"Our Mission is to be followers of Jesus and joyfully share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people of Helmsdale and beyond.”
My name is Alistair and I was asked recently to write down some of my experiences as a postie in the Highlands for the website of my local church. ("postie" is a "mailman" in the US). What follows then, is mainly a series of simple observations gleaned from my daily rounds on the job.
At first, I was somewhat reluctant as I wasn't sure where to go with the idea, but I've read many stories over the years from people in many other walks of life, but never before a Highland postie. Of course, it may well be that someone else has written a similar series, after all, there are over 140,000 of us in the UK. However, having had a good old think about it, I have decided that I am now - ready to deliver ;-)
So, over the coming weeks, I'll be writing some thoughts on the life and the day of a rural postman in the far reaches of the very northern part of UK Britain today. I hope you'll join me on my rounds. I'm sure you won't find the journey disappointing - it may even take you to places you've never visited before....
Helmsdale. July 1st 2018
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Although I'm based in the village of Helmsdale on the north-east coast of Scotland, as a postie, over the past twelve years I've delivered letters, packets and parcels to many different Highland villages in the county of Sutherland and beyond.
My job has taken me from Durness in the far north of Scotland to Embo on the east coast near Dornoch, and everywhere in between. I've seen some spectacular scenery on my deliveries, not forgetting some very fine folk along the way too.
With the advent of online transactions in recent years we’ve seen an annual increase in the volume of parcels, bringing convenient value and choice to the customer.
It's always a pleasure to see the joy in peoples' faces when they receive a parcel. Most especially if it's an unexpected one, say for a birthday, anniversary or some other special occasion - knowing they are not forgotten by their friends or loved ones is a joy to them.
It reminds me of a very personal gift offered to us all, it comes from the most famous verse in the Bible. Let me personalise it for you...
For God loves you so much that He gave his one and only Son, that if you believe in Him you will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn you but that through Him, you would be saved.
How good is that !!
You can read the fuller story of how that happens in the Gospels, which record the life of Jesus.
Have you ever wondered what God is like? Then take a good look at Jesus. The Bible tells us He is exactly like God...
P.S. And thinking of the letters I deliver every day, let me end by saying, the Gospels have been described as, God's love letter to you…
2 Cor 9:15. Jas 1:17. John 3:16-17. Rom 6:23. Eph 2:8-9. Heb 1:3.
We all love good news in whatever form it comes, don't we?
Sometimes life doesn't seem to hold a lot of good news and a postie's job is no different. I might make a joke when handing over letters to someone and say, "I've only got two cheques for you today." The reply usually comes, "you're joking! It's only bills I ever get. And if it’s not bills it's junk mail that I don't want.” Then I sometimes get the joking reply; “but at least it keeps you guys in a job!"
I guess we all know that feeling at times; utility bills, council tax, mortgage - and then comes the dreaded bank statement. Overdrawn again. Ouch!
The word "Gospel" means "good news." Jesus described it as life in all its fullness and abundance, showing His extravagant desire towards us. A desire to help us, not just with the surface issues in our lives but also the much deeper ones within us all.
Psychologists tell us we all have three basic needs in our lives; Love, Significance and Self-Worth.
We can all identify with them and can look for them to be satisfied through the varied relationships we have with people in our home, work or social lives.
We can all understand the desire for meaning, purpose and success in life and also the need for forgiveness and peace within ourselves - especially when things in life go wrong.
Sin, guilt and rebellion are things that we don't always like to hear about but are there within us all; built into the very DNA of our being.
At the very foundation of our lives, there is nothing greater than knowing that we are forgiven. Jesus died on the cross that we might be forgiven and to take the ultimate penalty for all the wrong things we have done and will do in our lives.
It's a debt that only He can pay and he already has - PAID IN FULL is stamped on all our debts. And all He asks of us in return, is that we turn from going our own way and follow Him.
The Gospel writer John, in his letter said, "this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us!"
