Monthly Message Oct 2021

Dear friends,

Already mince pies are in the shops.  Already there are fears that, due to a shortage of HGV drivers, there may not be enough turkeys and toys for Christmas. If the world is starting to think about its version of Christmas as early as October, certainly Christians can start preparing for a true Christmas now.  So, God willing, between now and December I’d like to reflect on three aspects of the Incarnation – revelation, reconciliation and redemption.

  1. Revelation

What is God like?  He has revealed himself to us in creation, and in his written Word and supremely in Jesus.  “[I]n these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2).  Philip once said to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”.  Jesus’ reply is staggeringly glorious!  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”.  We ourselves have not seen him (yet!) with our physical eyes but we can meet with him through the accounts we find in God’s inspired Word. And those accounts are so trustworthy that Jesus could say to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.

In Colossians 1:5 Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God”; and in John 1 he is referred to as “the Word” which “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”. Man’s sin places us in a state of conflict and confusion.  The answer to both is to be found in Jesus Christ, for grace (undeserved love) addresses conflict (with God and with one another), and truth (the way things really are) addresses our confusion, our determination to think and do as each of us sees fit.

God has made himself known.  There is so much about God that we do not know or understand, but he has revealed just so much as we need.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”  (Deut. 29:29).   In these days of widespread and longstanding ignorance of God surely our great need is to focus more on knowing Jesus and proclaiming him.  So much that we consider important issues of the day pale into insignificance when we set them against God’s self-revelation in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”  (Colossians 1:19)

Your brother in Christ,

Tony Mason

Monthly Message Sep 2021

Dear friends,

Are you old enough to remember the hymn that contains the line: “Each vict’ry will help you some other to win.”? Many find that to be true, while others don’t because all too often they find that the Lord helps them to resist some temptation and then, in an unguarded moment, they fall into it some time later.

That’s how it was with the Israelites upon entering Canaan. The Lord (not Joshua!) fought and won the Battle of Jericho when the walls came tumbling down; all Israel had to do was to march round the city, blow some trumpets, and shout!  The next engagement was at Ai. The men sent to spy out the situation reported that only 3,000 men would be needed; it would be a walk-over. They could do it in their own strength, they reckoned, quite forgetting that it was not they who had defeated Jericho. The result was a thorough defeat not only because they fought in their own strength but chiefly because there was sin in the camp (Achan’s disobedience) which needed to be addressed.  Graciously, God gave them a second chance and kept his promise that: “into your hand I will deliver the city” (Joshua 8:18).  Two more conquests followed – at Makkedah and Libnah – and in both cases we are told that  Joshua did “as he had done to the king of Jericho”. The experience at Jericho was their point of reference.  Thereafter, however, each succeeding victory becomes the standard for the next: Joshua did at Lachish just as he had done to Libnah – then to Eglon where they did just has they had done to Lachish; then on to Hebron: just as at Eglon; then to Debir where it was as they did to Libnah and Hebron. Each victory was helping them to win the next. They are no longer referring back just to Jericho and Ai; they have more up-to-date, recent experiences of the Lord’s action on their behalf to encourage and strengthen and motivate them.

The book of Joshua attributes all these conquests to the power of God, though Joshua himself and the people were, of course, involved.  But the Lord has the glory: “All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel”.  Time and again we read of God giving or delivering Israel’s enemies into their hands. Their victories – and ours, over sin and temptation –  are God’s gifts!  Can you point to recent victories in your life of discipleship, and are you praising the Lord for them?  Each victory will help you some other to win if you remember that that victory was the Lord’s active gift to you.

But the greatest victory was that which Christ won for us on the cross, a victory over sin and death here and now but also for all eternity.  “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (II Cor 9:15).

Your brother in Christ,

Tony Mason

Monthly Message Aug 2021

Dear friends,

Micah’s mother had a lot of silver and then someone stole it.  She placed a curse on the culprit, who turned out to be Micah himself!  He was honest enough to admit it and his mother promptly invoked the Lord’s blessing on him! When Micah returned the silver, all 1,100 shekels of it, she readily consecrated the money to the Lord, for what purpose?  To use some of it to have a carved image and a cast idol made.  (Never mind the second commandment!).  These were put in Micah’s house and he made an ephod (priestly apparel) and some more idols and appointed his son (an Ephraimite, not a Levite) as his personal, private priest.  How did he get away with all this? Because “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit”.

Then along comes a Levite from Bethlehem, looking for work and accommodation.  On coming to Micah’s house, he is offered the post of priest (thus dispensing with the services of Micah Jr.!) in return for a salary, clothing allowance and food. “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest”, Micah declared.

It’s a strange story. You can read it in full in Judges 17 where we are told (in verse 6, and at 18:1) that there was no king in Israel at that time. So, because there was no-one to guide the nation in the true worship of Yahweh, everyone did as they saw fit.  In Micah’s case, that meant theft, superstition, idolatry, expediency, personal preference, human ideas, and so on.  Sound familiar? How like certain aspects of the life of our nation and the church in our own times.  And for the same reason.  There is no King Jesus in the land, or at least, there is but he is largely disregarded or even denied.  And relativism dictates that there are no longer any absolutes. What is right for me is not necessarily right for you. In other words: everyone does as he sees fit.

But there is hope – if there is repentance and a turning back to God.  Let us pray that the Lord would pour out a spirit of repentance upon our nation, and that we, his people, discern where the Spirit is at work and join in!

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me”.  (Rev 3:19,20).

Finally, a word about this year’s event on 11th September.  I hope you have booked to come! But, if you are hesitant because of uncertainty about Covid, as part of our COVID precautions we are taking the view that the wearing of a mask when moving around within the premises is preferred but not mandatory.  We simply ask that you respect the sensitivities of those who take a different view to yourself.  So, in summary, please wear a mask when entering or leaving the building or otherwise moving around inside; you can remove it when seated or outside.  But if you have objections to wearing one we respect that and are not going to insist on it.

See you on the 11th!

Tony Mason