Having my Say – “Home and Away”

You might have heard the Aussie soap “Home and Away” is supposed to have made history recently by introducing its first gay character. I was a big fan of H&A in the early days and have been watching it again in the last year or so. This homosexual teenager is only a guest on the show for a few weeks, thankfully, because I haven’t liked their approach. All his fellow-characters (even the older ones, who’ve made a stand in the past on moral issues) have made it very clear that homosexuality is part of who he is, and he has no choice in the matter. I think it’s very sad. They seem so afraid to offend homosexuals that they’re not prepared to let anyone have a different opinion.

As someone who believes the Bible, I know that in Genesis chapter 2, it talks about a man being united with his wife and the two becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24). That’s how we were created to be: A man and his wife, not a man and his husband. The Bible goes into greater detail in the less quoted and less talked-about book of Romans. It tells us God’s revealed Himself to mankind through His creation; He’s plain to see, so people have no excuse for their wrongdoing (Romans 1:20). But because they ignored the greatness of God, because they didn’t honour Him or thank Him, He let them go their own way. They became immoral; women stopped having sex with men and had it with other women, and vice versa (Romans 1:21-27). When people dismiss the importance of knowing God, He takes a step away and gives them over to that lifestyle. It is a choice, and there is an alternative. People can honour God with their lives; show Him gratitude by living the way He wants them to live.

Personally, I think it would have made “Home and Away” much more interesting if Marilyn had struggled to accept Ty’s homosexuality. The fostering agency could have pressured her and John to accept it, but she could have genuinely felt (as she did with Irene’s surrogacy twenty years ago) that it was wrong to mess with nature. Wouldn’t that have made the storyline more balanced and given people something to think about?

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Like a Child

What kind of person do you have to be to receive the kingdom of God – His reign and influence in your life? Jesus tells us in Luke 18:17: “Anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Four examples in the chapter illustrate His point. Think of a four-year-old child as you read these.

Example one: The widow who kept coming to a judge with her case, until he gave her justice because he was worn out by her constant pleas. “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will grant justice to them quickly” (Luke 18:6-8). When small children ask their parents for something, they ask anticipating that they’ll get it, not that it’s going to take months or years. Do we have faith to come to God in that way?

Example two: A religious leader and a tax collector – one reeling off his many achievements, while the other beats his chest in sorrow and appeals to God for mercy. Children don’t have a long list of accomplishments to their names; all they can do is depend on the adults around them to give them what they need. It reminds me of the line in the song: “Empty-handed but alive in Your hands”.

Example three: Jesus encouraging the rich man to sell what he had. Children don’t own entire houses in which to horde possessions; they live much more simply. Are we content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:6-8), or is what we have never enough?

Example four: The blind man, begging at the roadside. There was no welfare system back then. Someone with a disability’s only option was to beg; they had nothing to offer. Similar to the tax collector, all this man could do was appeal for mercy, and he got it. He received his sight.

Let’s come to God in childlike trust – not depending on anything of our own, but completely on Him. Let’s receive what He’s got for us.

Authority

There’s a theme running through this chapter. First, Jesus teaches His followers to petition the One in authority, making requests on the basis of God’s holiness; of wanting His will done and His kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. So if you think something would be a certain way in heaven, E.G. your body would be free of pain, you can ask for that on earth as well. This chapter says clearly: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for” (Luke 11:9). I struggle with this, having found out last year that I’m losing my hearing. My hearing is really important to me as a blind person and people at church have prayed about it, but the situation hasn’t changed. Why not? I guess I have to keep on asking.

We move on to the source of Jesus’ authority. When He frees a mute, demon-possessed man, Jesus is accused of being in cohorts with Satan, but He explains the opposite is true. “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. … You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive?” (Luke 11:17-18). The Source of Jesus’ authority is not Satan, as some of the crowd suggest, but God. Someone strong can be overpowered only if the other person is stronger.

Jesus expresses frustration that ‘This evil generation’ keep asking for a miraculous sign to prove His authority. It reminds me of where He said something similar: “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign” (Matthew 12:39). The reason people asked Jesus for proof was that their hearts were far from Him. They had plenty of proof in the words of the Old Testament and the presence of Jesus Himself. What about me when I’m doing the asking? Do I want a miracle because I’m evil and far from God in my heart, or am I asking in faith?

At the end of Luke 11, Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders. He gave some good advice: Don’t be too concerned with the outside, but cleanse yourselves inside by giving gifts to the poor; give a tenth of your income – yes, but don’t ignore justice and love for God; don’t enslave others without lifting a finger to help them. Sadly they didn’t benefit much from His words because as He was leaving, they became hostile and wanted something to use against Him (Luke 11:53-54).

