Sunday, 24 February 2013

Love your enemies: Luke 6: 27 - 35

'Forgiveness' has been one of my words for this year. ('Grace' is, obviously, another. Can't have forgiveness without huge heaps of grace.)
So we talked about it at breakfast yesterday.  This was my summary of all the wise advice that has been floating around this week:

Go to Him and pray for a heart that forgives
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Be kinder than you feel..
Be generous with grace, faith and love.
Pray for blessing

Power verses:
Proverbs 17:9 NIV
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
Luke 6:27 – 28, 35 - 36
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you ...
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 12:20,21
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We talked about forgiving 'big' things, about who our 'enemies' are - how difficult that is, to use such a strong word. We talked about how it is sometimes easier to forgive a stranger than a friend, whose words hurt more; about forgiving attacks which are more personal...we talked of grace, and kindness, and love which covers over many an offense. We talked of courage to deal with 'stuff' kindly.

We moved on to a single verse which we studied this week: Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

We need to 'pray for those who cut us off in traffic, for those who have said unkind words, for those who left and didn’t come back, and for those who couldn’t keep their promises.'

Bible Gateway's devotional for Lent suggested this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, who commanded us to love our enemies and all those who insult and hurt us, and to pray for them and forgive them; you yourself prayed for your enemies, who crucified you. Give us, we pray, a spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, so that we may forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. Give to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. Help us to repay evil with goodness. — adapted from the Orthodox "Prayer for Enemies"

Forgiveness is an integral part of the Easter story. Who in my life needs to be forgiven today? Who do I need to ask for forgiveness? This week, can I consider extending the hand of forgiveness to somebody who needs it?

Poor in spirit...Luke

Going through the study Living Like Jesus, Luke 1 - 8, Good Morning Girls.
Arrived in Chapter 6.
Here is the latest blog from Good Morning Girls Friday 22nd February:

In 1660 Thomas Watson wrote an exposition on the Beatitudes. It is so good that I am going to be drawing from it in this post. You can read the whole thing here if you want.

After healing a number of people, Jesus goes up on a mountain and begins to preach his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” He starts with the beatitudes which are a collection of truths for those who want to truly be blessed or “happy”. I want to focus on the very first one because from it spring the rest.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20

What does he mean by “poor?” Is he referring to those who are without material possessions or who have a hard time paying their bills? There certainly is truth in the fact that those who belong to Jesus are the richest in the world, despite any current financial hardships, for they will one day lack for nothing. But the “poor” Jesus addresses here are the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5). It “signifies those who are brought to the sense of their sins, and seeing no goodness in themselves, despair in themselves and sue wholly to the mercy of God in Christ.” (Thomas Watson) Someone who is poor in spirit has a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). They are humbled by their sin and know that they approach the living God with absolutely nothing to offer but their own filth and unrighteousness.

The reason we must all be “poor in spirit” is because:

1. “Until we are poor in spirit—we are not capable of receiving grace” (Watson)

Someone who is full of himself is not able to be filled with Christ. “God first empties a man of himself, before he pours in the precious wine of his grace.” (Thomas Watson)

2. “Until we are poor in spirit—Christ is never precious” (Watson)

The person who see the dirt that covers him will view the garment of Christ’s righteousness as desirable (Zech. 3:4). But if you think your works are good and beautiful on their own then what Christ offers will seem neither necessary or precious.

3. “Until we are poor in spirit—we cannot go to heaven” (Watson)

The kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit. The Kingdom is for those who have nothing, know it, and receive what is promised by faith alone.

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
 simply to the cross I cling”

I don’t know about you, but I have a major problem here. I can never be poor in spirit on my own. I am by nature proud, self reliant, forgetful, stubborn and rebellious. Even as one who has been saved through the death of Christ I easily revert back to my old nasty habits or self righteousness. But just as my salvation was wholly of God so is everything else pertaining to my spiritual life. Where I fail, Christ succeeds for me. Where I am proud, Christ is humble. And the best part of all is that when I run in the wrong direction Christ pursues me and lovingly brings me back.

