Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It makes me so angry...

Does anyone else think it's is crazy and totally, ridiculously self-indulgent how much we Christians spend our time arguing and telling each other what we can't be and can't do when there are so many out there in desperate need.

I mean, seriously - what is it going to matter to someone who is desperate to escape drugs, abuse, poverty, depression, disease, despair… what we think about:

whether women are 'allowed to be in ministry', or
what a woman's 'place' is, or
what the exact definition of evangelical/new calvinism/blah blah is
etc etc

It's all crap really.

What do we tell someone who is at the end of themselves, desperate for love and for Jesus?
"Welcome to the fold - now here's a list of rules for you to learn. Here's a bunch of lines you cannot cross, unless you want us all to hate you…"


If our gospel doesn't work for the poor, the desperate, the lost, then it doesn't work. Then it's not the gospel of Jesus.

I don't care how convinced you are that you're right about your theological bent, if you are not bringing freedom and hope to the neediest in this world, then you're missing the point and your words are useless.

People already have enough chains on their ankles, enough people telling them who they can't be.

Jesus was in the business of setting people free.

Why is the Church so bent on keeping people in their place?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We are all right, and we are all wrong

I struggle to identify with any particular theological views or 'camps', and while I find reading all the different blogs and articles fascinating and thought provoking for a while, inevitably I reach the same reaction - I feel like throwing my ipad across the room in dispair.

Egalitarian, complimentarian, charismatic, evangelical, new Calvinism, pro-Driscolls and Driscoll is the devil-ites....

Whatever it is, if I find one point I agree with, I feel like I'm not free to just take that point as it is. I feel like I have to take the whole manifesto or nothing. And if I want to disagree with one point, all I can find is an opposing point of view that wants to bring me to 'their side' - again, you're either with us, or you're against us.

Why do we feel the need to pick a defined camp to pitch our tent in? 

Can't we recognise that in some ways we are all right and in many ways we are all wrong?

We need each other and each other's views, because each of us just has one tiny part of the truth, that when brought together begins to outline some semblance of the whole. We as the body, in unity, create a still imperfect but increasingly accurate and powerful sketch of Jesus himself.

And I disagree that to combat an erroneous extreme we need to be just as loud, combative or extreme ourselves. All that does is keep the pendulum swinging with increasing momentum. It doesn't restore balance except perhaps for that fleeting moment as the pendulum passes the middle ground before powering through to the other side.

That's why, while I agree with some feminist points, I cannot agree that feminism is the way to combat oppression and discrimination. And why, while I agree with some points of both complimentarianism and egalitarianism, I cannot agree that either of them have the whole answer or that we should define ourselves as either/or. And why, while agree with some points of many different theological movements, I cannot agree to label anyone with anything more narrowly defined than Christian. 

I believe we can combat extremism, we can restore balance, we can create wholeness by seeking that in ourselves and encouraging it in others. Without labels. With unity. With freedom.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween as a time for joy that light has overtaken the dark

Halloween is one of those touchy subjects for Christians. And especially in Australia, since it's never been a particularly wide spread event, people treat it with a kind of fear.

But I think if we give Halloween too much credit as 'evil', then we are saying that evil has some power over us.

Yes, the spiritual darkness is real, and revelling in it is dangerous and destructive. But are we saying that kids dressing up in crazy costumes and eating lollies is a stepping stone to devil worship? I think we need to give ourselves some credit.

After all, at Christmas and Easter many of us embrace or at least accept the traditions of Santa and the Easter Bunny, with equally if not more pagan roots, without fearing our children are a step away from goddess worship or practicing magic.

How about another way to look at it - by dressing up, by poking fun, we are laughing in the face of the evil and death we know Jesus has already over come. We make fun of the darkness that has no hold on us because we know the light has come.

Maybe, just maybe, Halloween could fill us with joy? It's an idea...

I'm not trying to start a celebrate Halloween campaign, but watching this video just made me think - why should we fear it?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why your current struggles don't disqualify you

Maybe our journey of faith is a bit like riding a bike. 

If you've ever tried to ride really slowly, you'll know that it's actually harder and far more unsteady than if you get up a faster speed. 

Sometimes our faith is like that. We feel like we're failing on the smaller things, we feel unsteady and inconsistent and like we can't quite get the hang of it. (Whatever it may be - prayer, faith, patience, love...) And we begin to wonder - if I can't get it right at this slow pace, how will I ever be able to handle more? 

But maybe it's like riding a bike. With some momentum on a smooth path (how good that God makes our paths straight!) you might actually find that when more is asked of you the flow of faith will keep you steady and moving, and you won't feel like you have to push it quite so hard to achieve things.

Of course, you do still need more fitness & stamina, and more practice and skill if you want to be a good bike rider who can navigate obstacles, climb hills and go the distance. 

An inexperienced rider who races ahead because they like the feeling of speed could get into trouble if something tries to unseat them and they haven't learned to maintain their balance. 

And they will quickly tire if they try to keep that pace for very long without enough endurance and support. 

In our spiritual lives we can take this as encouragement that what seems like a hard slog now won't always seem that way, and the fitness and practice we are getting now will be vital for the future. 

And we should also remember to encourage and build up others to come along on the ride with us. 

Because when you do pick up speed, you want others with you. 

Think of an elite cycle race where the peloton helps each other. You might have some sprinters who lead the way, but even then they are usually still working in a team with a common purpose. Even the best of the best cyclists need others to draw them onwards, to keep the pace, and to have the slip stream to rest in even as they are moving, if they are going to last the distance. 

We need the same. We need to draw each other on in faith and provide a resting place even while in motion. 

Remember this analogy and don't fear your current struggles disqualify you from any more than slow and struggling, or stuck in training wheels. 

You are learning everything you need, and when the time comes and the pace of what God is calling you to increases, it will be easier than you think. You will find that even though the demands may also increase, you will be ready and able to take your place in the body of other 'riders', and the momentum and flow of the Spirit will draw us all onwards, for the ride of our lives with God!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where's the power of prayer?

I know that God will give you whatever you ask him - John 11:22

That was Martha to Jesus, when Lazarus had died. We all know what came next. God really did give Jesus whatever He asked for. Wouldn't it be amazing to have that same authority and access that Jesus had, to ask for anything of God, and have Him listen to us!

Oh, hang on... isn't that what we do have?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. - 1 John 5:14-15

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive - Matt 21:22

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it - John 14:14

Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you - John 15:7

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours - Mark 11:24

...I think we get the picture.

Ok, well, I've asked for lots of things... but where are they? If I can ask, if God hears me & if anything I ask in Jesus name will be done... why does it so often seem like nothing happens.

If God is the one "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (eph 3:20) - why does it seem even less than I ask or imagine happens?

If healing the sick and more is mean to be a part of life for those who believe (Mark 16:17-18), and I am meant to do even greater works than Jesus did one earth (John 14:12)... where are these great things? 

How can it be true that I have, through Jesus, the same authority in prayer that raised Lazarus from the dead?

Maybe it is because I am not the body of Jesus. We are. We are the church - together we are the body. Together we bring Jesus to the world. Alone, maybe I'm just kind of like part of Jesus' fingernail. I need the rest of the finger, the hand, the arm, which needs to be connected to the shoulder, which is attached to a healthy torso, which is supported on strong legs...

You get the picture.

Now, don't get me wrong. There would have been a whole lot of power even in just Jesus' finger nail. Praying alone doesn't mean God doesn't hear you or your prayers don't work. He does, and they do.

