I enjoyed our first sermon series of the year from 1st Peter looking at how, as Christians, we’re called to holy living in a hostile world.
On the staff team we joke that sometimes the Holy Spirit makes us look smarter than we really are and Easter was a good example of this as we got to spend three more weeks looking at the man himself: taking a Peter’s eye view of Easter.
This Easter, we asked what it was that made Peter so demanding of the way we live our lives and yet so gracious when we get it wrong and we found that having failed, perhaps more egregiously than any other disciple, he was not only restored but even sent out by the risen Lord Jesus Christ to live and work for him.
Our faith is not just one of second chances, it is one of transformation and renewal where anyone, no matter what they have done, can find the grace to live a new life.
However, even if we find grace and new life, we still have to live in a world that can be far from gracious and anything but new. So, what is holy living in a hostile world really like? How do we know that God will sustain us when things go badly wrong? And what do we do if our faith is challenged by those around us?
From now until the Summer we’ll be in the first half of the book of Daniel looking at the sovereignty of God, seeing that he is with us even when he seems far away.
Daniel finds himself living in Babylonian exile, his God has apparently failed to protect him and he is now at the mercy of the Pagan Ancient Near Eastern superpowers where kings wish to be treated as gods and their advisers behind the scenes, seek to manipulate them like characters from a political drama.
Daniel is caught in the middle of this crazy world but God continues to encourage him.
As the chapters unfold we find that, deep down, his enemies are often more insecure than they seem, but Daniel, in his apparent weakness, rests in the sovereignty of God and even some of his most powerful captors turn to the LORD in the end.
The book of Daniel is one of those parts of the bible that sometimes people avoid. Although the first chapters are well-known with the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, later on it gets genuinely weird. It contains prophecy, apocalyptic imagery, symbolic numbers, strange visions and unusual turns of phrase. Mythical beasts crawl out of the water, angels appear, and then the ultimate hallmark of strangeness; we have a chapter on the end of the world.
But, at Christ Church, we believe in teaching the whole counsel of God and not just cherry-picking the same easy parts of the bible over and over again, so in the Fall we hope to return and complete the book having laid a lot of ground work in this much easier section between now and June.
There are many good things happening in our church right now. People are receiving the gospel and turning to Christ as we continue to grow. The choir has almost outgrown the chancel, and we are having to turn up the registrations on the organ and mics on the piano because the singing is so much more energetic. It’s an obvious sign that people here love the Lord.
I am also encouraged by the servant leadership of the Vestry, the competence of the staff team, the dedication of those leading various ministries in the church and by the many people trying out new things from joining the welcome team to sharing testimonies and preaching their first sermons.
It’s a fun time of healthy growth so it seems like as good a time as any for a weird walk through the pages of Daniel: a book that encourages the struggling that God remains sovereign, and warns the arrogant to be humble, not to imagine that they are their authors of their own success.
God bless and thanks again for reading.