As Francis Thompson wrote, Jesus, “The Hound of Heaven” pursues those who are his with an “unhurrying chase, unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic urgency”.

We must pray that God would make us aware of where we have filled our lives with “self” instead of Christ. We must pray that God would make us poor in Spirit and fill us “with the graces of his Spirit.” He is faithful, he will hear our prayers. He will change our hearts."

Oh yes.

I was further convicted of this when listening to Louie Giglio talk about Matthew 6:5-9 about prayer and the holiness of God :
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
No, doing things publicly, out of pride, out of a desire to show off, a craving to be 'rich in spirit' - our reward - MY reward - will not be a heavenly one. Just an earthly one, which will pass away and is of no eternal value.

A prayer: Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on the things that matter and my heart humbled towards You and others. Let humility be my watchword.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


When I feel discouraged, and weary, I need to retain my perspective.

This says it better than I can.

And here is some practical help, too...

Catching up on reading - 'Secretly Smitten' (what a name for a book title lol!)

Do keep reading - this book is better than it sounds!  Honestly!

Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter and Diann Hunt is the sequel to Smitten, a town in Vermont which has been reinvented as a romantic destination. I was given it to review through Booksneeze but enjoyed it so much that I intend to buy 'Smitten' and - I hope - any further sequels.

It is, in fact, four books in one, skilfully written by four different authors to read as an entire novel.
The first, Love Between the Lines, is a murder mystery romance; Make Me a Match explores the tribulations of setting up a matchmaking club. Knit one, Love Two is a charming tale of the love and encouragement found among a group of dedicated knitters - and romance in middle age. Love Blooms is set in and around a plant nursery. The novel as a whole is simply a series of gentle romances, with a good mixture of suspense, intrigue and mystery mixed in and an understated Christian angle.

I enjoyed meeting the characters from one 'chapter' in others, seeing them from different viewpoints. I enjoyed guessing the endings long before the authors worked them out - though the twists in the telling kept my interest going. But above all I enjoyed the cosy, 'feel good' atmosphere, the sense of security in a close-knit community and the love - in all aspects of the word - that seeped through the pages.
Such fun!

Catching up on reading - 'Missionary' by Christopher Marco

Still exploring free books on my recently acquired Kindle. I'm a library aficionado - a book recycler, not a book purchaser any more.  I used to be...but that's another story. So I came across a couple of great little books recently.
The first was a genuine free book. 'Missionary' by Christopher Marco.  Sounded boring, I thought, but I flicked inside (thanks, Amazon previews). I was hooked.
Not by the subject matter - been there, done that, got the T-shirt - at least, I used to have the T-shirt which proudly said 'Group 33 Tanzania' but it went the way of all T-shirts many years ago. Nor was I hooked by the geographical setting, although it was Asia, not Africa, and so Technically Different.
No, it was Christopher Marco's writing itself.  It was just so  QUIRKY. He talks about becoming a missionary - someone who 'is socially awkward, wearing clothes that look a little funny, who talks about things normal people con't care about...' And his aim in writing the book is to show human frailty and God's sovereignty.
The book is written on a month by month basis, each with a cryptic title. Leaking through every page is disarming honesty and a lack of pretentiousness, a sharing of cultural joys and mistakes and an excitement about what Jesus does when people are willing to let him mess around with their lives. I loved his eccentric descriptions and turns of phrase.
The best thing? That the story doesn't end with the end of the book. I had a real sense of excitement about what Jesus is doing through Marco's life. A God-sized adventure.
The book isn't just called 'Missionary'. Its sub-title is: Following God's Call to the Other Side of the World.
Christopher Marco - and his family - are still there.
The second book: see my next post here...

