Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Rich advice.

Don’t it sometimes irks you when someone asks you for advice and when you give them your opinions they just ignore it.

Why do they do this? Is it because your advice is wrong, or bad? Or could it be that it is good advice but it is inconvenient for them to follow it? It just does not fit in with their plans, and what they really wanted was your approval to what they had on their mind; not your advice really.

Jesus had a similar problem one day.

He was approached by a rich young man who asked Him “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

Jesus advised him to sell all he has and to give the money to the poor; and then to come and follow Jesus.

On hearing this the man went away very sad; he was not willing to follow the advice given.

Let’s pause here for a minute and reflect. What would you have done?

Let’s assume God spoke to you right now, in a dream, or a vision, and you were certain it was Him speaking. Just as certain as Abraham, Moses, Noah, Mary and Joseph were when God spoke to them. You know where I’m getting to …

And God asked you to sell everything and give it to the poor, and become a missionary or a volunteer helper somewhere far off your community.

Would you be able to do it? Would you leave your spouse and family behind and follow Jesus wherever He asks you to go? Would you sell off everything you have, give up your job, leaving your children with nothing; and moved on to a new life?

On reflection, perhaps we sympathise a little with the rich man. For we know not whether he had a family, friends and servants who relied on him – although we can assume he had.

Jesus then went on to say: “I repeat: it is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” Matthew 19:24.

So what is His message here?

Is Jesus condemning wealth? Is it wrong to work hard and amass a fortune? Of course not.

Jesus, knowing the rich man’s heart, is teaching us wealth with responsibility.

He is saying that those fortunate enough to have wealth have a duty to consider those around them who are less well off than themselves, and to help them as best they can.

Jesus makes this point most dramatically in the story about the rich man and Lazarus. It is worth reading in Luke 16:19.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Thy will be done.

The Lord’s Prayer contains the words: Thy will be done.

What do these words really mean to us? Do they mean: “May God’s will be done and I will accept it.”

Or do they mean: “Thy will be done as long as it is what I want?”

Why is it that we are sometimes hesitant when we say: “Thy will be done.”

Let’s be honest now, all of us, (including me); is it because deep down, in our heart of hearts, we harbor that little doubt that perhaps if His will were to be done it might not be that comfortable for us, it would interfere with our plans, our lifestyles, and with what we really want to do?

Oh ye of little Faith!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Who's boss?

A class of small children were asked what is the most important job in the world.

Someone answered “king”, because he rules the country; or “president” or “leader”.

Others said “pilots” because they make you fly; or “inventor” because they invent things. Several examples were put forward as enthusiasm for the exercise spread throughout the children: “Rich man, doctor, astronaut, cook … and so on and so forth”.

The teacher noted that young Peter was silent so she encouraged him to contribute by asking: “Peter, what do you think is the most important job in the world?”

Peter scratched his head for a moment or two tilting it sideways, then, as if a light bulb switched on in his brain, he blurted out: “Priest … because God is his boss!”

Enough said.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Giving up.

It happens to all of us I suppose at one time or another.

We try to achieve something, but the more we try the more we fail. We try again and again and we fail one more time. We’re so tired of trying to achieve our goal that we feel like giving up.

It is said that on His way to Calvary Jesus fell to the ground three times. It is not Biblical of course, but we can assume that He must have stumbled or fallen at least once.

He was exhausted. He had been beaten, mocked, spat upon and tortured. His disciples had run away in fear, one of whom even denied Him three times, He must have been totally exhausted carrying His Cross up that hill.

That's enough to make anybody give up.

Jesus could have stayed there on the ground and died on the spot. But He got up. Three times, He got up and continued His journey to a cruel and very painful death.

He did it for us. He did it because His Father asked Him to.

Let that be our inspiration to try once again when we feel like giving up.

Pain, hurt and forgiveness.

Many of us go through life carrying the pain and hurt caused to us in the past. This pain slows us down. It makes us stumble from time to time. It hinders our progress in our journey towards God.

It isn’t always easy to forgive. But that shouldn’t stop us trying. We can do so with God’s help.

We can ask Him to take away the pain caused to us. He can do that; after all He did take a lot of pain on our behalf when nailed to the Cross.

We can ask Him to heal the hurt. He can do that too; He did heal many people when He walked amongst us.

We can ask Him to teach us to forgive. He did forgive; just as He was dying.

As for forgetting; that isn’t so easy. The memories of our hurt will always be with us.

Jesus has not forgotten what we did to Him. He has the scars in His hands, feet and side to remind Him everyday.

And every time He looks at the scars, He forgives us once again.

So every time we remember our hurts, we too should forgive again and again.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Who's in charge?

We often strive to control our life’s events. We want to be in charge. We want to do it our way because we believe our way is best. We want to proudly say: “I did it my way.”

And in this pursuit of self-will we inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) put God aside. Momentarily, He does not feature in our plans.

When God is sidelined by us, as we sometimes do, He doesn’t stop loving us. Instead, we block an opportunity for Him to influence our efforts for our own and others’ good.

“Thy will be done …”

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Worry.

It happens to all of us I suppose.

You’re going through life quite happy with your lot, not a care in the world, perhaps even looking forward to something nice you had planned for yourself, or some event or other which would have cheered you up and then … suddenly … all change …

You see the news on TV and something depressing is announced in that robotic monotone voice which those newscasters are born with … or trained to perfection.

It could be something about the economy … or the rate of inflation … or something terrible that’s happened somewhere or other in the world … whatever it is – it’s bad news.

You could open a newspaper or switch on the radio … and it’s bad news.

You receive a letter or phone a friend … and it’s bad news.

Suddenly … your happiness and short-lived cheerfulness is wiped away and the worms of worry start burrowing in your brain.

Worry … worry … worry … what if this happened to me … what if I couldn’t cope any longer … what if … what if … what if … worry … worry … worry.

Jesus said to his disciples, “And so I tell you not to worry about the food you need to stay alive or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is much more important than food, and the body much more important than clothes. Look at the crows: they don’t sow seeds or gather the harvest; they don’t have store rooms or barns; God feeds them. You are worth so much more than birds! Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” Luke 12: 22-25

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Responsibility.

Responsibility teaches us to be responsible.

In the past, whenever I had a young trainee working for me I gave him responsibility for a particular task. He had set objectives and goals to meet, an agreed timescale and a budget if needed. He was responsible for that area of work and was answerable to me.

Whether he succeeded or failed I carried overall responsibility for the area of work I managed; but he was responsible for that task within it. And he learnt from that responsibility.

The same applies to marriage. Too many people these days view marriage as a fairy tale wedding with all the trimmings and hope to live happily ever after. But in marriage you have a responsibility for two. You think and plan for two. And if children come along you are responsible for more than two. You’re responsible for their well-being, education, up-bringing and so on.

As a driver you’re responsible for your safety and that of other road users.

Now then: here’s a difficult question.

As Christians, what are our responsibilities towards God? Towards other people? And towards ourselves?

Makes you think – doesn’t it?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

A distant God?

This is a story about a little girl about 18 months old. She was born a perfect normal child, but just before her first birthday she contracted a virus infection. This has left her brain damaged, sight and hearing impaired and she cannot eat normally. She has a tube fitted to help her eat.

Her Christian parents have not lost Faith in God. They say they have accepted what has happened and are now moving on. They love her dearly and will do all they can for her. They are an example to us all.

Of course, these parents are not alone in maintaining and even growing in Faith when faced with difficulties. There are many people who have endured terrible illnesses or great problems in life and yet they continue to believe that God is by their side. They do not turn their back on Him, or blame Him for what has happened to them.

When things go wrong in our lives it is natural for us to feel sorry for ourselves. To feel frightened of the future; angry even that this has happened to us.

God knows how we feel and how frightened we are. He forgives our human failings and our panics when we are hurting and concerned for our uncertain future.

He may appear distant to us as our emotions are in turmoil. But as we calm down and learn to trust Him we will, once again, feel His comforting love for us.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Fire drill in hell.

I was at a large supermarket today – suddenly the fire alarm rang. The customers left their trolleys laden with goods just where they were standing and walked outside the building, followed by the supermarket’s staff. The customers were led to one corner of the car park whilst the staff gathered at another corner and a roll call was taken. We waited for about half an hour until the all clear was given. The staff entered the building first in single file; I counted about 200 or so.

At that point a thought occurred to me; I don’t know why – perhaps it was prompted by the staff’s red uniforms. I thought: do they have fire alarm drills in hell? Do the devils gather at one corner outside hell whilst the inmates gather somewhere else? Can the inmates seize an opportunity to escape?

On second thoughts: hell and the devil are no laughing matter. They exist all right and we should be on our guard when the devil tries to lead us astray.

“ … and lead us not into temptation, ”

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Allotments.

Yesterday I had reason to visit an allotment.

What is that? I hear some of you ask.

It’s a system peculiar to Great Britain whereby the Local Government Authorities (Local Councils) rent a small piece of land to anyone on which to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

The piece of land is called an “allotment” and these are usually situated in the middle of towns and cities all over the UK. The land has been earmarked for such use and (hopefully) will never be built upon.

The practice, I understand, started in the Second World War when food was scarce and to encourage people to “dig for Britain” and grow their own food.

Anyway … at this allotment I met an old man whom I’ve never met before. I don’t know why, but usually complete strangers feel at ease to talk to me and tell me their life stories. So I listened.

He said he’d had that allotment for about ten years or so. His piece of land was about 20 metres by 10 metres or so. On it he had gooseberries, black currants, red currants, rhubarb, a small vine, a fig tree, spinach, cabbage, parsnips, runner beans, marrows, courgettes, and a variety of herbs and other vegetables too numerous to remember.

He complained that since he injured his hand in an accident cutting the tendons he found it difficult to grip and uproot the weeds in his allotment. But his children and grand-children helped him toil the land.