Jesus' birth was announced as "good news" of great joy that will be for all people.”
Have great joy in it today!
Mark 1:14-15. Ps 32:1,2,5. John 10:10. Mark 16:15-16. 1 John 3:16. Luke 2:10
We've all seen the program. Pranks! Slips & Falls! All entertaining stuff, and one of the most popular shows on TV. We've probably all been the victims of a few pranks as well.
I remember coming home from work a few years ago to find some visitors at our house. They had been having tea together and left a bowl out with a few nibbles in it. Without suspecting anything I put one in my mouth. The grins on their faces soon told me something wasn't quite right.
"Does it taste nice?," I was soon asked. Once that taste hits the taste buds, it's a quick flit for the mouthwash. To be honest it's a taste only a cat could love!!
At work we have "frame slots" (for sorting letters), with the address of every home in the area, where we spend a few hours every morning putting folks' letters into their slot, all sequenced and ready to go - personally sorted for you.
Do you ever feel as though you've been framed? Life seldom works out the way we planned...our dreams and aspirations seem to go in quite different directions from what we hoped.
Other people, work, health, and many other circumstances can dictate all sorts of change for us. If we're not careful we can get quite disgruntled by it all.
In 1969, Frank Sinatra wrote one of the most popular songs of the last century - 'I'll Do It My Way', or as one of my friends said to me recently - "I'm my own man."
The Bible says, 'God determined the times and the exact places where we should live.'
The old proverb says, 'A man's steps are directed by the Lord, how then can anyone understand his own way.'
The truth is we can choose our attitude and response at all times. God says if we follow him he will make all our ways to prosper, when we take his path through life.
Jesus' call to people when he was on earth was 'Follow Me'; that always meant radical change for them. The wonderful thing with God...our best days are always still ahead of us.
Acts 17:26-28, Prov 20:24, Psalm 1:1-3, Lk 9:57-62
Every job has its good & bad days. A postie's day is no different. Hail, wind and rain, you can have all four seasons in one day, as they say here in the Highlands.
With the snow we had this past winter, I had to dig myself out more times than I can remember.
Someone asked me recently - 'How do you know what order to do your houses in when posting?'
I answered jokingly, "You start in the centre of the village and work in ever increasing circles until the whole community is done!"
The truth is every job can be monotonous at times, but the reward, is in a job well done.
When it come to the place of seeking God in our lives we can make the joy of the gospel sound like a thing of life-sucking religion, traditions and rituals - dull, irrelevant and boring - a list of do's and don'ts.
How come? Is that our perception of God?
I heard a quote recently, "Religion is a portrait of God painted by the devil himself!"
Ouch! Hard hitting I know, but Jesus had a similar discussion with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in his day, and quite often.
Jesus didn't come into the world to give us a religion, but a relationship with God.
I know from my own experience that it wasn't until I had read about and met Christians whose lives had been changed by the gospel, that I understood it could be a reality in my own life. That it would be a transforming experience of real joy. If that wasn't the case I would have given it up a long time ago.
Speaking about religion, a friend of mine used to say, "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." i.e: Don't reject Christ on the basis of negatives or preconceived ideas we may have.
Many religious people clashed badly with Jesus, but the crowds that gathered heard him gladly.
It was said of Jesus that He had more joy than all his companions.
The joy and life he gives isn't just the greatest story ever told, but also the greatest discovery we can ever make...
Luke 11:39-53, John 6:35-40, Heb 1-9
The question is how Jose Maurinho, when he was manager of Chelsea FC, made the quote now famous - "I think I am a special one." The quote 'self-praise is no honour' may come to mind too.
There are of course "special people" in all our lives. Family, friends, heroes, maybe even celebrities for some folk.
A special delivery in the post comes with a full guarantee of next-day delivery by 1 pm. That service comes at a premium price too, one that is over and above the usual postage charges. The charge for the special delivery isn't paid for by the recipient, but by the sender.
When Jesus came into this world he was declared to be Immanuel, which means God with us. That makes him "The Special One," far above all others who ever lived!!
He paid the full price for all the things we have ever done wrong. He paid the price with his own blood on the cross.
The Bible says we can only truly know God through his underserved favour (Grace) by putting our faith in him. It is not by ourselves or our works, it is a gift from God.
Jesus tells a story of a shepherd who has 100 sheep but loses one. He goes out and looks for the one that is missing, and when he finds it, comes home rejoicing.
Jesus isn't like us - he always practised what he preached!
For the man called "Legion" in the Bible, Jesus did just that, he crossed over land and sea to get to him. He healed him and set him free, and he became a follower of Jesus afterwards.
Jesus went straight home again.
When Jesus went out of his way for him as he did for many individuals, it reminds us too of what he wants to do for us.
For he will cross land and sea to get just to you, as he did for that one man.
Do we respond to Jesus?
God demonstrates his love for you in this - "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Matt 1: 23, Act 20: 28, Luke 15: 3-7, Mark 5: 1-20, Rom 5:8
We all love special occasions and we ourselves like to be thought of, especially on important occasions. Maybe just to be thought of and receive a gift on a birthday, anniversary, Christmas - or an award for something we've done or achieved.
The likelihood is that quite often the postie is the one who is going to deliver it to you.
It's definitely the thought that counts isn't it?
Some gifts we get are more appreciated than others, or perhaps we don't see the value in them at the time and they are put to the side, left to 'gather dust' as they say.
The Bible can be a bit like that in our day and culture.
When was the last time you dusted it down?
It has been referred to as a map, or a compass or manual for our lives. The Bible refers to it as a 'light for our path.' It's a collection of 66 books written over 1,600 years by 40 different authors. Some of its books are called letters (epistles).
Strangely, very few people are aware of its contents. If in doubt, look at any quiz programme where a basic Bible question comes up!
The Bible society a few years ago said, '80 million request for Bibles go unmet every year due to the lack of funds!'
In the four gospels combined, it is said we only have about 30 days of Jesus' teaching and ministry while he was here on earth, yet he never traveled more than 200 miles from home.
All that said, everything in the Bible from beginning to end, points at this Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross for us.
No true historian would deny the existence of Jesus, such is the great weight of evidence for his life and work.
He is God's Special Delivery for you!
As someone once said, 'There's an insatiable hunger within each one of us only He can satisfy.'
Ps 119: 105, 2 Tim 3:16, Rev 22:13, Lk 1:53, Lk 6:21, John 6:35
One of the advantages of early rising for work is seeing the stillness and freshness in creation that every new day brings.
The early morning sunrise and the travel along country roads lets one see some breathtaking scenery and views along the way.
The ever changing seasons always makes ones journey an interesting one.
What we see with the naked eye alone fills us with wonder.
What we can learn in nature-programmes on creation about the seas and the heavens above reminds us that we can comprehend so little about it all, we are told we can see only about 8,000 stars by eye, yet there are as many stars as grains of sand on the seashore.
I once heard a horticulturist say there are 10,000 micro-organisms in every square inch of soil.
One thing for sure - our whole world teems with life!
It's no wonder I've never heard anyone say creation bores me!
It has been said there is a God shaped void in each of our lives only He can fill.
The Bible says what may be known about God is made plain to us, i.e. invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature can be clearly understood, so we are without excuse.
About Jesus it says, 'by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.'
A poem written about Christ's life says, 'Over twenty centuries have come and gone and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that reigned, put together have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.'
Ps 8, Rom 1:19-20, Col 1:15, Poem 'One Solitary Life'
We all look to find happiness somewhere in life.
It may be in our hobbies, with family and friends or other personal pursuits.
We may spend a third of our working lives doing our day job. We could see it as a wage packet or as part of the bigger picture of our lives in serving and helping others, being of practical help, giving someone a bit of extra time to do them a favour...being there for the lonely and those who have taken unwell.
