Sunday, August 8, 2010

How small is God?

The conscious knowledge we have of the size and awesomeness of the universe affects our subconscious view of our place in the scheme of things. And when, like me, you grow up being told that God has a personal interest in you, yet you are learning how staggeringly vast the universe is, you begin to wonder, just who am I to a God who is so immense?

The most learned and quoted Bible verse, John 3:16, says "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This verse tells us that God can and does view and think about the whole world and all in it. We also learn, that God is able to centre on the individual, the 'whoever' that believes gains eternal life.

That's all well and good as far as theology goes, but how does that pan out in real life?

For that we need to look at 'the exact representation of God', Jesus Christ

If we look at the event of the crucifixion, we see amazing things happening. In Luke 23 we read "One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God', he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong'. Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'. Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise'."

Here was Jesus, fulfilling the plan to bring redemption to the world through becoming our sin on the cross, and some guy interrupts him with the request to gain God's favour! And the remarkable this is Jesus takes the time and effort to regard this one person even when He was dealing with the sin of the whole world! You can learn from this that Jesus is vitally interested in your salvation whenever you come to Him. He will never fob you off as being unimportant or a waste of His time.

Another amazing event that occurred during the crucifixion is seen in John 19. "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son', and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother'. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

In the middle of all His agony, Jesus looked to the practical needs of His people. Being a Christian isn't all about learning some set theology, or memorising set prayers by rote, it's all about your life. The whole of it. And Jesus showed He is interested in being allowed to help you in all areas, spiritual, physical, practical, emotional.. all of it. 

One of my favourite verses says "In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Jesus is to be Lord of all your life, not just some small compartment. 

Another lesson can be learnt after the resurrection, when Jesus had appeared several times to a variety of His followers. Thomas though, had missed out, and wouldn't take the word of the others that Jesus was alive. We all have doubts at times, and we sometimes need to have a personal experience of something before we can take it on board. Thomas had said (John 20), "Unless I see.. unless I feel..". Jesus sought Thomas out, and took the time to deal directly with the questions and doubts Thomas had. 

Jesus is directly aware and interested in how you are feeling and thinking, and He wants to answer your questions and doubts. Jesus at times wants us to believe in things that are yet to happen (such as our future with Him), but He never asked His followers to believe in the false or faulty. 

Jesus doesn't want brain-dead believers. He simply wants believers.

Through these events, we can see that Jesus is vitally interested in your salvation, you are very important to Him, and that is based on His love of you (For God SO LOVED the world)...

We also learn that Jesus is interested in helping us in the whole of our lives, including the day-to-day practical boring or troublesome stuff. 

And we learn that Jesus wants to answer our doubts, questions and queries we have.

What are you waiting for?....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peace, man....

One thing we need in life that dissolves stress, anxiety, depression and doubt is an overwhelming sense of peace.

When we are at peace with each other, understanding, care, compassion and practical help blossoms. Imagine the benefits of being at peace with God! Self doubt, self judgement, soul-deep anxiety and stress would melt away, replaced by a calmness and relief that would change you from the inside out.

In Paul's letter to the church at Philippi (Philippians) he has some wonderful practical advice on how to attain that peace. Bear in mind he is writing to people who have already become believers and followers of Jesus.

In chapter 4 he sets the scene with expressions of love and care - 'my brothers', 'you whom I love and long for', 'my joy and crown', 'dear friends'. Paul knew the power of speaking the truth with love.

In verse 2 he deals with interpersonal bickering - 'I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.' Paul doesn't take sides, but appeals to both parties to come to agreement and peace. He then calls on his trusted friend to smooth the way for this reconciliation. It is good to end divisions and restore friendships amicably. 

In verse 4 he reminds us of the bigger picture, our standing in Christ, and our response should be to naturally 'rejoice in the Lord always', rather than concentrate on petty differences among ourselves.

'Let your gentleness be evident to all' (v5), this is an outflowing from loving treatment of each other, where people see and note the way we interact.

'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.' (v6). Paul reminds us that we are dealing with and relying on the God of creation, the Lord of all, and our everyday lives are in His hand and under His care. Our stresses are self induced, we are to 'let go and let God'. Whatever you are worried about, you are to present to God to take care of, and when you hand over your worries, thanksgiving will flow from the joy of relief. We are not to bottle up our cares and concerns, but to share them with our loving Father, so they don't fester and burden us.

The direct result of this is an attainment of peace that comes from living in the will of God (v7). This peace is of such power that it permeates our hearts and minds. Our emotions, fears, yearnings, thoughts, beliefs and desires are all infused with peace. What a wonderful way to live! All by dealing with the day to day interactions of ourselves with others, making sure we heal differences, looking to our Lord in happiness out of what He has accomplished for us, treating each other with dignity, respect and love, and 'casting all your cares upon Him'.

But wait, there's more! Maintaining that outlook of inner peace in our hearts and minds is important. We don't just want a 'one-off' experience... So Paul gives us some advise on how to keep living in that peace.

'Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.' What do you feed your mind with? What words and images do you digest? It is good to choose to listen to songs and speech that uplifts yourself and others. It is good to contemplate scenes that are positive rather than denigrating or destructive. There are many things we have the power of choice over each day, and we would be wise to filter out the depressive and demeaning to concentrate on the affirming and uplifting.

Practice peace, and rejoice in the God of love.