But alone our spiritual life is never going to be as full and alive as when we are connected the fully functioning body. When the church seeks unity and spiritual growth and maturity together, when we see health restored to the life of the church, I believe we will see greater power in the prayers of Christians, both  collectively and individually. 

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them - Matt 18:20

And this is a good thing! We need each other. We were never meant to carry this power or authority alone. God knows how much we benefit in seen and unseen ways from relying on, serving, praying with, praying for and worshiping with each other. 

If we want the same power and authority and results from our prayers as Jesus had, we need to come together as one body and
do what Jesus did.

And what did he do?

- He prayed - a lot. He was always taking time away to spend it with God. Both together with others and when we are alone, we need to take this time and spend it with God. Jesus knew the Father heard Him and knew His voice intimately.

- He was moved by compassion. We ask and do not receive when we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) We want to spend it on ourselves. But Jesus asked because He was moved with compassion for the needs and suffering of others. Jesus wept! When need to open our hearts to love others as He did, from deep down inside. (And we definitely need each other for that - we cannot pour out love when we do not receive His love, and one huge way that happens is through others.)

- And what did Jesus do with his power and authority? He humbled himself as a servant, to not condemn the world but to save it. As a body, we need to do the same. We need to worry less about what the world is doing wrong, and start giving out this transforming love through our actions towards lost, oppressed and hurting people.

As this intimate prayer, compassion and servanthood begins to increase in the body, the Church, I believe we will also see an increasing in the power and effectiveness of our prayers to see miracles, to heal and to set people free!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Forgiveness Isn't Time Based

Even if I've accepted that God really does forgive me for every single thing - and a lot/all of us haven't quite even worked that out properly - I still notice in myself a tendency to think of forgiveness as reactionary and based on time.

Consider this thought that in some form or another I feel has probably gone through our minds: "Thank you forgiving me God. You're so good. And I'm so grateful that next time I mess up, because I know I will, you'll forgive me then too!"

So that sounds positive. It's hopeful. We're being grateful. We're acknowledging our sinfulness but knowing that God will forgive again, so we aren't letting it get us down.

But, hang on - what's with that word 'again' - forgive again?

While I get our sentiment, I just realised that little word is masking quite a big theological error in me.

Thinking of forgiveness as time based. Like we sin, we admit it and then God forgives.

But wait - when Jesus died on the cross before I was born and said 'it is finished', if God is only forgiving me now, again, what was all that for?

If forgiveness is based on time, when we actually do the wrong thing, then God should have waited til the absolute last day before the world ends, and then Jesus can take it all.

You'd think this would have been more clear to me before this - considering my blog is even named on the fact that Jesus died for us while we're still sinners.

But somewhere lurking in all those subtle wrong thoughts that get twisted with the right ones, I realised I sometimes I was acting like Jesus' death and resurrection was just the pardon written out but without the signature. That I still have to get God to sign it now, every time, again.

But when Jesus said it was finished, that really was it. Totally. Completely.

It was all signed, sealed and final before we were even in existence.

Because God is outside of time. We have been in Him always, not just when He thought one day, "This looks like a good time to create a Jessie. Lets see how she turns out."

And each day, He isn't surprised that I do something wrong. He isn't disappointed. (Because that implies He expected something different and I failed to deliver.) He's not hoping for something different today, then sighing when He has to clean up another mess...

So when I ask forgiveness today, I'm just recognising that I stepped away, and stepping back into what is already mine.

God's already seen my tomorrows. He's already in them. He doesn't have to wipe the slate clean again tomorrow after a bad day today. When I'm in Jesus, the slate is always clean, permanently.

Because Jesus is in me. Because I am in Jesus. God looks at us and sees the same slate that Jesus has. He sees us as perfectly clean and righteous because we are in his perfect and righteous son.

We will step out of that time and time again - over and over we seem to forget and look back to our owned messed up slate and start thinking that defines us - and then have to turn back and remember the truth, time and time again. But God is not in time.

When I read 'His mercies are new every morning' I was thinking He had to restock after I depleted them the day before. But actually His mercies are boundless and infinite. They just seem new to me every morning because I reminded afresh of how amazing it is that I am forgiven.

He forgave us, once and for all, at the cross. That encompasses everything. Always.

God is never surprised. He's never disappointed.

When you find yourself tripped up by sin and rebellion and blindness again, He only reaches for you and longs for you to put your eyes back in Him.

And as constant as His forgiveness is His delight in you!!

Great is His faithfulness!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Both Worship and Service

Imagine a husband and wife.

Which of these would be better?

If one served the other - out of love - doing things for them, and looking out for their needs, providing things for them. But never showed any emotion. Never got lost in passion or adoration for them. While the husband might know the wife loved him, and see it in her actions, wouldn't he long to feel it too?

Or if one showed passion to the other, made their love clear. But then did nothing to serve the other. Bursts of adoration, but then ignored. Wouldn't they wonder why this person who professed so much love was never moved to act on it for them?

Surely we would say that neither is better. That one would make people burned out and used up, and the other would feel good in the moment, but not be lasting. Different people might display these if different proportions, but if one is almost absent, the marriage would be in trouble.

It is the same in the church, as the Bride of Christ.

We need both worship and service. Neither is less than the other. Both are so necessary and so right. Different people may display these expressions of love in different proportions - and the many members come together to create the one harmonious body. But still in each individual person, we cannot have one entirely without the other.

Worship and adoration, being moved and swept up in love for Jesus, longing for His embrace, being overwhelmed by His presence and grace... these are such wonderful, important things.

When Mary poured out her valuable perfume over Jesus just days before his death, her act of sacrificial worship was praised and deeply appreciated by Him. There was no better way she could have used that perfume at that time, than to worship and lavish love on Jesus.

And service - Jesus, in all His power and position as the Son of God, chose to humble himself as a servant. And He tells us to do the same with our inheritance as co-heirs. We should clothe the naked, feed the hungry, free the oppressed. Whatever we do for the least, we are doing for Him.

But are we then to say... I'm a server. I'm practical. I'm not emotional or touchy feely, so I don't really get much out of worship. Even the most stoic man or woman must lose themselves in love for their husband or wife at least sometimes. Why would love for Jesus never overtake us likewise, and so much more so?

Or if we are worshippers, if we feel strongly the emotions and passion of love for and from Jesus... should that not then move us to act? To pour out that same love on others, just as Jesus did? Why would we only hoard it for ourselves, if our worship truly is sacrificial and transformative?

We need both - the fire and the long burning fuel for those flames.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Creation is a gift to delight us

Have you ever watched a show like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? A huge team if building crew and community volunteers comes in, an while a family in need get sent away on holiday, the team demolishes their old crumbling house and builds them a brand new one. In a week!

If the family has special needs they go to great lengths to include everything they require. Quite often, especially when designing the kids bedrooms, they will include fun and whimsical things. These are not for practicality but purely to delight and surprise
the children.

The overwhelming gratitude an screams of delight from the family is a sight to behold!

There's someone else who created something amazing from nothing, also in a week. He also included everything to provide for our needs, and also a whole lot that is just a gift to surprise and delight us.

Creation is God's gift for His beloved children. (That's us).

The beauty an colour when the sun sets, the aesthetic balance and form of a tree, a rainbow that appears when it rains. All these are for our delight and wonder.

The way the weather and atmosphere and element enable us to live, breath, grow and multiply - all perfectly tuned for our needs.

