Roundabout

Traffic Sign, Road Sign, Shield, Traffic, Road
Pixabay

Its a matter of swings and roundabouts

It doesn’t matter how you get there

As long as you arrive there in the end

Nobody really cares

Life has its detours and deviations

Roadblocks and “Go to jail” squares

But when you cross the finish line

You’ll find your reward waiting there


Padre

FOWC – Roundabout

Waiting On God

American Bald Eagle, Bird, Predator, Wildlife, Symbol
Pixabay

Pastor Vince called on us to remember to wait on God this week. He drew his messages from Isaiah 40: 27f:

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The passage notes a real human weakness: Dispair. We get into hard times and we begin to immediately think we are all alone or abandoned by God. We therefore try to come up with solutions ourselves, often with tragic consequesnces. The passage reminds us, however, that “the Lord is everlasting,” . . . and that He doesn’t tire or weary in His care for us.

It goes on to tell us that “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” We don’t need to act in impetuous ways, as He is our sustainer. We need to pause, and wait on God!

No matter how dire the situation may seem, He is there for us. Better still, we can handle it as He is in control. First Corinthians 10: 13 reads – “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God is faithful, and He will not let things go beyond what we can handle, especially when we seek the strength in Him.

In fact, returning to the Isaiah passage we “will soar on wings like eagles; . . . will run and not grow weary, [and] walk and not be faint.” By waiting on God to move in us, we will be revived – note the running and walking reference, but Brother Vince noted as well the part on soaring. We despite what our perils may be, or who might be our advisary will have a eagle or God’s-eye view. He is above all evil, He masters even Satan himself, He looks down on all and had a true perspective. We too, and note this, will soar. Eagles when they soar don’t flap. They glide as they are lifted up! We too will be lifted. God will raise us abover the situations, and we with our eagle-eyed view will be able to see the dangers and have a true prespective that they are mere dots below the power of God. We just need to wait on God, and leave it in His hands.


Padre

Cascade

Seljalandsfoss, Waterfalls, Iceland
Pixabay

It’s Witness Wednesday, and time for a brief reflection. Pastor Vince spoke of the domino or cascade effect of praise this week. God does not need our praise (Acts 17:25), but in our giving it we – are strengthened. The act of praising God cascades back down on us and no matter what the circumstance we may be in, we are better off for it.

No matter how dire seem our days

It is still the time to lift our praise

For when to God ears it goes

Then blessing over us freely flows

God is the giver ultimate

His blessings are unending – without limit

He needs nothing from us

And yet He knows

That our devotion and praise

Cascades and back to us overflows


Padre

It’s Not About Religion: Sermon


In Acts Chapter 17, we find the Apostle Paul is in Greece.    

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

In all their devotion, in their religious fervour and practice they were missing something.  Paul goes on to explain to them that there is one God, the creator of all, the definer of all.  He states:

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

It’s not about religion. It’s about Jesus, the “proof” given to everyone, and a relationship with Him.

People miss this point.  It is relationship that makes the difference.  The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and many people in our times think it’s about rules.  Look at Matthew 23:23:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Jesus was making it clear it isn’t about legalism, it is again about relationship.  He isn’t saying not to do good, but to do it for the right reasons.  It is about a relationship based on justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  It is not about check lists or a legalistic tick box exercise.  Think back to what Jesus said was the greatest commandment of the law: “To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, and strength,” and “to love your neighbour as yourself.”   Yes, strive to do what is right, but don’t neglect the important things of relationship.  It isn’t about religious laws, it is a faithful spirit and a heart based on loving.

But that isn’t the only aspect of “religion,” that leads us astray.  Over the years I have had several students that in their explanations of the acts of Jesus or various prophets, commented that they did “Magic.”

Religion is often laced with this idea of magic.  Look at Second Kings 5:

1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Notice it wasn’t some elaborate ceremony with incantations, incense, or swinging a chicken over his head that was needed.   It wasn’t about show.  Magic shows belong in Las Vegas, not in our hearts of love and relationship.  The instructions were simple, go be washed. 

