I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 NIV
This old and well worn verse, memorised from Sunday School times, has a depth of meaning. On a surface level, it is an exhortation to learn, and remember Scripture, and commit as much as possible to memory. The reason for this is to give strength when we face tough times and need to know what His Word says to us in that situation. We use our memory to its best advantage while we can.
The psalmist doesn’t use the word memory, or brain, he uses the word ‘heart’ and I think deliberately to give us a deeper insight and meaning which goes beyond our capacity to remember. The heart goes far deeper than our heads, but we don’t remember with our hearts, do we? Or do we?
In these days where we are all living longer, one of the increasing problems we may face is forgetfulness, and in up to 80% of cases, we could develop some kind of mild or severe dementia. Our memory will not always be as alert or useful. We might find ourselves unable to recall the things we did yesterday, but can bring to mind in great detail what we did on our street 50 years ago in our childhood or youth. I think this is the secret of hiding God’s Word in our heart.
If you should ever see signs of memory loss starting in your own life, what would you like to keep in your heart? For my part, I would say the faces and names of my loved ones. My wife, children, grandchildren, friends and that very special friend too. The heart can be a treasure trove of good things, and on top of it all, could and should be God’s Word to keep us in tune with His work in our lives in the past, at present, and into our perhaps unknown future.
Have you seen a saint of God grow old, while memory fades? I have, and my experience is that they kept a glow, when their memory had no reason to make them happy. Without exception, they had hidden God’s Word in their hearts, and when their memory failed, the reserves of the heart kicked in and sustained them until it was time to come face to face with the Author. I pray that my gracious God will allow that same blessing for you and me!
Some send their car there when it breaks down, some tell those they don’t like to go there, and I have even heard it used on the streets by a mother to her child. Yes, honestly! We use the word almost without thinking, but does the place really exist?
Have you been to any funerals? I guess in every case, the minister will say nothing but good things about the deceased, and suggest that Heaven is the goal. So, we are happy, and even encouraged to think that Heaven exists and that’s where we will go.
We feel very comfortable with the idea of Heaven, even those who are not very religious. Part of that may be because we don’t want to think of anything bad when our life ends. It is comforting to think that we will spend forever in a good and happy place of light, surrounded by angels and nice music. But is that a true picture?
Parents think nothing about correcting their children when they do something wrong, and if correction doesn’t work, then punishment. This could be the removal of a toy (that could be an iPhone!), being sent to your room, or in the past physical correction like a smack. Today, we frown on any kind of corporal punishment, and as a result we have softened the concept of our loving parents doing anything to hurt us, even when we do something wrong and deserve it. So, parents are encouraged to help, guide, and affirm their children, but never punish, after all they might get the idea they don’t love them. I well remember a loving mum smacking her child because they ran out into the roadway and into the path of an oncoming car. Fortunately, the car driver saw the child, and swerved to avoid her. Immediately after the smack, came a long, tearful hug and kiss. Did that mum love her child? Undeniably. Did that child know she was loved? Again, certainly.
The Bible talks a lot about correction and punishment, but we have chosen to concentrate on, and only emphasise the God of love. However, we must take the Bible as a whole, and when we do, we will see that God’s love and justice are inextricably linked. He does not give one without the other. I read that some theologians think that hell is a metaphor, or imaginary, to give the ‘idea’ of punishment which is meant to keep us on the narrow way. On a human level, what would happen if you said to your child, ‘you are being punished for doing wrong, but don’t worry, it’s only an imaginary punishment, it’s not real’? I don’t want to burst your bubble, but God says that not everyone will go to Heaven. Some will go to hell. That, my friend is an uncomfortable thought, but true nonetheless. I suppose we comfort ourselves by thinking that hell is filled with the Hitlers of this world, and no one like us, right? So what do we do with these verses? If there is no justice, we would never have to worry about how we lived, would we? Just asking.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14 NIV
It is an unfortunate fact that our fine educational standard in mathematics does not transfer into our political understanding of morality. As a simple example, we have lost the meaning of the ‘=’ sign. Let me explain:
Man + Woman = Baby (Good place to start and universally understood) but in the news today, the UK government has passed a significant legal milestone and is allowing this equation: Man + Woman + Woman = Baby.
