Concern for Justice

A fountain is something I’ve wanted for myself as long as I can remember.  I used to live near a friend who had a conservatory with a fountain just outside it.  You could sit there listening to the birds singing and the water bubbling …  I joked that for me, the commandment:  “Do not covet your neighbour’s house” should read:  “Do not covet your neighbour’s fountain.”

 

I love water-features, in garden-centres or in formal gardens, and here God talks about justice flowing like a river, and goodness like a never-ending stream.  He repeats His displeasure at the oppression of poor people, and assures Israel of His presence with them if they would do good.  Any worship-rituals the Israelites performed were worthless to God while there was no love of justice in the land.

Beware Your Words

“Spoken words can be like deep water, but wisdom is like a flowing stream” (Proverbs 18:4).  What we say can be as dangerous as being thrown in to the deep end of a swimming-pool, but a flowing stream?  A flowing stream’s not dangerous at all.  It’s pleasant to listen to, and you can spend hours being soothed by it.

 

“The words of fools start quarrels” (Proverbs 18:6).

 

“The words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food” (Proverbs 18:8).  If I’ve eaten smoked bacon in a sandwich, or some nice potato dauphinoise (sliced potatoes baked with cream and garlic), the flavour tantalises me long after I’ve finished eating.  A sobering thought, but gossip can be just as lasting.

 

“The wise person listens to learn more. …  The person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions” (Proverbs 18:15, 17).  Words are important – other people’s, and the way you use yours.

 

“A brother who has been insulted is harder to win back than a walled city” (Proverbs 18:19).  I know the truth of this one.  I’m not very likely to want to spend time with someone if I know they think badly of me.

 

So, remember the longevity of your words, and be careful what you say.

Giving Is … How we Respond

I’d like you to think about the story, the true story, of ten men who had leprosy.  In Jesus’ time, this was a very serious disease; there was no treatment for it.  People with leprosy were declared ‘Unclean’ and sort of quarantined – put in an area away from everyone else.  Just before Jesus entered a village, He came to the place on its outskirts where the lepers were, and He told them to show themselves to the priests.  People with any form of skin disease would do this, and the priest would decide whether their condition had improved, but this time was different.  On their way to see the priests, all ten men were completely healed, but only one of them came back to Jesus.  The Bible tells us he shouted praises to God, bowed down at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him (Luke 17:15-16).  And Jesus asked:  “Why was this foreigner the only one who came back to thank God?”

 

Do you see?  Our response to what we’ve received can be a gift.  When you think of Jesus leaving all the glory of heaven to come into this world, knowing His purpose was to die on a cross to take our punishment for the things we’d done wrong, how do you react?  He didn’t hold onto selfishness; He didn’t hold onto what He could have been; He put all of that down – for us; He gave His everything for us.  In response, will we give Him full control of our lives – of all that we are?

 

And let’s come back to finances again:  I don’t know where you live this Christmas season, but maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you have a roof over your head; clean water at your fingertips; enough food to eat; the clothes you need to keep warm; a church where you can meet together to read the Bible and worship God.  So when you see others who don’t have those things, what’s your response?  Well, here’s how you could respond.  As you read that little list, which of those things were you most grateful for:  Was it the house you live in?  Then why not consider providing emergency shelter for a child and family ($50)?  If it was clean water, you could help build water reservoirs for children and their families ($23).

 

As I’ve said before, I know Christmas can be a difficult time of year.  Compassion want to use their gift catalogue this month to raise money for children in poverty, and I want to help them.  They tell me nobody knows my audience like I do, but to be honest, I don’t know every one of my readers.  (I’d love to get to know you better, so please, always feel free to comment.)  I don’t know who’s going to stumble across this post, and I don’t know what their financial circumstances are, so I’ll just leave you with a question.

 

Giving is how we respond.  Remembering what we’ve already said this month about giving cheerfully and using what you’ve got, will you search your heart and think what you want to do about Compassion’s gift catalogue?  Are you happy to pass it by, or will you bless somebody else, as a thank-You to God for all that He gives?

Giving Is … Taking Risks

Part of a series for Compassion Bloggers.  They’ve asked us to think this month about the tastes, colours, and associations we have with giving.

 

‘Tastes?’  And into my mind came the story of when King David was hiding in the cave of Adullam.

 

“One time the Three Warriors went to meet David among the rocks at Adullam Cave.  The Philistine army had set up camp in Rephaim Valley and had taken over Bethlehem.  David was in a fortress, and he said, ‘I’m very thirsty.  I wish I had a drink of water from the well by the gate to Bethlehem.’

 

“The Three Warriors sneaked through the Philistine camp and got some water from the well near Bethlehem’s gate.  They took it back to David, but he refused to drink it.  Instead, he poured out the water as a sacrifice to the Lord and said, ‘Drinking this water would be like drinking the blood of these men who risked their lives to get it for me’” – 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 (Contemporary English Version).

 

Sitting at home thousands of years later, I can see David’s motivation:  He felt that water was so precious, drawn at the risk of men’s lives, there was only One worthy to receive such a treasure, but imagine being one of the three who’d brought it!  I wonder if they were God-fearing men who understood his act of devotion, or whether any of them felt cheated – that they’d risked their life, only to see the king pouring away their efforts.

 

Giving is taking risks.  For these loyal subjects, giving to their king meant putting themselves in danger.  For David, giving to God meant risking their disapproval, and don’t forget they were warriors.  If you’re hiding in a cave and three of the mightiest men who were on your side suddenly turn against you, you’re in trouble!

 

What risks have you taken for God lately?

Halfway There

When I was about 13, I spent a weekend in Wales with my friend Alex and her family.  I was looking forward to this because Jeff, her dad, had said he’d take us down to the river.  He’d been promising this for a while, so I went armed with my Wellies, and on Sunday morning we drove the short distance to the river.  The first thing we did was to find a place we could cross.  We started wading through the water, which was getting deeper.  It was almost at the top of my boots.  Because I couldn’t see the way ahead, I had visions of it going over them and me ending up with very wet trousers!  “Jeff,” I said, “can we stop?”  So we stop walking, and this very nervous little English voice says:  “I don’t think I’m going to like this”.

 

Alex and Jeff, who’d done the crossing before, started laughing.  “You’re ‘alfway there now But!” Jeff shouted.  Sure enough, it got shallower the minute we started walking again and we were soon at the other side.

* * *

There’s a Hillsong song, and the 2nd verse says:
“Into the river I will wade,
“Where my sins are washed away”.  I always think of Jeff when I hear that song, and of the night I became a Christian.

 

The preacher talked about envy.  “Envy rots the bones,” he said (Proverbs 14:30), and he went on to explain about hell.

 

I was envious (my sister was having driving lessons at the time), so I thought:  “If that’s true, my bones must have well and truly rotted away” (I don’t think I’m going to like this).

 

But up in heaven, God the Father must have been thinking:  “You’re halfway there now!” because when we see ourselves for who we really are, we realise our need of a Saviour.

 

The preacher told us that Jesus could come along, and make those wrong things in our lives disappear.  I knew I needed that, but I said: “Lord, I don’t want to come to You just out of fear”.  That seemed to me a weak thing to do.

 

I felt Him reply:  “Come because I love you”, and I’ve been a Christian since that night in 1999.

* * *

How about you?  Have you asked Jesus to make the wrong things in your life disappear?  Or, maybe you’re still halfway there.  Maybe when you’ve come into contact with church, all you’ve seen is how bad you are – well that’s not all God sees.  He loves you.  He’s loved you since before you were made, and He’s waiting for your response.  Will you trust Him with your life?