Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  I pray that everyone reading this will have a 2017 that is indeed happy, and peaceful, and filled with the presence of God.   

I’m not sure I’ve ever known so many people expressing a hope that this year will be better than last.  For some that is a result of personal and family situations which have made 2016 a difficult year.  For others it is a result of the number of household names who seem to have died (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, the list goes on…), which perhaps reminds them of their own mortality.  For still others the various political developments in this country and around the world have made them feel unsafe and uncertain of the future. 

None of us know what 2017 will bring, whether it will be better or worse, but it is inevitable that it will hold times of sadness and distress.  So how do we motivate ourselves to carry on? 

As I reflected on the last year God gave me the chorus of a gospel song, “Because he lives I can face tomorrow, because he lives all fear is gone.”  When Jesus was on earth he experienced the joys of being human, but also the sorrows, grief, terrible suffering, torture, and death.  But he walked through this and out the other side into fullness of life.  And now he walks with us through everything we experience in life, its joy and its sorrows. 

So I hope 2017 will be a good year for you, but when the difficult times come we face them with Jesus who “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” where he is still seated today (Hebrews 12:2).  His death and resurrection don’t make any promises that we won’t hit difficulties this year, but they do assure us that he is in control, and give us hope for a future that is full of joy and peace in his presence.

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New Year Message

I’ve written a short New Year message for our church e-newsletter, and I thought it worth sharing here too.

Are you planning on making a New Year’s resolution?  Many will, and such resolutions are all about wanting to change some aspect of our life or behaviour.  And it often feels like we go round the same cycle again and again, making the same resolutions to change and then breaking them, leading us to wonder if we can ever change.

My holiday reading this Christmas is “You can change” by Tim Chester, which comes out of his own struggle to deal with certain sins in his life.  He sets out a message of hope in Jesus, for forgiveness and lasting change.  I haven’t read it all yet, but in the first chapter he focusses on 2 Corinthians 3:13-18, with its image of Moses radiating the glory of God after he met him on Mount Sinai.  We were made to reflect God’s glory, as people made in his image, but that image has been damaged by sin.  In Jesus, God revealed his glory, and the more we focus on the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus, the more we will reflect that glory as we were designed to do.

He goes on to speak of how real change only comes about as our hearts are changed by encounter with the living God.  Unless and until this happens all our resolutions, however sincerely made, are bound to fail.  God desires our transformation, until we eventually become like Jesus, and we are called daily to turn to him afresh in repentance and faith to allow him to complete his work in us.

So whatever other resolutions we make this New Year, let us each resolve to make 2016 a year where we seek to spend more time in the presence of Jesus, experiencing his glory, and so enable God to make us ever more like him and display that glory to the world.  In other words, let us know Jesus and make him known.

I hope to write more on the Tim Chester book once I’ve worked through it.