Wednesday 30 September 2009

I'm proud.

“I’m proud … Standing here on top of the hill … Master of all I survey … Watching you down there … struggling to reach the top … Yes, I’m proud of my achievements.”

It is inevitable that in life some of us will be more successful than others. Whoever you are, there will always be someone better and someone worse off than you.

Some will reach the top of their profession or vocation – be it business executive, politician, lawyer, doctor … or bishop, archbishop or cardinal.

There’s nothing wrong of course in being successful. God wants good Christians to reach positions of influence in this world; for it is only by having Christians there do we stand a chance of improving the lives of many.

But as we rise higher in our careers there’s something we need to remember. Who got us there?

We may be clever, intelligent, hard-working, diligent … or even just lucky to get to the top. But, really … was it all of our making?

Was it not God who gave us intelligence, good health, determination and the other good qualities to help us along the way? Or did we create our own intelligence and cleverness?

Sure, let’s be proud of our success and achievements. But our pride should be served with an equal, if not larger, portion of humility.

“When He had finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’ “. John 13:12-17.

Friday 25 September 2009

Hope Lost Hope Regained.

A few days ago I wrote about people who, faced with incurable disease, choose to end their lives.

I suppose it is fair to say that their actions are, to some extent at least, motivated by loss of hope. And that’s what I wish to address today.

Perhaps one of the most tragic and damaging thing that can befall man is the loss of hope. Whatever our situation may be, if we lose hope, if we cannot see the prospect of our situation changing for the better, we are in danger of shutting down completely and accepting the inevitable outcome.

We live in difficult times. Financial crises are affecting many people. Millions are losing their jobs, their homes and their livelihood.

Those aged fifty or more would find it very difficult to find a comparable job again, if indeed they can find any job at all. More tragically, the thousands of youngsters leaving colleges and universities with good qualifications, and little prospects of employment. They feel cheated. They did what they were advised to do. They stayed in education, they worked hard, they probably amassed large debts and loans to help sustain them whilst they studied – and now there are no jobs to go to.

There are of course other circumstances which can lead us to lose hope, besides illness, or lack of work and so on. Broken relationships with no prospect of reconciliation, addictions, failures etc … all can lead us to the temptation to just give up.

Where’s all this leading to? – I hear you ask.

I’d like you for a moment to consider some facts.

Whatever happens in life one thing is for certain: God is still in control. He is not hiding away behind the settee crying: “Woe woe … look at what is happening out there!”

He is in total control of the situation which He has allowed to happen, and which, in most circumstances, we have created for ourselves.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews knew what he was saying when he wrote: To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for … (Hebrews 11).

And the important thing, whatever our circumstances, is to hold on to that Faith and to believe, in all certainty, that God is in control. And to thank Him and praise Him for being in control. To re-affirm and acknowledge our belief that He is in control.

By doing so, somehow, we open a channel for God to turn our situation to the good. I’ve seen this happen several times.

Think of the alternative. By turning our back on God, by ignoring Him, blaming Him even for our situation – He will hardly feel inclined to help us. Will He? Of course, He’ll remain in control, waiting for us, with Fatherly patience, love and understanding, for the moment we return to Him like the prodigal son and be welcomed in His arms.

But what do you do if someone else has lost hope – even though you may not have yourself?

Preaching will not help. It may drive them further away.

Love, sympathy, compassion, whatever practical help you can offer may well help a little.

But most important is prayer. Silent prayer even. Without them knowing about it.

Let your Faith and your hope work for them. Even though they may have little or no Faith at all, your Faith is enough.

The best listened to and answered prayers are those we pray for other people. They show God our generosity of spirit, our love, our compassion, and most of all, our Faith in Him.

Don’t suggest solutions to God; like “Please help Him find a job”, but earnestly and in all Faith hand the situation over to Him. He knows what to do, in His time and in His own way.

Just say: “Thy will be done” and mean it.

And watch His miracles at work.

Friday 18 September 2009

Are you a slum?

Given a free choice, where would you rather live? In an immaculately beautiful, well-decorated, and fully appointed with every modern convenience, luxurious house in a well-sought after area of town.

Or in a decrepit, run-down, dirty, unkempt hovel, not worthy to shelter a cockroach?

Or would you prefer a house built on solid foundations and strong enough, but requiring a little care and attention and a bit of maintenance here and there?

When Jesus was raised to Heaven He sent us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to guide us throughout life. I mean this quite literally; not as a figure of speech.

What home does He find in us?

A pious, obedient, prayerful, loving, caring and welcoming soul?

Or a rebellious, self-assured, defiant, insolent and un-believing one?

Or are we perhaps, like most Christians, well-meaning believers, but what a realtor estate agent would describe as: “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) type of person?

The sort of person whose foundations are solid enough but whose structures often have to withstand the rigours of battering which life’s storms and thunders throws our way. And we don't fare well in such circumstances.

Is our soul welcoming enough for our Lord to dwell within us, albeit badly in need of a lick of paint here and there and a little attention which prayerful devotion would soon restore?

