All-Sufficient Grace

I spend a lot of time pondering grace and particularly love the verse “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) At least (if I’m honest), I love the first part of the verse. I’m not quite so keen on the second part…

In our current situation, people are finding the helplessness they feel in this situation difficult to live with. We are used to being proactive and the idea that self-isolation and staying at home can actually help seems utterly counter-intuitive to us. Most of us worry if we can live like this for three weeks and then worry it might be longer than three weeks… and so the cycle of anxiety, lack of control and panic ties us up in knots.

A long time ago I remember being in a similar situation, lost in a hypothetical world of anxiety, ‘what ifs?’ and uncontrollable scenarios. This is the only time I’ve really heard God speaking to me in a way that was almost audible: He said to me, ‘there is no such thing as hypothetical grace.‘ That pulled me up short. I believed firmly in God’s all-sufficient grace, and yet I was living in tension, anxiety and gut-churning worry and wondering why the peace of God that passes all understanding was nowhere to be found. I was wanting hypothetical grace.

Shortly after this, the ‘worst-case scenario’ happened: my mother, aged only 61, was diagnosed with bowel cancer and I had to face the prospect of losing someone so very dear and precious to me. Somewhat to my naive surprise, I found not hypothetical grace, but real grace. I found I was carried by God through those months before her death – and after her death, I was carried even more. God worked in ways I can’t begin to describe. His grace is sufficient for us.

But His power is made perfect in weakness. When we feel helpless and hopeless, that’s when God’s grace and power can be seen and felt. So maybe today, if you’re feeling a bit swamped by everything, take heart. God’s all-sufficient grace is there for you. Lay aside the hypothetical stuff and get hold of the real thing.

‘And People Stayed Home’

Kathleen O’Meara wrote this poem during the Irish famine in the 19th century. It’s very apt today (another example of the lasting value of the arts!)

‘And people stayed home

and read books and listened

and rested and exercised

and made art and played

and learned new ways of being

and stopped

and listened deeper

someone meditated

someone prayed

someone danced

someone met their shadow

and people began to think differently

and people healed

and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,

dangerous, meaningless and heartless,

even the earth began to heal

and when the danger ended

and people found each other

grieved for the dead people

and they made new choices

and dreamed of new visions

and created new ways of life

and healed the earth completely

just as they were healed themselves.’

Sunday 29th March services

We are holding online services on Sunday 29th March at 10.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. Each service will last about 30 minutes and will use Zoom technology, though we are currently looking at hosting these on Facebook as well. The services should be available online afterwards if you can’t be with us live, though this will be audio only. Livestreaming means we can see each other as well!

To access the Sunday morning service at 10.30 a.m. , you will need the following link (and if accessing on a phone, will need to download the free Zoom app.)

Link: https://zoom.us/j/431651853

Meeting ID: 431 651 853 (number needed for Apple phones)

To access the Sunday evening service at 6.00 p.m., you will need the following link:

https://zoom.us/j/130670058

Meeting ID: 130 670 058 (number needed for Apple phones)

We realise this is not ideal for everyone and continue to work on different ways to reach everyone, but we are aiming to connect with you through prayer, songs and the word of God at these difficult times and would encourage everyone who has the technology to do so to join with us at these times. Please feel free to text or message prayer requests to us at any time and to let us know also what God is saying to you and how He is answering prayer as well!

Out of our Hands

My friend used to joke with me that ‘you have a song for every situation!’ I think that’s the beauty of worship: that God gives us a song for every time and for every situation. Jeremy Camp’s new album has a song ‘Out Of My Hands’, which I found articulated so much for me even before this period of craziness about how much we like to be in control but need to learn to trust that God is in control. As I sing this today, the lyrics resonate: it feels like there’s ‘never-ending pressure’, that we are trying to ‘hold it all together‘, that we are brought to our knees (literally and spiritually) by all we don’t understand, that fear and worries are everywhere… and yet God is still strong enough to handle it all! You can listen by clicking on the title of the song at the end of the lyrics.

‘Every day this never-ending pressure
Tries to take its claim over my heart.
I have tried to hold it all together
But time and time again I fall apart.

But that’s where I find my life was never mine at all;
You are the one inside always in control.

So, when it feels like all of this pain is never gonna end,
Brought to my knees by all of these things
I don’t understand, don’t understand,
I will let the weight of my fear fall like sand
Out of my hands and into Yours,
Out of my hands and into Yours.

Letting go of worries I can’t measure,
Holding onto truth that’s healing me,
Knowing I can trust You is a treasure
With eyes wide open now I finally see

It’s here that I find my life was never mine at all
You’re still the one inside always in control

So, when it feels like all of this pain is never gonna end
Brought to my knees by all of these things
I don’t understand, don’t understand
I will let the weight of my fear fall like sand
Out of my hands and into Yours
Out of my hands and into Yours

Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
It’s out of my hands

There ain’t nothing that You can’t handle
God, You are strong enough
Only You can take this out of my hands, out of my hands
You’re greater than all my sorrows
Worthy of all my trust
Thank You, Lord, that this is out of my hands, out of my hands.’ (‘Out Of My Hands’, Jeremy Camp)

Embrace Joy

Lent is often thought of as a solemn period of lamenting over sin, and it’s good at times to spend time in reflection and repentance. Our current situation may well contribute to a sense of sadness and sorrow, but this does not mean we have to be miserable people. Joy is another fruit of the Spirit which needs to grow within us in all seasons. Joy is the source of strength (Neh 8:10) and was promised to every believer by Jesus (John 17:13) It’s not something only to be found in happy circumstances; it’s a deep-rooted conviction that God is in control and therefore we can face life with positive hope.

Joy is not just about happy feelings, about clapping and singing and shouting praise (though it will usually result in those things!) It is a choice we make every day to look for the good things God is doing and to give thanks for those things. When we struggle to see good things, we can give thanks for who God is – that list never runs out!

We serve a Saviour who understands and embraces all emotions. Jesus wept at the death of his friend. (John 11:35) One of His titles was the ‘man of sorrows’, a man of suffering who was familiar with pain. (Is 53:3) To embrace joy is not to deny that there are seasons of tears and pain and grief: surely this Easter season reminds us of this, if nothing else. But we go through those seasons knowing there is ultimately joy to be embraced: ‘For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Heb 12:2)

Choose To Worship

A lovely song to remind us of truth: God is good when life is not. (Click on the title below to listen.)

‘I choose to worship, I choose to bow,
Though there’s pain in the offering I lay it down,
Here in the conflict when doubt surrounds,
Though my soul is unravelling I choose You now.

I will praise You through the fire,
Through the storm and through the flood.
There is nothing that could ever steal my song.
In the valley You are worthy.
You are good when life is not.
You will always and forever be my song.

I build my altar right here and now
In the midst of the darkest night it won’t burn out,
For You are perfect no matter what
In the joy or the suffering I sing it loud

I will praise You through the fire
Through the storm and through the flood
There is nothing that could ever steal my song
In the valley You are worthy
You are good when life is not
You will always and forever be my song

When the enemy says I’m done, I lift my praises.
When my world comes crashing down, I lift my praises high,
‘Til the darkness turns to dawn I lift my praises,
I choose to worship;
I choose You now.
When the enemy says I’m done, I lift my praises.
When my world comes crashing down, I lift my praises high.
‘Til the darkness turns to dawn I lift my praises.
I choose to worship
I choose You now
I choose to worship
I choose You now.’ (‘I Choose To Worship’, Rend Collective)