Pastor Alan Wright

Rev. Dr. Alan Wright is our Pastor at Dunoon Baptist Church.

God’s Limitlessness

I like to feel useful, to be involved, to make a difference
and so I push myself, sometimes to the limits. I let people use me, my
house, my car, my guitar, my time, my energy because God has given me endless
grace and I have no right to hold things my own. Then sometimes I do more than
I can, and I stretch thin. *

God is limitless. I don’t understand that, but
I recognise it and appreciate it when I reach my limits. Once again, a summer
of activities has left me frazzled, finding simple tasks complicated. I make
excuses like, ‘I can do everything, just not everything all at once!’ but God
has no limits. I get tired, I can’t manage my e-mail and my phone drives me
nuts, but God’s ear is limitless. He can listen to billions of voices
all at once and distinguish yours individually and carefully craft a response
designed just for you.

God’s forgiveness is limitless. There’s nothing that
you can’t come back from, there is no-one too far to reach, He made an endless
decision to remember your sins no more. I try to forgive, I try to hold people
up and bring them back, but I lose patience, or I lose the strength to keep up
with them.  God’s patience is almost limitless. I say almost because His
justice is limitless and must be satisfied and someday His patience will run
out, but a God who is slow to anger is fascinating and one that I need.

You see the one thing I seem to find about me that is
limitless is my failure. I try hard, but I still let people down. I want what
is right, but I still abandon it for what is easy. God’s love is
limitless
and no matter where I am or what I do He does not reject me
or abandon me. His presence is limitless. All of creation tells of how
far He extends, that the heavens stretch to hold Him, even the darkness is as
light to Him.

My hope is limited by my experiences, or at best, my
imagination, but He who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or
imagine has a hope for us that extends beyond life and death and time and
eternity. His hope for you is limitless.

My energy and life is limited, I can only achieve so much
and I can only run so long but when the sun has stopped shining the heavens and
the earth will still be lit by a God whose power is never consumed, because His
power is limitless.
I can’t explain to you how limitless God is, but
whatever your image of God is, he is bigger than that. Whatever your experience
of God is he can be closer than that and more powerful than that. Praise be for
our limitless God.  

*This reminds me of a couple of things, like when Bilbo
is telling Frodo in Lord of the Rings that he feels thin, like butter spread over
too much bread. Or when in physics you would test the elastic limit of a rubber
band, and you would stretch it in a way that it would never go back.

Relationships

The fact is the Bible really is true and really does have answers. It lays out not only the mess we’ve made but the design behind it all. It says that we’re made in God’s image and that the relationships we’re meant to build are meant to reflect God. A man is supposed to love his wife the way Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, to present her spotless and beautiful without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). What that means is that at the very least a girl should be looking for this, a guy who makes her more beautiful. Not a guy who appreciates how beautiful she is already (although I expect they will) but one who adds to her beauty. Take this into account, is he making you more special? More happy? More positive or more powerful?

Now I’m not writing this as a shout of frustration, though
in the past I’ve been very frustrated with beautiful girls going out with
absolute wasters who diminish them and make them feel small. No, a couple of
weeks ago I was talking to a girl who says she always gets the wrong guy and
every guy she’s been out with has been rubbish. Well, you’re looking in the
wrong place
and you’re looking for the wrong thing. If you meet
someone in a nightclub at best, you get an idea of what they think of you (and
that’s probably only what they can see). In actual fact you probably won’t know
anything. How do you know if they’ll add to your value? It’s just simple
logic, unless a guy makes you more special or more beautiful, you’re better off
without one rather than having one who destroys your self-esteem and belittles
your goals.

I know it’s hard to find a relationship like this, but it’s
ok being single
you know. You just have to make the most of your choices.
You can build real friendships of trust and hope, you can develop goals and
skills and character, you can get up and go places and do things that other
people are tied down and can’t do and you don’t have to spend your money on
someone else.

So, ask yourself some questions… Does he spend more on you
than he consumes from you? Does he make you feel more beautiful and prouder
of who you are?
Does he invest in your long-term future, does he value your
goals? If he does there’s no guarantee he’s right, but if he doesn’t there’s
pretty much a guarantee that he’s wrong for you
.

I must admit, what does frustrate me is that girls go out with rubbish guys and let them be like that and it just gives them the feeling that it’s ok to be a scumbag. If you don’t change the parameters, they’ll just keep being the same. They’ll be drunkards, they’ll be abusive, they’ll be negative and depressing, they’ll be domineering or belittling or tiring or they’ll just suck up everything you’ve got. The Bible says relationships reflect God (Genesis 1:27). Does that guy bear any resemblance to godly behaviour? Would he father your children in the protective, hopeful, loving way God parents us? Does he love you or care for you as Jesus does?

Oh, and by the way, make these decisions before you
agree to anything. It’s much harder to get out of something once you started. He’s
not going to change
so don’t begin thinking he might become that later, you
know that’s just kidding yourself on. Just for once I’d like to see a guy ask a
girl out and for her not to say Yes or No but “I don’t know if you’re right for
me, I don’t know if you have my best interests at heart. What do you hope to
happen?” Somebody has to challenge the way this world works because it
will crush you until you feel worthless. Relationships done right can be the
most powerful evidence for God. Relationships done wrong can take you to dark
places where God is really hard to find. You choose

People

I really am a rubbish blogger huh?! I had so many blogs I meant to put up and time never allowed. Anyway, having just come back from France (where I meant to do an excellent blog on rich people and my own attitude) I saw the front page of the Herald yesterday. This gives a brief summary of the article. A guy of 20, with several family issues, worked hard and applied for loads of jobs and didn’t get any. In desperation he took his own life. It’s immensely sad and reminds me seriously of why we want to build a youth and community centre. This was just a few miles away in Greenock. The subtitle for the front-page article was “No Hope at 20!” Isn’t that what Ephesians was saying, that before we were saved, we were without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).

