God’s Plan

In wondering what I should write this month, I got to thinking about the matter of ‘journeys’; who we meet along the way and how both the journey and the people leave their mark on our lives and vice versa.

Returning temporarily to visit people and places you know, even after a relatively short absence, creates a mixture of strangeness and familiarity. The strangeness is created by the knowledge that here are people and places that were once a part of your daily life, but are no longer. The familiarity is created by a sense of somehow still belonging, being held by the threads of relationship that still bind you to those people and places.

Ruth and I have discovered something of this for ourselves over the past twenty-four years of moving around the world in ministry. I remember this most vividly as we returned to visit you at Islington at various times during this period. On a couple of occasions we were asked to share for a few minutes about life and ministry wherever we were serving at the time. I remember that as I looked down at the congregation there were many familiar faces and some whom we didn’t know. But as I looked down, I recognised those who, over a long period, had left their mark on my spiritual life. I was grateful to God that as part of my latest journey He reminded me of how much they meant to me, and how influential they had been. I remember that it somehow felt strange to be there and yet, during our time here I had this sense of still belonging.

It was ten years ago on February 2nd 2006 that we returned from Hong Kong to Australia and a few days later to Islington. It still felt strange yet familiar but this time we didn’t know how long our stay might be. This, as it has been for all of life and especially during the past twenty-four years, was firmly in God’s hands. Well He has, as always, proved faithful and it has been our privilege to serve Him and you since May of that year. The thread of relationship that tied us to you in the past remains strong in the present and our sense of belonging are confirmed in so many ways as we minister among you. Some of those familiar faces have now gone to be with the Lord but still live on in our memories.
I think of Paul’s words when writing about the Church in Romans 12:5, “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Here, do you see, in Christ, is the unbreakable thread of relationship that binds us together as Christians no matter where are? We may only be part of each other’s daily lives temporarily, but whilst we are, let’s be seeking to have a positive spiritual influence on the lives of our brothers and sisters [See Colossians 3:1-17; Hebrews 10:23-25]. Alongside that, let’s be thankful for the positive spiritual influence of our brothers and sisters on our own lives [See Philippians 1:3-11]. May we all strive to be as one on this journey in which our God has ‘given to each one the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ [1 Corinthians 12: 7].

‘God’s plan is what’s happening, while we are planning something else.’ [See, Jeremiah 29:11].

Bound in Him together,

Pastor Frank.

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