Thursday, 20 November 2008

A Caring Community...

Rejoice with those who rejoice, wrote the Apostle Paul, and weep with those who weep. There is a sense of community that the New Testament describes of the church that is probably found nowhere else other than in a family. In a healthy church, just like in a healthy family, we share each other's joys and each other's pain. We "carry each other's burdens" as Paul said in Galatians 6.

How would you like to be cared for? Some of us, like me, are beset with fierce independence. We struggle to let others in too close. We struggle to truly open up and let others see just where we are struggling. While independence is a necessary virtue for responsibility-bearers it can be an unfortunate handicap as well in this instance of allowing others to care for us. Then there are those who are responsibility-shunners and feel so dependent upon others that they are easily disappointed with others- despite how much care they are shown. How would you like to be cared for?

Of all the words that can compliment a church- strong, influential, genuine, Biblical, Spirit-led, there is in my opinion none nicer to hear than: caring. While we want to be worthy of all those compliments, I especially want our church to be caring.
1Cor. 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

The opportunities to "care for one another" (1Cor. 12:25) in our church family are growing. One of the most practical ways for this to take place is in our Bible Study Groups. Our Bible study Groups are led by very caring leaders and I often hear stories of how group members have met together for a meal or social gathering and shown care for each other. In some instances, Bible Study Group members have taken meals around to one another when they sensed that this would be appropriate. In other instances within our church I have heard of some men getting together to do some handyman maintenance on a single mother's house. In yet another instance some time ago, a Bible Study Group organised to purchase a car for a struggling single mum. And just recently, one group helped with the costs of getting someone in our church family to an interstate funeral of a family member. This is caring.

Luke 6:38 talks about giving and not being being worse off for doing so. It seems that the more we care, the more we are cared for. The Bible is not just about information that makes us wonder in aweful amazement, it is also a handbook for how we should and can care for each other given to us by the most caring Person in the universe. Even when we think that no-one else cares, God always does.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Faith & Feelings...

"Guard your heart" writes Solomon, "for out of it flow the sellsprings of life." (Proverbs 4:23) Solomon should have taken his own advice! He allowed his heart to be unguarded and eventually the water from his heart's wellspring flowed in the wrong directions. An unguarded heart makes a person feel wrong things. An unguarded heart allows thoughts to become emotional feelings. An guarded heart allows these emotional feelings to become the dictates of our life. In effect, Obe Wan Kanobe's counsel to the young Luke Skywalker was: "Have an unguarded heart Luke" (he actually said, "Trust your feelings Luke").

Many years ago, a fallen husband sat in my office and defended his failure. He told me that he had developed feelings for someone else and that while he still loved his wife, he also loved this other woman. "I can't control my feelings" he said, "I must be true to my heart." Neither of these statements are Biblical. In fact, they are Satanic. The Bible teaches us that we have direct control over our emotional feelings and that our hearts must be guarded, regularly cleansed, and rarely trusted.

Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick; who can understand it?

King David who had often left his heart unguarded pleaded with the Lord-

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

What Solomon should have known, and what the ignorant husband that day in my office didn't know, was that feelings follow actions and actions follow decisions and decisions follow thoughts. To dwell on something too long is a choice. This choice leads to a decision. This decision produces an action. This action produces a feeling. Another way of saying guard your heart is:

  • be careful what you choose to think about and dwell on;

  • be more careful what choices you make especially if they are hasty and uncounselled;

  • be even more careful about what course of action you take especially if you know that it compromises the teaching and commands of Christ

  • be most careful about aligning your life's values by what you feel in your heart because "the heart is deceitful above all things" - your heart is often like Gomer (Hosea's wife)!

  • Of course understanding how our emotions work can help us to understand how we can better love someone, forgive someone, and achieve Christ-likeness. It starts with our thinking. Consider Philippians 4:8-9. It starts with our minds and what we choose to put into them. May God help us to reject wrong thoughts and replace them with good thoughts. May God help us to make right choices based on good thoughts. May God help us to guard our hearts! May God help us to guard our hearts and build stronger, more godly lives and families. As a result, may God help us to build the kind of church where we have our hearts in His Presence, His Word and His House.