Oooooh er Mrs!

I woke up this morning full of cold, bloodshot eyes and red nose. Last nights mascara was somewhere down my cheeks and I could not be bothered to brush my hair. I pulled on my woolly hat, put on my green waterproof dog walking coat that has dog pooh bags hanging out of the pockets (unused I might add) and the remains of the egg that broke in there yesterday. I pull my wellies on  that have a bit of straw and hen pooh attached and cover up my old leggings. Then off I go up the garden to let my girls (hens not children) out. It’s pouring with rain and the wind is blowing a gale.

I get soaked, I grumble and totter back around the house to the Manse front door looking a sight, like some old wifey who has just come in from the byres.

I stop dead at the door and lose all power of speech for a few seconds. The most handsome young man I have seen in years is standing in the rain outside my door. The only word that seems to want to come out of my mouth is “Oooooh!”, but I suppress it and invite him in . As he is is wearing a dog collar I assume this is the Rev’s travelling companion to a Chaplains whatnot. 

At this point our youngest springer spaniel threatens to cover his immaculate suit in dog hair,  so I yell for the Rev. I hide in the kitchen putting the newly laid eggs away, thinking “Why today Lord? why didn’t I at least brush my hair!”.

I get my Rev.organised who is getting his pants in a twist about getting to the airport on time, I point out that it’s 9:15 a.m and the flight leaves after 2pm and they only have to travel for a 2 and a half hour journey to get there.

I see them off ,trying not to stare or drool, O ladies of West Kintyre and Gigha I bet your church attendances have gone up!!! Sigh….. 

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Go sit under a tree!

Image      I had one of “those” days yesterday, I just wanted everyone to go away . I wanted to go and find a tree and sit and be alone. I think I may have just packed a lot of life in over the Christmas /New Year period and I need to collect my thoughts.

Yesterday was a very busy day, starting with the Women’s Study Group, then a Messy Church Planning Meeting over lunch, and remembering to put the heating on for a choir practice  in the evening at the Church, for the forth coming performance in the Spring. Add to that meals for the family and their friends, getting the Manse tidied for the meeting and a splitting headache and you can see that I had taken on too much.

We have had a thriving Womens’ group for 3 years now and we have wrestled with scripture and many subjects and I have marveled at how these women have matured in their faith and the things that they are able to do. Something wasn’t right from the start of the session yesterday, and I felt disconnected. Then as one member piped up ,”Well all religions lead to God don’t they? ” and others nodded in agreement, I sank into my chair  and sighed. This is where group leaders, Pastors, Ministers and the like ,hit a moment of self-pity and think “Why do I do this?”.

I answered them with patience and went home a bit despondent. The Messy Church got planned and a good friend was there, and although I didn’t have time to share with her what had happened ,just her presence was good. ( Good friends don’t need to talk, just be there!) I then had a “run in” with my 16 year old son, which sent me out to choir in a bad mood.

By 9.30pm I just wanted the tree to sit under. Sitting outside in Scotland in the Winter in the dark is likely to give rise to hypothermia ,so I had to retreat to my inner tree, and who was also sitting there…  my very best friend. Have you ever imagined yourself sitting next to Jesus? Would he have a beard? Long hair? Opened toed sandals and a long dress? What would his voice sound like?

I can only tell you that it’s a good place to be, and it caused me to reflect on that group of disciples he had. Now I am in no way comparing myself to Him, but the 12 men he trained and taught often, misunderstood. He even got a bit exasperated at times.  How many things have I not grasped , how many years has it taken me to get to this point and still have enormous doubts at times that I’ve got this right. That is when you have to go and sit under the tree and have a chat with the one who knows.

By the way, this is what those ladies will get next week :

Thanks to http://www.myfishbites.com

All religions lead to God don’t they?

