In 2015 : Trust God

As we say goodbye to 2014 let’s take some time to consider our intentions for 2015. In our recent Christmas celebration at Kings we looked at some of the different things people are searching for at this time of year. Now, as we make resolutions and give some thought to what 2015 might bring, let’s ask the question ‘what is God searching for?’. You see, once we’ve agreed what God might be looking for from us it would make sense for us to resolve to be/do just that. Two verses from the New Testament spring to mind:

Luke 18:8 : When the son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth? Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God.

To God faith is a valuable commodity. Another word for faith is trust and the Bible has a lot to say about the kind of trust that saves us and is pleasing to God.

Faith takes hold Faith holds on Faith lets go

Faith is always active and always results in action. There is no such thing as a private faith. Regardless of what we say, what we actually believe is revealed by the way we live; how we spend our time or money or by what sorts of things are important to us. Faith is always active and what matters isn’t faith itself but the object of our faith.

Biblical faith requires that we take hold of God and his promises. We take God at his word, pray his promises back to him and sort of wrestle him to the ground in our pursuit. It also requires us to hold on to God even in the midst of trials and storms. We allow the promises of God and God’s past goodness to speak louder to us than the present struggles. We resolve to not let go, believing that one day soon the clouds will part and the sun’s warmth will be felt again. Lastly saving faith, the kind the Bible holds up as an example for us is faith that lets go of everything that would hinder us from pursuing God and his way of living.

The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector is a good example of all three types of faith working together. In Luke 19 Jesus enters Jericho. In order to get a good glimpse of Jesus Zacchaeus climbs a tree. Upon reaching the tree Jesus stops, looks up at Zacchaeus and requests to join him for lunch. Zacchaeus is so impacted by this and all Jesus is that he vows to return everything he’s stolen and promises to stop defrauding people. Jesus then declares ‘the kingdom of God has come in this man’s life’. The kingdom of God coming, activity prompted by saving faith, involved three things:

Zacchaeus held on to the tree

Zacchaeus took hold of Jesus’ offer of lunch

Zacchaeus let go of his old way of life

So among all of our resolutions to eat better, liver healthier and learn new skills let’s aim also to be the kind of people God is looking for, people who trust him and take him at his word.

It’s what God’s after and it’s what’s best for us.

Happy New Year!

Why Get Excited About Jesus?

It’s Christmas time! But what’s all the fuss about? This is a short blog on who Jesus is with excerpts from Mike Reeves’ book Christ Our Life.

If you’ve ever wondered why a baby in a manger means so much to so many people here’s something I read recently that will help. You see although the Bible doesn’t have too much to say about the Christmas card scene of oxen and donkeys, swaddling cloths and inn keepers it does wax lyrical about the identity and implications of just who the baby in the crib is:

Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, is the Beloved of the Father, the Song of the angels, the Logic of creation, the great Mystery of godliness, the bottomless Spring of life, comfort and joy. We were made to find our satisfaction, our heart’s rest, in him.

We can get distracted by so many things and not just at Christmas time as well. We in the church as much as those outside take only fleeting glimpses at Jesus before ‘graduating’ onto something else:

It’s not just our self-focus, though; we naturally gravitate, it seems, towards anything but Jesus – and Christians almost as much as anyone. Whether it’s the ‘Christian worldview’, ‘grace’, ‘the Bible’ or ‘the gospel’; as if they were things in themselves that could save us. Even ‘the cross’ can get abstracted form Jesus, as if the wood had some power of its own. Other things, wonderful things, vital concepts, beautiful discoveries, they so easily edge Jesus aside. Precious theological concepts meant to describe him and his work get treated as things in their own right. He becomes just another brick in the wall. But the centre, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system or a thing; it is not even ‘the gospel’ as such. It is Jesus Christ.

Beautiful! Jesus is all in all.

One author, in light of all this, wrote to a friend with this advice:

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief. Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love and repose in his almighty arms… Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in him.

Jesus is all in all. The greatest influencer and driver of history, the world’s true king and the rescuer come to redeem us from our sin.

Happy Christmas!!

When Santa Got Stuck In A… Prison Cell

Recently at our Christmas event we looked at the wonder of the incarnation, the theological term that describes God becoming flesh in the form of Jesus (carne = meat, as in Chilli Con Carne). Upon looking at this we heard about an amusing story from history in which the original Santa Claus got thrown into prison for a night.

Allow me to set the scene.

The year is 325AD & the Roman Emporer Constantine has recently called a meeting of some of the brightest and most influential church leaders in the land. They’re meeting in Nicea, Turkey to discuss some of the things that a popular theologian named Arius has been saying. Arius was described at the time as:

tall & lean of distinguished appearance and polished address. Women doted on him charmed by his beautiful manners. Men were impressed by his aura of intellectual superiority.

Here’s a picture (careful ladies):

He taught that the son of God, Jesus, was a created being and not eternal like God the Father. Whereas the church had always taught the opposite, that Jesus was of the same substance/type as the Father – Arius believed differently and Arius was influential. He believed that God the Father created the Son (Jesus) to do a job for him, namely that of repairing the broken creation he’d made. This difference taught by Arius was drastic enough that the Roman Emperor called a world-wide meeting to discuss it.

