Saturday, 24 December 2011

The making of a King

This year has seen the toppling (or passing away) of several national rulers. In a number of cases the ruler lived in opulence whilst the common people generally struggled to make a living.

Scripture is full of injunctions against this kind of thing, with a number of them in the book of Jeremiah. Chapter 22 verse 13 is clear enough: "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice ...". But I think v15 says it most profoundly:

Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?

On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of a true King. Not a cedar panel in sight, nor any gold plated taps or grand marble halls. In fact no proper lodging at all, effectively ranked along with the animals just below 'peasant status' in the world's eyes. Yet it is a true King indeed, one whose reign will be characterised by righteousness and justice.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Life doesn't seem fair

So the North Korean leader has passed away. Time will tell what line his son takes. Maybe at last things might improve for the citizens of this impoverished nation?

I often wonder why certain leaders seem to be allowed to survive for so long. Mugabe is now a very old man, and yet he still maintains a tight grip on power with prolonged negative consequences for the people. Why does God allow this?

Jeremiah effectively asks a similar question in chapter 12 - 'why does the way of the wicked prosper?' (v1). People go on doing wrong, and even believe God can't see them (v4). Its not right.

God seems elusive in His answer, but v5 tells Jeremiah that he has to be prepared to tough it out over the long haul and in the face of even bigger problems. In Jeremiah's day God was acting, but in ways that operated at levels hard for Jeremiah to comprehend (which v6 forwards allude to).

Life doesn't seem fair here on the ground, but God is on the move at 'macro-levels' beyond our understanding. The writings of Jeremiah is one example of this - it should inspire us believe that it is also true today as we watch world politics take its twists and turns.

Monday, 12 December 2011

We become what we worship

I've often read Isaiah 6:9,10 '... they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears ...' and the gospel references to it (e.g. Mark 4) and thought "that's not fair! If they could see or hear, they might turn and be forgiven. Why not let them see or hear?".

Yet I have been missing a key principle. Psalm 135:15-18 talks of the people worshipping idols - idols cast from silver or gold. Motionless statutes. They may be well fashioned, carefully crafted eyes and clearly recognisable ears. But of course the object cannot hear, nor see - it is merely a human-made object. Why on earth would anyone worship a mere thing ... but that is exactly what the people do.

V18 then says 'those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them'. And there is the rub - the simple fact is we become what we worship. If we worship blind & deaf statutes, we become blind & deaf ourselves. If we worship money, our lives will reflect this. If we worship stuck-in-the-mud tradition, then we will surely become stuck in the mud too.

Be careful what you make your god - you may end up being just like it. Unrecognisable compared with the true and living God, and unable to recognise the true and living God.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Turn that light on

Bible passages un-ashamedly use the theme of light and darkness in various places. One of the classic Christmas readings, John 1, talks of Jesus bringing life which is the 'light of all people', and a 'true light that gives light to everything'. Many cultures, and indeed other religions, similarly use the concept of light.

For Christians the whole light business continues beyond its focal point of Jesus. For example in Ephesians 5 the believers are told they are 'light in the world'. In other words they are not just to look to the light, but to be light themselves. Their life, their actions, are tightly linked to the real deal, Jesus himself.

Now in this regard most of us may feel no better than a second rate low energy light bulb, but this Ephesians passage tells us that God's plan for continuing to illuminate the world involves us as light bearers. Check out v13: 'everything that is illuminated becomes a light'.

How we live is vitally important (hence v9-11 and v15f) since how we live equates to our 'luminance', so to speak. The great words of John 1 continue to be a reality in the contemporary world through current day believers ability to shine.

So Christians - turn that light on!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Timing is Everything

I often think that the most frustrating thing for the Son of God to be limited in a human body must be the fact that he now had to follow the passage of time just like the rest of us. Compared with being outside time, the Alpha & Omega, this must have seriously cramped his style!

Yet Jesus apparently embraced the limitation. In Jn 7 his brothers urge him to seize the moment and get on up to Jerusalem (and presumably get the whole Messiah thing really rocking). Yet Jesus was content with waiting: 'My time has not yet come ...', he replies (v6).

He is quite right in what he says next. For us 'any time will do' - impatient, not content with waiting, want it all  now, on tap, instantaneous. We who have known and only known time all along can't seem to cope with it. Jesus, coming into this limited sphere, seems quite content with it.

Furthermore this is the pinnacle of the mission of God we are talking about here - the whole creation groaning and waiting for the precious redemption to be made possible by Jesus. And yet Jesus is quietly waiting: it isn't time just yet. We want the immediate outcome, but for Him it is a matter of timing.