How not to avoid Christ’s Call

‘Repent and believe the Gospel’ the New Testament tells us that right at the beginning of His Ministry Jesus went about Galilee declaring that the Kingdom of God was near and that all should repent and believe the Good News, and what staggering Good News it was and is that God has declared a universal amnesty and we are forgiven; the death of Jesus has cancelled out all our sins. Perhaps not such an easy thing to do 2000 years later, but here is a a story of a man determined to cheat on God’s grace received in words and pictures:-

A man considering himself to be an expert with a cricket bat (evasive and argumentative words) faces his opponent, the bowler (Christ) who bowls a slow ball (a word to bring repentance). The batsman hits the ball with all his strength. Up, up, (and the batsman believes, out well out of the fielders reach, out of the cricket ground (out of court), but the bowler (Christ, remember) leaps into the air and catches it. The man is caught OUT – but refuses to accept that. So, the bowler, bowls another ball, faster this time, and another, and another – the unsporting cheat is caught out and refuses to be OUT. Finally the last ball of the over and the bowler still high in the air with the ball safely in His hand throws the ball to the batsman who carried away with his cleverness at managing to cheat every ball (call to repentance) bowled leaps up, catches the ball himself and demolishes the wicket having thrown away his bat to make a two handed catch. The spectators are in uproar of laughing, and calling out “Cheat! Cheat! Out! Out! Out”

The Bowler tells the the Press, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness” (Job 5: 13)
The Batsman still in shock reads the Word on the ball at last and too late, ‘Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and turn away from evil” (Prov. 3: 7)

The one who calls us to repentance is Christ, who is also the umpire and Judge at the end of the day, His decision is final. The only fair way to respond to His call to repent is do just that! All our clever evasions and denials ultimately work against us.

I see the Bowler on His way to the Pavilion stop and walk over to a small child who has been sitting silently, watching His every move. The Bowler hands the child a new, shining cricket ball and with wonder the child reads the words “Follow me”

Speaking, the Bowler says “All desire to wield the bat and to stand defiantly at the wicket all day long, but you have my Word now, follow me, repent and believe the Gospel!”

With apologies to all who follow the game of cricket.

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A White Rose Given in Friendship

It was one of those days, too much to do, and too much to concentrate on, and I felt burdened, some one I love is ill, not just sick in body, but troubled in mind too, and faces impossible odds, prayer is difficult some times; when it appears that the answer will be No!

The lady in Parish Office seemed to have her share of problems too and I was glad to slip away, to run an errand over in church.

No one else in there, just me and my thoughts; I never doubt that our Father hears and answers our prayers and that He is present everywhere, not just in our churches of brick and stone, aware that sometimes He seeks us out in other quiet places, and just as He is Present, in the midst when to or three are gathered together, He delights to meet us alone …. perhaps that is why nights are often filled with sacredness, and the darkness shines with a light incomprehensible.

The Psalmist asks “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8) and that is what I asked in wonder now, because in my hand, this gentle God placed a single white rose.. His peace, perfect peace, and perfect assurance that every anxious thought, is perfectly understood.

What am I? That my Lord should care for me and seek to comfort me?

Have you known that wonder too?

Remembrance Sunday and Why a Peace Ambassador Needs Armour

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh Month, a dry morning for the Act of Remembrance around the village War Memorial and this year more people than for several years past stood for the two minutes silence. The Last Post and Reveille played by the church trumpeter who is a General Practitioner, a Good Physician who treats cares for and hopefully cures our aches and pains. The Wreath of Red Poppies is laid, in a dignified manner by Jim, our elder statesman of more than eighty years; but not every one gathered this morning is old, not all have come to remember lives laid down in the service of freedom in the First or even the Second World War, some are much younger and prayers are offered for today’s Servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan, and elsewhere … so when will peace come to the world?

