Stand up

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The Lord is able to make his people to stand. We cannot stand in our own strength – we have none. But God has the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and we can live in that strength and excercise it in our lives. Christ can make us stand and he can make us stand together. We do not naturally want to stand together as a body of his people and we carp and nitpick about our perceived differences.

We are different and we are meant to be – God does not make copies. Therefore we have to learn to bear with each other and be large hearted and loving and kind. God gives plenty of room for us to choose options in life and to think freely, so we should encourage each other in the gifts and abilities that God has given us, without illwill or favouritism.

It is very hard to stand in the company of this world. The workplace can be such a testing environment, and can cause us much pain, but God has put us there on purpose. It is God’s testing ground, to build Christian character and an arena of witness and testimony.

The church environment can also be a difficult place. Christians can be just as judgemental as anyone else and it can seem that we, as rescued failures, are the first to point fingers and blame each other. It should not be like this at all, as we are all guilty of a host of sins and have needed the most costly act of sacrifice to pay for what we have done.

Judging others hurts them and us. It makes us bitter and insular and small-minded. It separates us for other people and we loose the opportunity to be gracious and truly generous and to learn from them.

Perhaps the idea that our sins are not quite so bad as other peoples, comforts us. In our minds we construct a heirarchy of wrongdoing. Our faults and failings are not really as bad as other really big sinners, who have fallen into worse things than we have. We grade sins in order of our ideas of badness, and people who succumb to the bad ones are less deserving than better sorts of people.

All sins are wrong. All sins should be avoided and fought against, and our aim is personal holiness, as Christ lived his life on earth among us. Our desires should be to walk with God and serve him whole heartedly. Outward sins are seen, but perhaps the worst sins are those of the heart and mind, where no one sees -our bitter thoughts and selfish attitudes.

If we should harbour such states of mind, then the thougths will become words and deeds of spite and jealousy, fuelled by resentment.

These are the real rotteness within. We become white-washed graves which look clean, but inside all is rottenness and death.

It is easy to find ourselves going down this road, indeed, it is our natural condition. The end product leaves us with ugliness, mistrust, gossip and insincerity.

To change our hearts require the greatest miracle of all, and we require daily miracles of grace to sustain us and keep our hearts God-glorifying. God himself had to enter the world, walk among us in sorrow and grief, and allow himself to be killed to pay for our wrong ways and morally dead hearts. This is our state of being. It is not attractive, and unbelievers see it and stay away from church. They see what we are like, better than we ourselves.!

Let us not be fooled. We are rotters, through and through. This world can build us up and make us think we are something, but it is a dupe. We read our theology and think we are better than most.! It will stop us humbling ourselves before Christ and each other, and prevent us witnessing meaningfully to other people and ultimately keep us away from walking with our God and enjoying all he has for us.

To stand up requires backbone we don’t have, love we don’t have and stamina beyond this world’s reckoning. Anyone can have these qualities. We have to want them more than anything. Pray for them, ask for them, set our hearts towards Christ and follow him. It’s easy…. and yet so impossible…!

Jesus said to us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 9:23) This is the universal crunch. Do I want him, or not? How far will I go?

He wants everything and when you give it, you will receive more than you could ever imagine. This is how we stand up.

The path of power

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Psalm 34

This Psalm was penned by David, in response to his attempt to fool Abimelech that he was suffering mind illness. Abimelech realised David was fake and drove David out of his region.

David was familiar with mind illness because He himself was a sufferer. In this Psalm he rejoiced in the deliverance of the Lord from his foes. David sees that it is the intervening hand of God who rescues him in all circumstances. He identifies some states of mind – troubles, broken hearted, concern about personal safety, condemnation, need for refuge, oppression, disappointment, depression, paranoia, persecution, need for asylum – these all on the list. David understands the elements of illness and uses his knowledge to try to dupe Abimelech. David is not squeaky clean…

King Saul also became progressively ill in his mind. He rejected the Lord and the Lord rejected him. It is easy to associate the presence of mind illness as an indicator of the absence of the the Spirit of God. We tend to link the pain of mind illness to a lack of the Holy Spirit, in a way that we don’t link physical illness. There are always those who associate any illness with God’s rejection. The acute sufferings of Job teach a different lesson. God permits the righteous to suffer, as Jesus suffered, and is a mark of godliness and rejection of worldliness.

In the life of the Christian, suffering moulds us into the image of His Son, Jesus. Mind illness is particular. It is fearful and hurts us with little hope of relief, but it causes us to turn to God in a way like nothing else. David was known as a man after God’s own heart, and such internal and deep suffering would make him to have such a mind. The suffering Saviour also had such a mind.

Mind suffering strengthens a person in a way like nothing else, and shows us the heart of God like nothing else. God draws close to a sufferer of mind illness and teaches lessons that cannot be learned any other way. He reveals Himself to sufferers. Their inner eyes of faith and insight, see God and know God in a profound way. The mind has so many labyrinths that it is impossible to sort out without insight. The mind sufferer often has this gift of insight that teaches and strengthens the psyche.

