Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Reasons and excuses

People are often called upon to give reasons for there actions but often those reasons sound like excuses.
For example here is the reason someone gave about why they didn't come into work. "I forgot to take in the Sunday paper, so after initially leaving the house I thought it was Sunday. By the time I had realized that it was in fact Monday, it wasn't worth coming in".
Reason or excuse?
I wonder how the shepherds explained the fact that they left their sheep on the hillside whilst they rushed off to Bethlehem to see a baby. Telling your boss that an angel told you to do it, seems a poor excuse, except of course, it happened to be true and history reveals that they did in fact have very good reason for their trip.
In John's introduction to Jesus he comments on the way in which people reacted to his coming. In Chapter 1:12 he says, “He came He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Some of the stories of those who either welcomed Jesus or rejected him are outlined in the gospel narrative. Whether their actions were based on good reasons or excuses is a matter of discussion and can challenge us to look at our own responses to Jesus and to his call upon our lives.
Take Joseph for example.
Joseph who had plenty reason to separate himself from Mary and her baby. What man wouldn’t be confused and hurt by the fact that his fiancĂ© was pregnant knowing that he wasn’t the father? On top of that the girl seems to have taken leave of her senses by claiming that no other man has been involved and the pregnancy is the result of divine intervention, the child being the longed for Messiah.
He was bound to be upset, but he didn’t go down the route of disgracing Mary either by divorcing her publicly or going even further and have her stoned for adultery, which would have been his right. However it was also his right to handle the whole thing quietly and simply walk away. As a kind and gentle man he that is what he chose to do. The Bible says, “And Joseph her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19)
That was the reasonable, understandable and acceptable. But through a dream God presented Joseph him with reasons to accept Mary’s story as true and to bring the boy up as his own son.
He is reassured by an angel that Mary is telling the truth and that the baby is to be called Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Joseph understood clearly what God expected of him, and was ready to obey! He would take Mary to be his wife and suffer the cutting remarks of a child conceived prior to their wedding. He would obey in spite of the fact that this child would be born under a cloud of adultery.
To avoid lashing out when we are hurt takes a great deal of self-control. Joseph is to be commended for the fact that he didn’t react to Mary’s news with angry impulse but with a thought-through plan that would minimise the damage and save face for everyone. It often takes self-control and good sense to do a good thing but it takes faith to do what you know is the right thing, the best thing, especially if you have the perfect excuses not to and nobody would blame you for not taking the risk.
Joseph rejected the excusable reaction but he also went beyond the reasonable reaction and accepted God’s call to make an obedient reaction.
There will be many times in life when the easiest thing will be to make a decision that comes from an emotional response or because it is the most convenient thing for us. Once made, even if we know in our hearts that we didn’t really do our best, we can ease our conscience with excuses. Then there are other times when we act with a clearer head and heart and convenience isn’t the issue but we settle for less than we feel we God is calling us to do because he calls us to go beyond the sensible, reasonable and culturally acceptable course of action.

Joseph is my kind of hero. He made no excuses and went beyond reason to be obedient to God.

God bless


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Mood or Mindset

Here are Alan's notes from 27th November 2011. We probably won't have time to use them in cell groups before Christmas but it might be good to reflect on the Bible Reading and thoughts again in our own devotions. I will post notes from Sunday 4th December tomorrow

How festive are you feeling?
Do you have to get into the right mood for Christmas? What does it take for you to feel Christmassy? Cold weather? Log fires? Mince pies? Carols? Sprouts? Well maybe not sprouts!
There is essentially nothing wrong with the lovely traditions of Christmas which generate a happier atmosphere and a sense of well-being. In fact I get a bit fed up when we Christians get a bit poe faced about it all. But surely Jesus came to do more than change our mood for a season but came to change our minds and hearts for eternity.
In the Bible when the word mind is used, it does not just mean mental exercise or brain power but includes your whole attitude, your demeanour, your mind set—the whole way you live your life. It includes your internal thoughts and attitude as well as your external actions. It involves how you think, feel, and act.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us that we don’t just need to know the mind of Christ, i.e, his opinion on stuff but we should have his mind. In other words it would be a really amazing thing if we could adopt his outlook, his attitudes, his response on everything.
1. Anything
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even to death on a cross.”
Why did Jesus Christ trade his rightful place in heaven for possibly something as inhospitable as a cavein Bethlehem. He could even have been born in the street. There is no cosy stable in the biblical account of his birth.
It was because the human race although given a perfect environment and opportunity to live for God messed it up. We messed it up so badly that with out intervention we face eventually being cut off from God, who is the source of all goodness for eternity.
But God was prepared to do anything that didn't deny his character to help us. He was prepared to take our mess upon himself so that we could get out of it. In Jesus, he placed himself in the same position as every human being and even lower.
A missionary told the story of two rugged, powerful mountain goats who met on a narrow pathway joining two mountain ridges. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. So narrow was the trail that there was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Finally, instead of fighting for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and made himself as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.
Jesus saw us as trapped with no way to help ourselves. By dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could experience forgiveness and receive eternal life.
2. Everything
The scale of what Jesus has done for us and wants to do for us suddenly becomes immense. When we really understand the coming of Jesus then we know we can't just adopt a mood of niceness until Boxing Day but that we must let him take hold of everything we are.
The old hymn puts it, “Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
This is not about paying Jesus back for what he has done. Jesus is not a loan shark, who gives us what we need when we are down on our luck but is on out back forever getting as much out of us as he can squeeze for ever and ever.
Those of us who are parents will know that the arrival of your new baby changes everything. It bears no comparison with babysitting or helping at toddlers. You don’t just find there is a little more to do. You change. You have changed your status to mother or father. You think differently about yourself as a result. The way you live your life changes, decisions have to be made with consideration to how this will affect the baby. We know that a baby isn’t just for Christmas but for life.
Paul said this his letter to the Corinthians in the Message translatio:
“Jesus included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived in their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at Jesus the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore, Now we look on the inside and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start is created new . The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from God who settled the relationship between us and him.”
3. Anyone
You can’t say after reading Paul's words that Christianity can ever just be about getting in a good mood once a year. Do you notice in those words that Paul talks about getting a new way of looking at things? In this he not only means how we view Jesus but also how we think about other people.

The rest of that passage from 2 Corinthians says. “God settled his relationship between us and him and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. We’re speaking for Christ himself.”
If we are going to speak on behalf of someone else we had better know them and their mind, their approach.
We have seen that Jesus approach was to selflessness, servant-hood and unlimited sacrifice.
We reflect this in the last item on our Prayer Beacon list of values.
“The cross is a demonstration of the sacrificial love of Christ and we believe that he calls us to acts of compassion and social justice. Pill Corps should be a place where action is taken to minister to those who are in need or who are hurting, both in our own locality and beyond.”
God bless

Alan and Carol