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

The Gift at Work

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‘I now see how gifts like courage, compassion and connection only work when they are exercised. Every day.’– Brene Brown

If we use our gifts, they will grow stronger. But this requires that we put ourselves in situations that demand the use of our gifts. Situations that squeeze us stretch us and cause us to dig deep for our inner God given resources. It is of little use if we whip our gifts out every now and again in a whirlwind of ‘Christian’ activity or ministry effort. Without consistent use our gifts remain weak and immature, lacking depth and maturity…and power.

Maturity in our gifting is shown through faithfulness, consistency of use and willingness.

In certain situations, particularly those that challenge me and cause me to feel out of my depth, I’ve noticed gifts and abilities emerge. Often it’s something I never considered to be a gift, or a completely fresh ability which seemingly just ‘shows up’ to meet the need.

It’s an amazing feeling to discover the gems God has hidden within us.

As a nursing student specialising in mental health, I get ample opportunity during placements to use my gifts. The ferocity and intensity of the impact of mental illness on individuals demands a wholehearted response from me. I cannot hide away, I cannot retreat, I have to face the person and respond to their distress. I have to look them in the eye and offer support and reassurance. I have to listen to words spilled out in confusion and frustration. It is not easy; in fact at times it is heart-breaking and draining stuff. But it draws the gifts out of me.  It causes me to rise to the challenge or be taken down by it, to sink or swim.

My own needs fade into the background during those times and I focus on the needs around me. It is a freeing place to be.

There is balance in this though, the placement ends and studying begins again. Rest is needed to sustain our gifts. In quietness and confidence is where our strength lies, not in the busyness of the day.  We need time to breathe, to reflect and to renew. Time to remember that there is only one God…and we are not it.

Our gifts make room for us and for other people too.

‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you….Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you– guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’- 2 Timothy 1 v 6; 1v 14

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.

 

 

 

 

Return to the Source

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‘Come to Me, I’m all you need
Come to Me, I’m everything’
– Bethel Music

God does not want to be first in our lives. He wants to be the first, the last and the everything in between. He wants to be the one we turn to and the one we return to- in times of distress and fear, or times of joy and elation.

He alone is the source of our witness for Christ and the fire within us. We’ve heard it before but could stand to hear it another ten thousand times; without Him we can do nothing. Without Him, we wouldn’t want to do anything. He is the one who works eternal significance into every ministry effort or good work we put our hands to.

Before we turn to anyone else for advice, guidance or words of assurance, let us turn to God. Throughout the scriptures He repeatedly invites us to come to Him, when we are weary, thirsty or heavy laden. He ensures we know we are welcome to come to Him for forgiveness, mercy, wisdom and provision.

Like the man at the train station waiting for the love of his life to get off the train and run into his arms, God waits. Unfortunately, the scene sometimes plays out with the beloved jumping off the train and running into the arms of another…

Yet still, God waits. He continues to extend the invitation, rejection or no rejection. How great is our God?

We want to reach people; we want others to know the reality of salvation and a living relationship with the fully alive Jesus. We want to see people set free, healing manifested and broken hearts made whole again.

But we come to Him first. We listen to His good, pleasing and perfect directions, and then we move. This is a cycle that is designed to repeat itself; we continually have need of hearing from heaven. At every road block, at every bend in the road and wall in front of us we need to seek the heart of God.

Returning to the source is a necessary part of the process.

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.’– John 15 v 5

How much do we believe this? Nothing means nothing worth anything in the kingdom of God.

The good news is that we can make a difference. Possibly one of the most encouraging verses in the whole of scripture tells us that it is:

‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’– Colossians 1 v 27

Therefore, if Christ is in us (and He is if we have believed and professed faith in Him), there is hope… the hope of glory.

Windows of Opportunity

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“The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.” 
― John Burroughs

Seasons come and go in the kingdom of God just as they do on the Earth. There is a divine timing to receiving and activating things in the kingdom- windows of opportunity that could be missed if we fail to have ears to hear what Jesus is saying to us as His church.

