Thought for the week 27/06/22 

axe

“Where have all the men gone?”

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
 
The Church in the UK is losing its men. Of course, it is also losing woman too. But it’s the loss of men that is really noticeable and somewhat confusing. According to a Tearfund survey 65% of regular churchgoers in the UK were women while only 35% were men. In the past 20 years some 49% of males under the age of 30 have left church. Some fear that in 30 years’ time there won’t be any males left in our UK churches.
 
What on earth is happening?
 
The Bible has loads of examples of males who follow Jesus.
Jesus himself was a bloke who had no problem whatsoever about hanging out with other blokes. Indeed, Jesus would hang out with some pretty unsavoury characters. From the 12 disciples that we know about some were would be terrorists. A few were hard working fisherman – not afraid to call a spade a spade – or a fish a fish! And one – Zacchaeus – was a tax collector.
 
If Jesus could attract men like Zaccheus, why are churches today losing men?
 
Perhaps some of the problem is the image we offer people of the God we claim to follow. If we’re honest God is just a bit too much of a bloke for most of us to deal with. God gets angry about wrong stuff. God has issues with injustice and wrong ways of living. The God of the Bible is just a little bit too much like scary bloke from down the street.
 
In our efforts to deal with ‘bloke’ God we ‘ve sanded down his rough edges and put him in a smart set of acceptable clothes.
 
The problem with the nice, sensitive, allergen free God is that it’s only one side of God.
 
God is all loving, but he is also God almighty.
 
In an attempt to connect with my inner man, I tried axe throwing at the weekend. It was a terrifying experience for both the instructor and those waiting in the queue line. But that’s another story. The story I want to jump to takes place in 2 Kings chapter 6. Here the prophet Elisha is hanging out with a bunch of other prophets. One of them is cutting down a tree when his axe head falls into the water.
 
Assuming the water is deep, this is a disaster. You can’t chop down trees without an axe. And iron axe heads, back in the days before B&Q were expensive items. I think they still might be. If you’re a bloke chopping wood, you don’t want to lose your axe head.
 
Would his Mrs be bothered? Probably not.
 
Would the church be praying for the safe return of the axe head? Probably not.
 
Was the bloke devastated and grief stricken? Of course he was. Why?
 
“It was borrowed!” (2 Kings 6:5)
 
At best this is going to get him serious ridicule for months from his mates. At worst his former friend may be chasing him with another axe. It’s bad news for our lad.
 
Until Elisha comes along and makes the iron axe float. A wood chopping bloke with an axe is a happy man. A wood chopping bloke reunited with his slightly wet axe is a very happy man.
 
I don’t think God cares very much about axes – floating or not. But he does care about our men.
 
How could we help our men find God?

Keith Wilson, 27/06/2022

Thought for the week 20/06/22 

 

 Keep calm and trust God

“Keep Calm and Dig?”

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1
 
A poll was published by YouGov in 2020 that showed 56% of Brits believe in God. That’s pretty encouraging. I also believe there’s a God. But is it enough to simply believe there’s a God? Or do we need more in such troubling times?
 
In 1938 and 1939 the British government commissioned a series of posters deigned to prepare people for the much-feared outbreak of what would become World War Two. Today we think that the most widely used poster had the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry on.’ Over 2.45 million versions of this poster were produced. However very few were ever used. Instead, posters with the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Dig’ were preferred. It was only in the year 2000 that a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster was found in a bookshop in Alnwick. Since then, it has gone on the grace everything from posters to mugs and T-Shirts.
 
Keep calm and carry on. It appeals to our British stoicism – that famed ‘stiff upper lip’ that outsiders watch with a mix of admiration and puzzlement. That sense that we, as a nation, are to be defined by self-discipline, fortitude and remaining calm in the face of adversity. The original designers thought the words would help as people faced troubling times.
 
Today we once again face deeply troubling times.
 
Do we need to simply keep calm and carry on today?
 
Troubling times.
 
Concerns about high fuel prices.
 
Fears about our incomes.
 
Concerns and fears about where or how the next war or looming disaster will emerge.
 
How can we keep calm and simply carry on in a world like this?
 
Back in Jesus’ day people also had lots of reasons to be concerned and fearful.
 
Brutal Roman occupiers imposed violence and high taxes on an unruly population.
 
Terrorism and war were never far from the news.
 
Add in natural disasters and the ever-present threat of poverty and hunger.
 
These were troubling times.
 
This was a population desperate for change and fearful of how that might occur.
To his listeners. To us today. Jesus said this.
 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
 
Jesus had in mind far more than words for a poster or range of nicely marketed goods.
 
Jesus wanted people to know peace.
 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1
 
In uncertain, dangerous times why are we not to be troubled? We can find peace in troubled times by not just believing in God – but also believing in Jesus.
 
If we think there’s a God – we can also know there’s a Saviour. And the Son invites us to come and take a place in his Father’s house (John 14:2)
 
Today the Son invites us to come home.

Keith Wilson, 21/06/2022

Thought for the week 06/06/22 

Spite house

“Spite House”

‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Acts 2:38
 
Does your house have a name?
 
The top 3 house names in the UK are:
1.The Cottage
2. Rose Cottage
3. The Bungalow.
 
What do you think of this name for a house – ‘Spite House’?
 
In 1882 a New York businessman, Joseph Richardson, tried to sell a narrow strip of land on Lexington Avenue. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long. Another businessman, Hyman Sarner, owned a normal sized plot on which he wanted to build apartments. Sarner offered to buy the skinny plot from Richardson for $1,000. Instead, Richardson demanded $5,000 for his skinny plot.  It was too much for a tiny plot of land. Sarner refused to pay and built his apartments assuming the skinny plot would remain empty. As Sarner saw the new apartments he realised they overlooked his skinny plot of land. A furious Sarner decided to build his own apartment on the land to block the view.
 
Richardson built his house. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long and 4 stories high. It was a super small apartment. Only one person at a time could go up or down the stairs. So small were the rooms that the dining table could only be 18 inches wide. The building was dubbed the ‘Spite House.’ Richardson lived in ‘Spite House’ for 14 years. It was torn down in 1914.
 
Who would choose to live in a narrow house only built to spite your neighbour?
 
It seems a ridiculous thing to build and try to live in. It sounds a horrible place to live.
 
Yet many of us choose each day to live in our own ‘Spite Houses.’ Narrow, constrained places built on unforgiveness and a desire for revenge.
 
We see it played out in the world news. We see it played out between warring factions and neighbours. We see it played out in our own lives too.
 
Jesus offers us an alternative. Jesus offers us a home in a place called ‘Father’s Mansion.’
 
Jesus wants us to live in a spacious mansion that has many rooms (John 14:2)
The route out of ‘Spite House’ to ‘Father’s Mansion’ is both simple and incredibly difficult.
 
To move from ‘Spite House’ to ‘Father’s Mansion’ all we must do is forgive.
 
To give something, we must first receive.
 
Jesus taught us to pray:
And forgive us our debts
As we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
 
To receive forgiveness, we need to accept that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. We then need to repent or change our way of living.
 
Or sins can feel like heavy debts. Debts that we cannot possibly pay off. Yet Jesus offers us forgiveness – he has paid our price.
 
The removal of a heavy unpayable debt is freeing It releases us and creates a cause for joy.
 
Are there sins or debts we need to ask Jesus to take away from us today?
 
And, having received that forgiveness, is there anyone we need to forgive?
 

Keith Wilson, 06/06/2022