The Treasury is the monthly English-language publication of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. It is published by the first Sunday of each month. The Editor is Revd Iain Hodgins. You can contact The Treasury through its Facebook page.
To subscribe to The Treasury, please enquire at your local PCW church or contact the publishers, Gwasg y Bwthyn, on 01286 672018 or email@example.com.
MARI FFLUR, 10 September 2012
This month's edition of The Treasury includes Voice of the Assembly and is available free of charge in all our churches - ask your church secretary if you haven't got your copy! Click here to download Voice of the Assembly.
JONATHAN HODGINS, 31 July 2012
One of the programmes just finished on Sky Atlantic is called Smash. For those of you who haven't seen it, Smash is an American drama about a group of people putting together a musical about Marilyn Monroe for Broadway.
The story revolves around Karen and Ivy, two contrasting individuals: one straightforward and moral (by Hollywood standards) and the other more complex and willing to do anything to get the starring role. It also concerns amoral Derek, the Simon Cowell-like director, and his conflict with Tom and Julia who write the show. Over fifteen episodes various characters lie and connive, make and break friendships, become addicted to drugs, get drunk and hook up with one another as is to be expected in modern drama.
What's less expected is that (for one episode at least) the cast go to church. Rehearsing in Boston, one of the characters from that city says he is going to spend Sunday morning in his church. In a British drama everyone would immediately suspect him of being one song short of a stage-show but this is an American series and so they all agree to go with him. And I do mean all! From show writers and stars to backing singers and staff, they all roll up impeccably dressed and ready for church.
Which, if you look at it from our point of view, is pretty exciting. Imagine a whole gang of people coming willingly to your church this Sunday.
Well, in Smash the church is so excited to welcome them, they hand over the service to them. Regulars sit at the back, the minister apparently takes a day off and the choir invite the stars to sing with them. Of course, the cast take the song and make it illuminate their own problems, reassuring everyone that:
"When you've done all you can and it seems like it's never enough?
...when your friends turn away, and you're all alone?
…when you've given your all, and it seems like you can't make it through?
Stand and be sure
I know it's fiction but how does that sound to you?
When a bunch of damaged individuals turn up in church, dependent of drugs, scarred from broken relationships, familiar with rejection and being told they're not good enough, what do they need? Surely it's not to be brought to the front and invited to sing? Or encouraged to believe that unflinching determination to 'Stand' is what counts? Didn't they need to be told something?
That's right folks, I'm talking about Bible believing, God honouring, life changing preaching.
We're always afraid that preaching is old fashioned and incompatible with the twittering, channel hopping world of today.
But didn't the cast of Smash desperately need preaching? Didn't those characters, so used to being told to perform harder and longer and better, need someone to tell them, passionately and clearly about a man called Jesus who accepts us as we are?
Those who were looking to relief in a bottle of pills. Didn't they need to know that Jesus represents genuine hope in darkness?
And those who were guilty about sexual immorality? The last thing they needed was to be told to stand by your decisions! Their shame was real, they wanted to be rid of it- the message they needed was that their hangover was caused by sin, it was serious, but in Jesus it could be dealt with.
I know it as fictional, but on that Sunday morning in Boston that church failed those characters. What's not fictional is the warning we can take from them.
In days of small things we are desperate to see an influx of people and because of that we look for ways to get people back into church. Various imaginative methods are used and every so often one will be a hit, people will come in and they will sit expectantly.
But then, dazzled by numbers we hand over the service in effect to the newcomer. In an effort to keep people we strip out anything controversial or that they might find offensive. Like in that Boston church in Smash, the ministers job of preaching is taken from him and replaced by comfortable but essentially meaningless words.
We need to realise that our churches are small not because there's too much preaching but because there isn't enough. We need to have the courage to change that (including by the way, those people who purportedly 'preach') because if Smash taught us anything it's that men and women know their need.
And we have what they need to know.
