your scars bring you closer to God

We all carry scars with us. But do we remember the pain, or have we received Gods great unconditional love.

Whatever you’ve been through, God carries you.

We need to see our scars through a new light. The invisible scars of our painful experiences don’t exclude us from receiving God’s love – his grace is sufficient – our scars can draw us closer to Jesus, who has the scars of the cross on his hands and feet.

Scars qualify you – they don’t disqualify you from God and his work in the world. We see this in the bible stories of Moses, David, Jacob, Hannah, etc.’

Psalm 34:18 tells us ‘the lord is close to the broken hearted and those with crushed spirits’

We have to know difference between wounds (that still need healing) and scars (that are already healed) and invite Jesus in time heal and restore our lives.

Scars remind you of whose you are – in John 20 Jesus shows his scars to the disciples – he is reminding them that he was wounded for their salvation. Jesus scars remind us he is God who died to save and restore us.

Have you been broken or wounded by the world? God is very close to you. His heart of love is wide open to you – receive his love today. Pray to him and listen for his voice. Stop and wait for his healing presence. He is close to the broken hearted and those who have been crushed in the world.

A voice in the darkness

Ever felt like you are stuck in a dark place? Then this post is written just for you….

Gods first words in the human story were words spoke in the darkness – words from the darkness. Spoken by God. Spoken to breathe life into the darkness.

Out of the darkness these words were uttered:

“Let… there… be… light!”

And there was light. The first light in the universe came from the voice of God in the darkness. Gods first breathe in the universe created light.

This was the beginning. The first beginning. The first of many beginnings. This is the work of God in our lives. God enters into the darkness, unperturbed or disturbed, to bring light, growth, love, joy, peace that surpasses understanding, and all other manner of blessings as he wills.

Whenever God wants us to grow he leads us into the darkness where we are led by the spirit into the place of deepening faith and holy trust. And into our darkness He speaks ever so gently… let there be light, and Christ enters our darkness. He walks in it with us to lead us through the dark wilderness into his promised land for our lives.

Where there is darkness today God is already at work. New life will spring up at the sound of his gentle voice. Do not listen for a booming voice in the darkness. Look for the still small voice of the Spirit speaking and breathing the new life of God. God is speaking light into your darkness.

017 Optimism and the Death of a good man

Did you know that today is Good Friday? Arguably the most important day in the Christian calendar! Strange then that I have found myself thinking about optimism when my faith path leads me to the crucifixion today. Perhaps this is not as strange as you might think.

Optimists get a hard time these days: we are accused of being unrealistic in our thinking; we are told that life is not ‘pollyanna’ and that optimism is a mask for what’s happening underneath (Imagine the serene swan gracefully gliding down the river, while underneath the water they are paddling like crazy!!).

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Optimism is not about denying reality – it is about believing that good can come out of our sometimes harsh realities. I am no stranger to pain, death, loss and grumpiness. In life I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly, and understand the showdowns of life. Optimism is about seeing past the pain to healing. It is seeing hope in helplessness. And it is believing in better and rejecting the bitter.

Which leads me to the good guy suffering a gory death on a Roman cross, naked for all to see – what good could possibly come out of that?!

There’s this little verse in a letter to some Hebrews which says,

(Jesus)…who for the joy set before him endured the cross.

It seem Jesus was looking past the pain towards the joy of possibilities. The cross was not the end – it was THE means to an end. Jesus knew and believed that his death would result in new life for the countless millions who would choose to follow him back into relationship with God the Father (Did you know that one in every three humans on the planet claim to follow Jesus today?).

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Perhaps Jesus was an optimist. Perhaps he simply had faith in God to make all things new. Perhaps he didn’t even see the whole picture, but just somehow knew it would all work out for the good.

Whatever you are going through today, may you find strength in God and your own heart to look past the pain to see the possibilities of joy that are on the other side. And may God bless you with all you need to keep stepping forward one step, and one day, at a time.

Can we have Certain faith in an uncertain world?

How can we ever know that the Gospel of Jesus and the words of the bible are really true? I mean, they were written thousands of years ago in a culture that is so different from ours – no phones, no bank accounts, no McDonalds! It was orally passed down before it was written down! How can we believe that today?!

I hear this a lot. It doesn’t surprise me any more. There’s no simple answer except to say that faith is both simple, yet difficult. It’s hard to believe facts that you can’t verify easily (unless you have a time machine, which so far we don’t Dr!).

It’s hard to believe when you have not yet experienced the power and presence of the Gospel in true encounter with God.

