What would cause you to worship?

The story of the sinful woman has always caught my attention, to go and seek Jesus like so many others because of the stories she had heard about him, her willingness to move in a room full of men where she was not allowed to be near him. I find it striking that unlike people who have approached him previously she comes to pour out her worship on this Rabbi before he has done anything for her; she goes further than Zacchaeus who climbs a tree to investigate, and she doesn’t come with any request or plea.

It has been suggested that Luke’s gospel account is in chronological order to a degree, so it can be suggested that this lady had heard of the healing of the paralytic, or of Levi the tax collector changing his whole life around and Jesus dining with him and other sinner’s like him, or maybe it was the teaching on not judging others that caused this woman to do this outrageous thing. As she let down her hair which was considered an immoral thing to do in the company of men, she washed his feet that were likely covered in mud and dirt from walking. It is a provoking scene that compels the question if she did all this just because of what she had heard and possibly hoped for in Jesus, what is our response to the Messiah who died for our sins and has forever tied us to the Father and to heaven. I wonder if in this story is a key to deconstructing the fear of man. It is likely that as the men dining at the table knew that she was an immoral woman that she had nothing to lose, no pride or self-preservation to hold on too, how freeing that must have been in strange way. I wonder what it is that stops us from outrageously loving him.

I think this story presents us with a challenge but also an answer to breaking off the fear of man and it lies in remembering and surrounding ourselves with who Jesus is and what he has done. Arguably Easter serves as such a power reminder of love in action and as he gave his all to us, how much more should we give our all back to him; to adore him with out of tune singing, with flags or with praying for people struggling, caring for the poor, loving our kids, or giving that prophetic word. Maybe it’s time to stop holding back.

 

 

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Sunday is coming

I watched a small drama yesterday on the death of Jesus. As it articulated the confusion of disciples my mind was caught in what it must have felt like watching Jesus go to the cross to die along with all be symbolized. All the hope and dreams of freedom poured into him as hundreds of people had followed him around Galilee.

For Mary who was able to sit in the room full of men and hear his teaching, for Zacchaeus who changed his whole way of life because of one meeting. Simon Peter and the others who dropped everything to follow this man who thought the Roman rule they lived under was coming to an end. For Jesus’ mother as she stood and watched her son trying to reconcile  what she had been told about him with what was seeing.

It struck me how we can also have been in that place watching our dreams fall apart. Dreams disappearing because of difficult circumstances, or what we once thought was possible becomes surrounded in impossibilities.

The beautiful thing of reading history is that we know that God had a plan in the pain of that terrible Friday because it was followed by a glorious Sunday. Everything looked lost but Sunday was coming. We won’t get everything we hope for, and unexplainable, painful things will happen. But, if the story of the cross is anything to go by we can take comfort that God has a plan and we can be sure that ‘no eye has seen, …no ear has heard, and…no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him- 1.cor. 2.9.

…And to stand

After going through or often during difficult, challenging or painful circumstances it seems like the demonic consistently appears to see if they can finally pick us off.

I find it comforting that Jesus had the same experience found in Matthew 4, which depicts the scene of Jesus being tempted by Satan after a forty day fast in the wilderness. I wonder what it must have felt like for Jesus as he had reduced himself into a human form facing the Devil on a different playing field; to be stuck with all the human thoughts that we have, battling the temptation to give away his birth right like Esau did for a loaf of bread (Genesis 25. 29-34) or to give up because he was tired.

I am so encouraged by how Jesus dealt with this battle, fighting it with scripture and his understanding of his position as a beloved son and the power that came with it, as well as with the use of the Holy Spirit, note that this battle didn’t happen until after the Spirit came and rested on him. (Matthew 3.16)

What is comforting is that we can do what Jesus did. 1 John 3 makes it clear that we too are children of God ‘how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…’ and with that identity comes the power to overcome, and we too have the help of the Holy Spirit and scripture to guide and embolden us, helping us to stand. How essential it is for us to follow his example and grasp who we have become and the power we now have as a result. The power to say no to sin, the authority to cast out empty and broken thoughts of ourselves, the ability to rebuke the Devil in Jesus name, and the ability to stand in any and every trial (Ephesians 6). Like Jesus we need to hold on to God, and who he is says we are; so that in pain, in temptation, and in difficulty we know that he will give us all that we need because we are his children, in order that we not only make it through but that we triumph for we are ‘more than conquers,’ (Romans 8.37) and we were made for more than just surviving all that life throws at us.

