Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Companions for the journey

The journey. The Journey - Life's Journey.  Friends have just walked part of great pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, meeting many along the way who were aiming for the same goal and purpose. Companions for the journey.

Who are OUR companions for the journey?

Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. Paul and Barnabas, and then Paul and Timothy, travelled together. Paul, in fact, travelled with at least eight different companions over the years.

Of course, we think of those fellow Christians who have become our friends: but what qualities do we look for in this particular friendship?
  1. Presence. We need someone with us - often, perhaps, it is not necessarily someone we would choose to be friends with, but just someone who is  Luke was Paul's companion on many a journey, staying with him even when others had gone their separate ways. (2 Timothy 4:11: Only Luke has stayed with me.") 
  2. Integrity. We need to be able to trust the truth of each other.
  3. Passion. We need someone to inspire us.
  4. Likemindedness. We need to be in agreement with each other... but...we also need someone with...
  5. Courage. We need someone who will challenge us.  And we need someone who WE can challenge:
Galatians 6:2  Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.

Jesus said: "“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor."

Challenging each other is a gift from God when we examine our own hearts first. It is really hard to do this - SO much easier to see what is 'wrong' with someone else. Yet when we see someone else's sin, perhaps it is not as much looking through a one way mirror, as if we were observing a police interrogation from the hidden safety of the observation room, as looking into an actual mirror. We see someone else's fault because, in some way, it mirrors our own.

Sometimes we have already fallen into the same sin: we recognise it: been there, done that. The sin of pride often lies behind many others, as we subconsciously consider ourselves superior.  Have we ever said or thought; "I'd never do that" ?  Or perhaps sin is motivating our 'recognition': a desire to feel better about ourselves by putting others down?  Examining our own hearts must always be a precursor to confronting another, humbly admitting our own tendencies to sin and having a gentle approach.

Having said all this, sometimes we will part company. We differ - as Paul and Barnabas did, (Acts 12: 12, 25; Acts 13: 5, 13; Acts 15: 37, 39) - and may separate, perhaps only for a while, perhaps permanently.  Our lives may geographically become separate - and thank God for the internet which helps us keep in close touch.  Our paths may just diverge, as God takes our lives in different directions.

Whatever happens, we can value those who journey with us.  Who are YOUR companions who journey through life with you? Who is your 'go to' person who you travel with? A REAL person, or someone you have come across through the internet: facebook, a website or a blog?

Then, when we are on a journey, we need places and people where we can find rest and refreshment: perhaps these are people we meet for a while and then leave behind. I think of Jesus at Sychar in Samaria: "Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well." He was hungry and thirsty, so he asked a woman who had come to the well for a drink. " Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)" 

The woman gave him water to refresh this thirst: but how encouraged he must have been by her openness to listen to him and receive his message and who he was. When the disciples came back, "his disciples urged him, 'Rabbi, eat something. But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you know nothing about..'
Then his disciples said to each other, 'Could someone have brought him food?'
'My food,' said Jesus, 'is to do the wil of him who sent me and to finish his work...
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I've ever done.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, 'We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.'"

Can you think of someone you have met along the way who has encouraged you? Perhaps you too have been weary and in need of physical and emotional rest and refreshment, but you have received spiritual encouragement as well.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Interesting. Paul is warning the Galatians against being misled so that they lose sight of Jesus, lose sight of the Truth and become deceived. In Galatians 5:9, he uses the proverb  ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ but this is not in the Bible.

Nevertheless, yeast symbolises sin in the Old Testament; is cited as obduracy in belief by Jesus; and, by Paul, sin which disrupts the church's worship of God.

For us in a Western world, this seems almost counterintuitive.

Our bread is not chapatti or tortilla, injera, or even traditional Irish sodabread or heavy German sourdough ryebreads.
No, we depend on yeast for the light, soft, delicious spongy wheat bread.


The pleasures of the world can indeed distract and detract from our pursuit of Jesus. I remember Romans 12:2 "Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him."

That is freedom: "It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom." (vv 13 - 14)

"Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness." (v19)

And if I am NOT animated and motivated by God's spirit? Then it is chaos: "It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:... a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; ...magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom."

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Children of a loving father God

Galatians 4:8 - 9

"Before you knew God, you were slaves of gods that are not real. But now you know God, or better still, God."

Don't let myself be deceived, distracted, discouraged, disheartened by deviation and life in God is not about what I do, the rules and regulations I keep, but about who I am... a child, a daughter, of my loving heavenly father who wants nothing more but a close relationship with me...

And so: "Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

... The moment any one of (us) submits to .. any...rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. ...

...When (we) attempt to live by (our) own religious plans and projects, (we) are cut off from Christ, (we) fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love." (Galatians 5:1 - 6, The Message)