The number of life

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“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NIV

We tend to live our lives as if we were to live here forever. We are so entwined with the issues of this life, that we barely ever think of the world to come. We are blinkered by this worlds systems. Education is prime in this regard. The people in charge know the power of teaching and experiences in our lives, especially as we grow up. It’s about getting people into a mindset that will make them contributors to this system. 

As Christians we are not like that. God teaches us His mind and draws us to think as He thinks. We are to think about the shortness of our lives and the unending ages of eternity. We are to live in the light of that eternity. 

Life for the Christian has days given over to the service of God. We count our days in such a way that we are continually giving our time over to God. We don’t know how long our time will be, but whatever it is, it is to glorify Christ and show the power of the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit within gives wisdom to anyone who asks for it. The walk of the Christian through this life is a walk in the paths of wisdom. Wisdom grows and our hearts become full of it, and we gain understanding. We become more like Christ. We are taught this way. It is not natural to any of us. No one seeks a heart of wisdom except God enlightens the inner eye to value it and desire it. We expend our love in the service of Christ as we discern the days of our human life as fleeting and very limited. 

Whatever days we have, let them be spent for God and telling the good news to those who don’t believe. Then we shall be truly wise.

The kettle

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In the church kitchen stands a small, electric kettle on the counter top. It is a 1970’s design, low level, limited capacity, with a pop off switch connected to a thermostat, so that it can be switched on to boil and it will automatically turn itself off.

The lead connects it to the mains switch directly above the kettle, on the kitchen wall.

It has been there for many years, as can be seen from the design and it is mainly used for incidental cups of tea.

In recent months, time has caught up with the engineering, as it has with the design. The switch will not stay in when pushed to the on position, and pops out immediately. This means that it has to be held in or it won’t work.

It was suggested that we could get a new kettle, but comments were made along the lines, that this is the kettle we have always had and is a historical heirloom. It seems that to stand and hold the switch, which doesn’t work, and watch the kettle boiling, is the price paid for holding on to the precious gadget.

Perhaps this is an allegory for our present situation in our churches. Many things are not working, or not happening at all, despite efforts to convince each other that they are. We are plodding along, just holding down our out-of-date and decrepit ideas, in the hope that the past will see us through.

If we continue to gain comfort from a historical perspective that has little relevance to our present circumstances, the history will catch up with us and we will be history.

Today, three strips of cellotape were put across the switch, so that it was held in without a person having to hold it. The kettle boiled beautifully, as the tea was made and the device turned off at the wall. However, this is a highly dangerous strategy, and not really feasible in the long term. Cellotape doesn’t last and the safety mechanism has been ignored, so the device will eventually over load. Someone has to bring in a new kettle, that works properly and will do the job it was meant to do.

Are we ready for some different ideas, alternative ways of looking at situations and trying innovative ideas, no matter how small or mind bogglingly large?

It remains to be seen how the introduction of a new appliance will be accepted….

 

A mind less

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It’s the disability thing.. if you are disabled, you cannot join the intellectual discussions or the theological debate in society. Especially so, if you have a mind illness of some sort. You are definitely not suitable to debate issues or pass comment on spiritual questions. 

Disability is a label. It is a means of quickly judging someone and allocating them to their suitable status. The judgment is carried out by just about everyone. A person might be medically assessed and professional people are given the right to decide certain things about the disabled person. But also in life, people who meet or do activities with the disabled person, also make their own judgments- as do we all about each other.  

No one knows what a person thinks. You might judge behaviour over a period of time and get to know habits and thought patterns that are acted out in life. But there is so much about a person we do not know. Neither do we have the ability to search the heart. Knowing our own intentions is difficult enough, but ascertaining the will of another person is impossible. 

Human beings have the facility of language, Our language ability is a means of communicating and finding out about each other. God gave this facility so there would be some means of having meaningful relationships with each other. It is good to talk, but there is also the possibility of misunderstanding or communicating untruth. God knows what all our motivations and intention are and He is the judge of these things. We do not have this ability, but if we seek Him and seek wisdom, we do get some ability to judge why people do things. It is very complicated and we are easily wrong. We should practice extreme caution in passing judgment. 

Physical inability to do certain things, often brings extra ability to do other things. A blind person can develop amazing powers of memory, or other senses. Watching the athletes in the alternative Olympics, is truly amazing. Human ingenuity can solve huge problems by finding solutions that take the breath away. 

Disability in the mind area, is very sensitive to deal with. People who suffer in this way are discriminated against and face the huge stigma attached to their particular suffering. This disability is often hidden, as it is very painful to face the prejudices of other people. This disability carries much sorrow and exclusion and separation from social situations. The prejudice of so-called “sane” people or “rational” people, causes all sorts of problems and hurts. 

However, minds that get ill are also able to think differently and creatively about life and can solve seemingly unsolvable problems. To regard a mind sufferer as “less” or “sick” is a big mistake. To have a flexible and creative mind, is what helps the sufferer to bear these ills. Creativity is an amazing gift and educational thought places this ability at the top of the skills hierarchies. Everyone has it in some way, but those who suffer mind illness, often have a greater ability for all kinds of creative thoughts and ideas. The disability can work out to be a “gift.” This is a surprising truth. 