Sometimes I've found myself to be the first one there to see folk with these needs, especially in rural areas.
We've probably all found ourselves in such situations and of themselves they may not seem a big deal, yet it's often the little things in life that count...being thoughtful, caring and showing an interest in others' welfare.
To go the extra mile, or think outside the box is to make a difference in this world. Maybe the opportunities are endless, we just miss them.
The pursuit of happiness for selfish reasons could be the vainest journey in the world!
Jesus said those who share the Masters happiness are those who use their gifts and talents to serve him.
Happiness can be a difficult concept for some whose lot in life is a hard one, whether through personal circumstances, family or health, etc., which may seem hopeless and despairing when in the midst of them.
It has often been said of those living in the poorest countries of our world that they are the happiest, despite having nothing.
They would happily give their last meal to a stranger and do without themselves. A strange concept for us in the western world to grasp!
King David starts his book of psalms in the Bible by saying 'How happy' are those who pursue following God's way of life.
King Solomon, in his book Exploring the Meaning of Life says, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work." This too I see is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?
To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.
MT 25:21-23, MT 18:12-14, PS 1:1-3, ECC 2:26, 3:12, 5:19, 7:14
These days, with the ever increasing advancements in technology entering every sphere of life, it is easy to feel 'you are being watched' as the sign says. We are a surveillance society. Is that good or bad?
We may feel it protects or interferes with our privacy. Like or dislike, it's here to stay.
In our work it's no different. Many parcels can be tracked over their whole journey until they arrive at your door.
Weekly training targets tell us how effective we've been in delivery, and if there have been any failures in the system.
I remember in the early days of tracking, customers saying they never received a parcel, only to find days later to our relief that it had been sent via a different courier.
Imagine if that could be done in an even more sophisticated way with our personal lives. Imagine someone knowing our thoughts, dreams, aspirations, yes even the number of hairs on our head - as well as all our plans and the places we would live - not forgetting knowing even the number of days we would live on earth.
Do we see that as too much interference, that would ruin our lives and therefore to be resisted and ignored?
Or, could it be someone who has the best plans for us, plans to prosper not harm us, to give us a hope and a future, someone we can pray to and they will listen to us, as the Bible says. Someone who wants to be a loving, heavenly Father to you? Someone who always has your best at heart and never second best.
The Bible then goes on to say 'you will seek ma and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'
Jesus said to seek Him first.
Can we seriously blame God for all the things then that go wrong in our lives, as some have suggested to me over the years?
The question is - who is Lord of our lives? Is it God or me?
Jesus said it's the choice between the narrow and broad road - the broad road leads to destruction, the narrow road to abundant life!
Our tracking system will lead to disaster.
His tracking system will take us safely Home.
Ps 139:18, Ps 39:4, Jer 29:11-13, Mt 6:33, Mt 7:13-14
For more info try 'Any Questions' at https://christianity.org.uk/
Who wants to pay a debt that's not theirs, however small it may be? "It's just the principle" we say.
There are a few debts you may have to pay before you get your mail - and that's because the sender hasn't paid sufficient postage when putting it in the post box. Its usually got a yellow sticker with a premium price added for an admin fee too.
It has been said that the great thing about the postage stamp is that it is designed to stick to one thing until it reaches its destination.
That said - nothing is fool-proof in life.
Listen to what Napoleon Bonaparte said, "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions of people would die for him."
He's right...it's love that paid the debt in full that you might be forgiven and your guilt be taken away. Christ became the ultimate scapegoad for us.
The Bible tells us what we need to do - 'If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord"and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saves...anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
And like the stamp that sticks until it reaches its destination, Christ said, "He would never leave or forsake you" as you follow Him.
