“The Speedo Drive & Special Relationships”

I like my local garage. They are reasonably-priced, friendly and flexible. However, neither they nor VW themselves could find a part needed to fix my Golf’s speedo cable. Research on eBay led me to the item in the picture. Ordered on Friday, delivered on Saturday and fitted on Monday. Result.

Solutions are not always in the hands of one specialist. We need many sources for our many challenges in the Christian life. Without doubt it is true that, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV). We need to be sure we do not just have a chattering crowd around us, but people who stick with us through thick and thin.

On the other hand it is possible to focus on one person at the exclusion of all others in a way that limits our growth. As another proverb says, “for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:6 NIV). When one person cannot help or, worse, offers advice beyond their experience we can feel let down and even bitter. But when we acknowledge that all of us are limited and find other people to help, then new air is breathed into the special relationships. It takes the pressure off.

Do you have a body of trusted advisors? Years ago I read an article that significantly influenced my thinking. The author suggested we all need a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy in our lives. Someone to call us higher, someone to be our best buddy, and someone to train.  I’d say we need all three, and maybe more. You won’t find them on eBay, but they are out there!

Malcolm Cox

VIPs and 1 Peter 2

I had a terrific weekend in Manchester. The sun shone, Man U won and church was fun. I felt special. Old friends slapped me on the back, I found a box of chocolates on my pillow, and food was brought to me at regular intervals. I think I’ll come back again. I also learned something about feeling special.

The Soboyejo family welcomed us to church this morning, and their older son led a prayer. They spoke of a recent holiday abroad. Lo and behold if a family from our congregation in London was not in the same resort. They recognised one another from a father-and-son retreat. As it happens the other family had a timeshare apartment and had “VIP” status on the resort. The Soboyejo family were able to take part in all the sports, leisure facilities, spa treatments and other activities – for free!  How grateful they were to their friends. But even more so because it was unexpected.

Their point in sharing this story was to remind us that we are all VIPs as far as God is concerned. We may not deserve it, but that is how God decides to treat us. Peter says we are “God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV11-GK). What does this mean and how can we keep that feeling?  Here are three ideas,

  1. Remember you are chosen. “you are a chosen people” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV11-GK). God makes no mistakes. He don’t make junk. You are loved – even if you do not believe it, feel it, or understand it. Remember, He chose us because it is His desire to do so. Moses reminds the Israelites that it was “Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength” (Deuteronomy 4:37 NIV11-GK). It had nothing to do with their righteousness, and the same is true for us. 
  2. Remember you are a royal priesthood. “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV11-GK). Not just royal – but a priest. Not just a priest – but royal! There were no legitimate king-priests in the old covenant (perhaps David comes closest), but Jesus is both. We are part of his company and therefore share in his royalty and his priestly function. We carry his majesty for the world to see and make spiritual sacrifices (“in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” Romans 12:1 NIV11-GK). Members of the Royal family do not doubt their identity, and those appointed priests know it is a privileged position.
  3. Remember you are a holy nation. “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV11-GK). We are not alone. We are not just VIPs, we are part of a VIN (Very Important Nation). Just like God chose the Israelites, “you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” (Deuteronomy 14:2 NIV11-GK), He has also chosen the followers of Jesus Christ to be a nation so that we can, together, “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV11-GK). 

Do you feel like a VIP to God? It is a privilege and not deserved, but it is real. The less entitled I feel, the more I enjoy the ride of the Christian life. Just as the Soboyejos did not expect to be treated like VIPs, it comes as a great surprise and an even greater joy to be chosen by God.

Malcolm Cox

“Sofa So Good”, Grumpiness and Blessings

We are fans of freecycle. What is freecycle, and how does it work? You give stuff away you don’t want and pick up stuff other people do not want – for free. Our son’s bed is broken and we are planning to move house, so did not want to buy a bed that might not fit in the new home. Solution? Source a freecycle bed.

