Month: October 2017

How Great Thou Art

What is it that makes you go WOW!!!?

Have you been fortunate enough to have seen any the ‘wonders of the world’?

This term we are continuing to look at the sung worship at school and this we are looking at one of my favourites “how great thou art”.

The hymn speaks about the greatness of God. When talking about the nature of God, one of the characteristics often referred to is ‘the greatest’. The full stop is important there because it isn’t that God is the greatest athlete, or the greatest footballer, or the greatest musician, but just that God is the greatest.

The first verse of the hymn talks about the natural world, the wonders of the universe and how it reflects the greatness of God. Those WOW moments where you wonder how something so beautiful and amazing can exist. The hymn talks about considering all that has been made, the stars, the mighty thunder. God’s power being displayed throughout the universe. I am not an art, music or film critic, but I know that artists often have a style that people will recognise. I was always a fan of the Roald Dahl books and could recognise a drawing from Quentin Blake easily. That is what the universe is like, it has God’s fingerprints all over it. I’m not going to go into all the complexities of the universe now – mainly because I would probably fail, but those complexities, according to the writer of this hymn and all Christians are a reflection of the greatness of God.

The first verse is based on psalm 19 which says

The heavens declare the glory of God;

    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

    night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

    no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,

    their words to the ends of the world.

The universe declares the glory of the Lord.

WOW. God created something so beautiful… he also created humans… they had free will… they made a mess… they continue to do so.

God could have stopped there, but he didn’t, this is also recognised in the second verse of the hymn. God sent His son, to die, bearing our burdens, bleeding, dying, to take away our sin. It sounds mad, and this is also recognised with the words ‘I scarce can take it in’.

I think this is why I love this hymn so much. Yes, it has a good ‘belt it out’ tune but it considers the greatness of God in the beginning of time, through the death of Jesus, in our lives now, and in the future when we will be bowing in admiration of God.

This is why we can sing how Great Thou Art. Not how great you were, or how great you will be if you keep working hard, but How Great Thou Art. A number of the hymns we looked at last term considered hope, and this is what our hope comes in… that God is great, and is unchanging, but through his greatness can change us, to be reflections of His greatness.

Challenge: try to look for reflections of the glory of God in your everyday life

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are great, and through your greatness you created this world and you created us. Thank you that you sent your son to die for our sins. May we recognise your glory and reflect it in our lives. Amen

In Christ alone, my hope is found

When was the last time you used the word hope?

We use the word so often when it is something that we want to happen.

“I hope it’s a good game”

“I hope the weather is nice”

“I hope that you have safe trip”

I could keep going but I won’t.

The dictionary definition is a feeling of expectation or desire for a particular thing. So… I guess… we are using it correctly but…

Is that how the word is used in Christianity?

The song we are looking at this week talks about hope, but it talks about hope being found. How can a feeling of expectation or desire be something that is found? The answer comes in the first line of the hymn

“In Christ alone, my hope is found”

Hope within Christianity is a belief in what is to come. Our full reunion with God, because of Christ. Jesus is the reason that all people can have hope. The whole of this song, which is the basis for our dedication service on Friday, is a list of declarations of what can be found in Christ. So many of the themes of the first verse we have already explored throughout the last term.

In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light my strength my song, this cornerstone this solid ground. Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when striving cease. My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand.

There isn’t a huge a huge amount more to be said. In this world we pin our hopes in so many things. Our parents, our teachers, sports players, celebrities, the government. But all of those things change, make mistakes, fail. We get disappointed, because we placed a hope and it let us down.

There is one hope that never changes, will never change, and can be our solid rock. Christ. By putting our hope in Christ we can show hope to the world and to others.

Challenge: what do you put your hope in? How can you share the hope of Christ with others?

Prayer: thank you father for sending your son that we may have hope. May we only place our hope in you. Amen

Light of the world

It’s getting to that time of year when lights are very important. For the majority of the last week I have left home in the dark and returned home in the dark, the streetlights have helped me to navigate my way to and from school. Cars and bikes have had headlights so I have known they have been coming. It hasn’t quite been pitch black yet but I don’t think it will be too long.

Darkness isn’t a thing in itself. It is an absence of light.

The street lights have helped with with the physical darkness of the world, but many people would say that we live in a dark world. So often we hear news stories of horrible things that are happening, and horrible things that people are doing to each other. This where are hymn for this week comes in

“Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes let me see”

Yes the world is a dark place but that was never the intention, when it was created it was good, but we humans managed to bring darkness in. God could have allowed the darkness to continue, but instead he became a human and came to the earth. He didn’t come to shine a light in a bit of the darkness, he was the light. He said it himself, he said “I am the light of the world”. The reading for this week is from Phillipians 2 and it talks about making himself nothing, becoming a servant, becoming human.

