There is really only one thing I can blog about this week – the 25th anniversary service of the Manchester International church of Christ.
Why is it important to me? Because Penny & I served that congregation for almost five years in the ’90s.
We were invited back to the service and it was my privilege to deliver the sermon. What an occasion! A venue packed with people, standing room only at the back, rousing singing, old friends and new faces. Quite a day. Oh, and there was lunch too!
What moved me was to meet people from far-flung places such as Macclesfield, Liverpool, Lincolnshire and London. Some I hadn’t seen for 10, 15 or even 20 years. What was the draw? Perhaps the chance to catch up with old friends, perhaps a trip down memory lane, or even a reawakened nostalgia.
But I think I know the main reason for most people’s attendance. It was to be reminded of what God did in them, through them and for them while they were connected to this church. In some ways there is nothing special about any of us who have been members of the Manchester church. But there is something very special about the God we know.
I spoke on 1 John 3, and a phrase from that chapter leapt out at me. It’s verse 19, and it reads, “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence”. What a vital issue. How do we have a heart at rest in God’s presence? The word “presence” carries the idea of being right in front of God, face-to-face, toe-to-toe – and being at peace. So, what do we have to do to have this confidence? Two things: “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and … love one another” v 23. Believing means trusting Jesus and honouring him in the way we live. Loving one another means loving as Jesus loved us. This takes reflection. Once we’ve spent some time reminding ourselves that God saved us, changed us, and is still working on us, then we are re-filled with fresh inspiration to continue to trust Jesus, and love one another.
The benefit that comes from holding on to the convictions that brought us to Christ is that we can “have confidence before God” v21. One thing Manchester needs, and the rest of the world, is Christians living their lives confidently. Not arrogantly, but not like a worm. Instead, walking with a confidence that says, “I know where I’m going, and I know who’s guaranteeing it.”
The drive up North and back was long, but worth it. The church, the city and the people all reminded me that there is no greater inspiration than Jesus, and no better investment than loving one another.
Is there a place for you to go? A special park, wood or building that holds important memories of God’s work in your life? Perhaps it’s time to make some time to go back, be reminded, be refreshed, be inspired and find the faith the go on trusting Jesus and loving one another.
Confidence is available.
I hope you have a wonderful week. God bless,
PS – please let me know where your special faith-building place is and why it’s special to you.