There's a WORSHIP ART WORKSHOP on
8th September 2018 from 10.00-2.00
at THE HOUSE OF BREAD,
Bring a Bible and a packed lunch.
Cost is £10.00. To book your place email firstname.lastname@example.org See you there!
The caption for the picture reads,
'If Creation sings your praises, so will I!'
Our raspberry plants have raspberry sawfly caterpillars that have munched their way through the leaves and left them looking like fine lace. The squashes are only producing male flowers. The string beans have black fly and so does the rhubarb. It has been so hot some plants look like a blow torch has been put over them. To cap it all, it hasn't rained for eight weeks.
So I could carry on complaining and seeing everything through a grey lens.
But let's look again at the same garden in a different way and take off those grey lenses.
The sawfly caterpillars don't eat the raspberries and we've had a good crop. Black fly? Well, that can be squished or washed away and I've already made twelve jars of rhubarb and ginger jam - yum! To date, the beans are beginning to produce and the squash? Well, I was advised to try feeding them and two little squashlets have appeared! Thank God for our beautiful garden. We can share its pleasures and produce with everyone else.
O how we can complain, looking downwards instead of looking upwards and counting our blessings.
About five years after Jesus' death and resurrection, the apostle Paul had an amazing conversion experience to Christianity and so began his own Christian journey (AD 35). During his ministry he wrote many letters to the various churches he and others started. Some of these letters have survived the centuries and we have them in our Bible. In one letter, to the Corinthian church, he wrote this:
'I've worked harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' 39 lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummelled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard travelling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends and with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labour, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
And that's not the half if it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.' (2 Corinthians 11:23-29 The Message)
And we thought we had problems! If you've just read those words for the first time, you're probably thinking as I did when I first read it, 'What's with this guy? Why didn't he just quit? Walk away for an easier life - surely there was a better way!'
The apostle Paul was an incredible man. For Paul, the difference between giving up or not lay in his heart and in his vision. He wrote this to the church in Thessalonica:
'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
Paul knew who he was. His identity was in Christ. He kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, giving thanks even when the going was tough. He knew that Jesus would keep His promise, 'Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' (Matthew 28:20 NIV) Jesus would be with Paul in his shipwrecks, struggles with friends and enemies, and through all the dreadful beatings. With that sure knowledge, Paul was able to find the blessings, to give thanks and out of it all, find joy.
This isn't easy is it? But finding the blessings, however small, even in the most difficult 'shipwrecks' of our lives stops us in our tracks and forces us to pause even for a moment. We move our eyes from downwards to upwards, causing us to praise and give thanks. Recognising our blessings will also cause us to look outward as our blessings will bless and help others. Blessings are contagious! Not only that, giving thanks will draw us closer to Jesus, as we become surer that he really is with us too. And note - the 'very end of the age' hasn't arrived yet.................................