Tuesday, 28 April 2015

humility. not even a capital letter for the word.

1 Peter 5:5 
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
(Proverbs 3:34: 

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed; The Lord sneers at those who sneer at him, but he is kind to everyone who is humble; He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck, he’s right there to help.

v.35 Wise living gets rewarded with honour; stupid living gets the booby prize. What is wise living? In this context, it seems to be living humbly. Perhaps what Andy Stanley talks about when he asks: In the light of your past experiences, your present circumstances and your future hopes and dreams...what is the WISE thing to do?

Clothe myself with humility. Humility is not my natural state and so I need to acquire and wear it. I can't wait for someone else to give it to me, either as a new present or as one of their cast-offs; no, I need to buy it. And second-hand garments of humility won't do, either: I have to buy new and, sometimes, expensively. Humility can be very, very costly.

So how do I shop for humility? 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Love, not 'works'

"the great truth that if once a man gets it into his head that God’s principal relation to him is to demand, and to command, you will get no work out of that man; that such a notion will paralyse all activity and cut the nerve of all service. And the converse is as true, namely, that the one thought about God, which is fruitful of all blessing, joy, spontaneous, glad activity, is the thought of Him as giving, and not of demanding, of bestowing, and not of commanding. Teach a man that he is, as the book of James has it,’the giving God,’ and let that thought soak into the man’s heart and mind, and you will get any work out of him. And only when that thought is deep in the spirit will there be true service." Comment on 2 Peter 1, Maclaren's commentary.

Grace, not works.
Receiving love, not trying to earn it.
Gratitude, not guilt.

Imperfect imperfect IMPERFECT

I love reading Christian blogs. I love gaining wisdom and perception from many, many gifted writers: the favourites whose blogs I subscribe to and whose writing I return to again and again; the new writers I find linked to others. So much wisdom, so many gifted people. Wonderful. Inspiring.

I try to do good. I try to live as a 'Jesus girl', to quote Lysa TerKeurst. I aspire to obedience to the gospel in the bigness and littleness - mostly the littleness - of life.

But every so often, I find myself wondering whether those who write feel as I do. When I am encouraged to befriend a stranger, do a kindness for a neighbour, share the gospel with a colleague..sometimes, often, I feel incapable of doing anything.

Because 'my sin is always before me'. I feel as if I can only 'do good' when I FEEL good. When I am not unhappy, or harbour resentment and feelings of revenge...

And yet. And yet. So often this week I am reminded that I am broken. I am in the process of being mended, but, this side of heaven, I am not perfect and am still broken.

My strength is in my vulnerability and honesty about my brokenness.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

God is in control

1 Peter 5:10 - 11 But God shows undeserved kindness to everyone. That’s why he appointed Christ Jesus to choose you to share in his eternal glory. You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm.
God will be in control forever! Amen.

Thinking this morning about Joseph, and how God used his sufferings for great good. How he learned forgiveness and humility; living an upright life.

Difficult to learn without suffering.

My prayer is that I accept the 'suffering' I go through (which is not much, really: just loss of pride and reputation; loss of friendships and relationships; loss of confidence...) rather than trying to control my circumstances to suit myself.

And perhaps I can begin to pray Jennie Allen's prayer 'anything':

Anything. God. Anything.
And in that one little word we turned in everything for God’s anything.
Every dream for our lives.
Every dollar and possession.
Every safety and comfort.
Every person’s approval.
Every ambition.

And we opened our entire lives up to anything God had for us.
Any risk.
Any country.
Any act of obedience.
Any dream God had for us.

And Christine CaineHe heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. — Psalm 147:3

I had to tackle many challenges from my past in order to step into my God-given destiny. I was left in a hospital unnamed and unwanted when I was born and am living proof that no matter how you start in life, you can take charge of your life and run to win. We do not need to live like victims; rather we can appropriate the truth of the Word of God in every area of our lives and experience complete healing and wholeness.

If I had not allowed God’s Word to bring healing into my life, I would not be fulfilling my destiny now. Despite having the God-given gifts and talents that I needed, I was so weak emotionally that my soul would not allow me to go where my gifts could take me. It was crucial that I dealt with all the areas of brokenness in my heart.

Our inner world totally affects our outer world. If there is a disparity between what’s going on inside our hearts and what’s happening in our external world, we will eventually implode; our lives will break down or blow up. The Bible is full of examples of people who did not run their race and finish their course because they did not deal with issues of their soul.

