Thought for the week 20/06/22 

 

 Keep calm and trust God

“Keep Calm and Dig?”

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1
 
A poll was published by YouGov in 2020 that showed 56% of Brits believe in God. That’s pretty encouraging. I also believe there’s a God. But is it enough to simply believe there’s a God? Or do we need more in such troubling times?
 
In 1938 and 1939 the British government commissioned a series of posters deigned to prepare people for the much-feared outbreak of what would become World War Two. Today we think that the most widely used poster had the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry on.’ Over 2.45 million versions of this poster were produced. However very few were ever used. Instead, posters with the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Dig’ were preferred. It was only in the year 2000 that a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster was found in a bookshop in Alnwick. Since then, it has gone on the grace everything from posters to mugs and T-Shirts.
 
Keep calm and carry on. It appeals to our British stoicism – that famed ‘stiff upper lip’ that outsiders watch with a mix of admiration and puzzlement. That sense that we, as a nation, are to be defined by self-discipline, fortitude and remaining calm in the face of adversity. The original designers thought the words would help as people faced troubling times.
 
Today we once again face deeply troubling times.
 
Do we need to simply keep calm and carry on today?
 
Troubling times.
 
Concerns about high fuel prices.
 
Fears about our incomes.
 
Concerns and fears about where or how the next war or looming disaster will emerge.
 
How can we keep calm and simply carry on in a world like this?
 
Back in Jesus’ day people also had lots of reasons to be concerned and fearful.
 
Brutal Roman occupiers imposed violence and high taxes on an unruly population.
 
Terrorism and war were never far from the news.
 
Add in natural disasters and the ever-present threat of poverty and hunger.
 
These were troubling times.
 
This was a population desperate for change and fearful of how that might occur.
To his listeners. To us today. Jesus said this.
 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
 
Jesus had in mind far more than words for a poster or range of nicely marketed goods.
 
Jesus wanted people to know peace.
 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1
 
In uncertain, dangerous times why are we not to be troubled? We can find peace in troubled times by not just believing in God – but also believing in Jesus.
 
If we think there’s a God – we can also know there’s a Saviour. And the Son invites us to come and take a place in his Father’s house (John 14:2)
 
Today the Son invites us to come home.

Keith Wilson, 21/06/2022

Thought for the week 13/06/22 

love and justice


“An Uncomfortable God?”

‘The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.” Nahum 1:2
 
If you only hear half the story – have you really heard the story?
 
It would be frustrating and confusing to enter a cinema halfway through the latest blockbuster.
 
If you enjoy a good book, you would be rather frustrated to discover that it stopped mid drama.
 
If you friend is telling you important news but gets distracted – you want them to finish the story.
 
Few of us are content to only get a tantalising glimpse – we want to see the full picture.
 
So why do we tend to tell people only half the story when it comes to talking about God?
 
This week we’re focusing on mission. We want to tell people that God loves them. We want to tell the story of how God showed his love for us by sending Jesus to earth. It is an amazing story of love, drama, and rescue – our rescue.
 
Yet this isn’t the full story.
 
It’s true that God is love and that God loves us.
 
It is of course true – praise God – that Jesus was sent to rescue us from our sins.
 
But there’s another side to God that we may be less confident telling others about.
 
Our God is a God of love. Our God of love is also a God of justice.
 
I used to be embarrassed about passages such as those found in Nahum. (Yes, it really is a book in the Bible – I checked!) The world we live in appears to be an increasingly unjust, unfair, and cruel place.
 
We can’t watch and read the news without feeling some of the pain and anger that God feels too.
 
Children left homeless by pointless wars. Families suffering as a result of unprecedented price rises. Rich and powerful people trampling on the rights of the poor and weak.
 
We can hear such things and feel quite helpless.
 
What can we do?
 
The issues are as huge as they are complex.
 
We can walk away and distract ourselves with something else. Or we can pray and take each issue to the LORD.
 
Nahum adds, ‘The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.’
 
Sharing our faith involves inviting people to turn to God. When we turn to the LORD, we are turning to a God who will one day judge the living and the dead. When we hand such situations to the LORD, we are doing more than praying – we are also preparing our hearts for kingdom action.
 
Turning to God is more than ticking a box and hoping love will save us. Turning to God is turning away from sin. And turning away from sin is more than trying to think good thoughts. It’s about changing the here and now towards kingdom living.
 
In Micah 6 we read, ‘And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

Keith Wilson, 13/06/2022

Thought for the week 06/06/22 

Spite house

“Spite House”

‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Acts 2:38
 
Does your house have a name?
 
The top 3 house names in the UK are:
1.The Cottage
2. Rose Cottage
3. The Bungalow.
 
What do you think of this name for a house – ‘Spite House’?
 
In 1882 a New York businessman, Joseph Richardson, tried to sell a narrow strip of land on Lexington Avenue. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long. Another businessman, Hyman Sarner, owned a normal sized plot on which he wanted to build apartments. Sarner offered to buy the skinny plot from Richardson for $1,000. Instead, Richardson demanded $5,000 for his skinny plot.  It was too much for a tiny plot of land. Sarner refused to pay and built his apartments assuming the skinny plot would remain empty. As Sarner saw the new apartments he realised they overlooked his skinny plot of land. A furious Sarner decided to build his own apartment on the land to block the view.
 
Richardson built his house. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long and 4 stories high. It was a super small apartment. Only one person at a time could go up or down the stairs. So small were the rooms that the dining table could only be 18 inches wide. The building was dubbed the ‘Spite House.’ Richardson lived in ‘Spite House’ for 14 years. It was torn down in 1914.
 
Who would choose to live in a narrow house only built to spite your neighbour?
 
It seems a ridiculous thing to build and try to live in. It sounds a horrible place to live.
 
Yet many of us choose each day to live in our own ‘Spite Houses.’ Narrow, constrained places built on unforgiveness and a desire for revenge.
 
We see it played out in the world news. We see it played out between warring factions and neighbours. We see it played out in our own lives too.
 
Jesus offers us an alternative. Jesus offers us a home in a place called ‘Father’s Mansion.’
 
Jesus wants us to live in a spacious mansion that has many rooms (John 14:2)
The route out of ‘Spite House’ to ‘Father’s Mansion’ is both simple and incredibly difficult.
 
To move from ‘Spite House’ to ‘Father’s Mansion’ all we must do is forgive.
 
To give something, we must first receive.
 
Jesus taught us to pray:
And forgive us our debts
As we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
 
To receive forgiveness, we need to accept that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. We then need to repent or change our way of living.
 
Or sins can feel like heavy debts. Debts that we cannot possibly pay off. Yet Jesus offers us forgiveness – he has paid our price.
 
The removal of a heavy unpayable debt is freeing It releases us and creates a cause for joy.
 
Are there sins or debts we need to ask Jesus to take away from us today?
 
And, having received that forgiveness, is there anyone we need to forgive?
 

Keith Wilson, 06/06/2022