Grace and Truth

…all the words of this life…


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Love Looks Like Something

We can talk about Lovehelping-hand-1

all we want,

Philosophize,

Discuss and reason

 

Talk about how it should feel

Until it becomes so high and lofty

that it is almost un-real.

 

But Love, real Love, looks like something

It is practical

Down-to-earth

 

Love looks like:

Taking food to your neighbour

For their needs to be met,

Or welcoming an outcast

into your precious home

(Would you use your best tea-set?)

 

 

Love looks like:

Becoming a friend to someone unlikely

Or calling with encouragement

on the telephone

 

Love looks like:

Going to the streets

And searching out the lost

to find that one missing sheep

Whatever the cost

 

Love looks like:

Cold metal nails

Driven into pure hands,

One crying out

“Father, forgive them!”

While His blood pours

To the ground

 

Love doesn’t always look tidy

Love doesn’t always smell good

Love is not convenient

But Love we should

 

True Love propels to action,

It is faith in its outworking.

True love is not afraid

To get its hands a little dirty.

 

If we could just look past

the quasi-“love” that we’ve been sold

We would find that it is the most real thing

In this earth

It’s effects untold…

 

 


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The Mystery of the Cross

I woke up one morning with this in my head, and wrote it in my journal:

The cross is ugly,

The cross is beautiful.

The cross kills,

The cross gives life.

The cross is God’s hatred towards sin,

The cross is God’s love towards us.

On the one hand, the cross deals a death blow to pride, vanity and selfishness

On the other hand it’s beauty is evident by the suffering of a sinless Saviour

Who can say whether it is one or the other?

It is both.

For Jesus is meant death, pain and suffering,

If we follow Him, it will for us too.

But this is the only way to life and hope

You can’t have the life of the Saviour

Without first, having the death of the Saviour

You can’t take a short-cut

First the pain, then the relief,

First the sorrow, then the joy,

First the death, then the life

“Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)


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Over my morning coffee…

coffee

I used to think that God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless – and He does.  But actually it is more than that.  When God says to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the outcast to your home, to spend yourself on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 58) it is not just that He is being kind, it is because this is the very essence of WHO He is.  This is God Himself, reaching down to us in our poverty, our need and our sin.  When God came to earth as the man, Jesus, this was the ultimate act of sharing with the poor, serving the needy and clothing the naked.  He could have stayed where He was, in the light and worship of glory, but He didn’t.  He spent Himself on behalf of the poor, by coming to this dark, sin-sick, broken world.  He not only identified with humanity by becoming clothed with human flesh, He went further.  By His death on the cross He was numbered amongst the transgressors and although He never sinned, He took the punishment in the place of the transgressors of His divine law – you and me.  This was the ultimate act of intercession.  This was the ultimate act of giving.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show God’s heart towards the widows and fatherless, the oppressed and needy.  Although we can never atone for the sin of humanity, that was His work alone, He does call us to share the burden of those who have been forsaken, trampled and broken.  To allow ourselves to see suffering and need and not to walk on by.  As Jackie Pullinger says “love looks like something”.  Love can be sharing your food with the hungry, helping out a single mother, even inviting someone in for a coffee.

God is not interested in self-serving religion or religious activities that are devoid of His heart.  In Isaiah 58 He condemns those who fast because “in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your labourers…Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (verses 3-7)

Of course it’s not easy.  It’s not easy and it’s rather uncomfortable to allow yourself to see and identify with human need.  It wars against our fleshly nature which is constantly crying out to us “Comfort! Convenience!”

It’s been hard for me.  I am not going to pretend that I have found it easy.  The hardest part for me has been the intrusion upon my own time. I am naturally a bit of a hermit at heart.  I like my own time and space, and my own company.  But because we have a food
pantry that is operated from our garage we do often have people turn up unexpectedly and at inconvenient times.  In particular God has used one lady with serious mental health issues to crucify my flesh.  It has been painful.  From the start the Holy Spirit told me to never reject her, even in my heart.  That has been hard and I admit, I have not always been able to do it.

But today again she came.  I invited her in for a coffee.  We spent a lovely time together and she ministered to me by singing songs the Holy Ghost had given her.

“I refuse to give up

I refuse to give in

I keep hanging on to the King of Kings

The Lord of Lords…”

As she was leaving my home she turned to me and said “Thank you for always making me feel welcome.  Don’t’ ever lose that.  It is so important to people who have been rejected.”

OH God, help us to hear the cry of your heart and to do it! To become people of action, rather than just of words! To do something, anything!

Love looks like something.

What Wondrous Love is this?

