Tony's Reflections from St Paul's 

 
Hello again
 
I thought it might be good for us to share any spiritual insights we have been getting with each other, alongside the more practical stuff, using these group emails. So can I set the ball rolling by sharing something that has been precious to me of late?
 
My wife is a terrific shopper. The last time I tried a bit of creative shopping on my own, to get a surprise for Jean, I bought her this thinking it was the best selling book “When Time Stopped”. Turned out when her “surprise” arrived in the post, it was just a blank notebook!
 
Jean would never get taken in like that. As a savvy shopper, when I am taken in by how glitzy something looks she will look for how long the guarantee is.
 
We all like getting a good guarantee, when we make a big purchase. A guarantee keeps you safe when things break down. A guarantee protects you from uncertainty.
 
We are certainly in a time of breakdown and uncertainty, at the moment. All the experts seem to be telling us things will get worse, before they get better. Wouldn’t it be good if we had some guarantees that we would be safe? As I have been thinking about what guarantees God gives us, I have been drawn to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:8f on the attached).
 
When they are about to be thrown into the furnace, they say this to the king:
"King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand.
But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (v. 16-18)
 
What guarantees from God can you see in that? On one level, there are no guarantees at all. They cannot say with certainty God is going to deliver them from the fire. I don’t think we can say with certainty God is going to keep all of us and all of the people we love safe from the virus. The three men know that God can keep them safe from the fire, but they are not certain that he will. We know that God can keep us and our loved ones virus free, but I expect we don’t know that, for sure.
 
It would be easy for you to delete this email now and say, “What sort of encouragement was that?” But wait, before you press the delete button… These men are showing an absolutely amazing trust in God. They are saying that regardless of what happens, even if they are burnt to death in the fire,  the safest and best place for them is  in trusting their themselves Into God’s hands. That is the precious guarantee that we see in this passage – that the safest and the best place to be is in the hand of our God.  As these three men saw, that is true, regardless of what happens to any of us with the virus.
 
Can I invite you to trust yourself and those you love into the hand of your God, right now, as you are reading this? We do not know what is going to happen in the future, but we do know that the safest place for all of us is in the hand of our God.
 
As you read on, of course, we see there is a happy ending and the men are rescued in the most spectacular way from the fire. They did not have faith that told them God was definitely going to do that. They did, have faith, that God’s hand was the best place to be – and look how God honoured that faith. He protected and rescued them marvellously.
 
My hope and prayer for all of us is that we will be kept safe, protected and rescued marvellously, but my guarantee to you is this… Trusting yourself into the hand of God, being in his grip, is the safest and best place to be…
 
With love

signed Tony