Monday, September 22, 2008

Meeting old friends

This weekend was a time of meeting up with friends we haven't seen for a while. They are missionaries in France and God has allowed us to work together over the past few years. Some of you will know Wayne and Wendy and their work in St Etienne. It was great to remind ourselves of what we found together and what in each other makes the friendship important.

It brought excitement to us all, especially my daughter who was thrilled to meet them again. We planned a meal for other mutual friends so invited Wayne and Wendy to join us. Nine for dinner, my wife excelled herself. It was good to catch up and enjoy the witty banter that always occurs whenever Wayne and I get together.

I remember a few years ago joining Friends Reunited. Its a social network on the Internet that allows you add details about yourself, your school, workplace etc. As other people list their details you discover people you haven't seen for years. It was this that fired my curiosity to seek out my best friend from school, Stephen. We were really close for most of Grammar school until he left and I continued into Sixth Form. I eventually tracked him down and rang him. It was almost thirty years since I had spoken to him. A little while later I was on a business trip and stayed in the area where he lived. We arranged to meet in a local pub for a drink and to catch up. I remember being really excited and full of expectation. The person who greeted me was not what I expected, I was still thinking in terms of a thirty year old image of him. In walked someone in his late forties, balding and much heavier than the stick insect he used to be. It was at that point that I realised I too had changed. Grey hair, also no longer wafer thin as I was in those days, and a lifetime of events that had resulted in who I am now. As we talked, things like familiar mannerisms and expressions brought recollections of what it was like back then. It was a great time of catching up but I quickly realised that that was all it was going to be, a past schoolboy friendship. We send Christmas cards and that's about it.

I learned that Godly friendships have a divine purpose to them. They run to a divine drumbeat. Sometimes there is intensity and at other times they are just keeping time. These kind of friendships are led by God in their direction and even after many months apart you can pick up where you left off without missing a beat. That's what it was like with Wayne and Wendy.

Jesus wants us to enter into friendship with Him but there is a price. True friendship costs. It can be inconvenient as well as pleasant. True friendship is serving the other and seeking their best. Out of that heart true friends bring precious wounds at times but it is worth it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Safe Pair Of Hands

When I was at school I played for the 1st 11 football team in various positions but for a while I was goalkeeper. I was deemed to have a safe pair of hands. It is an unenviable position. You are many times the last line of defence and if you had a bad day it was likely the team lost. A lot of responsibility.

I read an article about the singer Britney Spears, not that I am a fan but I feel compassion for her. She has messed up quite a bit in life. I can empathise with that. Her mess is public. I read today that they have extended the control that her father James has over her affairs. He is the safe pair of hands the judge has entrusted things to. She no longer has control of her finances or career until the judge says so. It seems that most things Britney has touched she has lost control of, even her children. Today I noticed she won three awards at the MTV ceremony in Los Angeles. In true American style she thanked, "God first and foremost for just blessing me like this". She had done well and praised God for it. That is a good sentiment. I sighed inside as I said a silent prayer for her, 'if only you had put God in control of your life, He is a safe pair of hands.'

I have discovered the safe hands of God many times. I usually find that when things have gone badly its because I chose to take back control of the life I surrendered to him at the age of 10. Like Paul says in Romans 7:19, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice". He goes on to say that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

I am learning to reject that condemnation that comes whenever I sin. Its not God's voice. The Holy Spirit convinces me that I have sinned but also inspired me to go back to the Father trusting in the work of Christ. Jesus deserves the right to take my life in His hands. He stretched them out willingly, allowing them to be pierced so that I could be set free from sin. The true gospel is not asking Jesus into your heart, that's not a scriptural concept. The true gospel is the complete surrender of my life into the control of God - my safe pair of hands.

Surrendering your will, decision-making and control of your life goes against everything in us that is flesh. To truly die to self and take up our cross is painful and will cost us everything BUT its the only safe way to live.

Deuteronomy 33:27 is a great verse that tells us of our security: "The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you and will say, 'Destroy'"

He is not just a place to go when we need comfort or protection. Its a place to live in. There is a place of rest and here it is. In His safe hands we can rest. He will dispel those things that seek to attack us and proclaim their destruction. Its not easy to just rest in God. We are not taught to rest these days but to wrestle. God wrestles on our behalf.

Thank you God for being my 'safe pair of hands'.