Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Do We Wear THe Right Clothes?

‘Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord’ Zechariah 4:6

Do we wear the right clothes?
Colossians 3:12 NIV.  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
 The Bible has a lot to say about what we wear, not so much referring to the material garments but rather what  our inner demeanour is really like.                                                                                       Peter adds this, speaking about women in the church, but equally applicable to the men 
1Peter 3:3 ‘Do not let your beauty be that of outward adorning, of arranging of hair ( your hairstyle), of wearing of gold ( your fancy or expensive jewellery) or of putting on fine apparel ( latest fashionable clothes), But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit , which is very precious in the sight of God.’                                                                                                                   Powerful and challenging words! In other words Peter seems to be saying:- It’s not what we look like on the outside. It’s not so much the clothes we wear that’s important but rather our attitude to God, the ‘hidden’ person of the heart.                                                                                                  We live in a world where ‘outward adorning’ has become synonymous with status, glamour, respectability or one’s own personal confidence. We become obsessed with how we look, the clothes we wear ( the branding, the style), our hair style, shoe style, ear-rings, studs, tattoos; the list is endless. Many of the glossy magazines in our shops give this message on their front covers:- ‘look at me’, ‘Be more like this’,           ‘ See how well I’m doing for my age!’  And the message is relentless in books, magazines, TV commercials and so on, each bombarding us with the same philosophy. Get this. Buy this. Wear this. Try this. Change yourself and then you’ll Feel good! When presented so continually in these ways we insidiously take the underlying message on board, caught in the deceptive web of self adulation. Anything repeated over and over in this way must have this affect eventually. If it didn’t then all these multi-media presentations would be in vain and a waste of money to the advertisers!
          So is God not interested in our clothes or the way we look? No! It’s just that we should not fuss or worry about them unduly. Jesus made this very clear:-
 Matthew6:25-34   ‘.....Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?.... So why worry about clothing?... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you thet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these....for after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly father knows that you need all these things....But seek first His Kingdome  and His righteousness... and all these things....’
 God is far far more interested in ehat we wear on the inside. as the text in Colossians 3:17 reminds us.Thes qualities are also mentioned in Galatins 5:22,23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
 So how am I doing? Scripture makes it clear that we are in a spiritual battle. We have an enemy, Satan! Just as it would be foolish to go to war dressed in the wrong clothes; shorts, trainers, tee shirt....instead of protective battle gear so then as Christians we must wear the right things too!  in our hearts and minds !
 Philippians 6:10-17  ‘ Put on the whole armour of God....Wear the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness...Take the sword of the spirit.....
 This speaks to me about the daily battle of our minds against the enemy who will tell us lies !                                               John 8;44b ‘..He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
He tells us things like,’You’ll never amount to much’, ’Why bother following Jesus. It work out!’ ‘ You’ve sinned too much. Give up!’ ‘God doesn’t really care about you!’
  The answer to these accusations in in our thought life,
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The key word here is OBEDIENCE. The Bible is consistent throughout that obedience leads to blessing. We often sing, ‘Trust and obey for there’s NO other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.’
The more we practice this , the more we put on these garments of salvation, the more they fit us, the more they become second nature and the more we will enjoy God and live the life He wants us to experience!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

One Day

One Day by Brian

One day suffering will cease.
No more wars, no hatred
No misconceptions or  mistakes.
No hurts or hurting.
One day there will be no guilt, no blame
No regret or revenge.
One day all dreams  and aspirations
All hopes, all fears
Will dissolve and be no more.
One day I will fly and soar
To spirits gone before.
One day my tears will all have vanished,
Evaporated by the power and warmth of love,
And the feelings of acceptance.
One day I shall know even as II’ve been known
Where the  shadows of this life are gone
Overwhelmed by Light.
One day , soon, I will know His presence ,
Welcomed ; two arms outstretched,
Two hands pierced by human pride,
And face smiling, radiant with love,  yet scarred.
One day,
Faith will become fact,
  Hope  will become  reality
  Death  becomes  life
  And Earth becomes heaven.
The heavy clouds of darkness
Will give way to the brilliance of heaven.
And there I will dwell for ever.
One Day.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Contentment for the Christian

Contentment for the Christian.          a few thoughts by Brian Dodd (21/7/2019)