The service is over and inside our little church there are more children than usual, calling to one another, having a little run up and down the aisles whilst Mums and Dads are having coffee, at the back of Church in the room the Vicar has christened ‘Starbucks’ – an older lady is heard to ask; “Why don’t their parents bring them up better” an even older lady replies, “I just give thanks that there are children here and that they are well enough, and are able to play and run about.”

Now keeping order is the Church Wardens job and keeping the peace between children and children, and children and senior citizens requires a certain amount of wisdom and tact, and between adults even more wisdom and tact, and courage…. war and battlefields are not the only places where ambassadors are called for, and so it is in the whole of everyday life.

In days when church attendance is at a low ebb, and when the Name of The Lord Jesus is more likely to be blasphemed than honoured, (and, how very few people actually know what the word blasphemy means!) and when God seems to have shrunk to almost a ‘Father Christmas’ image, how quaint to be talking of Ambassadors for Christ but nevertheless, The Lord is still calling us to be Ambassadors; an envoy crossing a battlefield is in need of the protection of the armour described to us in the Letter to the Ephesians 6: 10-20 and of the prayers of other believers.

In the spring of last year, I was hurt terribly by a deliberate act on the part of someone else, I forgave yes, but ignored the wound, and put the event behind me…. so I thought, but on the eleventh of the eleventh last year, i woke and cried, and could not stop, I found that I was literally crying out to The Lord for the healing of a wound, I had ignored. No one cries to Him or carries a wound suffered in His Service forever and some tears bring healing.

The Spirit showed me, myself on the ground, weaponless, vulnerable, in the middle of a great battlefield and great carnage; I was down, yes! Vulnerable, yes! But not alone. For two angels stood guard over me, avoiding me the protection of the great shields they held, shielding me completely until I could gather enough strength to regain my feet and pass safely on my way, crossing over a little brook, the bank spread with fallen leaves on the other side? Ah well, enough to say there were no fallen leaves on the other side.

Ephesians; 6: v18. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request” — put on the armour of God, and pray, even for yourself that your own hurts and wounds may be healed and don’t be afraid. Remember the words of The Lord to Abraham in Genesis 15v1 “I am your shield, your very great reward.”

A Peace Ambassador needs Armour, remember this.

We Have to Sit under the Tree of Life

The leaves are falling quickly now, heaps of russets, gold and brown lie in the shelter of the church walls, blown around in swirling clouds once in the shelter of the church walls they come to rest, the wind is seemingly powerless to pick them up again; finally they have come to rest.

There is a sadness about Autumn, the Festivals of All Souls and All Saints seem appropriately placed in this season. The nights are dark and the deeper stillness of winter is drawing closer… but yet, soon the night skies will be a ablaze with the returning of the bright winter constellations… and Christmas Bells, candle light and carols will peal out, shine out and sing out the Joy of the birth of a Saviour, born to wipe away every tear and to make all things new.

It seems to me that ‘we have to sit under the Tree of Life, to learn its wisdom.’

When in Italy on holiday, I was amazed at the number of ‘Trees of Life’ to be found in practically every old, and great garden to keep alive literally the memories of the families to whom these houses belong, and to tell the story of Adam and Eve and the great fall…

To me the Lord Jesus is the Tree of Life and I need to sit under his shade and drink in his teachings and words, often I can see, but not entirely explain, a connection between the thought picture I have of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John sitting under the shade of this mighty tree and the large, stone font in the Church Baptistery which is carved on its four sides with the symbols of Ox, Lion, man and eagle. The evangelists have their 4 faces turned out into the world to the north, south, east and west they speak 4 Gospels but the 4 Gospels are One Word.

It is from this One Word that we are born again and from the 4th evangelist we hear the heart of the matter we have to be grafted into the Tree/Vine that is Christ to bear its fruit, and that fruit has Christ’s seed, and life in it…. and that life is eternal.

“I am the vine; you are the branches, if you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15.v.5).

I believe this is true. All our best endeavours, our brightest, shiniest hopes and deeds one day will come spiralling down as leaves in autumn winds … but the fruit which we bore in Christ and in the spirit will remain and so will we, with Christ forever.