Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Redeemer


“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:” Job 19 v 25

I have never used a pawn broker but I am well aware of their existence and often see people entering and leaving the premises with looks of sadness on their faces.  There were many more pawn brokers when I was younger and we did learn about them as a part of growing up.

People would take treasured items to the shop and leave with money and a redemption ticket; the plan was that they would return at a later date and redeem their valuable goods when they had paid all the outstanding charges. Therefore the pawn ticket became a positive and important reminder of the promise to return and be reunited with their valuables.

There are times when it seems impossible to return to a better condition. We have many examples of people who have given up and lost their faith in something better. When Job was experiencing extreme negativity and severe personal trials he did not throw his hands up in the air and curse God, as Job’s wife suggested (Job 2 v 9), instead he retain his faith in the Redeemer he knew existed.
It was the ancient Hebrew custom that family members would always be recovered when they had been captured or enslaved; this is the same meaning that Job used in this verse, “I know that my redeemer liveth,” (Job 19 v 25. Job had unshakeable faith that everything that had been taken away from him would be restored once again, one day. This verse heralds the truth of the immortality of Jesus Christ and the promise of His return to earth before He had even been the first time.
Job could be seen as one of the first positive thinkers. He had every reason – it seemed – to become despondent and negative, yet he remained convinced of an act of redemption. In a short time Job had lost practically all he had: his children, his possessions, his health, his wife’s support, and the reassurance and comfort of his friends.
But this man said – in conversation with God, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” (Job 42 v 2) It was primarily because Job had a personal relationship with God that he did not doubt that everything would be restored. Job knew that he would be delivered from the torment and the experience of separation and loss that he was enduring; he knew this because he had already put his trust and faith in God.
One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, questioned Job’s connection to God. Eliphaz suggested that Job needed to “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come to thee.” (Job 22 v 21) It was Eliphaz’s opinion that Job was suffering because of a distant relationship with God, and that was why bad things were happening to him. Sometimes we are confronted with people who do not believe what we believe, they think our faith in a Redeemer is ill-founded and that we cannot have the correct relationship with God if we do not hold the same views as them.
Job’s friends and his wife were all mistaken. Job seemed to be the only one who was aware that he held the pawnbroker’s ticket to redemption. Job knew, without any doubt, that he would be reunited with all that was taken from him. Job believed that the promise of redemption was real ... and he lived his life in accordance with his beliefs.
When you know that you have an inheritance you are not willing to forfeit it just because the current situation may be causing you to struggle. It’s like having the last copy of someone’s last will and testament that entitles you to receive untold riches – you are unlikely to destroy it or give up on it because you know that the document provides you with a plan of deliverance from one state to another. So it is with the Redeemer.
Christ Jesus has promised to return and redeem us all. He has paid the full price, with His life, and our deliverance is now guaranteed. There is no chance of a default or any forfeiting of His right to take us to the earth made new, we have been redeemed and we will be freed from this sin-filled earthly life one day soon.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Questions and Queries

“Ask and it shall be given you;” Matthew 7 v 7

My life is full of questions. I always seem to be trying to find out ‘Why?’ In this respect I have continued to be like a small child who constantly asks why in order to understand the world around them.

Children invariably go to their parents, or care-givers, for their answers. Usually they get what they are seeking. The child learns step by step and the emerging world becomes less daunting to them. As I have grown up I, like most people, believe that I have outgrown my parents’ knowledge. I stopped going to them for answers in my early teenage years. Many queries remained unasked and therefore unanswered for many years after that.

What I have found is that it is usual to seek answers from a source that you trust. From a source that you believe can provide the answer you are searching for.

I still have an enquiring mind and I like to read so I have managed to find out some answers to a few burning questions that had remained with me for years. However, there are some areas that stump me and it’s at times like this that I may turn to the Bible. Matthew  7 v 7 says “Ask and it shall be given you”. I wondered if this was accurate for all things that I could desire so I read further. In John 14 v 13 it states, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do”, that sounds just perfect, but this is not a formula for selfish requests, the verse continues in this way, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

Therefore the request to God has a precondition, they will be granted as long as the Father is glorified by fulfilling the request. I wanted to know how I could know if God would be glorified by what I was asking.

