LIFELINES - SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Relating the Words of Life to daily life

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 Stubborn Situations

Some people collect stamps or butterflies. I'm collecting Telephone Boxes - or at least photographs of Telephone Boxes. Odd? I know, but it's for a collage.
 
Telephone Boxes have a particular significance for me, though. Once when I was coming out of a Telephone Box at a Christian Family Camp, God spoke to me very clearly.
 
I was in one of those situations where you can't see how things could possibly work out in a positive way and this is what I heard: Hold my Word against your adverse circumstances.  Your circumstances will crumble and my Word will prevail.
 
Although that was a specific instruction for a specific situation, it is also a timeless truth. God's Word is eternal. Psalm 119 says it is forever fixed in the firmament. Our circumstances are earthly, therefore they are, as one writer put it, subject to change.
 
The key, though, is in the "holding" part. Some situations are stubborn and it takes perseverance to see them come in line with God's purposes. Too often, if we don't see things change immediately we are tempted to give in.
 
One translation of the story of the woman with the flow of blood really helped me grasp this. It says, "For she kept on saying: if only I may touch his clothes I will be healed."
 
We have to keep on saying God's Word if we want to see our adverse circumstances turn. I did that, as God instructed me coming out of the Telephone Box and within a few months things had resolved.


 

 

Click on Arrow for more detailsDon't Fret

A little while ago, Katie and I went for some mother-daughter time to a coffee shop in the older part of the Livingston Centre. Well, that was an experience! If the young lady serving us could do anything to help us ... she certainly didn't do it. I had to use all my powers of negotiation to get us the four items we wanted, problem solve a way of paying for it, since their machine had broken, all the while coping with the girl  grunting and complaining.

Afterwards I went back to the counter and gave the girl a tip - and no, it wasn't, "Get a job you like." I gave her a financial tip and thanked her with the biggest smile I could muster.

Outside, I explained to Katie: No, that girl didn't deserve a tip, but maybe she benefited from someone helping her feel valuable in her job and as a person. At least we were able to act like Jesus and be good to someone else.

What was the alternative to what we did? We could have spent our time fretting about the poor service, wearing ourselves out with our annoyance and losing our peace.

The Bible says (Psalm 37v8): Do not fret. It tends only to evil.

Fretting is when we mentally re-hash a situation which,  in most cases, we can't change. We can't change or control the behaviour of others. We can only control how we respond to their behaviour. But when we fret, we experience the "evil" results of mental and emotional exhaustion and sometimes the development of bad attitudes.

We won't be going back to that coffee shop because we needed a relaxing time together and didn’t get it. We did, however, avoid the trap of fretting, and maybe that young lady got a blessing out of it too.

Click on Arrow for more detailsThe Lifeskill of Forgiveness

Before we started the Church I taught English and Social Education in the local High School.

Recently I noticed that "Social Ed" had been re-marketed with a snappier little title: Lifeskills, so I asked my resident Highschooler, "What do they teach you in Lifeskills?"
"Nothing useful," came the terse reply.

I probed again, "Do they teach you about forgiveness?"

She looked at me as if I had asked her if they were taught how to mend bagpipes and replied even more emphatically, "I SAID, nothing useful."

Well Katie may not have recognised the value of some of the other lifeskills she was being taught but she clearly recognised the importance of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is an essential. It is the heart of the gospel: recognising and receiving the forgiveness bought for us by Jesus on the cross and giving it freely to others.

We may be able to "get through" life in a barely functional sort of way if we don't learn to walk in forgiveness, but I guarantee we won't have the relationship with God or others that we were intended to have.

Even more seriously, the result of not forgiving: bitterness, can so seriously poison our lives that we end up walking away from the love of God and the love of others altogether.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Bitterness is like acid; it destroys the container that holds it.  "Do we really want to be that container?

Whatever age we are, let's do ourselves a favour and learn the Godly Lifeskill of walking in forgiveness.
 

Click on Arrow for more detailsThe Importance of Flexibility

My 90 year old Aunt recently accomplished a feat previously thought impossible for a woman pushing a shopping trolley. She walked round every aisle in Morrisons Supermarket without buying a single thing!

No, it wasn't a tremendous display of self- control. It was just plain old stubbornness. She wanted to let my sister know that she was not happy about being taken to a different Supermarket than the one she normally used.

Stubbornness is when we insist on doing things our way. It is the refusal to be flexible in our thinking or behaviour. In 1 Samuel 15, God compares it with iniquity and idolatry. At its most basic, stubbornness is idolatry of our own opinion or our own way of doing things.

