Wednesday, 12 March 2014

How strong is your heart?

We seem to hear of more and more of people who suffer heart attacks at quite a young age. At 54 I'm sure that I am not alone in having contemporaries who had endured heart problems. It is never nice to see people of any age suffer in this way, but it is 'heartbreaking' to see children and young people suffer from the effects of having a weakness in their heart. It can affect the whole course of their lives, their opportunities and their potential if not treated effectively.

A strong heart is essential for a fully active life and whilst you can work around heart problems and 'limp on through' it would certainly not be anyone's first choice of lifestyle.

When Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians he prays that they would experience (and by implication seek) God strengthening their hearts the spiritual equivalents of having a strong physical heart. When our heart is weak in the spiritual realm then our life in that realm is similarly weakened and poverty stricken. 

As in the physical, the spiritual impact of an untreated heart condition can be devastating, reducing the vitality of our walk with God, reducing of active participation with Him, causing us to 'disengage' at critical points in our journey because we simply have not got the heart for it!

Paul outlines a crucial area that is the first to weaken when the heart is not strong:

Yes, we are made holy by Jesus death for us, but the out working of this, the practical holiness, without which we will struggle to even see God, let alone follow Him and be co-workers with Him will be a very poor reflection of what Jesus has won for us. The quality of our lives will suffer, the vitality of our walk will suffer, the brightness of our witness will dim, our feelings of distance from God will deepen.... We will become a weak hearted follower, which will leave us with a broken hearted Father.

But, this need not be any cause for despair provided we realise that Paul isn't saying that we have to fix this, or perform some kind of spiritual open heart surgery, he is simply saying that we. We'd to seek God work on and in our weak heart. 

Approach Him with an admission of our need, identify that need - Lord , I need You to strengthen my heart, then step out in faith and live in the reality of God having done what you asked. In these kinds of areas that's how our faith and His faithfulness work together to a His glory and our benefit.

'May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.' (1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Are you part of it?

Being 'part of something' and feeling part of something can be very different......
You can play for a football team and you are part of it. You can be part of the larger squad or the huge back office support team, staff, actively involved, and you are part of it. You may be one of the faithful volunteers who turns up rain or shine to sell programmes and you are part of it. You may be a fan who pays out £600 for a season ticket - you're part of it, but not quite in the same way. You may make the effort to watch every match on TV or invested in a satellite subscription, you are part of it. 

It may be that the extent of your involvement is in naming a particular team when someone asks who you support.... Are you still part of it, or is that answer just a way of 'feeling part of it' rather than actually getting involved?

There are different levels of being 'part of something' and any may lead you deeper so are not to be discouraged however there is a very significant difference between being on the team, or the staff, and being a season ticket holder and even greater difference between these and sitting on the couch with a beer watching the match on Sky!

So, being part of it is great, but the reality is that there are only a limited number of people can be part of it in a fully engaged and participative way. The problem is that we so often carry what is 'reality' or 'truth' in one area, into a different area where it is not the reality or the truth - but we still act as though it is! 

What do I mean? In God's Kingdom everyone not only can 'be on the team' and play a full and active part, It is a requirement...and a privelege. But, the recent history of the church in the west would seem to indicate that many have settled for merely 'feeling part of it' by being a season ticket holder who turns up and watches. Obviously when asked who they support they answer 'team Jesus' !

Are we a part of it or apart from it?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

When the procession comes into view

There is something about processions - whether it's a carnival procession, a Rememberence Day procession, the procession of runners at the Great North Run or London Marathon, the victory procession when England has won a world class sporting competition or the procession at an occasion of state. 

To watch them on TV, slightly 'arms length', is probably the best many of us can hope for, and while it can certainly be very good, it can never be the same as actually being there. There is an excitement, a frisson an expectation as people line the roadside awaiting the procession. The atmosphere, the buzz, the smells and noises, it all adds up to something special. 

I have been fortunate to have been present at most of the types of processions I have mentioned.  They have all been great but two stand out for very different  reasons. The first was the victory procession by the English rugby team when we won the World Cup - waiting in Trafalgar Square for the team bus was incredible, the atmosphere electric, the hours slid by like minutes, and the noise as even rumours of the impending appearance of the team open top bus - incredible. Needless to say, when it arrived there was total, utter, deafening and glorious commotion...

I was in London on July 7, 2005. 'The London bombings' I had friends on trains that were bombed, and it was a desperate and sad day.
One year later, July 7 2006' I was there for the remembrance procession of those same bombings. Standing near Euston Station awaiting the procession. The atmosphere, hard to describe, the buzz, very different,but certainly real, the noise - there wasn't any! 

Tens of thousands of people and you really could have heard a pin drop. There was expectancy as the procession appeared, but still no noise, other than the occasional sound of tears. There was a correct feeling of 'pride' from people who were part of a community that dealt with the atrocity with grace and courage. Two very different and very powerful processions.

There is another procession, a procession of eternal and ultimate importance that, depending upon our personal vantage point can be like either on of those I have described. My question is 'Have you seen this procession come into view'? If you have it will have changed your life, if you have not,yet, you are invited.

The Psalmist said: "Your procession, God, has come into view, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary." (Psalm 68:24)

God and His team have been and continue to process through history, grand and glorious, sombre and serious - have you seen, have you experienced this procession? 

Is this the procession you are actually waiting for as you realise that life has got to be about more than you are living at the moment?

God intends this procession to come to a halt as it reaches you and take the time to invite you aboard, to stop being 'just  an onlooker' and to become part of the life changing procession that will roll on through history and into eternity. Glorious, expectant, powerful , gracious and loving, poignant and heart healing. Is this the procession you have been waiting for? It is victorious, but not triumphalistic. It is celebratory but not frivolous. It is lasting not simply a 'moment in time' 
Have you heard, have you seen, have you joined in?