Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Suffer in silence

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. *19*For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. *20*For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. *21*For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. *22*He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. *23*When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
1 Pe 2:18–23.

What a challenging set of verses. They reminds us that we should display Godly conduct, and that we can truly be like Christ in a practical way. How? - We must get on with our daily tasks faithfully and considerately no matter how we are treated. It should bear no impact on our conduct even if we are mistreated ourselves. If we are slandered, we should bear with it, even if we are beaten we should endure. That sounds incredibly hard if not impossible. Yet it is in those moments when we have the opportunity to be more like Christ. To display to the world something of who God is.

Jesus, we know, did no wrong. He was perfect in every way. He bore with people beating him, spitting at him, saying all kinds of lies about him, twisting his words, whipping him and eventually murdering him. Even to the very point of dying he did not retaliate. He submitted to the maltreatment of others in order for God to be glorified. That’s why he is our saviour!

I don’t expect that God would wants us to endure the many things Christ did, but sometimes it can feel like we are under incredible stress and suffering. You may be innocent, but suffering at the hands of others. So did Jesus. He endured, he persisted, he maintained his own sense of righteousness. Jesus did not let others dictate his behaviour or actions. He knew what he had to do and kept on doing it. He maintained his sense of self and his trust in the Father. Can you do the same?

Who knows what God’s ultimate plan is in your current suffering? Jesus didn’t want to go through the suffering he did, yet he knew that whatever happened to him, God would ultimately be glorified. He trusted God above all things.; above his friends, family and circumstances. He knew God had a plan. God also has a plan for you. It will be for His glory. It will be for the benefit of the kingdom. For now, you are called to endure the difficulties and display who Jesus is. Don’t Loe your cool, go on a rampage or scream how unfair it all is, although it may well be, remember who your saviour is and who you are called to imitate.

You are not called to retaliate, or to dish out, as our kids like to call it, ‘payback’. Jesus did not retaliate and he has told us not to either - there should be no ‘payback’! Our kids were astounded, shocked and I think a bit aggrieved when we read this - The very thing we want to do and it feels right and fair to do, we are told not to! Jesus didn’t do it and nor should we. Jesus endured. Jesus forgave. Jesus entrusted his situation and suffering, ‘to him who judges justly.’

Jesus knew that whatever happened to him, it would be for good in the end. Jesus trusted, ‘him who judges justly. - Will you do the same?

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Keep Your Conduct Honourable

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:12

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
1 Pe 2:15.
English Standard Version

So, basically, we have got to keep doing good things. It doesn’t matter what else is going on, we’ve got to keep behaving well and being kind. Even if people take offence, get you into trouble or dislike you. That’s not is easy is it? To keep behaving nicely and acting kindly when people are against us.
To honour those who dishonour us  is actually quite hard work. So why should we do it? Because as these verses indicate, in the end those who speak out against you will be silenced, your good actions will be seen and God will be glorified.
Such a great, amazing outcome for us, and God! Yet it is so hard to achieve. I remember one work situation where there was a person who was ’against’ me. They tried to quarrel with me whenever they could, tried to make me look and feel stupid. In the end it really got me down. I dreaded seeing that person, I really wanted to avoid them, but I couldn’t. I prayed hard to be removed from that workplace because I didn’t like it. I became emotionally distraught by what was happening everyday, it was painful. I was trying to be honourable, and to keep a good work ethic, but I didn’t really realise the truth in these verses - That God will be glorified and that the other person would eventually be silenced. I’m not sure that God has been glorified in that instance yet, or if they were silenced. Maybe one day I’ll find out, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter now, but what does matter is how you and I respond when we are faced with people that work against us.

Do what is right.

Keep your conduct honourable towards; work colleagues, friends, family and neighbours because in the end it will end well. Your good deeds will be recognised despite the odds. Your kindly character will be honoured eventually. In your conduct you will show the world that those who truly follow God will do good things no matter what. Even when all things seem against us, by our good Godly nature we will be making a positive influence on the world.

The reality is, this is extremely hard as I alluded to in my experience. The human nature wishes to hide away, run away or fight when we are rightly or wrongly accused. We want the situation to disappear, many times we probably pray for that to happen. Rarely do we want to continue to suffer.
I know, for me, I want everyone to love me, I don’t want people to speak ill of me, to be trying to catch me out in wrongdoing or to just putting down my character. Yet, as people of God we have to be prepared for this to happen at times.
These verses encourage us to not alter our behaviour or our actions. Keep your conduct upright, keep behaving well and keep doing those kind things. We are to continue to display the Godly character that is in us even against the odds.
What difference will this make?
Well, those around you will see you not becoming bitter or unforgiving, but acting well and maintaining your own righteousness. They will see someone who perseveres and maintains their peace, who remain kind and generous even when others mistreat them. Surely, by conducting yourself in this way those around you are seeing the love of Jesus displayed.

