Tag: family

The Richman and Lazarus

The Richman and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

When I am attempting to learn something new, I have to be physically involved. You could give me pictures or say the instructions step by step. I could even watch you do something and have a video recording of it to watch back, but if I don’t get the opportunity to be hands on, I won’t remember it nor will I be able to confidently carry out a task.

In the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, it seems the rich man was like me. He had teaching from Moses and the prophets, but he only paid attention and fully understood it when it was too late.

I know some people who take advice from others and put it straight into practice and others who ignore advice from anyone other than themselves. I am somewhere in the middle. I appreciate good advice when I need it, but will need to test it before taking it as solid truth. For example, if someone told me that something was hot, I would often have to hold my hand near it before believing them. – not on it though because I am not a risk taker!

With Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell, he suddenly realises that he is wrong but it is too late. Jesus explains that once you are in heaven or hell, you cannot switch over to the other. One belongs to the devil and the other belongs to God – no house shares allowed!

This is difficult to hear as Christians with friends who are not believers, but it is the way things work. Good and evil are separated and there can be no contamination otherwise Heaven could not be the perfect place we know it to be. We need to be sharing the Good News of Jesus with everyone we know and love to ensure they don’t end up in the fires of hell. However, we are lucky that in our time, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given another chance. Judgement day is God’s day for Him to ask us one more time if we believe in Him. Therefore, even if we decide to go against Him all our lives, we have another chance to spend eternity in Heaven.

Our God is a compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful God. He is the God who sent His only Son to earth to die for us – He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t care about us. God doesn’t want us to leave Him and spend eternity away from Him so He will always give us the best chance, but if you have the opportunity, say yes to God now – it will save time later.

Family vs Followers

Family vs Followers

In Luke 8:21, we find Jesus surrounded by a crowd of people, desperate to see or speak to Him, or perhaps to ask for a miracle. Someone, presumably at the back of the crowd, shouts out to Jesus that His mother and brothers were outside waiting to see Him. I hope Mary didn’t hear Him because His response didn’t come across so lovingly:

‘Jesus answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who listen to God’s teaching and obey it!”

We know Jesus loved and respected His family, and we have been commanded to do the same (see the 10 commandments as one example) so I don’t think these words meant what it sounds like they do to us today. To me, it sounds like Jesus is either uninterested in seeing them or does not feel they are good enough to be with Him. I don’t believe either of these to be true.

  1. What do you think Jesus did mean when He said these words?
  2. How do you think the crowd, Mary and Jesus’ brothers would have understood what Jesus said?
  3. What do Jesus words mean for us ‘who listen to God’s teaching and obey it’ today? Who does that make us?
The Family Tree

The Family Tree

Luke 3:23-38

Genealogies, family trees, names, names and more names. I have always struggled with the parts of the bible where a chapter is just a list of names and doesn’t seem to contain any life application for us today. This one, however, is different. That is not to say that other genealogies in the bible do not contain anything useful (because they do when you dig deeper), but this one is special because it shows us how many seemingly unimportant people, were used by God and eventually became part of the family of His son, Jesus.

One of the most interesting observations I noticed whilst reading this passage was in the last line of the family tree, the very first person in Jesus’ ancestry, Adam. We just know him as Adam, but in this text, he is described as ‘son of God’. When we hear the words, Son of God, we think of Jesus, but physically, we can assume that Adam is more God than Jesus, although as we don’t know where the other half of His DNA came from, this can only be an assumption!

I guess Adam had to be included in this, being the first human, he got a free pass into this family tree but Luke/ God didn’t have to include it here. I love watching ancestry programmes such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ in which celebrities trace back along their family tree and discover members of the family they never existed! Sometimes, these people are royalty, sometimes, simple bakers or weavers, but occasionally, there will be one family member who is a criminal, and the celebrities show shame when they realise they are related to this person. I don’t think there are many people that millions people can fairly blame for making their lives difficult, but Adam is certainly one of them. He and Eve caused us to be separated from God, they brought age expectancy down, caused us pain when child bearing and made it impossible for us to ever see the garden as beautiful as they did! Yet, despite all this, Adam is not only included in the Jesus’ family tree in the book of Luke, but he is referred to as the son of God – no shame or resentment at all!