Easy Answer

No this isn’t true! As we said in another Big Questions answer… Imagine you are going to visit your gran in an old people’s home in a nearby city. You probably have a number of options. You could take the car, the bus, the train, maybe even a flight. If you go in a car there are probably different ways you can get there. If you go by train there are different times of trains. But the destination is the same. Some people say that this kind of example shows there are many ways to God which is only sort of true… Ah! But there’s more to our story… When you arrive at where your gran lives, you have to go in through the door as there’s only one way in for security purposes. They don’t want people breaking in. So to get in you have to call and get them to open the door. The destination is your gran. But there is only one way in, only one access point and that is the door. You need someone to open that door to let you in.

So when people say there are many roads to God, they’re right in a sense. You can ‘reach’ God through many ways but to be made ‘right’ with God is through Jesus alone. There is only one way in to God and that is Jesus. The Bible is really clear on this. Only Jesus can be the way because only Jesus had paid the legal price. You can’t buy something legally unless you pay the right amount. The price for you being made right with God was paid by Jesus alone so he alone is the way to get to God.

Advanced Answer

If we look at different religions, we find that their view of God is completely different. Islam for example denies that Jesus is God, believing instead that he was just a good prophet. But the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and that faith in him alone is the way to be made right with God.

When we look at other religions, we find vastly different ways of seeing the world, of seeing who ‘god’ may be and different ways to being made right with God. So for example in some religions like Buddhism believe in reincarnation. This means they believe people come back when they die and become a different type of animal depending on how they lived. Their ultimate aim is not to come back at all but to reach nirvana. The Islamic belief is quite an aggressive one and believes the only way to God is by obeying the Koran and obeying rules of other teachings / hadiths (interpretations of the Koran or Mohammed’s teachings made by a cleric). Whereas Christianity alone teaches God’s unconditional grace – the truth (as described in the Bible book of Ephesians) that we cannot get right with God by ‘earning it’. It is a free gift, found only through believing in Jesus, that we don’t deserve. All we have to do is accept this gift through Jesus. Christianity alone teaches that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Islam accepts Jesus as a prophet but not as important as Mohammed. So you can see there are huge differences between religions. When someone believes in Jesus the Bible tells us we are filled with the Holy Spirit (who is God). No other religion would say this.

You have to accept that Jesus is the only way to God and accept this free gift, or you can choose to reject it. But the God of the Bible is not the same as anyone else’s god.

Actually, Jesus said that in the end times (by this he means the time after he went back to heaven) where many people would claim to be Jesus, many people would claim to be God. He also said there would be many false religions and false teachings. So with great respect to other beliefs, if you believe that Jesus is the truth, you have to accept that other ways to God are not the truth. Jesus said if you’re not for him, you’re against him. There is ultimately no middle ground.

So if the Bible is true that Jesus is the only way to God (which it is!) then Islam cannot be a way to God. Only Jesus is the way to God (as the sinless perfect Son of God), so no other road is possible. People of other faiths may well be genuinely looking for God through their faith, but the only way to God is through Jesus. Jesus is like the ‘gate’ to get into the house of God.

There is a false belief system around that says that everyone will be ‘saved’ – everyone will go to heaven basically. But this isn’t found in the Bible and there are many Bible verses and chapters that show this to be untrue.

Galatians 3.22 confirms all this saying, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

Peter confirmed this truth in the Bible book of Acts (Chapter 4 verse 12), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

In fact when we look back to the ‘Old Testament’ (first half of the Bible), we find that time and again, God said he was the only way to ‘salvation’ (a posh word for being made right with God). We see this in Isaiah 45 and in other chapters in Isaiah. God said there is no other way, no other God but him.

1 John 5.11-12 says this, ‘And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Further Thinking

There are arguments about that people of other religions (for example) are seeking God. Surely if they are seeking the true God it doesn’t matter how they get there? But does this stand up to what the Word of God says? Often God breaks into people’s lives who aren’t seeking God at all – far from it! So ‘seeking God’ doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I can ‘seek’ to find a museum, but unless I go inside the museum through the door, I can’t ‘enter’ the museum. The same is true with being made right with God. There is only one entry point – Jesus. There is only one destination – the father God.

