Some of you will have read of the tree in the street outside my house. During lockdown I photographed it season by season As it had grown exceptionally large I feared the council would cut it down. I needed a record of it in case that happened. Some branches were dead, others hung down so low that the parents taking their children to school had to duck down to get by. Other branches extended out over the road and scraped the passing traffic.
Then the other day the council did arrive and started cutting off the dead and overhanging branches. They made a most professional job of the task and now the tree is a menace to no-one and a joy to look at.
That’s what I want God to do in my life; prune all the dead branches, tidy up the sinful parts and leave me looking and acting a good useful Christian.
All my friends know that I’m no good at anything technical. I’m better on the artistic side. I struggle with computers, IPads, tablets, mobile phones and so many other gadgets which are becoming essential to everyday life.
Fortunately I have some long-suffering friends. They explain where I’ve gone wrong and tell me what to do next. As they explain I think I understand the problem but when they’ve gone I realised that I don’t understand all the instructions and again I’m struggling. I do make note but then I can’t find them or can’t read what I’ve written. Oh dear. When things are explained to me once again, often I’ve forgotten just one of the steps of the instructions. Therefore things don’t work again. The gadget won’t do what I want it to do.
I wonder in our Christian lives if we forget one instruction from God. Possibly something which we don’t like to hear. What is our essential message from God which we are ignoring?
The other day facebook ‘went down’, well actually quite a lot of social media wasn’t working. There was disruption all round the world. Even my small plans for the day were disrupted. Then I realised that I don’t want to become too dependent on these things. There are other ways of interacting with people.
My thoughts moved on to God. If God could only be reached by His ‘facebook’, how long would it take me to miss it? I don’t want to become relying on human facebook, but I do want to connect more with God’s ‘facebook’ and all the many ways that He relates to me.
Recently I was told about a lady of 102 who wished she could go back to being 79, an age not many of us have reached yet. But I wonder how it feels to be 102. I need to walk in other’s shoes and imagine how they view life. It was Jesus who said, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned’ Luke 6:37
We can never fully understand another persons life and why they act as they do. People’s lives have been described as an iceberg. We only see one eighth, the other seven eighths are out of sight. How often do we ask a person ‘How are you?’ and they reply ‘Fine.’ That person is maybe suffering in some way but hiding it from the world. We then judge the actions of that person without knowing the whole story.
It was a wet, cold day as the two stone masons were chipping and fashioning stones. A parachutist drifted by and asked the men what they were doing. ‘I’m chipping this stone to go in the gap,’ the first workman replied. ‘And what are you doing,’ the second mason was asked? ‘I’m building a cathedral.’ The two men working side by side, doing the same job, one plodding on with his work, the other building for posterity.
In our lives are we working day by day without seeing the bigger picture or are we contributing to the kingdom of God.?
Our church leader is always coming up with fascinating illustrations to explain a certain point. One Sunday he placed a large green cushion and a large red cushion on the platform about two feet apart. He asked for a volunteer and there always is one. The green cushion represented the perfect God and the red one us with our sins. The volunteer was asked to jump from the red cushion to the red one. The leader then moved the cushions much further apart, making the gap too large to jump. The thought was that we can’t get from the red cushion (our sinful selves) and the green one, God. The leap is too great. Sin is too much of a barrier.
The leader then produced a large kitchen roll (Jesus) and spread out it out between the cushions. Our volunteer was then able to walk over to the green cushion. Jesus had made the way possible by His death on the cross. I will remember that illustration. I trust the youngsters will too.
When Samuel went to anoint the next king (1 Samuel 16) he looked on the outward appearances. He was seeking for a strong, virile young man who could lead the nation. God had to remind him not to look on outward appearances. God, as always, was right, the brothers later showed a very petty jealous attitude to David.
We know as Christians that we are not to look on outward appearances, but I wonder if, in spite of ourselves, we still do judge. If a poorly dressed man comes into our church, we have learned to be extra kind to him and not sit him in the lowliest seat. But do we judge and over-compensate? Do we look, judge and then act in the light of our judgement?
I’m reminded again, how ‘human’ we are. This really leads me to think that only God knows how to judge correctly. He can even see our non-judgement and deal with us accordingly.
I’ve recently had two teeth out. They have now been replaced, but the new ones are not as good as God planned for me in the first place. It made be think about the various replacements that medical science now offers. We can have transplants for hearts, livers, stomachs and many other organs which are being done all over the world.
Limbs can be replaced; some people have artificial legs, arms, hands etc. This is something to be grateful for, especially by the recipients. But the replacements will never be as good as the original ones when they were working properly. Our handiwork can never be as good as God’s. It reminds one of what is said in Genesis, ‘God saw what He had made and it was good.’
Since the beginning of the pandemic life has changed for everyone. We might even forget how things were before this catastrophe. To a small degree we can choose whether our present normal is better or worse.
In the very large things we have little choice, we have to go along with our nation and government. But the change in the small things are up to us. We can have negative thoughts or positive thoughts. Our minds can dwell on the bad things or we can look for the good. Our minds work in grooves; bad thoughts will lead to further bad thoughts; good thoughts will lead to further good thoughts.
As there is more sadness, poverty and troubles around we can be a bright light in people’s lives. If we are Christian, we can share our faith and our hopes. We can be more generous with our money and if we have none, then give someone a meal or even a smile. Time is one of the most precious gifts we can give. Time and a listening ear will have a healing effect.
Yes, things are difficult but let us look to better times. They will come. Let us be ready with our smile, encouragement and hope. Things will be different. Even in the Bible we read ‘See I am doing a new thing.’
The other evening I heard two bit of bad news. One was a tragedy, the other sad news. They did not affect me and mine personally, but I was struck by the fact that the devil is still wrecking havoc in this world. Nationally we hear of one disaster after another and our own circle of friends and acquaintances have troubles, as well as suffering ourselves.
That evening I felt a real sense of darkness. I grieved and I wept and then I turned to God. It is so easy to look down and around and feel discouraged. But we need to look up, look up to God. God is not just in His heaven; He is here all around us. He is in the grieving, dismay, frustration and our helplessness. There is no earthly answer to our suffering and confusion. God is the only answer.
This following quote needs to be said out aloud to really understand it. ‘I took a snook at the back of the book, and I saw that we won.’