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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Questions based on The Rich, the Poor and the Church

The Rich, the Poor and the Church
Read the sermon here

Are unemployment, inequality and poverty issues that the church should be concerned about? What are we doing at AMC to make a difference in these areas? What more could/should we be doing?

Are you rich? Are you poor?

Discuss the following statements:
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

“Jesus’ lifestyle brings real satisfaction/contentment” What was Jesus’ lifestyle in the context of wealth and poverty and is it really worth emulating?

Discuss the following verses from 1 Tim 6:6-19 (Good News Version):

            Well, religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have.
So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us.


But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction.



For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.


Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.


Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment.



Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pentecost 19: The Rich, the Poor and the Church

1 Timothy 6:6-19 & Luke 16:19-31

Our readings today speak into some of the most pressing problems that South Africa (and much of the world) faces.  These are things that affect us daily and without doubt, are going to impact more and more on your life and mine and on the lives of our children.  Our key challenges as a nation are unemployment, inequality and poverty and the question I want to ask is: Should the church care?

Unemployment needs no further defining in our part of the world.  Inequality is the degree of difference between rich and poor.  We will always have the poor/poverty in our midst, says Jesus. Likewise, we will always have the wealthy in our midst.  It is not a sin to be poor, and it is not a sin to be rich.  It is the gap that exists between the two that should concern us, the gap described so well by Luke in our Gospel reading

Economists refer to a figure called the “Gini Co-efficient” which is a measure of inequality of income or wealth in a nation.  The closer to zero the figure is, the more “equal” the nation is.  The closer to one the figure is, the more unequal the nation is.  The more unequal a nation is, the more murder, robbery and violent crime one finds.  The more unequal a nation is, the more the latent anger among its people.  The more unequal a nation, the more despair, particularly among its youth, who will often have no hope of ever rising above poverty.  
Despair, hopelessness, murder, violence, crime……these are all issues the gospel of Christ confronts head on.

 
South Africa has the highest Gini coefficient in the world – we live in the nation with the biggest gap between “haves” and “have-nots” in God’s Creation. This is a shameful and disgraceful position to be in.

Our gospel reading in a sense describes the Gini Coefficient at the time of Jesus.  We have a rich man and a poor man, and a huge gap between the two of them……even though the one is on the doorstep of the other……well, actually he’s at the gate.  One of the things that inequality brings about in a nation is lots of gates and high walls……people imprisoning themselves in their homes out of the fear that gets greater, the greater the inequality in a nation.  So, in our parable, Lazarus and the rich man almost “live together” but there is a great divide between them……the rich and the poor.

So we’ve looked at unemployment, we’ve defined inequality, let’s look briefly at poverty.  What does it mean to be poor?  What would you call yourself……rich or poor?

Now we could spend an hour debating that question and obviously it depends on who you compare yourself to, and on what you regard as the necessities for life as a Christian living your life to the glory of God.

Here’s an interesting statistic:



If you add to this list the owning of a car (old or new) then you are part of the super rich on planet earth.
So are you wealthy/rich or are you poor?  …… We (you and me) are……wealthy.  So let’s look at some of Paul’s advice to us in his letter to Timothy.

First of all, just in case as we sit here we are thinking, “actually, I am poor!” – listen to the word of God in verse 6:

 Well, religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have.

Are you satisfied with what you have or do you want more?  The world tells us to look at the people around us and want what they have……this sometimes leads to a life of “keeping up with the Jones’” but we are not called to “keep up with the Jones’” but rather to “keep down with Jesus.” Jesus’ lifestyle brings real contentment, real satisfaction.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied.”  Is that true or is that false?  Did Jesus know what He was talking about when He made this promise to us, His people?

Paul goes on in verse 8:

  So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us.

Is that enough for you / me? What does it mean if it’s not enough for us?  I think it means we will want more, we will want to be “richer” than God perhaps wants us to be, as Paul goes on in verse 9:

  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction.

Notice that the problem here is for those who “want to get rich” – in other words, who are not satisfied with what they have.  So this affects the person who earns R100 a month as much as the person who earns R100 000 a month…….Do you want more or are you satisfied with what God in his wisdom seeks to bless you with?

Now Paul says something which is so often misquoted:

For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil.  Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.

