Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Who's responsible?

I was reading my Bible this morning, the story of Ahab and Elijah. It seemed so reminiscent of our culture today, when theres a problem its "not my fault" is often what we hear or say, no-one prepared to take responsibility for their actions. Maybe because we don't like being seen in a bad light, perhaps because we don't really like being wrong or are not prepared to take the consequences for our actions?

Whatever the reason we need to ask ourselves "how do I react to getting something wrong or there being bad consequences to my actions or words?".

We believe in a God who having created humans with the freedom to choose, saw that we can and do get stuff dreadfully wrong and often with no way to put it right or restore our broken relationship with him. God chose to intervene, which we have just celebrated at Christmas, taking personal action to restore what we get wrong. Accepting the consequences of humanities' wrong choices, he came as one of us, taking those consequences upon himself and putting them right by dying on a cross so that we might not be punished or take those same consequences.

Ahab's choice was to blame Elijah - troubler of the  people, he called him, for the fact that God had shut the heavens and they had had bad harvests. When the real problem was Ahab (and his ancestors') installing other god's in Israel. But Ahab was king, in his own mind he only did right so it cannot have been his fault, it must be someone else's - Elijah's; how wrong he was, read the rest of the story and you will see just how wrong!

When we see things going wrong in our societies today, do we ask ourselves what are we getting wrong or what do we need to put right with God? Possibly we would rather look for someone else to blame, the government, a particular social or ethnic group, circumstances or whatever ...

Its a challenge to all who call Jesus their saviour to own up to our mistakes, Don Francisco wrote a pointed song about this a few years back "It's your own fault" wrong choices or plain old foolishness, often this will have a material price as we put right what we got wrong. We can do something about it, we can own up and take responsibility, we can ask God's forgiveness and not blame others for our mistakes.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Harder Path

Snow stops just about everything when it turns up in Southern England. Its something that because of its rarity just can't be planned for. Today against the advice of the traffic sites I decided that I would drive to my son's University to collect him and bring him home for Christmas.

The traffic sites told of untold woe on the motorways (freeways) around my area and long jams with yet more heavy snow to follow. 5 miles from home I caught the tail back on the M23 northbound and decided to take a chance and use a cross country route that most would not take because of the snow. Apart from taking a lot of care, driving slowly, making sure I would not hit the car in front (if there was one) when braking and so on, it worked fine.  What seemed to be the hardest path turned out to be the best route and it got me where I needed to go and back while many were snarled up for hours on the motorways. My route took more care and concentration but worked!

It struck me that often in life Christians, like non Christians, opt for what seems the easiest path when making choices, decisions etc., like me opting for the motorway rather than narrow, snow covered roads. The path that looks hardest looks that way because it may not fit our plans, desires or requirement for an easy option and yet if we take it, it turns out to be the best. In Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" Christian found this out when choosing to wrestle through harder path, the slough rather than taking the easy path back home as his friend Pliable did!

God set the example when He chose the path of coming to earth as a human, which we will celebrate shortly at Christmas. Jesus told his disciples that the path they would walk would lead them into trouble and anyway who wants to give up everything?

The path we are called to over this Christmas season is the harder one, to have fun without getting drunk, to enjoy company without inappropriate actions, to joke without using coarse humour, to enjoy the food but not stuff ourselves silly. OK so we might stand out from the crowd and some might make fun of us, but if we stand for what we believe then we can shine a light onto the Christmas celebrations in our work places, colleges and schools and families that shows the true spirit of the season ...

A people set apart (Holy), living for Christ and freely choosing his ways over the worlds and yet having fun all the same.

Happy Christmas

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Delight in a gift

While recording a Christmas message today for the church I am soon to become Pastor of, I got to thinking. What presents really make us pleased, happy, overjoyed?

I was using a model of Ferrari 348 which my eldest son thought was a great present when we lived in Italy. In fact we still have his treasured collection of such cars at home. To him such a gift was just the best. My wife the other day mentioned a birthday gift that she had be given. I remember the look on her face of pure joy. She needed a new toilet bag (for bathroom stuff like shampoo, deodorant etc.) and she got a lovely blue one. The funny thing was that the bag came as a free gift with cosmetics that had been purchased as the real present and were inside it. She was so enamored with the bag that it never occurred to her that there was more.  Our little Grand daughter or course delights in a different sort of present and prefers the Teddy that my wife knitted for her.

Whats the point you might be thinking? Well the point is this, different gifts have a different impact on each of us, what excites one does nothing for another. We are quite capable of seeing and hearing about the most incredible of gifts but because its not what we expected or thought we wanted, we turn it down.

Just such a gift for many is the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, the child who as a man presented us with a gift from God that so often is ignored because its misunderstood, thought to be impossible or just not required. Cast aside like so many unwanted Christmas gifts.

But maybe the way its presented by those charged with it is what is really the issue and not the gift at all. After all if you were offered a gift, battered, bent and covered in dirty, torn and well used paper, it might well put you off. When Christ is seen through those who profess faith in Him, what do they see, is it the kind of present which even though they had never thought they needed, suddenly realise they can't do with out? As James reminds us its what we do that gives the truth or the lie to what we claim to believe. Its that acting out of our faith that will give the gift the beautiful look that attracts others to Christ.

So this Christmas, be a light in the world, shine for Christ, live out the truth of your faith and attract others to the greatest present of all, God's gift of life.