Wisdom is insight and God offers us this rare gift, if we just ask. He will teach us wisdom’s way, but it will not be as we expect. His way is the fight with sin and self. His way is a life coping with suffering that we hadn’t bargained for. It is a life long close walk with God where we will learn from Him to trust and obey. We will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us: we will learn His voice and not the voice of another.

To walk with God involves saying goodbye to our heartfelt desires and wishes, and following the narrow way. Suffering is part of that and mind suffering the most difficult. Many don’t get through and spend life trying to just cope with life. Others find the key and the insight they are given, enables them to examine thoughts, and courage gives the ability to face fears and doubts. With the power of the Spirit and the truth of the Word, they become strong and bold for the sake of Christ.

Mind illness is greatly misunderstood, especially by groups that have a wrong view of the Christian life. We run from it because it is scary. We ignore it because we can’t face the stigma. We keep it quiet because it is regarded as shameful.

David was a sufferer. Christ also suffered for us in that way. Many great and prolific Christian writers, artists, missionaries all suffered this way. Maybe it is not so much a disgrace, as a glory. Maybe it is an indicator of deep spiritual abilities. Maybe we need to turn our mindset around and change our attitudes. Maybe the people at the bottom of the “regarded” pile are not what we think…

Calvin, Luther, Cowper, Newton, Crosby, Spurgeon and very many more suffered deeply in their minds and emotions. It seems anyone who stands up to work for God whole-heartedly, will probably struggle with mind illness. Christian sufferers are not pathetic weaklings but people who have huge fights with the mind, and who can have the power to do great things for God, even as they struggle and overcome. The Christian community needs to change its views and realise that these kinds of illnesses can be overcome, and sufferers have so much to contribute. The nature of the illness and the strength of the stigma, probably means they will suffer alone, but step out for Christ in their own way.

There is no limit to the power of God. There is no limit to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. To seek Him and His daily filling of our thoughts and therefore our words and deeds, is the path of power, for those who will claim it… It involves suffering, for those who act in courage.. 2 Chronicles 19:11 “Act with courage and may the Lord be with those who do well.” What ever God has put on you heart to do, you must do. “He will show you great and unsearchable things that you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3

Before time was

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In those bright and glorious realms of eternity, God fellowshipped with God.

Before the Earth, stars or countless Universes were formed by this God, a decision was made.

This holy, all-powerful being who is the One God, and the three persons together as the blessed trinity, made a plan together. This is a deep mystery…

There were no bargains struck. No political discussions. No arguments or debates regarding roles or responsibilities. There was no payment deals, or mercenary pacts agreed. There was only Love.

This love determined the rescue plan for a race of beings not yet made. Beings who would revolt against this Loving God and set up their own kingdoms instead of Him.

Love struck the plan- the Father would send the Son to pay the ransom that He Himself demanded for the payment of sins that would be committed. The Son would become one of them – human, and would live with these human people and show His love, only to be rejected and killed.

The Eternal Son in doing this would become the Saviour of those who would believe in Him and the Judge of those who would not.

The Holy Spirit would do a spiritual work in the hearts of men and women, so that they would believe in the Son – Jesus. The Spirit would convince people of their sinfulness and allow them to see the personal need for repentance and there forgiveness of God.

Those who would repent would become the Children of God, those who would not, would be forever judged and pay for their own sins. So, all three persons in this glorious trinity, would be fully involved in this amazing rescue mission. The other created beings would see this and marvel at the grace of God.

The humans that became His children were to be commissioned to spread the good news to everyone, so that everyone would have the chance to believe. This is the greatest act of love – to speak this unpopular message to rebellious people. For some it meant laying down their lives and for many it meant loosing everything, even as Jesus did.

God made the world. He made everything. The prophesies in His Word all came true. Jesus came and the plan was carried out. The Eternal Son died for you and rose again, victorious forever. He calls to you to come…

Which kind of person will you be?

Will you repent and be changed to be like Jesus…? or will you choose judgment and pay forever for your sin?

Many hear this plan and respond with anger. They quibble and carp with the Living God at His mercy… they harden their hearts and never come. Your response to this is vital… Which kind of person will you be?

Whatever you choose, Love will win… all hate will be forever shut up with itself, and Love will conquer all.

 

 

Wreck

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The aged wreck is permanently parked on the garage forecourt, not going anywhere and gradually accumulating filth. The deflated, disused tires that will never go on another journey – forever have lost every semblance of usefulness. Walking past the closed-down garage, it sits in exactly the same place. It gathers increasing inherit dust and the air in the punctured tires have seeped out – now empty.

There is something alluring that pulls the eye to the decrepit vehicle, with windows that don’t stay up, thick layers of road dust, like a blanket of time, stultifying the moments unreturning momentum. How long has it been there? Why is it still sitting there?

It’s hulk is parked in the shifting shadows of the night, but even there the obvious deterioration is not hidden amongst other such vehicles.