The prophetic amongst us will recognise that tug in our Spirits upon hearing a certain message, when watching the news or reading a book on a specific topic. It is the nudge that alerts us to sit up and take more notice. We lean in and listen a little closer, we read slowly; taking in each word and mulling it over, we sense God wants to do something specific with the information or knowledge we are receiving.

This means more than jotting down extra notes in a keepsake notebook, more than an in-depth discussion after a service…

Maybe we need to pray strategically into that area? Maybe we need to focus our strength and resources into developing that area as a church community? Should we begin to declare and decree something into being? On a personal level, maybe we need to fast and actively seek God, believing that TODAY is the day of salvation. Now is the time of breakthrough for that specific issue in our homes, families and communities.

It could be simply recognising the right time to share our account of coming to faith in Jesus- with that strongly atheistic friend.

Timing is a common theme in the scriptures…

‘For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.’- Habakkuk 2 v 3

‘Therefore Jesus told them, “ My time is not yet here; for you any time will do….I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’- John 7 v 6-8

‘And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.’- Luke 5 v 17

‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’- Ecclesiastes 3

What nudges in our spirit have we experienced lately? What revelation has reached its appointed time in our lives- and what are we going to do about it?

Do we know when the time is ripe and the season has arrived for a particular breakthrough in our families and our communities? If we sense it, why not trust our discernment and go after breakthrough with all our hearts. Why not proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour over our cities and nations…

Our God longs to rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated, to renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

Let’s move beyond merely gazing through windows of opportunity in the Kingdom, to flinging the windows wide open and letting His Kingdom come and His will be done. 

On earth as it is in heaven.

We Are Being Followed

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‘Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…’- Psalm 23 v 6

I am making a conscious effort to declare the whole of Psalm 23 over my life on a regular basis in this season. By declare I mean to read it, read it out loud and then declare it vocally into the spiritual atmosphere with faith and certainty. Declaring Gods word feels wonderful, as if my spirit is somehow being fed something wholesome and good. Speaking His word out loud also helps to override those negative and distracting thoughts which are contrary to Him.

Words can change atmospheres. Words can shape lives.

I have been astonished at the amount of ‘life ground’ Psalm 23 covers. It speaks about lacking nothing, about replenishing our souls, about the leadership and guidance of our heavenly Father, about how to respond to the darkness and confidence in God’s intentions towards us. So much goodness wrapped into one familiar Psalm.

One particular day this portion of the Psalm seemed to jump out at me;

‘Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…’

Other bible translations may say ‘Surely or only goodness, mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life…’

Or ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…’

What struck me the most was the word follow. The understanding hit me that I was leading the way for goodness and love, I was being followed. Where I go they go, were I stay they stay. I have never really taken the time to reflect on this fully. This was amazing truth; this was revolutionary thinking about the course of my life.

Instead of the proverbial black cloud following me, I had written proof that two silver lined clouds were following me wherever I went- Goodness and Mercy!

All. The. Days. Of. Our Lives.  This is something to celebrate, to appreciate, to meditate on. May we not miss this gem of truth in such a familiar passage of scripture. May we grasp hold of this and run with it- literally run with it into dark places, trusting the word of God that as we run into dark places- goodness, love and mercy are not far behind.

The Psalmist wrote ‘Surely’… surely our God will do this, and surely as we have come to know Him we are expecting this kind of faithfulness to follow us?

Images of the pied piper are running through my mind right now as I type. I see believers from all walks of life skipping along into dark places, praising God as He has anointed our head with oil and our cup overflows, oblivious to any danger as He is with us and His rod and staff are comforting us. Goodness and love are following behind, leaving a trail of light and destruction of darkness in their wake. The angels are rejoicing and the great cloud of witnesses are cheering us on.

I can see it… can you? 

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.