Tag: friends

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.

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!

Gathering

Gathering

by Liz Carter

‘As we are gathered, Jesus is here…’ So goes a (slightly dated) worship song. It’s all about the people joining together, the congregation united in worship, the sense of harmony. The gathering.

But what if we can’t gather? What if the very word ‘gathering’ sends us into a great sadness, because the physical act of gathering with others is impossible for us?

I’ve lived with a long-term lung condition all of my life. Over the years, it’s progressed, caging me in further and further, robbing me of my career and those dreams of youth; dreams of travel and far-flung skies and running on lonely beaches, the wind in my hair. Some days now, I’d be lucky to manage a few steps before I collapse on the sand, spent and breathless. I live within four walls for weeks at a time – sometimes, even, for months, when infections have hit me particularly hard. On days like these I can barely gather myself, let alone with others. I cannot gather up my clothing or my home or my thoughts, and when visitors come my desperate thoughts remain unsaid in my pain-soaked exhaustion.

In the last year I’ve been very ill. I’ve been better over the past couple of months, but there were weeks and months on end when I didn’t make it to church at all. I didn’t gather together with others for worship. Does that mean Jesus wasn’t there? Does Jesus only show up with the gathered ones, the ones who can make it, the ones who are healthy?

Over the years, I’ve learned something about what gathering means, and what it means to come together to share life and to pray and praise. I’ve discovered that gathering goes far deeper than the physical presence of a few folk in someone’s front room.

The book of Revelation talks about a great multitude from every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every people, gathered together around the throne. They worship together all day and all night, clad in white and digging into the depths of who God is. I recently attended a seminar about worship, and the speaker introduced the idea that when we worship we join in with this song around the throne, this endless song which never ends. As well as that, we join together across cultures and nations, class and race divides, one voice around the world as we join together in the song which is always sung. This great harmony which climbs walls of hatred and oppression and shatters the bondage of poverty and injustice. Walls crumble as we join hands across our boundaries and barriers, and give glory to the God we love. 

Here is a real gathering. A gathering of millions upon millions, myriads upon myriads, of those gone before, those living in the groaning pain of the now, those waiting in agony and in hope. We can all join in the gathering, the weak and the strong, the lesser and the greater, those who have nothing at all. Because God cannot be defined by boxes of words or concepts, and because God longs to pour fullness of life on all of us, whoever and wherever we are – so certainly cannot be restricted to church meetings and festivals.

I’m so grateful that God is bigger than I know.

I’ve discovered something else about gathering, too, and it’s something I am so thankful for. I remember a time when I was in hospital with very painful and serious double pneumonia, and it was in a city far from where I lived. It was a lonely time as well as agonising; hours were struggled through and wrestled with without let-up and with few visitors. I felt un-gathered, with nothing to ground me or bring me into company with others. I wasn’t even allowed to leave my room, for fear of cross-infection, so I remained in my pen, walled in by my own body.

It was a time social media was taking off. I’d recently joined Facebook, and hadn’t realised the effect it would have on my life, in those early days of poking people and playing silly games with farms and fishes. In this time, I began to understand the power of online gathering, as people from across the world joined with me in my suffering, stood with me and prayed with me, joined hands with me and worshipped with me. Since then, I’ve gathered hundreds of times online with hundreds of people in hundreds of situations, and Jesus has been there with us, despite our presence being only of the cyber type. That’s why I’m so grateful for the work of YouBelong and other organisations that seek to gather people online, to build up and to encourage and equip people who perhaps wouldn’t be able to gather elsewhere.

So I gathered with the world and joined in the song, and I gathered with the online people and joined in with care and justice and peace and mercy and holiness. Somehow, in my un-gathered cage, I learned to gather more profoundly, and found God at the very root of it all, present by the Spirit in gatherings un-gathered and gathered, present with one and two and a million, gathering up my own pain in tender arms of love and rivers of joy.

Liz Carter is an author and blogger who likes to write about life in all its messy, painful, joyous reality. She’s never known life without pain and sickness. She likes Cadbury’s and turquoise and lives in Shropshire, UK with her husband, a church leader, and two crazy teens.

Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which was published by IVP in November 2018. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances.