Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Friday, 16 September 2011
“Ask and it shall be given you;” Matthew 7 v 7
Friday, 9 September 2011
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26 v 3
Saturday, 16 July 2011
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.
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
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
“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. René 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.
Monday, 28 February 2011
“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.
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Rev 3 v 20
There is a famous Holman Hunt picture called ‘The Light of the World’ that provides an image to go with this verse. Even without the picture we can imagine the scene: there is Jesus, just standing at the door. Jesus, who can do anything and go anywhere at any time, is standing at the door to my life and waiting. Jesus waits for permission to enter MY life.
Sometimes people can force their way into our lives. They situate themselves into our daily routine before we have a chance to know what is going on around us. Jesus is not like that. With all the power of the universe at His disposal Jesus does not create a situation of forced entry. This is not a heavy booted militia exercise with the beating or kicking down of the entrance door. No, this is just Jesus, alone, standing outside of my life and waiting.
As Jesus waits He knocks on the door. Then He calls ... gently. He does not shout out with thunderous noise. He stands there and waits for me to hear His voice, then I will have a choice if I want to open the door. One of the most interesting facts that I remember about this verse - and the Holman Hunt picture - is that the door does not have a handle on the outside. This door, to my life, can only be opened when I decide to unlock it and let Jesus in. Then, and only then, will He come into my life and share with me. It is always my decision and in my time. Sometimes it seems incredulous that the Master of the universe would commit to and patiently settle on a period of waiting - just for me. The fact is that Jesus’ position is firmly established, He has made a covenant to wait for me and He will never fail to tap gently to get my attention. All I have to do is to hear Him, agree to His request and let Him.
The process of allowing Jesus into our lives follows a simple procedure: He knocks, He stands and waits, we open the door, He enters and then He shares – first a meal, and then eternity, with us.
Sharing food has long been symbolic of coming together, of having an agreement and being in fellowship. This verse makes it clear that the process goes both ways as Jesus states, “and [I] will sup with him, and he with me.” When Jesus says that he will partake in the principal meal, the feast of the day, with the person that opens the door to Him, He is saying that He will be a part of the major celebrations of our future. In Jewish times it was common to compare the feast with the delights of future life. This meal is significant because it is the promise of being able to share all our experiences with Jesus, and also being able to share in all His experiences – like eternal life.
All we have to do is to answer the knock at the door and let Him in.