Friday, 14 December 2018

Attitude Makes the Difference

Getting into shape is easy!!

YEAH RIGHT!!! - What planet was that bloke on when he said that?  How are you going at getting into shape? - Me? Failing miserably.

No Pain no gain. Or so the saying goes. Athletes remind themselves of this to get their best possible performance.

Sometimes they have to go through grueling training. Without it, there is no improvement.

Reading James in the New testament he suggests it's the same for Christians. I believe perseverance is essential in our Christian walk especially when we are facing trials and temptations.

In my opinion there are many and varied situations in which we as Christians need to persevere. James tells us in chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 that we should consider it PURE JOY that trials and temptations come our way because it's like a test of our faith and these trials and temptations help us to persevere.

Easy to rattle off here in a blog but often so very hard to do BUT when we do succeed in giving rotten old satan the "heave ho" during these trials and temptations then the victory of course goes to God and then to us!! YAY!

In verse 12 of  the same chapter - James tells us that we are blessed when we do persevere under all sorts of trials because we have won the test and end up with the crown of life God has promised to all His believers who love Him. - AWESOME EH!

So what are some these tests and trials and temptations we endure on a day to day basis?

Well, from my own experience some of the BIG ones are doubting, lust, envy, jealousy, pride etc etc - you name it - I have been there and done that! UNFORTUNATELY!

So  we can see that this first chapter of James is all about our attitude, our dependence on God (ie. We really can't do this on our own), help of other Christians, believing that God is always trustworthy etc etc.

Then we hit Verses 19 to the end of chapter 1

LISTENING AND DOING

This is the BIG one for me because it says be slow to speak and quick to listen - I am so much the other way round but I AM learning - Praise be to God!

My siblings and I are so quick to put our 2 cents worth in when someone is telling us something that is obviously on their heart. Must be a genetic thing. We listen then before they are finished out comes all of our experiences along the same line.

We all do it to an extent. It's as common as flies around a horse. While someone else is talking, we're thinking about what we're going to say next, so be it inadvertently or deliberately we bring the conversation around to us - after all aren't we the most important? (NOT).

BE SLOW TO SPEAK is a great learning tool for me and one where I am still coming to terms. Not only does James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen,  BUT not just listen - CONCENTRATE on what the person is saying. Keep your eyes on them, don't let them wander around the room.

A tip I am learning to conquer is, when a person asks you how you are, be honest and tell them - GOOD is not an appropriate answer! But then gently bring the conversation around to that person and off yourself as soon as possible. In lots of ways you will end up being the one blessed - it's really quite amazing.

Also be SLOW TO GET ANGRY - this can be so hard for a lot of us. Anger often dictates to us how we behave.

If we react when our feelings are hurt it can have devastating reactions to whoever is involved. Anger can be contagious so we have to keep a good reign on our tongues when dealing with people of all ages. Our words can cause a lifetime of hurt to so many people including us.

So you can see attitude and perseverance is what we need to pray for and words, words, words can give us a lifetime of heartaches - don't be fooled it's not all about us. We basically know others are worth more care and attention than them listening to us bang on, rather than us listening attentively to what is on their hearts.

God wants us to slow down and listen too. So what else can we get out of James?

FAVOURITISM FORBIDDEN

Labels are found in more places that on suitcases and soup cans. Not sure about you but I tend to put them on people all the time.

People are funny or odd, friendly or cold, smart or dumb, greedy or needy etc etc. and all these so-called LABELS can have a vast and profound influence on the way we treat people.

Not long ago a bloke came into our church, Now I haven't got anything against tattoos, but this guys was literally covered in them and I mean covered - everywhere - you could hardly see his face. He was obviously drunk and he had a distinct limp. He was smelly and dirty and swearing and really mad at the world - what do you do?

James tells us distinctly what we are to do. DON'T DISCRIMINATE!!! It's hard isn't it?

Chapter 2 and verse 5 of James tells us that God has actually chosen the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith. I reckon they are a message to us in a BIG way that we can't judge at all - God loves us all!!! Who are we to judge - we should NEVER dishonour anyone not in any way under any circumstances.

God tells us we should love our neighbours (and that doesn't mean the guys next door but everyone)  as ourselves. James goes on to say that if we show favouritism in any way we sin!! How about that!!

We can be as righteous as we like BUT if we break the judging law then we also break God's heart and actually we will be judged by God in the same way that we have judged someone else,

Please don't feel I am preaching to you - this has been a HUGE lesson for me too.

I'm left with these questions as I close - maybe you have the same questions buzzing around in your head too?

Who are some people who you avoid or look down on?

In what special ways could you reach out to one such person?

What can you do specifically to show someone like this genuine kindness?

This blog has certainly been on my mind a lot lately - I pray and trust it can be just a little in yours this week.

God bless you as think along these lines:-

  • Your own personal PERSEVERANCE AND ATTITUDE in your walk with God

  • Where you are in the LISTENING - V- DOING stakes?
  • How are you personally going in the area of JUDGING?





Sunday, 2 December 2018

Facing your BIG Cats

Being a HUGE softie at heart, I will never forget having to walk my only daughter down the aisle of our local church.

As much as I thought I had prepared for that big day when we arrived at the door and I saw all those people I suddenly wanted to hold her close, slam the door and take off down the nearest street hauling her, the bouquet of flowers, veil and wedding dress flying in the breeze and me yelling at the top of my voice I'VE CHANGED MY MIND - I'VE CHANGED MY MIND!

I really didn't want to 'give her away' to some young lad with long hair and hardly able to even shave- she was mine and I didn't want to let her go.

