Thought for the Month (January 2008)

It seems strange writing the New Year pastoral letter before Christmas and some of you will probably even read it before Christmas.

When I reflected on it, however, it did not seem as much of a problem as I thought. You see the new year is about hope, or it should be, and where do we get our hope from? Well, first and foremost we get it from the Christmas event, the most important event in all of history.

A tiny baby in a scruffy stable signifies God's loving involvement in human history more graphically and more powerfully than any other event. It demonstrates the depth of God's love and it also shows that there are no soft or easy options in this world. If there were, Jesus would not have been born in this way and He would not have gone the way of the Cross.

We can easily get sentimental about Christmas, but sadly a sentimental Jesus is not much use to us when we hit the harsh realities of the new year. To face the new year we need something or Someone who is rock solid and will not let us down when the going gets tough.

What we need in the new year is hope and Jesus is that source of hope because He came from God and He has returned to God, and in between He broke the barrier that divides human beings from God. Now you may have a number of hopes in 2008, but none of them compares to the hope of an eternity with God which Jesus offers us.

The churches nationally and locally have picked up this theme with 'HOPE 2008' which is challenging us to make hope available to the wider community. If we are facing 2008 with hope in our hearts because of Jesus, we need to be telling others about it. In January and February we should be looking at 'Fresh Hope' and we are being challenged to think what we can offer to the wider community in the areas of health and fitness, work and vocation, family and relationships, financial freedom and kicking addictions. Do you feel called in any of these areas? If you think there are things you could do, speak to your pastor or minister.

Or do you have problems in any of these areas yourself? If you do, you owe it to your Lord and to yourself to do something about it. Bad relationships, debt or addictions or any other problems in our lives are not honouring to our Lord and need to be tackled. Don't let this opportunity pass you by. Grasp 'Fresh Hope' while you have the chance. And the amazing thing is that if you tackle your problem now, you will probably find that you have something helpful and powerful to offer others in the same area. The 'wounded' healer has something important to offer because he or she has been that way before.

Tackling your problems now will also make you ready for the United Reformed Church's 'Vision4Life', which is a 4 year programme starting in autumn 2008 and which includes focussing for one year on each of, the Bible, prayer and evangelism. The aim at the end of year 1 is that you not only read the Bible each day but that it becomes an exciting adventure such that you start searching the Bible for the answers to the biggest problems and opportunities in your life and the life of the church. The aim at the end of the 2nd year is that you not only pray each day but that you pray with expectation and a longing for a closer relationship with God. The aim at the end of the 3rd year is that you have a passion for telling your friends about Jesus and you know how to do it.

We don't need to tell you that if we achieve these aims our churches will be transformed for the better and that we will step out with hope. Let's make 'HOPE 2008' and 'Vision4Life' a reality as we step into 2008.

With love and encouragement,

Bob and Karen

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church