It would be reasonable to allow one ‘tainted’ character in the family history, but God uses more than just a tempted man to lead up to the birth of Jesus. We don’t know for sure why, but there are two genealogies for Jesus – one in Luke and the other in Matthew. It is Matthew’s version which includes some other questionable individuals. Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer, and there were many others caught up in some dodgy situations, but God still used them to bring about the birth of His Son. He could have chosen anyone. Perhaps a royal family who could give Jesus the upbringing He deserves as King of Kings, but instead He was placed in the care of a humble, hard working, regular family. Why? We will never know exactly why these people were chosen to be participants in this event, but one thing we do know is no one is beyond God’s use, and that means even we can be used by God in incredible ways. If He wants us to, we will do things bigger than we could ever hope or imagine.

What a comfort it is that no one is beyond’s plans and purpose. God is not done with you yet, no matter what you have done or how old you are. He has great things lined up for you. Are you willing to jump in, no matter what that entails?

The silent killer – loneliness

The silent killer – loneliness

When I was in my teens, I heard stories about the older generations who find themselves at home, alone, for the majority, if not all of the week, without ever seeing or speaking to anyone else. More recently, I read a statistic which stated that more teens and young adults have identified as ‘lonely’ than the older generations. Then, 5 years ago, I became part of another loneliness statistic – the chronically ill. As it is for many people, I wasn’t aware about this missing group of people for exactly that reason. Chronically ill people are mising from society. We are in too much pain or too tired or too symptomatic to be able to mix with society for too long, if at all, each week, and this makes for a lonely existence.

I am very thankful that when I became ill, my closest friends stayed with me and checked in on me and continue to do so, but when I am having a particularly bad week due to higher pain or fatigue levels than usual, I have been known to not leave my bed or house for days at a time. I am blessed to have my family who live with and help me but without them, my days would be very quiet and empty and even more lonely than they are otherwise and this is the case for many chronically ill people.

This extract from Premier Christianity reveals the seriousness of loneliness:
Social psychologist John Cacioppo, at the University of Chicago is a world leader in the biomedical effects of loneliness. In January this year he presented some of his latest research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting in San Diego.  His findings confirmed a growing body of science showing that loneliness is more damaging than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or being obese, or not taking exercise.  
(https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Chronic-feelings-of-loneliness-can-be-deadly.-Here-s-how-the-Church-can-help)

Did you know loneliness could kill people? It isn’t just a feeling we have when we spend more time alone than we would like – it affects us physically too which, when you are lonely predominantly due to a chronic illness, means you can end up in a catch 22 circle of pain.

We are made to be together, spending time with friends and family and being part of a bigger unit. As Christians, the Church should be a part of that, but very rarely is that the case. 1 in 5 people identify as being disabled yet a much smaller than that number of church congregations have a disability. Why is this? Well, I think there are many reasons but one of the major ones is that more churches are focusing on the number of people in their churches and not on how they look after those people. Sometimes, people cannot attend a church service for weeks on end and feel sad and frustrated that they have to do so but when they finally get back to church to find no one has missed them, or if they never show up again and don’t receive a phone call, letter or check in by a member of the pastoral team, the loneliness they felt from being out of church for so long is exasperated and they may feel inclined to leave as they don’t feel wanted or cared about. This in turn causes them to stop going to church, decreasing their social activities and increasing the amount of time they spend alone annd ultimately, their loneliness too.

In the first three centuries, the early Church was one known for its love and compassion. Justin Martyr described Christian love as, ‘We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.’

Can we honestly say today that we are more interested in the people in the centre and on the outskirts of the church, and even the wider community, more than increasing the number of people who come into the church? Are we genuinely more passionate about spending our money to help those who need it than bringing in and saving as much as we can for our own benefit? Would we be willing to go out of our way, miss out on catching up with friends, skip a party or record our favourite TV show to visit or call someone who has been unwell or has not been at church for a while and help them in someway? Having a visitor could be enough, or perhaps they need a few bits of shopping? A small thing can go a long way and as we know, anything that reduces or stops loneliness completely is a potential life saver!

Bringing structure to YouBelong

Bringing structure to YouBelong

Today’s post is a bit different to the usual ones but hopefully still of interest and even a little bit interactive!

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you might have started to notice some more structure and recurring themes each week. This is partially because it helps us to keep up the content and ensure it is frequent and also that it offers something for everyone (hopefully!). I thought it might be a good idea to explain this new structure so as you can know what to expect when following YouBelong on those structures and if you don’t follow us on social media already, perhaps this will help you see what we do and give you an insight into what you can expect to find in the community there.

