A New Beginning

A New Year is beginning. Starting something new gives us an opportunity to do better. Some people make New Year resolutions. It is good to resolve to change for the better and do things differently from the way we have in the past. When we were in primary school and had made lots of mistakes and crossings out on a page in our exercises book the teacher would tell us to turn to new page. It was good to be able to start again.

We all fail in life and regret many things we have done. We cannot change the past. There are broken relationships, moral failures, dishonest actions and words, bitterness and resentment, and things we intended to do but didn’t. Often we find it difficult to move on and we carry with us the memories of our past failures.

The Bible tells us of a God who is the God of second chances. Many of the great men and women in the Bible made big mistakes and committed serious sins, but God didn’t cast them off and reject them. Peter, who was a leader in the early churches, told Jesus that whatever happened he would never let him down. He said he was ready, if necessary, to die for Jesus. But on the night Jesus was arrested and condemned Peter denied 3 times that he even knew him. Peter wept bitterly and was overcome with the realisation that he had totally failed his Lord in his hour of need.

Early one morning after Jesus had risen from the dead he appeared to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter replied, “Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” In this way Peter was restored to ministry and leadership in the early churches. He always remembered the wonderful way in which the Lord had restored him. It made him more able to help others who, like him, had also failed.

We live in a very unforgiving world. The media highlight the failings of well-known people and sometimes destroy them. God is not like that. In Jesus he offers us the opportunity to put all our past failures behind us and to start again. He gives us hope that the future will, with his help, be better than the past. Let’s pray that 2019 will truly be a new beginning and a Happy New Year!

Words matter

Words matter. At the marriage of Jack Brooksbank and Princess Eugenie last week their deep love for each other was obvious. The Dean of Windsor declared them to be husband and wife because they made solemn, lifelong promises to each other. Eugenie was asked, “Eugenie, wilt thou have this Man to be thy wedded husband, to live together according to God’s law in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour and keep him, in sickness and in health and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?” She replied, “I will.” Jack made a similar promise.

One media organisation hired professional lip-readers to tell them what the Royal guests were saying to each other. It seems even small talk matters! Jesus taught that our words reveal the condition of our inner self and that God will judge us for everything we say. He said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”

Those who heard Jesus speaking recognised the authority of his words. During a difficult time in his ministry, when some people turned away from him, Jesus asked his close disciples, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” Jesus made wonderful promises in which we can have total confidence. One of his promises is, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Some Christian friends of ours invited a neighbour, who is not a Christian, to a meal. After the meal the wife asked the neighbour if she could read a passage from the Bible. The neighbour agreed and the wife read one of the Psalms. As she was reading the neighbour began to cry. When the reading was finished the neighbour explained why she had cried, “In my religion we speak to God but he never speaks to us. As you were reading I felt God was speaking to me!”

Be still and know that I am God

No other generation has been bombarded by words, both spoken and written, as we are today. Daily newspapers and magazines provide news and comment on current events. Television 24 hour news channels communicate information from around the world. Chat shows and phone-in programmes offer the opportunity for people to express their views. Social networking enables millions of people to publish information about themselves. People send and receive text messages from family and friends. Many struggle to cope with the increasing volume of emails at work and at home. In every sphere of life word processors churn out long and complex documents. The internet provides vast quantities of information.

Yet amongst all these words there are very few that really matter and significantly impact our lives. However, some words can really make a difference. In the Bible God has communicated his truth to all people in every generation. Through reading the Bible, millions of people have discovered truth by which they can live and a Saviour whose amazing love they can experience. The words of the Bible have a wonderful depth and calm authority because they are God’s words.

A minister was visiting an elderly lady who belonged to his congregation. She was recovering from major surgery and was confined to bed. The minister asked her what she had been doing that day. She said, “I have been thinking about those words in Psalm 46, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Today I have been thinking especially about the words, ‘Be still.’” That day they talked about how, in the busyness of life, we don’t find time to be quiet and think about God.

The next time he visited the lady she told him she had been thinking about the words “and know” in the same verse. They talked about the privilege of knowing God personally. On the next visit they spoke about the words, “that I” and reflected on God’s eternal nature and that he is unique. Then on the fourth visit they spoke about the words, “am God” and rejoiced in the God who created all things and who sustains all things. That one short sentence from God’s Word had wonderfully spoken to this lady’s heart and assured her of his love and care for her in a time of weakness. How good it is for us all to find time, in the midst of the noise and rush of life, to be still and to listen to what God says.