IAIN HODGINS, 10 July 2012
Twenty years ago when my wife Christine was teaching history to school children in Cambridge, at this time of year I used to tag along when she went on school trips to the battlefields and memorials of the First World War. I am always moved to read the inscriptions that commemorate sacrifice and bravery, and I never tire of reading the plaque in one of our churches on Gower that remembers the devotion to duty of George Tucker RN as his ship was sinking off the southern coast of Ireland in 1918.
Reading in the past few days about the Memorial that's just been unveiled to Bomber Command in London, I found it hard to believe that it has taken nearly sixty years to erect an official tribute to Bomber Command and the 55,573 killed from the 120,000 aircrew who flew against the greatest odds of survival during the Second World War.
To know that in 1943, crews had a 16% chance of surviving, puts the £7.5 million cost of erecting the memorial into perspective. Prominent people like Dwina Gibb (widow of Bee Gees singer, Robin Gibb) and other lesser known people have campaigned hard to see some tangible expression created to express the emotional feelings that exist for all those who are victims of bombing, as well as the aircrews of Bomber Command.
Our Lord, on the eve of His death on the Cross established a memorial to His memory as He instituted the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. 'Do this in remembrance of Me', He said. In a visible symbol of His sacrifice, He took simple tokens like bread and wine to illustrate His broken body and shed blood. The familiar words 'For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes' should transport us back to that awful scene at Calvary where all He suffered was for our sakes.
Communion should give us a common identity as Christ's people, and remind us also that soon He will return in glory. The Lord's Supper for a Christian should be as emotive a moment as the sounding of the Last Post or a Poppy drop.
In preparation for the next time you celebrate the Sacrament, read again the words in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 and come and participate in remembrance of the One who loved you and gave Himself for you.
JONATHAN HODGINS, 2 July 2012
The man could never really explain why he had been in the field in the first place. He travelled for work of course, but often took different routes. Why that particular path on that particular day?
Likewise he could never really remember how he had come to notice the treasure. Afterwards people said something glistening in the sunlight must have caught his eye but he wasn't so sure.
In fact the whole day was a blur to him except one thing. He could remember how it all felt.
He could remember the adrenalin rush when he realised what finding this treasure meant for him and his family. He remembered his throat tightening and sweat beading on his hands as he rushed to cover it up, terrified that someone else would come along and claim it. He remembered the thumping sound of his heart pounding as he raced home and the thrill as one by one the business transactions fell into place.
Afterwards people asked him if he hadn't worried. What if the treasure had been removed by the owner while he was busy selling his property? What if it had been counterfeit? It all seemed a bit of a gamble.
The idea of gambling everything on one outcome is something we tend to oppose. In this Summer of Sport, television advertising has been dominated by gambling and it's a development many people (including Christians) are uncomfortable with.
I think Jesus would counsel against gambling far a variety of reasons, one being because unlike Him, you can't be sure of what the future holds so money gambled is often money wasted. More fundamentally Jesus wouldn't encourage gambling because money yearned for is money idolised.
However, when it comes to considering our eternal future, Jesus is clear. He is a sure thing and we need to put everything on him.
Over and over, in parables and sermons, Jesus tells his followers to invest in that which is most precious to them in something which cannot fail. This teaching is summed up in the fundamental question, 'What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?'
Does that produce some anxiety in you? If you're a conservative sort of person you might prefer to invest across a portfolio. Certainly you will be cautious about gambling on what seems to be something for the future. Lots of people feel like this and it's one reason why so many people talk about becoming a Christian 'when they're older'.
The thing is though, that when the man found treasure in a field he knew there was no time to lose. If he procrastinated he could lose his chance. Throw the dice, spin the wheel, play the hand now or always regret a missed opportunity.
That whole hearted gamble impresses Jesus. It's why He was so thrilled to see the Widow with her mite in Luke 21. In a temple full of theologians and religious followers who hedged their bets and gave some of their wealth to God, one woman boldly went up to the collection plate and laid everything she had down on God. What everyone else assumed was a gamble she knew was a sure thing.
And that's the essence of Jesus' message. We all have something eternally precious, namely our eternal life. We can hedge our bets and invest ourselves in the various philosophies and attractions of this life or we can study the form guide and decide that when a sure thing comes along you should bet the farm on it.
JONATHAN HODGINS, 12 June 2012
Last week, some people were saying that the Jubilee Pageant was wonderful but that the weather was a bit of a disappointment.
I don’t understand them. Why are they commenting on the weather when the biggest disappointment was Kate Middleton? As the Daily Mail pointed out, after the Queen welcomed her so graciously into the family last Summer, this year Kate had the temerity to arrange with her mother and sister that they wear red, white and blue outfits thereby upstaging Her Majesty on her most important day.
Having said that perhaps a bigger disappointment was Cheryl Cole. Remember how she turned up at the Jubilee concert and performed what many people consider (and by ‘many’ I mean the users of Twitter) the worst example of singing in 60 years? Yes that was the biggest disappointment of the weekend.
But wait. I’d forgotten the appalling BBC coverage. Remember Fern Cotton calling someone called John, Jim? And him, a war veteran. I expect she did it on purpose. Yes, definitely, it was the BBC. The newspapers all agree, that was the biggest disappointment of the weekend.
Yes, on Jubilee weekend everyone had something to say about their biggest disappointment. Twitter and Facebook, were scoured by journalists for ‘quotes’ which were then turned into articles, posted on the web and then retweeted by readers.
Rarely was it asked however, ‘Is this true?’ Did Kate and Pippa really colour coordinate their outfits? Probably, but so did a million other people that weekend; were they all plotting to upstage the Queen? Is Fern Cotton the sharpest tool in the shed? Probably not, but then briefly calling a John, Jim is neither a sign of idiocy or impertinence, it’s something anyone could have done, in driving rain, on live TV, with a producer chattering about running times in your earpiece. And as for Cheryl Cole, ‘Winner of Talent Competition Struggles To Sing Live’ is a headline to put alongside ‘Newspaper Struggles to Fill Pages on Bank Holiday Weekend’ in the stating the obvious section. The reality is, it was all tittle tattle.
Someone might argue that it doesn’t matter if all this tittle tattle is true or not, it’s just a bit of fun. Others argue that celebrities choose to put themselves in the public eye and so deserve to be scrutinised and talked about. At the end of the day, it’s just gossip.
To be precise, it’s part of the gossip industry. Newspapers publish gossip, gossip generates publicity for a star, publicity means money for everyone involved and so the cycle goes on.
What a shame then that the Bible has to complicate everything.
Because, the Bible is clear that gossip is a nasty, insidious and evil sin. It might be a fluffy word today but when Paul describes the sins of the depraved mind in Romans 1:29 gossip sits right there in the middle alongside greed, depravity, envy, malice and all the others.
But why is it so bad? Even if you accept Paul’s argument, surely he means gossiping about people you know? Celebrity gossip is different isn’t it?
The simple answer is no. And here’s why.
Everybody loves gossip. God knows that. It’s why He wrote on two occasions in Proverbs,
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”
It feels good to be in the know. It feels great to pass judgment on the decisions of others. But gossip destroys character and communities. In our highly connected, 24 hour society it can destroy careers and confidences too. Most of all it will destroy us. Because I’m sure that the more we gossip about celebrities, the easier it is to gossip about real people; those we live and work with and that is not Jesus’ way.
While gossip belittles others to elevate self, Jesus loves and serves others and humbles himself. If we want to stand out as Christians it won’t be by judging other people on how they live, what they wear or who they date- leave that to magazine editors- Christians will stand out when they get off the gossip cycle, stop criticising others and start caring about people, real or celebrity.
ANDY & TATYANA (SERVING IN UKRAINE), 25 May 2012
This summer we will all see Ukraine on our TV screens, as they co-host the Euro 2012 football tournament with neighbouring Poland. This is one of the biggest international events in now-independent Ukraine since their part in the Moscow Olympics in 1980, as part of the former Soviet Union. Huge new stadia have been built, along with new airport terminals and hotels, yet Ukraine remains the most underdeveloped nation ever to host the Euros.
Ukraine is a massive country in the far reaches of Eastern Europe, strategically positioned between the EU and Russia. It’s well known for transporting 80% of Russian gas to the EU, often with disputes over price that has led to a number of winter gas crises.
Strategic it may be, but the social and humanitarian needs here are so vast they are almost overwhelming. With crumbling ex-Soviet infrastructure, an average income of just £10 a day and systemic corruption and bribery at every level of society, local people are full of disillusionment. The short-lived ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004 has come and gone without bringing lasting stability or democracy, and the current political regime seems intent on removing more democratic freedoms every week.
Hope is in short supply in Ukraine. Young Slavic people are so aspirational yet are becoming fatalistic. Most who get qualified want to leave the country to live somewhere else – anywhere where the quality of life might be better. The population is shrinking rapidly (half a million per year), not just as people leave, but as the death rate speeds further ahead of the birth rate, due to poor diet, ailing health care and an enormous consumption of alcohol, especially vodka.
Ukraine’s spiritual history still lurks in the shadow of 70 years of communist repression through most of the Twentieth Century. The days of mass conversions and rapid church growth of the early ‘90s, when freedom first came, are now long gone. Yet God is still greatly at work in Ukraine, and there is a vast harvest field of potential, as His people labour on in His name.
What are some of the key spiritual challenges ahead that we can pray for Ukraine?
The challenge of leadership training
All Christian agencies working in Ukraine agree that this is one of the most pressing areas of need. The church planting movement in Ukraine over the past two decades has been breathtaking to behold. Many thousands of new evangelical works have been planted in cities, towns and small villages all around Ukraine by those zealous for the gospel. In fact, very few existent churches have not already planted at least one new church elsewhere. However, many of these remain small and sadly a great number of them still have no trained incumbent male leadership to faithfully teach the Scriptures and take them forward. Soon the baton must be passed from church planters to local elders and pastors who are able to establish and strengthen the churches.
We are attempting to work alongside current evangelical pastors, who have a burden to train up men, yet often lack the training and experience to teach some of the essential elements that are needed. Pray for the efforts of seminaries, local church training schemes and for the right books to be translated and published, to support this vital area.
The challenge of crippling legalism
During the years of persecution, Slavic believers had a great sense of God’s presence with them. They also knew great unity and took a high view of their separation from the world. This has significantly eroded in the 20 years since communism fell and different church groupings are taking vastly different approaches to seek to prevent this slide. Large numbers have seemingly become gripped by the need for legalistic moralism, in an attempt to control the consciences of believers, especially the young people. Yet this is crippling the church. It has caused enormous pastoral damage to many believers and has undermined evangelical unity, as judgmentalism is rife. Pray for wisdom and humility to prevail, with deep repentance where needed among leaders.
The need for Biblical preaching
We are encouraged that in many parts of Ukraine, there is a growing desire for Biblical preaching and teaching. Expository preaching is still not the norm in the majority of Ukrainian pulpits, but it is growing. In a climate where false teaching abounds, we work constantly with young believers who long to understand their Bibles better and long to have solid spiritual principles on which to base their lives. Pray for preacher training, which is so crucial. Better preaching will help the churches to lay a much firmer theological foundation than the one that often prevails today.
But as we stand with our Slavic brothers and sisters in prayer and seek to support them, let us also learn from them. For the prayerfulness and zeal of many believers in Ukraine is something we greatly need more of in the UK. May we catch some of that from them, as we serve together.
JONATHAN HODGINS, 15 May 2012
Taking children to church is hard work.
