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I’ve been reading the news again; always a dangerous thing to do!

June 24, 2017

I’ve been reading the news again; always a dangerous thing to do!

I read about Camden Council urging people to evacuate 5 blocks of flats in London, due to urgent fire concerns. I read of chaos at the heart of government and disarray in our Brexit negotiations. I read about drugs being freely available on our streets, even here in Harleston. I read those things and I just wanted to weep for the world, for the people, the old, and the young, and everyone in between. I looked again at the tiny footnotes of the news, and I read of a huge increase in homelessness among young people. I’ve seen it myself in Norwich. I know of a real increase in the use of Foodbanks.

I read all that news, then these words about Jesus came back to me, “When he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them. They were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9.36 CEV) I smiled a sad smile and thought, “Some things never change.” Trapped by those thoughts, I felt hope draining away.

Then I remembered that that was not where the story ended. Jesus didn’t just feel sorry for the people of his day. He saw the need and acted. So what about now? This is huge but where to start? Perhaps where God started, God saw the need, got involved, and began by calling his people to arms. Not arms for a physical war, but to arms for a war against all that has corrupted this good world. That is where John the Baptist comes in. John was the one sent by God to prepare the way, to get people ready for Jesus and God’s plan that changed everything. The plan that killed the power of death. A plan that too many people seem to have forgotten or are just not interested in.

So how do I prepare the way for God’s work now? How do I as a minister help my fellow Christians to prepare the way for the Lord to work here and now? I could give simple answers but that didn’t seem right or worthy of the question. So I stopped and prayed. As I waited, this phrase came back to me, “the child grew and became strong in spirit.” (Luke 1.80 NIV) This the description of John the Baptist growing up.

I thought about those words, “the child grew and became strong in spirit” and thought I’ve grown enough thank you! I’m as tall as I am going to be, and a little wider than I would like, so no more growing would be good. But my faith could grow. My love could grow. I have some growing in the Spirit yet before I am anything like Christlike; like Jesus my role model. So before I dash out, I need perhaps to spend some time with God, letting him work on me so I can indeed grow up. Then perhaps I can become truly “strong in spirit”, or even better, “strong in the Spirit.”

So, I’ve acted and, over the next few weeks, I’ve cleared a couple of days just to stop and pray; to be with God. I know that God is working and I really want to be part of it. That is why I’m letting Jesus get me ready. I need to see the need more clearly. I also need to be more in tune with God.

Just the thought of spending a little time, quiet with God, has lifted me. I can now move on from the depressing news. I can start to the hope again. I read of despair among young people, I also read that the churches are doing so much to help. I read of 1 in 6 young people in England would now describe themselves as Christians. I read of the work of Christians (and others) helping the homeless and those with no food.

Lifted by the Spirit, I remembered my last PCC (church council) meeting. It was in one of my smaller village churches, but all sorts was happening and growing: We realised that we now had a small but growing young families church, we had reached out into the local pub, and we were actively reviewing our worship with mission in mind. There are interviews for our new Church Army Centre for Mission in just over a week’s time. The different ,flavours, of church in this area are praying together and working together (e.g. in the schools).

There is hope, God has a plan of action for this place, the plan is starting to be revealed. Now is the time for me to grow and become strong in the Spirit. This is the time to open my eyes to what God is doing and is about to do. This is a time for all Jesus’ people to take heart, and be ready.

I started out just reading the news and seeing the need. But now I also see the hope. I see hope in the schools here, I see hope in the town and villages, I see hope in businesses, I see hope in the churches, I even see hope in me. I think of the Norfolk Show and the great outreach that I’ll be part of next week, and I get excited.

All of that is true. There is real hope and I get impatient, I want it all and I want it now! Perhaps a sign that I’m still a spiritual toddler who needs to grow up. So I read about John the Baptist again. I read and I noticed something new. I noticed that the promise came even before John was born. At his birth people asked, “‘What then is this child going to be?’” (Luke 1.66 NIV) Then they needed to wait.

I remember being in a swimming competition as a child. I knew that I could win but I was so excited and eager that I kept jumping the gun. So much is happening here. I can feel the spiritual excitement building. But I too need to wait. I need to be ready but not jump the gun. I need to have the patience to wait for God’s time, not mine.

Then I remembered that Jesus didn’t just feel sorry for the people of his day. He saw the need and acted. Perhaps God has already started. Perhaps He has seen our need, got involved, and began by calling His people to arms. Not arms for a physical war, but to arms for a war against all that has corrupted this good world. Perhaps God is preparing me and you; calling us to get ready for Jesus and God’s plan that changed everything.

I need to grow up a little more.

So Lord grant me patience, and make it quick!

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