Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter thoughts

Thought from Bible Gateway's Lent Devotionals:
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today’s Quote

"The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued sacrifice—whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for and knowledge of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary deeds, acceptable in the sight of God.

"If we live by this principle, if Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all our actions, then our lowliest actions are acceptable sacrifices; but if this principle is lacking in our lives, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are nothing but a spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own gain and make an idol of ourselves. We make ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions: and therefore such actions are so far from being acceptable by God, that according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church, 'We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not from an experimental faith in and knowledge of Jesus Christ.'" — adapted from George Whitefield's sermon "The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge"

Something to Think About

Christ's salvation is offered to us freely, and cannot be earned by our actions. Despite this, Christians have struggled since the earliest days of the church with the temptation to try and earn God's forgiveness by doing good works, following the law, or just living "good" lives. Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ's gift? Is this a struggle for you?

Isaiah 53: 1 -  9, 10 - 15
"Indeed, who would ever believe it?
Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?
Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,
this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.
Yet it was our suffering he carried,
our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected him,
that God was the reason he hurt so badly.
But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
The injuries he suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer,
the sins of us all.
And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence.
Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away.
From this generation, who was there to complain?
Who was there to cry “Foul”?
He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living,
Smacked and struck, not on his account,
because of how my people (my people!)
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong.
They snuffed out his life.
And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced
in borrowed space (among the rich),
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed."

It is hard to understand why God would crush His innocent Servant. But it is in His suffering for sin that God deals decisively with sin and its harmful effects.

"Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along,
to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God.
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing,
this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged.
As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul,
God’s servant will see light and be content
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,
“My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away.
Because he exposed his very self—
laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death—
And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best.
I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value,
Because he took on himself the sin of many
and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.”

"Eternal One: See here! My servant will succeed.
He will grow in character and reputation, achieving high standing and status.
Just as people used to be shocked by you,
even so his appearance was disfigured;
His form—once glorious—was marred until it hardly seemed human.
Now many nations will be astonished at his prominence;
world rulers will be speechless in his presence,
For they will see what they’ve never been told;
they will understand what they’ve never heard."

The Voice (VOICE)

Friday, 29 March 2013

An unjust Friday

Today, I am proud to say I am posting SOMEWHERE ELSE!  A few months ago Ed over at invited guests to post on the subject of 'doing justice'.  Click here to read it.

Ed is a real writer. He writes books and articles.
I write sporadically. For me. When I have time. 

Somehow, I found myself writing a few words and submitting them.
'Fine,' said Ed - or words to that effect. He was very gracious. He didn't even know me.
'Sign up,' said Ed. So I did.
March 29th was the next available slot, so I duly filled in the details, stored my little piece carefully away, and wrote a note on my calendar to remind me a couple of days before.

March 29th is now today. Good Friday. A 'God Free' Day, when the world turned black, anguish reigned and it seemed - oh, how it seemed - that God had turned his back on the best man who ever lived.

A day of injustice.

A day when I am trying to write about Micah 6:8: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" (The Amplified Bible)

As I ponder the terrible events of that day, I recognise that all my little heaps of trying to act justly, or being kind, are nothing compared to the perfection and sacrifice that is Jesus. For we are reminded that "... Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 
"This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us." (Ephesians 5:2, 1 John 3:16)

There seems no 'justice' in that sacrifice. 

How can I dare to write on such a day as this?  Because it IS a GOOD day. The day that God showed us once and for all how much we matter to him. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13, NIV)

I am indeed truly humbled.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Eternal Significance

Within a few minutes recently, through two very different blog posts, I started to think about what is of eternal significance. And what that means in my life.


abiding, ageless, always, amaranthine, boundless, ceaseless, constant, continual,continued, continuous, dateless, deathless, enduring, everlasting, forever, illimitable,immemorial, immortal, immutable, imperishable, incessant, indefinite, indestructible,infinite, interminable, lasting, never-ending, perdurable, perennial, permanent, perpetual,persistent, relentless, termless, timeless, unbroken, unceasing, undying, unending,unfading, uninterrupted, unremitting, without end

The opposite is:brief, changeable, changing, ending, ephemeral, stopping, temporary, terminable,transient

What is my eternal significance? What is my eternal purpose? What is my eternal job? What do I do that is of EVERLASTING, ENDURING significance?

