it’s not just a case of going through our prayer list and then getting on with the rest of our day. Instead we come to the living God and through the blood of Jesus we enter into His presence. If we consider the wonder of this then we should be excited and amazed at the privilege we have. Hopefully this will lead to a great expectation of meeting God through this discipline.

So whether it’s attending church, reading the bible or praying let us have a great expectation that we will meet with God.

Theresa May and Brexit

When they come to write the history of Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister you feel that it will be summarised in one short word: Brexit.

The whole Brexit process has dominated her time as Prime Minister. One of her first statements after becoming the leader of the Conservative Party was “Brexit means Brexit!” I would not be surprised if one of her final statements in her current role is also about Brexit.

Last Monday Theresa May gave a speech in the House of Commons in which she said that the deal for the UK to leave the EU was 95% done. However there still remains the problem of the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland. No-one it appears wants a return to a “hard border” but the “soft border” option means there will have to be some compromise somewhere.  The problem is no-one is that keen at the moment to compromise!

Personally I do not know how this impasse is going to be resolved. I do find the whole subject of Brexit confusing and certainly I do not have any magic answers to the problems of Brexit! It strikes me that we are in a mess and we somehow need some fresh and innovative ideas to resolve these problems. I certainly am glad that I’m not the Prime Minister.

On Sunday during our service someone reminded us that the scriptures instruct us to pray for our government. I think at this difficult time for Theresa May and her government the following words that Paul wrote to Timothy are ones we need to consider and obey:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Interesting that when Paul wrote these words the Romans were those in authority. They were rather different to a democratically elected government yet Paul still urged Timothy to pray for them. It’s so easy for us to criticise those in authority. Instead of criticising our government we should follow Paul’s instructions and pray for them. They certainly need our prayers at the moment!

 

The honesty of Psalm 51

One of the standout features of Psalm 51 to me is the honesty shown by David as he prayed the words of this wonderful prayer to God from his heart.

Nathan the prophet had come to see him, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, to bring the king a word from God. This was a quite a courageous act from Nathan to confront the king with God’s word.

How would David react to Nathan’s word? Would he accept it or reject it?

David could have said:

  • I’m the king I can do what I like?
  • It was not 100% my fault. Bathsheba is partly to blame too.
  • I could not help it as she was very attractive.

However David does not respond like that. He acknowledges his sin before God, taking full responsibility for his actions and recognising his wickedness he prays:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (v3-5)

If you are looking to use some scripture to aid you in asking God for forgiveness then this Psalm is a good place to look.

David was very honest about his sin before God. He confessed it and stopped trying to hide it turning to God in deep repentance. We can learn much from this.

Developing Good Habits

One of the towns I like to visit has a one-way traffic system running through the centre of it. However for some reason whenever I cross the road in this town I always look both to the left and right before walking across the road.

I have often wondered why I look both ways in this situation because the cars can only come from one direction! After thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that I do this out of habit. I was taught from a young age to look both ways before crossing the road so that is what I do, even in a one-way street.

This got me thinking on the importance of developing good habits in our lives. When we develop good habits we find that they become second nature to us and we do them naturally. They become part of us.

So how long does it take to develop a habit? If you type that question into Google there are a number of web pages you can find that suggests that 21 days is the answer to that question. However I’m not sure there is an exact science to this. There are obviously some habits that take longer to develop than others. Also it goes without saying that there are some habits that take considerable more than 21 days to break.

There are many good habits that we should seek to develop as a Christian. The following three I believe are worth pursuing:

Regular Bible reading and Prayer

One of the good habits I was taught as a young Christian was the importance of setting aside some time each day to read my bible and prayer.

For a new Christian it can be useful to start off by either reading through one of the gospels or alternatively using bible reading notes.

You might ask “when is it best to read the bible and pray?” When I was younger I tended to do my daily bible readings and prayers in the evening as that best fitted in with my daily schedule. However as I got older I changed that to the morning as I found that worked best for me. Whether you do this in the morning or evening does not really matter though. The important thing is to find time each day to read your bible and pray.

Controlling our tongues

Perhaps the most challenging thing in life is controlling our tongues. There are plenty of bible verses that tell us the importance of this. The book of James has some very strong warnings about our tongues and how we should not criticise others.

I expect we all have many times deeply regretted saying something to someone that has caused unnecessary upset. So much damage can be done by careless words.

One of the best habits that we can develop is to decide that we will not criticise others and to think before we speak.

Forgive as we have been forgiven

As a Christian it is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus has forgiven me. He has totally forgiven me.

Therefore just as we have been forgiven we should also be willing to forgive others who have wronged us. If we are being honest most of us would admit that we find this difficult at times.

However we need to remember that forgiving others is extremely important. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our sin as we forgive those that sin against us.” If we don’t forgive others then we run the potential risk of not having our sins forgiven.

So we really need to develop the habit of forgiving others. It’s an important habit to develop.

 

 

 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord

1 Thessalonians verse 6 starts with an interesting phrase “you became imitators of us and of the Lord.

Now it would not surprise anyone to see it mentioned that the Thessalonians became imitators of the Lord. That is surely something to which we all should be aiming. However Paul also says they became imitators of them too. It might be that some would think Paul was being arrogant in using that expression. Surely he should just say they became imitators of the Lord?

Interestingly he also says something similar in the first letter to the Corinthians in the following two verses:

  • Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (4:16)
  • Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (11:1)

Paul in his writings certainly comes across as a man who loved, obeyed and served Christ wholeheartedly. He was striving to follow Christ in every circumstance and situation he faced. Therefore by living this way I would argue that he was a good person to learn from and imitate in what it means to live the Christian faith. The Thessalonians certainly thought he was.

So who do we try to imitate? Do we try to imitate our church leaders or maybe another mature Christian? Or are we easily influenced by those who behaviour is not compatible with Christian faith?

Whether we like to admit it or not we are all influenced by others and imitate their ways in some form in our life.  It is sometimes said of people that they got in with the wrong crowd when they do bad things. We need to be very careful who we imitate.

Would we recommend that others became imitators of us? Is my life a good example for other believers to imitate? Or am I too worldly in the way that I live that I would not recommend that others imitate me?