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Looking for the Living Among the Dead

Hugh Osgood spoke to us on Easter Sunday morning with a message which resonates and has relevance every day. He echoed the Angel’s words on Resurrection Sunday from Luke’s gospel, chapter 25 vs 5 “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”.  He showed us three areas in which we are prone to look for living solutions with dead things: Dead Words, Dead Works and Dead Worries.

Dead Words

Words that have been spoken over us long ago often still have a hold on us.  Sometimes the words are really heavy, they weigh on our souls.  Sometimes they can weigh so heavily on our souls we find it impossible to get out from under the words.  They can be like a stone rolled in front of a tomb; like a premature grave. Dead words are like magnets, they pull you back, they stop you growing.

Dead Works

We can self-justify with old works—even good ones.

Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing”. You can’t come to Jesus saying: “Look at everything I’ve done”—it’s got to be about everything He’s done.  Also, we need to move on from the bad things that we did.  We can spend hours and waste years looking back at all the bad things we did. When we come to God fretting over the bad things we have done He doesn’t even remember them.  It’s not that He forgets.  He chooses not to remember, there is a big different.  Every time we come to God about something, it’s as if it’s the first time.  To God we are flawless, He doesn’t see our old mistakes.  We keep going over the bad things we’ve done through habit.  It’s a bad habit.  We should just stop it.

Dead Worries

Dead worries can become living worries if we keep feeding them.  Every problem you have you get it twice if you worry.  You have the problem once when you worry about it and then when it happens.  Quite often it doesn’t happen!  Jesus came to deal with worry.  He said “Fear not little flock!  It is your Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom! Don’t be anxious!”

God didn’t go to all the trouble of dying on the cross just to throw us away when we’ve done something wrong.  If God died for us as sinners when we didn’t even care about Him, how much more will he care and think about us when we DO think about Him

When the Enemy comes to condemn he leaves you in the realm of the dead words, dead works and dead worries.  That’s where he wants you.  Condemnation points to the things you’ve done, the way you feel and just makes you feel bad about yourself, it piles on the guilt.  There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  The conviction of the Holy Spirit is completely different.  It points towards the blood of Jesus that can do something about the sin or wrong thinking or bad behaviour.

You don’t have to be bound.  You can choose to be free. Sometimes we have to deliberately choose not to worry. We have to be active in changing our habits.  Choose not to worry and instead choose to sit at the feet of Jesus. Be more Mary instead of Martha.  Sometimes five minutes at the feet of Jesus can remove all worry.  Jesus loves us with a perfect love and that perfect love casts out all fear.

We should all have an empty tomb testimony and that is where we should leave the dead words, dead works and dead worries. They should not hold us back.  Sometimes the pressure of the dead words, works and worries is so great we can’t see the living wood for the dead trees!

Jesus died to set us free.  The trajectory of the resurrection was not just from the tomb to the garden, but back to the Father because that’s where Jesus was destined to be and that’s where He wants to take us.

Osgood spoke to us on Easter Sunday morning with a message which resonates and has relevance every day. He echoed the Angel’s words on Resurrection Sunday from Luke’s gospel, chapter 25 vs 5 “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”.  He showed us three areas in which we are prone to look for living solutions with dead things: Dead Words, Dead Works and Dead Worries.

Dead Words

Words that have been spoken over us long ago often still have a hold on us.  Sometimes the words are really heavy, they weigh on our souls.  Sometimes they can weigh so heavily on our souls we find it impossible to get out from under the words.  They can be like a stone rolled in front of a tomb; like a premature grave. Dead words are like magnets, they pull you back, they stop you growing.

Dead Works

We can self-justify with old works—even good ones.

Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing”. You can’t come to Jesus saying: “Look at everything I’ve done”—it’s got to be about everything He’s done.  Also, we need to move on from the bad things that we did.  We can spend hours and waste years looking back at all the bad things we did. When we come to God fretting over the bad things we have done He doesn’t even remember them.  It’s not that He forgets.  He chooses not to remember, there is a big different.  Every time we come to God about something, it’s as if it’s the first time.  To God we are flawless, He doesn’t see our old mistakes.  We keep going over the bad things we’ve done through habit.  It’s a bad habit.  We should just stop it.

Dead Worries

Dead worries can become living worries if we keep feeding them.  Every problem you have you get it twice if you worry.  You have the problem once when you worry about it and then when it happens.  Quite often it doesn’t happen!  Jesus came to deal with worry.  He said “Fear not little flock!  It is your

Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom! Don’t be anxious!”

