Broken legs and God's mercy?!

Many of you will have heard that my son broke his leg just over a week ago. It's been a difficult week, in and out of hospital and lots of painful nights (for us all!).  Yesterday at church we sang "All people that on earth do dwell" and the fourth verse reminds us "the Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure." Could I sing that at the end of last week?! Yes, I could! We saw many of God's mercies last week, among them were that my mother-in-law happened to be staying with us that night (the plan had been to give Dorothy time to write a talk for MU...but God had other plans!).  Dorothy's mum being here meant she could look after our eldest while we went to hospital! The roads were not icy for our trips in and out of Cavan and Drogheda, and perhaps the biggest relief was that I didn't have to preach! I had already booked in a visiting speaker (with the intention of allowing me to plan and get ahead!) and so it was a great blessing to be relieved of the pressure of preparing a sermon.  We were greatly blessed by Mark's preaching, you can listen to his 2 sermons here.

 And of course, the Lord our God is good even when we don't see his mercies as clearly as we saw them this week.  We only need to look at the cross, to see God's incredible mercy beyond doubt.  So whatever week you have this week, I hope you can also sing "the Lord our God is good, his mercy is for ever sure."

mercy hospital

Pro-Life - what can you do?

Here's a link to a site that will send an email to your local TD's to ask them their position on the eight amendment, the text of the email that will be sent is copied below so you can see what you would send: https://prolifecampaign.ie/main/virtualpostcard2018/

prolife.jpg

Here's a copy of the email that you could send:

Dear Oireachtas Member,
This is a defining moment for our country.

The 8th Amendment has had a hugely positive, humane and life-saving impact on Ireland.

The debate on abortion is exclusively focussed on removing the right to life of unborn babies while continuing to ignore all the amazing stories of thousands of lives saved by the 8th Amendment. As a result of the 8th our abortion rate is a small fraction of that in countries like England, where 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion.

For anyone who questions what repeal would mean, I encourage them to look at the evidence of abortionist Dr Peter Thompson before the Oireachtas committee on abortion where he let the mask slip and described in graphic detail how the baby is first paralysed by the abortionist, who then injects poison into the baby’s heart to stop it beating. If the repeal movement really trusted women they would tell them the truth about what happens to their baby during an abortion.

One undeniable lesson from the Oireachtas committee is that once a society accepts that one unborn baby’s life is undeserving of legal protection, it is effectively means that no unborn baby's life has any value.

No matter how it is dressed up, repeal would mean that for the first time in history, a modern society would be removing a basic human rights protection from its Constitution.

As my elected representative, I call on you to examine the full facts and not simply those recommended by the Oireachtas Committee.

I am asking you to stand up for life and articulate a message building on that life-affirming vision at the heart of the 8th Amendment.

As this debate is moving rapidly, I would appreciate an early response from you on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

Happy New Year!

New Year Cavan Drung Ballyhaise Larah Lavey Redhills

2017 has passed and 2018 lies open before us.  I wonder how that makes you feel? Are you excited about what awaits, or anxious about what is ahead? Or perhaps a bit of both? The New Year is a good time to pause and look back over the last year and perhaps to ask the question, what were we anxious about last year and did God get us through? If you’re anything like me, you’ll find all sorts of things to worry about. I have a wall planner for the year, and as I look ahead to all that is coming up I often think, how will I get through it all. That’s when I need to pause and look back at all that God has helped me through and take confidence that He will continue to help.  There is a very helpful Bible verse to remember at this time 1 Samuel 7:12 “Till now the Lord has helped us.” As Samuel remembered God’s past deliverances it gave him confidence of the Lord’s continued help for the future.  As you look back over 2017, can you think of all those things you were worried about, can you give thanks for how God helped you through? I hope that give you confidence for the year ahead. 

But, perhaps you can’t remember, or there have been times when God has seemed distant, here’s one thing you can take confidence in “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Here’s a couple of things I’m grateful to God for that started in 2017, our new “In Touch” group, a new “book of the bi-month” initiative, a new summer camp “InTents”, a children’s holiday club and 5 aside football on a Thursday night.  Some of us have also benefited from the 5 days a week Bible Reading Plan which takes you through the Bible in one year by breaking it down into daily readings and gives you 2 days “grace” each week, for the days when we slip behind! Why not try it for 2018? You can find it here: https://www.drungchurches.com/bible-reading-helps/ or ask Nick for a copy.

