Thursday, 29 November 2012

When I Say I Am A Christian

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost!
That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble -
needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved

Copyright 1988 Carol Wimmer

The Real Santa Claus

Ask children what they associate most with Christmas, and I suspect the answer you would get is Santa Claus.  But did you know that Santa Claus is based on a very real person, Saint Nicholas, who is commemorated by the church on December 6th?  

Saint Nicholas was born in the village of Patara, in what is now part of Turkey.  He was raised to be a devout Christian by his wealthy parents.  They died when he was young, and left him their fortune.  Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering.  He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra. 

Nicholas led his churches through one of the worst times of persecution in Christian history.  In AD 303 the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a brutal attack on all Christians.  Those suspected of being followers of Jesus were ordered to make sacrifices to pagan gods.  Nicholas and thousands of others refused, and he was imprisoned and tortured, but he refused to renounce his faith.  He was eventually freed from prison by the new Emperor Constantine, and continued to serve as bishop in Myra for another 30 years, where through his witness thousands of people came to faith in Jesus.  He died on December 6, 343 AD, and was buried in his cathedral church.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of Saint Nicholas' life and deeds.  One of the most famous stories tells of a poor man who could not afford the dowries to enable his three daughters to marry.  They were therefore destined to be sold into slavery and prostitution.  Saint Nicholas heard of their plight, and at night threw a bag of gold coins through an open window, which was said to have landed in stockings left by the fire to dry.  This led to the custom of children hanging stockings, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
Santa Claus of yuletride tradition still has some echoes of this great saint.  The colour of his outfit recollects the red of the bishop’s roes, and gifts secretly brought on Christmas Eve remind us of his generosity to the poor.   So this Christmas, why not tell children the story of the real Santa Claus to inspire them to follow his example of Christian love and service.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: Psalms & Proverbs: Proverbs of Solomon (45)

Proverbs 16:1-18:24

The plans of the mind belong to mortals,
   but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,
   but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
   and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
   even the wicked for the day of trouble.
All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord;
   be assured, they will not go unpunished.
By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
   and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.
When the ways of people please the Lord,
   he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them.
Better is a little with righteousness
   than large income with injustice.
The human mind plans the way,
   but the Lord directs the steps.
Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king;
   his mouth does not sin in judgement.
Honest balances and scales are the Lord’s;
   all the weights in the bag are his work.
It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
   for the throne is established by righteousness.
Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
   and he loves those who speak what is right.
A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
   and whoever is wise will appease it.
In the light of a king’s face there is life,
   and his favour is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
   To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
The highway of the upright avoids evil;
   those who guard their way preserve their lives.
Pride goes before destruction,
   and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor
   than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper,
   and happy are those who trust in the Lord.
The wise of heart is called perceptive,
   and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness.
Wisdom is a fountain of life to one who has it,
   but folly is the punishment of fools.
The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious,
   and adds persuasiveness to their lips.
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
   sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right,
   but in the end it is the way to death.
The appetite of workers works for them;
   their hunger urges them on.
Scoundrels concoct evil,
   and their speech is like a scorching fire.
A perverse person spreads strife,
   and a whisperer separates close friends.
The violent entice their neighbours,
   and lead them in a way that is not good.
One who winks the eyes plans perverse things;
   one who compresses the lips brings evil to pass.
Grey hair is a crown of glory;
   it is gained in a righteous life.
One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
   and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.
The lot is cast into the lap,
   but the decision is the Lord’s alone.
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
   than a house full of feasting with strife.
A slave who deals wisely will rule over a child who acts shamefully,
   and will share the inheritance as one of the family.
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
   but the Lord tests the heart.
An evildoer listens to wicked lips;
   and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue.
Those who mock the poor insult their Maker;
   those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
   and the glory of children is their parents.
Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
   still less is false speech to a ruler.
A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of those who give it;
   wherever they turn they prosper.
One who forgives an affront fosters friendship,
   but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.
A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person
   than a hundred blows into a fool.
Evil people seek only rebellion,
   but a cruel messenger will be sent against them.
Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs
   than to confront a fool immersed in folly.
Evil will not depart from the house
   of one who returns evil for good.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water;
   so stop before the quarrel breaks out.
One who justifies the wicked and one who condemns the righteous
   are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Why should fools have a price in hand
   to buy wisdom, when they have no mind to learn?
A friend loves at all times,
   and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.
It is senseless to give a pledge,
   to become surety for a neighbour.
One who loves transgression loves strife;
   one who builds a high threshold invites broken bones.
The crooked of mind do not prosper,
   and the perverse of tongue fall into calamity.
The one who begets a fool gets trouble;
   the parent of a fool has no joy.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
   but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
The wicked accept a concealed bribe
   to pervert the ways of justice.
The discerning person looks to wisdom,
   but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth.
Foolish children are a grief to their father
   and bitterness to her who bore them.
To impose a fine on the innocent is not right,
   or to flog the noble for their integrity.
One who spares words is knowledgeable;
   one who is cool in spirit has understanding.
Even fools who keep silent are considered wise;
   when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.
The one who lives alone is self-indulgent,
   showing contempt for all who have sound judgement.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
   but only in expressing personal opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also;
   and with dishonour comes disgrace.
The words of the mouth are deep waters;
   the fountain of wisdom is a gushing stream.
It is not right to be partial to the guilty,
   or to subvert the innocent in judgement.
A fool’s lips bring strife,
   and a fool’s mouth invites a flogging.
The mouths of fools are their ruin,
   and their lips a snare to themselves.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
   they go down into the inner parts of the body.
One who is slack in work
   is close kin to a vandal.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
   the righteous run into it and are safe.
The wealth of the rich is their strong city;
   in their imagination it is like a high wall.
Before destruction one’s heart is haughty,
   but humility goes before honour.
If one gives answer before hearing,
   it is folly and shame.
The human spirit will endure sickness;
   but a broken spirit—who can bear?
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge,
   and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
A gift opens doors;
   it gives access to the great.
The one who first states a case seems right,
   until the other comes and cross-examines.
Casting the lot puts an end to disputes
   and decides between powerful contenders.
An ally offended is stronger than a city;
   such quarrelling is like the bars of a castle.
From the fruit of the mouth one’s stomach is satisfied;
   the yield of the lips brings satisfaction.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
   and those who love it will eat its fruits.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
   and obtains favour from the Lord.
The poor use entreaties,
   but the rich answer roughly.
Some friends play at friendship
   but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