God didn’t go to all the trouble of dying on the cross just to throw us away when we’ve done something wrong.  If God died for us as sinners when we didn’t even care about Him, how much more will he care and think about us when we DO think about Him!

When the Enemy comes to condemn he leaves you in the realm of the dead words, dead works and dead worries.  That’s where he wants you.  Condemnation points to the things you’ve done, the way you feel and just makes you feel bad about yourself, it piles on the guilt.  There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  The conviction of the Holy Spirit is completely different.  It points towards the blood of Jesus that can do something about the sin or wrong thinking or bad behaviour.

You don’t have to be bound.  You can choose to be free. Sometimes we have to deliberately choose not to worry. We have to be active in changing our habits.  Choose not to worry and instead choose to sit at the feet of Jesus. Be more Mary instead of Martha.  Sometimes five minutes at the feet of Jesus can remove all worry.  Jesus loves us with a perfect love and that perfect love casts out all fear.

We should all have an empty tomb testimony and that is where we should leave the dead words, dead works and dead worries. They should not hold us back.  Sometimes the pressure of the dead words, works and worries is so great we can’t see the living wood for the dead trees!

Jesus died to set us free.  The trajectory of the resurrection was not just from the tomb to the garden, but back to the Father because that’s where Jesus was destined to be and that’s where He wants to take us.

How Hungry Are You? hot-cross-buns-1328031

We are now in the run up to Easter, which more traditional churches call Lent.  Lent is traditionally the time when Christians imitate Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the desert, fasting before He began His ministry.  Many Christians choose to use this time to give something up:  sweets and chocolates are the high on this list, making that chocolate Easter egg on Easter Sunday seem even more delicious.

So, let me challenge you.  And what are we willing to give up?  Jesus was willing to go to the cross.  He was willing to give everything, including His life to save us.  How keen are we to fast?  How hungry for God are we?

The purpose of fasting is not just to give something up so that we are miserable.  Nor is it just to stop eating chocolate and cakes.  That’s just a diet!  The purpose of fasting is to grow our relationship with God.  It’s not just to give something up, it’s to get something.  It’s for us to focus not on our own needs, wants and desires, but for us to focus on Him. The purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. The more hungry we are for God, the more He will fill us.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Here are a few ways to challenge ourselves in this Lent season:

  • Go on a Daniel fast. In the book of Daniel chapter 1 vs 8-16 Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the royal food and wine assigned to them by Nebuchadnezzar and choose to feed on just vegetables and water.  At the end of 10 days they looked better than those who had been eating the royal food.  Today, nutritionists extol the virtues of this kind of fast.
  • Take a break from Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat etc etc etc. Go on a Social Media fast. Take the time you’d usually spend online to pray and meditate on the presence of God.
  • Give up eating takeaways, refrain from going out to restaurants or the pub and use the money saved to buy items for the Lord’s Larder.

If giving something up is too challenging, then perhaps take something up instead.  Here are a few other ideas:

  • Read a book of the Old Testament that you’ve never read.
  • Memorize a verse for 10 days. Then try 10 days more!
  • Read your Bible and pray in your lunch hour.
  • Write a list of something you’re grateful for every day and at the end of 40 days look back at the list and thank God for your blessings.

This Easter don’t make it all about the Easter Eggs and the Hot Cross Buns. At the centre of it all should be the principle that we turn away from the world and turn our attention to Jesus.  He gave everything for us.  What are we giving to Him?

A New Thing!

Isaiah 43 vs 19 says “See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up. Do you not see it?” This is the time of the year when we look forward.  All around us are new things.  It is a new year, we might still be wearing the new clothes we got for Christmas, thinking about making a new start by changing old habits and creating new ones.  A new season is approaching, there are snowdrops springing up alerting us to the arrival of Spring. It is all new. God is the God of the new.  He is always doing something else.  He is always moving forward.

He is never content to leave us where we are.  We are being transformed from glory to glory, to glory.  Sometimes we don’t feel this is happening.  We need to look back to see where we’ve come from and only then can we see what God has done, but it doesn’t stop.  It’s not just a one-time thing.  God keeps changing us.

