I Saw Jesus

I saw Jesus

“What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.”  ― Walt Whitman

I saw Jesus. I was dressed in smart casual clothes, I wore an apron and my mind was filled with a million little thoughts about both the present moment and future plans.

I saw Him more than once. He looked different each day, a different skin tone, stature and dress. I served Him a fried breakfast complete with fried bread and cooked tomatoes. I offered Him a hot drink and made sure to ask if He wanted sugar and milk. He seemed grateful for the food, grateful but weary.

I watched Him as He ate. He sat silently eating, sometimes looking around in a daze at those around Him, lost in His own world. Sometimes He was agitated and irritable, annoyed with His life and the hand He had been dealt. Sometimes He made conversation, shared parts of His life story and the intricacies of how He came to be seen by me.

I listened and tried to show the empathy I felt filling my heart. I wished I could alleviate His painful past, His disappointing present and the long road ahead that was His future.

At times the stench from Him was awful, at others barely noticeable. I showed Him where the showers and laundry rooms were, helped Him fill out an application form and laughed at His jokes… I was relieved He still found some joy in humour.

I admired His tenacity of spirit, knowing I would probably not have half as much were I to walk the same road as Him.

His language was rough and honest but polite when around me. I hoped He didn’t think I was judging Him. I hoped He knew that I believed in Him, that I could see the gifts and goodness within Him. I wanted Him to know I had hope for Him.

‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces. He was despised and we held Him in low esteem.’- Isaiah 53

I was not the only one who saw Jesus. Many others did, and many others served Him, although I am not sure they recognised who He was.

I saw Jesus in a day centre for the homeless and vulnerable. It was an honour.

‘Then the King will say to those on His right, “come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink…”’- Matthew 25

Monday Prayers

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Father God,

Empower us to love one another

For love comes from You

You are love in every form

When we love we are truly born of You

When we love

We are conformed and transformed

Into Your image

We honour You for how You showed Your love to us

For sending Your one and only Son

To this wicked and desperate Earth

That we might live through Him

This is love

Not that we loved You

But that You loved us

And made a way out of sin

Into wholeness and righteousness

Help us to love each other until we see Christ

Until His love is made complete in us

Let Your perfect love drive out fear

Make us perfect in the knowledge of Your love

We can love

Because You first loved us

We long to know and rely

On the love You have for us

Amen.

1 John 4 v 7-19

 

 

2014 -Simplicity of Heart

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‘One moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.’– Rainer Maria Rilke

As I look back on the year 2013 I see a year filled with opportunity, uncertainty, pain, hard lessons, confusion, misunderstanding, feeling misunderstood and towards the end- being totally blindsided by love.

In the economy of God, a wounded heart coupled with pain and confusion can be swiftly transformed into a heart learning to embrace and enjoy love again. God is simply good to us. He never has an ‘off’ day, never misunderstands our hearts but knows the deep motivations and desires that drive us.

Simplicity is something I plan to focus on this year. I refuse to complicate following Jesus anymore. It is either true that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord then we are saved… or it isn’t. It is either true that the work of God is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ… or it isn’t. God’s written word and the assurance of His Spirit remind me continually that this is indeed true.

If this is truth, then I want to live according to the simplicity of this Gospel. To not create complexities where there are none, to avoid putting up unnecessary barriers and hoops to jump through for those who would seek to know the living God.

‘But alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play actors that you are! You lock the doors of the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; you will not go in yourselves neither will you allow those at the door to go inside…’– (Matthew 23 v 13)

I believe God loves simplicity, after all, He chooses to reveal His greatest mysteries to the simple over the ones who consider themselves wise (Matthew 11 v 25-26).

My goal this year is to keep my life simple, without unfounded restriction or limitation, without falsehood or show. I desire to love God and others with a simplicity that puts others at ease, makes them feel valued and seen. Cooking meals, showing hospitality, remembering birthdays, remembering to send cards…

Making that phone call to see how friends are, preferring to listen rather than rushing to speak my mind. Honouring God through creativity, building relationships, spending time with the one I love just because…

As God’s eyes roam to and fro about the Earth I don’t want to be found judging others by my own religious standards, or declaring my own criteria for those who are pleasing to God and those who are not. God forbid.

To take a lesson from light; we don’t need to fight the darkness we just shine the light and darkness flees.

I want to be found simply enjoying Jesus; admiring and imitating Him and not anyone else.

I want to be found using the gifts He has given me; doing what I can to spread the fragrance of life which leads to life and extending His kingdom.

I want to be found reading His word and believing it.

Living simply is not a matter of disengaging our brains. It is not a matter of limiting our knowledge or settling into mediocrity. It is a conscious focusing of our minds on what really matters in the grand scheme of life, on what really matters to God.

Living simply for me means not bowing to the expectations of others, resisting the need to please people and checking out my heart with God on a regular basis. We can check our hearts with God without fear as He understands us completely and created us just how He wanted us- He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qUOHjnDIFs

Just As We Are

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“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
― Markus Zusak

When we came to faith in Christ, we arrived warts and all. It was the only way to enter in to the kingdom of God. The only way was to dump our heavy load of sin, brokenness and shame at the foot of the cross and throw ourselves on the mercy and forgiveness of God.

We came just as we were, and God met us there.

The only criterion for salvation is being prepared to participate in a great exchange. Exchanging our mess for His wholeness, our filthy rags for His righteousness and our despair for His joy.

At our core, I believe we all need to feel and experience real and genuine acceptance. To come as we are, to be seen, known and then accepted wholeheartedly. This is what God does for us. He is big and beautiful enough to accept us as we are. Acceptance is not agreement or endorsement, it is the acknowledgement and understanding of who we are and a willingness to take us on. To adopts us, to make us a part of the family.

‘ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.’– Ephesians 2 v 1-5

God accepted us when we were dead in transgression and sins… so what makes us behave as though He doesn’t do it for everyone else in our communities who are in the same state?

Jesus made a way. God accepts people as they are; any clean up job that is required is down to Him and Him only. Our responsibility is to share the good news- that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

So many people are desperate to hear this. If they really felt they would be accepted by God as they are, in whatever sorry state that is, they would run to Him.

I think as believers we can obstruct the process, albeit unconsciously. By behaving in ways that imply;

‘Yes, you can come to Jesus as you are but….’

‘Yes, of course God loves you but…’

‘Salvation is freely given if you believe but…’

We need to get our big buts out of the way. We need to stop obstructing the light from others and allow God to be God.

Acceptance does not negate change- it precedes it.

I thank God with all my heart that He accepted me just as I was, and continues to do so.

 

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 

 

 

 

Practising Compassion

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“..for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
― Milan Kundera

Practising the presence of God is a necessity, a vital component of feeling connected to Him and the essence of real relationship. To be aware that He is present in and through all things is to be comforted- mindful of His beautiful ways, His pure thoughts and His good will for our lives.

‘For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things …’- Romans 11 v 36

So, to practise His presence is a kind of first step, a foundation to a secure walk with Him. But, to practise His compassion is another realm entirely. Practising the presence of God meets our basic inner need for connection, whereas practising compassion meets God’s need of us- our hands, feet and voice going out to and reaching others. Of course, God has no needs in one sense, but in the other sense He has chosen to use us as His vessels of compassion on the earth.

I heard a preacher share about a moment he had in a café, he described the pain he saw etched all over the face of the waitress serving him. His companions at the table appeared not to notice and bantered with the waitress politely while settling the bill, but the preacher couldn’t escape the look of pain on the girls face. He said he felt compelled to do something, he was moved with compassion and had to acknowledge the pain he saw. He did not know what to say or how to say it, so he simply stated to the lady what he saw then asked her if she would like any prayer about anything.

The waitress broke down in tears. She shared her pain, the preacher and his companions stopped first to listen and then to pray.

Compassion had made a way for God to break through and touch someone’s life.

