Happy Christmas

It was with interest that I read this extract some time ago from an email circular letter from Dr. Mike Evans “I was stunned to read that one out of five people in Israel today cannot afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families. Even worse, one in ten is suffering physical symptoms due to malnutrition. This is tragic! At a time when most of us are trying to lose weight, there are thousands of Jewish men, women, and children going to bed hungry every night.” But, the sad story today in many western countries is that not only are people overweight, but in other aspects and realms they have too much.

A recent survey has determined that our spending power will decrease as inflation rises and, whereas in 2009 the free money after paying necessary bills in the average household was £637 per month, it was £590 in 2012 and not until 2015 will it rise to £606.  Our living standards are falling, but perhaps they were too high anyhow. Many visitors find British standards of living higher than where they came from, and would of inclination want to stay and be part of that standard; why not, it’s part of human nature to want more.  The more we have the more we want. God gave Adam and Eve all the trees in the garden but one, and Eve wanted the forbidden one, nothing has changed.

I once read an article where four sets of parents were interviewed about buying Christmas presents for their children. The respective values ranged from £750 to £50 per child.  Why spend £750 on a one-year old child; sometimes there is a suggestion of senseless spending. Giving gifts is a human attribute, and we all like to bestow on those we love a token of our affection. Unfortunately however, some people are pressured by their peers, to adopt a universal standard of generosity which they can’t afford.

The world system tells us what we should give, and designs our presents for us and encourages us to go into debt to ensure we give, in their opinion, rightfully. Perhaps this year because of lack of money many people will use common sense and restraint in giving presents! The way to instil wisdom over the use of money is to have none; it’s the best teacher in the business. I came out of a generation that often made gifts because we couldn’t afford to buy any.  We didn’t expect much and therefore were not disappointed and appreciated what little we did get.

My home is patterned by drawings and paintings by my two sons who did their best with their skill during their university time and afterwards to give us something of worth at Christmas time. These pictures take pride of place in the entrance hall so those who enter can see the value we place on them; they may not be a Rembrandt or Van Gogh, but they are to us. They gave us something out of their penury: their time was more valuable. It was

the thought that went into the gift that is supreme in our eyes. They are gifts that will become heirlooms of their youth and care.  It seems to me that the appreciation of small things has been lost in the rush for more and more. Bigger and costlier need not be better.

The greatest gifts cannot be bought and are not manufactured except in the grinding mills of life.  What we give of ourselves in thoughtful love will be retained for a lifetime.  Expensive man-made objects will be superseded, replaced, break and deteriorate, but often the small and almost insignificant personal gift of time and skill will be found in the storage chambers of life, retained, revalued, saved, guarded and kept while life lasts. IPhones, iPods and iPads will be overtaken by better designs, and previous models forgotten, but the pictures on our walls will be symbols of youthful love of the highest order.  As we age with time these tokens of generosity will remain unsullied by the years, but the wealth of speculative gifts will be soon forgotten and destined for the trash bin.

The greatest gift was Jesus, God gave of himself, and we must do likewise. He grows more precious with the years, all other gifts pale at His august presence and everlasting love with eternal forgiveness. What better gift than life – “because He lives I can face tomorrow” for now we live because he does? The bonus system has been ingrained into British culture; every month a Christmas Day, but every day with Jesus is a high day – an eternal gift of love and acceptance, what more could we possibly want?

In a recent article by Paul Krugman in the New York Times, he argues the current reality that to be an American is to be sicker than the people living in England; whereas the British are likely to over drink the Americans tend to be obese. However Britain only spends about 40 percent as much per person on health care as the United States, and its health care system is considered inferior to neighbouring countries, especially France. For example middle aged Americans are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes and hypertension as their English counterparts.

Unfortunately the article in the American Medical Association which published the study couldn’t arrive at a valid reason for this problem. They confined their study to non-Hispanic whites but did find a correlation between health and wealth – and interestingly, the poorest third of Britons were healthier than the top richest third of Americans.  However Krugman suggested that overwork was a predominant cause. Americans work 46 weeks a year and the British only 41. Their lifestyle reflects the protestant work ethic; to be a success is determined by how early you retire.

It has been argued and proven statistically that church goers are healthier and live longer than those who don’t go to church, so the Americans should lead the European world, but like many anomalous things in the States, they write more books about marriage than any other country and have the highest incidence of divorce. Writing and producing studies about a lifestyle does not necessarily improve it. That is why I don’t speak on holiness very often, because speaking about will not increase its quality in the human soul.

When I became a Christian, our leaders were keen that we jumped holiness hoops and shunned the worldly lights of entertainment. We were expected to be spiritually healthy. If we were not, would we lose our reward?  Hidden pressure was brought to bear so that we were wrapped up in man-made ideas of holiness and in those days the word was not victory but sanctification, a word missing from our vocabulary today.

Purity was decided by the absolutes of our peers or superiors.  It was almost an unconscious enforcement of a lifestyle that concentrated on externals. We were expected to behave righteously and that meant we

were to live out a physical ethic that would not give offence.  It was extreme legalism, a system of prohibitions that we wore like a straightjacket. We thought we were holy because we earned the right by behavior, rather than our heart condition.

A newspaper reported that the body of a killer executed in America had been turned into a three-dimensional computer image to become a medical teaching aid. The digital body could be

examined from any angle and “fully dissected on computer.” The killer had left his remains to science and the body was taken to the University of Colorado’s health sciences centre where it was given computer-controlled scans.  What they could not find in this human body was the mind, soul and spirit. Only God knows the human heart: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place”(Ps.139:15).

God was doing ultrasonic scans thousands of years before they became available to pregnant women! And, anyhow, the real you and me – the secret parts of our personalities and spiritual perception, holiness and righteousness – are hidden from the gaze of man-made electronics, highly sophisticated though they may be. It is God alone who can study our motives, attitudes, desires and aspirations.

Whatever artificial strictures are placed upon us by custom and convention, our internal condition, call it holiness or sanctification if you like; can only be known by God. Cults pry into your soul and control your lifestyle; they decide what is or is not holy and acceptable. Follow their dictates and they award sanctification like badges.

The best route to holiness is the unconscious radiance of internal burning. Moses’ bush is an example. The phenomenon illustrated three things. It consumed all malignant growths, like fungus and mildew, all insects and vermin and kept wild animals at bay. That is what God’s fire or Holy Spirit does for those who believe on Him. The insidious growths of compromise are consumed, the vile vices and ticks of our tempers are burnt up and the devil’s donkeys are scared to approach.  The best formula for holiness is the Holy Spirit.