- - - - - - - - -
A Treasure Chest of Wisdom

The Proverbs contain wisdom for living today.

In the Book of Proverbs, what seem like individual verses actually fit together into at least three bigger themes. Wisdom and folly. Using our words for positive ends is one of the most significant wise things we can do (17.27, 28; 18.14). Humility and pride. A humble, content life is far more satisfying than grabbing for all the gusto we can get (16.18).
God’s will and human action. God expects us to use our talents and abilities, but to trust the final results to him (16.1-4).


The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: Psalms & Proverbs: Godly Wisdom (44)

Proverbs 1:1-4:27


The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 


For learning about wisdom and instruction,
   for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
   righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
   knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
   and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
   the words of the wise and their riddles. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
   fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Warnings against Evil Companions

Hear, my child, your father’s instruction,
   and do not reject your mother’s teaching;
for they are a fair garland for your head,
   and pendants for your neck.
My child, if sinners entice you,
   do not consent.
If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
   let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive
   and whole, like those who go down to the Pit.
We shall find all kinds of costly things;
   we shall fill our houses with booty.
Throw in your lot among us;
   we will all have one purse’—
my child, do not walk in their way,
   keep your foot from their paths;
for their feet run to evil,
   and they hurry to shed blood.
For in vain is the net baited
   while the bird is looking on;
yet they lie in wait—to kill themselves!
   and set an ambush—for their own lives!
Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain;
   it takes away the life of its possessors. 

The Call of Wisdom

Wisdom cries out in the street;
   in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
   at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
   and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
   I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
   have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
   and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
   I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
   and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
   when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
   they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
   and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel,
   and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
   and be sated with their own devices.
For waywardness kills the simple,
   and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure
   and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.’ 

The Value of Wisdom

My child, if you accept my words
   and treasure up my commandments within you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
   and inclining your heart to understanding;
if you indeed cry out for insight,
   and raise your voice for understanding;
if you seek it like silver,
   and search for it as for hidden treasures—
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
   and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
   from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
   he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly,
guarding the paths of justice
   and preserving the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
   and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
   and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
prudence will watch over you;
   and understanding will guard you.
It will save you from the way of evil,
   from those who speak perversely,
who forsake the paths of uprightness
   to walk in the ways of darkness,
who rejoice in doing evil
   and delight in the perverseness of evil;
those whose paths are crooked,
   and who are devious in their ways. 

