Sunday, 15 May 2011

Engage Brain

Ever heard the expression "Engage your brain before opening your mouth"?

People with mindsets or opinions can be apt to jump to conclusions when particular phrases or words are used and our reaction becomes pretty much a preprogrammed or "learned"  response to that phrase or word. As evangelical Christians we all accept the trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), the deity of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ and the need for forgiveness of sins through Christs atoning work on the cross.

We use words like crucifixion, resurrection, atonement, sin, forgiveness and phrases like the blood of the lamb, penal substitution, dying in our place, sin's penalty, being born again and so on. But so often our view is shaped by how we or possibly more often, how others (we have heard about or read), read scripture.

Then when someone comes out with a different view or uses a phrase differently to the way we like it used like salvation, sin, holiness, grace etc.we run to the metaphorical barricades and start hurling verbal missiles. Take a look at the comments on any web site that takes opinions from Christians and you, I suspect, might be surprised at the venom injected into the discussion. Remember this is between brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Bible seems to say something different when talking of false teachers 1Tim 6 - "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. "

What we show is an argumentative, opinionated, often arrogant and intolerant  mindset - 1 Peter 3:8-12 tells those in the Church to live in harmony, love each other ...  and includes "they must seek peace and pursue it. Peter advocates a style of Christian living that is an example not a constant battle-ground.

We need to show those qualities or virtues in all of our dealings.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Relationships Matter 3

There are many myths about good and bad marriages and I cannot say I am an expert on either, having been married to one woman for 33 years, I have little experience of the myths, only of the reality. The reality is relationships are often hard work but have incredible moments and times which I would not swap for anything.

I know that when we married it had little to do with God, since neither of us were Christians but it did have to do with a funny sense of ownership. I wanted to be with the woman I married and I wanted it to last. My rose coloured glasses were stretched with early conflicts and misunderstandings, arguments and selfish attempts to get our own way with each other.

No one prepared us for that and to be honest, we struggled ... (maybe it would have been easier if we had asked God to work on it with us!)

From around 4 years into our marriage we have been blessed to have known (and in some cases still know) good Christian people who have stood with us, encouraged us and helped us as we have needed it. We have also had to let go of many of the selfish preconceptions that we had when we married as we have learned to compromise and "prefer" the needs of each other.

But relationships matter to God, and in reflection I can say that in the hardest times for example during post natal depression and the emotional disconnection that went with it or the death of my wife's mother and father close together or the medical problems we had with one of our son's early in his life, we have grown closer as we have handled it.

Possibly its only in looking back that I can see how much that I have been changed through the on-going relationship that I have with my wife and for that matter how much she has changed. I also see God's hand in our lives, how much scripture has underpinned us and helped us - I think that perhaps each day I have a better understanding of those verses, that God gave in 1 Corinthians 13, yes - written about the church, but speaks so much into all relationships of the love we should share and how it causes us to behave. It cements one truth I know I have learned - love is not a feeling is an act of our will - we choose to love in each situation and season just as God has chosen to love each of us and his Church.
Try listening to this song and reflect on what your relationship with you partner means to you ...

Shortly we will be taking marriage preparation classes with some couples preparing to start their marriage journey's hoping and praying that they will find these great truths in their relationship with each other and with God.