Christians often say that Romans 1 (which talks about all mankind having a conscience and seeing God revealed in creation) shows that God will judge people fairly. You will find more on this on myfishbites. But whatever happens and however Jesus judges at the end of time (we’re really not sure of everything!!) there is no denying that Jesus himself said that he is the way. He did not say he is a way. When Jesus died on the cross, he alone paid the price to pay for mankind’s sins. Any other way of being right with God is therefore impossible. The ‘legal contract’ (if we look at it that way) can only be ‘signed’ by the blood of Jesus. So while people may look for the true God, ultimately (however it works!) only Jesus can be the way. Otherwise there is no purpose to Jesus having come to earth.

Eating Disorderly.

I am trying to lose weight again. I stood on the scales after Christmas and they wheezed and shouted  “Get off!”.

I feel very guilty when I think that I was in the position not less than three years ago ,when my family did not have enough to eat and if there had been such a thing as a food bank I would have bitten off their hand, so to speak.

There are refugees and siege victims all over the world and just remembering this should make me think about what I eat and cause me to shed pounds. When I am shopping I try to say to my self “Buy what you actually need ,not what you’d like.” But supermarkets, including the cheaper ones are places of delight. Bright lights ,nice smells and because we “eat with our eyes” we are cleverly coerced into buying things we don’t need.

I seldom have time to read food labels as the Rev. hates shopping of any kind, but when I was getting out his healthy box of high fibre bran this morning I noticed that apart from wheat the other main ingredient was sugar.

When life gets stressful, as it does from time to time, whatever kind of life you lead, food can be a comfort, controlling this is very hard. I am sick of overweight people being vilified on T.V. It is other underlying problems that need to be addressed first. Unemployment, poor housing, marriage difficulties, illness within families and a plethora  of other emotional problems which can dog people on all sides. Healthy food is expensive, chips are cheap.

In my case, the food is there, and I grab something without thinking and rush on to the next task, meeting or whatever. So I have had to stand back, I no longer have children to transport to school by cycle, the Rev. does the foul weather dog walking so I need to get  some exercise again. He of course is fitness mad, running, swimming, cycling and Scottish country dancing with a bit of open water swimming and aerobic exercise thrown in.When he’s not doing it ,he is watching it at every spare moment on his Hudl. This has a bad affect on me, don’t ask me why, but it drives me crazy and I find that I stubbornly refuse to join in. I have very bad memories of PE at school, I was always the one left waiting to be picked for a team, my reports said “Jennifer lacks all coordination.” I have often wondered if I have some form of Dyspraxia!

There is probably a psychological bit of reasoning for this that no doubt my psychologist friends will inform me.

What ever my excuses I need to act, so as the NHS suggest that we all walk 10,000 steps a day, which includes walking around the house I have worked out how far 5,000 take me up the Glen. It’s about 3 miles, so that is 6 all together. I don’t do it every day, but as often as possible. as I haven’t got the time or the inclination to count calories I keep a food diary, that in itself is a deterrent if you are honest enough to write down what you actually consume. As the weather improves, (will it ever stop raining?), I shall get out old Betsy ,my bike, she is not such a friend since she threw me off and broke my foot, I need to build up my confidence again and get going.

There is only one draw back, all that exercise makes me hungry!Image

 

Planks,Pine trees and People

It seems usual to relate on one’s blog the kind of Christmas that you experienced, but I won’t bore you with that. It was good as working Christmases go.As we are not yet out of the Christmas Season I have been trying to think what to write, so as nothing mind-shattering has occurred I will post a little of my Christmas Eve sermon. Christmas Eve here was extremely stormy and the entrance to the church flooded and as our Session Clerk commented, he could not part the Red Sea so he had to put planks across the water and haul us into the Church Yard one by one. (Oooh I just had thoughts about the ark and 2 by 2 jokes but I’ll spare you those).

I was surprised so many turned out on a night like that but was pleased to see them. Half way through the service I asked who had seen the John Lewis Christmas Advert. Hardly anyone it seemed. (They are obviously BBC watchers!)

