Is it ‘we’ or ‘I’?

I liked Selwyn’s introduction: “When God asks us today the question ‘Where is your brother (or sister)?, it most likely will not have referenced to anyone we have killed but to that person we have gossiped about, dealt with unkindly, slighted, patronised, disregarded or ignored.”

God is involved in all the relationships we have with other people; even those minor interactions we have with people just doing the everyday chores of life. If we call ourselves Christians then we are His ambassadors, 7 days a week; and, we will have to give an account of our actions or non-actions, to Him.

The way we are to focus our eyes – is to have a clear view of the impact of our actions on everyone we encounter (and I also include electronic encounters – Facebook, Twitter etc ); it’s a view that looks at each interaction from the group perspective, the ‘we’. We will become self-opinionated, one-eyed and self-centred if we always look at our relationships from the ‘I’ perspective; relationships are then evaluated in terms of what is in it – for ‘the self’ – the mighty ‘me’.

The other point,which I picked up from today’s study, is that I entirely agree with the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn’s statement – regarding human tragedy (in all its forms); the question is not – “Where was God?” The real question is: “Where was man?”

Love your neighbour

Selwyn now looks at the fifth and final question asked by God in the opening chapters of Genesis: ‘Where is your brother … ? (Genesis 4:9)

I think the following taken from today’s study captures the theme: “There is no realm we can inhabit which is insulated from the concerns of parents, brother, sister, spouse, neighbour, friend, colleague or fellow human being. We simply cannot have a relationship with God without also relating to other people.”

We show our love for God by our love for others – the relationships we develop here with fellow Christians will last for all of eternity. Now that’s something to think about!

I feel that there are too many people in our church communities who outwardly love others, only if they feel they receive something (friendship etc) in return; that is, they develop relationships based on the returns they receive. God first loved us when we were far from Him, and still sinners. Likewise, we are to show the same type of love to anyone we encounter – even those who have prickly personalities or are unable to express any gratitude in return.

Do you see the difference; the world loves those – who love the ways of this world.  On the other hand; we love without reservation – without expectations of getting something back in return; we can only love in this way – through the power of the Holy Spirit, because such sacrificial love comes only from God.

Any thoughts?

‘Touched by a loving hand’

I think that today’s study contains some great words.

Selwyn spends more last day looking at God’s question to Cain: ‘Why are you angry?’

He writes: ” … What God is concerned about is that we listen to our emotions, whether they be anger, guilt, shame, emptiness or despair, and hear what they are telling us about our relationship with Him. How they help us answer His first question: ‘Where are you?’ ( in terms of our relationship with Him).

God’s concern in asking questions, is to help us find emotional wholeness in Christ. The Holy Spirit can empower our lives so that we are able to face and feel negative emotions without being overwhelmed by them. The cross absorbs the anger and hate we may feel at being overlooked, the rage we feel at  being slighted or denied our perceived rights.

Only the Spirit of the crucified Christ can strengthen us to open up again when we have been hurt, love again when we have been rejected. … “

I found the above words to be quite powerful –  to hold onto the image of being at the foot of the cross, with Jesus looking down; and asking: ‘Why do you feel sad, angry and rejected?’ Then feel the touch of His loving hand, as all these negative emotions fall away,  to leave only joy and peace.

What are your thoughts?

Sharing the Father’s delight

To follow Jesus – is to delight in doing the Father’s will, in particular, to work in the harvest field – to save the lost (through the power of the Holy Spirit).

As  mature Christians – we spend out time,  constantly seeking God’s will for our lives because we have become ‘obsessed’ with the work of helping to save the lost. This magnificent obsession is energised by the reward of sharing in the Father’s delight; this joy can be shared, in part, during this life. The whole of heaven is joyful when one sinner is found and is re-united with the Father. Luke 15:10 (NIV): ” … I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

A feature of the story of the prodigal son – is the self-righteousness of the older brother. A form of self-righteousness that is found in many who think that being right in God’s eyes is because of the years they have been slaving away working for their church. It’s all to do with their motivation – perhaps, their motivation is the status they feel they have gained in their church community. Our motivation can only be driven by the love for our God – to do His will – to undertake our Christian work with the attitude of a servant. To rejoice in the overflowing of His grace.