As with many questions, one generates another. I have frequently found myself to be in a spiral of queries and not able to see the way out of them all. Again, I reach for the wisdom of trusted friends or the guidance to be found in the Bible. I reason that if I don’t get the full answer from one place then at least I will have gained some light and be able to look in another place for the rest.

This is what the Bible has to say about asking for things, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11 v 24. Therefore in exercising faith my desire and belief are fulfilled. There is an additional verse in 1 John 3 v 22 that explains why the requests are granted; it’s about obedience to the commandments of God. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

It appears that all our questions will be answered if we act in accordance with God’s commands.

The obvious next question for me is “What are God’s commandments?” As I said, one question often leads to another. I always gain insight from my search, but sometimes I end up with many more questions than answers. So I go back to the beginning and ask all over again.

In this way, I think that I never grow up; I remain child-like as I constantly seek guidance and direction from God. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

©MHMorgan 2011

Friday, 9 September 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Peace

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26 v 3

It’s nothing new to say that we live in troubled times. It seems that we are always talking about the bad things that happen to us, how then can we remain peaceful and remember to also focus on the good things? How can we find peace?

If it was a simple matter surely everybody would be doing it, right? Maybe it is an easy thing to do after all but not many people believe it because it is so simple. Because we live in such a complex world we have a tendency to have an aversion to the straightforward things in life. Simple solutions become suspect amidst the chaos and speed of everyday life.

However, I have found that getting back to basics has a lot of positive results.

One of my favourite verses in the whole bible is found in Isa 26 v 3, it states, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” This verse has kept me strong through so many tense and worrying situations. I have sometimes used it in a chant-like manner to remind myself that peace is guaranteed to me. It has worked.

So, how could this work for other people. I’m not suggesting that everyone goes around chanting the same verses over and over, what I am saying, and this is something that has worked for me, is that whenever possible it has been a good idea for me to think about God, His goodness, His provisions, His love and His promises.
Does that sound too simplistic? On one hand it could sound like a formula for robotic behaviour, but this would never be possible because each person is unique with their thoughts. So, how could thinking about the same subject, God, help to ensure a state of peaceful living? I ask this because so many people believe in God, but as many people as there are believing there are also that many interpretations of God’s will. How can that lead to a state of peacefulness?

The answers are, I think, in the Bible. Heb 12 v 14 states, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.” By loving each person we meet and wishing the best for them - as we would for ourselves - I think we will each be on the path towards wider peaceful living.

What about when we feel guilty regarding something? How do we find peace then?  Rom 5 v 1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Consequently faith and peace appear to be linked. We have to believe that our guilt – be it real or imagined – is taken away from us. As we follow this road of belief we relax in the comfort of peaceful reassurance because we gain a sense of rightness.

Isa 32 v 17 “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” From the beginning of peace we can follow the route to eternal assurance and quietness of mind. That sounds blissful. That sounds possible. It is.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulations: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16 v 33) Therefore it is clear that we can still have a deep experience of peace while facing trials and tribulations each day. We are guaranteed that peaceful mind because it is a gift from God.

Jesus knows that when we are connected to Him and focussed on Him we will gain the peace we search for, we will overcome the troubles of the times that we inhabit. He has promised to give us peace, and His promises never fail.

 ©MHMorgan 2011

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Obedience

“Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. “ Jeremiah 7 v 23

As I child I was often told - by my God-fearing parents - that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Sam 15 v 22) I seem to recall that this admonition was issued as a warning to avoid the inevitable punishment that would occur if I followed a certain course of action that went against their advice. There were many times that followed when I understood the wisdom of their words as I listened to the warning of Samuel.

With the passing years I have seen the need for obedience in certain things at particular times. It has been an interesting journey trying to decide who to listen to, who to obey and what instructions to follow.

Being obedient is not too difficult for us as social human beings; we follow instructions all the time because of the benefits that we get from doing so. A simple example is of the traffic light systems: we all adhere obediently to the commands in tri-coloured lights to stop, get ready to stop, or go. That’s because we know of the probable chaos that would ensue if we went against this edict.

How then do I obey God? What exactly does He expect from me today? There are so many questions surrounding correct behaviour according to Bible commandments and expected social behaviour that the main question for me is how do I answer them sufficiently well to ensure that I am obeying the word of God and not the diktats of man? (Acts 5 v 29)

In the Old Testament it is recorded that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments as a reminder of the guidance for behaviour that He desires us to live by. The first section of the Commandments is about our relationship with God, and the second portion is a set of instructions that God wants us to obey so that we can have the best relationships with each other. The central theme throughout these Commandments is love; love for God and love for each other.

It is because of love that God wants the best for us. We are promised salvation as a reward for our obedience. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb 9 v 12)

In John 13 v 34 - 35 Jesus says “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” Jesus lived the perfect example of an obedient life full of love for His fellow man, and He was therefore in the ideal position to re-introduce this important aspect of obedience for us to live by.

God wants humanity to be reunited with Him permanently so it is His requirement that we obey His commandments - that are all based on His love for us. This matter of love has remained fundamental to all the things that God requires of us in the obedience stakes.

Why should we do what He says? Sometimes we ask questions before we follow the instructions. I know that some children (and some not so young people) are still motivated to act (or not) by the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?”

Relating to obedience to God, following His instructions for a happy earthly life and an everlasting eternal life, that question can be answered simply. “What’s in it for me?” “Eternal life.”

And the main instruction we have to remember, and a basis for all the commandments, is to love as Jesus loved.

©MHMorgan 2011

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Personal Object Lesson - Name? What’s in a name?

“... and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.” Isaiah 62 v 2

Frequently when people enter into new relationships, such as marriage, they change their names to reflect their commitment to the union. The change of name can also be symbolic of an association of love.

In the Bible and throughout history there are many recorded examples of people’s names being change, of nations being renamed and whole bodies of people called by a common moniker.

Abram became Abraham after he entered into a covenant with God that made him the father of many nations (Gen 17 v 5), and Sarai, Abraham’s wife, in turn became known as Sarah – their names were altered by God (Gen 17 v 15).

We talk freely of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and oft times forget that Israel was previously named Jacob. Remembering the story of his name change gives an indication of the significance of the alteration – Jacob fought all night and never gave up his struggle (Gen 32 v 24 – 32). Before long the name Israel was not just the name of one man but it was also the title of a nation of people and a land as well.

Jesus also did some personal naming with his disciples; He gave Simon the surname Peter and he also gave the surname Boanerges (the sons of thunder) to James and John the sons of Zebedee (Mark 3 v 16,17). This particular type of naming indicated that they were selected for a special place in Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus’ actions made the relationship between Him and the disciples a family connection. Not long after the selection and renaming of these people had taken place Jesus’ mother and brothers came to find him. When they called Him He answered “who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked around about on them that sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3 v 32-34)

Naming indicates a relationship just as much as the behaviour of a person does.

The first two gospels of the New Testament begin with the description of the person that they are talking about: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1 v 1) and “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1 v 1). Matthew begins with a genealogical list of all the ancestors of Jesus and in the final five verses it states, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: For he shall save his people from their sins. ... Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph ... called his name JESUS.” (Matt 1 v 23 -25) This was a fulfilment of prophecy found in Isaiah 7 v 15 and 9 v 6.

When the baby was born to be a servant to man the name Jesus signified His humanity, while Christ became the title of his status as a servant and the Son of God remained the designation of His divine nature. The names of Jesus give a direct link to His relationships with His fellow man and His heavenly Father.

The name ‘Christian’ indicates that one is Christ-like in nature and behaviour. People fight for this name and because of this name.

Sometimes different names are chosen by people who want their new name to reflect their understanding of a new identity and at other times the changed name is bestowed on a person.

Names are not just related to people, they are also related to objects, places and ideas. Names can reflect a set of beliefs and are clearly linked to individual and group identity.

So, what’s in a name? Everything.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Mind yourself ... and others

“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” Rom 12 v 16

The basis of all humanity is centred in the mind. RenĂ© Descartes said “I think, therefore I am.” This philosophical statement is well known and has become a cornerstone for Western philosophy. People think and therefore know that they exist – because they are conscious of the thinking process. This thinking, the way we think, what is in our minds, affects the way we interact with each other. The main line of questions that I have on thinking and the processes of the mind are: “What do we think? How do we think about ourselves and others? ”

The Bible says that we are to be “of the same mind one toward another” (Rom 12 v 16). How are we supposed to achieve this synchronicity in thinking? I have found that the basis of harmony in all things is love.

This compassion is spoken about at length throughout the Bible. A great example of love is recorded in 1 Cor 13; this book is known as the ‘love chapter’. It is like a chemical formula in times of uncertainty and trouble. I have found that there may be times in life when we disagree with each other, it is at times like this when we have to remember that “Charity suffereth long, and is kind... Doth not behave itself unseemly... is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor 3 v 4 – 5). Love is like an electrical charge through the mind, it is capable of rewiring our thinking towards one another. Love is the only positive ECT that I can think of.

I recommend large doses of love as an antidote to feelings of separation and loneliness. Love is being in a situation when people have the same mind towards another person: the overriding sentiment is that you want all good things for them.

In Philippians 2 v 2 - 5 Paul writes “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accords, of one mind ... Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” If we do not behave selfishly in our actions then we will attain a mind similar to that of the mind of Christ.

The radical Son of God had the mind of love and caring in all His thoughts and actions. This is the perfect example to emulate. The manner in which Jesus acted when He was on the earth is a perfect example of love.

In order to flood our minds with the positivity of love we should focus first on Christ and then we will be able to reach out to each other with one mind, in love.

One amazing fact that the Bible points out is that love lasts longer than either faith or hope (1 Cor 13 v 13).

Harmony does result when there is a commonality in desire, hope and dreams. We can look after ourselves and others when we have the same thinking processes and focus: Christ Jesus. When we are in harmony of mind we have the promise that we will attain peace: “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” 2 Cor 13 v 11

Isa 26 v 3 states “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” Therefore if individually people focus on God then collectively they will have the same mindset: one of peace and compassion.

©MHMorgan 2011

Monday, 28 February 2011

Personal Object Lessons - Lying

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Ex 20 v 16

This Bible verse is about sociology.

Lying signifies a breakdown in a relationship. Speaking things which are not true is about breaching the circle of society; it is about the relationship of trust being destroyed. When we lie we damage the inter-responsibility that people have towards each other. I think the same is true when we keep silent about injustice against innocent people: this includes ourselves. Too often we fall back on the words of Cain to absolve ourselves from any guilt, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4 v 9. Suddenly it is somebody else’s problem, not ours.

However we choose to look at any given situation we do have some responsibility for each other. God has created the human intellect and He knows that we will learn and discover new things about ourselves and the world. The facts that we learn may be uncomfortable but they are still facts. When faced with new discoveries – about ourselves or others – many people choose to present these facts in a different way; they choose to lie. When Cain killed Abel he knew that he had sinned because God had told him “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” Gen 4 v 7

Quite clearly it is our individual responsibility to do well, to speak the truth. Lies create more divisions in relationships and break down unity. When we do not have unity we fear the judgement of others. Our individual position as a valuable member of society is no longer assured because we all know that not all manifestations of witnesses will be true ones.

In courts of law there is a requirement to swear or attest that all evidence will be the whole truth. Regardless of this obligation there are still instances where people have been known to be false witnesses. These are actions that will cause injury to others; this may be physical, psychological or social injury. It is all about corrupting the truth to misrepresent, depreciate, and destroy the character and life of others. Lying always hurts somebody.

We are admonished in Luke 6 v 31 “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” And also in Matt 7 v 12 we have the instruction: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” The reverse is also true: we need to treat ourselves with the same high regard that we should treat others.

Therefore we should not lie about ourselves either.

The repression of truth is lying and it too often leads to injury to oneself and others. We are repeatedly cautioned to be a faithful witness. Solomon, in Proverbs 14 v 5 states “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.”

In Revelation 21 v 8 we are told that “... all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” I’m quite certain that there will not be any liars in heaven. It is up to us, individually, to know the truth and be a true witness to it.

Sociology is a study of how we experience life and how society is organised. It is my belief that if each person refuses to lie firstly to themselves and then to others, that we will have a much better and healthier society. It is my belief that God wants us to care and respect ourselves and also to extend those same attributes of kindness to everyone we meet. Lying is not about taking care of anybody. Lying is always destructive. The truth is healing.

©MHMorgan 2011

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