“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen”
(Martin Luther, 1521)
There could be no more fitting way to end our Mission Month than by remembering that 31st Oct is billed as the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Generally linked to the 95 theses (or statements) that Martin Luther nailed to a church door in Wittenburg. You may also be surprised to learn that Playmobile (who make model figures for children) say that their most popular figure in the history of their company is the one of Martin Luther, of which it has sold over 1 million.
It is said this one act changed the world (the theses, not the toy!), and it certainly challenged the established Church of the day.
However, truth be told, it was a whole range of people who contributed to this change, and ultimately it was the Word of God that was behind it all. The Word of God, the bible, a library of books written centuries ago by a whole host of authors, the best-selling book of all time, the book translated into more languages than any other, the book that is the freely available to us today.
If the Reformation had not taken place, the bible could have remained unknown to a waiting world. If the Reformation had not taken place, we would not be here as a congregation, for the Reformation fanned the embers for the creation of the Baptists.
If the Reformation had not taken place we would not be celebrating Mission Month, for the Church five hundred years ago had lost its way and was no longer a missionary movement of God.
If the Reformation has not taken place, we would not be followers of Jesus, standing firm on the Word of God.
So in some senses we are just another person in the Reformation that began with Jesus, and continues to this day. The Reformation may continue through you if, like Luther, you stand on the truth of God.
The apostle Paul loved to use the phrase “stand firm”, notably saying towards the end of Ephesians
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist
(Ephesians chapter 6 verse 14)
Whether we keep God’s Word, by our bed, in our hand on Sunday morning, in our bag at school or work, downloaded on our phone or tablet, or treasured in our heart and memorized in our head, let us never depart from it, for it began a reformation that continues in our heart for the glory of God.
Pastor’s Patch – December 2017
WAITING Traditionally in Church History, Advent is the season of preparing and waiting for 24 days. Christmas itself is then celebrated for 12 days. Modern society, by contrast, seems to have got very muddled in its approach – for the preparation and waiting for Christmas seems to commence in the shops selling their wares somewhere in September, and Christmas itself is pretty much over by lunchtime when people go online to buy more “stuff”.
As Christians, it is so easy to get sucked up into this way of thinking and living. If that’s the case, where did we go so wrong? It could well be that we have lost the art of waiting. Advent concentrates the waiting, Christmas prolongs the celebrating. I confess that I am easily swayed by the rush of our culture; I too have little patience for waiting.
This was highlighted when I attended a two-day prayer retreat in November organized by the Order for Baptist Ministers; the theme was “waiting”. As we reflected together that waiting is so undervalued in modern life and yet how it is so valuable in spiritual growth. Waiting is not only necessary, it is beneficial. God’s Word seems to concur with this. The psalmist encourages us to
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27 v14) - And again
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield (Psalm 33 v20) And if God’s people tell us to wait, then surely the Lord has sent that message through them, so they are His words, it is His encouragement to us.
So let us this December reset the clock. May we as a congregation consider the value, even the beauty of waiting. Even a cursory glance through scripture reveals many periods of waiting. Abraham waited 25 years for a promised son to be born to his wife Sarah. The Israelites waited for their release from slavery, and then waited for their wilderness wanderings to lead them to the promised land. Later in their history they needed to wait for seventy years in exile before they could return. And Jesus was waited and expected not just for decades, but for centuries.
Whilst on the retreat I imagined, and crudely drew this picture. On the key is written the word “waiting”. The key is being offered up to a dark-filled keyhole. I sensed that for me, waiting was actually a key for me to progress through the next stage in life. Thus, I am aiming to learn to be better at waiting, especially this Advent.
As a couple of practical prompts to remind me of this, I’m trying to walk slowly wherever I go and celebrate the journey as well as the destination. I’m also chewing my food more times than normal, savouring the taste rather than rushing to finish the meal. You may smirk at my ideas, but they are helpful for me.
If you find it hard to wait, why not develop a couple of ways to help you wait and see what benefits arise? You will need to discern what works for you, but it could be well worth it. We’ll just have to wait and see though, won’t we?