Ensure that you allow God to work deeply in you so that he is able to work powerfully through you.
Moment of Reflection

Is your inner world affecting your outer world in positive or negative ways?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Fighting back

1 Peter 5:8 - 9: Be alert and of sober mind.Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lionlooking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him,standing firm in the faith,because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
I wish I would remember this more often. Because when I flounder in anxious thoughts, hurt feelings or even physical difficulties, I forgot where my trouble comes from.

Sin   And the devil. A malevolent being who wishes none other but my discouragement and destruction.

And so I need to remember this. BE ALERT AND OF SOBER MIND. Watch out. Keep a clear head. The cry of the shepherd when the lion is about to attack the flock, the shout of the watchman on the walls who sees the enemy approaching.

The enemy? Manifested in...
  • anxious thoughts
  • feelings of depression
  • low spirits
  • discouragement
  • a sense of isolation
  • doubt and despair...
Nothing, of course, in comparison to the extreme physical persecution which so many believers are undergoing in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East. 

But a reminder to me to look out, beyond myself, forgetting myself. To 'fix my eyes on Jesus,the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Humble yourself

1 Peter 5:6 - 7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you....So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
He is most careful of me.

Reading Bridget Plass's book 'The Apple of His Eye', she reminds me of how urgently Jesus wants me to know that the Father loves me. ME. I am the apple of his eye, a treasured possession...

Talking this morning about life's failures and disappointments, I am reminded again that God just wants my 'holy' above all else. And if I have to be humbled to get that 'holy', and if being humbled doesn't, at the time, make me happy - well, that is OK.

Indeed, how could being humbled make me happy? Who, in their right mind, likes to be humiliated? Even the thought of it makes my insides cringe. 

So if I can be humble to avoid being humiliated...well, that sounds like a GOOD THING.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Make every effort

1 Peter 5:5  In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you,  with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favour to the humble.”

I had misread the reference and thought I was looking at 2 Peter 1:5 which begins 'make every effort'...
Suitable, I had thought. I had woken up weary, having to remind myself to 'live joyfully' and 'make every effort' to live a life pleasing to Jesus, rather than dragging myself up.

But this verse also reminds me to 'make every effort'. To make an effort to be submissive to my leaders and to be humble towards others. I love where Paul says in the Scriptures
'clothe yourselves'...

clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:53 - 54

Meanwhile we groan,longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:2 - 4

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

And so, as I get up, somewhat weary and discouraged, I can remind myself to 'clothe myself' with Christ, above all his humility. Today, this morning, I don't need to 'make EVERY effort', although later I will. I need to get up, get dressed, and clothe myself with Christ. 

Then, and only then, will I be able to live my life out in the good and certain knowledge of his will. 
Starting with being humble towards others.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Take care of others

"Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly."

Oh dear. Shock horror. It's not about me - it's about serving and looking after other people. Watching over everyone God has put in my care. Willingly.

No picking and choosing who I should look after- it's EVERYONE in my care.
No picking and choosing when I should look after those in my care - it's ALL THE TIME.
No picking and choosing where I should look after those in my care -it's ANYWHERE.

Moses - and all those others in Hebrews 11 - chose, by faith, the hard way. The way of rejection and failure, to be chosen by God as leader of the Hebrews. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward...He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Letting go...

This is a season, for me, of long distance grief. A friend who lives thousands of miles away is in the last few days of her life, as her dear husband and family and friends accompany her on the last steps of her journey to heaven. I know she will be with Jesus soon, but, I regret to acknowledge, that barely lessens the pain.

Indeed, I almost feel guilty. As if the 'joy set before' her should obliterate the pain of suffering and all that accompanies dying.

It doesn't. While death itself holds no fear for a Christian, it is the process of getting there that is so painful for us all, dying or living. As Woody Allen said: “I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.”

(And I wonder if more has been written about death - the only certainty in life - than about anything else except, perhaps, love, which is the most important thing in life. Because Jesus IS love.)

I am far away. Lyn is - was, perhaps, even as I write - a dear friend who reached out to all who knew her with love. I didn't know her well enough, close enough, dearly enough to comprehend the completeness of her love, but feel privileged to be journeying with her, albeit at a distance, in these last times of her life on earth.

