Thought for the Month


This is the news!

For many years I’ve been an avid consumer of the daily news – interested in what’s happening in my country and throughout the world. But lately I’ve found it impossible at times to look at it – it’s so awful and completely devoid of hope. 

Brexit! The evils being done in the Middle East and Africa. Superpowers jockeying for position with a rivalry that makes the world a much more dangerous place for all of us. And it’s the poor and needy of the world who suffer so that desperate people seek to flee to countries where they and their families can feel safe.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is the environmental threat. It is possible that we have damaged our earth beyond repair by our greed and misuse of its resources. 

When I think of these things and look at the those who govern the nations I cannot see any man or woman who can take control and begin to put things right. 

Two thousand years ago these things were written about in the Bible. They are amazingly accurate about the world today and they tell us not just about our problems but about the solution. It speaks of a creation that groans and suffers, of distressed nations being perplexed at what is happening, of a time when people’s hearts will faint with foreboding about what is happening in the world.

These words were spoken by Jesus to his disciples just before his crucifixion and he went on to tell them that it would be a time for disciples not to worry but to look up because they would be delivered from all of these problems. I will come back, said Jesus and put the world right. He will come to look after the poor and needy, to solve the environmental crisis, to break the power of oppressing rulers and to reign as king over all the earth.

Late in his life the Apostle Peter wrote of these things. This world is going to change radically, he said. The present order is going to be swept away and replaced by a better one. He went on to ask a question. What sort of people should we be if we believe in this?  The answer – people who are looking for and waiting for the return of Jesus Christ.


Gifts and Giving

In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2, we have an account of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are introduced to the wise men who have been following the sign of the star, seeking Jesus.When they find him, they bring him three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.Over the Christmas holiday many people will think back to and remember the birth of Jesus. They will also spend time with their families, eat lots (hopefully) of good food and exchange gifts just like those wise men who came bringing gifts to Jesus.

The three gifts the wise men bring are the gold, frankincense and myrrh. There is little information in the Bible about frankincense and myrrh, but we do learn more about ointment (which is like frankincense). In the Gospel of  John, Chapter 12 we see Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with ointment, which is related to the frankincense the wise men gave him. Mary, Martha and Lazarus (the latter having been raised from the dead in Chapter 11) are all gathered together with Jesus. This gives us the picture of the family gathered together around the table, just as so many people will be around Christmas. This is exciting for us, because the whole church is the family. In relation to Christmas, at Christmas time we tend to gather with our families and give gifts to one another, in a similar way to Mary is here, although we don’t tend to give anointing ointment…

One of the most well known quotes about gifts that you may all have thought of already is in Romans Chapter 6,where it says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in a Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV)

Here we have a gift given by God to the world. We see similar things in the book of Ephesians, Chapter 2. Here we see another gift from God, salvation by grace, through faith. It is important to note that this is not something of our own doing. In a sense we can parallel this with the way that we do not buy gifts for ourselves, but for other people,you give them.

When we meet together over Christmas and exchange gifts we can think of the wise men who long ago came to Jesus bringing him gifts. We can think of God, who has given us the greatest gift of all, eternal life in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he gave us.


The war to end all wars

This month marks 100 years since the end of the first world war. We shall be reminded of the peace accord that was agreed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and there is a special poignancy to Remembrance Sunday this year for it falls on Sunday 11th November.

Over 37 million people died in total and it was declared to be the war to end all wars by the president of the United States. The whole world agreed that such horrendous slaughter must never happen again.

Yet just 21 years later world war broke out again, over 60 million people lost their lives and a horrified group of nations met in America in October 1945 to form the United Nations in another attempt to stop a further catastrophic war. We should not be surprised to learn that this also has failed for every year over fifty state sponsored wars are recorded in the world.

History shows us that it is impossible for humankind to eradicate wars and the Bible explains why. The Letter of James tells us that wars and fighting come from within us. Nations, like individuals desire to have more and will go to any lengths to achieve their goals. Jesus himself warned of wars continuing after his ascension to heaven leading up to a time when nations will be so distressed that people’s hearts will fail for fear and there will apparently be no solution to the problem.

