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.

Holiday Club Bookings now open!

Our holiday club will be taking place in Burrowes Hall from 6-8 July, with a special United Service in Larah Church at 11am on 9th July with a chance for the children to show parents and carers what they've been up to! We'll enjoy a picnic together afterwards.  Please book here and you have any questions feel free to email Nick (rectorofdrung@gmail.com). 

Holiday Bible Club Stradone Drung Cavan
Cavan Holiday Bible CLub Drung Ballyhaise Redhills Stradone Larah Lavey

God's grace is sufficient

Grace Cavan Heaven Drung Ballyhaise

This morning I came across these great words whilst reading a book "Invest in your Suffering" by Paul Mallard and thought I'd share them with you:

"The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied, and sore depressed, when swiftly, and suddenly as a lightning flash, that text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way, “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. I never fully understood what the holy laughter of Abraham was until then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.” Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine; and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in a lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for thee.” Oh, brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to Heaven, but great faith will bring Heaven to your souls."

May we all know that God's grace is sufficient. 

You can buy "Invest in your Suffering" by Paul Mallard here 

"Your Sorrow will Turn into Joy" and "The Truth of the Cross"

the cross of Christ Drung Bunnoe Ballyhaise

Here are two great looking free ebooks available this week to help us reflect on Easter:

Your Sorrow Will Turn To Joy - morning and evening reflections

In the chaos of our increasingly fast-paced and hectic society, the annual coming of Holy Week each spring is a reminder to pause and ponder, to carefully mark each day, and not let this greatest of all weeks fly like every other.

It is a chance to walk with the church throughout the world and throughout time as she accompanies her Bridegroom through the eight most important days in history. And it is an opportunity to focus our minds on, and seek to intensify our affections for, the highest and most timeless realities in the universe. Click on the link above to download it for free.

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

In this book, Dr. R.C. Sproul surveys the great work accomplished by Jesus Christ through His crucifixion—the redemption of God’s people. Dr. Sproul considers the atonement from numerous angles and shows conclusively that the cross was absolutely necessary if anyone was to be saved.

Opening the Scriptures, Dr. Sproul shows that God Himself provided salvation by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross, and the cross was always God’s intended method by which to bring salvation. The Truth of the Cross is an uncompromising reminder that the atonement of Christ is an absolutely essential doctrine of the Christian faith, one that should be studied and understood by all believers. Click on the link above to download it for free.

A downward spiral?

Cavan bunnoe drung larah lavey

After the high of Joshua, we enter a downward spiral in the book of Judges.  For those following the Bible Reading Plan there are some dark days ahead in in the book of Judges.  In the first chapter the phrase "did not drive out" is repeated time and again and Israel failed to drive out their enemies, their obedience and trust of the Lord was slipping. They started looking at the might of their enemies and stopped looking at the power of God.  As Tim Keller puts it "God sees any failure to obey is a failure to remember."  At the beginning of chapter 2 God reminds them of his power and might - he brought them out of Egypt - remember the plagues and the crossing of the Re Sea - pretty powerful stuff - so what are a few iron chariots to God? But like us, they got easily troubled because they were looking down rather than up. 

So then God hands them over to their enemies, and then they cry out to the Lord and he raises up a judge (a leader/rescuer).  There is deliverance and peace for a time, until the cycle continues like this:

judges

The book of Judges contains a number of these cycles getting worse and worse each time - but there's also some great and very exciting rescues!

The book ends with a very depressing summary - "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

We're left longing for the perfect king who can bring perfect deliverance. Each of the judges is a type of Christ - rescuing God's people using unusual means, but each of them fall short and the deliverance is only temporary. We're left longing for the king of kings. This week (Easter) is a great week to reflect on our need for him and rejoice in how he brought deliverance for us.

How many promises did God keep?

God made some big promises to Abraham (Genesis 12), they can helpfully be summed up as people, place, blessing. God promised that the old childless Abraham would become a father of many nations, that they would have a place to live and that they would live under God's blessing and be a blessing to the nations.

What happened? God gave Abraham a son in his old age, and eventually they became so numerous that when they were living in Egypt the Egyptians tried to thwart God's plan and oppress God's people, but the more they oppressed them the more they multiplied! (Exodus 1:12).  God rescued his people from their slavery and led them in the wilderness for 40 years until they were ready to enter the land that had been promised to them many years earlier.  But there was one slight problem - other people were living there! We enter the murky waters of the accusations of ethnic cleansing, and questioning how God could do such a thing.  Thankfully God told us a little earlier why he would do such a thing - it wasn't because his people were particularly good (they were described as stubborn!), but rather it was because of the wickedness of the people in the land (Deuteronomy 9:4-7).  God had been patient and merciful for a long time with the wicked nations, but as they did not turn from their wickedness they met God's justice.  If you're anything like me we sometimes struggle to understand this and think how can God act in such a way. I think that's probably because we forget about the perfect holiness of God.  He will not tolerate evil and must punish it. Deep down we know that's right, if there was a mass murder in Cavan and the judge simply said to the perpetrator of the crime - "oh we all make mistakes" - there would be an outcry, and rightly so! God is a good of justice, and that's why we (as those made in his image) should be outraged at injustice.

One day God will perfectly punish all evil, the driving out of the nations in Joshua is a foreshadowing of this.  God keeps all his promises, including his promise to punish evil.  Nothing can be hidden from him.  In Joshua 7 we read about a man called Achan who thought he could hide something from God, but he was found out, and the penalty was death. How can any of us escape from God's perfect justice? Our wrongdoing will be discovered, but Joshua's name gives us some hope - it means "The Lord saves" - the Hebrew version of Jesus.  In our reading from Luke 19 we saw the great news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. People like Zacchaeus who had cheated and stolen, people like you and me who similarly face a God of justice aware of our own short fallings. His rescue is the one we remember at Easter - he died in our place and took the punishment we deserve and so God promises forgiveness and blessing to all who take refuge in him (as we'll see in Psalm 2 this Sunday). The more we see the holiness of God and his righteous judgment, the more grateful we'll be for the Lord Jesus.

By the end of Joshua (the book we're just finishing in the Bible Reading Plan) we hear these incredible words "Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." (Joshua 21:45) God keeps all his promises, the question is will God's people chose to live under his blessing? As we begin the book of Judges we'll see...

For now, why not cling to our faithful God and chose to live his way (Joshua 23:8).