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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It's already done, so why are you still trying to do it?

Imagine if a parent told a child "You can go to the party, but first your room must be perfectly clean. BUT, guess what? I've already cleaned it for you. You're free to go!"

Would any child respond, "Thanks for doing that for me, but I didn't deserve that so I might just go a try to clean it myself too."

No! They would go with joy, secure in knowing that their parent loved them, and freely receiving the gift they had just been given.

Why do when then do this very thing to God. "Come freely into my presence. I've already made you righteous!"

"Thanks God, but I didn't deserve that, so I might just go and try to work at it myself first."

We don't wash our clothes when they are already clean. We don't scrub the dishes when they are already spotless.

And yet we try to clean our own lives - something we could never do perfectly anyway - when Gods already done it.

Or worse, we sit there, giving up, thinking our lives will always be hopelessly dirty - and don't notice that Gods already saved and redeemed us.

Would they child, the room cleaned for them, then stay home and not even bother going to the party?

You can say all you like that real life is more complicated than the simple analogy I'm making, that's its not that easy.

But I believe, at the core of it, it is. It's that simple. God has paid the price. It's already done.

Accept it, like a child. Accept the gift, the joy, the peace. Let God deal with the complicated parts of your life. Just take the Grace.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Revival begins in the heart

If you are praying for revival for your town, your city, your nation chances are you are looking around for signs of it in your churches.

Can I suggest stop looking around, and look inside yourself. Stop looking at revival as coming from the outside, and look at your heart.

Revival begins in the heart. Look there for revival.

Not only yours of course, but yours is the one you have a stake in. Your heart is the one God wants to work on with you.

We tend to look around at what God is outwardly doing with everyone else to see signs of Him moving, of a revival stirring. But long before we see that, I believe God has started a revival in our hearts first.

That's how God works. From the inside out. He often heals our hearts before our bodies. He changes our attitudes before our circumstances. He renews our thoughts before giving us action.

And don't you want a heart revival first anyway? If we are looking for a revival that is more than just a power show, that's more than just a way to make church life more exciting, that's more than just a fun time for Christians - if we want a revival that sets fire to our lives, that changes us and then change e world...

It's got to start in your heart.