Monday
Monday is the first day of the regular working week and therefore I wanted to keep things light and encouraging and open up the community members to receive prayer or, if you feel like you would like to, to pray with or for those who comment their prayer requests for themselves and others. Sometimes the posts on a Monday will be minimal and may consist solely of a post asking for people to post their prayer requests and for others to pray with those people and other times there will be some prayers to pray together or some other more creative prayerful posts. In order to keep things memorable, Monday is Mediation Monday – meditation meaning intervene on behalf of others. In this case, the idea is we intervene for others and take their prayer requests to God, somtimes known in churches .

Tuesday
Transient Tuesday as it is now to be known as, is the day I will be sharing my short(ish) blog posts. The word ‘transient’ isn’t really the right word to use but I wanted to keep the same pattern of names with the same first letter as the day name throughout and it’s not that far off! As well as sharing our most recent blog post, we will also be encouraging you to share yours with us by tagging @YouBelong_2019 and #TransientTuesday and we will share as many as possible.

Wednesday
Each Wednesday is going to all things worship. There will be a mixture of worship and praise songs and verses from the bible about worship and sometimes there might even be some quotes or stories about people worshipping God in amazing ways. Some weeks there will be multiple posts and some days will be more quiet due to other commitments but I will do my up most best to ensure there is always something.

Thursday
Thursday, or Theological Thursday as it will now be referred to, is a day to post about some theological questions (sometimes these will be prompted by issues raised in the news or from the blog posts on the Tuesday and sometimes they will be generic theology discussions surrounding church, faith and chronic illness/ disability and other topics that arise in these contexts. We will be encouraging as much interaction as possible and we want to hear a variety of experiences and opinions – all we ask is that we keep the discussions pleasant so as not to upset others in the community. Encouraging others to see our point of view is one thing, forcing our opinion on others or telling them they are wrong is another and will not be tolerated. We are a Christian community so although we will have differences, we have one big thing in common and that is Jesus who showed patience and understanding and love towards all, even those who were clearly wrong and against anything and everything Jesus stood for.

Friday
The one word I use more than any other when describing YouBelong to other people is family or community, therefore, Fridays have come to be known as Family Friday as a way of encouraging people in the community to share a bit about themselves so that we might get to know one another better. At the moment, each Friday has been kicked off with a question posted from the YouBelong account which could range from asking about the members’ favourite colour or animal or food, the place they live, their favourite memory or almost anything else about them as a person and the world they live in. The hope is we will find some things in common to talk about and just generally get to know each other a bit more beyond our illness and disabilities.

Saturday
This is a bit different to others mostly because I, the owner and founder of YouBelong, am currently working part time whilst being full time ill, and trying to grow and maintain YouBelong, the one area of my life I am passionate about and working to make into my job full time. Due to my lack of time and energy, and needing a down day, Saturday has been labelled as Spontaneous Saturday giving us some freedom from posting at particular times of the day or with a certain style of post. Sometimes there might be no posts on a Saturday and other Saturdays might have 10 or 20 posts which might be about what we have been up to in YouBelong world or some interesting posts from others, a beautiful passage we have discovered in a book or almost anything else! I hope you are okay with and understand why this is the case. Hopefully in the coming weeks and months as the team grows and we can get some funding the word ‘spontaneous’ might just become something a bit more interesting!

Sunday
Finally, Sunday. I say finally because as someone in a 9-5 job, Monday is the start of my week although I see Sunday as both the beginning and the end (that makes me think of another key figure in YouBelong land who is the beginning and the end…) so although I had a lot of ideas that would have been nice to use for Sunday, as some of the community attend a physical church and others do not, I thought it would be nice to have Still Sunday. So far, it has been shaped around church attendance in the UK being most common in the morning and the majority of the Christian community having Sunday afternoon and evening as a time of rest and time to spend with friends and family. Therefore, Still Sunday will consist of a few posts, sometimes in a block and sometimes scattered througout the day, encouraging us to be still in sit in God’s presence, to say thank you for the week gone by, raise any worries we have as a result of the week just gone and say thank you for the week that is coming and think about where we might need God with us more thann normal, bring others to Him who mighht need an extra special tough and to listen to what He might have to say to us. There will a variety (like on Worship Wednesday) of verses, songs, thoughts, prayers and more so hopefully, there will be something for people from all backgrounds, traditions and lifestyles.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this works out going forward especially as it should mean I am able to connect with more of you and I hope this more frequent and structured approach will enable more people to learn about the YouBelong community and join us as we support one another and spend time together, and alone, with God.