Thursday, October 30, 2014

What are you Wearing Today?

My wife tells me that changing seasons are a real nightmare for a lady! Getting the right clothes for the new weather patterns can be very challenging especially when, as at present in the UK, the seasons are sort of blending into one. As for me I don't worry at all about seasons and my decisions on what I wear each day are largely made on whatever is nearest to the wardrobe door! I seldom think about what to wear and certainly don't spend long choosing - well there's not a lot to choose from for us blokes, is there?

In my Bible reading today I found a real challenge to think more deeply about what to put on today. Colossians chapter 3 describes some of the ways in which First Century Christians lived before they started following Christ and how that changed once their faith started affecting the things they "put on" daily. "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices." (Col. 3:8-9) That is a wardrobe of clothes as ugly as the bottom of an eagle's nest after dinner time! Those are the old tattered garments of a life lived without Christ and with no concern for others or their feelings.

Within a few lines, though, the author of the New Testament letter shows the contrasting outfit that Christian believers are invited to "put on" each day. "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity". (Col. 3:12-14). Now that really would bring about a new season in my dress code!

So as we face the world today, let's choose what we will wear from the wardrobe of faith and peace that Jesus holds open before us. It will lead to peace in our hearts (vs 15), unity in local churches, and a powerful sense of Christ's lingering presence in the world reflected in the lives of his modern day disciples.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

London used to be regarded by millions as the centre of the civilised world. Even now it vibrates to the echo of every language under heaven and creaks under the weight of countless crowds of visitors, tourists and immigrants alike. In the last couple of weeks we have been there twice for medical help, as the hospitals in the nation's capital are among the best in the land. Whilst being grateful for the skill and dedication of the team that have worked with me to try and overcome the chronic pain of pancreatitis, I am only too well aware of their limitations. The government that sits in Westminster may control the lives of many millions but there are lots of things they simply cannot fix.

As we dodged the teeming crowds around two of the biggest of the capital's hospitals we were struck by the fact that all the wisdom, power and sophistication of man simply cannot clear the streets of the detritus of self-destructive patterns of life. People of all ages sleep in shop doorways while piles of rubbish are picked through regularly by those seeking something to eat, or to sell. Desperately needy people can't get a hospital bed due to overcrowding and everywhere people are gazing into small screens and tapping gadgets rather than speak with one another. Loneliness abounds in the place of such human activity.

In all this it seems that a return to the basics of the gospel is desperately needed. People matter more than political power posturing and personal profiteering. God loves us so much that he gave his only Son for our salvation and to offer each of us a purpose and an eternal home in heaven. May God bless his church in central London and prosper every effort to reach the nation's capital with the message of his love. London needs Jesus - I need Jesus - and thank God he is available for us!

Friday, October 10, 2014

All Things Tough and Testing

I've got a new line for the old hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful"! Now it begins "All things Tough and Testing".. It doesn't work musically but boy does it fit my recent experience! I won't bore you with the details save to say that I am facing 3 operations in the next few weeks and am in desperate levels of pain. Apparently I am sitting on a time-bomb with stones and a stricture in my pancreatic duct, and the £30,000 worth of electronic gadgetry inside me has failed (again) and requires me to go through the whole July surgery once more! Add to that some decidedly unpleasant personal plumbing and you have a mixture fit for the 'dunghill' to wax all King James Version.

When I can think clearly through the fog of opiates and the sharp sense that there must surely be a spear right through my upper abdomen - and doesn't it stick out at the back too? - I startle myself with a sense of well-being. Before you call the men in white coats there are reasons for this state of calm that are not just drug induced. I have found special help this week in certain obscure (but not pointless!) Bible verses. One is found in Ephesians 4:6 where it says that my God and Father is "over all and through all and in all". I had not considered that before but it has sealed my soul in a firm compost of comfort this week while I try to bear fruit in a barren environment. God is in charge - not the doctors, nor the devil and thankfully not me!

Another came at me sideways from the good old book of Psalms - ancient Israel's national songbook. Reading almost like a medical report it says: "You couldn’t stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death." (Ps 107:18-20 The Message) Wow!  Now that gave me hope.  Of course I realise that wishful thinking may be at work here, but actually choosing to trust in God's promises and his words is proving to be a powerful steadying force in this trying time.

So although I am messing about with the first line of the old hymn, perhaps the ending can still stand?  "The Lord God made them all" And if that's true then I'll be OK, even if the time-bomb does go off.