I’m sure there’s more to it than just not having work. He
has left children and it is just outstanding that in fact this sort of
incident is just not outstanding. Young people are becoming increasingly
desperate. There’s another article about self-harm in the same day’s news. If
we don’t have something to say for this generation who does? Are we the sort of
people who lament the downfall of humanity (which incidentally has been
going on since men first sinned) or do something to change it. I’m
not talking about legal reform, or legislation or government investment or
community development, I’m talking about a real church bringing hope to
lives. Do we believe there is more to life? 

A few years ago as a youth worker, I was walking to the door
after setting up for a youth event. On the other side of the glass doors
‘waiting’ to get in were a horde of young people, throwing rubbish, shouting
loudly and being foolish. My heart sank, but as I walked those few steps to the
door, I thought how everyone else thought the same and treated them the same, as
a nuisance and a pest. Even many of their parents magnified their faults and
minimised their joys. I decided I would be different. I opened the door
with joy, smiled at them, invited them in warmly. I know they’d eat my food and
drink my juice. I know they’ll throw stuff and I’ll spend quite a while
cleaning up. But they’re worth it. And I don’t mean that in
a shampoo advert kind of way. Each one of those guys I worked with is a
stunning piece of God’s handiwork. His artistry is immense

I am sad about that young man in Greenock, trying not to be
a waste of space. God made him and he never was a waste. Maybe there’ll be
another young man in a few years’ time who’ll come to the same crossroads and
will make a different choice because some people at the Gateway place showed
him he was worth something and he had hope he didn’t know he had. Maybe we
can’t reform a nation or a community, but maybe we can rescue some
people. Maybe if we rescue enough, we can bring change, but we must believe
that God designed every inch of every heart. 

Ministries

I think it’s hard making decisions about ministries.
I’m sure when Jesus sent out the 12 disciples, and then the 72, He knew the
challenges they would face and that some of them would find it hard. He
trusted them
and gave them instructions and gave them a chance to be at the
front. Our troubles with who we get to take on ministries tend to be based more
on the simple balance between availability and ability. Maybe if we are lucky,
we have the luxury of considering integrity.

Who should lead our Sunday School comes down to who
is willing and who can work with children? Yet there are more young people at
Sunday School than before, and their age ranges vary greatly. Is it not one of
the key ministries
of the church? Surely there should be people delighted
to take on the opportunity to make a Spiritual difference in a young life?

Forcing someone to take on (or keep on) work they don’t
enjoy is not God’s way. Maybe if we don’t enthuse people about the
possibilities
of Sunday School and the impact that it has, we’ll
never get the right person. I know that people with integrity, gifting and
availability
are few and far between, but this is not a thankless task. Who
doesn’t remember the songs they learnt as a child? The Bible verses in my head
come more from my childhood training than my teenage ambitions or my adult (not
that I like to think that I’ve grown up) attempts at continued development. I
may have only learnt them to get sweeties, but they have stayed there.

I think we like new things far more than consistent,
faithful ministries
and yet it is the solid, consistent teaching of the
Word that sustains us. I suppose we’re no different from the Israelites who
enjoyed the manna from heaven, until they had it every day, and then they
complained. One young life is more changed by faithfulness, more
nourished by compassion and care than by big parties or generous gifts. Right?

So what do we do? How can we show the Spirit of God at
work in consistent things
more than innovations? Do we believe that
God works in faithful things, or are we hoping for some sweeping revival to
come from outside because we tried a new type of prayer meeting or a different
sort of outreach?

My blog isn’t much good is it? More questions than answers.
I am convinced however that God’s faithfulness is a key part of our design in
His image. We need to value persistence and faithful ministries because
we believe that many of those who reign with Him will have endured with Him for
a long time and much of their faith will come from their childhood.

Presenting The Christian Message

I know there’s a lot of complex paradoxes in the
Bible. It’s hard to get. God is both endless (beyond any bounds we can
imagine) and imminent (closer than the thoughts in our head). He is light and
there is no darkness in Him at all and yet He chooses to be among people lost
in darkness.

Living the Christian life is the same. Somehow, I am called
to be holy and yet sin lives in me. God has given me endless power and yet I
seem incapable of making choices that are right, and powerless to follow
through on good choices I have made. I am a frustrated bottle of good
intentions all shaken up.

The thing that has been on my mind is what the church
presents
. We are supposed to evidence the standards of God as perfection
and holiness
and yet make known to people that God loves sinners. We
try to tell people that God is infinitely righteous and yet He lives with us
and we are the worst kind of scum. And people hear the message in all the wrong
order. If God likes us then we must be ok, right? Therefore, God’s
standards must be just about the same as ours?

We must start with fear. It seems kind of wrong to
present fear, but the Bible is full of fear and fear being relieved. If there’s
no fear, then that which is boundless forgiveness seems like a little pat on
the back
. If there’s no problem, then the death of Jesus can be presented
as a nice example of kindness, rather than the violent destruction of the God
of heaven, that was absolutely necessary in order to win back His broken
people.

We need to find a way. People think that church people are
nice people, they think that church teaches us to be good. And they
think this is a Christian country, that the laws of the land show how to be
good. This town and these people are so far from getting it. God will never
diminish
. I need to somehow show that He is endless in His justice.

I guess what I’m saying is that it is impossible to
understand love
without knowing the price that love paid, and it’s
impossible to know the price that was paid without knowing how immensely far we
are from good. When we say, “Jesus loves you” they hear
“Jesus thinks you’re doing all right” or “Jesus will never hold
you accountable, never demand change from you and doesn’t care what you
do.” What a task, to try and change that! It’s impossible, unless our God
is endless…