Here is the advert :http://youtu.be/XqWig2WARb0

Second half of my Sermon (the shortened version) 

Has anyone seen the John Lewis advert, “The Bear and the Hare”? The Bear has never seen Christmas, because he hibernates during the winter.  With the help of some birds and other animals the hare decorates a tree and with fruit and berries and (somehow) they all have gifts to unwrap. The hare is sad because the Bear is sleeping in his cave and missing everything, so he takes the bear a gift.The bear turns up and sees the beautiful tree. As the cartoon finishes we see why the bear got there in time. The hare had given him an alarm clock.

We have been hearing the Christmas story every year, probably since we were children. But do we “see” it? We know it of by heart, baby, innkeeper, no room, angels, shepherds, wise men and a donkey. All done.

This year saw the birth of a new Prince. We could hardly have missed the signs. It was in every newspaper, every news bulletin and glossy magazine. We knew every detail. Private hospital, designer clothes, all mod cons, reporters and camera men everywhere. We were glad that everything went well , but suffered a bit from information overload.The whole world knew that a new Prince had arrived and that one day he could be King.

What signs did God give to signify His coming to earth?

The prophet Micah prophesied about 700 years before Jesus was born:that he would be born in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Judah

Your family is almost too small to count,

but the “Ruler of Israel” will come from you to rule for me.

Isaiah prophesied  the names of Jesus and much much more around the same time. He said: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But  somehow the world STILL missed God’s signs and didn’t “SEE” Christmas.

The Jews wanted a King to deliver them from Roman oppression, they wanted a sign, but Not a baby lying in a manger.

What if all you knew about Christmas was that Jesus was laid in a manger?

Firstly, we would know that he was a baby.

If God had not been born into our world, he could not have died for us ,been raised from the dead and saved us. We could not do it for ourselves.

Secondly, we know that he was wrapped in swaddling bands. When my children were small I wrapped them in a cotton sheet to stop them wriggling too much, my grandson due any day now will most likely be left free as modern thought promotes.But this verse tells us that Jesus came into the world bound and helpless and also left it that way. He was bound so that we might be free.

The third thing we know is that he was sleeping in a manger.

In 1st century stables they were quite often circular hollowed out stones.

The baby lying in a feeding trough is Gods sign to us all. The ruler and creator of the Universe had come to us in the most unlikely way.

BUT  OUR GOD IS A GOD OF SURPRISES!

If God has been working in your life for many years, and you have followed along after him, you would probably agree with me that quite often we don’t always understand how he does thing! He does what he wants and doesn’t ask for our advice.

If this was all that we knew about the Christmas Story we would now have a little bit of an idea of what God did ,to come and live among us and just how simple the Christmas Story is.

“If you are looking for Jesus, go outside to the shed and find the dirtiest part, where the boards need repairing, the floor is covered in dirt and the air smells of manure.”  There you will look into the manger and see the Son of God.

The world didn’t see Christmas.

Why?

Because faith is a gift from God. You may have heard the Christmas story hundreds of times, watched school nativities, heard carols but never actually met with God.

This Christmas look into the manger again. It is a most unlikely way for God to enter our world.  But as strange as it seems, God had a reason “This day YOUR SAVIOUR was born.” Beyond the stable see the cross, this baby was born because God loves us, and would bring us forgiveness and eternal life.

Lilly Allans lovely song that accompanies The Bear and the Hare” advertisement  has these words:

“Oh simple thing where have you gone

I’m getting old and I need something to rely on

And if you have a minute why don’t we go

Talk about it somewhere only we know?

This could be the end of everything

So why don’t we go

Somewhere only we know?

Tonight let us go to a place that only we and the Lord Jesus Christ know and talk about it, because God has provided us with an alarm clock. It’s time to wake up and see that He has given us the ultimate gift….himself.

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Hope you had a Happy one ,I’m not looking forward to getting the tree out with all those needles dropping and blocking up the hoover, but it’s time to look forwards and keep on going.What happened last year whether good or bad can’t be changed. A whole new blank year stretches out before us, lets fill it with some good stuff!