Blogger beseeches bloggettes over breakfast

24 09 2012

A Christian Men Together breakfast was really not high on my “list of things to do” on a Saturday morning at 8.00am.  With autumn’s arrival I have been abruptly reminded of the impending winter and the need to get all the “summer jobs” done before it’s too late!  These jobs did get my attention on  Saturday morning but I did make the effort to reach the breakfast before it was brunch, and how splendidly I was rewarded for my exertion.  Jeff the chef had produced a fantastic breakfast of hash browns, French toast and maple syrup, bacon and scrambled egg washed down with fresh orange juice and freshly brewed coffee.  But the reward was not food for the body…  Instead I found myself delighting in a grander fare of food for the soul.

Six men each took to the floor one by one to share in seven minutes flat (strictly measured by the cow bell) something of their lives as Christians.  What a refreshing time of testimony it was: a call to get serious about prayer; a reminder of the value of the blogosphere; an insight into life as a Pastor; the place of prison ministry; an exhortation to reading good Christian books in community; and a moving testimony to the power of God at work in the life of a cancer sufferer.

There was much to inspire, challenge and exhort even the casual listener.  The priority of prayer for a Christian man was outlined from great sayings about prayer and Scriptural gleanings which stated the matter clearly: men ought always to pray (Lk 18.1).  The pastor helped us see that our primary identity as believers is not in a title or in a role (whether sacred or secular) but in the fact that at all times, whether at work or at play, we are Christians first – disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus.  The young man who had recently committed himself to prison visitation spoke of the power of the gospel in the lives of hardened criminals, even when it is presented in the simplest of formats but with consistent faithfulness – God’s Word never returns to him void, but accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it.  Good Christian books abound on the majority world’s bookshelves and in our multiplicity of preferred e-readers but how few of us are committed to reading them!  And so the call to be accountable to one another in reading through books like ‘Disciplines of a Godly Man’ by Kent Hughes having informal review and discussion groups was an innovative way to stimulate us out of our lazy tendencies.  The striking testimony of a man of God who has battled with cancer for six years was a moving end to an incredible morning.  The change of perspective which faith in Christ brings to the ugly nature of the scourge of cancer was remarkable to hear – ‘my strength is made perfect in weakness’ (Phil 4:13).  To hear such a testimony is one thing – to see it lived out in front of your eyes as we have done with our brother is quite another.

Oh, and blogging… yeah, this guy got up and said it would be good to blog, he blogged and blogs were good and useful and stuff… and you could learn and shape and influence others and others stuff like that…  Thanks JT.  Looks like you got to me also!

Arrows, God’s Word and a Faith-full response

21 04 2010

My daily readings have recently been taking me through the book of 2 Kings. It is largely a sorry tale of the kings of Israel and Judah – Israel is in a degenerate state of imminent collapse and impending captivity to the Assyrians. Judah is also in decline and although threatened with the same fate is spared for the time being because of the faithfulness of a few ‘good’ men.  (May the Lord raise up ‘a few good men’ in our day and in our nation that we too might be spared.)

I met Jehoash in 2 Kings 13:14-19 in a room with Elisha who is on his deathbed.  Jehoash was king of Israel during a time when the Syrians (Aram) have been raiding and pillaging the northern tribes of Israel.  The prospect of Elisha’s death is threatening to the king because it will mean the departure of the Word of God from the nation leaving them defensless, helpless and lost.  Jehoash does not however stand out in the history of Israel – his reign of sixteen years is accounted for in four verses (v10-13) with a formulaic disinterest – but the incident with Elisha and Jehoash’s response to God’s word is set out in some detail to teach us an important lesson.

Elisha embarks on a session of ‘show and tell’ to reinforce the lesson he wants to pass on to Jehoash and us.  Jehoash is anxious to know what the future will be like, how the people of God will fare in the face of their enemy and whether victory will be assured.  He wants to hear a word from the prophet of God before he departs.  And God’s word graciously is given to him.  The word comes through the visual aid of the bow and arrows which he carries.  The narrative explains the instructions from the prophet to the king and pointedly details the required obedience of the king at each point along the way: “‘Get a bow and some arrows,’ and he did so. ‘Take the bow in your hands,’… When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. ‘Open the east window,’ …and he opened it. ‘Shoot!’ …and he shot.”  The kings attention to the word of the prophet, the instruction of the Lord is commendable to this point but there was nothing here that he could not do himself.  Furthermore, He seems to be enabled even by a sick and weak prophet’s hand – perhaps a sign of divine presence and assistance, but thus far it had been easy.  After the king’s patient attention to the prophet, Elisha offers the declaration of victory Jehoash had come to seek, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram (Syria)!”

With the promise of victory before him, Jehoash is brought to a further test of character, and faith.  Elisha leads him on in obedience – “‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them.” Then comes the command to, ‘Strike (probably ‘shoot’) on(to) the ground.’  Clearly, the king had a quiver full of arrows and until now, only one had been used.  He fires three arrows and stops.  The way the narrator recounts the story makes it clear that this is an issue – why stop!?  Why not finish the quiver? Why not strike [with] the arrows five or six times?  Why only three?  Elisha immediately reprimands the king for his hesitancy, for his lack of perseverance in the face of God’s promised victory.  He is angry over the king’s lack of grit and determination, his failure to make a ‘faith’-full response to the revealed word of God.

D. Ralph Davis calls this an account of Jehoash’s most crucial moment – standing before the word of Yahweh.  In light of brief biography which certainly painted Jehoash as another of the wicked kings of Israel the cameo of his response to God’s word through the prophet is a clear indicator of a faithless response.  Here is a king who hears the word of God and in the face of the prophet is prepared to follow that word, but when required to act upon it in an expression of his own persevering faith falls short of all that the Lord had held out to him.  As Davis says, ‘He had Yahweh’s promise (v17) and he should have grasped it with both hands.’

What is our own ‘standing before the word of the LORD’?  How do we measure up in our faithful and gritty determination to take God at his word? May the Lord help us by faith to hold firmly to his promises, to be people who persevere in them and who ‘shoot our arrows’ continuously in the assurance of the victory he offers us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you… was not “Yes” and “No”, but in him it has always been “Yes”.  For no matter howe many promises God has made, they are all “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God’ (2 Corinthians 1:19,20).

Hello world!

17 02 2010

Here I am breaking into the world of blogging with a personal blog, uncertain of all that surrounds me technologically and wondering if I will be able to find the time and quality materials needed to sustain the site.  Here goes… welcome to my world!