Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Lingerie Hero

I blushed as I asked her the question. Her wide-eyed, innocent expression made it worse. For her a question asked many times before. But for me, a new experience.
“Where will I get a nightdress?”
Then, to cap my male embarrassment with stupidity, I added with an air of jocularity, “Not for myself of course. It’s for my wife.”

Mentally kicking myself, I took the escalator to the first floor. Each clickety click of the ride I was haunted by the salesgirl’s humourless look. “She must have thought I was some sort of nut” I mumbled to myself. In a sort of reflex action I looked around to see if anyone had heard my self-criticism. With a sigh of relief I saw that they hadn’t.

In that frame of mind I stood at the top of those moving stairs. All around were garments for the gentler sex to weaken the stronger sex. Women staff were everywhere. There wasn’t a male in sight. I began to feel like a mouse in a cat’s home. My male ego cringed before foundation garments, lace panties and other unmentionables. Glancing right, left, and to the rear I could see no-one I knew. So, collecting the shattered remnants of my confidence so carefully built up[ over the past few days, I propelled myself through the lingerie department. I came to a standstill at my destination amidst the nightdresses and pyjamas.

There I stood in my charcoal blue suit, brownish hat and flushed cheeks. With the background of multi-coloured nighties I felt even more self-conscious and conspicuous.
“O horrors,” I thought, “What if I meet somebody I know?” Just then, one of the saleswomen approached me. She was a tall, slim, dark haired woman in her early thirties. Her pleasant smile, plus her charming, friendly and business-like manner put me more at ease. Mentally I said “Thank goodness” for she did not have that slinky walk which I had associated with this department.
“Can I help you? Are you a salesman?”
“Well, no” I managed to smile. I wished I was one but added, “I’d like to look at some nightdresses. I want to buy a Christmas present for my wife.”

She asked me the amount I was willing to pay. I told her an amount. To be honest, I felt that the estimate was quite generous, especially as there didn’t seem to be anything to the garments. When the saleslady told me that the prices went up to fifty or sixty dollars (and dearer elsewhere) I nearly hiccupped. In one breath I was revealed as a skinflint. Still, necks can be stretched but dollars can’t. So my estimate stuck.
Then began a new phase in my ordeal. I was walked up and down aisles where these dainty items hung. There were long ones, short ones, lace ones and plain ones. The woman pulled them from out of draws, from under the counter and from behind curtains. I was shown specials, discontinued lines and the most up-to-date fashions. My mind reeled under the impact. Picturing my wife in some of them sent me from suppressed laughter to embarrassed delight.

Suddenly the saleslady was called away for a few moments. There I was left holding three or four different shapes, sizes and colours of night attire. Boy, was I feeling queer. If anyone had appeared who I knew I think I would have dropped the lot and run. Silliest thing of all was that I didn’t know my wife’s size. Wanting it to be a surprise I hadn’t asked her, and I sire wouldn’t ask anyone else. But I remembered hearing her say that she had lost weight. She boasted that now she could get into some S.W. dresses. So, when asked I had knowingly said, “S.W. please.”

Then the colour had to be chosen. From memory I began to recall the various colours of my wife’s nighties. For this I was acclaimed as a rare male. “My husband wouldn’t have a clue what I wore” the woman said. “Some husbands must be blind” I thought. “Still, that’s their business.” The more I lingered over the nighties, the more I was lost in the land of indecision. Short or long? Blue, red, green or what? Close the eyes and pick? Hardly. O well, a decision has to be reached. Here goes.
“I’ll take … that shorties one there. Yes, that’s right. The apricot coloured one with the white lace in front.” With bold decision my mind found peace. My shoulders straightened. My confidence came creeping back.

Swapping cash for the parcel I said as a parting shot, “Sure hope my wife likes it!” With a twinkle in her eyes the saleslady assured me that my wife would be overjoyed. I felt ten feet tall as I walked away.

Going down the stairs, as the escalator only went  up, I began seeing myself as one who had just conquered some untamed territory. I was the hero of the lingerie ‘jungle.’ I could hardly wait for Christmas. At our place this is always a time of delight. But as our children woke us up in the wee small hours of the morning I became torn between delight and despair. What would she say? Would she really like it? Would it fir? Did the colour suit her?
As she unwrapped the small parcel my questions were joined by her “What is it?” Her eyes widened with surprise and delight and perhaps a little unbelief as she took it out and unfolded it. Even before I received a big hug and a soft “Thank you” I knew the ordeal had been worth it.

Unfortunately, it was too small. So it had to be changed. Did I ride the escalator once more? Did I brave the stares of the women and mingle nonchalantly amongst the lingerie? Did I boldly say, “A bigger size please”? Not on your life! My wife did that. I stood on guard at the base of the stairs.

This was perhaps my earliest foray into writing many, many years ago.

©Ray Hawkins Oct. 22 2016.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Decay of the West.

Have you taken a look at those in charge of individual Nations and their Governments? The American Presidential elections is taking front and centre attention of moral, ethical and character values and we forget leaders elsewhere. Whoever wins the coming U.S.A Presidency the Nation will actually lose! On what assessment is that made? Proverbs 14:34: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ The word for ‘sin’ points to the evil nature of a person which has no Godly restraints on it.

What is meant by Righteousness?

Being an Israelite the writer views it from a covenant relationship and the Pentateuch.  That meant amongst other things observing the Law, statutes and judgements given by God to and through Moses. This is beautifully summed in the Ten Commandments.  When the Western Nations turned to Christianity they wove these Commandments into their National psyche. The best summary of these is actually from the lips of Jesus. Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Righteousness therefore isn’t a theory but an inner condition lived out in a social context.

What is being demonstrated today in many nations previously influenced by the Christian faith is a repudiation of the Ten Commandments. With that emerges a society without a cohesive framework of relationships. In fact, the best description of what is emerging is found in Judges 21:25: ‘In those days there was no King in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.’ The result as recorded was chaotic and depressive. May I be allowed to paraphrase that verse for our scene today. ‘In our day there was no Ten Commandments in operation in our Society. Governments and individuals did as they pleased.’

Another aspect of Righteousness which exalts according to the Bible is found in Genesis 12:2-3. ‘I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’  Nations bear testimony to this truth in their histories.  As Israel is being isolated more and more and that even by some Christian Denominations so too the downside of what God said to Abram is evident.

Proverbs 14:34 is stressing more than personal responsibility. It confronts corporations, National Governments and communities regarding true righteousness. Therefore this requires leadership from Governments founded on principles of Justice and Truth from a higher authority than pressure from lobby groups. The Nations who once held individual lives as sacred from the womb to the tomb have surrendered to abortion and euthanasia. Why? Evolution has usurped the mystery of Creation according to Genesis. The complex issue of refugees is compounded by terrorism and mass infiltration which changes national culture. However, the delays in processing claims and the neglect to provide for their basic needs is an indictment on the World. In saying that, it must be stressed that it is those nations influenced by the Christian faith who are in the forefront of caring. More could be said about marriage, family, morality, child abuse, corruption in high and low places and family violence. Whether we want to admit it or not these are symptoms arising out of a walking away from righteousness, truth and justice.

As Christians we live in a morally and spiritually decaying world. In facts, according to 1 John 5:19 it is a world under the dominance of the Devil. Can you wonder, therefore, why righteousness, justice, truth and Bible based morality are frowned upon and undermined! In such circumstances we have a choice. Capitulate or agitate! Silence is safe but is frowned upon by our Heavenly Father. Not all of us can articulate our convictions but we can live out those famous words in Joshua 24:15b “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

©Ray Hawkins October 16 2016.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Power of 'Oneness.'

There are any number of ‘how to’ books on the market offering steps to success. This could be for personal lifestyle, business, church, sport or relationships. Each will have varying degree of usefulness. What they endeavour to do is emulate what the Bible has already outlined. Funny thing is, people would rather spend big sums for conferences, DVD’s etc. than read God’s word.
Whenwe embark upon any ministry adventure as a team of mixed personalities, backgrounds and strengths/weaknesses what principle do we need to grasp? The reading from Philippians offers us some clues. In this letter by Paul from prison he seeks to encourage the church in its mission. In chapter 1:27 he urges them to live their lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We may adapt that for our purposes and say ‘let us serve each other and the community in a worthy way for Christ’s honour. The way it begins is in the same verse. Stand in one spirit, strive with one mind.

One-ness is a Biblical principle for effective teamwork, ministry, worship and fellowship. This isn’t easy as we all have our histories, strengths, weakness, pride, prejudices, fears and dreams. Any such gathering is fraught with danger. How does the Holy Spirit take such a diverse group and make us an effective team? By dealing with each of us and drawing our lives into line with His will and our minds focused upon Him as Lord.

Throughout Philippians there is this ‘oneness’ stated and implied. Chapter 2:2 stresses it with ‘be of the same mind, having the same love being in full accord and of one mind.’ Oneness isn’t ‘blandness.’ It is actually refreshing, creative, therapeutic and evangelistic! Oneness gives direction but allows each the privilege of helping the other by endorsing their strengths and compensating for their weakness. Being focused on and obedient to Christ means we esteem the other team members more than we value our egos. Should there be a clash about anything it needs to be faced and remedied. As in the case of Syntyche and Euodia (Philippians 4:2) this may require the wisdom of a third party.

This principle is the outworking of the Lord’s High Priestly prayer in John 17:21 – 23. There He prays for this oneness to be known and shown for it reflects the oneness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One of the out-workings of this oneness is to make the world believe the Father sent the Son as Saviour.  What the anti-Christ forces aim to do it cause division and thereby hinder the testimony of the Gospel. Unfortunately the carnal nature of self- intoxicated believers unintentionally offers assistance to Satan's endeavours. That's judgement reserved for a future date unless repented of and restitution made.

In chapter 2:5 Paul puts the onus upon each person to be committed to this principle. How it comes about is reinforced by the word ‘let’. Each of us are accountable for giving the Holy Spirit permission to focus our minds on Christ. The cross should always humble us, thrill us and motivate us. Because of it we by faith proclaim Him Lord. One glorious day we will join with all the redeemed and holy angels and liberated creation and proclaim Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, within ministry and cogreational worship we have the privilege and challenge to live out the oneness the Holy Spirit has worked in. Amen!

©Ray Hawkins Oct 9th 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Aristarchus – the Un-phased

Aristarchus appears ‘out of the blue’ at a riot in Ephesus. He and Gaius were part of Paul’s team and were accused of defaming the local goddess, Artemis. The Gospel was having a serious affect upon the icon industry and Demetrius a silversmith planned the protest.

This could have been life threatening. Did it make Aristarchus rethink his faith, commitment or service with Paul? The other accounts mentioning this man indicate it made him more resolute to follow Jesus and assist the apostle Paul. We find him as a member bringing relief money from the Gentile churches to Christians in Judea. As such he and others preceded Paul to Troas, presumably to finalise arrangements in the city.

The next reference tells us he was travelling on the boat to Rome, with the team leader. Was Aristarchus a prisoner along with Paul, or a travelling assistant? The term used in Colossians implies the former. One thing is for certain, you never could foresee what may happen when you travel with a Paul in the Lord’s service. When the ship endured the storm and was run aground did he think “here we go again!”

Aristarchus, if a prisoner was he set free before Paul, we don’t know. He was however commissioned to travel with Tychicus and Onesimus to Colosse. He also was to bring Paul’s greetings to Philemon, and I would think, support Onesimus’s rehabilitation. When you consider the background of these men you appreciate the unifying power of the Lord Jesus. Aristarchus was from Thessalonica, Tychicus from Ephesus and Onesimus was a slave from Colosse. Others such as Timothy came from Lystra and of course the strong minded Jew, Paul. Then there was Silas and Dr. Luke the gentile from Troas. As Ephesians 2:13-14 puts it, ‘He (Christ) is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [Jew and Gentile] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.’

This man’s name means ‘good prince’ ‘best ruler’. Is there a sense of an aristocratic heritage in his family? If there was, how did they respond to his becoming a Christian? What did they think of his experiences? One thing we do know it didn’t deter him from obedience to Christ. He probably wore the title ‘prisoner of Christ’ with a sense of honour. He is a fine example of a faithful person unconcerned by playing ‘second fiddle’ to the leadership of Paul. Aristarchus understood the reality undergirding team ministry and fulfilled that which he was called upon to do.

The description of the Church as the Body of Christ is very appropriate. It means we are all an essential part and need to be in good health and a sound relationship with other members of the Body. 1 Corinthians 10-14 goes into great detail on this matter. The eyes of the children and the ears of their parents, guardians and friends will be focused on how well we act as a team. They will also judge the Body of Christ by our service to Him and our care to each other.

Acts 19:29. 20:4. 27:2. Philemon 24.  Colossians 4:10.
Ray Hawkins Oct 2nd  2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mark – the persistent

Mark is an interesting man in the Gospels and the early Church. His family appears to be wealthy and their home was a focal point for support of Christ and then the fledgling Church. Mark is considered the scribe for Peter and the Gospel which bears his name. He was Jewish with good connections and the use of his Roman name, Marcus, indicates certain connections with that authority.

When Paul and Barnabas went on their first missionary journey Mark was a member of the team. The term used to describe his role was ‘under rower.’ He was there in the capacity to serve and to learn. It is thought that he had a doctrinal clash with Paul over the acceptance of Gentiles by faith and baptism and omitting circumcision and Law keeping. He left the team. When another mission trip was planned Barnabas wanted his cousin to have another opportunity. Paul was adamant in refusing to take him. This resulted in a schism between friends. Was he in the right but with a wrong attitude?

Eleven years pass and Paul writes to the church in Colosse and to Philemon and Marks name is in them. How did they get back together? The reason is unknown. The wonderful thing is that both must have changed. Paul’s in attitude but not doctrine and Mark seems to have matured in the grace of God and ministry. In 1 Peter 5:13 he is mentioned by Peter as being with him in Babylon. Later Mark is credited with giving Peter’s recollection of his time with Jesus in the Gospel by Mark. There is much for us to appreciate here in dealing with others. One of the biggest lessons is the giving and the accepting of forgiveness. This will always precede reconciliation and acceptance.

To Philemon this reinstated man is listed as a fellow-worker with Paul. The word for ‘work’ implies hard labour. To the Colossian church Paul says of Mark in 4:11 along with  others  as  being  like good medicine which soothes irritation. Was Paul speaking from  personal experience?  It must have irritated the apostle immensely to be confined to house arrest. It didn’t stop him from witnessing to and leading many Roman soldiers to faith in Christ Jesus. Each of us may well have a journey similar to Mark’s. How good it is to know the Lord doesn’t give up on us because of mistakes or immaturity. It’s also a joy to know that instead of causing irritation to others, as once we may have done, the Lord makes us as ‘medicine’ to soothe and encourage others.

From Paul’s final letter written during his second and fatal imprisonment Mark is mentioned. He is in Ephesus with Timothy and Paul would like both of them to visit him. Two words flow from Paul’s pen which reveal how much a previously fractured relationship had healed. Mark is profitable especially within the ministry. The word in Greek for profitable points to being advantageous. It’s used in 2 Timothy 2:21 and describes Mark journey well.  The young man who made things difficult on his first endeavour had had a great make-over. The word for ministry describes a Deacon. He had progressed from an under-rower into leadership. We may well see in Mark the evidence of a man whose commitment to Christ made him persistent to serve.

Acts 12:12, 25. 13:5. 15:37-39.  Colossians 4:10. Philemon 24.

2 Timothy 4:11. 1Peter 5:13.

Ray Hawkins. Sept. 25th 2016.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Onesimus - Fulfilled his name

He was a runaway slave from Colosse. Was he a slave due to war or because of bad economic choices or behaviour? How did he end up in Rome we will never know! For certain, he was a man with the threat of death over him. Somehow Onesimus met Paul. Was this one of God’s coincidental meetings not first with the apostle but with Epaphras. He was from Colosse (Colossians 4:12 Philemon 23). Did this man introduce Onesimus to Paul? It was to change his life in time and for eternity. This man whose name means ‘profitable’ was far from that to himself and others. When he believed that Jesus Christ could save him, change him and fulfil the meaning of his name. Now he must address his past and correct it in so far as possible, especially to Philemon, his master. All of us have to deal with issues from our Christless past as opportunity allows. This is the fruit of repentance. It isn’t always easy or pleasant but it is essential as a testimony to Christ’s grace and transforming power.

So, Paul sends Onesimus back to Colosse accompanied by Tychicus. In Colossians 4:7-9 this 'fellow-slave' appears to be, or had been, in the fellowship there. He had also a message to share with them about the Apostle's situation. Tychicus was the encourager. How did the congregation respond/react when Onesimus entered? One thing is certain, Philemon was a believer in good fellowship at the church. How easy it would have been for Onesimus to back-out of going there. He needed someone to stand with him and say a word on his behalf. The term is ‘paraclete’ and Paul did it through Tychicus. Would we take a risk like that for someone with a dark past? He would be under intense scrutiny in the early days of his return. He and the Church, along with Philemon would need the love, understanding and grace of Christ to embrace each other. Jesus saves the most unlikely, even the unlovely persons. Then He places them in a community where all have rough edges. This is where we all become what Proverbs 27:17 describes: ‘iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits (face in Hebrew) of another.’

