Chance Encounters

Here is a story that you may identify with from Ariel Leve, a New York Columnist for the Times of London. It’s called:

“CHANCE ENCOUNTERS ARE DRAINING.”

“There are hazards to going out. One of them is the unexpected run-in. Even worse, the unexpected run-in where someone tells you something that is emotionally significant.

The other day I was leaving my apartment in New York when, in the lobby, I ran into an elderly woman who lives in the building. Over the years, whenever I’ve seen her and her husband, I’ve stopped and had a casual, amiable chat. The sort of conversation you have with neighbors you don’t know very well. Friendly but without any noteworthy investment. Above all: brief. I hadn’t seen her for about six months, and even though I was stressed because I was already late for a work-related appointment, I had to stop to say hello. “How’s your husband?” I asked.

That’s when she said: He died.

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When the going gets tough – GOD!

As a Pastor I often come into contact with people with great challenges in their lives, for in life stuff happens doesn’t it? Tough times come and we know that things are not how we’d like or planned them to be. What follows is a personal story. It is also a story of God’s people and how He deals with them. So before you continue, I would ask you to read Malachi 1:1-5. 

Several years ago I sat in Pacific Coffee, a café in a large Hong Kong Shopping Centre, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I felt the sting of tears on my face. I felt helpless. Around me were, my wife Ruth and four other local ladies. As the tears flowed, I heard the voice of one of the ladies saying quietly, over and over,

“It’s OK you’re going to be alright.”

I knew there was something wrong, something that I couldn’t make right, and oh, how I like to be able to fix things, somehow make things right. I may not have completely believed her right at that moment, but she knew that what I needed were those words of comfort and affirmation. Looking back I’m so  grateful to God for her because, at that moment, my confidence had begun to waver.

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‘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.