But it hurts. And if it hurts for me, I can not even BEGIN to imagine how it hurts for her beloved husband and family.

And once again, I live, uncomfortably, with the reminder that life on earth is temporary. 
I live with fear and apprehension.
Fear of loss.
Fear of suffering.
Fear of grief.

i have not fully grasped the 'joy set before' me.

So I know that, in fact, the only way out is to pursue knowing and loving God. It is only in the struggle and the rest and the silence and the talking that I can begin to grasp how 'wide and long and high and deep' is Christ's love for me and mine and all those others.

As Whitney says: "We crave happy. He craves holy."

I need to keep a perspective. That death is not a 'storm of life'. It is not trouble that comes when we don't expect it, a difficulty to surmount or work through.

Death is an inevitability, to be accepted, planned for, embraced.

Life is to be lived in preparation for death.

And so I know - oh how I KNOW - that Lyn has done this. I think of others who have gone before and shown the way, too.

And I am encouraged to "Run to God’s Word. Look for opportunities to see God at work. Pray, expecting to hear from heaven. Tell about God’s faithfulness. Commit to the process, knowing that He who started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…"

I am still puzzled as to how we can hold pain and joy in our hearts simultaneously. Bittersweet does not even come near it.
I fear to write a comment on Lyn's facebook page - who knows which words will be helpful and which will cause more harm?
All I can do is pray for comfort and ease and close encounter with our Lord.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Seeking God in difficult times.

1 Peter 4:15 - 19

" If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!...
So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it."

"God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him."

When I am abused...and I haven't done anything bad...it is because of Christ.
I can pray.
When my faith is tested...and I am tempted to give up, give in...
I can pray.
When I find life difficult...and I feel far from God...
I can pray.

It all comes back to Jesus.

Bonnie Gray talks about How to Pray Even When You Don't Feel Like It: “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” K. Chesterton 

To pray. To draw close to God. To get up 'while it is still dark and go to a solitary place'.

To cling to Him, like Jacob, and be blessed.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Capturing unhelpful thoughts

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the  knowledge of God,  and we take captive every thought  to make it  obedient  to  Christ.  ~2 Corinthians 10:5I've been thinking about this verse quite a lot recently:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God..every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God. We capture people’s thoughts and make them obey Christ and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

And although the context is Paul writing to the Corinthians, some of whom were belittling him and saying that he warred 'according to the flesh', I can also apply it to my 'anxious thoughts and imaginings' which take me away from Jesus. As Barnes says: "Casting down imaginations (as it is in the KJV, or 'reasonings'. The word is probably used here in the sense of device, and refers to all the plans of a wicked world; the various systems of false philosophy; and the reasonings of the enemies of the gospel."

All the plans of a wicked world refer to what goes on in my thought and emotional life, for what is inside is expressed outwardly.

My reading today is from 1 Peter 4:12 - 14: "Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate.
I'm reminded of Mary de Muth's thoughts on finding joy, which reflect how I must discipline my thought life as if I was a soldier fighting a battle. I need to capture unhelpful thoughts and make them obey Jesus.


Finding joy

Words of wisdom from Mary de Muth for putting joy into our lives. So simple, so practical, so helpful.

"Debbie (or Donald!) Downer would say: that person betrayed me.
Joy would say: Because that person hurt me, I am more apt to run to Jesus in prayer for her, for me.

Debbie Downer would say: I will never succeed at this dream.

Joy would say: In my weakness, I'll place this dream at the feet of Jesus and let it go. It'll be an adventure to see what happens next.
Debbie Downer would say: I am a failure.

Joy would say: I failed at this thing, but it doesn't mean I'm a failure. Because of Jesus, I am loved and worthy and set free.

Debbie Downer would say: This illness will never improve.

Joy would say: I don't know whether or not this illness will leave or stay, but I can ask God to teach me more about His empathetic ways through this trial, and I can always, always grow closer to Him through my suffering.

Debbie Downer would say: The money worries are only mounting.

Joy would say: God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Even if I went bankrupt, I would still have God with me, which is always better than things. Besides, this financial worry increases my reliance on God, and it makes me more empathetic toward those with money struggles.

Debbie Downer would say: This situation is unfair. I was misunderstood and taken advantage of.

