Turn it on its Head

Do you remember in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, Wonka would get something wrong and then he’d say: “Strike that! Reverse it”? I’d like to give certain quotes the same treatment. Take this one as an example:
“You’re so heavenly-minded, you’re no earthly use!”
I would argue that those who are heavenly-minded are of far more earthly use. Heavenly-minded people examine their lives. They look at what they do and ask: Does this have eternal value?

When we think of God’s greatest commandments (love the LORD your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself), we see that anything we do for God or for others has value not only for now, but for eternity. That’s what heavenly-minded people give the majority of their time and their money to.

Here’s another:
“Preach the gospel and where necessary, use words.”
When I was growing up, the philosophy was that there were two things you didn’t talk about at dinner parties: Politics and religion. Your beliefs were to be kept private, but faith in Jesus is more than a religion – it’s a crucial part of my life. If God comes first and my loved ones come second to Him, asking me to keep quiet about my faith is like asking a newlywed not to talk about their spouse; it doesn’t work.

I can understand that people don’t want to make a great speech but leave their hearers still in need, and the Bible supports this: “A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, ‘God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,’ but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing” (James 2:15-16). We don’t want our words to be worth nothing, but meeting people’s needs should never be a substitute for telling the good news of Jesus and His love that invites us into a relationship with God. Remember when that crowd of five thousand-plus stayed with Jesus so long that they were hungry? Why had they stayed? What were they doing? They were listening to Jesus talk to them about God! God’s Word came first and always will. Meet people’s physical needs if you’re able, but don’t neglect the spiritual. “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Are there any quotes that you’d like to turn upside-down?

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March Moments

How can it be the end of another month already? But tomorrow the clocks go forward here in the UK, and we’re into British Summer Time, so here are a few takeaways from March –

Podcasts: Find out how an old-fashioned pager helped cancer-patient Andy, or have a listen to some of Shauna’s wise words on when to take your teacher’s hat off, and other parenting advice. I found it interesting even though I don’t have children at home to look after.

Quote: My blogger-friend Kristen wrote this before she went on holiday. “You have been neighbours and friends who bring over delicious casseroles of words and encouragement.” I liked that. You may not be the best cook in the world, and you may not live near enough to certain friends to share a physical meal with them, but a plate of encouragement in their inbox is just as good!

Blog-Post: My favourite this month included a video. I’ve read Annie’s blog, and more recently listened to her podcast. She comes across as such a fun person, full of energy and always smiling. I enjoyed hearing in one of her quieter moments how seriously she takes her calling to speak to women and point them to God.

Discoveries: I went to a Compassion coffee morning earlier this month. Not only did I meet some lovely people, I also learnt new things. Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard the story of the starfish washed up on the beach and about to die. A boy throws one back into the ocean and says: “I made a difference to that one”, but did you know this starfish story has a modern-day twist? Another thing: If you’re a sponsor, have you noticed the blue corner on all your mailings from Compassion? It’s distinctive, but more than that, it points back to Leviticus 23:22, where the Israelites are told not to harvest right to the corners of their fields, but always to leave something there for the poor. What a privilege to partner with an organisation that has such a heart for God’s Word.

Book: Finally, this I’ve put on my to-read list – “Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography”. I heard Jen and Craig talk about how his addiction affected their marriage. They sound a lovely couple, and I love to read about real people and how they’ve overcome. If you’ve read the book, what did you think of it?

Is there anything you’re taking away from March?

February Favourites

I got this idea from Crystal Stine’s Friday Favorites post. I thought I’d share a few things that stood out from this month:

Podcast: I’ve just recently started subscribing to these on iTunes, and a takeaway from February was Gary Chapman’s interview with Lysa Terkeurst – author of “The Best Yes”. Wise words in there.

Discoveries: Did you know Moses had a brother-in-law? And one he must have liked very much, because Hobab wanted to go back to his homeland, but Moses was very persuasive and talked him into travelling with the Israelites (Numbers 10:29-33). I’ve also put the Goodreads app on my iPhone. I hadn’t found their website very accessible with my screen-reading software, but a friend suggested the app instead and it’s brilliant. You have shelves for books you want to read, have read and are currently reading, and you can see your friends’ choices too.

Blog-Post: I’ve had a real treat this month with all those posts from the Dominican Republic. I really liked this one from Ruth about how a young boy preached on the Bible-reading she ‘Just happened’ to have read that morning. I don’t believe in co-incidences, but I believe in God-incidences.

Quote: “Do not ask God to feed the hungry if you have enough food in your pantry.” That seems so characteristic of God. After all, how did Jesus feed over five thousand people? With five loaves of bread and two fish that someone gave. He used what was already there. I don’t think He would expect one person to solve world-hunger, but each person can share their provisions with another.

Bible-Verse: Haggai 2:4 – “Take heart, … and begin to work. For I am with you”. Someone shared this days before my appointment with the job-centre, when I was told there was no more help they could give me. Of course, God’s work doesn’t have to be paid employment. There are many things we can do for the kingdom of God, in and out of the workplace.