God-sized dreams

Dreaming God-sized dreams.  And yes, I'm in the middle of a 'dream' - though I'd rather call it a 'call' as I think it's God's dream, not mine - at the moment.
A call to go to a small, dying church to support its pastor. That was three years ago. It seems more like 40 as I find myself in a desert. Holley Gerth's words of wisdom encourage me:
"An idea comes.
A promise is spoken.
A new opportunity comes over the horizon.
“Yes,” we say, “This is what I’ve been waiting for! Let’s go.” So we set out on our journey with high hopes. Then as the miles go on we begin to feel fear nipping at our heels. We start to question…
Is this the way I should be going?
Why is this turning out differently than I expected?
What if I didn’t hear God right after all?
With every question the fear gets a bit louder and our confidence a bit lower. If that’s you today, let me lean in and whisper a truth that you must know: There’s always a desert before the dream.
The Israelites set out for a God-sized dream too. You know how long they were supposed to spend in the desert?
11 days.
That’s how long the journey usually takes.
But they let fear win and as a result ended up wandering for forty years.
Here’s what we can learn from their experience: The desert is not the danger.
The biggest threat is surrendering to fear and letting go of faith.
So if you find yourself in a desert right now then hold tight to what you know is true and press on, friend. The Promised Land is closer than you think.
And you have everything you need for the journey."
So I WILL persevere and have faith - for the moment. Because I sense the call is changing. As the circumstances surrounding the 'call' change, I sense that a new dream is beginning.
This time, it's possibly a dream I've had for a very long time. A dream, not a call.
We'll see.
Over at Good Morning Girls we've been looking at the story of the miraculous catch of fish. These words caught my eye:
"I believe, like many of us, Peter had dreams of his own. Like most fishermen, I’m sure he had a dream of one day catching “the big one!” You know the “one” that would bring in big money and be the talk of the town.

Jesus knew Peter’s dream too.
Jesus set foot in Peter’s boat that special day thousands of years ago not only to teach a lesson for those on shore, or to bring in a super catch, but to change a heart and “cast” a new dream. A bigger dream. A better dream. A God-sized dream.

1. Sometimes we just need to obey

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon (Peter) answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Peter was sure he was the expert in this category… that is. Sure he had seen Jesus heal his mother-n-law but now Jesus was entering Peter’s world of expertise… fishing, and Peter found out that he really isn’t an expert after all.
Have you allowed Jesus to enter all areas of your life? Even the ones that you feel you are an “expert” in? Jesus doesn’t just want to be involved in the “spiritual” aspects of our lives but rather ALL aspects of your life, spiritual and non-spiritual.

He wants to be involved in:
Our goals
Our parenting
Our relationships
Our finances
Our work inside and outside the home
Our dreams
Our calendar

But in order to do this, we first need to let Him into our “boats” and then obey His orders……whether we understand the plan or not. Remember, Jesus is never going to ask us to do something that is contrary to His Word or His nature.

By allowing Jesus into his boat and obeying His orders, Peter experienced something that before he could only dream about.

2. We are sinners in need of a Savior.
When we allow Jesus to enter our world, we begin to develop a personal relationship with Him by spending time reading His Word and in prayer. Jesus begins to work in our lives and as He does, we begin to realize our sins and our desperate need of a Savior.
Once Peter realized who Jesus really was (God) and who he was (a sinner), Peter was willing to leave everything and follow Jesus.

3. Exchanging our “Me” sized dreams for God sized dreams
I love how Jesus met Peter right where he was at…on Peter’s level, in Peter’s work.
Jesus knew Peter’s “me” sized dream and met it……easily.
It’s almost like He said, “Is that really all that you’ve got?”
Then Jesus exchanged Peter’s “me” sized dream for a God sized dream.
In one day Peter went from being a fisherman to being a man who “will catch men” for the Kingdom of God. I’m sure the years of training Peter had acquired through fishing prepared him for his new occupation as a “fisherman of men”.
Once Peter got a taste of what Jesus could do through his life, it ruined him! He didn’t want to go back! Peter was willing to leave EVERYTHING and FOLLOW Jesus.
What about you?

What God sized dreams is Jesus placing in your heart? Be like Peter, welcome Jesus in, obey what He is asking you to do and then be willing to take action."

Psalm 33

It the beginning of a recent attack of discouragement, I quickly jotted this down. I should have printed it out in billboard sized letters and papered my walls with it.

Psalm 33:4-5 "For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love." 

I can't get past this verse.
The Word of the LORD IS RIGHT and TRUE;
HE IS FAITHFUL in all He does.
the earth is FULL of his UNFAILING LOVE.

Today, I've been catching up on the Good Morning Girls Luke study.

I've been struck by how Peter and the other fisherman just obeyed Jesus. And, while I'll talk more about this in my next post on God-sized dreams, I noticed this:



Temptation and discouragement

Studying Luke with Good Morning Girls, we've reached Jesus' temptations. I've been teaching at school about it this last week, too.  Only to seven year olds, but that doesn't change Truth.

My truth is that I have been tempted severely. Not, of course, as much as Jesus, but it's been a big deal for me.
Tempted to give up on church.
Tempted to give up on reading the Bible.
Tempted to give up on praising and worshipping God.

You'd think that might have been enough. Oh no, I need to catalogue the whole long list. I need to stare Lies in the face and rediscover Truth.

Tempted to give in to self pity.
Tempted to give in to feelings of loneliness.
Tempted to give in to discouragement.

Tempted to refuse to forgive those who have hurt me.
Tempted to give up on loving.
Tempted to hate.

I've struggled.

I've been at the Point of Despair, worn the Black Dog of Depression around my neck, tasted the Fruit of Bitterness, gazed into the Pit of Destruction. 

Tempted to give up, give in,

My mind knew I needed to read Scripture. I managed, a little. Bits of a few Psalms.
My spirit longed to dig in, to study, to express my feelings in writing. I couldn't.
My soul recognised its thirst.

All I had left were prayers. Itty bitty, scattered, incoherent, doubting, inelegant prayers. At times, I could scarcely form the words.
I could barely pray for others, let alone myself.
Yet I found myself encouraging a friend recently diagnosed with cancer; another whose husband is struggling; crying out to God for my children.

I recognised I was tired.
I knew I had had a mildly stressful, draining time at work.
I tried to be easy on myself.

I can still barely pray, study - I am prevaricating now, as I write.

But I AM back here.
I DO have Bible passages open.
I WILL be reading the latest devotionals on the ongoing study.

There IS hope. Because God heard my broken prayers. He enabled me to read a little of his Word. He breathed TRUTH into my life...

Psalm 40
I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one comes close to you!

I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words account for you.
Doing something for you, bringing something to you—that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears so I can listen

So I answered, “I’m coming. I read in your letter what you wrote about me, and I’m coming to the party you’re throwing for me.”

That’s when God’s Word entered my life, became part of my very being.

I’ve preached you to the whole congregation, I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth for myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.

Now God, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt I couldn’t see my way clear.More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

Soften up, God, and intervene; hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin will be booed and jeered without mercy.

But all who are hunting for you— oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing: make something of me.You can do it; you’ve got what it takes— but God, don’t put it off.

HOPE. a.k.a. TRUTH.

No more lies.

This is the wise advice from Jen at Good Morning Girls. (I put it here as I don't trust weblinks not to break...)

" 1. His sympathy is wise.
He knows those who belong to him better than they know themselves. He knows his sheep (Jn. 10:14) God knows all the intricate bits of our lives and every single detail of the difficulty and temptations that we face. He knows exactly what we are going through, and is therefore best equipped to help.

2. His sympathy is practical
Jesus does not simply give us words of kindness or compassion. He goes beyond this by acting in our lives to bring about perseverance, joy, power and grace. “Not satisfied with a mere expression of sympathy, Christ imparts skill to fence, power to bear, grace to overcome.” (Octavious Winslow, Christ and the Christian in Temptation, 1877)

3. His sympathy is tender
It is easy for some to view Jesus as this stoic man who only ever talked about spiritual things. It is hard to imagine Jesus and his friends sitting around talking about the weather, sandals, marriage or the new restaurant in town. Though Jesus was God he also was fully man and had emotions like you and me. He laughed and was joyful, he felt love and anger, he felt compassion even to the point of weeping for a friend who had died (Jn, 11:35). He feels a tenderness for you when you are being tempted. He has been there, he is a “fellow sufferer” and knows how difficult temptations can be.

“He is touched with our misery, touched with our temptation, touched with our grief.” (Octavious Winslow, Christ and the Christian in Temptation, 1877)

4. His sympathy is prayerful
I love this. Jesus prays for you – for me! He cares so much that speaks to the Father on our behalf, for our good (Romans 8:34; Lk. 22:31). Do you see the endless amount of grace and kindness Jesus pours out on us? Do you see what a generous savior we have? His prayer for our perseverance ensures our victory.

Just as the devil tempted Christ he tempts us as well. While he cannot take away our salvation he will try everything in his power to rob us of our communion with Christ, to make us weak and useless for the advancement of the kingdom of God. He sets his sights on you and your destruction because in Christ you have everything.

“Pirates do not set upon poor empty vessels; and beggars need not fear the thief. Those that have most of God, and are most rich in grace – shall be most assaulted by Satan, who is the greatest and craftiest pirate in the world.”
(Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652)

But while Satan’s goal is our ruin, God uses it for our good, for the testing and strengthening of our faith (James 1:12-13).

Here are three ways in which we can resist.

1. Stay close to God’s word.
The Bible is a grace that God has placed in our lives. We need to read it and know it well because it is for our salvation, our growth and our protection.(Prov. 12:24; Gal. 6:16)

If we let go of God’s word, then Satan will take us by the hand and lead us into his snares. (Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652)

2. Seek Wisdom
There is a difference between being educated and being wise. Wisdom is God’s word applied to our daily lives. (Prov. 15:24)

“It is not the most knowing Christian—but the most wise Christian, who sees, avoids, and escapes Satan’s snares.” (Thomas Brooks)

3. Be watchful
Satan is watchful for any opportunity to damage us. Whether it be in small ways or in big ways. He wants to steal our peace, pervert our conscience, break our joy and feed us guilt and despair. (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan will try and whisper all kinds of lies and reasons for us to to give in. Do not reason with temptations, but resist them by running to Christ for help. Say with Catherine Bretterege “Reason not with me, I am but a weak woman, if you have anything to say, say it to my Christ; he is my advocate, my strength and my redeemer, he shall plead for me.”


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Proverbs 31: 15 - 16, and other verses too.

I wrote this reflection while studying Proverbs 31 -   a chapter I had always found DIScouraging as I compared myself to the Perfect Wife and found myself sadly lacking!

Pr.31:15, Psalm 5:3, Mark 1:35 - The Message says She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
Oh dear, all about getting up early! About not being lazy or lying in bed... I'm sure we all do this, but I also hope everyone is getting a break over this long weekend!

Food for thought: From Women Living Well: "the Proverbs 31 woman has a dream – she dreams of planting a vineyard – so she considers, buys and plants a vineyard.

Do you have a dream? Follow the Proverbs 31 method of pursuing it.
1. Consider – take time to pray and think through your plan. Consider if this is best for your family in this season of life. Talk to your husband and let him lead you in the decision making process.
2. Buy – in order to buy you must first save. Patiently save the money you will need to make this project happen.
3. Plant – the Proverbs 31 woman put muscle to her dream. She worked diligently to plant her vineyard. In the same way we are going to have to diligently work day in and day out to see fruit from our labor."

OK, so a few things here which might not apply - a dream does not necessarily consist of 'buying' in the normal sense, though we might have to 'buy' some time to fulfil it...and 'talk to your husband' would mean talk to whoever could be affected by our actions...still, I like the interpretation. This verse otherwise makes it sound as if we should all be farmers or property developers!!

So, on these I take time to reflect with Anne Le Tissier in January's Woman Alive magazine....I consider my dreams...

God-sized dreams...?

New year, new goals....Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and He will help you… Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” Psalm 37:4-5
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” – Psalm 37:3-4

Francis Chan encourages us: “I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn’t come through, I am screwed.”