What does it mean to say that Jesus is the light? When he came to earth there was an absence of God, which was the darkness. People were focussing on the rules rather than the action. Jesus showed love because he was love, and he brought light to that place of darkness.

The light that Jesus was bringing wasn’t one of those energy saving bulbs that gradually gets brighter, it was a spotlight. Showing people God. People respond to light in different ways, they might cower away from it, covering their eyes, they might get shocked at what the light is showing up, or they might just relish in the light.

As Christians we are called to be light in the world. We may not be the light, but we can be a reflection of it. The best way to be a reflection is to make sure you’re in the line of what you want to be reflecting. If you look in a mirror from an angle then it’s not going to be a great reflection. Therefore to be that light we need to recognise and stand in the light in the first place.

The chorus of this hymn is “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you’re my God”. Through our worship of God, through our recognition of what He has done for us, we can start to reflect Him, and be a light in the world. What might that look like? A smile, a friendly face, a hug, a listening ear. Yes Jesus performed miracles, yes Jesus told stories, but Jesus also spoke to those who no one else would, and had tea with those rejected.

We live in a dark world, darkness is the absence of light, therefore let us bring light in.

Challenge: what darkness do you see in your everyday life? How can you bring in some light to that situation?

Prayer: father God we thank you that you came to earth to bring light, help us to reflect that light in the world. Amen

Amazing Grace

Is there a sentence that when spoken just makes you smile? Maybe “it’s Friday” or “only 3 weeks until half term”. We probably all have sentences that bring that joy to us, and put a smile on our face. (I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I do love school, but that is helped by the fact that I get breaks from it as well!)

For John Newton that statement was “Amazing Grace” which he described as a “sweet sound”. Why is it a sweet sound? He explains in the first verse of the hymn… he was lost then found, blind then able to see. But what has that go to do with grace?

Grace is one of those Christian words that is used a lot, but it isn’t always understood. The reading today from John1:14-18 says “out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” but once again, it is using the word grace. So I did some research, it’s one of those words that even if you know what it means, that doesn’t mean it is easy to define. So let’s give these a go…

Firstly there is an acrostic

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

Secondly, just two words, unmerited favour

The third one was actually developed for a Christian community who have learning difficulties and it is “ receiving a gift we don’t deserve”

These are all good ways of remembering what grace is but it doesn’t actually explain much about what it means in a Christian context. The first chapter of John goes on to say “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.

From the start of time God has kept rescuing his people. In the beginning God created a beautiful world, with beautiful plants and animals, he then chose to create people in His likeness. He didn’t have to, but he chose to. Then the people went against God, he could have just given up there and then but he didn’t. There was a consequence, but he didn’t give up. We’re not going to go through all of the examples of humans messing up because that would essentially involve me writing out the entire Bible. But in that sentence from John 1 it talks about the law and Moses. The Israelites had been imprisoned and enslaved by the Egyptians, through Moses they were free, and then God gave them the law, the 10 commandments, guidance for how they should live their life, none of it is rocket science, just common sense, but the guidance was there.

People continued to be people. Finally, God, does the only thing he can, he comes to earth in the person of Jesus, to live amongst His people, to be an example, to teach them, and then to pay the ultimate price… to be crucified. This is the bit we don’t deserve, the bit that is unmerited, the bit that is done at Christ’s expense. Because Jesus had done nothing wrong, He defeated death, and rose again. This means that we no longer need Moses to be our representative to go to speak to the Father without His shoes on, but we, ourselves, can go to him. We can be in relationship with him, we can have eternal life.

No one deserves it, it is a lavish gift that didn’t need to be given. God could have given up on us so many times, but he chose to keep going. He knows that we are going to make mistakes, but that doesn’t matter, because Jesus’ death has taken that place.

This is why John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”. John Newton was involved in the slave trade, when he had a revelation about Jesus, when he realised what the Christian message was and what it meant for him. He didn’t continue with the life he was living but he changed his life completely, and wanted to tell everyone else about it as well.

Grace doesn’t mean we can just keep making mistakes. It is, however, the ultimate of undeserved gifts, of a path to God the father, through the Son, helped along by the Spirit. The question is: “are you willing to take the path?”

Challenge: God gave us a gift we don’t deserve, what gifts could you give to others for no reason but to show Gods love?

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you created us, that you love us, that you keep rescuing us. We thank you that you sent your so Jesus to live with us, and to die for us. We thank you that you raised Him to life, and that we can now be in relationship with you. May we constantly be reminded of the sweet sound of your amazing grace, and that it will save us, free us, and help us to see. Amen