1 John 1:7-9, Lev 16:5-28, Heb 9:12-15, Rev 1:5, Rom 10:9-11, Mt 28:20
When we go on holiday or are away from home for any period of time, we can purchase a 'keep safe' which will keep our mail in the post office until we return safely home to collect it.
It can be the same for businesses when they shut down their offices periodically.
We all like to have that security for the things which are most important to us in our lives and enjoy peace of mind.
Safe keeping is important in many areas of our lives - for our family, friends, work, health and homes. In fact, it is said that 95% of our anxieties in life are caused by one of the above.
It's no wonder politicians play on all these issues when it comes to an election, promising us greater prosperity and prospects if we vote for them.
There's no doubt that the greatest expenditure our nation has, is in keeping us safe - from national security to our personal safety, we value these issues very highly in our culture.
We all have aspirations and hopes in our lives for a blessed life, to know we're cared for and to enjoy peace.
One of the greatest themes of the Bible is the promises of God.
The Bible is full of them, one of the most reiterated ones is 'Fear not.'
One of Jesus' key points in the Sermon on the Mount was that if He looks after all that is in creation, i.e., grass, flowers, birds, and He clothes them, then how much more will He do that for you.
We are also told 'not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!'
St. Augustine said, 'Thou hast formed us for thyself and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.'
1 Pet 5:7, Matt 6:25-34, Psalm 121, Phil 4:6-7, Lk 12:4-6
It's probably the best known logo in Britain today, with its bright red vans branded with Royal Mail on the side, seen 6 days a week covering every home in the country, not forgetting the posties who are in similar coloured outfits.
It's also probably seen as one of the most trusted companies in our country and rightly so as it carries many letters and parcels which are importantly delivered safe and secure.
Trust has been well eroded in recent years, where we now question so many things from the highest echelon in society downward to many organisations and individuals who sway any authority over us. Asking questions isn't a bad thing necessarily, especially where it helps alleviate our doubts.
Society itself may well break down without trust, and the belief of the best in others.
Martin Luther made the thought provoking statement, 'Everything that is done in the world is done in hope.'
One of the key themes of the Bible is seen in the reflection that each generation that trusted in the Lord tells of how they were greatly helped by him by applying hope & trust.
Corrie Ten Boom and her family had hidden Jews in their watchmakers shop in Haarlem, Holland, during World War II. Betrayed they were imprisoned and Corrie and her sister were incarcerated in a German concentration camp. Yet, she knew God in a personal way.
Unforgettably, she said, 'Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.'
As the proverb says - 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding - in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.'
How about that for confidence and trust every day?
Ps 9:10, Ps 22:4 - 5, Ps 37:4 - 6, Prov 3:5 - 6, John 14:1 - 6
Yes, it's a vital part of what we all need to do every day in our workplace: service, listening, teamwork...they're all key words in providing a professional service to the public.
We are provided with all the tools and technology for the job as long as we give due diligence to all the processes everything should go smoothly and well!
We are a generation so well connected yet we've never been more alienated from one another. Sometimes the things that are meant to help us can make many things impersonal for us.
We may feel the same about God - that we are disconnected, alienated and he's very impersonal to us.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible says we can reach out to him and find him for he is not far from each one of us. God cares about you!
What does that mean for you and me in very practical terms?
Jesus summed up the calling he has for us in two words, 'Follow me.' Yes, he used these two words on many occasions and these two words sum up the gospel and the whole Bible message.
Instead of walking our own road through life, having 'self' at the centre of our life and thinking we are masters of our own destiny, we should follow Jesus!
Believing that Jesus is the way to God, that he is the truth about God and gives us the meaning to life, means we take a 180 degree turn from going our way to going his way - 'Following Jesus.'
Jesus said, 'If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up his cross (count the cost) and follow me.'
It's about following him and knowing him personally. It's not following anything else, not a religion, or a tradition or a god of our own understanding. There's no ifs or buts or any other add ons in Jesus' words.
He really does communicate with us. He said his people listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.