Young children have many questions. Often they come out of nowhere, suddenly sprung upon the unsuspecting adult.
Why do I have to go to school?
How do birds fly?
Where do babies come from? (which as every father knows, has the answer “ask your mother”)
But I have some questions too.
How much deeper would the ocean be without the sponges?
What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?
Why do psychics have to ask you your name?
Why is dyslexia so hard to spell?
Questions reveal that we are thinking creatures, naturally inquisitive about the world around us, with a capacity to wonder and ponder. But God made us that way, and he wants us to be constantly seeing the benefit of questions.
Sometimes we will be asked questions. In the bible, Peter says.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter chapter 3 verse 15)
Sometimes we should ask questions, but we fail to do so.
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God (James chapter 4 verse 2)
So here’s a question for you, a very personal and pertinent one. It’s a question you will see on posters around the Beacon at the moment. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
Can I challenge you to think about your answer to that question?
Can I then challenge you to ask God that question?
And as you do so, remember the bible promise
God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20)
And maybe, after all that, why not ask a friend or a neighbour if they could ask God one question, what that would be? You may be surprised where that leads in a conversation.
Some time ago my wife and I received an invite to a wedding; but this was no ordinary invitation. Resembling a brochure from a high-end services company, there was a printed folder with 5 pull-out cards detailing the invitation, the order of the day, the meal choices, the gift list and the website to respond with replies and choices. I was gobsmacked to subsequently learn that the couple were spending £23,000 on the wedding celebrations. This is not a wealthy couple, but this is a couple who are following the current trend to spend increasing amounts on a single wedding day. Nevertheless, my wife and I adjusted our plans to attend the wedding just to support the couple as they began their new life together.
However, my wife and I have also been invited to another, very different, wedding. It has been a long time in the planning, and will make the above-mentioned wedding reception look like a stale sandwich in a greasy-spoon roadside café. It will have all the joy and celebration of a wedding, but it will be never-ending joy and celabration. We have been invited to “the wedding of the Lamb”. Anyone wanting to attend will need to adjust their plans in life in order to attend, but it will be well worth it.
We read about this wedding invite in the bible
Let us rejoice and be glad…The wedding of the Lamb has come
and his bride has made herself ready
(Revelation chapter 19 verse 7)
Bible Commentator Phil Moore notes that “World history will not end with a funeral, but with a wedding.” This wedding is a picture of how Jesus will be enjoined to his Church forever, this bride that declared she would “forsake all others”, this groom who promises “all that I am I share with you, all that I have I give to you”.
Thankfully, everyone who is invited to this wedding is encouraged to “bring a guest”. So you too are invited. Feel free to adjust your plans in life, and ensure you don’t miss out on the wedding of the century, in fact, the wedding of all time!
At The Beacon on Wednesday we had an amazing concert. Sally Cranham proved that she is a singer/songwriter with a pure voice, an accomplished guitarist and some thoughtful lyrics. Jané Allam gave a masterclass in cooking a wonderful curry. Being from India, he should know, and he shared skills learned from his mother. But the two of them also interwove stories about the Compassion Child Sponsorship programme. Jané grew up in a poverty-ridden community in a single room dwelling with his family and he was the first child there to get sponsorship in the area. Being provided education, a meal a day, and other gifts from the local church benefitted him and his whole family. He began to thrive as a person, and an early joy was for him to teach his own parents how to write their name so they could sign for their own wages rather than use a thumbprint: a simple act that brought dignity.
Jané demonstrated he was actually bright, regularly coming top in his year at school. He did so well that his sponsor encouraged him to apply for University, and Jané secured a place at Manchester for a BA in Business Studies, followed by an MA. He now works for Compassion and heads a programme to bring even more help to his community and country.
If no-one had ever sponsored Jané it may have been so different. But as their strapline says “ Compassion is changing the world “one child at a time”. As a Compassion sponsor myself, I see how just a few pounds a week is making a difference to another young life who may one day be making a difference like Jané. Why not consider if you could sponsor a child? Go to www.compassionuk.org for more information