Jesus didn’t make a show either.  He addressed needs.  He healed the sick, He fed the hungry.  Acts of compassion, not magic.  Yet so often people can’t see beyond the miracles to see the true purpose behind them. 

In John Chapter 6, Jesus feeds the 5000, and then leaves them.   He isn’t just putting on a magic show for the applause.  He is showing compassion. 

But now we see another problem with a “religious” approach.  Religious approaches often centre not on relationship, but “what can I get out of it?” 

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Notice, they are back to the Scribes and Pharisees outlook: “What works?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

It is not in doing difficult tasks, or brave deeds.  It is about love and relationship.  Matthew 11 says:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We are back to what we noted before, it is about Jesus and a relationship with Him.

The final aspect that shows that it isn’t about religion, is putting trust in the wrong place.  Here I am talking about focusing of leaders and titles, rather than on a relationship with God.  Those with religious titles, be it pastor, reverend, priest, or even prophet, are still flawed human beings. 

In Numbers 22 we find the story of Balaam.  Balaam was a prophet.  He conversed with God, the passage tells us so.  What happens is the king of Moab is frightened by the approach of the people of Israel.  He offers to pay Balaam to curse them.   God clearly tells him, “No, these are my people.”  But Balaam ignores God’s instructions and stands against the people of God.  It is what happens next that is the important bit here.  Balaam’s donkey resists going to confront the Israelites.  In the end, Balaam beats the donkey, and the animal begins to speak.  It isn’t Balaam’s corruption, that is my focus, but the instrument that God uses.  He uses a humble donkey to teach His ultimate lesson.   Trust me, that puts being and minister and theologian into perspective! Let’s sum up then.  It’s not about religion.  It’s not about the shrines and buildings.  It’s not about laws and rules.  It’s not about “magic” or what you can get out of it.  It isn’t about titles and position.  It is about a relationship with Jesus, and with one another.


Padre (preached 9 May 2021)

Mud-Bound

Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, Stairs, Path, Lucifer, Lava
Pixabay

Some fear the habanero flames of a sulphur realm below

But cling with all their might to the quicksand mud that around them flows

They see above then the azure sky of day

But the indigo curtain of night fills them with dismay

Pins and needles fill their souls if the word death is but for an instant on the lips

They would rather into the hurricane gale trod

Than enter the gentle breezy space, beyond the pearly gates of God


Padre

Paint Chip Poetry Challenge

pearly gates, habaneromudpins and needlesbreezy, quicksand, and indigo.

A Voice for the Voiceless

person in scarf holding white disposable cup
Jose Ramirez at Unsplash

I have spent the last few days engaged as a delegate at a national union conference. There has been a lot of discussion on the support necessary for those in need. Austerity has eroded the livlihood, and life choices of many. Child poverty in the UK is an unfortunate reality despite the wealth of the nation and that the nation’s richest individuals have grown even wealthier during the Covid crisis. Fairness was a recurring theme in discussions, as CEO pay goes up, and yet more working people have slipped into poverty. Women’s and minority rights were also focused on. It is time for those in majority, or at least in influence, to step up for those who are voiceless, or at least stiffled. Abuse and harassment of women and girls should be called out by men not just “feminist” women. Racism – “institutional” and “systemic” also should be challenged by those of privilege.

These modern sounding “liberal” principles are, however, in fact biblical. Proverbs 31: 8-9 calls for us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The scriptures are clear that we with a voice have not just an opportunity, but a duty to defend and speak for those without voice. When we see injustice we need to call it out. This isn’t just “political,” but day to day real life in its nature. “Locker room talk,” race sensitive jokes, and any other form of diminishing the human dignity of anyone should be stood up against.

At Sychar’s well, respect and a kindness done

To the Samaritan woman under midday sun

And to the Syrophoenician, Jesus gave “crumbs”

Human dignity clearly won

The poor may be with us to the end

The Apostles to them the Jerusalem Seven they did send

We too must for the unfortunate speak

And ways to serve them we should seek


 

Padre