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December 2013

I am not I AM

Christianity

“I know the Lord will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.”
Judges 17:13 NLT

There was a song by Gloria Gaynor which had a really bad attitude in the words. The title was “I am what I am” and it was a statement of total selfishness, self-interest and arrogance. It is, however, a fairly good descriptor of general attitudes today, and a clear statement of what I once was.

Micah sounds as if he was like that. What he said in this verse isn’t so much a statement of faith, but more a statement of his rights: because he had done something then he will get something else.

A line in the song says ‘Your life is a sham till you can shout out loud, I am what I am.’

Our lives are a sham until we realise just what we are – not the sanitised, looking in the mirror, not as bad as the guy over there version of what we are, though, the real version, the truth. The truth is that I’m not a very nice person deep down and I never was before I became a follower of Christ. Even now, the nasty me comes out, the sinner, the angry man. And the thing is that just going to church on a Sunday doesn’t change it – that’s just the same as Micah getting a priest to come and live with him. My life would be a sham if I thought that.

I am what I am, but I can be different, because Jesus, the I AM, can make the difference, not by living with me, but by living in me and through me. 

Hold on tight!

Christianity

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12 NLT

I take a lot of things for granted. I do it every night – I go to sleep and take it for granted that I will waken up in the morning. I take it for granted that Libby will also waken up. Because of that, I think I do not live each day to the full, because I’m thinking that what I don’t do today can be done tomorrow. I don’t treat Libby well enough, thinking that I can always say I’m sorry later, or make it up tomorrow. I really have to change that attitude, because one day tomorrow will not be there – sooner or later!

It came as a shock when I read this verse. Why should I have to hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called me? Surely it will always be there? But if that’s the case, why would Paul have to write these words? Do I therefore wrongly take my eternal life for granted? Perhaps Paul is saying that by holding tightly to it I shall be stronger when I’m fighting the good fight, but perhaps he really is saying that if I don’t hold tightly to it then I might lose it!

Whatever the meaning, it makes me realise that I do take it for granted, and that’s not because of a strong faith. I should not take it for granted, because that is the same as devaluing it. It was bought for me at a huge cost, and I should remember that every single day. I should hold tightly to it for that reason, if for no other. 

The Jesus Christmas

Christianity

Christmas.

It’s a great time of year, eh? Christmas wishes, Christmas presents, Christmas food, Christmas drinks, Christmas TV programmes, Christmas movies, Christmas adverts, Christmas hangovers, Christmas debt, Christmas arguments …… and lots and lots of humbugs!

The problem is that Christmas isn’t what it was meant to be. For a start, it’s not Christmas or Xmas, it’s Christ-mas. You cannot take the Christ out of it.

Most people who know me know that I am technology daft, yet when I was a boy there wasn’t any technology. We all have mobile phones these days, but when I was a kid there were no mobiles, and very few people had even a landline. The fastest message anyone got back then was a telegram, and that was generally news that someone in the family had died.

Today, things are totally different and we are constantly bombarded with messages, some of them useful, but most of them totally pointless.

  • It’s raining here
  • Emily just poked you on Facebook
  • You may be due a refund of £20000 if you have PPI and you’re daft enough to believe us
  • So grateful for your help (but not grateful enough to say thank you face to face)
  • Happy Xmas

Messages. We all do them. It’s keeping in touch, and we need to keep in touch. Some messages are trivial and some are important. There is one message that is really important, though.

Only one.

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NLT
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Isaiah 35:4-8 NLT
Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there.

This message is a message of hope, a message of healing, a message of real, everlasting love.

We see a lot of Christmas cards with the word ‘peace’ on them. This message, which comes straight from God, tells us that Jesus Christ is the bringer of that peace.

Luke 2:8-14 NLT
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

As I said earlier, presents are a big part of today’s Christmas. The Bible tells us about the first Christmas presents ever given.

Matthew 2:9, 11 NLT
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We are so commercialised today. Kids are subjected to loads of adverts for the latest toy or gadget. They know what they want, and they ask for what they want. Just imagine the wee boy or girl opening that present on Christmas Day, the excitement written all over his face as he rips open the paper! He dives into the wrapping and pulls out the …..

“What’s this, dad?”

“Myrrh.”

“EH???”

Then the screams, the anger, and all the other emotions that so often arise at this really happy time of the year! All because we don’t get what we want.

The thing is that we often get what we want, and never get what we need – and I’m not talking about deodorant. What we need is not something that we can buy, or anything that someone else can make. Nobody can give it to us. You see, the first Christmas present wasn’t the gold, or frankincense or myrrh that the three wise men gave to the baby.

The gift was the baby himself!

John 3:16 NLT
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is the only gift that matters at Christmas! It doesn’t get us into debt, it gets us out of it! It’s the gift of forgiveness for our sins, the gift of freedom from the power that sin holds over our lives. It’s the gift of a baby who was born so that we can be reborn and have a new start to our lives.

It’s the gift of Jesus, who died so that we can live for ever with him and with our Father in heaven.

It’s the gift that out-gives every other gift. It’s the gift that money can’t buy. It’s the real gift of Christmas, the meaning of Christmas.

It’s the gift of everlasting life.

For everyone who accepts it.

Let this Christmas be a Jesus Christmas! 

Better than me

Christianity

Once upon a time the trees decided to choose a king. First they said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’ But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
Judges 9:8-9 NLT

I have always been ambitious. I always wanted to be best, but there were some things that I just wasn’t very good at, never mind best at. I kept wishing that I could be, though. I remember wanting to be in the school football team, to be the best footballer, better than my brother, but I was rubbish. I did eventually get into a team, but it was when I was in a very small school and I said I would be goalie. I really tried hard at that, and I did ok, but I wasn’t great.

It was only when I started running that I discovered that the only person I should aspire to be better than is myself. At that time I was in my 40s and I knew that I had started too late to win any races, but I did know that I could run a race in a better time than I ran it before and that is what I strived for. That ambition to improve was a real driving force and it worked – my time improved in every race.

I had to stop running but I carried that same ambition into the things I do now. I cannot be the best, but I can be better than I was yesterday.

The olive tree in the verses above had the right attitude. It knew that it had specialist abilities and a specific role, and that it is what it concentrated on. I should do the same. God has given me specific gifts which I should concentrate on, which I should strive to perfect so that I can bless both Him and the people around me. 

My not so secret secret

Christianity

Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgement. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.
1 Timothy 5:24-25 NLT

It’s quite often a good job that no one can read my mind! Some of the thoughts that go through it are not really for general consumption, I’m ashamed to say. That’s where all my secret sins are.  But I’m a fool of I think that they are going to stay there, because I’m a fool to think that is only me who can see them. My God sees them all the time! He’s not blind – it’s me that’s blind, blind to the truth. I think I can get away with them, that nobody will find out, but the truth is in these verses. The truth will bring them all out sooner or later. So I need to get rid of them and there is only one way to do that, and that is to ensure that they never get there in the first place.

I need to start now! It would be much better that my secrets, big or small, are good secrets, not bad ones. 

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