I don't mean the looking-for-shoes-brushing-hair-"where-are-the-keys"-washing-faces-grabbing-colouring-books-"why-haven't-you-got-your-shoes-on"-hurry-up-we'll-be-late-where-has-the-time-gone maelstrom. That's just what it's like getting out of the house to go anywhere.
I mean sitting with children in church is hard work. It's enough to make me neurotic.
People say that children have minds like sponges, soaking up all manner of material.
In the case of our boys that's definitely true. Samuel can quote whole chunks of dialogue from Disney's Tangled, Benjamin can give a pretty good description of the troop movements in Zulu (replete with uncannily accurate sound of the rifles loading) and even Seth Joshua can sing the Emperors theme music from Return of the Jedi.
Because of that I need to be doubly careful about how I behave when I'm in church and need to be clear about what I expect from them. Take these two examples from last Sunday.
1. Bible reading
Should I follow the reading from a hard copy bible or my iPhone?
Instinct tells me a paper bible is the right choice here. A hard copy helps illustrate the dimensions of the volume and where the books are in relation to one another. On the other hand, if I read newspapers and novels on a screen do I want the bible to appear noticeably different and old fashioned, different to everything else that I use (and he will use)?
Here comes the bag. I have a coin in my pocket. I want to encourage the children to give to God but it's meant to be from each persons own resources. If I just take a coin from my pocket what will that mean to them? Should I give them pocket money so that I can then get them to tithe it back? And if they do that without love won't they feel towards God what I feel towards the taxman?
There are more examples I could give but you get the idea. Like I say, I could get neurotic about this stuff.
I suppose part of the difficulty is that ours isn't an outward religion. I could teach them creeds and confessions but ultimately Christian faith depends on a relationship to Jesus. If they're going to have a positive experience of Christianity it will be from desiring what I have as much as mimicking what I teach.
Which impacts on you dear reader! Because if my children are learning from me they're also learning from you. The way you sing, whether you concentrate in prayers, whether your offering clinks or folds. Do you think they don't have their beady eyes on the snoozers in the sermon? They see you! Just like they hear the grumblers and the gossips, the moaners and the complainers.
If there are children in the church be sure they watch and learn from you. I hope you're modelling Christ to them- not to make YOU feel neurotic!
JONATHAN HODGINS, 5 March 2012
By the time you read this I'll be packing up and heading off to a house party in Somerset.
Four families will be staying together in a National Trust property called Lytes Cary, a manor house with four poster bed, grand dining room and its own Victorian herb garden. In short it's our own Downton Abbey. Right now my imagination is on overdrive. I'm picturing the children whiling away hours reading books by a roaring fire, the men dressing in tuxedoes for dinner and having animated conversations about the gathering storm in Germany and the intentions of Mr Hitler.
At least thats the intention. It's what the brochure suggests and what the website hints at. Of course the nagging suspicion is that it won't be as good as the anticipation. Will the house really be as nice as it appears? What if it's dusty? Or cold? Or dirty? And even if the house is as it appears, will we all get on as I imagine? Will half a dozen children under seven really play unsupervised? In fact, never mind children, can the adults get on without arguing? And as for dressing for dinner, I don't even own a tux.
Maybe the anticipation will be the best part as reality always fails to match up. Or does it?
Are you a Christian? If you are, you will have at some point, considered your ultimate future- where you will go after you die. We often speak of eternity in ‘Heaven’ but the bible speaks of more than that.
Heaven certainly exists. While God is present everywhere, his centre of operations is what we call Heaven. Jesus went there on his ascension and remains there today, where he is worshipped by the soul of the thief on the cross as well as the soul of every other person who has died with their hope in him.
In truth though, what we ultimately look forward to is a renewed heaven and earth. Heaven, where our souls rest, is only a waiting point; the ultimate reality will be a physical eternal earth, renewed and perfect. But what will it be like?
The renewed creation is where we'll see Jesus’ reality.
When Jesus created the world it was very good. When sin came in, it corrupted creation in ways that we still cannot comprehend. When Jesus comes again he will renew the world, making it as it should have been. There is no way we can really imagine how good the world will be when it is perfectly renewed, but I see no reason why we shouldn't try.