This is not the only basic equation we have tampered with. Let’s remind you of the first equation and see what we have already done with it:
Man + Woman = Man + Man (no baby here). In fact we have also made it acceptable as:
Man + Woman = Woman + Woman (no baby here either).
Sorry to do this to you. I hope you are following me so far, because there is another ‘equality’ waiting in the wings, which will emerge soon. Since we can bring conception about in the lab using a man and two women, surely it won’t be long before polygamy and polyamory is seen as an acceptable way to conceive ‘naturally’? That will be argued as an equality, and would make the ‘equation’ become:
Man + Woman = xMen + xWomen (where x = any number). So can you now say that marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others?
Now, can you honestly tell me this new ‘equality’ will not be tested, and eventually legalised? Remember the wise old quotation, ‘for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the knight was lost, for want of a knight the battle was lost, for want of a battle the kingdom was lost’? Well now we have lost our morality and all for want of an ‘=’ sign!
The name Edward Snowden is splashed all over the world media after he leaked US and UK State secrets on an unsuspecting public. The result is that we might not be able to sleep as easily in our beds, because the terrorists now know more of our previously hidden intelligence, than they ever knew before. Mr Snowden has handed those who would do us harm (and they do exist), a gift on a silver platter, and all in the name of ‘truth and openness’.
Our global communities of many persuasions, usually political, though not always (it creeps into faith circles too) place a lot of weight in the word ‘equality’. That word is being used in this situation, because someone has decided that information of all kinds should be in the hands of the people, and not just a few agents in the intelligence networks. This is a serious problem, and there are strong opinions on each side, but I started to wonder what would Jesus do (WWJD)?
Jesus lived in a time where His own country was under occupation and control of a foreign power. He was well aware of the tensions on the streets and in the political circles of His day. People were abused and beaten by the Roman Army, and summarily executed. There was a terrorist army of the day, and they were called ‘Zealots’, who also killed and maimed in the name of freedom and equality. Jesus lived inside this daily tension. What did Jesus do?
Two of the disciples had been Zealots. James and John were called the ‘sons of thunder’ in their community, and active in their own operational cells. Jesus called them OUT of this lifestyle, and into a new life. He did not associate any of His teaching with the terrorist groups of His day. In fact, it is significant to see what Jesus did NOT do. He did not support either side in word or deed, and He did not support anyone who did. In fact, when he was being arrested by these occupying army forces, and Peter cut off a soldier’s ear, Jesus put the severed ear back on, and rebuked Peter! I will leave you with a couple of texts and a thought:
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ Mark 12:17 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 NIV
Question: In our own day, should we resist elected governments to the point of treason, while keeping in mind the circumstances of the world in Jesus and Paul’s day?
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4,5 NIV
I think it is safe to say that we all want to feel that we belong. Deep inside we want to be with other people, especially those that act and think like us. The feeling is expressed eloquently by Joan Baez in her 1960s song, which has the lyrics:
No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man's joy is joy to me,
Each man's grief is my own.
We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.
Paul reminds us that we belong to each other, so the theme of the song is not a new one. The truth is universal, so we join all kinds of clubs from our school days onwards. There are all sorts of clubs: Stamp, Chess, Fitness, Science, Swimming, Bowling, Walking, Camera, Sewing, and the list could go on. One of the benefits of these clubs is that members usually stay in touch between meetings, because they get along with each other. They feel they belong to each other in some way because of shared interests.
Hold on, isn’t church a bit like a club too? We have regular meetings with other people we like and who share our faith. We sing and pray together, and chat before and after our meetings, just like the other clubs. But is that where it ends? Does it only happen for one hour a week, and all the other days we don’t feel that we belong? Church is not a club, but next time you are there, take a look round. There are hurting and vulnerable people attending who may need a phone call or a card in between those weekly get togethers. In case you are wondering, I don’t want my weekly meetings to become a club. However, I would like it to be the kind of church Scripture says it should be. After all, there may be some good folks who might just be ‘longing to belong’.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44,45 NKJV
Really? Like everybody else who has a phone, I get these unwanted scam calls from a computer company who wants to make my laptop work faster, and relieve me of money which does no good whatsoever. I also get calls from people who want my personal details for their research program, but who will pass on any detail I give to another unscrupulous third party. These people (in my experience) are usually speaking from a base in the UK, and called ‘Timothy’ or ‘Angela’ but who sound Indian, Pakistani, or Nigerian! I really detest getting these unwanted and scam calls, and I am not alone there.