What would we think if the extreme makeover team, and the volunteers who helped, returned to see the family and the house they gave them and found it trashed and plundered. Stripped of its beauty and neglected so that its no longer functioned properly as a home. If some family members had robbed the other rooms for themselves leaving brothers and sisters with nothing.

We would be horrified at their lack of gratitude; their total is regard for the wonderful gift they ha received.

At yet we do this to our home on earth. We plunder its resources rather than steward and care for them. We trash its beauty with selfish disregard. Those of us with the means rob far more than our fair share and leave others with the consequences.

How would our approach to the world we live in be different if we thought of it as a wonderful gift bestowed by one who takes every opportunity to proclaim His love us?

If we believe the earth came about by random chance, then sure, why does it matter why we do with it.

But if we believe it was an act of love by our Creator, then let that move us to rejoice in the gift by delighting in its beauty, stewarding its resources well and giving praise to God through the way we care for this gift.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jesus saved my life. And then He wrecked it.

I once was lost, but now I'm found. It's just that where I find myself is not exactly where I thought it would be. (It's bigger and better - but a lot more challenging.)

With the exception of a period in my teen - young adult years, I've always been a Christian. It was quite a major exception, though. Lets call them my "prodigal son/daughter" years. I was rebellious and stubborn; I did harmful things to myself in the name of personal freedom; I let wounds fester and consume me, just because I wouldn't let anyone 'tell me what to do'. I told God I didn't believe in Him anymore (oh the irony) because I felt like he'd let me down too badly.

And I was miserable. In all of the outward display of freedom and fun, I was lost and dying inside.

I think you know where this story is going... Jesus saved me.

It's a pity that a statement like that is glossed over as a cliche these days, because it's actually so profound. But it's almost impossible to explain unless you have lived it yourself, and even then the impact is often lost.

It was both instant and gradual.

When you are rescued the initial relief is instant and amazing. And yet there are still things to deal with from your time in chains. There are wounds and trauma and old habits that die so, so hard. There are even detours back into captivity when for some brief periods the difficulties of dealing with pain don't seem worth it and you want to hide back in the familiar dark.

But I am so grateful for the way God always had his hand on me, so that even when I thought I was as far away from Him as I could get, He was preparing the way ahead.

It got gradually easier to see that there was purpose even in the pain, and that God was healing me of many things. But I thought that was pretty much it. Jesus saved me from self destruction and the rest of my life was going to be about putting me back together. I honestly thought that the rest of my life was going to involve 'dealing with things'.

Oh, I knew it would get easier. I saw glimpses of joy and peace. But while it wasn't a totally conscious thought, I believed life would always be hard for me.

I had gone away from God because I felt the Christian life was boring and it was too hard to be good. Now that I was back, I realised that God was there to strengthen me, and it was religion and legalism that made me feel burdened and judged, not Jesus. But somewhere in there I was still believing that life for me was going to mean giving up old dreams and passions that had led me astray, and settling down into a sort of quiet, peaceful and slightly boring life. I thought I just had to make the best of it.

I think a lot of us believe that to some extent or in some form. While we may read of the exciting lives of a few extreme missionaries, leaders and disciples, we tend to think that's for the select minority and for the rest of us Christianity is just quiet submission to an ordinary and hopefully comfortable, trouble free life. No wonder we don't get that excited about heaven - we think its just an extension of a quiet life with no dangerous excitement or passion.

And you know what? If you live like that for a while, you stop aspiring to anything more. You become numb to the passions that stirred in your youth, and you start thinking that this is what you want - a regular life, climbing the ladders put in front of you, acquiring things and comfort to make your life easy, and maybe giving other people a little leg up the rungs if it comes easily to do so.

That's where I found myself.

There had been things God had asked me to let go of - and I'd obediently done it, trying to push away the feelings of sadness and loss at watching my dreams packed away. I tried to bury any discontent, because I thought God had asked me to live a quiet life and stop searching for something else.

The thing is, if I'd just taken those feelings to God instead of burying them, I might have heard Him sooner telling me that it was just temporary, that the things I was giving up were not packed away to never see the light of day. They were given to Him. He was taking my dreams and desires, and refining them, shaping them - refining me and shaping me - until the right time to lay hold of them together.

And as He gives me back, piece by piece, some of the dreams I thought were lost to me, I am beginning to see a clearer and clearer vision of what those dreams really look like when they start to become reality.

And that's where the wrecking my life bit comes in.

Because the great thing about dreams in the dreaming stage is that they can be anything. In a day dream, anything is possible; there's no fear, no doubt, no pesky limitations when everything is still in the airy imagination stage.

Then God starts giving you what you said you always wanted. Oh boy... You mean when I used to dream about doing big things and changing the world... It might actually be possible??

Umm... I don't know about this anymore. In my day dreams I'm always a lot more confident, equipped, popular, daring, talented and thin.... and I didn't have a 10 month old daughter and no sleep. I don't think I can actually do this...

But the more Jesus reveals himself to me, the more he ruins any chance of me returning to a quiet, comfortable life. Though it terrifies me, it also thrills me; when I imagine living not just for Jesus, but like Jesus and with Jesus and through Jesus - when I imagine the possibilities of a fully awake and unified and passionate body of Christ - I can't look back. It's too good. It's too exciting, and full of purpose and promise and passion.

And it's unsettling.

The tension within me is telling me to either give away everything I own right now... Or take a nap til it passes. One of the two is going to happen somehow.

Either we are going to put our money - and life - where our mouth is and embrace the fact that Jesus was serious when He told us what life with Him would be like, or we are going to retreat further into comfort and as much ease as we can acquire, while everyone else fends for themselves - and we miss the whole point while we are spiritually sleeping.

I'm telling you, if you thought Jesus saved you from pain simply for a life of quiet ease until you get to heaven, and if that thought bores you and you are feeling flickers of old dreams and new passions stirring up the dust - watch out. If you've convinced yourself you know what it means to be a Christian, but you can feel the tension of knowing there's something missing, take another look at what Jesus really said.
Don't play dumb any more.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How will I ever get on in the world?
- Søren Kierkegaard

Jesus is about the wreck your life - and it might just be the best thing that could ever happen to you!

I can't wait!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don't speak until you hear me say "Shout!"

Have you felt like you aren't really heard? Like you've got things to say, thoughts to express, but no one really understands?

At times I've felt like the words I speak are met with such silence, as if I had literally not even spoken.

Other times its just a feeling, emotional or spiritual, that the words you're saying are heard with the ears but not with hearts and minds.

Take heart. I think God has allowed this silence for a purpose.

Like surrounding Jericho, we have been silently moving into position for the right time.

And we God says "shout", our voices will be heard and walls will fall, strongholds of injustice and suffering will crumble.

Hold tight to the whispers, words and stirrings in your heart. The time is coming soon to raise your voice. We will be in silence no longer.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This week - and for a lot of weeks now - it seems to have been raining non stop. Which would be fine because normally we love sitting inside listening to the rain. Except that this week the rain has been getting inside our house.

A crack has opened up above our sliding glass door. When it is raining and windy at the same time, water is somehow getting under the eaves of our roof, filling up in the wall cavity and then steadily escaping above the door into our house.

So we are waiting to see if its the responsibility of the company who built our house two years ago, or if our insurance company covers it, or whether we'll have to pay for it ourselves.

Meanwhile, water keeps dripping.

When this began I was about to talk to my husband about sponsoring a child.

But in the face of our own financial uncertainty I thought, maybe now's not the best time.

