Saturday, October 27, 2012

Voting with our Feet

 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

So much could be said about this topic.
Why are we, even some of the most mature Christian people, sometimes tempted to walk away from church/ fellowship?

Well the simple answer I suppose is that we are hurt. Hurt by others in our Church, and especially by those in leadership. Having not thought about this for very long, I am quickly concluding that no matter what the issue is, we are hurt more by those in authority, and often by their inaction.

Before I say too much more, I’d better clarify that I am speaking from the point of view of one in authority, being an elder in our church, and may I also add that it is painful when I notice that people aren’t coming any more. It does hurt, and it feels personal. No matter what the issue is, it feels like I have personally failed the absent person, and maybe I have.

So one point I do wish to make is that when we do stop going to our fellowship meetings, we do hurt those in authority.

Of course I don’t mean those times when we can’t make it for other reasons, I mean those times when we deliberately have decided to divorce ourselves from the meetings.

Yes, there are many serious events that would lead us to a need to separate from a fellowship. Fortunately, or unfortunately, these days there is usually somewhere else to attend, so that we are still able to worship God with others.
Or we may end our church attendance all together at one of these points, feeling that it is God, ultimately, who has let us down.

In a big church, it might be easier to slip in and out of attendance, seemingly without much effect, but in a small church, our absence can be painfully obvious.

But even as an elder in our church, sometimes the thought goes through my head, why don’t I just leave. It seems so much easier sometimes, than trying to please people, trying not to hurt people, trying to listen to people, trying to love people.
It is so clear to me that I just can’t do it. Only God can.

Of course, Satan has something to do with this. He loves to cause disharmony, pain, and fracturing of fellowship. Especially in God’s household.

The cure of course is forgiveness.

We need forgiveness, and we need to forgive.

We are best able to live in forgiveness when we live in forgiveness.

I know that sounds stupid. But basically, when we most doubt our own forgiveness, is when we are most insecure, sensitive, and less willing to overlook our neighbours faults.

We try and try and try to do things right, so that we don’t need forgiveness. But really, in this striving, we are denying our need for the full atonement of the precious blood, of the Holy Son of the living God.
God has done everything (not holding back at all) to deal with every last bit of evil that flows through our mortal beings, and this is all a wonderful and priceless gift that we treasure. We need it every day, every moment, in every relationship. We live in the forgiveness of the cross, we share the forgiveness of the cross, and we practice the ministry of reconciliation, which God has entrusted to us.

Sometimes reconciliation means acknowledging our failures, talking out our hurts, apologizing, even when we haven't deliberately meant to hurt. Telling someone they have upset you can be hard. But telling someone else can be undermining. Not saying anything and leaving hurt is hardest.

We are God's children. We can eat humble pie. It hurts but it's a "good hurt".

So lets forgive, and not leave our churches.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Should I break your heart?

2 Kings 1:16-17 (NIV)
Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” [17] So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

I'm in the privileged position of having to prognose (medical for "prophesy") regarding the future health or otherwise of some of those I care for. It is a privilege and a solemn responsibility, not unlike a prophet of God. 
I am sometimes at a bedside with results and observations in my hands, consulting a hopeful but anxious patient. Often they have had  a sleepness night (or longer) anxiously waiting for my visit with news of results and expected outcomes.
My opinion is valued and powerful. Honesty, faithfulness over many years, love and the hand of God have made my opinion well respected in my current circumstances.
I know that hope can be enlivened or destroyed by my words. Or so it seems. So I am careful and measured in what I say, and I need all of the Spirit of God to aid me in these times. 
Of course I can be wrong in my opinion, but this is not the point of my little discussion.
The question I pose is not necessarily a simple one.
If in my hands is a serious result that suggests there is no hope of recovery, and before me is an individual with every desire to continue living, and eyes full of hope and expectation that what I bring is good news, do I break the persons heart with the truth, taking away their last glimmer of hope and thereby paving the way to an accelerated death, (It is my strong opinion that people die quicker once they give up), or do I play down the implications, giving false hope and possibly delay death for some time, as well as saving myself the trouble of comforting someone in distress and grief, after all, there are always small chances that people will beat the odds. (By the way, doctors are not supposed  to give people firm time predictions in their prognosis)
Of course my answer is to tell the truth, with all it's implications, not holding back. It is best to do this out of love for the person receiving the news and to continue caring for the individual in their remaining illness, with all of my abilities. 

Yes, this will break the heart. 

Or will it?

At the start of my discussion I quoted an example of death pronounced and fulfilled. But this is not always the case, even in 1 Kings.

1 Kings 21:27 (NIV)
[27] When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

The words were Elijah's pronouncement of death upon Ahab from God as a result of the deliberate murder of an innocent person out of greed. The judgement was deserved.

But the result was repentance and, against expectations, God relented in his punishment.

By the way, God knows the difference between repentance and "pretendance". 

When we speak the truth in love, we do not cancel the power of God, the Holy Spirit, able to do immeasurably
more than we can hope for or imagine. In fact sometimes honest bad news closes up a person to all avenues bar God, and sometimes in that situation faith comes alive in the form of deep felt prayer or repentance, and the power of God brings about amazing outcomes. Sometimes miracles, sometimes reconciliation, sometimes assurance of forgiven sin and hope in Christ for heaven.

Our responsibility is to speak the truth in love, trusting our wonderful God with the outcomes in people's precious lives. Also trusting in the inner strength that is undoubtedly present in those we care for, and probably in all humans, as we are God's image.

Breaking bad news is hard. Holding back is harder.