Tag Archives: preaching

That’s The Way To Do It

We all do things for different motives.  Often we are trying to help, sharing knowledge or experience, or passing on advice; it is possible that sometimes we are guilty of manipulation or even gentle coercion, maybe (dare I say it) even nagging, trying to bring someone else round to our point of view.

Perhaps sometimes it seems that the end justifies the means, but is that necessarily the case?  Is there a better way?  A right way?

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (CEV)

Paul’s Work in Thessalonica

My friends, you know that our time with you wasn’t wasted. As you remember, we had been mistreated and insulted at Philippi. But God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble. We didn’t have any hidden motives when we won you over, and we didn’t try to fool or trick anyone. God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn’t speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives.

You also know that we didn’t try to flatter anyone. God himself knows that what we did wasn’t a cover-up for greed.We were not trying to get you or anyone else to praise us.But as apostles, we could have demanded help from you. After all, Christ is the one who sent us. We chose to be like children or like a mother nursing her baby. We cared so much for you, and you became so dear to us, that we were willing to give our lives for you when we gave you God’s message.

Paul is keen to impress upon the Thessalonians that he did things the right way and with the right motives.  He brought the gospel to them straight.  With no gimmicks, no tricks, no outlandish claims.  He didn’t dress the message up to be what they wanted to hear, and he wasn’t doing it for his own glory.  He just brought what God had asked him to say.

Are we so trustworthy with God’s message?  Can I be trusted to bring it straight?  Without additions, fuss, wild claims or any compulsion to ‘look at me and what I’m doing’.  Do I let God’s message speak for itself without feeling I have to make it something more?

Because God’s word stands – as is.  It is powerful and life-changing all by itself.  Can God trust me to share it?

Lord,
I come as I am,
just as I am,
nothing fancy,
no bold claims,
just wanting to get things right
to do them your way.

Lord,
may I go with your word,
just as it is,
no gimmicks,
no tricks,
no pointing at me.
May your word
stand in its power
and change lives
through you.

Lord Thy Word Abideth

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The call

Last night I had the privilege of attending a service for the Admission of a new Local Preacher in our Circuit.  These are always occasions which I enjoy, and give me great hope for the future of the Methodist Church.

But they also serve to get me thinking about our calling.  The part each and every one of us has to play.  God’s call in our life is something for each one of us to consider.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the old joke of the motorist stopping to ask for directions to a place, only to be told by the local, “Oh you wouldn’t want to start from here”.  Living in The depths of rural Nottinghamshire we sometimes experienced the reality of that – especially one wet Friday morning when I needed to get to Chester.  I can look back on the times when we lived in Manchester, in a very tight triangle of three motorways, and going in any direction at all was no problem.  But that is not where I am today, and I can only start any journey from where I am.

This reading from Exodus sees Moses’ call.  God is calling him to respond – to a task that he needs him for.  We are all called to a task by God, his call in all our lives.

For Moses, as God calls to him, there were three fundamental questions – questions that are important also for us.  Questions of where we are; what we bring with us; and where, or what we believe God is calling us to.

Where do you stand?

Moses was minding his own business when the call of the Lord came, busy about his work.  God comes to him in the commonplace – where he was.

The truth was, he was only in that place because he had run away from something he had done wrong, but that was the reality of where he was at that time.  We can only start from where we are – whether that seems like a good place or not.  So we need, both personally and en bloc, a realistic appraisal of where we are.  To be clear about where we are today, in truth before God.

As God met with Moses where he was, the ground he was standing on became holy ground – the place where God spoke to him.  It would not be unusual for a dry thorn bush in the arid desert to spontaneously burst into flames – what was unusual was that it didn’t burn up.  The flame of fire, is the glory of God’s presence, which transforms, but does not consume.

Wherever we are standing, whatever the reality of our situation, are we stood in a place where we can hear God?  Will we let him speak into where we are?  And as we hear him, are we willing to pass the message on?

Moses realizes that God has chosen him for a task – but… he’s not sure.  But God asks…

What’s in your hand?

When I decide to cook something, I can have one idea in my head, then go to my cupboard, and discover I haven’t got everything I need to make that, so I end up making something different – what I can make, with what I’ve got to hand.

Moses asks, “Who am I?”  What can I do?  God’s answer is that he is with him, Moses need only allow himself to be used – all that he is.  It’s not about who Moses is, but about what God can do.  God just commands him to go, as the person he is, and the success of his mission will show God’s presence with him, and bless his task.

At the beginning of Chapter 4 God prompts him  “What is that in your hand?”  As Moses continues to argue about the task God his calling him to, and his ability or otherwise to do it, God reminds him that he can use what is in his hands already if he allows him to.

Each of us brings something unique.  We all have something in our hands that God can use.

So knowing where we stand,  what do we bring to God?  What do you bring with you?  What are you good at, what are your passions??

God doesn’t look at what we can’t do, what we haven’t got; but what we have, what we can do – and uses that.  If you think of some of the people God used:

  • Moses stuttered.
  • David’s armour didn’t fit.
  • Amos only had experience as a fig tree pruner.
  • Jacob was a liar.
  • Abraham was too old.
  • Joseph was a nuisance.
  • Peter was a coward.
  • Jonah was disobedient.
  • Miriam was a gossip.
  • Gideon and Thomas were doubters
  • Paul was a murderer.
  • So was Moses.
  • Not to mention David.
  • John the Baptist dressed funny.
  • Martha was a worrywart.
  • Samson needed a haircut.
  • David was only a teenager.
  • So was Mary, the mother of Jesus.
  • So was Daniel.
  • So were many others who were used by God.

The call of God takes account of our strengths and weaknesses, what we bring with us.  It acknowledges and reinforces strengths, and compensates for weaknesses.  We just need to make what we do have in our hands available to him.  To allow God to take us and use us – to take our gifts and use us.

So we come to God, where we are.  We bring what we have, inviting God to use it and supplement it as he needs.  And we ask him to show us what to do – in his name and for his glory.

So we come to God, where we are.  We bring what we have, inviting God to use it and supplement it as he needs.  And we ask him to send us out, week by week into the pulpits of this Circuit – in his name and for his glory.