Money is not the problem – the love of money is destructive.  Therefore, verse 11:

But you, man of God, avoid all these things

and instead

Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Strive to do what is right. Strive to become more like God as revealed to us in Christ.  Strive for more faith, so that we can live content in whatever situation (wealth or poverty) that God sees fit for us to live in.  Strive for love – that we can love the rich (if we are poor) and love the poor, if we are rich.  Strive for endurance……because the Christian life can be TOUGH.  Strive for gentleness……with the rich (if we are poor) or with the poor if we are rich……I’m not always gentle with the poor who pester me!  Lord have mercy.

Friends, this is your and my homework for the week, month, year……rest of our lives.  Here is a way, THE way to live, so (verse 12)

Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself;
for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.

We live in a nation “rent asunder” by unemployment, inequality and poverty.  Given the absolute lack of will on the part of our government to commit to policies that will change the problems our nation faces in these areas, we cannot expect the situation to change much.  But we can change, especially we, who are rich, we who have the Lazarus’s of our nation at our gates, we can be the change that our government (which the rich and the poor in our nation recognize as corrupt) refuses to be.

So God, through Paul, tells me to tell us:

Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others.

In this way they will store up for themselves a treasure which will be a solid foundation for the future.
And then they will be able to win the life which is true life.

Let us go from here and store up treasure which will be a solid foundation for the future of our nation and let us win for our children and our children’s children a life which is true life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Smallpox and Asthma

25 Sept 1767. I was desired to preach at Freshford, but the people durst not come to the house because of the smallpox, of which Joseph Allen, ‘an Israelite indeed’, had died the day before. So they placed a table near the churchyard. But I had no sooner begun to speak than the bells began to ring, by the procurement of a neighbouring gentleman. However, it was labour lost, for my voice prevailed, and the people heard me distinctly. Nay, a person extremely deaf, who had not been able to hear a sermon for several years, told his neighbours with great joy that he had ‘heard and understood all, from the beginning to the end’.
I preached at Bristol in the evening on 2 Cor. 4:17, a text which had been chosen by William New a little before God called him hence. He laboured under a deep asthma for several years and for seven or eight months was confined to his bed, where he was from time to time visited by a friend, who wrote the following account:
He was one of the first Methodists in Bristol and always walked as became the gospel. By the sweat of his brow he maintained a large family, leaving six children behind him. When he was no longer able to walk, he did not discontinue his labour; and after he kept his room, he used to cut out glass (being a glazier) to enable his eldest son, a child about fourteen, to do something toward the support of his family. Yea, when he kept his bed, he was not idle but still gave him what assistance he could.
He was formerly fond of company and diversions, but as soon as God called him, left them all—having a nobler diversion, visiting the sick and afflicted, in which he spent all his leisure hours. He was diligent in the use of all the means of grace, very rarely, during his health, missing the morning preaching at five, though he lived above a mile from the room.
About a year ago, he took his leave of the society, telling them that it was with great pleasure he had joined and continued with them; that it was in this despised place the Lord first manifested himself to his soul; that no tongue could tell what he had since enjoyed under that roof; that the same Jesus had enabled him to hold on thus far, and he hoped to be with him soon, adding, ‘I do not expect to see you any more here but have no doubt of meeting you in glory.’
During the last twenty days of his life, he took no other sustenance than now and then a teaspoonful of wine or of balm-tea. About fourteen days before his death, his tongue turned black, with large chops in it, through the heat of his stomach, and his lips were drawn two or three inches apart, so that it was difficult for him to speak. In this condition, he lay waiting for his discharge, saying sometimes, ‘I am, as it were, two persons. The body is in torturing pain; the soul is in sweet peace.’ He frequently said, ‘I long to be gone. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly.’ When I asked, ‘Do you desire to see such a person?’ he said, ‘I desire to see none but Jesus. To him I leave my dear wife and children. I have no care about them.’
The next day, Satan violently assaulted his faith. But instantly our Lord appeared in all his glory, and he was filled with love and joy unspeakable, and said, ‘Call my friend and let him see a dying Christian. Oh what do I feel? I see my Lord has overcome for me. I am his. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!’ He desired them that were present to sing, and began, ‘Jesu, lover of my soul.’ He then desired the text for his funeral sermon might be 1 Cor. 4:17.
The next time I saw him, having desired him to make signs rather than speak, which was painful to him, he said, ‘Here is a sign’ (pushing out his feet and holding up his hands), ‘a dying Christian, full of love and joy! A crown, a never-fading crown awaits me. I am going to everlasting habitations.’ He then desired us to sing, and quickly added, ‘He is come! He is come! I want to be gone; farewell to you all.’ When he could no longer speak, he continued smiling, clapping his hands, and discovering an ecstasy of joy in every motion.
After a while his speech returned, and he said: ‘Today is Friday; tomorrow I expect to go.’ One said, ‘Poor Mr. New!’ He said, ‘It is rich New: though poor in myself, I am rich in Christ.’
I saw him on Saturday in the same spirit, praising God with every breath. He appeared quite transported, pointing upwards and turning his fingers round his head, alluding to the crown prepared for him. I said, ‘Your Lord has kept the best wine unto the last.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said he, ‘it is in my soul.’ When I took my leave he pressed my hand, pointed upward, and again clapped his hands. Afterward, he spoke little, till he cried out, ‘The chariot, the chariot of Israel,’ and died.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Of Conference, The Rich, the Poor, and the Purple.

