Pastor's Message    November/December 2019

As I write this article I am only too aware that I am quickly coming towards the end of my Ministry at Vine Baptist Church – and looking forward to and facing the prospect of retirement. There are some major changes ahead for myself and Sylvia – but also for yourselves, as a Church. Perhaps some of you are also facing the prospect of big changes in your individual lives as well.

Change can be exciting – it can also be scary. For myself, I am looking forward to being closer to family and to not have the responsibility of a local Church on my shoulders. But also the future looks a little uncertain – what will it be like, not waking up to a ‘Church’ routine? Will we be able to make friends where we are moving to? What will we do with our time? Etc etc As a Church Minister (and for Sylvia), a Minister probably faces bigger changes than most people when they retire. Not only do I resign from my workplace, but we also ‘lose our home’ for the past 15 years; we have to move away from the area and the friends we have made. The rhythm of life is about to change for us in a BIG way! … and all at once. So how do we … how do YOU face the future?

We are fast approaching Christmas, and as we once again think about the events that Christmas 2000 years ago, many of the people at the centre of that event, also faced some big changes – and for some a pretty scary future!

Take, for instance, Joseph!

Matt.1:18-20 in the message paraphrase puts the story like this:

‘The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.’

We have been going through a series called ‘It’s time for a faith-lift’. One of the things we talked about was to do with people in the Bible who, when facing decisions about the future, decided to take matters into their own hands – and made a real hash of things. People who tried to figure it all out themselves. Well, at Christmas, here’s another guy who ‘was trying to figure a way out.’ He was in a predicament – a major one! The girl he was engaged to was pregnant … and he wasn’t the father!! What to do??

Well, the Creator of the universe comes to him through an angel in a dream and tells him what to do – and this amazing man is listening to God, and the Bible says ‘He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream.’ Total obedience. And when he obeyed, he changed his focus – away from himself, to what God wanted.

Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship likely will happen in your darkest days: when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and when you then turn to God. Because God will show up—every single time.

Maybe you’re in a tough situation this Christmas season that seems inescapable. Maybe like myself and Sylvia, you face an uncertain future - do what Joseph did, and change your focus.

God could have brought Jesus into this world without Joseph. God could have arranged a different husband for Mary. But God chose Joseph to be a part of the greatest story ever told.

Joseph’s plans changed dramatically when he switched his focus. He saw an angel who revealed God’s plan in a dream. Instead of focusing on his problem, Joseph considered God’s plan and then did as the angel told him.

History has never been the same since. Our lives have never been the same.

Like Joseph, you may feel stuck, too. You may feel afraid. But God won’t abandon you in this season of change. Focus on God’s plan. Listen to what he has to say about your situation.

And trust him to follow through.

The Bible promises us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).

Choose to trust God with your problems, fears and hurts this Christmas season – and as you do so, I pray you will experience the peace only God can bring through Jesus.

God bless you all.

Jim

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