Then another little voice said - maybe now is the perfect time.

Generous (adj.) - "showing readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is necessary or expected"

It's easy to feel 'generous' when you've got plenty. But is it really generosity when you're giving only when you've covered your needs, wants and then some, and will give from the excess?

Shouldn't our faith in God's provision extend beyond that, to freely giving even when we aren't 110% sure of our own security?

Luke 21:1-4
And then He turned His attention from the religious scholars to some wealthy people who were depositing their donations in the offering boxes. A widow, obviously poor, came up and dropped two copper coins in one of the boxes.
Jesus: I’m telling you the truth, this poor widow has made a bigger contribution than all of those rich fellows. They’re just giving from their surplus, but she is giving from her poverty—she’s giving all she has to give.

We don't think all that much of greed these days, not really, not unless its in-your-face obvious. But greed is actually subtle, and has permeated so much of our lives. And Bible takes greed seriously. Just look what happened to Judas who was overtaken by it and then betrayed Jesus.

I think we need some radical generosity to heal our corrupted hearts.

But God doesn't just tell us to do it because its 'right', He's not trying to make us go without to be more pious.

He knows the beautiful paradox of His kingdom, where the more we give, the richer we are. Maybe not financially (but He'll take care of you there too), but in all the ways that really count.

Isaiah 58:10
If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
And even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.

So maybe that's saying that even of our water logged wall falls down, or everything seems bleak - if we care just as much about others as we do ourselves, the light of God will make our lives the brightest they've ever been.

I'll take less house and money any day if it means so much more God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The new Sodom?

I'm sure plenty of 'sins' come to mind when you think of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But do you know what Sodom's sins actually were?

Ezekiel 16:49-50 tells us:
"The sin of your sister Sodom was this: She lived with her daughters in the lap of luxury - proud, gluttonous and lazy. They ignored the oppressed and the poor. They put on airs and lived obscene lives..."

Proud, gluttonous and lazy. (Or arrogant, overfed and unconcerned in another version). Ignoring the oppressed and the poor.

It's not much of a stretch - in fact none at all - to apply these words to the Western world.

About 65% of Americans are overweight. Most western countries, though their wealth increases, give far less than 1% of their GNP to foreign aid. The richest 1/5 of the world consumes 2/3 of the worlds resources!

We are fat and indulgent while the rest of the world crumbles and starves.

We have so, so much and yet we do so little of consequence with it.
If this is not living obscene lives, I don't know what is.

We are so insulated and torpid when it comes to justice that we don't even realise what is happening most of the time, and even if something crosses our path asking for attention, we ignore it because we are either too busy or too overwhelmed with our own excess to deal.

Recently I discovered Kiva - it's been around for a whole but I just came across it. On Kiva you can lend money to people in developing countries through micro loans which have proved very effective in combating poverty. It's an amazingly easy way to help people - you can lend as little as $25 which will eventually, in most cases, be paid back to you, so you don't even have to give away your money.

They are currently running a 'promotion' where if you recruit new members they get a free $25 do lend to someone, and so do you for signing them up. So that is $50 that another sponsor has provided for you to lend.

I posted links on Facebook to tell my friends about it and recruit others because I thought it was so fantastic and so easy. A few were already on Kiva, but overall the response was staggeringly underwhelming. I managed to get one person to sign up so far - my husband.

I provided the direct link. All it required of people was 5 minutes to sign up. They didn't even have to risk any of their own money.
And yet nothing.

I get it that people might be busy, they might be coming back to it later, they might not have really understood what it was about and so just skipped over it...But when I post a cute picture of my daughter or a funny status, plenty of people like and comment - so I know they're out there, seeing my stuff, with time to expend....

I've done it myself. The number of times I've walked past homeless or charity collectors and looked the other way.

But if we are too busy and overwhelmed to take five minutes to give out someone else's money to help people, something is wrong.

Make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-to-day obligations that you lose track of time and doze off, oblivious to God. Romans 13:11 MSG

We have so much and, relative to the rest of the world, we do so little to earn it. We have been given much: much is required in return. (Luke 12:48)

Helping others with what we have should be a priority not an afterthought.

We have got much time left - the night is nearly over (rom 13:12) - are we wasting it on self-indulgence, or are we doing something of consequence with what we have been given?

1 John 3:17
If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him?

It's a challenge I take seriously.

Friday, August 9, 2013

His Grace is Sufficient!

I'm prone to being especially snappy and intolerant when I'm tired. Which is quite often lately, with a baby who likes night time attention. Either that, or the rest of the world just happens to be particularly annoying on days when I haven't had enough sleep. But I think it's more likely that I'm the common denominator.

This morning, knowing I was extra tired, I resolved to try my hardest to be positive and light hearted anyway. Even knowing my weakness, even wanting genuinely to not succumb to it, it barely took 30 minutes after getting out of bed before I'd already reacted exactly the way I always would. And by halfway through the day... Well lets just say my resolve well ad truly failed me.

Which is why I'm so glad we are not under law but under Grace.

Because aren't our lives like that. Even when we know what we should and shouldn't do, when we know what our weaknesses are, and even when we genuinely want to change out thoughts, behaviours and actions it seems to happen that at the very next challenge, we've failed again. We've become angry or impulsive or impatient or lazy or selfish or harsh or critical or indulgent or frustrated or despairing....all over again.

So aren't we so fortunate that it is the grace of God through Jesus that makes a new creation and not our own efforts?

It is a grace that is not fully realised yet, but it was a plan that was set in motion from the beginning. A plan to redeem us and reconcile us right from the start. The minute Adam and Eve walked out of the garden, God was already bringing us back.

What ever issues and questions people have with the Old Testament, I'd suggest most people are missing the point. And that point is, that everything points to Jesus.

Though humanity chose to turn away, God kept on steering us back, every step of the way carrying a line of people (the Israelites) to bring us Jesus, fully human and fully God, to be the ultimate sacrifice.

We question what God doesn't do, what He seems to allow, the things that seem troubling - but what about all He does do. That He never let His plan be derailed, no matter how many times the Israelites turned away and failed and messed up.

The Old Testament is not devoid of Grace in the midst of Law - it is drenched in it. Every story, every event, every prophecy points to the plan God had to save not just the Israelites but the whole world. To bring us all back into his arms, no matter how much we rebelled.

Everything points to Jesus.

If Gods plan can prevail through every messed up trial and battle in the Bible, His grace can prevail in your life too.

The sacrifice has been made, and life has conquered death. Love has conquered fear. Jesus has fulfilled the law, and Gods inheritance is ours. His Grace is sufficient.

While His kingdom isn't fully realised here on earth yet, the hold sin seems to still have on you is only an illusion. It's a lie. Don't believe it. You are not subject to your old self anymore.

The battle is not to conquer sin and the enemy - that has already been done. The battle is now to bring our minds into alignment with the truth - we are free. We are healed. We are a new creation.

So if you are still struggling or still feeling stuck in something, it's not about working out the right thing to do. It's not about improving yourself, or getting better at being 'good' - it's about surrendering all to God and letting His love transform your mind and heart and every corner of your life.

His Grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.

You can't fix your life yourself - and why would you try? Just lay it down and receive the new life Jesus died and rose again to give you as a beautiful, powerful and glorious gift.

