blinking icons

If you are a PC user (Windows 7) you will know that in the bottom right hand corner of the screen is usually a set of small icons that indicate the main open programs that are running at the time. Most of them are fairly static. Occasionally you get I get a little blue circle on an icon to indicate that it is busy doing something in the background. Sometimes (and usually causing alarm) there is a little red cross on the flag, indicating that something important needs attention.

But the disappointing thing is that the icon that indicates that I am connected to the internet is static. It’s just a little picture of a computer that is connected to something. It used to be the case (in an earlier version of Windows) that there would be two little computers in the icon and the screen on each one would flash when the computer was sending or receiving information. I liked that, especially when it got frantic! That showed me that something was happening. This morning I noticed a little icon going frantic. It is the icon for Google Sync, which synchronises my calendar on this computer with the calendar on my tablet. There were arrows going up and down like mad things, illustrating that the program was doing its job and syncing. But this does not mean that the static icons are indicating that the other programs aren’t doing anything. In fact I don’t want the anti-virus icon to start flashing alerts, that would be really alarming!

As a Minister it is sometimes tempting to think that God’s only at work in the people in whom it is obvious that he is at work. When we can see someone who is actively putting their faith into action (most obviously seen in Baptist churches through Believer’s Baptism) we rejoice. But that does not mean that God is not at work in the lives of the people who are gently, quietly, surreptitiously going about their lives. It seems to me that God more often works through the unspectacular than the spectacular.

That’s one of the many ways in which he surprises us. It’s along the lines of Jesus saying that greatness is seen in service. He spoke of seeds germinating unseen in the ground before bearing fruit. He spoke of hidden treasure and of yeast working unseen yet permeating the dough. He entered this world hidden away in a stable. He achieved his aims by dying.

Don’t envy those in whom spectacular things are happening. Don’t think that God is not working through you and in you simply because your experience seems more mundane. God may well be at work under the surface, behind the scenes, without frantic action on your icon. Be faithful, be consistent, be a good free sample of Jesus, and you are doing all that he wants!

Be blessed, be a blessing

A bloke was struggling with his new computer, so he called the help desk.

The man on the phone started to talk in computer jargon, talking about mice, icons, RAM and the like, which confused the poor bloke further.

“Listen,” the bloke politely said, “This is all going over my head. Please explain what I should do as if I were a four-year-old.”

“Okay,” the computer technician replied. “Son, could you please put your mum on the phone?”

spelunking* the Corinthians

In our evening services at the moment we are working our way through 1 Corinthians. It’sUnderground a bit like exploring a series of caves. It’s dark and murky in places but you keep coming into new chambers in which there are spectacular formations that take your breath away.

Sunday evening is no exception. We will be looking at chapter 5, in which Paul takes the church to task not simply for tolerating immorality but apparently embracing it. There’s a lot of murk, but in the midst is a reminder that we are sincere and true followers of Jesus in a dark and murky world.

This is a tension with which we all live. We know God’s standards, yet we fail to reach them. Just when it feels like we are doing well we find a new way to fall short of those standards, or slip back into old habits. That can be true of churches as well as individuals.

To the church in Corinth Paul warns of the effect of yeast. Yeast, in most biblical illustrations, is something small and insidious that permeates and affects the whole person or church. Yeast, for us, are the little things that have the potential to blow up into something massive.

The church that embraces immorality will find its message being ignored by those who hear it because they are being hypocritical.

The church that embraces greed will find that people write it off as ‘only after our money’.

The church that embraces pride will find that people consider that they look down their noses at others.

The church that is riddled with divisions will find that people are not interested – they have more than enough conflict in their lives already.

And the same is true of us as individuals.

Here lies the tension. We know that (whether a church or individuals) we are not perfect. We know that we fall short of God’s standards. We know that people who come in will find themselves feeling very uncomfortable if we are ‘holier than thou’.

How do we create church / be believers who are intolerant of our own sin while not condemning the sin of others, while being open and welcoming to all, while being free samples of Jesus in his world?

Perhaps the answer lies in being people who draw in the sand rather than throw stones. People who, while we recognise our own sin and wrestle with it, refuse to transfer our feelings about it onto others. People who will not condemn, but don’t condone.

Thank God he has given us his Spirit to help us!

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

A party of Methodist ministers was attending an Annual Conference at a private countryside resort. Several of them set off to explore the area, and presently they came upon an old bridge that crossed a quiet pond.

Unfortunately, they didn’t notice a sign declaring the bridge to be unsafe. As they crossed it, the caretaker came running after them. “Hey! You there! Get off that bridge!” he protested.

“It’s all right,” declared one of the ministers, “we are in this resort with permission. We’re Methodists from the Conference.”

“I’m not worried about THAT,” replied the caretaker. “But if you don’t get off that bridge, you’ll all be BAPTISTS!”


*spelunking is the American word for potholing or caving