Present in the room when the meeting was held was this man:

More recognisable in his contemporary garb:

Nicholas, a Greek Christian was a Bishop and known for his kindness to the poor. It was said that he dropped bags of gold coins down the chimney of homes of people that he knew were struggling financially, or he’d put money in people’s shoes/socks that were left outside.

The story goes that at this meeting of theologians something unusual took place, something you’d expect to find more at a rock concert or political rally than you would a meeting of big bearded, wide fore-headed theologians.

Whilst Arius was in full flow Nicholas (the jolly fellow we know and love) marched across the room and slapped Arius in the face. The meeting may well have descended into chaos, we don’t know but we do know that Nicholas was stripped of his Bishoply privileges and thrown into a prison cell for the night.

Now there’s a Christmas tradition I’d like to have seen catch on – the Christmas slap. Each year we should all be allowed to slap one person of our choosing… hmmmm, who would I pick?

Question: What caused Santa to behave so well, uncharitably?

Well, jolly old St. Nic saw clearly that if Arius’ teaching was true then God was a very different sort of god to the one revealed at Christmas in the incarnation. If there was a time when God was not always eternally Father, Son & Spirit then God at his core isn’t a Father. If Arius was right then there was a time in history when God was all alone, lonely and in need of company. This type of God would have created the universe to meet a need in himself, a need to be a ruler or to be worshipped or loved. All alone he could not have been the God of love Jesus revealed him to be.

If the baby in the manger worshipped at Christmas is not forever and ever the Son of God then God is not also a Father and if not a Father he’s more akin to a boss or employer than he is to a dad.

If God is not a Father at his core then he’s more like the absentee landlord god of many people’s imaginings or the harsh dictatorial megalomaniac god of the modern anti-theists fancies.

That’s why St. Nic slapped Arius across the face and that’s why this Christmas at Kings we’re thanking God for Santa. Not the over-weight and out of shape gift giver but the Jesus-loving, clear thinking Christian who’s passion for God and defence of truth guarded us from error and kept us worshipping & knowing the one true God of Christmas, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Say Something, I’m Giving Up On You

Zoe leads the 6-11s at Kings & is part of the pastoral team

It can happen to any of us,

one moment our life seems to be going along ok and our walk with God good. He feels close. The next moment life is not so good. Difficulties, hardships, painful times have hit us and God does not feel so close. The losing of that closeness does not always happen overnight. We can often take God for granted, especially when life does not seem so bad. We start to not to talk to Him or spend so much time with Him. We don’t realise how much we have wandered until life takes a turn in direction.

Life starts to get difficult and it can get harder to bring our problems to God. This is sometimes because we feel ashamed or we feel we can face things in our own strength. And sometimes we just don’t know why God feels so hard to reach. Does He still care? Does He still love? Is He even bothered about me? Why doesn’t He say something?….He doesn’t care. He isn’t there. He doesn’t answer my prayers. We start to give up on Him.
In those desperate times we feel sometimes anger, sometimes rejection, sometimes let down, sometimes numb, sometimes tired of fighting and most of the time alone. The pain in your heart as you cry out is raw. And the silence is deafening.

I know because I have been there, experienced those long nights of loneliness, crying out for God to intervene, to help, begging Him to just make it stop.

Does this mean we lack faith? Does this mean we are not loved by God? Does this mean we are alone. The answer is a resounding NO!

Looking back on those times from the other side I see that God was there every step of the way. Often showing His love through friends and church family and blessing upon blessing which I often could not see. He had me ‘hemmed’ in. (Psalm 139: 1 – 12)

He had not gone anywhere and He was patiently waiting for me to lift my eyes to see Him.
Does that mean that time of questioning, of despair, of anger was wrong though? We just have to look at the Psalms to see that we are by no means the first ones to have been in that dark situation. Yes there are many psalms of praise but there are also many laments – where are you God?, why are you doing this God?, I can’t go on God. As the psalmists vent there questions at God there comes a point where they lift their eyes and they see the truth and grace of God. Yes He is there. (eg Psalm 77)

It’s not wrong to question and wonder. God knows our hearts and innermost thoughts regardless of whether we voice them or not. But in voicing them we are at least engaging with God. God knows and understands all we go through. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when faced with the knowledge of what was to come asked God if there could be some other way but for our sake He went through with it.

It can be difficult to rely on feelings as they go up and down, and in the really hard times it can also be so hard to hold on to the ‘head’ knowledge we have about God. If you are in that place of not ‘feeling’ God or starting to disbelief what you knew about Him I encourage you to continue to cry out to Him. You are not alone. This time may be brief or it may be a long journey. It probably will not be easy. When you are too tired to speak out – let the Spirit groan out to Him. Even if you laugh in disbelief when I say it I know it to be true, there will be an end because there IS hope. A hope that comes from God. A hope that is freely and lovingly given to us. He walks with us, He feels our pain, He does not turn away and He WILL restore you and you will be transformed by His love and His hope.

The title of the blog was inspired by the following song. Not a Christian song but as I listened to it the other day it felt like a modern day psalm of lament. Please just say something God, I’m giving up you.