Monthly Message Oct 2018

First of all, heartfelt thanks to all who are reading this who made it to the second annual Bible Focus event on September 29th. I do hope you were greatly blessed by being there. It was good to see so many and I am only sorry that I couldn’t get to speak to everyone. For those of you who were unable to be there – we missed you and hope you can be with us next year: Saturday, 21st September. Alasdair Paine, from St Andrew the Great, Cambridge will be our speaker and further details will be available in due course.

If we are drivers we all know how essential it is to keep our eyes on the road! The writer to the Hebrews urges us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2). Since that is what he is, how foolish to take our eyes off him!

On one occasion I was leading an encouragement day in London for a church that was affiliated to two denominations, with several members from other backgrounds as well. As the day progressed I sensed a timidity; it seemed as if one group did not want to propose anything that might make the other group uncomfortable. So, little if anything was undertaken and the church was in danger of getting into a rut. This became even clearer to me as I reflected upon the surprising statement someone made that it was not a very God-centered church! What is a church if it is not God-centered? My fear is that they had been so distracted through fear of upsetting those of other traditions that they had taken their eyes off the Lord, whom they were there to worship, serve and please. So there they were, at a low ebb, needing encouragement, and needing to refocus on the things that mattered.

One of Satan’s ploys in seeking to undermine the church is to distract our attention, to draw our focus away from Christ himself. If we take our eyes off Christ we shall soon lose sight of the great plan and purpose that God desires to accomplish in and though his church. When we lose sight of that many secondary purposes will claim prominence and the church will become absorbed in non-essentials and also weak and ineffective.

Paul writes in Colossians 1:8 concerning Christ that “he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”. That is the criterion: that he might have the supremacy: supreme in our church programme, supreme in the use of church finances, supreme in the conduct of business meetings and appointment of leaders, supreme in our worship, our outreach, our fellowship and our mission.

Was it not encouraging to hear from John Risbridger some stories of the Lord powerfully at work in the lives of various individuals? Let’s pray that we shall see more of that in our own churches as we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”.

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus

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