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

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‘Bad’ Company

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. Psalms 1:1,2 TLB

These two verses have caused some confusion in Christian circles, and mostly because the first verse is rendered in the KJV as: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Can you see the difference of emphasis in each version?

Some read this Psalm as an excuse to avoid the contact and friendship of sinners, while forgetting  that we are all sinners in the sight of a Holy God. It can then follow that we only seek out the good and pure as our chosen circle of friends and shut out the rest. There are denominations that set themselves up as ‘separate’ from the rest of the world, whether Christian or not. Others will actively seek out their own inner circle of confidants to the expense of their own ability to witness and minister to the fallen and hurting.

We certainly should not ‘follow evil men’s advice’ or ‘hang around with sinners scoffing at the things of God’ but there is nothing that suggests we should separate ourselves from them completely. Otherwise how can we live up to the great commission of reaching the world with the saving gospel of Jesus? Let’s use all the resources at our disposal to rightly divide and discern the Word of God’s truth, and not fall into the convenient trap of interpreting verses to suit our own thinking.

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.”

Memory

As our age increases, so our ability to remember clearly usually decreases and can become obvious to our friends and family alike. In fact, they will see it before you do. However, have you noticed even in advanced dementia patients, memories stored from ‘way back in their youth come through as fresh as when they were once made?

Firstly, be amazed at the skill of the Creator who allows some memories into our minds, never to be fully forgotten. Secondly, the Christian should use the skills of memorisation while we can to keep a store of favourite Bible verses and passages. Then as the shadow of failing memory passes over us, we can get the help and comfort right from the source of the well.

You know it makes sense, but it means lifting your Bible more often, reading it over and over, and making an effort to commit verses to memory while we can. It is possible to leave it too late and the things which will fall from our long term memory will be songs, melodies, childhood incidents, but little or no comfort from God’s Word, and would you want that?

So, starting right now, open the Bible that only goes to church with you (even if that!) and read the familiar psalms, parables and promises of a loving God. Do your best to let them sink into your mind, and even if your memory stays sharp in later years, you will have gained a treasure trove of much needed Scripture to have at hand. Should that dreaded mind numbing illness strike, God will bring to your mind the benefits of His Word. What could be better? How do I know this truth? Because His Word has already comforted me with this powerful  promise:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 NIV

A Wee Thought

Some Holiness churches were once wrongly labelled as believing in ‘Sinless Perfection’.

Since it doesn’t apply to churches, why do we unfairly expect ‘Sinless Perfection’ from other Christians?

Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10 ESV

I had a fresh look at the so familiar passage we call the Beatitudes, and as happens so often with Scripture, found another truth that I had overlooked before. It isn’t so much seeing something there that’s new, but more like noticing things that are NOT there!

The people called ‘Blessed’ are not seen as proud or arrogant, or self seeking, or ill tempered know-it-alls. These special people are a breed of the Kingdom of God unlike others, and bear in mind that these words were spoken by Jesus to a great crowd who were not disciples or followers. Jesus had the temerity to call these ordinary folks, ‘Blessed’!

My revelation in reading these verses afresh is that I must be open to receiving God’s many Blessings in a humble and contrite manner. I can’t presume on God’s Blessings just because I go to church and call myself a Christian. The multitude who stood and listened didn’t fall into the ‘churchy’ group. They followed because He had the Words of Life, and Jesus was showing them the heart of the matter, and the way they should act. Now would be a good time to read the list again, and better still meditate on what it means to our own lives. How can I be ‘Blessed’ or ‘happy’? Certainly not by standing on a soap box and shouting how bad we all are and deserving of hell (which we are). But by changing from the inside first, and then showing the life of Jesus to the wider community.

This is not a pithy little list of nice sayings you might see on social media to make us feel good. These are all Blessings coming from the heart first, and only then do we see the result that God has stored up for us. Seen in this light, I have found new meaning and insight into the heart of a primarily Holy, but loving and giving God who will change us from the inside out.

Tipping Point

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

We all have a point where we break. It can be in different ways, like wages being spent before the next pay day ending in poverty, or a health issue where the body eventually succumbs to the sickness that landed that loved one in hospital, and of course there are other tipping points.

However, the biggest trigger point for our ‘tipping’ is anger, or frustration, usually with someone and not something. Paul knew our human limitations when he wrote the book of Romans. Of all people, bearing in mind all the people he had met and witnessed to, he knew the feeling of frustration where someone, or some people could not be reached with reason or fine argument. That included the folks in the churches he had started and then left before they had enough time to become mature and stable.

I believe Paul is telling us to do our best to keep the peace, and even make peace, BUT (big but) if it is not possible due to the other person’s attitude, manner, or un-Christ-like character, that by itself will not stand in the way to alter our salvation. The onus is on us to try our best to live at peace with everyone, but when that peace runs out or is just not possible, we can have a clear conscience. This becomes even more of a minefield when the difficulty arises from a conflict or difference with another Christian. The tipping point can then become a source of conflict between Kingdom brothers or sisters and the fellowship is therefore broken.

If a difference is not able to be resolved in brotherly love, our Christianity is found to be in question. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that my tipping point can come faster and earlier with some believer’s unmoving theology, than with the open minded unbeliever.