Monday, April 3, 2017

Apples of Gold

(Taken from a devotional reading on YouVersion)


In the 1950s, Mary grew up knowing she was different from other kids . . . and she hated it. Because she had a cleft palate, she had learned to steel herself against the jokes and stares of children who teased her about her misshapen lip, crooked nose and garbled speech. Mary was convinced that no one outside her family could ever love her . . . until she entered Mrs. Leonard’s class. Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face and beautiful brown hair. All of the children liked Mrs. Leonard, but Mary grew to love her.
In those days, teachers administered a hearing test in the classroom. Unfortunately, Mary not only had a speech impediment due to her cleft palate, she was also partially deaf in one ear. Determined not to let the children have something else to tease her about, she thought of a way to cheat on the hearing test: She could pass the “whisper test” by covering her bad ear and turning her good ear toward her teacher. On the day of the dreaded hearing test, surely God put seven words in Mrs. Leonard’s mouth that changed Mary’s life forever. When it was time for Mary’s “whisper test,” she clearly heard the words: “I wish you were my little girl.”
Solomon called these kinds of words “apples of gold in settings of silver.” They are words that can erase years of pain and sorrow. They are words filled with love and acceptance. They are words that are priceless to those who hear them.
If someone listened in on your conversations, would their lives be changed for better or worse? Would they hear you speaking about the character flaws of others as if they were physical defects or would they hear that you consider others as beautiful in God’s eyes? Ask yourself if your words build up or tear down. Do your words push others away from you or draw others near? Most important, do they draw others to God?
It’s never too late to dispense apples of gold in settings of silver. Seek someone who is downcast and whisper a word of encouragement. You never know who needs to hear the words, “I wish you were my friend.”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why I don't consider myself to be a Christian



In my opinion, the biggest life changing question asked in the Bible can be found in Matthew 16:15, Jesus arrives in the region of Caesarea Philippi. He asked who the people thought He was. The disciples said John the Baptist returned, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet. Clearly the people thought whoever this Jesus person was He was under the authority of God. The reality was He was not recognised for who He really was, the Son of God and The Saviour of the World. 

 

Jesus then turns to His disciples and in Matthew 16:15 says, "who do you say I am?" At this point Jesus is recognised as Messiah and Son of the living God and on this foundation Jesus said, "I will build my church". This question at this point changed everything,  Jesus' suffering on the cross and His resurrection was close and that God's Kingdom was ever closer.

 

This question is as powerful  today as then. "Who do you say Jesus is?" And that's why I struggle to call myself a Christian, as I learn more about Him. Christian for some people is used to describe someone who loves and follows Jesus. For others it is more a label used to describe a life style, a type of person, a type of music, something ticked on a demographic form or a type of insurance. I remember a musician talking about a particular conference and describing it as very 'Christian'. Almost as you would describe the Motorshow being very automotive. The funny thing is, I went to that very conference the following year and ran into the same chap and I have to say it was very 'Christian'. It's very surreal being sold Christian motor insurance!

 

The point I'm trying to make is that this word Christian seems so far removed from that moment when Jesus asked that question to His disciples, "who do you say I am?" It's not enough to stick a label on ourselves and call ourselves a Christian, but do we know and acknowledge who Jesus is. He wants to have a 'real' relationship with us and see our lives changed so that we can live life to its fullness.

 

I am Andy Mitchell and I am learning to follow King Jesus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Going on an ADVENTure


“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.”
Luke 2:25 NIVUK

I have just started a new 25 day reading plan about preparing for Christmas, as an addition to my regular reading plans and it has got off to a great start... well for me it has.

After the reading and some devotional words, each day has sections that encourage you to spend some time that day doing things based on the reading. These sections are things like 'Exploration, Expression, Experience and so on.

Today, day 1' the Exploration section invited me to consider how my life, or our lives, can reflect the kind of anticipation that we see in Simeon and Anna in our reading from Luke.

