I thought it would be interesting to create wordclouds of the New Testament letters using Tagxedo and the World English Bible.
The following is my message at Hebron Gospel Hall in Torquay on the evening of 9th June 2013. The readings accompanying the message were
and we sang “Great is Thy faithfulness” as one of our hymns.
What a faithful and ever-loving God we have. I love the old hymns – the sincerity of the words. Music plays a special role in my relationship with God – it was the way He kept me close, hearing His word, when I was making my own plans, living my own life that I believed didn’t include Him.
God gave us song to convict us of our sins; to remind us that God is God and we are not; that God pours out innumerable blessings and we take them ungratefully, believing that we have earned them and deserve them; reminding us that God is faithful and we are faithless. The first recorded song in the bible is the Song of Moses and we read the following in Deuteronomy 31:19-22
“Now therefore write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their descendants); for I know the purposes which they are already forming, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the people of Israel.
If there is a single message running through the bible it is this: Trust in Me, the Lord, your God. In our first reading we heard God’s challenge to His people: Trust in Me, give Me what belongs to Me, and see how abundantly I will pour My blessings out on you. The tithe, of course, is symbolic – after all, the whole world is the Lord’s and everything in it. God’s call is for us to trust Him, to trust His plan, not to keep anything back for ourselves – He calls us to give nothing short of our whole lives to Him. We might hear the words of the psalmist in this call:
Taste and see that the Lord is good!
The bible is a record of God’s faithfulness, of the promises God has made, and kept for His people. We might think of:
- God’s promise to Noah that He would keep Noah and his family safe as a watery apocalypse engulfed the Earth;
- God’s promise to Abraham that He would lead Abraham’s descendants into the promised land of Canaan;
- God’s promise to Moses that He would deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and give them peace and prosperity in the promised land;
- God’s promise that He would send His messiah to redeem the world from sin, fulfilled in Jesus Christ;
- God’s promise that He would vanquish death, fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection.
Our God is a faithful God. There are those who would say that the God in which we believe is fickle; vengeful one moment, craving intimacy the next. But I say, look again – read how God has stood by those who trust in Him; how He has kept the promises He has made. As we read in Malachi, God is unchanging – it is we who are fickle.
If the bible is a love story, it is also a tragedy because it records time and again man’s faithlessness – of how we needed no excuse to go our own way, to follow our own plans, to live for ourselves rather than living as God would have us live. Sin is not really about doing bad things; it is about not trusting in God’s plan for us and believing that we need to take control of our own lives.
The times when it has “all gone wrong” in the biblical narrative are those occasions when man feels he knows better than God:
- the fall from grace was not the result of murder or adultery – it was about wanting to do things in our own wisdom;
- the failure of the Jews to acknowledge Jesus as their messiah was because He didn’t “fit the bill” – they thought that they knew better;
- we heard about the faithless Hebrews led by Moses to the promised land – the reason they ended up in the wilderness for forty years, rather than two weeks, was because they did not trust that God would deliver the land to them so they sent scouts fearful that their strength would not be enough.
Even the disciples, who spent three years with Jesus, day in and day out, are regularly scolded for their lack of faith. It is only when the apostles saw the risen Lord, that they really understood and trusted in the Lord’s plans. We read in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 what must have been one of the early affirmations in the early Christian church:
The saying is sure:
“If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him;
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful –
for He cannot deny Himself.”
I want to finish by considering two things:
- knowing that God is faithful I want to reassure you of the promises God has given us, because He will fulfil them;
- knowing that we are faithless I want to consider what our response should be to God’s call to trust Him and his plans for each of us.
God promises us:
- that if we trust in Him He will transform our hearts, pouring out His Holy Spirit into us so that we might show our faith and love of God through the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity. But He tells us truthfully that we will endure difficulties as Christians, but trusting in God these trials will purify our hearts.
- He promises that He will come again to bring in His new kingdom and claiming the faithful as His people.
- He promises that we will rise again with Him into everlasting life.
- He promises that we shall dwell with Him in heaven, where there is no sadness, no tears, no hatred or hurt, just unbridled joy and love for our unchanging ever-faithful God.
God is faithful – these things will come to pass.
Like David, it remains for us to ask God to search our hearts so that we can cast out any part of our lives that is contrary to God’s will. We must examine ourselves and ask if we really trust in God’s plan for us, or do we cling on to areas in our life where we long to remain in control. We need to ask God to renew us; renew our hearts; renew our faith and breathe His Holy Spirit back into every aspect of our lives.
I’ve just come back from the Digital Kickstart day in Exeter and I’m feeling really excited about the possibilities for connecting people in our church and engaging new people with our mission. Whilst the ideas and technologies weren’t entirely new, it was great to spend the day thinking about how we can make social media work for us.
It was incredible to be reminded how the church has embraced new technology through the ages, such as the codex form and the printing press, to make God’s word accessible and I pray that we can play some part online in spreading God’s love.