From Gavin’s Desk

A person is in trouble. One friend says they must be guilty of something because the trouble wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t done something wrong to deserve it. Another friend says that they will stand by them when the trouble comes. A third friend says that they will help them through this troubled time.  A fourth friend says that they will call in a few favours so that the trouble will go away.

Which of these friends are right and true and good; which of these friends would you consider the friend you would like to have and the friend you would like to be? There is no right or wrong answer – they are all right and all wrong because even though we don’t know what the trouble is, we recognise that we allow one friend closer to our hearts than another friend – on a scale of friends and acquaintances each one will do and say what they have been given the right to do or say in the person’s life. There are those we feel safe with and those we don’t feel safe with. There are those who we will allow to speak into our lives to a significant degree and there are those who we will listen to without taking to heart what is being said. It may be that the better friend would tell us to live with the consequences of a stupid action because we have not learned from previous experience or the better friend could be the one who will do all they can do to help us deal with a situation that is outside of our ability to deal with, but either way they will only be able to say and do what we give them the right to say or do.

The truest friend though is the one that will do whatever they need to do because they know that this is how God has called them to respond to this particular need in this particular moment. The truest friend is the one who walks closely with God and will help us to walk intimately with God. The truest friend is the one who can speak honestly about our faults and our failures because we trust them enough with ourselves to allow them into our hidden bits without fear that they want to hold us ransom in our moment of weakness or exert power over us.

James has a beautiful way of calling us all to be true friends; to be brothers and sisters born of God and brought together in the family of Christ. In all areas of life we are called to allow those we are in a relationship of trust with to be a part of our troubles because we need their wisdom and the wisdom of God; to be a part of our celebrations because we need them to help us appreciate the value of the celebration and to help us give expression to that; to be a part of our weakness because we need them to surround us with the love that brings healing, the love that flows from the healing love of God. We are to be that friend because that is what it means to be righteous, and with God’s help we can.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

Who can give you peace? Where do you find peace? What is peace? Does it come from within ourselves? Does it come from something that is outside of ourselves? Does it come from something I do or does it come from something I receive? Does it come from not disagreeing with others even when we are not confident that they are right? Does it come from an acceptance that it will not always be easy and that relationships will always be hard and so I must resign myself to that fact? Does it come when we are being passive or does it come from being active?

Peace comes as a consequence of wisdom and understanding; wisdom and understanding that comes from God – I fear God (I am in awe of God and I am in love with God and I am not God) and I long for His Kingdom to be fully revealed and at work in the world I live in not because I am afraid that I will suffer but because I am afraid that the world will not know the beauty and wonder of perfect love; that the world will never really live before they die. “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9: 10, NIV).

As those who trust in God, peace is a consequence of being aware of God’s word for us and following through on that word. If I seek to be obedient to God and I do not have peace it either means I have not responded to God’s call or I have not heard God’s word clearly. How can we know peace when God’s word is being used to subject one person to the will of another? How can we know peace when one person is condemned to a life of poverty because we believe them to be cursed in accordance with God’s word? How can we have peace when God’s word is used to ensure some stay out of the Kingdom of God instead of God’s word being a call to open up the Kingdom of God for all people? How can I know peace when the Holy Spirit is aggrieved at all the abuses we perpetrate in the name of God (gender, race, age, sexuality, social standing)?

There is no peace that can exist when it stems from a wisdom of arrogance or insecurity because that can only bring jealousy and bitterness. That wisdom is not from God but it is foolishness that the world considers to be wisdom. That foolishness says that the fear of not being the fittest is the beginning of wisdom and a working knowledge of how to survive in this world is understanding. Survival does not bring peace.