Selwyn writes in today’s study: ” … What we see in the elder brother are evidences of a lifelong mistrust, of ingratitude and a failure to recognise that all of life is a pure gift.

How sad that so many Christians live out their lives with the attitude of the elder brother. God invites us to wash away our anger and pride, our fear and envy, our guilt and shame, in the pure stream of His forgiveness. He invites us, in the words of our verse for today (Luke 15:6), to ‘Rejoice with him’ over our new brother or sister in Christ.”

If we have a relationship with our Father then we are more interested in what He wants; and less – in our own desires. Those, who share in this relationship – can rejoice with the Father and share in heaven’s joy.

What’s your view on this topic?

A universal hunger

The following verses from Isaiah 55:1-3a (NIV), are really beautiful – Our Lord sending out an invitation to all those who thirst for true life.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,  come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. … “

Selwyn states in today’s study: “This question (above) was addressed tot he exiles in Babylon who had been caught up in the Babylonian way of life. God was saying in effect, ‘Why are you feeling so dissatisfied with life? Why are you trying to satisfy the ache in your soul with things other than Myself?’ … “

He goes onto say: “There is in the heart of each one of us a hunger for more than the junk food which is part of our cultural menu – money, possessions, hobbies, status and so on. In fact, there is within all of us a deep hunger for God Himself. “

I’ve found that every person tries to satisfy this hunger for God. The further from God – the more desperate they become to fill their spiritual emptiness with distractions – and the more dissatisfied with life they become. The addictions – to drugs, sex, money, family, hobbies or work are ‘failed’ attempts to satisfy this hunger for true life, which can only be filled by the Word of God, Himself.

It’s only when we are in-Christ, do we live!

Your views?

A sulking prophet

I find the story of Jonah (a sulking prophet) to be an interesting one.

We pick up the story after Jonah has been ‘returned’ to the land by the big fish.

Chapter 3. Jonah (NIV): ” Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  Jonah (this time) obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. …

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Chapter 4.   But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. [He still wanted to see the destruction of the city – there had been a long history of hostility between the Ninevites and Israelites.] 

Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”  “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals?”

It’s an important story in that reinforces the important point that it’s God’s right to show mercy and compassion to anyone He so chooses. The Jews believed that they had a special relationship with God (and they do) – to the extent that He would bless them and, at the same time, punish their enemies. The more evil their enemies were  – the more deserving of their punishment.  However – this type of  judgment is not one, for us to make. In summary, we have no right to get angry over God exercising His divine right, to demonstrate mercy and compassion to ‘our’ enemies. In any case, only God can see into the heart of a person and know their true intentions.

As Selwyn writes in today’s study: “Jonah finds it hard to come to terms with God’s amazing mercy and grace. … Our natural minds find it difficult to handle what has been described as ‘the injustice of grace’.”

God has created all life and the things we see around us – we did not play any role in His creation; consequently, we have no right to make judgements about the way God interacts with His creation. We cannot be like God, and understand all His ways – we are left with only one legitimate response – to trust in His goodness and to give Him praise (through our love)  for what He has done – for all of His creation.

Do you agree?

Where life is found

Selwyn continues his discussion on anger – I found that the following statement to be interesting: ” … there is an attitude underlying anger which can be described as ‘demandingness’. “

Perhaps when people don’t have a relationship with Jesus their only (trusted)  guide is themselves, that is, they develop an inner sense of  “I’m the only one who can really act in my interests; therefore I have to make sure that what I want to happen, happens.”

 It’s a form of aggressive independence – that leads to an impatience with anything that is perceived to slow down their progress. The person’s goals become more important and are assigned a higher priority than other people’s goals; this ‘get out of my way, you are holding me back’ attitude – is often seen when driving on the roads. However, the same attitude is seen in the work-place, when shopping and even in the home. There is a loss of the awareness of community – that we are sharing time, space and resources – and that our individual goals have equality in importance. I’m starting to understand that this awareness of community, is only sustained long-term, by those who are in-Christ.

In summary, it’s the attitude of a servant which seeks the best for their fellow travellers; a servant walking in the footsteps of Jesus, helping others on this journey through life’s trials.