wellbeing

Mark 12:28-31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Well-being, or to spin it round being well, is obviously something that has been very much brought to everyone’s attention over the last few months. The COVID 19 pandemic has made many people across the world confront one of their last taboos, that of death. It has reminded so many that we are not ‘untouchable’, that our existence is much less certain or guaranteed than we would wish for. It has, I believe, also reminded so many of us of the duty of care we hold to the vulnerable, and those less able to look after themselves. But one common and defining factor in all of this is that the nature of the effects of COVID 19 have really focussed on the physical side, the immediate effects to the body up to and including the loss of family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances. For so many, there are now gaps in the landscape of those we now, gaps that are unfillable from people that are irreplaceable.

Bee

The word is very big and around
And in it many things are found
e.g. a Bee

Not the most theological of poems I grant you, and not the greatest in length, or subject matter, nor is it most well constructed, yet it is one that has stuck with me ever since I first saw it. This simple poem by Adrian Plass, from his book Silences and Nonsenses: Collected Poetry Doggeral and Whimsy, simply won’t exit my head and I woke up this morning with it occupying space normally reserved for the complex task of deciding which cereal to have!

Lords PrayerA reflection on a prayer that is familiar to so many of us, but may have deeper importance in the current times we find ourselves in….

Our Father in heaven,
God the Father is in heaven, wherever that maybe, waiting for those who love Him, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He is there, with Jesus who intercedes for us all the time, preparing rooms for us. An image of a loving God who wants us to be there with Him…. Why else would He prepare rooms? Would you prepare a room for those you don’t want to be with?

hallowed be your name,
God’s name is Holy because He is holy. Set apart from all creation as special, different… yet He still calls to you, still reached to you... the perfect striving to lift up the imperfect… Holy is God’s name so let’s call it in love, wonder and awe

your kingdom come,
A reminder that where and how so much the world lives, in separation from God, is not how He intended it to be… that there is a better way, a better place, and that it be seen, felt and lived out in us. When that happens God’s kingdom comes to earth… not as a physically different place (for God will replace this earth – Revelation 21:1), but as a kingdom found in attitudes, submission, grace given, mercy received… a kingdom found in kind words and the truth of the gospel message given form in God’s people.. you and I and all our brothers and sisters in Christ… then His kingdom comes

your will be done,
A reminder that we are no longer our own masters, but God’s people, agreeing through our won submission to seek His way, to live the life He calls us to. Even in the current pandemic God has a purpose for each one. Even though we are distanced by physical space, we can connect in so many other ways. I know they aren’t as good as being physically close but we can rediscover the joy of writing letters, sending emails, picking up the phone and calling, using social media with voice and video chat. These things are not limited by geography, only by our own will to connect… and in those connections, when we hear and follow God’s direction, then we see His will being done.

on earth as in heaven.
It is easy to feel that amidst all the doing, the physical effort, the emotion effort, the practical support we engage in, we can lose track of where our strength comes from or that we are not just supported by our Christian brothers and sisters in the hear and now. We are supported by the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1). They are united with God, beyond time, so should we know that we are united through Him too. They are always urging us on, so should we urge each other on, they are always united so should we be, they are always in the presence of God, so should we seek to do the same.

Give us today our daily bread.
Bread is not just a reminder of the physical blessings we receive but also a reminder that God is the sustainer of life, the one who brings the nourishment we need. We are also reminded that the only ones who can give us the sustenance we need are God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life’. He was not suggesting He was a bloomer loaf, but rather He is that which keeps life healthy, growing, full of vitality, only comes from the source of life – the trinity. Feed on that which makes you healthy, know God’s words in the bible, spend time with Him in prayer, see Him in each other… eat your daily bread.

