Advent 6: A Special Child

The angel had said

‘You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus’.

In their conversation, Mary seemed to struggle to get past the ‘you will have a son’ bit which isn’t surprising. Mary was a virgin and so her becoming pregnant was a biological impossibility but beyond that, her head was probably spinning with how she was going to explain what was going on to everyone?

Over the next weeks and months Mary began to see more and more clearly how special her son was going to be.

The name Jesus means saviour

God sent Jesus into the world to save us and to offer us a way back to him.

Jesus would be great and will be called son of the most high

john 1.14 foetusIt is incredible to think that God became human. Jesus (who John describes as ‘the word’) ‘became human and made his home among us’ (John 1.14).

It is remarkable the way that the God who knows and sees everything and who is all powerful chose to make himself vulnerable. He limited himself to a human brain and to what he could see and experience with his human senses.

Jesus came to this world in such a vulnerable and humble way, he was running the universe with his Father one minute and in the next he became a foetus. It cost Jesus so much but he came because he loved the world he had created and he came so that he could save us and to offer us a way back to God.

If you want to think some more about what it meant for Jesus to make himself vulnerable then I would suggest reading a Parable for Christmas which explores this theme further.

In this selfless act that is called the incarnation, Jesus demonstrates how much God loves the world and rather than just telling us to worship, he shows why he is worthy of our worship.

If Jesus has done all this for us, what would be an appropriate response from us?

This is a part of a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas. You can look at the other advent reflections by clicking here.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow to see what happens next between Mary and the angel.

You can read more about Mary’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1 starting at v26.

Posted in Advent, christmas, Christmas story, Faith, Incarnation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent 5: God is in the Ordinary

Zechariah met an angel in the temple but Mary encountered an angel in her everyday life.

housework-washing-up“Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!” is probably not what you would expect to hear when you are doing the dishes or working on your wedding dress!

We don’t know what Mary was doing as the angel appeared but she wouldn’t have been expecting this divine encounter in the midst of her everyday mundane existence and so it is understandable that she was confused and disturbed by what was going on.

How about us?

Do you know that God is present in your ordinary and everyday existence?

Do you expect to encounter God in everyday life, perhaps while you are doing housework or travelling to work?

How do you talk with and look to God when things are ordinary and mundane?

Jesus promised that he is with his followers always and so it is right that we learn to look for what he is doing in the everyday routine of life.

Mary was changed through her encounter with God and her life was never the same again.

Mary thought she was ordinary but God said she was favoured.

Perhaps you need to hear this from God today as well!

If you are a child of God, you aren’t ordinary, you are favoured.

God is at work in the ordinary and we should hope and expect that his presence would fill and transform every moment of our lives so that we would never be the same again.

This is a part of a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas. You can look at the other advent reflections by clicking here.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow to see what happens next between Mary and the angel.

You can read more about Mary’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1 starting at v26.

Posted in Advent, christmas, Christmas story, Faith, God is with us | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent 4: The God of Miracles

pregnant-baby-boyA miracle had happened and Elizabeth was pregnant!

“How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

God’s promise had come true and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were overjoyed.

In her short prayer, we get a glimpse of deep hurt that Elizabeth had felt at being unable to have children. For many years she had lived with this pain but now God had removed it. The sick twisted pain inside of her had been replaced by the feeling of her child growing within and she was so grateful to God.

Elizabeth had thought she was the most blessed person in the world but all that had changed when her relative Mary came to visit. As Mary entered the house, ‘Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’

It’s amazing isn’t it! The unborn baby lays hands on his mother from within and she is filled with the Holy Spirit by God. In that moment, Elizabeth saw that Mary’s child was unique and she calls the baby ‘her Lord’. She confirmed what the angel had promised, that Mary was going to give birth to the son of God (more about that tomorrow).

Elizabeth experienced a complete turnaround from the depths of despair to ecstatic excitement.

As her child grew within her, Elizabeth also felt a deep faith and the reality of God’s presence grow in her life. This new lease of spiritual life seemed to grow more and more each day and she felt privileged as she experienced a growing intimacy with her baby and also with God

I hope that when we are in the despair that we won’t let go of the belief that God can change anything. God may not do what we want him to but we need to encourage one another that He can do the impossible and transform any situation.

Is there someone who you know who is really struggling? If so, then pray for them and as you do so, why not take time to consider if there is anything you can do to bless and to help them.

This is the fourth in a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow as we explore how God is at work in ordinary everyday lives.

You can read more about Elizabeth’s story in Luke 1 and you look at my other advent reflections by clicking here.

 

Posted in Faith, Christmas story, christmas, Advent | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent 3: When life is FRUSTRATING!!!

frustrationZechariah had never felt so frustrated. He had been unable to speak since he encountered the angel in the temple and not being able to talk was making his everyday life difficult.

He remembered coming out of the temple several months ago and the way that those who were waiting outside immediately started asking him questions. What had happened in there? Why had it taken so long? Was he okay? The people had soon realized that Zechariah couldn’t speak and it didn’t take long for them to deduce that he had had met with God in the temple.

A few days later Zechariah had returned home and during this time, he soon adapted to be able to communicate well enough to live his everyday life. He could indicate simple things such as when he wanted a drink or something to eat but deep and meaningful conversation was more difficult.

Zechariah felt frustrated with himself for not believing the angel. His anger with himself had intensified when his wife’s relative Mary had visited a few months earlier. She too had met an angel but she had believed. If only he had replied as she did,“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” then things might have been so different.

Although he was having trouble communicating with people, but he was talking with God more passionately and enthusiastically than ever. God’s promise had come true and Elizabeth was due to give birth any day now and she was full of a deep and powerful joy that he hadn’t seen for many years. Zechariah had so much to be thankful for even though he was frustrated at being unable to speak.

Although life was difficult and frustrating, Zechariah felt God’s healing presence and strength as he poured out his heart to him.

What do we do when life is frustrating? Do we wallow in self-pity and pain or do we turn to God and give it to him?

Zechariah’s faith grew and thrived even though he couldn’t speak. He had shifted from a place of real doubt and spiritual shallowness to a man of faith who was excited at all of the things that God was going to do.

I hope that we will all experience God’s peace, presence and guidance when we are frustrated and angry as we turn to him. No one wants to suffer and struggle, but I pray that when we do that we will meet with God in such deep and special ways and that our faith would grown and thrive.

This is the third in a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow as we explore how Elizabeth felt about these events.

You can read more about what happened in Luke 1 and read some of the other advent reflections by clicking here.

Posted in Advent, christmas, Christmas story, Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent 2: The God who Promises the Impossible

impossibleAs he heard the angel speak, Zechariah’s mind raced.

How could he go home to Elizabeth and tell her what the angel had just said?

It had taken his wife many painful years to come to accept that she would never have children of her own. Zechariah he knew that Elizabeth still felt a deep pain and shame at being unable to bear a child, so how could he tell her the words that the angel had spoken?

“Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”

The angel went on to explain why John would be important, but Zechariah just couldn’t move past the impossibility of what was he was being told and so he said:

“How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

How do you feel when you are faced with having to ask God to do the impossible?

How do you feel when you believe that God is promising to do the impossible?

Well, the impossible happened!

Elizabeth did give birth to a son and she and Zechariah named him John.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. His purpose in life was so important but it was born out of an impossible situation where God did a miracle that surprised everyone.

Do we still believe that God can do the impossible or have we come to think that the impossible is greater than God?

I pray that God would give us a greater expectation that he can do more than we ask or imagine and that we would come to believe and experience again that all things are possible with God.

This is the second in a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow to find out about ‘When life is frustrating’.

You can read more about Zechariah’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1.11-20 and you can find links to my other advent reflections by clicking here.

Posted in Advent, christmas, Christmas story, Faith | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent 1: Surprised by an Angel

obc-front-door-welcomeIf you were to walk through the door in this picture you would be entering Orchard Baptist Church and it probably wouldn’t surprise you to meet me there.

Zechariah was a priest who was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense. When he went in, you would have thought that he would be expecting a divine encounter but when he met an angel there he was actually shocked and surprised.

What about us? When we come to worship do we expect to experience God’s presence or are we just going through the motions? Do we want to know that God is with us or is our expectation that he is probably going to feel far away.

I pray that God would give us a greater expectation that we would know and be transformed by his presence.

This is the first in a series of short thoughts for advent to help us to consider the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

I am hoping to publish one each day in December leading up to Christmas day, so check back tomorrow to find out about ‘the God who promises the Impossible’.

You can read more about Zechariah and the angel in Luke 1 starting at v5 and you can find links to my other advent reflections by clicking here.

Posted in Advent, christmas, Christmas story, Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Today is an Exciting Day!!!!!!!!!

Today is an exciting day for me! Our church boiler which has had no end of problems is being replaced with a larger capacity boiler which is also a very well known make.

As our installer was ripping out the old boiler he found one of the causes of our problem which is that the gas valve was corroded on one side.

spot-the-difference-gas-valve corroded gas valve

Over the past few weeks I have had to do all sorts of things to try to get the boiler working including running a hot tap to fire it up and then switching to heating. This has involved a lot of time and effort alongside the expectation and knowledge that at any point that the boiler might stop working.  I am glad that this is now over🙂

It strikes me that often we do all sorts of things to keep on limping through life when sometimes we need to stop and face up to and try to resolve the real problem.

The corroded gas valve is never going to work properly and consistently and so it needs replacing.