Joy would say: It hurts to be misunderstood and taken advantage of, but in this painful place, I have an ally. Jesus absolutely understands what it's like to be misunderstood and taken advantage of.

Debbie Downer would say: I am utterly alone.

Joy would say: My relationships may have faded, and it makes me very sad, but I will always have Jesus with me. It is a fixed truth I can rely on.

Oh how I resemble dear Debbie Downer!

But today, as I write this, I'm dethroning her and sticking JOY in her place.

10 Ways to find joy
, to Dethrone Debbie or Donald Downer:

1. Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

2. Get in the habit of stepping back, then asking, "What can I see about this situation that is the exact opposite of the way I'm perceiving it?"

3. Ask God to remind you when you're walking down the downer path. Be brave to share your bent toward negativity with a friend who will pray for you and ask you occasionally how you're doing in this battle.

4. Take a walk. Changing your place and getting outside (and the act of walking) helps re-set you.

5. Grab a piece of paper and write down ten things you are thankful for.

6. Find someone who has a difficult situation and tangibly help THEM. (Write a card, email, send a gift, say a word of encouragement.)

7. Turn on your favorite worship song and sing louder than Debbie Downer!

8. Draw a picture of what your life would look like if joy was at the center.

9. Get on your knees and pray, asking God to lift the weight of disappointment from you.

10. Make cookies, then give some away."

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


Life is sometimes very, very challenging. Ill-health, difficulties at work, problems with relationships, uncertainty of all kinds...sometimes it just seems as if nothing is going right in any way.

But I can still breathe.

And as I breathe, I pray. I pray with words and without. I pray my words and those of others, when I can remember them. But above all, I pray the Lord's Prayer.

Today, I got stuck on 'Our father'. I found myself thanking God for my husband, that He is OUR father together, that we are no longer orphans (in the sense of the world, as all our parents have passed on now) but that HE fathers us.

And Peter says:
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

Cheri Gregory offers an interesting take on this:
"In the classic “Hero’s Journey” paradigm, heroism and villainy involve the same two core elements:

sacrifice and salvation
A hero sacrifices herself to save others.
A villain sacrifices others to save herself....

it all comes down to surrender.

The choice to:
live like a villain, sacrificing others to save myself.

surrender to the one true Hero – the One who sacrificed himself to save me,
quit chasing Holy Grails,
hear (from the One who heard from his own Father, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”) “I’m so glad you’re my daughter!”
receive His Blessing…

…and start bestowing.

Love is indeed the answer to all our troubles. Putting others first, remembering that God is OUR (not just MY) father, because God loves me. 

I don't need to EARN it by loving others.
I don't need to GRAB it by being selfish.

God loves me anyway. Just as I am. No conditions.


And so, knowing this, I can be generous:
"Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help....
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.... 
Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. ...Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 4:10 - 11

Monday, 13 April 2015

Thinking like Jesus...

"Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want." 1 Peter 4:1 - 2I

Always expecting to get my own way.


Henri Nouwen likens the temptations of Jesus to the compulsions of the world: a yearning to be relevant ("turn stones into bread"), spectacular ("throw yourself down") and to be powerful ("I will give you all these kingdoms") (quoted in Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day Week 2 Day 3.). A wish to be wealthy, influential and popular. A wish to put myself above and before what is right.

And sin is my default mode. I am learning, as best I can, not to 'react' but to 'lean back' into Jesus. 

There is no other way to avoid wallowing in my own sin. Max Lucado is, as always, hugely helpful in reminding me of my choices:

It’s a New Day: The Choice is Yours 
by Max Lucado, Let the Journey Begin
Meet Max Lucado
It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice.

Because of Calvary, we are free to choose
Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.
I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical... the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite Him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

~ When God Whispers Your Name"

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Living. well.

1 Peter 3

"What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.
Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. ...

...Be like-minded, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

No giving back as good as I get, no wish to get revenge.

Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here’s what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you’re worth.

God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things.

If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

He went and proclaimed God’s salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn’t listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact—saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience. Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Sunday

There is SO much wisdom written and spoken about the Easter story. I'll reference some gems here, but what has stuck in my mind this morning is the need to pursue Jesus. Not a command or a requirement but a basic underlying truth that it is NEED FOR MY SOUL.