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Yet it's all about me: "if we truly believe that life change occurs from the inside out, rather than the other way around, our resolutions would reflect that belief.
We’d commit to finally getting the counseling we need, or to confessing our struggles, sins and dysfunctions to a mentor or trusted confidant, or to surrendering that habit, luxury or excess in our lives to the Lord.
If we profess to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ then we will live a life that reflects a commitment to an ongoing, inside-out, ever deepening transformation more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
We’ll never compromise with mediocrity.
We’ll refuse to be average.
We’ll recognize status quo as an enemy of our souls."

Yes, I need to change. But perhaps, instead of my needing to change to make my life better, perhaps I need to change to make other people's lives better?

So dream God-sized dreams. Holley Gerth says: "We can’t help but dream God-sized dreams.

For some, that may mean stepping out on a thin limb of creativity and faith.
For others, it may be a matter a heart shift toward people or surroundings.
And for still others, it may be responding a startling moment of discovery.
But whatever your age and stage in life, that’s the heartbeat of the innovative life—recognizing that we are all called and created to be about the redemptive purposes of God. We’re meant to dream God-sized dreams."
  Proverbs 19:21

We talked about this over  breakfast a couple of weeks ago. Before we knew it, from talking about a dream of taking time out with God on a quiet morning, we had organised a retreat for ourselves later in the year.

This 'God-sized dream' quietly terrifies me as I contemplate sharing the vision with others, organising lead-in reflections, arranging for music and worship, and booking the venue.

Stepping out on a limb indeed.

'Doing Justice'

Sparked off by Ed's discussion at In a Mirror Dimly, Micah 6:8 hits me with a sledge hammer. ‘But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously - take God seriously.’

At first glance, my life doesn’t have much ‘seeing that justice is done’. Not in terms of Matthew 25:37 – 46 which convicts me further: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’”
And as we know, Jesus then states very clearly
“ I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited. ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’ (The Message)

There is no limit to the needs of our world. There are always hungry people; places where thirst is perpetual; homelessness across the globe; poorly clad children – and adults; the sick suffering in isolation; those who have fallen foul of the law.

And so I justify my behaviour.
I say “Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.”
I say:”I work full time in a demanding job.”
I say: “The needs are so great, and I am so small and insignificant.”
All excuses and lies.
There is ALWAYS something I CAN do. It may not be as big as I would like. I may not be able to be as generous – with time, money or emotion – as I would like. But whatever I do, however little, WILL make a difference. To someone. To some situation. To my neighbour.

So I support those whose work is with the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners. I give to mission, to charities. I donate clothes and unwanted items to the Salvation Army, to charity hospice shops. I visit sick friends. I write cards of encouragement.

I try. Still...
It is all comfortable. Not convenient – absorbed as I am with my job, I struggle to remember to do these ‘extra’ things – but comfortable.

So I struggle with guilt. With the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’.
And perhaps that is good. Perhaps I should always be struggling with comfortable vs uncomfortable. Because I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus has told his parable regarding talents immediately before he speaks about the final judgement.

Is the key, perhaps, that I use what God has given me? All of it? Jesus gave all he had for me, and all I have comes from him, so withholding any of what he has given me is just WRONG.

So I aim to give generously – until it begins to hurt – rather than focus on saving my money for a rainy day;
I will use my time freely for others, rather than jealously guarding it;
I can look for someone being overlooked or ignored rather than cultivating ONLY my friendships.
I will share my home, responding to those who may need somewhere to be for a while.
I go to visit someone who is sick, rather than just sending them a get well card.

All of this is still within my own sphere. I haven’t yet visited someone in prison – I have never met anyone who has been in prison. So it is now that I am thinking about how, to REALLY do what is ‘fair and just to my neighbour’. Because my neighbour, as Jesus made clear in the parable he told about a man saving the life of his sworn enemy, is ANYONE I MEET. And, perhaps, I need to put myself in the way of meeting others. That might mean volunteering with one of the local welfare programs or joining a particular ministry such as prison visiting.

Whatever happens, I pray to keep my heart open to the needs of my neighbour. So that I CAN “see that justice is done, let mercy be my first concern, and humbly obey my God.”