God is working his purposes out...

cancer cavan drung

Yesterday I shared three thoughts from John 11 relating to the grief of losing my mum to cancer 23 years ago (you can read it here), here's the 4th reason...

4. God is working his purposes out

Have you ever had an injection? Sometimes they can be a bit painful. I remember the BCG, and of course getting it done as a teenage boy meant that you had the added pain of your 'friends' thumping you on it!  But we all had the injection, partly because there was no choice, but also because we knew it did us some good - namely, preventing TB.  If we with our finite minds can understand that, how much more can God with his infinite mind bring good out of suffering? It may be hard for us to understand when we are in the midst of the trials, and I have found the best place to turn for reassurance is the cross of Christ and HIs resurrection.  

When my mum died I struggled with the question "how can a loving God allow this"? Years later when I understood that God had loved us so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross for all the times that we had rejected His rule over us, I could no longer question His love.  And, when I understood that Jesus had really risen physically from the dead, I could no longer question his power. So I had to reinterpret my circumstances in the light of the cross. Again, Tim Keller puts it helpfully: 

"I am going to judge my circumstances by Jesus' love...not Jesus' love by my circumstances."

For Lazarus and his sisters, they must have been wondering, how can Jesus love us? Surely if he loved us he would have come straight away when we called him? Have you ever thought the same thing: why God have you not answered my prayer straight away?! Thankfully John 11 tells us that the reason why Jesus didn't come straight away wasn't because He didn't love them, we are told in v3 and v5 that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  In fact we are told in v6 that the very reason for His delay was because he loved them!

How can his delay show his love? What can have been more important? This was life and death!

It seems that the something more important was because Jesus wanted others to believe (v15) and this seemingly was the result (v45). Well that was for the benefit of others, what about Lazarus, Mary, Martha? Well, I imagine that the three of them had their faith in the life giving Son of God strengthened by the whole experience! Perhaps Jesus allowed them to go through the pain of death, so that they could have a stronger faith and greater confidence in Him?  What about us? Well if Jesus had healed Lazarus straight away, we wouldn't have John 11v25 in our Bibles! A verse that has brought comfort to countless numbers at Christian funerals. And we can know that God is working His loving purposes out even when we don't fully understand. 

As I remember 23 years ago, I am still saddened at my mum losing her fight with cancer, over those years I have come to understand some of God's purposes, I may not know all the answers, but I trust Him as I wait.

23 years ago...

2017-11-03 15.28.44.jpg

23 years ago today my mum lost her battle with cancer.  This photo was taken not long before she got ill. I remember the happy family walk through the woodland in Kent and have often wanted to be back there to the time before the cancer took hold.  Almost all will know what a horrible disease cancer is, many have painful memories of what it has done to them or someone they love.  Just yesterday the former tennis champion Jana Novotna lost her battle with cancer at just 49.  Cancer is miserable. Today I continue to grieve the loss of my dear mother who I only knew for 14 years, but I don't grieve as one without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), though I once did.  For about 8 years after she died I was angry with God for allowing this cruel disease to take my mum at such a young age. I'm no longer angry with God, here's 4 reasons from John 11 why I'm no longer angry and why I do grieve, but not without hope. 

1. Jesus is angry at the cause of suffering

We don't often think of Jesus as angry, but in John 11 we see something that angers him.  We may miss it on a first reading of the chapter, we're told twice that Jesus was "deeply moved" (v33, 38).  This word could be translated as "indignant" (see ESV footnote) or as "bellowed with anger".  What is making Jesus angry? As he looks around and sees people grieving over the loss of a man who died at a young age, he is angry at suffering in the world, he's angry at death and the pain it causes, and he's angry at sin and Satan for devastating God's perfect world. 

As I see this, I am encouraged, it is good that Jesus is not indifferent to the pain and suffering in the world.  He is deeply moved, he is angry, but his is not a powerless anger, he approaches his enemy of death with the power of life as we'll see...