If you are facing difficulties and you are bravely soldiering on then it might be time to stop and to consider if facing up to the problem and dealing with it might be easier in the long run.

Churches are often such nice places that we make allowances for strange and sometimes unreasonable behaviour. I think that this acceptance and grace is absolutely right and correct, but churches should also be places of healing and transformation as we encourage people to come to Jesus for freedom.

As I type this, the new boiler is being installed. YAY!!!! It is costing us more money than we would like😦 and it has taken time and effort to bring us to this point😦 but it will be worth it in the end🙂.

If you are  struggling through life, I pray that you would know God’s comfort but that you would also know his courage as you face up to what the real problem is. I pray that you would know God’s wisdom and guidance to know whether the problem can be resolved or if soldiering on is the only way forward. Most of all I pray that you would know the presence of Jesus who made a promise to his followers which is

‘I am with you always’.

Posted in change, Faith, Following Jesus, freedom, Life experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If God hasn’t surprised you recently then there is something wrong with your faith

I hate the fact that church is often a place that is safe, steady and dull.

I love the way that Jesus leads in adventurous, new and exciting ways.

Which would you prefer?

Do you want your faith to be predictable and safe or do you enjoy travelling with Jesus on his Roller Coaster of faith?

It must have been amazing to be with Jesus when he was living on the Earth but it must have been incredibly challenging as well. Jesus certainly didn’t offer his 12 closest followers a comfortable and safe journey of faith, instead he asked them to do some difficult and faith stretching things.

When they were considering how to feed the 5000+ crowd, Jesus said to his disciples ‘you feed them’.

When the disciples were panicking in the storm, Jesus brought peace and then asked his them why they had no faith.

Rather than letting them watch him do all the miracles, Jesus sent out the 12 to minister without him.

When was the last time God surprised you?

When was the last time you had to take a leap of faith?

If God hasn’t surprised you recently then either Jesus has changed or there is something wrong with your faith.

I’m pretty sure that Jesus hasn’t changed, so the question is will we look to him to lead us forward?

Are we prepared for Jesus to surprise us and do we long for and expect him to do even more than we might ask or think?

Perhaps it’s time for us to turn back to God with an increased faith that he will surprise us?

ephesians 3.20

Posted in Being honest about our faith, Faith, Following Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The One About Being Interconnected

connectedFor the past few months I have had throat problems.

Now, I know this will sound bizarre but those problems have now largely cleared up thanks to having my ears syringed.

Yes, you did read that right!

Throughout the Summer I suffered with a sore throat and since then it has just felt strange, almost like it is swollen inside.

Last week I went to have my ears syringed and whilst the water was being pumped into my ear I couldn’t stop coughing and later that evening I noticed that my throat felt normal again.

Weird huh????

I guess that throats and ears are connected in some way (I suppose that is why the hospital department is called ear, nose and throat!)

The church is described in the Bible as the body of Christ and as I was praying about this I was reminded about my ear treatment making my throat better. It occurred to me that sometimes we might try to specifically address an area of church life that we think needs working on or improving when the answer may be to look elsewhere.

The best example I can think of is being honest about our faith. Some people think that trying harder is the answer and so in trying to improve in that area as a church, we might tell people they have to talk about their faith and then we might show them how. What has dawned on me over the years is that the best way for us to be honest about our faith is to have a greater reality of faith because we talk about what is important to us. The best way to be motivated to talk about our faith is to spend more time with Jesus.

I’m so glad I feel better and although I wish it had come sooner I’m grateful to have found what will hopefully be a permanent solution.

What areas does the church that you are a part of need to grow in?

Will we continue working really hard to fix those areas ourselves with our bright ideas or will we stop and ask for God’s guidance and do what he shows us?

Being really busy with what we think is the way forward will wear us out but choosing to work with God in the way that he is leading will bring freedom.

Posted in Faith, Life experiences | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Black Sunday!

I declare this day Black Sunday! Quick rush out to your local church which will be offering free entry as well as the opportunity to connect with the most powerful and influential person n the universe. What a bargain!

Honest about my faith

Black Sunday PosterOn Black Friday, lots of people head to the shops so I figured that I would call today Black Sunday to inspire people to go to church.

On Black Friday, shoppers desperately try to save money by err… spending money that they perhaps wouldn’t have spent.

On Black Friday, people hunt for bargains to make them feel good. Most of the items on sale aren’t necessities, they are generally things that we might want but they aren’t often things that we need.

On Black Sunday I hope that we can pause and consider God. Most of us hit a moment at some point  in life when we begin to wonder what it is all about and when we do we have a range of choices before us as we search for meaning and fulfillment.

I believe that ultimate meaning and fulfillment is found in God alone. God may or may not be…

View original post 135 more words

Posted in Faith | Leave a comment