The Toast Trap and Dangerous Safe Places

We have a mouse. Several. Not pets, but uninvited guests. They arrived a few weeks ago and nothing we have done (traps, poison etc.) has been effective so far.

This morning I made toast for breakfast. Two slices of bread dropped into the toaster and on went the kettle for an accompanying cup of tea. A strange aroma brought me back to the toaster. Rather like burning human hair, I thought. Somewhat alarmed I turned off the toaster, removed the bread and discovered two baby mice barbecuing nicely on the wire mesh inside. Both dead. The toast went onto the bird feeder for their breakfast instead of mine.

The toaster looked like a heaven-sent bonanza to the mice. What’s not to like? I can imagine baby mouse 1 reporting the find to baby mouse 2…..

“Come and see! I’ve found the perfect place for dinner tonight. It’s almost as if someone knew how much we love breadcrumbs and stored them for us. Everything looks delicious and nutritious!”   

Both mice entered a place that looked safe to them, but it hid a deadly secret called – electricity. My guess is that the mice were electrocuted long before I turned on the toaster. The danger was invisible, but very real.

How similar this is to the way sin works. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12–13 NIV11-GK)

A Christian begins their new life with a soft heart and a tender conscience. Keeping things this way is possible, but takes focussed attention. What is God’s plan for us? At least in part, the plan is for us to be watchmen and watch-women for one another.  The mice had no hope of anyone warning them because…well…they are mice. But we are different. We need each other to make sure “we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:14 NIV11-GK)

Who is keeping you out of the spiritual toaster?

Malcolm Cox

Mini Eggs & a Two-Year Delay

The door bell rang this morning – nothing unusual in that. Postie handed over three bags held together with elastic bands – interesting. Opening them revealed seven packs of ink jet cartridges, and Cadbury mini eggs – intriguing. A question jostled for attention in the back of my mind. Did I order these cartridges?

The invoice was dated 8th August 2011 – confusing! A phone call  confirmed I ordered them two years ago. Mr Customer Service had no answer as to why it had taken so long for the cartridges to arrive. Fortunately they are compatible with my printer, and the eggs tasted great – so I decided to keep them. Well, I decided to keep the cartridges, but eat the chocolate eggs!

The notion of delay is not delightful these days. My favoured online shopping web site provides despatch details, anticipated delivery dates and even, on some items, up-to-the-minute progress if so desired. While this can be useful, it can also be a problem. If we do not receive what we expect when we expect it, all kinds of demons are released to torment the soul.

Do we treat God like this? “God, I prayed for a …….., and you still haven’t given me one!” (insert ‘job’, ‘spouse’, ‘child’, etc. as appropriate). When He delays something it is for a good reason. Let us not fret when desires are not met. Instead, let us take heart from God’s patience. He delayed judgment so that you and I could be saved, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV11-GK)

Not only that, but He is preparing a harvest to come at just the right time, and so we are called to continue our faithful service in anticipation of it, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV11-GK)

Are you frustrated at a Godly delay? Hang on, be patient, don’t give up. Not only will all promises of God be delivered at the right time, but you might get a bonus chocolate egg thrown in too!

Malcolm Cox

Dog Waste Bins & John the Baptist

I take photographs of dog waste bins. A strange hobby? Actually it’s a public service. Let me explain.

I like to take my dog for walks in new places now and again. But when that happens I do not know where the dog mess bins are. Of course, there’s an App for that! It’s called DoggyDooDar (www.facebook.com/Doggydoodar).

A map reveals your own location and that of the nearest bin. However, the map is far from complete, so the App asks users to take photographs of any bins they come across and send them in. Once uploaded they are added to the map, thus helping future users.

Owners are not left carrying around warm bags of their dog’s ‘presents’ until they get home.

Every time I take and upload a photograph I feel good. Someone else will be able to locate a source of help.

As a Christian, we’re in the same business. Not taking photos of dog mess bins, but providing people with access to something they need, or rather, someone they need – Jesus. John the Baptist understood this. He was a ‘pointer’, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look,…” (John 1:29 NIV11-GK).

And more than simply a ‘pointer’, but also a describer, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

As well as a describer, John was a provider, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” (John 1:35–37 NIV11-GK). He provided disciples for Jesus.

John points to Jesus, describes his purpose and identity, and then provides followers for him. There is no indication he was jealous, but seemed happy for his own disciples to leave and become attached to Jesus. We can learn a lot from this example.

  1. Christians are ‘pointers’ – we are calling people to look at Jesus instead of us, or Christian history, traditions, or the church. 
  2. Christians are describers – it is important we are able to tell others who Jesus is without using religious jargon. 
  3. Christians are providers – we are here to provide disciples for Jesus, not ourselves. People we point to Jesus are to become his disciples, not ours.

Can you grow as a pointer, describer and provider?

Malcolm Cox

“Sacred Secret Shed”. Spiritual benefits of solitude.

I had a hideaway when I was small. Actually… several. Places where the world was distant, I felt safe and had space to think and feel. The first I can remember was under a bridge. The second was a spot in some local woods. Others followed, but all had one thing in common – they were outside.

I was reminded of this when coming across the shelter pictured to the left. It was deep in the woods in a favourite dog-walking area. Someone has taken considerable effort to put it together. I know not what they use it for, be it innocent or nefarious, but I can relate to the need for a place of solitude.

Jesus would also relate. He went outside to pray, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11-GK). And he clearly was not standing just outside the back door, “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”” (Mark 1:36–37 NIV11-GK). The Bible makes it clear this was not a one-off, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15–16 NIV11-GK).

Why is it important to get away and outside? I suggest at least two reasons:

  1. Seeing the Bigger Picture. Once outside our temporary material prisons (house, work, college etc.) we remember that God is about more than our small world. Trees older than buildings, birds singing more beautifully than pop divas, and stars shining more elegantly than streetlights remind us we have a creator God who sustains a universe of immense and unimaginable complexity. A glimpse of the big picture helps moderate our anxiety. 
  2. Dissolving Distractions. Once outside we are no longer confronted with distractions. The chores, television schedule and email inbox are placed in proper perspective. Nothing is more important than connecting with the divine. Turn off the mobile phone – it will help your prayer life more than a visitation from Gabriel.
Jesus did not suffer from email overload or mobile phone mania. But he did have crowds of people insisting he heal and help them. If Jesus needed solitude so do we. He might not have had a shed in the woods, but he found somewhere safe where he could reconnect with the eternal. Why not make a date with a ‘shed in the woods’ for your next prayer time?
Malcolm Cox