The two defining characteristics of the state of the nation (South Africa) at the current moment are the continued racialisation of identities, and the growing socio-economic inequality created largely by the increasing wealth of those, black and white, at the upper end of the class heirarchy. Adam Habib in South Africa's Suspended Revolution (2013)

“I was at a meeting of the Superiors General in Europe. They talked only of changing the structures of society, organizing things in a different way. It all came to nothing. It did not do something for the poor, or preach Christ to those without religion, to those totally ignorant of God”  Mother Theresa


As I reflect on these two quotations, I can't help but think of our Conference, beginning on Thursday in Mthatha, and what its outcome may be. Our connexion, covering Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, has a multitude of dreadful problems, not least of all the scourge of preventable disease which kills thousands, particularly amongst the poor, daily. South Africa has the greatest gap between rich and poor in the world, having recently overtaken Brazil in this disgraceful statistic. Corruption is rife and many continue to live as if there is no God. Will Conference 2013 affect the great justice issues in our part of the world. Of course, whether Conference will make any difference is often largely determined before it even starts, because it is in fact the Synods of 2013 which had opportunity to place matters before Conference and of course it is the Methodist people who largely determine the Synod agenda. Be all this as it may, we can pray and hope that inequality and the poor feature in every discussion, as they feature in most mature discussions on South Africa's future.

This week's Revised Common Lectionary directs us to Luke 16 and reminds us that we cannot be slave to two masters. O for a prophetic word to our leaders in this regard. We need to choose between God and Mammon (money). Next week has us looking at the parable of the rich man with the beggar at his gate and addresses some of the issues mentioned above as it records a conversation across the divide between haves and have-nots, between the purple clad elites (in the KJV) and the masses.

It speaks of Abraham (and perhaps the descendants of Abraham, the church) being able to communicate with both sides and in this life, of bridging the gap (as a dentist I love that idea), closing the space, perhaps even laying ourselves down as the pontic.

I hope our Conference will help us, as it guides us, to work at closing the iniquitous gaps in the places God, in His grace, has called us to be Methodists.

Follow our Conference here

Prayer for MCSA Conference

I appeal to Methodists in my connexion (MCSA, which comprises Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa) to pray for our conference which begins this Thursday, 19th at Mthatha. This prayer is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Christian Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

To follow our Conference....click here

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pentecost 17: Life in a Grace-shaped Church


We are going to spend the next 6 weeks at AMC focusing on Paul’s letter to the young Timothy under the “loose” heading of “Life in a Grace-Shaped Church” and our reading from the beginning of that letter has Paul making clear to Timothy that he (Paul) is only what he is and who he is……because of the grace of God.

Let’s hear the reading:


Perhaps the first point to make regarding life in a grace-shaped church is that we all recognize that it is only because of God’s Grace (perhaps we should define grace at this stage as “God’s undeserved love and mercy shown towards us”) that we gather here as a church in the first place.

We are not here primarily because 110 years ago some Methodist folk planted a church here.  We are not here because 25 years ago folk decided to build this particular building.  Now that is not to in any way belittle the work of the saints who have preceded us here in Alberton, but it is rather, in Paul’s words (verse 17) to give all the glory and honour for everything to the immortal, invisible, only God who is King eternal.

So, the first sign of life in a Grace-Shaped Church is that everything……everything……is about God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our midst, whose name we can whisper, or call, or shout, and He will be there, because He is given centre place in everything (from what we preach, to how we light up our sanctuary, how we care for our gardens, how we keep our financial books……God’s Way, not “our” way.)

This leads automatically to the second sign of life in a Grace-Shaped Church, which is that it ought to be full of people who are aware that they are, we are, in Paul’s words in verse 16, “the worst of sinners.”  That way, we all approach God, from the same point, and that way, no-one will ever walk through that door and have a sense that any of “us” are looking down on “them.”

