Some people are really sensitive to words. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words…they can be devastating!
A number of years ago I came a book by Gary Chapman, a relationship counsellor from the US. In his books he outlines 5 ways that most of us give and receive love. These were gifts; acts of service; physical touch; quality time and words of affirmation.
Some people are more sensitive to words than others – they like to affirm others – and need affirmation, but if you use words to cut them down – the damage can take a long time to repair. Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has power over life and death; James 3 talks about the importance of taming the tongue and Luke records Jesus as saying ‘a tree is recognised by it’s fruit’ and ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Luke 6:43-45).
What we store up inside becomes the focus for our lives. Several years ago I came across the concept of ‘heliotropism’ – which states that plants bend towards the source of light. In the same way our lives bend towards the energy – as groups and as individuals. If we focus on the positive and the good, then that becomes the source of the overflow. But if we are always focussed on the negative or if our lives do not have a positive centre, then you cannot expect the fruit of our lives to be healthy and wholesome.
Jesus is described in John 1:14 as the word that became flesh (incarnate) and lived amongst us. Jesus said his ‘words’ endure forever. He’s consistent; reliable and a promise keeper. He promised his disciples that he would return…but in the mean time we must not get complacent, but live with the anticipation that it could be anytime. So for two thousand years the church has waited…living in the tension between the first coming of Christ and his return; planning long term, while living with the urgency that challenges us to share the good news with others daily.
This is what advent is all about. It’s a reminder of what Christ has already done – but it’s an anticipation of what he has promised he will do. We focus on the word who became flesh; on Jesus (saviour) our Emmanuel (God with us). We are reminded that Jesus is the light for all of creation across all of time and we celebrate the greatest gift of all.
So, this advent, let’s think about our words and actions (and what sort of fruit they show) and let us affirm again the good news, that is the essence of Christmas. Jesus, the word, became one of us so that he could give us the greatest gift ever, so that ‘all who receive him…who believe in his name…have the right to become children of God!’ (John 1:12).
Have you seen any James Bond movie…007…MI6 agent, who has gone through several transformations; not as many a Dr Who, but all the same, some of the actors who have played the role have enjoyed greater success than others.
You’ve guessed by now that I’m something of a movie buff…and the reality is that I have worked in ministry for the last 32 years and in that time I often had only one real day off a week and mostly it wasn’t weekends. So, you look for outlets that take you away from church work – you find little escapes where you can just switch off and find some relaxation.
I like the Sean Connery portray the most – although Daniel Craig’s three instalments have been action packed as well. Bond is a secret agent – and there are times when I wonder, whether as Christians, we act like secret agents too! Maybe not with all the fast cars, beautiful women or amazing gadgets; but in the sense that we are on a Mission from God – on His Majesty’s Service!
Last week I talked about using the resources (talents) God has given us for his purposes and if we don’t use the resources, (or at least try), we will lose them. Most of us have connections out in the wider community – some are intentionally and unashamedly ministry orientated, like Playgroup and Kids Hope Oz, Kid’s Fun Days, Op Shop and RE in Schools. But others are less public – are connections through relationships with family or friends; through clubs and organisations – but if you are there knowing that you are representing the King – then even the quiet things you do in Jesus name – bring glory to God and promote the kingdom
Many of us make choices with our time because we are motivated to follow the example of Jesus – to care for the needy and to bring good news to the people most open to hear. Yet, we live in a time poor society – and we are often so busy chasing after things that we often miss out on really being fulfilled.
So here’s the question; Do you feel really fulfilled and satisfied in all the things that you are doing at the moment? Or, are you stressed by the things you are trying to do in Jesus’ name? So today, let’s take a deep breath, pause for a moment and have a heart check. Let’s take time to reflect and refocus – because the gospel is built on relationships – not on working. We are not trying to earn God’s favour – we need to do what we do out of love for our King and in obedience to Him – not out of any sense of reward, but out of love and gratitude for what Jesus has already done.
In 2010, Time Magazine did a series on the most influential people of the previous millennium…you would have thought that Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Newton, Napoleon, Marx, Darwin, Churchill and a whole lot of others would have been up there for the number 1 prize. Yet, according to Time, the man of the millennium was….…… Thomas Edison.
Reading his story, it is astounding that a boy with behavioural issues…..who suffered from almost total deafness…could be so resilient and industrious, that he became world famous. Edison was a hard worker and once famously said that ‘genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’. He also said that he tried over 3,000 ways to make the light bulb commercially viable, but rather than be discouraged, he just kept going.
I wonder what life would have been like today if he had stopped at 3,000. Or worse still, if he had been too afraid to try? He used the gifts and talents that you have been given to amazing effect.
Today we focus on one of Jesus’ parables that (Matthew 25:14-29) follows similar lines. The master entrusts his servants with sums of money (talents), some more and some less, according to their ability and asked them to do something with it until he returns.
Now, the one with the most (5 talents) doubled his master’s money and was rewarded for his faithfulness and so did the second servant (2 talents), but the third one (one talent) was afraid to risk losing what he had been given, so rather than take a risk, he just buried it, until the day his master came and asked him to give account. The master was furious. Use it or lose it he says!! Is that the way things work in God’s economy?
God asks us to be faithful with the things he has given us; our relationships; our resources; our energies; our talents and abilities. Playing it safe isn’t faithful service according this parable, because faith requires some risks and is action orientated. The kind of faith that God is calling us today is to be obedient; prayerful; risk takers and committed.
God is giving us opportunities to use what we have to build up his church and to reach out in love to others – each of us has gifts, abilities and resources that are necessary for this to succeed. Some us are using what we have been given, while others have those treasures buried deep.
If you are called to give an account of what God has given you, what would the master be saying to you? My hope is that it would be, ‘Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share the master’s happiness.’ (v21)
Back in the late 70’s, when I was completing my high school education, I used to spend many hours listening to the radio while supposedly trying to study. I had my favourite songs and would sometimes ring up the radio station to get a request. Around this time, one of my favourite movies was Grease, with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Their’s was a story of young love in the 1950’s and had many classic songs. At one time, I must admit, I could have almost sung the whole sound track!!!
One of the songs was called “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, a song that reached number 3 on the hit parade in 1978…and was an Academy Award nomination. In the song Sandy, sings of her devotion to her “true love” even though her feelings are not reciprocated. In the end, it all seems so hopeless…but at least the movie has a happy ending!
Hopelessly devoted to you? When it comes to devotion to God many people think it also is hopeless…we express our feelings, but if God is real at all, he is only watching us ‘from a distance’. This is furthest from the truth. The God I know is intimately concerned with every aspect of our lives but does not want us to just stumble through life without a purpose. He wants us to give him 100% of our devotion. That’s a big ask. Is there anything that you are 100% devoted to apart from chocolate? That takes a BIG commitment. It takes more than a feeling. It takes acting upon your decision – but not in your own strength; but in the power of God.
At the end of his life, Joshua reminded the people of all that God had done. But he also saw the compromises they were willing to make along the way. He stood before them with a challenge…”who are you going to serve?” If it’s God, then give him 100% – if not, don’t bother – because God wants your total devotion. Hundreds of years later, Jesus gave the same strong message to would be followers – to be a disciple is costly. So, before you commit, check the fine print; make sure you are willing and able to follow through with what is required – then give it your best efforts – and God will come through with the rest.