The Road Ahead

Burr Point Track.jpg

It’s been a year of big changes for us as a family – in January 2015 I sailed for Belfast to start a new job. Sandra and Hannah followed two months later in March as we set up home in Stoneyford. We left Alex in Southport; Stuart and Katie were already living in Haywards Heath.

Almost a year on and Alex is engaged to Ollie, and we have the first of the next generation as Scarlett Jane Holloway was born to Stuart and Katie on 27 December!

As we review a year of big changes we’re looking forward to what God has in store for the year to come. In many ways the big changes of home and job dominated the past year in themselves – big changes take a big toll on emotion and energy.

But we choose to look forward and expect God in his providence to continue what he has begun in our lives. Some of the things that we are looking to God for in the coming year are fellowship, friendship, ministry and direction. The church is the ‘people’ of God, not the persons, and we believe that true church involves fellowship as that people as we worship the one who is our God. If that resonates with you then please let us know – we’d love to fellowship with you.

We are convinced that God has brought us to the place that we now are, but, that is a beginning, not an end. I chose the picture above (of Burr Point) because it shows a path laid out ahead, with no visible end. We don’t expect God to reveal his plans for us in their entirety, but as we walk the path he has set before us, as we get to the bend in the road we will see the next stretch revealed to us – that is our hope and prayer for the coming year, to walk that path worthy of the one who has called us, and to take the opportunities that God gives us to serve him where he has placed us and with God’s people.

 

The Secret Christmas

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season its sometimes hard to put your finger on what it’s all about. We all want to know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We all wonder what we will receive, and just as importantly, what we will give to our loved ones. With every passing year the TV adverts start showing earlier, the pace of the build up gets more frantic, the wishes become more and more generic. Somewhere along the line the season has changed from Christmas to ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s greetings’. The day revolves around family, friends, food and gifts.

One of the things that I love about Christmas is singing the traditional hymns – they sound out of place any other time of the year (unless you’re my son, in which case Ding Dong Merrily on High is good all year round). The traditional hymns are jam packed full of good old fashioned truth. I think my favourite couple of lines come from O Little Town of Bethlehem:

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

Of course, Bethlehem was a ‘little’ town, it was insignificant apart from God’s choice. It was the place that God’s chosen Saviour would be born.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

The Bible from start to finish points us to a Creator God who comes into his own creation, God become flesh, incarnate, a miracle in itself. But, this God become flesh came for a purpose: to save us from our sins, redeem us from our self-sufficient pride and disobedience and grant us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ Jesus. This event came to fruition in that little town of Bethlehem.

Christmas time is called Advent, because as we approach it we should be considering the coming of Jesus, the God of eternity breaking into time and space for the love of mankind. This is how we should approach Christmas. But, there’s more! Jesus promised that after the resurrection he was going to prepare a place for those whom he had redeemed, and when he was finished preparing he would return for us. There’s another Advent! We are:

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ

Titus 2:13

For those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour this is a blessed hope! The knowledge that just as Jesus broke into time and space to save us, so too he will break into this world at the end of days to claim his own and fulfil all his promises is a hope that is truly blessed. We are told that when Mary, Jesus’ mother was told about the heavenly announcement to the shepherds she treasured these things, pondering them in her heart.

In the hubbub of the season, with the incessant TV adverts, with the noise and the pressure to purchase and receive, in the ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ of the commercialisation of Christmas learn to treasure these things in your heart. For those who don’t know the true meaning of Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is a pale imitation of the greatest of all gifts: the love of Christ, but it is still an imitation of a real truth. Let’s hold on to that truth, what has become a secret Christmas within a holiday season, for those who understand.

So, take time tonight, tomorrow to read the Gospel accounts to yourself, with your family or friends and treasure the true hope of Christmas and beyond: our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

You, however

Isn’t it remarkable how often we look at others in order to gauge how we are doing? As we look around the church we can see an awful lot that is not good: selfish people, the money hungry, proud, arrogant, even the downright abusive and unholy – what an ugly bunch of people to worship with! “Surely that’s the world and not the church”, you say! 2 Timothy 3:5 tells us that these have the appearance of godliness, but deny it’s power – not overtly, but by their godless behaviour. So, what do we do? Give up and leave them to it? Of course not! That would be to let the devil gain a victory.

What does Paul say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10?

“You, however”

We’re looking in the wrong place for direction if we’re looking to those around us. In the light of a godless church, look at the the godly: the saints of scripture. Paul held up his own life as an example to the young man Timothy, and said: don’t look at the godlessness around you, look at me: my faith, my teaching, my conduct, my goals, my determination to live a godly life among the godless.

This isn’t the easy path, it will set you against the natural flow of life, even in our churches – expect persecution – that’s the evidence of the right path. Imposters will continue – that’s the promise that especially in the church the enemy is active, and actively working against God’s people.

There’s only one solution – not matter what the difficulty, no matter what situation you face:

“But, as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” 2 Timothy 3:14

The only path to godliness, to growth, to genuine church life is to continue in the one thing: God’s Word, as we have learned it, as we have believed, knowing that only God’s Word is guaranteed to be of value. “So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty.” God tells us through Isaiah.

Whatever the situation you face today, whether it be a personal crisis of faith or a church that seems to be running headlong into worldliness there’s only one solution and it involves you and God alone. Go back to the roots of your faith: God’s Word that you have already believed, those saints who God has brought into your life. Whatever you do, don’t expect the solution to come from someone else.

But, as for you, continue in what you have learned: the word translated as ‘continue’ means to remain, to abide, to dwell in. This isn’t an academic exercise, this is an active placing of ourselves into God’s Word, saturating ourselves in what God has already said to us, what we have already learned. We all need to have a dwelling place, a home, a place to abide – for you, for me, the only place to abide is in that which we have learned from God and have believed firmly. Abide there and you will find life, hope, help and the way forward for your soul.

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