This will lead us to the third sign of “life in a Grace-Shaped Church.”
A grace shaped church exists for those……who aren’t in it.
This is one of the most difficult elements of being a grace-filled and grace-shaped people……it’s no longer “about us.”

Listen to the gospel reading for today:
The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (who were “in”) freaked out because Jesus always had more time, more effort, more miracles, more teaching, …… for those who were “out.”  He had more time for those who didn’t yet know Him and His Kingdom, than for those who did.

The 100 sheep and the 10 coins in our parables represent the fullness of God’s beloved.....in today's language it represents the full number of those who God wants to see in His Son's church. For us Methodists, the full number is.....ALL people. (Remember, All people need to be saved and ALL people can be saved). So, what is the number of God’s beloved here in Alberton?........The answer is: whoever has woken up this morning, and whoever is breathing in Alberton right now, is God’s beloved.

According to Wikipedia, Alberton had a population of 202 202 in 2007.  That’s the flock, that’s the number of coins in Alberton.  And I don’t know how many of those aren’t worshipping God this morning (or ever), but what I do know is that the God who revealed Himself to us in Christ……in a sense leaves us here and……goes out looking for them!!!  And He expects His Church to be the same, as the same Spirit that filled Jesus, fills us.  And the religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day couldn’t handle that.  They especially didn’t like Jesus saying “I tell you, there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need to repent.”

A grace-shaped church is a church that has people and programmes in place that bring the unrepentant to repentance.

The next sign of life in a grace-shaped church is that it is filled with people who have come to discover, as Paul did (and as he reveals in these opening verses of his letter to Timothy), that our past makes us who we are.

I came across these comments by Scot McKnight which speak to this point: I was thinking of the apostle Paul and how his past, so far as we can know, prepared him for his life as an apostle.  God used his life in Tarsus to prepare Paul to be the great integrator, though it took an eye-twittering experience of seeing Jesus himself to accept the challenge.
There is an early Christian tradition, from the 4th Century Christian father Jerome, informing us that Paul’s family was originally from Gischala in Galilee. As a result of a war in Galilee with Rome the family later moved to Tarsus (perhaps as slaves). Paul spent a decade or more in Tarsus but as a young man moved back to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, to study Torah among Israel’s elite and sophisticated. Here is what Jerome said about Paul’s life:
 Paul, formerly called Saul, an apostle outside the number of the twelve apostles, was of the tribe of Benjamin and the town of Giscalis in Galilee. When this town was taken by the Romans he removed with his parents to Tarsus in Cilicia. Sent by them to Jerusalem to study law he was educated by Gamaliel a most learned man whom Luke mentions…. As Sergius Paulus Proconsul of Cyprus was the first to believe on his preaching, he, Saul/Paul took his name from him because he had subdued him to faith in Christ…. (From Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, chp 5.)
When Saul, the Jewish name by which he was then known, moved from Tarsus to Jerusalem as a young man his life shifted from seeing Gentiles all the time to seeing Gentiles far less frequently. A good Gentile for Saul was a proselyte. His move to Jerusalem meant the wall between observant Jews and Gentiles got thicker and taller and everything we read about him suggests he thickened and heightened those walls. The irony and the single most important sign of grace in Paul’s life was that this builder of walls between Jews and Gentiles became the wall destroyer. Everything in Paul’s three-decades of ministry was connected in some way to his driving ambition to rip down the wall of segregation between Jews and Gentiles in the One Family of God, the Body of Christ.
What Paul envisioned then was a church in which Jews were Jews and Gentiles were Gentiles, but they were with one another, a church in which slaves and free sat next to another, and a church where men and women were not defined by sex or sexuality but by unity in Christ and their giftedness. He wanted unity with diversity. He didn’t ask Jews to cease following Torah nor Gentiles to learn to speak Hebrew or Aramaic. He didn’t ask men to become women or women to become men. He asked them to transcend all distinctions with a unity of fellowship in Christ (sourced here). 

I want to suggest this morning that a grace shaped church is a church where walls are constantly broken down.....especially the walls which we have looked at over the previous weeks which the church is so good at building, walls which define "us" and "them".

