I have some questions…

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
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There are times when I read what another Christian has written or said and I wonder whether I am reading the same Bible as them because I can’t justify their behaviour based on what I read in my Bible.

Now I realise that in writing this bloggage I am opening myself up to an accusation that I am making judgements about other people, and that’s something Jesus said we should not do. So I am writing this in the form of four sets of open questions based on my observations rather than accusations against anyone in particular. And I am writing this to Christians – the rest of you can relax…

I ask these questions of myself as much as anyone else and if I am being honest I am uncomfortable with some of my own answers – as always I am NOT suggesting that I live a fully-sorted life as a follower of Jesus. But I want to be open to his Spirit’s transformational prompting.

  1. Where in the Bible does it say that it’s right to use unpleasant, vitriolic, and hateful language against someone with whom you disagree? Doesn’t the Bible say that the way people will know we are followers of Jesus by the way that we love one another? How can it be right that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second one was to love others, yet some comments that Christians have posted online about fellow-believers and some behaviour between Christians appear to be devoid of love and full of hate? And how are some of the hideous comments made against those who don’t claim a Christian faith showing them what God’s love and grace are like?
  2. Where does it say that it’s okay to condemn someone for interpreting the Bible differently from you by denouncing them as ‘unbiblical’ (which presumably means that the denouncer has absolute confidence that their interpretation is entirely ‘biblical’ and there’s no chance they could be wrong)? Wasn’t Jesus regarded as ‘unbiblical’ in his day? Where does the Bible tell us that we should consider ourselves better than others, using our superiority to tell them how and why they are wrong and we are right?
  3. Why do Christians spend so much energy arguing about relatively trivial things like doctrinal differences and not spend as much time and energy tackling poverty, injustice and conflict? Jesus spoke much more about the use of and love of money than he did about doctrine didn’t he?
  4. Given how much Christians have been forgiven, and how much Jesus said we should forgive, how come some of us find it so difficult to apologise to other Christians when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness? Is admitting we are wrong so difficult?

I realise that this is rather an incendiary post, and it REALLY isn’t my intention to have a go at anyone in particular. My hope is that this little bloggage might just help us (Christians) to be more aware of our own behaviour and open us up to God’s Spirit changing us to become more like the Jesus we follow.

Be blessed, be a blessing

judging

So there I was again, sat in the hospital waiting area ahead of an appointment. From my vantage point (and over the top of a cup of coffee) I could see one of the designated smoking areas.

It does feel somewhat incongruous that a hospital would set aside an area for people to smoke… But better than it happening all over the site I guess.

Anyway, as I watched I saw one chap in a hospital gown (thankfully he had trousers on) who was accompanied by two police officers. My first thought was to wonder what crime he’d committed. But then I realised that was jumping to conclusions: he could have been a victim, or a witness, or even a fellow police officer. Why did I jump to the conclusion I did?

It made me realise afresh how easy it is to pre-judge people. And that’s etymologically and philosophically where prejudice has its root.

Please God help me not to judge other people and jump to conclusions about them.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

not from here

There’s an ancient story of a businessman who got lost in the country lanes of North Devon. His supersatnav in his car was no help. Eventually he came across a farmer leaning on a gate and he stopped his luxury car in front of the farmer and pushed the button to lower the window.

“Excuse me, please can you tell me the way to Exeter?” asked the businessman.

The farmer thought for a long time and then said, “If I were g’win to Exeter I wouldn’ start from ‘ere.”

I was reminded of that story this week as I began a formal process of cardiac rehab. I had an introduction interview and was wondering whether I was so far out of shape that the physio would tell me we couldn’t start from where I was.

Instead, however, she was incredibly encouraging and positive. She has seen enough cardiac surgery victims shuffle into the process to be confident of positive outcomes and significant improvement through the course. And she gave me that reassuring sense of confidence too. She asked me my goals. When I told her what they were she told me that they were achievable.

In life we can only start from where we are. We might hope to be in a different place physically, emotionally, spiritually or geographically but we have to start where we are.

I find it helps immensely to remind myself that God always starts with me where I am (even if I am in the wrong place). He might want new / different for me but he always starts where I am and gently encourages me forwards.

He does that through good, wise friends, through engaging with my own thought processes, through what I read in the Bible, through surprising circumstances and sometimes through complete strangers.

And with that encouragement and a confidence-raising awareness that millions of people in history have trusted him we step forward together.

