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

Monthly Message Nov 2018

May I invite you to read John 21:15-19? Here we have a classic example of Jesus’ ministry of encouragement exercised towards Peter after he had let him down so badly by denying him at the moment when, one might say, he needed his support the most. While Jesus was being questioned by the high priest, Peter had been waiting outside the courtyard until he was given permission to go in. As he went in the girl on door-duty queried whether he was, in fact, a follower of Jesus. He flatly denied it. Once inside the courtyard Peter kept himself warm by a charcoal fire. Then someone else queried whether or not he was a disciple and again he denied it outright. And then a third person challenged him saying that he had seen him with Jesus in the olive grove. Now, not only did Peter deny his Lord – that alone would have been bad enough – but he did so having earlier protested his absolute and undying loyalty to Jesus.
 
Once, when Jesus and his disciples had been on their way to Caesarea Philippi, he had asked them who people were saying he was. They said that some were saying he was John the Baptist, returned to life, while others reckoned he was Elijah, or one of the prophets. Jesus then turned the question onto them and asked them who they themselves thought he was. It was Peter who came out straightaway with “You are the Christ”. On another occasion, when many of Jesus’ followers began to turn away because his teaching was too much for them to accept, it was Peter again who boldly asserted that there was no one else to turn to since Jesus had the words of eternal life. Then, just before his arrest, Jesus told his disciples what was about to happen to him and warned them that they would all fall away. Peter would not hear of it but declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not”. Then Jesus told Peter quite directly that that very night he would, in fact, deny him three times. Still he was not listening, still he was certain of his own commitment to his Lord saying, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”. He had said he would never forsake Jesus, but when it came to the crunch he let him down badly. The encouraging thing about the story that unfolds in John 21 is that there was hope for Peter, there was a future for him, despite his serious lapse and, since not one of us is any better or any worse than Peter, there is hope and a future for us too! We were not there, of course, while Jesus was being questioned, vehemently denying any knowledge of him. But sometimes our behaviour, our words and often our silence are a denial that we have ever met the Christ. We all know people who have made mistakes and made a bit of a mess of their Christian life and witness and we may be tempted to write them off. In our worst moments we may feel inclined to write ourselves off, too, on account of some failure on our part. In our best moments we hope and pray for forgiveness and a fresh start, and the story of Peter assures us that such forgiveness and such a fresh start is available, from Jesus himself!

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus