Great Expectations

Sometimes when we look ahead to a forthcoming event we are full of excitement and expectation of what it will bring. For example we may be looking forward to our summer holidays with great expectations of the enjoyable time we will have. However I wonder if our Christian life is also full of great expectations?

When we go to church each Sunday do we have an expectation that we will meet with God? I expect that if we are being honest we sometimes go out of habit and maybe our expectations are low or sadly maybe non-existent.

At my church once a month in the evening we have a modern contemporary worship service. I personally enjoy this service and generally speaking I have an expectation that I will meet with God during this time. However when I attend our normal morning service I do not have the same level of expectation. Why would this be?

I think part of the answer is that the evening service is monthly rather than weekly and the style of the service is significantly different to the normal format of worship I experience each week. It also helps that I’m not on any rotas for the evening service so I can 100% concentrate on it. However some of the fault obviously rests with me as I should be prayerfully preparing myself before I attend the morning service with a view to meet with God.

There is another church whose morning service I have attended a few times recently. I also find when I attend that church there is an expectation I will meet God during the service. When thinking about this particular church it’s fair to say that I really enjoy their times of worship. It seems to create an atmosphere where you just expect to meet with God.

It’s not just at church though where we should have great expectations to meet with God. There ought to be this expectation each day. When we read our bibles we should be expecting God to meet and speak to us through the scriptures. However there are occasions if we are being honest with ourselves when we can regard our bible reading as a tick box exercise. This is not how bible reading is supposed to be.

Likewise the same thing can happen with prayer too if we are not careful. When we pray it’s not just a case of going through our prayer list and then getting on with the rest of our day. Instead we come to the living God and through the blood of Jesus we enter into His presence. If we consider the wonder of this then we should be excited and amazed at the privilege we have. Hopefully this will lead to a great expectation of meeting God through this discipline.

So whether it’s attending church, reading the bible or praying let us have a great expectation that we will meet with God.

Theresa May and Brexit

When they come to write the history of Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister you feel that it will be summarised in one short word: Brexit.

The whole Brexit process has dominated her time as Prime Minister. One of her first statements after becoming the leader of the Conservative Party was “Brexit means Brexit!” I would not be surprised if one of her final statements in her current role is also about Brexit.

Last Monday Theresa May gave a speech in the House of Commons in which she said that the deal for the UK to leave the EU was 95% done. However there still remains the problem of the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland. No-one it appears wants a return to a “hard border” but the “soft border” option means there will have to be some compromise somewhere.  The problem is no-one is that keen at the moment to compromise!

Personally I do not know how this impasse is going to be resolved. I do find the whole subject of Brexit confusing and certainly I do not have any magic answers to the problems of Brexit! It strikes me that we are in a mess and we somehow need some fresh and innovative ideas to resolve these problems. I certainly am glad that I’m not the Prime Minister.

On Sunday during our service someone reminded us that the scriptures instruct us to pray for our government. I think at this difficult time for Theresa May and her government the following words that Paul wrote to Timothy are ones we need to consider and obey:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Interesting that when Paul wrote these words the Romans were those in authority. They were rather different to a democratically elected government yet Paul still urged Timothy to pray for them. It’s so easy for us to criticise those in authority. Instead of criticising our government we should follow Paul’s instructions and pray for them. They certainly need our prayers at the moment!

 

The honesty of Psalm 51

One of the standout features of Psalm 51 to me is the honesty shown by David as he prayed the words of this wonderful prayer to God from his heart.

Nathan the prophet had come to see him, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, to bring the king a word from God. This was a quite a courageous act from Nathan to confront the king with God’s word.

How would David react to Nathan’s word? Would he accept it or reject it?

David could have said:

  • I’m the king I can do what I like?
  • It was not 100% my fault. Bathsheba is partly to blame too.
  • I could not help it as she was very attractive.

However David does not respond like that. He acknowledges his sin before God, taking full responsibility for his actions and recognising his wickedness he prays:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (v3-5)

If you are looking to use some scripture to aid you in asking God for forgiveness then this Psalm is a good place to look.

David was very honest about his sin before God. He confessed it and stopped trying to hide it turning to God in deep repentance. We can learn much from this.

Developing Good Habits

One of the towns I like to visit has a one-way traffic system running through the centre of it. However for some reason whenever I cross the road in this town I always look both to the left and right before walking across the road.

I have often wondered why I look both ways in this situation because the cars can only come from one direction! After thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that I do this out of habit. I was taught from a young age to look both ways before crossing the road so that is what I do, even in a one-way street.

This got me thinking on the importance of developing good habits in our lives. When we develop good habits we find that they become second nature to us and we do them naturally. They become part of us.

So how long does it take to develop a habit? If you type that question into Google there are a number of web pages you can find that suggests that 21 days is the answer to that question. However I’m not sure there is an exact science to this. There are obviously some habits that take longer to develop than others. Also it goes without saying that there are some habits that take considerable more than 21 days to break.

There are many good habits that we should seek to develop as a Christian. The following three I believe are worth pursuing:

Regular Bible reading and Prayer

One of the good habits I was taught as a young Christian was the importance of setting aside some time each day to read my bible and prayer.

For a new Christian it can be useful to start off by either reading through one of the gospels or alternatively using bible reading notes.

You might ask “when is it best to read the bible and pray?” When I was younger I tended to do my daily bible readings and prayers in the evening as that best fitted in with my daily schedule. However as I got older I changed that to the morning as I found that worked best for me. Whether you do this in the morning or evening does not really matter though. The important thing is to find time each day to read your bible and pray.

Controlling our tongues

Perhaps the most challenging thing in life is controlling our tongues. There are plenty of bible verses that tell us the importance of this. The book of James has some very strong warnings about our tongues and how we should not criticise others.

I expect we all have many times deeply regretted saying something to someone that has caused unnecessary upset. So much damage can be done by careless words.

One of the best habits that we can develop is to decide that we will not criticise others and to think before we speak.

Forgive as we have been forgiven

As a Christian it is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus has forgiven me. He has totally forgiven me.

Therefore just as we have been forgiven we should also be willing to forgive others who have wronged us. If we are being honest most of us would admit that we find this difficult at times.

However we need to remember that forgiving others is extremely important. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our sin as we forgive those that sin against us.” If we don’t forgive others then we run the potential risk of not having our sins forgiven.

So we really need to develop the habit of forgiving others. It’s an important habit to develop.

 

 

 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord

1 Thessalonians verse 6 starts with an interesting phrase “you became imitators of us and of the Lord.

Now it would not surprise anyone to see it mentioned that the Thessalonians became imitators of the Lord. That is surely something to which we all should be aiming. However Paul also says they became imitators of them too. It might be that some would think Paul was being arrogant in using that expression. Surely he should just say they became imitators of the Lord?

Interestingly he also says something similar in the first letter to the Corinthians in the following two verses:

  • Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (4:16)
  • Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (11:1)

Paul in his writings certainly comes across as a man who loved, obeyed and served Christ wholeheartedly. He was striving to follow Christ in every circumstance and situation he faced. Therefore by living this way I would argue that he was a good person to learn from and imitate in what it means to live the Christian faith. The Thessalonians certainly thought he was.

So who do we try to imitate? Do we try to imitate our church leaders or maybe another mature Christian? Or are we easily influenced by those who behaviour is not compatible with Christian faith?

Whether we like to admit it or not we are all influenced by others and imitate their ways in some form in our life.  It is sometimes said of people that they got in with the wrong crowd when they do bad things. We need to be very careful who we imitate.

Would we recommend that others became imitators of us? Is my life a good example for other believers to imitate? Or am I too worldly in the way that I live that I would not recommend that others imitate me?

 

Qualities of an Elder

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus he lists the qualities that he expects in a person who is going to be in the office of an Elder. Interesting the requirements are mainly character based ones.

Paul does not list any of the following:

  • Good preacher
  • Gifted with youth work
  • Experienced in church growth
  • People’s person
  • Keen evangelist with a passion for the lost.
  • Passionate worship leader
  • Committed leader

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with having any of the above qualities. I expect the majority of churches would want people with these gifts and abilities. However what Paul lists for an elder is:

  • An elder must be blameless (v6 and v7)
  • The husband of one wife (v6)
  • A man whose children believe. And the children are not wild and disobedient (v6).
  • Not overbearing (v7)
  • Not quick tempered (v7)
  • Not given to drunkenness (v7)
  • Not violent (v7)
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain (v7)
  • They must be hospitable (v8)
  • One who loves what is good (v8)
  • Self-controlled (v8)
  • Upright (v8)
  • Holy (v8)
  • Disciplined (v8)
  • Someone who holds firmly to the truth (v9)
  • An encourager (v9)
  • Someone who refutes those who oppose sound doctrine (v9)

That is quite a list! I wonder if we will ever see a church leadership role being advertised anywhere that lists these qualities rather than the first ones I mentioned?

I personally am not an elder and to be honest do not aspire to be one. However I would like to have these qualities in my life. I think that any Christian young or old, leader or not should aspire to aim to have these godly qualities in their life.