Unexpected surprise, joyfully received?

The other week I found myself humming a tune from 1981 (a sign of my old age? Though I have to say there was a lot of great music in the 80s!!)

The song was an old U2 track called ‘October’ and as I was out walking. It was windy and dull, some of the words seemed so appropriate to how the day seemed:

October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

It has been a delightful surprise to have the return of sunshine and blue skies in the past few days. To be able to take photos like above, whilst away at a leadership conference. The trees were far from bare! Plus it has been really warm over the past couple of afternoons – I wished I had brought shorts with me to wear.

Unexpected weather, but joyfully received.

I wonder whether the U2 lyrics above could be a good summary of how we can feel about life in general sometimes?

That it can seem like everything has been’stripped bare’ by circumstances that we have been facing.

Perhaps it seems like that right now for you? I have certainly been there (may be even that will help someone else reading this)

Or may be as you look at the news, it can cause a kind of despair; like the trees have lost all their leaves? It can seem like all the sunshine has gone out of life.

If any of the above is how you feel right now, firstly don’t be lost in being on your own in this – who can you talk to?

May be not surprisingly, I am also going to point us back to God – the One whom is described in these words –

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.   (Psalm 145:8-9, New International Version)

Will we be real before the Lord? It may mean we need to express anger, frustration or disappointment. There may be things that we need to confess and be freed up from. Perhaps it seems impossible to connect with God right now -again who can you open up to and ask them to journey with you on this?

In God there is hope and I finish with some words declaring that,

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13 New International Version)

May we all know, amid whatever life throws our way, the joy and peace that is available as we trust the Lord. We can know this through His Holy Spirit at work in our lives – His Spirit given to all who have put their trust in Christ.

May we be open to change coming, even to an unexpected surprise, joyfully received.

Andy

 

 

 

 

Love serves

Imagine going into your work place and your boss tells you and the other staff that she or he is going to make you all the drinks you ever need during the week to come. Or if you are a student, that your lecturer would come and cook all your meals.

In either scenario, we might think, ‘what is that about?’. Perhaps we would be a bit skeptical and ask what is the hidden agenda? Or perhaps we would simply be shocked. Or even suggesting, “no, we should do that for you, not for us”

Or what about if the King, Queen, President or other leader of the nation you are from, came to your house and did the cleaning?  (not meant disrespectfully about whoever your country’s leader is)

If we can begin to ‘feel’ a bit of emotion for any of the above scenarios, we begin to get a hint of what it might have been like for Jesus’ disciples on the night before he was crucified (check out John’s Gospel chapter 13). They were eating together as part of the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew he was going to be arrested and killed in the day that would follow.

In the account we read these words, “having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (the latter part can also be translated, “he loved them to the end”)

Though Christ was their Lord, their Teacher, though He was God in the flesh; He chose to wash the dirt and dust off their feet. This was very counter-cultural to all accepted ‘norms’ of how a rabbi/leader/teacher should be.

Why did He do it?

Love serves.

Yes, Jesus was setting an example of serving and for those who follow Him to likewise have hearts to serve.

But this was not just His making a ‘good teaching illustration’. It was expression of God’s love in action.

Love serves.

Such love took Christ to the cross – taking upon Himself the wrongdoings of humanity.

Love serves and that can cost.

When I write that love serves, I don’t mean that it will mean we always feel like it of course. I am sure Jesus did not feel like being crucified!

But if with God’s help, we can embrace that love serves, this will help to cut across any sense of serving only because ‘we must’ or it is ‘the right thing to do’.

It may be that you are reading this and you are tired, may be even really tired from serving. Perhaps this relates to your family situation, your church, the voluntary organisation you are part of or helping a poorly neighbour or friend. May be you have got to a place where you feel you have nothing left to give. Or you see so many different heart breaking things in the news, that it can end up seeming there is nothing that can be done.

Well in reminding us all (myself included) that love serves, four thoughts:

  • Remember who we are serving – we are called to ‘love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37). The Lord knows fully what being human is like – Christ though God, served. We can look to Him for strength and empowering to serve others.
  • It is okay to rest and to have boundaries – Jesus also said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Jesus took time out, he had times to rest. Serving others is a good thing but self-care is also important. Do we build this in as part of our lives?
  • Pray and ask for discernment – Yes it is true that love serves. But you only have so many hours in the day, only so much energy or resources. We cannot respond personally to every financial appeal or every cry for help. Let’s ask the Lord to show us where to serve.
  • Draw on His love – The Apostle Paul wrote, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)

Love serves!

Andy

 

 

Keep growing!

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” 2 Peter 3:18

There is a big emphasis, particularly in places like Western Europe and North America on individual development, self-actualisation, being someone who grows into a ‘better me’. There are some good things within the mix of this. Though is it completely a fully healthy picture?

Sure, it is healthy to have a proper sense of ‘self’ – this can truly come with humility in our lives. Humility includes a true recognition of who we are – it neither means we inflate ourselves nor put ourselves down falsely.

Individuals achieving things can also have a great benefit for others too.

But…

The over-emphasis on the individual can become hugely imbalanced and even, toxic.

Yes we are individuals but we are also called to community – and that is true whether we are extroverts or introverts (I write as one of the latter).

So to the words in italics above. Peter finishes his second letter that is recorded in the New Testament, with these words.
It is a call to keep on growing. ‘Grow’ is a key word in ICL’s mission statement.
Peter highlights two areas of growth both related to Christ. Neither are just about us alone.

Firstly to grow in the grace (undeserved, unlimited favour) of Christ  – how might that look for you and I to grow in this? For instance, not only to know more and more grace in our lives but to express it to others? Others like our family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues or other students. This world needs to experience the grace of God. More grace please!

Also Peter gives a call to grow in the knowledge of Christ. The word for knowledge here is not about gaining more factual knowledge about Christ alone. It is not about puffing up our religious facts and figures! Nor is it even just so we can give reasons to others about why we believe in Christ (though that is a good thing to be able to do). Rather the knowledge that Peter writes about is deeper than that – it is a knowing where we are experiencing Christ at work in our lives.

The same root word is actually used by Mary in the Advent story when she asks out of confusion how can she be pregnant ‘since I am a virgin?’ The literal translation is ‘since I do not know a man?’ (Luke 1:34) This word we have translated as ‘knowledge’ is one that speaks intimately of our lives. It is so much more than just head knowledge!

To grow in such knowledge is again not just for us as individuals – those around us need to see the reality of ‘Emmanuel – God with us!’

We live in a world tossed back and forth with political turmoil, refugees fleeing, natural disasters, human trafficking and environmental exploitation to name just a few things. How the grace and knowledge of Christ need to be seen.

So let’s keep growing with His help!

Andy

PS If you believe in praying, pray for people caught up in different situations around the world. For instance, as I write this, an earthquake has hit Mexico and the latest hurricane has been assaulting Puerto Rico, Dominica and other places in the Caribbean.

 

 

Worth it?

In a few hours time I am flying back from the UK, having been over here visiting family. When I was in Exeter yesterday on my way to the hospital, I passed by the shops. All kinds of products in shops crying out “buy me!”

Above are just a few. Including a watch in the middle of the bottom right picture – a mere 10,200 euros or so to purchase! A bit cheap I think !!!

Worth it?

Don’t worry, there is not a rant coming about consumerism (though it is good to ask – are we getting caught up in the lure of buying stuff? do we consider ethical issues with what we purchase?)

Much of what we have of course, we can so easily take for granted. The plight of those caught up in floods in South Asia and Houston for instance show how quickly the ‘norm’ can be lost. (Let’s keep praying for those impacted)

In our lives what do we value? What has worth? How do we express this?

For instance, if we say we value our partner, children, parents, nephews, nieces, other family members, friends, colleagues or fellow students – have we let them know recently? How can we express worth in a meaningful way? If we say others have value in our lives, do our agendas reflect this?

There is a saying that goes round – ‘no one gets to the end of their life and says I wish I had spent more time at the office’

Why not pray and think about how to express your love and valuing of others in fresh ways.

Worth it?