Forgive us our sins
What is there to say. We are all people who are sinful by nature. We are still separated from God, but we are now aware of that truth and have come to know we need Jesus as Saviour. We still do, say and think things that pull us away from God’s kingdom values, that increase rather than decrease the separation between us and God. It is only when we see God face to face will we be completely sinless… completely in His presence… until then, we do need to seek His forgiveness when we stray.

as we forgive those who sin against us.
As we have been, and continually are, forgiven so we should also seek to forgive others. To forgive is not to forget a wrongdoing as some wrongs can never be erased from our minds, but rather it is to pass the responsibility of judgement to God. It is to release ourselves of that burden when we seek to ‘get even’ as God will let no unrepented sin go unpunished. To forgive is to pull out the poison anger and revenge and let God deal with it… even if that is at the end of the person’s life who wronged you. It is not suggesting that they should escape the justice of our legal system if that is what is required, but rather to say that we should not let moment (whatever it was) define our going forward. Forgiveness is less about seeking a prison cell for another as about us releasing ourselves from one, one that often has no bars but traps us more tightly than the best locks ever could.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Simple – we so often enjoy what is good, but usually in the wrong way or to excess. Most temptations we find ourselves drawn too aren’t bad in the right context but when enjoyed in the time or place they either trap us with guilt and shame or lead to harm. Sweets aren’t bad in moderation but too many will lead to bad teeth or diabetes. Morphine, in the context of medical care is good, but when taken as a recreational drug… not so much. Sex, in the confines of a marriage relationship is good, outside of marriage it leads to relationship breakdown. The issue with temptations is that the devil tells us half-truths, just like he told Eve. ‘You won’t die’ he said. True enough, she didn’t die physically but spiritually here relationship with God was shot to pieces, spiritually she died. In the same way he says ‘that next sweet won’t do much harm, it’ sooo small’, or ‘that drug must be alright to use, it makes you feel good’ or ‘it’s OK to share a bed with that person if it makes you feel good’… So, when you hear that small voice, in whatever temptation you are drawn to ask God what the half-truth is and how to avoid it.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.
God is sovereign over all yet gives us the power to choose whether we follow what He knows is best… just like the king in his land who issues decrees, it is down to each individual to decide if they will follow the decree. If they don’t they become subject to the consequences due. The same is true with God… He could force all people to follow what he wants but in that course of action there is no relationship based on love – for true love does not imprison but captures the heart, there is no free will to follow God and there is no place for responsibility on our parts if God has ‘made us’ love him. In the end everyone has to answer for their choices when judgement is due… for God is sovereign, all that is belongs to him. To willingly turn away from God, to not submit to his power, to not see His glory is a choice for each person but one eventually we have to explain.
Amen.

 

Life is precious

Psalm 16:11:
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Genesis 1:9-24
And God saw that it was good

One of the questions that engages people all over the world is this… ‘what is life?’, and it ranges from the obvious questions based in biology and how life starts, works and ends, right through to questions of a far more philosophical nature. And before you say that ‘I don’t do philosophy’ I would like to suggest that you are quite wrong. Every person I have ever met asks questions like ‘why do I do that? or ‘what is the point of that behaviour?’ and so on. And in these questions you see questions that engage with what it is to be human… essential asking what is life all about.

Return

2 Chronicles 7:14 - if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Yesterday, as I was driving to pick some food up to deliver to a foodbank I was listening to Premier Christian Radio in the car and this verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14, was shared at the end of the segment. I have heard it a hundred times before and yet when I heard it then it shot through me like a bolt of lightning. It connected with me in a powerful way for several reasons, which I will share with you now.

who is GodNo, this is not a theology 101 lesson, although I am happy to give those. This is a question that I ponder on from time to time, a question which helps me remember who God is, especially when I engage with the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

You see, and I’m not sure about you, but I can certainly get quite comfortable with the person of Jesus, the man who walked amongst us, the human to whom I can relate, the man the cried, got angry, bled… to this I can relate. I can also be very comfortable with the Holy Spirit in some ways, titles like comforter, councillor, healer, provider and so on. They all feed my need to have my needs met. And both these images and relationships I have with Jesus and the Holy Spirit can also feed into a western image of ‘my saviour’, that this is all about me… the Jesus died for me, that the Holy Spirit is here for me.

boundaries

We all know the phrase ‘creating healthy boundaries’ and today it seems more prescient than ever, with today being the day the some of the lockdown restrictions being eased – from some being encouraged to go back to work, exercising limits being increased, parks being opened and a whole host of other things besides. There is even a plan for some schools and school class years to be reintroduced over a period of time. For some these changes will signal hope, it will be a day of optimism, for some it will be a day of uncertainty, worry and confusion, and for some it will be a day of fear, anger and concern. How you see something always depends on where you are standing at the time you see it or experience it.