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.