Saturday, 31 May 2008

Thoughts on Matthew 9:9-13 (Youth Band devotions - May)

Everyone of us, at some points or another, comes into contact with "sinners", or people more inclined to the secular world; and that's great. Whether it be work, school, college or simply getting on the bus or train, there's an immediate contact and an opportunity to minister to people. Social activities with non-Christians will be fairly frequent as well. and there's the chance that, if word about this gets back to Mum or Dad, or Granny, or someone in the corps,they voice their disapproval - "Oh, he shouldn't be hanging out in that crowd! Dear goodness he'll be led astray!" etc.

It could just so be that you're there among those people by design, for Jesus has told you to follow him, follow his plan, by being a witness for him and he has said "Follow me" to your friends or colleagues through you. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". I understand not everyone in here (the practice room) wears senior uniform but, regardless of what rank you are or how long you've been going to the Salvation Army for, you've been "called to live, to love and save the lost". The S's you see on the uniform - 'Saved to Save' or 'Saved to Serve' - states you're exactly that hen you put it on. And even when you don't physically have it on, we must be mindful of the promises we signed to God and remember that we are his for witness.

This requires setting an example, being the type of Christian that "sinners" are comfortable around, so they may see Christ through you. Its not always easy, thats fact, but God is always there to guide you, as are your Youth Band locals and helpers when you need us. Lets be mindful guys that we will stand out to people and they will notice something different about how we conduct ourselves and from there, if we make the most of what opportunity of ministry comes our way, it'll be for the extension of the Kingdom.

dw :)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Newspaper

One of the first things that you're likely to pick up in the morning, wherever you're heading, is a news paper. It has a lot of benefits to it, doesn't it? It grabs your attention, its up-to-date, it doesn't cost much and contains stuff that we want to know about. Also you can share it with people too, so it can either be passed about from person to person or left on the table for the next person sitting there to read.


Newspapers also have the misfortune of being discarded at the end of the day - for tomorrow, another edition or issue is going to take its place. Its going to be more up-to-date, it'll have jucied headlines, the latest big stories, more pictures with the 'beautiful people' of the day and who may not necessarily be the same ones from the day before. In fact, there used to be a saying years ago, "Today's news is tomorrow's chip-paper" - so really what we see today in the broadsheets and tabloids will be used as either rubbish or other means of recycling or support.


Its funny how we as people can pick these pieces of literature up daily and be done with them at the end of the day. I mean, really - what kind of value will they have if it says Monday on it when its actually Tuesday or even Wednesday? (Having said that, I deliberately kept the special issues printed the day after the total eclipse in August 1999 and the world trade centre disaster in September 2001, respectively) These are just old news; unless info that we've heard about, already know inside out about or forgotten about. Stuff that will either go into the archives for memoir's references, television documentaries or pub quiz questions. Pictures that will go into scrapbooks or framed on walls. In other words, the important or most impacting stories/features will stick with those to whom it mattered to.



Let me ask you a question:-



If or when you bought a bible from Faith Mission, Wesley Owen, Waterstones (!), where does that go after the day is finished? Dad's just given you a devotional reading book for the next three months. Its been published for the months April-June this year. What happens to that issue in July?



Do you take much time to read them, to study them? Or are they just discarded, not to be touched again?



You know, there's times in life where people will use us like today's newspaper. That's right, I said "USE". They'll be all over you in every way; wanting to know whats inside you; what's most interesting about you; what sort of scandal you've got going about you; what you know that nobody else knows. It'll trigger off a liking from another pary but, after a while, once they find a fault in you or they decide they've figured you out, they're no longer interested in you. The harsh reality is you were just a tool for mere amusement that gets warmer once in somebody's hand and, after that party has warmed you up and comfortably placed you in their hand, you're set back down again. Nine times out of ten, that party will move on to the next mug; or they may even just withdraw from the picture without a clue what to do next.

God doesn't do that; He is with us always. He doesn't see us as yesterday's news or as a tool - a toy - for our amusement. No. God embraces us wholly, unconditionally and lovingly. One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples was "...surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b). This was following Christ's commission of his disciples to spread the gospel and multiply in discipleship through him (v.19) and, when he said "always", he literally meant "to the very end of the age".