I read (in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day by Peter Scazzero) Martha's story in Luke 
"The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said. Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things,  but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I notice several things about this story.
I notice that Jesus was welcomed by Martha.
I notice it was Martha's home.
I notice that Martha served but Mary gave her welcoming presence

Welcoming presence. In Africa, when I was invited to a home, it was a huge occasion. There is no room for casual visits in African society. Every visitor is treated as a welcomed guest. You are ushered into the best room or found a comfortable spot to sit in outside, while your hosts prepare food. If possible, meat will be prepared: in rural homes, a chicken or a goat will be slaughtered. Cooking takes time. The visitor sits in splendid state, sometimes for hours and hours.

That does not happen in Europe. A visitor is offered a cup of tea or coffee perhaps, but the hosts welcome the visitor with their presence, sitting and talking. This is what Mary was doing. She sat and listened to Jesus as he spoke with his disciples. Although she elevated herself to the status of a man, sitting 'at his feet' like a rabbi's disciple, Jesus did not chastise her for flouting cultural norms. He was, after all, the master of alternative action when it came to do what was expected by society. Instead, he praised her for assuming the role of a disciple.

And I thought: this is what Jesus wants of me.
He doesn't want me primarily to serve - though I will do so.
He doesn't want me to speak well of my acquaintance with him - he doesn't need my praise.
He wants me to be with him. To spend time in His presence. To listen to what he says. To pursue relationship with him.

So I am learning, again, to slow down into silence as preparation for reading his words. Precious words about and from The Word. When I choose, like this, what is best, it will not be taken from me.

And Martha? Well, yes.
Martha, in her busyness, was missing the most precious thing of all - being with Jesus. Many people gain tremendous satisfaction from having provided a pleasurable experience for someone else by giving them a good meal, But the time spent preparing could be time better spent with people. Martha must - again, counter culturally - must have had an inkling of this.
Perhaps Mary usually helped, and Martha felt neglected and hard done by.
Perhaps Martha recognised how valuable time with Jesus was, and wanted to hurry the preparations so she, too, could be with him.
Perhaps she was so concerned - not just about the food - that she couldn't focus on the wonder of having Jesus in her home. He recognised that she had 'many' worries - what they were, we can only speculate. Perhaps ill health in the family. Lack of money. Perhaps Mary had special needs, or was very immature. Perhaps nobody wanted to marry and give social status to either of these women. We don't know, but Jesus did. He reminded her of what was most important.

But Martha also points to a different aspect of following Jesus. The way of following him with service. How, when we know him and spend time in his presence, we can't help but begin to see the (many) needs around us with his eyes. We then long to help, and start serving.

Martha's serving was sacrificial and costly. Hospitality costs time and money, precious resources in a simple society where people would work from morning and night without break. When I reflect on African hospitality, often it would be for one or two honoured guests: but Martha opened up her home to Jesus AND his disciples. How many was that? We know he had twelve close followers who he chose to hang out with: but there would surely have been more, tagging along. I think of the work involved in hosting 13 men with hearty appetites and I shudder.

Martha served sacrificially and at great cost to herself.
Martha should not be pitied as having 'missed the boat' but admired for her sacrificial love.

And so I come back to Easter. To Giles Fraser, vicar of St Mary's Newington in London, who writes in the Guardian about Jesus' sacrifice which we 'celebrate' at Easter. (I have a personal difficulty about celebrating his death and sacrifice, which probably means that I haven't completely grasped the glory of the cross.)
"In a world where we semaphore our successes to each other at every possible opportunity, churches cannot be blamed for failing to live up to this austere and wonderful message. The worst of them judge their success in entirely worldly terms, by counting their followers. Their websites show images of happy, uncomplicated people doing good improving stuff in the big community. But if I am right about the meaning of Christ’s passion, then a church is at its best when it fails, when it gives up on all the ecclesiastical glitter, when the weeds start to break through the floor, and when it shows others that failure is absolutely nothing of the sort. This is the site of real triumph, the moment of success. Failure is redeemed. Hallelujah."

During the last few days, we have spoken, often of how: "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."

And Francis Chan finishes this reflection:

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Easter Saturday: living in the not yet.

Jesus endured everything to save you

Wise words from John Ortberg through Devotionals Daily at Faith Gateway:

"So far as we know, there has only been one day in the last two thousand years when literally not one person in the world believed Jesus was alive.

On Saturday morning after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples wake after not having slept for two days. The city that was screaming for blood the day before is quiet. Crowds have disbanded. Jesus is dead.

What do they do on Saturday?

It’s strange that the two days on either side of Saturday are so heavily discussed. Some of the brightest minds in the world have devoted themselves primarily to those two days; they have been across the centuries maybe the two most studied days in history. The Bible is full of what happened the day before, the day Jesus was killed. And the next day, Sunday, is the day believers say gave birth to the most death-defying, grave-defeating, fear-destroying, hope-inspiring, transcendent joy in the history of the world. Pentecostals still shout about it. Charismatics still dance because of it. Baptists still say Amen! over it. Presbyterians still study it. Episcopalians still toast it with sherry. Some people think of Sunday in mellower terms, as a metaphor for hope. And others think of it as a dangerous enemy of logic, reason, and mortality.

Let’s just leave Sunday alone for now.

This isn’t Sunday. This isn’t Friday. This is Saturday. The day after this but the day before that. The day after a prayer gets prayed but there is no answer on the way. The day after a soul gets crushed way down but there’s no promise of ever getting up off the mat.

It’s a strange day, this in-between day. In between despair and joy. In between confusion and clarity. In between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light.

Even in the Bible - outside of one detail about guards being posted to watch the tomb - we’re told nothing about Saturday. Saturday is the day with no name, the day when nothing happened.

Now only a handful of followers remain. Friday was a nightmare day; Friday was the kind of day that is pure terror, the kind when you run on adrenaline. On Saturday when Jesus’ followers wake up, the terror is past, at least for the moment; the adrenaline is gone.

Those who believe in Jesus gather, quietly maybe. They remember. It’s what people do. Things He said. What He taught. Things He did. People He touched or healed. They remember what it felt like when this Jesus wanted them. They remember their hopes and dreams. They were going to change the world.

Now it’s Saturday.

Maybe they talk about what went wrong. What in God’s name happened? None of them wants to say this, but in their hearts, they’re trying to come to grips with this unfathomable thought: Jesus failed. Jesus ended up a failure. Noble attempt, but He couldn’t get enough followers.

He couldn’t convince the chief priests. He couldn’t win over Rome to make peace. He couldn’t get enough ordinary people to understand His message. He couldn’t even train His disciples to be courageous at the moment of great crisis.

Everybody knows Saturday.

Saturday is the day your dream died. You wake up and you’re still alive. You have to go on, but you don’t know how. Worse, you don’t know why.

This odd day raises a question: Why is there a Saturday? It doesn’t seem to further the story line at all. We might expect that if Jesus was going to be crucified then resurrected, God would just get on with it. It seems strange for God to spread two events over three days.

In its own way, perhaps Saturday should mark the world as much as Friday and Sunday.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday lie at the heart of the ancient calendar. They attributed great significance to the notion that this event was a three-day story.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day [Paul adds again] according to the Scriptures.” The Old Testament Scriptures are filled with what might be called “third-day stories.” When Abraham is afraid he’s going to have to sacrifice Isaac, he sees the sacrifice that will save his son’s life on the third day. Joseph’s brothers get put in prison, and they’re released on the third day. Israelite spies are told by Rahab to hide from their enemies, and then they’ll be safe on the third day. When Esther hears that her people are going to be slaughtered, she goes away to fast and pray. On the third day, the king receives her favorably.

It’s such a recurring pattern that the prophet Hosea says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces... After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence.” All three-day stories share a structure. On the first day there is trouble, and on the third day there is deliverance. On the second day, there is nothing - just the continuation of trouble.

The problem with third-day stories is, you don’t know it’s a third-day story until the third day.

When it’s Friday, when it’s Saturday, as far as you know, deliverance is never going to come. It may just be a one-day story, and that one day of trouble may last the rest of your life.

* * *

I said before that Saturday is the day when nothing happens. That’s not quite right. Silence happens on Saturday. After trouble hits you, after the agony of Friday, you call out to God. “Hear me! Listen to me! Respond to me! Do something! Say something! Rescue!”


On Saturday, in addition to the pain of Friday, there is the pain of silence and absence of God.

When C. S. Lewis wrote his memoirs about coming to faith in Jesus, he called it Surprised by Joy. The book is about how his love of joy led him to faith in Jesus, and he actually took as the title a phrase in a poem by William Wordsworth. When Lewis wrote the book, he was a fifty-seven-year-old bachelor. He had met a woman named Joy whom, after the book was published, he ended up marrying. His friends enjoyed teasing him that he really had been surprised by Joy.

