Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Happy ever after ...

When my children were small they loved to hear fairy tales, I am sure you know the ones - Snow White, the princess and the pea, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella ..., every culture has them.

One of the key things, for me, about a good fairy tale is that it has a happy ending. Just think what it would be like if the Prince never found Cinderella, or the piece of apple was not sucked out of Snow Whites' mouth (some kind of kiss that was eh?). The wolf chomping up Red Riding Hood just wouldn't seem right somehow.

As we grow up we hear other stories, which seem just as made up as fairy stories and often its hard to know the difference between what is true and what is false. Many take the view that the Bible is a bit like a clever fairy tale, nice ideas but can't be true and even for many Christians believing the whole lot is too much and so its easier to pick what suits and ignore the rest. I wonder sometimes if what most want is a pick-and-mix Bible so that they can select the bits they like.

Can we have the happy ending, eternal life in heaven, without the rest? Jesus says that we are to be disciples - those who do as he has commanded and since he and God are one that includes what God has commanded. God's promise to us is eternal life with him if we choose to be Christ's disciples - accepting him as Lord and Saviour. You don't say no to a Lord so we are called to do as he has asked.

Is life as a Christian going to be a fairy tale ending? Well I don't think so; Paul, one of the writers of the Bible gave up everything - position, respect, home etc. to follow Christ as did the first disciples. God's promise it not for material happiness now, we won't have all we want and often won't have what we need but God promises to be with us in each and every situation, if we will let him. He seals the deal with the his Holy Spirit so that we will know his commands and direction for us and to be a strength when we need strength and a comfort when we need comfort.

The life of faith is not a fairy tale, its real life; sometimes its blood, sweat and tears, other times is laughter, joy and fun. He is with us whatever a strong tower, a comfort, a healer, a friend and a Saviour.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A Note out of Tune

 The Christian in the west is often filled with the desire to go to the popular Christian festivals, to follow the latest trends in music, in church operation, in how to lead our lives, in reading the right books or believing the latest theories - in short being up to date and switched on.

I wonder though if this is what Jesus really meant when he said we would be in the world but not of the world? Is the gospel message really all about having the biggest church, the latest sounds, the trendiest message or going to the most popular festivals? I think not; but don't get me wrong this is not a rant about these things. The problem seems to me to be that as Christians it is so hard not to adopt or include the ways of the world in our thinking, behaviour and culture.

Are we justified in spending out on the latest CD's, DVD's, books and such - often spending considerable amounts, when we then find it so hard to buy a big issue magazine from a homeless person (for example) or give more than a token amount to help relieve the dire situations in Pakistan or West Africa (to name a few)?

A month or so ago I went to a North London Church to preach and lead and they asked if we could use a song (by Tim Hughes) that they were learning and which I did not know. I fitted it in and was surprised at the feeling it brought in me. I heard it again this weekend when I visited the church my son goes to when he is at University. In the middle of the song it has these words "Stepping forward keep us from just singing. Move us into action".

The gospel is a note out of tune with the ways of this world; we are called to live it out and it needs us to act upon what we sing, what we hear at conferences and what we learn from reading, otherwise these things are a waste of the precious resources God has given us. We should not need to continually top up with more if we live out the gospel in the power of Christ, giving all that we are to him and letting him use us as he directs.

Then the gospel others hear will be a tune they understand as it results in action that brings, comfort, water, food, medicine, justice and shelter as we give up to give to them.

The full lyrics of Tim Hughes song

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in everyway
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord