St. Nicholas Church in Galway, Ireland, has both a long history and an active present. It’s the oldest church in Ireland, and it provides guidance in a very practical way. The church towers over the town, and its steeple is used by ships’ captains as a guide for navigating their way safely into Galway Bay. For centuries, this church has reliably pointed the way home for sailors.
The road was smooth and we were making good progress as we headed for Jay’s dad’s house in South Carolina. As we drove through the mountains in Tennessee, I began seeing detour signs. But Jay kept going, so I assumed that they didn’t apply to us. Shortly before we reached the North Carolina border, we came to a sign that said the highway ahead was closed due to a rock slide. We would have to turn around. Jay was surprised. “Why wasn’t there any warning?” he wanted to know. “There were lots of warnings,” I said. “Didn’t you see the signs?” “No,” he said, “why didn’t you mention them?” “I assumed that you saw them,” I answered. We now tell this story to entertain our friends.
In an evangelistic meeting in Ireland, the speaker was explaining what it means to abide in Christ and to trust Him completely in every trial. Concluding his message, he repeated several times, “It means that in every circumstance you can keep on saying, ‘For this I have Jesus.’ ”
When I first became a Christian and started attending church at age 19, I immediately fell in love with singing the great hymns of the faith. My heart overflowed with joy and thanksgiving as we sang of God’s love for us in Christ. Soon one of my favorite hymns (from the late 1600s) became “Fairest Lord Jesus!” I love the simplicity of the melody and the awesomeness of the One exalted in these words:
A clerk who helped me purchase a small digital voice recorder told me that he kept one just like it in his car when he worked in California. “When I began driving home after work I switched it on,” he said, “and I talked about everything that happened that day on the job, good and bad. When I pulled into my driveway, I hit the erase button.” Then he smiled. After telling everything to his voice recorder, he apparently had no need to go over the day’s problems with his wife or family.
In my early years as a pastor, I served in small churches where finances were often tight. Sometimes our family finances felt the weight of that pressure. On one occasion, we were down to the last of our food and payday was still several days away. While my wife and I fretted about how we would feed our kids in the next few days, our doorbell rang. When we opened the door, we discovered two bags of groceries. We had not told anyone of our plight, yet our provider God had led someone to meet that need.
During the season of Advent on the church calendar, Christians around the world light candles. The first candle symbolizes hope. The prophet Isaiah said that all nations will place their hope or trust in Christ, God’s Chosen One (Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 12:21).