What you need to know is that my wife has a special hot-line to God. Just about anything she prays for she gets (for a fee she will pray for whatever you want – just kidding).  She prayed, searched freecycle and turned up a fabulous Lewis’ sofabed only walking distance from our house. We popped over on Monday night to pick it up, but then the adventure began.

First – it would not fit in the car. No arrangement of bungees, seats or doors worked. Second – it was too heavy to carry. Third – the weather was freezing! I zipped home to get a piano mover from the shed. Of course it was at the far back corner of the shed buried under boxes, compost and rat poison.

I drove the car home with the cushions in the back. My son and wife balanced the sofa on its end on the piano mover and wheeled it up the street. The squeaky wheels caused many a curtain to twitch. By the time we got the sofabed into the house I was grumpy. Very grumpy.

What is it that makes us grumpy when we have so many free and wonderful things to enjoy and be grateful for? Let’s take a short lesson from the 12 men Moses sent into Canaan and the reaction of the Israelites. What was the land like? “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27 NIV). A beautiful and fruitful land. But ….

  1. Focus on Problems. Some of the spies were more focussed on the problems than the promises. There might be truth in the fact that “they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:31 NIV), but they even exaggerate the matter, “The land we explored devours those living in it.” (Numbers 13:32 NIV). It hadn’t devoured them had it? They got back safe and sound! When we focus on the problems we fear things that will not come to pass.
  2. Forget God’s Goodness. The response of the Israelites is to raise the fear level, and thereby to forget God’s goodness. They begin to see God as malevolent instead of loving. God’s nature gets redefined by their fear, “Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:3 NIV). When we start complaining about the hand God has dealt us we are forgetting how much worse off we were in the past.
Have you got your eyes fixed on the problems or the prize? Let’s take a leaf out of Jesus’ book, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross,” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV11-GK). Have you forgotten where you have come from? Facing our fears with God is far preferable to running from them. We will only find new fears wherever we run to anyway – and we’ll miss out on the promises too. A double tragedy.
Sofa-induced grumpiness has been repented of. It’s red, comfy and …..free!
Malcolm Cox

Car Insurance & Reversing a Spiritual Rut

The Library at Ephesus

The car insurance was up for renewal yesterday. Nice surprise – the renewal was less than last year’s premium (thank you, Aviva). Every year I have paid more. Reversing the spiral of higher renewals is a relief.

Much time and energy is spent attempting to reverse the loss of hair, the recession, the weight gain. When successful, reversing a bad trend brings great joy. How can we reverse when we’re in a spiritual rut? Here are three ideas:

  1. Remember. It pays to reflect on times when we were filled with spiritual energy. When was the last time you were carried along by a sense of hope? What about when you lived with the presence of God as a very clear reality?  We have all had those times.  Take some time in prayer to meditate on that experience. Re-live the feelings, the thoughts, the events. Jesus wants to help the Ephesian church gain a sense of perspective, and so he asks them to do as I have suggested above, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:4–5 NIV11-GK)
  2. Repent. Someone once said to me, “If you’re not zealous for God, find something to repent of!”. It was said half in jest, but there is sense in the statement. A lack of spiritual fervour is not always about sin, but always about a change of heart and mind. Jesus knows that the Ephesian church can be a place of faith and joy once again, but a change is needed, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5 NIV11-GK). Repentance is not a bad thing, nor a guilt-trip. It is a decision opening the door to a more intimate relationship with God. Why not repent today?
  3. Repeat. The final act to jump out of the rut is to go back to the thinking and the deeds that brought about a closer relationship with God in the past. “Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5 NIV11-GK). What have you stopped doing that you used to do?  Pray, read the Bible, share your faith, confess sins, serve the needy, be generous with your money … something else? The deeds earn us nothing, they are the outcome of repentance. But feelings or words without deeds are empty.

So there you have it. Three steps to a rut-less life. Do you need to act on one or all three today? It is vital to our spiritual survival to go through this process from time to time, “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5 NIV11-GK)

Malcolm Cox