I’m well aware that God doesn’t always get the best of me. It’s just that I’m busy, and I get tired, and – to be honest – there are plenty of things that I’d rather be spending my time and energy on than God. Of course, sometimes God does get my best, but not often. He gets what I feel like I can afford, which is much less than I can actually afford. I think that God is used to living on starvation rations.
I was thinking about this because I had been reminded about a story I was told once. It’s about Jimmy Carter, who was the 39th President of the United States, and it’s from his book Why not the Best?.
Apparently, Jimmy Carter was once asked to speak at a church in Preston, Georgia on the topic of ‘Christian Witnessing’. Carter had been a member of Plains Baptist Church, which held an annual one-week outreach event where members of the church would visit people in their homes and share the gospel with them. He thought that, as part of his sermon, he would share from these experiences. He worked out that, in the fourteen years since leaving the Navy, he had visited 140 homes to tell people about Jesus. He felt quite proud of his efforts.
Then he started thinking about his 1966 campaign to be elected governor of Georgia. During the three month campaign he spent between sixteen and eighteen hours a day trying to reach as many people as possible. He calculated that he had met about 300,000 Georgians.
Carter was humbled by the comparison. In fourteen years he had reached 140 people for God, and in three months he had reached 300,000 people for himself.
God isn’t the only one who has to make do with the scraps from my table – I also have a family that doesn’t get the attention that they deserve. I don’t think that there’s any point feeling guilty about such things, but I do like to try and keep myself honest.
Sometimes, I find it hard to remain totally committed to hope when a cursory look around provides plenty of reasons to despair. Thankfully, I am totally committed to hope. When I wrote Look on the Bright Side (which appears in The Listening Book) I was trying to nail my colours to the mast, the reasoning being that if I publicly put my beliefs on paper then I can’t really give up without looking like a hypocrite. That’s one way to make pride work for you. Read more
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about spiritual warfare, it’s that Satan is no gentleman. He isn’t one to say, “Hey, James has had a really rough week. Let’s go easy on him for the moment.” Quite the opposite in fact. There may be times where the conflict is more overt, and I am more aware of it, but rarely do the guns actually stop.
As a preacher, I know that the build up to a sermon can be a time of conflict. The act of preparation, with the temptation to take shortcuts or play fast and loose with the truth, feels like a battle. When we’re working towards something specific, we can be conscious of the spiritual struggle, wrestling with motives and prayer, but it’s a mistake to think that after the event there’s a ceasefire. As soon as the seed has landed on the path is the best time for the birds to swoop. The moment the preacher sits down is as good a time as any to push him into pride or drag him into despair.
However, as relentless as the Enemy is, God is even more so. The truth doesn’t ever stop being true. There is not a moment where resisting the devil doesn’t cause him to flee from us. I don’t stop being a child of God because I’ve had a bad week. We are always vulnerable to attack but, equally, the Enemy is always vulnerable to the truth.
Speaking of boats (well, I was last week), I’ve been reading a book – Ben Wilson’s Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy. It’s a cracking read, for the three of us who are interested in British naval history. It’s been interesting to read about Admiral Nelson, whose superlative performance in battle seemed to come down to the level of trust he’d built up with his officers, and that he’d earned the respect and love of his superbly disciplined sailors. Read more
Isn’t it nice when you discover that someone has put into words something that you already knew to be true on an instinctual level? A few years ago I stumbled upon a quote that resonated with my soul. As a preacher/teacher, I sort of knew what I was trying to do – I wasn’t really so interested in ‘educating’ as I was in ‘inspiring’. However, ‘Inspiring’ is not usually listed as a Learning Outcome on many course outlines, much to my disappointment. Read more
Sometimes I don’t have any words, which can be a bit awkward because words are supposed to be my thing. But sometimes, after the past couple of weeks, with politics and faith, terrorism and flames, there are no words. All I have is silence. Read more
Most of us get bruised as we make our way through this world. Sometimes those bruises take a long time to heal, and might leave us tender and scarred beneath the surface. In Memento, Leonard lets his tattoos and notes guide him. He trusts them completely, and they become his truth. In the same way, we sometimes let our wounds control our actions and outlook on life. The world is full of people who let their scars do the talking. Read more
Memento is a film about Leonard’s search for the enigmatic ‘John G’ – the man who killed his wife. The challenge for Leonard (played by Mike from Neighbours) is that he suffers from short-term memory loss. This throws a spanner in the works of his detectoring. He gets around this inconvenience with a collection of Polaroid photographs and a mass of tattoos that remind him of important snippets of information he has gleaned over the years. Of course, him constantly having to make sense of all this information anew is part of where the film’s twists and turns come from. Read more