When You’re Tempted to Break the Rules

A friend told me this lunchtime that he couldn’t imagine me breaking any rules!  He obviously didn’t know me when I was a teenager.  I’m sure that had I got in with the wrong group of friends, I would have stolen from shops and whatever else, but I didn’t.  Anyway it got me thinking about rules, and one area where I’ve been tempted to break them.

Compassion have a very strict rule:  Children and sponsors aren’t allowed to contact each other except through Compassion.  Well, last year, I had a friend-request on Facebook – from the mother of one of my girls.  I was so excited!  I talked on the phone to Compassion, who advised me against accepting.  They said they couldn’t stop me, as we were both adults, but we weren’t allowed to talk about my sponsored child.  I thought about this a lot.  The mother lived away from the family and if anything like a typhoon had hit and she’d asked about her daughter, I couldn’t have said a thing.  I decided that would be much too difficult for both of us, wrote her a message to explain and have never heard anything back.  The friend-request is still there, waiting for me to confirm or delete it.

Quite recently I had another request, this time from one of my sponsored children.  I looked at his friend-list:  His older brother was on there; a cousin I remembered him writing about …  It had to be him.  That request reminded me of my girl’s mother, and I had a thought.  My girl is a teenager now.  I looked again at her mother’s friend-list, and there she was.

How I’d love to make contact with all 3 of them, but what would that mean?  I think first the project-staff would meet with the children and remind them of the rules.  Then, if they and their families decide not to agree to those rules, they can leave the project.  But my boy has said in a letter that he wants to finish his studies so he can help his parents!  How would he do that without Compassion?  What a poor show it would be if my desire for more contact meant their having to leave their centres and squander the opportunities they’ve got.  Shouldn’t I instead set them an example and wait?  In 10 years, they’ll be adults and probably at the end of their sponsorship.  I’m free to contact them once they’ve left Compassion, and what’s a few years really?

I think those are the main 2 things that put me off breaking rules:  The consequences, and wanting to persevere; but I wonder if God likes either of those.  Does He want us to be Christians just so we’ll escape going to hell?  Does He want us to strive and strive to finish well and do what’s right, because they’re the rules and we know we should?  Or would He rather something else:  Would He rather we have such a deep love for Him, doing what’s wrong just doesn’t seem to fit.

Do you know something?  When I’m most tempted to break rules is when my love for God is in most danger of going cold.  I’ve been hearing about Peter this week and how Jesus turned someone who was out of courage and out of passion into a bold, enthusiastic Christian.  I’m sure He can do the same for me and for you, so whenever we feel we’re going cold, let’s ask for His help.

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Trusting Even If …

On the subject of God-sized dream stories that inspire me, here’s another.

 

There were three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They had a dream.  When they refused to worship the king’s golden statue and he threatened them with death in the fiery furnace, they had the outcome in mind:  God would deliver them, and they would go on with their lives.

 

Kelly Williams, a singer I know in the US, wrote a song about them once.  Some of the lines were:

“We know our God is able to deliver us,

“O but even if He does not,

“We will put our trust in the LORD”.

 

If someone was to make a statement like that in church today, they might be criticised for their lack of faith.  But was it a lack of faith, or is saying those words an act of love and surrender?  “Lord, this is my dream, but even if you don’t do it, I’ll still trust You.”  The most exciting part of course is that God did deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

 

I know stories don’t always end that way.  My uncle had cancer.  I prayed earnestly that he would be healed, but he wasn’t.  I don’t know why these things happen, but if it’s because Satan’s trying to make us doubt God, we don’t have to let him win.

 

I saw a quote from Corrie Ten Boom.  “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”  However many negative experiences we might have had in the past, let’s keep believing for the impossible.  Let the cry of our hearts always be:  “We will put our trust in the Lord.”

Who Told you to Serve?

This month, the Compassion Bloggers are thinking about whether there’s a Bible-verse that prompted them to serve people.  I’ve thought about this and I’ve realised, for me, I don’t think there is.  From when I first became a Christian, I just wanted to help people.  This first showed itself through me picking up the phone to the Samaritans.  I still remembered them coming to my school when I was 16 and just recovering from depression.  I had been so impressed with them, I wanted to volunteer there and then, but they couldn’t have me because of my age.  So, a few years later, as a new Christian, I went to their offices and started my training.  I’m sorry to say it was fear that put an end to it.  I knew people phoned when they were just at the point of dying, and as a 19-year-old, I couldn’t handle the fact I might have a call that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, I was sitting in a pub one night with some friends.  I can’t recall the whole conversation, but I said I wanted to help people, and the lady next to me said:  “Have you thought about hospital radio?”  I loved hospital radio.  What saddened me as a trainee Samaritan was not being allowed to mention my faith, unless asked.  It’s strange – wanting to help and yet not having the freedom to share what works for you.  At hospital radio, there were no taboo subjects.  I could just be myself, and when I eventually found the music side wasn’t for me, I moved on to something else that gave me contact with patients – hospital chaplaincy.  Then there was the time a friend came for lunch and told me about Compassion, which you’ll know all about if you’ve read this blog from the beginning.

