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The apostle Paul and the Olympics! - September 2012

During our visit to the UK this summer, Hilary and I managed to watch plenty of the 2012 Olympic Games on the television and attended one event. We saw many heroes. British athletes and commentators emphasized to an “instant gratification” British youth culture that hard work, picking oneself up after disappointments, team-work could lead anybody to incredible achievements. It was very moving when a whole stadium crowd applauded a fully-covered Saudi Arabian women who crossed the finish line in her track race long after the rest of the competitors. Or to see the fastest 100 meters male runner insist on exchanging race identity numbers with a South African athlete running on prosthetic legs.

No wonder Paul picks up Olympic-type athletic imagery in his letters. Track events and boxing evidently grabbed him! “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air” (I Corinthians 9:25-26). “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).

I hope we are all going for the crown – the right kind! +Bill

The cusp of the future! - January 2013

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever!”

Consider that our lives in their length are but a drop in the bucket to God: just a breath in the nostrils. Consider that we are like a blade of grass to him, which grows and then fades. Consider that all the greatest feats of humankind are like a flower, which does the same. If you are older, you will grasp this truth more readily. If you are young, consider that you will soon be older(!) and apply this perspective — God’s perspective — to your life to your own benefit. In watching a year pass, we have a rare opportunity to share the perspective of God on time: we realise how brief it has been!

Now consider that, though we are insignificant creatures, God sent his own dear Son to die on our behalf. Consider that he cares for us infinitely more than we care for our own gardens: for which of us tenderly cares for a blade of grass?

As we stand this New Year upon the cusp of the future, and have the decision to either dine upon the riches of Christ or rebel against him, let us learn from the past, and act to the glory of God in 2013! Let us grow ever towards the sun: for that is all one can ask from a blade of grass, which now is, and soon will not be. (adapted) +Bill

On the way to Holy Week! - March 2013

Palm Sunday’s story is a story that begins with hope and promise and possibility with the charming picture of Jesus entering the holy city on the back of a humble beast of burden. The story turns, however, into despair, darkness and fear. And it is all about choices.

It seems obvious enough that everyone in this story makes choices: the crowd angry and crying out for relief, Pilate trying to find a way through a complicated political mess, Judas succumbing to his darkest self, Simon Peter lying over and over. Everyone makes choices in this story and the amazing thing is, none of them are life-giving, none of them except one – Jesus, the young teacher from Nazareth, that rabble rouser, trouble maker, rule breaker – only he makes a life-giving choice. And even he struggles.

If Jesus were telling his own story, I suspect the hardest part to share, for him, might be the garden part. The garden where he is alone, searching his heart and pleading with the heavens, “Is it possible,” he begs, “that there is another way to do this?”
Palm Sunday provides our way into the holiest of weeks. With intention, let us mark and observe the choices we make. With honesty, let us own those that take life away. With relief, let us embrace those that give life. With gentleness and compassion, let us learn to know the difference. (adapted) +Bill

Crossed ashes! - February 2013

Ash Wednesday falls on 13th February this year. During our evening service at St George’s, one of the passages that will be read comes from Joel chapter 2. His book constitutes a punchy prophecy!

The immediate event that spurs his words is a plague of locusts of unusual size. One day the field are ripening, a good harvest looks probable, fair winds are blowing…and the next those winds bring uncontrollable clouds that devour what was so promising. Fathers hide the remaining wheat from wives and children – because they need seed for the planting. The daily bread becomes not so daily. The rich and privileged bail themselves out, while the poor are left to glean after the insects.

What was probably shocking to Joel’s original listeners was that he described God as being at the forefront of that army of locusts. Joel suggested that the plague of locusts was a warning – a mirror – for Israel to recognize their spiritual state.
The Lenten season is a time for deliberately looking in the mirror; for rending hearts. We strike a very solemn note with the Ashes: they are an outward symbol of the examination of the heart. But, shaped as a cross, they become a symbol that reflects hope. Because God, the mirror-holder, is faithful. With Him there is forgiveness. (adapted) +Bill

A.W. Tozer on "Easter life"
April 2013

The resurrection of Christ is a once-done act. “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” But Christians die. No matter how we may try to avoid the facts, Christians die as their Lord died before them. It is winter when we lay our loved ones down. So it seems to the natural heart. So it must have appeared to some of the Thessalonian Christians. Why otherwise would if have been necessary for Paul to write and exhort them not to sorrow as others who had no hope?

One thing the resurrection teaches us is that we must not trust appearances. The leafless tree says by its appearance that there will be no second spring. The body in Joseph’s new tomb appears to signify the end of everything for Christ and His disciples. The limp form of a newly-dead believer suggests everlasting defeat. Yet how wrong are all these appearances. The tree will bloom again. Christ arose the third day according to the Scriptures, and the Christian will rise at the shout of the Lord and the voice of the archangel.

Faith can afford to accept the appearance of defeat, knowing the true believer cannot be defeated finally. “Because I live, you also will live.” That’ is the message of Easter. What a blessing for the whole world if people would only believe it. (adapted) +Bill

Sunday Services

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Verse of the Day

  • 1 Peter 2:2-3

    “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”