As for you - what will it do for you? For one thing it will help you to appreciate something of the love Jesus has for you. He persevered in loving you even when you denied him, ignored him and even forgot about him. What others do or can do to you is probably minuscule in comparison. You can also get closer to God - I know during these kind of times I lean on God more, I talk to Him more and rely on Him to get me through. Circumstances like these can increase our dependence on God and decrease our dependence on ourselves or others.

So, take heart. Keep going in the way you know you should go, ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable’,  why? Because, ‘by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people’. It may take a while, but it will be worth it in the end!


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Are you important?

Have you ever wondered what kind of person you are?
What importance you have?
Or are you stuck in the world’s rut of constantly striving for more?

It’s easy to think that we are not much in this world.  We are surrounded by; media stories, celebrity influence, and the competitive culture to become more. There is an incessant drive in this world to; do more, create more and ultimately become more than we already are.
It’s as if who we are isn’t enough.
There’s even the competitive nature that springs into action about how busy we are. It’s as if, if we do more then we become more. Then we brag about it as if there’s greater respect the more we do. But is it really true?

The world, our culture, is obsessed by the necessity to become better than it currently is. The drive is to become better so that you can become more recognised and feel more valued.

What a desperate and unfulfilling way to live - To be constantly reminded that who we are is not enough. To be continually trying to become someone greater, more important, of greater influence and value. To keep doing more, to become more - how exhausting! Constantly waking up not feeling good enough, working all day to try and become more than you are - how do you ever achieve the more you’re after anyway - once you’ve reached one goalpost - where’s the next?
What an exhausting competitive culture we try to conform to!

Well folks -  I have good news!

You don’t need to lead this exhausting life anymore! Because;

‘you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’
1 Peter 2:9.
English Standard Version

You have already made it!

You have already achieved what you need to. You are already chosen, you are of importance, in fact - you are royalty! If you’re not feeling good enough - hold that thought because  you are, in fact, holy!

You belong. You have been forgiven. You are important. You are also; welcomed, recognised, valued and honoured. What other acclaim could you be looking for?!!

We have achieved and received the acclaim that the world is looking for!
You are enough, who you are is valued, you are an important person of influence, and you didn’t do anything to get it!! God gave you these things when you first believed in Jesus.

You don’t need to strive for more - you need to believe you ARE more!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Why would builders reject a stone?



Basically, because it's not fit for purpose. It may be tarnished, discoloured, have a fault, holes or cracks in it. If this is the case then the integrity of the stone will be under question. The stability of a building depends on the structure of each individual stone. Therefore each stone would be inspected to determine if it's fit for purpose. If there were any question about it, then the stone would be rejected as no-one wants houses falling down on their heads! 
The stability of a building depends on the stability of each stone. Each stone has to be free from blemish, strong and undamaged. All others are rejected, so when we read:

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone,
1 Peter 2:7 (ESV)

This seems unbelievable. Why would a rejected stone which is not deemed fit for purpose by the experts become the cornerstone? How does a rejected stone become the first stone of primary importance - the cornerstone? 

It's not just that the rejected stone was of use, but it became of primary use. The rejected one became the cornerstone - the stone which all other stones are lined up against. The base stone which determines the structural soundness of the whole building itself. If the cornerstone is faulty, the likelihood is that the whole building will collapse. 
It sounds ludicrous, yet that's exactly what happened!

I know that Peter is using an analogy; The stone that the builders rejected signifies that Jesus was rejected by the religious experts. 
He was not fit for their purpose. He did not line up with the vision of what they wanted to build. He didn't fit. 
So, what happened? 
Jesus became a new standard. He became the first stone in a new building. He was the perfect cornerstone for a new regime, a new way of building life which we can all align with. When we align ourselves with Him we become part of something greater and stronger than ourselves. We are built into a something solid that will stand the test of time.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

Where do you put your trust?


All flesh is like grass 
and all its glory like the flower of grass. 
The grass withers, 
and the flower falls, 
 25  but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 
1 Peter 1:24–25 and Isaiah 40:6-8 (ESV)

These verses cause me to consider what do we trust in? - the flesh, the word of the Lord or something else?

Let's take the first sentence, 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.' When this speaks about flesh, it doesn't doesn't mean the skin, fat and tissues that make up our flesh, but it means us as humans. Us humans are mere flesh, and in comparison to other things, we are pretty transient - average life expectancy, about 80years. So, we are not round very long really. We are like grass. We grow, bring a bit of beauty, glory even, we live for a bit then we die. 

Maybe not the cheeriest thought you've had today! 
But it's the truth, and it's good to remind ourselves that we are temporal. If we are temporary, then so are the other people around us, so is this whole world in fact. One day it will all cease to exist. So,I just wanted you to consider - what are you putting your trust in? Maybe it's trust in your spouse that your marriage will work out, trust in the university that you/your children will achieve well, trust in your boss that they will treat you well, that your car will start this morning, or trust in traditions or your heritage that will keep you safe. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they are all subject to change. They will at some point let you down. Maybe in small things, maybe on a larger scale, but at some point these things will fail, like the grass, their glory will fade - then where will you be? 

