A Bruised Reed

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“Unwanted, abandoned because I don’t measure up!” That is how many people feel in our world of upside-down values. Yet, no matter how insecure we feel, each one of us is unique and of infinite worth to our Creator, who didn’t make a mistake when he brought us into being. We may not have Hollywood money or good looks or the brains of Einstein or even the popularity of some of our former classmates at school, but to the one who truly knows us through and through, we are loved with a passion. As the ancient, Hebrew prophet once said about God:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.”

Isaiah 42:3 (NIVUK)

The BBC’s Panorama programme recently conducted a fascinating investigation into the true identity of a gentle, elderly, American man found abandoned in November 2015 on the streets of Hereford, a small but historic English city. His dementia meant he was unable to explain his situation, and only once did he reveal his name, Roger Curry. He was taken temporarily to a local care home, where he was loved and adopted as one of their own. Unfortunately efforts by the local police to find his family proved fruitless.

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Roger Curry at the care home in Hereford. (Credit: BBC Panorama)

So using social media and a lot of detective work, Panorama finally found his real home, a fenced off, fire-damaged, single-storey house in Los Angeles, the city where he had once worked as a nurse. Roger’s wife and son are accused by the Los Angeles authorities of taking him to England and abandoning him. Roger has now been flown back to Los Angeles where he is being looked after by the local authority. Sadly, according to the Panorama report, the care he’s been receiving recently in L.A., doesn’t match the level of care or devotion that he experienced at the care home in Hereford. The US courts are now deciding on Roger’s future.

To be rejected by your family, for whatever reason, is very sad, but thankfully God will never reject us. His eye is always upon us; his ear is always listening for our cry. So call on the one who loves you, tell Him your troubles, confide in him; never feel afraid that you don’t match up to His expectations, receive his love for you today. Our anxious hearts can be reassured by His promise:

“I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (GNT)

Set Free To Choose

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Many of us today are “spiritual but not religious”. We are discerning about which path we choose to follow; we are determined not to be trapped by tradition. But what if you are religious? What if you’ve been brought up in a particular belief system that you didn’t choose?

Today I was speaking to a man, who, even though not a regular churchgoer, believed himself to be tied for life to the church denomination into which he was born and christened. Do you feel similarly trapped or are you a free spirit?

Last week I heard a radio presenter describe what happened to him once on a trip to the supermarket. Having filled his trolley (US cart), he pushed it to the checkout, and the assistant began to scan his items ready for him to pack. However, as he was emptying his shopping onto the conveyor belt, he began to find items in his trolley that he hadn’t chosen and didn’t want. He suddenly realised what must have happened. He had left his trolley at one point to go off in search of something. Having found it, he came back and dropped the item into what he thought was his trolley, but wasn’t! With half his shopping already scanned, what was he going to do? He decided to carry on as if nothing had happened, and as a result he paid for, and took home, a lot of items he didn’t really want.

Unlike that radio presenter and his unwanted goods, we don’t have to remain burdened by someone else’s faith or by an accident of birth. Our parents do make a choice for us, according to their own beliefs when we’re young – it may be a good choice or it may not, but as an adult we are free to decide what our own beliefs should be.

The scriptures tell us that through a relationship with our Creator, we can draw close to God with freedom and confidence. God is not a man whose judgement we can sway by our religious label or seeming good behaviour. He is already aware of our true condition, and yet he loves us intimately. He calls us to turn from our selfish ways, to follow Him and to love Him in return.

The question is not which religious label we have, but are we following the One who gave everything He had that we might know Him?

“In Jesus, and through faith in Jesus, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

Ephesians 3:12

He Heals the Broken-Hearted

When our heart is broken, hurting, when life seems so unfair, we can turn to the One who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” because He is the One who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds, and He listens to all our prayers.

Tell Him how you feel, be still in His presence, then tell your heart to beat again …

He heals the broken hearted … and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Psalm 147:3; Psalm 145:14 (NIVUK)

Not Far From Any One Of Us

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It was a sunny afternoon last November and I was walking through Westminster in central London, when I passed a typically British, red telephone box. Leading up to it was a queue of around twenty people all patiently waiting their turn to enter! Even before mobile phones were invented and home phones were commonplace, a queue of twenty people for a phone box was quite rare. Those waiting for this phone box however, were not waiting to make a call; they were tourists waiting to have their photo taken while they hung out of the door of an icon of Twentieth-Century British design.

I must admit I am a fan of these scarlet symbols of our culture. Yet I fully understand why so many are being removed from our streets. Why go into a phone box to make a call when you can make one from anywhere on a mobile phone – as long as there’s a signal! One estimate suggests that 90% of the British population will own a mobile phone in 2017, making phone boxes of whatever colour almost obsolete.

I regularly have the privilege of meeting many spiritual people, who follow various paths and have wide-ranging beliefs. Even though their spiritual path may be far removed from Christianity, many of them will visit a church occasionally during the week seeking peace and solitude, and some go there specifically to pray. There’s something about a church building, whether ancient or modern, that gives one a sense of the Divine, a closeness to God, a place where you can almost breathe in God’s presence.

