Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas vid

I was sent the below link today as a thank you for a small gift I made to Save The Children. It shows a beautiful baby who probably would have died without his mother having had support from the charity.

It's a happy moment and a poignant one. Of course, Jesus is not the only special baby to remember this time of year.

Please do add a gift to a charity to your list of presents to buy this year. Choose whichever charity you like or is easiest and don't feel guilty that you haven't given more, just please, make a gift somewhere it really counts.

God bless you all, merry Christmas, and a happy new year.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Blues

I love Christmas. I expect most of you do too. Sometimes I think it's the only thing that keeps us going as we head full-speed into Winter! But do you ever get that niggling feeling around Christmas-time that something just isn't right?

I'm not talking about the commercialisation of Christmas (I could do, but who can argue with those coke adverts anyway?), I'm talking about that sinking feeling that maybe you're not quite as happy as you should be...

We do generally expect to be happy at Christmas. We're off work, we've spent a lot of time and money making everything festive and pleasant and we're looking forward to a celebration. But for whatever reason, that expectation or that pressure to 'be joyful' can sometimes get to you.

I wonder what your reasons might be for having that niggling, low feeling this year. Maybe it's the absence of a loved one, or having Christmas in a different place. Maybe it's that a few days of Christmas can't quite block out the difficulty in the rest of your life. Or maybe it's just the fact that as an adult, it's never quite as euphoric as you remember it in your childhood!

Really Christmas is a celebration of God coming to Earth. So if Christmas is difficult for you, then perhaps you can just pick out 1 or 2 things in all the Christmassy chaos as a reminder that, because you will always be loved by God, you still have hope and you can still carry on. A candle in the dark – a small but definite symbol of hope in dark times. Children enjoying their presents - a sure reminder that there is still happiness and innocence and good in life.

We believe there will always be hope and goodness in the world because Jesus came to Earth and his spirit is still with us, a spirit of good, if we care to listen to it. When life is hard, remember God, the one constant good, the one person who the world can never take away from you.

Even if everything else seems to offer small consolation or cheer at Christmas, the one hope you can depend on forever, is Christ.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Thought Police

What are you thinking right now?

Whatever it is, is it any of my business? And can you help how you feel anyway?

In films and on TV we get told a lot, “You can't help how you feel,” particularly when it comes to falling in and out of love. But if that were true, why did Jesus make the following statement?

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28).

Jesus seems to say, thinking about sinning is tantamount to actually doing it. Now, let me be careful here, some thoughts are very difficult to control, and not acting on sinful thoughts is better than acting on them! But what Jesus was saying was, sin starts in the mind, and we are not powerless to prevent it.

All too often we are saying to God ,“Lord, I feel like this... help me.” When perhaps we should be saying to ourselves, “Was this really inevitable? Do I need to be a bit more proactive in stopping this happening instead of just expecting God to take it away?”

  • “I'm feeling unsatisfied with my life,” (Spending too much time thinking about what other people have and you don't?)

  • “I'm feeling rebellious,” (Spending too much time wishing life was more exciting but never actually planning anything fun?)

  • “I'm feeling unsatisfied in my marriage,” (How many romantic movies/lingerie adverts/unrealistic sex scenes have you ingested in the last week? Now compare that to how much quality time you've spent just investing in your partner...)

These are just a couple of very simple examples, but there is an important principle at stake here. Sometimes we all have to analyse the causes of our feelings and consider prayerfully how we should address them.

Jesus goes on to say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

He's deadly serious about not indulging the things that cause us to have sinful, wandering thoughts. Beware, sometimes (like our eyes), our unhelpful trains of thought are things we are fond of or have got comfortable with, things we didn't realise were leading us astray. They could be old memories, 'harmless' dreams, unfulfilled aspirations - stop hankering after a life you don't have and protect the one that you do.

Remember: Unhelpful feelings are natural in a fallen world, but it doesn't mean you can't recognise them, pray through them, cut them off at the root and be free of them.