But God will provide one for at that time He will send Jesus back to earth to reign as king over the whole earth and bring world-wide peace. How will he do this? The Bible calls Jesus ‘king of righteousness and king of peace’ and the order of these words is important. Righteousness describes a process of being made right with God. Through Jesus our sins can be forgiven and, in that sense, we are made righteous now. But when Jesus returns, his disciples will  be changed to be like him and help bring the world into subjection to God. Only then will wars cease and everlasting peace fill the world.


Autumn and Harvest

October brings the autumn in full. Leaves in the trees are changing, and so is the weather. Days continue to get shorter and at the end of the month the clocks will change. October is also a time of harvest. Throughout the country the fruits of the summer have been collected and fields ploughed ready for next planting.

Harvest time is traditionally a celebration of the produce – a time to thank God for the growth of crops over the seasons.

The Bible includes many references to harvest and planting. Marking the harvest can be seen as early as in Exodus 23, the Feast of the Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering, after the crop has been gathered in. In addition to the harvest of crops and the fruitfulness of the ground, the Bible also talks about spiritual fruit. The natural processes were created to show and teach us about spiritual ideas.

 

For us to be ‘fruitful’ harvest we must learn and grow in God’s truth. How can we tell fruitfulness? At harvest time the yields are obvious – a quantity and quality of fruit is produced and can be measured. Galatians 5 tells us about the fruits of the spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.

How can we have such a fruitful harvest? Galatians 5 continues:

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires”.

Much like farming this requires hard and ongoing work; if we do nothing, nothing will grow!

 

1 Corinthians 3 tells us that it is not the planter or the one who waters a plant who give the increase; it is God who gives the increase. This applies to both the physical produce from the ground, and the spiritual fruits we can bear. With this in mind, as we see the turn of the seasons and think of the harvest we thank God for the fruit of the harvest and we work to be fruitful ourselves.


Addiction

Recently I suffered with a trapped nerve in my back. The pain was intense and visits to the doctor brought nothing but increasingly strong pain relief tablets. I very quickly realised that one type turned me into a zombie, unable to think or function in a normal way and a little bit of research showed me that this was quite common. Indeed there were people who took the same drug daily to help them get through life and, as an opiate, it can be addictive.

More recently we had a talk at church from a doctor who specialises in treating drug users, helping them to kick the habit. We realised that this was a life’s work and that it took an incredible amount of expertise, compassion and patience dealing with people who were often extremely unattractive because of their drug fuelled lifestyles. And, by a strange coincidence, in the previous week the news had been full of drug related problems – cocaine as the recreational drug of choice at middle class dinner parties, the spice epidemic in Manchester, turning people into zombies, drugs now available for ordering by mobile phone and then delivered to your door. Drug addiction is a terrible, life destroying thing.

But when we turn to the Bible we find an addiction problem far worse than anything any known drug can produce. It is a 100% killer, once taken you are completely hooked and can never give it up. It has infected everyone in the whole world except for one man.

It is of course sin and the Bible talks about it in this way, as something highly addictive with terrible consequences for the wages of sin is death and everyone dies because we have all sinned.

The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest disciples of Jesus who ever lived, was distraught about its effect on his own life. He wrote ‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Because of sin that dwells within me’.

The Bible also tells us why it is so addictive as it describes it as ‘the pleasures of sin’. We can understand this, we all enjoy doing what we want, what pleases our egos and satisfies our desires.

Fortunately the Bible offers a solution involving the greatest doctor who ever lived. The Lord Jesus Christ, the only sinless man who ever lived died on the cross that our sins might be forgiven and our addiction cured. His promise is that, through God’s grace, our mortal, dying lives might be changed miraculously into immortal perfect and sin free ones when he returns to set up his kingdom If we believe in him, when he comes we shall be changed to be like him.

Here is a doctor worth visiting, one who has a complete understanding of our addiction and can cure it through his healing touch. Why not book a consultation?