Self-Preservation

In a magazine, I found a book called “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes”, that looked very good. It’s not on Kindle, so my mum very kindly bought it and said that when we meet up, from time to time, she’ll read me a chapter. Last weekend, we started it and I’m quite enjoying reading it together.

The introduction was much more highbrow than the book itself, but I still found it interesting. One passage it talked about was Luke 16:13, and that’s the verse I want to write about today. Here’s how the New King James Version of the Bible puts it: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Most modern translations take that Greek word mammon to mean money, and certainly someone who’s greedy for money is going to be reluctant to give God control of their entire life, including their finances. What’s really interesting, though, is that the Amplified Bible says mammon can be translated as: ‘Anything in which you trust and on which you rely’. Wow! That’s a challenge. We can’t serve two masters; either we trust God, or we trust that other thing – money, relationships, ourselves …

I wondered what to call this post. I had planned for it to be about greed, but I read God’s Word and it expanded! I suppose to hold anything back from God is really self-preservation, and the opposite of that would be surrender.

Can you give God control of your life? Do you trust Him to act in your best interests?

Peace in the Storms

It’s time again for OneWordAdvent, and this week’s word is peace.

Last time, we looked at John the Baptist’s parents – how they struggled with childlessness until finally, God answered their prayer. We never hear from them again.  It seems they had their happy ever-after and rode off into the sunset.

 

But there are some for whom when they’re called by God, life goes anything but smoothly. One of those is Mary.  When Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John, Mary was visited by Gabriel – the same angel who’d visited Zechariah.  The angel had similar news for her:  She too would bear a son, but Mary was a virgin.  Far from rejoicing at her son’s birth, people would be whispering and questioning the boy’s paternity.  Mary was aware it could cost her the man she was due to marry.  His obvious conclusion would be that she had broken their commitment with another man.  Despite this, Mary submitted to God’s plan for her life.  “May everything you have said about me come true,” she told Gabriel, and the adventure started.

 

Joseph cared deeply about Mary. Her pregnancy gave him the right to stone her to death for her supposed adultery, but he had no desire to.  He would settle for ending things quietly, perhaps resigned to the fact he had lost her to the father of her child, but God stepped in.  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth.  One storm over:  Joseph stood by Mary, helping her to parent Jesus.

 

At the end of her pregnancy, the unanticipated census sent everyone to their hometowns to be registered. There were no postal votes in those days.  Mary had to go with Joseph to the town of his birth, Bethlehem.  As she made the long and gruelling journey, did she reach out to God in prayer?  Was the memory of Gabriel’s words a comfort, helping her to trust God for her baby’s safety?  They were taken care of when a kindly innkeeper offered them a roof over their heads in his stable, where Jesus was born.

 

In their Jewishness, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple at the appropriate time to fulfil the Law. They were probably keen to show Him off, like any other new parents with their baby, but one old man stood out among the rest.  Simeon seemed particularly eager to hold Jesus.  The Holy Spirit had led him there that day and shown him who Jesus was – the Saviour of Israel and a Light to the world.  Then Simeon turned to Mary.  Perhaps in his voice, she heard another impending storm:  “A sword will pierce your very soul.”  What would this soul-piercing be?  And when would it come?

 

Was Mary’s response to give in to anxiety, or to cling to the truth she had already learnt – that peace comes when you put your life in God’s hands?  She had seen Him speak to Joseph’s heart.  She had seen Him take care of her during her pregnancy, but when Jesus hung on a cross – hands nailed behind His back, it must have been impossible to imagine how God could work that out for good.  Impossible, but maybe somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Gabriel’s words rang out.  “Your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!  People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.”  Nothing was impossible with God …

 

And He proved it again with an angel, sent to roll away the stone from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. God raised Jesus from the dead, and as she ran from the open tomb to pass on the angel’s message, Mary met Jesus (Matthew 28:1-9).  No questioning her response this time, as she saw the One who’d conquered death to become our Saviour:  She worshipped Him.

 

Perhaps this Advent season, we can thank God for Mary’s story – the way He controlled events and took care of her. Perhaps, as the angel’s words helped Mary, her story can help us to follow her example and trust God with the events in our lives.

God is There

This last chapter of Amos is a reminder of God’s mercy and compassion, even though when you read the start, it might not seem like it.  ‘Israel will be Destroyed’?  “If they dig down as deep as the place of the dead, I will pull them up from there.  If they climb up into heaven, I will bring them down from there.”  Where’s the mercy and compassion in that?  Well, it reminds me of Psalm 139:8:  “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

 

God is there.  He’s for us – not against us, and the end of Amos 9 talks not about total annihilation, but restoration.  He talks about bringing Israel back from captivity and planting them in their own land, never to be uprooted as they were before (Amos 9:14-15).

 

Perhaps your life feels a bit of a tangled mess.  Will you trust God to restore it?

* * *

Thanks if you’ve read through the book of Amos with me.  I had hoped to finish it by the end of June; better late than never.  Are there any other challenges you’d like to see here on the blog?

Healthy Sharing

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success” (Proverbs 15:22).

 

I think this is one reason why community’s so important.  I’d definitely say sharing with others and getting their input into your life shouldn’t be restricted to Sundays.  Just the other week, I was struggling with something a church-member said, trying to process it, and one thing that helped me do that was chatting with some Christian women on Facebook.  Sometimes I can be quite hard on myself, but when I shared with the group, no one said what I might have said – that I needed to be thicker-skinned.  In fact, the most helpful comment was one about ‘Our gentle God’ – one that made me refocus on the love He has for us.

 

If I have a dream that’s potentially life-changing, before acting on it, I ask people I can trust, who are most likely to put me off.  When even they can see it working, it reassures me that I’m not coming from another planet!  What about you; who do you bounce your ideas off?  Do you prefer to share online or face-to-face?

Refreshing

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

 

This verse has always spurred me on towards doing good.  It’s a great reminder that when you give to others, far from losing out (as the world would have you believe), you actually gain from it.  When you refresh others, you’ll be refreshed yourself.

 

I don’t know how that refreshing will look for you, but personally, God has met my financial needs; He’s put just the right people in my life at just the times I’ve needed their encouragement …  I know I’ve mentioned Kelly before on the blog (a songwriter in the US):  We’re not in-touch so much now, but 2006 was a very difficult year, and the words to her songs a real Godsend (my favourites aren’t on YouTube, sadly).

 

Can you see God in the middle of your difficulty?  My prayer is that you’ll look back one day and see how He supported you, and if you’re going through a hard season at the moment, this is a place where you’re free to comment if you want to.  I’m happy to chat.