The renewed creation is where we'll see Jesus' people.
In the same way, the high point of creation- humanity- will also be perfectly renewed. Physical and mental capacities will be restored, creative capacities enlarged and imagination cleansed. Moreover, the ability to worship will be made perfect.
The renewed creation is where we'll see Jesus.
How did you feel about that last line? It's the dream of the movie super villain to have physical perfection or mental superiority and The Beatles reputedly took LSD to improve their creative capacity. Who wouldn't want to be part of that sort of new creation? It's the idea of worship that ultimately sorts the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff isn't it? Can you really face a church service that never gets to the last hymn?
Amazingly, at his best, the Christian can face it! Because, even in his fallen, mixed up, half renewed/ half decaying, spiritually schizophrenic state, the Christian knows enough about Jesus to know that he is worth worshipping.
From creation to new creation there is a story of patient love and peerless rescue and Christians want to spend their time acknowledge God for that in their worship.
From incarnation to crucifixion, Jesus' life was one of humiliation and sacrifice and Christians want to praise Him for that in their worship.
For grace and forgiveness, patience and mercy, loving and blessing, the church of God will want to praise and five thanks.
And that's just scratching the surface of what we know. What of the individual tales that will be told and rejoiced in? More than that, what about the as yet unknown that is waiting to be revealed?
Wow! The anticipation is nothing compared to the reality of gathering in the world God intended us to inhabit, with the people he wanted us to be to perfectly express our worship of the God we are yet to fully know.
IAIN HODGINS, 27 February 2012
There are certain hymns that I associate with particular people or events. One is Gadsby's 'Immortal Honours' No. 125 in 'Christian Hymns' which a number of our members like, and another, 'O God our help in ages past' which we sing each Remembrance Sunday.
When I was in my parents house this month I noticed an invitation to a 90th birthday party for the lady who had been my first Sunday School teacher. It was she who taught me one of the first hymns I ever learned by heart, 'Jesus, friend of little children' which was No. 667 in the Revised Church Hymnary (or the blue book) that was used in Presbyterian churches worldwide until recent years. Whenever I sing it now, Marjorie (or Miss Robinson as I called her in the mid 50's) comes to mind.
It might be classed as a Children's Hymn, but its sentiments apply to us all whatever age we may be. As it begins, the hymn asks the Lord Jesus to 'take my hand and ever keep me close to Thee'. Sadly, there are times when we let go of His hand, and drift far from Him'.
But as John Greenleaf Whittier reminds us in another hymn that my mother often quotes, 'I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care'. Much better however to do as the Bible says and 'Remember your Creator in the days of your youth'.
The decades have passed for my old Sunday School teacher and myself since she prepared us to repeat that Children's Hymn in the Dublin Presbytery's Annual Sunday School examination in 1956, but the hymn concludes with a life-long truth, 'for I need Thee from life's dawning, to its end'.
As the Bible puts it 'in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight' (Proverbs 3:6).
JONATHAN HODGINS, 21 February 2012
When the Euro 2012 Finals kick off in June, 16 nations will be represented in Ukraine and Poland. Over the next few months, The Treasury will be putting together a guide to the nations involved, their spiritual condition and points for prayer. I’ll be reviewing Group A, which involves hosts Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and the economically moribund, Greece. Time to explore my copy of Operation World I think...
JONATHAN HODGINS, 9 February 2012
I think most people who regularly attend church prayer meetings understand that there needs to be more to the content than praying for the health and well being of the existing church members. This conference by the Evangelical Movement of Wales (which has in Bill Dyer an excellent and inspiring speaker) might just give you the encouragement to get your church flexing its prayer muscles.
JONATHAN HODGINS, 31 January 2012
I've been writing an article for inclusion in The Treasury this month about a book called Real Marriage by American minister Mark Driscoll. I mentioned this to somebody yesterday and they got very het up and said "Isn't he the man who called British ministers cowards?"