2. You will be raised

The reality of the resurrection does not take away the pain of losing a loved one, but it does surely help to know that there is certain hope beyond the grave.  Jesus approaches the tomb like a boxer about to get into the ring, but there is no contest, death is no match for him. With just 3 words, a man who is rotting in the tomb is called out: "Lazarus come out"! Such power over the cruellest of enemies.  But that is not the most amazing thing, because as amazing as it was, Lazarus went on to die again.  The most amazing thing is Jesus' words in v25 "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."  Jesus promises ultimate victory over death - He will call each one who has trusted Him from their graves when He returns.  How do we know that He has that sort of power?  Through his own resurrection from the dead, and as far as I'm aware, they still haven't found His body! The only explanation is that he really did rise physically from the dead!

Tim Keller very helpfully says what the resurrection to new life means for us:

"We must realise that the most rapturous delights you have ever had – in the beauty of a landscape, or in the pleasure of food, or in the fulfilment of a loving embrace – are like dew drops compared to the bottomless ocean of joy that it will be to see God face-to-face." (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller)

The future is wonderful for those who trust Jesus, but what about while we wait? Should we just grin and bear it? 

3. It's ok to weep while you wait

The shortest verse in the Bible - John 11:35 "Jesus wept". But why did He weep? Surely he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and this would put an end to all of the suffering.  Why did He weep? Well, have you ever shared some sad news with someone, and as you have shared it, they have shed tears for what you are facing?  I've had a friend like this, and what it tells me is that he understands the heartache.  It's no less with Jesus, he understands the pain, and he wants them to know this. This verse has been written in our Bibles to show us Jesus isn't just angry at the cause of suffering, he weeps with those facing it and he gives us permission to do the same. 

There's something healthy about weeping as Christians, it shows that we are homesick for our true home of heaven, a place where there will be no more tears, Don Carson puts it like this:

"Is not some of the pain and sorrow in this life used in God's providential hand to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, to draw our attention to himself, and away from the world of merely physical things"                        (Carson, 'How Long O Lord.')

Sometimes we need to give each other space to grieve, it's ok to weep, but even when we are weeping, there's something very comforting we can know....and I 'll write about that tomorrow...

 

Sufficent Grace

Grace Cavan Drung Ballyhaise Lavey Larah Redhills

Corrie Ten Boom was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Ravensbruk.  When she had been a little girl she had wondered if she would be strong enough to suffer for Jesus’ sake so her dad taught her a lesson, he said to her: ‘when we get on a train, at what point do I give you your ticket?’.  Corrie would reply ‘just before we got on the train’.  Her father would respond: ‘That’s right, I gave it to you when you needed it and not before.  So it is with God….when you are called upon to suffer…He will supply the strength you need just in time.”

It was an important lesson for her to learn and a great one for each of us to learn. The apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh, we don’t know exactly what the thorn was, but it was some form of fairly intense suffering.  He pleaded with the Lord to take it away, but was told “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Isn’t it good to know God’s grace is sufficient? The challenge is to trust that it will be sufficient when we need it, and not to worry about tomorrow’s problems today! I wish you all a very happy Christmas and pray that throughout the season you will know his sufficient grace.

Life in West Papua

Sue Trenier left the comfort of Cootehill to go and work with the Hupla tribe in West Papua. She was involved in medical work and Bible Translation among other things.  It was wonderful to hear about all that God has been doing in West Papua and to hear of many coming to faith in the Lord Jesus and having a hunger for his Word.  Sue showed us a video of the time that they presented the first ever Bible in their own language to the Hupla tribe, such excitement! They were so grateful, and it in some of the pictures you will see them bringing their Bibles to church and studying them carefully.  

It is great to see how God cares for each tribe and nation, and how in heaven there will be people from every tribe and language and nation worshipping Jesus.  God cares so much for tribes that may seem insignificant, so much that he arranges for people to be trained to reach them and get the Bible to them.

It was also wonderful to hear of the power of God's Word in changing another tribe as the Hupla tribe went to share God's Word with a neighbouring tribe. They only had three verses:

Gen 1:1 "In the beginning God"

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh"

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

That was all they had, but that was enough to persuade the neighbouring Tribe of the power of God's Word, and they wanted more.

Praise God for Sue's work, pray God gives us such a hunger for His Word and that He calls many more to serve Him. You can listen to some of the talk at the link below, but it stops just when the video started.