You will be saved from the loose woman,
   from the adulteress with her smooth words,
who forsakes the partner of her youth
   and forgets her sacred covenant;
for her way leads down to death,
   and her paths to the shades;
those who go to her never come back,
   nor do they regain the paths of life. 

Therefore walk in the way of the good,
   and keep to the paths of the just.
For the upright will abide in the land,
   and the innocent will remain in it;
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
   and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Admonition to Trust and Honour God

My child, do not forget my teaching,
   but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life
   and abundant welfare they will give you. 

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
   bind them round your neck,
   write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favour and good repute
   in the sight of God and of people. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
   and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
   and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
   fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be a healing for your flesh
   and a refreshment for your body. 

Honour the Lord with your substance
   and with the first fruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
   and your vats will be bursting with wine. 

My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
   or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
   as a father the son in whom he delights. 

The True Wealth

Happy are those who find wisdom,
   and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
   and her revenue better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
   and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
   in her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
   and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
   those who hold her fast are called happy. 

God’s Wisdom in Creation

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
   by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
   and the clouds drop down the dew.

The True Security

My child, do not let these escape from your sight:
   keep sound wisdom and prudence,
and they will be life for your soul
   and adornment for your neck.
Then you will walk on your way securely
   and your foot will not stumble.
If you sit down, you will not be afraid;
   when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden panic,
   or of the storm that strikes the wicked;
for the Lord will be your confidence
   and will keep your foot from being caught. 

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
   when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go, and come again;
   tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.
Do not plan harm against your neighbour
   who lives trustingly beside you.
Do not quarrel with anyone without cause,
   when no harm has been done to you.
Do not envy the violent
   and do not choose any of their ways;
for the perverse are an abomination to the Lord,
   but the upright are in his confidence.
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
   but he blesses the abode of the righteous.
Towards the scorners he is scornful,
   but to the humble he shows favour.
The wise will inherit honour,
   but stubborn fools, disgrace. 

Parental Advice

Listen, children, to a father’s instruction,
   and be attentive, that you may gain insight;
for I give you good precepts:
   do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
   tender, and my mother’s favourite,
he taught me, and said to me,
‘Let your heart hold fast my words;
   keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away
   from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
   love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
   and whatever else you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
   she will honour you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a fair garland;
   she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.’ 

Admonition to Keep to the Right Path

Hear, my child, and accept my words,
   that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
   I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
   and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
   guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
   and do not walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
   turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
   they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
   and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
   which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
   they do not know what they stumble over.
My child, be attentive to my words;
   incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them escape from your sight;
   keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
   and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
   for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
   and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forwards,
   and your gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of your feet,
   and all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
   turn your foot away from evil. 

- - - - - - - -

Like Father Like Son

God’s wisdom is the true basis for “the good life.”

The Book of Proverbs contains the writings of Israel’s King Solomon, to whom God gave a unique gift of wisdom (1 Kings 2.1-3.28). Solomon understood that true wisdom begins with “the fear of the Lord” (1.7; 2.5) and is the foundation for godly living. God’s wisdom also protects us against evil and its consequences (1.10-19) and provides us with happiness and health (3.13-26). But it’s important to note that Solomon is talking about wisdom that is a heart commitment to learn and follow God’s ways (4.23).


The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: Psalms & Proverbs: Praise the Lord (43)

Psalm 103

Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness

Of David.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name. 
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and do not forget all his benefits— 
who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the Pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 

The Lord works vindication
   and justice for all who are oppressed. 
He made known his ways to Moses,
   his acts to the people of Israel. 
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always accuse,
   nor will he keep his anger for ever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
   nor repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us. 
As a father has compassion for his children,
   so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. 
For he knows how we were made;
   he remembers that we are dust. 

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
   they flourish like a flower of the field; 
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
   and its place knows it no more. 
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
   on those who fear him,
   and his righteousness to children’s children, 
to those who keep his covenant
   and remember to do his commandments. 