So this brings us to the last sign of life in a grace-shaped Church that we will look at today: A grace-shaped church believes and incarnates (puts flesh onto the belief) that what unites us and makes us one, is always much bigger than what divides us. Gracious people let nothing come between them....they even love and want the best for their enemies!
A grace-shaped church believes and incarnates (puts flesh onto the belief) that what unites us and makes us one, is always much bigger than what divides us. And what or who is it that unites us …… Jesus, Jesus!  In Him……we are one.
Now, in a large church like AMC……you will not “get on” with everyone else in the church.  There will be things that divide us, from which rugby team we support, to who we think should be married to each other……etc. etc.
But in a grace-shaped church, none of these things, and not even all these things added together, is ever bigger than what unites us……Jesus, our faith in Him and our desire to see His Kingdom come and His Will be done.

This, in a grace-shaped church, is what we have in common and what unites us: wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever we’ve done, we are one in Christ and because He is in our midst, we know that we can
          Whisper His Name
                    Call out His Name
                              Shout out His Name
and He will come to us.

Questions based on Life in a Grace-Shaped Church

Read the sermon here 

  1. What is grace?  Share some of your unique experiences
of God’s Grace.


  1. What is “the number of God’s beloved” in Alberton? 
How many of them do you think worshipped Him in a
Christian Church this Sunday?


  1. What are some of the signs of “Life in a Grace-Shaped Church”?
    • In a grace-shaped church we all recognise that it is
                                                                                                     that we gather as a church in the first place.
In a grace-shaped church                       is about God.
·       In a grace-shaped church people are aware that
                                           “                                                                               .”
·       A grace-shaped church exists for those who                 in it.
A grace-shaped church has programmes in place that bring the unrepentant to                            .
·       In a grace-shaped church we recognise that our
                               makes us who we are.
·       In a grace-shaped church, what                        us is always far greater than what                        us.

  1. Discuss what each of these statements mean to you as an individual, to your group and to AMC at this time in our history.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pentecost 16: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made to Carry Your Cross

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.


That is a sermon in itself.
Packed with truth, therefore packed also with mystery because we don’t unpack any truth without encountering the mystery of the Triune God who has been in our midst and said: “I am the truth.”
Fearfully and wonderfully made – after years of theological study and preaching……I still don’t know exactly what that means, except that it fills me with awe.

Jer 18:1-11

Like all texts, these verses have a context – something that goes with the text, surrounds the text and what “surrounds” this part of Jeremiah is that God builds up and God breaks down, particularly nations (that’s the specific context in Jeremiah – the nation of Israel that God has carefully built up and moulded, is about to be broken down/destroyed.)
But these verses must definitely also apply to the truth that we are clay in god’s Hands.  Genesis 1 reminds us that we come from the ground, dust, clay or dirt and will return to these things – dust to dust.
Verse 4 is instructive and mysterious: “The pot he was shaping was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
When does a pot become a pot?
Does the God who knits us together in the womb stop all His creative work when we leave the womb?
I think we know the answer is No……He continues / is continuing His moulding and “pottery” work in you and me.
He has done that this weekend, starting on Friday afternoon, the whole of Saturday, now on Sunday morning; still shaping, moulding……still knitting us together in the womb, which is now the earth.  And of course He does this “pottery” all over the place…and certainly not only at a service on a Sunday, or a retreat over a weekend, or a Bible study during the week……no, our God is pottering about all over the place.  So, when does a pot become a pot? – You can have fun with that in the week ahead.

In the context of our weekend, part of becoming what God is moulding us into is discovering, uncovering, using and growing in our spiritual gifting.  Part of becoming “fearfully and wonderfully made” is discovering our uniqueness……you do not have the same spiritual and God-given passions as the person next to you and I hope that part of the blessing of this weekend has simply been to be reminded of your uniqueness……and this, of course, applies to every one of us, whether we’ve attended the retreat or not……you are unique, you are special, and I encourage you to continue exploring and discovering and enjoying your uniqueness.

Sometimes the pot He is shaping “is marred in his hands”…we all know what this means in our lives, don’t we.  We all know the reality of sin in our lives and evil in our world.  We are “marred” in the Creator’s hands……but listen to these words of grace: “so the potter formed it into another pot.”
When is a pot a pot?
Notice, he doesn’t take the clay and be done with it, throwing it away and using some other clay.  No……he just carries on potting…”shaping it as seems best to him.”  He’s not finished with the clay……God’s not finished with you or with me……that is very good news!!!
So, what exactly is God making us into?  I think Luke answers that question for us, but in fact, each gospel writer has the same answer: God is moulding us into the likeness of His Son, and His Son was a cross-carrying disciple of His Father, and His Father is moulding us into cross-carrying disciples of His Son.

