New Year is a good time to pause and take stock, a time to remember the things of the past.
It is a time to remember that we are God’s servants. He is not ours. We are here today and gone tomorrow. “All people are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25 NIV) We are not in control. God is. Covid 19 has taught us that.
It is a time to remember that our achievements are not our own and are no cause for pride. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 reads, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he that gives you the ability to produce wealth…”
It is a time to remember what God has done and how He’s been with us even through tough times.
“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, how well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great is your faithfulness!“(Lamentations 3:19-23 The Message)
It is a time to remember the good, the positive, the moments of love and to give thanks to God.
However, Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (NIV)
This is followed by a list of opposites. I would like to add the following to the list:-
Whenever I see stores decorated for Halloween, I have a negative gut reaction. This stems from the era in which I was born, my country of residence and my Anglican origens. The church celebrates All Saints Day on the 1st November to honour all the saints and the night before is regarded as the night where the evil spirits are loosed to cause havoc on earth. This probably arose from the Celts who believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth that night, destroying crops and harming people.
Therefore I regard Halloween as a symbol of evil.
The South African Police know to expect a spike of violent crimes on the 31st October, including murders and ritual sacrifices, including torture of animals. Some say it is the Devil’s holy day and Satanists celebrate it as such. I have no personal knowledge of that except for a lady who came to talk to a group of kids at school a very long time ago. She used to be a Satanist but found Christ.
This morning my son in Russia sent me a photo of a light in a pumpkin he had carved. I had to overcome my gut reaction. After all, it’s a piece of craftmanship. I have tried carving a watermelon with indifferent results. After all, a pumpkin in itself has no intrinsic significance as a symbol except as a gift from God. The most important thing to see is that the light is the hero of the picture, not the pumpkin.
Jesus is the Light of the world and while it is true that Satan is the ruler of the world at this moment, Jesu’s light can’t be extinguished.
“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. they don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Cor 4:4 NLT)
So let us not be blinded by the trick of Satan, but open our eyes to the treat of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
Yesterday a good friend died. She hosted our fellowship group which will never be the same again. It wasn’t Covid. It was leukemia and it was sudden. We got the first message saying she was in hospital with some weird blood disease on Saturday. She started chemotherapy on Monday, Yesterday morning we got the message that she was unresponsive and by 3pm she had gone to her Lord.
I was shocked out of comfort into stark reality. Death is so final and so disruptive to our everyday life! Could I have been a better friend?
I realised again that we should tell the people we love that we love them, while they can still hear, that we must forgive while it is still possible, that we should always keep in mind that we, too, can be taken suddenly in the midst of living.
Our possessions, home, car, pets are only ours while we are alive. One day somebody else will sort out our freezer, make plans for our animals, donate our clothes, close our bank account.
Stephen Covey recommends that we start with the end in view. I am going to die. What would I like my friends and family to say about me once I’m gone? That my house was always tidy or that I dropped everything to enjoy an outing with a friend? That I published a book or made memories with grandchildren? That I brought encouragement or pointed out mistakes?
These and many more questions I need to think on in the coming days. The advice in Philippians 4:8 is always helpful.
Finally, Brothers and Sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Goodbye, Pat, I will always remember you. You were a hostess who cared about each individual guest, even the ones who didn’t like curry or pork. You knew our favourite drinks and made sure you had them. You noticed the quiet members of the group and encouraged them. Your love for life inspired me, your unwavering trust in the Lord I strive to attain. You will be missed by a large circle of friends. I feel honoured that I can count myself one of them.
A spiritual exercise I did recently prompted by Margaret Silf’s book, “Taste and See” encouraged me to imagine my life as a store topped by a living area. What product or service would my store offer?
On reflection, I decided my store would offer encouragement, bottled in pretty glass jars tied with coloured ribbons. Different sized and shaped bottles of encouragement would be displayed in the store window.
Of course, encouragement doesn’t last. It is like a bottle of sweets, enjoyed for the moment but gone by tomorrow.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 reads, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
That’s all very well, but I want something more concrete. How do I encourage others? I think it starts with my attitude towards others. If I accept others just as they are, if I care about them as individuals and see each as God’s unrepeatable masterpiece, I already create an atmosphere of encouragement.
Then it is concentrating on the good in people, regarding them as competent and trustworthy, and not focusing on their faults and failings. It is a word of appreciation or applause for something done. It is enthusiasm for what they love or are called to do. It is sincere words of support or agreement. It includes offering an apt word of scripture according to the circumstances.
To encourage means to imbue with courage. The Oxford dictionary defines it as to give someone support, courage or hope.
Father God, please give me eyes to see others as You see them and to accept them as they are. Give me ears to listen and understand so I may enter into their struggles, joys and sorrows. Give me a tongue to be able to communicate the hope I have in You, the faith that You are good and that You have everything under control.Amen.
We have a beautiful view of the sea from the Beach House where we are staying. The dominant features at the moment are fishermen. The fishermen I’ve always thought about from the bible were the kind who go out in fishing boats, cast out their nets, drag the nets behind the boat to the beach and then haul in the catch. The stories of Jesus make me think of large catches but sometimes they also fished all night and caught nothing.
The fishermen in our view use rods, and then there are various skill levels. Over the weekend, there were crowds, including families where older men demonstrated the art of patience to the teenagers who tended to cast a line into the sea, haul it in, throw it out again and after about three attempts pack up and move to another area.
Today there seems to be a group of professionals. They’ve been here since before sunrise. I’ve watched some of them pull out three or four fish on one line.
Yesterday I was wondering what my main calling was. I think the point is, it’s not necessarily what we do but the attitude in which we do it that pleases God.
Colossians 3:23 says:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (NIV)
Whether a fisherman is fishing for fun on the weekend, to provide food for his family or to sell, if he does it as unto the Lord, he will receive a reward from the Lord. If I involve Jesus in everything I do, even cooking or housework, and work as unto Him, I don’t need to stress about whether I should be writing or doing ministry or anything else. I merely need to stay close to Him and attuned to His leading.
In our fellowship group we are working through a series called Fruitfulness on the Frontline by Mark Greene. He pointed out in session three that God only made humans on the sixth day. He spent the other five preparing for man. He created order, made provision, brought joy and beauty and released potential. If what we do works towards any of those outcomes, we are doing God’s work.
Lord, whatever I do, be it large or infinitesimal, easy or difficult,may I dedicate it to you and work as unto you.Thank you. Amen.