Right For the Job

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I lashed out and bought a new bike on Monday.

For the last couple of years I’ve been riding a mountain bike. It’s a fine bike and will definitely get you places. We’ve spent many hours together, and even shared one nasty spill.

No matter how I practised, though, there was a limit to the speed I could consistently ride at on the open road. No matter the conditions or my fitness level, it seemed that over a longer distance about 20 km/hr was the limit, and more often my average was 18-19 km/hr.

Maybe I could have refined my technique or strengthened my leg muscles. But there was no escaping the fact that my bike was not designed for speed on the open roads. It was designed for strength and traction on dirt tracks.

So I bought a road bike.This bike is light- under 10 kg. It has ridiculously thin wheels and tyres with no tread to reduce the friction with the road. The tyres are inflated to 120 psi, again to reduce friction. It has dropped handlebars to allow you to lean into the wind and minimise air resistance. The gears are optimised for normal road conditions. Everything is engineered for the purpose of efficient riding over long distances.

Just riding this bike in a gentle way, just getting used to it, I achieved speeds close to 30 km/hr and an average of 25 km/hr over a distance of 21 km. I know I can go faster and farther on this bike. Riding in a three day, 300 km charity ride suddenly seems realistic.

My new bike does better on the road because it was designed for that purpose. It wouldn’t last 5 minutes if I took it into the bush, because that’s not what it was designed for.

You and I were designed for relationship with God. We work best in that environment. Talking to God, listening to God, reading His Word, finding His purpose for our life- that’s how humans work best.

The trouble is that we all want to do it our own way without reference to God. We want to ride our road bikes through the bush and wonder why the tyres are shredded and the frame is bent.

Take a look at the world- race riots in the U.S., ISIS running amok through Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, crime and destruction, relationships breaking down, lawless children, drugs, hurting people, grieving people… the harvest of suffering just goes on and on because people refuse to live their lives in relationship with the Creator.

Christmas is coming, the awesome celebration of a God who came into the world to redeem a lost people. If you don’t know Him, go and find Him.

Life is so much better.

Reflection on Mark 13:24-37

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Scripture

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch’”

Observation

Following the distress of the present age, signs will occur in the heavens. The Son of Man will come in power and glory.

Just as we tell the natural seasons from observation of the signs around us, we need to be tuned in to the spiritual seasons.

Nobody knows when these yhings will happen, but we need to be ready. Just as servants of a man who goes away are alert for his return, so we need to be ready for Christ’s return.

Application

We are in the last days. In fact the last days have been continuing since the Day of Pentecost.

While this passage is about the actual return of Jesus, I think there is also something else being spoken of here.

We are to be constantly aware of the possibility of Jesus’ return at any minute. In other words, our concerns must be for the kingdom of God, not just our own self-interest. We need to learn to live with that sense of expectancy that Jesus could come back today or tomorrow, but not with an obsession about end-time scenarios.

Will Jesus find me doing His will? Will Jesus find me living a life of faith and obedience?

Prayer

Lord please help me to walk in your ways, to live a life of faith and to be prepared for your coming. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

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Scripture

God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Observation
God has made us holy through Christ, as indeed He does for all who call on the name of Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, God has enriched us in every way. We have every spiritual gift we need. Christ will keep us safe to the end because He is faithful to do what He says.

Application
One of the great assurances of the Christian faith is that of perseverance. God will help us to stand firm in our relationship with him right until the end of days.

Unlike Muslims who can only hope that their good deeds will be enough to get them to heaven, we have the promise of God that Christ is enough.

It is possible for us to walk away from Christ. But for the average believer who is just wanting to serve the Lord and hoping that it is enough, Christ will not let us fall away. He hold us safely in the palm of His hand.

This is good news indeed!

Prayer
Thank you Lord that you do not let go. You will enable me to stand with you right through my life. Amen.

Sorry, The Impossible Word For Many

All too often we see fake apologies in the media given by celebrities as a part of their branding efforts.

The cause is often that the person involved has been caught out saying or doing something that some people find offensive.

For example celebrity non-entity Red Foo was chastised for appearing in a song that is pretty well offensive to every human being on the planet. So he “apologised” to his fans (not to women who might have felt demeaned or genuinely outraged by his song). The apology was meant to sidestep an angry petition demanding his removal from X-Factor. It was not a recognition that the song portrays women as just objects of sexual gratification, but an attempt to placate fans and keep the money rolling in.

Football players who misbehave while drunk often get to read a fake apology usually to stop the sponsors from withdrawing their support.

I guess all of us try this on with God too- a form of words that we hope diverts wrath but with no real intention of changing behaviour.

So what does a “fake” sorry look like and how is it different to a real sorry?

A fake sorry is big on the word “if, but a real sorry is unconditional. “I am sorry IF my actions offended anyone” is not real sorrow at all. A real sorry recognises that serious hurt has been caused and unconditionally apologises.

A fake sorry is all words (usually written by someone else!), but a real sorry leads to a change of heart and actions. Sometimes we say stupid things or do things without thinking how they affect others. Real repentance means we have learned something and we will not want to do it again.

A fake sorry leaves people apart, but a real sorry draws people together. Saying “sorry” is not about  making me look better than I really am, but about genuinely wanting to repair a relationship. After saying the words, we will want to ask “How can I make this better?”

If you hurt someone,”sorry” is the starting point not the ending point.

That’s why christians are so big on repentance as the start of the journey with God. we have all sinned and we all need to be put right with God. The place to start is saying “sorry” to God and then living a life of walking in friendship with Him (that is, a life of obedience to His ways.)

When we do the fake apology with God, and try to impress Him with our spirituality, that is called religion. God describes those things as filthy rags, or in Paul’s words “a pile of crap.”

Yes “sorry” is a hard word for many to say. But a genuine repentance can open the doors to healthy relationships with people and with God.

Reflection on Isaiah 64:1-9

“When you came down long ago

You did awesome deeds
Beyond our highest expectation
And oh, how the mountains quaked.”

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There is none like you Lord,
Neither in heaven nor on earth
For you welcome all who worship you
And you forgive those who choose you.

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We are far from you, Mighty God,
Our hearts are full of sin
But you are Father, the potter
Moulding us who are the clay.

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Is it possible? Could it be true?
The Word has become flesh
The Lord has come down.