Besides people, I also value music, reading, visiting new places, walking, cycling (though far from speedy), being out in the countryside, seeing a good movie…

How about you? If we say things have value, then how can we build these into our lives in a healthy way?

Worth it?

On Sunday 17th,  in the ICL gathering, I am going to speak about ‘worship without walls’ based around a story recorded in John’s Gospel (John 4:1-26). Jesus breaks down all kinds of racial/societal ‘walls’ as he connects with a Samaritan woman at a well. He reaches after the real her on the inside, amid the externals of a messy string of relationships that she has had. He sees past the religious arguments and smoke screens that she puts up.

At one stage, he says to her,

a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks’ (4:23)

The English word ‘worship’ comes from an older word – effectively ‘worthship’. The Hebrew/Greek words that get translated as ‘worship’ in English translations of the Bible, are more varied and very rich. The combination points to worship as something active, not passive, something that involves the whole person and costs something.

True worship is an active part of our lives – in fact according to Romans 12:2, it is the giving of our lives as ‘living sacrifices’ (so don’t just think Sundays or corporate songs and prayers when you hear the word ‘worship’)

True worship to have worth, has a cost.  What does that mean for you and me?

True worship is ‘in the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is given to those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. We are not called to go through the motions of worship but to draw on the ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14)

True worship is ‘in truth’. Truth about who God is as ultimately revealed through Jesus Christ. Truth about who we are, our identity in Christ and the call for us to offer our lives up to Him.

According to Jesus, Father God seeks true worshippers. Not because He has some kind of need or inadequacy but so that people whom He loves (check out John 3:16, 1 John 3:1) might know Him –  not just know about Him!

Father God puts such worth on this, it took Christ to the cross. Why? So that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God. That is amazing grace. It was costly but the Lord considered it worth it.

So, for us when it comes to our lives:

Worship – what worth does it have?

Andy

 

 

 

 

 

Being planted!

If you are reading this and are new to the area, welcome to Leiden!

At ICL, we are on with a new series called ‘Foundations’ based around ICL’s mission statement:

“a Christ centred international community planted to worship, grow and serve in the Leiden area and beyond

Last Sunday I talked about our being Christ centred and an international community. This Sunday, Paulina who is our Student Ministry pastor will talk about being ‘planted’.

What comes to your mind with that word and the relevance for your life? (wherever you happen to be as you read this)

Below I re-post thoughts on being planted that I wrote in a blog earlier this year. I think it is still relevant for us all.

Andy

From a previous Spring time blog on ‘Planted- some reflections’:

 ‘a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour’ (Isaiah 61:3).

Do we see ourselves as planted? How do we see our relationship to God through Christ? In Colossians 2:6-7 we can read, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”.

How do we view being in the neighbourhood where we live, the study course we are on or the job that we do? Is it just random, someone else’s choice, our choice or could it be that God is involved somehow? Can I encourage us all to take time to pray and think about how might the Lord call us to view where we live and what we do in the week.

What are we planted in?

Think soil and weather for example. Now I am about to break the plant metaphor a bit… what are we feeding ourselves on? Is it healthy stuff which will aid growth? “A person reaps what they sow” (Galatians 5:7)

Sometimes the weather turns somewhat unpleasant (even here in the Netherlands!!) The elements can be really against a plant growing. Deep and searching roots are often the answer and finding the nutrients and water that are needed.

It could be that you are facing a time of real dryness or having questions like ‘where are you God?’ Perhaps you are going through a tough time (like alluded to in the talk on Psalm 73 recently). When seemingly unanswerable questions come, where do we turn to? What do we feed on?

Will we give the time to grow from being planted?

Recently, I was in the car and either side of the motorway were really tall trees reaching majestically up to the sky. It was almost like the trees were stood on parade to the left and the right.

All those trees took time to grow to that height. It was far from instant.

So much of the way society is wired is to be instant or near enough so:

  • Emails demanding rapid replies (though do all emails need such reaction??)
  • Internet at ever faster speeds
  • Fast food

I wonder if this seeps into our spirituality and walk with God? We can end up expecting everything to be instant and then wonder what is happening when it is not.