                What  pictures come into our minds when we think of contentment? Sunbathing on the beach with our favourite book or magazine perhaps? Going for a walk in the countryside.  The offer of our dream job? A neck and  back massage ? Our pet dog or cat curled up on the mat near the fire?
                Whatever we have in mind , whether in the images above or others , contentment often seems illusive, temporary and for many unattainable. This is often because it’s related to our finances or lack of it! Health and physical wellbeing, safe and loving relationships or  holidays to name but a few.
                As a teenager of average intelligence, who did reasonably well at exams and became a keen sports enthusiast,  I can honestly say that throughout  my teen years I was generally discontented. I was not a Christian back then and therefore unregenerate, self-willed, lacking in confidence and anxious about many things. I had no burning ambitions, yet like a good many friends, I drifted into university on the back of a few useful A-level grades. At university it soon became apparent  that I was not going to be a high-flier at my chosen subject, Maths! I found coursework difficult and more than once thought of giving up !     I sought solace in downing a few pints  of beer at the local or student bar,  and life seemed often felt empty or meaningless . It was only after God sought and found me during my second year that life took on a brand new meaning, and gave me a new hope , a new direction !     I experienced a measure of contentedness I’d not known before.
                As I read more of the Bible, I learned about the life and letters of the apostle Paul who, when addressing the Philippian church,  says, ’ Not that I complain of want, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him ( through Christ) who strengthens me.’ Philippians 4:11-13                                           Contentment in ALL things! In ALL circumstances ! And this statement is  from a man who had suffered so much persecution for the sake of the gospel. He once said that  he ‘even despaired of life itself’ 2Cor 1:8   Persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, stripped, humiliated and yet he could say content !
                How was such a level of contentment possible and is it really possible for each of us to be content?  The world’s view of contentment or happiness is vastly different. It greatly relies on  circumstances, as already mentioned , health , wealth and prosperity, living life ‘to the full’,  ‘ eat, drink and be ,merry for tomorrow we die’ !    Now there’s nothing wrong with a person enjoying all the good things God chooses to give us and receiving them with joy . In fact we have much to be thankful for. Jesus promised abundant life to those who chose to follow Him !      Yet sadly these very things; clothing, homes, food and drink often become an end in themselves will little thought of God or the  deeper issues of life  such as living peaceably with others, learning to forgive and  dealing with unforeseen circumstances. Today people become anxious or obsessed with their appearance, attaining recognition , misusing a powerful position or at the other end of the scale wondering where they will get their next meal from or how to find a roof over their heads. Whether we fall into the ‘haves’ or the ‘have nots’   many still experience   discontentment.
‘ Contentment makes poor men rich.                                                                                                                                     Discontent makes rich men poor’ Benjamin Franklin.
‘Contentment does not mean that I desire nothing but rather , it’s the simple decision to be happy with what I have.’                 Paula Rollo
                Why is there such an abundance of ‘self-help- books out there today? My own take on this is that more and more people are dissatisfied in some way with their lives and will do almost anything to find peace and contentment. They may have tried drink or mind-numbing drugs  but have simply slipped further down the long and unrelenting slope to self destruction. They buy the books, follow the words of the latest guru and vainly hope to find the way to a peaceful, rewarding, contented existence. No doubt that some of the advice within the pages they read do help them, at least for a while......but lasting peace?
    This is a quote I read recently.                                ‘Contented people live  a simple life . They love and enjoy what they have. They are grateful and optimistic. They attract goodness and radiate positivity. They focus on their blessings and accept adversity as a part of life. they are at peace and pleasant to be around. They are simply inspiring’
       I haven’t met many people like this and I, for one, do not think it reflects my own life either ! So can a measure of contentment ever be our experience? Are we expected to simply sit around with some benign ‘Mona Lisa’ smile whatever life throws at us?  C’est la vie ! No! The Bible does not say we will not experience troubled emotions. Yes, we can have joy but often there is confusion, sadness, pain, disappointments, loss or suffering. When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus had died he wept! The Bible tells us  we may ‘weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who     rejoice’ !           The Lord is not unmindful of the tough times we go through!
 Not throned above, remotely high,
untouched, unmoved by human pains
but daily, in the midst of life,
our Saviour, with the Father reigns...’........   words by Brian Wren
            The apostle Paul  writes in 2 Corinthians 1v4 of a God       who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.                                        In all his many afflictions we do not read of Paul complaining of  his lot .
  In 2 Corinthoians 12v7-10    Paul says,   7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.’!
            When I read this I often think, ‘What only 3 times?’  If I am in the least amount of pain or discomfort I would seek God earnestly  a great many more times!  Yet in these verses Paul says God’s power is made perfect in our weakness !
   Contentment is not usually a word I  associate with suffering or confronting adverse circumstances. Maybe in these situations the word TRUST is better (see Proverbs 3: 5,6)
            One thing is certain. We cannot resolve a given predicament by self-effort, thinking ourselves out of it by ‘our own insight’ I know that I’m the sort of person who thinks’ ‘ I know what’s best’ instead of ‘He knows what’s best’ !
I love the words from this hymn by                 Horatio Gates Spafford :-
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul. 
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.
Remarkable words!  Despite  everything in life  ‘ It is well with my soul’ !   We are in a daily battle. We have an enemy who knows how to exploit our weaknesses.  It is during these difficult times  that we must  as Paul says, ‘.. demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’   2 Corinthians 10v5
The battle is in our thought life –this is where it is won or lost !
            Personally.     I find it very hard to be content all the time especially if I feel I’ve been let down, rejected, criticised whether fairly or unfairly. My whole being wants to react, ‘That’s not fair !’ This is my ‘achilles heel’ , being too easily irritated or annoyed ! It’s an area of my life that I must ‘take myself  ‘in hand’ and learn to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit, self-control, hold my tongue, count to ten or just take ‘time out’ to reflect and pray.. Sometimes, though it may be uncomfortable and go against my natural inclinations, I need to address the particular  situation and confront issues ! Either way I have to remind myself of God’s presence and commit my way to the one ‘ who judges justly’ and leave things in His capable hands.
            So is there a secret to contentment?      No, not really.   It’s only a secret to those who choose to stay hidden from God’s amazing grace. Jesus said , ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the WORLD gives to you....’  Yes the world can give a peace of sorts,  a cosy lifestyle, prosperity, friendships etc. , not bad in and of themselves,  but is this real peace and contentment? Real contentment is found in Christ alone.
             Lastly, I leave the final words to the 17th century monk Brother Lawrence . In his well read booklet ‘Practising the presence of God’ he says,
    “ We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him__ we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being His. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of  His will, whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations.”