What’s stood out for you this month? I’d love to know.

An Elizabeth Barrett Browning Quote

“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” What a beautiful quote.

As I thought about it, I challenged myself. Can I say that about God? “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I’m with You?” If I love God and put Him first, I ought to be able to. The truth is that I often magnify my shortcomings when I’m with God in private, and when I’m with Him in a church-setting, the effort of having to mix with so many people at once is probably on my mind more than intimacy with God, but I decided this challenge would lead to a much happier life, so would you like to join me?

Let’s be filled with gratitude for the time we spend with God. Let’s smile when we hear Him speak into our hearts. Let’s want to bless Him and be always on the look-out for ways to praise Him. Let’s savour moments with Him and remember them for years to come, writing down important things He says and going back to reread them. Let’s truly say to God: “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I am with You.”

31 Days of Song: “Show the Way”

I don’t know whether Kim Hill will ever read this, but I must apologise to her if she does because when I first heard her voice, I didn’t know whether she was a man or a woman!  And the name Kim wasn’t much of a giveaway either.  Again with her it was difficult to choose a song, but this one was in my head this morning – one I’ve always liked.

 

Do you sometimes think it’s silly to follow your dreams because something’s bound to happen to derail them?  Well, this is an invitation to ignore those fears and just live the best you can.  There’s a quote one of my friends has on her Facebook profile.  I don’t know where it came from, but we both love it.  “Be realistic … demand the impossible.”

An Opportunity to Love

It’s the last assignment for Compassion Blog Month 2013, and this week the Compassion bloggers have been asked to think about a quote from Johnny Carr.  Having pastored several churches and written a book on caring for orphans, he says::  “Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve.”

To be honest, I don’t find the quote particularly inspiring.  I know I’ve shared this video more than once before on the blog, but it is good to think how far we’ve come in the last 30 years and that we, as a generation, could end poverty in our lifetime.  For me, poverty is an issue to solve, and it’s also an opportunity.  Johnny says ‘An opportunity to serve’, but I wish he’d chosen a different word there; I wish he’d said:  ‘An opportunity to love’.  Because service to my mind is work:  Maybe waitressing in a restaurant, preparing a sermon or teaching a class of children, but the way Compassion tackles poverty is so much more than that.

Yes, they have tutors at their centres, but their focus is on the individual child – ‘Changing the world, one child at a time’ as the slogan says – ‘Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name’.  Jesus is like that too.  He spent hours talking to crowds of people, but what do we remember most about Him?  We remember how He treated the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), healed the blind man (John 9), and spoke respectfully of the woman who cried on His feet and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:44).  We remember His focus on that life … or that life … or that life – one life at a time.

Will you sponsor a child through Compassion?  In your prayers and the letters you send, will you be Christ-like to them, and make it your opportunity to love?

A-Z: Zest for Life

There’s an Amy Grant song I absolutely hate.  Lyric-wise it’s probably one of the worst Christian songs I’ve heard.  The honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah sometimes?  She’s basically saying God loves our honesty and brokenness more than our praise, but I don’t think that’s right.  Because I think us honestly telling God how we feel should complement our hallelujahs, but never replace them.  I remember hearing a friend say that when he felt down he would find things to praise God for, like a table or a chair or the roof over his head, and I think that’s what God loves – authentic praise; when things are going well, and in the midst of heartache.

When you reflect on someone’s limited time on this earth, you’re reminded of how important it is to take an extra-deep breath of fresh air and make the most of the time you’ve got.  I was originally going to put this quote from Pope John Paul II under H for hallelujah, but it fits in well with ‘Zest for life’.  “Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

A-Z: Unique

This time next week the A-Z challenge will be over.  Are you joining in?  How have you got on with it?

 

When I first started watching Formula One, it was commentated by Murray Walker.  He was such a passionate commentator I’m sure he could have converted me to any sport, but Murray Walker and mistakes sort of go hand-in-hand.  In fairness, it’s not always easy to tell which driver is which when they’re shooting past at a hundred miles an hour.

 

Sometimes he’d say something, and you could almost hear the cogs going round as he spotted the blip and tried to correct himself.  For anyone who doesn’t know, there are two cars per team in a Formula One race, and so he came out with one of my favourites:

 

“This McLaren car is absolutely unique!  Except for the one in front of it, which is identical.”

Profound

Status

“We gave bread to the poor, but we did not ask sufficiently why the poor had no bread” – Bishop Kallistos Ware.  I love this quote.  In 2013, let’s not just throw food or money at the problem of poverty; let’s play our part in stamping out the root cause.  Compassion do what they can to educate the children in their centres and get them into employment, to break the cycle of poverty.  Trussell Trust food banks give food for so long, but also talk to clients and try to help them not to become dependent on a food bank.  Those are just two of the organisations you could partner with.  Will you do your bit?