Our son got married in the next few weeks after his sister, so we lost both of our kids in the same year. It's tough being a parent and having to say goodbye to your children and handing them over to someone else and then having to take a backseat, Parenthood isn't for sissies!

Daniel of the Old Testament was torn from his home never to return when he was only 12 or 13 years old - shuffled off to Babylon THE worst place in the whole ancient world. I can just imagine what his parents went through - must have been horrendous! No wonder Jonah chickened out!

The ancient History encyclopedia tells me that Babylon, whose ruins still lie in modern day Iraq  is 94k's southwest of of Baghdad.

Babylon is thought to mean GATE OF THE GODS and it was probably just that, worshiping anything and everything except the REAL God, the Babylonians believed in child sacrifice, prostitution of both male and female slaves and regular public executions of prisoners unable to work as slaves.

Babylon was also a huge place of learning and when Daniel was wrenched from his family on arriving in that despot of a city after 800 miles or 1300 km's, to whatever their fate was going to be, he was enrolled in an intensive three year training program designed to transform young men of his age into loyal Babylonians bureaucrats.

It worked to a degree I guess - Daniel and his mates received a remarkable education and looking back Daniel was used mightily by God.

Old King Nebuchadnezzar was an anxious type of person prone to sudden rages and spur of the moment decisions that had huge ramifications across the ancient world - he is renowned even today of making often frightening decisions that changed the face of the ancients and of history.

He was a cruel king and had a malicious and frightening persona that had the whole empire trembling so when he said it was law and recorded as such there was absolutely no turning back from that ruling and not even he could alter it - it was like it was written in stone - no erasing and no altering.

So into this incredible situation comes Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Three young blokes from Israel - captured and marched off to be trained in the ways of Babylon and to become sort of Palace Dog bodies for all and sundry around the place.

Through all of his long time in Babylon, and I imagine it would have been his entire life, Daniel never once forsook his God - he knew that God had placed him in a special place for a special reason.

We all know the stories so well, the bow or burn incident, the writing on wall, the mocking then the SHOCKING. Then Daniel - on the menu of the lions club.  - it makes such interesting reading, but what blows me away was the sheer force of Daniel and his friends faith in God.

Daniel and his friends believed in five amazing words and they were EVEN IF GOD DOES NOT!!

These five words spoke to me so much because they represented a faith SO BIG and SO EXTREME with these four young blokes in Babylon all those years ago.

Obeying God because you know he's powerful enough to rescue you from any situation is one thing, but obeying Him when you know there is a real chance you will be horribly burned to death or torn apart by ferocious lions is quite another.

How EXTREME is your faithfulness? How EXTREME is mine? Just how much are we willing to sacrifice and be obedient to God?  Would we give up our job, money, security or even be prepared to lay down our lives if God asked? God is able to save us but even if He does not, does your faith, does my faith extend that far?

Daniel's scheming colleagues in that scary/terrifying palace so long ago kept a close lookout on his personal life and all they found was consistent faith. They were so determined to get rid of him so they used they only thing they could use to undermine him to the king and that was his faith.

We all know the story of Daniel chapters 3-6 so well - the scheming of the baddies - the buttering up of the priggish, vain and braggadocio King, the accusations leveled at Daniel and his three mates, The blazing furnace, the intimidating and petrifying den of lions, the facing of horrendous deaths and the sheer bravery of those four young men as they came face to face with their last mortal breaths on earth.

What a shock for those vain and egotistic palace floor scrapers to the king and his image and what a shock to the king himself -  the furnace heated up seven times hotter than usual, the very soldiers who threw the young guys in were themselves overpowered by the sheer force of the heat coming from furnace, then to top it all off four people in the blazing furnace instead of three and they weren't even singed or smelt of fire.

Then Daniel served up to the lions, poor bloke what an end awaited for him. He was chucked in, the roaring of the lions suddenly stopped, the beasts couldn't open their mouths, lockjaw was rampant in the den all through the night, Daniel saved and his accusers and their whole families thrown into the den in Daniel's place, Lockjaw suddenly cured and the lions feasted!

Grisly story indeed, but hey, how amazing is our God, How faithful to those of us who stand firm in our faith!

A few questions remain for me:-

What do people see in our lives that tells them we're serious about our walk with God?
Are we showing Christlike compassion and concern when we interact with others?
Can others spot in us our main priorities which are way out of step with the rest of society?
Can others see acts of service that come from our hearts and not necessarily from our pockets or from some desire to gain "brownie points".
Can others see in us people who do not flinch when names like "Jesus Freaks" and "Bible Bashers" are directed at us?

All these questions are just a smidgen of what Daniel and his three mates went through yet they didn't flinch or deny their faith - they went all the way with God regardless of what the outcome was going to be. Jesus of course did the same and we as His followers should have the same outlook and desire to be more and more like Him in every way possible.

Daniel and the lions is a story we never grow weary of hearing. I've always been impressed by it because Daniel was not thrown into that putrid cave/den for some wicked crime but for being Godly. We expect to be punished for our wrongdoings and when we do right we expect to be praised or promoted. That is certainly the ideal, but it doesn't always work out like that. Sometimes those who do wrong are rewarded and those who do right are persecuted.

Especially in today's world where it seems right is wrong and wrong is right in fact there seems no right or wrong instead I feel it's a pain and pleasure world.

After thinking about Daniel the main question remains for me and that is HOW AM I AT FACING MY BIG CATS?  Would I capitulate, give in to pressure and join the rest of those willing to throw the faithful into the blazing furnace or into a pride of lions?

Where does my hope lie? Where does yours? Something really serious to think about this week and may God bless you as you do.
























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