He didn’t wait until I was perfect

He didn’t do it because I was good

Or a Christian

No. He died for me while I was still a sinner

An enemy

A rebel

That’s what gets me the most

Some may die for family, country or friend

But not Him.

He died for His enemies

For the ones who hated Him, shook their fist at Him, spat on Him, crucified Him

For me.

“This is how God demonstrates His love toward us:

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Please be blessed by one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, sung to the Lamb.


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Mother’s Day

mother

Happy Mother’s Day to all the hard-working mothers!  And to my own Mum, I love you, thank for giving me life, for always loving and supporting me.  You’ve been through some hard times but you always have a smile on your face, and I respect that.

 

My kids brought in to me breakfast in bed this morning and all their little presents they’d bought from the Mother’s Day stall at school  I love seeing what they choose for me.  Mother’s day is such a special day because you get to say “I love you” and “Thank you” to the person who brought you into this world and it is a day when as a Mother you feel the appreciation of your kids.

 

Here are some quotes about Mums you may like:

 

The impression that a praying mother leaves upon her children is life-long. Perhaps when you are dead and gone your prayer will be answered. – D.L. Moody

 

I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn word of my good mother. Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children. Billy Graham

 

May God bless you today, especially if you’re a Mum!


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Hunger

sheffieldchapel.org

sheffieldchapel.org

Yesterday, as I was leaving the fruit shop, I saw an anorexic girl staring at me. She kept right on staring at me even as my gaze met hers and I looked back at her. It was rather disconcerting to be so openly stared at and I was momentarily caught off-guard. Eventually I smiled at her and she half-smiled back as she turned away. I don’t know why she was staring at me, but I felt God’s heart of compassion for her and she has been on my heart in prayer ever since.

Then last night as I spent time in the Lord’s presence He opened my eyes to see something. As I cried out to Him for my own hunger, I saw that our plight in the West is starvation. Yes, starvation. Here in the West, where we have an amazing variety and abundance of food available to us, we are spiritually-famished skeletons.

“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around and behold, there were very many in the open valley and indeed they were very dry.” Ezekiel 37:1, 2

materialisticWhilst much of the non-developed world suffers from food shortage, dire poverty and even physical starvation, the malnutrition in the West is of a different kind. We are surrounded by food, by comfort, by fast-moving technology and by science and its benefits. Even the poorest of us are rich compared to most of the world’s population. Yet, in general, we are starved. Starved of life, starved of love, starved of meaning and starved of the presence of God.

What is the reason behind this starvation? I believe part of it has to do with our society turning away from God and increasingly to humanism and its related philosophies. The outcome of this is that our lives have become empty of meaning and purpose.

It’s not surprising.

To accept the premise that human beings are nothing more than the product of primordial slime would logically conclude that we are of no greater intrinsic value than that slime. And a product of primordial slime could have no possible purpose to its existence either. The relatively recent rejection of the age-old belief that we have been wonderfully and purposely made by the hands of a loving Creator, ultimately leads to a meaningless existence, in which our lives become de-valued.

fnFriedrich Nietzsche’s philosophies of the early 20th century have had a profound impact on the Western world, intellectually, politically and existentially. He (in)famously stated that “God is dead” and saw “nihilism as the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for meaning. He diagnosed nihilism as a latent presence within the very foundations of European culture, and saw it as a necessary and approaching destiny”. (Source: Wikipedia, Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche). Nihilism “(from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.” (Source: Wikipedia, Nihilism)

A society that rejects God accepts nihilism, and within that society a sense of meaninglessness is experienced individually. As human beings, we have been made in God’s own image and this is the basis of our inherent value. Each of us is valuable because we have been created in His image. There is also a purpose to each human life that God creates and that is to have fellowship with Him and to serve Him. We were created by Him, for Him. We were created to know Him, depend on Him and draw our very life from Him. To deny both the source of our life and the purpose for our life is to both deny the value of humanity and the meaning of life, which creates a vacuum within our very souls.

Actually this is nothing new. In fact it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when man chose independence from God rather than dependence on God. From that point humankind has been estranged from God, cut off from our Creator, the true meaning and purpose of our lives obscured by our own defiant, self-willed independence. To be cut off from the Source of life, even while we may have physical breath in our bodies, is to create spiritual deadness and emptiness. However, as nature abhors a vacuum, something must fill that emptiness and there are many ways that we seek to do this – consumerism, chemical substances, religion, food, pleasure-seeking, causes, materialism…just to name a few.