The satnav broke down again

The Times informs me that ‘Mo Farah denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs’ and navigates me to the remainder of the story on page 2-3 of the sports section. The choice of the coffee I’m drinking has been navigated by the barista’s information on the roast and the type of bean, the satnav tells me the left and the right needed to be taken to arrive at my destination, and even McDonald’s has gone out of their way to navigate me through their new menu. Everywhere I turn people are instructing in the kindest, best customer service manner what to do or how to spend money. However, how to navigate life, now that is a book i’d pick up, or a person I’d lock in my house and interrogate, something I’d spend all my money on. I can see from the Waterstones best seller list people have indeed tried to buy the ultimate satnav to life; ‘How to be successful, how to be more confident, even, dare I say, how to articulate that you’re a feminist.

However how to navigate life away from its pitfalls, how to not crash and burn, or how to frustrate your friends so much that they label you the ‘high maintenance one’ and start ‘unfollowing’ you on Fb.

At these cross roads of finishing University, I’m in that place where I want to make the most of life, looking forward and certainly not back at the enormous amount of debt behind me, that visits my mind like the not so friendly BFG.

At the heart of it, I’m not asking how to be successful, how to get rich quick, or even how to stop aging. I’m asking from the heart how to be a good person, how to bless as many people as possible, without hurting, maiming, or cheating. How to give the best in all I do and how to act honourably, understanding it’s ok that good guys finish last, because you know that the ends don’t really justify the means, and from the back of the line you can learn from those in front of you. So here I go plunging into life, hoping that I remain sensitive to those around me, while holding on to the voice inside that says ‘it’s ok to say you don’t understand.’ The training wheels are off and we are not given dummies to practice life with. So here I come, confused, late out of the starting gate, but ready to move forward and start to make waves in this place we call the world, with all its multi-coloured diversities and beautiful complications. We are given life and life to the full, so it’s time to start finally living.

Promises, Promises, Promises

To have faith in all the promises that God has spoken, we often need to look at the character of God

Daniel 6 details that King Darius has been tricked because of his vanity to issue a decree that for 30 days all people are to worship him only. (Daniel 6.4-9 NIV) What stood out was how Darius was bound by law to fulfil the decree. His administrators challenged him saying;

‘Remember, O King, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.’ (Dan 6.15)

This reminded me as Darius was bound by the authority of the Persians and the Medes, God has no higher authority he has to obey. Hebrews 6.13 explains ‘when God made his promises to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you, and give you many descendants.” This Indicates God as the highest authority and, he is able to do ‘…whatever pleases him.’ (Psalm 135.6)

Hebrews 6 goes on;

‘Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.’ (v17-18)

In this understanding of God as the highest authority and that he cannot lie tells us a great deal about the weight and depth of his promises to us. It means that we can have confidence that what he says he means, and what he says will happen. So when God says for example ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,’ (Hebrews 13.5) we can trust that he means it. What weight and value of the words in the bible, and the promises of God in this context!

In an age where people are worried about what gets recorded, in case it is taken out of context, or they are held accountable for it, I find it amazing that God recorded his promises and sealed it with his authority; declaring ‘I the Lord do not change,’ (Malachi 3.6) meaning what was true when it was written is true today. He’s not worried that people might hold him to account of his promises. That is itself part of the relationship, going to God and asking him to fulfill his promises. Also in some cases to show you that he is already fulfilling his promises in your life.

