Monthly Message Sep-2018

Hello!

My name is Sandie Turner, a member of the Saffron Walden Bible Focus team. You will probably find me helping with the music or setting up the PA system!

When I was at school we were taught never to start a sentence with the word “but”. Yet one of my favourite verses in the bible, begins in exactly that way:

“ But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It never fails to be utterly remarkable that a holy God could stoop to love sinners like us. What words of comfort from our God who never fails to keep his promises; our God who is “ slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”.

As someone who loves to sing God’s praises, this verse reminds me of an old hymn:

“ I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how He could love me,
A sinner condemned, unclean.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered, and died alone.

How marvellous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvellous! How wonderful!
Is my Saviour’s love for me

And if having our sins forgiven is not marvellous enough, the last verse reveals what we are saved for- a relationship with the triune God:

“When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
‘twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.”

So, as we meet together later this month, my prayer is that through the preaching of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will see afresh the holiness and righteousness of God. And we will rejoice in the Saviour who died for us, to make us spotless and perfect.

Now that is truly marvellous and wonderful and something to sing about!

Monthly Message Jul/Aug 2018

The cost of love is a surrender of the will

Here, rather late I’m afraid, is my message for July, so I shall make it my message for both July and August!  But first, let me say that I am looking forward to seeing you, if you can possibly make it, at the second Saffron Walden Bible Focus event on Saturday, September 29th at the URC church in Abbey Lane, Saffron Walden. Do put it in your diary if you haven’t already done so, and please make sure all your friends know about it as well. 

I believe our theme is most appropriate and timely: “Out of Step? Christ-like Living in Today’s World”.

Jean and I were most encouraged when, at the Keswick Convention last week, we met several people who live near Saffron Walden who had either heard about Bible Focus or were glad to hear about it, and are planning on coming.  It is good to know that word is getting around.  What is even more exciting is that the word of God  is not bound (II Tim 2:9 ESV)!
 
To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ involves surrendering one’s will to his, and what Jesus said to Peter (in John 21:18) is quite staggering in its implications. He reminded him that when he was younger he was free to dress himself and go wherever he wanted.  Then he warned him that when he became old someone else would dress him and lead him where he would not want to go. In saying this, Jesus was indicating the kind of death Peter would die, and by which he would glorify God. An early church Father tells us that Peter was crucified head downwards, and another wrote: “At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood this rising faith. Then is Peter girt by another when he is made fast to the cross”.

Then, after that solemn and truthful warning so that Peter could be in no two minds about the cost of discipleship, Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” No longer would that mean physically following Jesus since he would soon be exalted to his Father’s presence; but now discipleship would clearly mean to live as Jesus’ lived: by service, by suffering, and, if needs be, by death.     So it is that Peter’s impending death can be said to have ‘glorified’ God, for only a death met at the end of the road of obedience can possibly glorify God.

I do not doubt that, on reaching heaven, I will find that I understood the way of salvation aright.  But I do wonder sometimes if I’ll discover that I got the way of discipleship all wrong.   The joy in the hearts of impoverished believers in the two-thirds world contrasts starkly with the lacklustre, cosy compromise that passes for so much modern western Christianity.  In those parts of the world where it costs comparatively little to be a Christian, we have hardly begun to grasp the radical nature of the gospel.  The gospels have a great deal to say about denying oneself, about taking the narrow road, about following Christ who went the way of  being misunderstood, the way of suffering and of death.  Yet I find myself practicing my discipleship so cheaply, and living it out so comfortably.  Have the few years we have on earth come to mean so much to us, that the glories of the heaven that await us have almost lost their appeal?

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus

Monthly Message Jun 2018

Fear or faith for the future?

 Moses had a hard time, to put it mildly, leading the Israelites for forty years through the desert as they made their way to Canaan, the land God had promised to them.  Many times they rebelled and hankered after the life that they had had in Egypt, strangely forgetting all the misery, suffering and hardship they had endured there.  Their recollection of the luscious fruit and vegetables they had enjoyed seems to have blocked from their memory the more traumatic things. But however uncongenial they might have found the desert to be, and however much they grew bored and dissatisfied with the daily manna, actually entering Canaan would have its problems too.  Since God had promised them that land, they could be absolutely assured of their eventual possession of it.   But it was a hostile land, occupied by peoples none too welcoming and, in some cases, positively formidable.  God knew that, on approaching the border, they would need some special encouragement.  He therefore instructed Moses to send ten people to reconnoitre the territory and bring back a report of it.  These spies returned saying how fruitful the land was but also how fearsome some of the inhabitants were.  One of them, Caleb, confidently declared that they “should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it”.  But others were afraid.  “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are”.  But those same spies had also brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs, samples of the abundant fruitfulness of the land which lived up to the reputation of “flowing with milk and honey”.  Fear overruled faith as the people weighed up the two sides of the report.  It was not that there was no encouragement for them. But they missed the encouragement (Caleb’s positive words and the fruit-sample) because they looked at the obstacle (the powerful tribes).

If we are honest, perhaps we would admit that, had we been in their shoes we might have reacted in a similar way.  After all, what consolation is a bowl of fruit when it looks as if you’re about to be massacred? Had we reacted as they did we would, however, have been as wrong as they were.  The promise of God, backed by the positive report and samples of the produce of the land ought to have served as an encouragement because they represented and symbolised the future that God had in store for his people.  The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites all symbolised the present, a present that God was well able to handle.  But they ought to have seen in that fruit, the symbol of the promised future, that victory was at hand, a victory that would enable their future to be realised.

”Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. 

[II Corinthians 4:16-18]

 

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus