Halo effect: how bright is yours?

CONSIDER the “Lake Woebegone” effect. Like the characters in this story of American life, we too are prone to consider ourselves somewhat better than average in a whole range of characteristics.
Ask 100 car drivers if they are better than average, and most will say they are. Impossible! Half must be better and half worse.
We achieve the same miscalculation in our spiritual lives. As believers we think we say the right things, do the right things and read the Bible as we should. But by these means alone none are justified in God’s eyes.
Of course none of us would claim to be better than average in spiritual matters. We acknowledge that we bump along at the bottom. If our spiritual lives were like a driving test, we would fail the theoretical, the practical, reading a number plate at however many yards, again, and again.
But, praise the Lord, God does not ask us to pass tests to prove our Righteousness. Instead, he asks for faith. As Paul told the Corinthians, echoing Jeremiah: boast that you understand and know God, for in these things God takes delight.
Look at Moses. In Deuteronomy 34:10 he is greater than all the prophets and met God. In Numbers he is very meek and humble, more so than those around him. In Philippians, Jesus made himself nothing, humbling himself and being obedient to death.

Our boast is in the friendship we have with Jesus and God. And this should create a Halo Effect. People tend to base their opinions on the traits they observe in others, rightly or wrongly. Israel thought Saul looked good, but he proved to be a disastrous king. The youth David seemed to offer little, but turned out to be God’s chosen one.

We too exert a halo effect. We need to be generous in our actions: what goes around comes around.

Colossians 3&4 helps us with this, as it speaks of 3 lettuces! Let us make room in our lives for: a) the peace of Christ in our hearts(3:15); b) the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (3:16); and c) our conversation to be full of grace and salt (4:6).

A) The greatest source of our peace is Christ’s body, given on the cross, and our place in that body. The emblems are more than a memorial. They are a declaration and demonstration of that peace and our place in Christ’s body, of which he is the head and we are the body, his church.

B) We do not see ourselves as above average, because all we have spiritually comes from Christ. Instead, we lay ourselves open to Christ, looking into every nook and cranny of our lives, to apply the DIY needed in our hearts.

C) Our mouths reveal our hearts, or we are hypocrites. If we lack Christ in our hearts our word has lost its saltiness, its flavour and preserving effect. More so, salt accompanies sacrifice. It makes flames burn brighter. Little wonder Christ’s sacrifice is the light of the world.


The Toys: “Endeavour” Aug ’88

“My little Son, who looked from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobeyed,
I struck him and dismissed
With hard words and unkissed,
His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darkened eyelids, and their lashes yet
From their late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-veined stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach
And six or seven shells, A bottle with bluebells
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I prayed To God, I wept and said;
Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath
Not vexing thee in death,
And thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood,
Thy great commanded good,
Then, Fatherly not less
Than I whom thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou’lt leave thy wrath, and say
‘I will be sorry for their childishness’.”

One might be tempted to dismiss Coventry Patmore’s poem as a piece of Victorian sentimentality if one did not know that it was founded on fact.

His wife Emily died 15 years after they were married, leaving him to bring up three sons and three daughters. What is remarkable about it, written as it was in the mid-19th century, is its tenderness. For this was when the maxims of Proverbs were applied with rigour. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (22:15). “Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (23:15). “Let not thy soul spare for his crying”. (19:18).

How different the attitude of Jesus was………..


If your “god” is dead, try mine!

We are not confronted with the problems Elijah faced in 1 Kings 18. With pressure from Jezebel and Ahab he had to flee to Mount Horeb, as fellow believers were persecuted to the point of death, Robin explained last Sunday.

Elijah had earlier challenged Baal’s followers to prove their “god” existed, by burning up a water-soaked sacrifice. They failed and God succeeded. Their god was dead, Elijah’s lived.

Parts of the Old Testament positively fizz and crackle with God’s direct involvement—the plagues in Egypt, the exodus, the pillars of cloud and fire in the desert—in contrast with the often long spells of God’s quieter support.

But whether it is small matters or great, all things are in God’s hands. So, do we reflect that in our lives?

Maybe we would not challenge our neighbours to an Elijah-style face off between their “dead god” and our living one. But do people see us as in any way “special”. Odd maybe, obsessive about religion, possibly. But special?

Elijah’s example prompts us to think about our lives and consider new/untried methods of preaching.

The Guardian newspaper recently listed the UK population’s religious affiliations, according to the 2001 census.

  • Nominal Christians topped the list with 37m,
  • Non- believers came next with 7.3m,
  • Muslims 1.5m,
  • Hindus 0.55m and
  • Jedi Knights 0.39m.
  • 14m had no view.

Our response should be to: “go out into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” We should avoid provoking on issues where we will not get agreement. Instead, stay faithful and true to our convictions, trusting that God will use us to call those he wants. We need to trust that the Holy Spirit is still with us in a way.

Like Jesus we need to show care and kindness. Like the apostles, we need to start gently and seek common ground. We need to build relationships first, then speak of the Gospel. People often give us an opportunity — “what’s the world coming to?” We need to use that, without being confrontational or judgemental. We need to enthuse, recognising that the Truth is caught, not taught.


Travelling to Jerusalem

LUKE describes Jesus’ life on earth as one big journey—starting in Nazareth and always heading to Jerusalem. Indeed, his entire gospel record is made up of journeys Jesus made from Nazareth to the temple of God in Jerusalem. Luke recounts not just one, two or three such journeys, but four, Andrew Walker explained recently.

In Luke 2 Mary takes Jesus to the temple, to present him to his true Father. Twelve years later Jesus again travels to Jerusalem, and when his parents can’t find him on the way back to Nazareth, where do they find him? in the temple, “my father’s house.”

Aged 30 Jesus leaves Nazareth again for Jerusalem. He is baptised and, in a departure from Matthew’s ordering of his temptations, Luke lists Jesus’ temptations as hunger, ruling the world and saving his life. It reflects Jesus thinking of his own temporal needs, his transfiguration on the mountain and his looming crucifixion.

Jesus goes on to preach in Nazareth, but is rejected. In Luke 9 a turning point comes, as Jesus is transfigured and never returns to Nazareth again, setting his face to going to Jerusalem.

In Luke 19 he reaches Jerusalem, weeping in verse 31, because this is where he has been coming to all his life and he will never leave it again.

Luke’s gospel conveys to us the purpose of Jesus’ life. Wherever he was, he was moving closer to Jerusalem, to the cross, to his resurrection. His life is a journey from the breast of Mary to the bosom of his Father.

But is it just about Jesus? Other gospels tell how the risen Jesus meets the disciples at Galilee. Luke says they were all at Jerusalem, where Jesus instructed them to stay until they receive the Spirit. His gospel ends with the disciples at the temple, as it started with Simeon at the temple.

The disciples were on the same journey as Jesus—heading to God’s temple. It is what God wants our lives to be about too. Every day we are setting out once more towards God’s Kingdom.