Starting Small

Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes. Song of Solomon 2:15

 

It always starts in a small way. Perhaps unnoticed at the beginning, but slowly grows until it becomes too big to stop. So it is with church, its doctrines and practices.

 

We have seen the reports of some of the world’s biggest churches, bow to the practice of accepting gay marriage, including blessing them, and officiating in the god-less unions. The Church of Scotland, United Methodists and Episcopalians are just some who have already given in to secular pressure, and reinterpreted Scripture to suit their own political ends.

 

It started small, with the academics leading the way by suggesting that we need to accept and be an inclusive church. That means not demonising the gay community, and making them feel loved and accepted. It takes just a few small steps for that to grow into full integration and membership of their church congregations. From there, it is another short step to inclusion into the leadership, ministerial and pastoral. At this point it follows that anyone in the gay community can be ‘married’.

 

The little foxes spoiled the vines, or to put it another way, the little concessions and compromises inevitably led to the end result. The Bible is not up for negotiation to suit our requirements. Yes, we must love everybody. We are all sinners, and stay that way until saved by grace. Wouldn’t it have been better if the first ‘little foxes’ were confronted and discounted before any harm was done? Maybe that’s all too simple for the top minds in our churches, who have one eye on the political situation, and think they will be left behind if they don’t go with the flow.

 

It comes down to this: As Christians do we accept the Bible as The Word of God, or a book of recommendations and suggestions? The answer determines if you turn a blind eye to the ‘little foxes’, or let them run riot in the chicken coop. In my opinion, that question is equally valid for the Christian in the pew, as it is for our church leaders.

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Why This Church?

Do you know what your church stands for? The things it accepts or frowns on? Have you checked anything out to your own satisfaction? Whoa, too many questions there I hear you say. However, there are reasons why we find ourselves in our particular place of worship, and the biggest one is that we just like it there!

 

I was brought up in a Christian home, with Godly parents, so it was easy for me to see that the Christian faith actually works, and I wanted some of that for myself and my family. Added to that was my observation that most non church goers I knew didn’t seem to fare as well when hit hard by life. So, for years I went along to the same fellowship, and grew up ‘in the church’. Not a bad thing at all. How about you? But why your particular church? We can give different reasons.

 

I was sent to Sunday School as a child, and never really stopped. Perhaps that’s your story too. Some of my best friends still go there, and we use it as a place to meet up. The singing and sermons make me feel good about myself. Or maybe, like me you have experienced a personal encounter with the living God, and no other reason is as important. Let’s go back to the beginning. The church you attend is there for a reason, but do you know and understand what that reason is? Do you know how it differs in doctrine and practice from other churches? If not, don’t you think it is worth finding out?

 

Shouldn’t we find out what our church believes about things like: The Bible, Creation, Evolution, Salvation, Heaven, Hell, The Christian Life, Sanctification, Marriage, Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Homosexuality to name just a few. I hope I have given you something to think about, but the most important thing is this, don’t stop going to church!

The SIV Bible

The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves. Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner. Proverbs 13:5,6

 

Figs might not grow on the fig trees, and grapes might not grow on the vines. Olives might not grow on the olive trees, and food might not grow in the fields. There might not be any sheep in the pens or cattle in the barns. But I will still be glad in the Lord and rejoice in God my Saviour. Habakkuk 3:17,18

 

Do you like the ‘good’ verses in the Bible? You know the promises of heaven for the faithful, and the miracles of healing, and feeding the hungry? Yes, me too. In fact I admit to thinking sometimes that our salvation is ‘sweetness and light’, but sadly, it isn’t, because we go through some dark times when the way ahead is not clear. To make matters worse, we look at the bad things that happen to some of the good people we know, and find ourselves asking the age old question, “why Lord, why”?

 

There are many Bible translations, and we can misuse the SIV (Selective Information Version) at our own peril. As you read the whole Bible, and see what happened to the children of Israel during their time in the desert, you can’t help but see that everything did not always go well. In fact, more often than not, theirs was a troubled journey. As is ours!

 

When we are tempted to ask ‘why’, can I remind you of something I learned (again) this week? When the people of God are faced with deep and unfair trouble, they don’t lose sight of their faith, or Who their faith is rooted in. I have watched a Godly family go through the kind of trouble we would not wish on anyone, and did they become bitter, or hard, or shout ‘why’ at God? No, a thousand times no! They rested in the fact that above everything that had happened to them, none of which was their own doing, they thanked God for His faithfulness.

 

I become humbled when I talk to God’s faithful. Whether in good times or bad, they ooze the Holy Spirit in such a way that the witness is unmistakeable and certain. This was a very personal problem which dug deep into the very fibre of the family unit, and yet as the verse in Habakkuk says, and is worth repeating: “Figs might not grow on the fig trees, and grapes might not grow on the vines. Olives might not grow on the olive trees, and food might not grow in the fields. There might not be any sheep in the pens or cattle in the barns. But I will still be glad in the Lord and rejoice in God my Saviour.”