In the words of Micah 6:8 "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 neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously
take God seriously.
" (The Message)

My own little job is, I think to help and encourage others to 'fix our eyes on Jesus....' Heb
rews 12:2. The Message says: "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God."

So I love to get together with others to 'study how he did it'. To find out more about how to follow him.  And to think about the things that really matter, trying to put it all into practice.

To be fair AND just.
To be loving AND merciful.
AND not to think too much of myself, remembering my example:
"Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, becamehuman! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." (Philippians 2:3 - 8)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Looking Easter Sunday...before the evening.

Bonnie over at incourage talks about how the disciples must have felt that Sunday morning: 'On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”'  (John 20:19, NIV)

She notes: "They are locked in room...Unable to fathom what life would look like on the other side of the door.
They are afraid. Feeling trapped. Guilty. At a loss for words.
Yet, their hearts and minds were overrun by questions of now-what, what-if, how, when, who and why.
But, still, there is no easy way out.
Even though Peter and John had both seen the linens discarded in the tomb. They too had retreated behind closed doors.
Without clarity.  They’ve never gone this way before.  They were so sure, so confident of the way Jesus was leading them.
Now, uncertainty is all that seems to consumes them.
So unexpected.  So all alone.

This is how He comes to them.
Jesus comes to them — not just behind closed doors.
The doors were locked....

Jesus...continues to come to me now.
Even through locked doors.
Jesus knows how to enter. Even if I don’t.
Jesus is the name I can call on.
Jesus is my hope through the storm."

She echoes my thoughts. Faced with uncertainty on many levels - not least, where my church 'home' might be and how that is changing - I feel like this. Trapped behind locked doors. Without clarity. Trying to peer through fog to discern the way forward.

I am waiting. Waiting for Jesus to come, to show me the way. For Jesus is the name I honour, and that has to come before my fears, my insecurities, my anxieties, my puzzlement and my confusion.
"He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

"Jesus is the name we honour;
Jesus is the name we praise.
Majestic Name above all other names,
The highest heaven and earth proclaim
That Jesus is our God.

We will glorify,
We will lift Him high,
We will give Him honour and praise.
We will glorify,
We will lift Him high,
We will give Him honour and praise.

Jesus is the name we worship;
Jesus is the name we trust.
He is the King above all other kings,
Let all creation stand and sing
That Jesus is our God.

Jesus is the Father’s splendour;
Jesus is the Father’s joy.
He will return to reign in majesty,
And every eye at last shall see
That Jesus is our God."

Phil Lawson Johnston   Copyright © 1991 Thankyou Music

If you want to follow ME....Luke 9:23

Luke 9: 23-26: part of Living and Leading Like Jesus - Good Morning Girls study.
"Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels." (The Message)

I've been thinking a great deal about sacrifice recently. The version of verse 23 which I learnt in song all those years ago says: "If you want to follow me, you must DENY yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me." I know that every time I am faced with a sacrifice, I dont face up to it. I hear myself saying, "No, I don't want to." Or just "No, I...." That little word with huge consequences in the middle of self-Indulgent, selfIsh, self....

So as we approach Easter - the joy and confusion of Maundy Thursday, the agony and sorrow of Good Friday, the hopelessness of Holy Saturday and the breathtaking elation of Easter Sunday - which bit of 'I' do we need to lose? Maybe this week is a good time to review the give and take of forgiveness, and how 'I' gets in the way; or the Inertia and self-gratIfIcatIon of a 'too busy life'; or....

A good week to review how 'I' gets in the way of following Him. With a small i in the middle of His Kingdom.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bible study - trialling a different method...

Luke 9:10 – 20 GMG Tuesday 26th March 2013
10-11 The apostles returned and reported on what they had done. Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida. But the crowds got wind of it and followed. Jesus graciously welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. Those who needed healing, he healed.When we tell Jesus how we have obeyed him and what happens as a result, he takes us away by ourselves for rest and regrouping. But we have to be prepared to share his love and attention with others who need him.
Bread and Fish for Five ThousandFeeding many others with the nourishment they need
12 As the day declined, the Twelve said, "Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We're out in the middle of nowhere."We might have good ideas for what we think God should do, but...
13-14 "You feed them," Jesus said....Jesus thinks otherwise. It is up to us...
They said, "We couldn't scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody." (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.) use the little we have or can get hold of.
Our dreams are too small for what God is going to do.
14-17 But he went ahead and directed his disciples, "Sit them down in groups of about fifty." They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.Yet when we listen to Jesus and do what he tells us, he uses the little we give him and makes it huge, more than enough for everyone's needs.
What happened to the leftovers? Was it used to feed the animals? But what animals, apart from pigs, use human food?
Don't Run from Suffering
18 One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, "What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?"Do I know what others think about Jesus? Have I discussed their ideas with them so I understand where they are coming from?
19 They said, "John the Baptizer. Others say Elijah. Still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back."So if I know what others say, I can be ready for Jesus' question when he asks me:
20-21 He then asked, "And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?"Do I have an answer?
Peter answered, "The Messiah of God." I know that Jesus is the Saviour, the King, just as Peter did. Am I ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN?


When obedience becomes a God-sized dream...

Holley Gerth has been blogging about God-sized dreams this year.  Today, Cara Sexton is contributing. These words have opened my eyes:
"I can never see to the end of a God-sized dream. There are big, fat “how?” holes lining the path and unlike my Technicolor substitute, I cannot self-construct a roadmap or define the ultimate purpose. While I may envision a pit stop on the road, I will never know the whole impact, the complete story of the dream’s fulfillment, as it is a life’s work and gracefully, I am not the only the author of this story. God dreams move by Spirit, one shaky footstep at a time into landscapes we have never imagined.

The faithful journey of following a holy dream often requires actual miracles, but even more, the faith to ask for them, to expect them while you work hand-in-hand with intimate mystery.

God dreams are always outside of our own abilities, outside of our understanding and comprehension."

Somehow, I'd thought that God-sized dreams were my own dreams which would be impossible to achieve unless God worked a miracle. But perhaps God-sized dreams are also God-inspired dreams. God's dreams. Not mine.

This seems, on a human, selfish level, if I am to be honest, quite disappointing. 'What about MY dreams?' screams my heart. 'What about MY longings, needs, wants?' As I struggle with serving in a small, traditional, so-not-how-I-want-to-worship church, my sense of frustration mounts.

Perhaps I am looking at this the wrong way round?  Psalm 37:3-4 says "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Perhaps my 'dream' is not a personal, selfish one but 'God-inspired'. And, if so, I know the dream is the call he gave me to this desert place, where my heart and spirit seem to shrink, I see nothing before me but a grey fog and I serve out of obedience. I serve.

I need to remember this:
"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."  – Ephesians 3:30 (MSG)

So, when I am feeling tired, and weary, and old at this game for nothing much seems to have changed for years... I remember: Psalm 71:
"In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
They say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him.”
Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me."
I remember. I put myself in the right place: a servant of God. I repent of my selfishness and I choose to praise.

As Brenton Brown sings:
I will remember you, always remember you,
I will remember you and all you've done for me (x 2)
I will not forget all your benefits

even when the storms surround my soul
how you comfort me, heal all my diseases
how you lift me up on eagles wings
I will remember you always remember you
I will remember you and all you've done for
me (x 2)
I will not forget all your benefits
how you've chosen and adopted me
Orphaned by my sin grace has let me in
and never once have you abandoned me
I will remember you always remember you
I will remember you and all you've done for me
I have tasted and I've seen how you Father faithfully,
how you shepherd those who fear Your name
When the shadows start to fall and my heart begins to fail
I will lift my eyes to you again (and)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Bible: film series

A new Bible series - well put together by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Anne Lamott's thoughts on being a Christian

Anne Lamott has just posted words of wisdom on facebook. I'm reposting part of them here as they reflect my own thoughts:

"Some days go better than others. Like many people, I am equal proportions of narcissism and low self-esteem, so every now and then, on festive occasions, I get wrapped up in my own petty distractions, obsessions and needs. But as much as possible, I try to help take care of the poor, the aged, the hungry and scared. I get to keep starting over.

