Monthly Message Mar 2020

spring flowers

Dear friends,

In I Chronicles 12v32 we read of the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…”.  How we need ‘men of Issachar’ today!  What is the Coronavirus crisis (or, rather, the Lord) saying to us?  I believe he is saying many things, among which are surely the following:

  • We are not omnipotent. We have been encouraged to think that if we do this and do that, long enough and well enough, we can stem the flow of climate change.  But we can’t.  In a similar way, we can take certain precautions, and develop medical resources to tackle this virus, but we do not have ultimate power over it.
  • We are vulnerable. The feared economic damage that was predicted over Brexit is proving to be nothing in comparison with the harm to health and wealth that threatens us in the wake of Coronavirus.
  • We need each other.  Ironically, perhaps, the more we self-isolate the more we depend on others!  What must it feel like to be sent to prison? Many people, especially those of us over 70, are having to calculate a possible loss of many common freedoms over the coming weeks, or even months.  Our Christian neighbour has offered to do any shopping for those in our street who may be in need of such help.  (Now I do know I am getting old!).  Hopefully, we shall see many more such gestures in our society.
  • We have had, and still have, the issues of Brexit and climate change – and now this. Who can tell what might be next, until we sit up and take notice of a sovereign God who “is patient with (us), not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”  (II Peter 3:9) .

Jesus was once told about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. He then went on to refer to eighteen people who were killed when a tower in Siloam fell on them.  Were they, Jesus asked, more sinful than others living in Galilee or Jerusalem at the time? No, he said, emphatically. Unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Gratefully acknowledging God’s grace towards us, revealed to us in Christ, let us earnestly pray that many in these days will turn to him in repentance and faith, as they realize human impotence, vulnerability and our total dependence upon, not just other people, but upon our Creator-Redeemer himself.

“I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.”  (Psalm 123:1,2)

Your brother in Christ,

Monthly Message Feb 2020

Mountains and Sky

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness”

Dear friends,

What makes for a truly great person?  When I was growing up it would have been pioneering explorers, military generals, courageous naval officers and maybe the odd footballer and a schoolmaster whom we looked up to because he had fought in the Second World War while we were being born!

Today greatness does not seem to be quite so costly.  Or perhaps I should say that there was a day when men and women became great at considerable personal cost to themselves, whereas today many people become ‘great’ at the expense of the consumer who pays them.  Hence we have the ‘celebrity cult’.  People are considered great if they can sing, or act, or present TV programmes, or play a sport exceptionally well but that is about all.  Now I don’t doubt their talent (though I do sometimes!) and I admire that in them.  But is it right to give them all the adulation that they receive?  Many of them pay a huge price for their fame if they cannot handle it, experience mental stress or marriage break-up, resort to drugs and so on.  In that case has not the adulation become some kind of assault by the public?  Are the fans destroying their own idols?  Have we imposed a false greatness upon some who are as frail and vulnerable as anyone else?

In Matthew 12 we read of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees who accused him of Sabbath breaking and of using demonic powers. They then demanded of him a miraculous sign, so utterly blind to the fact that was high above man’s legalism and the devil’s power. He refers to David having eaten the consecrated bread that was reserved for the priests and how the priests were permitted to break the Sabbath laws in order to carry out their duties.  But Jesus is among them as one greater than David, and greater than the temple.  Then, at the end of the chapter he tells them the only sign he will give them is that of Jonah who was for three days in a fish’s belly.  A greater than Jonah is here.  He reminds them, too, of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon to hear his wisdom, yet a greater than Solomon is here.

David, a great king; the temple, a great dwelling place for God; Jonah, a great preacher of repentance; Solomon, a great man of wisdom.  Yet Jesus, our Lord and Saviour is infinitely greater than all of these!  How tawdry and futile are our notions of greatness compared to his greatness!

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;  you are exalted as head over all.
   [I Chron 29:11]

Your brother in Christ,

Monthly Message Jan 2020

Dear friends,

A day or so after Christmas I overheard a lady greeting a child she obviously knew.  “Hello!” Did you have a nice Christmas?  What did you get?”  What did you get?!  Has the celebration of God’s greatest gift to us of a Saviour become a festival of getting?  I imagine that eBay and charity shops are quite busy after Christmas with so much stuff people get but didn’t really want or need. So, what do we really want or need?

Agur, whose sayings make up chapter 30 of the Book of Proverbs answers that question thus:

“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:  Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God”.

 Agur tells us what he doesn’t want, namely neither poverty nor riches.  If he has riches he may have too much and disown God, casting off any dependence on, and trust in, him.  On the other hand, poverty might force him to steal and so dishonour the name of his God.  In his wisdom, Agur sees that both riches and poverty can lead him into sin, so he shuns both.  Instead he is satisfied with his daily bread.  That’s the safe way; it’s what Jesus taught us to ask for.

Paul wrote to Timothy (I Tim 6:6): “godliness with contentment is great gain”.  So, on that note, may I wish you every blessing throughout 2020, with neither riches nor poverty.

Your brother in Christ,

PS  In our national life may the Lord also keep falsehood and lies far from us!