Wednesday 24 May 2017

Doubting God's Love

Father Ignatius sat in his favourite armchair next to the roaring log fireplace holding a cup of hot chocolate drink and enjoying a football game on TV.

Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large room in the Parish House and said that there is someone outside wanting to see the priest urgently.

"Let him in ... let him in!" said Father Ignatius as he switched off the TV, "don't keep him out in the freezing cold."

Moments later, Jason, a young parishioner came in and sat on the couch opposite the priest. He was obviously very distraught and within seconds he poured out his heart to the kind old priest who sat there listening quietly. It wasn't a major problem or difficulty as such, but in the eyes of a young man, his personal crisis at the time seemed insurmountable.

"To be honest, Father," ended Jason, "I doubt very much that God loves me. Don't misunderstand me. I believe in God all right; I just think He is not as loving or caring as we are led to believe! Otherwise I would not be in this situation."

Father Ignatius waited for a second or two until Jason had calmed down and then asked him, "Does your father love you?"

"Of course," replied the young man.

"How do you know?" asked the priest.

"Well ... I just know. It is obvious that he does!" Jason said somewhat irritated.

"That's good," continued Father Ignatius gently, "you know your father loves you because of what he does, and because of his loving behaviour towards you?"

Jason nodded silently.

"And right now," the priest went on, "you do not have that same feeling towards God. You do not see any evidence of His love for you. You feel He has let you down. Abandoned you. Jesus felt like that on the Cross, you know."

Jason nodded again.

"We often feel that the love of God is far away from us," said the priest, "we do not feel as protected and sheltered from evil things as we would like. Let's try a little experiment. Let's see things from God's perspective, not that this is possible. He is God and we are not. So we can't possibly see things from His perspective. But let's try ...

"Imagine for a moment that you are God. There's a building site somewhere with bad safety procedures. A major accident happens and many are dead and injured. People blame God, you, for allowing it to happen. How do you feel?"

"Well ..." hesitated Jason, "you said it had a bad safety system, so I think it's not God's fault really ..."

"Exactly," Father Ignatius continued calmly, "we tend to blame God for allowing bad things to happen but we don't see our contribution to those happenings. But that aside, let's look at what choice God has. He could do nothing and allow bad things to happen sometimes. Or He could do something about it. He could somehow get the building site managers to see the error of their ways, and if they don't react positively, He could somehow let their bosses know ... you understand what I mean?"

Jason nodded.

"But if God were to do that," said the priest, "then He would be a kind of Superman like in the movies, flying from one place to another putting things to right and stopping wrong from happening. Hardly free will for us, is it? We would all be like little robots reacting to His every decision and action.

"But God loves us ... even if we don't feel it sometimes, like you right now for example. He sometimes pulls back and allows bad things to happen. It doesn't mean that He doesn't love us. Of course He does, and He hurts with us when bad things like disasters happen. But there is a very fine line between interfering and stopping bad things from happening, and being there alongside us to comfort us, to help us and to love us when they do.

"God loves you, Jason. He knows you are suffering right now and He wants you to trust Him. You can't understand why He allows some things to happen, but then, He never asked us to understand Him, but to trust Him and love Him in return."

Jason wiped the corner of his eye with his sleeve.

"Let us say a prayer together," continued Father Ignatius, "in the sure knowledge that God's love will find a way to comfort you and help you in your situation."


Tuesday 16 May 2017

Prayers and Actions

There are times
when God
requires some action
from us.

"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. 

Sunday 14 May 2017

I am God personified

John 14:6-14
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

This is perhaps a little bit confusing at first, and we probably read the passage and move on to something else. The message we get, at first sight, is that Jesus says He is at one with the Father; God.

But let's analyse what He says a bit more.

Here Jesus is saying something that the disciples do not understand. They think He is saying that He is the Son of God, He is at one with God. But what He is in fact saying is "I am God. I am God, personified. I am God in the shape of a human."

Jesus often taught people to refer to God as the Father. And He often said that He is the Son of God. This must have scandalised the Jews and their elders who crucified Him for the blasphemy of saying He is the Son of God.

Can you imagine their reaction had He said outright, "I am God!"

This is the closest He comes to saying just that. And His disciples still did not understand.

"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," meaning "I am God personified."

He goes on to say, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me," again, explaining that they are one, He is God in human form.

He repeats this message and explains that the works He has done (miracles) are done through God Who lives in Him.

From olden times, as far back as Abraham, Moses and the prophets, the Jews believed in God. One God. One living God.

Other people had many deities like the Romans and the Greeks for instance.

The Jews had one living God. The God of Abraham and Moses Who spoke through the prophets.

Then Jesus came on the scene. He said He was the Son of God; and in time, many Jews accepted this. In their minds there was a living God in Heaven, and this Jesus, His only Son. Albeit, right now in this passage, He is telling them He is God, (i.e. part of the Trinity), but they don't see it or understand it.

After His death and resurrection the early Christians came to associate God and Jesus together. In their minds, and central to their faith, there was a living God, and this man Jesus who died and was raised from the dead was (is) His only Son.