That's what being a Christian means to me. There is, in truth, very little snake-handling involved. Still, it can be quite embarrassing: When non-specific spiritual people--let's call them the Nons--hear the word "Christian," they think of public Christians. Upon hearing that you are a Believer, they instantly think of stages full of Christians on TV, waving their arms like palm fronds in a hurricane. Now, I mean no offense if you frequently appear on the stages of televangelists, fronding for the Lord. I know that is not a real word, but it should be.

When Nons hear the word "Christian," they do not instantly think Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Abraham Lincoln or other profound and visionary heroes. They think Jerry Falwell, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, people who seem close to hysteria in their convictions. They think Jim Bakker and Ted Nugent, who asked his audience, in an editorial, whether the country would have been better off if the South had won the Civil War.
I don't want to get distracted right now by complex political controversy, but, uh: no.

Nons hear about Christians, and they see us cringing before the image of hell's flames. Yikes. If I believed in those literal flames, it would be such a stretch for me, as I am extremely sensitive and worried, with a low pain threshold. They think we fear the devil as represented by Al Pacino or Trey Parker, not as the dark energy of addiction that has destroyed our own lives, and the lives of our most beloved; the painful and deeply human craving for power and domination, both in families and in national positions, although I am not going to name names.

But what I believe, and what my moderately left--and right--wing Christian brothers and sisters believe, is that Jesus preached a gospel of radical sacrifice, of giving away everything we possibly can--our time, our money, our prayers--to the have-nots, the same old/same old suffering people of this world, widows and whole nations.

Let us go in peace then, to be people of goodness and service and sacrifice. I keep trying to do better, like most people do, but I don't have a magic wand. I am learning as I go; and boy, am I humbled by my failings. And "humbled" is always a great place to start anything, from being a better parent, writer, mate; or still, after all these years, trying to save the world."

Intentional - not.

I stand, twisting pastry dough between my fingers. I have used leftover scraps, grated cheese, a rolling pin and a sharp knife to form strips. I twist them between my fingers to form unappetizing raw dough into beautiful spirals. I will bake them, in a hot oven. They will become delicious cheese twists.

I am reminded of who I am.

I am a cheese twist.

I have felt left over, left out, left friendless from the pain of rejection. My emotions and nerves have, at times, been grated raw, leaving me crumbled and small. I have felt crushed under the weight of circumstances, the heaviness of chronic illness, the pressure of life.  And I have been cut - oh, so many, many times. Left looking - and feeling - unappetizing.  Only to suffer the heat of the furnace.

God is the Master Chef.
He is the Potter, I am the Clay.
He is the Cook, I am the Ingredients.

I need to remember that it is He who moulds me, refines me, transforms me into beauty I cannot even imagine.
I am to humble myself even as Jesus did. Even to the Cross, to dying to myself.

Yet how do I hold this in tension with ideas of being intentional, as I have just read on a (wonderful, inspiring yet so out of reach) blog over at Intentional Today? The author is a successful writer, successful businesswoman, successful Christian, dispensing wise-beyond-her-years advice. Really USEFUL wisdom: how to navigate financial difficulties in marriage, how to protect your marriage, build up your spouse, deal with your past, follow your to be INTENTIONAL.

As if I have any control over my life at all?

This is tension. As I follow Jesus, I let Him mould me, change me, use me. I submit with as much humility as I dare, as I can muster up courage to die to self, to give up my own agenda...

...and I INTENTIONALLY keep my eyes and heart open to the possibilities He brings me.

I am a perfect cheese twist in the making, designed to serve others.


Inspired by pastry on the day Bonnie from Faith Barista invited me to her Faith Jam.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Gospel

Fascinating thoughts about the meaning of the Gospel: firstly, from the Chinese Church of Boston!!

Luke 2:8-14 The Angels

"The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

The angels provide a heavenly perspective on earthly reality. From a human perspective, the powerful Roman emperor was ‘savior’ and ‘Lord’; his birth and victories in battle constituted ‘good news’; he ruled ‘all the people’; his reign brought ‘peace’ to the world: all these affirmations appear in Roman political and religious culture.