And every time you do, you will find grace and love to wash away more and more of the old lies and the old habits, and you are transformed, piece by piece, as you become more and more aligned with the kingdom of God.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Your growth depends on my growth

I don't know the science of it, but I imagine that even if some body parts grow faster or slower than others, when your a child most of your body grows and matures at a similar rate so that no part is left behind and stunted. So that no part keeps the rest of the body from functioning properly in its increasing maturity.

After all, if the whole body is healthy except for a foot that doesn't work, then it's the whole body that is lame.

We need to consider this as the body of Christ. If you are seeking to grow and mature spiritually, but I am stagnating or struggling, that matters.

There's only so far one person can go if the rest of the body isn't coming with it.

It doesn't matter how good you think your relationship with God is, you can never go that far alone.

After all, the Church is not made up of a bunch of individuals who just happen to believe in the same God.

Imagine a family trying to function where everyone just considers themselves all separate people who just happen to share the same last name and no other connection or relationship.

We are one Body. We have one Spirit in us.

"Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were all called to pursue one hope. There is one Lord Jesus, one living faith, one ceremonial washing through baptism, and one God—the Father over all who is above all, through all, and in all."

Eph 4:4-6

If we are all part of the one body, then we should care how all the other members are going. That means not only the others in our church group, the ones we get along with it easily agree with, but all Christians, everywhere. Even the ones we avoid, who disagree with us, who we think are wrong or misled or stagnating.

And care about them with genuine love, not an inflated ego to 'get them to catch up with me'.

Because they aren't just a diseased foot attached to a healthy body. They are an imperfect foot attached to a weak leg, attached to a stiff hip, attached to a wounded torso...

You get the picture. None of us is where we need to be. To get there, to reach more of the spiritual maturity, to experience more of the presence of God we need go there together.

And best thing is that it's not just up to us - we don't have to find a way to hold it all together - God provides that. We just have to practise Love towards each other. Stop getting caught up in the ins and outs of our differences as if that's the most important, and focus on the relationship.

"Instead, by truth spoken in love, we are to grow in every way into Him—the Anointed One, the head. He joins and holds together the whole body with its ligaments providing the support needed so each part works to its proper design to form a healthy, growing, and mature body that builds itself up in love.
Eph 4:15-16

When the Body begins to heal together, then each and every member will benefit from and experience this healing too.

If you want to grow deeper with God, then pray for the body as much as or more than you pray for yourself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Self preservation

Self preservation - a lot of our lives are devoted to it.

We build up careers to keep ourselves in plenty of money; we pursue things that will leave some mark on the world so that even when we are gone we preserve our memory; we protect our things, our space, our time jealously as if one lapse will have the world taking advantage of us.

All in all we spend a lot more time making sure we are alright, than we do making sure others are.

We'll help others, sure. But only if it doesn't take away too much of our lives. Only if it doesn't involve too much self-sacrifice.

I'll invite you round for dinner, ok, on a night I approve and hospitably feed you a nice meal - but don't get crazy on me and just drop round... and don't even think about being homeless and asking me for money while I'm trying to go about my day spending it on myself.

The problems and quarrels and animosity we hold towards others are largely directed at those who threaten our sense of self, our way of life, our attempts to preserve what we see as ours - from wars with another country to the person who ate the last biscuit we were saving for ourselves.

In this case, as is often the case, Jesus has a view that goes against the popular opinion. The world will tell you, look after yourself first. Hold on to what's yours, or someone else will take it. Build up a life for yourself, store up for yourself.

Jesus says:

If you try to hold on to your life, it will slip through your fingers; if you let go of your life, you’ll keep it.

Luke 17:33

And Jesus says that because he knows the time is near. He knows its urgent and we need to be alert.

There's no time to hang on to those things you can't take with you, because while you're turning around to gather your precious 'things', you've missed it. You've spent so much effort trying to protect who you think you should be, or who the world expects you to be, that you've missed who God really created you to be.

Try to save your own life - reach for that life preserver you created yourself - and you'll end up being destroyed along with it.

Focus on God, lay down your life, forget about your own self preservation, and it's your eternal life that will be saved.

What are you keeping close at hand to grab whenever you feel the need to protect yourself? Money? Pride? Anger? Excuses? Status? Appearance?

Lay these things down and realise the baggage-free freedom that comes from relying only on Christ.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why don't we give freely?

In Acts we see the church community in action like I think we'd all agree - even if we follow with a lot of buts and qualifiers - that the church is meant to be.

There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. Acts 2:44-45

Why don't we see that? Why don't we share much of anything at all other than maybe a meal with a strictly controlled guest list, let alone everything we own?

One factor is definitely that we see our stuff as ours, that we worked for and paid for ourselves, and why should we give it to people who didn't do anything to earn it?

We forget that we live in God's house, so everything we have is really His anyway.

But more than that, I think it's because we are afraid.

I think I find it easy - relatively - to remember that all I have is from God. But I still don't want to share my iPad. Why? Because while I think that God provided for me once, I have trouble believing he'll do it again.

We live in fear. What if the money runs out? What if I lose my job? What if the car breaks down? What if someone burrows my stuff and breaks it - I might not ever get another one.

When I had a proliferation of baby clothes that my daughter had already grown out of - many unworn - my first thought was eBay. Maybe I could get some money for things I didn't need. The clothes were all gifts in the first place, but the justification ran through my head - 'we've got a new baby, I'm not working, we need the money.'

I was afraid.

Then God nudged me, and I realised how blessed I had been to not have to buy a single piece of clothing for the baby myself. Not everyone has that kind of support. And so I decided that I would rather donate all that clothing to women who might really need it because it would come from no other source.

This idea was met with less enthusiasm from others than I expected. They were afraid too. The idea of giving it all away seemed like too much - 'what if you have another baby? What if you need it?'

Momentarily I nearly gave in to the fear. 'Maybe I shouldn't give it all,' I thought. 'Maybe I'll keep enough to clothe another baby just in case I happen to have another baby and its a girl and its summer and I desperately need clothes for her...'

And then I realised I had nothing to fear.

And not just because the family and friends who bought me gifts last time will still be there to support me next time.

But because I choose to believe that God is faithful. That Jesus meant it when he said "My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.
That means you can sell your possessions and give generously to the poor." Luke 12:32-33

The baby clothes are just practise. And I hope that I am learning how to have faith so that when it comes to giving away all I have - my money, house, time - I can do it without fear.

You can start practising too. Find little things to give and share, even if you're worried you might lose out.

And how do you overcome the fear of what it will mean to give? Perfect love drives out fear. Seek God and His love, and with your eyes on Him, your 'stuff' won't matter. In fact, giving away your money will be a joy not a fear.

I know I've got a long way to go before I get there, but I know deep down my spirit rejoices in the love of God so much that I'd have joy living in the mud with nothing to my name if it meant love and life with the body of Christ.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Where is your treasure?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34

Where is your treasure? Or in other words, where is your money? What do you spend it on? And in a society where time is also valuable, what do you spend your time on?

Because that will say a lot about where your heart is. Where your priorities are, what your focus is.

In a society where a lot of our time is spent earning money, and that money is then spent on ourselves, I'm not sure that says anything good about our hearts.

Plenty of people will right about now be saying, 'But I earn money to support my family - that's where my heart is.' True, and that's not wrong but I would like to challenge a lot if people to think about the lifestyle they are paying for and whether that is really what their family needs?

My instinct is to tread carefully here, to not upset anyone or make anyone feel bad about earning money or having nice things.

But then another part of me - an increasingly stronger part - starts to feel sick at the disgusting excess in our culture. The selfish state of our lives and hearts. The hypocritical political correctness that prevents us from talking about money while so many suffer.

We are storing up treasures for ourselves here on earth, like that is going to get us somewhere.

'Planning for the future' is not even an excuse. Because most of us are doing it out of fear, the opposite of trusting God - I need my money. I need to take care of me, or who else will?

We spend our time and money on ourselves, on gluttonous businesses without regard for those trampled on to supply them, on building up our wealthy, secure indulgent lives...

We have no time left over for real community. For giving generously to others. For lavishing love. For nurturing relationships.

Where are we storing up our treasure? Is your heart focused on yourself or the kingdom of God?

Don't be afraid. Don't conform to what is expected in our self-centred society. Don't justify or make excuses. Examine yourself. Make room in your heart and life for the ways of God, no matter the sacrifice of time, money or desires for yourself and see the heavenly results. You might just have a change of heart....

Don’t reduce your life to the pursuit of food and drink; don’t let your mind be filled with anxiety. People of the world who don’t know God pursue these things, but you have a Father caring for you, a Father who knows all your needs.
Since you don’t need to worry—about security and safety, about food and clothing— then pursue God’s kingdom first and foremost, and these other things will come to you as well.
My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.
That means you can sell your possessions and give generously to the poor. You can have a different kind of savings plan:one that never depreciates, one that never defaults, one that can’t be plundered by crooks or destroyed by natural calamities.

Your treasure will be stored in the heavens, and since your treasure is there, your heart will be lodged there as well.

I’m not just talking theory. There is urgency in all this.

Luke 12:29-36

Friday, July 19, 2013

Faith Muscle Rehabilitation

If anyone has been bed ridden or sedentary after a long illness or bad injury, often they will need some sort of physiotherapy to rehabilitate their muscles. After not being used, muscles atrophy and it can be difficult to make them function normally and with any degree of strength again. I noticed it when I was pregnant and had a long bout of morning sickness that left me bed ridden for a couple of months. Afterwards I found it difficult to do even simple things because my legs were so weak, let alone more strenuous exercise. I didn't do much in particular to strengthen my muscles again due to a combination of laziness and preoccupation with a new baby, but I probably should have. It's taken the better part of a year to feel back to normal, whereas with proper exercises and training it may have only taken a couple of months.

Our faith & love muscles have atrophied. I feel like I'm harping on about the negatives of the western world, but I think out insulated lives have a lot to answer for when it comes to our faith, or lack of it.

I'm not discounting anyone's suffering - there's a lot of very real pain no matter where you are in the world. I just mean that there's a lot we can turn to and rely on before we consider God as our best and only option. It's very easy and all too tempting to become self centred, for life to become all about us and how people treat us, and what others do for us.

We don't have all that much opportunity to exercise our faith and love. Not in real, deep, til-it-hurts kinds of ways. Our faith and love are languishing and need some rehabilitation. We need to start actively seeking ways to use them, and it needs to go beyond the day to day.

Sure, buy someone some flowers. That's nice. But it will be a long slow road to powerful love if that's the extent of our exercise.

If we want real change, real heart revival, real and powerful faith, we need a bit of hardcore physiotherapy. Something that extends us, challenges us, maybe even hurts a little.

Jesus didn't go around giving people flowers and writing get well cards. He healed them.

'They'll know we are Christians by our love' doesn't mean 'by how nice we are'. The love of God goes hand in hand with power.

We need to exercise the love of God in us - we are not meant to be so weak and feeble when it comes to faith and love. And we can't do it alone either. The body is meant to work together. The hand can't move without the arm. What use is a strong foot without a strong leg?

Time for some serious love rehab.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rich or pathetic?

Last time I wrote about how we, the western world, have told God we don't need Him, that we can do it ourselves, and is it any wonder that we feel like we are on our own?

God doesn't force His way in if we've told Him to stay out of our lives - he'll never leave us, and will continue to draw us back - but He gives us the free will to say no to Him. And we've said no so often and so loudly that I think many of us don't even know how to 'need' God anymore.

When Jesus said its easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, he wasn't saying people with money can't go to heaven - he was pointing out how many obstacles get in the way of us recognising our need and putting God in his true place when we have wealth to rely on.

Consider a person crushed by sickness and poverty. If someone comes and says "I can pray for you and God will heal you", how much nearer are they to the point of saying "Yes, I need God. I've got nowhere else to turn." We, with our profuse wealth and health and safety, don't know what it means to have nowhere else to turn.

At least we think we don't. Intellectually we may know we 'need' God, but most of us are looking at our lives with earthly eyes, and even though we say it, deep down do we really believe it? Are you really relying on God, or are you relying on your prosperity and praying to God that you never lose it.

That's a dangerous position to be in. Because with earthly eyes you are fine and dandy, but that's not what God sees with. "I know your works. You are neither cold with apathy nor hot with passion. It would be better if you were one or the other, but you are neither. So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. You claim, 'I am rich, I have accumulated riches, and I need nothing'; but you do not realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked.

Does that prick your pride? Does it make you defensive to be called pathetic and wretched? Not that we need to dwell on our lack, but it's something to think about when we are tempted to look to ourselves rather than Christ.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

We've told God we don't need Him

Sometimes we hear of amazing miracles happening in third world places like the deaf hearing again, the blind seeing, the dead being raised, and we (the western world mainly) wonder - if that stuff is all real, then why don't we see it here too? If God's the same everywhere and in every time, why don't miracles like that happen more here?

Why doesn't God show up?

But let's think about what we have been saying to God...

Have we been worshipping Him with our lives? Have we been devoting ourselves to Him? Have we been telling Him how much we need Him and acknowledging that everything comes from Him?

Or have we been keeping Him at arms length? Have we been paying Him lip service, while going our own way?

We've told Him to stay away. We've told Him we don't need Him. We've told Him we can do it ourselves. And he's let us.

We wonder why God doesn't show up more, but He's just doing what we've asked Him to do.

We think it's too big of an ask to devote our lives to God, because we feel like we'll have to give up too much. So we'd rather go it on our own.

We rely on our own health system, our brains, our safety, our prosperity and wealth. What do we need God for? He might just ask us to give some of it up.

I can't convince anyone of their need for God alone - that comes from each of us, from our hearts to God.

And you can choose to give your life over to God now, even while you prosper, even while you seem to be ok on your own. Or you can do it the hard way, when the trouble comes.

What is going to sustain you when the things of the world crumble? When these things fade away and you realise God upheld it all, and you were putting your hope in the temporary, decaying things, the things of earth instead of the things of God's kingdom.

"O how bad it will be for you who look to the south
to Egypt for help and depend on her horses,
Who trust in its many chariots and fix your hopes on its strong drivers.
Yet you do not look to the Holy One of Israel for relief
or even bother to consult Him.
God is both wise and willing to wreak disaster;
He does not second guess Himself or backtrack on what He says.
God will amass all divine power against those who do evil
and against whoever aids and abets them.
As for Egypt, why do you rely on them?
They are great, yes,
but merely human, not God—their steeds just creatures, not spirits.
But when the Eternal reaches out and makes His power felt,
those who lent their help will stumble; those who looked for help will fall.
Together they will be routed and killed."
Isaiah 31:1-4

Monday, July 1, 2013

The devil wants to keep you from praying any way he can

The devil wants to do whatever he can to keep you from praying.

He wants you to think you're too tired, busy or full of doubt to pray.

And if he can't keep you from praying all together, he wants you to be weak in prayer, to think it doesn't work or Gods not listening or he's too far away.

