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Posted By Nan

For the last blog of the year I am going to write something that does not fit into the Joy theme, but it seems important to cover today.
Last night I had a dream. In the dream I saw a World War One army chaplain talking to a Nurse. They were in France, in a hospital that treated injured and dying soldiers. The Chaplain asked the nurse if she had a prayer that God would promise to answer by this day next year, what would that prayer be? She responded that she would pray that the war be over in the coming year.
Some time later the chaplain was at home with his congregation. He asked them the same question. The people didn’t speak out their dreams, but I knew what they had asked for. A woman asked for her son to be home. One man asked for his new cow to have a calf. A young teenager asked that she would look pretty. A young woman asked that a certain young man would like her. And so the prayers went.
The chaplain told the people about the prayer of the nurse and the congregation felt bad as the selfishness of their prayers. They had all prayed for things they needed instead of looking at the bigger picture of the world.
Then I heard the nurse continuing her earlier conversation with the Chaplain. She spoke of how many people back home would probably pray different prayers about matters more pressing to them. She felt she prayed for an end of war because she was there, dealing with the effects of it daily.
Then I saw the stories behind the prayer requests.
The woman at home praying for her son to be home next Christmas had lost two sons to the war. The son she was praying for was her last son. He was fighting in France. She wanted him home and alive.
The man with the cow was struggling to keep his children fed. His cow was young but ready to breed. If she had a calf she would then be able to produce milk for his children.
The young teenager felt uncertain and insecure. She was struggling to find a sense of self worth in a world where everyone seemed to have everything. She wanted God to give her that sense of self worth.
The young woman wanting that young man to like her was like any number of people who fall in love with someone and want that love reciprocated.
The other prayer requests where not selfish. They were just different. Those who would condemn the prayers would see them as lacking the ‘big picture’ perspective. They would argue we should be praying for world problems not our own. But is that correct?
In the Bible, God tells us he has numbered the hairs on our heads (Luke 12v7). God would not number the hairs on our heads if all our little personal problems were not important to Him. Yes, big world issues do matter and need to be prayed over. But so do personal problems. Because they matter too.
As I contemplated this dream God revealed that we so often try to make Him the big picture God because it is easier to see Him as the one who only attends to the big things. If we believe our personal problems are too small to bother God about, then we can justify doing what we want. We don’t have to ask God about the small things in life, because He isn’t interested in them. That way we can live our lives the way we want and still feel we are following God.
Of course that belief is wrong, but it is a very seductive and easy thing to believe. Relying on God for every aspect of our lives is hard work.
As 2019 draws to a close, this is a good time to consider making 2020 the year of the God of the little things. This doesn’t mean we ignore the bigger issues. It just means we include God in the little things we do. It means we allow God to be in every aspect of our lives. Not as a harsh, judgemental God, but as a loving caring Father who guides us where we need to go.

Posted By Nan

Christmas is portrayed as a time of great Joy. We speak of the great Joy the Angels sang of to the shepherds. We hear how the shepherds, with great Joy, visited the new born baby. We tell the story of the three wise men, who travelled a long way to honour the baby and felt such Joy at finding Him. We even speak with Joy of the baby born in a stable in humble circumstances.
But do we really think about the reality of that day Jesus came to earth as human baby?
Do we really understand the, to the world, insignificant events taking place in a stable?
As Mary and Joseph sought any shelter they could find for their baby to be born in, Bethlehem was full of people. No doubt there was much partying and celebration. Old friends and family catching up. Travellers enjoying convivial company of new found friends. Innkeepers and those supplying the travellers counting their handsome profits. Did anyone give any thought to the young couple delivering a baby in great poverty? Did anyone give any more thought to that young couple than they do to any number of young couples bringing children into a world without hope today?
We live in a world where the gap between those with wealth and those without wealth is widening. And no government cares enough to do anything about it.
We live in a world where millions of people are displaced from their homes, their lives, and opportunities for a future. They attempt to raise their children in tents and homes cobbled together from scrap materials. There are no schools, no jobs, and no hope of a future. Very few people are ever accepted into wealthy western countries as refugees. Most will never leave those refugee camps they have found themselves in.
There is little love or concern in the world for those in poverty or the refugee.
Yet Jesus was born into poverty.
And Jesus was a refugee.
While Mary laboured to deliver our Messiah, Bethlehem danced and ate and celebrated in their wealth and deliberate ignorance of the poor amongst them.
With Bethlehem bursting at the seams who paid tribute to the baby born to save us all?
The poorest of the poor. The most outcast of them all. The Shepherds. God sent His angels to them. Why? Many will say it was because God wanted to include even the most unacceptable in society in His salvation. There is probably an element of truth in that. But what if God sent His angels to the shepherds because they were willing to listen? While the rest of Bethlehem followed their own pleasure and comfortable complacency, the shepherds were open to hear the message God wanted to share. They were prepared to stop and notice the Angels. They were willing to see the greatness in that heavenly host. Would the people of Bethlehem have appreciated the enormity of this visitation? Or would they have been so busy enjoying themselves they wouldn’t have noticed? Or would they have paused briefly, said something about how nice that was, and got on with their partying?
The foreigners heard God’s message too. They didn’t even have a faith in God. All they knew was that something momentous. Something important. Something that should be honoured had happened. They came with a willingness, openness of heart and great Joy to honour this baby.
As we fill our Christmas Day with for some a church service, family, friends, food, presents and partying may we remember that impoverished family sheltering in a stable. May we remember the many who have nowhere to call home. The faceless who “decent” people walk past and never notice. May we remember the multitude of people struggling to survive in refugee camps around the world. May we remember the asylum seekers locked up indefinitely, waiting to live, while around them people get on with lives the asylum seekers can only dream of. May we never forget those who have no hope in a world that doesn’t care.
May we take real steps to spread the true Joy of God to all. Not offering platitudes of prayer, but actual physical help. There is a world out there of forgotten people, the shepherds of our generation. May we be the Heavenly Host sent to proclaim the joyous news of the Saviour’s birth and be Jesus’ hands of healing and assistance in an uncaring world.