Unfortunately much of the church has not escaped this Western malady and is also starving. It’s all too common to find that worship has been replaced by entertainment; that prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit has been replaced by liturgies and programs; that the presence of God has been replaced by emotional manipulation and that the preaching of the Word has been replaced by motivational, self-help talks. Even as Christians it is possible to turn away from dependence on God, and once again go our own way in self-willed independence, even when what we do is under a “Christian” label. Once we stop relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, we again cut ourselves off from God, and become starved of His life and His presence. AW Tozer said it like this: “The blight of the Church today is spiritual starvation. People are famishing on rationalism, socialism, sensationalism, on lifeless bonds and bank notes and unwholesome pleasures. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? grainand your labour for that which satisfieth not?… eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:1,2) Are you living on the bread of God or starving while in the Father’s house there is bread to spare?”

I think the BIG question is – do we actually recognize that we are starving? We may in fact be completely unaware of it because we are surrounded by food, technology and material goods in abundance. We are rich, in material terms, compared to the rest of the world. We don’t really need God, we depend on ourselves, on science, on man. We believe that independence is the way to go and that we can make it on our own. Like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3 we “say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’”. We do not know that we are really “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (verse 17).

In undeveloped countries it is rather different. 25% of the world doesn’t have enough to live on, and 33% are destitute. A person suffering shortages in food, shelter, clothing and medicine is confronted with their own vulnerability every day. Their neediness is well- known by them because it is felt every day through physical hunger, thirst, cold or pain. So whilst much of the world is poorer than us in the West in material terms, I believe they are richer in one important way. They know their need. Once you see your need, of course, it is much easier to turn to God.

I have a friend who moved here from a struggling African nation. She explained to me that back in Africa she had had to get up at 3am every single morning in order to line up for six hours to get a loaf of bread for her family for the day. There were times when she would get to the front of the queue, after lining up for hours, only to find that the last loaf of bread had been sold. They then would need to drive to South Africa – another country – in order to find bread.

She knows what it’s like to need. She has had to cry out to God to provide her family with bread. She has had to depend on Him in a way that I never have had to.

Actually it is no different for us – spiritually we NEED Bread every single day. The difference is that, surrounded by our gadgetry, clothes and hair products, we cannot see that we are in desperate need of bread. Otherwise would we get up at 3am to seek for our Bread for the day? Would we miss out on sleep so we could find the living Bread to feed us and also our families? You see it’s hunger that drives us. It’s not hard to know why my friend would make the sacrifice to line up every day for 6 hours for bread, when both she and her family needed to be fed. I have kids, I understand the driving need to provide for them. But what about the spiritual bread? Is it less important? Would I make a similar sacrifice for the sake of mine and my family’s spiritual nourishment?

Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). We don’t hunger and thirst after righteousness if we don’t know that we are empty. Until we see that we, in the West are poor, wretched and empty, we won’t hunger and thirst for the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

However, once we see our need of Him it is much easier to hunger after God and to learn to depend on Him for our nourishment. But our eyes have to be anointed “with eye salve that we may see” (Revelation 3:18). Unfortunately it usually takes some sort of personal crisis for most of us to turn to God in desperation and to cry out for help. Essentially this is what happened to me. Although I was wonderfully born-again and saved (see Passover), I still hadn’t learnt how to be utterly dependent on God, or to hunger after Him. It took a crisis in my life to actually be able to clearly see that I could no longer depend on myself. I was brought to the point of being unable to trust even my own thoughts, let alone my own self.

The vehicle God that used in my instance was depression.

And yes, I was a Christian, truly born-again and in love with Jesus. (God-willing, I will write about this episode in detail at a later date.) CS Lewis said “Suffering is God’s mega-phone to a world hard of hearing.” And that really was what suffering was to me. My experience caused me to rely on God and to hunger after Him in a way that I never had before – simply because I had no other option.

To be in a place where my own thoughts frightened me, suddenly awakened to me the truth of my own vulnerability, and I clearly saw my need of Him and His ongoing presence in my life. My independence and pride had to be stripped away from me so that I could see I was starving, in order for that hunger to be born in me. Suddenly I saw that I needed Him, not just a doctrinal knowledge of Him, but a hunger for Himself. When I saw how “poor in spirit” I truly was, then “the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3) became mine.

Tomorrow, Part 2, Being Fed


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What’s it all about?

It’s not about me.

Its not even about my ministry.

It’s not actually about being right.

It’s not about my perfection,

Nor my “self-improvement”

It’s about one, only One…

It’s about Him,

Jesus

The Word made flesh

When all else is gone,

when nothing remains,

when our work is over

and our time complete,

He is eternal,

He remains

and will always be

Oh how I love Jesus,

Because He first loved me

AW Tozer said it best:

“Wherever we turn in the church of God, there is Jesus. He is the beginning, middle and end of everything to us…. There is nothing good, nothing holy, nothing beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to His servants. No one need be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his own property and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him.  Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done, but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more.”