This is why it's so important to stay flexible in our thinking and attitudes. Flexible people are a whole lot easier to be around than stubborn people and flexible people are ready to change direction when God indicates that it's necessary.

Some Church historians believe that whole denominations have run aground through stubbornness and lack of flexibility.

With stakes so high, let's commit to dealing with stubbornness and seek to be as flexible as we can.
 

Click on Arrow for more detailsLiving Letters

One of my favourite pastimes when I am in a Bookstore is looking out for quirky book titles. My favourite still has to be, "How to Avoid Huge Ships."

A while ago an author friend of mine wrote a book called, "Enhancing Your Personality for God." It wasn't the snappiest book title I had ever heard, but, at the time I remember thinking that there really was a need for a book on that subject.

The Apostle Paul said that we ourselves should be Living Letters that could be read by outsiders, pointing them to Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3 v 2), but instead, many of us are off-putting to people outside the church because we don't deal with the scratchy bits of our personalities.

It's all too easy to say, "I'm just cranky/ tactless/introverted by nature" - and in fact, that's probably true, but where that tendency causes us to go against what God says, we really need to ask his help to change.

Anyone who knows me knows that I grew up in a family that was off the scale in terms of tactlessness but when I began to read things like Proverbs 31, "On her tongue is the law of kindness, "I couldn't just keep on saying whatever I felt like saying. In fact I began to say that particular verse to myself every time I was tempted to shoot off at the mouth and it HAS made a difference.

The discipline of working on our personalities is not a lot of fun, but as Hebrews 12 v 11 says, "Afterwards it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness." I think that's worth it.

Click on Arrow for more detailsLessons from a climbing frame

Most parents will have experienced this one: Your three year old has climbed much higher on a climbing frame than you would have liked and you don't know whether to rescue them or let them work out how to get back down by themselves.
 
I was in exactly that situation in Jersey once with another parent who just happened to have  finished a postgrad course in Early Years Education. He told me (very calmly) that statistics showed that more accidents happened when parents intervened in these situations than when they left the child alone.
                
The situation then became a massive test of resolve as I held myself back in fear, watching Ben shakily come back down to ground level.
 
I've thought about this situation many times over the years but almost never in play areas.
 
Mostly it's been in situations involving the scrapes people get into with other people.  I'm a fixer so I'm wired to want to intervene to help people solve their problems, but sometimes God reminds me of that playground in Jersey and I realise I could be in danger of causing more of a mess by my intervention.
 
One of the things I love about Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18 is that he gives us such practical principles for resolving relationship issues without making a difficult situation worse.
 
The first principle is that the parties should be allowed to "get down off the climbing frame” by themselves.  No one else should really be involved until the two people with the problem have a chance to sort it out themselves.
 
Even if that doesn't work and other people do need to get involved, Jesus shows it should be done very carefully too.  The basic message is - the fewer people involved, the better.
 
I wonder how many relationships could actually be preserved if people just put into practice these principles of Jesus, not in a legalistic or formalistic way, but simply respecting his wisdom.
 

Click on Arrow for more detailsBrainwashing

I was one of those baby Christians who always seemed to get it wrong. It took a while for me to realise that I shouldn't just slap people if they insulted me about being a Christian. A minister had told me to start reading the Bible so naturally I started at Genesis 1 and hadn't got as far as the bits about not slapping people.

I hadn't got as far as not returning insults for insults either. In those days there weren't many evangelical Christians in our area and we were often classed with cults like the Moonies. Sometimes people would say things like, "You're brainwashed," and if I was feeling brave enough I would say, "Yes, and your brain could do with a good wash!"

I hope most people will guess that I finally got to the Sermon on the Mount in my Daily Readings and made a few changes, but I often think about the brainwashing thing.

Unless we stay in our homes, never switch on a TV, radio or computer and avoid books and newspapers, we are all bombarded by unclean or unhelpful material for most of the day. How do we keep our hearts and minds pure and stop our hearts from being hardened? Obviously we need to "watch what we watch," but what about the things that are unavoidable?

And this is where the brainwashing thing comes back in. One of the reasons I recommend reading the Bible last thing at night or certainly reading it carefully every day is because of what Paul calls in Ephesians and Titus, "The washing of water by the Word."

God's Word has the power to cleanse us from the spiritual dirt of the day and keep us pure, and the more we read it, the more it cleanses us.

Some people think they don't need to let God's Word wash them every day. Some folk don't think they need to shower ever day either, but the people around them usually pick up that there's a problem. People can pick up uncleanness in our hearts too as it usually comes out of our mouths or into our behaviour.

One of the great things about technology is that it's never been easier to get God's Word into our ears and eyes, so let's take advantage of it and keep our minds and hearts clean.

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