Author Archives: Jonny Raine

Appreciate Everything

Masterchef has been back on our screens for a few weeks now and is almost at its finale. One thing I’ve noticed is that you’ll never hear the John and Greg, the presenters and judges, say is that they just don’t like this particular ingredient or style of cooking. Whatever meat or vegetable is thrown at a plate, they will appreciate it for its intrinsic flavour. And whether it’s Italian, fusion or street food, they will enjoy its style and flair for what it is.

It means they can be objective and fair judges. Think about how bad it would be for you if you cooked a mushroom based dish and it just happened to be that mushrooms are the one ingredient that they just don’t like. It could be the best mushroom dish in the world, but you’d be marked down just because the judges don’t like mushrooms.

So what Greg and John have managed to do is to have an appreciation for the intrinsic worth and flavour of each individual ingredient and appreciate the excellence of every kind of style of cooking. It makes their appreciation of food so much broader and so much more about excellence rather than preference.

Having this kind of broad appreciation is actually a great trait to have in life. It can make you much more appreciative of things, and not just the things that you have a preference for, but of all things. For example, I’m not a fan of football – it’s just not my preference. But I’m sure if I treated it with this attitude, I could appreciate the skill, the teamwork, the thrill of the game. Or birdwatching – again not my thing – but if I looked carefully at birds with this attitude, there would be things I would appreciate about birds, such as their colours or their characteristics.

Cultivating this kind of attitude will make us into more optimistic people with greater joy who are on the look out for the positives. In short, it’s one of the aspects of life that helps makes us happier. And there are biblical reasons for being this way – biblical frameworks for cultivating this broad appreciation. Here are three…

Goodness of Creation: When God made everything, the repeated phrase he used to describe it was that it was good. He made everything well. Everything has an intrinsic beauty to it, even though corrupted by sin, everything still maintains a level of goodness. To be able to look for signs of goodness and beauty in everything in this world, even above the corruption of sin, will help us have a broad appreciation.

Image of God: When God made humans at the peak of his creation, he invested within us something of his own image. We are made to be in some many ways, like our creator. That means that in every human being, no matter how sinful they are, no matter how impaired they may be, no matter how abused they have been, every human has significant value and worth. As we see that, we will have a greater love for all humans, even those we find it hard to do so.

Common Grace: When humans rebelled against God, we broke everything and we stained everything with sin. There’s not a square inch of this world that isn’t marred by sin’s corruption. But there’s also not a square inch of this world that isn’t held back by God from being as broken by sin as it could be. It’s God’s common grace that provides the needs of all his creatures. It’s his common grace that keeps societies from turning into complete moral anarchic chaos. As we see more of common grace, we will see God’s goodness even in the darkest of places.

But then, we have seen an even greater excellence in God’s special grace, in the image of his Son, in his new creation. We have come to taste and even greater flavour in Christ. Which ought to give us more cause for joy and delight. It ought to raise the level of our other appreciations.

So as we cultivate these three frameworks in our lives, we may find ourselves becoming more appreciative and thankful people. We may then be people who delight in all things, who experience joy even in dark places. And even more so because of the even greater excellencies we have experiences in Christ.

photo credit: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34128007@N04/16802375986″>Grilled Salmon</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Billy Graham

Just over a week ago, Billy Graham went to be with his Lord and Saviour, Jesus. He finished his earthly life here having reached 99 years. He was globally known as an evangelist and had a spiritual influence on Presidents and famous people.

There is a lot that is incredible and unique about Billy Graham which none of us will have for ourselves. But there’s also a lot about him for us to admire and emulate.

When you think about his gifting as an evangelist, he clearly had quite a powerful gift. The figures for how many he has preached the gospel to vary from around 80 million to 215 million people. Either way, that’s a very large number. And it’s what he was primarily known for, his desire to share the gospel with as many people as possible wherever it was possible, and by whatever means was necessary and appropriate.

I imagine none of us will have quite the same gift as Billy Graham, but we should certainly have the same commitment. Even though we’re not likely to stand in front of audiences even a fraction of the size of his football stadium campaigns, we could quite easily find ourselves in front of audiences of one or two. There’s every need for audiences of one or two, perhaps even more so than the bigger audiences.

Another thing Billy Graham was also known for was his open door policy whenever meeting with women. Some might think it overcautious, but you only have to call to mind the recent Hollywood scandals to realise how necessary it was. He deeply desired to be faithful to his wife. He never wanted to find himself in a situation where he might compromise his integrity, nor even allow for false accusations that would undo all of his gospel work. Such commitment to purity and integrity is very necessary however we work out the details.

A favourite phrase of Billy Graham whilst preaching was “The Bible says.” He wasn’t just making his message up but was committed to telling people just what the Bible says. He believed in the power of God’s Word to open people’s eyes to the truth of their sin and need of salvation. Again, it’s a necessary thing for us to hold rigorously to the Bible and to believe in its ability to cut to the heart.

Billy Graham had a large family – 5 children, 19 grandchildren and a large number of great grandchildren. I think I’m right in saying that at very least, all his children, and some of his grandchildren, are converted and are actively serving the Lord. That too is a wonderful legacy he leaves behind and a wonderful example to us who have children and grandchildren. (Though we should also add, even the most faithful Christian cannot guarantee the faith of their children or grandchildren.)

We could mention his commitment to prayer, his ability to organise discipleship, his passion, his personality.

But I think one of the greatest, most admirable things about Billy Graham is the length of his life of faith. He was converted at 16, giving him 83 years of following Jesus closely, steadily, faithfully. One writer describes the life of faith as “a long obedience in the same direction.” It’s simply keeping on going, carefully and steadily, in it for the long haul, focussing on Christ and chasing after him every day, and tomorrow doing the same.

In that sense we have had and still do have Billy Grahams in our own church. People who have plodded away, carrying on their life of faith in the most seemingly ordinary way. Over many years this is something very extraordinary.

Though Billy Graham did so much that was extraordinary and unique, he simply kept going in his life of faith. You don’t need Billy Graham’s evangelistic gift, warm character or powerful preaching to get up each day and pursue Christ and keep going in faith. That’s something we can all do.

However many years the Father gives us, whether 9 or 99, may he enable us all to keep on steadily going forward in faith, following Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

(This article was originally published in the March edition of our church magazine.)

Photo credit: Ximo Pastor; via publicdomainpictures.net (license)

Snow Problem

Despite the snow, we are still planning on our morning gathering tomorrow (4th March)! But if you are at all uncertain about being able to make it, then please don’t risk coming out. (See below for how you can engage!)

Car parking will likely be a problem, as the car park still has deep snow and Chapel Lane is littered with cars, so better to walk if you can. A path has been cleared from the pavement to the back hall entrance, so please use that door.

If you are unable to make it, then we’re actually going to live stream the sermon on YouTube. Go here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcC4zPfjz627-eGEQP8wY5g The live stream will start as soon as the sermon starts. Why not subscribe to the channel and click the bell for a notification as soon as it starts. We’re not allowed to stream the singing, sorry!

If you are coming in the morning, then bring a packed lunch as we’ll be staying on for a Tear Fund presentation and prayer. If you can bring extra food for anyone who forgets, that’d be helpful.

For the evening, we’ll see how the snow is looking tomorrow at the end of the morning service and let you know.