If Jesus is Lord of our lives, He’s our Master. He says as much: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18), so as people who are in Jesus, we can pray with that same authority, and be persistent in prayer. We can trust that Jesus is well able to defeat the evil one and his plans. We don’t have to ask God for any further proof to put our faith in Him. And when we see people in positions of authority acting questionably, we shouldn’t be afraid to confront them as Jesus did, even if it leads to hostility.

How are you with this teaching on authority?

Tips on Being Grateful

An author who really encourages me, Holley Gerth, wrote a blog-post about preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I know this time of year leads up to Thanksgiving in America and it’s not really celebrated here in the UK, but gratitude is important to me as a Christian, so I guess her advice could be applicable all year round. I thought I’d write down her questions with my answers:

1. Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of one person.
Colin came immediately to mind, which won’t be any surprise to those who know me!

2. What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it.
There were 3 memories I thought of straightaway: The afternoon I spent with Colin’s sister and brother-in-law (they flew over from Spain and I was honoured that rather than spend time exclusively with his family, Colin invited me over to meet them), when I met Damon Hill (I can see how good God was in that I had the money to buy the tickets, and Mum drove us; getting there by train would have been tricky and would have meant paying for an overnight stay), and the time I met Brian May (I wasn’t a Christian then, but God shines out through the kindness of Brian and of my mum, who arranged it as an 18th-birthday present).

3. How have you seen God answer your prayers this year?
God’s put me back in-touch with a friend after several years. I’ve missed her and I’m happy we’ve reconnected. I’ve also prayed for another friend’s dad whose health hasn’t been good, and it’s great to hear his kidneys are functioning and his blood-results are normalising.

4. When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.
I feel the most joy on Fridays when lunching at a local café, or when talking over the phone with friends I can’t see face-to-face. It’s a Friday as I write, and today I’m due to do both.

5. Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.
I’m so thankful that with the changeover in benefits, I haven’t ended up worse-off, but better-off! I feel like Paul, who said to the church at Philippi: “I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12).

6. Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.
Jesus came because every one of us falls short of God’s awesome glory. Without Jesus choosing to take our imperfections on Himself, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy closeness with God, and I couldn’t have just answered all those questions.

7. Give thanks for all of the above.

“Never Give Up” Book-Review

If you’re considering this book because you’re looking for motivation to persevere with something, I’m sure it’ll help with that, but it’s really a book on how to navigate the whole of life – short chapters with themes such as perseverance, avoiding procrastination, and building on truth. With a title like “Never Give Up”, you might wonder whether it’ll make you feel condemned over past failures. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, it encourages you to move on from your past in order to embrace your future. I especially liked the chapters where the author gave examples from his own life. He says his style is to write short chunks with humour added in. He does this very well; some of his illustrations made me laugh out-loud.

I was looking forward to this book by John Mason because I reviewed (and enjoyed) his previous one – “Proverbs Prayers”. This is similar, in that it would be beneficial to have in your Kindle library to refer back to. I think my mum would like this book because she loves quotations, and this is packed full of them. A couple of my favourites? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and: “Too much analysis always equals paralysis”.

Best Read in Small Doses: “Gifts from Heaven” Book-Review

I might have called this “God’s Answers to Prayer”, rather than “Gifts from Heaven”. I chose it because last year, I reviewed “Jesus Talked to me Today” (also by James Stuart Bell) and really enjoyed it. This is the same format, with numerous short stories of how God intervenes in people’s lives. I found the second half more inspiring than the first; “A Precise Prayer for Healing” and “Race to the Bottom” really stood out, but a good proportion of these stories were health-related and It can be demoralising to read so many accounts of health-problems.

I looked forward to my complementary copy from Bethany House, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading this from cover to cover. Probably his previous offering had more appeal because it was about children.

Jesus Never Said, “You are a Sinner”

In my previous post, we looked at the call of Peter in Luke 5:1-11. In verse 8, Peter says to Jesus: “Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinful man!” Hearing those words, it struck me: It wasn’t Jesus who said, “You are a sinner”; it was Peter who acknowledged his sinfulness.

In fact, Jesus never said “You are a sinner” to anyone.

But what about the woman who was caught committing adultery? John 8:3-11. In her case, He said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” He had a problem with the way she was living, not with her as a person.

I was reminded of a book I read recently – “Out of a far Country”. It’s about Christopher – a former homosexual drug-dealer who became a Christian. He wrote about Leviticus 18:22 – the part in the Bible where it says: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” When he actually read the verse, Christopher discovered it was an abomination. He and his friends had always got the message from Christians that they were an abomination, but it wasn’t them as people God hated; it was the act of homosexuality. I’m deeply sorry that for so many years, he carried around the wrong message, and considered himself unwelcome and unloved. I think that’s why it’s so important for me and my Christian family to know what the Word of God says, and to give people the right idea of God and how He feels about them.