As a Church we need to be encountering God more than we do. We should be seeking to meet with God daily. Our experience and our bible understanding need to come together to infuse into faith that is solid and certain. The Bible claims we can have certainty of what we have been taught, and we place our faith/trust in those teachings. This does not mean there is no doubt – Thomas was not removed from Jesus for doubting – in fact he was blessed as a result of it. Perhaps doubt is part of the strengthening process of faith?

In the Gospel written by Luke he writes the book to show the stories surrounding the life and work of Jesus in order that…

…you might know the CERTAINTY of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:3-4).

Our faith can be certain and steadfast. We can know the certainty of what we believe. Remember, there can still be some doubt – faith is not the removal of doubt: it is trusting God in the midst of it. In the aftermath of Christmas we have opportunities to share our faith with friends and family – it’s a time of year when discussions about Jesus are in the social consciousness.

I pray that we will take these opportunities to share our faith with confidence in the Gospel, understanding of the truth, and sensitivity to those we are sharing with.

Walk with Jesus closely

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,”

  – Colossians‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭ESV‬
It isn’t enough to just receive Christ – true Christians will  walk in Christ. 

What does this mean?

A disciple of Jesus will stay close to his teaching 

A disciple of Jesus will allow that teaching to permeate their heart, resulting in transforming change of character and conduct

A disciple of Jesus will essentially become like Jesus because they are walking closely with him

The Gospel is difficult for us to receive

Sometimes the simplest of truths are the most difficult for us to get to grips with. For some reason we as humans often struggle to realise that we are truly and unconditionally loved by God. The image below highlights lyrics from an old children’s chorus which articulates a child-like faith that we are loved by loved by Jesus. Children find mysteries much easier to believe than we adults do.

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There are two aspects of this chorus that we perhaps struggle with:

Jesus loves me

Everything in us feels unworthy of Jesus’ love for us. We wonder “why would he love me?” As humans we long for the security and acceptance that unconditional love offers us, yet we shy away from it when it is freely given. In the world almost everything comes with strings attached, so when we are give a free gift of God’s loving grace we are looking for the strings.

The truth of the Gospel is that there are no strings attached. Jesus really does love us – even if we struggle to believe it.

The Bible tells me so

We also struggle to believe that the Bible really does tell us the truth about the world, about ourselves, and about God who loves us. God knows that we will struggle with understanding and accepting his love so he chronicled the story of his love through the Bible.

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Live according to God’s word of life

He gave us his great book full of his great deeds and truths in order that we might read, reflect, and receive his love. As we read regularly God by his Holy Spirit renews our minds and cleanses our hearts as he reveals himself through the pages – this in itself is a great mystery that is hard for us to fathom.

It is by grace you have been saved through faith (Eph 2:5)

We receive everything God has for us simply by having childlike (not childish though!) faith in Jesus.

He does love us.

He does accept us as we are.

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He does give us his words in the bible to ensure we don’t stay just as we are – his word and Spirit transform us from the inside out. Although these are hard truths for us to receive, they are there for the receiving. Jesus loves you – the bible confirms this. All you have to do is simply trust him. set your heart on following him. Connect with others who follow him. Grow in your understanding and experience of his love for you.

May we grow closer to to the Holy Father, as we see Jesus and receive his love for us as revealed by his Holy Spirit.

Disciples of Jesus L.A.S.T.

Following Jesus is HARD work! If you’ve been on the road with Jesus for a while you know I’m telling the truth, and if you’re just starting out… Don’t worry, it’s worth it 🙂 I have seen many friends (and some family too) starting out with Jesus and giving up when the going got tough. Life’s pressures can crush our spiritual passion. Other commitments get in the way of commitment to Christ. The allure of new relationships can lead away from relating with Jesus. In this there is a warning for all of us: stay close to Jesus at all costs.  One of my aims with the Gospel Praxis Project is to encourage believers to live Christ’s core commands so that we walk closely with, and like, Jesus. Jesus himself was acutely aware that following him and his commands was a hard thing: His parable of the sower illustrates this well. When Jesus was arrested his closest followers fled for the hills, hiding in fear of their lives. One of the gospels states that his best friend (Peter) followed from a distance. Following from a distance always leads to trouble – Peter denies Jesus three times that night! Jesus knew he would do this. Jesus knows us really well!!! So how do we cope when faith is tough? How do we become disciples who last? The following four points are an indicator of how we can develop Discipleship Resilience to live a life of faith to the full, and to the end.

