The World is Loud, God is Quiet

I was reading ‘Tacitus’ this morning, his ‘Histories,’ and this includes a short description of the Jews and the fighting in Jerusalem during the ‘Jewish War.’  It is likely he obtained the story from Josephus who wrote his famous book concerning this event and I was taken with the noise of battle.

The Emperor Nero was informed of the Jewish revolt and sent Vespasian to Judea to deal with this.  During the years 67 and 68 A.D. Vespasian conquered the majority of the land, capturing Josephus in doing so, and during the 69th year he began to recognise that he was in line for the throne.  Therefore as three other men, Galba, Othos and Vitellius fought and died over the leadership he accepted the call to become Emperor.

Vespasian therefore began to collect his army and head for Rome, hindered only by the winter seas and opposing winds.  His son Titus, another efficient General, was with him during his conquest and Titus was charged with finishing the fight by taking the city of Jerusalem.  This was a hideous conflict.  The city was rent in three while different groups fought one another rather than the Romans.  The suffering of those trapped inside during this siege was appalling.  Titus’ army eventually crashed through the walls and slaughtered any who resisted.  Carnage and looting, destruction left and right, savagery and violence abounded.  Even the Temple at the centre of the city was torn down, as Jesus had said it would be.

As I read this short description I was struck by the noise.  The noise of battle is ferocious, the clash of metal weapons and armour, the noise as objects hurl through the air, shouts of encouragement and screams of pain all around until victory is won.

With Jesus this is not so.

Jesus does not scream and shout, his method is not one of noise, even though he is capable of noise if required.  His voice is the ‘still, small voice,’ the ‘whisper.’

Speaking to crowds Jesus spoke in parables so those ‘seeing could not see, and hearing could not hear’ something which confused me for years.  Yet many who heard him did not hear and repent, many who heard him then and indeed hear his words now miss what is said and go on their way.  Jesus spoke to individuals not crowds.  Possibly he did not know who was listening, he sometimes was shocked by those who showed faith, he merely spoke, not shouting, and the Holy Spirit did the work.

The Word of God quietly continues to work day by day and we do not see it.  The preacher speaks either well or badly, it matters not, as if the Holy Spirit is there to work someone will be touched by him.  This is a quiet work, not the raging sound of battle.  Jesus, God the Father, calls individuals to himself one by one and we do not know where he is working.  However we must witness for him, preach and teach if those are our callings and live for Jesus daily – otherwise all is lost.

God’s ‘still small voice,’ the ‘whisper,’ defeats the sound of battle.

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Churches

There is an old Scots story that reflects the situation in Scots churches once upon a time.

Two men, Jimmy and Bob, and found trapped on a desert island and after some considerable time a ship arrives to rescue them.  The captain looks around the island and discovers that while there are only two men there are five huts.

He asks Jimmy, “Why so?”

“Well,” says Jimmy, “This here is the hut I live in, and over there is the hut Bob lives in.

“So what are the three other huts for?”

“Well,” says Jimmy,”That hut there is the church I go to.  Over there is the church Bob goes to.”

“Aye,” says the ships captain, but that is all very well, what about the other hit then?”

“Oh that,” says Jimmy and Bob together,”That’s the church neither of us goes to.”

Sadly in some areas this remains still the same situation.  Now here I call ‘church’ something that accepts the bible as the Word of God and a people who seek to know God and follow Jesus the Messiah as Lord. Anything outside of this concerns me not.

I mention this because I sat in a church this morning that is a combined effort of Methodist and United Reformed.  These two churches merged some years ago working the various outlooks on Christian discipleship well together.  Too me many of their ideas are a bit needless but that is irrelevant as that is their business and they are what I call secondary things.  All churches have their own little foibles and we must leave them up to the members to decide whether they are good or bad.

Apart from theological reasons, you either follow scripture or you don’t, there are human preferences in choice of churches.  Some are loud others quiet, some frankly boring, others dozy.  This comes down to people, personal preferences and there is little you can do with this.  We are all different and each church of whatever denomination will reflect this.  Some have formal criteria which must be covered at all times, others follow a pattern found in several like minded places, we choose the one we fell happy with.  This is not wrong.