Praying for those in Las Vegas

Prayer for Las Vegas Paddock shooting

On Sunday we're looking at Jesus words in John 5:30 where he explains that God the Father has entrusted judgment into Jesus' hands. Jesus says "I judge, and my judgement is just."  Whilst sometimes we don't like the idea of God judging, in the light of the devastating attack by Stephen Paddock, we see that God's judgement is a good thing. Paddock has not got away with it, justice will be done and will be seen to be done. 

Here is a prayer expressing our confidence in this, and praying for comfort:

Heavenly Father, in the light of the recent devastating attack in Las Vegas, we thank-you that you have appointed Jesus to be judge and that his judgment is just. We thank-you that his judgment is universal and inescapable.  We pray that the knowledge of this will allow the family and friends who lost loved ones, and those who were injured to trust all things into the Lord Jesus’ hands and to know his peace that passes understanding. 

We thank-you that you are the God of all comfort and we pray that you will comfort those who are grieving. We thank-you that you will one day wipe away every tear from every eye of those trusting in you and we pray that this certain hope will also be of comfort.  We pray that in their distress and grief people would turn towards you rather than away from you.  Please help local churches to respond in love and please give church leaders great wisdom in counselling the bereaved.  We pray that in your mercy you would restrain evil and prevent similar attacks in the future. Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer

What makes you afraid?

Muscular Dystrophy Cavan Church Ireland

What makes you afraid? Today is Duchenne Awareness Day. At times Duchenne makes me afraid, it is a horrible muscle wasting condition that effects some of those I love dearly.  It is frightening because there seems to be nothing that can be done.  It hurts.  Today is a day to remember those suffering with Duchenne.  

My reading yesterday from God's word was very timely, it said "Fear not" (Isaiah 43). Why did it say "Fear not"?  God promised his people that he was with them even when they 'passed through the waters' and 'walked through the fire'. He didn't promise them that they wouldn't go through the waters and fire, but that he would be with them.  What a promise!  The waters, the fire, the trials, don't mean God has abandoned us.  How can God's people know that he is with them even through the storms?

In Isaiah 43 God says:

  • I have redeemed you
  • I have called you by name
  • you are mine
  • I give Egypt as your ransom
  • you are precious in my eyes
  • I love you 
  • I give men in exchange for your life.
  • I am with you.

What a list! That was what God promised to his people in exile 700BC. How much more can we know it in 2017?  Israel had been redeemed and ransomed from Egypt through the death of a lamb, that lamb pointed forward to "the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  How can we know God loves us? He gave his only son in exchange for our lives, to make us his, to show that we are precious to him and now we can know that He is with us. 

"Jesus passed through the waters and was overwhelmed so that, when we pass through the waters we aren't." 

That doesn't mean we won't face the waters or the fire, but it does mean we don't need to fear, for the one who made us is with us and loves us. Praying for all effected by Duchenne to know this today and each day.

"When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all-sufficient shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine."

(From How firm a Foundation - listen to the hymn here )

 

Guess the sound!

On Sunday we begin a new series looking at the book of Jonah, can you guess what the sound is? Have a read of Jonah chapter 1, listen carefully to the sound above (warning - it's quite loud so turn your volume down first!) and see if you can work it out. The first child to tell Nick the right answer on Sunday morning during the sermon will get a prize! There's no Sunday School over the summer so it will be all-age services every week, this week we're in Ballyhaise Church at 9:45am and Killoughter Church at 11:30am. Hopefully see you then!

Ballyhaise Church of Ireland Cavan

Are we nearly there yet?!

Drung Holiday Cavan Bible

Can you believe that we are just about half way through the year?! The first cut is done, the children have got (or are about to get!) their holidays. Perhaps you feel that the year has flown by, for others it may have dragged. Well, however the first half has been, the second half lies open before us. It's a great time to reconsider any new years resolutions we made! At the start of the year I encouraged people to take on the Bible in the Year Reading Plan, if this has slipped, now is a good time to start something else, if you didn't manage to start, now's a good time to start!

Here's a link to some great ideas for reading plans for the last 6 months of the year - click here

Or you could just start the 12 month plan now and work through to next July. See here for more info. 

"Blessed is the person...whose delight is in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 1)

Vision!

Ideas generated at recent vision dinner

Ideas generated at recent vision dinner

Following on from our recent Vision Service and Dinner we have a focus group meeting this Thursday to try and process all the good ideas. Two representatives from each church in the group will help us to work through all the suggestions.  We look forward to better serving God, our churches and wider community as a result.