To label a person as “disabled” is a tricky business. The process tends to elevate the person judging and put down the person with the judged difficulty. We set up hierarchical structures very quickly and take judgment upon our shoulders readily. People enjoy power over others and find personal satisfaction in “managing” other people. It is easy to give out labels to people, and easy to aquire one too. The idea of focusing on who people are, is not the attitude of the capitalistic culture which we live in. Where money is king, people become pawns in the process of making it. If a person is unable to give most of their effort to the production process, they have little value- some have none.

We do not judge people as God sees them, nor do we value godliness and charity in our culture either. Even in the realm of spiritual work, we look for people who can contribute money or an ability we think is good. Older Christians or the sick or “disabled” are not much use. We betray our worldly attitudes and our own thought processes that are ungodly, yet “rational.” The people who knew God most personally and deeply in Scripture, did not think and behave like the acceptable norm of their cultural group. They were often castaways. Jesus was labelled as “out of His mind” by His own sisters and brothers. The Apostle Paul talked about being “out of his mind” for Christ. Clearly God does not regard this disability as a feature that keeps His people away from Him. As in so many things, God does not see eye-to-eye with us. Many are glad about that.! 

When will it be that those who have insight into mind illness and can fight that fight on both sides of the coin, be valued.? Probably never. It would be too intimidating for those who live on one level. The media keeps sufferers down and portrays them as anti-social misfits. Some do fit that description, but so many more are denied the ability to add to the richness of life of ordinary folk… the greatest Artists, Musicians, Actors, Mathematicians, Scientists, in fact any area of human endeavour, have people who thought and felt differently and pushed the boundaries of ideas. It is these people who make the difference. It is they who display mind illness. 

In the Scripture, it is those who rejected the usual and accepted culture, belief and behaviours, and struck out to follow God, who made the difference. Were they out of their minds? Certainly. They regarded friendship with God to be better than all the riches that were offered to them. 

“[Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.”.   Hebrews 11:26-27 NIV

Moses saw God. Try discussing that with your Psychiatrist..!

They made choices against the grain of the culture they lived in. 

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”    Hebrews 11:16 NIV

They looked for a place “unseen” yet could “see” it with the minds eye of faith…

Again, to many this sounds like Psychiatric hospital time…!! 

They were willing to forgo all the comfort that life offered to them, so that they could have a more glorious resurrection. Fairy tales, as so many say, but spiritual realities to those who see with the insight God gives.

It makes me wonder about the term “disability.” The greatest disability we all possess and struggle with, is our sinful selves. That is the one thing that will certainly keep us out of heaven and unending joy. Yet we choose it above these glories. We are not stupid, but we are foolish beyond belief, and choose the way of destruction rather than give up that one thing that guarantees our place in despair. The disability of folly is the greatest drawback and needs to be called out. 

Our only problem is that we don’t recognise our folly, and we even celebrate it.!

Our human failings may cause sympathy but sin must be starved out and out to death. O that we could revoke our folly so that we can have minds filled with Christ. 

Sinking

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“Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30

This is surely the most fundamental and heartfelt prayer to pray. Three words of heartfelt pleading. An application to the Lord over all for rescue. An indication that He alone can help in this situation. It’s the prayer of a supplicant. One who admits their failure and deep need. If the Lord does not intervene, there is only destruction and death. It is a personal prayer of a wounded soul that needs healing and life.

The tone is one of sorrow and distress. Death looms near and there is no way out if the prayer is not answered. The person praying this is in dire straights and cannot help themselves at all. This soul recognises that the Lord they are calling out to is their only hope. They recognise who this Lord is and that He alone is able to save them. 

God says, “You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

This is a certainty. If we are really searching with all our intent and earnestness for God, then He will be found by us. If we really want God, we will find Him. When we call out this prayer.. “Lord, save me” then we will be surely rescued. 

If you are not a Christian, this is the prayer you need to pray. But to get to this place, you need to recognise your position and the danger of sin in your life. You must recognise what your need is and that only Christ can save you from it and it’s punishment. We only call out when we see what is all around us.

If you are a Christian praying this prayer, then your faith will prevail as you place it in Christ your Saviour. We can find ourselves in situations where we realise only God can help us. This is a good place to be, because He is able and your faith will grow as you exercise it in the power of God. This is how the Christian lives. This is our constant reality. Faith is our state of mind and heart. Difficulties are sent to us to strengthen faith and teach us to fight in the power of the Spirit with the Word of God.

Those who never pray this prayer continue on in a godless life and no protection from the sleepy complacency of the enemy. Let us run to Christ our Saviour. Let us call out to Him in all our need…

“Lord, save me..!”  And He will…

Passed

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“The harvest is past, the summer has ended and we are not saved”  Jeremiah 8:20 WEB

This is one of those chilling verses in Scripture. The time for coming to Christ to be forgiven and our life put right, is past. The harvest is already gathered in and we are not a part of it. This is the worst possible scenario. The time of summer, it’s light and heat are over and we have not benefited from it. We are yet “unprofitable servants” we are yet unsaved and living under condemnation.

Do we ever check ourselves to ensure we are of the faith or not.? Does it ever concern us that we are not truly His.?

If we read this verse and it doesn’t cause us to ask questions, then we have no concern about eternity in our hearts. Even as a Christian, it should make us think about our salvation and check our lives for godliness. 

This Scripture verse seems like the point of no return. The Summer has gone and the harvest is already reaped. There is no other possibility of reprieve. We have missed the gathering in and have wreaked our chances of being included in the harvest for God. But God is kind and may yet speak into our lives. He may yet convict us of sin and our need for repentance and forgiveness. We pray He will still bear with us, even though we have tested His patience mightily. 

It’s the time to turn. The season of salvation is almost over. Let us come quickly and now. Let us not linger a moment longer. Maybe the Lord of the harvest will consider our case again, but time is running out, in fact, has really gone. 

One day soon, the harvest will be passed forever. No more years to repent and bear fruit. Only a dreadful day of judgment for our life and destruction for our soul. We ignore the warnings of God at our peril. 

Why do we waste the Summer and miss the harvest? Nothing to show for the effort of our lives and no spiritual fruit for eternity. 

We must immediately seek the Lord. Don’t let a moment go past without knowing His peace in our souls. 

“Seek the Lord, and you will live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, and there be no one to quench it in Bethel.”.  Amos 5:6

Cling

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Psalm 119:33-40 NIV

“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.  Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.  Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.”

The Christian follows right to the end. The Christian is particular about walking according to God’s ways and following Him. We look at Jesus, the one who our faith comes from and the one who will bring us safely home to heaven, by this same faith.

We begin the path of life in faith. We continue every day in faith, constantly seeking direction from the Lord in His holy Word. We realise we need these words more than anything in this world. Seeking this world is selfish gain. It ruins us for God and heaven.

Our eyes must always be towards the Lord. If we let them linger on the things that attract us, we will loose our spiritual life and become useless. Our delight in the truth of God will dim and His promises will mean nothing to us. We pray that God will keep us and fulfil His will in our lives, so that we will recognise Him and be in awe of who He is. A Christian fears the Lord, and fears to fall into sin.

The disgrace of our past sins is a dread to us. The fear of falling into sin again, is a shame to us. We pray that God will take away our disgrace and give us holiness in return.

The constant longing of the Christian is for the law of God to be real to them every day. The Christian realises there is no other way to holiness and to God, than to be preserved by God every day of their lives.

His laws are good. His way is perfect. Faith in Him pleases Him. Total trust is the only way. If we look to the things or people of this life, we will be disappointed and God will be disappointed in us. We must not waver.

Lord, teach us your decrees, that we will follow them until we step into eternity.

Lord, turn my heart to you, and away from me.

Lord, I trust what you say and to you alone I cling…

The fear of the Lord

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“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” Malachi 3:16-18 KJV

It is a striking attribute of those people who truly love the Lord their God. These people realise who their Saviour is and they fear Him. They understand His ultimate power and complete glory in the highest, and so they revere His name. They also realised what He has done on their behalf and the cost He took on Himself to love them.

So much so, that the conversation of these redeemed people is constantly about Him – who He is and what He has done for them. Christians speak often to each other about what God is doing and they speak to outsiders and bear witness to the ways of God and His person. The Lord hears His people. He hears our conversation and knows what we spend most of our time talking about. He knows that if we are talking about Him, then we are thinking of Him too. He values such thoughts highly. So highly that these precious people will be among His most treasured possessions and will shine like jewels in His everlasting kingdom. 

Those who serve the Lord with full hearts will be kept by God and regarded as dear daughters and sons. On that last great day of judgment, God will have regard for what has been done for Him, and the  child of God will be spared from shame. But to follow Christ in this life, often means shame and scoffing. 

God knows who is really serving Him, and who are just serving themselves. To be a jewel in that everlasting kingdom is to be sincere and obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit in serving God. We cannot dupe God in following our own selfish desires in His name. There are too many empires being built around individuals who take authority to themselves and think everything is dependant on them. God is side-lined, the Spirit is quenched, and people are puffed up in pride. 

Whatever we are asked to do for the sake of Christ, none have pure motives. We all get foolish ideas and have ulterior motives that can squash the effectiveness of the work of God. We can think we know what we are doing, and disobey and disappoint our Lord and God. To serve Him, is to step out in faith so that if you fail, everyone will know you failed. Faith puts everything on the line. It’s all or nothing. 

It’s hard for us to deny ourselves and take the low place. We operate in godless ways and use worldly strategies to build organisations. You can have all kinds of acclaim, and miss the crucial acceptance as a daughter or son of the kingdom. A jewel in the treasury of God is not even recognised in this world. These jewels are people who are much despised. They resist the temptations to be praised and well-thought of in this earthly kingdom. God protects them from the false rewards that come from human sources. When they go wrong, they admit it and put things right. 

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3 NIV

Fearing God is not popular. But those who fear Him will put away all worldly considerations. Their hearts are focused on Him. They gain a heart of wisdom and will shine like stars in His coming kingdom. 

Women who glorify God