Here’s how it’s worked for me.  I came to God because He loved me, and since then, He’s been opening the doors.  Once I was involved in hospital radio, I heard Matthew 25 (about visiting the sick).  After I became a sponsor, I started to come across verses about God’s heart for the poor, like Jeremiah 22:16:  “’He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.  Is that not what it means to know Me?’ declares the LORD.”  If anything, Bible-verses have been confirmations for me – not prompts.  Has it been the same for you?  Who told you to serve?  If you go to the link below, you can see a list of other Compassion bloggers who’ve written on this topic.  Maybe you’ll decide to write something yourself.  Please tell me in the comments if you do because I’d love to read it.

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Wait for that Dream

Have you read any books by Holley Gerth?  Or maybe one of your friends has found some of her encouraging words and popped them in an E-mail.  Well, Holley’s doing a series on her blog this year, all about God-sized dreams.  I haven’t been great at participating, but I’m joining in this time as she’s asked us to find a God-sized dream story that inspires us, and write about it.

There are so many dreamers in the Bible, but the one I want to think about is Jacob.  He had a dream:  She was slim and beautiful …  Her name was Rachel.  He met her one day when she was a shepherdess, looking after her father’s sheep.  Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and he was about to stay at her family-home.  By the time he’d been there a month, he was in-love with her, so when his uncle asked what wages he should give him, Jacob knew:  He wanted to take Rachel as his wife, and he agreed to work 7 years for the privilege.

What must those 7 years have been like?  Who did Jacob meet?  Were there other young women in town, and was Jacob very good-looking?  I wonder if anyone tried to persuade him not to wait 7 years for the one he loved …  But the Bible says very clearly that they seemed like just a few days to him because of his love for Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

Then it happened – the wedding day came, but his uncle Laban tricked him.  When it was dark, Laban gave Jacob his daughter – the other daughter; Rachel’s elder sister, Leah.  I wonder how Jacob felt when he woke up next to Leah.  Did the doubts come sweeping in?  Had the other girls been right all along – was this a door closed?  Because not everyone respects the one who waits.  Some people, when they don’t see instant results, will say:  “What if it’s not God’s will?” or:  “God can do anything, but …”

Do you know why Jacob inspires me?  Because he didn’t let anyone dampen his spirits.  He didn’t give up on his dream and just accept second-best.  He confronted his uncle.  “Didn’t I work to get Rachel?  Why did you trick me?” and the confrontation paid off.  Within a week, they were married and starting their life together.  Could it be that when you feel like giving up, the best is just around the corner?

I read this quote from Henry David Thoreau recently:  “Friends are kind to one another’s dreams.”  Don’t listen to the buts and the naysayers.  Hold tight to those friends who encourage you to dream big, … and wait for that dream.

Not Ashamed

Do you sometimes think people look at you and see someone who’s not enough – not capable enough, not mature enough, not interesting enough?  I do, and I’ve a feeling I’m not the only one.  Where do we go for help at times like that?

 

At the beginning of the week, I was out with a team of people doing a school assembly.  I had to stand up, take a few steps forward and turn to face the children; that’s all.  Someone I hadn’t worked with before saw my blindness and thought the children would worry about me, but I think she was more worried than any of them were!  She was constantly fussing.  Was I happy to do it?  Did I want her to walk with me?  I left that building feeling I was no good and couldn’t do anything right.  Yes, that was rubbish, but feelings can be like that.  So, a couple of days later, before the next assembly, I went to one of my favourite verses in the Bible.  I wanted to remind myself of truth before I went out into the world:  “Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you” – Isaiah 43:4.  Did you get that?  God does not see you as no good.  You are precious and honoured in His sight.

 

There’s another, similar one:  “The LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless” – Psalm 84:11.

 

And here’s the one I particularly wanted to share.  It came into my mind this morning:  “Jesus and the people He makes holy all belong to the same family.  That is why He isn’t ashamed to call them His brothers and sisters” – Hebrews 2:11 (Contemporary English Version).  What a great chapter Hebrews 2 is, and I can still remember when I first heard that verse – 20 March 2005; I even remember who was preaching.  I remember it because it absolutely blew me away, and it still does:  Jesus is not ashamed to call me His sister; to call you His sister; to call you His brother.  He loves us!  He died and took away our stuff that God couldn’t look at, so God could look at us – so we’d be able to spend time with Him for eternity.

 

Let me end with a question.  If the Lord Jesus isn’t ashamed of you, who are you to be ashamed of yourself?

Thankful

This morning I read my usual devotional E-mail but wasn’t sure what else to read.  I saw a couple of things about Psalm 55 so thought I would have a look at that.

 

The beginning talks about how David’s enemies treated him terribly and held angry grudges.  (Haven’t we all been there?)  Then he went on to say what really bothered him:  It was his close friend who was against him.  “We enjoyed being together, and we went with others to your house, our God. …  His words were smoother than butter, and softer than olive oil.  But hatred filled his heart, and he was ready to attack with a sword” – Psalm 55:14, 21.

 

Verse 14 made me stop and think.  What would that be like – to have my close friend, someone I trust, the one I go to church with, turn against me?  I was so grateful I wasn’t experiencing that.  My first reaction was to say:  “Lord, don’t let what happened to King David happen to me”, but then I remembered:  It happened even to Jesus when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and Jesus says no student is greater than his teacher (Luke 6:40).

 

We don’t know what’s ahead in our futures, but let’s thank God for the here-and-now.