But … like our antiquated phone boxes, there is no need to find an empty church to pray in. We can speak with God wherever we are – He is always listening. Neither do we need fancy words – He already knows what’s on our mind and in our hearts.

Church buildings are great examples of “thin places”, i.e. places where it feels that our Creator is within touching distance. Or as Eric Weiner puts it, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses,” (from Man Seeks God by Eric Weiner). Yet we can also make our own thin places by choosing a favourite spot to meet with God each day, whether that be a corner of the garden or a comfortable armchair, simply a place where you can be alone with Him. In his book Eric Weiner describes how he travelled to many countries and tried many religions in an attempt to find God, but the truth is that God can be found right where you are. As an ancient rabbi once said,

“He is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:27 (NIVUK)

 

 

The Heavenly Bridegroom

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David Penner from New Jersey is a happier man this Christmas. Fifteen years ago he lost his wedding ring at Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm, and despite returning to search for it, it couldn’t be found. He thought it was gone forever. Sadly his wife passed away in September this year, and he couldn’t even wear his ring in her memory. Then on 2nd December, and to his great surprise, he heard it had been found, “I thought it was a miracle,” he said. David grabbed his wedding certificate and drove to the farm, where he was reunited with his ring.

David’s experience echoes the real story of Christmas. God, the Creator of us all, wants each one of us to know Him, to enjoy His love and the abundant life He offers. Sadly mankind turned away. We were ‘lost’ to our Creator. Two thousand years ago He came to the Earth He created, and became one of us. As He Himself said, He “came to seek and to save the lost.” One day He will return again, just like David Penner did, to reclaim those who in humility and love recognise their need of Him.

The Ancient Scriptures describe Jesus as the Bridegroom, who will return, not for a wedding ring, but to receive His bride: that is all those who, unsatisfied by what this world can offer, are eagerly awaiting His return. David Penner returned to the farm and took his ring home. In the same way Jesus will take home those who belong to Him.

So Christmas really is a love story, when we remember that first visit and look forward to the next.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

Revelation 22:17 (NIVUK)

Yes, you too can share in this love story, you too can be a part of His bride. Are you thirsty for something you can’t quite put your finger on? Do you feel there must be more to life than you’ve found so far? Your Creator is waiting for you – will you follow Him?

Who Are You Talking To?

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Have you ever spoken to royalty without knowing it? Sounds unlikely doesn’t it? Surely you’d know, especially if it was one of the more prominent royals.

Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Zaqia Crawford, originally from the USA, but currently selling Christmas trees in Battersea Park, south London, served a very special couple last night (Monday 12th Dec): the lady she was serving also happened to be from the USA, but the gentleman, wearing a woolly hat, was British. Zaqia had no idea who they were, but her colleagues, who were busy with another tree at first, eventually realised that Zaqia’s customers were none other than Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle. Prince Harry lives about two miles from Battersea Park, across the River Thames at Kensington Palace.

Whatever their spiritual path or religion, many people find themselves talking to God while going about their daily lives. Others only cry out to God in extreme circumstances. Some never talk to God, but admit wanting to have someone to say thank you to, maybe for a beautiful sunset or the birth of a baby. That desire to communicate with someone greater, someone beyond this world seems to be in-built within our human frame.

So, who then are we talking to; whether we treat that spiritual being as a listening ear, a last resort or a complete ‘no-no’? He – although God is neither male nor female – is the eternal Creator of all we see and more. His power is unlimited, yet to Him, we are valuable. He really is that listening ear and far more than a last resort. He is the King of Kings, to whom one day every knee will bow, and yet He cares for you.

Prince Harry didn’t send a servant. Neither did he flaunt his royal status. Instead of a crown, he wore a woolly hat. God did the same that first Christmas. He didn’t send an angel, He came Himself. He didn’t flaunt His divinity; He clothed Himself in a human body, and lived here for over thirty years as one of us. As Paul, a First Century rabbi, wrote:

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT)

The First Post

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Let me introduce you to a friend.

A few days ago, I was speaking to an elderly man, who had come to ask my advice. I was struck by the way he listened. No one has ever listened to me as intently as he was doing; he hung on my every word. He was sincere in seeking an answer to his question, and what was most surprising to me is that he genuinely believed I could have the answer he was looking for. I said what I could, and later a friend of mine spoke to him further, expanding on my limited contribution. But that was not the end of it …

That evening I leant that he was a highly intelligent gentleman, who, before retirement, had held a very important but little known post in the life of our country!

Like me, you may wonder what you have to offer the world. Well, this blog is here because there is someone whose intelligence, importance and power far exceeds that of the elderly gentleman, and who is already listening to you intently. He knows what’s on your heart and in your thoughts, and He loves you. He’s waiting for you to talk to Him and just as importantly, He’s waiting to talk to you.