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Depression ( What it is. What it's not)

DEPRESSION                 ( what is, what it’s not, symptoms, and coming to terms with )

Most of us will be familiar with these words written and sung by Simon and Garfunkel
Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
And going on to verse 3
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
          I believe these  words are particularly poignant to me and to many who are feeling life is hopeless or without meaning. Depression can be a bit like this, sitting in a thick dark cloud , not being able to escape or see a way forward. I’ve heard it described as being ‘trapped’. Verse 3 above  speaks to me of a person being  in the proximity of many others, possibly thousands, and watching, seeing and observing their actions  yet somehow being detached from the real world and all that’s going on around them; ‘hearing without listening’ !
Depression: what it’s not. Most of us have our  down days or ‘downers’ at some stage in our lives. We may have been up too late the night before, lost sleep and be  without energy to face the new day. Perhaps we’ve been rejected for yet another job and feel pretty miserable about it. We have a cold, flu or some other pernicious virus and we feel ‘run down’. We may be anxious about an interview, exam or whether or not we get the right exam results. We may feel let down badly by someone which is even worse if it’s someone quite close to us or maybe we ourselves have let a friend down. Debt, relationship problems , bereavements, disappointments, problems a the  workplace .. ...all of these and more can and do happen. None of us are immune from these feelings!  However they can , of course, lead to periods of serious depression. They can act as very real triggers. For the most part, though, these are episodes from which we recover, not instantly, but generally in a reasonably short space of time.
 If, on the other hand, these episodes paralyze our lives , are a constant intrusion into our minds and make us feel helpless or unable to function normally,  then  we are most likely suffering from a form of depression .           Apart from  the things already mentioned, we might add – abuse from an adult relationship or even childhood experience,  loneliness... living on your own without friends or the social skills to make friends, bereavement ... the loss of a friends, a  family member which  causes grief but that grief becomes long term and relentless.... The depression gnaws away at our innermost being and completely dominates our minds. At this stage some may even contemplate suicide. They feel that life simply isn’t worth living any more with the inner pain that they feel. 
 So what are some of the symptoms to watch for and pick up on in others or even  ourselves.?