God does this because He loves us.  He is a God of love.  If we take the verses of 1 Corinthians 13 vs 1 and onwards, the famous description of what love is (Love is patient, love is kind, it is not proud, it does not boast), and replace the word love with the word God, we get a description of what He is like.  God is patient, God is kind, God is not proud, God does not boast. God is love, so He only does things out of love.

But He is also a God who constantly looks forward to the future. The Kingdom of God is generational.  The Word of God is generational.  He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He is never still.  So neither should we be. He is calling us forward into a new season.  He is calling us on to move on and to change.  He is never content to leave us where we are.  He is calling the church forward into a new season.

It is time for us to move on from milk and take on real food. It is time for us to step into the things God is calling us to do.  What is your gifting?  Where are you serving?  If you’re not serving, maybe this is the year to do it. Even something as small as helping with the tea and coffee can be a blessing to others. Where do you fit in the church?  Let this year be the year you find out. Try something new.  Be the change you want to see. Do you long to see the church filled with children and young people ready to be the next generation?  Then help out with the children’s work.  Do you long to hear new worship songs?  Become part of the worship team. Do you wish the notices were a bit more interesting? Take your turn at the microphone!

The Bible often speaks of the spiritual life in sports terms; it is a race, we are athletes. Let’s get spiritually fit this year. Let your greatest challenge be your training ground. Whatever you find most difficult, try it! It will get easier the more you do it. Step out this year, stretch yourself, take on a new challenge.  Let’s all do something new. Let’s work with God to be part of His new thing.

It’s Christmastime, there’s no need to be afraid index

2016 has been a year like no other. It has been a year in which quite a few frightening things have happened.  ISIS destroyed the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq in January. There were terrorist attacks in Brussels in March.  Earthquakes in New Zealand, Ecuador and Italy. There was a failed military coup in Turkey. The UK had a referendum in June where we chose to leave the European Union, which we thought would lead to economic unrest and a few days later ISIS attacked Istanbul airport.  The dreadful war continued in Syria with no sign of stopping. The Zika virus spread across South America threatening the Olympic games. North Korea conducted its largest nuclear test and a hydrogen bomb test, and recently the most unexpected and potentially most frightening of all, Donald Trump won the American Presidential Election, and just to top it all off he has appointed a man whose nickname is “Mad Dog” as his Defence Secretary.  Make of that what you will.

And that’s just a quick round up of a few of the unsettling things that happened.  No wonder we all feel a bit uneasy and fearful in the world today. As we look around our world there seems to be very little peace on earth, there’s hardly even any peace in our own hearts.

The election of Donald Trump to the position of President of the USA – one of the world’s most powerful men – has lead to a great deal of unrest and fear in America. Maybe it’s not surprising that a recent study of Americans’ top fears reported that 60% of Americans were afraid or very afraid of corrupt government officials. What else are Americans afraid of? 41% are afraid of a terrorist attack on the country, 39% are afraid of not having enough money for their futures, the same amount of are afraid or very afraid of death, 38% are afraid of being a personal victim of a terror attack, which maybe is why an equal percentage report a rather unique American fear – 38% are afraid that the government will introduce laws to restrict  their use of guns. It’s likely that a survey of the UK would produce quite similar statistics – possibly with exception of the gun laws.

Which is why I find there’s something very comforting right at the heart of the Christmas story.  As it is told in the gospel of Luke there are three announcements made by angels.

The first is found in Luke 1 v 12. The priest Zechariah is going about his business in the Temple.  An angel appears to him and announces the birth of John the Baptist.  First thing he says to Zechariah is “Do not be afraid.”

A few verses further on in vs 30 an angel appears to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. Again he tells her “Do not be afraid.” In the next chapter Luke 2 vs 9 an angel appears to the shepherds in the field. First thing the angel says to them, “Do not be afraid.”

I don’t think for one minute that these angels are just little fluffy beings that float around on clouds all day. Angels in the Bible never appear as cute, chubby infants. They are always full-grown adults and in some appearances in the Bible they are described as dazzling light. When people in the Bible saw an angel, their typical response was to fall on their faces in fear and awe, not to reach out and tickle an adorable baby. I’m sure if I saw an angel whilst I was just going about my daily life I would be pretty alarmed – in fact it says in Luke 2 that the shepherds were terrified.