There was significant time between God’s promise to Abraham of a son and the birth of Isaac.

There were 100s of years between God’s promise of the Messiah and the coming of Christ.

What kind of season do you see yourself in? Ecclesiastes 3:1 asserts, “there is a time for everything”. A number of the things that follow in verses 2 to 8 are very real to me at present. Some of it has been tough, some of it has been challenging.

It also has brought me afresh to see there is a timing to God’s ways in our lives. Even situations we did not expect (or necessarily want), can be used to bring new growth. Though will we keep trusting the Lord and allow the time for His work in and through our lives?

A planting of the Lord – how do you see that phrase and your life?

 

Christ-centred?

It is a Saturday afternoon as I am writing this – perhaps it is your first weekend here in the Leiden area. Or at the least, one of your first Saturdays here. If so, welcome to you!

Over the coming weeks, in our church gatherings we are going to be reflecting on our ‘Foundations’ as a community. We will be using the church mission statement to help us with this –

“ICL seeks to be a Christ-centred international community planted to worship, grow and serve in the Leiden area and beyond”

There is too much to pick out from this statement in one blog. So I have just highlighted two words: Christ-centred.

“Who do you say that I am?” – words of Jesus Christ to his first disciples (you can read the context in Matthew 16:13-18). He asked this to them outside a town area where there were shrines to all kinds of different ‘gods’ and belief ideas.

The answer to that question is just as vital today in a world of many different and often conflicting views. A world where some say let’s be done with religious beliefs since these only bring trouble!

  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • Who do we say that He is?
  • What do you think it means to be Christ centred?

In Hebrews 3:1, we are challenged to “fix your thoughts on Jesus”:

  • How does this connect with our daily lives – work, study, family, our neighbourhoods?
  • How does focus on Christ relate to things we see in the news such as natural disasters or terror attacks?

Big questions I know. But if faith in Jesus Christ is real and relevant to life in 2017, then it is not about some kind of mystical escapism from the world around us or the challenges in our own personal lives. Rather following Him is central to all aspects of living.

In the Matthew 16 passage, it is recorded that Peter as one of Jesus’s disciples replied, ” You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Jesus was then, He still is!

Andy

 

 

 

Walls are made to be broken!

 Remnant of the Berlin Wall, Bernauerstrasse, August 2017.

Walls are made to be broken!

Do you ever find yourself in unexpected places? Right now I am in the UK due to some family illness – I was not expecting on the weekend to be here.

Two weeks ago we were in this building:

Not the best photo I admit. What is it? It is the Chapel of Reconciliation built in part of the what was the death strip that separated East and West Berlin. The original, much larger church building of similar name was demolished by the East German authorities in 1985. It had stood empty since the Wall went up:

 Demolition 1985, photo from the Berlin Wall Memorial Information Centre (worth a visit!)

In going to the memorial site, we had really not expected to find this chapel. It was very peaceful to sit inside and spend some moments to pray. But also to reflect on where this chapel had been built and the divisions there had been.

The Berlin Wall was so iconic of the West-East Europe split. For the people of Berlin it was more than that, it physically tore apart families, disrupted city life and of course people died trying to escape to the West. I remember being amazed when the Wall came down in 1989 – it had seemed such a permanent feature!

Walls are made to be broken!

The word ‘reconciliation’ is part of the name of this church in the former Wall area. In the New Testament we can read of how Jesus Christ has ‘destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ (Ephesians 2:14). By His sacrifice on the cross and taking on himself the wrongs of humanity, He broke the division between people and God. Yet also in the context of what the apostle Paul writes,  Christ broke the division, between Jews and non-Jews (racial/cultural barriers).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we can read these words,

‘So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’.  2 Corinthians 5:16-19, New International Version

There is a lot to take in from those verses. May be read it slowly two or three times and see what strikes you.

Through Christ we are made right with God. But also for those who have received this into their lives, there is a call to live this out. In a later verse, followers of Jesus are referred to as ‘Christ’s ambassadors‘.  We have been called to a message of reconciliation.