He wants to do anything he can to keep you from the kind of prayer where you know that you can go boldly to God with anything, that ANYTHING you ask for will be done.

And if the devil works so hard to keep us from bold, effective prayer, there must be a reason. And that reason is that when we get connected to God, we really do have the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, to overcome ALL the power of the enemy.

If the devil knows our authority, so should we. Don't let him keep you from it.

Go boldly to God. Pray without ceasing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

When you feel like you're ready...maybe you're not

I've spent a long time wanting God to use me in big ways. I've spent a ,LNG time being impatient, quite frankly.

But when I look back in hindsight a few years later, I'm so ate full to God that He knew better and didn't give me what I was asking for then, because I can see now that I was totally and completely not ready for it. It would have overwhelmed me. I hadnt learned to trust God enough, I hadn't learned to manage my time, my health enough, I hadn't learned much of anything enough. But I didn't realise that at the time. I thought I was ready for more, and felt frustrated that God wasn't giving it to me.

So, thank you God that you know better!

But, ok, that was then. I'm ready now, right? Enough waiting already.

I never learn, clearly.

But as I go, I find I am learning more and more to see how inadequate I am currently and not just in hindsight. God has been revealing my weaknesses to me, not to condemn me, but to humble me, to heal me, and to help me understand how to rely on Him.

I have a terrible feeling that the day I truly grasp how unqualified and incapable I am of doing anything - the day I think to myself, "Actually, I'm not ready for any of this" - that will be the day God hands me the big stuff....

Because when we think we can do it, that's when we'll stumble. We forget to rely on God.

And when we know we can't, that's when His power is made perfect in weakness.

So if you think you're ready and up for the challenge - there may be some humbling and training on the way first.

And if you know you're completely un-ready... Watch out ;)

Friday, June 14, 2013

One sentence sums up God's plan for your life

We can spend a lot of time and mental energy wondering if we're on the right path, wondering what God's 'will for our life' is, and whether we're in it. But I feel like God's will for us is less an exact series of precise decisions that we can potentially stuff up at any minute, and more a way of living our lives aligned with His heart. The specifics are less important than we often think. So if you're wondering what exactly is God's will for my life? One sentence sums it up...

God's will for you is to reach spiritual maturity.

Maybe that sounds too simple. But think about it. If you are spiritually mature, you:

know God's heart more
have the fruit of the spirit abundantly in any circumstance
love like He does
understand His words
see His kingdom more clearly
become more like Christ

All of this makes it much easier to be led by the Spirit, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

It's like knowing a friend or your husband really, really well. My husband doesn't have to be there for me to know what he will like or dislike or find funny or annoying about a situation. It's a bit like this with God. The more we know Him, the more we are aligned with His heart and will.

Whatever decisions or circumstances we encounter, this is something to keep in mind. If we see everything as an opportunity to grow in maturity, to grow closer to God, how would that change our mindset? How would that change how we respond?

Eph 4:14-15 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

We sometimes believe that God's will is unknowable, that we can't comprehend it, that we just have to blindly step out and cross our fingers and hope. But while God may not reveal to us the precise details and step by step layout of our lives, minute by minute, or even year by year, I don't think it is right that we can't know His will.

It's like saying of a friend, "We are good friends, but I'll never really 'get' him, I'll never really know what he likes or wants or will do." That's not how it happens. The more we know someone, the more we understand them.

It's the glorious grace of God that He is so beyond us, and yet, we can know Him. We are not servants, in the sense of acting out of obligation. Jesus calls us friends.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

Jesus has made known to us everything that the Father told him. By growing in spiritual maturity, we discover more of that revelation, and we understand more of it. We are changed and renewed by the Spirit to understand who God is and what His perfect will is.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

And we get beyond the simple mindset of wanting to know God's will, as in every little specific decision just for ourselves, in a little anxious bubble, and instead we more easily move in the flow and peace of the Spirit, in harmony with God's big picture for His church as a whole.

If God's will for us is that we grow in spiritual maturity, we can be sure that in every circumstance, bad and good, we have the opportunity for this to happen, and God will provide you with everything you need to grow and not be crushed. Let this change your thinking when faced with challenges.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Thursday, June 13, 2013

God does not want to keep you broken

I've heard people say, and seen the effects of people believing, that it's God plan to leave them broken, sick or struggling so He can use it for good.

God will use your brokeness, it's true. He will use what you have been through to help others. He will work all things together for good for those who love Him. 

But it is a huge fallacy to think that means you have stay where you are, in your pain, so that God can use it to help others.

How can you give a testimony to how God can heal our hurt, our sickness, our brokeness, if you are still in it? How can you lead people through their pain to the other side, if you don't even know where that is because you've haven't got there yourself?

Don't get me wrong - God can and will use you where you are. He can use anything and anyone, no matter how imperfect or broken. He can bring unfathomable good in even the most difficult circumstances. But just because God is using you while you are still sick or broken, does NOT mean he wants you to stay there.

"Many people followed Him, and He healed them all" Matt 12:15

There is no addendum to that verse, no fine print that says *"except for the few he let stay sick so that they could empathise with other sick people".

Sure, you may find comfort in talking to others who are experiencing the same thing as you. It may help the burden not feel so heavy. But who can help you more - someone who is also struggling the same as you, or someone who once struggled, but has found freedom?

If you are blind, another blind person can only teach you how to cope as a blind person. Jesus can teach you how to see!!

It is not God's will for you to stay sick, hurt or broken. Jesus didn't die and rise again so that you could stay as you are. He didn't conquer sin and death so that you could just battle on, and try and prop up others also struggling.

He died and rose so you could be free! So you could be healed! So you could have life!

Don't believe the lies and doubts that maybe God wants you to stay where you are. If we are to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and there is no sickness and brokeness in heaven - then that's what we should be believing for on earth!!

And don't hold on to this belief as a security blanket. Sometimes we believe that maybe this sickness or struggle is God's will because if we let go of that idea, then we risk being disappointed. What if I don't get healed? What if God doesn't get me out of here? What if I believe that I'm meant to be set free, but find myself still a prisoner?

It's a scary place to be - to have stepped out from behind our protective lies, and into the wide open. And we don't know the exact timing of when and what God will do. Sometimes what is done in the spirit doesn't appear in the natural right away. Maybe it seems risky.

But if you can be sure that if you stay where you are, you definitely will not see change. 

Step out in faith. Give Jesus a chance to prove that he wasn't lying when he said that now is the time!

"He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free, and to tell the blind that they can now see. He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression. In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the timethis is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace." Luke 4:18-19

It is our testimony of our personal and collective experiences of God's grace, love and freedom that will draw people. Anyone can say to a sick person "I know how you feel". 

But don't you want to be able to say, "I know how you feel - but I also know the one who can make you well!!"

If you want to be put back together, if you want to be healed, get to know the healer.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

No box is big enough

A thought occurred to me last night, as I lay in bed talking to God. I felt that God was close to me, that I could talk to him one on one, with his full attention. Then I imagined everyone else in the world. The billions of people who could also be talking to God at the same time, with this same full attention.

Just think about that for a moment. A being who can be everywhere at once, and not be diminished at all. Who can talk to you intimately like a loving Father while also doing this for billions of others, but never being diminished or distracted or too busy.

It's hard to wrap your mind around. If we are talking to one person while trying to listen to another conversation, we can barely take in any of it.