In conversation he let slip that he was 82 years old.

I silently prayed for him and wished I was as fit as him if I ever were to be his age.

He then added: Never, ever give up. No matter how hard it is, how difficult it is, or how tired you are: don’t give up. If you do give up, the weeds will soon take over your allotment and all your hard work will go to waste. And you have to start all over again.

I left him with those words ringing in my ears. A complete stranger with a message which can be adapted to our Christian walk.

Never, ever give up. Or the weeds (sin) will soon take over your life and all your hard work will go to waste.

Last night I said a prayer for that old gentleman with a salutary message.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Are you following me?

Are you following me?

The beauty of the English language is that you can get different meanings from the same words.

The phrase above can quite literally mean: Are you walking a few steps behind me everywhere I go?

Or it could mean: Do you understand what I am saying? Are you following the meaning of my discussion?

Or in Blog terms it could mean: Do you follow a Blog? Are you pinged every time there’s a new post?

Hey – I’ve just learnt something new. Apparently “pinging” is when the computer tells a reader that someone has added a new post to their Blog.

So the four followers you can see on the right of this Blog get pinged every time I write here. (Sounds painful). So thanks to all four of you for undergoing such pain every time I write!

Thanks also to other readers whether you visit once or regularly.

Back to the essence of today’s Blog.

What would it mean to you if I changed the opening sentence to: Are you following Jesus?

Are you (and I) physically daily in our lives following Jesus in everything that He said and has asked of us? Are we “In step with the Lord” as Wendy McCallum has so aptly named her Blog? (Good Blog by the way – check it out by clicking on the right of this Blog).

Do we follow Jesus in that we understand what He is, what He said, and what He came on earth to do?

Two thousand years after He walked this earth there is still confusion and controversy about Jesus, who He is, and what He meant when He said what He said, and did what He did.

Do we really follow His meaning? Do we understand Him? Do we get pinged every time He speaks now, today, in this very day and age? For, make no mistakes about it, He does speak to us today – but perhaps not many are listening.

So there you have it: What does “Are you following Jesus?” really mean to you (and me)?

Now there’s a thought!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Blessings.

Overheard on a bus: “ … you must count your blessings!”

I thought about that for a moment or two and then I started counting silently. Pretty soon I ran out of fingers to count on, and had to start again.

It’s quite a salutary lesson you know. Counting how blessed we are.

Try it sometime. I’ll start you right now: As a first, you have a computer on which to read this Blog. Many haven’t.

Now it’s over to you. Right down the number you counted below this Blog.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Perception.

Some years ago I put up a notice in my office at work saying: PERCEPTION IS TRUTH.

A number of my staff asked me what it meant.

I explained that no matter how clever you are, how hard-working, conscientious, diligent and self-motivated. If others get the impression that you’re not really that good then, in their mind at least, that image of you is correct.

You’ll have to work really hard to convince others that you’re not really as they perceive you.

The same applies to us Christians. We may think whatever we may think about ourselves – but what image of Christianity are we portraying to others?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

What's on TV?

I was sitting in my favourite armchair busily doing nothing.

I was asked: What’s on TV this morning?

My sense of humour replied: Dust!

Well … that’s one way of ensuring the silent treatment I suppose. And having to make one’s own breakfast too!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Live Christian.

Don’t try to talk sense to a fool; he can’t appreciate it. Proverbs 23:9

As Christians how much time do we spend in vain trying to convince un-believers about the existence of God? Let everyone see you’re a Christian by the way you live.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

God's wavelength.

I was playing around with an old radio the other day trying to make it work. I’m not particularly good at electronic or electric stuff but that has never stopped me.

I plugged the thing in and a small light shone at the front … ah … it’s alive after all.

Turned the volume knob to the right until it stopped … nothing.

Pulled out the telescopic aerial from the back and waved it in the air left and right, and in no particular direction. Still nothing happened.

And now the difficult technical bit … I turned the other knob slowly; you know the one … it moves a vertical bit of plastic left and right across the small screen.

Success at last … now I could hear crackle and high pitched whistling every now and then as the plastic bit traveled slowly to the right. You can’t quite dance to it but the crackle and whistling were there all right … very clear too.

Every so often you could hear some faint music or someone talking, sometimes in a foreign language, interspersed with crackle and different music or speech.

Then I noticed something else. Every so often the same bit of speech repeated itself as the plastic bit moved on and picked different stations. Sometimes it was very faint and crackly, sometimes a little clearer and once or twice … surprise, as loud and as clear as a bell.

A bit like God’s voice I suppose.

He is there speaking to us. But sometimes the message is overpowered and stifled by the other noises and temptations that the world throws our way. Sometimes the crackle and hiss of doubts, fears and confusion are louder than the message itself. At times you must really sharpen your ears to even hear what’s being said.

Yet … every now and then … you can hear Him clearly and you can understand His every Word and His message delivered sharply as if meant for you, and you alone.

All you have to do is be tuned to the right wavelength.