It sits there, disregarded and wasting. It’s purpose gone and not to be restored – a signpost of waste and the inevitable destination of the scrap merchants crushing machine, until it is finally destroyed.

Finishing the race

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“ I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Surely the Tour de France is the greatest race on earth, and the most taxing fight that a human body can withstand. It beggars belief that people can actually endure such laborious hardship over the space of three weeks. The daily races are over one hundred miles and cover the most grueling of conditions, through all weather, mishap and injury.

Just because you start does not mean that you will finish and the end point is a long, long way, over mountains, dangerously narrow roads, back-breaking switchback climbs and the tedium of the endless highway. Supporters will shout, jump out at you, pour water over you and get in the way. The psychological pressure is not for the faint hearted, and the determination to carry on and finish is the fuel that drives the racers forward.

The threat of accident and injury is never far away, as the human body is so exposed and unprotected to the surface of the road, and delicate bones are easily broken on the unforgiving asphalt. There is no way of predicting trouble and if one rider goes down, then so will many others, to the dismay of the fainthearted.

In horror we watched as a race support car veered into a cyclist, who went over the handlebars and onto the road. But the man on the bike next to him was not so fortunate, but was catapulted sideways, landing on a barbed-wire fence.

The razor-sharp edges, cut his flesh to ribbons and bled profusely. He untangled himself and got straight back on his bike and joined the race. No help, attention or self-pity. Later we saw the right buttock that had taken the punishment for the waltz with the fence, and there were furrows of open wounds, which needed thirty five stitches to keep the blood in and the germs out.

Something caused this rider to divert his mind and sense to over-ride the pain and gore. What was so important that he switched off the natural inclination to protect himself and to just keep going? He wanted to finish the race. The rider was in the race of his life, the toughest and most glorious race of all, and he was determined to cycle over the finish line, no matter what.

There is something so noble about this kind of attitude, and so much it can teach us about our own attitudes and stamina. What will deflect me? What will stop me giving in and giving up?

Everyone has difficulties and the troubles of life are all too familiar to us. Yet we all have to run the race set before us. What will motivate me to carry on, even when it is painful and disappointing? Do I have personal resources to overcome all I will meet?

The truth is, we don’t. Another rider in the Tour was involved in a crash, he broke his collar bone, and was forced to leave the race for the year. It wasn’t his fault, it tuned out that way. Some situations just cannot be revoked. He will have to wait until next year…

Whatever life thows at me, as these brave cyclists, I want to keep pedalling and focused on my purpose and end point to which I am heading. I want to follow the purpose and determination of the Apostle Paul, who did fight and finish, in the strenght of Christ, and his faith was proved true right to the end of his race.

“ I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

 

The world’s stew

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Chop the many layers of the onion of spite.
A generous squeeze of selfish garlic pureé
Dice three large carrots of mistrust, blame and guilt.
Also, a parsnip of self-righteous pride.
Cut 1 inch square dices of low quality desire of the flesh
And braise in non-virgin olive oil.
Dissolve an Oxo cube of the stock of greed
And combine with all other ingredients.
Roast slowly for many years, until tasty and falling apart.
Serve up to the whole human family, with potatoes
Grown in the dirt of life.
It will satisfy at first, but will need to be constantly served
For the appearance of life to be maintained.

Grandmother’s kitchen

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I want to stay in my Grandmother’s kitchen where it is warm and she looks after me. Heart lifting hymns play on the radio and the table is set for all I need. She even gets me cake, because she knows I like it. The seats are comfy and I have a strong sense of wellbeing when I sit there. It is a place of happiness and I have a settled sense of my own goodness…

God doesn’t want me in her kitchen. He wants me out on the road, trudging the pavements for the lost and in need. He requires me to leave my comfort zone and get out there in the cold, the danger and the uncomfortable places, to seek souls he loves and will draw to Himself.

We are not supposed to be happy and well fed, while others have nothing, especially safety for their souls. He will hold us accountable for their welfare and how earnestly we prayed and served them.

Many, many are not like us and have been brought up with different values and customs and attitudes and it is difficult to put ourselves in second place and let people speak and express themselves without condemnation and judgment from us. We get mixed up between what God requires and what we think is important from our small perspective.

To get over this we need the love of Christ and a clear view of what He is like, how He treats people and His overwhelming love, which brought him from the heavenly home to our wretched world. He ultimately humbled himself for my sake, and yours, so He requires no less from us. Why is it so hard to listen and accept and draw alongside to help someone else? Why should I have a comfortable and lovely life, when others who went before, gave all?

The answers you have to these questions will guide you as to what you need to change, so that you can be like The Master and make a difference for His glory and for the good of His Kingdom.

We need to pray for courage, and a stiff backbone that will stand up against the ravages of this world and be over-comers for Christ’s sake. We need our weapons to defend us against the opposition that will certainly come, and the truth of God in our hearts and minds to give us strength and motivation to carry on.

We will be required to think of ideas to reach out and connect with people outside our preferred circle of friends and how we can bring the outsiders inside, so that through the same faith as ourselves, they become a part of us.

 

Women who glorify God