Thought for the Week 10/05/21 

Review 

“Critiquing your Critics”
 
“By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you.” 2 Corinthians 10:1
 
An account of the life of the Apostle Paul reads like an action adventure. A persecutor of the early church, Saul (his original name) was transformed after a blinding and direct encounter with Jesus. Paul (his new name) went on to become the greatest church planter there has ever been. His letters continue to form the foundations for our doctrines of faith and contemporary church practice.
 
Along the way Paul faced all sorts of adventures. A brief excerpt from his letter to the church in Corinth could have be written by someone like Bear Grylls!
I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from the Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea.” 1 Corinthians 11:26
 
It is interesting that Paul includes the Jews and Gentiles as among those dangers he faced. People he knew as well as those he did not. The criticism of others can threaten us as much as any other danger.
 
How do we deal with our critics?
 
At work we may face appraisals or reviews.
 
At home we may have family members who can undermine what we do.
 
Wherever we go. Whatever we do there will be a critic lurking. Rather than avoid them, we need to face up to our critics.
 
Let’s critique our critics.
 
It helps to identify what type of critic we are facing.
 
Is this critic in the building business or the demolition game?
 
Rob Parsons writes: Our critics are either builders or destroyers. Those who are builders have a single aim: they want to see us grow – to get better at what we do.
 
Our best critics want the best from us. It may not be easy to hear – but listen we must if we genuinely want to be the best God has created us to be.
 
Then there are those who simply want to knock us down. Whether it’s from jealously or from issues of their own their words act like giant sledgehammers. We must, in love, gently put their words down. We are far from perfect. The Church of Jesus Christ is far from perfect. We know this isn’t heaven. It doesn’t take a wrecking ball to show us our faults.
 
Not every critic is an outsider. Some of the toughest words we’ll ever hear about ourselves actually come from ourselves.
 
Criticism, especially if done badly, leaves us feeling that we are somehow worthless. That we have much to prove.
 
Following Jesus allows us to see things differently. Paul writes: So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
 
Why?
 
God loves us and wants to transform us. Criticism causes us to look back on where we have been. We remain locked in that place of failure.
 
God wants us to look forward to who we can become.
 
“…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
 
Who might we encourage and build up today?

Keith Wilson, 10/05/2021

Thought for the Week 04/05/21 

Auschwitz 

“God in our neighbourhood”
 
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
 
I’ve just finished reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz a work of fiction based on the powerful true story of Lale Sokolov. We cannot understand what it was like to live – and die – in the Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. There is a scene in which the Jewish Lale is asked simply: Have you lost your faith?
 
In the same circumstances few of us really know how we might answer that question.
 
For Lale, the scenes he witnessed led him to conclude that no merciful god could let this happen. Yet to the other main character, Gita, the same scenes do not cause her to leave her faith.
 
This is the problem with faith. We do not know how tough it really is – until it’s truly tested.
 
Scenes of human suffering are sadly all too common.
 
We watch as the news broadcasts pictures of desperate people scrambling for urgent medical care in India.
 
We hear of another war. Another disaster.
 
We witness how illness and death break into our own comfortable lives.
 
Where is God in the midst of this human suffering?
 
Does God even understand what it is like to be one of us – islands of fragility and fear seemingly surrounded by waves of terror and fear?
 
Faith looks to verses such as these recorded for us by John.
 
“The Word became flesh.”
 
The Word refers to God – with Jesus, personifying God for us.
 
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
 
In Jesus God took on human form and came to live among us.
 
Not in a palace.
 
Not in a mansion.
 
But in a small, poverty stricken, occupied land in the Middle East. This was the neighbourhood Jesus spent his life in.
 
Jesus would have known hunger.
 
Jesus would have known poverty.
 
Jesus would have known what it was like to work a full day and still be owing money.
 
Day after day.
 
Jesus would have witnessed the authorities oppress the people.
 
God does not leave when we suffer – rather God came down.
 
It is comforting to know that God knows the extent of human suffering.
 
But I want more than comfort in tough times? I want to know that the tough times have an end.
 
Jesus told his disciples that: “You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20
 
Jesus was referring to his death which would appear – at the time – to represent the triumph of evil and suffering.
 
But Jesus knew that from his death would come his resurrection.
 
Grief will turn to joy.

God did more than enter our world – he also offers to heal and forgive us and to bring us into new, eternal life.

 
How can we keep faith and hope alive?

Keith Wilson, 04/05/2021

Thought for the week 26/04/21 

Kintsugi 

“Kintsugi”
 
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 9
 
Have you ever wondered why God does not take away all our problems as soon as we ask?
 
All of us have faced over a year of disruption and change because of the global pandemic. A pandemic that appears to be on the retreat locally, at least for the time being. Yet in other nations the pandemic continues to infect and kill horrendous numbers of people.
 
Why hasn’t God removed this threat to human life and flourishing?
 
Others among us may struggle with long term physical or mental health issues.
 
Why hasn’t God made us better so we can thrive and enjoy the fullness of life?
 
One of the lasting images of 2021 will be that of our Queen sitting alone in St Georges chapel Windsor during the funeral service of her husband, Prince Philip. In that image is captured something of the human frailty that none of us can escape.
 
Rich or poor. King or Queen. At some point in our lives, cracks will appear, and our brokenness exposed.
 
There’s an art form in Japan called kintsugi. Instead of throwing away broken pottery, the pieces are carefully glued together using a lacquer mixed with gold. The cracks are not covered over. Instead, they are highlighted and celebrated.
 
Works of beauty created from broken pieces.
 
The Apostle Paul is one of the great superheroes of the Bible. Having encountered Jesus suddenly and dramatically his life was turned around. The one-time persecutor of Christians became the greatest church planter and evangelist the earth had ever known. Nothing seemed to be able to stop Paul. He was arrested. He was at attacked. He had to take part in daring escapes. Beaten, bruised and bloodied, Paul went all out for his faith.
 
Yet this hero had a flaw.
 
Paul called this his ‘Thorn in my flesh.’ (2 Corinthians 12:7)
 
Ouch!
 
It sounds painful.
 
It sounds like something we would want to hide and remove.
 
Paul pleaded with the LORD to take it away. But God said:
 
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
 
The image of the Queen – alone with her grief and mourning – resonated with so many who have lost loved ones this year. Far from diminishing her power and status – it created a sense of identification with the struggles and sufferings of her people.
 
It is right to pray for an end to our times of suffering. One day they will be gone – and gone for good.
 
At the same time let’s not avoid the opportunities our brokenness offers to create lives of beauty as God fills our cracks.
 
As Paul concluded
 
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 
Where might God be creating beauty in the brokenness this week?

Keith Wilson, 26/04/2021