Luke 14: 25-33
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple.”
The Great Commission given to the Church is to go to all the nations……and make disciples.
God of is in the business of using the church to make disciples of His Son.  Doug, I want to bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as you continue, no doubt with tremendous difficulty, to play your part in the making of disciples of Jesus Christ, here at St Michael and in Modimolle.
The New Testament knows of only one kind of disciple, and that is a cross-carrying disciple.  And just as each one of us is uniquely made, and uniquely gifted, so too are our crosses often unique to us.  You are probably carrying a different cross to the one carried by the person next to you.
Because crosses are unique, I can’t tell you what your cross is at this particular time in your life.  What I can tell you, is that you are uniquely designed at this particular time to carry that cross, and furthermore, you are uniquely equipped and gifted to take up your cross and carry it.
I can’t tell you what your particular cross is, but I can tell you exactly where you will find it.
Crosses are found, in fact they are formed, where God’s Will and my will……intersect.  When my will and God’s Will flow in the same direction……no cross.  When my will intersects God’s Will (in other words, is not in the same direction) a cross is formed and I am faced with the choice of picking up that cross……or not.
In all the characters of the Scriptures you will find these “intersections” of God’s Will and the person’s will……Abraham……Moses……Jonah……Daniel……Jesus……and when we say “not my will, but Your Will be done” a cross is formed and we are called to carry it.
This is what God is moulding you and me into: Cross-carrying disciples.
Let me give you a silly example: The fact that I might work for a horrible boss does not make that the cross I have to bear in life.  I might want to leave that job, God might also want me to leave that job, so no cross is formed.  God might want me to leave that job but I don’t want to leave that job because I’m not sure how I’ll survive……that’s not a cross……I just don’t trust God.  I might want to leave the job, and have better jobs lined up already, but God wants me t stay in that job……that’s when a cross is formed.  Will I carry it?

Cling to these truths: You are uniquely created for such moments (and there will be many) in your life.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are uniquely equipped by God, through His Holy Spirit for such moments.

So……pick up your cross, follow Jesus and be His Disciple.





"They were ready to tear both them and me to pieces."

Mon. 12 Sept 1743. I preached at one on Treswithian Downs, and in the evening at St. Ives. The dread of God fell upon us while I was speaking, so that I could hardly utter a word; but most of all in prayer, wherein I was so carried out as scarce ever before in my life.
I had had for some time a great desire to go and publish the love of God our Saviour, if it were but for one day, in the Isles of Scilly. And I had occasionally mentioned it to several. This evening three of our brethren came and offered to carry me thither, if I could procure the mayor’s boat, which (they said) was ‘the best sailor of any in the town’. I sent, and he lent it me immediately. So the next morning, Tuesday 13, John Nelson, Mr. Shepherd, and I, with three men and a pilot, sailed from St. Ives. It seemed strange to me to attempt going in a fisher boat fifteen leagues upon the main ocean, especially when the waves began to swell and hang over our heads. But I called to my companions, and we all joined together in singing lustily and with a good courage:
When passing through the watery deep,
I ask in faith his promised aid,
The waves an awful distance keep,
And shrink from my devoted head.
Fearless their violence I dare:
They cannot harm, for God is there.
About half an hour after one we landed on St. Mary’s, the chief of the inhabited islands.
We immediately waited upon the governor, with the usual present, viz., a newspaper. I desired him likewise to accept of an Earnest Appeal. The minister not being willing I should preach in the church, I preached at six in the streets to almost all the town, and many soldiers, sailors, and workmen, on, ‘Why will ye die, O house of Israel?’ It was a blessed time, so that I scarce knew how to conclude. After sermon I gave them some little books and hymns, which they were so eager to receive that they were ready to tear both them and me to pieces.
For what political reason such a number of workmen were gathered together and employed at so large an expense, to fortify a few barren rocks, which whosoever would take deserves to have them for his pains, I could not possibly devise; but a providential reason was easy to be discovered. God might call them together to hear the gospel, which perhaps otherwise they might never have thought of.
At five in the morning I preached again, on, ‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.’ And between nine and ten, having talked with many in private and distributed both to them and others between two and three hundred hymns and little books, we left this barren, dreary place and set sail for St. Ives, though the wind was strong and blew directly in our teeth. Our pilot said we should have good luck if we reached the land; but he knew not him whom the wind and seas obey. Soon after three we were even with the Land’s End, and about nine we reached St. Ives.