I hope that all my readers make regular trips over to Reed Fleming’s blog. Reed is an old friend of mine – we first met in 1978 – and we served together in the ‘Church Army in Canada’, which is now called ‘Threshold Ministries‘. He currently works in Saint John, New Brunswick, where he serves in a ministry to inner city people called ‘Street Hope Saint John‘ as well as pastoring a small congregation for inner city folk.
Reed writes one post a week, on Fridays, and the posts often grow out of his experiences ministering among inner city people. Here’s today’s post, ‘Buffeted Closer’:
Years ago when I was ministering in First Nations’ communities I fell into the habit of modelling many of my conversations after Aesop’s Fables. The way he personified forces in nature in order to demonstrate moral lessons for humans seemed to suit the context very well. I often would tell the story of the competition between Sun and Wind. They were disagreeing about who was more powerful when a they spied a man walking below. The man had a coat wrapped around his shoulders. Sun challenged Wind to see who could disrobe this man as a test of power. Wind confidently took up the challenge and blew a gale upon the poor man, but the harder Wind buffeted the man, the more tightly he clutched his coat. Finally, Sun took a turn and gently shone on the man until the man willingly took off his coat and thus Sun proved his superior power.
We were chatting about one of our favourite topics at Street Hope, God’s grace. We talk about it often because life often reminds us of our utter need for it. We also talked about not trying to use grace as a licence to continue to sin.
Paul talked about his ‘thorn in the flesh’ which was a messenger of Satan, to buffet him and though he sought God to remove it (whatever it was) God assured him that His grace was sufficient.
If when we are ‘buffeted’ we cling all the more tightly to God and his grace we can trust that his grace will suffice for us. Things come our way through our own poor choices or through the fallen nature of this world. These things appear as severe tests perversely designed to drive a wedge between us and God but as we choose to let these circumstances drive us to God rather than away we will find that what may have been intended for evil God can turn to good!
As we struggle with addictions and lifestyles and brokenness we first must recognize our impotence. We are powerless, but when we are weak He can be strong if we choose to be buffeted toward him! The free gift of God though only comes to those who choose to receive it. The grace is not meant to be only forgiveness, though we desperately need that, it is also meant to be our strength so that we can stand in the test that buffeting brings. Actually we can do more than stand we can become ‘more than conquerors’ through Him.
At Street Hope we all struggle to be recipients of grace during the storm rather than after. This requires reprogramming a life time of ‘stinking thinking’! We are choosing to be buffeted closer to Christ.
The previous post, ‘Fraught with Opportunity’, begins like this:
Some days I feel like I’m in a ‘time loop’ I have the same conversation over and over again. It begins with someone bemoaning the ever shrinking church population. It often moves on to pining for the ‘good old days’. These ‘good old days were when the church as an institution was respected and a time when people in desperate straits would turn to the church for aid in a time of need. The church is no longer respected in this way and people turn to a myriad of other things instead of calling on the church. The conversation begs for an answer to how we can turn back the clock, but that ship has sailed. The days of an institutional church attracting seekers have passed.
If that is true, the conversation continues, how are we ever going to ‘fill these empty pews’. People no longer look to institutions for help when they are desperate they look instead to people. They do not want to ‘fill’ our empty pews but are seeking people who may have found an answer to the vicissitudes of life.
The challenge then is not how can we be a better institution but how can we be better people, and then how we can befriend those who may be in desperate need of meaning, purpose and hope, so that we might be sought out.
Read the rest here.
‘Thank God it’s Friday!’ some people say, because they’re looking forward to the weekend. Well, as a pastor, weekends aren’t time off for me, but I still look forward to Friday because I know Reed will have something good and nourishing for me to chew on each Friday morning. I hope you’ll become regular visitors to his blog too.