However some people put up barriers between denominations.  To attend some churches outside of your own could lead to a request to leave, this is unfortunate.  Attempts in some places to get churches to work together often fail as ‘theological reasons’ deter this, often this is an excuse and the desire to run things your way comes first.

Our pattern must come from the New Testament churches and there we see all churches united in love and unity at all times, except when they argue of course.  The church at Colosse was a bit out of the way and I suspect quite small.  At Corinth the church was in the middle of a big city with an egalitarian attendance each one willing it seems to speak out on their own behalf.  Even Paul’s two letters did not produce the ‘love’ he sought, Clement from Rome wrote a long, very long, letter years later in an effort to heal their rifts. While it is clear churches did contact one another each was different, the settings were varied, the numbers also, teaching from passing apostles and their followers may have been abundant or rare depending on where they lay, and often disrupting influences would arrive altering the teaching even amongst the best taught churches, Ephesus for instance had years of dubious preachers even Paul and John could not deter.

So I found myself in this mixed bag church watching while the men at the front held a wooden cross and the large attendance, no seat for me bar in the far corner like Tom Thumb, the large attendance came forward and added a flower to the cross.  This took around twenty minutes and reflected a symbol of their devotion.  It was a wee bit strange to me from a Presbyterian/Baptist/Charismatic background.  Symbols are not something I go in for bar bread & wine.  The people were happy and this is a place where Jesus was clearly worshipped and put my grumbles in their place.  I would to be as sure and happy as most of these were today.

On the other hand I almost went to a church that rapidly rises onside me, an Anglican one!  Dearie me not just Church of England but with a woman vicar, heresy!  Yet she knows God and appears to me to be the right person for this churches needs at the moment.  I considered risking banishment from Baptistry by taking communion there, but went to the other place as it was nearer!  No church suits what I look for, even though there are several with God fearing people seeking to do his work.  None fit my personal wishes, maybe there is a reason for this?

The good thing is that today churches are relaxing in many ways.  Old separations are being pulled down, denominations work together often having mixed services once a month, this is all good.  The variety of differences may be irksome occasionally but those who seek the Lord should be encouraged and we should mix with them and learn about him who died for us and is their Lord also.

A Visit to St Paul’s, not that one….

Image

 Peter Stack

St Paul’s is a small church fifteen minutes walk from my abode.  The area is mostly what we used to call ‘working class,’ but many of the one time Council houses are now owned by the one time tenants.  The area has its problems but it also had many good people working to make the most of where they dwell.  The church which once had around seventy members saw a falling away, due sadly to the failings of the vicar.  Recently he retired and was replaced by a young vicar who has immediately got the church up and running once again and the future now looks assured.

It is some time since I was last here but today I found the church warm and welcoming as it should be, with around sixty people there. Young and old, screaming kids and despairing parents, married folks singles and odds and sods also.  I was the sod by the way! Anglicans are strange people to me in many ways, especially as I come from a straight forward evangelical background and the use of a sheet to follow, including responses, I find somewhat difficult.  The singing of the ‘Grace’ at the end, accompanied by holding your neighbours hands caught me out somewhat to others mirth!

Two other factors were not as I would plan things, the sermon came from a woman called a ‘reader.’ whatever that is, and the thrusting young vicar was female!  Female, a woman!  Tsk!  Who would have thunk it?  The readers sermon was at least based on scripture, and this church is indeed a down to earth evangelical one, but not the kind of sermons I had become used to in days past. The vicar herself (also a woman!) did attempt to give some time to the kids but for me she talked like a, er woman, but did impress that Jesus sees us, not past us but looks right at us in love!  The kids then thundered up the steps into a hall to scream away from the rest of us.

My one thought was that services ought to begin with a couple of worship songs to fix the mind in the God that is to be worshipped, spreading them out as occurred here did not give the right effect I thought.  However that appeared to meet the needs of those attending as indeed did the vicars way of talking, she talked like a woman!  Indeed she spoke to them as she may talk to people in the street or to her friends, and that made people comfortable and she appeared approachable.  Her manner, the kids, the friendly people all made this a comfortable evangelical church rebuilding its congregation after a dry spell and in their own time bringing God into one small but needy area of the town.  This is what attracted me to the church many years ago, the people being my kind of folks, and the potential is great here.  I once delivered mail in the surrounding streets and always thought this church had a great position here.  The people need to know Jesus and now they appear to have someone able to lead the church in that duty.

