Saturday, 28 March 2015
Friday, 27 March 2015
We all love Pride and Prejudice. I don't mean the lesser known Jane Austin's version! When our original fore-father chose autonomy ("I'll do what I want to do!") rather than what The Maker told him to do, he doomed us all with a genetic code of pride and prejudice. As a result, all of us are controlled by our pride and our prejudice. This mercilessly robs and cruelly deceives us. While Adam wrote the original Pride and Prejudice, Jesus wrote the sequel...
Pride and prejudice led man to lose his true connection with God, with others, with nature and even with himself. Pride still ruins our ability to be honest. Prejudice ruins our openness to learn from others. We now live in a world and among people who are ruled by their pride and by their prejudice. Human pride and prejudices causes terrible damage. It prevents a parent from listening to their frustrated child. It prevents a husband from hearing his wife. It prevents a man from being shown a better way by a younger man.
But the sequel Jesus has written completely undoes the damage wrought by pride and prejudice. His sequel is called Humility and Honour. It causes a person to consider someone's criticism. It helps a person to applaud someone achieving better results than them. It empowers a wife to apologise to her husband.
In the script of pride and prejudice we justify our rebellion. The genetic script tricks us into being overly-independent. In pride and prejudice the hero is always right. In the sequel, the story is quite different. The script of humble and honour has a different plot. It's hero is Jesus who was the perfect example of humility and honour.
Which script are you using for your life? The free and easy script of pride and prejudice prevents a person from achieving their best. Christ's script of humble and honour gives a person the best means of dealing with difficult people, difficult situations, and difficult challenges.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
If you choose to live your life from the script of humility and honour you will stand out as someone peculiar. This world doesn't honour the humble. But Christ does. And that's all that really matters.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
"I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
The next you are tempted to react in pride when someone is trying to teach you something, read from Christ's sequel instead, and try humility. When you're tired and don't feel like you can keep giving, read from Christ's sequel and consider the One who went all the way to the Cross.
Saturday, 21 March 2015
"Woops! It broke. Never mind, I'll get another one." We live in a throw away society. Electronic stores often have "recycle bins" for cell-phones that just a few years ago cost a week's wages to buy and are now considered worthless. When I was growing up as a boy there were "Repair agents" who would fix broken appliances. Not today. We just throw them away and get another one. We are losing the art of repairing. I don't really care about dodgy toasters or kettles, but I do care about the things that are priceless which breakdown and are too easily thrown away. Some of you are in broken relationships and you need repairing.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
We maintain our gardens, our cars, our machinery, and even our health, but all too often neglect our relationships. The busyness of life, the demands of work, the responsibilities we carry, the financial pressures we face, all undermine our most important relationships unless we take counter-measures to maintain them. The word, repair comes from the Old French re-parare which meant to take back to readiness. In this sense, repairing is the initial stage of maintenance. But as many parents discover, getting back to a harmonious relationship with your child is not an easy matter if the brokenness has gone on urepaired for a while. Any husband can tell you that repairing a broken marriage can be more difficult than scaling to the pinnacle of a great mountain bare-foot. Repairing is a skill, an art, an often elusive hope.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the Repairer of The Breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Jesus knows a thing or two about brokenness and repairing. The Prophet Isaiah foretold of Him as 'The Repairer of The Breach' having just prophesied of Him in very rich symbolic language, 'a bruised reed He will not break' (Isa. 53). Who can not be moved deeply when reading of the Christ's final moments on the cross when He felt for the first and only time in all eternity a break in His fellowship with His Father. The immense pain of the breakage caused Him to cry out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And this highlights an oft misunderstood aspect of relationship breakdowns: it's rarely the relationship that breaks first - it's always the fellowship that is broken first. Your relationship with you parents, your children, your spouse, will always be - but when there is no investment of time together, talking, sharing, listening, caring, helping, your fellowship with the one you are related to will suffer.
God has given us each the marvellous opportunity of both relating and fellowshiping with others. We are created to do so. Isolate a person from others and you injure their soul. God created each one of us for a primary relationship with Him from which we are designed to enjoy our most satisfying fellowship. From this centre, we are created to relate and fellowship with others to lessening degrees. The first relationship that the Creator ordained for mankind to enjoy beyond his relationship with God, was a relationship and fellowship with his spouse. "God brought the woman to the man." This first marriage was to be the model from which all subsequent marriages would follow. What God had been to Adam, Adam could now, to some extent, be to Eve. This marriage union was meant to show Adam and Eve the richness of the eternal relationship and fellowship that God Himself enjoyed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our most significant relationships are meant to be our richest.
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God is the ultimate relationship. His eternal fellowship has never been broken, except once. And the reason it was broken then is the same reason it continues to be broken for others today. Jesus experienced the forsaking of His Father while on the cross. (Forsaking involves ceasing to listen, refusal to answer, being absent.) The Father forsook His Son because Jesus became what the Father can not accommodate: sin (2Cor. 5:21). And neither can you and I. When someone sins against us they break their fellowship with us and damage our relationship with them.
Consider the Trinity (the Ultimate Relationship). It is a relationship that is noted for two goals. Firstly, each member of the Trinity is committed to the glory God. Secondly, the way they glorify God is characterised by holiness. "Holiness" sounds like a boring religious word reserved for monk types. But in reality, holiness is the only means of our greatest delights and pleasure. We are created in the image of a holy God to be holy. And not until a married couple realise that God has gifted mankind with marriage for the same two goals- to glorify God, and to grow in holiness.
But sin is the opposite of holiness. Sin robs a person of being able to give God glory. Sin prevents a person from reaching their potential because it denies a person the beauty and power of holiness. The holiest people are the happiest people. Similarly the unholiest people are the unhappiest people. God gifted marriage to mankind, not for our happiness (the fruit of holiness) but so that a person might more completely glorify God and attain holiness. Marriage as God intended is for your holiness not your happiness. Repairing a marriage means getting back to these two foundational goals. It's the same for repairing any relationship - i) commit your life to living for God's glory and ii) pursue holiness.
¶ Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
If you are married, these are the goals for your marriage (God's glory and your holiness). Your job is to help your spouse to give God the greatest glory and deepen their holiness. This is why us husbands should always take the lead in repairing our marriages. We repair intimacy with our wife when we give her attention, listen (actively, reactively and responsively) apologise for the disappointments we have caused, relearn what she wants from us, and take steps to meet her needs (even though they sound like "wants"). Marriages need constant repairing. But it's not just marriages that need repairing. Friendships, brothers, sisters, parents, children, all need repairing.
For any relationship to be repaired, sin must be dealt with. When someone has been sinned against, this sin must be atoned for. If you steal someone's TV, you can atone for it by either returning it or replacing it - and then apologising before asking for forgiveness. You may not have 'stolen' something from the one you're now estranged with, but the principle is still the same: i) You put it right, ii) You apologise (feel the pain you have caused and express regret for that injury), iii) Seek forgiveness. This requires an essential element in the repairing process that is extremely difficult: humility. Of course, each of us need our fellowship with God repaired. We may not have stolen God's TV, but each of us have violated our sacred mandate to bear His image when we lust, covet, hate, blaspheme, or make other things a higher priority than Him. But unlike a stolen TV we can't put these things right with God by returning them to Him. This is why our own efforts - even our own religious efforts - are utterly useless to repair our relationship with God. We need The Repairer of The Breach to take our sin, guilt and shame and bear our penalty. What love! What grace!
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride...
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts, 'When I Survey', 1707
No matter how damaged your relationship is, it can be repaired. Jesus is still The Repairer of The Breach. Look to Him. See His humility in enduring the Cross. Notice His passion for the glory of God and holiness. This is why being in church for worship (giving God glory) and the instruction of the Word (our holiness) is indispensable for our fellowship with God. Like any of our relationships, it is from this basis that we draw the grace to repair all of our other relationships.
Friday, 13 March 2015
We all do it. Those of us who are prone to make more mistakes than a reasonable person's allowance tend to 'what if' more than most. Due to my my hightened gift of hindsight I indulge frequently in "what if" moments with the adjoining words, "what if I had only..." These whatiferisms are nearly always in a regretful, reflective, nostalgic tone. But what if we looked forward rather than back? What if we dared to dream more than we regretted? What if we took steps to go where we could go rather than pouting about where we can't? What if?
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Rather than, "What if I had only..." and regretting that I cannot change the past, what if I embraced this amazing gift that God has given each one of us: and change our future? None of us has the power to change the our past, but we each have the power to change our future!
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Rather than, "What if I had only done it this way?", I began to look forward and start asking different question: "What if I will take the necessary steps to achieve this dream?" "What if I will do what has to be done to ensure that I'm no longer haunted by the past?" "What if I will pray bigger, bolder, more outrageously glorious prayers?" (Eph. 3:20 ¶ "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us")Then how different might my future look compared with my past?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
What if I will refuse to accept that my past necessarily has to be the only thing that defines my future? What if we as a church began to pray together as if we really believed the hope that Ephesians 3:20 presents to us - that our God is able to do far more abundantly than anything we could ask for, think or imagine? What if?
¶ And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
Thursday, 12 March 2015
Friday, 6 March 2015
How do people see you? It was the English poet, Blake (1757-1827), who said that the problem with most people is that they see with their eyes, rather than see through their eyes. He was meaning that people don't see all there is to see because they only see what they think they see. It was the deaf and blind Helen Keller who said, "There are none so blind as those who will not see!" Ordinarily Blake and Keller did not have much in common except when it came to the art of seeing. There is more to see than what our eyes show us. Jesus had something to say about how we see - that if you can grasp it, will change the way we view everything.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
When Jesus was "looking at him" what did He see that others couldn't? Most people saw a very successful wealthy young man. But God-in-the-Flesh saw an empty, lonely, hurting young man who was a slave to his 'things'. Rather than this young noble owning lots of things, Jesus saw that lots of things owned him. Sometimes we might see an angry young person who is hostile toward anything to do with God, the Bible, and in particular, Christianity. But I wonder who Jesus sees? Perhaps He sees a very hurt young child who grievously resents their inability when they were too vulnerable to resist their attacker who hid behind the subterfuge of a false religion they called, 'Christianity'. I wonder if Jesus sees this young person taking their hatred toward their victimiser out on "the Church" - and in particular Church leaders - and less particularly, Christians in general?
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Just before Jesus was executed, a woman with a reputation crashed a dinner party where Christ was a guest. She created a scene when she poured the proceeds of her profession over the feet of her Maker. The looks of disgust were probably no greater than the ones coming from Simon, the host. While Simon and his distinguished guests were glaring at this woman, Jesus asked him, "Simon, do you see this woman?" We do this all the time too. We think we see people. We think we've got them figured out. We think we know what a person is like. While Simon was staring scornfully at this woman, Jesus was seeing Simon. Despite Simon's religious hypocrisy, Jesus saw him as a broken man. You see, Simon had a secret that he was hoping no-one would ever find out. Jesus knew his secret. When these men saw a woman who had a 'name', they didn't see what Jesus saw. Jesus saw a little girl. This little girl may have been like other little girls who have been treated like objects to gratify the evil lusts of sick men. These violated girls grow to involuntarily believe that love equates to sex (even though they never actually do find the kind of unconditional acceptance and commitment from any man that would even begin to be constituted as "love"). The woman that Jesus saw was a gravely sorry lady who had previously had a 'chance' meeting with the Saviour. In that moment, she was both seen and loved for the first time. And she was forgiven. Not the "don't-worry-about-it" type of forgiven, but the "even-though-you've-hurt-Me-maliciously-and-repeatedly-and-deserve-to-be-judged-appropriately-I-forgive-you-and-release-you-from-your-debt-to-Me" type of forgiveness.
Sometimes our eyes are our biggest obstacle to truly seeing. It's long been known that sometimes the best way to see the world is to close your eyes. This world of problems looks different after we close our eyes and pray.
Our eyes can tell us that our situation is hopeless. Our eyes can tell us that there is no-one who can help us. Our eyes can tell us that God has abandoned us. Our eyes can tell us that the Enemy is getting the upper hand. It's in these time that we really need to see better.
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Second Corinthians 5:7
When I close my eyes I see a church full of worshipers. I see a city with thriving vibrant churches. I see a state where politicians honour God in both public and private. Maybe the only way we will see this with our eyes open though, is if more of us close our eyes!