They had both experienced and heard from the Father, they both knew what the nation needed and what God had promised and they were waiting for Him and preparing themselves for Him. They were way ahead of the rest of the people who really were 'singing from a different hymn sheet' 

Odd, is it not, that they had all read and been taught the same scriptures and they had all heard the same prophetic warnings, promises and encouragement. 
But then of course we need to layer onto this the agendas of those who did the teaching, the willingness of people to believe without exploring ( or sometimes even thinking) for themselves, the personal and cultural agendas that we are often blind to ourselves but which massage the message to suit our personality and desires and probably other stuff we are unaware of! Nonetheless, God showed, through Simeon and Anna, that none of this stuff need actually prevent the powerful, life changing 'truth that sets us free' from breaking through our self constructed or 'others imposed' barriers and filling us with Holy anticipation. 

Simeon and Anna not only knew what Gods word said, they knew what it meant, they knew what it meant for them, what it meant for the nation and what it meant for the world.

When they saw Jesus, even as a baby, they saw in Him the entire hope of the world - this is the One they had been anticipating and, on seeing Him, they knew that God was among them.

So, how on earth do or should or can we even begin to match anticipation like this?

Firstly, read Gods word and seek not only to know what it says, but to understand what it means. Then, viewing the world through the filter of Gods Word, expect to see Jesus in your circumstances and situations today.... not simply looking forward to tomorrow, but expect and anticipate that you, and through you, others, will come face to face with Jesus, today. Watch out for Him in your everyday - anticipate Him and be excited at the prospect.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hope in Hard Times

I read this devotional today that contains a lot that is perhaps hard to accept but nonetheless seems to get to the heart of grace and faith......

I suppose there has never been a marriage between two honest, self-examining people that at some time has not reached a seemingly irredeemable low point. There have been moments in my own marriage when the wall between my wife and me seemed too high to hurdle, too thick to break. We found it hard to muster hope. It was not easy to be confident that somehow the barriers blocking our oneness could be removed. . . . Too many unhappy spouses claim promises that God never made as their foundation of hope. They trust that if they do all they can, God will change their spouses into the loving Christians they should be. But a reason to live never consists of a guarantee that “Things will get better” or that “God will save your husband and help him stop drinking.” The hope of the Christian is far deeper than a mere change in someone else. The hope of the Christian is inescapably bound up in the grace of God.

It would be easy to quote a few verses from Hebrews (especially 6:18–19), and speak glowingly about the sure hope in Christ that serves as an anchor for our souls. But if you are plagued by chronic despair that results in a “Why bother” attitude, then prayerfully consider the following.

The Lord has not promised to put your marriage together for you. The hope of the Christian is not that one’s spouse will change or that one’s health will improve or that one’s financial situation will become good. God does not promise or rearrange our worlds to suit our longings. He does promise to permit only those events that will further his purpose in our lives. Our responsibility is to respond to life’s events in a manner that pleases the Lord, not to change our spouses into what we want. Even if we respond biblically, we have no guarantee that our spouses will respond in kind. Though they file for divorce or continue to drink or nag all the more, there is reason for us to persevere in obedience.

Certainly if both partners build on the foundation of hope and strive earnestly to live biblically, even the worst marriage can be turned around. Either way, there is reason to hope. This reason is bound up in the grace of God.

In God’s presence, there is never cause for despair. Our spouses may not do what they should to restore our marriage to happy, fulfilling relationships. But if we remain faithful to God, pouring out our emotions before him, renewing our commitment to seek him, trusting him to guide us in our responses, then he will sustain us through our trials and provide rich fellowship with him. There is reason to go on. There is hope. God’s grace is sufficient.

—Dr. Larry Crabb

Monday, October 24, 2016

We had a dream!

God speaking through a dream




Dare to dream.....but be prepared for some unexpected outcomes.

Following the very powerful prophetic dream that was shared with us at WAVC yesterday I was, once again, challenged by the quality of our relationships within the church generally.

Matthew 5 is always a challenge :

“‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24 NIVUK
http://bible.com/113/mat.5.23-24.nivuk

But when we realise the extent to which a real sign of the quality of our relationship with Jesus is our attitude towards, and relationship with, others it opens up new and challenging areas for us.

Attending worship, reading the bible, prayers and other Christian paraphernalia become secondary if we are not striving for God honouring relationships and doing what is within our power to fix them when they are broken.

In our series on the Letters to the 7 Churches in Revelation Jesus spoke some very hard truths to His Church. Many of these were extremely hard to swallow. It would have been very easy in the face of these to throw your dummy out of the pram and go elsewhere, somewhere easier.

However, and this is where it gets harder, the only avenue Jesus presents to the people, on every occasion where He highlights a weakness, sin or failing is........ acceptance of His words and repentance!

After our worship service I was reminded by someone of words I had said in church ( and this person was reminded of them by their non Christian partner who happened to be there when I spoke) , " it's easy to love the loveable " so that is never the test of our obedience! I am always challenged by the words of Glen Kaiser ( former lead of Rez Band) - " the person we love the least is the full extent of our actual love for Jesus".

Like the dream that was shared at church, this quote does not give the option of hiding behind so called 'spiritual activities' whilst leaving broken or breaking relationships untended.

I am so thankful that, following extremely tough words from Jesus in the letters, there is always a way back to the experience and reality of His awesome grace - through the doors of:
1. Repentance
2. Sorting it out ( the fruit of repentance)

"Let them who have ears, hear what the spirit is saying to the church."


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The doing or being balancing act....




“After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD.”
2 Chronicles 12:1 NIVUK

How accurately this statement reflects a weak tendency in us that has remained constant over the generations?

When we want or need something or feel weak or fearful we 'turn to God' but when we have what we want or feel content we begin to form an identity based not on intimacy with our Father but based on what we do ( yes, even what we do in the church) or we subtly shift our confidence away from God to 'things' or even to our own abilities.

How often do we hear ' she or he has 'never been closer to God' than when they have hit a crisis point? On one level that is great and God promises to meet us whenever we turn to him with integrity and in repentance or in genuine need. However we must let that experience beg questions of what was going on in our walk with Him before that point....

There will usually have been symptoms that were ignored, excused or brushed under the carpet. Things like less and less fellowship in house groups, less desire to pray together with fellow Christians, less reading of the bible and often, ironically more work for the church or God as we like to persuade ourselves...

When we do this then even our so called 'Christian work' becomes like 'filthy rags' because it tends towards idolatry. It begins to replace God in vital areas of our lives. The growing void created by the distance in our intimacy with Him is filled by fine sounding 'good works'

Do we spend more time or place a greater priority in DOING FOR God rather than BEING WITH Him?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Form or substance? Or the third way.....



Unfortunately, some of our beliefs and practices can become “fossilized” over time. We think that we are relevant and full of truth - which we can be.......... WHEN the outer form flows from the inner substance. 

We can so easily drift into celebrating the form but forgetting the reality behind it. How we love our worship and our Christian music (nothing wrong with that) but how easily our lives or our character contradict that which we celebrate and enjoy. 

How often do we hear people, maybe even ourselves, when we have acted or spoken in ways that blatantly fly in the face of the bible, make excuses: "That's just the way I am..." , "If God hadn't wanted me to be like this He would have made me different" , "Yes, but that was written 2000 years ago .." These are all real examples I have heard recently......

Statements like these ( and there are many similar) are a signpost that we have stepped, or are about to step, over the line where the outer form is no longer linked to, or flows from, the inner substance.

In this scripture from Zechariah it has happened.
“‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”
Zechariah 7:5-6 NIV

Their fasting appeared meaningful but had no inner substance. When this or something similar happens, a worship activity or Christian witness becomes an empty ritual or, even worse, a ritual with the wrong meaning attached to it. Often this can occur as a slow erosion of values, or a spirit of pride that, when the crunch comes favours self over substance. 

As is often the case, Jesus put it in such a way that it could not fail to have impact:
“‘ “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Matthew 15:8 NIV

I'd love to say I have never been there, but it would be a lie..... Lord help us to see the warning signs and step back from crossing that line.

Jesus wants us to have substance AND form - working together to His glory.