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Times of change

September always seems to me to be a month of change. Summer turns into Autumn, the temperature drops, the evenings draw in and the leaves begin to change colour. Schools, Colleges and Universities start back which brings with it new classes and new experiences. Looking back, this time of year marks other significant changes for me such as starting new jobs and moving to a new home.

As I sit at my computer thinking about what to write it’s the subject of change that’s on my mind. Some changes are positive. They come with doorways of opportunity and the excitement of adventure. They mark progress and achievement and we embrace them willingly.

Yet, other changes are not so welcome. These changes can hit us hard. The onset of illness or tragedy come with pain and heartache. Loneliness can become a companion as we lose a friend or loved one from our lives. There is that pit in the stomach feeling that comes when things begin to crumble around us.

Uncertainty can dominate as we look at the shifting scene of our nation and the world around us. Fear can replace confidence as we see more and more terror attacks. Despair can replace hope as we lose trust in the systems and people who govern us. Economic, political, cultural, community and personal change impact our lives and set us off balance.

How do you deal with this? As a Christian, when I see and experience these changes, I am thankful that the Bible teaches me there is someone who never changes. It says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

What does that mean? Well, it means that no matter the circumstances I face, I can know that Jesus is just as loving, kind, gracious, merciful, just and right as he always has been and always will be. No matter how the world changes, Jesus is still the Son of God who died for sin and rose from the dead and promises to be with me. He is 100% stable and a rock that will not crumble.

As I sit here and think of change, I find myself wondering what changes the next 12 months might hold. Do any of us know? Not really.  Yet, I do know I can face them with confidence because Jesus never changes.

Loving Jesus means loving his people

Over the last week I’ve been reading the book “Connected: Living in the light of the Trinity” by Sam Allberry. It’s been a good reminder of the biblical truths of the nature of God and how they apply to our lives in so many ways.

Today I came across this passage that pulled me up short and made me think. The context is a reflection on 1 Corinthians 12:27 and the truth it teaches that the church as a unity of saved individuals is the body of Christ. Therefore, how you treat the church is reflective of how your heart is towards Jesus. Here’s where the author runs with that. What do you think? Too hard or bang on?

In any church there will be some who have virtually nothing to do with the rest of that body of Christians. I’m not talking about visitors, or those whose main church is elsewhere but come occasionally for a friendly catch-up, or those one or two who can’t handle large crowds right now and so keep a very low profile on a Sunday, or those who are not yet Christians, but who come regularly and are still working their way through the claims of Christ.

I’m thinking of those who come regularly and think of this as their church and yet make minimal effort to get to know all the other people. At our own church, they are those I have to race to the door just to greet them before they disappear. Every church has them. You might even be one of them.

If that’s you, then I can’t stop you behaving that way. But I can tell you that each week when you snub your church family, you are snubbing Jesus himself. You may be theologically sharp as a pin. You may be very disciplined in your devotional life. But if you are not interested in your church family, then you relationship with Jesus is very poor indeed. Your attitude to them is the true guide to your attitude to him. Ignore the church by all means, but please don’t pretend you love Jesus.

Allberry, S, Connected: Living in the light of the Trinity,  pp 129-130

Being there

Practical, Pastoral and Penetrating. This book is a great help to anyone wanting to know how to support someone through trials, or even just how to be a biblical friend.

Writing from personal experience Dave, a pastor on the Arabian Peninsula, has written a book that will both encourage those who are struggling and guide those seeking to help them. It begins with two chapters that encourage a biblical and gospel oriented approach to the struggles of life. The remaining chapters deal with seven practical areas setting out how to be a friend and help to someone in pain.

There were three things I particularly appreciated about this book. First, the size. I know size isn’t everything, but I find it matters especially when it’s a book I would want to give to others. This book is big enough to get to the heart of the real issues, yet at the same time not too big that it would scare anyone.

The second thing I really appreciated was the gospel heart of the book and its author. This isn’t a book offering a quick fix for any situation or a checklist of spiritual friendship. Rather it works from the foundation that Jesus is the answer to all our situations and then seeks to encourage us to be friends that both know Jesus and point others to him.

Then, third, this book is a gold mine of wisdom gleaned from others. Don’t get me wrong, it is so much more than a collection of quotes, but the ones that are there are worth reading and spending time meditating on. I was particularly challenged and encouraged by the passage quoted from Horatius Bonar’s, ‘Words to winners of souls’.

In his pain Job had some ‘friends’, but they did not serve him well. Here is a book that will help us to think through and work out how we can be more helpful to people around us who are suffering. It is sure to both challenge and encourage.

Is your worship real worship?

One of the advantages of reading old books is that they make you aware that there is nothing new under the sun. Here is a quote from Stephen Charnock that is bang up to date.

Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship, provided he will walk by our rule.

The Existence and Attributes of God. Kindle Edition, Loc 2629