In The Good Times

So, there’s been a lot of sport on recently. We’ve had 4 weeks of the World Cup overlapping with 2 weeks of Wimbledon. Ironically, of course, the more sport there is on telly the less exercise I get because I am sat there glued to the screen.

One thing I have noticed over all my years of experience in watching other people run about is that there are two types of celebration that stand out for me. One is the arrogant, I-have-just-done-something-amazing, you-all-wish-you-were- me celebration done by people like Ronaldo and Usain Bolt. Now they are, arguably, the best two athletes the world has ever seen but everyone knows that they would be a nightmare to manage and just super annoying to be acquainted with.

The other is the type of player and celebration is the ones who acknowledge God when they score a goal or win a match. Some of them will point to the heavens, some will cross themselves, some will get on their knees and kiss the ground. The first thing that Djokovic did when he won the Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon was to raise two hands and point to the sky in obvious acknowledgment of God. Having done this, they then hug their team mates or their coaching staff. They then acknowledge the crowd. The overall sense you have is that these players know how fortunate they are and that they couldn’t be where they are without outside support.

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I am always impressed with these athletes. Despite having the world’s praise lavished upon them, despite having millions of dollars thrown at them, despite achieving the most celebrated prizes that everybody else can only dream about, they have the conviction to remember a higher power even though they have just achieved an incredible personal goal.

When talking about our relationship with God we tend to focus on how we should rely on God when we are at rock bottom. How we should stay strong and keep the faith when things are going badly. Maybe we don’t often focus on what our relationship with God should be if and when we are at the top of our game, when everything’s going better than expected.

In Luke 17: 11-19 we have the ten lepers and only one came back praising God in a loud voice.

We can be that one leper. Being a follower of Christ does not make us physically any better than anyone else but our attitude to life is changed because we know what we used to be. We also know what we would still be were it not for Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.

Whatever situation in life we are in, whether we are riding high and all things are going great or we feel low and despondent that life is not working out. We all have one thing to be grateful for and that is that we have been called to be children of God.

James 5:13...Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

Psa 34:1-4 I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name. For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears.

A Cheerful Giver

Last night at Bible Class we were looking at 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. There are a couple of times in Paul’s writings where it’s fairly obvious that he is being a little cheeky to get people to do the right thing. Paul uses guilt very well in order to make sure people fulfil their responsibilities. In the UK, there comes a moment in most boys young lives where they have to make a decision between going to Sunday school or joining the local soccer team who happen to have their matches on a Sunday morning. Like most Christadelphian British men, who made the right decision and chose Sunday school in their youth, their is a niggling feeling deep down that we could have made it had we chosen the other option! The way my parents made sure I made the right decision was to use Paul’s tactic in this chapter by basically saying “it’s up to you which choice you make but we know that you’ll make the right decision”.

In these chapters Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “it’s up to you which choice you make but I know that you’ll make the right decision”. The last verse of the previous chapter says “I am glad I can have complete confidence in you”. Then Paul really notches up the guilts and leaves the ecclesia little choice but to do as he suggests. Throughout these two chapters I hear massive echoes of my own parents. My impression is that Paul knows he has to guilt trip the Corinthians into being generous.

He does this quite brilliantly. He answers the first objection before it arises. Which is, that the ecclesia is too poor and couldn’t possibly afford to send money. So Paul starts off by giving a glowing account of the churches in Macedonia who, even though they were in extreme poverty, still “urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service”.

Those are vary carefully chosen words. If I was a brother or sister reading this letter and I had complaints about having to send money then hearing about these poverty stricken believers in Macedonia who desperately wanted to help would stop me in my tracks. On top of that Paul is calling it a ‘privilege’ and here am I grumbling.

Lately, we have begun to look at how we (as a church/ecclesia) can get more involved in more giving and more outreach. Sure, we have a sponsor child but it really doesn’t feel enough. Perhaps God wants us to give until it actually hurts like the widow’s mite or to give actively with our hands. Some verses that have inspired this thinking:

Luke 3:10-11 Jesus answered, He that has two coats, let him give to him that has none

Ephesians 4:28 use your hands for good work and then give generously to others in need.

Matthew 5:42 Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.

1 Tim 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share

Heb 13:16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Gal 6:10 As we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers

James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows

2 Cor 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We have a few ideas for things we would love to get involved in, but we are starting small with a food collection bank. Anyone who is able to donate some canned or non-perishable goods for Coast Shelter, please let us know or bring to Eden Bible Education Centre.

Let Us Rise Up And Build

The concept of ‘rising up and building’ comes from Nehemiah 2:18. Nehemiah wanted to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall after the city had been burnt and broken down.

The call to ‘rise up and build’ is an encouraging rally to action. The words ‘let us’ inspire a spirit of community, working together and volunteering. I like the words ‘rise up’ best of all. It makes me think of all of us, sitting in a state of apathy, trying to motivate ourselves to do a job that has been sitting around for a while. It’s a little like trying to get off the couch when it’s late and you can’t be bothered doing the dishes.

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It’s not always from within us that we get this resistance to rising up. We can get roadblocks or hindrance from others. It can be from outside the ecclesia (church) or from other Christadelphians. It can be quite hard to carry on and stay motivated and enthusiastic. We have all had times in our life when we have tried to start something positive. Sometimes you get constantly pushed back or given negative feedback or just insulted.

Nehemiah 4:1-3 When Sanballat heard that Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble -- burned as they are?"

You can hear the scorn and sarcasm in these comments. Most of us get a sense of déjà vu reading this; we have all experienced this kind of attack or mocking. Nehemiah doesn’t retaliate or argue back or defend himself. He just prays to God.

Some verses that are helpful when you are trying to get on with the job of ‘rising up’ and ignoring negativity:

1. Expect negativity. People are people.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick

Matt 5:11-12 People will insult you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do, you will be happy. 

Psa 41:6 When one of them comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it around.

2. Think about the end goal

Matt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you. 

3. Don’t return evil for evil

1 Pet 3:9 Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God’s chosen ones, and he will bless you.

4. Remember that God is the judge

Rom 14:10-12 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

5. Check your motivation

1 Pet 3:6 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.

6. Jesus showed us how to do it (this verse is my all time favourite!)

1 Pet 2:20-21 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favour with God…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.

The last part of the phrase ‘and build’ is the focus. How can we get out of the negative cycle of criticism or apathy? Just get on with it! Noah builds an ark, Solomon built a temple, Jesus built an ecclesia (church). Find something positive to do and just do it. 

New Sunday School and Playroom

This last couple of weeks, we have busily been preparing for some exciting new programs. We were pretty excited to be starting Sunday School today and had a fabulous time setting up and getting everything ready. This week is also our first playgroup, where children will come and join in free-play activities. We have purchased some fabulous new toys and set up the kids 'playroom' (as they call it). They had a great time learning about creation today, singing songs, making craft and playing games. The children are eagerly looking forward to playgroup on Tuesday morning with all of our fabulous new toys. Thanks very much to Storytime for their generous donations! If you are looking for either a low-key and relaxed environment for your children to play (playgroup) or a safe place for them to learn about God (Sunday School), then please contact us for more information.