“Our week away was refreshing. It was good to sit under the teaching of two excellent speakers – Philip Oliver, former head of the Bible Society in Australia, and Ray Galea, an Anglican minister in Sydney. We were blessed with their messages on the Parables and Romans – look out this year!
I’ll take the chance to encourage you to consider going next year – the Tasmanian Christian Convention [formerly Keswick] is held every year for six nights after Christmas. It isn’t cheap, but when it doubles as a holiday and is fully catered it is good value. The camp is right on the beach near Ulverstone and is terrific for kids; there was a children’s and youth program as well. Plan now.
We also caught up with Greg & Rosemary, returning to India for 12 months on the 15th with two of their girls. They expressed gratitude for financial support but really emphasised their need for prayer in their Bible translation work. (They are currently living in a half-converted shearing shed and are riding in the Bike For Bibles trip across northern Tasmania just before they leave!)
Getting away was good and getting home was also. One thing I noticed was a few green shoots sprouting up where we had a giant burn-off just a week before Christmas. Quite amazing, since the heat was so intense. But new life comes after fiery trials in the world of nature and in our own lives.
May God’s grace enable you to see “green shoots” in 2005, whatever fiery trials you may have experienced in 2004.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face
the trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing
of your faith develops perseverance – James 1:2-3.
R1 is in hospital following a hip operation, so Sam is preaching at the morning services this month. This morning he continued his look at the book of Joel.
He broke the text into three sections (as many preachers do).
Joel 2:1-11 paints a powerful picture of a day of judgement. After talking about locust plagues in the previous chapter, he now describes an army attacking – but rather than a literal military force it is the army of the Lord. This is a vision of the punishment that falls on those who anger God.
“This is not a happy book,” said Sam. “Not happy at all.”
In modern society the idea of somebody punishing or rebuking another causes unease in many. It’s not politically correct. (I guess the Old Testament isn’t politically correct either.)
Joel 2:12-17 calls on us to return to God as a matter of urgency – don’t put it off until later. The call to repentance isn’t something you can postpone answering.
Joel 2:18-27 shows the Lord will relent if people repent – they will receive the blessings of God. Obedience is the way to forgiveness – but can we obey perfectly and stop sinning? Probably not.
Even in the time of John the Baptist this was still a bone of contention. The only person who didn’t need to repent was Jesus Christ, the perfectly obedient man and heir to the Kingdom of God.
So how do we evade the picture of judgement that begins this passage? Repentance, obedience and following Jesus Christ seem like the only ways out of the maze that we human beings find ourselves in.
All praise to You my God this night
for all the blessings of the light;
keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
beneath Your own almighty wings.
Forgive me Lord, through Your dear Son,
the wrong that I this day have done,
that peace with God and man may be,
before I sleep, restored to me.
Teach me to live, that I may dread
the grave as little as the bed;
teach me to die so that I may
rise glorious at the awesome day.
O may my soul on You repose
and restful sleep my eyelids close;
sleep that shall me more vigorous make
to serve my God when I awake.
If in the night I sleepless lie,
my mind with heavenly thoughts supply;
let no dark dreams disturb my rest,
no powers of evil me molest.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
in heaven above and earth below;
One God, Three Persons, we adore --
to Him be praise forevermore!