State of Emergency

People are dying without God everyday.

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I have just returned from a  holiday in France in an idyllic spot enjoying the sunshine. I  enjoyed the lovely cheeses, and wandering through the local market;  I hadn’t a care in the world. We were celebrating my younger son’s graduation with some of his friends and ours. In the garden of the house where we were staying I could hear the birds singing, the river burbling as it passed over the weir, and the bleating of sheep in the neighbour’s pasture. I felt very blessed.

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At the same time however, several hundred miles to the south in Nice, there were families who had been tragically torn apart by the terrible attack on Bastille Day. People were fighting for their lives and some are now  facing a difficult rehabilitation. A National State of Emergency had been declared but you wouldn’t know it in rural Normandy. Or so I thought but a few days ago there was grim news of a killing in Rouen not an hour away from where we were staying.

I wonder what your first thoughts were when you heard about the atrocity in Nice? My thoughts ran from “How could they?” to “those poor families”. I was horrified at the waste of life, the tragedy of lives snatched while people were on holiday and the pain of those who witnessed the death of their loved ones. I was not thinking about whether these people had heard the gospel or not, or whether they were now with God or facing eternity without Him.

You see I think we can be lulled into a kind of false sense of security when all the time there is a State of Emergency.  When an atrocity happens we are roused from our slumber to consider matters of life and death. The fact is, however, that people are dying without God everyday – that is an emergency.

At the weekend I was at a birthday party. I watched as my son told our neighbours about the internship he is doing next year with UCCF  explaining that he would be telling students about Jesus. Most people listened politely but one man was mocking him. Joe just took it on the chin and carried on. I was proud of him but at the same time I felt my own lack of boldness in sharing the gospel. I spend all my time waiting for the right moment to speak but hardly ever do.

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I am not a natural evangelist but I don’t want to use that as an excuse for me not to share the gospel. On the other hand I want to be motivated by the grace of God and not by a sense of guilt.So where does that leave me?

I think that the first step is to be awake to the fact that there is a state of emergency. In the West we lead such comfortable and secure lives that it is easy to be lulled into inaction. I’ll do it later, I’ll do it tomorrow, there’s always time or we fear what people may think of us.

It’s not that I don’t reach out to people.  We have hosted events for our neighbours in our home on many occasions and I do listen to the Holy Spirit and often speak to people in supermarkets, in the street, on the bus etc at His prompting. But I rarely if ever get to the point where I actually talk about Jesus.

For some time I was part of a group led  by Claire, a great friend, who was a tremendous provocation to me. Each week she would recount stories of how she had responded to people’s needs as they talked to her in coffee shops or wherever she was and offered to pray with them. I was really inspired by her and became much more alert to other people around me. I guess time and dealing with cancer intervened and I have sat back.

The Bible encourages us to “always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet.3:15).

That is another good place to start. We can feel very rusty about sharing our faith if we haven’t done it for a long time.It’s good to think about how we might answer some common questions in our own words and to have a short, snappy way of explaining what Jesus has done for us.(You can share yours here in the blog comments or here on the facebook page.)

In earlier times many paintings and stained windows included graphic images of hell. We tend to smile at these as being somewhat primitive but actually they conveyed a message that there is a hell and it is a horrible place. In our rational society we find it hard to think about this let alone talk about it. I am not suggesting that we preach hell and damnation but I do think WE could spend more time thinking about what Hell means for those around us as it will remind us of the urgency of the situation.

I hesitated to write about this because I know that I am not modelling this but I do want to. I long to be sharing the gospel regularly and to see people come to know Jesus. I don’t want to hold back through fear, laziness or complacency. What I realised when I saw the news from Nice was that I considered human tragedy and loss to be the worst thing that can happen. On reflection I know that although this is horrible it is nothing to be compared to spending an eternity without God – that is truly terrible and bleak. Many of my family and friends are heading in this direction but I have the answer and can share it with them.

Sometimes when a car or burglar alarm has been sounding for a long time people just ignore it instead of taking  action. I think I can be like that when it comes to the alarm bell that is sounding for my friends. I pray that God will help me to be one of those who runs towards those in an emergency and not one who runs away from it or ignores it.

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I don’t want to be sitting in my Normandy garden waiting for an opportunity to come my way when all the time there is a state of emergency and people I know have not heard the gospel. I don’t want the verdict on my life to be “she was lulled into a false sense of security”.

How about you?

 

Photo Credits
Normandy Garden is my own photo and may not be used without permission
State of Emergency and Right time images were created with Wordswag

 

 

No sinking sand here!

We have solid rock beneath our feet.

When they were young  my boys used to love watching a game show called Takeshi’s Castle. The idea of the show was that the contestants had to take on various challenges in order to reach Takeshi in his castle. Each challenge would feature greasy slopes, stepping-stones that gave way, rope swings across muddy water, giant unstable inflatables and lots of mud. The boys would shout encouragement to each contestant and laugh when the inevitable fall came. Hardly anyone ever managed to complete the course.

It’s no laughing matter though if you feel that your life is like that. If everything feels insecure and uncertain, where even the ground you stand on feels unsafe and others seem to be waiting to laugh at your misfortune.

If you are a Christian this is NOT a picture of your life. We have solid rock beneath our feet. Hymn writers have described Jesus as “the rock of ages”. The Psalmist says

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.” (Ps.40:2)

God has taken us out of the Takeshi’s castle experience and planted our feet firmly on a rock. The solid ground we stand on is the security our salvation brings to us. We are no longer trapped in the sticky mud of sin, we are now clean, made righteous and FREE. We no longer need to fear ANYTHING because Jesus has conquered sin and death on our behalf and our loving Father watches over us. When we face temptation and difficulty, we do so from a place of security with our feet on solid ground which will never give way beneath us.photo-1422728221357-57980993ea99

Not only this but I am personally secure in the love of God. He is always good to me and will never leave me or forsake me.