Angels in the Bible are God’s messengers – and I think that this is God’s message to us now, today 2000 years later.  The words do not be afraid.  God is still telling us “Do not be afraid.” The Words ‘Fear Not’ appear 365 times in the Bible – one for every day of the year. Are you facing illness?  Do not be afraid.  Are you facing financial difficulties?  Do not be afraid.  Are you facing marital breakdown?  Do not be afraid. As the angel told the terrified shepherds “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” That includes us, here and now.   We are all the people.  We are included. We don’t have to be afraid.  We can have great joy and peace through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The baby born at Bethlehem, the baby the angels are talking about – Jesus Christ – grew up to die for us.  He defeated death so that we can live.  That is the good news of great joy.

Facing an unknown future is much easier with a known God. As God says in Jeremiah 29v11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” If you know God you can place your trust in Him.  He will not harm you.  HE loves you with a perfect love and as the Bible tells us in 1 John 4 vs 18 there is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out all fear. And that to me is the real message of Christmas.  We are loved with a perfect love. Do not be afraid.

 008-jesus-storm Finding Faith in the Storm

I was very inspired by Elona Prroj’s testimony and sermon when she visited us in July.  This article is based very much on what she had to say to us that day.  Like many of us she has faced a very fierce storm in her life.  Instead of letting the storm overwhelm her, she has used the circumstances of to bring glory to God and let Him transform her life.

The story of Jesus and the disciples in the storm as told in Mark chapter 4 is incredibly illuminating in several ways.  Firstly, Jesus would have known the storm was on its way (perhaps even the disciples with their knowledge of the Sea of Galilee and its weather conditions could see what was ahead) but He still said to them “Let’s go over to the other side.”  He didn’t say, “let’s try to cross” or even “let’s wait until the conditions improve and then we’ll go”, He said “let’s cross.”  He was with them all the way.  “Let us all go”, not “you go ahead, I’ll join you later”.  He knew that whatever was coming He would be in control of it, not the other way around. Jesus knew where He was going even in the storm.

Then—even as the storm is raging all around them—Jesus is fast asleep.  How much sleep do we get when were in the middle of a life-storm?  Probably not much I’d guess!  It takes a calm person to sleep in a storm. The disciples on the other hand are far from sleepy.  They are probably doing everything they can to control the storm.  Pulling on ropes to keep the sails going, bailing out the boat, tearing their hair out, running round in circles like headless chickens….. Finally, they wake Him up.

Again, this is interesting.  They wake Jesus up and the first thing they do is accuse Him of not caring.  They don’t even ask for His help with the storm.  But they say to Him “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”  Not only do they think He doesn’t care, they have already decided that the outcome is the worst possible. They’re all going to drown. And, aren’t we all just the same today?  When the storms of life are raging all around us often the first thing we do is accuse God.  “Where’s God?  Why doesn’t He care?”

Just because we believe in God doesn’t mean that we’ll have an easy life.  It doesn’t mean that we’ll have it all our own way without any trials.  Quite often the opposite is true and we might face much opposition and many storms because of our faith.  It’s not what’s happening to you, it’s what you do with what’s happening to you.  We have to look beyond the storm, behind the storm and see what we are doing with the storm.  Are we panicking and accusing God of not caring?

But of course God does care and Jesus immediately calms the storm, then He calms the disciples.  He asks them why they are so scared and have no faith. What we need in the storms is faith, not fear.  So often we find fear is the only emotion that we have and faith disappears.

Once the disciples had seen Jesus calm the storm it says in Mark 4 that they were terrified.  They were now even more scared of Jesus than they had been of the storm!  They became terrified of Him because they realised He was God. And they were in a small boat with Him!  They were right next to Almighty God and they hadn’t really got it! Before they got into the boat they had seen heal and teach but it seems that it wasn’t until they saw Him command the waves that they truly realised who He was.  Perhaps this is why Jesus asked them where their faith was?  How could they not know who He was?!

First the disciples had seen the storm. Then they had seen Jesus and they saw who He really was.  Finally they saw themselves and who they really were.  In the storm we truly “see” ourselves.  We find out what we are made of.  It’s only when the wind is raging and the waves are crashing around us that our real faith and character comes to the fore.

Life will not always be stormy. We will not always be in the valley.  Sometimes life will be calm and it will be sunny and we’ll be on the mountaintops.  That’s when we need to increase our faith. Because that is what we will be left with to deal with the storms. Use what you learn in the sun for when the darkness comes.  You never forget what God has taught you on the mountain tops when you’re in the valley.

