Impressions

First impressions are not always wrong. Over my long-ish life, I have discovered that first impressions are usually confirmed as correct as time passes. What starts as a feeling, or thought, almost always turns into a certainty. But we do not, and should not, act on any first impressions because on occasion they can be wrong, and we do not have confirmation either way, well at least not quite yet. More time is needed for that.

 

I’m not saying this requires the gift of discernment. Perhaps you have been gifted in this, but experiences over the years may also have resulted in us recognising characteristics which draw people together, or maybe make us think ‘caution’, or ‘beware’. Don’t misunderstand me, I am certainly not advocating making an enemy, after all, we are told that a mark of a true disciple is Godly love for all, including our faith brothers and sisters.

 

Perhaps I need to be corrected, but I have found that we can almost immediately and naturally be attracted to a person and really get along with them. However, there are other times when I will love my brothers and sisters, but wouldn’t usually choose to have a coffee together. On a personal level, I do not like confrontation, so the ability to ‘love but not necessarily like’ a very few of my friends may work for me, and all the while does not affect my Christian walk. Question: Am I on my own, or is this your experience too?

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Nearly

Having been around churches of various denominations throughout my life, I can usually recognise the differences, and even appreciate the things that separate us in theology and practice. I’m not going to argue that we have more in common, than that which separates us, but make another observation which has been growing in my mind over the recent past.

 

The one thing we all share, is the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Or it should be a common thread running through all evangelicals to some degree.

 

It concerns me that we are becoming ever better at talking about what the gospel is, than we are at preaching it. We have become clever and intelligent as we learn more about Bible times, and how the early disciples changed the world. Armed with this great knowledge, why do we not preach the gospel instead of talking about it? I see a real and fundamental difference, and in this case ‘nearly’ is not good enough for all and any of the mainstream church denomination family.

 

I well remember the induction service of a new pastor, and an old saintly pastor, close to retirement after many good years in the pulpit say to the new minister, “The pulpit is not here to have a conversation with your congregation, it is here to preach the Gospel”. The words were spoken many years ago, are true today, and nearly is still not good enough.

Blogger’s Block

You have heard of writers who get writer’s block, well its distant cousin is Blogger’s Block. There is little known about what causes it, but apparently it can be a small thing. I don’t know how you deal with the things on your mind, for my part I tend to write it down. I suppose that makes me a blogger of sorts. Not so much to get a response, but as a kind of therapy to face the issues that mean something to me.

 

I usually end up writing about matters of faith, because that is the subject that means the most to me, and in a normal week about 2 or 3 blogs will be written and possibly published on a couple of systems. Responses are good for the most part, and even those who would not claim to be of the same church or faith group will be positive in their comments. So, what has happened during this month’s dry spell?

 

When something rocks the foundation of your belief system, it drags you down, and in dragging you down you stop doing those normal routine things. The bottom line is that you don’t see a way to work through your ‘problem’, and so the Blogger’s Block happens. Fortunately this doesn’t happen often, and my solution is to give it enough time to percolate through my subconscious and convince myself the thing I worried about was never really a problem in the first place. Was it? Or is it still there?

Festive Cheer?

It’s that time of year again, so take a deep breath and get right in among it! There’s the gift of giving, scented candles, decorated trees inside and outside the house, the laughter of children, the mystery associated with Santa, a table set for a lavish family dinner and prepared so well by a wife or mum, carol singers, Christmas jumpers, the church services, and the list could go on. These are just some of the things that bring happiness for so many, both young and old.

 

Looking at the day from another angle, these are exactly the same things that bring sadness to the hearts of many in our nation. For some, the season has lost some of its magic and sentiment. It was lost with the loss of a loved one. Perhaps a parent, spouse, sibling, or a favourite aunt or uncle. Those things that once brought a smile, now bring a tear.

 

However, for the believer, this has little to do with the list of activities mentioned before. Behind all of the glitter lies the baby Jesus who really is the reason for the season, no matter what the commercial world tells us. Because of that, and only that, the believer can lift their face to the heavens and say, “thank you Jesus” for being the baby in the manger who became our Saviour on the cross. From the Christmas story to the resurrection. Whether we show a smile, or shed a tear during this Holy season, we each recognise the value of the baby on that very special day.

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.

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.

Take a Knee

If you haven’t heard the phrase ‘Take a Knee’ then you have been asleep, or in a TV News-free Zone. It’s everywhere. The protest is against alleged unfair USA police brutality aimed at the black community. These allegations have been around for a long time, and it’s not for me to pass any opinion on whether there is any truth in them or not.

 

For now, all I see are black millionaire NFL sportsmen protesting with their brothers in solidarity. But they are a million miles from the poverty which is claimed to be at the root of the problem. It’s like poking the bear, because President Trump then weighs in and takes centre stage (where he likes to be), calls the protesters an unholy name, and shouts that they should be fired. I get the impression he thinks he is still on the set of the Apprentice, passing his own style of TV justice on the unsuspecting victim of his wrath. As another rich but white millionaire, he is also far away from the reality of the poverty experienced by the youth of his country, both black and white.

 

So, the protesters ‘take a knee’ instead of standing during their country’s national anthem. Let me get this right. You make that protest against the nation that you are so unhappy with. The nation that has made you millionaires. The nation that has given you celebrity status, wouldn’t it be best to show that you mean what you say by finding another place to live? Another country where there is no  segregation, or discrimination, or apparent, alleged unfair police treatment against your brothers? Ah, but there’s the rub. That would mean turning your back on the source of your wealth and  status. My guess is that the NFL players would not want to go that far. They know which side their bread is buttered, and anyway such a nation does not exist.

 

I hate to be so obvious and transparent, but there is only one person who is fair in all deliberations, and He is the only one that is worthy to take a knee for. Take that in two ways. We can use one or both knees in prayer because God is a sound judge, and you can also ‘take a knee’ when the final curtain of life is drawn, either of our life here, or the end of the world as we know it. The wisdom of the old prophet said it long before it was obvious to anyone else. His peers probably thought he was crazy, but the prophecy in the Old Testament is clear:

 

By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Isaiah 45:23 ESV

 

By the way, the knees that will bow will include those millionaire NFL Sportsmen, both black and white, plus Kings and Presidents across the globe. Humbling isn’t it?