The Calm

It’s the calm before the storm we say, and we know it is true both in weather, and our own lives. In recent days there have been some devastating hurricanes which caused widespread devastation across the Caribbean and into some southern US States. Sadly lives have been lost, and equally sad is the fact that these storms will happen again!

 

When the hurricane is approaching, warnings are given and homeowners start to make preparations by shuttering windows, and stocking up on essential provisions. With today’s advanced forecasting, these storms seldom catch us by surprise. We can react to the approaching hurricane, as we batten down the hatches! Then we tough it out as best we can in the hope that we have prepared well enough. Then a strange thing happens, right in the middle of the hurricane comes the uncanny calm. It seems out of place because we know we are in the ‘eye’ of the storm and it will start again. We have taken the necessary precautions, but this window of calm perhaps allows us to think about our mortality, and the people who are important to us, and trust they are safe. In essence, we get time to calculate how bad the storm has been, and are warned that it will be repeated.

 

Our hurricanes in life are like that. We usually know when they are coming. There are warning signs, and the wise will take the steps they know will be necessary to ride it out. Our storms will be hurricanes of financial distress, illness, family health, or death of a loved one. I would also suggest it can be the worry of the state of the church, or the strength of our own faith. Sometimes we have to just sit tight and ride out the storm, and then the eerie calm of the ‘eye’ comes. This is the time to hunker down and pray for the things we have no control over, and leave in God’s hands. Sometimes this is exactly the time to re-evaluate the strength of our faith, or our church. These things are in our hands, and we can usually do something in addition to pray.

 

When the calm of the ‘eye’ has passed, we know what will be coming. It already took its effect on us and will do so again. However, this time we can determine to change something that’s in our control that we didn’t take care of when the storm first hit. It may be time to take our faith deeper and to put some of those fears we carry, behind us where they belong. We may know the storm is coming, but we don’t always understand how it will affect us. That is the very time to use the period of calm. If we don’t, we will be no stronger when the next hurricane hits us, and let’s be honest, nothing is surer. Indeed, the eye of the storm can be a real Godsend.

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In Common

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 NIV

 

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Acts 2:44 ESV

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

 

Jesus gave the commandment to His disciples, and yes it is a command, but how did the early church do this? How did they put Jesus’ words into practice? Come to think of it, the commandment applies to us too, so how do we manage to cope?
I am familiar with the sharing of food, goods, money, trades, and all the practical things which make life easier as you become an integral part of a shared community, but is that as far as it goes? I don’t think so. People have other needs which are not as easily seen, like feelings, emotions, and anxieties, so I would suggest that Jesus meant us to ‘be there’ for our friends in Christian love. If that means sharing food and work, that is good, but we miss something when we don’t recognise that we also share in each other’s lives in full. If one of our group is absent for a week or two, do we notice? Perhaps we conveniently assume they are on holiday, or away for the weekend. I would suggest that we should care enough to check if they are ill, or going through a tough time before we make any other assumptions. Why should we do this? Because the Word of God says: so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4. I suggest that is reason enough.

Now What?

Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ Mark 4:9 NIV

 

Imagine you are in a discussion and the argument is going back and forth with no progress. Out of the blue your friend says something to stop the conversation in its tracks. You hear your friend say, “Now that I have your attention….” and proceeds to finish his sentence. Normally, the discussion is over at this point because instead of thinking what to say next while your friend is still speaking, he has your full attention. You are no longer speaking over him/her.

 

On more than one occasion, Jesus used the expression: ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’ He is saying, now that I have your attention, stop your arguing and listen. Right then, all that is left for us to say is “now what?” because we recognise that Jesus, and only Jesus, has the answer we need to the questions we face.

 

What is it that has your attention, while Jesus is trying to get through to you? Money worries? Family troubles? Marriage problems? Health? Pain? Sometimes God can use times like these to catch our heart’s attention. We need to use our ears because Jesus knows we don’t always hear properly (if at all). We all know of times when God has only been able to really get through to us, and get our attention, when we are in a place where we can’t try anything else. There is only one person to go to, and that is our loving God.

 

It is so much better to listen up in the first place, than wait until problems and pain are the only way for God to get our attention. We can almost hear Jesus say to us, “Now that I have your attention”, and the only response we can make is surely, “Now what Lord”?

Berean?

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:10,11 NIV

 

I’m one of those annoying people who treats their faith as important. It is important on a surface level as I sit in a pew, sing the songs, pray, and soak in the sermon which has been prepared by a Godly pastor. But it’s more than that. If I am going to believe in the Gospel that my church teaches, and that it is truth, then for me it is important enough to know why I believe it. So, the theology behind the doctrine is important too because it must be in harmony with the Bible.

 

The result in my case is that I will look into the beliefs closely, and check them against Scripture and only then what other commentators say. The reason is simple. When we do anything else in this life, or buy into any secular scheme, we do it with much care. This is more important than choosing my next car, so it must be even more important that I get my theology right.

