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

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

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Within or Without

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‘Do you see the will of God as outside you, or as in-built? Is it something you are meant to be doing for God, or is it mainly something God is doing in you? ’

I have been mulling over these questions this week. Thinking about how my attitude towards myself, others and God reflects my answers to the questions. The will of God is as big a concept as it is a minute and detailed one. There are two major ways of viewing God’s will; the panoramic view of the will of God encompassing plans for humanity as a whole, the story woven from creation right through to eternity. Or, the individual 20/20 vision of the will of God encompassing our daily decisions and lifestyle choices, how we practically walk out what we perceive to be God’s will for us individually in each moment.

I believe the will of God is not just something worked from without, but a mixture of within and without. It is working with God for God.

If we believe His will is something solely outside of us it is easy for us to become detached and distanced from involvement in it. Our responsibility to see His will worked out in our lives and in our world somehow seems ethereal, a product of Holy Spirit direction and not a collaborative effort with our own co-operation. In this instance, His will is external and aimed at reaching those around us; we take a backseat in the great cosmic plan. We retreat back to the age old refrain ‘the will of God is not about us…’

But, I think the will of God has everything to do with us and everything to do with Him. It is in-built within us from the day we were born. We have an innate desire to not only be with God, in His presence and in His glory, but to serve Him for a purpose much bigger than ourselves. To be creative in how we live out the story of our lives, to be like Him.

To be like Him means that we need to allow God to do something in us. Therefore, His will is not just something we are doing for God; it is something He is doing in us.

The will of God from without;

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’– 2 Peter 3 v 9

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’– John 3 v 16

The will of God from within;

‘For those God foreknew He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’– Romans 8 v 29

‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’– Philippians 2 v 13

Within and without, with and for– God is working out His will in our lives.

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.

 

 

 

 

Monday Prayers

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Father God,

We thank You for giving us eternal life

For the ability to know You

The only true God

And Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

May Your Son Jesus be glorified across the Earth

Father protect us

By the power of Your name

Make us, Your followers, one

As You are one

Protect us from the evil one

Sanctify us by Your truth

Your word is truth.

You in us, us in You

Bring us into complete unity

Into manifest love

So that the world will know

We belong to You

We long to see Your glory.

In the name of Jesus (Messiah), Amen.

-John 17 

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.