And while there is so much in that about God as Father and how loving he is, and how we can have such an intimate relationship with him...none of that is unimportant or trivial. But the thing that occurred to me last night was, how can I possible ever think I've got God figured out?

We can know more and more of Him, but we are barely scratching the surface.

Yet we continue to try and fit God into a neat box so we can manage Him. And if he does something that makes Him not fit into that box any more, we just recalculate and decide that we just need a bigger box.

But no box will ever be big enough. He is outside of the time and space, beyond anything our earthly minds can comprehend.

If I can't even understand how it's possible that He is even talking to me, then how can I suppose I know and can fit into neat boxes who he is and what he will do?

And yet, by His spirit to ours, He gives us glimpses of things greater than natural life. He does make it possible for us to know Him. Bit by bit, the more we spend time with Him, the more He can reveal His glory, the more we have life by the spirit, and the natural things no longer bind us. We begin to live and know more than is naturally possible, by His spirit.

If we are only willing to accept and know God as much as we can understand Him or define Him, we are missing out on so, so, so much.

How small is our God if we allow Him to be only what we can comprehend? If we allow Him to act in only ways we could have thought of for ourselves?

Don't just look for a bigger box to contain Him, trust that if you stop trying to work Him out, He will supernaturally make himself known to you.

You might think it will be scary or confusing if you let go of the box and allow Him to live in you - in us, His house, His church - in whatever way He wants. But in God you will find so much love and so much grace - you will find so much divine peace that it completely passes all understanding!

Friday, May 10, 2013

You don't 'arrive' as a Christian, there's always more

No matter how many years you've been a Christian, no matter how spiritually mature you get, you never 'arrive'. You're never done. You never achieve the 'highest rank' and then stay there.

This is not because there's more 'work' to do. It's not because you are so imperfect and must keep working on yourself.

You are imperfect of course, but that's not actually what God focuses on.

Because being a Christian is not a job description.

It's a relationship.

In a friendship or marriage, you never get to a good place in the relationship and then say "Ok, that's it. We've done it. I can stop making any effort now."

If you stopped talking and laughing and spending time together, that good marriage or friendship would quickly dissolve.

God wants a relationship with you, first and foremost. Maybe after that you'll do things, He'll change you, work on your heart, make you a 'better' person and all that.

But it all flows naturally out of a relationship with God. You can't 'arrive' in a relationship. It is ongoing. Especially with God - there is always more to know, more to discover, more to understand, more love, grace and peace to be found...

If God focuses on the relationship, why do we continue to focus on the work?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

For the big and the small

My daughter just had her 4 month old vaccinations. Never mind that she is already 5 months, and we were a month late. This post is not really about me being a slack parent...

On the morning of the day we had to take her in to get the needles, I said to my husband, "I wish I could have them for her."

You see, watching my happy little daughter's face register shock and hurt and break into tears as two nurses jab her in the legs is heart breaking. Because of her pain, and because she doesn't understand what is happening. So I wish I could take it for her, and she still receive the health protecting benefits.

And that made me think about what Jesus took for us. He took a whole lot more than a little physical pain for us, so that we didn't have to feel it, experience the pain and consequences or be separated from God. And we received the benefit.

But even though in our heads we know that is true, most often when we talk about Jesus taking all of our sins, but we focus on the obvious. (And we have a hard enough time accepting that)

Sometimes when feel like we've got what Jesus did we accept that counts for the big stuff - the 'big, ugly sins'... the ones that practically stand up and shout "I'm a SIN!" You know, murder. And maybe he was talking about lying, and cheating, and swearing at people...those obvious things.

But something stops us really accepting that Jesus actually took everything. Everything. The big, the little, the obvious, the subtle. He cares about the big and the little of our lives.

He died for every mean thought. Every careless word. Every selfish action. Every rebellious moment. Every impatient foot tap. Every tear-filled argument.

He cares about every moment that you don't feel peace. Every moment you lack joy. Every moment someone is unkind. Every moment you feel a twinge of anxiety.

It's not just the big.

We sometimes think that God cares about the big stuff that He knows we can't do on our own. But we feel like the little stuff, well shouldn't we be able to manage that ourselves? Why would God spend time on our little things - we just have to get on with it.

And so we struggle on with things that we think are too little for anyone to care about, and feel bad when we still struggle...when things end up being harder than we think they should be... we things hurt and we just try to get over it...we feel like we shouldn't struggle with it, so we pretend we don't.

My daughter's vaccination is a small thing. It is over in 10 seconds, and with a bit of comforting she is soon fine. If I - a slack, imperfect human parent - can feel so much compassion over a relatively tiny thing, if my heart breaks at her few moments of confusion and pain, then how much more will the perfect God who IS love, feel love and compassion over our 'tiny' things. Our 'little' struggles. Our confusion and hurt. Our moments of disappointment. Our minute of sadness.

I can't take my daughter's vaccination for her, because then I would be getting the immunity and she would still be unprotected.

But the thing is,  God can take it for us, and we still receive the benefit. Jesus bore every burden and all our suffering, and we received the peace.

So don't just wait to cry out to Him once the weight of your life has become unbearable. Every moment of your life, reach out for the love He has lavished on us. Take hold of His peace and joy.

Think of the love of a mother for her baby. Then multiply that by infinity and I don't think you've even come close to how much God loves you.

God cares about every. single. moment of your life. He bore every. single. burden for you - and you get the supernatural, life preserving benefit.

Monday, May 6, 2013

He was wounded to heal yours

Many of us have been wounded by various things in life, as a result of our own sins or those of others. These wounds range from cuts and scrapes to deep, weeping sores that threaten to be fatal. And so many of us walk around just trying to live with these wounds, to manage as best we can, to just grit our teeth and live through the pain.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I tried to self-medicate to deal with the pain of my wounds. Through alcohol and sexual relationships, I tried to fix my suffering. The problem was, everything I tried only numbed the pain superficially, enough for me to function in public. Deep down I was still incapacitated by emotional pain. And worse still, untreated, my wounds festered. My sins festered, and caused me more harm.

When I fumbled my way back to God, I finally cleaned up my wounds and washed them out. Some of the infection was cleared up, and then I bandaged those wounds tightly. That's what I thought I had to do. Just keep them clean and protected and our of the way.

I experienced some healing, but not fully. While I didn't suffer from constant pain, the wounds were still there. I still couldn't live fully. Those bandages stopped me getting hurt more, but they also did what they do best - I was bound and restricted. I couldn't move freely, I couldn't love freely.

I began to realise that I needed more than bandages. That I needed to uncover my wounds and let them be healed.

This is not about exposing our wounds and poking and prodding around in there on our own. We don't know what we are doing, we'll probably just cause more bleeding and damage and be prone to falling back to self medicating to numb the pain we have reawakened.

There is a doctor who knows exactly how to heal our wounds. Someone who has been wounded Himself to heal us.

When we put down the things we use to ignore or numb the pain, when we stop relying on the bandages that protect but restrict us, when we stop trying to figure out how to heal ourselves - then we can take our wounds to God.

Jesus was wounded for us, so that we could be healed. He bears the scars so that we don't have to.

God can heal your wounded life, no matter how deep, no matter how painful the sin, hurt and rejection, and leave you with a whole, full life, free from restriction, free from scars.

Jesus took it all on the cross for us; he was rejected and punished and he suffered for us. Not just for our physical suffering, but for our emotional and spiritual lives, so that nothing could any longer separate us from the healing love in Gods presence.

...he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
Isaiah 53:5