“Transformation is the inevitable result of the incarnation” – Joel Edwards
“Cities and churches can display all of the outer trappings of success but still be lacking in the sight of God when it comes to the marginalised” – Sean Benesh
“Your core values are influenced not by what you see, but how you see” – Paul Manwaring
“Keeping promises is a hallmark of integrity because it demonstrates that we can be trusted to do what we say we will do” – Graham,Huntsman, Blanchard
After being a little absent on the social networks these last few weeks, it has been interesting to review things that are happening and seeing the responses of people. One of the things that has caught my eye is the amount of vitriol that can come from the keypads of Christians when somebody appears to step on some of their own strongly held doctrinal viewpoints, or another ‘champion of faith’ is brought into question.
It is right that we contend for our faith and that we are careful to guard our doctrine but too often we have allowed ourselves to slip in to a barrage of abusive behaviours to others. Disagreement is a part of life, differences of opinion are to be expected but the line is surely crossed when we begin personal attacks that are, at best, abusive.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” is the verse that springs to mind – words that Jesus used as he predicted his betrayal and just before his conversation with Peter regarding Peters own denial of Jesus. In the darkest moments, love one another….it is the thing that marks out God’s people from others. Surely if we are to make an impact for the gospel, we should bear this in mind in the way we communicate with one another….even more so in the public forums that are available to us. Recently, many have gone beyond saying ‘You fool!’ (see Matthew 5:21) and that leads to destruction – let’s be people who are strong, yet loving, courageous, yet gentle and let’s love one another so that we may see many more enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a result of our witness.
Hope can be an odd thing. It comes and goes with the wind and can be so transient as to be unbearable. A great example of this (for sports fans) is the current English Premiership campaign – last week, Liverpool were the favourites and there was a huge amount of hope that a 24 year barren spell was at an end. One bad result and another team could now take the title on goal difference……for many hope evaporated. However, there is still a great chance that Liverpool could win – still games to be played and results required for all teams. However, the news and reporters have transferred all their hope to another. Fickle, transient and denying what is possible.
It is the same with life. The smallest of margins can evaporate or sustain hope and we can be like the wind blowing in different directions with all the challenges and changes that come our way. How much easier life would be if our hope could be certain, if it was guaranteed.
In truth, it comes down to what we have faith in, to those things that will sustain us – we discover very quickly in life who and what can be trusted. Trust in those things that will bring hope, peace and happiness. Then and only then will the flickers of hope become a flood.
Some wisdom works in every scenario – for parents, youth leaders, managers, bosses, vicars, in fact, for anyone! One of those pieces of wisdom is from Ken Blanchard;
“Catch people doing things right“
Just a simple thing but so important. We live in a society were we love to find the mistakes, pinpoint failure and highlight error, yet one of the most important things we can do for another individual is to catch them doing something right. This is more than faint praise or general thank yous’ but a specific ‘well done’.
Can you think of a time when you were thanked, encouraged or praised for doing something right? How did it make you feel? Imagine if we escalated this and used our time to do the positive work before the negative, what a difference it may make in the lives of others.
Let’s start catching people out by catching them doing things right and see what transpires.
We spend much of our time wanting to fit in, we want that perfect niche where we know ‘we belong’ and where we can be comfortable and settle. That’s not saying that we necessarily want a life free of adventure, challenge and excitement but rather that ‘God shaped hole’ type thinking where we convince ourselves of the utopian ideal for us as individuals.
Life is not always like that, in fact, it is never like that. It’s messy, complicated and we do not always find that place where we belong, because people and relationships are messy. Some of us have the ministry of not belonging, never quite fitting in, never quite part of the group, never quite settled, being misunderstood, now that is a tough ministry!
This sounds quite depressing, it needn’t be. We can be ‘in the world but not of it’ in a whole manner of ways – the real issue in life is not, do I fit? Rather, it is ‘do I have life?’ Now that is far more important.
12 months ago today (to the date it would be tomorrow), I had a major health scare that was eventually decided was stress related. It was a significant moment of my life and one that will forever shape the remaining time allotted to me.
What has changed? Just one thing; a deeper reliance on God with a greater understanding of the following verses;
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The online life is one that I regularly engage in and see a great value in. However, it must never demote real life meetings, interactions and conversations. It has a purpose but there are also some significant limitations.
Today I was invited to an online community system that offered to;
“helps the people of (name removed) build community, strengthen relationships, and much more.”
The dream is one that must be applauded in its aspiration and the lure of the online world is strong, yet these claims seem a little exaggerated. We need to be careful that we do not replace the meal table, the face-to-face, the gatherings etc. – real community is sharing life….in all it’s forms