I want you to consider, on a daily basis - where is your trust? What do you put your hopes and trust in? What things do you have your confidence in? If they are things of flesh - humans or human made, or even the nature then one day these things will fail you because one day they will expire. Yet, there is hope friends, 'but the word of the Lord remains forever.”' There is something that will not let you down, there is some thing that will not end, there is an everlasting hope and that is found in Jesus. The Word of God and the words of God will still remain when all else falls apart, when other things die, God remains, and his word stays the same. He is the unchanging one who is eternal, this is what you can hope in and not be let down. God is not temporal like the flesh or grass. - He made them all so He transcends them all. He will be around when you feel alone, He will stand by you when you are troubled or in trouble. He will never let you down. He will stand forever. 

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Angels

Do you ever stop to think about angels?

I've been thinking about this as I've noticed that they pop up in the Bible from time to time. They can be messengers, like when Gabriel visited Mary to tell of her upcoming pregnancy. There are also angels who are warriors like in 2 Kings when Elisha and his servant see a blazing army. These are just a couple of examples that I know of, you may be able to recount more. 

I just wondered this week, if we really know anything about angels. They are not just nice images in paintings, fictional characters, or objects we put upon the Christmas tree. They in fact, are real live beings like you and I. 
Angels have; minds, strength and jobs to do, just like us. Yet they are not like us. They dwell with God, carry out His tasks, battle, send messages and they worship (don't we also do most of those things too?!). Yet angels are holy, set apart beings. They live with God, they are in heavenly places, they get to be in His presence on a regular basis - isn't that incredible?!

I've begun to read 1 Peter, in verse 12 it says how angels long to understand about salvation. They live with God, they abide in the heavenly realm, yet they don't fully understand the amazing unfolding of salvation. It's like it's too incredible even for those who are closest to God to understand. One version that I quite like (NLT) says, 'It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.' Isn't that incredible? Even the Holy, heavenly beings are watching the playing out of salvation. They eagerly watched the life of Jesus and wondered how it'll all work out. I mean, they live with God and yet they don't know His master plan! So, how on Earth are we meant to fully understand it?! 

We live in the good of what Jesus has done, yet when I think about it I don't really understand how it all works out - how will this salvation we partly enjoy now, be fulfilled? What an incredible mystery, an awesome adventure, 'It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen'! 


Thursday, 29 November 2018

What does it cost you?

 "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing"
2 Samuel 24:24 (ESV): 

This is a statement David makes towards the end of 2 Samuel and it got me thinking;
  1. How do you offer things to God?
  2. If so, what is the cost?

When David was around, an offering would of been made in the form of a sacrificed animal. This offering could be for a variety of reasons - atone for sin, to say thank you to God, to celebrate the keeping of a promise to God and many more. For us, it is different because Jesus put himself in the place of one of those animals and sacrificed himself. He is our sin offering and our thank offering as well as all else. He sacrificed the greatest thing - his own life to save ours. 

So, if Jesus has paid all the cost, do we even need to offer God anything? I mean, if Jesus paid it all, what can we offer? Is there any point in us making ourselves uncomfortable or inconveniencing ourselves for God when Jesus has done far above what we could achieve? 

I mean, the ultimate sacrifice has been made by Jesus. We can't offer anything as incredible as Jesus did, and it's not essential to offer God things, but surely, considering the depth of love God has shown us requires a response?
If someone has shown us love, or favour, then we naturally want to respond and show our appreciation to them. So, how do we do that for God? In response to His great love, to His great mercy, what can we actually give Him?

I know many Christians who faithfully give money to God. They regularly set aside part of their income to give to God - this is a good thing, it honours God, but does it actually 'cost' you? 
Obviously there's a financial impact, but most budget around it and it doesn't become an inconvenience. I'm not saying that it necessarily should, or that you should get into debt (I don't think God would want that) but it is possible to give, even generously, and not really feel it. Not really feel the pinch or the difficulty. 
Unlike the widow giving her mite - she gave all she had, she had nothing for herself. It was a true sacrifice. I'm not saying that we should all do that, go bankrupt, into debt or starve in order to give to God, but there is something in the obedience and sacrifice that we see in the widow that we admire. She displays a reliance, security and honour in her sacrificial giving.

Giving to God isn't all about financial giving either. In fact in this scripture in 2 Samuel, it's about building a place of remembrance- of setting up a memorial as well as making a sacrifice. So, there are clearly different ways to sacrifice to God. It could be serving on a team, helping a neighbour, extending your hospitality, or giving up something - laying down a reliance in other things that, at heart, you know do you no good. 

Sacrifice to God, like David says, shouldn't be something that, "cost me nothing". We should feel it, but in a healthy way, like the first time you start a new activity, it stretches us and might ache a bit, but we know it does us good. 
Giving to God does us good. 
It causes us to grow in character, to extend ourselves, to discover new skills and gifts, to grow aspects of our personality. 

God doesn't actually need us to do anything, but once we realise something of what God has done for us, the response of our heart should be to honour Him with the resources we have. 

So.....

How do you sacrifice to God? 

What do your offerings cost you?


PS
'A generous person will prosper'

Proverbs 11:25