That is what the chapel in the former death strip stands for. It is linked to other church congregations in places like Coventry (UK ), Hiroshima(Japan) and Dresden(Germany) who emphasise the call for reconciliation.

How do we help encourage reconciliation? Between people and God? Between people who are divided?

In the previous blog I wrote about prejudice and racism linked to our visiting the Holocaust Memorial. For those of us reading this who see ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, how can being reconciled to God impact into our world around us?

‘we regard no one from a worldly point of view’ – what does that mean for our lives?

What does having a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ look like in our neighbourhoods, study courses, work places, families? How does it speak into our political views that we hold?

Let us take some time to pray and reflect on these words from 2 Corinthians 5. Be freshly encouraged that it is possible through Jesus Christ for people to be reconciled to God. It is possible for all, including people like you and me. Yet also let’s consider how we can live out this message among others around us and whenever we speak up about issues in the news for instance.

Walls are made to be broken – through the ministry of reconciliation!

Andy

 

 

It happened, it can happen again!

Above are words of an Italian Jewish chemist, writer and Holocaust survivor. These are portrayed at the start of the underground exhibition center of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. You may have seen pictures before of the centre from above ground:

  2711 concrete ‘stelae’ of various sizes and heights.

Primo Levi wrote a number of books based on his experiences including ‘If this be a man” based on his time in Auschwitz. It was a book that really impacted me a number of years ago when I read it.

Spending time at the center and other memorials close by was deeply moving:

  • The unbelievable barbarism that people can inflict on others.
  • The importance of seeking to ensure that never again can prejudice grow into such hateful outworking.

As Primo Levi declared, “it happened, therefore it can happen again”.

Around the world sadly we do see too many examples of people being oppressed by others. There are many situations to pray over and to speak up about  also where we have the opportunity.

One of the strengths of the Memorial rooms is that these really bring home the horror of the concentration camps through the stories of individuals and specific families. It was gut-wrenching reading/listening at times and I readily admit I found it overwhelming.

As I reflected and prayed later that day, I also asked myself some questions. Had I been a young person or adult in Germany in the 1930s, would I have turned a blind eye to the camps? Or more than that, would I have actively taken part? Everything within me cries out I hope not!Racism and persecuting people because they are different is terrible.

But I think true humility means that I have to be honest and say as I was not there then, I don’t know how I would have reacted. That is a challenging thought.

I think we can all end up considering that matters like prejudice as being quite abstract when it comes to our own lives. And yet…?

  • In our hearts, how do we view other people? Is there any group of people that we essentially feel negative about?
  • Are there people whose way of living we may well disagree with but somehow this has crossed over into something toxic inside?
  • Is there any group of people whom we have basically stereotyped and consider inferior in one way or another?

‘But I am not a fascist!’ we might say. No but you and I are human!

As the apostle Paul wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Such sinfulness can include deeply embedded bias and prejudice against others. It can be easy to deceive ourselves, as the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah declared, “the heart is deceitful beyond all things..” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The good news there is in Jesus Christ changes lives. It is a life change to speak into every aspect of who we are. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

It is because of God’s grace that we can be made right with God. We all need His grace whoever we are. We need to see that is true of all people – it puts us all on a level field regardless of differences in backgrounds. Surely that should impact the way we treat others? (Why not check out Paul’s writing about a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ in 2 Corinthians 5. How in embracing this might this impact how we live?).

I finish by encouraging us all to allow the Lord to examine our hearts. Consider these words from Hebrews 4:12-13:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

What is in our hearts, really in our hearts?

Andy

 

 

 

A work in progress

So where is this in Leiden? (I know at least one couple have the answer – keep quiet please!)

It is a “work in progress”, even as the summer weeks continue…

Here in the Merenwijk area of the city where we live, there is also building work going on – new roundabouts being put in at either end. One is done, the other will take until the end of September.

A work in progress…

Ever watched a potter working at his or her wheel or a glass blower in action? Perhaps you have stood and looked over the shoulder of someone painting outdoors somewhere. Or listened to some young people in the neighbourhood composing the latest song for their band : )

A work in progress…

Last week, I wrote about surrendering. That is a challenge in all kinds of areas since it requires humility but also the exercising of trust in God.