The terms used about this once unprofitable person are most instructive. They remind us of the power of the Gospel when let loose in a person’s life. Onesimus is now faithful, a beloved brother and to Philemon he is called Paul’s ‘son’. The apostle urges the master of Onesimus to see him no longer as a doulos – slave –but as a beloved brother. The once unprofitable had the opportunity to be profitable in the employ of Philemon and to the Church. His status in the eyes of the World would not have changed but for the Christians he was a new man, a ‘freeman’ in Christ.

Without knowing the stories of those in our sphere of witness it is certain there will be those similar to Onesimus. What we share with them about Jesus Christ could be transforming here and now. This has happened many times in many places. It may also mean burying the seeds of God’s grace in someone’s heart which will bring new life later. This is one of a number reasons why Christians such as you and I are involved in this and other ministries. When young or old who have had a dark history come to faith they need a ‘paraclete.’ As their spokesperson you help them to integrate into the community of faith. If they have offended certain people you, as did Paul and Tychicus, seek ways to rectify that which had been damaged. This isn’t easy or necessarily short term. However, what a joy it is when the fruits of repentance and renewal begin to blossom and mature. 
Colossians 4:8-9. Philemon 8-16.                
Onesimus – the (un)profitable becomes profitable.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tychicus - the reliable.

The Apostle Paul was no ‘lone ranger’ in mission. Neither does he presume to take all or even most of the credit for things achieved. He was a team leader yet very dependent upon each member of the team. Tychicus is one such person Paul points out to us through his letters.

We meet Tychicus and others after the riot in Ephesus. This was over Demetrius’ accusation that Artemis’ name was defamed. We will catch up with another team member involved later. Paul decided it was opportune to go to Macedonia and sent an advance party to make the arrangements. Part of Paul’s reason for this return trip which took him to Jerusalem was to bring relief money from the Gentile Churches to the believers in Judea. Tychicus would have been one of those entrusted with guarding and delivering this substantial gift of the brethren for their famine relief.

In four letters this man is revealed as someone who was dependable. The success of any venture is due in a big way to such people. We can plan, pray and perform but without a faithful and reliable team things can fail to reach their potential. In Eph. 6:21 Paul describes him as a deacon. This is a term for a drinks waiter but elevated by the fact that Jesus wore that title (Rom 15:8). Read the qualifications for being appointed a deacon in 1 Tim 3 and you get a measure of the man. In Col. 4:7. A lovely warm term of beloved brother (in Christ) is used alongside of a word despised by the World, doulos (a slave without rights). The Christian faith turns the estimates of the World upside down. It is a mark of honour to be a doulos of and for Christ.

Once again we read of Tychicus on the move. This time to Ephesus with a rather delicate responsibility (Colossians 4:7-9.) He was to accompany a runaway slave of Philemon’s, an influential church and community member. Onesimus had been converted in Rome under Paul’s ministry and was returning to put things right. (See next devotional). What was required was a man of tact and wisdom to prepare the way for the runaway’s restoration and acceptance. You and I may be called upon to represent someone someday who had similar failures, morally, spiritually but had been found by Christ and transformed.

 The apostle Paul experienced two imprisonments in Rome. In the first he wrote the above letters and 1 Timothy and Titus. In this letter Tychicus is once again facing the prospect of an assignment to Crete. He would replace Titus who was being recalled to discuss things with Paul. What does that tell us about our man under consideration? He was rather multi-skilled to say the least, and dependable. The final mention of this man is in a letter from Paul’s second imprisonment. This would culminate in his death under Nero. Tychicus was on the move again, this time to Ephesus.  It is there we have to leave him.

This man’s name means ‘Fortunate.’ How appropriate. He was fortunate to know and serve Christ. Fortunate to be a reliable team member. Fortunate to take risks to help others. He becomes an example for each of us as team members here at camp. May it be said by each of us “it has been our good fortune to serve with you.”

Acts 20:4.  Eph. 6:21.  Col. 4:7.  2Tim. 4:12. Titus 3:12   

Ray Hawkins 11.9.2016.