Tuesday, June 26, 2012

26 June - Start with Me

My eighteen month old daughter has started walking and over night she seems to have become a toddler, not just literally toddling around but also in her behaviour.   Sometimes I’ll hear her saying ‘no, no, NO!’ and rush over to see that she is just sitting there practicing how to say this newfound favourite word.

I feel like this has crept up on me and, being geeky, the first thing I did was go to the library to get a bunch of books on parenting toddlers.  The best one was by Elizabeth Pantley and it was full of helpful ways to gain coorperation and help toddlers with their newfound freedom of emotion.  One thing which really stood out to me this week though was her words on modelling.  If you want your child to use their manners then make sure you are using yours when talking to them.  If you don’t want your children to whinge check to be sure that you aren’t whinging at them to comply with you all the time.

It seems simple, doesn’t it, that getting the best out of your child starts with making sure that the best is coming out of you.  But I keep thinking this week about all the things I want – from my daughter, my family, the Christians I lead in home group, my church community – and how I need to be asking God to ‘start with me.’  Do I want my home group to be more passionate in prayer?  Then I need to start by examining the way I pray.  Do I think Christian’s need to challenge our consumerist culture?  Then I need to start by looking at the way I live.  Start with me, Lord, start with me, I should be praying.

Jesus understood this so well.  Famously he knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples, the men who had sat at his feet learning from him for three years.  After this he told them;

 ““You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
-John 13 v 13 – 17

If something was important to God, Jesus would demonstrate it first, tell people to do it second.  He was saying, ‘I will start with me.  I will show how important humility is to God by first being humble.’  I want so much from people, from this world.  But today I’m going to remember that I need to make sure that change starts with me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 19 - Who God Uses

I’ve been wondering this week why it’s so easy for me to think that I know the mind of God?  God!  Beyond, above, immense – I’ve sung from such a young age that I have an awesome God, a great God.  So why is it I think I can know the depths of his plans, actions and consequences?  I was reading a Christian website the other day which quoted Gandhi and my first response was to think, ‘as if a Christian can learn anything from a non-Christian, no matter who they are.’ How proud I am!  How arrogant.  As if my status as a Christian has given me a superiority.  What a fool I am! 

That very same day I read about Gandhi, I read Ezra chapter 1.  God firmly put me back in my place.  Here’s what I read –

“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfil the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.”” 
- Ezra 1 v 1 – 3

God uses who ever he chooses and that can at times be a surprising choice.  The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, a pagan King.  This king of godless Persia is recorded forever as being a man who God used for his will.  And not in an unwilling way, as if possessed, rather as any of us respond who have had their hearts stirred by the Holy Spirit.

I need forgiveness.  Grace.  A willingness to be humble among others, no matter who they are or what their outward life might say to me – because I can not know the mind of God.  The songs from my childhood are right – he is a great and awesome God.  I pray that I will walk more humbly among his creation today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12 - Less Than Perfect

I know we aren’t ever supposed to admit this but I’m just going to put it out there – I’m judgemental.  I’m not proud of it, not at all, and I have huge admiration for those who are generous of spirit and graceful in character.  But that’s not me.  So it’s not surprising really that I was heaping judgement about the Israelites in 2 Kings chapter 23 this week.  In this chapter King Josiah is a wonderful King committed, the Bible tells us, “to follow[ing] the LORD and keep[ing] his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul” (v3).  And part of that meant cleaning up the mess of idol worship and dualism the nation had got itself in.  Here’s just a few examples –

He had to “bring out of the temple all the objects made for the false gods Baal and Asherah and for all the stars of heaven” (v 4).  “He broke down the small rooms in the Lord’s house that were used by the men who sold the use of their bodies for their false gods.” (v 7) and “The king made Topheth unclean, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom. He did this so no one might give his son or daughter there as a burnt gift to the false god Molech.” (v 10).

All I could think was ‘how could they?!’  How could they have become so compromised that they would even consider sharing God’s temple with idols and worshiping through the use of prostitutes?   How far from God were they that they thought it a gift to burn their children?  They had to be crazy people, loose with the facts and ignorant to boot.

Or so said my natural, judgemental nature.  But as I thought more on this I started to wonder if they are so different from me.  What might I have allowed to sneak into my life (the place God calls his new temple)? What things might I be bringing into my life, asking the Holy Spirit to share space with? What sinful diversions or thoughts which are detestable to God do I have?  What other things do I worship?

I guess one of the things about being judgmental is that it comes from a place which assumes I am perfect and looks at others as flawed.  But that’s far from true, isn’t it?  I don’t want to be like the Israelites, I don’t want to be so offensive to God.  But I need to realise, today, that without Christ, I am.  And without the Holy Spirit I can never hope to be any different.  Thank God therefore for God!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June 05 - Keeping the Faith

I love the movie Keeping the Faith.  The plot sounds like a bad joke – a Rabbi, a Priest and a karaoke machine.  But it’s a story of commitment.  Everyone falls in love with the same girl – including the Priest.  He goes to a senior priest, wondering if, due to these strong feelings, he should resign. Father Havel, tells him –

“The truth is you can never tell yourself there is only one thing you could be. If you are a priest or if you marry a woman it's the same challenge. You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it's a choice that you keep making again and again and again.”

I thought of this movie when I was reading 2 Kings Chapter 2 this week.  Elijah is about to be taken from the earth and he is travelling with Elisha, another prophet.  First in Bethel, then in Jericho, then in Jordan, Elijah says to Elisha “Stay here.”  Each time Elisha replies, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” (v 2, 4, 6).

It is not often in life when we get these moments to affirm our commitments.  Our commitment to our partner, to our church, to our family, to God.  Instead we often travel along the path and can feel like life is just happening to us.  “We just fell out of love,” we might say.  Or “I just found I didn’t have faith anymore.”

Perhaps Elijah knew that Elisha needed these moments of choice – of commitment – so he continually gave them to him.  I think I do.  I need to sometimes say out loud “I’m committed to this relationship, this friendship.”  “I’m committed to God, to this faith.”

If there is a commitment which you are struggling to keep today, if you keep finding yourself dreaming of a different life which leaves behind the commitments you have made, then maybe today is a good day to say out loud “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave…”