I'd not heard of such a thing but a quick Google showed that indeed he has been quoted as saying such things. However, (perhaps unsurprisingly) he's now claiming to have been misquoted. If this controversy filtered down to you, then you can read the post here, forgive him and then read my review with a clear head!
JONATHAN HODGINS, 30 January 2012
The editorial in this week's Spectator magazine is concerned with the situation Christians are facing in Nigeria. They describe the group chiefly opposed to Christians like this:Nigeria. They describe the group chiefly opposed to Christians like this:
Boko Haram, which translates as ‘Western education is sinful’, regards Christianity (the faith of half of Nigerians) as a foreign contagion. It has moved on from drive-by shootings and petrol bombs and its declared aim is now thefull-scale cleansing of Christians from Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north. A fortnight ago it ordered all Christians to leave the north, and when confronted by theNigerian government it gave its reply in last week’s attack. The inept response of its president, Goodluck Jonathan, has only encouraged Boko Haram further.The vast majority of Nigerian Muslims are appalled, and Christian leaders are urging the Igbo not to retaliate. It may not take much to escalate this into a religious version of the old tribal wars.
You can read the full article here. The Spectator offer various human solutions which may or may not prove to be correct. As Christian's we can add to the list praying for our Christian brothers and sisters living in terrifying times, not least that they would remember Jesus' words:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:18-20)
IAIN HODGINS, 20 January 2012
"Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea."
Libby Purves in 'the Times' on Monday says that "anyone who expected the Costa Concordia to be totally safe was as naive as those who thought the Titanic unsinkable".
Robert Plant's little book in the Torchbearer series (Christian Focus) TITANIC, The Ship of Dreams may be an appropriate story to read just now. The words attributed to John Harper in the story are ever apt - "There's no hope for the ship, but there is hope for you! Are you saved yet?"
"Then believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," the preacher retorted with urgency.
17 January 2011
IAIN HODGINS, 16 January 2012
New Year is renowned for being the time when people make resolutions.
Amongst the top of the list for many at this time of year is the resolve to exercise more and lose weight. Apparently, the membership of Sports and Fitness Centres rockets in January, and even when an effortless means of losing the pounds is advertised like the vibrating machine that is featured on the chalk board outside the Alite Fitness Centre in Penclawdd, the reality is that in lots of instances 'the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak'!
One answer to turning resolve into action is to employ a personal trainer (probably beyond the means of most who read this magazine) to come and knock us up on cold January mornings, and to insist we keep going when tiredness or laziness makes us flag.
Perhaps some people who read this will have made a resolution to be more serious about living the Christian life in 2012. I spoke to someone recently who admitted to being 'rubbish' about Bible reading with a partner, on a regular basis. Perhaps others will admit that they took Bible notes last year but there were times when they were hardly opened, if truth be told.
There are those of us who will own up to easily succumbing to besetting sins - and which of us won't confess to behaving less like Jesus at times than we should.
It's true that Jesus promised us the power of the Holy Spirit to help us to be His witnesses, but if we knew that someone like a fitness trainer would be likely to ask us how our spiritual exercises like prayer and Bible reading are going, we might be spurred on to be more faithful and regular in those things.
This is the 199th year since one of our churches in Gower, Bethesda, Burry Green, was established. The plaque behind the pulpit tells about an earlier meeting of Christians in Burry Green at the home of William Voss that gave rise to the church that Lady Barham helped establish where we now meet. I imagine that in keeping with the early Calvinistic Methodist Societies of the time, the friends who gathered would have challenged and exhorted one another about some of the aspects of Christian living that enable believers to grow nearer to Jesus.
Why not take Hebrews 10:24 to heart in 2012 and 'consider how to stir up one another to love and good works'? Maybe, you'll find in the words of Ecclesiastes 4: 12 that 'two can stand back to back and conquer'!
A happy new year to you all.
16 December 2011
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