The Lord often knocks at our door. He may not find us all spick-and-span and immaculate but at least may He find us with good honest intentions. Ready to recognize our failings and willing to put them right for His sake and in thanksgiving for what He has done for us.

“Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” Revelation 3:20.

“How much more, then, will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Expensive ... I tell you!

You never win in this life do you?

The suggestion was that we go somewhere very expensive for our Anniversary – never mind the cost … somewhere really expensive.

So we went to the petrol (gas) station.

And that’s how the argument started!

Sunday 13 September 2009

Faith and Action.

What does it mean to be a Christian? To have Faith?

We proclaim we are Christians, we go to church on Sunday, other days even, we pray, and we fast perhaps. But is that enough?

When we get to meet God, will we say: “I helped in church every week. I cleaned the church and arranged the flowers. Please let me in Heaven.” or “I served on the church council for years, I was responsible for the readers’ rota and I read in church on Sundays many times. I typed and printed the weekly church newsletter. Please let me in.”

Is this what it means to be a Christian?

Or should we be a channel of His peace as St Francis of Assisi prayed. Or help the poor and destitute as Mother Theresa did.

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17.

Friday 11 September 2009

Moving mountains.

“It was because you haven’t enough Faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have Faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything." Matthew 17:20.

Sometimes, we tend to take the Bible too literally. We forget that when Jesus spoke to His listeners He used the idiom and phrases commonly used at the time.

In Britain there’s a saying “Keep your hair on”, which means calm down, don’t get so excited and worked up, relax a little.

It would be wrong if 2000 years from now that saying were interpreted to mean an adverse comment on male baldness.

When Jesus referred to moving a hill He did not mean it literally. Miracles are not magic tricks, and the Holy Spirit, for it is He who performs miracles, not the disciples, and certainly not us – the Holy Spirit would not perform a miracle for no purpose.

In this context, the disciples had failed to drive out a demon from a young child. They asked Jesus why they had failed.

Jesus taught them, and us, that a pre-requisite to performing miracles is to have Faith in Him, in God, and in the Holy Spirit.

And yes … miracles do happen in this day and age, today even.

The problem is that we are too un-willing to believe.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Insoluble solutions.

There are times in life when we are faced by seemingly insoluble problems. So we work hard at finding a solution. If the problem involves others we try to persuade them to our way of thinking, we disagree, we argue, and perhaps friendships are put at risk as a result.

Whilst we’re struggling to find a solution, we forget that God already has the answer. And the wise thing to do is to stop for a while, pray, and hand over the problem to Him.

As we let things rest for a while, God will suggest a reasonable solution to what irks us.

I know, this will sound strange, humourous even, to an un-believer. But the realities of life are that God knows about every inconceivable problem that we can imagine; and even those outwith our imagination. And if He knows about the problems, He also knows their solutions.

He wouldn’t be an omnipotent all-knowing God otherwise.

Our hesitation to hand over our problems to Him, is itself a problem of our own making – not His.

Friday 4 September 2009

Idle thoughts.

You’re going along fine with life and then a thought comes into your mind. You ignore it at first hoping it will go away. But it comes back. You get on with your life, your work and with what you were doing. The thought is still there. Niggling away at your mind. Distracting you to the point of irritation.

Sometimes I wish we could shake ourselves left and right just like a wet dog does and get rid of all our troubles and our unwanted thoughts.

But we can’t.

These thoughts come from nowhere and if we give them room in our minds they can slowly lead us astray from God.

We must learn to recognize them before they become hard to control. We need to be alert to their very first influences on our soul and readily turn them over to God.

For make no mistake about it; alone, we cannot overcome them.

Evil will introduce these thoughts when we least expect them or when we’re at our weakest. Tired maybe, or upset about something that’s just happened in our lives; whatever the occasion – as soon as we focus away from God, the devil will seize the opportunity to gain an advantage.

Turn your thoughts, whatever they are, to God always and seek His help.

The devil is a liar. John 8:44.

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'?” … He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." Mark 7:18-22.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Wish List.

You must have read or heard about the wish lists of things to do before you die.

Usually they are entitled 20 things to do before you die. The number may well vary but the intention is always the same.

The list sets out such things like undertaking a parachute jump, or swimming with dolphins – always a popular one this, I can’t understand why. Or seeing a blue whale, or bungee jumping, and similar adventures ranging from the normally acceptable to the outright dangerous.

I’ve never seen on the list of things to do before you die the wish:

To prepare to die.

What? What do you mean to prepare to die?

I mean:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Why Blog?

To Blog or not to Blog
That is the question.
Whether it is nobler in the mind
To keep one’s thoughts to oneself
Than reveal them to all
On screens large and small.
And by doing such
Suffer the slings and arrows
Of outrageous readers
Who’d rather Block you
Than read your feeble Tweeters.
Or to bravely face your qualms
And courageously Blog on
Regardless of your audience
Be it great or be it small;
Just Blog on into eternity
And have yourself a ball!