Luke takes these same terms and ideas, from the Old Testament prophets – particularly Isaiah – to affirm them of Jesus. He, not Augustus, is savior, lord, messiah; his birth and his victory over sin and death are good news; he comes to rule all the people in peace. The newborn baby – not the powerful emperor – reigns supreme and beneficent. Glory to God, not to the emperor! Salvation comes not to the politically powerful, but to those whom this God favors. This is grounds for worship: that God favored you, without any compelling reason, but solely by his gratuity.   Frank Viola in his post Rethinking the Gospel (so worth reading, including all the comments which are illuminating and helpful) says: "As a young Christian, I was taught that the gospel is a plan—”the plan of salvation.” Some Bible teachers used to frame that plan into “Four Spiritual Laws” and “The Romans Road.”

In the first-century Roman world, however, the word “gospel” was used to describe the announcement that a new emperor had taken the throne. “Heralds” would be “sent” throughout the Roman Empire to announce this “good news.”

Their message was, “We have a new emperor. His name is Tiberius Caesar, adjust your life and bow the knee.” Interestingly, the Roman emperor was also called “Savior” and “Lord” and was regarded as the one who would establish “peace” in the Empire.

In addition, the Roman emperor was expected to bring justice, peace, prosperity, and blessings to the world. He was also called “Pontifex Maximus” which means “chief priest.” The Romans also believed that when an emperor ascended into heaven, he was enthroned as being divine. Thus the emperor (at his death) was also called “son of God.”

Consequently, when the apostles (“sent ones”) used the term “gospel” and declared that Jesus was now the Lord and Savior of the world, it was a direct affront to the Roman hierarchy, especially Caesar (see Acts 17:7, as an example). The believing Jews no doubt connected the gospel-preaching of the apostles to Isaiah’s prophecy—a proclamation that God Himself was now reigning in the Person of Jesus (see Isa. 52:7).

If you examine everywhere the term “gospel” is used throughout the New Testament, you will discover that it’s always bound up with the Person of Jesus. (His work is united with His Person. While people regularly separate His work from His Person, you can’t separate His Person from His work. The same is true with His teachings. See Jesus Manifesto for a detailed discussion on this point.)

In His preaching and teaching, Jesus consistently pointed to Himself. Read the four gospels carefully sometime and count the number of times that Jesus speaks about Himself. You will have no doubts that His message—His gospel—was Himself. Paul, Peter, John, et al. preached the same gospel as did Jesus. Their message was also Christ.

In short, the message of the gospel is Jesus Christ as Lord (=world ruler), Savior, the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (including the Adamic commission, the prophets, the priests, the kings, the sages, the temple, the sacrifices, the land, the Law, the promises, and the entire story of Israel), and Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.

The gospel is also bound up with the eternal purpose of God in Christ—which is not separate from Jesus—or as Paul calls it, “the mystery.” Romans 16:25, Ephesians 6:19 and Ephesians 3:7-11 associate the preaching of “the mystery” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” with the gospel. This point is often missed among those who teach about the gospel today, for the eternal purpose (“the mystery”) gets very little air-play in evangelical circles today—even though it’s at the heart of New Testament revelation.

The gospel, then, isn’t a postulate; it’s a Person. Properly conceived, the gospel is the proclamation of Jesus—His Life, Story, and Work—reaching back from the Old Testament story of Adam, the patriarchs, and Israel to the New Testament which announces His first and second appearances.

Jesus of Nazareth is the good news."

Ed at inamirrordimly talks eloquently about this:
How Jesus Announced the Arrival of God’s Kingdom The politically charged message “Jesus is Lord” and even the phrase “Gospel” were appropriated from the Roman Empire. The “gospel” was an announcement from the Roman Emperor, who was known as “the lord.” Jesus took hold of these common phrases used by the powerful and offered a remixing of that word according to his own message.

While Jesus certainly depoliticized these words from their Roman usage, he didn’t necessarily move completely away from the public and political realm. Jesus didn’t launch a political party, but he also wasn’t unconcerned with the issues of his day. He just addressed them through the message of God’s Kingdom coming.

When we speak of God’s Kingdom coming, we’re not just talking about the cross, although it was an essential part of it. The message throughout the New Testament of God’s Kingdom and Jesus as Lord was spoken directly counter to that of the Romans even though the Kingdom of Jesus was different from Rome in just about every way.

The Gospel addressed the powers of our world, but it didn’t address these powers on their own terms.

What This Means for the Gospel

To say that we want to “only” focus on the Gospel and then speak of personal salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ only captures part of the picture. The Gospel literally proclaims freedom to captives, but it’s not a politically organized freedom. There is both a spiritual element to this and a physical reality of freedom.

We can both pass along spiritual and physical freedom to each other, living as if the Kingdom of God is truly present and among us—because it is. We can give generously to one another because God’s Kingdom has come. We can pray for emotional or physical healing because God’s Kingdom has come. We can treat the least as the first because God’s Kingdom has come.
Our opportunities for living in the Kingdom of God and embodying the Gospel’s message, Jesus is Lord, are all around us:

When a single mother encourages an overwhelmed new mother, the Kingdom comes.
When a family delivers a meal to those who can’t provide for themselves, the Kingdom comes.
When a child offers a pile of her clothes to those in need, the Kingdom comes.
When the most fearful and insecure Christian prays with confidence for a friend in a dark place, the Kingdom comes.

The Gospel isn’t about standing around the cross for the rest of our lives.

The Gospel sends us running down a dirt road in the early morning hours to find an empty tomb.

The Gospel fills our rooms with fire and wind, giving us words we would never find on our own.

The Gospel gives us confidence to lay hands on a friend and to pray as if God can actually do something.

The Gospel steadies our minds in a chaotic world because Christ has overcome the world.

The Gospel breaks our hearts for those suffering from the consequences of their pasts.

The Gospel is incarnation, God among us, God broken for us, God risen for us, and God forever in

The Gospel is too big to keep it inside of ourselves or to be confined to a dark Friday morning outside of Jerusalem. The Gospel of our Lord started with the arrival of God among us, and it continues every time we live in the freedom and peace that our Lord’s presence brings.

The Gospel is freedom, hope, peace, healing, and salvation. It has everything to do with confronting the powers of our world, whether that’s an abusive church, an abusive government, or an abusive relationship.

Every time we live as if the power of evil has been defeated, every time we mend the broken, every time we tell the powerful they can’t bully the weak, and every time we tell the fearful and lost about our wounded healer, we proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s Lordship over every power in this world.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What do I really want 'more' of in my life?

Linking up with Women Living Well and Holley Gerth. She asks: What do you really want more of in your life? Will you dare to say it out loud?
That's a good question. The word 'really' is what stops me. Because I 'want' to write more, to publish more, to share my writing more...that is one of my deepest dreams. But I can't say I REALLY want this more than other things.

I 'want' my husband and children to be happy, fulfilled, walking steadfastly in The Way of Jesus. I 'want' them to be doing this with good friends, special friends, lifelong friends...enough friends for every situation. I am thankful for what they have but I want 'more' for them.

I 'want' to share my faith more. With those who know Jesus and with those who don't. With my friends and my colleagues. With acquaintances.

I also 'want' more love, more joy, peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more gentleness, more self-control...Not much, actually. Just one of those in that list is a big 'ask'.

I also 'want' more certainty, more reassurance, more clarity, more purpose, more direction, more knowledge, more understanding....

I 'want' more of a love for prayer, for deep communion with God and my fellows. I 'want' less laziness in my relationships.

I 'want' these things for myself: if I am honest, to make me feel good.

I also 'want' these things for others. In the belief that if I 'have' them, I will be a better, more useful, more giving person.

I want. I want. I want. A long list of unrequited 'wants' where 'more' is a distant land, too far to journey to. A mountain peak too high to climb. An ocean too deep to dive to the bottom of.

This is looking at things the wrong way round.

I need to ask myself what Jesus 'wants' for me.

He wants my love.

He wants me to love my neighbour.

So what I 'really' want is more of Him.

More of his goodness. For he went about doing good: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." Acts 10:38

More of his love for others. "Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture...None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." Romans 8:35, 37 - 39, The Message.

More of his servant heart."When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges." Philippians 2:7

More of his humility. "Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all....Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges." Philippians 2:5 - 6, 8
More of his self-sacrificing nature. He even gave his own life for me. "Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." Philippians 2:8

Philippians 2:1-4 sums up what I 'really want more of in my life': "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

And the last word? "Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ." Philippians 1:27.

That's what I REALLY want.