The Moaners

To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 TLB

Now and again I come across a moaning Christian. Hold on there, that’s not right. The words ‘moaning’ and ‘Christian’ don’t go together and shouldn’t be used in the same phrase. It’s an oxymoron to give it the correct title. But there you have it. Sadly, it’s usually older folks who have been on the way for a while, but somewhere they seem to have lost their joy.

These are invisible Christians, at least to themselves. They are oblivious to their sad condition which everyone else can so easily see, but who will tell them? I won’t or can’t  because I respect them and their life lived for Christ. Also because there may be an underlying, and as yet undiagnosed medical condition which we know nothing of…. yet. So tread carefully and resist the temptation to fire a broadside that you may later regret. True joy goes much deeper than the facial muscles and the occasional gripe, and that same joy is their, and your, strength.

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

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Saying, Doing, or Feeling?

The old saying attributed to Maya Angelou goes: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ It’s not from the Bible, but carries a lot of weight in our personal walk of faith. Are you a talker, a doer or someone that people like to be around because you have a warmth and believable integrity?

The world in all aspects has those who say and do things (sometimes), and then there are the true friends. Trusted friends. People you are naturally attracted to be beside in some way or another. The Bible has its own way of saying this in: John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

If you have ever been in love, and perhaps still are after many years, you will know that love is essentially a feeling. It is not what you say and do that matters most, but the lingering scent when all is said and done, that your love is convincing and real and true. We all know those who talk a good game, but are found wanting when it matters most. All the loud bluster in the world will not and cannot hold a candle to the force of someone who makes you feel loved. Another old saying is, “Empty vessels make the most noise.” Do you recognise the truth of these words? Do they remind you of anyone?

Why am I saying this? Simply because as Christians we have a responsibility to be Christ-like, or look like Christ to our family and friends. Who do you think has the better witness to the unchurched, unsaved, and those who just need to be convinced by the truth of a life lived in love, just like Jesus? The shouter? The one pointing to their own goodness and Bible knowledge? Or simply the one who embodies the Christ-life, and shows love in the Spirit of Jesus? The good news is that we all have the gift of love, so let’s decide to use it to full effect so that others will see Christ in us!

Inactivity

I don’t like the word ‘inactivity’ because behind it lies a change or difference in life and lifestyle, sometimes forced on us by circumstance like age, disease or illness. The good part is that inactivity is usually temporary, unlike laziness which tends to describe a way of life.

When we are young, we have enough energy to spare that lets us do all we need and more besides. But when inactivity is forced on us, and it usually is, we have to decide what we will do about it. This is no small decision because it will involve a big change from your normal lifestyle. From being ‘out and about’ at any time of your choosing, it’s now picking carefully when to go out and what to do in the time you have before tiredness and weakness sets in and takes hold.

So, what’s the answer? I think it helps to determine to use your mind instead of your body during this temporary part of your life. How about learning a musical instrument, and perhaps dragging that old dusty ‘musical friend’ from the bottom of the wardrobe and giving it a new lease of life? Or how about reading? No, don’t turn your nose up at that suggestion because one of the best results of reading a good book is that time passes as you get immersed in the story, or learning! Before you know it, the hands on the clock have moved more than you thought, and in that time you have relaxed and learned a lot. Sometimes we need that ‘down time’ to sit, and let your mind do the work. Put another way, how often have you wished for that time when you have been run off your feet dashing here and there trying to squeeze more activity into your day? Well, this is your time.

Talking about reading, takes me to my favourite book and one of the subjects I return to often. Give the Bible another chance. I know, you have heard all the stories in Sunday School and listened to enough sermons to last you a lifetime, but have you ever taken the time to let the Bible speak to you in quietness? Straight from the recorded pages of God’s Word for our lives in this hectic world. This period of inactivity may just be the best time to open the sacred pages and immerse yourself in the wisdom, enlightenment, encouragement, and yes even some much needed correction thrown in. Are you ready for that challenge if that period of inactivity strikes? In fact, there is no better time for God’s Word than right now!

I study your teachings very carefully so that I will not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 ERV

Extra Ten?

Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often empty and filled with pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone. Psalms 90:10 TLB

Take my word for it, the years pass quickly. It seems one minute you are meeting and marrying the girl of your dreams, and the next minute you are watching and babysitting your grandchildren. When that phase of life is over, the house is quiet, and there comes a time when one of you is left alone due to sickness, illness, or accident. This part of your life is not the way you had imagined or planned.

During later years you may be alone, but sadly you may also become lonely. There is nothing you can do about this except bear it with grace and patience. We are reminded by God that we have an allotted span of seventy years, or maybe a bonus of another ten, making it eighty. In any case, there is a time when your mortality becomes evident. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t often think of death or dying (each of which is very different) but there is an awareness which grows as time passes.

If you are able, give some thought to the way you would like to live out these extra ten years. Obviously, you want to make them count. But how? Can I impose on you and make some suggestions as one who is approaching my God ordained limit?

> if you are blessed to have family, treasure them all. They are your gift.

> read, take up a hobby and find an interest. The devil finds work for idle hands.