Act 17:4-28, Mk 1:17, 8:34, John 14:6, 10:27
An anonymous artist once drew a powerful cartoon. In the first panel he showed a group of small school children entering a street level substation. There was the picture of exuberant joy, laughing, playing, tossing their hats in the air. But in the next panel a group of middle-aged adults are emerging from the subway station wearing the facial expressions of zombies, dull, void of enthusiasm.
There is no caption, but none is needed. The question shouts from the pictures. What happened to those people in the years since childhood that has removed every vestige of zest from their lives?
We see the truth of the above picture everyday in people's lives, don't we? Even our own at times...we get stuck in the rut, sometimes the monotony of daily life. The ‘eat, work, sleep’ routine - where did our spark go?
In my work a redirection is taken out when people move home so that their mail is forwarded to their new address.
In life it may not be our circumstances on the outside that need to change so much as our internal ones.
Talking of those internal desires, C.S. Lewis said, 'Creatures are not born with desires, unless satisfaction for those desires exist.' Of his own personal journey, Lewis says that he had an unsatisfied desire which was more desirable than any other satisfaction. He called this desire ‘joy.’ He didn't expect to find this joy in a church or even God.
As an atheist he called himself the most reluctant convert in all of England. He went on to write a book Surprised by Joy.
A few months back, I invited you on this journey, which I said may take you to places you've never visited before. I've always been very interested in mission. On my journey with God, he's taken me to places I would never have thought possible, it's ever-changing , an adventure with twists and turns, it's a pilgrimage to a promised land.
The more I read my Bible, I realise that's what it was always meant to be...how could it be anything less?
John 10:10, Hosea 12:6, Gal 5:22, Ecc 3:11 - 15
It's maybe something we all dream of - the ideal job in the ideal location, great friends and social life, with a great family and opportunities - sounds wonderful, but in reality not very realistic.
A long time ago, I had a friend who was on a train journey; down the aisle of the train there was a group of young women chatting away among themselves, enjoying their time together, along with many other passengers too.
He loved conversing with people and wondered how he might do that on this journey, when an idea came into his head. He took out a clipboard he was carrying and went to the group and asked if they would help with a survey he was doing.
His question was, 'What character/personality traits would you like to find in your ideal man?'
They were happy to engage and the ideas came quick and fast. He wrote them down - He must be loving, wise, gentle, kind, thoughtful, caring, trustworthy, good company, joyful, a good listener, considerate, humble, strong, peaceable, protective, patient, faithful and much more - they fill the whole sheet he was writing on.
He read the whole list back to them they had just told him. He then said to them, 'Do you know there was only one man who ever lived up to all these things and that was Jesus Christ!'
With the punch line he walked away and left them. Some of them were left just gob smacked in astonishment.
To those of us who read the gospels that may be no surprise, he is all those things and much more!
It's easy to have our own preconceived ideas of what God is like, shaped by our culture, observations, traditions, etc. It's easy to suppress the truth or ignore it especially if we can't make sense of it.
Of the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, anyone of them could be read in less than an hour. When did you last read one? They really do tell us what God is like. Like the girls of the above story, we will find wonder and astonishment too.
Luke 15:1-32, Gal 5:22-23, 1 Cor 13:4-8
We've all heard it said - 'He or she has a great attitude to life,' usually meaning they're a positive, inspirational, forward thinking, energetic person.
In any given circumstance of life we admire and aspire to be that sort of person, taking hold of life and giving it our best...at home, at work, in our communities and life in general. They say attitude is everything!
Dale Carnegie was once asked on a radio program, "What is the biggest lesson you have ever learned?"
He quickly replied, "By far the most vital lesson I have ever learned is the importance of what we think. If I knew what you think, I would know what you are."
"Our thoughts make us what we are. Our mental attitude is the x-factor that determines our fate. A man is what he thinks about all day long. How could he possibly be anything else?"
An old maxim states, 'Thoughts produce acts, acts produce habits, an habits produce character.'
