Some thoughts from your Elders
Every now and then the RVC Elders will post a few thoughts or reflections
This is where you can find them
Monday the 3rd August
In the era of Global pandemic that we find ourselves in, I’m wondering about lots of things that I’ve never really thought about before. You are probably the same. Some of them trivial and minor, and some of them are meditations on core existence thoughts. I do my best to invite all of them into my circle of thought and let them roll around for a bit.
Here we are, on the first day of stage 4 lockdown and I have so many thoughts on this matter that are competing for space. Is this the end times? Are all of the people that I love and care for going to get through this time? What will the church look like on the other side of all this? What lessons do we as the church need to embrace & act upon? Why do people panic buy? Which bits of the media do I need to listen to and which do I need to ignore? With so many issues, how do I focus my prayer and not lose heart? Believe me, this list could keep on going. In the middle of all of this pondering, I received a text from an old friend. He said,
“ I am retiring on Sep 30, but who knows what that will look like now that we are in Category 4 lockdown. The good news is that Jesus is with us and that the Holy Spirit is leading us in the right way forward. More than ever, it’s time to be encouraging others.”
What a wonderful text to receive. It got me thinking. The answer to many of my questions, or at least, the beginning of the answer, is quite simple. Not simplistic but simple. God does have answers for us; through His word, through the life of His son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at a few pertinent examples.
“Will the church survive? Will the church look different on the other side of this? Well Matthew 16:18 tells us that Jesus spoke to Peter saying “You are Peter (which means rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. So will the church survive? According to our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, yes. Will it look different? Any quick or detailed look at the church will tell you that the church has been changing since the day it was commissioned. It is an organic entity which by default should mean that it is always changing as we learn and grow and as the circumstances around it grow. The core of the church, that is the salvation message of Jesus as good news for all, is alive and well and a constant heartbeat; this part doesn’t change as God is the same today, yesterday & forever. The Church needs to keep finding new ways to tell that ancient story to every successive generation. So you ask, “will the church look different at the end of all of this?” Oh I hope so.
What about “Is this the end times”? Hmm; I’ve been bombarded with a lot of theories on this subject over the years. Whilst it might be a fun “late night” discussion topic, I have 2 thoughts; I was once at a lecture on church history where the professor opened with this statement; “do you realise that every generation throughout history has thought it was living in the end times?” What a sobering observation. My second thought is this; Matthew 24:36 which says, “however, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven nor the son Himself. Only the Father knows”. This word from Matthew is pretty conclusive. Not convinced? Here’s my own take on it. Whether Jesus comes again in my lifetime or not, at some point in the undisclosed future, I will take my last breath; I will as it were, enter my own version of the end times. This is one of the very few things that you & I can be certain of. Pandemic or not, I can be comforted by the idea that every day I wake up, it could be the last one for me, or for someone that I love & care about. I need to live my life, knowing that in whatever form each day takes, Jesus is just around the corner.
With so many other thoughts popping up that I could reflect upon, I would rather leave that for another day, and end with this thought; I mentioned a scripture above, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today & forever”. Ponder that one for a few minutes and see whet conclusions it brings you to. If you are feeling discouraged, then let this word encourage you. The continuity that God is telling us about is very real & accessible & can lift our relationship with the creator to a whole new level. I listen to the news, but if God is the same as this words assures us, then I listen with a different set of ears; I listen with a prayer on my lips; I listen, free from fear; I respond much like Paul & Silas, not bothered by what looks like chains and locked doors keeping me imprisoned; I listen to what God is saying in the middle of all of the noise. And you my River Valley Brothers & sisters; I listen & I pray for you, for our local expression of His church. Be encouraged; Jesus Christ is the same in the middle of this pandemic, as he was before it.
Lord, I trust your word, I trust you, free me from fear, ground my hope in hope; even if the cell doors are locked & I feel like I am in chains, I will worship, praise & trust you.
Friday the 31st July
Paul & Silas in prison
Acts 16; 23 - 28
23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
This scripture from Acts 16 is such an challenging account on so many fronts. The courage of these 2 saints to persevere in such trying circumstances is inspiring. The decision to worship having just been beaten and then thrown into prison is a humbling example of true worship beyond anything I have ever experienced. Then we have the account of having their cell doors being opened supernaturally so that they could make good their escape, only to have them remain and provide further testimony to the God that they lived for. Extraordinary stuff no matter what angle you look at it from.
This scripture as with so many others, is like staring off into a distant outback sunset, something I have had the privilege of doing many times over. You stare & stare, and it doesn’t look as if anything is changing at all, then suddenly, bang; colours change, the light becomes active, its seems that you are now seeing so much that your senses cannot take it all in. So, stare at this scripture for a little while with me; take in the obvious, and wait for the hidden.
For me, I see this word and I think of my life this year. Not just my life but the life of every soul on the planet. I started off the year, busy as always, heading off in a truck to Brisbane, Sydney, and regional Victoria and South Australia. February saw my operation for a total knee replacement go ahead; Major change number one. I am now into month 6 of my recovery. My physio thinks it will be about 3 more months before I can think about doing long distance trucking again. Nearly two months into my recovery and we all start to realise that this little thing called corona virus needs to be taken a little more seriously. Major change number two. Work changed; social habits had to change; recreational practises had to change; heck we can’t hug or even shake hands anymore. We went about 6 weeks without seeing our kids. Our first grandchild was born 6 weeks ago; we’ve seen her twice. Bernie & I had planned a big mid year party to celebrate our mutual 60th Birthdays as well as our 40th wedding anniversary; we had hoped to be in Scotland. None of this has happened. There is so much more that I could communicate but I only write what I have to illustrate a point. There are so many tales sadness & isolation in our midst that harping on them too much can be a dangerous thing. By the way, just as an aside, if this time proves nothing else it should demonstrate that as humans, we were not created/designed for isolation but for community. Community with God at the true heart, is the soil in which we are meant to grow. I digress.
This time that we all face is like being beaten up and then thrown in prison, just like Paul & Silas were. Our lives are turned upside down through external circumstances, and we each have to make a decision. Paul & Silas chose to worship; simple hey? Did they complain? Maybe they had a bit of a whinge. Did they groan about the pain that they must have been in? Probably. None of that was noteworthy for the writer of this piece in Acts. What was noteworthy was that they worshipped. They worshipped and their prison gates were opened; I guess that means that they worshipped, and there was no longer a prison to hold them in. Their geography didn’t change; their circumstances didn’t change; their spirits did change and changed their condition from captive to free.
I’m still not overseas, and much of what we had planned won’t happen. In about 2 months time, I have absolutely no idea what we will do to pay the bills. But I know that the example of Paul & Silas here is an important one for each and every one of us.
Stare at the scripture for at least 5 minutes. Let God reveal something else to you personally; it might just be one word; it might be an avalanche of revelation; keep staring until you’ve seen everything that he wants to show you.
Be Blessed & be a blessing
Thursday the 23 July
A few thoughts from Jenny Syme
I’m glad and proud to call RVC home. Some very brief thoughts from Ephesians for a time such as this.
(Read, or re-read the book- it is good!)
We hear the slogans : “We are all in this together”; “Lets do our part”, “ in this time of crisis, we all have to pull together”…
Well, these sayings are very true for these times. The Government, front line workers and so on, are urging us to do the right thing… stay at home, wash our hands, wear face coverings …. And if we all play our part, things will get better.
In Ephesians we read that Christians benefit from and need to get along with each other and maintain unity. Paul shares how the gospel story affects believers' everyday lives; how God planned throughout history for Jesus to create a multi-ethnic community of followers. ... that live in unity as one body in their families, neighborhoods, and churches because of God's grace.
We read and are encouraged by the fact that as followers of Christ, we are now made new in Him also. We become fully alive through Jesus, and the work of Cross and the resurrection. We read how we all have a part to play in being the best we can be for the benefit of ourselves, and our community and that we haven’t been saved on the basis of our good works or good deeds alone, but rather through God’s grace and mercy on us.
However, good deeds and works matter! We are called to walk with and through Jesus.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “For we are His product; created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God pre-destined for us to walk in”.
Our life and purpose, being saved through Jesus, is to learn from our greatest teacher and to do good works FOR and THROUGH Him. Individually and as a church , we should be: striving to ‘work’ together, ‘learn’ together, building up one another, encouraging and cheering one another along, lending a hand when needed (or just to bless), and being like-minded and God – focussed in all we do . After all, “we are all in this together”. What we do matters to God and matters in the lives of people around us, to our community and to the wider community.
This is what can bring us real peace . Do we feel able? Do we feel ready? Do we have a Godly balance in our lives?
When our world is topsy-turvy, when we feel like we are falling down the rabbit hole, we need to do what Paul suggests in Ephesians- take off the old, put on the new. All those things that have occurred in our past that hinder us from moving forward with Christ, need to go. They have no place in our lives anymore. It is not as if we need to be stuck with the things of our past. Let God deal with it. There is so much more Christ has in store for us. He is our motivator. He made us relational. He wants us to work together in His name- for our sake and for the sake of others.
In accepting God, we accept that He alone is our teacher. He provides the model and pattern for our new lives in Him. We ought to do as He does. Think as He does; say as He would; Listen as He does Love what He loves. His word should become our word… not because we feel obliged, but because we are called to and we want to.
Where do we get our strength from? Ask Jesus.
Where do we get our desire for renewal? Ask Jesus.
Where do we get our purpose and identity? Ask Jesus.
Where do we get a fair hearing? Ask Jesus.
Where do we learn what is good for us? Ask Jesus.
How do we know what areas in our lives need to change? Ask Jesus.
How do we work together? Ask Jesus.
Lets continue move forward together. Let us live the life that Paul suggests and that which we were created by Christ for.