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
   and his kingdom rules over all. 
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   obedient to his spoken word. 
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
   his ministers that do his will. 
Bless the Lord, all his works,
   in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

- - - - - - - - -

Praise The Lord

God is worthy of our praise.

Let’s discover some things in this Psalm that will deepen our relationship with God today. The Benefits of God: There are some incredible benefits to knowing God (103.2-5). The main one is forgiveness of our sins! The Character of God: The main traits David cites are compassion (103.8, 13) and a willingness to forgive (103.9-12). The Response to God: The Psalm begins and ends with praise. In light of who God is, and all he’s done, what else can you do?


Sunday, 25 November 2012

The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: Psalms & Proverbs: Have Mercy On Me (42)

Psalm 51

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin. 

For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
   and blameless when you pass judgement.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
   a sinner when my mother conceived me. 

You desire truth in the inward being;
   therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
   and blot out all my iniquities. 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit. 

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
   O God of my salvation,
   and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 

O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
   if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
   rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
   in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

- - - - - - 

"Mea Culpa"

True confession means admitting our sin and changing our ways.

The context of David’s confession in this famous Psalm is his sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11.2—12.25). In David’s prayer, we can find three steps to genuine confession. “Have mercy on me…” (51.1). David honestly described his actions as “transgressions…iniquity…sin.” “Cleanse me…” (51.7). David realized that sin is offensive to God. “Create in me a pure heart…” (51.10). He asked God to straighten out his inner motives so he’d avoid future sin.


The E100 Bible Reading Challenge: Psalms & Proverbs: The Lord is My Shepherd (41)

Psalm 23

The Divine Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; 
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake. 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

- - - - - - - 

No Fear!

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for us each day.

In this psalm, David compares the Lord to a shepherd. A shepherd both comforts (23.2, 3) and protects (23.4) the sheep.  And in a second image, David envisions himself at a banquet table, surrounded by his enemies (23.5)! He seems to be saying that even if the worst happens (23.4) we can trust God to take care of us (Romans 8.28).


Trust & Priorities: Matthew 6:25-34

A man was seen fleeing down the hall of the hospital just before his operation.

"What's the matter?" asked a receptionist.  

He said, "I heard my nurse say, 'It's a very simple operation, don't worry, I'm sure it will be all right."

"She was just trying to comfort you, what's so frightening about that?"

"She wasn't talking to me. She was talking to the doctor.

The truth is that if you do suffer from worry and anxiety, it is not laughing matter.  

It’s a problem that affects many people in our society.  People worry about their health, getting older, their jobs, the future, their appearance, the rising cost of living, politically instability in the world, and what all of this means for us and our children.  There is no end to the kind of things we can worry about.

According to the charity Anxiety UK, anxiety and depression in the UK has risen by 13% since 1993.  It is a problem that is also said to affect 1 in 10 children and young people.  

Studies have even shown that social media such as Facebook and Twitter can feed anxiety. There is a Swedish which says that worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.  Worry and anxiety robs us of joy and peace, and can affect us mentally and physically. 

It therefore makes Jesus’ words from our reading this morning are so relevant.  I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

There are two themes from what Jesus says that I want to explore, trust and priorities.


I tell you, do not worry about your life.” 

Jesus isn’t just talking about having a positive mental attitude – as good as this is, he is really challenging us to think about whom and what we place our trust in.  Many of the institutions and people in whom we used to place our trust such as politicians, bankers, journalists and even the church, has been shaken, we know longer know who to trust. But Jesus is saying place your trust in God. 

This is at the heart of the Christian faith, learning to trust God with our lives.  To trust our heavenly Father with our every need, because unlike others, He will not fail us, or let us down, because He knows are every need. 

I asked my children the other day why do they trust me?  Their answer was simple, because I’m their dad.  Their whole assurance is based on the fact that as their father I am trustworthy, and won’t fail them.  Isn't this even more true when it comes to our heavenly father? 

Hudson Taylor, missionary to China and founder of what is today known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, gave this excellent advice: "Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God's hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about."

We also need to recognise that many of our worries are often unfounded and unnecessary.  Such as in the case of the bassoon player who came up to his conductor, Toscanini, and nervously said that he could not reach the high E flat. Toscanini just smiled and replied, "Don't worry. There is no E flat in your music tonight."