 

So far, so good, but there can be a problem that comes with the quest. While chasing up, and checking out the truth of doctrine, I find myself asking other pastors and leaders whom I respect, what they think, and more importantly, believe. This can come across as questioning their own faith, and that is far from the truth. I am not in college or university, so I don’t sit at the seat of learning to sharpen my faith. I have to do that part by bouncing my thoughts off other human beings, and I try to choose carefully. Unfortunately, I have found to my horror that I have unwittingly offended as I chase the importance of my church’s theology.

 

After all, each church has its own take on interpretation, so do I just stick a pin in a sheet of names and go there? Do I blindly accept the doctrine of the church I attend, or do I find out why? Eternity is real, so my thinking is that the articles of faith I accept are important. I trust I will be like the Bereans and examine the Scriptures first and foremost.

 

Question: How do you and I confirm the beliefs that are important to us and our church?

Dilemma

The definition of ‘dilemma’: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.”

 

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:21 NIV

 

The thing that jumps out of the page at me is the fact that the people said nothing. Can you believe it? They didn’t make a decision either way, and in today’s language they sat on the fence. I may be taking this verse out of some context, but allow me some slack here.

 

The easiest thing to do when faced with a difficult choice is nothing. That is especially true when either choice is not a good one, or pleasant. Why not bury our face in our hands, close our eyes, and hope it goes away? But it doesn’t, and in fact it never does. Note that Elijah says, “how long”, telling us that ultimately a choice is necessary.

 

How I recognise this truth. Stuck between two thoughts, beliefs, or opinions and staying quiet, in the forlorn hope that the situation wasn’t there. But it is, and eventually I need to make a decision. No matter which way I choose, there will be disappointment and possibly hurt feelings, if not mine then someone else’s.

 

I have argued with myself for too long. How I wish I had someone to talk to. It’s time to decide and live with the consequences. I know understanding will be in short supply, and criticism will follow, even from friends. But what is more important? Saying nothing and continue to stew, or take a stand for conscience and getting rid of this burden?

Pecking Order

You are young, but don’t let anyone treat you as if you are not important. Be an example to show the believers how they should live. Show them by what you say, by the way you live, by your love, by your faith, and by your pure life. 1 Timothy 4:12

 

Life has a pecking order in many things, and we have to submit to it. Or do we? Society is making us think twice about the natural order of things, especially in the subject of equality. Apparently we are all equal, and the Bible supports this in the words of Galatians 3:28: “Now, in Christ, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or free, male or female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.”

 

One of the pecking orders we don’t get right sometimes, especially in the Church, is the value of our youth. Paul reminds us that we should not treat them as unimportant. In fact, they are to be an example! Hold it Paul, what about us grey haired, mature folks who have seen a bit of life?  We know better, and we should be respected and honoured, after all, if it were not for us, those youngsters would not have a church to go to. We sacrificed to get it here for them. We paid the pastor’s salary when they were in nappies. We should be recognised as the important ones! I ask you, how does that sound? Sounds proud and even arrogant to me, and Paul, inspired by God, must have known this. And yet he tells us that these same young people are to be our examples.

 

The reason may be that they have not had time to be tainted by the sins of jealousy, envy, pride, or arrogance. They may just be in a better place to be examples than those older, mature Christians who think they know it all. Jesus tells us to be like little children, and Paul says that our youth are important enough to be our examples, yes even to the older, wrinklies in the fellowship. (Note to self: Respect the example of the Godly youth in the church!)

Time Slots

I have found myself asking this question recently: Is a series of 20 minute get togethers enough to be able to know someone? It may even be the same 20 minute setting every week, but if it’s online, and because of the way we ‘feel’ about the video or podcast, are we really that much closer to what that person is like during the other 23+ hours of the day?

 

When you were young, and maybe you still are, you deliberately took as much time as possible, over a long period, to get to know the love of your life. If you relied on the same 20 minutes, once a week, at the same time, do you think that would give you enough information to decide if you wanted to marry, and spend the rest of your life together? Not to mention commit yourself to all the financial and emotional needs?

 

The internet is a minefield, and I’m sure you already know that. But how seriously do we take some things that are said there, especially when they are said with some authority and conviction? I have learned recently, that a short 20 minute sermon is not enough to form a correct and accurate opinion of someone, and even more so if that time is pulled down from an untrusted website.

 

Like it or not, we can all crave a Godly figurehead that we can respect and look up to. We want to believe them when they preach, but does that short window give us enough time to throw our lot in with them, perhaps calling them our ‘example’, ‘mentor’, ‘teacher’, or even ‘Pastor’? There are many self proclaimed Bible preachers on TV and the internet who command a large following, and for many it’s all down to the 20 minute sermons they preach.

 

Some followers don’t even live in the same country as their leaders. So, when your life is falling apart and you need a counsellor, can you ask them to drop in and pray? If a loved one is at death’s door, who will be there with you to comfort? If you want your baby to be dedicated, will your distant ‘Pastor’ perform that sacrament for you? Marry you? Bury you? Who do you fellowship with, and who do you give your tithe and offering to? And the list goes on.  

 

It concerns me greatly that some very well educated, clever Christians are sucked into the ‘online church’ because it tickles their ears with what they want to hear, at least for 20 minutes a time. Is that really what is intended in Hebrews 10:24-25 by “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”?