‘D’ for Different

The trouble began with an unhappy church attender. Let’s face it, which of us has always been happy with our church? It can be the pastor, the singing, the choice of songs, the things seen as important, or even as simple as the people who share that same space once a week. We are a motley crew, and hard to please at times.

 

This particular church member wasn’t just unhappy with the peripherals in his place of worship. He really loved his church, but didn’t like everything that went on in it, from the leader up. But what to do? Being a good and righteous man, he researched and studied, watched, listened and learned from others around him, both the good and the bad. But on top of everything, he read his Bible from cover to cover because he believed it to be the ’Word of God’ and if truth was anywhere, it would be there. He showed some wisdom because it was a good place to start, but not everyone thought the same. It got him into trouble with the church leaders.

 

It came down to two things, Bible interpretation, and church practice. You know how that goes. We’ve always done it this way, so why change now? It has served us well until now. We know it’s ok to complain between friends who may agree, but when you take your worries to the top of the church organisation, that’s when it can get difficult, and it did. They were not prepared to listen and instead dug their heels in and remain unchanged to this day.

 

This man was certainly ‘D’ for Different but the letter ‘D’ is also the Roman numeral for 500, and it has been 500 years since this not so young church leader literally nailed his colours to the mast by fixing his 95 differences he saw with the corruption of indulgences within the church he loved. The result was that his actions echoed around Europe and the World, slowly but surely forming an unstoppable movement which protested against the wrongs of the the church of his day. It had moved so far from the original teachings of Christ, it could no longer could be called ‘Christian’. To this day, adherents will refer to themselves as ‘Catholic’ and not as ‘Christian’.

 

My hope and prayer is that the reformed church of today never strays so far from the teachings of Scripture that it takes another Martin Luther to help us change course again. As a renowned theologian, he paid the price of excommunication from the church he wanted to help. We need never be complacent in our core belief that The Bible is the very Word of God, and we must to read it constantly, and live by its teachings. History is clear, and should not be repeated.

Hidden Heart

Have you watched the TV adverts which show how to be better, bigger, lovelier, softer, stronger, happier, etc etc…? They all have one thing in common. To be liked and loved, you need to change, and we are here to take your money and help you. So we are sold an image of a bodybuilder, a youthful looking 70 year old, happy, smiling holiday times, contented spouses, and again the list could go on. Each one depends on a change to the outer you. That part which others see. The superficial. So, does a change to the outside make a corresponding change on the inside? I fear not! Are we so stupid? Apparently we are, because the sales of these products increase every year.

 

The world is good, and getting better at convincing us that the answer to all our problems is a pill, potion, lotion, some makeup, or a work out. Surely we are not that gullible? Can we not see through the commercial sham? On the other hand, what if the change came from the inside? Would that make a corresponding difference to our outward appearance at no cost? Absolutely yes, and with 100% certainty! Ask yourself, who would I want to  spend the rest of my life with, a good looker or a good heart? Case closed. Once again, the Bible is not silent.

 

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of … all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27

But…

Like everyone else in the world, we deserved to suffer God’s anger just because of the way we were. But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Ephesians 2:3-5 (ERV)

 

As a parent, hearing the words “but Dad” sent a shiver down my spine because I never knew what was coming next. It would usually have something to do with not liking what they were asked or expected to do. Human nature comes to the fore, and we show our displeasure with that single word “but”. The word is basically a very negative expression isn’t it?

 

I love the “but God” verses in the Bible, and this is just one of many. It simply means “in spite of”. In our case we are “like everyone else in the world, and deserve God’s anger”. But in spite of that, and because we “have been saved by God’s grace” He gave us new life! What a great God!

 

The question that often comes to me is this: Since this salvation is so freely available to all, why do more people not take God at His word and accept His gift? We must be a very headstrong and stubborn people to refuse God’s free grace. I can’t think of any other reason, can you?

Night Time

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

 

How long does your night last? In some cases it can endure for a very long time. In one sense this Psalm refers to a painful single physical night time, followed by the dawning of a new day which rises and brings relief, and even happiness. I can see another interpretation. Your night of weeping may have lasted a long time, with no sign of relief. You have prayed earnestly and with tears for a loved one, but it is still night in your heart, and theirs too.

 

I can hear the heartache of a weary one saying, when will it be morning? When will the sun rise and bring me relief and this promised joy? My night time has gone on for too long God. Please make it stop! This period of darkness may be due to your, or another person’s, health either physical or spiritual. It may be the uncertainty of making ends meet and as basic as putting food on the table for family. It may be the death of a very dearly loved parent, spouse or sibling and the light may have gone completely. When will I feel the warmth of the dawn?

 

Two things are certain in this verse. The night time and the morning dawn. We are assured that as certain as there is a long night time of weeping pain, there will be a morning sunrise of joy! David knew this more than most, but he was still able to see through the bleak darkness to the certainty of the coming joy. However long your and my night time lasts, let us hold fast to the assurance of the coming sunrise. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’!

Luggage

Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light. Matthew 11:29,30 ERV

 

When going on a flight, if you are like me, you will decide early on that you will travel light, and well within the allowable baggage limit. You start well, and are convinced you will manage the impossible. Have you ever managed to get your suitcase under the limit on the first attempt? Me neither! I am wrongly convinced that I know my limits, but how wrong can you be? The truth is we don’t know our limits very well, and that goes for many areas of life.

 

We have a friend and wise Master who knows exactly how much we can carry in our ‘suitcase’ and He doesn’t let us become overweight. We carry the burdens of guilt, remorse, fear, unforgiveness, hatred, resentment, and the list could go on. We think we know our ‘limit’ but we are not good at knowing when enough is enough, and when to shut that case. I like the way Paul puts it, and we can take this to the bank!

 

The only temptations that you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ERV

AntiSocial Media

If you live in the UK, you will know the sad story of Charlie Gard, a little 11 month old baby who had a life limiting disease, and how his mum and dad had been through the court system, trying everything in their power to save him. His life maintaining tubes and medical paraphernalia were recommended to be removed to allow the little boy die ‘with dignity’. His parents were distraught, and were been faced with a situation which at the end of the day is the life and death of their only son, and one which no parent should ever have to face. This whole situation was played out in the media court of worldwide public opinion, which made it worse. I even saw a USA newspaper report which blamed the UK NHS and the government for Charlie’s death. In my opinion, that is one country which has no room to talk about health care and politics.

 

As if this heartache wasn’t bad enough, thousands of mindless people took to ‘social’ media to question the medical staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and their care for Charlie. Death threats were even made on so called ‘social’ media against the very people who cared night and day to keep this little soul alive while a court case raged around him. All the medical opinion was that his condition was irreversible and his life support should be removed, but these ‘not so wise guys’ who make Facebook and Twitter (there are other social media sites) their weapon of choice, think they know better. No qualifications or medical experience. No connection to the family. No heart. Just anger at a hospital who do what they can to improve the health of children when they can, and are distressed when they get too close to their tiny charges, and the unthinkable happens. Then there was the American doctor who raised false hope by claiming his revolutionary experimental treatment  could turn Charlie’s situation around. It took him months to come to London to see the baby for himself and view the case notes, and it was too late to prove anything. That speaks volumes. Heartless? Do I hear a cash register ringing in my ears? The Pope and Donald Trump also offered ‘any help they could give’, but that went silent as well.

 

If there was ever a case for believing our society has reached the tipping point of understanding true compassion, this is it. These thousands of mindless trolls represent the kind of society we belong to, and I am ashamed that I am seen as a part of it. This is only one part of an obviously broken community, country, and world. I believe the only thing that will help is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sort out the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the good from the evil. Only then will we rest in the assurance that the death of this little boy has been defeated, and our literally ‘God-less’ society has been set straight.

How Close?

It’s a game some Christians play all the time, and although the rules can change from person to person, it goes something like this. I want you to think I am a good person, and even a Christian, but I don’t want my friends to think I am so different from them. Basically, I don’t want to look or sound weird to them.

 

I can make an effort to dress like them, with provocative clothing. This would apply more to the ladies, and shows itself in lower necklines and shorter skirts. The lower and shorter the better you play the game.

 

Or..We might want to talk like them in everyday conversation by using words and language which go close to the bare bone. Some will even use words which rhyme with and sound like you are using a swear word, but the good thing is, you are not. You get very close but don’t cross the actual line. The more you can sound like the unsaved, the better you play the game.

 

Or…We would never read the same secular, racy magazines, but we will be seen to know about similar reading material, all in the quest to look like them. You know, just human. Yet another way to play the game to better effect.

 

Or…It is so easy  to use the internet to see what they are watching, just for research purposes you understand. And anyway, who will know what level of ‘racy’ or ‘adult’ material you happen to come across in your desire to be like them. It can also give you common ground for striking up a conversation. Not a Christian one of course, but who knows it might lead there eventually. A way to get your information without being caught in a compromising situation which would be difficult to defend. You are playing the game really well with this little sleight of hand.

 

Or…When we mix in the same company, no matter where, we show them that although we are a Christian, we can go to the same places as them, and no one will bat an eyelid. The more we behave like the ‘regulars’, the better we play the game. And we can do that so convincingly. So we go to church, but also go to the pub and/or club. By now, we have pretty much mastered the game, and feel very comfortable. We can so easily defend ourselves by saying that Jesus sat with sinners, unlike the Pharisees who knew what their Bible said but had no love. We are only trying to be like Jesus, right?

 

Of course the ways to play the game differ, but the aim is always the same. To make it look to our Christian friends that we are in fact Christians, while at the same time, making it look to our unsaved friends that we are human, just like them. My only concern is how could we be a convincing witness for our unsaved friends to want to be a Christian when there is so little difference?

 

Let me leave this thought with you. There are other Christians who do not play this game, and have no need or desire to walk so close to the cliff edge. What effect do you think it has on them, particularly the younger ones in the faith? Would they be in danger of falling over the edge of the cliff? The cliff edge that you have so carefully tried to avoid? Other lives do matter, both the saved and the unsaved, so why play games which do not help either, and only serve to play to our own ego?

 

When I reach heaven, I want to be greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant”, not “Well you cut that close”. How about you?