 

If you recognise yourself, thank you for your constant witness to the overall sovereignty and authority of our great God who will continue to use you for His glory, and the benefit of His Kingdom. It is my pleasure and blessing to have you in my journey of life.

Pleasant Surprise

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favour rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1

 

Sometimes an event takes you by surprise, but in a good way. This one happened unexpectedly and made me smile. When you get to know some folks better each and every time you meet them, they sometimes will give you a nickname, or a ‘pet name’ as a way of showing friendship and a confirmation that your relationship is on good ground.

 

This mainly happens with young love, and between husband and wife, but there can be other occasions. Have you ever been called by a name other than your Christian name, or a shortened version? Most have, but what would be the ‘good name’ this verse can be talking about? That is when I got my surprise.

 

I am blessed to have two fine daughters, and grandchildren at various stages and ages. To them, I am known simply as ‘granda’, and I confess to enjoying the title. Not grandad, or grampa, or grandpa, but ‘granda’. I feel blessed when this name is used because some history lies behind its use, making it even more special.

 

I have met some lovely, Godly people, and in some way each one has enriched my life, but I have always remained known by my given name. This time it was different. Out of the blue, one of my new friends referred to me as ‘granda’. Of course not their granda, or even a relation, but their way of recognising the role played in my grandkids’ lives. To me, there is no greater honour than being called ‘dad’ or ‘granda’? As the verse indicates, that is a ‘good name’ and as far as I’m concerned, better than ‘great riches’.

How Bad ?

We live in a secular country, where the State has won out over the Church, and in fact almost anything to do with God. Our media pushes the ‘godless’ agenda in programming, so much so that you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘God people’ are deranged, misguided, and not in their right mind. When a minister or priest is shown on TV, it is usually with a theme of corruption or not to be a laughing stock.

 

London has seen a ‘Towering Inferno’ in real life, like no other in our country, and the death toll keeps rising. The seriously injured are spread between several hospitals, and the search for bodies continues. According to emergency services, no further survivors are expected to be found. As I watched the constantly repeated newscasts, I was left with a burning question.

 

How many of these good people cried out to God when they feared for their lives? How many self confessed humanists, secularists, and atheists found a voice for prayer? How bad does it have to get before we pray? To place the question closer to home, how many lapsed and backslidden Christians, faced with a horrible end, came face to face with the fact that God DID exist, and found themselves calling out for forgiveness, regretting their prodigal lifestyle? God knows that every one affected needs to know and feel comfort, and where better to get them than from God, who is love (1 John 4:8).

 

These questions troubled me, and still do. Those touched are no different from us, except that an impending disaster may have sharpened their minds, and focussed their thinking to the one thing in this life that’s important, and that is how we finish. Sadly, for most of us it takes a life changing circumstance to make us understand the very importance of life, how we live it, and the legacy we leave behind. The good news of the Gospel is that the story doesn’t end there because we believe in a forgiving God who gives eternal life to all who call on Him, no matter when. Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus? He is spending his eternity in heaven because of his simple prayer. What about this great promise which is effective for all?…..

 

“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13  

How Good?

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

 

It’s called the ‘good book’ for sound reason, after all the Bible has been around for centuries, and despite many attempts to discount it, burn it, disprove it, sneer at those who believe it, the sacred Word of God lingers and lives on in the hearts and minds of Christians around the world to this day.

 

It is without question that the Bible has survived this long because it contains the words of life to all Christian believers, but I wonder how good a book do we think it is? I mean really think it is? Here’s the challenge: Do you read the Bible? I don’t mean reading it from the overhead screen on a Sunday. I mean reading it for yourself? But be careful, you might become a changed person!

 

The Scriptures will continue to survive with or without our help, whether we read it or not. Wouldn’t it be better if we had the courage of our convictions and not only lived by its principles, but read it. Often and regularly? Can we call ourselves ‘Christian’ and NOT read the Bible regularly?

 

God’s word is alive and working. It is sharper than the sharpest sword and cuts all the way into us. It cuts deep to the place where the soul and the spirit are joined. God’s word cuts to the centre of our joints and our bones. It judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.

Hebrews 4:12

Praise and Pride

Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

 

This doesn’t need a lot of explanation because like many other verses in the Bible, the meaning is clear. We don’t need a Pastor, Minister or Priest to break it down word by word.

 

You can praise another for Godly actions, and both of you will stay humble. The only danger is when or if these words, spoken sincerely, go to your head and you become proud. I know some Christians who would not speak highly to another believer because it’s their way to “keep them humble”. However, we all need encouragement at times, and when a work is done well for the Kingdom, we should be quick to speak words of kindness, encouragement, and praise over them.

 

The rule is simple. If you want to stay humble, don’t praise yourself. It’s good to leave it to others!