Advent 14 and 15: Acts 15:22-31 Luke 1 Jeremiah 32:17

No post yesterday. Church, stuff at home and a trip to a major sports award ceremony prevented it.

So, two in one…

I was struck by both Acts and Luke here regarding the importance of news being reported correctly and research being done thoroughly.

I think we very often get short changed with the standard of news we get. Much of it is excellent, well researched, well written and in the public interest. However, on many occasions we get half truths and cherry picked, well spun facts in order to elicit a particular reaction or promote a political ideology.

This is something the Bible itself is accused of regularly. It’s pretty much impossible to prove one way or the other, but its clear that we are asked by God to look into things to do with faith, the way we live, the news we hear and every other important matter to make sure what we hear, say and believe is truthful and right.

With so much bias and so many agendas everywhere this is difficult, but we need to try.

Advent 6: Acts 20:35 & 1 John 4:10

We live in the ultimate age of greed and self. People don’t want their “hard earned taxes” going to scroungers or migrants. The idea of helping those in need is fine, as long as they’re the right type of people. We often hear,

“I don’t want my taxes spent on…”

They are destroying my way of life”

“We spend too much on welfare and international aid.”

And, at the same time, we live in the ultimate consumerist age. You must be seen with the right phone, telly, bag, shoes, car and, if Black Friday is anything to go by, are prepared to fight for them. Physically.

So, to hear about helping those in need from Jesus jars with the spirit of the age. To hear that it is better to give than receive sounds like the type of thing one of these “lefties” who are “destroying our once great country” would say.

But here’s the thing, he knows what he’s talking about. He carried out the ultimate act of giving. He sacrificed his life in an unimaginably violent and painful way for us. Because he loves us. And because to give this gift, this sacrifice, to save us from our own selfish desires, is the ultimate act of love and joy.

It really is better to give than receive. Take it from the one who knows better than anyone.

Encouragement

On Sunday I ran a session with the youth group in my Church around Acts 9:19-31. In it, the newly converted Saul (soon to become Paul, author of a large bulk of the New Testament) starts preaching the Gospel. Many of the believers are terrified of him because he had previously persecuted Christians and was present at the killing of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

The session looked at how many of us, if not all of us, have at least occasional feelings of not being good enough. Of worthlessness. Of being no use to anybody, let alone any use to God. All of the kids in my group admitted that they felt that way about themselves occasionally and sometimes felt it about others.

The irony of this is my own frame of mind. For a while now, although it’s only recently been diagnosed, I have had depression. Thankfully it’s not severe to the extent of some people I know. I manage to get out of bed in the mornings, go to work, do my job, look after my family, go to Church, run the youth group and do all the things I need to day to day. However, my emotions are rarely above flat and very often hit horrible lows. I feel worthless, not good enough, no use to man or God, and feel that other people have that view of me too.

The thing is, Saul was good enough, despite his past. Despite what fears other believers held about him. Despite the feelings of despair he had about himself at times. God decided that even Saul/Paul was good enough to bring His good news to an almost global audience and establish Christianity throughout the Roman world. He is viewed as a man who shaped the faith in a way which is second only to Jesus. Not bad for a guy whose main intent on the road to Damascus was to kill Christians and destroy the faith in its infancy.

Saul didn’t do it alone though. He had an encourager. Literally, as it happens, as the name Barnabas means “he who encourages”. Barnabas stood up for Saul at a time when others wanted nothing to do with him. He convinced the others, and Saul himself, that he deserved a chance. His conversion was genuine. He is worth taking the same risk on that God himself did.

We all need a Barnabas. I have mine. I have an incredibly supportive family, for a start. That’s only part of the story, though. In the last few weeks it has been as though people are going out of the way to boost my self confidence and self esteem. I’ve had loads of people letting me know how much better I look recently (I’ve lost 3 1/2 stones in the last year). I’ve had so many positive remarks about things I’ve done in Church. My last blog post really struck a chord both in the way I wrote it and what I wrote. It feels almost as if people are being prompted in some way to improve my self esteem. Most don’t know about the depression, but I believe they are being prompted. I feel that God is telling me that, while I may not feel it to myself, I am worth it to Him. I am His child and He loves me unconditionally, like I love my own kids, but in a more amazing way. He loves me enough to have sent His son to die for me.

I still feel low and flat. I’m taking the right medication to help. I also know that the feelings of worthlessness are depression lying to me. I am not good enough for God, but I’m good enough for Him at the same time. We all are. And that helps.