‘RESIST’ the pressure to ‘CHANGE’ the MESSAGE

Someone once asked me,

“Do you ever feel like giving up?” “Yes,” I said, “sometimes I do feel like giving up because it at times it gets too difficult and to carry on seems impossible.” Then I said, “But then, it’s really not about giving up, but about ‘giving it over to God’.”  It would seem easier to ‘compromise’ over certain things. It would seem easier to ‘conform’ to what conventional wisdom calls reasonable for 21st century ‘Christians’. It would seem easier to ‘change’ like the wind every time some ‘new teaching’ becomes ‘popular’. But then we’d be ‘giving up’ when we should be ‘giving it over to God’, to test it against His revealed Word in the Bible.” [Read Galatians 2: 1-10].


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It’s all about asking the right question

As I scanned the titles of the books on my book shelves and one title asked a question:

“What do YOU want Lord?” Then, as I typed the date at the top of this page, I realised that this was a significant date in my life. It was this month, on the 17th

of June 1992 I resigned from my job after fifteen and a half years. So what was so significant, after all people resign from jobs every day, even after a long time?
 
It was significant because my resignation came as a result of God answering this same question;

“What do YOU want Lord?”


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Buckle up and “Fight the good fight with all your might”

[Hymn: Words by John Samuel Bewley Monsell 1811-75. Music by William Boyd 1847-1928].

Easter is over for another year, but as always, it was a reminder of what it cost our Lord Jesus to accomplish our salvation; the reconciliation of our relationship with God, fractured by your sin and mine. Last month, on April 27th, was the 48th anniversary of that reconciliation in my own life. Lately I have been increasingly aware of the battle we are in as Christians, against a world determined to undermine the faith which we profess. I would like to encourage you, and myself, to keep on fighting, and not be tempted to give ground in that battle. Here’s something I found in my “STUFF” from 2009:

“Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester is hard to ignore. He announced recently that he is to retire early; the Church of England will be the poorer for it. Born in Karachi to parents who converted to Christianity from Islam, he was the first non-white diocesan bishop in Britain and…he knew about fighting for your faith…

He has lamented “the long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith . . . nurses cannot pray, the creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending non-believers”. Bishop Nazir-Ali spoke out against the soggy, “anything goes”, political correctness that characterises the modern Church of England. Sometimes his conservative views got him into trouble… Other times they chimed with the attitudes of many conservatives in the church. People will have different views on some issues but there is no doubt that conservatives in the Church of England have lost their most outspoken champion.

Now Bishop Nazir-Ali intends to take up the cause of persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East, Pakistan and places like Orissa in India. It is a worthwhile mission.

His departure will leave a gap, both in public debate and the church. It takes a brave person to stand up against the tide of fashionable opinion and he was prepared to do so repeatedly. At this time of great flux many are reconsidering their values. It could be that the church rediscovers a more courageous defence of its own beliefs. If that were to happen, Bishop Nazir-Ali’s own brave stand will not have been in vain.”

[Adapted from an unattributed article: “A troublesome priest in a timid church”; in The Sunday Times of March 29th 2009].

I want us to think about the following statements in this article and consider what the Bible says about these things:

  • “He knew about fighting for your faith.” – 1Timothy 6:11-16; 2Timothy 1:5-7.
  • “He has lamented “the long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith . . . nurses cannot pray, the creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending non-believers”. – 1Peter 3:13-18.
  • “Bishop Nazir-Ali spoke out against the soggy “anything goes” political correctness that characterises the modern Church of England. Sometimes his conservative views got him into trouble…” – 2Timothy 4:1-5.
  • “It takes a brave person to stand up against the tide of fashionable opinion and he was prepared to do so repeatedly.” – Hebrews 10:32-39.

Brothers and Sisters, let’s be willing to “Buckle Up” and take the ‘good fight of the faith’ into the world and not wither under its attack, nor timidly give ground to accommodate its ever-changing opinions, however ‘fashionable’? [See 2Corinthians 10:1-5].  

So let’s you and I be ‘hard to ignore’ in that fight and, may our God strengthen us all in it.

Pastor Frank.



Easter – Have you made the connection?

I first shared this a few years ago at our 128th Church Anniversary and I’d like to share it with you all on our website as we join together this month to celebrate Easter.
 
There is a theory that there are a maximum of six degrees of separation between us and any other person in the world. The theory is that a chain can be made in six or less steps to connect any two people.

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Aliens and Strangers

I have sometimes thought, somewhat longingly I confess, of some of the places I have been privileged to visit in my life. I thought about the great cities I’d visited, like Paris, London, Rome, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Singapore, Hong Kong and many others. In every place I visited, even in the cities with which I felt a greater affinity, such as London and Hong Kong, I was a stranger.  

 To see something of what I mean, please allow me to share with you something from Andrew Bonar’s memoirs of his friend and fellow-minister, Robert Murray McCheyne. They are about to sail from Genoa to the Holy Land via Egypt and McCheyne writes home before they depart:

“A foreign land draws us nearer to God. He is the only one whom we know here. We go to him as one we know; all else is strange. Every step I take, and every new country I see, makes me feel more that there is nothing real, nothing true, but what is everlasting.… One thing I know, that I am in the hands of my Father in heaven, who is all love to me—not for what I am in myself, but for the beauty he sees in Immanuel” [Slightly adapted from Bonar, Andrew. “Robert Murray McCheyne”, p. 107. First published 1844. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust. Italics mine].   

Friends, in this world where we are, as Peter reminds us, we are “aliens and strangers”, [1 Peter 2:11, NIV]. So, more and more you and I must draw nearer to God. We must go to Him whom we know, for as the world in rebellion against God becomes more and more of an alien environment, it becomes increasingly strange. It does not fit with the reality of the everlasting kingdom of God and we do not fit with it. But though that is the case now, it wasn’t always so and I was reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2: 11-13: “Therefore, remember you who are Gentiles by birth… remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” [NIV].  

As I read this, despite being a stranger to that world now, I feel a certain affinity with those who are “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship of God’s kingdom, the ones who are foreigners to God’s covenant of love, without hope and without God in the world.” It’s not that I long to be back there, but that I long that they were where I am; not “far away but brought near through the blood of Christ”.

McCheyne feels that too, as he sits resting under a palm tree at Balteen, a small village in Egypt. Andrew Bonar recalls that: “he was excited to deep emotion… at the sight of a row of poor wretched Egyptians, who gathered round us. “O that I could speak their language and tell them of salvation!”  [Ibid, p. 109].

As Christians we know that we are in the hands of our Father in heaven – not for what we are in ourselves, but for the beauty he sees in Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.  We look at our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues and we see on the outside people just like us. We may need to look with new eyes and see them as ‘poor, and wretched’ just like we were. ‘We can speak their language! We can tell them of salvation!’ This is why we’re here after all.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

‘This world is not our home – TRUE!’ We are just passing through – TRUE!’ But on our way home we cannot pass by those without hope and without God along the way. Remember we were once like them.’

Reaching out together,

Pastor Frank.