Its hard to imagine the end of the age, isn't it? It's hard to wrap your head around it; may even seem impossible. However, in the Bible we are taught nothing with the Lord is impossible (Luke 1:37). Especially not the love He has to offer us (1 Cor 13:6-7).

A love that won't end at the end of the day. A love that has no expiry date.

"O Love that will not LET ME GO....
O Light that followest ALL MY WAY....
O Joy that seekest me THROUGH PAIN....
O CROSS that liftest up MY HAND...." (SASB No. 621)

And I know I could add a lot more to that. Can you?

dw :)

Desire?

Its easy to want what you can't have, isn't it? It always seems that the attraction is to things in life that are not our own. One songwriter put it once "You can't always get what you want"; but lets consider for a moment what we can have:

We can have a friend in Christ Jesus.

We can have eternal life

and we can have a faith so strong and overpowering to the point where people notice that you're different from others and that you don't need much else.

Its human nature to want things beyond our control, beyond our reach and that can be testing. I hope Santa was good to you at Christmas and you got at least one thing that you wanted; and chances are that you got that gift because it was within the doing of whomever got it for you.

But what are you going to do now with it? Are you going to make use of your gift, get what its worth out of it? Or is it going to go back in the cupboard and collect dust?

Among your family/friends or colleagues, you'll see that God has given many talens and gifts. As a Christian, its the duty to be a steward of those gifts, from which we either use or lose them. (Jesus himself taught about a man who hid his talents, in Matthew 25:14-30, who had them removed and given to a man who used his and were therefore multiplied) However the greatest gift we could ever ask for in times of trouble and happiness is a gift that
  • didn't have to be bought
  • didn't have to be put away in the cupboard
  • doesn't have to be kept to yourself

"For God so loved the world...."

Sometimes what we have already is what God wants us to have, what he wants us to make use of. Its not until you sit back and analyse what's available to you how special it is.

Talents. Friends. Family. Church. Faith.

Its easy to want what you can't have - but you can have a friend in Christ and thats easy to obtain.

"What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a priviledge to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"

My prayer is that we make use of the gift that is knowing Him and never take for granted "what a priviledge" it is.

dw :)

Monday, 5 May 2008

Acts 18:5,6 - "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."


Life is filled with lots of choices and decisions to make and there's times when those decisions can be influenced by others around us. For example, if we're in a certain place and we're carrying out a role or task, its good to know we're being acknowledged, particularly if its a valuable one. When it comes to the stage where nobody is respondant to our tasks, then we may decide to go elsewhere.

Its a self-respect thing, isn't it? But not only that - we want to enjoy what we do and we can really only do that if we're shown encouragement. It makes it that bit easier and more fun to get on with things.

Let's say you're in a job - the money's good, the location's good and the company's good but the work itself isn't nice in the slightest. Or lets replace the actual work with the location, or anything else for that matter. There's a slight drawback there that doesn't make work so comfortable. Now you apply for another job - its an attractive position; in fact its the total package. Its ideal to get to, the wages are a dream, the porspects are endless, the people are the best banter ever and the actual work is just what you wanted.


So you go for the interview. Things run smoothly, things look promising. You're in your present office when the phone goes.... Its your potential employers - "Congratulations! You've got the job!" Marvellous! (I have to point out that the workplace isn't always as easy going as this but I'm taking it as an example.) Now you've to report back to your current boss - "I've got the job and I'm getting this, this and this along with it. Its great." And suddenly your boss turns and says to you "What will it take you make you stay here?" Not to leave but remain here, with us".

"Well you can give me less of that rubbish work to do, I wouldn't be doing that in this new place!" "Oh but that's already in your current job description"

"Well, how about a salary increase? I'm getting offered X amount over there and I'm only making X amount here at the minute." Erm...I dont know, its a bit much out of your current grading, isn't it?"

So that's money out of the picture, still the less glamourous tasks in the way too. What about...."can I not work with Dave or Allen any longer please? I get distracted easily by them and I don't get on particularly well with them either." "What?! You've gotta be kidding - they're the best we've got! The quality would suffer otherwise!"

