Monthly Message Feb 2019

A Reflection on II Corinthians 12:7-10

The first church I had the privilege of serving was not far from Heathrow Airport. One day, shortly after I had started there, I received a phone call from the editor of the Baptist Times asking me to attend a press conference there and report on it for the paper.  Billy Graham was returning home from Northern Ireland via London and was going to make a statement on his visit.  Deeply aware of the heavy responsibility of getting all my facts right, I arrived very early for the press conference, armed with a tape-recorder (yes this was nearly 50 years ago!), and determined to sit as near the front as possible.  On arrival I found the room completely empty and had a choice of any seat in the front row.  I sat there alone for a while and then heard someone come in, walk towards the front, come along my row and sit down next to me.  I turned, and this person offered me his right hand.  “Hello, I’m Billy Graham”, he said.

In all humility I am proud to have had the opportunity to meet this great man of God.  And yet I am mindful, too, of the words of Jeremiah 9:23,24: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord”.

Paul had “heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (II Cor 12:4).  But that had been fourteen years previously.  Now, however, he wouldn’t boast about that but rather about his weaknesses.  Now, his awareness of God’s all-sufficient grace is not dependent upon “inexpressible things”.  Now, he has the assurance from the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. 

Like many of you reading this, I can look back to great experiences of the Lord’s blessings in the past and I am mindful of the limitations that are beginning to show as the years progress. But how exciting that is!  The world looks at the latter years of one’s life as a period of weakness, restriction, disablement.  But the Christian knows that God’s compassions “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) and that his “grace is sufficient for (us), for (his) power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).  Therefore, like Paul, let us delight in those weaknesses that give us the opportunity to experience the Lord’s strength.

Be blessed, and be a blessing,

Tony Mason

Monthly Message Jan 2019

A Reflection on II Corinthians 4:6-9

January is a month of grey skies, threats of snow, coughs and colds, and people generally complaining as if January isn’t usually like this.    And I won’t even mention any political crisis!   How good, then, in the midst of any gloom and doom you may be experiencing, to read and ponder the words of II Corinthians 4:6-9.

“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”(v6).

This gospel that we love, and rejoice in, and long to share, and have found to be so profoundly life-changing is from God himself.  It is not of our own invention or due to our own ability of merit.  We are merely clay jars! (v7).  As such we falter from time to time, even fail. But we are never utterly broken.  “We are”, Paul writes (vv8,9) “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”. 

Notice the repetition of “but not…”.  Doubtless Paul had many times prayed about the difficulties he constantly faced.  Did God answer?  The fact that he could say “but not” indicates that he did.  Do we sometimes feel that God does not, or is slow to, answer our prayers when we, too, are ‘hard pressed…crushed…perplexed…persecuted…struck down’? We will realise how much he is answering prayer when we stop and think about the ‘but not’s’ in our situation.  Yes, we may well be up against this and that, but we are not ‘crushed…in despair…abandoned…destroyed’.  Such is the power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the life of the believer!

As Christians we have this treasure, the gospel, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Whether you are just waiting for the dark days of winter to give way to the spring, or whether you are passing through dark days in your life and you cannot see beyond them, may you know “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

 

Tony Mason

 

Monthly Message Dec 2018

As I write, Britain is in political and social turmoil. Disagreement over Brexit and how it should be effected is leading to frustration, confusion, uncertainty and near despair. So much is at stake and, however it all turns out in the end, it would seem that the losers will lose a lot and the winners will win little. Important and serious as the situation regarding our relationship with the EU is, and it is important and serious, there is actually something else even more important and serious. In short, it is not just the political and social state of the nation that matters, but the spiritual.
 
In Exodus 3 we read of God appearing to Moses. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt living under appalling oppression and God spoke to Moses concerning their plight. “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out….So I have come down to rescue them…..”. In one sense that was a foretaste of the incarnation, the time when God would “come down” in the person of his Son and live among us. How encouraging is the angel’s announcement to the shepherds that, in the town of David, a Saviour had been born to them. Here is Immanuel, ‘God with us’. They were not to be afraid, but rather encouraged! There is also, in John’s prologue to his gospel, an encouraging excitement about the incarnation. “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
 
Pharaoh proved to be a tough person for Moses to negotiate with. Indeed, even after nine devastating plagues it seemed he would not give an inch. But with the tenth plague Pharaoh had to give way and God’s purpose was fulfilled. Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him”. But his ultimate purpose was not thwarted, for “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God”.

God, in Christ, has come alongside us, to share in our life, our suffering and our world. He has a way out of every human predicament. But it is his way, and it goes via the death, resurrection, ascension of Christ. We need to follow that way and no other. (And, incidentally, will not God have the final say regarding Brexit?)

I wish all who read this a joyful and peaceful Christmas and much blessing throughout 2019. And, if I don’t see you before, I look forward to welcoming you to the third Saffron Walden Bible Focus on September 21st!

Tony Mason