Praise Changes Everything! praise-him-3-free-photo

When I read Psalm 150 it sounds like a riot!  The Psalmist exhorts us to praise Him with trumpets, lyres, harps, dancing, stringed instruments, and flute and if that’s not enough throw in some cymbals. 

Cymbals—not the quietest of instruments. And we’re not talking about just cymbals but resounding cymbals! Not just resounding cymbals—but clashing and loud cymbals!  Now to me, that sounds like a party!

The Psalmist is not talking about quiet, contemplative worship here but loud, raucous, happy-clappy, shouty, lose-it-all and go crazy worship and praise.

I’m sure this was the kind of praise that Paul and Silas were practising in Acts 16.  From verse 16 onwards we read that Paul and Silas were in Philippi and had encountered a slave girl who earned money for her owners by predicting the future.  Paul cast out a demon from her but her owners (now realising their source of income had been taken away) seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities.

The magistrates ordered they be severely flogged and they were thrown into prison.  To ensure they could not escape they were taken to the most inner cell of the prison and their feet were put in chains.

Think about that for a moment and consider your reaction. Paul and Silas had faced ridicule, court and an unfair punishment. That alone would be enough to finish me off!  But worse, they had been severely beaten—not just beaten but they had been properly beaten up, thrown into the very deepest part of the prison and put in chains.  That must’ve hurt.

What was their reaction?  We are told in Acts 16 vs 25 that around midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Midnight, the darkest part of the night.  The bleakest part of the day when daybreak and the optimism of a new day seem so far away. But they’re praying and singing hymns to God.

And they’re not whispering them.  They’re not whispering under their breath “God why did you let this happen to us when we were just doing your work?”  They’re not even whispering “Blessed be your name when I walk through the wilderness.”  They’re not whispering anything. 

They are praying, praising and singing so loudly that the other prisoners are listening to them.  The other prisoners probably didn’t have a choice.  Paul and Silas were practising the loud, shouty, lose-it-all worship of Psalm 150.

And that’s the kind of praise that changes everything. That’s the kind of praise that sees God move. When we stop focussing on our circumstances and focus on praising God with a heart that’s fit to burst, it’s amazing what he can do. 

Because we’re told that suddenly there was a violent earthquake which shook the prison to its foundations, the cell doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose.

Do you feel like you’re in a prison?  Do you feel bound with chains of previous experiences, words that have hurt you, situations that have kept you chained?  Do you feel like you’re in a cell and the door is locked, it’s midnight and God feels a long, long way away?  Do you feel like you need an earthquake to change the situation you’re in? 

Well, try a bit of Psalm 150 praise!  Use your ten-stringed instruments (your hands) to honour God with clapping like they’re cymbals!  Focus on God, not on the situation and praise Him just for who He is and what He has done for us.  Shout to the Lord and expect the earthquake!

 Free-Desktop-Backgrounds-for-spring-Flowers   Spring is a wonderful time of year.  It is such a hopeful and optimistic season.
Everything starts to come back to life and the fields, gardens and hedgerows erupt with colour. One of my favourite indicators of the season is the new born lambs like little dots of cotton wool in the fields. I love to see them,; so innocent, so playful, so trusting of their protectors. 

Naturally this also makes me think of the shepherds.  Lambing season for the shepherds is hard work.  Sheep can lamb at any time of the day or night and need constant supervision.  Sheep may look like natural mothers with lambs gambolling around them and suckling happily but it’s not always that easy.  There can be problematic births, lambs can be born backwards, forwards, get stuck.  A ewe can birth one lamb, only for another to get stuck and for her to be in trouble, whilst the first lamb lies near her getting cold and becoming weaker for lack of feeding.

This is why shepherds are so important.  They have to be constantly vigilant over the flock, looking out for trouble, helping the ewes and feeding the lambs that are struggling.  They have to put their need for sleep, food and shelter aside for the sake of their flock.

Psalm 23 verse 1 must be one of the most well-known verses of The Bible. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Written by David, this simple nine word sentence speaks volumes. Most people know that prior to becoming a King of Israel David was a shepherd.  He speaks from experience.  He would have spent many nights in the cold and dark helping his ewes birth their lambs.  He would have wandered with the flock looking for new pastures for them.  He would have been constantly alert to danger from predators or disease. He would have tended the sick of the flock with his own hands.  He knew what it meant to be a shepherd.

