Advent 17: Galatians 4:1-7

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Adoption. It’s an amazing thing to do for a child. There are so many children in this world who, for one reason or another, find themselves without a proper home or family. many of them are so young that they really don’t know or understand the situation that they’re in.

Others, however, are old enough to know that they are missing something fundamental to their lives. They crave the love and stability which a family (should) bring. Many have experienced things which would seriously mess most adults up and will take an incredible amount of love and care to help mould them into people who will function well in society. It takes a very special person or people to give some of these children the upbringing and environment that they need and there is a huge need for people to step up to the plate for these children. Organisations such as Home For Good help to facilitate those wishing to adopt or foster to find out everything they need to know to set down that road.

We are all in the position of those children. We are messed up, rudderless, in need of the right guidance to get us through a dark world. Yet, we have a Father wanting to adopt us into his family, to make us all his heirs. We have the opportunity to be straightened out, cared for, loved and set on the right path as well as being given ta share in the most amazing kingdom we can imagine.

All we need to do is ask.

Advent 16: Matthew 2:1-12

Herod is one of those well known, almost pantomime style, villains of our childhood stories. The evil king who tries to trick the wise men into revealing where Jesus has been born so he can… well, the Nativity plays rarely expand on what he intended on doing. He was thwarted by an angelic dream, however, as Mary, Joseph and their newborn son escape his clutches.

What happens next is definitely not mentioned in any school Nativity play,

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.””
(Matthew 2:16-18 NIV)

Wow. That’s far removed from the fluffy, tinsel covered angels and children singing Little Donkey. It shows the kind of danger and evil which was present in those times. Thank heavens we don’t see that kind of thing today…

Tell that to the people of Peshawar. Just when you think you’ve seen every kind of evil a group of hate filled fanatics burst into a school and massacre over 100 innocent children. And they claim to do it in the name of God.

This is not the God worshipped in Mosques around the world by peace loving Muslims.

This is not the God worshipped by wisdom seeking, peaceful Sikhs.

This is not the God worshipped by enlightenment seeking, loving Hindus.

This is not the God worshipped by devout, priestly, chosen Jews.

This is not the God worshipped by me and billions of other Christians.

This is not the God who came down to Earth to teach us, lead us and save us from our own desires, arrogance and hatred.

I don’t know the god the Taliban, Am Qaeda and Islamic State claim to worship, much as I don’t know the god who bigoted extremists who claim to follow Christ claim to worship.

I know the one who inspires his followers to love him each other as his greatest commandments. I know the one who humbled himself and put himself through unimaginable agony for us.

And I know the God who, right now, is weeping tears of sorrow for the victims of the innocent victims of hatred in Peshawar as well as the victims of hated and bigotry around the world.

These acts are carried out by people. Badly flawed, selfish people influenced by evil. The response from each and every one of us can and should be influenced by the God who loves us all.

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 13: Psalm 150

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There’s an amazing amount of disagreement within the Church about the little things. Not least among these things is the music used for worship. The music is always too old, too new, too loud, too quiet, too archaic in its language, too repetitive, too boring, too upbeat, too full of guitars, too reliant on the organ…

Here’s the thing; when it comes to worship music, we are not the audience, we are the performers. The audience is just one; God.

It really doesn’t matter what style of music we sing or what instruments we use. When the psalmist talks about praising God with the harp, lyre, tambourine, cymbals, strings and pipes he is saying to praise God with whatever you have. You may not like the song, you may wish it was more modern or more traditional, but as long as you are singing it in a spirit of praise and worship that is all that matters. You are singing to God and, as long as you are singing with the right heart, he doesn’t care what the music is.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. However they are able to do so at the time.

Advent 12: Revelation 2:1-5 1 John 3:1-3

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Do you ever get that feeling that you’re just going through the motions? Who doesn’t feel like that sometimes? You’re taking part in an activity or job or even a relationship which you have been passionate about, but right now you just move from day to day doing the same thing over and over out of some sense that it’s the right thing to be doing. Or you simply don’t know anything else anymore.

Things get like that sometimes. It’s natural and doesn’t mean that you need to end the thing you’ve been doing. How many relationships or marriages have ended because the stuck in a rut feeling has been mistaken for not loving someone anymore, rather than an obstacle to be overcome together?

It’s exactly what the Christian life is like as well, as the Church in Ephesus were experiencing when they received the letter containing what we now call Revelation. I’ve heard many prominent preachers and speakers talk about going through a time where they’ve forgotten why they do what they do, of feeling that their prayers are going no further than the ceiling. I experience it sometimes as well, it’s impossible not to.

The fact is that we all have so much going on in our lives that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, that love which we felt right at the start. Not that fluffy feeling of new love, but that passion of discovery of something truly amazing and life changing,

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin” (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭1-5‬ NIVUK)

That love for the and of the one who actually died in order to set us free from all of the sins and conventions of the world. When we go back to rediscovering that love, looking for the reason, the spark that is still within us somewhere, we can get back to doing what we do for the right reasons. No longer a cold, mechanical worship and life, but one filled with love and hope.

Advent 11: Genesis 1 Isaiah 1:18 Psalm 51:1-10

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Its an emotional day for me today. 21 years ago today my Dad, Michael or Mick as everyone called him, died suddenly at the age of just 44. He was one of the friendliest, most outgoing, generous, caring and all round lovely guys you could ever meet. That’s not just the rose tinted glasses you always wear when looking back on someone who died young talking, but what anyone who knew him thought about him; the standing room only at Maidstone Crematorium for his funeral testifies to it as well.

I am now 41, meaning that it’s been over half my life since he died and I’ve had pretty much my whole adult life without him there to guide me.

I haven’t, however, been without any guidance. I’ve been able to turn to someone who has experienced everything; creation, destruction, joy, sorrow, life, death, freedom and suffering. He has taught, guided, celebrated, punished, and mourned with people since the beginning of time.

I try to follow what he teaches me, but I’m always getting it wrong. The thing is, I know that he’ll pick me up, clean me off and set me on my way again. I know he loves me, unconditionally, and will forgive my faults and failings because of this. Just like my Dad always did.

God is not a substitute for my Dad. He is so different to that. However, when I look at him acting like this towards me I can see why Jesus referred to him as “Father”; someone who is there to bring us up to be the best person we can be.

A year, nearly to the day, after Dad died, I became a father myself. My daughter turns 20 next week and its my intention to be here for her longer than my Dad was able to be. But he still influences me in how I am as a parent as well as how I relate to my Father in heaven. I always knew my Dad would be there for me and I know that God will be too.

(In loving memory of Michael Jalland: 21 January 1949 – 11 December 1993.)

Advent 10: Matthew 1:22-23 Isaiah 7:10-15 John 1:14

There are religious wars, religious terrorists, religious extremists in government and religious bigotry in this world you can see why people don’t feel they need religion.

They’re right, too.

We don’t need religion. Religion is a man made construct. Religion is a set of constrictive rules which reflect the values of those who made them. Religion is a useful excuse for conflict and oppression.

People don’t need religion.

People need hope. People need love. People need caring. People need guidance. People need food and shelter. People need protection. People need a better way. People need grace.

People really need someone with real power, mercy and glory to enable all of this.

People need Immanuel.

God with us.