But love them? They spitefully use, and persecute me, and countless others. So, Lord, do I really HAVE to love them? Do I have to be courteous when they phone me at the most difficult times? Can I not dismiss them ‘out of hand’, after all they deserve it. These people prey on the vulnerable and rob them of their money, identity, and dignity, and they don’t even care!
Jesus’ words are clear, and I am not sure I like them. He says I have to love these horrible people, so that I may be a son of my Father in heaven. Ouch. That’s a really big ask Lord, but your Word is good and true, and a light to my path. This might be a very small thing in a world that’s going out of control, but it’s something I need to work on. What about you?
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
I am one of those who lived his teen life through the 1960s and that age when the devil was active in convincing the general population that love was free, and liberating. That can only be described as one of the biggest lies of the devil, and from the pit of hell. The trouble is, that there is a generation now who are older, and maybe a bit wiser, and who now know that how we love, and live our lives is important.
The UK has been rocked recently by the arrests of well known, household name celebrities whose past has finally caught up with them. Abuses of young girls and boys, at the hands of famous people, who had also bought into the idea of ‘free love’, and thought they were committing no crime by their abuses. If you lived through the 1960/70s you will know that Britain was branded as a prudish nation, and we were told we needed to be liberated. Satan was at work in the hearts of our nation, and his work was easy. It was easy because TV programs and movies reflected the happy side of flower power, and ‘no guilt’ love. For the purposes of clarity, read ‘sex’ for ‘love’ because we had been convinced they were the same thing, and a generation of young folks in the 1960s fell into the trap. That same generation are now seeing the results of that lie unfold before their eyes in the recent arrests of 70 and 80 year olds. Their ‘hidden’ and previously ‘acceptable’ behaviour has now crept up behind them and exposed the shameful truth as their victims find the courage to speak out.
What should we do with these ‘dirty old men’ who are now a frail shell of their former celebrity selves? God is certainly forgiving, but first we have to recognise our need, repent and ask for forgiveness. However, what do we as society do on a human level? We cannot sweep this disgusting behaviour under the carpet and ignore it, so they pay a human penalty determined by the courts. In the meantime their victims, who have lived with the abuses for decades have justice. What would you think if I suggested that in order to make their own progress, those abused, now older victims also need to forgive their abusers? Now that is a tough call. Could you do that? I wonder, could I??
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11 NIV
The words, “I’ve done nothing wrong” seem to trip off the tongue of people who have been caught doing something illegal, but they don’t know how to handle being caught almost red handed. Our politicians are a prime example, once again. It wasn’t so long ago the UK MPs were all over the news when their hands were caught in the till of their expenses. Do you remember what they said at the beginning? Yup, it was “I’ve done nothing wrong” and it stayed their story until they were brought kicking and screaming to justice, the courts, and in some cases, prison.
Now there is another scandal brewing, but this time with the Lords in the upper chamber. You know, those we trust with our laws. It seems that some have been caught taking cash for asking questions in the House. That’s a nice way of saying they are taking money to promote a business or commercial venture. Some would call that corruption.
So, why are you bringing this up now, I can hear you ask? For this reason. There is a great moral issue being debated and voted on in the House of Lords in the next few days, and I at least expect these people to be above suspicion on matters of the law, but not just that, on matters of ethics and morality too. My unease is simple: How can I trust the highest group of Law Lords in the nation to do right in a moral issue, when there is an obvious inability to avoid the basic sin of greed?
Yes, the words in the book of Proverbs were written by the wisest of men, Solomon, and he knew full well that the dog will return to its vomit, repeating its folly. As with dogs, so with our lawmakers, so how can I be positive about any moral choices they might make?
Whoa there...now I have to pull back and look at myself, and if you are being honest too, you will ask the face in the mirror, “can I trust you with all your moral decisions”? The focus changes now, and all of a sudden we can hear ourselves say, “I’ve done nothing wrong, have I?” The only difference between those UK Law Lords’ hearts and ours is one of class status in our head. In God’s eyes we are all the same, we have fallen short of His standard, and in some cases we too have returned to our vomit, just like the dog. Now who is doing nothing wrong?