The opening statement of this Psalm is both simple and yet profound.  “The Lord is my shepherd.” At one stroke David introduces the concept of a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. The same hands that threw the stars into space are the hands that gently lead us to new pastures, or soothe when we are ill or help to get us out of difficulty.  The psalmist brings the Almighty God into focus as also the one who walks beside us day and night as the shepherd of old would have done with his flock. 

The second statement is such a wonderful proclamation.  “I shall not want.” Those four words are a statement of incredible confidence.  The word want here doesn’t mean that we won’t have desires.  The context of the word is regarding need. Perhaps the sentence should read: “Because the Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in need.”  Because the King of Heaven himself is looking after me He will make sure I’ve got everything I need. It is also a statement that can be true for a lifetime.  The Psalmist doesn’t say, I’ll be OK for a couple of years.  It’s a lifetime guarantee.  I shall never lack anything.  The shepherd doesn’t stop caring for the lambs once they grow up. The shepherd cares for the lambs, watches them grow and integrate into the flock until they in turn have lambs of their own.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  It’s a great opening line to a great Psalm and it’s only the first verse. Look at it anew today. There’s a whole sermon in just those nine words.  Maybe this time next year we’ll look at the next two verses when Spring comes round and I’m watching the lambs in the fields again.

 We all have them.  You know, those days. Those days when everything seems to go wrong. stress pic

Days when we lose the car keys, someone else gets the parking spot we’ve been waiting for, we pick the wrong queue at the supermarket, we break our favourite mug washing up.  You know, those days.

Then there are the days that are worse than that. Days when we hear bad news about a loved one.  Days when the diagnosis is worse than expected. Days when we realise that our days are numbered.  Days when we long for more days – even the bad ones.

Whatever type of day we’re having we need to follow the instructions in 2 Corinthians 4 vs 16 – 18.  “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Some troubles are indeed light and momentary: forgetting your PIN number, spraining your ankle tripping over the kids’ lego, the wrong item being delivered in your online shopping, but they can set your whole day off kilter. It’s comforting to know in these situations that all of this stuff is temporary.  Another PIN number can be ordered, the kids’ can clear up their lego and you can sort out the stuff with the supermarket and maybe even get them to compensate you (the age of miracles is not passed!)

But Paul in Corinthians 4 encourages us to believe that even the bigger problems we face are also temporary.  By fixing our eyes on eternity, this whole world assumes a new perspective. There is such intention in that statement.  To fix something implies a permanence, a sturdiness, an unchanging, a determination.  It is very different from a glance.  We need to keep our eyes, both spiritual and physical, on the eternal glory that awaits all those who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour. It can be easy to dwell on what we see.  Our problems can seem huge and insurmountable.  They can block our vision. But, here’s the best bit. Whatever problems we face here on earth we should remember that we have something fantastic in store.  Something so fantastic that no eye has seen it, no ear has heard of it and no mind has conceived of it.  And it is eternal.  It is not temporary.  It’s forever. So remember that next time someone forgets to put chocolate sprinkles on your cappuccino at the coffee shop.

smoothie Happy New Year!  Happy New You!  This headline blares out at us from a hundred magazine covers and newspaper supplements at this time of year.  
The media tries to convince us that by losing weight, getting fitter, eating (or juicing) more greens, not eating crisps, giving up chocolate, giving up smoking, taking up jogging, reading more, drinking less, being more mindful, excercising more, finding a new hobby and a host of other things, somehow any or all of these will make us a new person.

The media in their wisdom will tell us that if we change our lifestyles we will change ourselves.  We will be happier, more fulfilled, more satisfied, less frustrated and our lives will be a haven of contentment.  There is some truth in this, of course.  Getting fitter, losing weight, drinking less and – of course, giving up smoking –  are in themselves all good things to do and will bring a temporary level of increased happiness.  But they won’t make you a New You.

The Bible says this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5v17 ESV) It is only by surrendering ourselves to Christ that we can become a New Person. How does this happen?

God loves to bring newness to things.  Our God is the Great Creator – He is always making things new. The Bible is full of examples where things are made new. Ezekiel 36v26 says this: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” It is only by bringing our lives to Christ and letting Him give us a new heart that we can truly become new people.  It is only by letting him change us from the inside that true transformation can take place. In surrendering ourselves to God, our character and conduct begin to change and this is how God makes us new.  It brings a longer lasting change than giving up chocolate ever could.