Be blessed, be a blessing

it makes no sense

Many of you will be thinking that this title could apply to almost anything I post online. But I want to offer it as a different way of looking at things.

There’s a passage in the Bible that says:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These are some of the final words in Paul’s letter the the new Christians in Philippi. They follow the instruction to pray in all circumstances. It’s important not to lose sight of that fact so we’ll turn over the corner of the page here to remind us.

So… back to the passage. What does ‘transcends all human understanding’ mean? For a long time I have thought of it in terms of cognitive ability. In other words the peace is so profound and complex that human beings will never comprehend it.

A second way if looking at it would be to say that the peace is above or beyond human investigations because it’s of God.

But reflecting on my recent experiences has led me to another way of looking at the passage. What if it means, in effect, ‘peace that makes no sense in the circumstances’? Before the internet heresy hunters start lobbing virtual rocks in my direction let me try to explain.

Before, during and after all of my surgical and medical experiences I had an all-pervading sense of peace about everything. Even when I was told that my heart had to be restarted with a shock I felt great peace. The source of the peace was an absolute confidence that God was in control. Whatever happened hecwas with me. I don’t think it’s insignificant either that many people were praying for me.

But in some if the circumstances I experienced the natural human experience would be anxiety, alarm, stress, or upset. It made no sense at all in the circumstances to feel the peace that I did.

It’s important to remember where I turned over the page earlier. Remember I was talking about the context for this passage being in the context of praying in all circumstances? It’s not a scientific formula that adds up the number and variety of prayers to produce the peace.

Prayer is a fundamental part of our relationship with God. The more we involve him in many different aspects of our lives the closer we’ll be to him, the more confident we’ll be in him and the easier it is for us to experience the peace that makes no sense in the circumstances when we experience tough times.

That’s been my experience anyway.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Oh yes… you might be wondering how things are going.

Hi folks. Sorry to have neglected you… this convalescing lark is quite busy. Yes I could have multitasked while doing something else. But I didn’t. No reasons. No excuses. Sorry.

For anyone interested in how I’m doing after the surgery the short answer is that I am making slow and gentle progress. Each day I try to keep mobile and in particular go for a walk outside. Each day I try to extend the distance slightly and aim to get home feeling slightly out of breath but not breathless.

I’ve managed to get out and about. Church on Easter Sunday morning is really special and I was determined to be there. Made it! I’ve also made it to my local Magic Club. I usually feel pretty tired afterwards but it’s good to be doing ‘normal’ things outside the house.

I’m now on a cardiac rehab programme (starts beginning of May) and hope to have a timetable for a phased return to work soon. I’m not rushing back but am keen to have some targets.

I knew this phase would be frustratingly slow. But it’s important to be patient as my body heals. As always I really appreciate all of the messages of support and encouragement and all of your prayers.

Be blessed, be a blessing

progress

Hello my bloggist chums. I’ve had a really positive week as I continue my convalescence following my heart ops. I had an appointment at the Cardiothoracic Centre this week and assumed it was a follow up after my additional unscheduled stay in hospital.

I had a chest x-ray and then was called in for a conversation with one of the surgical team. It felt like everything he had to tell me was good news.

My chest x-ray was completely normal. No problems at all. Yay.

They had reviewed an echo cardiogram that was taken while I was in hospital last time and that had shown that everything was going well. More than that, however, it revealed that my heart, which had been experiencing atrial fibrillation (beating out of sync), was now beating normally again and I would be able to stop the blood thinning tablets after 3 months! Woop.

He told us that the wounds had all healed properly and that I could return to a slightly more normal care regime (not needing clean pyjamas every day). Smile.

He said that he would recommend reducing the pain relief as everything was going well. Slightly scary but progress nonetheless.

Then he stunned us by saying that because of all the progress he was discharging me from the care of the surgical team! In other words, as far as they’re concerned their job with me is finished. I’ll be picked up by a cardiologist and the rehab team but as far as the CTC is concerned I’m well enough. That was so surprising that it took a while to sink in. However. Wooooooooohoooooooooo!

Thank you again for every encouraging thought, card, prayer, word and visit. I feel immensely privileged and grateful to have had so much support and I’m sure it’s contributed to my progress. There’s still a long road ahead. The rehab process is going to be tough. Losing the painkillers is painful. I’m still waiting to be told about when I can resume driving (should know next week at a pacemaker check) which will make a massive difference. I’m going to continue to pace myself but wanted to share the great news with you because you’ve been such a blessing to me.

Be blessed, be a blessing.