Tag Archives: faithfulness

Take Away

I’m writing this to try to clarify some of my thoughts, and for anyone who is interested to know a bit of my story.

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I used to be a Circuit Minister.  That means I was stationed, in Methodist parlance, to a Circuit, where I had pastoral charge of five churches.  Two of them were 15 miles from The Manse – but not in the same direction!  I had plenty of involvement in schools, in the different communities and with the older people.  I had opportunities to lead all varieties of worship, to try to work out how to make God relevant to different people. I loved it.  I was fulfilled, excited, challenged and everything felt so “right”.  I’m not saying I got everything right – far from it, I made some spectacular mistakes and misjudgments, but that was part of it.  Part of living and learning and walking in faith together.

Then in 2005 I got flu.  Not, ‘I’ve got a really bad cold’ flu, proper full-blown, knock you off you feet flu.  I took to my bed, wearing my coat – partly because I was shivering despite the fever, and partly because I had no energy to take it off on crawling back from the doctors.  And there I lay, well until they came to install our new kitchen, when I had to make it downstairs!

The problem is, I never got better.  The fever went and the head ache and even the sore throat.  But the cough, the total exhaustion, the not being able to think straight  stayed – and were joined by some other friends like excruciatingly dry eyes and other problems that have come along since either caused by or part of the rest.

Eventually it became clear that this was going nowhere, and after a couple of trial returns to work, it wasn’t going to happen any time soon.  And so the decision was taken that I would retire early on ill-health.  I am eternally grateful to the Methodist Church for its care and provision for us, that meant we were safe and had a roof over our heads.

Yet, to have to leave, to have to give up a ministry I had trained for, that we as a family had sacrificed so much for (and got so much more back!), that felt so right, was so part of me… To have to leave behind a community, a friends network, our children’s friends was, and still is, so hard.

I see that my earlier experiences and theological explorations had taught me about how to cope and live with the physical issues and constraints, but what about losing me?  The me I had become, the me that had been formed in a furnace?  The me that was called and equipped?  The things I enjoyed?  The things that made me feel alive?

And so I am stripped of all that.

Landed in a community not of my choosing.  A community I cannot join in with to make any contacts.  With no ministry.  No energy.  No voice.

And yet, I still stand by those words,

We walk by faith, not by sight

and always, always, singing this song:

because I have nothing else at all to hang on to.

Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. We want to put it on like clothes and not be naked.

These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. So always be cheerful!

As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. But we live by faith, not by what we see. We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord. But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him. 10 After all, Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies.

That was 2007 – I’ll share the next part tomorrow – but that might be a bit harder…

Promise?

How good are you at keeping promises?

Do you only make ones you know you can keep?  Do you stick to promises you’ve made rigidly? Or do you try to back out of ones that in the cold light of day seem ambitious or a mistake?

God keeps his promises.

1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43

Solomon Prays at the Temple

22 Solomon stood facing the altar with everyone standing behind him. Then he lifted his arms toward heaven 23 and prayed:

Lord God of Israel, no other god in heaven or on earth is like you!

You never forget the agreement you made with your people, and you are loyal to anyone who faithfully obeys your teachings. 24 My father David was your servant, and today you have kept every promise you made to him.

25 Lord God of Israel, you promised my father that someone from his family would always be king of Israel, if they do their best to obey you, just as he did. 26 Please keep this promise you made to your servant David.

27 There’s not enough room in all of heaven for you, Lord God. How could you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built? 28 But I ask you to answer my prayer. 29 This is the temple where you have chosen to be worshipped. Please watch over it day and night and listen when I turn toward it and pray. 30 I am your servant, and the people of Israel belong to you. So whenever any of us look toward this temple and pray, answer from your home in heaven and forgive our sins.

41-42 Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple, 43 listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honour you.

Solomon comes to pray in the Temple he has had built for the glory of God.  As he does so, he remembers God’s faithfulness and acknowledges that he has always done what he had promised he would.  And then he prays for that to continue.

But as Solomon does so, he also prays in other ways:

  • He praises God, “Lord God of Israel, no other god in heaven or on earth is like you!” (v23), and “There’s not enough room in all of heaven for you, Lord God.” (v27) Solomon comes in praise, wonder and worship of the God who is so vast, so majestic – and yet is still interested in one man.
  • He comes aware of his need for forgiveness from his sins, “So whenever any of us look toward this temple and pray, answer from your home in heaven and forgive our sins” (v30); “ Listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple” (v38).  He is aware of so much that can go wrong in people’s lives and their need to return to God and ask his forgiveness.
  • He prays for God to be worshipped and honoured, “Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honour you” (v43).  The Temple is not to show off Solomon’s building skills, or the splendour of Israel, but the glory of God alone.

All in all, not a bad pattern for prayer…

Lord,

I come to you in worship,

You are a might and majestic God,

King of the Universe,

holder of all

…and yet you know me,

love me

and care for me.

Yet Lord,

as I gaze on you and your splendour,

I realise how far I am from that,

and I come in confession,

seeking your forgiveness

and a clean start.

Lord,

my prayer

is that your name be honoured

throughout the world,

that all people will see you

and acknowledge you as God,

worship you

and live for you.

Lord,

hear my prayer

Not Drowning, But Living

A covenant is a solemn agreement. A promise to do, or not do something.

The form in which we are most familiar with it is marriage.

The promise of one man and one woman to love and care for each other, a commitment.

In this reading, God is making a covenant, a promise – and he seals it, not with a kiss or a ring, but a rainbow.

God makes his promise with Noah and all his descendants – and with every living creature on earth – so no one is excluded.

The promise he makes is:

Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis 9:11).

God has done with that, the world had got into such a state that it needed a clean start, God has washed it clean, and he won’t be doing it again.  He promises – and gives the rainbow as a sign – and every time there is a rainbow it is a reminder of that promise.

The interesting thing is that though this is a covenant, no promise in return is required from Noah.  This is what God is going to do, it is his free will promise to creation.  God jut offers it – what an awesome and generous God.

But with receiving God’s precious gifts and promises does come responsibility.  Sometimes we may wonder that God has forgotten his promise, when we hear of monsoons and mudslides and flooding caused by torrential rain – but more often it is us collectively, who have forgotten our global responsibility to use wisely the resources God has given to us.  We too are called not to drown others by our wants and what we think we need.

God wants not to destroy us, but to give life.  Will we receive it?  Will we do our bit to make sure we are not destroying others?

God remains faithful to us, will we be faithful to him in how we live our lives?

Thank you God

for your faithfulness to us,

that you offer us life.

Forgive me

the times when I would rather choose the way of destruction,

may I not be drowning others with my thoughtlessness and carelessness.

May I seek the way of your life

and be faithful in it.