“My sickness was a burden to you but you didn’t look down on me or make me go away. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God. You accepted me as if I were Christ Jesus Himself!” Gal 4:14 (Simple English Bible)
Last night, my wife and I attended a very special memorial service — a local hospice offered to light up a special Christmas Tree light for everyone who donated towards their work. Cards were placed on the tree with the names of those who had been nominated and had passed on. There was a light on the tree for my father, Albert, as well as Sana’s father, Viktor. It was a chilly evening because the event was conducted outside and the Scottish pipers played several tunes as about a hundred people sat near the tree. When the lights were turned on, most people gasped and then the place fell quiet. From then onwards, there was this spirit of togetherness and peace as we all remembered those special people in our lives who were no longer there.
Perhaps this was a similar spirit when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia. A feeling of mutual togetherness, a commonality of purpose and focus.
Despite everyone’s sense of loss, it was a time of happiness and even anticipation. Just as if there were something better coming ahead. I spoke with those sitting next to me — perfect strangers — and they were joyful that we were sharing this together. We felt a part of something bigger than any of us were on our own.
I’d like to sense that Christians feel this way about our Lord and each other. I’d like to have that feeling of togetherness, even in sickness, tragedy and loss. I’d like to think that all Christians would keep their eyes on the Light and appreciate who Jesus truly is.
And I kinda think it must start with me….!
“I read part of it all the way through!” Samuel Goldwyn
Sam Goldwyn of MGM Studios was known for his malaproprisms. He sometimes mixed words and metaphors, misquoted people and frequently confused people with whom he was talking. Sam loved making movies and was excited about the projects that crossed his desk. When an eager director asked Sam about a movie script he’d submitted some time ago, the above quote was what Sam said.
During the Cape Bible Seminary classes I teach, I often find that Christians don’t know where a book of the Bible is or even what it says. Apart from the “famous” oft-used Scriptures, the rest of the Bible seems to be unexplored territory. I’ll spice up the class by asking someone to read from the 24th chapter of John’s gospel or a verse from the Book of Hezekiah. It comes as a shock to some that neither reference exists!
The Bible came to us down through the centuries, being carefully preserved and inspired by the Holy Spirit through Godly men. It is a unique library of God’s dealings with mankind. It details where we came from and why we’re here. It provides hope, comfort and joy. It reveals God in His magnificence and glory. It explains our nature and spirituality better and clearer than any other writing in the entire world! And yet, Christians, who profess to know God’s Word, are a little lax in reading and studying this incredible spiritual library.
My challenge today is simple: take an hour today and read one of the gospels or letters of Paul. Philemon is only 25 verses! Let’s get back to God’s book!
“That is why I sent him to you. Then you will learn about how we are. He will encourage your hearts.” Eph 6:22 (Simple English Bible)
Encouraging one another to be active in good works, talking about our faith, spreading the Good News and helping one another is such a blessing for each of us. It’s good to know what is happening in other places and other congregations. I don’t think that churches do this enough, although recently, via the internet, Facebook, Twitter and other electronic webs, news spreads fast. The problem is that there is so much news of all sorts and it’s difficult to know where to begin and what to read. (I personally don’t use Facebook or Twitter — I’m an old fashioned dude who can barely keep up with e-mail!)
Paul sent one of his helpers, Tychicus to the churches in Ephesus with this letter. Obviously, Tychicus would give and update on Paul’s imprisonment and his awaiting trial with Caesar Nero. While it is good to know what is happening, how could anyone in any of the churches in the city possibly be encouraged that the apostle was still chained to a Roman soldier? That must have been a damper on the report, right? I mean, nobody would be dancing in the aisles or leading a shout of Three Cheers! How would this possibly encourage anyone?
Because Paul himself said that he was a prisoner of his Lord. Because Paul would continue to serve Christ no matter where he was. Because Paul knew that his life was temporary and as long as he lived, he would witness of the Good News. Because Paul still had loyal Christians companions with him to help take the letters to encourage the churches. Because, the Christians knew that Paul would be faithful to the end, no matter what. Because Paul and the churches had faith in Jesus.
What might appear to be a setback depends upon your point of view, doesn’t it? Which way are you reading things where you are?