Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Word: Stop Stealing

Wophs, didn't get around to recording for this week so Rhema will play a repeat.  The following then, though old, is a newbie to you!

(You can normally catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema).

I imagine that you don’t think of yourself as a thief.  I can’t envisage that my average reader robs houses on the weekend or shoplifts a chocolate bar every time they go into a dairy.  Maybe you do, but more likely you are a bit like me – you feel so guilty when you realise you never paid for that stamp you put on the letter you posted at work, that you’d never make it as a career criminal.

In Ephesians, Paul talks about stealing.  He says: “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”

If we don’t all go around stealing, then at first this verse seems to have nothing to say to us. But there is more then one way to be a thief.  And I think many of us, including me, can take from people everyday.

We take their self-esteem.  We tell them they are useless or stupid or are never going to make it.  We take their future.  We tell them God can’t use people like them, that we’ve seen their kind and never seen anything good come from them.  We take their integrity.  We ask them to gossip with us, to cheat with us, to lie a little, moan a lot.

In New Zealand, especially, we can rob people of their achievements.  We talk them down, pull them down, use a sarcastic voice to say our congratulations.

Why do we do it?  Because it’s our human nature I guess.  And Paul knew this.  So – instead of stealing, he asks us to give generously.  You see, we have an awesome opportunity every time we talk to someone to leave a little bit of Christ with them.  Instead of taking people’s self-esteem we can lift it – be the one in the room that says ‘good job!’ or ‘I really like what you’ve done.’  Instead of taking their future we can offer the future God has already given us – we can say you are forgiven, you are free to be different then everything that has gone before you and to live a full life here and forever.  Instead of taking people’s integrity we can protect it. 

You can be a thief of people or a giver.  Which do you want to be today?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Word: Grace for Me Only, Thanks

It's Rhemathon time so no Quick Word on-air this week.  Instead I've dug this oldie out for you, enjoy!

You can normally catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

I was in church a few Sunday’s ago when our paster, Jonathan Dove, preached on the parable of the workers, a reference to the Kingdom of God.  In this story, found in Matthew 20, a bunch of different workers are employed in a vineyard, all starting at different times.  Some start at 6am and work a long hard day, others start at 9am, noon, 3pm and 5pm.  This might seem weird enough in itself, I mean, why hire someone just before knocking off time right?  But it’s the end of the story which really gets people going.  Here’s the parable from verse 8:

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’”

-Matthew 20 v 8 - 15

As Jonathan mentioned in his sermon, this would be the same today as telling all NCEA level 3 students that everyone got 100%, no matter how much effort or merit they put in.  It seems, well wrong.

Does this story make you think, “ that’s unfair!”  Or make you wonder what all the effort in your Christian walk is for if you can just sign up at the end and get in?  It used to for me.  I mean, I knew it was about God’s grace, and I like God’s grace for ME, I just don’t know if it’s so fair for all those other people.

But it was around this time that Jonathan stopped my thinking in its tracks.  Because, he reminded us, this story only seems unfair if we see ourselves as a 6am worker – someone who somehow did more to deserve God’s grace then anyone else.  If we changed our mindset, thought of ourselves as the last workers to arrive, who probably had no time at all to, well, actually work!, we’d think this story was awesome.

And of course we ARE all 5pm workers.  It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian for 3 minutes or 30 years, living well for God is a wonderful, worthy thing, but it doesn’t earn you a place in God’s Kingdom.  None of us, no matter how long our service for God, or how devout our practice, deserve to live with God forever.  So when bitterness starts to sink in or grace seems unfair, remind yourself that you are a 5 o’clock worker.  From there everything looks different.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quick Word: Revelation..Oh Dear

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema

I want to tell you about this strange dream I had – I was in Wellington when suddenly this giant came down, with a double rainbow above its head.  It put one foot on the North Island, one on the South and then pulled out an ipad – though of course being a giant it looked more like an iphone.  I saw the giant send off an email and get a thousand replies and I was going to tell you what those replies were…but the giant told me not too.  

Sounds, well, a bit fruity right?  But those of you who have a good Bible knowledge might be saying, ‘hey, I’ve heard something like this before,’ because I’ve painted a scene much like the one you’ll find in Revelation 10.  Go have a look at it, you’ll see it’s actually even more intense then my version!

