Monday, August 30, 2010
I always find the holiday season something of a difficult time. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to go away and relax and as the Bible reminds us rest is a commandment! However, it's very easy with a break in routine to forget to do those things which are essential and consequently to take the things that matter for granted. In addition, in many Salvation Army Corps August signals the postponement of all weekly activities which obviously leads to less fellowship with other believers. Together these two ingredients, a disjointed and a irregular quiet time and a lack of accountability, can become a dangerous mix.
I remember reading somewhere (I think it might have been in "mere Christianity" by CS Lewis-although I'm not sure) that one of the devil's greatest and most potent weapons is "normal life". In other words, watching the television, interacting with friends, lying on the beach, going out for meals, playing with the kids, going to the cinema etc can (although all these activities are innocent in themselves) distract us from that essential dependence on Christ which is critical to all effective Christians.
This dangerous complacency can (and will if left unchecked) distance us from Christ and his will for our lives and endanger our effectiveness and even ultimately threaten our personal salvation. Not only do we stop praying and spending time with the word of God we also begin to take for granted the blessings which he has given us - blessings which should be treasured.
Job was a God-fearing and conscientious believer who, when he found himself bereft of family, friends, wealth, status and health, was able to say with absolute confidence "even if he kills me yet will I trust in him." This irrepressible faith does not come to us by chance but is the result of a determined, passionate and disciplined effort to maintain "contact with the life giver."
God has given me so much; a beautiful wife, sensible children, a fulfilling vocation, a nice home, money in the bank, good health... to be honest my blessings are too many to number. Yet I have been guilty over the last few weeks of taking them all for granted and also of neglecting God's Word. Today is the last day of our holiday and I thank God for bringing this dangerous slip into complacency to my attention.
Thank you Father for your grace and patience, for your constant and undeserved love and for the power which is able to keep me free from sin, forgive me for taking these and so many other blessings for granted and for neglecting to spend time in your presence. Amen.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Back in 1990, with no faith to speak of, coming out of divorce and living on my own in a one room flat I started working for Maidstone Borough Council. At the time I was very low, very lonely, somewhat confused and on anti-depressants (this was 4 years before my conversion and a few months before I met Tracey.)
One of my colleagues was 'Big' Roy, an affable, straight talking 57 year old man. He was responsible for Health Promotion and I was responsible for Environmental Promotion and economies of scale dictated that we often promoted our two subjects together. When I got saved it became evident that Roy had no time for religion – you can imagine we had some interesting debates!
In spite of this, I had a great deal of admiration for Roy; he was loyal, happily married, hard working and generous. Last year Roy got cancer and for a while things looked touch and go but Roy being Roy made a good recovery although the adjective 'big' was less applicable than it once was J
A couple of weeks ago a mutual friend rang me and told me that Roy's cancer had returned and that he had also contracted septicaemia and had been moved to a local Hospice. Roy had specifically asked for me to visit him. At the end of our visit I politely acknowledged his dislike of religion but said that I would like to pray for him, with tears in his eyes Roy replied 'that's why I asked for you because I knew you would pray for me'. I held his hand and prayed for Roy, I thanked God for his friendship, for his influence on my life and for his courage and I asked God to relieve his pain and give him peace. I also asked God to have mercy on his soul and to receive him into his kingdom. Roy squeezed my hand tight and struggled to hold back the tears.
The bible says we are saved by faith; sometimes all we have to do is push through the crowd and touch the hem of his robe. Roy, the big passionate atheist, asked me to pray for him. He asked me to speak to what he had always claimed was a non-existent God on his behalf. In this simple act he both acknowledged God's existence and his power to save.
Yesterday morning I heard that Roy had passed away and I have no doubt that he is now safe in the arms of Jesus.
Of course if Roy had died in a car crash or of a heart attack maybe things might have been different – I don't know. All I do know is that when Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven and its citizens he usually spoke about prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors and sinners, he spoke about the 'halt and lame' about those that lived in the alleys and the lanes.
When it comes to heaven and hell things aren't always as cut and dried as they might seem.
Faith saves us and faith is nothing more than a humble recognition that we need God – it seems to me that in his simple hope that I would pray for him big Roy did just that... humbly recognised and verbally expressed his need for God and I believe that was enough to save him.