Posted By Nan

Job 20:5

The joy of the godless lasts but a moment. This is the declaration of Zophar. He believes good health and prosperity are proof of his goodness and righteousness. He believes anything the sinner has is only temporary. This includes joy. He believes Job is suffering and without joy because he is a sinner.
Beliefs such as this were common then and are common now amongst Christians. As I mentioned in my previous blog, such attitudes are harmful. Reading through to the end of Job, we can see that God did not support such attitudes. Yet such attitudes persist.
It is our responsibility to not judge others when they encounter hard times. Instead we are to offer love and compassion. Prosperity and good health are not a sign of God’s favour. Sometimes He gives those things to us, and other times he doesn’t. Not giving us good things does not mean He does not love us. God loves us no matter what is happening in our lives.

May that knowledge give you comfort and joy.

Posted By Nan

Job 8:21, 9:25, 10:20

“God will fill our mouths with laughter and our lips with shouts of joy.” These are the words of Job’s friend Bildad. He was right, but the speech he gave to Job was self righteous, accusatory and totally lacking in empathy. He accused Job of committing great sins, being a hypocrite in saying he has served God faithfully, and accuses Job of saying God has been unjust. He is the sort of person I spoke about in a previous blog. The well-meaning Christian who tells Job to praise God in all circumstances. He offers no compassion for Job’s situation, no empathy for what Job is experiencing. He believes Job has done something wrong so is therefore to blame for his situation. His input is completely unhelpful.
Bildad does speak some wise words. He tells Job that God will fill his mouth with laughter and his lips with joy, but he tells Job this at the wrong time. Anyone who has been through a really tough time will tell you that comments like that are unhelpful to those who are hurting. There is a time for such comments, and this was not the right time.
In the study notes on this section in my Bible, there is the comment that arguing theology has no place in the sickroom The notes remind us that in times of great suffering we are required to respond with love and understanding, not theology and judgement.
Job, in chapter 9, speaks of the joylessness of his current existence. He acknowledges he is in a joyless place. But he still holds on to his faith in God. In Chapter 10 he asks God to allow him a few moments joy.
Sometimes we can feel totally cast adrift by God. We trust Him, but don’t believe He wants good things for us, because we definitely are not getting them! It is so hard when you see friends getting all the blessings and having this wonderful, joyous life and you are struggling with everything going wrong and feeling a total cast adrift failure.
The Book of Job is a wonderful example of something in just that position. It is worth noting that Job always maintained His trust in God. He bemoaned the terrible things that were happening to him and begged God for help, but he never accused God of behaving unjustly.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation to Job, hang in there. Hold on to trust in God. Know that Joy is not our constant companion but can come no matter the circumstances. Trust that God is there and that he will give you Joy. Ask Him for the strength to hold on until that time comes.

Posted By Nan

Job 6:1-10

In the previous blog I spoke about Job being in a situation where Joy was not being given to him. All he could do was hold on in trust until he could experience Joy.
This passage is a good example of that holding on in trust. Job was able to glean some Joy out of the situation. He felt joy that despite his terrible circumstances, he had not cursed God or turned away from Him. He felt joy that after he was dead, this would be credited to him.
That is a really good teaching. We have explored Joy being different to Happiness. We have explored Joy as a fruit of the Spirit. We have read of Joy as a result of our relationship with God and our worship of Him. We have noted that sometimes we will not feel Joy. In those times we must have trust in God and cling to Him. And here, despite all Job’s misery, he experiences Joy because he has not turned away from God.

So we see Joy as:
*Deeper than happiness;
*A fruit of the Spirit;
*A result of our relationship with God;
*Needing to trust that it will come; and
*A result of trusting God and not turning away from Him.

That last thought is incredibly comforting and yes, it is a joyful thought.



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