Jesus gives us a great antidote to worry - put God first.  That is the other message contained in today’s reading.  Jesus said “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

In a Berlin art gallery there is a painting by German painter Adolf Menzel. The painting is only partially finished.  It shows Fredrick the Great speaking with some of his generals.  Menzel painted the generals and background, but he died before he could complete the king. 

To be a follower of Christ, means to learn to put Christ centre stage.  And it is only when we do this, when we seek to make him our true priority, that everything else falls into place. 

When we put Christ first we focus our attentions on Him, rather than on our worries, and most importantly of all we learn to trust Him. 

This of course doesn’t mean that our lives will be without its challenges or troubles, but it is the path that leads to peace and joy.  Because our hope and confidence is built not on our outer circumstances, or on people or institutions, but on the God of love and compassion, who promises to be with us always, in good times and bad.

It is this knowledge, and confidence that produces the joy filled life.  

The joy filled life which enabled Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned for 14 years in Romania for preaching the Gospel, to declare that “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.”  It is the confidence and hope that enabled Paul to write I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

When we trust God, and place Him first in our lives, we find the path to true peace and joy.    

I want to finish with a poem:

Trust Him when dark doubts assail you,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for his will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Jesus & The Role Of Women In Ministry

Dr Rowan Williams following General Synod's rejection of women bishop's

The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted yesterday "Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God."  He was of course talking about the failure to pass through General Synod the vote to allow for the ordination of women as bishops. 

Twenty years after women were allowed to be ordained as priests, there was real hope that this week the final hurdle for them to be ordained as bishops would be removed.  In order for the motion to be successful, it had to get a two thirds majority from all three houses of General Synod.  The motion got overwhelming support from the House of Bishops and House of Clergy, but failed by only 6 votes to get the two thirds majority required in the House of Laity.

There has been huge outpouring of anger, and a sense of disbelief that this vote could fail, and by such a narrow margin.  Rowan Williams, addressing General Synod yesterday said that the Church of England has lost a measure of credibility following the vote and that the church appeared "wilfully blind" to modern trends and priorities.

There is a huge amount of discussion taking place as to why the vote failed, and what the impact will be on the Church of England, especially as 42 of the 44 Church of England Diocesan Synods had backed the motion.  Some people have even described the decision as a disaster for the Church of England.

But I worry about some of this language.  Yes the decision is upsetting and very disappointing, and I’m concerned that the Church will now spend the next five years focusing its energies on this one issue, whilst ignoring the much more pressing need to engage with mission and evangelism, but I don’t think it can be described as a disaster.  Real disasters are what are happening in places like Gaza, Syria, and Afghanistan.  Real disasters are where people are suffering and dying due to war, poverty and disease.  What happened on Tuesday was a setback, but not a disaster.

The reason Tuesday’s vote has caused such strong emotions is that it appears to send the message that the church does not fully support women’s ministry. 

The reality is of course that the vast majority of churches up and down this country value and appreciate the role of women in ministry, and that the church has been greatly enriched by women’s ministry.

Jesus also clearly valued the role of women.  Although the twelve disciples were all men, women played a crucial role in Jesus’ ministry.  The Gospels portray Jesus as someone that not only spoke and interacted with women, but also treated women with compassion, dignity, and respect. 

James Hurley writes, "The most striking thing about the role of women in the life and teaching of Jesus is the simple fact that they are there…  The presence of women among the followers of Jesus and to his serious teaching of them constitutes a break with tradition which has been described as being 'without precedent in [the then] contemporary Judaism.

It was women who supported Jesus’ ministry, and it was Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James who were with Jesus at his crucifixion, and who saw where Jesus’ body was laid, when most of his male disciples had fled.  But even more crucially, the first witnesses to the resurrection were women.  This is important because in the Judean culture of the time, the testimony of women didn't count, yet the people Jesus chose to reveal himself to first were women, and they acted as the apostles (witnesses) to the apostles. 

What we see from the New Testament is that Jesus was truly revolutionary in his treatment of women, and that women played a key leadership role in the life of the early church.

Therefore God does equally affirm the ministry of both men and women.  I am sure it won’t be too long before the Church of England finally does allow women to be ordained as bishop’s, but in the mean time as men and women we need to get on with the vitally important that God has set for us, to build God’s kingdom, of love, justice, mercy and peace.