Symptoms. I’ve tried to think of just a few common ones. The list is not exhaustive but these are just some that I’ve come across:  anger, rudeness, lack of communication, finding it difficult to talk or hold a meaningful conversation. (The latter can be even more evident if that person is generally fairly chirpy)    isolation...the person tends to spend more and more time on their own ! not eating ( this can lead to some form of eating disorder, a common symptom of depression )
      In order to make up for inadequacies they feel or symptoms mentioned, a person may turn to alcohol or drugs, frequently resulting in addiction. This is their form of ‘escape route’ , numbing the mind to the invasive thoughts that trouble them.
          These are all warning signs to look out for but how can we          help ?
Helpful /Unhelpful:  
DO NOT SAY:- ‘ cheer up. You’ll feel better soon.’ Or ‘You’ll get over it, don’t worry’ or worse ‘pull yourself together, man.’ Or sentiments expressed in a similar vein.
 Then what can I do?       Befriend the person if not already friends. Risky, perhaps, as they may not want your friendship  but worth a try !                                                                                             If you fell close enough to the person and you’ve noticed  he/she hasn’t ‘been themselves’ lately ASK!                                              ‘ Is there something troubling you?’                                        ‘ I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. Things OK ?’  ‘ I haven’t seen you for a while. How are you doing?’ or maybe you need to be bold and ask ‘How’s life?’
If you have something of a mutual interest eg. A hobby or  sport, walking, visiting places etc.    then maybe suggest doing one these activities together. Make a date and STICK TO IT !
          Sometimes these things help. Sometimes they don’t1                   If your gestures of goodwill are not well received don’t let it upset you. Try hard not to take it personally ! If the person needs space ‘right now’ then respect that so never bombard them with constant phone calls, emails or text messages. They can easily irritate people more! 
          Suggest the person sees a doctor or counsellor. A doctor may prescribe medication which calms THE person down, helps with sleep and relaxation,   or he could give  them an anti-psychotic drug if necessary.    Talking therapy such as CBT , Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, may well help them, but sadly the waiting time for appointments can be far too long. If the person ever mentions  suicide then don’t hesitate to call the appropriate emergency service on their behalf !
The effects on family and friends: This can be equally devastating. The family member living with the sufferer is suddenly thrust into the role of carer. He/she can find themselves responsible for  the person, a child ( there is  an increasing number of children suffering from anxiety or some psychological disorder) , a teenager who finds it hard to leave the house,  a spouse or an elderly relative . The carers  needs help themselves and finds a real dilemma in knowing how much time they can give to the sufferer especially if they still have to hold down a job to pay the bills ! A break from their caring duties is essential if they themselves are not going to slide downhill! They need to recruit other willing friends and family members if at all possible,  and to look for groups that they can join where it may be possible to meet others in similar situations to themselves . I know of at least one group that was set up specifically for carers to meet socially and express themselves in writing.                                                                          There are many other associations out there . Hopefully there will be one nearby that they can ‘tap into’.
And finally .  For those of us who are Christians PRAY. Pray for the one who is ill and if they allow it,  pray with them. Assure them that God cares and holds them in His arms and will bring them through and ultimately out of the depths they find themselves in . There are many encouragements in scripture with some lovely verses and promises in the psalms for instance:
Psalm 121v1&2      “I lift up my eyes to the mountains-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 42v11    “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

 May God bless and show His face in kindness to any  who read this and especially to those who are in the depths of despair .                            Do read Pslam 23 , a favourite of mine  , the words of the hymn based upon it  often familiar to believer and unbeliever alike.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

He loves you as you are

He loves you as you are  6/1/19

You don’t need airs and graces
Or bright, clean happy faces.
Or to be a  shining star,
God loves you as you are.

You will never be rejected
There’s no need to be dejected.
And colour, race or creed’s no bar
God loves you as you are.

Lengthy prayers are not what’s needed
Dos and don’ts may go unheeded.
Your copy book may well be marred
But God loves you as you are.

You may have climbed Mount Everest,
Worked fifty years without a rest,
You may not yet  have travelled far.
But hey, God loves you as you are.

You don’t need many words to pray,
You may stay silent , that’s OK.
Remember if you’ve nought to say,
God loves you as you are.

See the birds, they never worry,
You will not  find them  in a hurry.
So don’t be anxious, full of care,

God loves you as you are!!

Why be downcast

My soul, my soul, why be downcast?

My soul, my soul, why be downcast?
The pain l feel  it  will  not last.
God knows the anguish of my heart,
He will one day His peace impart.

My mind  is troubled now,  but wait,
The time will come. It won’t be late,
When all is well and I am free,
And God will grant me liberty.

This momentary affliction gone,
The throne of grace I’ll gaze upon.
The clothes of righteousness I’ll wear
No suffering will affect me there.

By faith I know you live in me,
And that you hear my every plea.
My ears though dull to hear your voice,
Will in your presence  yet  rejoice.

And so in heaven I’ll find my  place,
And see the smile across His face,
“Welcome home, my child, my friend,”

Life in abundance, without end.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Help me Lord I’m Drowning

Help me Lord I’m Drowning

Help me Lord I’m drowning,
In a sea  that’s  vast and wide,
Where the waves can be  relentless
And as certain as the tide!

I cannot show the pain within
No clues upon my face,
To show the woes and burdens
Of  my heart, a lonely place!

No time of day, no time of night
My racing thoughts do cease.
I can’t control my troubled  mind
I have no inner peace.

I laugh, I cry, I smile, I  sigh
Does anybody care?
I plead  with you upon my knees
O Lord please hear my prayer.

 I ask for love and   understanding
To you Lord I’m appealing
The God of the whole universe
I’m begging you for healing.

‘My child I Know you’re suffering
Your hurting hurts me too.
You cannot understand now
What I am doing in  you!’

But Lord this awful testing
It’s much too hard to bear
I look into the abyss
And blankly stand and stare.

‘Be still son please don’t  struggle
Just listen to my voice.
Your name is in my book of life
Fear not. Look up. Rejoice.’