This means that whatever my circumstances may be or however I feel, my feet are still in the same place – on the rock of my salvation. This tremendous truth undergirds everything we do whether we are on the frontline serving in some way or whether we are walking through personal difficulties.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that our security lies in being healthy, having enough money, having a (good) job, getting married, having political stability but all of these are sinking sand and may let you down. The Wise Man builds his house upon the rock: 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  (Matt. 7:24-25)

I think we often think about our security in the context of our own difficulties and pressures but there is so much more to it than that. This security equips us for life. When we engage in warfare we do so from that same rock. It is unmovable, unshakeable and eternal.We are all called to do the works of the kingdom. We are all called to share the gospel and make disciples of all men everywhere. Some of us are called to the political sphere to fight for justice, some of us are called to work among the marginalised in our society whether they be sick, elderly, poor, refugees etc. Some of us are called to work in the creative arts. Some of us are called to bring up families etc Whatever we do, we do it from this secure base. It means that we can be very courageous.  lion-1141303_1280The rock we stand on isn’t just an oasis in the midst of trouble; it is a platform and a springboard for us to go out from into the world. I can be as bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1) because I am secure in God. God is behind me every step of the way and He is for me.

 If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-37)

That is true security!

Photo Credits
Feet on solid ground Unsplash
Mud & Lion Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Do you have a good diet?

Food and water are the essential elements of a diet. It’s just the same in the spiritual realm, we need the food of the word of God and the water of the Holy Spirit everyday.

A month or so ago I reached my target weight loss of 2.5 stones (35 lb). In order to achieve this I changed my daily diet. I ate less of some foods and more of others. I frequently had to say “No” to foods offered to me at social occasions. Each week at our church breakfast I would look longingly at the cinnamon whirls and know that they were not for me if I was ever to keep losing weight. Now that I have reached my target I still need to make choices in order to maintain what I have achieved.

It was for health reasons that I decided to tackle my weight.  I did not want to jeopardise my health  by constantly being overweight. For me it meant joining a weight loss group because I know that I do best with the accountability this brings.Even after reaching my target weight I am still going to the group because it helps me to stay on track.

This week I was in a  meeting where we were asked “Where are you getting fed?”. This started me thinking about my attitude to my spiritual diet. Am I giving it the same attention as my physical diet? Our spiritual health is more important than our physical health but do we give it the same attention? If we are physically sick we normally go  to the doctor but if our spiritual health isn’t so good what do we do?

Often I think, we ignore our spiritual diet or put off doing something about it until we have more time. Adopting a better physical diet is all about making good choices every day and saying “No” to things that will hinder our progress; the same is true of our spiritual diet if we put this off we don’t make any change at all.

Food and water are the essential elements of a diet. It’s just the same in the spiritual realm, we need the food of the word of God and the water of the Holy Spirit everyday. I know that for many of us time is a key issue. We feel we don’t have enough time or we can’t find the right time and we settle for something that is hit and miss, or have a feast every once in a while.

Perhaps this is because we don’t have a target or goal in mind so there is no sense of aiming for something.

Recently I read Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Befophoto-1422919869950-5fdedb27cde8.jpgre about creating good habits and breaking bad habits. One of the so-called manifesto statements of the book is “What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while”
You see what we do everyday dictates the course and quality of our life. If I choose to eat doughnuts every day and salad once a quarter, which is going to affect my health more?

Spiritually there are things I need to eat more of, things I need to eat less of and things to say NO to if I am to have a good diet.The most important change that I can make is to feed on God’s word everyday. Of course grace means that I am not obliged to do this but grace also means that I am free to make good choices for my life.

There is so much to be gained from reading God’s word; it strengthens us, renews us and transforms us but so much more than that we get to know God our Father and to fellowship with Him in it. As we read His word and talk to him about it we develop our relationship with Him. We begin to understand His ways, who He is and what He is like. It feeds us and we grow in our faith (faith comes by hearing the word of God Rom.10:17)

We cannot survive without water.  In the Bible water is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled with Holy Spirit every day. “Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)” is a command – there is action to take – it is not automatic. I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me everyday because I need to receive life-giving water from Him. In the Old Testament there are many  pictures of deserts becoming  places of life, or  blossoming like roses.hills-960126_1280 That is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, as we receive His life-giving water we flourish, our dry and thirsty souls are replenished and we bear fruit.

Then there are things I need to eat less of –  things that are not good for me. What are those things for you? Is it too much TV, social media, video games, Netflix, crime novels, etc.These things aren’t bad in and of themselves but just like cream cakes they don’t make for a good diet. If the things that I do everyday are significant then I don’t want to fill my time with these.

Finally there are things that I need to say “NO” to. There are things that hinder my progress and I need to choose to say No to them. What do I do rather than read my Bible? What is that thing that entices me away and distracts me? For me  this can be something completely innocuous, just something that I feel I have to do first, and then there is something else and so on …. The answer is to say “No” and do it later.

One of the results of losing weight is that I feel so much better about myself. I knew I should have been doing something about it and I just couldn’t, but once I took control of myself and began to feel the benefit I began to positively enjoy my new regime. We can feel that we are failing or not good enough if we are not enjoying spending time in God’s word. We know we should but somehow we just never get around it. Once we begin to make changes, however, we begin to enjoy the benefits. We begin to look forward to our times in the word and in God’s presence. There is absolutely nothing like spending time with our Father.

Let me encourage you to make it your goal to feed on the word of God and to fellowship with the Holy Spirit everyday.

Do you have a good diet?

 

Photo credits:
Cakes & doughnuts Unsplash
Desert flowers Pixabay