Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sing a new song!

A really helpful and practical word from Mike Betts this morning. This issue of perspective, of seeing things as they really are, keeps coming up at present - and how vital it is! How easy it is for an anxious thought, or a disappointment to wreck our day. How easy to take your eye off the ball of what really matters, and ending up the loser. (I trust that wont happen to Norwich this afternoon against Ipswich!).
Mike’s first point from Psalm 96 on how to keep clear vision was: Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! in a word - sing, and make it a fresh, new song of who God is!
I have long been absolutely convinced of the powerful effect on God-centred, Jesus glorifying worship - and not just on a Sunday. What a difference it makes, any time, any place, to sing, to ascribe greatness to our God. Of course it’s not always that easy or convenient - you’d look a little odd bursting into song on the train or in the supermarket, but there is something to pursue & fight for here.

Sam Storms put’s it like this: Singing enables the soul to express deeply felt emotions that mere speaking cannot. Singing gives focus and clarity to what words alone often make fuzzy. Singing sensitizes. It softens the soul to hear God’s voice and quickens the will to obey. I can only speak for myself, but when I’m happy I sing. When I’m touched with a renewed sense of forgiveness, I sing. When God’s grace shines yet again on my darkened path, I sing. When I’m lonely and long for the intimacy of God’s presence, I sing. When I need respite from the chaos of a world run amok, I sing. Nothing can do for me what music does.*

Me too! And so I fight for time alone at the start of each day to worship, and I use every means to fed my spirit with songs of praise - iPod, cd’s or just humming!
So why is it that this makes such a difference? I believe it’s because this is what we were made for: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever!

I’d encourage you to muse on Psalm 96 some more - and try it!


* ‘The Singing God’ by Sam Storms

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Unashamedly an optimist!

I was with a good friend of mine yesterday who is facing a significant challenge just now. Having faced some challenges myself recently I know something of how that can feel, and more importantly, what a wonderful opportunity those moments can be for us to discover God’s amazing grace, presence and help. And it is just as well that the Bible doesn’t instruct us to sort ourselves out first before we can find God - quite the opposite! Toby was preaching this morning on that awesome invitation of Jesus “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” or if you prefer The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11:28-30.

I am challenged by those words of Jesus (and Toby - download it!) because all too often Christians come over as being intense, uptight, verging on stressed! Of course, if you’ve been anywhere near King’s lately you will have noticed the emphasis on joy and celebration (thanks Evan!) and rightly so! We are , after all, hugely privileged people with amazing promises hanging over our lives.

Someone recently described me as being an optimist. I like that and take it as a compliment! After all, what’s the opposite - a pessimist, and who wants to be known for being one of those? Not that I was born an optimist or have always been one - far from it - like many british males, I can be as withdrawn, introspective (even a tad melancholic) as the next. But as I say, we have wonderful promises hanging over our lives because of what Jesus has done for us already, and what he has promised us for the future. In fact, Martyn Lloyd-Jones thought that every Christian should be an optimist. I quote:

Every Christian must be an optimist. You never know when God is going to appear, you never know when the Holy Spirit is going to descend, you never know when Christ is going to deal with you and remove your burden and give your soul release. Just when you are about to convince yourself that the night is going to be endless - the dawn breaks; just when you feel sure that the struggle is all in vain and that your fighting is useless - just then, and when least expected, you are rewarded with victory.

Have a really good week!


Monday, 15 November 2010

Stay close!

There’s a horrible story at the head of the news today of a couple on honeynoon in Cape Town. Did you hear it? Carjacked at gunpoint, the man was later dumped unharmed while his new wife was taken, killed, and her body left in the car. Truly horrific. Evil. And for what purpose? Money? To feed a habit? Some kind of perverse ‘pleasure’? Who knows.

I’m not going to sermonize on the state of the human heart because I know my own only too well. Yesterday I was preaching from John’s Gospel chapter 15, on the words of Jesus “I am the true vine”, and the essence of that discourse is, to put it bluntly, “the fruit of my life really matters but I can’t produce the good stuff.” If only we would get this matter clear once and for all. God wants me to be something that I can never be in my own strength - period. So there’s no point it me being religious or pious or super-spiritual in a vain attempt to squeeze some fruit out of my life. At best it’s bitter fruit, at worst foolish pride.

But once we’ve got clear on this impossibility, it opens the door to the amazing, awesome, wonderfully liberating alternative - namely that my life (and yours) can become something radically different and increasingly fruitful as the result of an encounter with Jesus and a vital, living, ongoing connection to Him!. Jesus put it very clearly to his disciples: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. ” (John 15:4, ESV)
So the bad news is that we can’t produce good, God-pleasing fruit in our lives. No way, not even a bit! But the outstandingly good news is that in getting connected to Jesus as Saviour and Source of our lives, the Forgiver and Focus of our lives, then not only do we get to massively enjoy knowing Him, we also find that bit by bit, a different kind of fruit emerges in & through our lives that pleases our heavenly father. What a great deal! It’s a win, win situation!

Of course our twisted culture tries to persuade us that there is more joy to be had in illicit sex, in drug-induced highs, in gold & goodies than in Jesus, but surely, that lie is wearing thin isn’t it? And isn’t it time that we Christians pointed out the obvious truth with greater boldness? Sam Storms puts it like this: My aim as a father, preacher, teacher, and now grandfather is to hammer home with unrelenting zeal that the joys of knowing Jesus are simply incomparable. His capacity to please knows no rival..... In the presence of our great God and Saviour there is joy that is full, not partial, half-baked, measured, or parceled out; at his right hand there are eternal pleasures, not the fleeting, transient, toxic sort that promises so much and delivers so little.’

So abide in Jesus this week (& for the rest of your life!!). Stay close!