The writing gradually becomes more and more clear on the wall. An element of empathy can be felt towards the employer as well. Face it - he doesn't want to lose you. And you certainly don't want to leave him either! After all, you've been there for so long and you're so comfortable where you are. Realistically, however, what you've asked for as extras aren't just what you want, they're what you need. And, as heartbreaking as it may be, its time leave that behind. Something new is available to you, and its fresh and exciting. Its giving you what you want.

Paul wanted his audience to accept his teachings. He wanted to take this awesome news, the word that Jesus Christ is saviour. Jesus Christ is King! These were Paul's kind of people - a lifestyle and a way of life which he had grown up in. A frame of mind so traditional that it was merely comfortable in it's ways. These people wanted the Messiah to come; their idea of Messiah was a warrior in armour and on horseback, ready to do battle and save them all with his sword. Their Messiah was going to be their knight in shining armour! And they were awaiting his arrival.

But the fact was he had already arrived! The Messiah which was read about, spoken about, taught about and prophecised about was alive. He died on a cross to save his people's sins - and he'd RISEN AGAIN! The word of Christ has been entusted among many people to preach and Paul was one of them. So he took it to this community but they rejected it and they were despondent of Paul. They didn't take heed to what he has to say. They didn't want to listen to his teachings. They didn't care. They were happy how they were! Their knight in shining armour was on his way and thats what mattered. They didn't appreciate Paul's ministry, they didn't appreciate what he had to offer, they didn't recognise him for being a preacher or messenger of the truth.

The audience that day, present were Paul was, could potentially have been subject to showers of blessings but indtead they put up their brollies and dug out their raincoats. Remember in chapter two of the same book - the day of Pentecost! Where people were saved; thousands! Lives were changed. The spirit was well and truly alive. These people could've had the same experience! And they turned their back on it. So Paul took off. "From now on, I will go to the Gentiles" - and he walked out the door. Those people had a blessing so special, so marvellous and wonderful awaiting them. And God removed it, due to their ignorance.


Do I think it was hard for Paul to do this? Definitely. Heartbreaking and agonising. If you study his epistles to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, there is pain laid bare there because people were blind to the way. But Paul had to make a decision - to either stay where he was and bang his head on a brick wall or take his watering can and soak the garden dripping wet. He took that word elsewhere all over Europe and the church grew. Christianity grew! And the kingdom of Heaven expanded because there were people open to the word; people not too comfortable to raise their hand and say, "Yes, I believe!"

For any female adults reading this, young or old(er) I don't know if in your courting days gone by there was always a strapping young gentleman who persistently requested time to have your company and you kept knocking him back. And kept trying and trying for a date, yet the answer you gave him was a "No" or, worse, you just ignored his existence. After a while, this gentleman comes to the realisation that he's wasting his time and, in due course, another girl takes his fancy and the two of them couldn't be happier together. Girl no.1 had an opportunity, possibly for an extended period of time because the guy just didn't give up, but it started to become apparent that she wanted nothing to do with him, his interest in her was pointless, and therefore the blessing of this young gentleman that was awaiting Girl no.1 was lifted and placed on Girl no. 2.

Now, sometimes in these situations, a lot of "what if"s and regrets set in. "What if I'd gone with Joe Bloggs...", "what if I'd said yes to his request for lunch", "what if I'd actually said 'thanks but no thanks' as opposed to not saying anything to him at all. When Paul quit preaching to those to who the word was intended for, and his blessing was fulfilled elsewhere, I wonder if there were any regrets or "what if"s. I wonder if they were happy; I wonder if they got the fulfilment they seeked. I wonder if they got another chance. That's all we can do now; wonder what happened to those rejectors of the word.

Perhaps God's got a blessing waiting for you today. Do you know that? Do you know if He's got something in mind for you? If so, then my challenge for you is go and grab hold of it; make it your own and be happy with it. "His love has no limits, his grace has no measure..." but you have to want it because if you don't, He'll remove it from you and grant it to someone who does. He did it with Paul's ministry in Acts and He can do it today. Talk to God today about the decision you have to make and be open to his offerings.

dw :)