After a lifetime of waiting, Lewis knew love only briefly. Joy died soon after they were married of cancer, a lingering, very painful death.

So Lewis wrote another book: A Grief Observed. A Saturday book.

When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing God, so happy you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become... What can this mean?

Why is He so present a Commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

A husband, a father, wants more than anything in the world to save his marriage. His wife will not listen and will not help. He is not perfect (not by a long shot), but he wants to do a really good thing. He can’t find out why his wife won’t respond to him, and he can’t stand what it’s doing to his children. Heaven is silent.

A mom and a dad find out the child they love has a terminal illness. They pray like crazy but hear only silence. She’s getting worse. You lose a job. You lose a friend. You lose your health. You have a dream for your child. And on Friday, it dies. What do you do on Saturday?

You can choose despair. Paul writes about this: “How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In other words, apparently some people said, “There is never going to be a Sunday. It’s Friday. Get used to it. Do disappointment management, because that’s as good as it’s going to get.” Some people - silently, secretly - live here. You can choose denial - simplistic explanations, impatience, easy answers, artificial pleasantness. Hydroplane over authentic humanity, forced optimism, clichéd formulas, false triumphalism.

Paul wrote to Timothy that some “say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” In other words, apparently some said, “It’s already Sunday. The resurrection has already happened for all of us, so if you’re having any problems, if you’re still sick, if your prayers aren’t being answered, you just don’t have enough faith. Get with the program.” Or there is this third option:

You can wait. Work with God even when He feels far away. Rest. Ask. Whine. Complain. Trust.

Oddly, the most common psalm is the psalm of complaint. The Saturday psalm. God, why aren’t you listening?

* * *

An ancient homily spoke of this strange day: What happened today on earth? There is a great silence - a great silence and stillness. A great silence because the King sleeps. God has died in the flesh, and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent as for a lost sheep.

The Apostles’ Creed says Jesus descended into hell.

Somehow no suffering you go through is suffering Jesus will not endure in order to save you.

From a human standpoint, we think of the miraculous day as Sunday, the day the man Jesus is risen from the dead. I wonder if, from Heaven’s standpoint, the great miracle isn’t on Saturday. When Jesus is born, the skies are filled with the heavenly hosts praising God because that baby is Emmanuel, God with us. Somehow God in a manger, somehow God in a stable, somehow God on earth. Now on Saturday the angels look down and see what? God in a tomb.

The miracle of Sunday is that a dead man lives. The miracle of Saturday is that the eternal Son of God lies dead.

So Jesus Christ defeats our great enemy death not by proclaiming His invincibility over it but by submitting Himself to it. If you can find this Jesus in a grave, if you can find Him in death, if you can find Him in hell, where can you not find Him? Where will He not turn up?

And today, as I read of Jacob wrestling with God, I am reminded of how God teaches us, again and again, to wait for him, to watch, to wrestle in prayer to hold on to him.

Even when I live in Saturday.

ISBN: 9780310340492

Friday, 3 April 2015

Obedience. The ultimate example.

Today is Good Friday. As I walk through 1 Peter, I arrive, today, at the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy. Who would have thought it, those hundreds of years earlier, that THIS description would be that of the longed-for king. The leader who would come and restore Israel to its former glory and rescue the people from oppression and slavery.

But "The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.

This is what Peter says: "They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls."

"Although he was abused, he never tried to get even.
And when he suffered,
he made no threats.
Instead, he had faith in God,
who judges fairly.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats."
He said nothing back.
He suffered in silence.
He LET GOD be in charge.

My example. Sin often takes over, directing my ungodly responses to difficulty and 'suffering' far more often than I would like, but I am always brought back to this day, to Jesus and what HE suffered.

My difficulties are nothing in proportion to that.
My forgiveness and obedience is called to be everything in response.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Obedience. Just that. Nothing else.

1 Peter 2:18 - 22

"You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behaviour and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss."

Approaching Easter - it is Maundy Thursday today - what else is there to say? If Christ suffered so much, who are we - who am I - to argue or complain about anything. He is our hero, our captain, our leader who we follow and obey and put above everything and everyone else.