All in all I was pleased overall with my morning even if the church does not quite provide what I was hoping for.  I can see me returning many times.

Wondering….

So here am I, relatively comfortable today, debts cleared, enough money on which to survive, and almost healthy.  Of course the nice little house and garden, by the sea, the car, the 23 year old brunette millionaire, and a nice wee cat would also be nice, but we cannot have everything I suppose.  

I feel ungrateful!  

The good Lord has granted me all this and I am doing nothing for him.  I fit in no church, certainly not those around here, and having left work only connect with the world through visits to Tesco and the museum.  The latter is of course the best medium, not just to discuss individuals history but to discover how easily I make a mess of things!  Is incompetence a gift I wonder, or just habit?  At least I can understand how older folks or those who cannot get around are forgotten by society or easily feel out of touch.  The TV is often their only lifeline to sanity!  

He has made me safe here to some extent, but I do nothing, see no way to do this, and cannot get answers from him.  I think he may be in a huff because I don’t spend enough time with him, maybe he doesn’t like football after all….?     

Who is in Charge Here?

The House of Lords last night pushed through the bill enabling ‘gay marriage,’ to pass.  This means the bill is now more or less law.  Many, Christian and non Christian, of faith or no faith, opposed this bill as it demeans marriage and certainly has no backing in Scripture.  So how should an individual react?

Well God has seen it all before.  he is well aware of the world and knows more than you or I just how corrupt it is.  Even so Jesus gave his life for us, knowing our corruption and what lies within every man.  So the answer is to live for Jesus, holding out the word of truth to those that receive it and leaving the others to the Lord himself.

There is no condemnation of others, we are just as bad as they, and whatever their lifestyles, whatever their predilections and sins we offer Jesus and his finished work.  

There is nothing else for it.

The passing of this law changes nothing, few will be affected, a few votes gained, a few happy pretending they are married, but mostly the world will continue as normal for most.

The real problem is getting those who have met the Lord Jesus to live for him, if we can live for him many more will meet him.  That is the difficult bit, putting Jesus first in our lives, rather than worrying about bad laws in the local society.

  

Irked

Irked I am.

You see this morning I read that big brown book again.  I read a wee bit, I forget which, that led me into cogitating about this and that.  God’s great love, his forgiveness in Jesus finished work, and as he can forgive a thousand times a day we ought to go and do likewise.

Goody I thought.

Then I was listening to the football.

Before the game began the wireless offered a debate on the situation of my club.  Clearly one or two were somewhat antagonistic and one or two supportive.  Then it happened.  Chick appeared.  His loud, needless, bombastic rant against my club was what we have come to expect from someone who supports that team that we need not mention, ensuring he never speaks out of turn about them as that would cost him his job.  His bias, his attitude and him just being him ensured a tirade of negative thoughts and words headed in his direction.  I was not the only one.

Later it crossed my mind that I was not very forgiving.  I quoted verses I mentioned earlier in the day to myself and thought ‘idiot!’  This time I was right.  God’s forgiveness was costly.  He forgave, and forgives, sin, and sin thrown in his face all too often.  Chick is a wee nyaff, an irritation, renown for his attitudes.  It costs to forgive him, but it costs less than Jesus paid to forgive me.   Forgiveness costs but it is a price worth paying, even if the irritation does not go away.  

 

So it all fell apart, again…

This evening I was whining loudly and long about the mess the day had become.  It was possible for me to know that it was my fault, but my mind was full of the thoughts that crashed in this morning and reduced me to the miserable wretch I became.  So instead of the day continuing as it began I wasted my time in self pity and failure.  How unusual is this? 

Tonight as I bleated about how this came about it came to mind something someone had given me a long time ago.  The ‘word’ the Lord had put in his mind sadly showed that it was really all my fault and no-one else’s.  Had I done what he wished then I would be a great deal better off today.

His love has not failed me, but I have resisted his love.  The tightness remains, and I am not sure how to lose it, but it remains my fault things go wrong, not his.

Who would have thunk it…..?