Learn

Jesus passed his teachings on to his initial disciples. They in turn passed them on to another generation of Jesus-followers. And so on… Followers of Jesus LEARN how to live by learning form HIM. We live close to the scriptures and we learn God’s way of living from all of scripture. We have been given the scriptures to live according to God’s pattern for humanity. Now there are those who will disagree with me and state that the bible is not really the word of God; that it was written in a time that we no longer understand; that it is no longer relevant; that it can mean whatever you want it to mean. I believe this line of thinking is subtly destructive for believers, the church, and the world we are seeking to love and lead back to God. I think God that the scriptures have been given to us, inspired by the Holy spirit and passed down form generation to generation of believer. Jesus himself claimed that the Holy Spirit would teach us all that we need to know, and this is true in the experience and biblical teaching of the people of God from bible times all through history. God reveals his word to us as we surrender to the scriptures teaching and the illumination of the holy Spirit – both are required to help us LEARN in order to stay close to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us in a manner contrary to what is written in the scriptures. To Clarify: We need to LEARN from God’s word what God says  as we submit to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and leading.

Apply

Application of the Word of God is essential to spiritual resilience. Applying the teachings of Jesus (through the whole of scripture) is to our inner being what exercise is to the body: it makes us stronger, sharper and provides us with the mettle we need to persevere in faith. Learning is in itself not enough: Knowledge alone puffs us up with pride at what we have learned. Application humbles us as we realise that learning needs to be integrated with all of life. It’s not enough to know that God values every person – we need to apply that truth in all our relationships and interactions. This will reveal our true character as we realise that applying learning is difficult. This is where the Holy Spirit prunes our lives to make us more fruitful of the kingdom of God. To clarify: We need to Apply our Learning to real life in order for learning to develop into Spiritual fruitfulness.

Share

Jesus seemed to know a lot of stuff about the world, about god, and about what god meant in the holy scriptures. He was immensely wise and perceptive about how the world functions and about how people (even religious people) use power fro their own gain and reward. But Jesus chose to be different. Rather than thinking that knowledge and learning are power, he set out to share EVERYTHING God had given to him. Jesus lived what he taught. Jesus shared what he taught. Jesus shared his live and his teaching with anyone who would come to him. There are always people in our lives who want to follow us because they see hope and life within us. They may not know the reason for that life and hope unless we share it with them. The gospel is powerful because it leads to salvation. It is powerful because when we learn and apply it our lives are transformed from the inside out. we are not given the Gospel of Jesus in order to have a great life: We are recipients of the gospel firstly so that we can be in close loving relationship with God, and secondly so that we will share it with any who would come close enough to learn it. Living our faith develops confidence in God as we lean on him to live and share Jesus with the world. We share our knowledge of Jesus and the Gospel through our thoughts, words and actions: People will ‘read’ us to see the true motives behind what we do. They will watch to see if our faith is real. They will observe how we conduct ourselves. They will listen for our words of faith that match our lifestyles. We are called by Jesus to take the Gospel out into all the world. We are called to share Jesus. To Clarify: We grow in spiritual confidence as we live and share Jesus and his great Gospel.

Trust

I started off this article by saying that being a follower of Jesus was hard, and it can be. Peter sure knew about that – he always seemed to mess things up – yet he never gave up when he messed up. Like the time when Jesus comes out to his boat, walking on the water like some ghostly figure through the mists. Jesus calls him out onto the water, and Peter not being an intelligent man jumps out the water actually expecting to be able to walk on it because that’s what Jesus was doing. He walks on water! But the waves and wind come to his attention (as they do in the busyness of our lives) and his eyes are taken off Jesus (as ours often are) and he beings to stop trusting Jesus (we are so prone to this!). One way we can grow in our trust of Jesus is to spend regular time with him in prayer. We need to be talking with him, and more importantly, taking time to listen to him. Jesus does call us to trust him and it is difficult to do. The writer of Hebrews said fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Wow! Fix your eyes in simple faith on Jesus. Keep looking to him. Keep trusting him. don’t put your trust in your income alone. Don’t look to other props of life to sustain your faith – just keep looking to and trusting in Jesus. This may defy logic and reason at times (just like Peter walking on water) but don’t worry… Jesus is there to hold you up. To clarify: We grow stronger in our walk with Jesus as we look to him in simple trust and faith.

L.A.S.T.

Learn from Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit as you surrender to God’s word. Apply your learning in real life. Share your faith to grow your faith. Trust Jesus and keep looking to Him. And perhaps, you will begin to grow more like Jesus just as those first disciples grew closer to Jesus.