Thursday, 25 August 2011

The blessings of God's comfort

18 months ago, I had a conversation on Facebook with 2 strangers concerning an issue that had plagued me ever since becoming a Christian – how to have assurance and comfort in my relationship with God when I fought a constant battle with sin. I think it shows how desperate I was that I would discuss such an issue with people I didn’t know. But I truly believe God’s hand was at work on that encounter – the way these 2 women were so willing to take the time to offer biblical counsel to someone they didn’t know, and to stay in contact and enable beautiful friendships to develop, and above all the way the Holy Spirit worked on me through that initial encounter and through many conversations over subsequent months. I have been on the most wondrous journey of discovery as my eyes have been opened to the riches of the gospel, and the reality of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ washing over me has unshackled the condemnation I used to carry around with me. I have truly found my freedom in Christ – not through a 7-step plan, but through the very real, very personal work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Oh, the blessed comfort of the gospel!

During the course of this journey I have developed wonderful friendships with other mourning Christians too – Christians mourning over their sin, over the loss of biblical teaching in so many churches, over the refusal of the world to honour the Name which is so precious to each and every one of us.

This last week my family and I have spent in America meeting up with these Christian women on Facebook who have played such an important role in my life both in terms of my understanding of the gospel and in terms of the friendship they have provided at one of the loneliest times of my Christian walk. The week was a glorious gift from God from start to finish – from the gracious way in which my husband enabled it to come about, the excitement of planning the visit with dear friends, the bountiful hospitality shown us by the DeBarros family as we shared a few precious days with them, and the sheer joy and delight of being amongst a gathering of like-minded Christian friends in Washington DC for a weekend. Saturday afternoon in particular the blessings of God poured down on us as we all sat down to afternoon tea in a plush hotel, and I found myself sitting opposite those 2 precious women with whom this journey began, Christine Pack and Elizabeth DeBarros, and amongst so many other dear friends. And to cap it all off, the Sunday morning church service some of us attended at Capitol Hill Baptist Church was another gracious gift from God, as a passage from scripture was read out that would previously have left me comfortless - 1 John 3, which was the subject of that first Facebook interaction 18 months ago. As I sat there and listened on Sunday, I felt the weight of the law in the passage, but crucially I also heard those verses which were full of comfort after comfort as the Holy Spirit ministered His comfort to me. Oh, the blessed comfort of the gospel!

I trust the weekend was as comforting to all those dear friends as it was for me. We sorely missed those who were unable to join us, and pray God will comfort them in their need.

For I truly believe we all need each and every moment of comfort that God provides for us, as He uses these moments to strengthen us. An earthquake that shook Washington just a couple of days after our weekend brought the reality of our situation back to the forefront of my mind very quickly - we dwell in a world which is groaning in its bondage to decay, and the merciful hand of God is on this earth to shake us from our false idols that we might find salvation in Him alone. May He open the eyes of men that they might find the blessed comfort available through the gospel message that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He was raised again for our justification that we might have peace with God – true Comfort above all comforts.

Precious friends in Washington DC 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

He Sustains All Things By His Powerful Word

Jesus sustains all things by His powerful word. I don’t think we have any adequate understanding of what this means at all.  Riots here in the UK, spreading to many cities nationwide, have left many of us deeply unsettled. This comes on top of the financial uncertainties, with what seems to be the whole system teetering on the brink. What has particularly unsettled me in both cases is the speed at which collapse can come.

It takes  events like this to make me realise that Jesus sustains our civilisation through His powerful Word.  I take for granted so many many things that Jesus sustains in our lives. Only as He withdraws His hand of protection over us, giving us over to our wicked ways, can we see that we can’t even BREATHE without Him sustaining us, as Paul Washer so eloquently puts it in his sermons. So even as the rioters and looters serve the lusts of their flesh, God is glorified as He reveals how utterly desperate and hopeless man is without Him.

Earlier this year, as the earth shook and the seas raged, the way in which Jesus sustains the very ground on which we stand was made apparent. And our utter helplessness when He shakes the nations is revealed, and He is glorified.

The true condition of man contrasted with the True Glory of Christ. How desperate we are for Him! How needy we are! How completely dependent we are on Him for everything – whether we recognise His Kingship or not. And how merciful He is that He sends these times of shaking to wake us up to our dire condition, our need of a Saviour, that we might be still and know that He is God, that He will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in the earth, so that we might bow the knee before Him and confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and honour His Name, His Glorious Name, which is above every other name.

Oh Lord, may You bring Your church to repentance. May You shake us to the core, to see You revealed in Your Glory, that we may be broken and humbled before You. May You enable us to root out sin in our lives, that we may follow after You wholeheartedly. May You raise up men in Your church who will be bold to preach Your Word without compromise, men who are not ashamed of Your gospel, for it is the power of salvation for all those who believe, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. May You raise up men who will preach of a Jesus who reigns majestically in the heavens, who is the radiance of God’s glory, who sustains all things by His powerful Word, and who is coming again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. Come, Lord Jesus!