If you’re in a place today where you’re thinking: “Go away from me, Lord. I’m full of sin!” how about following Peter’s example? When Jesus told him not to be afraid and offered him a new life, Peter left his old life behind in favour of all that Jesus had for him.

My One Word for 2017

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to do this again. Last year, my word was Restoration and although in some areas the restoration process has started, I didn’t leave 2016 feeling completely restored.

Taking a brief look at last year’s post, activity-wise, I mentioned I wanted to do more outside the house and try to organise something different once a month. Well, nine out of twelve ain’t bad. Some particular highlights were the Stuart Townend concert in April, my meeting with Damon Hill in June, the first-ever ChristianityWorks conference in October (shared between ChristianityWorks and GNBA), and my Christmas present to Mum – a trip to York in December for the carol concert at Yorkminster.

When it came to community, I was finding it difficult at my church with the size of its congregation. I did celebrate their move to new premises, but left halfway through the year to try a smaller church. This is a better fit for me – much easier to figure out who’s who, and where they are. Meeting new people and opening up to them can be hard. I want to be known and respected, even though I haven’t been there long enough to earn their respect, but I’m grateful for their patience and the way they’ve welcomed me.

I also touched on exercise, but I’m not back into a good exercise routine yet. I did join a gym, but the pain I sometimes experience meant I was having to finish early, which didn’t work well with taxies etc. I’m still working on this.

* * *

So that’s why I was unsure about a word for 2017, but I prayed God would show me if He wanted me to have one. At church on Sunday, I got my word. And it is?

Shelter

During the worship, my friend felt God was saying we were a shelter for many. 2017 would be a year of shifting sand for people, but our dependence on God and His Word could be an anchor for them.

Can you picture it – people coming to us because they see Jesus living in us? “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3). This was a challenge, and made me see the importance of staying strong in God. Who wants to come to a crumbling shelter? I’m thankful that in Christ all things hold together, but I need to take responsibility too. As Paul says to the church at Colosse: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

I’m a shelter for God (a place where He lives through His Spirit), I’m a shelter for others, and God is a shelter for me. “He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).

Familiar and Comfortable

Did you have a good Christmas? Before spending most of the day with my parents, I walked across the road for a family service led by a couple of friends. They talked about how Jesus came into the world as the light of the world, and one sentence stayed with me from the sermon. “We’re comfortable moving around in darkness when we’re in familiar places.” I think I liked it because that was a picture of the start of my Christian life.

When I first came to know Jesus, I wasn’t particularly miserable. My gran had died that year, so I was feeling down about that, but otherwise, I was doing very nicely, thank you very much. Then suddenly, sitting in a church, I heard a verse I didn’t know was in the Bible: “Envy rots the bones”, and I was confronted with my own sin. I knew for the first time that hell was real, I was on my way there and I couldn’t fix myself.

Nobody could have told me that. In fact, I’m glad the moment came in church and not through personal confrontation because if someone had said: “You need Jesus,” I probably would have bitten their head off. I didn’t see myself as being in need. Life was familiar and it was comfortable, but without Jesus, it amounted to nothing, and I was heading in the wrong direction. Sometimes people criticise preachers for talking about the fire of hell, but I was glad of it that night in 1999, because the Holy Spirit used it to shake me out of my complacency and prompt me to reach out to God.

When I heard God say in my heart: “Come because I love you,” I had no concept of the effect it would have on my life – how it would change my priorities and open my eyes to the needs of others. I don’t regret saying yes to God. I’m glad that as I live for Him, Jesus does what I couldn’t do and takes away my sin. Because of Him, I can look forward to an eternity not in hell, but in heaven where there are no more tears, and sin and suffering will be gone forever.

Yesterday, Today and Forever

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), but that doesn’t mean much unless you know who He is. We’ve already seen that God and Jesus are one. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3), so anything we read about Jesus can also be attributed to God and vice versa. “Christ Himself is our peace”, says Paul. “God is love”, says John.

If God is love, then surely those two words (God and love) are interchangeable. Here’s part of 1 Corinthians 13 in my own words, replacing ‘Love’ with Jesus or God:
God is patient, God is kind. He’s not envious or boastful. He’s not proud or rude, or self-seeking (if God had sought adulation, He would have made us robots incapable of feeling anything else). Jesus isn’t irritable and keeps no record of wrongs. He doesn’t delight in evil, but He’s happy about the truth. God always keeps us safe, gives us His trust, is constantly hopeful and never tires of us. God never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

That’s who my Lord is, and He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. If I snap at a parent I’m supposed to honour, God is still patient. If I’ve harboured an unkind thought, God’s still kind. When I’m struggling, His peace is still available to me. If I feel like throwing in the towel, God’s not about to give up. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13).

I think I’m glad I serve a God who doesn’t change.