> don’t drift from old friends, and make new ones. This reduces loneliness.

> attend or join a church. There is nothing better than the company of Christian friends.

That’s not a lot to take in during the last years of your life, and if you don’t try, those years will drag and you will become a grumpy old misery-guts. You probably know one already, so don’t be like them. The verse ends with the words “soon we are gone” which is worded in other translations as “soon we fly away”. Keep that promise in your head, heart and mind. When you have the full assurance of heaven, living out the remainder of your allotted life span isn’t so bad after all, is it? I like the way Paul puts it in Romans 14:8 TLB:Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way we are His.”

The Bathwater

When change happens too quickly, and we are not quite ready for any of it, we are always in danger of things going wrong. Change happens in all walks of life, whether at work, in the family, or even our relationships, however in my experience there is no more dangerous place for change quite like a church fellowship.

Since change will always happen in all walks of life, we must accept it and get used to the idea, but it is never a good thing to make changes without taking the other affected people along with you. If they are left behind, the intended changes can only partly be made, if at all! However, I believe the greater danger is that some will be so adamant about the benefits of change that the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. Not only does nothing positive happen, but we are left further back than we were before the change was proposed. There are times when doing nothing is better than any change.

Now here’s the dilemma. We dearly love in the Lord those who differ from our own views, and like them I want our church both local and general to grow, but…. what if those strongly held beliefs on each side do not come together, or agree? What if each side thinks the other has it partly or all wrong? On one corner the old timers who don’t want to change if it’s for change’s sake, and on the other side the younger progressive who wants the church to change in order to better relate to the world and the sinner? Both would agree that the end result of changed lives for the Kingdom is the most important outcome, but there needs to be some agreement in how we go about it!

An engineer is responsible in helping to make change happen, and in my case that would have been a new process or product introduced in an assembly line. The changes were usually obvious, needed, and went ahead without any difficulty. Occasionally however, a change would fail, either in part or the whole, and had to be cancelled. My experience was that undoing the change was more difficult, expensive, and took longer than the effort and time taken to put it into place. One of the real deep seated outcomes was the loss of confidence in the minds of the staff who operated the assembly. They rightly expected those with the authority and responsibility to think it through beforehand and get it right by the time it was implemented. My parallel is this: Much care is needed to prevent changes being made in a church fellowship which would create more problems than they would solve. This could show itself in regular attendees losing morale, confidence, respect, and sadly in some cases attendance. No one wants that! A rule of thumb is, the greater the proposed change, the greater the risk of it going wrong at least in part. It is worth remembering that human nature is the same as in Bible times, and more importantly that the Gospel still applies because:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Overthinking

I confess that I sometimes overthink things, and I also confess that this isn’t a happy place to be because it shows a side of you that hasn’t fully grasped, believed, or accepted the change to a once firmly held position or thought. If that happens, we try to work the thinking round to the new idea or concept in an effort to make it acceptable or force fit it into my head.

Overthinking may not be a happy place, but it is only ever done because something fundamental has changed, or is in process of being changed, and we are not fully in agreement with it. Basically, we try to adapt but can’t quite see a good reason why we should.

I suggest that overthinking chiefly happens in those things which are most important to us. After all, if something is not that important, then any change wouldn’t matter so much, would it? So, I hear you ask, what kind of things make me overthink? You might find these boring, and have a different list, but I would include changing theology and associated church statements of belief, plus how I might choose to act out my life as a result.

Can you relate? Do you overthink anything or am I on my own on this one? In everything I am mindful of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and Paul’s epistle:

Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong. Matthew 5:37 TLB or how about

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

Discernment, Gift or Curse?

One of God’s greatest ambassadors left this earth destined for his heavenly home on Wednesday 21st February, aged 99 years. His legacy is unparalleled in the past century, and through his faith and ministry many millions around the world found Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Fittingly, there have been many tributes paid on TV, radio, and online.

 

But not everyone is convinced of his sincerity and this troubles me. Not because it comes from the unchristian unbeliever, but the very opposite. There are some who set themselves up as having a better understanding and the gift of discernment to the point that humility is lost, and pride has been replaced by elitism. Oh, they say they are speaking in love, but the least of us know that if those words have to be used at all, it’s because there is little if any love involved.

 

I use a couple of blogging sites to record my rambling thoughts, and I know there are many diverse points of view expressed out there. There can be great encouragement, but I had to read the views of a blogger who suggested that the great evangelist was seriously misguided. But what great sin has Billy Graham committed? Apparently he had the temerity to suggest a prayer outline for the seeking sinner to pray. That’s not on because the so called “sinner’s prayer” if not said just right, with the correct attitude and content, may have ended up with that sinner being bound for hell not heaven. In other words this evangelist is not so great after all because he couldn’t see the harm he was causing, but what I read was, you should ​trust me, I have read the Bible, and ​I can keep you right! All spoken or written from the safety and comfort of the computer keyboard and nowhere near the front line of the preaching ministry or outreach. How shallow, but then our God given free will and freedom of speech is ours to use, whether wisely or otherwise.