I love that, I really love that. I believe God loves it too. The moral of the story is that we must respond to the unspoken pain we see in the faces of those we come across from day to day- on the  bus, in the supermarket, in the queue at the post office. Opportunities to practise compassion are all around us. God shows us these things for a reason; discernment is the friend of compassion. We may be the only person that notices the sadness or pain behind the weak smile or glazed eyes of a person. We may have to step out of our comfort zone, not knowing what to say or how to say it. But like the compassionate preacher, we can acknowledge the pain we see in another and offer to pray, or offer a free coffee and a listening ear.

‘When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ – Matthew 9 v 36

What did Jesus see when He looked at the crowds? What was written on their faces? Whatever it was, Jesus was moved with compassion. He saw they were harassed and helpless and He did something about it. He was ultimately moved to commit the greatest act of love the world has ever seen.

May we practise His compassion, and do likewise.

Taking Love Seriously

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“One of the most frustrating words in the human language, as far as I could tell, was love.
So much meaning attached to this one little word. People bandied it about freely, using it to describe their attachments to possessions, pets, vacation destinations, and favourite foods. In the same breath they then applied this word to the person they considered most important in their lives. Wasn’t that insulting? Shouldn’t there be some other term to describe deeper emotion?”
― Alexandra Adornetto

Maybe I missed something in the Gospels, but I cannot remember Jesus speaking of Love as secondary to knowledge of ‘right’ theology or missions. In fact, love cannot be separated from theology and missions or it leaves the latter cold and lifeless. To divide love and place it on one side of the kingdom of God and everything else on the other is to create an artificial forced divide.

Why do so many do this? It is almost like the concept and reality of God being love gets buried at the bottom of the pile in our minds, lost in the thoughts, worries and cares about other (seemingly important) spiritual things.

I have encountered many professing Christians who will wax lyrical about right theology and wrong theology, about conspiracy in the end times, about the rapture and the second coming, the importance of holiness and so on. But when love or grace is mentioned a glazed look comes over these people and they nod quickly before moving on to more ‘important serious subjects’.

Hmmmm….

I always leave these people with an unsettled feeling and a sense of sadness. Why do they respond like that Lord? I find myself asking. Now, I know I have not reached the pinnacle of walking in love, but I know I want to journey there. I desire to realise my full capacity to love God with all my heart, mind and strength and others as myself.

I cannot escape this glaring truth staring at me when I read the word of God or stand in His tangible presence; Love is the axis upon which the universe swings. It is the be all and end all of the kingdom of God. It is first on His agenda. It is who God is.

So, why has speaking of His love and grace become the elephant in the room in some Christian circles? Why does the conversational atmosphere change when it is mentioned?

Mostly, why is it received as something light weight, fluffy and shallow?

There are no deeper waters we can tread as believers than the love and grace of Almighty God.

To be honest it scares me when I see and hear these reactions, it grieves my heart. How much more does it grieve the heart of our Father?  I am reminded how easy it is to search the scriptures and miss Christ, miss the heartbeat of the Father, miss Love.

‘Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’- 1 John 4 v 7-8

‘And yet I will show you the most excellent way.’- 1 Corinthians 12 v 31 (read chapter 13 to find out!)

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.’- Jude 21

‘But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.’- 1 John 2 v 5-6

My prayer is that our Father would constantly re-direct our hearts into His love and Christ’s perseverance.

Monday Prayers

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Father God,

We thank You for revealing Your word to us.

For keeping it simple.

Pure and untarnished truth.

May we always have at the forefront of our minds.

 Written on the tablet of our heart and on the walls of our lives.

The greatest of all Your commandments.

The imperative, urgent, most needful thing.

To love You with all of our heart.

Our entire mind.

Every ounce of strength.

And all of our soul.

At the same time, loving the one beside us, in front of us and behind us.

As we love ourselves.

When we do this, we will live.

This is the high calling we have in You.

This is life in Christ, in its glorious simplicity.

May we not complicate it.

Pollute it.

Dilute it.

For in You, the essence of Love itself.

Is how we inherit eternal life.

In the name of Jesus (Messiah), Amen.

Luke 10 v 25- 28