One such area of challenge is in terms of our lives and what is happening. Are we impatient and wanting to have ‘arrived’ (however we might define that?).

There can be all kinds of things that we can end up wanting done now if not yesterday! Such as wishing our course was finished, the job training completed, our application accepted or that person says yes. Or perhaps we have prayed something and it seems no answer is coming (though as an aside, it may not be in our interest or that of others for all our prayers to be answered as we would like!!!)

What if delays and things that seem like frustrations are part of of our journey of being a ‘work in progress’? Where is our trust? Is it only there when things are seemingly going well? What about when the way does not seem so clear? How do we respond then?

Do you see yourself as a work in progress? If not, what might help you get a new perspective? Who could you talk to about how life seems? Don’t struggle on in isolation.

Are there aspects of our lives that we need to surrender afresh and trust the Lord again?

A lot of questions I admit.

I want to encourage anyone reading those questions to not panic or despair but to have hope. In the Bible, we can read these words:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Hope in the Bible is something definite not a maybe!

Earlier from the same letter we can read,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who loved him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

That is quite a statement to think about, amid the twists and turns of life (it is worth reading on through to the end of that chapter. God’s love is spoken of in the midst of all kinds of challenges we might face).

Work in progress?

May you find the encouragement or strength that you need at this time.

One last verse, taken from another New Testament letter,

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)

God keeps to his promises. He is at work in our lives. Not manipulating us or treating us like chess pieces of course!

Part of the journey of surrendering is that we begin to become more Christ-like. Not that we lose our personalities in this – we are called to be more like Christ not called to be clones with no individuality.

Being a work in progress is not just about any of us singularly. It is also about community. The church(the body of Christ) is a work in progress together. One image the Bible uses is that of a bride preparing for marriage.

Whatever you are facing, you are not on your own. God has not forgotten you. Hopefully for many there is family and/or friends to be a support. Yet vitally also, there is the community of church – it is far more accurate and helpful to say “we are church” rather than “we go to church”.

Work in progress… let’s think on that!

Andy

 

 

Surrender?

So here are my feet last week in the Harz Mountains in Germany! Probably seems like a strange way to start this brief blog!!

I took the photo towards the end of a toboggan run that we all went on. At this stage, you had to just sit back and surrender to the mechanism and allow yourself to be pulled back to the start. Even if you tried to do anything with the controls, it made no difference. The only option would be to un-clip your safety belt and step off!

In life, ever felt that you have got to a situation where things are beyond your control? If so, perhaps you need to learn to surrender?

  • Many of us, may be all of us often want to be in control. We can seek to rely on our abilities, our knowledge, our resources or our contacts. None of these are wrong in themselves. Yet where do we turn when all of this no longer seems to work?
  • Or when we look at the news and troubles around the world? How do we respond? Does fear and despair totally engulf us? Are we able to see beyond and ask God to give us a different perspective?
  • If you are reading this as a Christ follower, are there areas in your life where you sense the Lord is challenging you to change, grow, embrace something new or give something up?

In response to all of these, I give the word ‘surrender’. What might that look like in our lives?

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we can read,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  (New International Version)

Do we believe that? Will we act on it? To do so will involve ‘surrender’.

Some of the core of Christian faith can seem at face value contradictory. For example, to live, we have to die: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Jesus did not mean literally dying. So what was He getting at? How do these words speak into your life?

On old U2 song (yup, I am showing my age!!) includes the words, “if I wanna live, I gotta die to myself someday”.

This weekend as a church community we will meet at a lakeside and witness two people getting baptised. They are recognising God’s grace in their lives, His forgiveness and that they have begun a new life of following Christ. Neither of them are claiming to be perfect.

Baptism symbolises the dying to an old life and rising to a new one in Christ. That can sound a bit ‘mystical’ and disconnected from the real world. But walking out faith amid the opportunities and challenges of life, involves in a very real way, an ongoing dying, a surrender. This impacts into daily living.

As the verses above from Proverbs stress, “Trust…” We all put our trust in something… actually we all surrender to something. What or who is it going to be?

Andy