 

 

Soldiers of Christ

Listening to the radio this morning it crossed my mind that there were incidents and people with whom we have to do that I just could not cope with.  My mind allowed itself to be traumatised by the fear of those who cause anxiety in our daily existence.  We all meet them, difficult, and often violent types that cause fear and woe wherever they appear.  Society as a whole responds to this by keeping quiet.  Thugs and vandals that destroy our housing estates, city centres and mug our old folks, we keep well clear off in case trouble comes our way.  We all do it, and feel the shame.

Today I felt this way while listening to a programme on the radio.  I found myself cowering inside, being angry at the wrong I felt required fixing yet powerless to meet this wrong.  There are so many wrongs around us and so little ability to deal with them.  I felt very down about this.

However a few moments later, as is the way of things, I put this aside and moved on with life.  As I did so I realsied a song was in my head, this one:-

1. Soldiers of Christ arise,
and put your armor on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
thru his eternal Son;
strong in the Lord of Hosts,
and in his mighty power,
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

2. Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endued,
but take to arm you for the fight
the panoply of God;
that having all things done,
and all your conflicts passed,
ye may o’ercome thru Christ alone
and stand entire at last.

3. Pray without ceasing, pray,
(your Captain gives the word)
his summons cheerfully obey
and call upon the Lord;
to God your every want
in instant prayer display,
pray always, pray and never faint,
pray, without ceasing pray.

4. From strength to strength go on,
wrestle and fight and pray,
tread all the powers of darkness down
and win the well-fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry
in all his soldiers, “Come!”
till Christ the Lord, descends from high
and takes the conquerors home.

Charles Wesley, 1707-1788.

Hymnsite

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life; 
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 
Do not put your trust in princes, 
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; 
    on that very day their plans come to nothing. 
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed 
    and gives food to the hungry. 
The Lord sets prisoners free, 
    the Lord gives sight to the blind, 
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, 
    the Lord loves the righteous. 
The Lord watches over the foreigner 
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow, 
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 146:1 Hebrew Hallelu Yah; also in verse 10

 

Bible Gateway

Jehovah Giro!

In recent days money has become a problem.  Indeed I was becoming just a bit anxious as to how I was going to feed myself once the bills had been paid.  I had enough for a couple of weeks but not for a month it seemed to me.  Until now I had manged well, but a real anxiety cropped up and I was at a loss what to do.

Faith was stirred in recent days by several things and I was content in some ways, just slightly anxious about cash.  I mentioned this to my heavenly dad, possibly about four thousand times but I am not too sure, I wasn’t counting, and wondered what to do.  

On Wednesday I scraped five twenty pence pieces from the old cider jar that passes for an emergency fund, the other coins lay under dust at the bottom, and I wandered round to the market and bought a bag of satsumas to represent my vitamin C for a week.  As I left I had picked up the mail, one miserable looking piece of junk mail from an unusual address, which I dumped aside for later.  I carried the bag around town, head down looking for dropped coins, and sauntered back in between rain showers.  Once home i emptied the fruit into the bowl, dumped the jacket and cap carefully on the floor, and read my junk mail.

It was a Tax refund for £381’04p!

I stood awe struck and once again gave thanks to God.  His timing is perfect, as always, and the money covers the unexpected panic buys of the past few weeks, and gave enough to fill the fridge for a month!  Our god has shown me his love, me of all people, once again.  Just why he loves me, such as I am, I know not but I am happy to receive his love.  

I remember how in times past he has supplied my need, from unexpected sources, at just the right time. Never enough to consider myself rich, but always enough to cover costs.  On one occasion I had a tough year.  Work was available but I struggled with the running costs.  It was then as now, scraping every penny to get buy.  A few years later, that is how tax works especially in understaffed tax offices, I received a tax rebate of around £34.  I rejoiced!  The next day a letter covering the following years arrived also from the tax man, this time asking me to pay back just over a thousand pounds!  I worked out that the tax mistake had been made during my tough year, meaning that had i paid appropriate tax I may have gone under.  A kind of credit card from the taxman owing to someones incompetence.  My God has NEVER let me down!

During the televised Easter service this year the speaker, from Coventry cathedral, made the statement that “Jesus has never let me down in forty years of following him.”  That stuck in my mind and made me wish to follow him better, as I have been around for that length of time and he still wants me!  What a God!

 

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