I’m currently reading Revelation and I have to say, it’s a struggle.  At the risk of sounding heretical I think the book is just bizarre, John sounds completely loopy!  He sees giant angels and mass destruction and creatures with more eyes than a fly.  But I believe it’s in the Bible because God wants it to be.  So where does that leave me as I read this book?

What do we do when the Bible doesn’t make sense?  Is it ok to say the Bible can sometimes seem weird, irrelevant, even boring? My first instinct is to grab a commentary – or three – to read along with it.  I believe that the Holy Spirit can speak God’s truth to us through hearing the truth he has spoken to others.  But sometimes I think I’m also over reliant on what has been revealed to others instead of grappling with the word of God and asking his Holy Spirit what he might want to say to me directly. 

Of course, there are people who go the other way too – they are so sure that God has spoken to them they don’t see what other Christians are saying, thinking or learning.  These people can often end up with ideas far outside the fellowship of believers.

I think the answer to all this lies in the Bible itself.  Psalm 119 is famous for being the longest chapter in the Bible and I love it because it someone grabbling with the word of God.  Seeking God, even when the text seems strange.  Here’s a part of the Psalm -

 “I have tried hard to find you—
      don’t let me wander from your commands.
  I have hidden your word in my heart,
      that I might not sin against you.
 I praise you, O Lord;
      teach me your decrees.”

-Psalm 119 v 10 - 12

When what you read in the Bible gets a bit rough going, seek the wisdom of other Christians, the Holy Spirit and trust the Lord to teach you his decrees.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quick Word: Being an Easy-Come Easy-Go ‘God is good’ Kind of Girl

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

There was a beautiful morning last week – the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the air was fresh and crisp and everything and everyone, even the birds, seemed to be out enjoying it after so many days of rain.  So, early in the morning I went out too – I rugged up with my baby daughter in the front pack and headed out for a takeaway coffee and an amble around the neighbourhood.

It was awesome, in the way doing something very simple can sometimes be and I was struck by how many blest moments I have in my life.  And I was also suddenly aware that if Elliot had a grumpy afternoon or I didn’t eat a good lunch I could, only hours later, be feeling sorry for myself and my lot!  I realised – I’m an easy-come easy-go ‘God is good’ kind of girl. My life is full - full! – of blessings but I don’t always see them, and when I see them I am quick to forget them.  It reminds me of Mark chapter 8 when Jesus, who performed lots of miracles and had just feed four thousand people, is told to prove himself by a sign from heaven.  We read –

“When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.”

-Mark 8 v 11 - 13

I don’t want Jesus to sigh deeply at me.  I see God’s presence in my life, his perfection and grace and love and goodness and joy in a million little ways if only I’d notice, appreciate and remember them.  I want a life here without struggle or bad times but that is promised for the new earth, not this one.  Yet I do have this promise – that God will never fail me, will never abandon me.  I want to develop eyes to see God’s presence, not focus on when I feel he is absent.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick Word: A Good Life By Comparison is Crap

Catch my quick word every Tuesday morning, just after six, on New Zealand's Rhema.

I’ve had two conversations this last week which have reminded me of one of the least remembered of the 10 commandments – the command to not look over our shoulders and want what other people have (see post 'But I'm No Natasha Utting...' for more on my weakness in this area!).

The first was with a friend about the fact that she did more work than the mothers in her workplace. The job comes with overtime and weekend on-call work by its nature and if it wasn’t for seeing the way other people approach the extra work she wouldn’t be upset about it.  It reminded me how I can feel pretty and cool in the morning only to have that feeling shattered by encountering a prettier, cooler mother at the library.

Similarly, another friend was unhappy that her husband didn’t seem interesting in some of the family traditions she saw in her friend’s families.  Again I think the anxiety wasn’t coming from the activity but from the comparison.  It reminded me how I can feel like I’m blessed to live in a wonderful home, only to feel like it is small and old after visiting a friend in a fancier house in a fancier suburb.  I let myself live or die by comparing, and then coveting or feeling prideful, about what I see in others.

When giving us the ten commandments God told us:

“You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”  

And, as always, God told us this because God knows what he is doing!

Comparing what we have, how we look, our relationships or circumstances to others is either a path to feeling stink or proud, neither or which are great emotions.  How do we combat this?  Take time today to be grateful for what you have – ask God for eyes to see his fingerprints in your life and not only in the lives of others.