Ensuring equality and justice for all is what brings peace. Making God’s love known is difficult because it is bringing the light into a darkness that does not want to be illuminated even though it needs to be illuminated. The most peaceful thing to do is not always the easiest thing to do, but unless we do it, we will not know the peace that stems from the call of the creator who offers us the privilege of restoring His Kingdom in the world, a Kingdom that belongs to all and is open for all.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

How many wars have been won or lost before they have even begun because of the words exchanged between the opponents? How many relationships have flourished or been doomed because of the words spoken between two people? It is in the words that are used (as well as the way in which they are used) that there is either encouragement or defeat. It is in the things that are said, either verbally or non-verbally that there is building up or breaking down. As powerless as we are over the world, we have all wrapped up within our mouth the power to change the course of history. How many speeches have led the masses to repentance and to reconciliation? How many speeches have incited the masses to hate and murder? How many speeches have been missed because the words that were used seemed to hold no significance or power for the people listening? The power of speech lies in the ability of the one speaking to articulate what they need to say clearly enough and it lies in those who listen to the words to the extent that they give authority to the one speaking to speak into their lives.

It would be great if we were all able to say what we wanted to say without any chance of being misunderstood but that is unfortunately not the realty we live with. Obviously we all receive and interpret the conversations we have differently and we are capable of receiving something positive out of a negative statement as well as receiving something negative out of a positive statement. I guess that has to do with what we expect to come from the person we are speaking to (whether it is justified or not because our expectations are not often based in reality – we often hear what we want to hear). When words are spoken; we hang on to the negative, in our insecurity, out of fear that the words may be true or we hold on to the positive because we have learned to trust that we are not who we fear we are.

While we do have the power of speaking life or death into the lives of those around us it is incredible how we can seek to do both at different times in the lives of the same people. This is not because of who they are but because of how we imagine they see us. Those who dwell in the misery of their insecurities are normally those who are in the habit of speaking negatively into most situations. Those who have received the peace of God are normally those who are in the habit of speaking positively. The way we speak is not fixed, but it is the habit we choose to form through practice. We can only consistently speak life when we experience the life that comes from a close walk with Christ and we desire that life for others. We can only consistently speak life when we discover the freedom from fear that we find in the perfect love of God. We can only consistently speak life when we are not afraid of what others may think because we have seen ourselves through the eyes of the God who loves us even to death on the cross. We can only consistently speak life when we love as God has taught us how to love. May the love in our hearts be evident in the words of our mouths.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

The sun comes up a little earlier, the days hold the promise of being a little warmer, the new shoots come through even though it is still cold; the possibility of a fresh start, of a reawakening and revitalising of the world and of our spirits has become a reality. Spring is such a wonderful promise of a milder cool from winter past and a milder warm of summer to come. In very few places will the weather change from the cold of winter to the warm of spring in the roll-over of the month on a calendar; in the space of the night between August and September, yet the promise of newness does seem to come in the space of that one evening.  Even though it remains cold, the cold has become bearable because it now holds the promise of warmth bound up within it. It has grown warmer after winter every year, as it has grown colder after summer every year and so spring brings the promise of a heat that will come because the heat has always come and there is not much you can do to stop it from coming.

The promise and the fulfilment are bound up in each other. If the promise had never been fulfilled, it would become nothing more than an empty promise that offers no hope. If the promise is always fulfilled, then the promise would hold great value because you can be sure of it; you can put your hope in it. The promise gives hope because we are sure of what we have not yet experienced in the present because we have experienced the fulfilment in another time and space. The fulfilment is the celebration of the promise because it is the fulfilment of the hope that was received in the promise.

Faith and works are bound up in each other. My faith in the work of Christ gives me hope that I will become more than I am now and it gives me hope that we will be more than we are now. That faith would be dead if I was not more now than I was before, if we were not more than we were before. The fulfilment of that hope convicts us that we can trust that this journey will continue to be a journey of becoming more than we are. God longs for us to grow into the image we were created in and part of that journey is the gift of helping each other on that journey, is the gift of caring for each other.

A life giving faith is a faith that has Christ at its centre; a life that is guided by the Holy Spirit. A life that is guided by the Holy Spirit results in us becoming the hands and feet of Christ. A life guided by the Holy Spirit is a life that gives life as the Holy Spirit gives life. The life of faith and the life of works are bound up in the Holy Spirit. Works that are not accompanied by our faith will die and faith that is not expressed through acts of mercy is dead.

Every day that we open ourselves up to be led by the Spirit of God is a day in which the hope of something better that is found in the promise will be fulfilled.

Gavin