Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
I was looking through some old photographs of life years ago on our farm recently. How things have changed!
Not long ago, on a break with good friends on their busy dairy farm, at my friend’s warm invitation I joined him to milk one morning. It was years since I’d last done this, but the presence of the cows was reassuring and the sights, the sounds – even the smells - were all very familiar. Nothing had changed in that regard and they could still kick and make unexpected discharges!
Having milked so often in earlier years in our own byre, then ‘pipeline’ and later milking parlour, I was still not prepared for all the changes - like clusters that ‘self-remove’ and computerised systems. All the new ways of doing things made me feel that somehow time had passed me by.
There have been changes to farming life that even our forbearers couldn’t have imagined. Thinking of change, we sometimes long for it, like a change of climate, or a change of tractor. But we often lament changes in the form of new directives from officialdom and loathe others, especially change in prices of the lower variety!
When it comes to God, He says: “I the LORD do not change,” (Malachi 3:6). In a world of so much change, this is surely the most wonderful truth we can ever hear! God does not change. When God declares His love for us He will not, like us humans, have a different opinion tomorrow.
When He makes promises in His Word, He stands unchangingly by those promises. As a cancer sufferer, I know that in times of difficulty, through illness, or even in the loss of our loved ones, God’s un-changeableness is a massive source of comfort to those who know and trust in Him.
However, while this truth about God can be truly comforting, it has an uncomfortable side, as it means that His character, and all that God says in His Word, doesn’t change either. He still means He is absolutely holy and perfect. He still means that sin is sin. God does not have a rule for one and another for another. All this brings us to the inescapable realisation of the need for change in our lives.
We all know the often quoted line, ‘Can the leopard change his spots?’ But perhaps fail to realise that it comes from the Bible and Jeremiah 13: 23a, ‘Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.’
The change required is not a superficial thing, but a total change. Not just a sense of feeling sorry, but ‘repentance’, literally meaning to ‘change our mind’. The wonderful truth is that such a change is possible, by God’s grace and power. All who trust in Jesus can know this change and He keeps on changing us every day of our lives - for good.
After my brief ‘refresher course’, I won’t be so afraid of an invitation to help with the milking next time. However, if I leave it too long again, maybe all cows will be milked by robots; so I won’t be needed anyway!
Ian was brought up on a dairy farm near Limavady. He was a minister in Ballyroney and Drumlee congregations in South Down, and latterly Moneydig Presbyterian in County Londonderry. Due to a serious cancer diagnosis, Ian has had to retire from active ministry and now provides counselling and support to others with cancer.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the subjects raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.