Jesus told a long story about it all too, it's called the sermon on the mount... You can find it in Matt Chapters 5-7. These three chapters of the gospel are so profound they are said to be our map, compass and complete manual for living, for the best to the most difficult circumstances of our lives.
As the proverb says, 'As a man thinketh in his heart so he is.' (Proverbs 23:7)
Victor E Frankl in Mans Search for Meaning said, "Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing; the best of the human freedoms - to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances." (Frankl was a Nazi death camp survivor)
The Bible tells us to fix our thoughts on Jesus for with Him we always have success.
Heb 3:1, 4:12, Prov 16:1-3, 9, 25, Prov 3:5-7
There was once a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains were all around it, overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and lightning strikes flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rocks. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest --- perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The king chose the second picture. "Because" he explained, "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. This is the real meaning of peace."
The author of the above story is unknown, but the Bible also draws a picture for us of how we can find this peace, 'the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.' Luke 1:77-79
What a picture that is of Jesus!
That's why the Bible calls him the 'Prince of Peace,' and that through him, God reconciles to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.
The Bible says that if we are justified by faith then we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is 9:6, Col 1:20, Rom 5:1, Phil 4:6-7
At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God's throne.
Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame - but with belligerence, "Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?," snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror--beatings--torture---death!!"
In another group a negro boy lowered a collar, "What about this?," he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn, lynched for no crime but being black!
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes, "Why should I suffer?," she murmured. "It wasn't my fault."
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil He had permitted in his world.
How lucky God was to live in heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that men had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader; chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly disfigured arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to life on earth as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
Let him be betrayed by his closest friends, let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudicial jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the least, let him see what it means to be terribly alone.
Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembles. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served his sentence.
...Anon - summer 1982.
About Jesus Christ - "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. 1 Pet 2:22-24
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. 1 Pet 3:18
Daft ain't it, as we all know we need to wash.
The story is told of a man with leprosy who came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said, "Be clean." Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Whether it is an illness or the uncleanness on the inside that we all have, Jesus is able and willing to cleanse us of the wrong things we have done in our lives - to forgive our guilt and sin today, just as he did while he was on earth. He is still willing and filled with compassion and mercy.
The gospels are full of similar Good News Stories. They can be our story too, simply if we're willing to follow him.
Mark 1:40,41, Lk 24:46,47, Rom 4:7,8
"10 Reasons I Never Wash" by a Parish Minister in Dublin for his Sunday bulletin.
We all know the story of the Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable ship that went down on her maiden voyage. Many movies have been made, and many books have been written about the fateful journey. Few will include the story of the Scottish evangelist John Harper who was a passenger on the Titanic.
In 1912, Harper was travelling to Chicago to take up his appointment as pastor of Moody Baptist Church. He had his daughter Nana on board with him. His wife had died a few years earlier.
When the Titanic struck the iceberg and began to sink he put Nana into a lifeboat and then ran throughout the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!"
When the ship finally went down he had already given his lifejacket to another passenger. Survivors report that to the very end Harper was witnessing to anyone who would listen.
One survivor recalls clinging to one of the ships spars when Harper floated near him. "Man, are you saved?," cried Harper.
"No I'm not," replied the man.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved," pleaded Harper.
The waves carried Harper away and brought him back a little later. "Are you saved now?," asked Harper.
"No, I cannot honestly say I am," says the man.
Again, Harper pleads with him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
Shortly afterward Harper went down. The man who survived was one of only six people rescued, but in a public meeting four years later, recounting the episode he said, "There alone in the night and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harpers last convert."
As the saying goes - there's no such thing as an atheist in a sinking ship!
John Harper's story is one of great sacrifice and mercy. We see how much like his own saviour he had become in this following verse from the Bible:
This is how we know what Love is: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers!” John 3:16.
Source - The Titanic's Last Hero (Moody press 1997)