Darius in Daniel 6 was caught by a law he wanted to get out of. This cannot be further from the truth of our God, who wrote down his promises, sealed them with his authority and character, and exemplified how serious he was about us in the sacrifice of his son. Learn his promises and his heart behind them and ‘be greatly encouraged’ (Hebrews 6.18) that he will bring them to pass.

Rich or Poor

There was a girl who was walking the streets, she was a little disheveled, unkempt and hadn’t been able to wash for a few days. She walks the streets head down wondering what she will eat today. What is quite strange about this girl is that in her bag she has a beautiful ring. A ring anyone else on the streets would long to get hold of as it is of tremendous value. It was special to her as it reminded her of the life she once had. The ring belonged to her Father, and her Father was the King. She never felt worthy of wearing the ring for you see she was adopted. Although the King often told her that he had chosen her long before she was born, she just could not shake the feeling she didn’t belong amongst all the goodness; love, and beautiful things of the Kingdom. When he told her she would be given all the inheritance of the first born, she just didn’t believe him.  So she walked along the streets, hiding her inheritance, her adopted identity in her bag. For you see when she looked in the Kings eyes, she just knew she was undeserving. She had tried hard all through her childhood, but none of it seemed to please her Father. He would just look at her and say I love you. She would ask why, but why, and he would tenderly say, because I do, and no matter what you do this will always be the case. She decided long ago that eventually his love would run out, she would push him too far and he would ask her to leave. Better to go now, of her own accord.

I’d like to provoke the question, how often do we do this as Christians? How often do we hide our adoption as sons and daughters of the King. Hiding the treasure and inheritance we have because we don’t understand that adoption in the context that Paul wrote meant a lasting, binding contract. That meant we are given the keys to the kingdom and all the love we could possibly dare to hope for. We hide all the goodness and treasure and our identity in our bags, carry it around with us but never let it transform us, never let it near our hearts to do us good, and make our lives better for those around us.

I find the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel encouraging. He held on to that angel with all he had to be blessed. ‘Let me go for it is daybreak But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”(Genesis 32: 26) He was so desperate for God’s blessing shown through his wrestling of the angel. It’s challenging because arguably he was fighting for a blessing we have been given freely by Jesus sacrifice. Jacob arguably thought the blessing was worth fighting through the night for and taking on an angel for!

The girl from the story missed out on walking through the market place as a child of the King blessing people, loving people and sharing the goodness of the kingdom because she didn’t feel worthy. She felt poor and so felt like she had nothing to give away.

When we don’t recognise what our adoption means we miss out on being people who release the kingdom and bring hope to others. It stays dominant in us.

Read, memorise, fall in love with what Jesus did on the cross and what it does to you, and then go and tell someone about it because it’s all true and is just too good not to be shared or to not transform your life.

One step at a time

The Story of Jesus teaching from Simon’s boat struck me in Luke 5. Simon clearly caught a glimpse of who Jesus was that day; exemplified in his response of falling to his knees. He also had a revelation of who he was in relation to Jesus; a sinful man. But what stood out was the exchange before Simon’s revelation.

‘…when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Luke 5 4-6. (ESV)

I really like Simon’s response. The exclamation mark appears to be coming from someone who is possibly a little exasperated, and tired from a whole nights fishing. However, his honestly is then followed by obedience as he says ‘but at your word I will.’

I recently went to an evening meeting at my church. It really was a lovely meeting, full of His presence and a distinct sense of God calling to us for intimacy with him. What arose from the prophetic was a sense of laying down heartache, or burdens or difficulties and placing them at Jesus feet in order to worship.

I love how Simon is honest before he obeys. Being obedient isn’t saying I disregard my difficulties, or stuffing your emotions or problems into a jar and standing with a stiff upper lip in worship. It’s saying God this how I feel, and it hurts, or is stressing me out, or even I’m in to deep, but I give it to you. As I worship I give this over to you, I put it into your hands and worship you. It’s letting go and letting God meet in you the difficulty. That is when we start to see great things happen. It’s then that we breakthrough. Simon’s obedience led him into a life calling of turning the world upside down. Where might your obedience lead you?