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, as promised, He sent down His Holy Spirit, (the Spirit of God), to dwell within the disciples and to open their eyes and minds and to understand.

To understand that the three, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are indeed one.

God - an invisible living Being, Creator of all and everything, somewhere in Heaven.

Jesus - God personified. Appearing on earth as a human being. The only Son of God.

The Holy Spirit - The Spirit (soul) of God. Descending upon the disciples, and upon us if we ask Him, to enlighten us, to help us, and to guide us back home to the Father, God.

Thursday 11 May 2017

What's the point of it all - really?

Something that has no point is pointless - like a pencil!

Many of us have, or had, different jobs in life. Some people are doctors, some lawyers, carpenters, plumbers and so on. We go to work to earn a living, do our best, and more often than not see tangible results from the work that we do. There's a point to what we do.

The doctor sees the results of his treatment in his patients who may (or may not) recover. Whatever the result, he sees it in time, and can alter the treatment if required.

The same goes for the lawyer preparing for a court case, or a carpenter making a table or some other piece of furniture.

Most people can see the results of their hard-work; even if they have to wait a while, like the farmer planting seeds and hoping for a good harvest.

But how about the priest, vicar, minister or other religious preacher? Do they always see tangible results in their work? Does what they say, and do, really change lives, and keep them changed until the day these souls meet their Maker?

I suspect that when such a priest gets to meet God face to face, he may well be asked: "And how many of the people I put in your direction have made it to Heaven?" I wonder what they would answer then?

How many people do priests really lead to Heaven?

This is a great responsibility for priests and such like religious people. Are they really changing lives by their own example? Or are they just self-bemused shepherds just herding wild cats in all directions? What evidence is there that their works have led one more person towards Heaven?

How about you and me?

Then there are the Christian Bloggers like you and I. Yes ... you.

We write our Christian Blogs week in week out; but do we see any tangible results from what we write? Is anyone really taking any notice of our pearls of wisdom? Or are we writing just to satisfy our own egos, and to say to God, "There you are. I've done my bit writing about Christianity, now let me into Heaven!"

What is the point of writing a Christian Blog?

Few amongst us, if we are truly honest, don't check the statistics to see who has read us; or delight at every comment we get. There's a bit of pride and self-satisfaction in all of us.

As for those comments we get on our Blogs. Are they just pleasant platitudes and pats on the back from like-minded Christians? Or do they actually influence anyone anywhere reading them? Where is the tangible evidence that one individual has been somehow touched by what we write to make him search more and discover, for the first time perhaps, the love of God?

Are we preaching to the already converted?

If all we are doing is writing Christian posts for other Christians who either don't bother to comment or just say something nice to be polite; then what's so clever about that? What good have we done? We might as well stop Blogging and spend our time in prayer instead. At least then we are doing something more productive.

Time for Reflections.

OK ... let's all stop now and take a deep breath. I hope that what I have said above has not discouraged you from continuing with your Christian Blogs. If it has in any way irritated you, or angered you even, then at least this is a reaction which could be turned to the good.

Let's consider your Blog posts, day in day out, or week in week out, depending on how often you post.

Remember the parable of the sower where Jesus teaches that some seeds ended on the footpath, and others on rocky ground, and others among thorns and only a few on good ground?

In this parable the seeds are the Word of God spread amongst many who would not listen.

Let's consider who is the sower? Is it God teaching us? Or Jesus preaching throughout the Holy Land? Or the prophets and Disciples?

The sower is of course all of these. But he is us too. Yes ... you and me. Writing our own Blogs.

We have a duty and a responsibility to evangelise and spread the Word of God to everyone, far and wide. Not just to Christians.

If the Word of God was meant for just Christians we would dig a long furrow and make sure that the seeds are planted one by one carefully in the furrow and none are wasted. But Jesus does not say that. He spread the seeds far and wide and if people do not want to listen that is their problem. Not yours.

And that's where social media and our Blogs come in. They are the open fields where we spread our seeds far and wide in the hope that someone somewhere might listen to the Word of God.

That's why it is important to check our statistics and see which posts got more hits, and what subjects attract attention from readers old and new.

Encourage one another.

That's why it is also important to comment on other peoples' Blogs, especially if we are already Christians and agree with what is being said, (or disagree even). Our comments serve as encouragement for people to keep on posting, and even if we disagree with something they serve as a discussion and a learning opportunity from one another.

The worst thing is to visit a Christian Blog and say nothing.

The early Christians, after Christ's Resurrection, may have disagreed with each other perhaps, but at least they discussed their opinions and encouraged each other to go on with the task of building the Church of Christ.

And so should we when we visit other Christian blogs. We should comment not only on other peoples' blogs but also respond when others comment on our Blogs. And if possible, also visit those who commented on our Blogs and return the courtesy.

Today, we are no different to those early Christians. Social media is the wilderness longing for the Good News; and our Blogs are the fields where we plant the seeds which will grow and bear fruit.

Let your Blog be the one Jesus would want to read.